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Rough Waters

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His relationship with the sea was an odd one. He feared it to the point of hating it for taking his parents away from him when he was a small child and did his best to avoid it as much as he could, but the sea seemed to love him because when the inevitable did happen and he was forced by circumstances to travel on it, it was always calm and inviting, the blue so beautiful that it rivalled the sky above it.

 

It was nothing but a trap, he was sure of it. Getting to fall in love with it as did his parents and then drag him and his loyal crew to its bottom, where all sorts of creatures would feast on their bodies while Davy Jones himself would trap their souls for all eternity inside his cursed locker – or so he heard the sailors say when he was small enough to slip his guards and waste his days in the port, foolishly hoping that Davy Jones would take pity on him if he filled the sea with enough of his tears and give him his parents back and siblings back.

 

What hard blow that had been for him, s member of a large family, loved and spoiled by all of his siblings and parents, to suddenly find himself completely alone in the world. He had hated the way the nobles looked at him, the way they judged how he carried himself in court in those first few years, until he finally learned to act in public just like his oldest brother.

 

A quick knock at his door roused him from his memory and he quickly wiped his eyes and made sure he was presentable, for a King was never to show any signs of weakness, even to his closest servants. “Come in,” he said softly, folding his hands in his lap.

 

The captain walked in and quickly took off his hat, bowing as low as he could without his back giving out, presenting him with an obvious forced smile after he had straighten up. How much he hated when those who served him thought they needed to deliver bad news in a nice way. “Your Majesty, I am afraid that we had to lower the sails—”

 

“Captain, the wind was on our side!” He interrupted, standing up. “Why do something that would slow us down and make this last longer? You know we wish to be done with this horrible trip as fast as possible, and we mean no offense to your exquisite sailing skills or your top-notch crew. Do you wish to cause us extreme discomfort?”  

 

The man dropped his hat as he threw himself at his feet, starting to kiss his shoes. “That thought has never entered my mind, Your Majesty!” He shouted in desperation and the king clicked his tongue and tilted his head, covering his ears.

 

“And yet you dare raise your voice in our presence to further irritate our brains which are hurting because of the high discomfort caused by the sea.” He taped the captain’s bald head to get him to look at him and waved him away from his shoes. His uncle loved it when people grovelled before him and did everything in their power to soothe his easily irritated nerves, but he found it demeaning for all involved. “Cease your apologizing before you even start, for we fear we might get even more indisposed. Just tell us why you did something to slow us down.”

 

“Your Majesty, we had to slow down because…” he trailed off and tried to hide his hesitation with a cough, lowering his head once again when he saw his King frowning at him. “That is to say, the reason we are being so careful right now is because…”

 

The king rolled his eyes, lifting his glasses and pinching the bridge of his nose. It irked him that some people were afraid of giving him bad news, seeing him as either a precious doll made out of glass that would shatter if the words said to him weren’t right or as an unstable man who would go in a fit of rage if he thought himself insulted. It wasted so much of everyone’s time and that was something he hated the most.

 

“Captain, might we hear the reason sometime today? We are sure you have duties you need to attend to and we would hate to think that we are keeping you away from them with our eagerness to hear what you have to tell us.”

 

The man nodded and took a deep breath, closing his eyes. “A storm might have hit these waters yesterday, before we left port, and a ship might have been sunk.” He rushed to pour the slightly trembling king a glass of liquor, hands shaking as he held it out to him. “I had to slow down to avoid the debris and to ensure that no your ship does not get damaged.”

 

It took him a moment to notice the glass held right in front of him and he took it with a small smile from the nervous captain, putting it on the table next to him. “Alcohol does not agree with us, but we thank you for the offer as well as for telling us about this.”

 

The captain bowed and quickly left the room, leaving the king to his thoughts of sadness of all the lives that must have been lost during the storm. How many children and wives did the sailors leave behind, waiting for them in ports all over the world, hearts filling with useless and painful hope whenever they saw a ship come near?

 

Would the sea level grow due to how many tears they will surly spill when someone finally took pity on them and gave them the horrible news? He walked over to the ornate window and a little square open, sticking his head out to feel the wind against his face. When he was younger, he liked to pretend that this was how his parents caressed his face from beyond the grave, the wind at sea feeling other-worldly compared to the one on land. Would the families of the deceased thing the same? And if they did, would it soothe them as it soothed him, or just feel like someone added salt to their open wounds?

 

Something shining on a piece of wood near the end of his field of vision caught his eye and he rushed to grab the spyglass from its place in the bookcase and twisted and toyed with it until he finally managed to focus what he saw, dropping it when he realized that there was someone hanging on a barrel, desperately trying to get their attention with a piece of something shiny.

 

He ran out of his room and ignored the wave of dizziness that hit him the second he reached topside, his most loyal servants appearing by his side in a flash, ready to catch him if he fainted. “We wish to speak with the captain now,” he said in a tone of urgency that left no room for excuses or delays.

 

“What can I do to help you, Your Majesty?” The man shouted as he ran down the stairs, reaching for his hand with the intent of kissing it, missing it by a fracture of a second as the king turned to point to where he had seen the poor soul.

 

“We saw a man clinging for his dear life just where we are pointing and we wish you send someone after them.” He senses their hesitation, reading uncertainty on their faces as they glanced at each other and bit their lower lips, the captain opening and closing his mouth a few times as if he was trying to find the right way to word a negative answer. “Must we repeat ourselves?”

 

“N-no, Your Majesty, but—”

 

“Then do as we say and do not waste any more time than you already have,” he interrupted the captain, voice rushed, but not raised. Despite what his uncle believed, he tended to agree with his late father that a true ruler must never depend on fits of rage or shouts to get his people to follow him.

 

The captain nodded towards his first mate and the limp man instantly sprang into action, shouting orders to the other men and using terms whose meanings had refused to stay within the king’s mind, no matter how good his memory was. In a matter of second, the large ship took a rather sharp turn and his servants clung to him to keep him on his feet, the captain knowing how to shift his centre of gravity to keep standing on his own.

 

“Your Majesty, we fear that the ship that has sunk sailed under the Jolly Roger,” the captain whispered after a moment, the servants around the king all gasping rather dramatically. “The best thing we could do, Your Majesty, would be letting them drown – Less pirates for the world and for every crowned head to deal with.”

 

He had heard many horrifying tales of pirates during the balls he was forced to attend, drunken lords shaking in their seats as they spoke of these horrifying band of men appearing out of nowhere and leaving them with nothing but their undergarments on, a few barrels of water, forced them into boats, laughing at them as they fired off their cannons that were described as sounding like Satan himself sneezed and sunk their ships.

 

The ladies whispered about maidens whisked away on the night of their wedding, although he never heard a hint of fear. Just longing and pure jealousy, the fans starting to move faster as they described how the supposed kidnapper of a lady whose title had been long forgotten looked like – and to be honest, he wanted to personally meet a pirate just so he could see for himself if they truly looked like that.

 

But he also liked to listen to the commoners and their stories and he often sneaked away from the palace and huddled close to the fires they made and told of pirates who pulled into ports and gave away mountains of gold to those who needed it and others of pirates who fell in love with poor maidens and brought the riches of the world at their feet to show their love.

 

Two completely portrayals of these sea-loving thieves that only made him even more curious about them. Savage ruffians, or men forced by life to steal to make a better life? And even if weren’t for curious nature, he still couldn’t find it in himself to let people die when he was within reach of them. What if his parents had suffered the same fate? What if a ship passed them and...

 

He was aware of how much more dangerous this would be because he was not a commoner, but one of the pirates’ greatest enemies due to the fact that he had an army and influence in the circle that decided their fates, but he had to risk his crown and life to save them.

 

“Pirates or not,” he spoke up, voice full of determination, “we refuse to allow for anyone drown when it is so easy for us to save them.”

 

The captain laughed nervously, fidgeting with hat again. “Your Majesty has a great heart and we are all blessed to serve such a kind and honourable king, but I must insist that we let those scoundrels drown. If even one sets foot on your ship, Your Majesty, and lays his unworthy eyes on, well, Your Majesty, he will get it in his empty head to try and kidnap you and hold you for ransom.”

 

The man was obviously worried and he could not find it in his heart to remain upset or feel insulted with his or his men’s hesitation. Still, he refused to let anyone drown. “Captain, they are probably tired and wounded; even if that is what they will do, they will not have enough power to do so.” He raised his hand to keep the captain from talking when he saw him take a deep breath. “We ask you to trust our words as much as we trust in you and your men to keep us and our ship safe.”

 

The way the man’s eyes boggled told him that his words were the greatest ones that had ever been addressed to him and he smiled, happy for being able to bring such joy to the old captain, especially since he had been truthful. He had personally chosen this man and this was the first time that he was sailing with him, but unlike all the other ones that his uncle had chosen for him in the past, he truly made him feel safe.

 

It took less than five minutes to reach the floating debris and two sailors jumped in the water to pull the survivor back up, others quickly lowering a boat to help. Then they heard desperate shouts for help coming from behind what had been the mast at one point and the sailors jumped back into the water, another one jumping into the boat to follow them to where the voices came from.

 

“Your Majesty would best return to their quarters and keep out of sight, just in case they are pirates and have more energy than we think they do,” the captain suggested.

 

He thought for a moment before nodding and he heard his servants sigh in relief. “But we will not return to our quarters, as lovely as they are. No; we shall hide behind some barrels so we might observe the rescuing operation for ourselves and then personally reward all those who helped.” It was also as an insurance against the guards that been assigned by his uncle and who loved meaningless violence.

 

They managed to save five people, one of them very wounded and in need of immediate medical attention – and he signalled his own personal doctor to see to him – three passed out as soon as they were done kissing the deck, and the last one stubbornly refused to pass out even though he looked more dead than alive.

 

“Who commands this ship?” He asked, barking out a laugh that almost cost him his consciousness when the captain took a step forward. “I didn’t ask who was driving it; I asked who was commanding it. A seasoned sailor such as you would have tossed us overboard the second he got a good look at me and at my companion.” He struggled some more and the king was surprised to see him free himself, his scarred face twisting in a rather scary grin as he rushed to attack the captain.

 

“We command the ship,” he spoke up, moving from behind the barrels so fast that he almost tripped on the hem of robe, “and we wish that you would not harm anyone under our rule.”

 

The man stopped just as he was about to land his first punch against the captain, his smile turning soft as he turned to face him. “Begging your pardon, Your Kingship, but the old man there rested his hand on his sword and I heard others being pulled out of their sheaths.” He bowed just as a guard swung his sword at him and moving out of the way in time to avoid getting knocked down by another. He noticed the third one too late and he braced himself to get hit in the face with a sword’s hilt, only to instead be assaulted with the smell of lavender and mint.

 

“He and his companions are guests on our ship and we do not like to see our guests getting beaten,” he king said as he acted as a shield for the man that was surely a pirate. “Now put your sword back in its scabbard and bow low before us in silence, so we might decide how to punish you for your rudeness.”

 

The pirate tugged on his robe and he turned to look at him, startled by how strongly the he smelled of alcohol. “It’s my face, isn’t it? People are always shocked because of it,” the pirate breathed out, his eyes rolling in the back of his head and collapsing before he could be assured that it was just his smell that disturbed, not the way he looked.

 

He had his men help the sailors carry him below the ship, where his companions were. His doctor was struggling to save his patient, ordering a sailor to hold the light closer to the wound and another one to pour more alcohol over it, to keep it clean.

 

“Your Majesty should order someone to put him out of his misery if I am expected to work on him in this place,” the doctor breathed out frustrated, throwing his hands in the air. “I cannot find it in me to save him from a death while he is unconscious only to—”

 

“Have him taken to our rooms and see to him there, if that increases his chances of surviving,” he said, trying to shush the servants around him who were already bowing low in front of him and begging him not to soil his quarter’s with a pirate’s blood. “We will not sentence them to death without hearing their side of the story for we doubt that anyone would willingly choose such a hard life for themselves.”

 

He took a seat by the window and tried to keep himself busy with a book as the doctor worked to save the man, but his curiosity got the best of him and he ended up hovering just out of the doctor’s way.

 

He tilted his head to get a better look of the man, mouth parting when he saw the various marks he had on his arms and chest. Old wounds that almost killed him, the doctor had said, tapping one right above the man’s heart as he voiced his wonder for getting out with his life from that one.

 

“This drawing right on his wrist looks different,” he leaned close with the intention of touching it, but curled his fingers into a fist and turned to look at his doctor. “It looks like someone has applied it with fire and we wish to know what it means.”

 

“He was captured at one point and branded as a pirate.” The doctor turned the man’s hand with little care, running his fingers over the mark. “It’s a real old mark, fully healed. He got lucky it didn’t get infected. Did Your Majesty ever hear of pirates that have a hook instead of hands?”

 

The king nodded slowly. “And we have also heard of pirates that have wooden pegs instead normal legs and we have heard it being said it was because they fought with huge sharks and octopi that sprung from the depths of Davy Jones’ locker.”

 

The doctor chuckled, shaking his head. “All are grave exaggerations, Your Majesty. Most of them have lost their limbs due to wounds not being treated right and getting infected.” The doctor moved his hand up from the mark to the man’s heart. “To stop the infection from spreading and reaching their hearts, they end up having to amputate.”

 

The king gasped and covered his mouth. “Something tells us that they receive little besides alcohol when their limbs are being cut off.” The doctor slowly nodded and the king almost threw himself back in his chair, trying to force his mind to focus on his book and not think of the horrible and maddening pain the poor people felt when that happened.

 

On a level, he knew that his status in society should have made him feel pleasure to know of this horrifying experience, but he couldn’t. His uncle, the heartless man that saw himself superior to all due to the supposed blue blood that ran through his veins – he had seen the man bleed red blood, just like everyone else – berated him for being so weak and did everything in his power to toughen him up.

 

The man had force him to witness the beheading and hanging of many and every time, he had emptied his insides and then sat in his room for days on end, feeling disgusted and completely powerless. However, when the man had tried to force him to sit through a torture session and even pushed a heated iron in his hand, telling him to use it on the so-called traitor, he drew the line.

 

He had ordered the man to be freed and sent him back to his country, reading with a heavy heart a report that detailed his innocence – the man was nothing more than a travelling monk that was interested in the various myths of the world they lived in – as well as his death after a long struggle with yellow fever, something that he might have contracted while being a prisoner in his dungeon.

 

“Your Majesty?” The doctor called out carefully, hand on his shoulder. “Should I send two guards in here?”

 

“We do not think it necessary. However, what we want you to do is ask the captain if there is another room we might take residence in until your patient recovers and also do inquire about the state of his companions and if we might see them.” He pushed the doctor out the door before the man could get a word in, not in the mood to hear honeyed words which essentially translated to: ‘that’s a horrible idea and I refuse to do what you’ve asked me to’.

 

Left alone with the unconscious man, he tried his hardest not to give in temptation and stare at him, but he was weak. He hovered over him, biting his lower lip as he contemplated pulling back the sheets to look at his chiselled chest that reminded him of Greek sculptures representing various Gods as well as – and most importantly – his wounds, running back to his chair when the man let out a whimper.

 

When the man settled down, curiosity got the best of him again and he was back to hovering, worried when he saw beads of sweat forming on his forehead. He sent a servant to bring him a bowl of cold, fresh water and then proceeded to wipe them away, not liking how hot the man felt under his touch.

 

The doctor returned just as he had sent the servant to change the water and waited for him to move away so he could check the wounds for any signs of infection. “No need to worry, my lord. All he has is a cold which I might treat properly if you allow me to use the medicine we have brought for you?” He nodded and the doctor smiled. “Also, it seems that the one who had almost attacked the captain is up and causing quite a ruckus, wishing to speak with your majesty.”

 

He strange feeling of excitement rushed through his as he gave the doctor the damp cloth he was holding and arranged his robes. “Then we mustn’t be rude and keep them waiting, must we? And do not even bother to waste your breath to convince us otherwise.”

 

One of the sailors led him down to what turned out to be a sort of brig and his guards instantly jumped to cover him when the scarred man pushed himself up against the bars, trying to get a good look at his visitors.

 

“We are here because we wish to see the man for ourselves, which we cannot do so because you are standing in front of us.” He smiled when the man moved away and stepped closer to the door. “We were told you were asking for us?”

 

The man furrowed his eyebrows, tilting his head. “Yeah, I wanted to be sure an actual person stood before me and not the personification of the sun itself, seeing that I was almost blinded by your clothes.” He sneaked a hand out through the bars and the king raised his hand to keep the guards at bay as the man grabbed the edge of his robs and looked carefully at them. “An actual thread of gold,” he muttered, pushing his face against it. “This would fetch me quite a nice sum if I were to sell it, or raise my or my captain’s status if either one of us were to parade around in it.”

 

Huffing, the king pulled his robes away and took a step back, frowning. “You took us away from our—”

 

“Why do you royals that like that?” The man interrupted, clicking his tongue when one of the guards slapped his hands away when he tried to grab the king’s robe again.

 

“It is because we are not speaking just on our behalf, but also on that of our great nation.” He sighed and crossed his arms over his chest, feeling disappointed. “Is this all you wanted from us? To see how much you would fetch on our robes and to find out why we talk the way we talk?”

 

The man turned serious, straightening his back. “I am also curious about the state my captain is in and what your royal highness plans on doing with us once we reach wherever your destination was.”

 

The way he had called him lacked any kind of actual respect, but it wasn’t filled with hatred or disgust. He was tempted to say that it was in a teasing manner, but he couldn’t quite be sure of that since no one had actually dared to tease him in fear of his title and especially of his uncle – the man demanded respect on his behalf even though he himself failed to show it to him. “If your captain is the blond man with a lot of worrisome scars on his chest and the pirate mark on his wrist, then he is fighting a fever in our quarters. As for our plans with you, we must confess that we only worried about getting you out of the water alive and nothing else.”

 

The man’s grin somehow got bigger and he wiggled his eyebrows. “Ogling my captain, were you, your kingship?”

 

“We beg your pardon!” He interjected, covering his mouth with his hand. A wrong choice of words, he realized, as the man started to laugh loudly, trying to rouse his men.

 

“Boys, you’re missing a king begging me for something!”

 

“We were not actually begging you—”

 

“Yes you were,” the man shot back, struggling to fit his head through the bars to look at one of the guards. “You heard His Majesty over here say he begs me, didn’t you?” No one even graved him with so much as a glance. “Huh, are they mutes?”

 

He turned on his heel and huffed, one of the guards rushing to open the door for him. “No, but perhaps it would be best for you if you suddenly lost your tongue. How is it that you still have it, we wonder?”

 

“Let’s just say that I don’t use my tongue just for talking.” He licked his lips and winked, clearly amused by the king’s slightly shocked expression.

 

“We will converse with our captain and decide your fate after your captain,” he turned his head to glare at the still smirking pirate, “at which we were not ogling—”

 

“And yet you know he has scars on his chest.”

 

He opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, trying to come up with a proper comeback before he remembered that he was a king and that meant he didn’t have to explain himself or his actions – although he wasn’t ogling the man; he was just making sure the doctor hadn’t missed any cuts – and he looked away from the man, starting to walk again.

 

“Hey, what’s your name?” The man called, but he refused to give it to him. He had never felt so furious with a man in his entire life, although it was a different kind of fury that he felt when his uncle was involved. “Fine, don’t tell me! I’ll just call you Queen then, Q for short!”

 

He was gripping the bars in the blink of an eye, frowning. “We are not a Queen,” he spluttered, pushing the guards out of his way. “We are…” He trailed off and turned to the side slightly, unsure of how things were supposed to proceed from this point on. He never introduced himself; there was always a servant who did that for him.

 

One of the guards dropped their sword suddenly and straightened their back, stomping the ground with his right foot twice. “Introducing… um…” He trailed off and looked nervously at his king, deciding that he should take off his helmet. “Introducing His Royal Highness–”

 

“Wrong,” Alec sing sang, wiggling his finger in the direction of the guard. “He is His Majesty the King Q.”

 

“If you know that, why ask us why we speak like this? Or why insist on addressing us by our wrong gender?” A king did not mumble, nor did he pout and as such, his face and his voice were the way they were due to remembering how a slice of lemon from a few years ago tasted. “And Q is not our name.” He turned to look at the guard again and the poor man was shaking and sweating by now. “Introduce us to this man so he may address us properly.”

 

“Introducing His Majesty,” he glanced at Alec who nodded, “King William, the fifth of his name.”

 

Alec started to slowly clap, whistling. “That’s a good boy. Got it right on the second try and you still have your head on. A very lucky man as I’ve heard of rulers killing for less.” He leaned against the bars, grinning. “But it’s much too late for that, Your Majesty. I shall call you Q from now own, so deal with it. Also, I wish to add that you are a foolish king,” the man whispered, wrapping his arms around his middle, tightening his hold when he started to struggle. “Guards, to be careful with your swords; you might scratch your reckless ruler.”

 

He tried to hit the man in the groin, but all that got him was his leg stuck between his. “We demand to be unhanded this instant, you brute!”

 

“You’re awfully skinny for a king,” the man whispered in his ear. “Shouldn’t they feed you twenty dishes a meal or something?”

 

“We will have you hanged for this,” he warned, flinching when he accidentally hit his head against the bars.

 

The man pulled him down a little and pushed himself on the tip of his toes, tutting. “Your lordship will have a nasty bump there in the morning.” The man actually brushed his lips against his forehead and he froze, gasping. “A pirate’s kiss might not be a blessing like that of a monk’s, but it might make it better.” He released him and took hold of his arm, kneeling before him and kissing it. “I am Alec Trevelyan, second mate to James Bond who is captain of the legendary MI6.”

 

The guards moved quick and pulled the king behind them, the now named pirate jumping away from the bars before they could stab him. “We’ll spill your blood yet, pirate,” one of them spat out. “For daring to insult His Majesty—”

 

“I really didn’t mean to insult him, really. I just wanted to show him my gratitude in the only way I knew and to introduce myself,” Alec cut in, sliding to the right, quickly hitting the guard’s hand, making him drop the sword which he picked up and pointed back at the man’s exposed neck. “You, however, insulted me.” He looked behind the frozen guard, at the king’s wide eyes and dropped the sword. “But I’ll let it slide because it is not proper to spill blood in front of a Queen.”

 

“We are not a Queen,” he spluttered, pushing the guards out of his way. “We are Our Royal Highness, King William the Fifth and we expect you to address us as such.”

 

Alec leaned against the bars, grinning. “Too late for that, Your Majesty. I shall call you Q from now own, so deal with it.”

 

“You infuriate us,” he hissed and poked Alec’s chest, “and because of that, we shall leave you here until we decide what to do with you.” He turned on his heel once again and quickly walked out of the room, his guards scurrying to follow him.

 

For the first time since he had found out about his parent’s death, he slammed the door behind him and was startled when he was greeted by a pair of confused blue eyes. Realizing that the man must be very confused and think himself in actual danger, he held his hands where the man could see them, unblinking.

 

“We mean you no grief and as long as you are on our graces by not insulting us, no harm will befall you,” he said slowly, not raising his voice so he wouldn’t alert his guards.

 

The man let out a shaky breath and lay back down on the bed, closing his eyes. “If Your Majesty started this conversation by asking not to be insulted, I will take a giant leap in logic and assume that Alec is alive and touching nerves somewhere around this ship?”

 

Reminded by Alec again, he huffed and sat down with a little too much force in his chair, picking up his book. “Your first mate has no manners whatsoever. Calling us a Queen and…” he trailed off, looking at the man in shock. “We have not introduced ourselves and our crown is under lock and key. How did you know we are royalty?”

 

“You mean beside the fact that you are dressed in gold, talk in the way only kings and queens do, have a painting of a younger version of you with the aforementioned crown up against that wall over there, and having a ring with your royal insignia on your finger?” He winked at him, stifling a cough.

 

“Even with a high fever, you are quite observant, Captain Bond,” he said carefully, glancing towards the door. It suddenly crossed him mind that the captain might have been right in his assumption of everything to be a really clever ruse to find out who they were and if their ship was worth stealing, although he still strongly felt like they had truly needed their help. “If we were to ask you a question, would you answer us truthfully?”

 

“I owe Your Majesty my life, so I will not insult you by lying.”

 

“Is this a trap?”

 

The pirate captain shook his head. “It would have been a very risky trap, destroying our ship and all that. Ingenious, but very risky and with few chances of success.” He turned his head to the side and coughed again, flinching. “I am afraid we really were caught in a storm and the ship we were sailing had suffered quite a bit of damage in an unplanned skirmish with a rival band of pirates that uses to usurp my throne.”

 

Intrigued, he pulled his chair closer to the wounded man. “Your throne, captain? We were not aware that pirates had those as well.” He drew closer to him, getting startled when his nose was poked. “That is extremely rude, Captain Bond. If you do so again, we shall have you removed from our quarters and hanged.”

 

What was with everyone touching him in inappropriate ways? The first mate hugging him and now his captain poking him as if he were a child caught stealing cakes. Though, if he took a moment to be truthful to himself, it wasn’t all unwelcomed. In fact, he quite liked the human contact that came without fear or without a sense of duty attached to it.

 

“Your Majesty requested me to be truthful and although I have brushed elbows with royalty before becoming a pirate, I couldn’t help myself from doing something so scandalous.” He chuckled and shivered, burrowing deeper in the covers. “I also have to apologize for forgetting what has made Your Majesty look at me with so much curiosity.”

 

Sighing, the king folded his hands in his lap and straightened his back. “We were curious about your throne and we wished to know more about men such as yourself and their hierarchy outside one’s ship.”

 

“I do not have a crown, but I am seen as one among my peers, yes. But even though my crown does not physically exist, it’s no…” he trailed off and yawned, shaking his head. “It’s no less heavy than the one that rests on your head. Many want my position and even if one day we all drink from the same bottle, tomorrow I might find them stabbing me in the back. I cannot act against them without definite proof…” He trailed off again and sighed, closing his eyes.

 

It didn’t take long for Captain Bond to fall asleep and the king made sure he was covered properly before he left the room, instructing the guards not to attack the pirate if he somehow found enough strength in him to stagger out of the room and instead, come to him. The same went for Captain Bond’s men because, although Alec Trevelyan had lacked manners, he had the chance to escape with him as a hostage and he hadn’t.

 

Now normally, he wouldn’t put so much trust in strangers, but he liked to think that every human had a little bit of good in him and plus it didn’t feel like they would harm them, even after they got better.

 

The captain of his ship did not share his thought and he practically crawled on his feet after him the following day, begging him to let him toss them back in the water or at least stick them in a boat with nothing more than a barrel of water, like he had heard them do to others.

 

“We will not hear of that. We consider ourselves better than pirates and we expect those in our employment to not act such as they would do. And do sit at the table with us; you are a man, not a dog.” He rang a little golden bell and one of his servants appeared, understanding what he wanted when he motioned to the man sitting awkwardly away from him. “And we do hope that they are being fed properly? Lest you want them to be sicker and force us to extend our stay at sea even more than we already had?”

 

The captain looked guilty for a moment. “I will pass Your Majesty’s orders to our cook,” he grumbled, coughing. “And might I ask what Your Majesty plans on doing with them? Do we drop them off at the first port we see or—”

 

“We have not decided quite yet and because of that we wish you slow us down as much as possible.” He did not fault the captain for dropping his fork because he had dropped his cup of tea when the thought crossed his mind, his heart skipping more than a beat.

 

“But Your Majesty, your uncle—”

 

“Our uncle can wait. Our need to make the right decision in this case is much more important than his need to have us back at our castle.” He just really hoped he could make his mind up before a storm hit or something worse happened.

 

***

 

“I thank you for allowing me to see Alec,” Captain Bond said as he entered his temporary quarters, bowing his head when the king turned to look at him. “He is a bit restless that I am not sleeping next to him in my current state and bothered that you are refusing to visit him, but thankful for the food and medicine,” he added, answering the question even before it got asked.

 

“Might we ask with which title he referred when he inquired about us?” The amused look he got from Captain Bond was all he needed. “You may inform your first mate that until he sees us as a king, he will not see us at all.”

 

The captain chuckled and touched his hand in a friendly manner. “He only calls Your Majesty that because you are kind as a Queen.”

 

“But we are a king. If kindness translates to weakness, then perhaps our uncle is right and we must lend him our ear to him more than we currently do.”

 

He tried to pull his hand away, but the captain refused to let go of it and even squeezed it a little, smiling at him in a kind manner. “He does not see weakness in a queen, but kindness that kings often lack.”

 

The plea was there, unsaid, but still loud and clear to him and he sighed, nodding. “We will reconsider our decision not to visit him, but we will not make any promises as we hate to break them.”

 

“It is more than I could have wished for.” He kissed his hand and winked at him and after he left to get some air with the help of a few sailors and followed by two guards, the king called for his doctor, worried that his face had suddenly felt hot and that his heart had started beating rapidly.

 

The sea had become agitated in the course of the day and by sun down he had taken ill for real, his stomach refusing to hold down anything, be it solid or liquid. When lightning started to strike, the terrifying thunder following soon afterwards, he pulled the covers over his head and refused to speak or see anyone.

 

He didn’t want anyone to see his pitiful tears or hear his pathetic whimpers if he was doomed to die so far from land, but Captain Bond proved to be a very stubborn man when he set his mind to something and eventually nagged him into permitting him to enter his room – he still had his covers over his head and he was turned away from the door, just in case.

 

“For no real reason, I feel the need to assure Your Majesty that this is nothing more than little storm that will blow over even before it started.” He opened the window just as thunder rumbled again and the king let out a whimper despite the fact that he was biting down on his lower lip to draw blood. “On some trips, when the land is too far and the water is low, both sailors and pirates consider this type of storm to be a blessing. Short, refreshing, and a lifesaver.”

 

“Bloody loud to top it off,” he muttered before he could stop himself which made Captain Bond let out something that sounded like a chuckle more than a cough. “You did not hear us speak like that,” he said quickly, poking his head out from under the covers to glare at him.

 

“I only heard thunder, Your Majesty.”

 

By the way Captain Bond was trying to sit in a chair, looked like he was planning on staying there, which the king didn’t really want because, although he shared many things with a lot of people, his moments of weakness where his and his alone.

 

“We wish to be left alone,” he spoke up just as Captain Bond finally managed to find a good angle that would allow him to sit down without too much pain. “And we think it is time for you dinner to be served, which would we would take it as an insult if you do not eat while still hot.”

 

The captain pulled himself up and bowed his head, hand over his chest. “As Your Majesty commands.” He stopped with his hand on the doorknob, turning to look at him with a huge smile. “Let me teach you a little trick before I leave, Your Majesty. After every flash, count until the thunder is heard. The longer it takes, the further away the storm is. And please, do not lose sleep over this little blessing of a drizzle.”

 

Captain Bond’s trick also helped him fall asleep, relaxing every time it took him more time to count until he heard the thunder and just as the moon decided to grace the sky, his eyes closed and he fell in a blissful sleep, dreaming of his beloved forests and his siblings.

 

He woke up in a very cheerful mood, one that he was willing to have ruined by asking his servants to take his breakfast to where Alec and the other three pirates were. His guards followed him, of course, and when he reached the room, the servants had set up his table right in front of the door made out of bars, from behind which Alec was grinning much like a wolf would.

 

“And what shall you be calling us this morning, first mate Alec?” He asked as he put his napkin around his neck, slightly amused when he saw the pirates mirror his moves.

 

“Since my feet are still touching the ground, I will still refer to you as Q, Your Majesty.” He sat with his legs crossed on the ground and started to eat with his hand. “Thanks for this food, by the way. We don’t eat this fancy even when we forcefully board the ships of princess.”

 

He didn’t find himself irritated with the name, but for the sake of appearances, he forced himself to roll his eyes and huffed. “Well, I do imagine that the cooks of those ships would try to poison you and your men before treating you like their Lords.”

 

“And yet yours were quite nice to us, despite the fact that the first time they served us stale bread and half a cup of water.” He burped loudly and his men followed suit, the king watching them with accidental amusement as they started to have a burping contest – which Alec won without really trying, in his opinion. “So, Q—”

 

“The proper way to address us is ‘Your Majesty’,” he interrupted, wiping his mouth. “Your Captain Bond does so; why can’t you?”

 

“Because my captain hasn’t see the way you pout and puff your cheeks slightly when you are being teased, Your Q-ines.” Alec stuck his tongue out at him. “Anyway, did you decide what to do with us yet? Or are you fattening us up to make us walk the plank and feed the sharks?”

 

He clicked his tongue, his appetite disappearing at the image that had planted itself firmly inside his mind. That type of feast would be enjoyed only by his uncle, never by him. “We have and we are just waiting for our doctor to tell us that your captain is completely healed before we drop you off near what our captain calls ‘Hell’s mouth’.”

 

All traces of amusement left Alec’s face and he tensed up, his men stopping mid-bite to look at him with wide eyes. “Has your captain told you that those are pirate infested waters? Or rather, that Hell’s mouth is right smack in the middle of pirate territory?” He frowned when the king nodded. “Your ship, while grand, will not be able to stand up against the armada that the island will spit at you, if you wish to turn yourself from William the fifth to William the Scourge of the Pirates.”

 

“We only wish to return you to your home, Alec, and nothing more.”

 

The pirates started to laugh, but stopped when Alec hit them upside the heads. “You know that it’s not a hidden island, right? Know where—”

 

“We have no hidden agenda, nor do we wish to have such a dreadful title attached to our Royal name.” He sat up and his servants instantly started to clean his table. “We wish you a continued pleasant stay on our ship until we deliver you home.”

 

Alec pushed himself against the bars and started to call out after him. “Hey! Hey, Q! Can you let us stretch our legs for a few hours? And is it okay for my captain to sleep with me? I miss his snoring and the way he kicks me in his sleep?”

 

He found it strange that even the pirate king was forced to share his bed with his men and wondered just how small their loggings were. Still, he saw nothing wrong with stretching his legs and even his own captain agreed with the idea, wishing to cure himself as well as his men of their unspoken fear of pirates.

 

Captain Bond looked happy when he was relocated in the cell with his first mate and the king sneaked down there on the night before they were to reach their unplanned destination to check up on them, surprised to find them tightly wrapped around each other and looking extremely happy.

 

“We have to admit that we are a bit jealous at how close of a friendship you two have,” he whispered, pushing up against the bars. “We hope it never ends.” He walked back to his room, feeling cold despite the two blankets he had covered himself with and dreamt of his family again.

 

On the following day, just as the sun had turned from a bright orange disk to a yellow one, the captain burst in his room and threw himself at his feet. “I am sorry, Your Majesty. It was my entire fault! I should have put more people in the crow’s nest to be on the lookout. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

 

“We do not–”

 

“Pirate ships!” The man shouted, wrapping his arms around the king’s legs. “At least a dozen of them on the horizon. They just suddenly appeared and I do not know how it was possible to miss them and I have doomed us all! Please forgive me for failing you in such a way, Your Majesty.”

 

He pulled the man up and smiled at him. “It is not your fault,” he said softly and then he walked out, forcing his arms not to shake. No, it was his fault. He could have just dropped the pirates in a boat with water and food and pray for their souls, but…

 

He sighed. It didn’t matter now. The deed was done and there was no reason to cry over spilled milk. He had to think of how they would act now. Dress in commoner’s clothing, hide his crown, and just hope they’ll take everything except for the ship? Or force someone in his clothing, give him his crown and just order a new one after they got home safe and sound? Something his uncle would do, but not something that he could do.

 

He looked at the ships through his spyglass and he recognized three of them as having been previously owned by armadas of his neighbouring countries and if he had a hat, he would have taken it off in front of the pirates for managing to steal them. But the ship that left him breathless was the one that was leading them, taller than all, its sails blacker than anything he had ever seen in his life, a terrifying mermaid with a golden trident as its figurehead.

 

“No need to fear, Your Majesty,” Captain Bond said as he stepped next to him on the ship’s deck, grinning. “They are not yet within firing range, no red flags are flying, and I’ll use a mirror to tell that that no harm is to come to this ship before they get any bright ideas.”

 

“Red flags?” he curiously asked, lowering his spyglasses.

 

“When we hoist the Jolly Roger, we ask the ships to drop anchor and give up.” He put the spyglass back to the king’s eye and pointed it towards a biggest ship’s main mast. “A read flag means no quarter for those we are in pursuit, but as you can see, my main ship has a flag with a dog’s head above a crossed knife and a gun, which is my colour and which means that you are still safe.” He winked at the king when he lowered the spyglass. “Something of an inside joke between Alec and I.”

 

“A morbid one, in our opinion,” the king breathed out. “Our ship will not go beyond this point and as soon as our guards bring your companions up, you will be put in a boat and dropped in the water. And while you are pirates, since you are under our protections, we must as you if you are sure they are your men and not those who wished you dead?”

 

Alec’s head suddenly appeared between them and while Captain Bond rolled his eyes, the king tried to get his heart to slow down. “How sweet of King Q—”

 

“That is not our name,” he said between gritted teeth.

 

“—to worry about us.” He narrowed his eyes and jumped on the edge of the boat, ignoring the guards who ordered him back between them. “The wind is in Your Majesty’s favour and this ship was built for speed, not resistance. Though you still won’t outrun our baby,” he said, looking extremely proud. “Not that we’d do anything bad to you after you saved us, King Q.”

 

“Not our name.”

 

Alec jumped back on the deck and looked like he was going to lean against the king, but the guards as well as his servants formed a wall between them and James grabbed his arm and dragged him on his other side. “That is quite enough, Alec. Our host does not like your nickname and you did him quite a lot of harm when you whistled. Be proper and then bid him goodbye.”

 

“He’s not joining us for a feast?” He asked Captain Bond and then pushed him away, looking at the king with huge, sad us. “Just for a feast, Your Majesty, and nothing more. We promise that no one will lay a single finger on you, your crew, or your ship. In fact, you will leave with more jewels and gold coins.”

 

The king shook his head. “We thank you for your offer, but we will not be able to attend the feats. Our men are tired, weary, and restless and we wish to return to our own country before our uncle declares us lost at sea and takes our throne from us.”

 

“Ah, I see…” Alec muttered, kneeling and holding his hand out. “Then, Your Majesty, allow me to be proper for once.”

 

The guards moved closer to each other, as did the servants, but the king tapped waved them aside and rested his hand in Alec’s. “We knew you had it in you,” he said with a little smile on his face, heart starting to beat faster when the pirate’s lips touched his skin.

 

“Also, an apology for whistling up the storm…” He pulled out a golden ring with a huge ruby encrusted in it from inside his pants and slipped it on the King’s finger.

 

“We thank you?” The king whispered, amazed by how the sunlight reflected off the ruby and by how heavy it was.

 

Alec winked at him and jumped in the boat next to his captain and the other men, Captain Bond holding his hand up to stop the lowering of the boat. “Just one more thing…” He turned to glare at the men before pointing to the ship’s deck and they started to throw little pouches out of their pants and shirts, one of them holding out the king’s spyglass for one of the servants to take. “If something shines, they have to steal it. They’re like dangerous magpies, you see.” He bowed his head little as the boat was lowered. “I hope to meet again, Your Majesty.”

 

“But we’ll kidnap you next time so you can attend a feast with us, King Q!” Alec shouted.

 

“Also, count between the flash and the sound,” Captain Bond added before the boat hit the water and he ordered his men to start rowing as fast as they could.

 

The king leaned over the rail and watched them go, everyone scampering to help raise the anchor and hoist the sails, hoping to put as much distance as it was possible between them and the menacing pirate ships.

 

“Keep an eye on their flags!” The captain shouted up at the crow’s nest and the king himself turned his recovered spyglass towards the flags and then peeking at the little boat that was moving at quite a huge speed, gasping when he saw Alec diving in the water.

 

That man was the strangest one he had ever met, but he was endearing in his own way. And his captain was endearing as well as charming. Still, it was very strange that neither of them talked like he had heard the sailors in the ports say they talked and they did seem to have some semblance of manners.

 

“Their lowered the Jolly Rogers,” the man in the crow’s nest shouted and more than a handful of sailors fell on their knees and started to pray. “But they also lowered all of their sails and the MI6 clearly dropped its anchor.”

 

“They’re letting us go?” The captain breathed out next to him right before his legs gave out and he fell, relief washing over him. “Thank all the gods for their mercy.”

 

“Captain Bond kept his promise to us.” He smiled and patted the captain’s shoulder. “We shall return to our quarters, but feel free to allow the men to celebrate until the sun rises again if they so wish. We will even part with seven of our bottles.”

 

The captain started to kiss his feet again, thanking him and really, all he wanted to do was go back in his quarters and actually finish reading his book because once he set foot on land again, he would have to face his horrible and detestable uncle who would find ways of psychically punishing him for taking so long to return.

 

Maybe he should have gone to Captain Bond’s and Alec’s feast; bribe them to keep him there, even if he had no idea what he could do to earn his keep. But alas, a true king did not belong to himself, but to his people and there was no room for a single act of selfishness in his life. To stay with the pirates would mean to give his uncle power, and the man had a hungry look in his eyes whenever they landed upon his crown – a horrible and heavy symbol of a power that devoured all those who had it, giving them the agility to destroy the world around them if they so wished.

 

No, his uncle must never have his crown. His uncle must never have his throne. His uncle must never get to taste a king’s full power.

 

“Your Majesty?” The captain’s hesitant voice came from the door and he turned around to look at him, not liking the way he was clutching the barely touched bottle of alcohol. “I am so sorry, but—”

 

Loud thunder interrupted him and the king let out a long sigh. “Do not apologize, captain. We know that you do not control the weather.” He waved the man away and his stomach let out a loud sound that had one of his servants rush to bring him a bucket and two more help him to his.

 

But this time, he did what Captain Bond had told him – and he also realized that the man had known this storm was coming – and to his surprise, his stomach wasn’t opposed to keeping the food and tea down. He continued to count until he was close to triple digit numbers and his eyelids became heavier and heavier with each number until he saw no more lighting and heard no more thunder because he had fallen asleep and dreamt of the strangest dinner with dogs that ran around with knives and guns in their mouths while being ridden by Alec and his dear friend, Captain Bond.

 

And how much he wished he could take their hands and ride the dog away from his raging uncle that resembled a giant octopus. If only he wasn’t chained to the chair.

Chapter Text

There weren’t many people that left behind such a deep impression on James and Alec as the thin king had. And yet, six years had passed since the day they that been pulled out of Death’s icy tendrils and delivered back to the safety of their home, and they still carried the young king in their thoughts.

 

He was the most visually pleasing king that was currently alive, James vividly remembering the way the sun itself bounced off his beautiful and wild brown hair and the way the moon made him look glow when he stood under it. And his eyes! Oh, Poseidon, his eyes. Both he and Alec had wasted hours going through thousands of emeralds in an attempt to find even one that matched them, but to no avail.

 

The softness of his skin was also something that got stuck with them and despite the fact that they had taken to plundering ships that they knew carried various fine materials meant for royal houses from all over the world, they could never find one that did justice to their memory of his touch.

 

But the king had stayed in their minds for more than just his good looks. They had never met a royal that spoke so soft and yet their words carried so much strength behind them, nor one who took pity on other even after finding out that they were pirates. Let along share their food and quarters with them! Truly, King William the Fifth was going to go down in history as King William the Kind or King William the Merciful – although Alec and he, as well as the three men that had been rescued with them, will forever call him King Q.

 

Although they had made it clear to their men never to dare attack or intimidate any ships that flew under the flag with the golden sun on the light blue background, if they happen to run across a ship with that flag, they boarded it without a second thought. Not to plunder it or kill its crew - even though some refused to drop their bloody anchors and actually tried to outrun the MI6 - of course, but hoping that Lady Luck would be on their side and they would meet the king again.

 

But the Lady was a fickle goddess and instead of the king, they got to meet around eleven women who were to meet with the king in hopes of landing themselves a nice crown as well as a much coveted title. A sense of pity for the royal washed over them since all of his would be wives were shallow, superficial creatures, and three even almost got skewered by their men for daring to slap their captain and demand that he presented himself on his knees in front of their fathers for not bowing in front of them - James later found out that the three were sisters, which made so much sense and he was surprised genuinely surprised that he didn’t put two and two together.

 

Even so, the two refused to completely lose their hope. They continued to sale the seas, sure that on one glorious day, they would get to kidnap the kind king throw him a feast in his honour where they planned on covering him from head to toe in the finest and most precious jewels they had which he could use as he wished – to parade around balls and make every other royal present there jealous or to ensure that his country never encountered hardships while he was alive.

 

***

 

“James? James? Captain, wake up!” Alec shouted in his ear, shaking him violently. “You have to see this,” he insisted despite James burying his head under the pillow and sighing.

 

“Alec, I don’t care how many knives Tanner can juggle without getting one lodged in his skull. He is bound to screw up at one point and if I happen to be present when he does that, his wife will manage to do what so many naval officers tried and namely hang me,” he grumbled. That woman, although no more than a simple tavern wench, was as fierce as they came when it came to her family, so much so that even James feared what might happen to them if they dared to return without her beloved husband.

 

But Alec simply refused to leave him alone and wrestled the pillow and covers off of him, jumping on the bed, knees on his arm, cupping his face. “It’s Q’s boat!” He said excitedly, eyes shining. “It’s the exact same ship he was on six years ago which I know because of the hull is painted in that light blue that we saw only on his and the figurehead is a golden lion.” He covered James’ mouth when he tried to speak, shaking his head. “No, the sip still flies under his flag, so it wasn’t sold off.”

 

Of the two of them, Alec was the easiest to read. By no means was he blessed with the calmness of a shallow lake on a summer day, but at least you knew when the storm was about to hit. With James, however, it was always a surprise. He was often compared with the weather at sea, calm and cool one moment and then ragging and unforgiving the next. With him, unless you were part of his close circle of trusted friends, you didn’t know if his laughter would be followed by the unsheathing of his cutlass or by another cup of ale.

 

So yes, it was obvious to everyone with working eyes that Alec was beyond excited and truly believed what he was saying, which warned James of the huge amount of sadness mixed with irritation he and their men would have to deal with should this ship turn up to be kingless – and also of the fact that he would probably have to chain his mate to keep him from accidentally smothering the willowy king with his bear hug.

 

He gathered up his strength and shoved Alec off of him, putting his dark blue coat on. “Then have the men hoist our colours and try to look presentable. After all, we can’t insult His Royal Majesty by looking like slobs when we present our physical incitation to his grand feast, now can we?” He pulled Alec close and bit down on his shoulder hard, his partner’s eyes rolling in the back of his head as he shivered.

 

“Don’t start what you know we can’t finish,” Alec warned, shoving James back. “It’s hard for me to contain myself as it is anyway.”

 

James chuckled as he made sure his five flintlocks where loaded and that his cutlass’ edge was still sharp even though he know he wouldn’t need them since all ships under King Q’s flag that didn’t hold unruly princesses had learned by now to come to a complete halt at the sight of their Jolly Roger.

 

“I’m going to take one of your shirts since mine is lacking buttons,” Alec informed him as he dug through his chest, commenting disapprovingly on every piece of fabric his eyes landed on.

 

James rolled his eyes and smacked Alec upside the head. “You know you’ll end up going shirtless—”

 

“Captain, she’s making a run for it. Going to give her the usual chase and check after we catch up to her?” Tanner asked through the door and they both looked at each other with disappointment.

 

Another bloody princess, their eyes seemed to say. “The usual, Mister Tanner; no red flag and no cannon fire,” James ordered and patted Alec on the back. If it weren’t for his status and reputation, he would have let the ship slip away.

 

“I hope this one is at least pretty or at least without a vocabulary that doesn’t rival ours,” Alec grumbled as he kicked the door open and stomped on the deck.

 

James sensed that something was off as their prey started to fire their cannons, something that none of the ships under the kind king’s flag did in the past despite their precious cargo. “Be ready for a fight,” James ordered his men who all broke out on cheers, “but if anyone dares to raise the red flag, they’ll find themselves hanging by their intestines next to it.”

 

It took three warning shots from MI6’s secondary cannons and one from their main one which missed the ship only because the master gunner together with the sailing master realized they would hit them dead on if they didn’t take a sharp turn – Alec didn’t have to be told to go below the deck and give whoever was manning that cannon a good beating for this very dangerous mishap – to get them to drop anchor.

 

“If they drop their weapons, spare them,” James shouted as he swung on the smaller ship’s deck, kicking a mountain of a man in the neck and sending him to the ground, quickly pulling out his cutlass to deflect an attack from another sailor and one of his flintlocks with which he hit another one in the face hard enough to knock him out.

 

Alec soon joined the fight and just like James, he was careful not to kill anyone although that wasn’t too hard for him to do, the sailors clashing their swords with him only once or twice before getting scared of the animal sounds he let down and throwing their weapons, running away scared.

 

Their men took the same care with their rivals, although they had to draw blood or knock them out before they could move on. At least they were finally having a little bit of fun, the boredom and anger at being three weeks at sea without a single battle to be fought or a single ship to pillage finally chased away by the excitement of this skirmish.

 

“Don’t kill me, we give up!” A fat man whose fancy clothes gave him away as the captain shouted in a high-pitched voice as he wobbled from somewhere below, Tanner’s knives against his back. “Everybody, throw down your weapons!” He ordered, stomping his feet when the men continued to fight. “I said to throw down your weapons, you bloody imbeciles! We still get paid even if we give up and abandon this rotten ship and everything that’s on it!” That earned him a punch in the stomach from Alec.

 

“You’ll respect King Q’s ship, you walking piece of fat.” He shook the man who was trying to gnaw his leg off and pulled his fist back, clearly going for the face this time.

 

“I’m sorry,” the insult to the captain rank squeaked out and dropped to his knees, kissing the dirty deck. “This is the single most beautiful ship I have ever seen, a true pearl of the sea. The day I was given command of it was truly the single greatest day of my life.” The last part sounded truly honest, James finding himself silently wondering how it came to pass that this shameful man was given such an honour.

 

By now the fighting had stopped, the sailors throwing away their weapons in favour of watching their pitiful captain be humiliated. “Now crawl to my captain’s feet and kiss each of his toes as an apology for making him waste his precious time and ammo to chase you down,” Alec instructed, kicking the man in the ass to ‘help’ him to crawl faster to his captain’s feet, much to the delight of their men, who cheered and clapped.

 

James felt more disgusted by the man’s lips on his feet than the mud and blood that covered them. He was sure he was going to get some sort of disease from the man’s chapped lips and the mix of tears with saliva and mucus that he was producing and James kicked him in the face to get him to stop. He also slapped Alec upside the head for making the man do this. “The next human slug I see, I’m going to make him slobber all over your feet,” James growled as he ripped the sobbing man’s fancy red velvet jacket to wipe his feet.

 

“You know you won’t because you know I’ll run my legs over your chest and face just to spite you,” Alec murmured, wiggling his eyebrows.

 

James rolled his eyes and pushed Alec’s face away, really tempted to start wrestling with him in front of the crew. “Make sure that our hosts and their captain don’t get any bright ideas and force us to spill even more unworthy on this ship.” He was going to make the fat captain swab the deck before letting them go anyway and maybe even leave behind one of his crew’s parrots to give an apology alongside with a huge jewel to the king for this. “Tanner, take three men and check the ship’s hold and I’ll take five men to check the living quarters and the ship’s stores.”

 

“Aye-Aye, Captain.”

 

The inside of the ship was rotten, the paint was all but gone and some planks where a strong wave away from breaking. This was uncommon for normal ships and if the repairs were done the second they entered a port and no money was spared when they were being done, it could easily be saved. However, for a vessel used by royalty, its state was something that James had only encountered once before and that was at a king who was sailing across the sea to sell his crown jewels to save his country from drowning in debt.

 

The captain’s quarters were decent looking, though compared to the first time he had sneaked in to be creepy and watch the king sleep, it was unrecognizable. The ornate desk was gone as were the two beautiful paintings that depicted the king. There was no bed and the captain seemed to be sleeping on a pile of hay over which a hole-ridden curtain had been thrown and chipped plates of mouldy food were all over the place. The only thing that was still in one piece was the large window, but even that was covered in dirt and mould.

 

Meanwhile, the quarters which the king had used and he himself had been allowed to recover from his injuries and sickness, rooms that made him think he was resting in a field of lavender when his senses had returned to him and that were spotless and lined with beautiful paintings and rows of books placed in strange shelves that did not allow them to fall on anyone when the ship moves, now smelled horrible and were filled with hammocks made out different pieces of cloth that were fitted for royalty and that sent off a few alarm bells in James’ head.

 

“Alec!” His first mate was by his side in an instant, two of his flintlock drawn. “Do you remember the inside of this ship from the last time?” Alec nodded. “Excellent; switch tasks with Tanner. Start from the bottom of the ship and work your way up here.”

 

“So you have the same feeling I did, good.”

 

James hummed, eyes narrowed. “I’ll see if I can make the captain spill his guts without the aid of my sword. Come to me the second you find something that seems to be even the tiniest bit off.”

 

“Aye-Aye, Captain.”

 

Despite pissing his pants in front of two crews and crying like a new-born babe when he was hanged upside down, the captain provided him with little information. All he said was that he and his crew were on a secret mission from the king which he was not allowed to reveal. When James started to poke the side of his fat legs with his sword, he claimed that he didn’t know what the mission was about.

 

“Do you take me for a fool?” James had growled out, hitting him in the stomach with the pommel of his sword. “You will tell me what your mission is, or I will start throwing your men overboard!”

 

“I don’t know, I don’t know,” the captain cried out, hiccupping. “You can throw all of them overboard and I still–”

 

“A man!” One of the sailors shouted. “Our mission was to carry a man.”

 

James turned and signalled his men to bring the sailor close to him, roughly cupping his chin. “A man you say? Is he on deck with us right now?”

 

“Shut up, you–” Tanner hit the man over in the face with the hilt of his sword hard enough to break his nose and dislodge a few of his teeth.

 

“Go on; I’ll pay you your weight in gold if you tell me,” James said sweetly, pulling the man to his feet and wrapping an arm around his shoulders. “I will even offer you protection from your own captain and crew if you want it.”

 

“From yours as well?”

 

Well, the man was smart, James would give him that. “I promise you on my honour as a seaman that I will protect you from both your crew and mine, if needed as well as pay you your weight in gold if you give me the information I seek.”

 

The man grabbed his hand and shook it, eyes filled with greed. “He’s somewhere below the deck. I don’t know where and I don’t know what he looks like. I just know that he’s a he and that the captain was paid with this ship and a large bag of something to stay in the middle of the sea. We didn’t get anything other than the promise not to be put in galleys.”

 

James turned his attention to the crying and praying captain - who wet himself for a third time - and cracked his knuckles. He could make this easier and offer the man his weight in gold, but he was far too angry and upset that such a man had under his command the kind king’s ship. No, for the interrogation that would follow, James was going to use nothing more than his sword and fist to get information.

 

“Time to–”

 

“Captain, there’s someone in the brig, but I can’t see who because they replaced the bars with wooden panels,” Alec interrupted him, leaning against him to catch his breath. “Nothing else is changed except for that and yes, I am sure someone is there because I heard crying and moans of pain.”

 

“One of my crewmen contacted a disease,” the captain said hurriedly. “I feared the others might catch it so I –”

 

James backslapped him, sick of his lying. A man such as the captain would faster throw a sick man into the sea instead of trying to treat them - and yet, if the two of them faced a judge, James would be the one killed. “Is the lock complicated?”

 

Alec snorted. “For these wastes of space, maybe. But for me? Give me a minute and we’ll see who the secret resident is.”

 

It ended up being the tensest minute of their lives, both of them turning their heads away at the strong smell of sickness that came from the room the moment the door was opened. Alec had to run to bring a torch because the windows had also been nailed shot and the room was drowned in darkness, James’ hear the size of a flea as he heard the man whimpers and incoherent mutterings.

 

He had Alec wait by the door and carefully made his way in, a piece of cloth wrapped around his nose and mouth. The floor was dirty, covered in bile, blood, food, and other things that he refused to name in his mind. There wasn’t even an actual cot; just a pile of dirty and raggedy fabrics, the prisoner curled into a tight, shaking ball right in the middle of it.

 

The man flinched when he saw the light and tried to burry himself in the cot, but James carefully grabbed the white, incredibly thin arm to still him. “I am not here to harm you,” he whispered carefully, releasing the frail limb in favour of pulling away the fabrics that the man had managed to cover his head and face with.

 

When he saw the face, he froze and actually felt sick. It was their saviour. Their kind king who once looked like the sun in human form now looked more like a cadaver. His cheeks were more pronounced and they jutted out due to obvious malnourishment and his skin – a very light pink that was more ivory had now turned into an unhealthy mix between green and – was cold and clammy to the touch. He also had dark bags under his eyes – which James had confused for bruises at first – and his lips were so cracked that a rivulet of blood was slipping from them and onto the unkempt and clearly unplanned beard.

 

“Your Majesty,” he breathed out, voice shaky. “Your Majesty, can you recognize me?”

 

The king moved his head towards his face and slowly opened his eyes, the beautiful green that no jewel in the world could rival now replaced with the colour of dying seaweed. “Oh spirit of a friend we shortly had,” he gasped, forcing himself to smile, “have you come to take us away from this pain? Wisk us in that world were nothing is felt?” He weakly grabbed his shirt, screeching in pain. “We beg you not to be a simple figment of our imagination for our sanity could not bear it if we blink and you are gone and we are left behind.”

 

“I am neither of those things, Your Majesty. I am as real as you or as this room you are in.” The ease with which he took the king’s hand from his shirt and brought it to his lips made him uneasy. Nothing was going to spare the captain from his and Alec’s wrath. Nor everyone else who was involved.

 

“You certainly feel real to us, but so did our mother and father.” His stomach lurched and he quickly pulled his hand away so he could cover his mouth, tears spilling from his eyes. “We will look now and you and your warm light will be gone, as was our mother and father.”

 

James was now shaking with anger, clutching the torch so tight that he wouldn’t be surprised if it suddenly cracked. “I am real,” he insisted through gritted teeth. “I am truly here and you are saved from this wretched place.”

 

The king let out a week chuckle and struggled to raise one of his hands, James leaning down to allow him to feel his face. “If you say so, spirit. Still, we will not open our eyes for we found it soothing to lose our consciousness while pretending someone kind is with us. Tell me, spirit: is your friend with us? Is he well? We often dream of…” He trailed off and his arm fell on his chest and for the second it took James to find his pulse, air refused to enter his lungs.

 

“James, who is it?” Alec asked from the door, impatience clear in his voice.

 

“King Q,” he whispered and then tried again, louder so Alec could hear him and fill with rage just as he had. “King Q is lying in front of me, more dead than alive.” He stepped aside to make room for him.

 

Alec put his hand against the king’s chest to hear his heartbeat, carefully brushing his hair off of his forehead. “We should have found him earlier, James. We could have saved him if—”

 

“Don’t talk as if he’s dead, Alec. What’s done is done, but the future is still uncertain. He’s still alive and our doctor is good.” He sat up and watched Alec struggling to carefully gather the almost skeletal king in his arms. “You know our ship’s doctor is as best as they come and even if he can do little more than keep him anchored in the world of the living, we’ll be back home within five days if the wind is against us. Faster still if it is on our side.”

 

Only when Alec sat up did they realize that the king was naked and shivering from the cold. It hadn’t been enough that they had stuck him on a ship in the middle of the story season, and tortured him with poison. It hadn’t been enough that they had stripped him of his crown, his jewels, and his hope. No, they also had to take away his clothes and dignity and force him to die like a rat, locked away in a small room with no light and no fresh air, tormented by the smell of his own death.

 

“Q…” Alec seethed out, his anger and his intention crystal clear despite the lack of actual words. It would take an awful long time before their bloodlust would be satisfied and longer still before Death would smother the bastards in its raggedy robes.

 

When he stepped on the deck, the captain started to plead for his life and cry even harder than before, swearing on the lives of his children and wife and all those who followed that had yet to be born with his blood in their veins that he had no idea who he had in the brig and that he only did what he was told.

 

But James ignored him for the time being, waving Tanner over. “Go to my cabin and bring Alec the covers from our bed. Don’t ask why, just do it.”

 

“Aye-aye, captain,” Tanner said after a moment of hesitation.

 

“As for the rest of you,” James said as he tuned to face his restless crew, “the second Alec steps back to our ship, you are free to take every little thing you consider to be of value, save for the food and water which you will not touch.” The men started to cheer, raising their weapons to the sky. “All I want is the flag and the one who brings it to me in one piece will get ten pieces of gold and a diamond.”

 

That had everyone scatter to reach the top of the ship, kicking and hitting each other mercilessly, friendships forgotten. Normally James would have sat back together with Alec and enjoyed the hell out of the show, emptying a bottle of good rum before stumbling back to their quarters to continue their fun, but now…

 

He cupped the captain’s face in an almost tenderly way, sighing. “Is that any way to treat such a kind and caring king?”

 

“I didn’t know, honestly,” he hiccupped, shaking his head. “They never told me and when I found out, it was too late. I swear—”

 

James shushed him, covering his mouth, smiling softly at him. “That is quite alright, captain. We all make mistakes from time to time, don’t we?” The man nodded and James laughed, slapping his multiple chins. “As such, I might also accidentally flog you with the cat after which I might have you dunk in a bath of vinegar, keelhauled two to three times and then, by some ungodly mistake, pickled in brine and then tied up to my favourite ship’s figurehead.”

 

The noises the man was making now could easily rival the ones made by whales and James was really hoping that his hearing wouldn’t be permanently damaged. “Why should I go through all of that? The doctor prepared the mix and the large guards forced it down his throat. I did nothing but keep the ship at sea.”

 

“And therein lays the problem.” He glanced at Alec and Tanner carefully boarding the MI6 with the precious cargo and sighed. “You did nothing while they were killing. But don’t worry; my first mate and I will do everything and more to all who were involved. And you all better pray to every god and goddess you can think of that he survives, or else you will never feel anything else in your long life except for pain.”

 

One of his men, bruised and bloodied – although thankfully not with a newly acquired limp – presented him with the flag, kneeling before him and lowering his head while his captain pressed his face against the golden threaded flag.

 

It surprised him that something that was nothing more than a glistering rock in its original form could be used to form something so soft. He imagined that this was how the white clouds in the sky felt to the touch. He was also pleasantly surprised at the fact that it was intact and he hoped the king was as resistant as his flag.

 

***

 

“He’s in pain,” Alec growled, kicking James’ desk. “And he hasn’t opened his eyes once. Are you sure you’re not losing your touch, doctor? Because if you do and he loses his life—”

 

James cleared his throat, shaking his head. This was not the way they treated doctors, the precious men of herbs and potions having saved their lives more than once. Still, when the king let out another pathetic whimper, James found it hard not to pull out his flintlock and shoot off one of the doctor’s fingers just to make sure the man was still aware what pain felt like.

 

The doctor rubbed his face, sighing. “I made him spill all the contents of his stomach, covered him in leeches from head to toe, and given him to drink only the water in which I boiled angelica roots and wintergreen leaves. There is little more that I can do right now for this cabin boy of yours except wait to see how things turn out.”

 

No one dared to ask them directly who the ailing man in their quarters was but Tanner and their doctor. Tanner got the truthful answer and the man was instantly on his knees, apologizing for daring to look at him while he was naked – he was deaf to Alec’s mournful reassurance that the king was too out of it to realize what was happening – and swearing to poke out his own eyes if the he so wished. To the doctor, however, the king was presented as a boy they once met on a ship and who saved their lives by keeping them hidden from the other sailors until they reached land and then he helped sneak them off to safety and who had presented himself as Q – James would have gone with Will, but Alec wasn’t actually thinking when he showed the dying king to the doctor and asked him to ‘save Q’, so the king got stuck with that name.

 

Of course the doctor wasn’t buying their bullshit because his patient was too old and his hands were too soft and devoid of any hard labour marks to be a cabin boy, but he didn’t push the subject. He knew the most important parts: the boy was important to them and they might actually snap at him if he didn’t save him and the boy had been administered a type of an excruciatingly slow-working and dangerous poison.

 

“Might I know how he came in contact with this?” The doctor asked tentatively. “It’s very expensive and from the amount of tainted blood I drew out of him and the way his hair and nails look, he’s been ingesting it in small dozes for about a week.”

 

Alec sat up and grabbed the bloody whip, but the doctor grabbed his arm stopped him before he could walk out. “You need to let at least some of the skin to scab, Alec. Last time you whipped him, he almost lost his arm. I know you want to punish him for what he did to the boy and I am not saying that he doesn’t deserve it, but if you don’t give him at least a week’s break, he will die.”

 

It would have been very easy for James to simply order Alec not to whip the captain and even send him to the brig when the inevitable happened, but their relationship wasn’t like that. It wasn’t what a captain and a first mate had and he was never going to ruin it by ordering him something instead of explaining why he should do what he says. “Alec, I love the sight and smell of his blood and the sound of his pained screams as much as you do, but do you really want to end his suffering so fast?”

 

Almost pouting, Alec dropped the whip in favour of one of the only two books that been spared from being fed to a fire on the king’s ship, opening it carefully and pretending to read. James was the only one besides the doctor who could read more than thirty words in total that did not have anything to do with a ship or with people being wanted, but despite that, Alec along the rest of their men shared his sadness at the lost books since these two were beautifully crafted, the lettering a true work of art as were the drawings, and the binding had been flawless, so they assumed that the others had been the same.

 

“Do you think he’ll teach me how to read?”

 

The doctor excused himself and left without being asked, James sitting down next to Alec and pulling out a bottle of good run from under their bed. “If his eyes recover,” he took a swing from the bottle at the thought of the man permanently losing his eyesight, wanting to stop himself from thinking of how devastated the king would be if that happened, “I am sure he will be more than happy to do so.”

 

“Well, until then…” He trailed off and held the book to James, stealing his bottle. “I think you stopped after reading the third chapter’s title, the one where he was being knighted or something.”

 

James sighed, glared, and eventually gave in, taking the book from Alec as the man laid down on the ground. Most text he encountered, he read without a problem or a simple pause. The words in those were small and were part of their daily speech. This book, however, had words that he had heard from the stories his mother had read to him when he had been a small child and never since then. “Harassed… by this… reflection, he made… haste… with his… scanty pothouse supper –”

 

“What’s a pothouse?” Alec interrupted him, half of the bottle already gone. “And what does the supper from one taste like?” He grinned at the annoyed James, moving to put his head in his lap, holding the bottle to him. “Well, I imagine that’s what Q asked the first time he read this.”

 

On cue, the man let out a low moan and both men were with their hands on him, James pulling him in an upright position while Alec pushed his hair out of his face as the man vomited what the doctor had made him drink earlier into a bowl. They both cussed as they saw blood and held him tight as tears began to spill from his eyes, the man weakly struggling in an attempt to free himself from who he believed to be his torments.

 

“We shan’t, we shan’t,” he chanted, shaking his head. “We shan’t eat or drink. You shan’t force us this time.”

 

This wasn’t the first time it happened and, much to their surprise, they found out that the easiest way to calm him down was if the king’s skin came into contact with either Alec’s scarred face or James’ pirate mark. The doctor, alongside Tanner, hypothesized that the man acted like that because they had been the only two people in his life who had such distinctive marks and associated them with being safe.

 

So now, just like all the times before, Alec pushed his scarred part against Q’s cheek and James ran his wrist along Q’s fingers and the man stilled and relaxed as much as his pain allowed him to do so. However, this time, he also opened his eyes – and James sighed in relief because they were starting to recover their healthy green. “So you were really there, with us? You saw us as we were? You saw us—”

 

“We saw a king who was being slowly killed and nothing else,” James interrupted him, carefully clasping his hand.

 

Q’s head lulled to the side, face scrunched up in pain. “We thank you, but we have nothing with which to pay you for rescuing us…” He trailed off and sighed, curling back into a tight ball again, shivering violently. “We are so very cold. Might you send a servant to make a fire? Winter came fast this year.”

 

They looked at each other with worry and quickly wrapped Q in even more sheets and covers, James even draping the white fur he kept forgetting to take off the ship, hoping that would stop the shivering. But Q shook even harder and reverted back to incoherent mutterings, his eyes rolling in the back of his head.

 

“Get the doctor back in here,” James shouted and not a moment later, the man was carried in like a heavy sack by two of the strongest men from his crew. “Under that mountain of shivering clothes lies our cabin boy, doctor. He’s cold and seems to be praying in Latin which makes me think that he’s at a certain something’s door.” He spoke calmly as he usual did even when he was angry, but the slight tremble in his hands gave him away.

 

Still, the doctor did not show fear. He walked up to the bed, pushed the two men away, pulled back the sheets and checked the king over. “Has he vomited again?” He glanced at the bowl Alec showed him, humming. “The blood is no longer black, which is a good sign,” Alec and James sighed in relief, “but the fact that he’s burning up is not.” They cussed, clenching their fists.

 

“Make up your mind, doctor,” Alec hissed. “Is he dying or is he getting better?”

 

The doctor shrugged, covering the king again. “I honestly can’t tell. I would treat his fever, but I am missing key ingredients for the tinctures that are kinder to the body and I do not think him strong enough for the ones that rely on quicksilver.”

 

“Tanner!” James barked out and the man was instantly by his side, worried eyes glancing at the king. “Can the ship move faster than it already is?”

 

“We’re at full, but if we cut loose His M—the ship we got the kin—d cabin boy, we can go to flank speed.”

 

James hummed. “How close are we to home?”

 

Tanner frowned, biting on his lower lip. “At this speed, with the wind like this, the sailing master said we should dock around midday.”

 

“If we had fresh water, I would be a lot more confident about his chances of survival,” the doctor said without being prompted. “However, given our current supplies, even after we took the other ship’s…” He trailed off and James made his decision.

 

“Keep only the sailor who I promised to protect, the captain, and the men who helped feed Q poison. Stick the others back on the ship with five barrels of water and then cut it loose. Destroy their main mast and let the sea decide their fates.” With their reduced weight and if the wind remained on their side, as long as they had flank speed, they should make it even before dawn and with any luck, before the king died.

 

Chapter Text

If there was one thing that was even more horrible than to be the second one born after a perfectly healthy male child in a royal family, then that was to be the uncle of the fifth born who got the crown by managing to survive all of his brothers.

 

And the little royal bastard that wasn’t an actual bastard - because he could have gotten the crown from him if he were an actual bastard, but his perfect brother never cheated on his wife and the bloody woman was loyal to him - refused to die or allow himself to be a nice, good little puppet like he was supposed to be.

 

Even when he was just 8 years old and his tears were still running down his face and getting mixed with his snot because he was still crying for his mother’s skirts, crown too big to sit properly on his head and the orb too heavy for him to hold without visually struggling, his attitude towards his suggestions and council made him want to smack the tiny pest off of the throne which was rightfully his.

 

“We appreciate your words before this glorious ceremony, esteemed uncle, but we think we shall do this the way our father taught us. Though do not interpret this as us refusing to lend our ears to your council before we reach a decision,” the brat had said the second the archbishop finished his blessing, his voice soft and proper and why, oh why, did his annoyingly perfect brother bother to teach his bloody 5th son how to act properly? The little boy shouldn’t have even been allowed to dream of wearing the crown and yet there he was, drowning in the Robe of State of crimson velvet and the Robe Royal, revealing that he had been given training in being an actual king.

 

He hoped the little king would step on enough noble’s toes to get them to want his head and start plotting against him. And that dream almost came true not two years after the coronation when one of the dukes, upset that the king had made him lower the taxes on his land because ‘the country is not in a time of war or keeping them this high will only cause civil unrest and pain to our loyal subjects’.

 

The plot had been a simple one, invite the young king over to the duke’s house and slit his throat on the way over, blaming bandits and also using that as an excuse to keep the taxes high or maybe even increase them. It would have worked too, had it not been for the foolish duke talking about this in the presence of a few servants, who were quick to spread the word until it reached one of the nobles who actually had been honest in his oath to protect the king.

 

Unknown to anyone, the loyal noble had a small army follow the king’s party from the capital and when the supposed bandits attacked him and the duke’s honour guard pulled back, they charged in to protect the royal child.

 

Many spoke on the behalf of the duke, saying that the whole thing hadn’t been anything but a nefarious plot on the behalf of the noble who wanted his land and title. He too had been tempted to speak for the duke, but something told him to keep quiet and wait for the thin king - who was also recovering from a sickness that refused to take his life away - to speak first.

 

The king did not ask for silence; he just parted his lips and the peasants present in the room demanded the nobles to be silent, hissing at them. “We hear the words of our lords, but we also hear the words of our subjects, which unites and rings above the noises of the world itself.” The nobles on the duke’s side started to shout at the child, banging their fists against their arm rests, trying to drown out the cheering of the crowd, and the king let them, patiently waiting for them to tire themselves out before continuing.

 

The loudest of the noisy lot who did not quite understand the true meaning behind the crowned child’s words was, of course, the duke who was on trial. “If Your Majesty decides the fate of a man by how loud the people around him shout, then permit me to buy my freedom.” He turned to face the peasants, taking off his golden chain. “To each who screams for my innocence, I shall give a chain such as this one. I swear on my title and my soul.”

 

The room was so quiet that one could hear the birds singing outside and the duke was so pale that some women of noble blood fainted, calling him a ghost.

 

“Even if we were to pass judgement based on just that and not the evidence that we have been presented with, Your Grace would still find himself in the dungeon, stripped of title and lands.” He raised his hand to silence the duke, eyes closed. “We will no longer hear any of your lies, and the last thing we will address to you is our extreme sadness and disappointment in the name of our people at having been betrayed by you. We shall pray for your health and your soul as you spend what is left of your treacherous life away from the lands you have desecrated with your greedy and lecherous ways.”

 

The king used this incident to take away some of the power the nobles had and that cemented himself in the commoner’s heart even more. Fearing that they might end up ripped to pieces - as it almost happened to count that was dumb enough to start cussing the king and talk about wanting his head mounted on top of his fireplace in the middle of a square, minutes before the light of the peasant’s eyes walked by there - all the nobles lowered their heads and did little more than grumble among themselves how great it would be if lightning suddenly stuck him and he died.

 

Well, if he couldn’t kill or fool the child into being his puppet, he thought that he might be able to mould him into a bloodthirsty ruler and get his subjects to dethrone him. It didn’t work, of course, the weak child unable to stand so much as hearing someone whimper in pain. He also failed getting him addicted to executions, as instead of cheering and clapping, he looked mournful and insisted on seeing the family of the deceased, to offer them thirty gold coins for every direct member to make sure none of them would walk down the same path as the executed had.

 

You would think that would get the people to at least dislike him even a little because he ruined their fun, but no. They loved him even more. He wore his heart on his royal sleeve and he bared his soul for all to see, they said. Oh, how luckywe are to have been blessed with such a noble king, they cried whenever they saw him.

 

What a pain in the ass to be cursed with such a nephew, especially since he always did the exact opposite of what he told him to do, no matter how strict or scary he tried to be. Stupid brat, why couldn’t he be easily scared into doing things? He looked like the type who’d tremble and whimper when he towered over him, soil his pants when he was told into a rough voice what to do. But not him; not mama’s boy, father’s favourite, and the light of his brothers’ eyes, Quentin, the fifth king in his line to be anointed as a William.

 

He would have to do something very drastic and cut the king off from his own people. A very public and brutal attempt on his life - that he still hoped it would somehow work - but one that couldn’t be traced back to him. Of course he couldn’t use anyone from his country, but that was something he could easily get around by hiring a band of mercenaries from another country.

 

As the king had a tendency to walk to the port and spend hours just looking in the distance like a love struck fool - which he wasn’t because his uncle had made sure to keep away all ladies that did not fit his idea of the perfect Queen - the men were to attack him there, dressed as peasants. Of course the king was saved by the fishermen, two of them losing their life in the process.

 

Because he was in complete shock when he was brought back to the palace, it was easy for him to seize momentary control and had the attackers who had been spared executed. He then proceeded to try and imbue the king’s mind with doubts and make him fear his own people, trying to keep him locked in his own castle.

 

It didn’t fully work, but at least he managed to get a little bit of control over him, given to him by the king’s own council. Not an easy thing to do, the council needed a total of three days to convince the king to let his uncle take care of his safety, the members saying over and over again that it wasn’t good that he trusted and cared for the commoners so much.

 

“Gentlemen, please do not berate his Majesty, my beloved nephew, for doing something that more kings should do,” he said in the sweetest voice possible, kneeling in front of the king and kissing his hand. “My lord, swear on my very life and soul and those of future fruits of my loins and of theirs that I will not dare do anything to keep you away from those you love. Just make sure that you do not get taken from us before God Himself comes down to take you.”

 

The king frowned and then sighed, nodding weakly in agreement. “But we reserve our heavenly right to overturn your decisions if we find them to be too constricting.”

 

Some of his orders, he managed to fight off, but he still didn’t get out of being mostly cut off from his men, forced to go on hated long trips overseas – his uncle praying for a huge storm to hit his ship every time he did that – and lose every pageboy, cook, maid, and noble in his court with whom he had managed to create even the smallest of emotional connection. Truth be told, he had been doing the latter since the second the brat officially received his crown, but at least now he didn’t have to hide behind others when he did it.

 

His new plan was to control him through his Queen, who was going to be a shallow woman who cared little about politics as long as she was showered in money and jewels. He searched far and wide for the perfect candidates – beautiful, dumb, and shallow – and presented them to his touch and affection starved nephew, hoping for at least this plan to work.

 

But did the brat marry them? No, of course not. He attended balls with them, showed them around his country under the strict and unwanted supervision, bestowed only the most beautiful of books – books! Who in their right mind did that? He wouldn’t have had to do anything to sabotage any unwanted romances if the king ever had the chance to make them because he was perfectly fine at cutting his own ladder –and was the most gallant man in existence, but he always turned them down.

 

He forced his nephew to personally take the princesses back to their fathers, secretly hoping for that miracle storm or for the other king to be so insulted that he wouldn’t allow him to leave with his head still on his shoulders.

 

That never happened, because his nephew had that certain something that made the women actually fall for him and they did their best to protect him from their angry fathers. The fact that his nephew smuggled beautiful and expensive gifts which he presented the foreign court with upon his arrival helped him remain alive quite a lot.

 

“Your Majesty has to get married,” he hissed after what had to be the fiftieth lady of noble birth that the brat turned down. “You need to ensure your bloodline, as your father would have wanted.”

 

He stuck a nerve, as he wanted, because his nephew suddenly looked sad and alone. “We are well aware of that, uncle. But the lady, although fair and interesting,” which was his nice way of saying stupid and insipid, “was not just for me. And the poor dear’s heart was already taken by someone.”

 

The bitch was sleeping around, simply wonderful. What was she? The seventh pure virgin that was anything by that? “I am sure that the next lady will be more to your tastes, nephew,” he said between gritted teeth, pinching the bridge of his nose. Nothing ever went according to his plans, his horrible luck be damned.

 

Lady luck teased him again with the possible death of his obnoxious nephew a lot of princesses later, when he thought him lost at sea or killed by pirates because he had been one week late returning. The whole country was in mourning and he was about to enjoy three very lovely countesses in the king’s bed when the ship pulled into port.

 

Turned out his nephew had found some pirates floating adrift at sea and insisted on saving them, caring for them until they were well enough to be taken to their home. And not just any pirate, but the king of pirates, James Bond of the dreaded MI6 and his first mate on all accounts, Alec Trevelyan – because when William the Brat did something, it had to be grand and nothing could be grander at sea than that short of befriending Poseidon himself.

 

To top everything off, his men also informed him that Bond and Trevelyan had befriended his nephew, something he became painfully aware of when, not a few months later, a ship that was caring him as well as a new candidate for the Queen title had been stopped in a manner that one could almost call kind and civil and searched by the two men in question. They took nothing, and they killed no one. They just asked for the king, checked the ship to be sure that they were being told the truth, held back from smacking some sense into the woman and then went on their way.

 

Reports of similar happenings continued to come over the years and he noted that each time the pirates were being mentioned, his nephew’s face instantly lit up. He insisted on dining with the captain and his crew, so he might hear more and when a lady was involved – which was quite often – he would soothe her wounded pride with beautiful dresses and lockets, skilfully prying even more information from them and making them promise to not have their fathers go after the MI6 since no one got hurt and they ‘had the most wonderful story to share with the other ladies, no doubt making them very jealous’.

 

This was not sitting well with him at all, especially since his nephew was starting to become sneakier than him and by now, it was clear that he knew that his uncle wanted the crown. In fact, the more the thought about it, he realized that the king might have known about that for a long time and he had skilfully danced around the traps set for him.

 

A clever little brat, obviously related to him, he’ll give him that – not that he ever doubted the former Queen’s loyalty to his brother or anything. But his sort of admiration his nephew’s brain would not stop him from putting into action his final plan.

 

He personally searched the country for the right crew, one that would be united under him and loyal to him due to desperation and top everything off with a captain who was governed by money. Unsurprisingly, that turned out to be the hardest part of his plan, but not impossible.

 

He had his right hand man, Max Denbigh – a bastard of a duke that wished to prove himself – find him the perfect crew while he started to slowly poison the king. He was administering him a mild poison, one that made it seem like he had come down with consumption and allow for the rumour to spread around like wild fire while using that dangerous disease as an excuse to really isolate him.

 

It was so tempting to switch to the actual poison and then sit by his side and watch him die, but he didn’t dare risk anything. And, truth be told, he was afraid of the supposed curse that followed all those who had a king’s blood on their hands and their crown on their heads.

 

“We know…” his nephew croaked on the night his uncle had arranged for him to be whisked away on a ship under the guise of being taken somewhere to be cured when, in fact, he was going to be kept in the middle of the place he feared and hated the most until he died. “We know what you did, Silva.”

 

He snorted, patting his head as if he were a dog. “And do you want a treat for that, dearest nephew?”

 

“We want you to—”

 

He cupped his face, digging his nails in the king’s cheeks. “Now, now, don’t talk. You might get sicker still if you do and surely you are aware that my question was a rhetorical one, you blasted child.” He pulled out a little vial from his shirt and forced the contents down his nephew’s throat, grinning. “Don’t worry; this is not what’s going to kill you. This is not painful enough and I want you to suffer.”

 

“A crown… is not for everyone,” the king forced himself to say, coughing. “You will bring suffering to our people before you will die a well-deserved death by their pitchforks.

 

Silva clicked his tongue, opening the hidden passageway and signalling the sailors that would carry the king off on his floating tomb. “Well, it is certainly not for the fifth born brat who only outlived his siblings because he had a runny nose and his mother left him home.” He picked up the crown that was placed in the middle of the king’s desk and placed it on his head. “Besides, don’t you think it looks better on me than on you?”

 

The two soldiers-turned-sailors stuffed the king in a bag before he could answer, the largest one of them throwing him over his shoulder. “The captain wants—”

 

Silva held his hand up, silencing him. “He can tell me what he wants in the message he is to give me the second you leave port.” He growled when the king started to cough loudly from the sack, outing the crown back where he had found it. It was not yet the time to let anyone see him wearing it. ”And get that thing out of my castle before you get caught.”

 

“Yes, your lordship.”

 

He smacked the man, taking a step back when the man moved closer to him. “You are to address me by the proper title if you want to return in my service after the deed is done.”

 

“Yes, Your Majesty.” It still sounded good and it made him laugh with pure joy, despite the hatred put behind the words. He would take a moment to teach the man a lesson, but he really was afraid that someone might walk in.

 

Now, it was impossible for anyone not to notice that a ship was missing from the harbour, especially since it was the king’s favourite, so the second it was reported missing, to ensure that no one would suspect anything, he ordered an investigation to be carried out, raging on behalf of the king.

 

On top of that, despite the fact that he had his own servants tend to the king and that he had made sure that everyone in the castle knew that the king had been touched by the heavy and ruthless hand of consumption, some loyal servants still sneaked in to see him. If they found an empty room, pitchforks and torches might get involved. Wishing to avoid a rather painful death, he had found a man who, one properly washed and groomed, resembled the king quite a lot.

 

Still, it was obvious that he was not the king if you looked at him closely enough so he told him that he was to keep the drapes around his bed down at all time and come out only when Silva entered his room. “You mustn’t talk with any of the servants either, lest you want to give yourself away,” he calmly explained to the unknowing accomplice. “If they call out to you, just groan and moan and if they keep insisting, right the bell and I will come to rid you of them in an instant.”

 

“C-can I meet his majesty?”

 

He was going to dispose of him as soon as he served his purpose, so the words that came out of his mouth weren’t exactly lies. “As soon as this whole thing is over, he will personally thank you,” he lied to the man, pushing him in the bed. “Now remember: don’t say a word to anyone and don’t let them see you, unless you want this whole thing to be

 

This farce was kept until Silva was sure that everyone in the castle and in the village were talking about how much worse the king was after which he officially announced that His Majesty had decided to go to a neighbouring country for a kinder weather and better doctors, making a huge show out of the covered king leaving the palace.

 

People ran alongside the carriage and waved goodbye at him as he was helped on Silva’s main ship, whisked below the deck before the man could do anything that would reveal he was not the king.

 

Naturally Silva stayed behind, to help run the country until he was better, shedding a tear because he knew the ship was going to get stolen by the pirated he had made a deal with – his sources said that they were Bond’s enemies and that they were going to be more than happy to do something to hurt him and by then, everyone knew that ships with a certain flag were spared from being plundered.

 

Sure enough, two days later, he got the terrible news and he made sure to have a meltdown in front of the whole court, throwing himself at the feet of the throne. He spilled crocodile tears and insisted on going to war against the pirates, ending up restrained and force fed that special milk that made everyone sleepy.

 

He spent the next few days lying in bed, hiccupping and sobbing, calling out for his nephew, and ordering the entire country to enter deep mourning that would last for at least a month, all the while waiting for that final letter that would inform him of his real death. It never came.

 

What came instead was his nephew’s favourite ship, main mast missing and filled with hungry and thirsty sailors, all screaming on top of their lungs that they wanted to see that someone, anyone that might help them and incoherently blabbing something about the pirate king.

 

The guards instantly ceased them when they realized that they were talking about the ship that had disappeared from the port in the middle of the night, dragging them in front of the chamber of lords.

 

“We did not steal the ship,” they all cried in unison. “It was given to us and we had no option but to take it and do as we were told.”

 

Silva could order them beheaded on charges of robbery and high treason and rid himself of these lose strands after prying precious information, but the way everyone was looking at him told him that it was best if he didn’t. “Guards, release these men. I shall talk with them personally and let it be on my head if they are truly to blame for the disappearance of my beloved nephew’s prized ship.”

 

“What a shock to hear you say that, my lord.” One of the council members, the one who was his nephew’s most avid supporter hissed. “Normally you would be the first to cry for their heads, pestering your noble nephew until you gave him a headache. I wonder what has convinced you to show a little mercy and lend your ear to those under you.”

 

One that he refused to fall into. “I know you see me as a would-be usurper, but my lord, my nephew would never do such a thing to men who are clearly deranged. I will speak with them in pirate and see if there is anything I can do for them. After all, they were kind enough to return the ship they stole.”

 

“Something tells me this lord that threaten them and forced that ship down their throats is actually you,” the man grumbled, eyes narrowed.

 

“Why would I have given them my nephew’s prised ship? The boy refused to have it turned into firewood, despite it being so horribly damaged during that horrendous storm that caught me on my way back.”

 

“How strange that neither of our specialists foresaw that storm and that most of the damage was on the inside of the ship,” the man added, tapping his chin. “It is as if someone had did the damage themselves and then claimed—”

 

“I will not be forced to sit here and hear this sort of slander directed at me when my heart is still bleeding over the recent loss of family,” he interrupted, hitting the table with his fists. “If you still have doubts about what happened then, feel free to gather the crew and ask them yourself.”

 

The man also sat up, clearly intending to march up to him and smack him, but the guards restrained him. “I would gladly do so, but what a coincidence that those men cannot be found anymore.”

 

“My lords! My lords!” Another council member called, hands clasped in front of him. “This is not the time for such accusations! We must be united together until a king sits upon this throne once again. This discussion should be reopened then and only then.”

 

“And what if the one sitting upon that throne is the one that I accuse?”

 

Letting out a strangled sob and covering his face in the sleeve of his robes, Silva made sure that everyone saw the clear suffering on his face. “I do so wish that we would not discuss the replacement of my beloved nephew—”

 

“Funny how not that long ago, that is all you wished to discuss, my lord. Including with the king himself,” the man hissed, but returned to his seat, the men around him patting his shoulder.

 

“Only because I saw how heavy the crown weighed on his head,” Silva insisted, sniffling. “I will turn a blind eye to this for you are clearly almost as upset as me by our wonderful king’s passing. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must see if there is any truth in what the sailors claim.”

 

“Careful there, Lord Silva. You might accidentally take out your own eye while trying to cry,” the lord called after him and Silva made a mental note to have him executed the second his claim to the throne was resolved.

 

He had the servants take all the wounded sailors to the chapel, where he assured them that monks would see to their wounds and needs - in reality, he sent his men dressed up as monks to infect their wounds - while the ones who could still stand on their own two feet were taken to his private quarters and offered a warm meal - poison free, sadly.

 

“We didn’t steal that ship your lordship, honestly,” one of the man said the second he entered the room, kneeling before him. “Someone gave it to our captain, with papers and everything, we swear! If we really-”

 

He raised his hand, slowly shaking his head with a reassuring smile on his lips. “I believe you, do not worry. I have yet to meet a thief that returns to ask for help when what they have stolen has been, in return, stolen from them.” He held his hand out and each of the sailors kissed it, thanking him for his kindness. “Now, tell me everything that happened and please, don’t be shy about the food. You look famished,” he said sweetly, taking a bite out of the chicken before offering it to the sailor who appeared to be their current leader.

 

Like a scared rabbit, the man edged closer to the table and sniffed the food, before starting to shovel food in his mouth, motioning for the other men to do the same. “Thank you, your Lordship. They didn’t leave us with much when they cut us loose and they weren’t too happy to have to feed us when they had us on their ship.”

 

“You were on the MI6?” He was now genuinely interested in what the man had to say since the MI6 had been the only ship of its kind to ever be built, stolen with blueprints, designer and all right before its maiden voyage on the day after that pest of a Queen who never could stand him and even insulted him by having him wait outside the dining hall for more than an hour, since she refused to have the herald announce him. “Can you describe that ship? What were the cannons like? How many people does it take to hoist the main sail? Did you see any visible weaknesses on the inside of its haul?”

 

"Not really, your Lordship,” the man said, taking a deep breath of air before starting to eat the pig. “They took us below the deck through a corridor that seemed especially made for prisoners. We didn’t see anything but the inside of the brig.” He remembered the captain as a really fat man and since he didn’t see him at the table, he jumped to his feet, wanting to get as much information about the ship as he could before he died.

 

“The captain might have seen more,” another said before Silva could leave the room, licking his fingers. “But Bond kept him behind alongside the doctor and the two men that appeared out of nowhere. He and his first mate were really pissed off about the state they found the person on the brig. Our captain was whipped until there was no more free room on his back and the doctor was being force fed rotten fish and stale water with mould in it.”

 

It was just like his brat of a nephew’s luck to be rescued by pirates. “You mentioned something about having a guest on board your ship. You wouldn’t happen to know who this person was, would you?”

 

The man shook his head and Silva breathed out in relief. He was still going to have them killed, but it was reassuring to know that they were going to die without knowing why and before telling anyone that pirates had whisked away a sick king off of a ship he wasn’t supposed to be on and which had been stolen three days before the king left the castle.

 

“But whoever they were, they were must have meant a lot to Bond and his first mate because when they found him…” the man trailed off and shivered. “I am curious what they’ll do to the captain if the man doesn’t live though.”

 

Silva all but chocked on his wine. “What?”

 

“Well, seems like the doctor that was with us, together with our captain and those two strangers, were making the man sick. We figure they cut us loose to get faster to their island and save him.”

 

Oh this was wonderful, just bloody wonderful. He was screwed even if his nephew was dead right now because he was willing to bet with his life - which he was actually doing - that the little bastard managed to stay alive long enough to name him to the pirate king. Well, this wouldn’t be the first time he allies himself with certain pirates to get the job done.

Like a spirit, Max appeared by his side and leaned close to his ear, using his hand to hide his lips from the sailors just in case they could read them. “Does Your Majesty wish to rid himself of these slugs?”

 

Silva hummed and nodded. “Well, if duty calls…” he said loud enough for everyone in the room to hear him, Max pulling his chair back so he might sit up. “I shall leave you in the hands of Lord Denbigh. He will see that you are well taken care of.” And never seen or heard again, of course. “And Denbigh?”

 

“Yes, Your… Lordship?” It didn’t do well to be addressed as a king quite yet.

 

“After you deal with these unfortunate souls that need our help, please come to my room as I wish to dictate a letter to Lord Oberhauser.” He pulled out the silk napkin that he now constantly carried with him and sniffed in it, letting out a shaky breath. “He has been kind enough to send us his deepest and most sincere condolences over the loss of our beloved and royal nephew.”

 

Bowing his head, the corner of Max’s lips twitched upward for just a fracture of a second, long enough to let Silva know that he understood the real message. “Of course, my lord.”

Chapter Text

He had been staring at the white ceiling for what had to be an hour, just enjoying the stillness of the land beneath him and drinking in the noise that came from outside. He didn’t know where he was, but he wasn’t in that horrible place on the ship which he used to love and the inside of his mouth no longer tasted like copper coins, so he deduced that he was safe.

 

Or partially safe, since when he rolled on his right side, naked under the soft covers that kept the cold away, he noticed that there were poorly made bars on the two small windows and the other side of the room was covered in various flags from all over the world. Some, he recognized as belonging to his own immediate neighbours, while others he had never seen before.

 

It was that curiosity that got him out of bed, stumbling and falling on his knees over the pile of golden coins on which the bed was resting. The coins, just like the flags, were from all over the word and if he dug a little, he found diamonds and rubies and pearls. All very beautiful and almost flawless, the light caught on them creating a beautiful show on the ceiling and walls. But they also gave off a feeling of danger, so he carefully put them back down and pilled the gold back over them, struggling to get back on his feet.

 

The door opened and he heard a gasp, someone quickly running over to him to help him stand up. “Is your majesty alright?” The man asked, pulling his hands back and pushing his face into the pile of golden coins when he turned to look at him. “I didn’t mean to touch without asking for—”

 

“We know a kind and helping touch from one that seeks to insult or hurt us, do not worry,” he interrupted the man, voice barely a raspy whisper. “Might we bother you for some water and maybe something to wear? The covers were keeping us a lot warmer than we thought.”

 

In a flash, the man was leaning out the window, instructing someone what glass to use and whose water they should use. “And get someone in here to start up a fire; Bond and Alec won’t like it at all if their cabin boy gets sick again.”

 

Hearing those two names filled him with joy as it meant that all the times he saw them next to him, heard them talk and struggle with words that were familiar to him. However, what caused him to feel great unease was the title the man had used when referring to him. “We were told that we never have to apologize, but in this case we feel that we must, for we do not understand what is going on. Why refer to us by that which we are and then as a cabin boy?”

 

Before the man could open his mouth to explain, Captain Bond and his first mate entered the room, looking red in the face as if they had just ran quite a distance, gasping for breath. “My idea, I am afraid,” the captain said quickly, grabbing a flag off the wall which he wrapped around the king’s shivering frame. “The name that comes with your majesty’s temporary title, however, is on Alec’s head.”

 

Picking him up in his arms as if he weighed little more than a feather and placing him back on the bed, Alec scoffed at his captain. “No one was talking about that part just yet. Can you please do your best not to put me back on his bad side?”

 

“I am not entirely sure you ever left that side of his,” James teased back and Alec jumped on him, both of them rolling to the ground under the king’s shocked gaze.

 

“Your Majesty needn’t worry about my captain and his first mate,” the man from earlier said, placing before him a beautiful green robe, with a blue dragon embroidered on it. “We, uh, borrowed this and a few other robes like it from a foolish Chinese emperor who braved our seas without an armada.”

 

“You are giving an emperor’s garb to a cabin boy whose parents have been so uninspired as to call him nothing more and nothing less than Q?” He asked carefully, trying to figure out how he was supposed to wear the robe. “By the way, might we know why we are a cabin boy?”

 

“It’s safer if everyone on this island thinks you’re nothing more than that,” James said as he climbed the mountain of gold with Alec wrapped around his back. “You can wear that and everything else you want while you are in our,” he pointed at Alec who was biting on his shoulder, “quarters, I am going to insist and even order your majesty to wear common clothes outside lest you want to find yourself stuffed on a boat and held for ransom.”

 

He laughed when he heard that, hiding his face in the palms of his hands. “It would be most unfortunate for us if that were to happen as our uncle would not spend even a single copper coin to get us back.”

 

Alec jumped down from James’ back and sat down next to the king, the serious look he was giving him making him a tad scary. “You mean to tell us that it was your own uncle who hired those people?”

 

The king opened his mouth, only to close it shot when a beautiful woman walked in the room with a golden chalice and a carafe. “Brought the water for your precious, little cabin boy,” she said, brown eyes studying him carefully. “You know, I have to point out that this is the first time I was asked to use the ‘good—”

 

“No you don’t, but thank you Eve,” James cut in, relieving her of the items. “First time you bring us something without being asked and blackmailed into doing it, so it is safe to say that I am beyond shocked. Now take Tanner with you on your way out and let us see to Q.”

 

She clicked her tongue and straightened her back, resting her hands on her hips, the king’s eyes widening when he saw the three beautiful flintlocks that had to have ivory mounted on them on a sash around her chest and the magnificent, jewel-encrusted saber resting against his left hip. “I know he’s not just a cabin boy, Bond. His skin is too fair and soft, I saw no blisters on the soles of his feet or in the palms of his hand and—”

 

“If James and I say that he’s cabin boy, then he is a cabin boy, Eve,” Alec insisted, turning her around and pushing her out the door. “Now, isn’t there a Spanish galleon that has your name on it?”

 

“No, not—”

 

“Then go find one.” He slammed the door shut after her, the man named Tanner tiptoeing around him, exiting quietly. “She is as quick with her sword as she is with her mind. That makes her a very good captain and she is loved by us and her own crew, but she finds the most inopportune moments to make us wish she was nothing more than a wench that can count, working in a tavern somewhere far away from us.”

 

It was so fascinating to see a woman pirate as he remembered all of the captains that had sailed his ships in the past as being quite uneasy when a woman was present on board. Even those who had brought him his would-be wives, all ladies of higher birth that most would thank the stars above them to be graced with their presence even if they were a little bit tiring and difficult to please, had asked for ‘a little bit more’ when it came to crossing the sea with them.

 

Perhaps he misunderstood. “The lady is a captain of her own ship?”

 

Alec snorted. “Don’t let her hear you refer to her as a lady. I don’t know if she’d take it as an insult or decide to kidnap you and make you her cabin boy and force you to call her that until the end of days.”

 

The not-quite newly named Q nodded, furrowing his brows. “There are quite a lot of dangers for us on your island, Captain Bond, but at the same time we have to confess that this is the safest we have ever felt in years.” He thought for a moment just to be sure that he wasn’t lying before nodding – his heart wasn’t racing, his mind wasn’t constantly filled with doubting voices, asking if he really wanted to drink from the offered cup or if he really trusted his new robes not to be filled with some type of poison that would melt his skin off; so yes, he did feel safe.

 

“If someone says that they feel safe with the King of pirates…” James trailed off, flexing his fingers. “It goes beyond saying that you’ll stay with us until your uncle has been dealt with.”

 

“We understand.”

 

Alec poked his nose before taking pulling out a pair of black pants that seemed to go with the robes, giving them to Q. “A cabin boy does not refer to himself in the plural,” he started, both he and James understanding that the look they were getting from the king was a silent order to turn around so that he might dress.

 

“Nor does he expect a person to do something,” James added, “which isn’t to say that they order anyone around out loud.”

 

“We know what a cabin boy is and what one does. We had many over the years, all taken away by our uncle because we had a tendency of trying to make friends.” It sounded pathetic and normally, he would have kept that bit of information to himself. But given the circumstances and in the current company, he didn’t feel like he needed to keep anything hidden from them. He was crownless, without a throne, and without a country to lead, so even if they wanted to gossip about his weaknesses, there was no one around them who could benefit from knowing them.

 

James rested his hand on the hilt of his sword. “Your uncle sounds like someone I’d like to keelhaul.”

 

He had no idea what that meant, but it sounded like something his uncle deserved. “Before we go any further with your wonderful idea, we find that it is our duty to warn you that without our glasses, we do not see all that well and we also know nothing of physical work or our way around a ship beyond where our quarters used to be. In fact, we’re getting sick just thinking of being back on one.”

 

Alec felt around for one of Q’s hands, giving it a soft squeeze. “We’ll have to take you with us on our ship when we sail again, but we don’t expect you to do any actual work. Just follow us around, holding on to our shirts if needed, and try your best to say ‘I’ instead of ‘we’, okay? And don’t worry about your eyes. We have a man here that’s really good with glasswork and he’ll find a way to make you glasses.”

 

“We…Ah, I will do my very best not to disappoint you, Captain Bond. And thank you for everything you are doing for me.” He looked at the robes and unbuttoned them, at a complete loss of how he was supposed to put them on. “Might you help me dress? As a king, I do not dress myself and this kind of robe goes beyond my understanding. I might also need help with the cabin boy disguise.”

 

They both seemed more than happy to help him with that, even offering to show him around their island. But he could take little more than three steps, the world starting to spin around him violently and Alec carried him back to the bed, James ordering someone to bring them food and their doctor.

 

“Ah, what a pleasure to see the young man up and about,” the doctor exclaimed, rubbing his hands together. “I was afraid we’d have to give you a burial. Guess you’re going to have to cancel that coffin for him, boys,” the man joked, James and Alec glaring at him.

 

Noticing the desperate looks that Q was giving them had Alec hiss at the poor man. “You are a doctor, not a jester. Check to see if everything is okay with him and leave the jokes to someone who wouldn’t get beheaded.”

 

“So not to Alec,” James whispered in Q’s ear, chuckling. “He once said a joke so bad that the governor of the Bahamas put a huge reward on his head. Just his head, mind you. Not the rest of his body.”

 

Q tried his best not to snicker, but he still did and Alec started to glare daggers at James.

 

Ignoring the two who seemed hell bent on acting in the exact opposite way Q thought pirates acted, the doctor started to check him over, humming and nodding. “Well, no fever, your eyes look normal, and you are not vomiting blood. Do you feel like vomiting?” Q shook his head and the doctor smiled again. “Then all you need to do now is eat to get your strength back and you shan’t see me until you cut yourself or, heaven forbid, fall off one of the masts.”

 

“Which won’t happen because I want you around the one of us who’s not sitting in a dangerous place,” James said quickly, grabbing the tray of food from what appeared to be a disguised Eve and shoving her out the door again. “You’re in luck, Q. You’re getting to taste our cook’s famous turtle soup and stuffed pheasant.”

 

Q leaned close to the bowl and smelled the soup, stomach growling instead of lurching as he had expected it to do. “We… I heard of it, but I was never allowed to eat it.”

 

“Who was your previous captain? Surely the men would have rebelled if he was as cruel as to refuse a poor boy his meal,” the doctor interjected, clearly shocked.

 

Thankfully, Alec shooed him away before Q could try to lie. “Okay, we do have a lot of work with you, Your Majesty. As a cabin boy, you’re supposed to be amazed by the pheasant, which sailors eat once every blue moon if they are lucky enough, and bored out of your senses by the turtle soup, as it is something we constantly have.”

 

Q lowered his head in embarrassment. “I will make sure to control my excitement in the future.”

 

The two glanced at each other for a moment before James spoke up. “Or better yet, we introduce you to things sailors usually do in private so you can be as excited as you want and then when you do them again when someone else is around you, you won’t give yourself away when you face them again, okay?”

 

He smiled at them and they smiled back and the soup was the best thing he ever had, even if he ended up vomiting it all not five minutes later.

 

***

 

The captain and his first mate turned out to be the kindest people and pirates he had ever met – even if they were the only pirates he had ever met. They shared their bed with him, building a wall of pillows between them just to be sure that he wouldn’t be uncomfortable, presented him daily with a fresh change of beautiful clothes even if he stayed in the room, fed him the best food found on their island, and were more than happy to share with him countless stories of their adventures at sea until he fell asleep.

 

Their relationship was a close one. A really, really close one. He had never seen such close friends in his entire life and from story that James had stopped Alec from finishing with an elbow to the stomach which lead to wrestling at the foot of the bed and then a chase outside of the room that lasted for an hour – they had returned looking dishevelled and James’ lips were bleeding with Alec’s were puffed and their necks were full of bit marks, but they refused to call the doctor and assured him this was something they always did – Q got the impression that they didn’t mind sharing lovers.

 

They also turned out to be highly protective of him. No one was allowed to enter the room if they or Tanner weren’t there and they didn’t allow a single man or woman to look at him for too long, often hiding him under the covers or behind them if the meeting was taking too long.

 

Still, the inevitable happened, his glasses were done – the frames were made out of gold, just like his old ones had – and the doctor said that he was okay to walk around on his own and the two had no choice but to dress him up like an actual cabin boy and take him around the island – though they pretended not to know why the clothes he was wearing felt different than the ones on Tanner did and how did he know how those felt?

 

“Mister Tanner refused to look us in the eyes or not be on his knees in our presence, so we had to force him to sit up.” He looked at his skinny arms, sighing. “We suspect he helped us with that as we cannot really lift anything too heavy.”

 

In an attempt to help him keep his new identity, Alec had taken to tapping his nose whenever he slipped back into his kingly speech while James preferred to tug on his ears. However, if they were both within reach, they would poke his sides, which he hated the most since he was ticklish.

 

“I really wish you wouldn’t, Alec,” he said between giggles, trying to roll away from him, but unable to do so because he was trapped in James’ arms. “This is cheating because there are two of you and only one of me. And do not get me started on the difference between our bodies.”

 

Alec jumped on his feet and took off his shirt, flexing his muscles. And he put to shame the many statues that adorned Q’s castle to shame. The various marks and scars that knives, bullets and other things left behind his chest made Q want to spend countless hours touching them and mapping them out in the back of his mind, wondering how they would feel under his lips.

 

This was the first time he ever had these thoughts about someone and he was sure that it had something to do with the fact that he had never been allowed to be in someone’s company for so long – ignoring the princesses, of course; but they hadn’t genuinely made him laugh, nor had they been interested for real in what he was saying, like Alec and James were.

 

Of course he was aware that they were all wrong thoughts, of course. He was a king, they were pirates. He represented justice, they were outlaws. Metaphorical blue blood ran through his veins while normal ones ran through theirs. There was something else besides that, something that had to do with children, but Alec’s bare chest so close to him was making his mind wander away from logic.

 

“So your majesty does like to ogle at us,” he teased, leaning closer still, as if he was inviting Q to touch and feel him.

 

Q clicked his tongue, resting his hands on his hips. “I am not ogling at anyone, Alec. I avert my eyes every time either one of you changes clothes or washes, giving you the privacy my presence here has deprived you of.”

 

James ruffled his hair then pushed him back down on the bed so he could put his boots on. “You don’t need to do that, Q. In fact, I can guarantee you that Alec and I would enjoy ourselves even more if you were to watch us.”

 

The way James was looking at him tipped Q off that the man was making a joke, but he didn’t get it. So he just blinked, tilted his head to the right and ended up mashed between them again, Alec rubbing his knuckles against the top of his head. “You have so much to learn, Q. And I am starting that we’ll have to tie you to us to be sure that no one runs away with you.”

 

“Why would they run away with a cabin-?”

 

Alec put a finger over his mouth and shushed him, rubbing their heads together. “Just because, Q, just because.”

 

They were also very touchy-feely with him, not that he minded it. He actually liked it, since the last time someone gave him an embrace in which he didn’t suddenly have a face full of bosom to convince him to accept the woman as his new Queen was right before his loving family was taken away from him by the sea. He didn’t encourage them, of course, but he didn’t stop them either and if he just so happen to occasionally sigh and lean closer to one of them, then it was because he was still recovering from the poison he had been fed.

 

“Oh, he’s that kind of a cabin boy, I see,” Eve’s voice came from the door and even before Q could even think about asking what she meant, Alec was throwing knives at her, running after her.

 

“Ignore everything she says and does,” James said quickly, pulling him outside, hand clutched tightly in his. “Allow me to sow you my kingdom.”

 

Down a hill and through a small dark forest they went and a new world opened that Q had never been allowed to see before.

 

What appeared to be the island’s centre - over which James’ castle loomed like a silent guardian - was almost claustrophobic. Buildings were mashed up together, looking as if they were holding each other from falling down, dogs and other animals ran around like mad, the noises they made creating a cacophony of sounds that mixed with the humans shouting around them.

 

There were bars after bars after bars, a dingy little church whose drunken priest was slurring through a sermon in front of four giggling women that were under-dressed in Q’s opinion and the market place had more people selling weapons than actual food. Young men and women sat on every corner, winking and waving, an elder person flanked by two or three men with lots of guns or swords on their make-shift belts right next to them, either talking with someone that kept looking at the young ones with hunger in their eyes, or roughly shoving them away, threatening them.

 

“Prostitutes,” James whispered in his ear, although Q had already guessed that much. “These are not the good, clean ones, which use pig intestines to stay like that. They’re cheap and I guarantee you that you’ll either get a disease from them or knocked over the head and all of your money stolen.”

 

“I assure you that I will not require their services at all,” he said under his breath, glancing at them again.

 

This turned out to be a mistake as of the women winked at him and took a few steps in his direction, only to pout and spit on the ground when he moved closer to James, point in which her male friend –or maybe it would be best if he thought of him as her teammate, or colleague - started to make his way towards him.

 

James pulled him closer and frowned, which was enough to get the man to back away. “Never venture in this side of the island without either me or Alec. I’d also add Tanner to this list if it wasn’t for his wife who is really the scourge of the seven seas.”

 

Blinking his surprise away, Q quickly forgot about what had happened as they continued to venture deeper into the island’s murky centre. “But Mister Tanner has told us so much about his wife and she sounds like the most wonderful woman on earth,” he exclaimed, frowning when James tugged on his ear for his tongue slip.

 

“A man in love will describe his wife as the Goddess of Beauty and Calm even if she is nothing more than a harpy,” said James, chuckling. “I don’t mean to say that she isn’t a sight to behold, mind you. It is just her temper that makes her someone you wouldn’t want to annoy or upset.”

 

“James? Q? Where are you? I know you are here because people can recognize the bloody owner of this island,” Alec called from somewhere behind them and James grabbed Q’s hand before he could raise it and wave the man over, pulling him deeper into the crowded area.

 

“Let this be a lesson to him not to play with Eve when we have something more important to do.” He took a sharp right turn and pushed Q behind him, grinning as Alec ran right past them. “It will help him develop his spotting skills, so he’ll thank me,” he assured him, quickly walking down the horrible smelling and dark alley. “I guarantee you’ll love this next place.”

 

They came to a halt in the middle of a wide, open spaced area, that was covered in flowers and trees and that didn’t smell horrible at all. The buildings were not leaning against each other, but actually placed some distance away from each other, nor were they grey or about to fall. The ground was not covered in dirt but covered in almost perfectly cut white rocks that Q felt bad he was stepping on. “Where are we? Shouldn’t your castle be here?” Q asked, still amazed that an island inhabited by pirates could have such marvellous architecture.

 

James grinned and turned Q’s head to the right, where the castle was proudly standing. “I don’t think you’ve noticed, but we’ve been walking for about three hours now and we left through the back to throw Alec off. And if you turn your head this way…” He trailed off and showed Q where the port was, releasing his head to see where he wanted to go.

 

Tempted just for a second to go towards the port just to see all the other ships up close, as he had become very fascinated with them since the last time he had encountered the captain and his first mate, Q’s curiosity over a large, strangely light purple building won and he made a bee line for it.

 

Before he could even move his hand to rest it against the door, he was knocked down by a guard that appeared out of nowhere, tip of blade almost piercing his forehead. “You’re going to need a lot more than stolen boots and a clean shirt to get in here, boy,” the man growled before suddenly dropping his sword and falling on his knees, James kicking him behind his ears again to get him to lie flat against the ground.

 

“I am more than sure that you can’t read a single word,” James hissed, kneeling next to Q to check and be sure that he was fine, “but I foolishly thought that everyone on this island knew how to follow instructions. Especially when they come from your bloody kind who ordered you all not to cause harm to anyone looking like this.” He easily pulled Q to his feet and dusted him off, running his thumb over his forehead to make sure he wasn’t bleeding before pushing him behind him.

 

“I didn’t… I was told, but I didn’t think he’d…” The man gulped and wiped the sweat from his forehead, keeping his head low. “Last time I didn’t act like this, a thief almost made off with two silver candleholders and it almost cost me my life.”

 

Q had the distinct impression that if he wouldn’t be holding on to James’ arm, the captain would be covered in the man’s blood by now. He was grateful to the man for protecting him this much and well, and he thought he understood his anger – though it might have something to do that he could be seen as nothing more than on object, while he did see James as a very strange friend and he would suffer and be upset if anyone hurt him or Alec, Tanner and the few others he had met – but he also understood that the guard was doing his job. So releasing James and turning his back to the violence that would follow was out of the question.

 

“Make sure you don’t forget how he looks and if you ever see him in trouble and don’t help him and I or Alec find out about this, I will hang you by your intestines in—”

 

“We shall be sick for we cannot help but imagine all that you are saying, captain,” Q whispered so that only James could hear, trying to distract him from killing the guard with fear.

 

He was inside the building in a flash, attended to by what he could only describe as an army of frantic servants, all of the pushing cups of water in his face, a beautiful woman with long, brown hair, dressed in a superb green dressed that hugged her body in just the right places, looking at James with amusement.

 

“Who else would be the cause of all this commotion but Captain James Bond himself?” The servants all fell silent and lowered their heads as she slowly made her way down the carved, black stairs, holding her arm out for James to kiss it.

 

Something which James didn’t, turning with his back to the woman in favour of looking at him. “She’s something that’s worse than pirates and blind nobles: a banker.”

 

Would wonders never cease? Pirates had an actual economy in place? They had an actual place where they put money and they trusted each other not to seriously attack it? The walls looked thick, the guards looked deadly – he understood even more why the guard had acted the way he did – and he was sure that there were some traps protecting the actual place where the coins were kept, but an island full of pirates was bound to reach the coveted treasure and there was nothing anyone could do.

 

“This is the first time I am in a bank,” he lied through his teeth. Well, not actually. This was the first time he was in a bank controlled by a woman on a pirate island.

 

The woman snorted, pulling her hand back. “I don’t imagine cabin boys ever get the chance to be in a place like this. Well, unless they are the special kind of cabin boys.” She reminded him of a snake as she moved around him, dragging her nails up his arm and over his neck, grinning as she looked at James. “Such soft skin your young man has.”

 

James grabbed her arm and pushed her away, snarling. “Both I and Alec owe Q our lives; don’t think for a moment that either one of us will do that or allow you to sink your poisons claws in him.”

 

“I had my claws in you before and yet here you stand, insulting me,” she said, obviously faking being insulted. “I insist you stay behind to properly apologize to me. Send your cabin boy to subdue Alec—”

 

Without being told, Q was by James’ side, his hand clutched so tightly enough to hurt. “This is the main hall, the stairs lead to this viper’s nest, and if you pull the one torch that doesn’t look like a torch if you look close enough to it, you’ll get to the vault,” James explained quickly, making his way to the door.

 

The woman moved fast and silent, blocking their way. “You can’t possibly tell me you’re still upset over that little incident where you almost got caught?” She was smart enough not to push Q away, wrapping herself around James’ free arm. “You know I had no choice, James.”

 

James looked so disgusted when the woman touched him that Q was afraid that he would actually puke. He was also shaking with anger, probably holding back because he had been raised well enough not to hit a lady, even if she was the lowest of the low.

 

“You had a choice, Vesper. People always do and yet…” He trailed off and shook his head, squeezing Q’s hand. “If we stay here for too long, we might get poisoned just by the air around her.” He grabbed her arm and pushed her out of his way, Q walking really fast to keep up with him.

 

They didn’t say anything to each other as they slowly walked around, Q more interested in the captain’s face than the buildings around them. They eventually found their way back to the dirtier part of the island and entered a pub, James busying himself with emptying a bottle of whiskey while Q awkwardly looked around, taking in every little detail.

 

The floors were dirty, so much so that he felt bad for the boots he had on. The chairs looked like they were about to fall, despite the massive men and women they supported, knives embedded in the tables that would probably do more good as firewood at this point.

 

The servers were scantily dressed, their chests exposed just enough to keep you guessing and the clients were… They each had their own way of dressing. Some had little more than rags and those sat on the ground, nursing a mug of whatever it was that they were drinking for as long as they could, the servers kicking them if they dared to touch their legs and others were dressed in velvet and other expensive-looking materials.

 

Playing cards were strewn all over the place and dice were tossed over them, people either laughing and cussing, depending on what numbers they got. He couldn’t make out a single thing that was said in this cacophony of sounds and looking at James’ sour and hurt face made it clear that talking was out of the question. So he pulled the dirty mug he had been given closer to him, face scrunching up when the strong smell hit his nose. There was no way in hell he was going to drink this.

 

Someone suddenly slapped James upside the head and Q jumped on his feet, holding his mug in front of him as if he was readying to charge the unknown attacker, who actually turned out to be an out of breath Alec. “You could have waited for me, you bloody bastard. We’re redoing this whole tour after you get wasted. Q, act surprised when we show you around again.”

 

It was clear that Alec knew something was wrong. His face had fallen for a second while talking, anger flashing in his eyes when James tapped the place above his heart where Q knew he had a deep scar. But if he chose to act as if everything was okay, then out of respect for both men, Q decided to do the same. “I am curious if all the pubs are like this one,” he said slowly, flashing the server that refilled his mug with a wink an unsure smile.

 

“This one has the best damned liquor out there for getting shitfaced and forgetting the day,” Alec explained, thankfully taking Q’s mug away without being prompted - it was rude to turn down what he was being offered and he usually was very sneaking in getting rid of what he disliked. “Though it would be best for you if I drank this. I am afraid you might pass out after just one sip. ” The drink was gone in a single gulp and Q poked Alec’s chest to see if he would fall down or not, startled when the man suddenly grabbed his hand and dragged him away from the table. “Let me introduce you to some of our crew.”

 

It was amazing how Alec knew the name of every person that worked on his ship, shaking hands with them and sharing little quips with each of past adventures together. The men’s eyes filled with joy and pride when he did that, toasting to his and James’ health and pulling Q closer to them, promising to always watch out of their bosses’ cabin boy.

 

“Listen boys,” Alec said after glancing for the fifth time in less than ten minutes at James’ slouched figure at his table, “how about you teach my Q here how to play Liar’s dice while I tend to some business?”

 

Q found himself with a cup and six dices in his hand before Alec was even done talking. “I am afraid I wasn’t allowed to partake in such activities.”

 

The men all laughed and he got squeezed between them as they started to explain the game to him. It was an interesting if a little bit boring game. He much preferred chess over this game of chance, although it did have a sort of strategy. But that strategy depended very much on your ability to tell a good lie, which Q was capable of only if his life or his people were in danger. Since this was not the case, everybody could tell when he was lying about his dice, even the drunkest of sailors who actually employed someone to roll the dice for him, look at them and tell him what the numbers were.

 

It was way past midnight when Alec shuffled over to the table Q was at, a passed out James thrown over his shoulder. “I have to take my cabin boy back, boys.” The all let out disappointed sounds, apparently very interested in his slightly modified tales of the various balls he had attended. “No, no, doctor said that he still needs rest.” He easily picked Q up by his shirt’s collar, wrapping an arm around his middle. “Oh and the captain wants everyone in his castle around…noon. So make sure you sober up until then.”

 

The streets were even more packed now and the prostitutes even more aggressive, although they all backed away when the guard from the apparent bank suddenly started walking behind Q, quickly explaining to Alec why he was following them.

 

It almost backfired because Alec seemed to go deaf the second he heard Q got knocked to the ground and the only reason why he got off with just a growl instead of a beating despite his good intentions was because James was still on his back and Q assured him that the man had been already punished in a violent way.

 

“Damn it, I missed all the fun because of Eve,” Alec slurred, pouting. “Well, should there be a next time…” He trailed off, looking more sober than he did a moment ago.

 

“Never, I promise,” said the man, trembling.

 

They reached castle pretty fast and Q tried to help Alec undress James, falling on his ass each time he tried to pull off one of his boots. Q’s grunts and usage of French in the most vile of ways, accompanied with Alec’s barking laughter woke James up, the man’s eyes shining with amusement for the first time in hours. “Did you-”

 

“Yes, we undid the string already, Captain; we are not completely daft when it comes to clothes,” Q interrupted him, huffing. “We just never thought that boots could shrink.” He turned with his back to James and lifted his leg, wrapping his around it as he tried to pull the boot off like that. “But they are sure to come off if we try it like this.”

 

Alec tugged something at the base of the boot and off it came, Q falling right on top of James’ chest, beaming with joy at his success. It was short lived because James instantly latched his fingers on his earlobes while Alec threw himself over him, starting to poke his sides and making him laugh so much that he almost passed out - by some miracle, his glasses remained on his face throughout his struggling.

 

They feel asleep in a heap of entwined arms and legs, James’ forehead pressed against Alec’s above his head. This was the most relaxed and pleased he had ever felt before entering the land of sleep where Morpheus reigned and he was surprised by his wish do this every night from then on.

 

He was slow to wake up the following morning, stretching until all of his bones cracked and accidentally rolling on top of a grinning Alec, who was more than happy to wrap his arms around him and bury his nose in his hair. “We’re going need to cover the ground in pillows, or be forced to forever rub ointment on your kingly ass,” he mumbled when Q jumped off of him, tripping on James’ slumbering form and rolling down the mountain of gold.

 

It only struck him then that he might not return home and a wave of sadness washed over him. This freedom was addicting, ecstatic and their friendship and companionship loved and much wanted, but how much were his people suffering while the weight shaped like a crown was not resting on his head?

 

“We wish to return to our kingdom.”

 

James sat up then, looking as if last night never happened. “It is a bit dangerous for your majesty to do that right now,” he said slowly. “Your people think you dead, but our ears on land tell us that your uncle knows that you are alive and he is just dying to get his paws on you.”

 

“But our people–”

 

“Are still safe and will remain so until either you or your uncle is dealt with,” Alec cut him off, jumping down next to him. “James and I might have a plan, but we need to do a little bit of scouting before we can share it with you.” He gave his hand a light squeeze, smiling reassuringly down at him. “You are doing your people more good by staying here right now, Q.”

 

James joined them, draping the covers around the shivering king. “Can you trust us?”

 

Could he trust the men who rescued him? Could he trust the pirates that spared his ships for so many years? “Yes,” he said loud and clear, straightening his back. “If you worked for our uncle, we would have been dead by now.”

 

They both knelt before him and took his hands, kissing them, James speaking first. “A pirate is loyal only to himself and his crew, but in this case, these pirates are loyal to you.”

 

“We are most honoured to have such men serving us,” Q said softly, smiling. “And we shall do everything in our power to offer you protection or pardons when needed.”

 

Alec snorted. “If they ever catch us, we might need those.” He jumped on his feet and twirled Q around, grinning. “But we promise to come running to you and hide under your robes in front of your entire court if anything like that happens.”

 

James tripped Alec and stole Q from him, putting the dizzy king back on the bed. “Tanner will take care of you until we return from this short trip.” He tugged on Q’s ear twice, chuckling. “I am sure Eve will be around as well, so consider those an advancement for when you slip up again.”

 

Q frowned, crossing his arms over his chest. “Aren’t I,” he would have stuck his tongue out at the captain if he wasn’t a king, “supposed to be your cabin boy?”

 

“That you are, but you are also still quite ill.” He pushed Q to lie on his back and tucked him in, effectively trapping him. “Enjoy the turtle soup and don’t let Eve steal you from us. And never go into town on your own.”

 

They weren’t leaving just then and they would come back, Q was sure, but his stomach was still filled with butterflies and his heart still raced.

Chapter Text

He waved the two men off and then Tanner took him right back to their castle and proceeded to do his best to pamper him and cater to his every need. The poor man did everything in his power to keep him entertained and as far away from the dangerous and interesting world that blossomed right under his window, but he failed his mission just two days later.

 

“We doubt that a cabin boy would be allowed to spend so much time in a captain’s quarters without doing anything worthwhile,” Q was saying as he was struggling to properly lace up his shirt.

 

Tanner cleared his throat and very slowly made his way towards Q, hands trembling as he undid the many knots done by the still inexperienced king – who felt beyond embarrassed because he could rule a country and take care of his people, but he couldn’t close a shirt on his own. “I do not mean to insult Your Majesty, but a cabin boy does not talk like that.”

 

And then it hit Q. He had no real idea what a cabin boy did and if he wanted to keep his identity a secret, then he had to learn his new duties. He turned to look at Tanner with a smile and the man visibly shrunk, already shaking his head. “Mister Tanner—”

 

“Your Majesty, please don’t,” he begged, but Q carried on as if he hadn’t been interrupted.

 

“—you have opened my eyes and I fully agree with you.”

 

“Agree with what? Your Majesty, I didn’t say anything that needed to be agreed with. Please don’t say that I opened your eyes to any plans that might put you in danger because I really didn’t mean to give you that idea,” Tanner insisted, on his knees, arms wrapped around one of Q’s legs.

 

Q patted Tanner’s back until he stood up and he awkwardly threw an arm around his shoulders like he had seen the other sailors do with each other when they wanted to discuss a plan in the tavern Alec and James had taken him to. “If I am presented as a cabin boy, I need to know everything one does.”

 

Tanner was practically crying by now. “No, no, you don’t. There are plenty of cabin boys who don’t ever leave the captain’s room.” He regretted saying that the second he saw Q’s curious look. “No, your Majesty, please don’t ask—”

 

“What do they do in there? My cabin boys were with me only when they brought me my food, water, or brought me a message from the captains who were too busy to do so themselves.” He moved to take Tanner’s hand, squeezing it to stop his squirming. “I assumed that I would have to do the same, but would I be of more use to the captain if I turn into one of those cabin boys that stay in his cabin?”

 

Tanner let out a little whine that reminded Q of a dog he once had, glancing at the empty bottles of alcohol that were scattered around the room. “How about you pretend you didn’t hear me talk about those types of cabin boys and you never mention it to my dear captain or the first mate?”

 

Now, the king hated using underhanded tactics to get his way and he still had no idea what those cabin boys did or why Tanner was suddenly looking even more afraid than before, but he was no longer a king. He was Q, the inexperienced cabin boy. “Teach me what the normal kind do and my lips are sealed.”

 

He held his hand out and Tanner looked at his like he wanted to cut it off to have a perfect excuse not to shake on it, but whatever the other type of cabin boy did must have been very upsetting for Captain Bond and Alec because their hands touched in an understanding. “You will have to learn a ship’s layout, what everything is named, how to cook, how to clean. That being said, are you sure you still want to do this, your majesty?”

 

That actually sounded exciting. “I will do my best not to disappoint, Mister Tanner.” He started to walk towards the door, tripping because of his badly tied boots. “I was sure I did the laces right this time,” he uttered, accepting the helping hand.

 

“Okay, your majesty—”

 

“Please call me Q.”

 

Tanner looked at him like he had given him land and a title. “Q,” he said slowly, voice somehow shaking while uttering that single word. “The first thing I will teach you is how to properly tie your boots since you cannot afford to trip when there’s an emergency. I will also teach you everything related to a ship, but my wonderful wife will teach you how to clean, cook, sow, and deal with drunken and bored pirates.”

 

It was amazing how the man’s face lit up when he so much as mentioned his wife, a little sparkle that Q could only describe as pure adoration and love appearing in his eyes. “I will forever be grateful to both you and your wife. If I do get my kingdom back,” he didn’t want to doubt the good captain and the kind first mate, but he insisted on being at least a little bit realistic in this crazy adventure, “I will show this gratitude in jewels, golden coins, and a pardon if you so wish it.”

 

For a moment, it looked like Tanner was going to pat his back and Q was secretly rooting for that to happen. But the man aborted that idea in the last second and ended up patting his own head. “Your Majesty will find that a pirate will never turn down the promise of a treasure or of such a document that might save his life, so I will advise you to keep your kindness hidden from others, okay?”

 

It was for the first time that Tanner looked at him with a different kind of worry, so Q nodded slowly, brushing his fingers over his mouth. “I shall make a list of people who I think to be deserving of my royal favours and share them with the good captain and the first mate. And Tanner?”

 

“Yes, your majesty?”

 

He grabbed his hands and squeezed them. “Call me Q.”

 

***

 

Learning what each part of a ship did and what it was called was easy. Q didn’t need more than a week to be a theoretical expert when it came to a normal ship’s layout and Tanner assured him that it will take him only a few minutes to know the MI6 like the back of his hand.

 

Dressing was even easier and he got down in less than two hours – he realized that was a lot, especially since Tanner youngest was also his teacher and he was beyond embarrassed that he had taken such a long time to learn such an easy and mundane thing – but the rest of a cabin boy’s duties were beyond hard as far as he was concerned.

 

Bless Mrs. Tanner’s heart for being so patient with him, even though she really had no idea that he was royalty. “Now sweetie, try to peel just the potato this time. No one wants to eat your fingers.” She patted his back and kissed his forehead as she said that, checking to see if the wraps around Q’s fingers were done properly. “You poor dear; having such a horrible man as your captain. I am so glad Bond rescued you from him before he did anything horrible to you,” she said again and hugged him tightly.

 

He glanced at Tanner, silently asking him what the woman was talking about, but he pretended not to see him, snatching his youngest from the floor and dropping him on his shoulders. “How about my little Jack helps me bring in a new bag of potatoes for our bandaged friend here?”

 

The young boy giggled and clapped his hands, squeezing when his father started to run around the small kitchen with him, his mother waving around a wooden spoon and threatening her husband to hit him with it if he dropped the boy.

 

The whole atmosphere made Q miss his parents even more, memories of when his father pretended to be a horse and crawled around the throne room. His mother always watched them with amusement and his brothers laughed, the eldest one easily picking him up and telling him he had been kidnapped by a dragon that was now flying off with him – the first time that happened, Q remembered screaming and starting to cry, his brother apologizing for days on end for that, sneaking him lots of honeyed sweets despite his mother and nursemaid scolding the older boy every time he was caught.

 

A weak tug brought him back and he was staring down at Tanner’s little princess. “Mister Q, did you cut your finger again? Do you want me to call mama to kiss it better?”

 

“No, I was just remembering something,” he said softly, carefully pushing the knife in the potato.

 

The little girl pushed herself up on her toes, patting Q’s head. “If it makes you cry, then you shouldn’t remember it.” She started to look around the room, face lighting up when her eyes landed on the rolling pin. “Mama always waves that around when she wants to help papa or Alec with remembering or forgetting something.” She stuck her tongue out, struggling to lift the heavy thing. “Do you want me to help you with that?”

 

Q laughed nervously, putting the knife and potato down to push the rolling pin further away from the little girl. “That is very kind of you, my little lady, but I can for each and every one of my memories.”

 

“Even the ones that make you cry? Aren’t they bad memories?”

 

“We treasure these memories, even if they are sad. They are of our parents and brothers, of the time when we were truly happy.” He sighed and rubbed his sleeve against his face, forcing himself to smile, the little girl giggling.

 

“You’re talking funny, Mister Q. I only see one of you, but you talk as if there are two of you.”

 

The tips of his ears burned and he started peeling the potato again, flinching when he managed to cut his little finger. The little girl clicked her tongue and went to get her mother, yelling on top of her lungs that Q had done it again.

 

The actual cooking was harder still and Q had managed to start a small fire in the kitchen three times, the fourth time bringing him close to tears. But Mrs. Tanner did not see, angry or upset with him. She just gently patted his back while her husband was having a mild heart attack next to the put out fire.

 

“You’ll get it eventually, Q, don’t worry. You just need to get back up on the horse and try again,” she encouraged him, pushing a new spoon in his hands. “Now, take my husband with you and he will help you clean the pot and start again.”

 

Washing things was something he could do. As long as they weren’t clothes because he had managed to lose three of Tanner’s pants down the stream and turn his yellowish shirts in a new colour when he mixed it with a bright red coat.

 

“James and Alec have someone special who washes their clothes. I have never seen them ask any of the former cabin boys do it,” Tanner said after he was done silently weeping for his clothes.

 

“Now, Mister Tanner,” Q started, resting his hands on his hips, “you wouldn’t be lying to me, now would you?”

 

Tanner looked guilty, but Q understood why the man would do that. He was a complete disaster and as far as he was concerned, he also owed the man and his wife a completely new wardrobe. “How about you try sewing again?”

 

In this area, Q was faring slightly better. He didn’t sew his hands together and Mrs. Tanner had covered his fingers in strange, metallic little caps. “This is so you don’t prick your fingers, sweetie. Normally you’d use just one, on your thumb, but...” She trailed off and pecked his forehead, moving back to her food.

 

He moved slow, but the woman was impressed by the type of stitching he did. Even her friends were impressed when they dropped by and she showed him what he did and Q had never been so patted or hugged in his life and he was sure that at the end of the day, his cheeks were bleeding from the many times they had been pinched in praise.

 

“Did the captain see what you can do with a needle and thread?” She asked and Q slowly shook his head, pressing a cold, damp cloth to his face. “Well, the second his eyes land on these, he’s going to ask you to stitch a brand new Roger for him.” She slapped his back so hard that he was sure he saw his lungs flying out of his chest. “My poor dear, you’re still so incredibly thin. Well, we can’t have you get blown away by a strong wind.”

 

And that was the excuse she used to push three bowls of soup in front of him. Not that Q needed an excuse to eat what she cooked, biting his tongue not to tell her that she could easily rival the army of cooks he had back at his castle.

 

On the start of his second week of cabin boy training, he woke up to a grinning Eve sitting right above him, the woman covering his mouth before he could scream. “I’ve been in this room for over an hour and I spent the last thirteen days studying you; if I wanted to hurt your royal self, I would have done it a long time ago.”

 

He tried not to look surprised that she knew, but the first words out of his mouth the second the woman removed her hand still were: “How did you know?”

 

She snorted and sat up straight, tilting her head back as she rested her hands on her hips. “I have yet to meet anyone that wasn’t a king who talks or acts like you. You also smell too nice, you look too clean, your hands are too soft, you know how to read, how to write, how to add numbers, and you are much too inexperienced to be a commoner, much less a cabin boy.”

 

“I could be one of those cabin boys that never leave the captain’s quarters,” he muttered, startled when he woman’s roaring laughter bounced off the room’s walls.

 

“Do you know what the duties of those cabin boys actually are? To sleep with the captain.”

 

Q blinked slowly. “I’m sleeping with the captain.”

 

She laughed again, hard enough to bring tears to her eyes. “Not like that, you silly royal,” she wheezed out, hitting the bed with her fist. “Have sex with him.”

 

Q instantly turned red and Eve looked like she was close to suffocation – and all the Gods forgive him, but he thought that to be a good thing. “If you are done mocking us, then feel free to show yourself out. We have much to do today, starting with dressing ourselves.”

 

It was a clear invitation for the woman to leave, but she chose to ignore it. “I thought your kind had people to dress them.”

 

“We do,” Q admitted, pouring water in a bowl and wetting a cloth so he could wash himself a bit before dressing.

 

“Then why are you so shy?”

 

There was no way to explain without sounding horrible and he cringed when he heard those words coming out of his own mouth, disgusted at how satisfied his uncle would have been. “I do not see the servants who help me dress as actual people, but as extensions of my own limbs. Because they never talk to me and they always keep their heads lowered,” he added quickly.

 

She glared at him for a moment, enjoying how clearly uncomfortable she was making him before starting to roll on the bed, laughing again. “You are as cute as I thought you would be when you are embarrassed, royal. Don’t worry, the only way you could have offended me then was if you had parted your arms and ordered me to dress you.”

 

He sketched a small smile and moved around the large desk, starting to wash himself. “A cabin boy dresses himself and that is what I am right now.”

 

“A cabin boy with a very pretty crown on his head,” she chimed in, turning with her back to him. “Are you that king who rescued them from drowning seven years ago? The one who came with that beautiful ship dangerously close to our shores?”

 

Q nodded and then realized that the woman couldn’t see him. “Yes, I am. That was the first time I met a pirate or saw a pirate ship and I am well aware that I am one of the few lucky people on this land that can walk away from such a thing with nothing but good memories and good words about pirates.”

 

He thought about how close to dying Captain Bond had been and how worried Alec was despite the show he was putting on, his heart skipping a bit. He really hoped that those two and everyone else that were as kind as them, even though they were pirates, would never dance so closely to Death again.

 

“You look worried,” Eve said from right in front of him and he was so startled that he jumped on the other side of the desk, clutching the rag tightly to his chest. “I’m what you’d call a general to Bond and since you are important to him and Alec, I will not hurt you. You can relax around me, honestly.”

 

“I am indecent! This is not how I should be in front of a lady,” he spluttered.

 

Eve laughed again, putting her feet on the desk and throwing her arms over her eyes. “I see my men walk around my ship naked all the time. You have nothing that I haven’t seen before, unless you have a golden staff instead of a—”

 

“Lady Eve, please.” It wasn’t like he was a monk, but such things he had only discussed with his doctor and no one else. “Is there anything I can help you with, or are you here just to mock me or kidnap me?”

 

“Wow, don’t jump from me teasing you to me kidnapping you. Who put that idea in your royal head?” The woman threw his pants at his head then her arm around his shoulders, squeezing him. “Listen, you haven’t seen Bond and Alec when they get mad and trust me, you don’t want to. If I dared to move you a single step out of the safe zone that is this island, my head will be a bit higher than even the Jolly on their next outing.”

 

“Then what do you want from me?” He asked carefully, eyes narrowed.

 

She shrugged before releasing him and turning with her back to him yet again. “I was just curious about you.”

 

Deciding not to lose this opportunity to finally dress himself, Q almost tripped on his feet trying to quickly get the pants and shirt on. “Was your curiosity satisfied?”

 

“Pleasantly so. However…” Q had learned from a young age to hate that word since it brought only misfortune and headache after it. “I have also decided that you need to learn how to properly defend yourself just in case Davy Jones’ locker gets drenched in cheap rum and the MI6 gets boarded.”

 

Q knew how to fight with a sword already, but he wasn’t going to deprive the lady from finding that on her own. He wasn’t stupid enough to underestimate her because she was a woman – his first instructor had actually been a woman – or dare to think that she was a lesser fighter because she had no formal training like he had. She was, after all, a pirate captain and he assumed that someone did not get that far up on the chain of command by covering behind their sailors. But he was willing to bet his own soul that she was the one doing the underestimating, basing it on how frail he looked.

 

“We’ll use sticks until you learn how to hold one properly. I would take you down to their armoury and let you pick one, but I don’t want you to hurt yourself.” She grabbed his hand and dragged him out of the room the second he was done with his boots, ignoring the terrified Tanner and his company of five soldiers that ran after them and begged her to stop.

 

“Don’t worry, Mister Tanner; she just wants to teach me how to fight,” Q called behind his shoulder and he could swear that the poor man let out the most terrified shriek he had heard in his life.

 

“Eve—”

 

“I’ll treat him like a king,” she interrupted Tanner, winking at him.

 

In a fair fight, Q would have managed to take her down. Not easily, mind you, but he would still have been the winner. But she was a pirate and Q knew that the world did not really follow the rules of a tournament, so he had expected her to cheat. The first trick, he managed not to fall for. But the second one had him staring up at a panting and grinning Eve – she actually looked quite terrifying like that and Q gulped.

 

“You were sneaky in letting me think you couldn’t fight,” she said slowly, pulling him to his feet. “That’s exactly what a pirate would have done, excellent.” She ruffled his hair, looking proudly at him. “Let’s try with real swords and I suggest trying to throw things at me. I would say kick dust in my eyes, but there’s not dust on a ship.”

 

“Over my dead body!” Tanner intervened, starting to push Q out of the room. “You got what you wanted and you had your fun.”

 

Eve moved fast and grabbed Q’s other arm, trying to pull him away from Tanner and the door. “I am trying to help him so stop being such a stick in the mud.”

 

Tanner held on tighter. “You’re going to help him in an early grave, woman. Now let him go because my wife cooked him lunch and the doctor wants to show him a book about grass or whatever.”

 

Q shrugged his arms free, turning to look at Tanner with pure joy in his eyes. He had grown bored of the only two books that had once been on his ship and he missed reading new ones, but he didn’t dare dream that they might have them on the island since no one looked like the type who would enjoy reading. “Did you say a book?”

 

Maybe it was just in his head, but he could have sworn that he saw Tanner’s tongue peeking out from behind his lips, in Eve’s direction. “The doctor has a lot of books around, all of them with different types of grass and recipes of horribly tasting things that save our lives when we get sick.

 

Medicine was not something that really interested Q, although he had a deep respect for the ones that studied it. Still, he hoped that the doctor might have other kinds of books that he could read and he really didn’t feel like he needed any more bruises than what Eve had already given him.

 

“If you want books, I also have books with really beautiful pictures in them,” Eve said sweetly and a few alarm bells went off in Q’s mind, suddenly afraid that the woman was really trying to kidnap him.

 

“They’re called atlases and they are filled with the brim with maps, some of which are completely wrong,” Tanner deadpanned and Eve tried smacking upside the head, the two of them continuing to tug on Q until Mrs. Tanner saw what they were doing to him and brought out the wooden spoon that all feared.

 

“Mrs. Tanner, might you be kind enough to teach me how to wield a spoon in such an efficient way?” He asked and the woman laughed, pinching his cheeks until they almost started bleeding.

 

Chapter Text

Their trip had been fruitful from more than one point of view. Their men were struggling to carry the crates filled with silver and gold coins, but also ones filled with books and soft materials that Alec and James planned on gifting Q with. But that what not all and every time James felt the tips of his fingers brush against the thick parchment he had in his coat.

 

They weren’t the best of news and their inside source had informed them that as far as Q’s people were concerned, their king was dead – Q’s uncle, the bastard, had sent a poor man that was unfortunate enough to look like him to his death, but their man had whisked him on his ship and was currently keeping him hidden – but that the bastard himself knew his nephew was alive and under their protection.

 

Q was not going to find out about this just yet. They wanted to see the king smiling and being relaxed as much as they could, especially since they didn’t have an actual counterattack in mind, so burdening him with this would be useless.

 

“You two utter and complete bastards,” Eve growled as she wrapped her arms around their necks and dragged them into a dark corner where they could talk. “A bloody king?” She hissed, eyes darting around, as if she was expecting an army to jump out of a crate and execute them all where they stood.

 

“Yes, Eve, we’re fine, thank you for asking,” Alec grumbled, trying to shrug the woman’s hands off.

 

But the woman had a tight grip on his arm and she wasn’t about to let go of him and she was beyond pissed. “Oh, I am getting there, but first let me tell you that there’s a king waiting for you two in your room, practically jumping for joy that his two favourite pirates – his words, not mine, mind you – have returned to him in one piece.” She stopped then and took a step back, quickly checking them over. “And now for your health: you are in one piece, right? No missing fingers, no cuts, no wounds, no diseases? I am asking for him, not for me, of course.”

 

It was clear that she was partially lying, but they were moved that Q had become so attached to them in such a short time. “Almost everyone drops their anchor when they see us,” James said smugly, opening his coat and shirt to show the woman that there was no new scar or wound, Alec mirroring his actions. “Satisfied?”

 

Eve thought for a moment and then pointed at their pants, the two doctors that she had under her employment appearing from behind her, sharp tools in their hands. “Drop them, present those for a proper inspection and only then will I allow you to go home to Q.”

 

“Hey, we were working,” Alec snapped, not liking the way the light shone off the blades of the small and sharp knives the doctors had. “We only had each other and no one else. Doing this is useless, Eve.”

 

She grinned and they shivered, unconsciously moving closer to each other. “Well, if nothing is wrong, then this won’t take long as they’ll know from a single glance. If they think something is wrong, the first cut will clear everything up. Now, drop them of your own free will and stop making the king wait. It is not proper and he could have your heads. And before you even think about asking, the instruments were washed with water and fire and placed in clean rags.”

 

Q wouldn’t, they knew for sure, but it seemed that Eve had become so attached to him in such a short period of time that she would wash the ground with them if she thought they were being disrespectful towards him.

 

“I’d demand you kiss it better if I didn’t know that you’d bite it off,” Alec growled, doing what he was told, grinning smugly at the woman when the doctor put the knife back in its rag.

 

It was the same for James and Eve let out a sigh of relief. “We’re aware of how important and urgent this situation is, Eve, so of course we didn’t stray from our path. Now, how is Q? Tanner was very vague in his updates.”

 

Eve just grinned again and nudged her head towards the castle. “I am going to let you find that out for yourselves. And boys?” She stopped them and placed her hands on their shoulders, squeezing them in an almost sympathetic manner. “No matter what you do, don’t puke and don’t call the food horrible.”

 

***

 

Q had taken his role as a cabin boy serious. Too serious, if someone bothered to ask them and both Alec and James had wanted to strangle Tanner when they saw the king’s bandaged fingers, taking the small wounds as a clear sign that he had failed in his mission to keep him safe by allowing him to peel things, cook – they really hoped he hadn’t accidentally started a fire – wash floors – no complaints there except that Q had back pains now – and wash clothes – they saw a few of their white shirts looking mostly pink, but they didn’t really care about that.

 

“How’s the food?” Q asked, a huge smile on his face, hands clasped behind him.

 

“We weren’t done looking at your hands, Q,” Alec said, genuinely worried and holding his hands out. “We’ll eat after we see and feel them.”

 

Q took a few steps back and he looked like he was ready to bolt, but James was faster and sneakier so he was already behind the young king, touching the palms. “They’re still soft, but not as soft as they were when we brought you here.” He ruffled Q’s hair and pulled him towards the table, Alec pulling the chair out for him while Tanner placed a napkin in his lap. “Your Majesty, you shouldn’t have—”

 

“I know, I know,” Q interrupted him, pulling himself closer to the table and motioning for everyone to take their places. “But I can just sit on a chair all day long and pretend that I am your cabin boy. Someone is bound to realize that something is rotten and I... The cabin boy that doesn’t leave the room... That is to say, I...” He continued to mumble, twirling his thumbs in his lap, missing the way both men turned to glare at Tanner who quickly pointed to Eve. “I hope you understand,” he finished and looked up at them, everyone dropping their knives and nodding, huge smiles on their faces.

 

“No one would have questioned our decision to have a cabin boy who does absolutely nothing, even if he wasn’t the king that Eve told you about,” James said, glaring at the woman. “But I came to understand that you are someone who takes whatever role he is given seriously and so,” he sighed and picked up the spoon Q pointed to, “I can’t say that I am completely surprised that you decided to do this.”

 

When he pushed his spoon in his mouth, he thought someone had accidentally given him a bowl of warm sea water, but he held back from spitting it out because Tanner and Eve were pointing madly to Q who was half leaning on the table, waiting to see what he would do.

 

He groaned internally and glanced at Alec, seeing his forced smile as the soup was dripping out of his mouth. “Did you make this?” James asked after forcing himself to swallow and suppressing the disgusted shrug.

 

Q nodded, looking really proud. “I’ve been practicing with Mrs. Tanner the whole time you were away. She showed me how to cook and how to clean and explained what it is expected of a cabin boy.” He tilted his head and closed his eyes for a moment, James and Alec quickly pouring a bit of the bowl’s contents into the strategically placed bucket between them. “Oh, and Lady Eve—”

 

“By the way, I expect the two of you to start calling me that,” Eve interrupted Q, giving him an apologetic look before returning to stirring the salt soup.

 

“As I was saying, Lady Eve started teaching me how to fight dirty and the kind doctor shared his books about medicine with me. But what I excel as is sewing! Let me show you,” he said excitedly and got up from the table, turning with his back to them long enough for all of them to pour the horrible soup in the buckets and for Tanner to give them to the guards outside the door, the order clear even though no word was uttered.

 

“Q, did Tanner’s wife adopt you, by any chance?” Alec asked when Q turned to face them, the others pretending to wipe their mouth with the napkins that no one really knew from where Q had pulled them out. “Not that I am mocking what you learned or your teacher,” he added quickly when he saw the king’s smile drop a little.

 

“I know that sewing is a woman’s job,” Q started, voice small and Alec did not hold back from hitting his head with his palm while James was kicking his feet under the table, “but I remember sitting at my mother’s feet as she did embroidery while my hearing my brothers crossing their swords in the courtyard and wishing I could be as good as her.” Eve had joined the violent kicking game that was taking place under the table and Tanner’s face promised that he would share what Alec had done with his wife.

 

Q unrolled the flag he had behind his back, a Jolly Roger that was the same as what the MI6 used, but so much better made. The way the light fell on it made it seem like its markings floated in front of the background, as if the skull itself was coming at you, pulling the sword and gun after it. “I am proud of what I did, even if I do not have bosoms or the ability to give birth.”

 

“As you should be, Q,” Eve said slowly, squeezing his shoulder. “Don’t let this idiot’s—”

 

“I may be James’ first mate and you may be a captain of your own ship, but I still outrank you since you are part of our fleet and I demand at least some semblance of respect.” Alec interrupted her, groaning in pain when he was hit under the table again. “And can you all stop doing that already? I like to act like I am invincible, but my bones are still breakable.”

Eve kicked him again and then turned her attention back to Q and James saved him from whatever painful show of affection the woman wanted to give him by sitting him back on the chair. “You’ll quickly learn that Alec is horrible when it comes to express himself in a proper way.” Alec started to nod. “He’s an idiot like that, but he means no harm.”

 

Alec continued to nod, stopping suddenly to glare at James. “I risk my life for his and he insults me.” He pulled Q’s chair closer to his. “We don’t want you to get the arsehole from him, Your Majesty.”

 

Q tried his best not to laugh. “Captain Bond is surely just jesting and does not mean to truly insult his loyal first mate, just like you didn’t mean to imply anything bad with your words, right, Alec?” The pirate nodded and Q smiled, clasping his hands under his chin. “Wonderful! Now that we got the misunderstandings out of our way, we should all—oh! You already finished! Did you like my soup? It was my sixth attempt today.”

 

It honestly tasted like it was his first attempt period, but no one was going to point that out, not because Q was a king, but because it was beyond clear how hard he had tried. “Delicious,” they all lied instead, Tanner pulling the bowl away from Q before the man could taste the poison.

 

“But wait, I’m—”

 

“Tanner’s wife probably forgot to tell you, but when this type of soup gets cold, it is no longer good,” James said and Q narrowed his eyes.

 

The king took his bowl back from Tanner, slapping the man’s hand away with the spoon. “We may not know how everything – or should I say anything – works outside the castle’s walls, but we know that no food in this world gets ruined by simply getting colder.” He dodged James’ and Alec’s attempts at punishing him for slipping back in his old pattern, not missing how proud Eve looked. “Now let us see what ungodly concoction we created.”

 

It was even worse than he thought and he was more than thankful to Alec for providing him with a mug full of water. He knew he had overdone it with the salt, but he didn’t think he had exaggerated this much. And the little piece of meat he had tried to chew on almost broke his teeth.

 

“I never thought of cooking to be something easily done, but I have also never imagined that it could be this complicated,” he gasped out, holding the mug out for Alec to fill it again. “I wouldn’t give this to my uncle and I apologize for insulting you with it.” It was also clear that he had to go and apologize to Mrs. Tanner for wasting her time and her ingredients and just stick to cutting his fingers on potatoes until further notice.

 

James patted his back, the door opening to reveal a few young women with a tray on which a roasted pig sat, apple stuck in its mouth. “I would give your uncle worse things. In fact, I will give your uncle worse things and let me assure you that death will not be one of them.”

 

He couldn’t help but shudder in pleasure at the thought of all ways he and Alec had planned on tormenting the soon-to-be usurper, making a mental note to check and see if the captain that had whisked Q from his rightful place and the doctor that had brought him so much pain in his life were still alive after they were done eating.

 

“A toast,” Q’s voice suddenly rang, his mug held high, “for the return in good health of the wonderful captain, excellent first mate, and their brave men! I pray that the waters will be eternally calm when your ship is on them and may the wind forever be in your favour.”

 

“And may your crown be returned to you, my kind king,” Alec added and everyone emptied their mugs in one go, Q getting dizzy and almost falling on the ground.

 

James was quick to catch him and ease him back in his chair, Alec pushing a piece of freshly baked bread dipped in sauce in his mouth. “I hope no one tried to teach you to drink like a pirate.” James glared at Eve as he said that and the woman frowned, clearly offended.

 

Q squeezed his hand and smiled, blushing a bit at Alec using his thumb to wipe the corners of his mouth. “The one time someone insisted a bit too much with treating me with ale, Lady Eve alongside her wonderful crew and Mister Tanner almost shoved the mug down his throat. But I am so happy nothing violent came out of that and the man apologized the following day, so please do not punish him. He really didn’t mean me any harm.”

 

Eve leaned close to James when he looked surprised at her. “Kid’s skittish as a newly born deer when he’s surrounded by people he doesn’t really know, even though he tries to act tough. I couldn’t do anything to make him afraid of me.”

 

James understood that better than he would like to admit. Both he and Alec had promised themselves to never take someone’s life in front of him unless it was absolutely necessary, wishing to avoid the fear or disgust that would undoubtedly appear in the king’s eyes – it was rare for someone of blue blood to look at them with admiration and gratitude and rarer still for them to care, but Q was different.

 

They ate and drank until there was nothing left and then it was time for James and Alec to present their king with gifts. Alec plopped Q on top of the bed before yelling for their men to bring the crates full of books which had the young king ignore their existence until he was done digging through them and putting them in order – well, he didn’t fully ignore them, holding up a book for them to see every now and then and explaining what it was about and why he loved it so much.

 

“Will you read to me?” Alec asked while Q was busy rebuilding the wall of pillows between them, James already asleep on him.

 

Q smiled and jumped out of the bed, sliding down the mountain of gold to pull out his favourite book. “It has multiple stories in it, but there’s one that I absolutely love,” he whispered, carefully turning the pages. “My eldest brother read it to me on the night they left to stop my tears because I couldn’t join them.” He stopped then and looked absolutely devastated, Alec pushing James away a little so he could lean and squeeze his hand.

 

“Is your brother—?”

 

“The story is from the country of Vikings,” Q interrupted him, clear that he did not wish to talk about what had happened, “and it’s about one of their many gods, the most mischievous one of them.”

 

Alec was asleep even before he was done reading the first paragraph and when he noticed that, Q continued to read in silence, startled when he was hit with a pillow. “I hate it when people leave me hanging,” James grumbled, voice heavy with sleep. “Please continue because I want to know what happened with the hammer.”

 

Sleep claimed Q before he was done with the story, his light snores completely drowned out by the loud ones that came from James and Alec. The servant that was tasked with bringing fresh water for them to wash in the morning would spent the rest of the night wondering how the cabin boy could sleep with so much ease or without dreaming of two bears chasing him when the first time he had heard the captain and the first mate snore, he had ran away screaming from the room, waking up ever guard in the castle with his screams of how their leader had been torn apart by bears.

 

***

 

There were few days in which James found himself drinking completely alone, rarer still for one such opportunity to show itself just a day after they returned, and although he wasn’t happy to find himself in that situation and didn’t actively search for a way to drink like that, he did enjoy them. Especially if he found himself in dire situations, using the lack of welcomed distractions – which all involved Alec and now Q – to put his thoughts in order and decide what course of action he should follow.

 

“Tired of that new little toy of yours already?” Vesper’s venomous whisper drifted in his ear and he shuddered in disgust.

 

“If you are referring to my new cabin boy, he is not a toy, I am not bored with him, and he is currently teaching Alec how to read.” He always ran his mouth without thinking when it came to the woman and he hated himself for that, especially since she was more than aware of that. He hadn’t meant to share something that private with her and yet he had and now she was grinning at him, eyes narrowed in pleasure.

 

“Ah, so Alec is the one who got bored then, I see.” She chuckled when she saw the way he was glaring at her, rubbing her elbow against his. “Why don’t you get over that little mishap between us all those years ago and come back to me? I never got tired of you and I promise that I never will.” She dragged her finger down his chest, starting to nibble on his ear – because she was the type who never forgot things and he had ran his mouth once, back when he still was stupid enough to believe her words, and told her that his weak spot was his ear.

 

“I’d advise you to stop this right now,” he growled and pushed her away. “I am not in the mood for you and your silly little games.”

 

She hummed and moved back close to him, resting her hand on top of his groin area, brushing her fingers over the hardening member. “Oh, but it feels like you are lying to me, James,” she whispered again, licking his earlobe. “How about you annoy Alec be spending the night with me, thus teaching him that playing with a silly cabin boy when you aren’t included is a big no-no? I promise—Ouch!”

 

James had grabbed her arm and twisted it, forcing her to hop off the stool and move away from him. “You know I hate repeating myself, Vesper,” he said slowly, voice low, the world suddenly silent around them as everybody in the bar watched rapt, waiting to see if Captain Bond had finally had enough of the woman who had almost cost him his life. “Though Q is a cabin boy, I expect you to show him respect since he is my cabin boy and if you ever dare to spill venom about Alec again...” He trailed off and let her go, the music and loud talking starting up again the second she ran out and James turned his attention back to his drink.

 

He really shouldn’t waste time mulling in his own anger and let go of the past, especially since the future was a turbulent one. But he couldn’t stop himself. He couldn’t hold back from thinking of all the horrible things she had done to him and of how foolish he had been in thinking that her words were honest.

 

Back then, he had been ready to abandon anything and everything for her, give up the sea with he loved so much and turn his back on Alec. Thankfully, the woman revealed her true colours before it truly was too late and although James had ended up losing his position in the British navy, Alec had followed him and their relationship had advanced to a point that James never thought it would with anyone after Vesper had been done with his heart.

 

“So, I should be grateful, huh?” He murmured just as one of the so-called bar wenches – an old woman, who had been serving in there even before he had come to the island and maybe even before he was born – refilled his cup. “That the owner hasn’t kicked me out after antagonising the bank owner,” he added, louder this time, enunciating each word to prove that he was still quite a few bottles from being drink – after all, he had a reputation he needed to uphold.

 

The woman smiled, and James noted that she had lost one more tooth since the last time he had seen her. “Now Captain Bond, I should expect you know that no one favours that woman over yourself.” She leaned closer to him and James was sure that if weren’t for the loud music and the drunken shouting and laughter, he would have heard her back crack. “In fact, my husband sent me over to tell you that everything you drink for the next month will be for free.”

 

That was a show of kindness that he didn’t really need, not with how much loot he returned with from every trip and he was already drinking at half the original price, the owner making sure to give him and his mate actual ale, not the water distilled one he served the others. “Will your husband’s kindness not extend to Alec?”

 

The woman’s laughter managed to drown out everyone else. “With all respect, Captain Bond, we don’t want to close our doors within a week.” She patted his back and left to tend to the other patrons, James finishing his drink and deciding that he had enough of being alone. Vesper was still on his mind and only Alec could help him get rid of his annoyance – and not necessarily by using the physical method as their relationship went beyond those needs.

 

He had left Alec with Q in the meeting room, a macabre chamber with walls decorated in skulls, stuffed animals, and Rogers of pirate crews that had either lost their captains to the sea, to rivals, or to the law, and that was exactly where he found them, the king looking as displeased with where he was as the first time he had entered it.

 

“Symbols of power that come with the title of ‘King of pirates’,” James had explained to the sullen royal, the man understanding that this room as their equivalent of a crown and that changing anything in it would make the outlaw ruler seem like he had become weak.

 

But unlike when he left the two, it was Alec who was holding a book now, deep frown etched on his face as he struggled with a word, and Q was holding the rope, nibbling on his lower lip as he tried to untie his hands – which he had probably managed to accidentally tie together – without asking for help.

 

“I see your night is going no better than mine,” James said, already feeling much more relaxed and better, especially when both men looked at him, pleading for help, as they started to rant at the same time about how it wasn’t their fault and how the thing they were doing clearly had something against them.

 

Alec’s voice was more powerful and easier to hear, stomping his feet as his rant gave way into an outright whine. “He read this page out loud to me in less than five minutes, but I swear on my soul that this blasted word wasn’t in here when he did it! This word cannot be a real one because there is no way in hell that this language has something with so many strange letters one after another!”

 

Q sighed and scooted closer to Alec, James noticing just then that the rope was also clumsily wrapped and tied around his legs. “That’s the name you asked me to repeat twice, Alec, remember? The one I slowly spelled out for you and whose letters I showed you one by one as I was doing that?” Q asked patiently and moved to touch the book’s page, clearly waiting for Alec to start saying each letter.

 

“Mel…chi…”

 

“The last letter in that little song I sang you,” Q prompted and by now James had started to untie him, glancing at the book to see what name was causing Alec so much trouble, almost chocking on air because even he had a bit of trouble stringing the letters together in a single, coherent sound.

 

“Who would hate their kid so much as to name him this?” Alec snapped and Q clicked his tongue, a single glare from him getting the man to focus on the book once pore, bobbing his head and humming a childish tune that James remembered from when he was a small child and trying to learn how to read. “Z!” Alec announced proudly and leaned down a little towards Q, so the man could pat his head.

 

Q scooted closer to James, stretching his now free legs and giving him a thankful look, stopping rubbing his wrists together when the captain lightly tapped on them. “Only if you finish reading the name, Alec.”

 

Alec frowned and put the book down on the table, hands crossed over his chest. “I’ll finish that when you finish tying a gunner’s knot for me.”

 

Rubbing his rope-burned wrists, Q silently picked up the rope and started to fiddle with it, James subtlety moving its ends around to ensure that the king wouldn’t end up all tied up again, looking confusedly at Alec. The knot was one of the harder one and definitely not the one you would start with when teaching someone and Alec, as the seasoned sailor he was, knew that. So what was he playing at?

 

“Someone let it slip that cabin boys might, every not and then, have to climb one of the masts to make sure everything is tied properly and redo the knots that have weakened,” Alec started to explain after Q had fallen asleep, thin strips of soft material that had been drenched in ointment wrapped around his wrists to help with his minor scratches – an overreaction on Alec’s part, but he was feeling guilty for the first time in forever, so it was only normal.

 

“And because it’s Q we’re talking about, our king without a country started to climb on top of a mast—”

 

“MI’s main mast, to be more exact” Alec cut in, James’ face falling. “But yeah, he did that and I pulled him down before he managed to get too high and struck a deal with him which involves him learning how to knot.”

 

James chuckled, starting to rub Alec’s back. “Sometimes, your ideas are a spark of pure genius.”

 

Alec grabbed his shirt and pulled him down over his back, giving him a rough kiss. “Just sometimes, my captain?” He breathed against James’ lips, kissing again, wrapping his hands around the man’s neck.

 

They didn’t sleep in the same room as Q that night, not because they would have been bothered by being seen by a third or even fourth party, but because they didn’t want to scare Q away or give him such a huge shock that his heart would stop.

 

The night gave into morning and their moans into snores, the two sleeping wrapped around each other in the adjoined room – the one in which they had originally planned on setting Q up while being sick and throughout his staying on their island, until they both unanimously that it was a terrible idea for various reasons that they couldn’t properly vocalize – waking up the instant they heard a sleep-ridden voice calling them, followed by Eve’s amused one.

 

“Don’t worry, Q. They are probably licking each other in a dark corner,” Eve said loudly and they stumbled out of the bed, the woman stepping away just as Alec was preparing the knock her down and try to shove the covers in her mouth to keep her quiet.

 

James wrapped an arm around Q’s neck, pulling him away from the laughing Eve and hissing Alec. “Ignore them; that’s how they greet each other.”

 

“Really? This is the first time I see them act like this and Eve is in her serious fighting stance,” Q murmured, turning his head around as much as he could to keep an eye on the two, clearly worried that they might hurt each other – and James was amazed yet again about how kind, caring, and open with his emotions this king was when his former ruler had been daubed by all of her subject as the Ice Queen. “Maybe we shouldn’t leave them alone? And I think Alec was already hurt; I mean he had these marks on his neck—”

 

“Mosquito bites,” James lied quickly, hand flying to his own neck when he realized Q was looking at it with narrowed eyes. “I got bitten too,” he continued his lie, watching Q closely as he opened his shirt to look at his own body and make sure he didn’t have one.

 

It was good to see that the man had put some more meat and muscles on his bones, the sickly pale colour now replaced by what James assumed to a healthy shade of pink. Actually, he looked healthier now than the first time they met, although that surely had something to do with the fact that Q was on a boat.

 

Without realizing it, James had run his hand down Q’s chest, the man shivering. “Your hand is ice cold, Captain Bond.” The shirt was back on and properly done within seconds, James robbed of the pleasant visage. “I’ve been bitten by those annoying little insects before and my marks were much smaller.”

 

“Well, that’s because a peasant’s mosquito mark is different from a king—”

 

“I am not that gullible,” Q interrupted, sounding insulted. “I am well aware that the only true difference between those of noble birth and the rest of the world is the instances in which they were born. When cut, a king will bleed red blood just as a peasant and when bathed and clothed, a peasant might be mistaken for a king.”

 

James was reminded of the information he was keeping from Q. How right the poor king was about everything and how unfortunate were those of lower birth who resembled royals. “Q, I think I should tell you that cabin boys are also peasants and I have yet to meet anyone to call themselves peasants. So, technically...” He trailed off and before Q could bolt away, James had pushed him on the ground, poking his sides, the hallway drowning in the king’s laughter.

 

“But we were alone and you just called yourself a peasant,” Q gasped out, trying to curl up. “Captain Bond, you’re cheating!”

 

Leaning close to whisper in Q’s ear, James felt the man shiver. “I don’t know if you are aware of this and I’d appreciate it if you’d keep it a secret, but I am a pirate.” He pulled back and took his time looking at the panting and gasping Q – who seemed completely unbothered by the position they were in – saved from doing something stupid by Tanner showing up.

 

 

Chapter Text

His unwilling guest had huddled himself up in the cargo bay, using a candle holder as a sword and a plate as a shield, snarling and hissing at everyone who tried to get closer to him. Cute, he thought when he saw the determination in those scared eyes. Adorable, his mind added when the man had kicked him – he barely felt it, but pretended to and then ordered his crew with his eyes to keep their distance, because he'd hate himself if he allowed anyone to harm the engaging man before him – and then dashed away to what he thought to be safety.

 

“By the order of... Of...” the man struggled to come up with the right way to express himself, amusing the captain to no end because while he looked like the king from far away, when one got closer it was clear that he was nothing more than an unlucky double.

 

The man was a lot skinnier than the actual king, his skin was much darker as if he had stood out in the sun constantly, his eyes only a shade lighter, and his hair was rougher than what he imagined the king had – it was also the wrong shade of brown and he knew this from the long conversations he had with Alec, the man going on for hours about that. He also had huge bags under his eyes and his hands were rough, as if he had worked the field at one point. And while a king might have bags under his eyes and his hair might not be the right silky touch as described by someone who was infatuated with them, a king never had a fieldworker’s hands.

 

“’His Royal Majesty, William the first’ is what you’re supposed to say,” Alex finally decided to tell the man, biting back a laugh. “But you can drop the act because I know you’re nothing more than a poor, unfortunate stand-in that got caught in all of this.”

 

The man relaxed his hold on his so-called weapon, but he made no move to actually give up – and Alex wanted to clap at his stupid bravery so hard that he had to pinch his arm not to do it and remain the calm and stoic commander that his crew knew so well.

 

“I am—”

 

“A king says ‘we’ instead of I,” Alex was quick to correct him, feeling bad when he saw the man flinch. “Are you seriously going to continue doing this?”

 

“We,” the man said louder, frowning and gritting his teeth, looking very much like a kitten that was getting ready to attack the person who was annoying him, “might be a little bit nervous because we are currently face to face with a lot of people that have very sharp weapons.”

 

Alex sent a small glare over his shoulder to keep his men from bursting into laughter, the poor man thinking that this would be the best time to charge him with his candle holder. Of course Alex smacked the weapon from his hand, grabbed his arm, flipped him on his back, and straddled him, pinning his hands down with his knees. “Your king would applaud you if he were here and saw just how dedicated you are to this whole act. But he’s not, so you can drop the act and have enough of a brain to tell me your real name.”

 

Stubbornly, the man remained silent and just continued to glare at him. They stood like that for a few minutes, Alex realizing that he was actually putting too much of his weight on the man’s hands when he started to bite his lower lip and quickly jumped up to his feet, grabbing the man and throwing him over his shoulder, his men parting to make room for them.

 

“Well, if you are not going to tell me your real name, then I have no choice but to call you little mouse, because those are the only creatures who stowaway on my ship and say nothing when I'm being kind to them,” Alex said softly, almost not feeling the storm of kicks and hits the thin man had unleashed on him. “I would call you a mosquito, but you’re not annoying enough and after those horrible beasts are done with me, they actually leave behind a mark.”

 

That annoyed the man enough to get him to sink his teeth into his shoulder, Alex moving quickly to block a slap from one of his men. “You taste so bad that I'm not surprised that mosquitoes keep their distance,” the little mouse hissed, ruining his beautiful robe with his teeth. “And I'm not a little mouse, or a mosquito, so stop calling me that already!”

 

“Well, you're also not King William and yet you insist on pretending you're him, so why shouldn't I pretend that you are those animals? Although your bones are sharp enough to be needles, so I guess that you could also be a hedgehog—”

 

“Don’t you dare,” the man hissed, pushing his sharp knee in Alex’s stomach, landing such a good hit that the captain made a mental note to check later to see if he was bleeding. “My name is Danny, so you can make me walk the plank and get this over and done with!”

 

Of course Alex didn’t do that – no pirate actually did that, and Alex had wondered many times how people started believing that. What Alex did was plop the angry, skinny mouse in a closet – which he had a few of his men quickly clean while he was being violently entertained and bring a decent hammock with a blanket – and had the rest of the surviving crew that had been on his ship stuffed in their brig and left him there until he had exhausted himself with yelling, cussing, and attempts at breaking the lock.

 

Sweet silence, his men said, but Alex had a feeling that this was just the calm before the storm. And he was right because when he peeked in the brig, he saw that it was empty. Of course he knew the trick and, with a roll of his eyes and regret in his heart, he kicked the door open and collected the groaning man from the floor, pushing a piece of cloth against his bleeding nose.

 

“Something tells me that you love making things harder for yourself,” Alex muttered as he plopped the young man on a chair in his room. “I can't believe that I have to ask you this considering how we met, but you are aware that you are on a ship, right?” Danny glared. “A ship that’s in the middle of the ocean?” Danny’s glare intensified. “And that the ship is filled to the brim with people that actually know how to fight?” The man was growling now and Alex was suddenly inclined to start calling him a puppy. “People who—”

 

“I got it,” snapped Danny and threw a book which Alex easily dodged, turning his back to the man. “I didn’t plan beyond getting out of there, but I am sure I was going to figure out a plan or something like that. Maybe swipe a boat and row all the way back to...” He trailed off and sighed, the stupidity of that idea striking him hard. “Since you haven’t killed me yet, what are your plans with me?”

 

The man asked a very good question. His orders had been to kill everyone on that ship and then sink it, but when he saw the flag the ship was sailing under, he ordered his men to be as careful as they could. They sunk the ship, but spared the life of many and when he came face to face with the king’s double, he got a bad feeling about what was going on in the man’s country.

 

“I frankly don’t know,” he admitted. “You were supposed to be dead, on the bottom of the sea with the ship that was carrying you or keeping a couple of sharks satisfied for a few hours.” The man was a few shades paler now and his breath had caught in his throat, the gravity of the situation finally starting to dawn on him. “Don't worry; I refuse to finish what I started,” Alex added quickly. “But I don’t know what to do with  you either. Can you tell me how you ended up in this position?”

 

Danny glared at him for a few good minutes, arms crossed over his chest and Alex wondered if the man would even answer that question. He wasn’t going to force him to say anything and he got a feeling that he was going to find out the truth in a few days from the captain he was actually serving under, but he still preferred to be prepared.

 

“I was told my king needed me,” Danny said suddenly, twiddling his thumbs in his lap. “He was sick, the nobleman said, and he needed me to put the minds of the people at rest. He had me bathed, cut him hair, shaved my beard, making it clear that no one was to see me until he said they could.”

 

Alex narrowed his eyes, an idea forming in his head. “Did you see the king? Or were you restricted to discussing this plan with just the nobleman?”

 

Danny lowered his head. “I...  I already told you that the man said that the king was ill,” he insisted. “He said that whatever he had, he could give to others and that was why the king would not see me personally. Of course I thought something was off, especially when I was packed and put on that ship without anyone telling me anything, but I didn’t really question him because he was a noble and I thought that someone would eventually come and fill me in on what I was supposed to do other than just exist.”

 

“I am afraid that you were supposed to simply die,” Alex said coldly. “Now my next words do not come easy, Danny, but I think has been assassinated by that noble and in order to make it look like he had nothing to do with it, he picked you up to keep the pretense of the king still being alive. He then sent you here to get killed in a pirate attack.” He cringed when Danny let out a shaky breath and, afraid that he might start crying, he quickly squeezed his shoulder in what he hoped to be a pacifying way. “You had no real part in this and I really won’t kill you, so don’t cry.”

 

“I am not crying.” The tears that were rolling on his cheeks were proving him wrong and Alex used the back of his hand to wipe them off, opening his mouth to point that out. “My king, who was the kindest in the world, is dead and I helped his killer, so leave me alone!” Danny shouted, running his nails down his face.

 

Alex couldn’t leave him alone because he was bothered by the sight of him crying – a first, now that he thought about it, as in the past he found that as mostly annoying and a complete waste of time and breath. “Crying won’t bring him back.”Apparently, that was not the right thing to say because Danny was now hiccuping, his lower lip quivering, green eyes filled with pain and Alex silently cussed himself.

 

“He was a kind and caring King and I helped cover up his murder,” Danny wheezed out, pushing the man away. “So excuse me, oh great pirate lord, for wanting to mourn him!”

 

“But doing that won’t bring him back,” Alex insisted, pushing a bottle of rum in Danny’s hands – alcohol made people forget things, right? And that meant that if Danny drank enough, he’d forget about the death of his king and Alex could stop being bothered by the red face, puffy eyes, and trembling lips, correct? “So stop it, okay?”

 

“No, not okay,” Danny growled, but was more than happy to empty half of the bottle in one go, shivering and looking beyond disgusted. “Blessed be Dionysus, I haven’t tasted anything this good in my entire life,” he breathed out and made to finish the bottle, but Alex took it away from him as clearly, alcohol wasn't the answer.

 

“You’ll kill yourself if you drink this entire bottle so fast.” He held the bottle away from the hiccuping Danny, pushing him back in the chair with ease. “Later, later, I promise. You have to eat a bit and then sleep. The rest of this bottle will be yours tomorrow.”

 

The man huffed and threw himself in Alex’s bed, pulling the covers over his head. “I’m a horrible man and I don’t deserve to eat,” he grumbled.

 

“You didn’t...” Alex trailed off, frowning when he heard the man snoring. “I didn’t mean for you to go to sleep in my bed,” he muttered, his heart not letting him poke or shake him awake. “Well, I need to catch up on my reading anyway,” he lied to himself as he sat on the chair in front of his desk, staring at a single page in his book until the sun rose and Danny groaned in pain.

 

“Crap, it was real,” the devastated and self-proclaimed murderer uttered as he buried himself deeper under the covers, holding to them for dear life when Alex tried to rip them away. “Either let me sleep, sleep with me, or make me walk the plank—”

 

“We don’t actually do that, you know,” Alex interrupted him and decided to roll him towards the wall, jumping into bed with him. “And I am not sleeping with you either; we’re just sharing a bed because my bones hurt and I am tired.”

 

Danny snorted, pushing his back up against Alex’s. “You’re awfully nice for a pirate.”

 

“And you’re acting very bratty for a street urchin that was supposedly toughened up by life,” Alex countered, chuckling when Danny tried to elbow him. “I thought you were still sleepy?” His answer was an obviously fake and forced snore mixed with an arm thrown over his face. “Hm, I am tempted to believe you now that you are truly King William, little mouse.” This time he got a kick to the groin and when the man tried to push him out of bed, Alex simply grabbed him and rolled him over, slowly lowering him on the ground.

 

He really thought that the man would jump up and try to kick him out of bed, but Danny just let out a small sigh and remained where he was. “This floor is too good for the likes of me,” he whispered softly and Alex dragged him back in the bed, hugging him tightly.

 

“You didn’t kill your king nor did you have an active or aware role in his murder, Danny,” he reassured the slightly shivering man. “And I promise to help you get at least a form of revenge if you really think that will make things better.” The words were out of his mouth before his brain could process them, but he felt like it was the right thing to say and that he would actually do his best to make everything so. “You are a pawn no more.”

 

Danny sat up and looked at Alex, green eyes sharp enough to pierce a whale. “And do you expect me to sleep with you for that? Because I’d sleep with you even if you didn’t offer me revenge.” He deadpanned, slowly dragging his finger down Alex’s chest, opening his shirt in the process. 

 

Alex quickly grabbed Danny’s hands and pushed them to his chest, pulling the blanket over the other man’s head. “Those are not the best choice of words when you are on this kind of ship, Danny. What if I were to take you up on that offer?” Alex challenged, hoping that the young man would back away.

 

But of course Danny didn’t. “Sometimes you have to take a chance, right?”

 

Sighing, Alex rolled out of the bed and left Danny alone, deciding that it was a beautiful day to sleep up on the deck. So what if it was a bit windy? So what if the wind brought with it storm clouds that wasted no time in drenching the captain to the bones? Alex simply had his men move the hammock under the stairs and then nail some covers over them because it wasn’t right for him to take advantage of someone who was clearly going through some rough times – even if he was a pirate and everyone thought that all pirates did just that.

 

In the meantime, no one really questioned why the supposed prisoner slept in the captain’s quarters while their captain slept in worse conditions than the person tasked with swabbing the deck – well, they did, but way out of his hearing range because they valued their own lives – and they all went about as if everything was normal.

 

The captain did pop in his room every now and then, only to march out, rubbing his face and shaking his head, the young man poking his head out after him. “Really now, I am more convinced with each passing day that you are a coward,” Danny shouted after the captain, the guards forbidden to so much as frown at him. “I am honestly fine now and the offer still stands.”

 

“Your puffy, red eyes and breath that could knock down at least a dozen horses tell me otherwise, Danny. You are not okay and we both know it.” The door would slam shut after that and then Alex would send someone to his prisoner with another bottle of their best rum and some food.

 

This vicious – and interesting – circle almost lasted an entire week, getting interrupted by the appearance of the MI6. No one rushed to their battle stations because even though the ships flew under enemy Jolly Rogers, they were anything but that. In fact, Alex and his entire crew worked for Bond, nothing more than moles that did their best to serve the one and true pirate king from behind enemy lines and keep some sort of balance on the waters – and no one doubted that the other pirates acted any different than they did; it was, after all, the way this game was played.

 

Alec, the loudest first mate that ever was, boarded the ship even before MI6 was done deploying its anchor, bursting into laughter when he saw where Alex was currently staying. “What’s wrong? Rat infestation in your room or something like that?” He gasped out, hands wrapped around his stomach.

 

“Something like that,” Alex murmured, focusing on greeting James – it was going to take Alec a few good minutes until he could string together a normal sentence and it was best if their short time wasn't wasted. “I had a feeling I’d be bumping into you, Captain Bond. Might I know why?”

 

James shook his hand and signaled his men to bring aboard the gifts he had for his friend. “Do you remember our royal friend of ours that got Alec and I out of that tight spot a few years ago?”

 

Alex doubted there was anyone in this world that hadn’t and his heart became heavier still since it was his duty to inform his friend of the king’s assassination. “Captain, I am afraid that I have some bad news for you regarding your king,” he said carefully, signaling his men to stay away when Alec suddenly grabbed his collar, his hot breath washing over his face.

 

“What happened to Q? Did Bluefield attack our island while we were away and they somehow managed to get past our defences?” Alec started bombarding him with questions, Alex not knowing if he should focus on asking who Q was, informing him for the millionth time that it was actually Blofeld, or ask what did any of those things have to do with the fact that King William was dead.

 

Thank Poseidon for James who always managed to keep his wits about him a tad longer than his first mate. “Alec, perhaps you should go get the men ready for our immediate return while I find out what happened?” Alec clicked his tongue, but did what he was told, shouting orders even before he got back on the MI6. “Now Alex, you were something that you had some bad news regarding King William?”

 

“I am afraid he’s been assassinated.” No reason to beat around the bush with things like these, even if they might crush the heart of a friend. “And whoever the assassin is must be in good relations with Blofeld because I was ordered to attack the ship the king’s double was on and kill everyone before sinking it.”

 

He didn’t expect James to start crying or cussing, but he did thought the man would at least be gritting his teeth and flexing his hands, what with how determined he had been to always protect the ships that flew under the king’s flag. But all the man did was narrow his eyes and whistle, calling Alec back to his side - and it was beyond creepy how fast the other materialized by his side.

 

“Alex here just finished telling me that he was sent to sink a ship with the king’s double, which would make it look like the king himself had died at the hands of pirates and not somewhere in his own castle at the hands of his own class,” he said slowly, Alec starting to nod after a moment. “Did you spare the double?”

 

Alex nodded. “I instantly knew that he wasn’t a king; he didn’t look like one, didn’t talk like one, and he certainly didn’t fight like one.” He chuckled when he remembered how dirty the man had fought, massaging the shoulder that had been viciously bit. “He has really good teeth for someone who grew up on the streets.”

 

“Is he the reason why you’re sleeping on the deck?” Alec asked, huge grin on his lips as he gently elbowed him. "You old dog, you. Or is he the old dog and you the old man who can't keep up?"

 

Embarrassed, Alex spluttered. “The man is devastated and sure that he played the main role in the king’s death.” He started to climb down the stairs, motioning the two to follow him. “And the grief is making him act beyond strange that I decided it would be in his best interest if he stayed in a safe place.” He knocked on the door gently before entering, the huge smile that he was greeted with quickly giving way to fear at the sight of Alec and James, Danny once again diving for a candle holder.

 

“Just because I offered myself so easily to you,” Alec snorted, James elbowed him, and Danny clutched his weapon tighter, “it doesn’t mean that I am willing to share my body with your friends. I would have preferred to be killed over being sold into any sort of slavery.”

 

In a single stride, James was right in front of Danny, slapping the candle holder away and throwing him in Alex’s arms. “He looks a bit like Q. The eyes, skin, and hair colours are all wrong, of course. He’s also much shorter than him, his voice is rougher and an octave lower, and his mannerisms are all wrong,” James concluded and Alec nodded.

 

“The noble who hired me thought I looked good enough to fool everyone,” the man said smugly, shoulder sagging and his will to free himself from Alex’s grip disappearing a second later. “Oh, wait, this is... I see.” Alex did not like Danny’s voice tone. “Clearly, this is my punishment for helping the king killer, so by all means take...” He trailed off and held his hands in front of him, waiting for them to tie his hands and do whatever to him.

 

Alec grinned, patting Danny’s head. “Your nobleman is not that quite yet because the king is safe and sound on our island. And we’re not the kind of pirates who deal in slavery. Well, Bowden—”

 

“Blofeld, but you won’t get to meet him,” Alex interrupted Alec, turning Danny away from them. “I’ll keep you safe.” He glanced at James, but the man sadly shook his head, closing his eyes.

 

“If he appears on my island, then there will be absolutely no doubt that you are a traitor and you will be killed. For the moment, this is the safest place for him in the world,” James explained and Alex tried really hard not to groan.

 

He wasn’t going to stop feeling strange when he was around the man, was he? But at least Danny had no more reasons to feel guilty and he would stop making suggestions that might become too hard to turn down with time.

 

“See, there is—” He had focused his attention at Danny, his words dying on his lips when he saw that the man was crying again. “Your king is alive, so why the bloody hell are you crying for now?” He asked desperately, looking shocked at James and Alec when Danny wrapped his arms around him and hid his face in his neck.

 

“I am happy that my king is alive,” Danny whimpered, hugging him tighter. “My king is alive and well, Alex, do you understand?”

 

“I do,” Alex said slowly, glancing at his amused friends. “I just don’t understand why you’re crying about it.”


 “Because I am relieved.” Oh, that made sense.

 

***

 

“Denbigh, if you don’t have good news for me, then I hope you have your chainmail armour on because I have my crossbow ready,” the supposedly mourning uncle warned his right-hand man, sending away the deaf servant girl after she had refilled his golden chalice.

 

Denbigh glanced at the scroll he was holding before presenting his master with a strained smile, hands clasped behind his back. “It’s a mix between the good and bad kind of news, my lord,” he said slowly, not even flinching when the chalice barely missed him. “It really all depends on how you look at things, my lord.”

 

“I would prefer to look at things from under a crown, Denbigh,” the man growled, hitting the throne with his fist. “But I won’t, will I? Not really since that pest managed to get better instead of dying like he was supposed to and he’s breaking bread with those bloody pirates and plotting my downfall, isn’t he?”

 

Sighing, Denbigh shrugged. “It is true that our king—”

 

“He’s not my king!” Silva bellowed, shooting his crossbow and hitting the painting of his nephew right between the eyes. “He’s a bloody pampered child who isn’t worthy of sitting on this throne instead of me!”

 

The man continued to cuss for a few minutes and Denbigh patiently waited for the man to finish, checking each and every guard in the room to be sure that they were all on their side until he unrolled the scroll and continued to deliver the message. “The... brat...” it really said ‘king’, but he wasn’t about to allow his master to go on another of his nervous breakdowns, “is doing quite fine. He learned how to act like a woman when it comes to cooking and sewing, although he is presented as Bond’s and Trevelyan’s cabin boy.”

 

“That’s what he should have been,” Silva grumbled, cracking his knuckles. “A bloody woman, I mean, not necessarily a cabin boy, although I would have been more than satisfied with the latter as he wouldn’t have bothered me at all. He certainly would have been easier to get rid of.”

 

Denbigh remembered hearing some rumours just as the hated young king was receiving his crown about how all the stars had aligned themselves for the queen to give birth to a little girl. Everyone was surprised when out popped a boy, but no one was upset over that. They simply said that the queen had been blessed by the goddess of fertility and motherhood to be the bearer of boys and she only became even more loved.

 

His uncle only became interested and bothered by the child’s sex when he found out that he had been left in the country and was perfectly safe while the rest of his family was rotting on the bottom of the sea.

 

“Well, according to the person who is on our side on that island, although he was born a royal prince, your nephew seems to be enjoying running around the island and rubbing elbows with the pirates and their families that inhabit it while his saviours never let him out of their sights, be their direct ones or the ones of their trusted men,” Denbigh continued, waiting patiently for his master to deduce what the good news in all of this was.

 

And by the wideness of his eyes, it seemed that the man finally caught on. “And this person who is on our side, are they to be trusted? Under which Roger are they serving? And if they serve directly under the bulldog, why would they be helping us?” Snapping his fingers, one of the soldiers quickly left the side of the throne to bring him whatever he wanted. “And are they sure they’re observing the right pest? I did my best to keep his portraits to a minimum, ordering them only when I thought I could trick him into marrying someone.”

 

Stepping to the side, one of Denbigh’s servants presented the usurper uncle with a painting of his nephew. “The person serves all the Jolly Rogers, but it seems that their leaning more towards the Kraken as the Bulldog has offended them somehow.” He cleared his throat and gestured towards the painting, rolling his eyes when his servants started to shiver because the angry uncle rushed towards him and ripped the painting from his arms. “This is the evidence that they sent us that their keeping an eye on the right person.”

 

“Of course,” Silva growled, dragging his nails down the painting. “It never occurred to me that the only things they'd take for the ships they stopped would be the blasted paintings.” He snorted and took the new chalice of wine, draining it even before he sat back on the throne. “I am tempted to think that they are interested in the King and vice-versa.”

 

“And is that so bad?” Denbigh carefully asked, bowing his head. “It isn’t as if you ever truly wanted your nephew to have offspring unless it was with the woman you picked for him. The boy also never really showed interest in any of the servant girls that were around him. So, if they are all interested in each other, shouldn’t we just leave them be and carry on crowning you?”

 

Although the chalice missed him again, Denbigh was drenched in wine. “Leave them be?” Silva hissed, digging his nails in the throne’s arm rests. “Do you really think that brat would be satisfied with leaving things as they are? And if those two bastards are as smitten with my nephew as I think they are, they’ll do anything he asks them to do as long as he bites the mattress.”

 

“Maybe—”

 

“Maybe nothing, you imbecile!” Shouted Silva, jumping down from the throne and starting to walk around the room, scratching his arms and head, driven in a corner by his anger and fear that his plans might get ruined. “But there’s still a way out of this.”

 

“If you are thinking about our apparent man on the inside, I must stress the fact that they are not trusted by the King of Pirates,” Denbigh said carefully. “In fact, they are hated by the king and his first mate which naturally means that they cannot get close enough to your nephew to cause him any real harm. And they aren’t good with a bow and arrow, so your lordship can also forget about that. Not to mention that the bulldog’s crew is also in love with him, so they’ll likely all jump in front of an arrow before it reached its target.”

 

Perhaps Denbigh hated his life because there was no other way he could explain why he was always so brutally honest to the unstable man. Okay, truth be told, he was also hoping that the man would have a heart attack or that he would get so angry that something in his head would explode and kill him, which would leave him in charge – sort of.

 

He, unlike Silva, didn’t want the crown. He was perfectly satisfied with ruling from behind the curtains and he was sure that he could fool the innocent-on-oh-so-many-levels king into thinking that he had his best interest at heart. Heck, he could easily send a rescue party after Silva bit the dust and then proceed to present the king with all the necessary paperwork that would prove he had nothing to do with this and then throw himself at his mercy, claiming that he was forced into working with the uncle and that he had done everything in his power to stop the mad man.

 

“Denbigh!” Silva shouted right in his face, startling him. “Did the wine in your clothes get in your body somehow?” Denbigh quickly shook his head. “Then focus and get the Kraken agent in here right now.”

 

Chapter Text

Q closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He could do this, he told himself as he took another step forward. He could walk on the ship without his heart exploding in his chest because he had absolutely nothing to fear. It was impossible for the doctor to poison him because it was the same man that had struggled for so long to nurse him back to life, the ship’s crew was on his side – and they even liked him – and he didn’t need to worry about pirates because he was traveling with something that might as well be considered a floating fortress.

 

And yet the second he found himself on the deck of the ship, his legs turned to jelly and his mind went blank, pure panic washing over him. His uncle could unleash an armada on them since he had little care for the people he reigned over and eventually manage to sink the ship and kill Captain Bond and Alec. Or a powerful storm could suddenly break out and—

 

A warm, strong hand squeezed his shoulder and the white noise filled with fear came to a sudden stop. “Q, we can leave you on land if you think it’s too soon,” Captain Bond whispered in his ear. “You can stay with Tanner’s wife until we’re back and no one will dare to say anything.”

 

“N-no,” Q murmured, shaking his head and taking another deep breath. “We are not to allow ourselves to fall prey to such senseless fears. We are better than that and we trust you and your First Mate to keep us safe.” He smiled at the captain and sat up straight. “Plus, what sort of a cabin boy would I be if I stayed on land while my Captain sets sail? And no, I am not making this decision based on what people might say.”

 

Captain Bond looked like he was going to say something, but Alec stepped in and draped himself over them. “If you two are done whispering among yourselves, Q why don’t I show you where you’re going to be sleeping for the duration of this trip?” He dragged Q away, signalling a bunch of men with two huge trunks follow him.

 

“Oh, Lady Tanner told me that I am to sleep in the… Alec, why are we going in the wrong direction?” Q asked, cranking his neck to look behind him. “Cabin boys sleep with the rest of the crew and yet we’re going towards the Captain’s quarters.”

 

Alec chuckled, pushing Q into the room. “I am happy to see that you’ve learned the ship’s layout. But you are wrong about where the cabin boys sleep.”

 

“Lady Moneypenny confirmed what Lady Tanner said,” Q argued, crossing his arms over his chest and frowning. “Are you saying that Lady Moneypenny is wrong?”

                                                                                                                      

“Constantly,” Alec confirmed, huge smile on his face. “Look, normally, they do; but you’re not normally a cabin boy, so we’re taking a few liberties here. Plus, we’re expecting a few powerful storms and even our ship, grand as it is, will be rocked.”

 

Q cringed at hearing that and glanced towards the door as if he was planning on running away. But he didn’t; he reminded himself that he was a King and a King never runs from his troubles. A king must never fear anything, not death, not his enemies, and certainly not the weather. Still, a king was still human no matter what other believed, so he was allowed a moment to shiver in fear.

 

“You could stay on the island,” Alec offered. “No one would bother to judge a cabin boy or hold something like this against him, especially after what you’ve went through. Nor would we or anyone that got to know you allow it.”

 

“But I am not that,” Q said after a moment in which, to his shame, he actually took a step towards the door. “And you and Captain Bond are already going through so much trouble to accommodate me and to aid me in these troubled times even though you do not have to, so keeping to the role you gave me is the least that I can do. Although I will not insist on sleeping with the crew, just in case my services are needed at a moment’s notice,” he added quickly without looking the First Mate in the eyes.

 

Alec chuckled and ruffled his hair, shoving him in his hammock. “There you go, you royal incarnation of the word ‘stubborn’,” he exclaimed, laughing loudly. “Ah, also, no matter what anyone tells you, you will never be on kitchen duty. Not peeling, not chopping, not stirring, nothing. Nor are you to assist in fishing.” He grabbed Q before he could fall from the hammock. “Don’t take it personally, but food is perhaps even more important than treasure when one’s on a ship and you are still learning how not to waste half of a potato when peeling it and how not to add our own skin to the mix.”

 

Q didn’t take that personally. He understood what Alec was saying and he was glad that he was treated like a normal human being and not like a royal brat that was a truth away from throwing a deadly fit. There was a case like that in his family, although he doubted that the two men knew that as they didn’t strike him as the type who knew – or cared, for that matter – who was related to who.

 

Still, he had a cousin that was prone to those kinds of fits and while Q always felt bad for him and even worse for the poor souls cursed to serve or simply exist under him, his uncle praised the way he acted and had done his best to have Q be influenced by him. It went without saying that his uncle failed in his attempt, as did Q in his to get his cousin to change and see the light of reason.

 

However, why not fishing? Sure, he never held one of those sticks or nets, but he was pretty sure he couldn’t be such a klutz that he’d break or lose the tools given to him. “I think I could help with the fishing part, Alec. I watched people do that quite often.”

 

“Yes, from the safety of a dock. And they were probably all old men who sat peacefully and stared in the distance as they reminisced about their past lives with the ghost of their friends and family inside their mind,” Captain Bond said as he walked in the room, gently taking Q’s hands in his. “The way we do it would end up costing us a cabin boy who’s too thin to properly hold a net and whose hands are too soft to be put to this type of work.” He rubbed Q’s knuckles and smiled at him, pushing some scrolls in his arms.

 

“I have yet to learn how to properly read these, Captain Bond,” Q pointed out. “If you task me with this instead of the people who could do this with their eyes half-closed during a storm, you’re likely to lose the entire ship, not just me.” He could rule a country – by no means with ease – but he had been taught how to do it by what might be considered an army of people who knew what they were doing and talking about – again, despite his uncle’s best efforts. Indirectly sailing a ship after just glancing over some maps for a week? “You are a better captain than this—”

 

“Wait, wait, Q, you got everything wrong,” Captain Bond quickly interrupted him. “You’re going to spend this trip trying to figure out where we’re going and which map you’re supposed to follow and which of them are fake, or outdated. In fact…” Captain Bond trailed off and dug around his desk, pulling out a blank scroll. “Try to draw a map on your own.”

 

It was obvious what the Captain was trying to do – keep Q out of trouble and out of their way – but the way he did it was commendable. He didn’t make Q feel like the burden he was and offered a distraction that was designed to keep him safe and entertained at the same time. Of course, Captain Bond could have easily ordered Q to remain on the island with the ones he trusted to keep him safe, but the man instead chose to offer him that option. Not force him into it, not emotionally blackmail him into it; he simply presented Q with the option and the pros and cons that came with it, accepting his decision.

 

They were, however, forcing him to face his fear of the body of water and the fickle weather that ruled over it with the map task. Well, it was still presented as an option – cower in our room until we reached our mysterious destination, or do something interesting – which really wasn’t an option due to his wish to always learn something new that can be used to help the people around him.

 

“I’ll do my best,” promised Q, smiling up at him. “But I am pretty sure that I am missing an object that would help me with? That certain object being the sextant?”

 

James glanced at Alec and the first Mate proudly placed the sextant on top of the pile in Q’s arms. “If you stay on the quarter deck, you’ll be out everyone’s way and you will have a decent view,” explained Alec. “And no, you cannot go up in the bird’s nest because the waters are getting rough fast and you might fall.”

 

As if on cue, the ship rocked hard and Q dropped everything he was holding in favour of clinging to them. “I know that it has to be night in order to use the sextant.” The ship rocked again and Q held on tighter to them. “Actually, I think I’ll stay here until the waters calm down a little.”

 

“The storm is still far away from us, Q,” James said softly, rubbing his back. “This ship is sturdy and while I am not going to call it unsinkable because there is no such ship, I can assure you that it will sink faster because of a savage attack by a well-armed and well-prepared armada than because of a storm.”

 

It was easy to believe that, but he couldn’t control the way his colour drained from his face when the ship rocked again, tempted to jump off of the ship and run to hide in Mrs. Tanner’s room. “I conquer that the ship is sturdy and I can easily see myself offering the person who build it their weight in gems alongside their weight in gold if it wouldn’t end up gathering dust in our royal port.”

 

The captain alongside his first mate had started to walk slowly, Q realizing that he had been gently dragged outside only when the strong wind pushed his hair into his eyes and the smell of salt water assaulted his nostrils. If this smell and the rocking sensation would have made him instantly sick not too long ago, he found himself almost enjoying it this time, his heart tamed by the presence of the other two men.

 

“We can tie you to the mast if it would make you feel better,” Alec chimed in, taking Q’s hand and placing it against the base of the mast in question.

 

James placed his hand over theirs, grinning. “Not that you won’t be metaphorically tied to one of us since something tells me that, even though you’re paler now because you are no longer on land, I know the shy colour will return to your cheeks soon and you’ll be running around as if you were on land.”

 

Q rolled his eyes, shaking his head. “Captain, while I admit to have expected you to say something ridiculous a long time ago, I am surprised that you chose now of all times to do so.” He was tempted to suspect that the man had drank more than he could stomach – although he had yet to see that happening – since it was easier to believe that he’d first manage to cook the most complicated thing the royal cooks did back at the castle than freely run around the ship when no one was in danger.

 

Captain Bond chuckled, narrowing his eyes at a crewmember that seemed to be making his way towards them. “We’ll see in due time, my lord,” he whispered and moved to greet the crewman. “What’s wrong?” The man glanced at Q and then whispered something in the captain’s ear, prompting the man to glance at the sky and frown.  

 

“In due time indeed as perhaps it will be better for today if you get acquainted with the lower decks,” Alec offered after exchanging looks with his captain who was whisked away to check on some ropes, linking his arm with Q’s.

 

“The storm that is coming is much bigger than original thought, isn’t it? And a lot close, right?” Q asked, eyes narrowed, but allowing the man to guide him to safety. “I am a big boy, you know. I can handle knowing that.” He involuntarily let out a sigh of relief when he found himself somewhere where he couldn’t see the open water anymore, causing Alec to smirk. “Don’t say anything,” Q quickly interjected before the man could even open his mouth. “The air was too salty and I was struggling not to sneeze.”

 

Alec snorted, rolling his eyes as he opened a door that lead even further below the deck. “Of course, Your Majesty. I forgot that royalty doesn’t sneeze in front of others, how silly of me.” He stopped at the bottom of the stairs, placing his hands on Q’s shoulders. “I have to be on deck with James, but down here you will be more than safe. All the boxes are tied correctly as I checked them myself, you already know everybody in here, and if there’s anything wrong, the doctor will be but a shout away, okay?”

 

Just how strong was the storm that you’d hide me in here, Q wanted to ask, but forgot as the second he stepped foot in the room, he wanted to get out. It wasn’t as dark and it didn’t smell bad, heck, it was actually clean! But he wanted – no, he needed – to get out. “I can’t,” he choked out, his nails digging in Alec’s arm without him realizing it. “I just can’t,” he insisted, shaking his head. “I’ll wait in the hallway, somewhere out of anyone’s way.”

 

Alec pulled him to his chest then, placing his lips against his ears as he seemed to make the whole word disappear. “We’re not them, William, okay? You’re not locked in here, you are not going to get poisoned if you eat anything – as long as the food doesn’t move – and you are not alone.”

 

Q let out a shaky breath, clutching Alec’s shirt. He had become so weak that he was openly showing it to someone that could easily use it against him – but at the same time, he knew it was Alec. He knew the man would never ever bring up this moment unless he did it, and he also knew that what he was saying was the truth.

 

So he took a deep breath and calmed down, pushing the man slightly back. “We will be most displeased if our food starts to run away from us. We shan’t share our room with you if that happens.”

 

Alec poked his side and then threw his arm around his neck, fully walking inside the room and getting everyone’s attention. “If the Cap and I see a scratch on Q, the person who put it there will be the reason why we’ll eat shark for dinner or lunch.”

 

Q yelped when he suddenly found himself on the shoulder of a very tall man. “We’ll take good care of Q, boss,” the man promised, sitting back down at the table and holding up a piece of bread for him to eat. “I have a parrot that’s heavier than you, Q, so eat.” Said parrot squawked at him and Q held out the bread just in case that was what annoyed him. “You’re sitting in his spot.”

 

“I could not be sitting in his spot?” was the way Q hinted at wanting to be either put down or on the other man’s shoulder, the chuckle from beneath him a clear sign that his words were going to be ignored.

 

And the bird did not like that one bit, flying circles around Q, squawking at him loudly and even going so far as to pluck a few hairs from his head. All of that distracted Q from the violent way the ship moved and the way the floors and walls around them creaked and snapped whenever a wave hit them full on.

 

But the bird eventually got tired and the storm stronger and the burly man was needed up on the deck and Q was placed in the safest place they could think of at that moment, which turned up to be in the topmost crate that was filled with silk.

 

The man chuckled, patting his head. “I’ve made a nest for my bird, the captain and Alec made a nest for you. Speaking of which, mid him until I get back?” The bird threw itself in Q’s chest, pulling the silk as best as he could around him before glancing up at him and pinching his nose.

 

“Let’s try to get along, shall we?” The bird pinched his noise again and then shoved his tail feathers in his face, Q unable to actually feel angry or insulted because the poor thing was shaking. “We know how you feel, little one.” He ran his hand down the bird’s head, not even flinching when his finger was bit. “But he’ll be okay; they’ll all be okay, I am sure.”

 

He really didn’t think he’d be able to fall asleep, not with the way his heart was jumping and the way he flinched every time someone banged the door open because they needed some more rope or another hand on deck, and yet he did. Somewhere between thoughts about how painful it was going to be when the tower of nailed crates finally fell, of how horrible it was going to be to drown, and counting he passed out with the bird firmly pushed up against his chest.

 

He didn’t feel the waters finally calm down as they sailed out of the storm, or hear James and Alec whispering above him, missing the way the two made their way up to him as if they were two monkeys.

 

“I had a kitten that slept like that,” Alec breathed out, running his hand down Q’s face and cussing when the bird bit him. “Although I don’t recall that kitten ever having under his paws a bird that still lived.”

 

James clicked his tongue and lightly slapped Alec’s forehead. “Don’t antagonize Q’s keeper, lest you want more wounds than you already have.” He joined the man in glaring at the parrot, but the only way the bird released Alec was when its master called out for him to do so. “I should appreciate the fact that it was really protecting Q, but I really dislike the bird,” the man muttered, unable to hold back from brushing Q’s hair off of his forehead.

 

Alec nodded, snapping his fingers for someone to bring a ladder. “Think he’ll appreciate stuffed bird for breakfast?” He asked when the bird in question started to fly around them because they were trying to rouse Q from his sleep.

 

James shook his head, grabbing Alec’s shirt to keep him from falling. “Priorities, Alec. We get Q down from here first and then you can try to cook the bird.”

 

“I’ve learned that pinching is how he shows that he cares,” Q muttered, rubbing his eyes and sitting upright. “That or he’s hungry. Is the storm over or are we sinking?”

 

James chuckled, giving Q another good shake to keep him awake. “Storm is over which means that it is safe for you to come back up on deck if you want to stare at the clear sky or back to our room if you don’t want a crick in your neck.” Q yawned, stretched, smiled, and then promptly fell asleep. “Okay, guess we’ll have to find a way to carry you out of here,” James conceded, looking around as he tried to think up of a plan to get him down without dropping him or getting anyone else hurt, himself and Alec included.

 

Q slept through all of their struggles, of course, and when they reached their room, they found the man to be too sweet not to place him between them once more, even if Alec ended up on the floor twice before Q found a way to roll on top of them, nose in Alec’s neck, and hand over James’ face.

 

“A bigger bed—”

 

“Is not going to happen,” Alec interrupted him, sighing and smiling. “This bed is just perfect for three people and if you don’t like it, since I suggested getting a bigger one the last time we had triplets over, you are free to use the hammock because I have gotten quite used with feeling Q near.”

 

If there wasn’t the risk of rousing Q, he would have smacked Alec and then pushed him out of his bed. He would have also hanged him upside down by his toes on the mast if he was a different captain and if he didn’t have a really, very, extremely soft spot for Alec. And even if he was the one who got the wrong end of the stick by only having Q’s hand against his face, it was amazing how fast he had managed to fall asleep.

 

“The water was still angry even if we were no longer in the storm and we thought it would be for the best if you slept in something that wouldn’t make you sea sick,” Alec was explaining and James realized that he was no longer feeling warm nor the pleasant weight on top of himself. “And leaving you in that create was out of the question so in a way, we were prepared to wake up with a few kicks and slaps.”

 

“But I am so dreadfully sorry for hitting you so hard as to cause blood to burst from your nose,” he heard Q say and his eyes snapped open, instantly starting to laugh at the sight that greeted him.

 

Q was sitting shirtless on the floor, next to Alec who had the younger man’s shirt completely wrapped around his face, both hands held up above his head, the doctor looking amused from the door. “I think you overdid it, Q,” he wheezed out, pulling the shirt off of Alec’s head, trying really hard to hold back from starting to laugh again when he saw that he was covered in seaweed. “I’m sorry, but I expected to find my first mate, not some lame sea monster.”

 

Alec wasted no time in punching him in the knee. “Q saw the scratches and bruises I got from tripping down the stairs and from that flying menace and he read somewhere that shut up and give me that back before I bleed to death from his punch,” Alec growled and grabbed Q’s shirt from James, covering his face with it.

 

“It’s from an old book and it’s supposed to make all sort of ailments and weaknesses associated with the sea disappear,” the doctor intervened, “but because Alec said he was feeling dizzy on top of being unable to move from beneath Q after getting punched, your cabin boy panic and wished to try everything, except for the leeches which we’re holding for later.”

 

James looked at Alec in a way that it was supposed to say that this is what happened when he acted sick, but the shirt made it impossible. However, upon a glance at Q himself, it was hard not to notice the grin he was wearing. “Oh, well I believe I remember reading that book, now that you mentioned.” He saw no reason why he shouldn’t join in on the fun.

 

“No you don’t,” Alec said quickly, trying to pull the shirt off his face. “You don’t read medicinal books even if your life depends on it and I can say that with the upmost confidence because three years ago, when you stepped on—”

 

“Dear me, I think he’s starting to imagine things,” James interrupted him and dragged him on the bed, pinching his nipple and twisting it to get him to cuss out. “And he’s in pain! Q, doctor, what is that book saying? Leeches if he gets worse?”

 

“The book says nothing!” Alec tried again, James easily covering his mouth and pushing him back down on the bed. “I am fine, honestly. No need for leeches or seaweed or whatever disgusting thing that useless book suggests!” Q had drifted closer to get a better look and Alec latched on to his hand, almost making him trip and fall over him. “Q, I swear I am okay, so please keep those things off of me Q!”

 

The king’s eyes softened instantly and James knew that the prank had come to an end. “If you say that you are okay, I believe you,” Q assured him, starting to pull the seaweed off of his face. “Just liked I’d believe when you tell me that you are ill and worry, just as you had worried for me when I was actually ill.”

 

It was rare for remorse or guilt to be seen on Alec’s face – or his, for that matter – because to be a pirate it was best if you detached yourself for what was usually seen as parts that made up a human, and yet the man was openly showing it. He hung his head in shame and while he didn’t say his apology, the crate of books, clean parchment, a pound of silk, and small back of the best of the jewels they got from the merchant ship that was unlucky to cross their path and stupidly believed that firing on them was a great idea and that they would somehow be the first to chase the dreaded MI6 away, was a clear enough message.

 

The books and parchment was what got him back on Q’s good side, although the king pointed out – when the short battle was over and they to pick him up from his ‘nest of safety’ and shoo his flying guardian – that he wasn’t actually upset that Alec had tried to trick him, stating that he believed the man was simply playing a practical joke as he had seen so many of the crew do to each other.

 

“Though I would be upset of you dropped a crate of fish on me as I am not quite a good centimetres shorter than Baldwin and missing a lot of muscles to be able to simply shrug it off and then charge the pranksters.” He put his quill down and started to blow on the new part of the map he made.

 

“I like the dragon you slapped in the middle of the sea of constellations,” James muttered, getting his hands slapped away.

 

“It’s not quite dry yet,” Q muttered, frowning. “The dragon is supposed to be where the previous battle that I did not see because the Captain supposedly forgot his mystical, golden sword that did not exist when we first met somewhere below the deck.” He sent him a glare, a hard one, one that almost made James flinch and one that convinced him that they need to find another merchant ship quickly, and place everything of value at the king’s feet.

 

“There be ship, flag up, stupid people, a few splashes and then new books for you,” Alec supplied, shrugging. “We get the dragon now, but why the stars?”

 

“I’ve only seen water for the past two weeks. Since it is impossible to draw a proper map without land, I draw the stars and constellations that I see at night when you two are sleeping.”  He blew on it a bit more and when he decided that it was dry enough, he rolled it up and hid it in his shirt. “I’m burning the drawings as soon as I get home.”

 

He speed-walked out of there, the two men hot on his trail and doing their best to convince Q out of it, ending up chasing each other around the ship – Q proving that he was quite agile and almost made their hearts jump out of their chests because he stubbornly climbed places from which falling would kill him – until it was time to eat.

 

No one dared to question why the cabin boy sat in the captain’s chair, at the head of the table, between former owner of the chair and the first mate, eating with the best cutlery and from the best dishes they had.

 

“Without telling me exactly where we are going since it is going to defeat the purpose of my horrible mapping, are we going anywhere specific? Or are we just…” He trailed off and used his knife to make fighting movements, missing the way the other men at the table all reached for their swords.

 

James frowned and signalled his men to keep their cool. “We do have an end goal that goes beyond us becoming richer, yes.” He waved around the rolled up piece of parchment Q had been trying to hide from them, grinning. “We can also stop somewhere to pick up something that might help you deduce where we are going from your maps of the sky.”

 

Q gently put his cutlery down and wiped his mouth with a silk cloth – only person at the table who wasn’t using their shirt or sleeve – and pushed his chair back, getting up, not bothered of freaked in the least that all the men had followed him for a moment, only to stop and look confusedly at each other.

 

“What’s wrong?” James asked, hand on Q’s arm, Alec trying to push the chair back under him. “Are you sick? Was the food done wrong? Did you remember a storm?”

 

“I am quite alright, captain, do not worry,” Q said in such a diplomatic voice that it was clear that he was anything but that. “Insulted that you would look at something I made it clear that I didn’t want anyone to see, but alright.” He glanced behind his shoulder at Alec and it was easy to see how he had managed to command the room to respect him and sit up because he did. “Mister Trevelyan, is there anything wrong with our chair that  you must hold it?”

 

Alec cleared his throat and stepped back, allowing Q to probably go to their room and look them out of it until they saw the error of their way. James did want to go after him and point out that they were bloody pirates and taking things without anyone’s approval was something they did. Of course, was going to add that they would never do that to him – as the past years surely proved – and that the sky map shouldn’t count because they were going to give it back to him and they weren’t mocking him because it was really well done, but Alec held him back.

 

“Unless you know how to pacify him in a way that he doesn’t see it as insulting, stay here and eat,” Alec whispered and James slowly sat back down.

 

After thinking for a good minute and chewing his food until it was probably liquid, James slapped the large table, silencing the room. “We’ll make a one day stop at Tortuga,” he announced and everyone started to cheer and clap, Alec whistling and shooting off his flintlock to shut everyone up. “I want all sales up as soon as we are done eating and I also want you to do this in the most quiet way possible.”

Chapter Text

A king did not grieve, nor did he sulk. They did not brood, they did not mope, and they did not glower. No, they thought silently and deeply about certain things that, should a king not be a king, bothered them. And should a king have their lips frozen in an expression of petulant annoyance as well as a deep frown on their face, it is only because normal minds and eyes cannot properly perceive the image of a contemplating king.

 

“I must say that it is an honour to see a royal sulk,” the doctor said softly, a hint of amusement in his voice, “but still not becoming of your features, especially since you’ve been holed up in here for three days.”

 

“A king doesn’t…” He clicked his tongue and trailed off, crossing his arms over his chest. “I am a cabin boy, so I will continue to pout,” he grumbled.

 

The doctor chuckled, gently closing the book that Q was pretending to read. “May I ask what has upset you so? Is it because the pirates who steal for a living stole your maps? Or is it because of something else?” He asked carefully, crouching down in front of him.

 

He wanted to lie to the man and say yes, but he really couldn’t. Not because he was a king – as they actually lied all the time, to the point where some of them are no longer able to tell the truth from their made up worlds – but because he owed the man honesty, his life, and maybe those of his own people.

 

Still, he was embarrassed about the real reason he was upset with the two, and he didn’t want to hear himself say it out loud because that would mean he admitted to himself. “I think I am a bit dizzy,” he said instead, throwing a hand over his head, and then using the other to remove his glasses so he could continue the dramatics without damaging anything. “I think I shall go lie down,” he continued, trying to throw himself in the hammock, missing by a nautical mile and then groaning in pain as he couldn’t feel his entire left side of his body.

 

“I was expecting them to bust down the door and start attacking the floor for hurting you,” the doctor joked as he helped Q sit up, first checking his head and then his ribs. “Everything seems to be in order, but I will have to ask you to stop pretending you are dizzy for at least two days just so I can be sure.”

 

He patted his back and then helped him get in the hammock, Q silently staring at his map for a few minutes before deciding to start again. “I am going to check on the sky and if it is clear enough, I shall spend the rest of the night up on the deck.”

 

Luck was on his side because not only was the sea pretty calm for the apparent high speed they were going at – all sales were up and the wind was completely on their side – but the sky was also full of stars and the moon shone brightly which permitted him to burn through an entire candle and five parchments.

 

“Blindfolded and made to make his way through a room whose floors have been covered in sea-urchins,” someone said from behind him, startling Q hard enough to cause him to spill ink all over the only map he considered decent enough to be seen by anyone. “That’s the punishment for anyone who stays up after 10,” the man continued, leaning against a barrel, not bothered in the least by the glare Q was giving him. “And then you’d have to gather all the wax from the ship and make a decent candle for wasting this one.”

 

“Would they also make you milk a squid to replace all the ink that was spilled?” Q shot back, doing his best to save what he could as even he knew that ink was a commodity.

 

The man shrugged, throwing a semi-clean cloth at his head. “We don’t read or write, so the captain never really bothered to make rules for those kinds of things.” He huffed and tugged Q up when he started to try and wipe the desk instead of clean himself. “Leave it; the First Mate always complains that the ones who get the scrubbing punishment have a much too easy time finishing it. This stain here should make others think better about ignoring the food rule we have.”

 

Maybe it was the late hour – or early one, depending on how you looked at things – the fact that he had stared at the stars so much that the man himself looked like he was made out of the bright wisps, or the fact that the other smelled so strongly of ale that Q was sure he could get seriously drunk if he took a deep breath while they were sitting against the wind, but he felt beyond confused.

 

“What food rules are you referring to?” Q asked slowly and carefully, aware that he was walking on metaphorically thin ice.

 

“The ship’s food rules?” The man asked as carefully as Q had, frowning for a moment before shrugging. “Well, I heard that the captain picked you off of a proper ship and since rations don’t mean as much when you can’t freely make port almost anywhere around the world, maybe you had other kind of rules.”

 

Q flashed him a fake smile. “We couldn’t have made port on your island, so that statement isn’t…” He trailed off when he saw that the man didn’t find his lame attempt at a joke even a bit funny, clearing his throat to force his brain to move passed the awkward moment. “Could you, perhaps, provide us— me with a parchment containing these rules?”

 

The man blinked slowly twice and then bursted into laughter, slapping his back so hard that he had almost sent him flying down the stairs. “So you are capable of making jokes!” He wheezed out, still laughing. “Ask the captain or the doctor for something written, boy. But I suggest you don’t, unless you want to irk them by waking them up without any real good reason.” He suddenly became serious again, shocking Q that he didn’t seem to suffer from any sort of mood whiplash. “Though the Captain might turn another blind eye for you.”

 

At how cross he still was with them – and embarrassed at what they’d seen – he wouldn’t go to them for anything short of someone being in danger. “I am aware that I have overstepped my boundaries with the captain enough for a lifetime and I suspect that the only reason why I have been permitted to—”

 

The man suddenly tapped Q’s head, startling him into instant silence. “Your head sounds the same as the rest of ours when I knock on it, but you use a lot of big words on top of knowing how to read and write.”

 

“I was raised by monks,” he lied easily. “But, alas, I did not find their rules too pleasing and I went on my merry way and thusly, I eventually ended up having this conversation with you at this hour and on this most marvellous ship.” All good tactics mentioned at least once about how you should confuse your enemy if you wanted to win, and although this was not a war and this man was his shipmate, Q felt too tired to try to make any sense.

 

“Right,” the man muttered, holding the door open for Q. “Just remember that you owe the captain your life, so you’d do best to start liking our rules at least until he decides that your debt to him as been paid.”

 

Q quietly made his way back to the part of the ship where the doctor rested, carefully crawling in his hammock without the intent of actually falling asleep. The life of a prate never ceased to amaze him and he couldn’t wait for the doctor to wake up so he could bombard him with all sorts of questions regarding it, fingers already itching to jolt down these rules that he had been kept safe from. He wondered how many of them he had broken already and what punishments he had dodged just because the captain seemed to have a heart when it came to him.

 

He also wondered where they were going as the position of the stars above them seemed to have altered drastically compared to the last time he had set his eyes upon them. And they did seem to be in a rush to get to this place, but the men seemed to be excited instead of scared or testy. Maybe they were heading into battle and this crew was bloodthirsty? Yet he hadn’t seen a single one tending to their weapons and no one was checking or preparing the cannons, so where were they going?

 

The ship rocked violently enough to put an end to his thoughts and to send him flying from his hammock and straight into Alec’s waiting arms, the man’s grinning as he increased his hold on him. “The captain sent me to wake you up before we made port since we have a bit of a tradition when it comes to Tortuga, but you slapped me twice when I tried to do that and you did look like you needed the rest.”

 

“Tortuga?” Q asked confusedly, resting his head on Alec’s chest. “Yes, I’ll go down to the kitchen right now,” he mumbled, swinging his feet weakly because in his mind, he was no longer in Alec’s arms, lucid dream helped by the fact that the first mate was walking. “I am surprised you’re letting me touch a turtle.”

 

“I am talking about Tortuga Island,” Alec cleared up for him. “The captain decided that we needed to take little detour in order to lift everyone’s morale.” He stopped before the door that lead topside and gently lowered Q to the ground but still kept a good hold on him to make sure he wouldn’t fall. “On that note, how is your morale doing? You refused to leave the kind doctor’s quarters for a good number of days and when you do, we find a huge ink stain on the deck and Tanner just shrugs, assuring us that everything is okay.”

 

The urgency in his voice had Q focusing on ensuring him that nothing bad had happened. “I was merely startled by how light on their feet your men are.” He narrowed his eyes in an attempt to focus on blurry image that was Alec, everything becoming clear the second his glasses were put on his nose. “Thank you.”

 

Alec took a mock bow and then smacked the door open, pulling Q topside. “We’re going to stay on this island for a few days, so keep close to either me or James.” He pushed his finger against Q’s lips before he could argue. “The doctor is predisposed to being kidnapped simply for being a doctor, so no, you cannot keep close to him.”

 

A thick and heavy jacket was draped on his shoulders, the captain’s sudden presence by his side startling Q. “Tortuga Island has whorehouses, pubs, many markets from which you can buy everything that crosses your mind and more whorehouses. Where do you want to go first?”

 

Back to sleep. “Wouldn’t I be safer on the ship? Or are you telling me that you plan on living it unattended?”

 

The captain and his first mate shared a look, Alec shrugging his shoulders before easily placing Q on a barrel and having someone put proper boots on. “The ship will be left in a cove with a minimum crew, so you could stay here, but wouldn’t you rather come and enjoy yourself with us?” The captain asked, elbowing Alec. “The waters will get rough as the storm is raging but a few hours away from us.”

 

Before he was even done nodding, Q found himself in a boat, his arms linked with the two men’s. It took them quite a bit to reach the shore, but Alec did just fine to distract him from the way the boat rocked, bombarding him with many questions about his health, slipping in what could be seen as apologies for nicking his pathetic map, while James squeezed his and brushed his hand over his knuckles every time he caught him glancing at the water, winking and smiling at him.

 

As the island finally came into view and the last of the fog of sleep cleared from his mind, he couldn’t help but frown. He had heard of this place, more because it was the only small piece of land that had three different countries owning it at the same time – not in harmony, of course – than because it was infested of pirates and he had maps upon maps of it showed in his face by his uncle – who wanted their country to be the fourth one to rule it and also to be the only country to do so – but now that he saw the coastline, he couldn’t understand the name.

 

“It doesn’t really look like a turtle,” he muttered. Then again, he had to admit to himself that he was horrible at associating shapes with objects, as his shameful first maps proved, so maybe the lump of dirt actually looked like a turtle.

 

Chuckling, the captain signalled his men to stop rowing, carefully getting up and tugging Q after him. “Spaniards have a very active imagination when it comes to naming islands, but it could pass as a turtle if you consider the mountains to be its shell and that part over there,” he put his arm around Q’s neck and pushed their heads together, “as its head, semi-submerged in water.”

 

“And if you still see it as a lump of land, like I do,” Alec chimed in, “you can consider the pirates as the meat of the turtle and the island as the shell protecting it from its natural enemies, such as the law.”

 

“You have a way with describing things in such a way that they make and don’t make sense at the same time,” the captain said after a few moments of complete silence.

 

The port was filthy and noisy, people of all nations shouting orders left and right, breaking out into brawls instantly. But they still made way for the captain and his crew, scantily dressed women attaching themselves to them and proclaiming how much they had missed them and how cold their beds had been at night, wasting no time in inviting the men back to their places. Some went right away, others waved over boys and then disappeared into the crown, but the captain and the first mate turned down every one who crossed their path.

 

The markets were disgusting, not really selling produce in the normal sense of the word and the fat man that kicked a sickly looking one as he bemoaned the fact that he had spent too much money on something as useless as him made Q’s stomach twist, nausea making itself at home.

 

“I can see why the doctor would be a prime target,” he said after he watched a man relieve himself next to a place that sold foul-smelling fish that the vendor tried to pass as fresh and clean. “I am not sure this place can really be considered a safe-haven as much as a poorly disguised death trap.”

 

The two men exchanged looks before starting to walk faster. “Our island is not open for all of our kind as some are much more inclined to betray while others are simply wolves in sheep’s clothing,” Alec started to explain.

 

“And this island is also much more accessible than ours,” James continued, pushing a frail door open and revealing a hidden market which was just as noisy and cluttered as the first one, but it lacked the smell of everything rotting. “It’s also the perfect place if you need anything and fast.”

 

They took a few steps back and let Q take in the view, smiling as he didn’t know if he should focus on the cages filled with exotic animals or the rows upon rows of dusty old books. He brushed his hands against a few, eyes narrowed in concentration as he read their titles and completely missing the fact that the captain was keeping the sellers from chopping off his hands.

 

“Is your morale sufficiently lifted?” Alec whispered in his ears, grabbing a few books without looking and shoving them in Q arms. “Or do you want to see the rest of this market?”

 

Despite his impulse to buy everything his eyes landed on, he managed to control himself enough to leave with nothing more than a new pot of ink and five pieces of lower quality parchment. The captain tried to tempt him with hard to find books while Alec continued to shove fluffy animals in his face, but he held his ground as animals had no place on a ship – the one parrot excluded – and claimed that he had more than enough books – a poorly constructed lie to hide the fact that he didn’t feel like he deserved them.

 

“You know, not spending our money is not a good way of getting back at us because we nicked your maps,” Alec said as he put back in a cage a very fluffy rabbit. “And what is it that really bothers you? Because it sure as hell can’t be the fact that we stole something from you.”

 

“It’s because the maps were not done and most importantly, because they were simply horrible,” Q said simply.

 

The captain frowned, tugging Q in what appeared to be a building within the building. “Your cooking is atrocious as well—”

 

“As well? I said they were horrible, not atrocious,” Q interrupted, the tips of his ears turning red which didn’t go unnoticed by Alec, the man softly pinching them until his hands were swatted away in annoyance. “The point is that I invited you to taste my attempts at food, but I asked you to wait until I showed you the maps.”

 

His embarrassment at the low quality of the maps was stupid, he knew, but he couldn’t help it if he wanted these two pirates to be impressed by everything he did. Yes, his food had been horrible, but they were impressed that he had tried something that was beneath a king, he was sure. Map making… A king was expected to see what others couldn’t, find roads missed by others, give shape to that without a shape, only they really couldn’t which is why they had others do maps for them – that and the fact that one couldn’t rule if they were always on the road.

 

James cupped Q’s head, gently massaging his earlobes. “We’ll keep our paws to ourselves the next time you asked us, but let me tell you that the map was the best I’ve seen from someone who had never done one before.”

 

The sound of plates placed on the table brought Q back to the real world and he instantly pulled back. “Flattery still doesn’t work on me, captain, though I applaud you for your attempt.”

 

“I would worry if it did,” the captain joked, squeezing his hand before focusing on his food.

 

And the food truly deserved all the focus on the world, Q struggling really hard not to moan whenever his tongue touched it. It wasn’t the best he had in his entire life and it wasn’t that he food he had been eating ever since his crown had been stolen from his head, but this was the first time in a long while that he ate something done with expensive materials and by someone who clearly did these dishes on a regular basis.

 

“I think it’s safe to say that he likes it,” Alec whispered, leaning over the table to wipe Q’s mouth with his sleeve. “Mrs. Tanner will be crushed,” he deadpanned, earning himself an elbow in the stomach and a slap over the back of his head.

 

“She’ll be happy to learn that I was properly fed,” Q snarked back, moving his plate away from Alec’s grabby fingers, the captain kicking his first mate under the table to keep him seated.

 

Plates cleaned, stomachs filled, and tension eased, Q was more than ready and willing to go around this island with the men and mentally document the differences between it and his current home, but Tanner had a different plan.

 

He pretty much broke the locale’s door down, pushing the servers out of his way, almost tipping their table over when he leaned on it to catch his breath. “The Spaniards, the Frenchmen, and the Englishmen all want your heads on silver platters and while this shouldn’t be considered unusual, the governors actually ordered their guards to search the island for you. Both of you,” he made clear when he saw Alec shimming towards Q.

 

The captain gave Q an apologetic look before placing a pouch in his hands. “Feel free to rethink your book decision while dragging Tanner around, or have him show you the rest of the island.” He then turned to Tanner, leaving Alec to rebuke Q’s attempts at giving the coins back. “The usual room, of course, and if you have to go somewhere and he’s too tired, have our best loiter around the door until we’re back. And do you still have your informants?”

 

Tanner nodded, placing a hand on Q’s shoulder – who had somehow managed to get stuck with another pouch of coins – and squeezing. “If any of the governors throws you in the brig, I’ll take him back to the ship and then we’ll bust you guys out.”

 

Before Q could finish swallowing the last piece of his meal and offer to go with them as King William the fifth in order to save them from being beheaded, left in a cage to rot as a warning to other pirates, or quartered, the two men disappeared. And it was beyond amazing how they could be noisy and unable to miss even if you were blind one second and then suddenly turn into chameleons and be gone as if they had never been there in the first place.

 

Not that Q was ready to let them go into danger without putting up a fight, pestering Tanner into taking him over to the officials’ houses with little success. The man managed to keep firm even when Q started to use his kingly voice, looking somewhat apologetic as he tried to distract him with more books and more fluffy animals, ending up buying him three books on map making out of his own money and then dragging him to the best mapmaker that a pirate could get, practically begging the man to be Q’s tutor for the day.

 

That distraction kind of backfired on him as the mapmaker – busy with his actual students and own work, but not stupid to turn down a good pay for a day – sent Q running around the island while the man had nothing on to mark him as an MI6 member. Of course that resulted in Tanner losing him three times, almost getting arrested twice and almost getting stabbed four times because Q got pickpocketed that many times, and then getting into another fight because one brothel owner wanted to get Q as his new attraction.

 

And then, after Q’s third attempt, the mapmaker decided that there was a spark of potential in him and closed his shack for the day to walk the streets with him and correct his mistakes, explain in person how to calculate the distance between buildings – which Tanner didn’t understand the need for, but the man was considered the best in his domain and the captain himself spent many bags of coins for his works – and how to make that obvious in his maps.

 

The bad news was that the stars were covered by clouds, but the good news was that no one gave them any trouble because everyone knew the mapmaker of Tortuga Island and now assumed Q to be his student and they also bumped into James and Alec, Q instantly forgetting that he was in the middle of counting something and shoving the parchments in his arms as he rushed up to the two worried looking men to make sure they haven’t been harmed.

 

“Any trouble?” Alec asked Tanner as soon as Q calmed down and the mapmaker caught James’ attention.

 

Tanner regretted not having kept a list of the people that had crossed him that day. “No,” he said after a moment’s hesitation which was more than enough to tip off Alec that he was lying through his teeth. “No trouble for Q, at least,” he added quickly, “and the incidents have been dealt with already. In fact, come tomorrow, you and the captain might find a few people wishing to greet you personally and offer you their respect.”

 

“I’ll make an effort not to break the rest of their bones if Q is there,” Alec grumbled, cracking his knuckles.

 

He actually looked like he was getting ready to start the manhunt that night, but he was stopped by Q informing him that he would like to continue on his little quest even if he now had to carry a torch. That prompted the captain to deposit his jacket around his shoulders – marking him as a clear and very important member of MI6 – stressing the fact that he shouldn’t take it off even if Tanner and the mapmaker were by his side.

 

“No Spectre agents around?” Tanner asked, worried about what might happen if they bumped into them.

 

James shook his head and then focused back on Q, continuing to arrange the jacket. “Alec and I will turn in for the night,” James explained to Q, shocking Tanner a little as the captain never felt the need to do that before. “We’re leaving tomorrow night, so feel free to walk until you can’t feel your feet anymore.”

 

Tanner wanted to say that he couldn’t feel his feet already, but it was obvious that Q was enjoying himself so he kept quiet about it because the kid wouldn’t get to enjoy land for a long time if they were meeting who he thought they were meeting and he deserved to enjoy himself for as much as he could.

 

Their party of three quickly grew as their crewmen started to pour out of dingy hellholes with the clear intent of enjoying themselves in others only to be distracted by Q’s joyful disposition and since a large crow of pirates was never a good sign – especially if most of them were piss drunk – the local authorities remembered what they were supposed to do in the first place and Tanner ordered the crowd to disperse before they started a fight. By then, Q was half asleep and the mapmaker too drunk to be of any use, so no fun was ruined.

 

“Are you sure you don’t want me to walk you up there?” Tanner asked, he himself struggling to keep his eyes open.

 

Q’s chuckle was interrupted by a huge yawn, shaking his head as he wiped tears from his eyes. “You’ve walked with me everywhere I wanted today; the least that I can do is spare you to climb up to the last floor especially since this is not even the inn where you’ll sleep.”

 

Tanner tried insisting, but Q wouldn’t hear a single word and pretty much ordered him to his room, going as far as to use his authority voice – for which he apologized not a second later, not that Tanner would truly be upset over the use of it for something as harmless and selfless as getting him to go home and get some rest.

 

Still, like a worried father he couldn’t just walk out of there without sure knowledge that he had gotten in the room safe and sound. “I won’t budge from here until I hear that door slamming shut and don’t worry about waking the captain or Alec up as they are probably waiting for you.”

 

Q sighed but agreed as it was clear that Tanner meant what he said and he made his way up as fast as his aching feed would allow him, stopping at the second floor to take off his boots, making a mental note to get some water so he could wash his feet. But an idea also crossed his mind and he grinned as he continued to climb the stairs in complete silence, wishing to see if he could startle them.

 

Carefully, he pushed open the door and barely managed to hold back his gasp, eyes widening as he was greeted by the two naked men hugging and kissing. It was obvious what had happened by how warm the room was and by the fact that they were panting, their bed a complete mess, but as if the higher powers wanted to make it even more clear, the captain was still running his hands down Alec’s scratched back, pinching his ass as the other nibbled down his neck.

 

“It’s been far too long,” the captain muttered and Q quickly and quietly shut the door, running down the stairs and right past the Tanner, the man needing a moment to realize that Q had indeed been the one to almost run him over.

 

He heard Tanner shouting after him but he could only focus on his need to run, bothered and terrified by that movement he felt at the captain’s words. Though since his mind couldn’t actually wrap itself around things right then, there was the very the possibility that he felt ashamed for intruding on their very private and intense moment for that amount the time and that was also the reason why Tanner had to throw water in his face to focus on reality.

 

“Q, Q, what happened?” The man was asking him, shaking him frantically, the doctor and half of the MI6 crew right behind him.

 

That was a really good question, but one that made his force warm and for that movement he felt before when he tried to think of an answer as his mind easily conjured up the two men rubbing against each other, sweaty, needy, and naked as the day they were born – only with a lot more muscles on them and with scars and tattoos that made him want to… He shook his head and grabbed the nearest cup he saw, emptying its contents and regretting it instantly as his throat burned and the world spun out of control for a moment.

 

“Get the doctor in here,” Tanner growled. “And the captain!”

 

“No!” Q all but shouted, grabbing Tanner’s hand. “Don’t bother the captain or Mister Trevelyan for this. Nor the doctor as I will be fine in just a moment provided I am allowed to go back to the ship,” he muttered, going in for a second glass only to have it stolen away by one of the men.

 

“The wind picked up so the only way you’ll get to set foot on the ship is if he captain sends the signal for it,” Tanner explained slowly and Q hit his head against the table, almost missing the subtle way that two men were dispatched to probably check and make sure that nothing had happened with James and Alec. “Do you want to stay with me? Or with the doctor and his medicine?”

 

“Give me the cup back and I’ll think about that,” Q blackmailed the poor man who reluctantly gave in and let him have two more cups which allowed him to pass out and not see the two naked, sweaty men when he closed his eyes.

Chapter Text

They woke up feeling spent, fully relaxed, and lazy. Then everything was replaced by a sense of pure panic. At first because they were pretty much naked and they were afraid that they’d find their young king collapsed due to shock on the floor and then because they realized that they alone in the room, the other bed completely untouched, floor Q free, and it was pretty late in the morning.

 

“You go gather the men and start sweeping the island for Q,” James ordered as he hoped on one foot, trying to get his pants on. “I’ll go see what ships left last night and if anyone knows their routes and destinations.”

 

The innkeeper had to throw himself against the door to keep the man in long enough for their crewman – who was also clinging to Alec’s back to keep him in place because no one dared to touch the Captain without their permission – to give them the message from the good doctor that Q was okay and rooming with him for the moment.

 

They maybe had a moment of relief before they were panicking again. “Is Q ill?” Alec asked, his hands fisted in the poor crewman’s collar as he gave him a good shake. “Is he hurt? What happened to him that he has to room with the bloody doctor instead of us?”

 

“We’ll go there and see for ourselves,” James said slowly, trying to gently guide his friend back to sanity – even though that concept tended to elude him most of the time. “And, given last night’s activities and Q being Q,” the most innocent of royals that they’ve seen, “we agree that it is for the best things happened like that, don’t we?”

 

Alec frowned deeply, releasing the crewmember that must have either drawn the shortest stick in mankind’s history or lost even his soul at cards if he was delivering the message instead of a simple piece of paper slipped under their door. “It’s endearing—”

 

“I see that the English lessons with Q weren’t forgotten,” James muttered in a pre-emptive ‘mockery strike’ and arranged his shirt just a bit before heading out the door. He got a pretty good idea of what Alec wanted to say and although he didn’t think anyone on this island had ever interacted directly with a king, they were smart enough to figure out that they had a crowned head amongst themselves – and oh, in what panic they would be if that happened, rushing to get their Q before anyone else and then probably having to sink half of the ships in the port before everyone understood that Q was a sure ticket to the afterlife and not the easy life.

 

“It’s endearing,” Alec started to say again in a whisper, “and perfectly normal when Q does the whole ‘we’ thing, but it makes you sound like an even bigger arse than you already are, a feat I thought impossible given the fact that you’re already a complete one.”

 

“As far as I remember, I wasn’t the arse last night,” James whispered in Alec’s ear, slowly running his hand down his back. “Do you want me to remind you how who the arse between us usually is?”

 

Alec hummed, grinning. “Only because I like letting you do all the work.” They stopped dead in their tracks and looked at each other the way they usually did right before things got interesting. But their need to know Q safe was bigger than their lust and their wish to prove a point, so they both started to walk again.

 

Although they had offered the doctor to pay for a room in their inn as it was the best one on the island as it didn’t look like it was about to fall down, it didn’t smell like something had died, rotted, come back to life and died again, and the rooms were flea and most of the other bugs free, the man preferred to risk his life at the inn next to the spices and herbs market.

 

He still insisted on that inn even after it became abundantly clear that it was ran with an iron fist by the mummy of a harpy of a woman. She had their upmost respect and Eve went out of her way to have a drink with her whenever she found herself in Tortuga as in her youth she had been the heart and the brain of the island despite having started as a prostitute, but that didn’t mean they showed her that – plus, they butted heads every time they met because they she was under the impression that every captain was supposed to present themselves to her and kiss her feet, despite no longer having an actual say in their world anymore.

 

“Should I be worried about you, doctor?” James asked more seriously than jokingly as he was aware that his crew weren’t the nicest when they were ill and that he worst of the lot.

 

But the man just smiled and had a faraway look in his eyes. “It reminds me of my childhood home.”

 

He went on to say that he didn’t care that Alec was dead sure a sneeze would level the place or that he had spent an entire night having to take out splinters from his captain’s ass after the man, drunk out of his mind, decided that the place was too hot for pants and then sat on a chair which then promptly crumbled under him.

 

But not because his house was a strong breeze away from being rubble, he added before Alec could open his big mouth. “My mother – God rest her soul – smelled of spices because she worked in such a market.” The small smile the man had on convinced them to silently agree never to openly mock the place, but they still avoided it like the plague and always thought they’d need a new doctor whenever the ground shook even a bit. “And the innkeeper looks just like my grandmother.”

 

The two men shared a look of horror and a shiver of fear, biting their tongues to keep silent.

 

“How is it possible for this place to still be open for business?” Alec asked as he watched a piece of wood dislodge itself from a balcony and land right next to an old, mangy mutt whose only response to being so close to death was to curl into an even tighter ball.

 

“Because no one can beat our prices,” the ancient harpy spat out, getting out of her rocker just so she could wobble over and smack Alec with her walking stick. “But you two have to tell me how it is possible for you two to have not succumbed to a disease gifted to you by one of the many cheap women and men who grace your beds? Is it that you are so insufferable that even death avoids you?”

 

“Why are you still breathing?” Alec whispered and ended up getting whacked again because the bloody woman had a hearing finer than that of a new born dog.

 

“There are a lot of people looking for that boy.” They both froze in their tracks when they heard her mutter that, the woman rubbing her chin and smiling cruelly at her. “And the amount of money offered for any information on him,” she all but shouted and gasped as she threw her hand over her head, throwing herself back in her chair – which didn't break and impale her, like James was hoping. “Could you imagine how much I would get if I were to present the coveted king himself? Why, I could fix this place to be to your high standards and retire somewhere nice and dry, just as you two want.”

 

“Why go through so much trouble when we could just—Ugh!”

 

James gave Alec a glare to go with the hilt of his sword that he had embedded in his stomach to get him to keep quiet. “You will forgive us, but we have no idea who you are referring to. What boy? Who is searching for him and just how much is this reward?” He asked and moved closer to her, starting to play with a gold coin. “I am willing—”

 

The woman tested the coin to be sure that it was gold, grinning as she pocketed it. “Tall, brown haired, dressed much too good for a cabin boy or male companion, too well-mannered to be of the sea or the slums, knows how to read expensive books, and currently rooming in with your doctor? Does that right any bells, Captain?”

 

She wiggled her fingers at him, and James was quick to rest his hand on top of Alec's, stopping him shooting her where she stood - even though his own blood was boiling with rage. “I would know if I had someone as valuable as that as a crew member, Madam.” He started to play with his pouch of coins. “Do you understand?”

 

He moved away from Alec when he decided that the woman was taking too long to answer, his companion more than happy to take out his pistol and start playing with it. “You wouldn't be implying that my captain doesn't know who or what he's employing, now would you?”

 

A little battle of the wills was had, glaring used as the main weapon and the first to look away was the old woman, who snorted and threw the coin back at James' head. “I would say it outright, not imply it.” She motioned them closer, glaring at them until they conformed and then promptly smacked them upside their heads. “You shouldn’t openly flash your treasure, you nitwits. You’re lucky that pictures of the lost king are still impossible to find, but when they finally make their way among the other pirates…” She trailed off, but her point was made. “Your cabin boy is sharing the room with the doctor on the top floor, seventh room on the right. And think very carefully on how you will show your gratitude on your way there.”

 

They were careful in making their way up, instantly realizing that the woman could have made things a lot easier and simply say that they were in the only room that had an actual door, the frayed blankets in front of the other rooms doing little to hide what their current occupants were doing. Honestly, James was starting to consider that maybe, just maybe they didn’t give the old woman enough credit and she knew from the second she saw the doctor walk in with Q – they could rule out him being carried in because the cruel woman would have said so just to see them worried and feed off of their desperation – that he was very important to them and was overtly blackmailing them into paying to fix up her inn.

 

It was impossible to explain just how embarrassed they were that it took them so long to come to that realization.

 

“So I am thinking we thank her by buying new doors for the whole floor?” Alec asked after they stared at the door for a good full minute without either one of them moving to knock on it or push it open.

 

“For the entire rotten place,” James corrected, nodding towards the door with his head. “I don’t want to get a splinter—”

 

“What a coincidence as I too do not want to get a splinter,” Alec interrupted, taking a step back. “You knock.”

 

They started to glare at each other, Alec daring James with his eyes to lower himself and order him to knock on the door because he knew he would never do it. He knew that James would have to be missing all of his limbs before he got anyone to do a menial task as he’d seen so many other captains do - though the glares that they were getting from their own men promised mutinies sometime in their future, be it the immediate one or the far away one. .

 

But while James was not rotten enough to do that, he was also not above trying to guilt Alec into doing this for him and just as he was about to open his mouth and remember one of the many times he had saved his fine ass from something incredibly stupid, the door opened and Q stepped out.

 

He was pale and had bags under his eyes, a light shiver in his hands, but there were no beads of fresh sweat to hint at a possible fever. There was also a strong smell of alcohol clinging to his breath and his brown hair was even more of a mess than usual – Q still looked very much royal in this state and James concluded that he was probably the only king in the world who looked like he still had a crown on his head even if it has been stolen – so alcohol definitely had a part in whatever happened the previous night.

 

“Captain Bond, Mister Trevelyan,” he said, obviously startled as he took a step back and rested a hand over his chest, barely holding back a groan when the light hit his eyes. “Is there anything wrong? Should I go wake the doctor?”

 

James grabbed onto his arm before he could move away, not missing the shade of pink that suddenly graced his features and the fact that he was actively avoiding looking them in the eye. “We were also wondering if perhaps something has happened to you that you suddenly found yourself in need of the doctor’s abilities.” He said carefully as he looked him up and down for any obvious signs of bruises or wounds.

 

Q shrugged off his hold and stepped and further away from them, looking like he was getting ready to slam the door in their face. “I am afraid that you have worried for naught. I am in perfect health,” and clearly doing a poor job at nursing a hangover, but if he wasn’t going to say anything, than they were also going to struggle to keep their mouths shuts and their teasing to zero until further notice, “if still a bit sleepy and I opted to rest here as it was much too late and I did not wish to disturb you.”

 

The tone he used combined with the fact that he wasn’t actually looking either one of them in the eyes or in their general direction despite the fact that they had both stepped into the shadows made it clear that there was more than he was saying. James glanced at Q’s lips and his nails to see if they were chewed on in hope of finding a clear indication that the man had been up most of the night worried about something, but found them to be in perfect condition.

 

And yet his gut told him that something was off and when he strained his brain a bit more, he realized that one couldn’t really look for normal indicators of stress in someone that was surrounded by people who were ready to pounce on them at the first sign of weakness.

 

“It would take an awful lot for your majesty to do in order to irritate us, let alone bother us,” James said carefully and lowered his head in an attempt to catch Q’s eyes, only for the man to suddenly find the wall to their right interesting. “So, if you are sick or if anything happened last night while coming to our inn or while you were in our inn, please let us know so we might deal with it.”

 

“We thought you above fake sweet words, Captain Bond,” Q said sharply, his eyes finally turning to him, revealing themselves to be cold and insulted which just hurt. “We do not know why we are surprised as we are more than aware that kings can be wrong.” He tilted his head and frowned, rubbing his chin. “Though there is the possibility that we are more disappointed at this outcome than surprised. Definitely insulted, of that we have no doubt.”

 

“Q—”

 

“Mister Tanner,” the insulted king interrupted Alec, jerking his head up, “was with us and sometime during our long walk more crewmembers joined us, so we were perfectly fine. We stopped chose to come here because it was very late, I was very tired, and I couldn’t feel my feet anymore, so this was the best option as we were a minute away from it.”

 

They sat there in awkward silence until the doctor decided that he existed and shuffled out of the room, greeting the two men before turning to Q. “I am afraid I have forgotten my eyesight is starting to leave me because I couldn’t quite find your quill.” Q arched his eyebrows, looking just as confused as Alec and James. “So you can help me by making a list of all the herbs that we’re buying today like we agreed to last night?” He cleared up for everyone – and created the perfect scenario for Q to no longer glare at them and for them to drill him for questions.

 

“Ah yes, I remember now. I shall go look for it.” He nodded towards Alec and James – a bloody miracle, even if it was a dismissive one – and made sure to close the door behind him.

 

A beat and both of them were all over the doctor like a bunch of hungry shark on a wounded man. They bombarded them with hissed and whispered demands to know what had happened last night, how much Q had drunk, why Q had drunk, who had dared to upset him if he was upset, if he saw anyone he might recognize, and so on. They were close to passing out from lack of air before the overwhelmed doctor managed to sneak in a few words.

 

“Q wasn’t in a proper state last night,” the man said hurriedly, hands up in an attempt to keep the two from starting to rant again. “Mister Tanner brought him over and he just collapsed on my bed and went right to sleep. Now—”

 

“We’re going to Tanner,” James interrupted the man and Alec who was already making his way towards the stairs nodded in complete agreement.

 

“So am I to understand that you won’t be joining us, captain, Mister Trevelyan?” The doctor called out after them and they heard the door gently close.

 

They glanced at Q’s almost terrified expression – so it was clearly their fault, bugger – and they were tempted to say yes just to see if they could worm their way back in his good graces, but they had enough of a brain to hold their tongues – plus, Alec tended to become a bit insufferable when he got bored which was bound to annoy Q even more and they both knew that they wouldn’t manage to keep from outright demanding to know what it was that they had done this time for more than one minute.

 

“As boring as that sounds, we have to go round up the crew,” Alec easily lied, turning around to flash his perfect fake smile. “We’ll leave tonight and if I know our boys as well as I do, we’ll have to drag about ten of them back to the sheep.”

 

“Oh dear me,” the doctor muttered, suddenly looking completely worn out. “Looks like I now need to restock my aloe and turmeric. Not to mention ginger and…” The man continued to list things as he started to walk, Q right behind him and not even bothering to give them a second look or a farewell.

 

Alec snorted, shaking his head. “Who would have thought that keeping a king pleased would be such a hassle?”

 

***

 

Q had hoped that a night of drinking and pitiful rest would put his mind at ease and make him feel less confused, but he couldn’t have been more wrong if he tried. Alcohol seemed to have made everything even worse, his head starting to pound the second he even attempted to have a single coherent thought which only served to put him in an even sour mood than he already was. The bloody perfectly clear sky and the powerful sun that insisted on blinding everyone despite the fact that they were supposedly still going through a very powerful storm didn’t make things any better.

 

“Here you go, Your Majesty,” the doctor said carefully as he handed him a cream coloured root that had a strong smell that was making Q feel even queasier than he already was. “I expect you to eat all of this without giving me any sort of lip about it.”

 

The first bite – more of a careful nibble, really – made him retch and he made to discard the disgusting thing, but he remembered the time his cousin got half of his servants and two very important advisors seriously sick because he refused to take his foul tasting medicine.

 

He also remembered the poor doctor trying to find a respectful way of telling the royal pain in the ass to suck it and take the bloody thing, but it still managed to sound condescending even if it was the truth. “Medicine exists to cure you, not to taste good,” was the gist of what almost cost that doctor his head – the only reason he was still alive was that he was his doctor and the supposed insult happened in his land, so his rules applied and his word was law.  

 

With those words in mind, he took a second slightly bigger bite, the spicy flavour it had making him feel as if his tongue was on fire and his nose stung even worse than the time had had refused to wrap a scarf around his face in the middle of winter when he was young. Not that he could focus on clinging to that flash of the life he had fully loved because his mouth filled with saliva and the doctor kindly directed his head in an empty barrel.

 

“This is the first time I got such a reaction to ginger,” the man said apologetically as he carefully rubbed his back, almost massaging it. “I promise that it was supposed to make your headache go away and since I’ve fed it to former crewmen who had no idea that they got seasick until they were in the middle of said sea, it wasn’t supposed to make you—”

 

“Well it did,” Q gasped out, trying to fight the pure fear that was slowly taking over him.

 

He never thought that he was going to die by the hands of the person who had struggled to bring him back to the brink of death not that long ago and yet it was happening. It was really happened and here he was, kneeling over a crate in the back of an alley, close to vomiting his stomach, and the only positive thing that he could think of was that this place at least smelled a lot nicer than that room.

 

“You’re safe,” the voice in his head that sounded like the confusing captain said and he really wanted to agree with it, but how could he? He felt as if he was one heave away from seeing how his stomach looked.

 

“Dying,” he thought he gasped out, vision littered with little colourful dots, his heart beating so fast that he was sure people could see his chest moving back and forth, his mouth no longer having a taste.

 

“You’re not,” Alec’s voice insisted and Q thought he felt someone gently rub his back, the ground beneath him no longer there. “You’re just deciding never to drink again, aren’t you?”

 

Oh god, he was hallucinating again. Just like—

 

“We’re here, just like the last time,” the real captain whispered, the voice finally getting a form as the room – he was sure was dying outside – stopped spinning and the world finally came into view. “There you are,” the man said softly, Alec also appearing in the picture with a cup that he was pushing to his lips. “Just some crushed and boiled peppermint with a bit of sugar.”

 

“Ginger free,” Alec added with a bit of too much excitement, looking apologetic when Q flinched at his loud voice. “The doctor promised that you’ll definitely feel better, but we can get another doctor if you’d like.”

 

Q thought about answering, but his burning throat had him shake his head. He sat up with a lot of help from the two men and he started to take small sips of the tea, finishing the entire thing before he realized that he was being nestled between the two – so rolling away was out of the question because he’d just end up on top of one of them and his legs were still shaking, so jumping out of bed wasn’t an option.

 

Still, it was improper to sit on either one of them. Or between them, for that matter, but since he didn’t trust himself not to become one with the ground or lost what little he had left in his stomach – or of his stomach, if the burning sensation was anything to go by – so he was going to have to be satisfied with being a human barrier.

 

“What’s wrong?” James asked, placing his hands on Q’s shoulders and stilling him.

 

“I’m not well,” Q said slowly, fixing a point on James’ neck. “My body hurts all over,” he continued to lie, letting out a sigh of relief when he Alec jumped out of bed and James slid out.

 

“Better?” James asked and Q nodded before turning with his back to him, pulling the covers over his head. “Are you sure?”

 

“Yes,” Q muttered, flinching when he felt the room dip suddenly. “Or maybe not; I feel as if the room is moving.”

 

“It actually is,” Alec whispered, gently rubbing his back. “We’re back on the ship.”

 

Q groaned and curled in on himself.

Chapter Text

The second he felt better, Q moved back in his makeshift bed under the deck and although he wasn’t asked – because both Alec and James knew he’d lie without a single second’s hesitation – he instructed Tanner to inform them that he had reached the conclusion that he needed to act more like an actual cabin boy in order to keep his cover.

 

Alec relaxed when he heard that, snorting as he jumped back in their bed with the fairy-tale book he planned on reading to Q in order to show him how much he had learned. “He’s going to drop this act the second he gets a splinter anywhere in his royal body. Swabbing a ship’s deck is infinitely harder than a room’s floor.”

 

“Do you really think that’s going to get our stubborn king to back down from manual labour when he refused to stay on dry land after he almost died at sea?” James asked sarcastically, rolling his eyes at Alec’s excited nodding. “I’ll figure out why I have a complete idiot for my first mate later but until I have time to do that, I still think we need to—”

 

“And I still think that all we need to do is simply sit back and let his royal highness realize on his own that a land cabin boy is child’s play compared to a ship cabin boy,” Alec interrupted James. “But since you are you, please continue to fret and overthink everything in silence,” he added and then made it clear that he would tune out whatever comeback James might have by sticking his tongue out and narrowing his eyes while looking at a random word in the story.

 

While James could easily ignore Alec’s great plan, he opted to not to because he knew that if he did that, Q would lock whatever bothered him deeper down in his mind and continue the charade with even more determination even if he ended up seriously hurting himself which would then result in Alec rightly pointing out that it was his fault and he would end up losing the war with Spectre because he’d be piss drunk back on Tortuga.

 

Not that simply watching the stubborn king from the shadows was an easy thing to do, both of them flinching every time Q did something that they knew would result in him being in pain or when he outright screwed his duties up. And by God, when Q screwed up, he did it in a truly royal manner.

 

After he announced that the Captain expected him to start pulling his own weight around the ship instead of tending to them – Alec sent word for everyone to pretend to believe that before anyone could call Q out on his lie – he was ordered to swab the deck until everyone could see their reflections in it by nightfall.

 

Of course Q didn’t take that order literally – he was a king, not an idiot – but since he drew the shortest stick, he got stuck with a part of the deck that had an especially dirty spot on which he focused on the entire day, scrubbing it until his hands pruned so much that they resembled an old man’s and until he could no longer feel his knees.

 

Task failed, it was the boatswain’s duty to apply five lashes, and the man was less than happy about that. He liked Q and the man clearly had tried his best, but he the ship’s rules had to be followed. What a pity then that the boatswain’s aim was going to be severely affected by the fact that he hadn’t whipped anyone in years since all the sailors on the MI6 were seniors and knew how to swab decks in their sleep, right?

 

“You best rethink punishing Q unless you want to meet a shark up close and personal,” Alec growled as he appeared out of nowhere and backed the boatswain in a corner, running the edge of his sword down the whip.

 

Gulping, the boatswain tried to hide the whip being his back. “I was honestly just thinking that I was sure to miss Q altogether and just hit the deck.”

 

Alec wrapped his hands around the other’s neck instantly, his hold increasing with each hissed word. “What you actually need to think about is how slowly and painfully you’ll die if Q so much as catches a glimpse of this whip or wind of him needing to be punished for anything, got it?” The boatswain quickly nodded and Alec dropped him like a sack of potatoes. “Good, but also remember not to give away the fact that he’s not exactly being treated like a cabin boy would be treated,” he added as he helped him up and dusted him off.

 

It didn’t bode well when the ship’s first mate started giving out confusing orders, but the boatswain understood what Alec wanted from him after a few minutes of deep thought and he simply scolded Q for his less than productive day and ordered him to go eat.

 

Q’s next blunder a few minutes later when, in his attempt to make it as clear as daylight that he wasn’t in any position of power, he sat down at the table’s other head and indirectly challenged James for his role as Captain, Tanner jumping in with an old British tale of a round table in order to defuse everything before anyone could bring up any talk of marooning.

 

“You’re acting like a mutineer,” the parrot’s owner hissed in Q’s ear before the doctor could get to him and explain what it was that he was doing wrong. “I like you, Q, but I won’t tolerate this offence.”

 

Mortified at the accusation, Q’s jaw dropped and frowned deeply, hand over his heart. “That someone would think that I, out of all people, would willingly rob another of their rightfully earned position…” He trailed off in order to take a few deep breaths, his discomfort instantly noticed by James and Alec.

 

“It’s fine; everything is fine,” the doctor said quickly, signalling the two men to hold their position and keep acting interested in what Mister Tanner was saying. “This is his first time on this type of ship and since he doesn’t know our unwritten laws, no foul and no harm done, right?” He asked the crewman, starting to tap on one of his recently healed wounds to get him to give the correct answer and to make room for Q next to him, although it did not seem to affect him whatsoever.

 

“I really did not intend to present myself as a usurper,” Q whispered dejectedly, shoulders slumped in complete and utter defeat and embarrassment.

 

“We’ll have to get you one of those fancy governesses then to keep you out of trouble,” the crewman muttered after the moment in which he allowed his heartstrings to be tugged at, grunting at everyone to scoot over while he dragged Q close to him. “I’m going to be the one watching over you, by the way, so don’t worry.”

 

Apparently those were fighting words because another crewman threw his empty plate at the man’s head. “You’re the newest member, so why should you and not me?”

 

The man finished wolfing down his stake before snorting and patting Q’s back. “I did it in the past and I’m doing it now, so why shouldn’t I keep doing it?”

 

Fight that resulted aside, the man had a great idea and when the doctor relayed it to James and Alec – after everyone was reminded of the rules of agreement that they all had to follow and punishing the ones who threw punches by docking their future pay – the captain was seriously thinking about bashing his head against something until his brain popped out to see how big it was or if he even had one while Alec was kind enough to start suggesting objects that he could use.

 

He didn’t take any of the suggestions since they were good ones and his death from an open skull and lack of brain meant that Q would be left with only hot-headed Alec to fight against Spectre and his uncle and instead called the ‘man with the plan’ to his quarters in order to be commended for his brilliant idea and officially present him to the crewmember whose fulltime task was going to be Q-sitting.

 

The news was as well received as they thought it was going to be, James drumming his fingers over the rules of agreement as he watched the man’s face change colours. “He’s in charge of rat watching and he’s doing such a poor job that I actually found an entire rat in my loaf today. I shudder to think what will happen to Q if he’s given this duty.”

 

“I also don’t think that I’m the best for this job,” the man muttered, starting to look paler the deeper his Captain’s frown got. “I mean, I am deeply honoured and all that, but I rather I wasn’t.”

 

“And we’d rather Q simply dropped everything and just huddled in—”

 

“Not the place,” James coldly reminded him, waiving the human mountain out of the room since he clearly wasn’t going to be of any help.

 

“Right and that is why you, my good man, have no choice but to accept this great honour and do us proud.” Alec said with the biggest, most unsettling, and most painful looking smile that he could muster without cutting up his face, overkilling it in James’ pinion with the whole sword cleaning act.

 

He could have explained that the man was actually very good at what he was doing since rats were almost a rarity on their ship even though they didn’t employ cats – the lack of which just became a priority and the main reason why they’ll attack the first ship they saw provided it wasn’t part of an armada – but then he wouldn’t be Alec if he did that.

 

“Now tell us your name, sailor,” Alec ordered, seemingly forgetting who the captain was and the fact that he was in the room – James was going to find a very entertaining way of punishing later, when it was just the two of them.

 

“Felix Leiter,” the man breathed out, turning to look at James pleadingly. “Rat in loaf aside, I served you well in the field in the five years that you’ve taken me on your main ship, didn’t I?”

 

His mind instantly went to three separate instances in which Felix proved that his spot on their ship was merited, so James felt even better about their choice, meaning that he didn’t have a way out of this no matter what he or anyone else said or did – well, he would be relieved of his duty if he threw Q in the ocean and no one had to tell him what would happen to him if he actually did that.

 

“It is precisely for that reason that we’re entrusting you with Q,” James said although if he were fully honest, Felix was his last choice for Q watching, but since everyone else was in a position from which they couldn’t be removed without putting serious dents in their battle strategy, he was also their only choice for that. “Mister Tanner will inform everybody of your new duties for which start right this second,” he added when he saw the face the other was pulling, making it clear that there was no room for negotiations or begging and that he was getting bored of this conversation.

 

“Understood,” Felix muttered, tugging on his shirt’s collar. Maybe he could convince Q to sit on his shoulder until they docked in their home-port, although seeing how his own parrot refused to do that most of the times and tended to fly into danger if he wasn’t locked under the deck when they were fighting… “I’m not going to make it out of this alive, am I?” He asked nobody, prompting Mister Tanner to give him a sympathetic pat on the back while also pushing him out of the room.

 

“Not unless Q is in pristine condition, no,” Alec shouted after him, clicking his tongue when James hit him upside the head. “I was being helpful!”

 

The dreaded morning came, they were still there despite Felix’s ardent praying the night before, and Q was back on deck swabbing duty because the cook didn’t want to have the Captain’s and First Mate’s precious person near any sharp objects while on a moving ship, James banned anyone even reminding Q about the existence of a crow’s nest and sails, and Alec thought he saw some sharks and therefore banned anyone from mentioning that they’d be fishing today.

 

“Are you sure you’re not suddenly feeling ill? Like maybe a little bit seasick considering that the storm is right behind us? Or because the cook may or may not have accidentally served fish that started to smell for dinner last night?” Felix asked, unknowingly making things even worse by forcing Q to acknowledge the fact that he was feeling queasy and that yes, the waves have started to get really violent again. “And that crate isn’t exactly the most comfortable place on this ship, despite that sack of feathers you have in there.”

 

Of course it wasn’t, but Q really did not need a reminder of how it affected his back and his knees. Nor of the horrid nightmares that tight space brought him twice a night or the fact that he spent roughly ten minutes each time remembering how to breathe without screaming and or how hard it was not to start hitting the random person that poked his head in his supposed secure place each morning to wake him up because his foggy morning brain still thought that he was being held captive and poisoned.

 

By the time the man had finally stopped talking, Q looked a little bit green in the face, beads of sweat had formed around his temples, and his legs were trembling slightly. “I am quite alright,” he said instead, determined not to let his weakness get in his way of point proving and James and Alec avoiding.

 

Felix looked at him pleadingly for a few more seconds before he sighed in defeat and hung his head. “Okay then, swabbing the deck for the rest of the day it is. Just remember that this deck cannot be turned into a mirror, not to take my previous words as a challenge, and keep away from any dangling objects, deck cannons, and barrels or crates that are not outright nailed to the deck.”

 

Rolling his eyes, Q set about his task and to his credit, he actually managed to complete it within that day and with no incident. Granted, he had been assigned to the smallest and safest part of the deck and the sun had long since gone down by the time he had finished it but just like with the cooking, Q couldn’t help but feel proud of what he had done.

 

Granted, compared to what the others did, his part was as if someone had just lightly splashed water all over and he was the only one that had the good old doctor sitting hunched over his hands by the light of a candle for an entire hour, but he could honestly say that no other king in the entire world did a better job than him and he ended up going to sleep with a smile on his chapped lips, a crick in his back, and an empty stomach.

 

He also missed breakfast and if James hadn’t ignored Mister Tanner’s advice about continuing to give Q his space and not think about the worst outcome about someone who had finally did physical work for the first time ever in his life, Q would have also missed lunch. Granted, he also wouldn’t have bumped his head on the side of his box when he pushed away from James at the sudden realization that the man was no longer in his dream – a dream he instantly forgot – but no one could really say anything as eating was important and it was uncommon for a simple crewman who was healthy to be served a hot meal after everyone was done.

 

“We’ll eat lunch in my quarters and you’ll eat with us,” James said carefully, holding his hand out to Q in order to help him get out of his box.

 

Q looked at the offered limb as if it had been pulled from a decaying body and used to slap him over the head, scooting further still from James and starting to climb down on his own. “I did not mean to incite a mutiny and if needed, I will personally talk with—”

 

“It’s not about that or your current predicament crown-wise,” James quickly interrupted him, jumping down and holding his arms up, patiently waiting for what little strength Q had in his shaking limbs to give out so he could catch him. “We just want to eat with you without having half a mile of table between us,” he continued after Q unceremoniously plopped in his arms, the king’s honour saved by the fact that there was no one else present.

 

“I really do not think it would be appropriate,” Q said as his face turned redder with each second spent in the man’s arms. How would Alec react if he walked in right at that moment and found them like this? They were… The two of them were… Well, he had known from the start that the captain and the first mate had a very special relationship, but he never thought that two men could be that close and it made him feel very… “Cease confusing us with a fainting maiden and put us down this instant!” He snapped with as much dignity as he could muster.

 

James was tempted to just drop him since he never went for these types of theatrics when women pulled them in hopes of getting him to kiss them in order to shut them up - their eyes were closed and their mouths were put as they slowly edged closer to him, so the intention was cleared - but the way Q said it sounded like he was one second away from either completely losing himself to panic or outright attacking him, so he gently placed him down.

 

“We do not know what we did to offend you if your majesty doesn’t tell us,” James said slowly, stopping himself from running his fingers through Q’s hair in an attempt to somewhat tame it and probably ending up making it wilder still.

 

For a moment, when his blood was still boiling with anger at the overall confusion, Q felt like he was going to tell him everything in a single breath. He was going to describe everything he saw from to the beads of sweat that rolled down their temples to how they were rubbing against each other while James was religiously tracing Alec’s scar on their perfectly defined abdomen and what he felt when he saw that and… And what was he about to say? His mouth was open, so he was clearly supposed to be talking, but what were the words?

 

“Are you—?”

 

“I’m extremely tired so I won’t be much of a conversational partner,” Q said instead, unable to look James in the eye without remembering how concentrated he was while embracing Alec from behind, making the fact that he was lying even more obvious.

 

Knowing better than to look a gift horse in the mouth, James accepted what he was given and led Q to his quarters after assuring him that he didn’t have to say anything if he didn’t feel like it. He could eat in silence if that was what he wanted and then go about his business without either one of them pestering him.

 

However, he never said anything about not talking loudly with Alec about how baffled they were at their royal friend – who shall remain unnamed for it was improper to disclose such information and they were anything but that – suddenly becoming tongue tied, proposing that perhaps they had contracted some kind of strange new disease that rendered them a mute only when it came to speaking with them or that they had been so insulted with the previous living quarters that his ability to speak with those who had provided them with it had become impaired.

 

“I can’t help but wonder out loud what our royal guest thinks about this,” Alec said as he fixed Q with his eyes, a little grin on his face.

 

“But you won’t directly ask him that because that would be going against his wishes, correct?” James asked, turning to smile brightly at the silently fuming Q while Alec started to nodded excitedly.

 

“Talking at me is cheating, as is inventing people as placeholders for me,” Q muttered.

 

Alec shrugged. “I don’t know how many times I have to say this, but we’re pirates; shame on you for not expecting us to be sneaky by now.”

 

“Yes, shame on me for expecting more of people I know that they can do more,” Q verbally slapped them, allowing himself a moment of enjoyment of how hard swallowing had become for them.

 

The rest of the lunch was spent in silence and for a while, Q felt himself finally calming down to the point where he could his thoughts into order and where he felt like his words won’t leave him the second he opened his mouth, but then the two brushed against each other and smiled and Q’s mind was in chaos again.

 

“I’ll get these cleaned up,” he said without emotion and rushed to grab all the plates and glasses even if the other two weren’t quite done with them.

 

In his desperate need to get out so he could remember how to breathe and get all the noise in his brain to stop, he almost bumped into Mister Tanner who was just about to deliver a special dessert he and the cook had managed to create especially for him at the behest of James and Alec.

 

“Q! Q, slow down! The storm is almost upon us and you are the last person I thought I had to tell not to run around with sharp objects,” the man called before poking his head in the room to glare at his two stunned superiors. “I also expected a former Lord to know how to deal with royalty.”

 

If here were immature enough, James would have pushed his face in the little plate he was holding and if he were cruel enough, he would have had him whipped for lack of respect and insubordination. Instead, he opted for an obviously empty threat. “We’re about to enter shark infested waters, Mister Tanner.”

 

“Should I ask Mister Felix to tie Q down to the main mast to make sure that he won’t accidentally stop in anger off the ship?”

 

***

 

In an attempt to shut his mind down and get his confused emotions under control, Q decoded that it was time to put to good use what Mister Tanner’s wife had taught him and get every plate, pot, pan, and cutlery clean enough the meet his standards. This led to the cook being insulted started to throw every insult and threat he knew at him, but he proved to be all bark and no bite as all Q had to do to put him in place was ask him how he found enough strength in himself to insult his own cooking by using such dirty utensils.

 

“I never expected to be blown away by food done with so few resources at your disposal, and yet I was,” he said somewhat honestly while the cook awkwardly rubbed the back of his neck and struggled not to blush. “And yet, I couldn’t help but notice that the taste is affected when served on something like these.”

 

The huge cook pulled even more in on himself when Q showed him a plate he planned on using for dinner. “Mister Q, you have to understand that on this ship we don’t really have time to properly …” He trailed off when he felt Q’s glare get harder and muttered an apology before starting to clean alongside him.

 

By the time they was done, the entire kitchen was sparkling and all the crewmen that had been stuck as the cook’s helpers were infatuated with the thin man who could command without speaking and who did not bat a single eyelash when someone twice his size barked orders at him, although Q was completely unaware of that.

 

He was flattered by them offering to serve him warm food even if dinner had long since ended, but he opted to go up on the deck and wallow in royal self-pity at the state of his hands and at the fact that this task was nothing but Sisyphean while everyone else was enjoying dinner instead of find pride in this task. Things only got worse for his mood when he looked down at the patch of the deck he so thoroughly scrubbed only to find it dirty again and his lips actually started to quiver.

 

“I am afraid that the weather is still against your map making,” the doctor’s soft voice interrupted his incoming breakdown, pretending to look at the sky while Q tried to compose himself.

 

He was going to cover the man in jewels and gold as well as give him his own castle and servants once his crown was back. “That it is, but I highly doubt you’re here to point out the obvious. Has my Gentleman of the Bedchamber fallen ill of all a sudden and you were asked to step in?”

 

The doctor snorted. “Firstly, I’d avoid calling him that in front of anyone else if you want him to still have dignity and secondly, no one has to ask me to check up on anyone, especially you.” He rested his hand on Q’s shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze, using his other hand to hold on to the railing as the ship cut through a big wave. “Your Majesty is strong, but never forget that you have people you can depend on and that are willing to put themselves in danger in order to keep you safe and help you even if they might say or do something that angers you.”

 

He was aware of that and he will forever be indebted to James and Alec and everyone else in their crew for risking their lives even though they realistically paid him back for rescuing him from his own ship. However, what he had seen earlier also left him confused and angry at being confused and so he wanted to put as much space between them and himself as he could while being on a ship in the middle of the ocean until he understood what was happening.

 

Now it was a pity that he couldn’t do that without giving off the impression that something bad had happened, but since the only other alternative was revealing the true nature of the men’s relationship – which would surely result in their own crew betraying them as they were bound to as shocked and confused as he was – he’d rather live with this misunderstanding for now.

 

“Being at sea indisposes me,” he muttered, dropping down to his knees and clinging to the railing when the ship suddenly dipped, heart dropping in his stomach when he got splashed by water. “I don’t suppose that we could outrun the storm that’s catching up with us or you could convince the Captain to change course so we’d steer out of its way?”

 

The doctor smiled brightly at him even as he was leading him under the deck. “Your Majesty is getting really good at reading weather patterns. Why don’t we go eat that cake you never got to eat in celebration of that?”

 

Q was sure that blind man that had never set foot on a ship in his entire life could tell that a storm was close to swallowing them. The same blind man could just as easily see that the doctor had an ulterior reason for trying to remove him from the deck, so Q dug his heels in the ground and shrugged free of his hold.  “If that storm is all that’s going to happen, I would prefer to remain right here so I could finally overcome my great displeasure of rough waters and dark skies.”

 

“We spotted a ship and the good doctor knows that we want you somewhere safe while we raid it,” James explained as stepped on the deck in full battle regalia. “Now before you start arguing with me on this, I’m not questioning your ability to wield a sword and I have to underline that boarding an enemy ship doesn’t fall under a cabin boy’s duty. We would also have to kill everyone who sees you to make sure that your uncle—”

 

Q held his hand up to silence James, bowing his head a little. “I understand your reasoning, captain, and I will keep out of everyone’s sights.”

 

He made to continue going under the deck, but James stopped him by grabbing his arm. “I actually want you to hide in my quarters since you won’t be in anyone’s way and I don’t have to worry about anything other than a book falling on you in case this ship gets more rocked than usual.”

 

“Your quarters it is then,” Q said after a moment of glaring. “But make no mistake in thinking that my move in them will extend beyond the skirmish.”

 

“Q, I don’t know what—”

 

“Captain, they spotted our Roger and are trying to make a run for it,” the barrelman interrupted.

 

“We’ll run out of unwashed dishes and ships that need to be attacked eventually, Q, and when that happens, you won’t have any other choice but to talk with us about what’s bothering you,” James whispered in Q’s ear before reluctantly releasing him in order to turn and face his excited crew. “Gentlemen, it looks like our prey thinks that it can outrun us!” The crew members started to boo, even the two mountains that had flanked Q on his way to his temporary hiding place stopped in their tracks to boo. “Now, gentleman, I ask you… should we find it in our hearts to let them go? Or should we show them what the MI6 is made of?”

 

 

Chapter Text

The sea battle was a long and hard one. The ship rocked violently every time it was hit, but that did not deter the man from their yelling and rope swinging. Q turned a little bit green and the three men around him that were definitely there for his protection all hurried to grab hold of him and lead him below the deck, but he held his hand up and shook his head.

 

“I’m fine,” he assured them, taking a few deep breaths. “I cannot run and hide under the deck while everyone else fights.” He knew that the line between being brave and extremely stupid was a very thin one that could be crossed without even knowing, but he trusted himself not to do that – which was also a sign of stupidity, but he had even more trust in his unofficial guards than in himself. “I stand by your side as you stand by mine.”

 

“Don’t let our newest member swing off this ship and make sure he’s braced for very sharp turns,” Alec’s deep voice rang over all the excited cheering, somehow fixing him with his eyes even though he was all the way on the other side of the ship. “Don’t think you’ll get out of our talk by slipping.” As he finished saying that, the men around Q grabbed on to his arms and lifted him up in the air a little, shouting their promise to keep him out of trouble.

 

And that is exactly what they did. The second the monstrous MI6 cut off the much smaller ship’s path and forced it to also take a sharp turn to try and about a frontal collision, they pushed him to the ground and threw themselves over him, making sure to cover his head and, as annoying as that was, the ship rocked so hard that Q couldn’t help but be thankful for already being one with the ground.

 

Their protection wasn’t needed during the actual fighting because James favoured attacking in waves and Q felt like the man had created one extra wave just for him that was supposed to come in last, so he really didn’t have any other choice but to observe the goings on and in his opinion, there was a lot of room for improvement. He’d have the first three waves attacking together, the first and second being made out of pure muscle while the third one used their guns to provide backup from the MI6 deck. James was using the 4th wave to put the planks, but Q would have had them swing over and use the 5th one to do that because, in his opinion, his enemy would be a lot more exhausted and thinned by then.

 

He shifted his attention to the ship and he couldn’t help but think that it was such a pity that it had suffered serious external damage to the point that it had a clearly visible hole on the side where it brushed up against the MI6. If the point was to sink it, then that was fine, but it was clear that James had intended to simply stop it in its tracks and Q couldn’t help but wonder if maybe there was a way to have the MI6 simply lift the other ships out of the water.

 

“What’s your bet?” One of the men asked him, startling Q out of his thoughts. “Do you think the captain’s going to let them live or will he kill them?” He explained slowly and Q was surprised to see the enemy captain on his knees in front of James, clearly begging for his life.

 

“Let them live, I should hope,” Q said without missing a beat, flinching when he saw James kick the other captain in the face. “Though they do say that hope dies last.”

 

The man hummed, rubbing the back of his neck. “Look, you didn’t actually participate in the battle which means that your loot will be close to zilch but because you’re new and we like you, we’ll let you keep whatever the captain throws your way even if you lose.”

 

“You are most kind,” Q said slowly, smiling awkwardly.

 

“You’re welcome, little pal,” the man said, ruffling his hair. “That only applies to him, so the rest of you can stop grinning!” No one was pleased to hear that and Q opened his mouth to turn down the special treatment, but the man spat to the side and pointed at him. “Which one of you wants to be the one to take something the captain gave him?” And that got everyone to calm down and even look at Q with a bit of fear. “That’s what I thought, now shut your mouths; the captain is about to speak.” 

 

The scene before him is what he imagined happened at a colosseum, only the victorious gladiator was also Caesar who decided if the losers lived or died. He was even holding his thumb to the side, carefully observing the way his crew reacted when he tilted his thumb upwards and downwards and that disgusted Q. Battles were meant to either be won or lost, but to toy with someone’s life like this, to give them momentary hope just to get drunk on how desperation and fear washed over their faces... His eyes locked with James’ and Q turned away.

 

“They put up a good fight even, so I will be kind and let them live to die another day with the captain as my special guest for the time being,” James shouted, ignoring the way most of his crew whined.

 

“That means that their captain is either the relative of an important figurehead,” the man started to explain, grabbing a hold of the back of Q’s shirt to keep him from falling when he tried to get a better look, “or that he just offered a much more interesting pray to our captain.”

 

“Loot the ship and split the crew up in the usual piles,” Alec instructed as he carefully studied a gun. “Kill only if you have to.”

 

“Looks like congratulations are an order, Q,” the man from earlier grumbled and slapped his back with a bit too much force not to be sour about losing. “This proves that I’m not the smartest man around not to change my bet to match yours, but I won’t that mistake twice.” He pulled Q closer and started to whisper. “And neither will the other guys, so how about we make a little deal? You don’t have to let all the crew know what you bet on, just the—”

 

“Is the bet mandatory?” Q interrupted him, feeling a little bit relieved when the man slowly shook his head. “Good, because I don’t want to make a game out of whether someone will live or die, even if they’d probably do the same if the roles were reversed.”

 

The man let go of his shoulders, looking disappointed for a second before shrugging. “You remind me of myself when I was younger. Of course, given that I was full of muscles even back then, my cut was of decent-sized, so it took me a year before reality struck me. You, on the other hand, will probably last about a month without the bet.”

 

He had thought the captain to be just and fair with his crew given how much he seemed to trust them to always have his back and no betray him for whoever paid them better. “You can’t survive if you don’t get to participate in a fight or in the bet?”

 

“Of course you can; our captain takes good care of us. But soon you’ll start to wonder why not make more? Why just have a decent life when you can have a great one?” The man asked, voice a low whisper that reminded Q of the snake in the Garden of Eden. “Then again, you are the captain’s cabin boy, so maybe you don’t really need to work all that hard.”

 

“I saw some barnacles in the mess hall that I really think need to be scrubbed out before we eat in there again,” Q said and started to slowly back away from the man, scared by what was being implied.

 

“You weren’t assigned there,” he started to say slowly, following Q’s line of sight for a moment before looking like he understood what was going on. “But sure, sure, whatever you want, Q. I’ll drop by later with your winnings—”

 

“No need to bother with that,” Q interrupted, flashing him a strained smile. “In fact, keep my share of the loot as thanks for helping me understand how things work here.”

 

“That wouldn’t be fair,” the man called out after him. “You’re one of us now and we don’t charge our own, not to mention that the captain will have my head if I even so much as give that a second thought, so you’ll get your winnings whether you like it or not!”

 

***

Alec emptied his glass of whiskey and slammed it on the table hard enough to break it, making their temporary guest visibly flinch. “It’s risky and dangerous and while I’m usually all for that, that’s not the case today.”

 

“I’m not happy about this either,” James snarled, fixing the other captain with his eyes and getting just a little bit of pleasure from watching him start to tremble, especially since the man was his senior. “That being said, we have been summoned and it’s for Q’s best, so we cannot ignore it.”

 

The other captain dabbed at the beads of sweat that had formed at his temples with his jacket’s sleeve. “I’m so glad that you are truly as understanding as they—”

 

“That doesn’t explain why you tried to run away when you saw us,” James interrupted him, leaning closer to him. “The Queen gave you a mission—”

 

“Yes, but—”

 

“Don’t you ever interrupt my captain,” Alec sneered, hitting the table with his fist – it would be a miracle if the man’s heart didn’t simply give out given how angry Alec was, but James’ hand on his shoulder told him that he was going to have to try to rein it in. “Do you want something to drink?” The man quickly shook his head. “To eat?” Another head shake and Alec’s right eye was twitching. “Do you want to live?”

 

“Of course,” the man said quickly, his voice cracking. “I didn’t mean to run away from my duty or from you, but you have to understand that you are the scourge of the seven seas! How was I supposed to know that you weren’t going to simply sink my ship? It’s been years since Her Majesty last saw you and all we knew for sure is that you had her nephew.”

 

Alec was clearly interested in how anyone outside Q’s uncle and a few others knew that they had the young king, but James knew asking that was useless. The old captain before them was nothing more than an useless messenger, a nameless pawn on the huge and complicated chess table that the world was and M had proven time and time again that her spy network made her into an omniscient god in human skin and Alex had promised to find a way to help them in their quest.

 

However, James did not like the man before him.

 

He understood that they instilled fear in others. Heck, that was the point of the way their ship and clothes looked, that was why they made sure to have as many weapons on them as they could, but for this seasoned captain to look at them, recognise them, know that he had a mission, and just decide to abandon everything and run… That rubbed him the very wrong way.

 

Then there was the fact that the man had known what to say. He had whispered between tears and pleas the secret code that James and the Queen had agreed upon that fateful night oh so many years ago, but there was a very high chance for someone back home to have turned traitor. After all, if people knew that Q was with them, why couldn't they also know those little words and just use them to lure James in a trap? It was much safer to assume that than to hope Alex had found a way to get the word out to M without being spotted.

 

“How far away are we from the Kingdom?” James evenly asked, turning to face Alec completely, letting the other man know that he thought so little of him that he did not fear the sharp and shiny sword he had at his side - and really, of a perfectly new-looking sword didn’t prove that he was nothing more than an useless coward that ran away from fights, then he didn't know what did.

 

“Four days at full speed and if we don't get side-tracked by any other ships,” replied Alec, walking over to the window to check the sky. “Three if the weather doesn't change, but the MI6 will be instantly recognised and that old bag of wind won't be too happy.”

 

James frowned. “What about their ship?”

 

“I'd say it would sink faster than it would sail,” Alec mocked, arms crossed over his chest. “I would prefer we risk angering that land kraken than set foot on that thing.”

 

“You could board it up and then have the MI6 carry it as close to the Kingdom’s shore as you can without being spotted,” Q’s posh voice drifted in the room and the other captain was on his feet and bet in the middle even before he was even fully in the room.

 

“Your Royal Highness, to think that God would bless me with this great—”

 

“Q, what are you doing here?” Alec asked, pushing the postulating man out of the way so he could take the tray away from him, his smile fading when Q quickly turned away from him before he could help him with the tray. “Is everything fine?”

 

Q nodded, carefully placing the tray on the table. “Mister Tanner heard something shattering, but the person he appointed to bring you new glasses thought it would be best to send me in as I am your cabin boy, so…” he trailed off and waved towards the table. “I’m not in the habit to linger in the doorway, but the guard posted outside wanted to be sure every glass was okay and since your voice caries, I couldn’t help but overhear your problem.”

 

The other captain spluttered, frowning as he did so. “You turned His Royal Majesty into your own personal servant?” He demanded, acting as if he actually owned a backbone. “I should have your head for offending him in such a way!”

 

“And I should have yours for trying to run away from your duties,” James snarled at him, kicking him in the back of his knees to get  him to kneel. “Make yourself useful and prove to me that you’re actually capable of following instructions. And don’t worry; my crew won’t lay a single finger on you unless you provoke them or try to do something stupid like try to escape.”

 

“You have our word that the pirate captain speaks the truth and that he can be trusted,” Q interjected, holding out his hand for the man to cling to and cover it in kisses. “Please, there is no need for such a display.”

 

“But, your majesty—”

 

“He said to stop it,” Alec said coldly, plucking the man by the back of his shirt and dragging him away from Q. “Now hurry and pick the shards up unless you want the kind king to cut his foot, get an infection and lose his leg.”

 

That got the man to move fast, uncaring that he might be the one to lose a limb to an infection while Q, as hard as he tried to pretend that he did not care all that much to what was obviously an exaggeration, folded his legs under him on the chair, still avoiding to look either James or Alec in the eyes, no matter how hard they tried to catch his gaze.

 

There was a little voice in the back of his head that insisted on pointing out that he had brought this on himself, especially since Mister Tanner had went out of his way to find him and assure him that both men were much too busy with their guest to – as he put it – ‘pester him into forgiving them for whatever dumb thing they had done to offend them’. He had breathed a sigh of relief and dropped his pretence of scrubbing the floor, deciding that his legs needed a little bit of stretching before he got back to a book, but the treacherous limbs had brought him to the captain’s quarter in front of which he found a tall, muscle-bound man trembling with a tray of glasses.

 

“Might I kiss your hand for your earlier brilliant idea?” James asked softly, startling Q out of his regretful thoughts.

 

“I would rather you didn’t,” Q muttered, pulling his arm to his chest, trying to make himself look smaller. “What do you plan to do with me once we reach London?”

 

James shrugged, squeezing Alec’s shoulder to keep him from starting to ask questions. “It all depends on if we’re really meeting with M and on what you decide,” he said honestly, sitting across from Q. “We are bound by our promises, Q, and if London is where you want to part ways with us, that’s where it will happen, reward or no reward.” It bothered him that Q had started to question his word, but he would repeat his promise a thousand times an hour every day for the rest of his life if needed.

 

Q tried to carefully observe him, feeling his face grow hot the second he caught sight of a scar on his chest that was peeking out from under his shirt, so he quickly averted his eyes and jumped up from the chair. “We thank you again for putting our worries to rest.”

 

He tried to make a beeline for the door, but Alec intercepted him, resting his cheek against Q’s forehead before the man really knew what was happening. “You don’t feel like you have a fever.”

 

“I don’t,” Q quickly assured him, shutting his eyes tightly and pushing Alec away. “I’m not sick or hurt, or anything bad, so do not worry and just let me leave.”

 

“How can we not worry when you’re acting this strange, Q?” Alec asked, glaring at James for very obviously clearing his throat. “No, James, just no! I couldn’t care less what we talked about and if you dare to order me to keep quiet, you are dead to me,” he warned, heart in his throat until James looked away. “Now, Q, is this because of the map? Or because of something else? What did I or we do to make you act as if you’re disgusted with us?”

 

“I saw you two together,” Q hissed, suddenly unable to hear, see, or breathe properly, his stomach knotting up and he was sure that if he didn’t get out of that room, he would spill his guts all over the floor.