Actions

Work Header

Hide and Seek

Chapter Text

Roach had been convinced that Izzy wouldn’t agree to it. Being held down and shaved with nothing but oil and the blade of a knife - Roach certainly wouldn’t have trusted anyone to do it to himself. But Roach prided himself on his steady hands, and the practised precision of his movements. He wondered what Izzy would look like clean shaven. 

Roach smoothed the oil along his jaw and cheeks, then under his chin and all through his goatee. The pads of his fingers ran over scratchy stubble, and he dug into the tension he could feel there, smiling with satisfaction when Izzy let out a quiet breath and relaxed. 

Izzy had his eyes averted, and held still while Roach began to pass the knife over his skin. It was more dangerous than a razor blade. The cold steel was weightier as it pressed against Izzy’s flesh, and Roach concentrated on maintaining the perfect amount of pressure to take away the hairs but not pierce the skin.

“Hold still now,” murmured Roach, “wouldn’t want to cut you.”

He held Izzy’s jaw, tilting his head backwards to bare his throat. Izzy went easily, and closed his eyes at the feel of the knife blade running over his adam’s apple. His breath hitched, then a quiet sound escaped him, the aborted start of a moan.

“Like this, do you?” said Roach, bending in closer.

Izzy, tense again and with his eyes squeezed firmly shut, nodded.

“Wonderful.”

It was hard going with just the knife, but Roach kept the blade well honed and sharpened. He shaved a long strip up the other side of Izzy’s neck, then ran a finger over the smooth skin there, letting it slip over the oil. Then he leaned in and ran his tongue up the same path, smiling with satisfaction at the near-silent whine Izzy gave. 

They were skirting with danger here, but Roach found himself unable to stop thinking about grabbing a handful of Izzy’s hair and wrenching his head back, about the urge to bite and squeeze and devour -

“Roach,” croaked Izzy, “I’m too fuckin’ old to go risking my life for a quickie in the kitchen.”

“I promise you, Izzy,” said Roach, “I was not planning on being quick .”

Nevertheless, he finished shaving Izzy’s face with his usual professional detachment, though the goatee itself needed several passes before he was able to remove all of it.

“Normally when people get rid of their beards, they look younger,” mused Roach, stepping back to survey his handiwork.

“No chance of that with me,” said Izzy with a grim smile, “I’m just a tired old man no matter what I’ve got on my face.”

“It does look odd, though. You look… unfinished.”

Izzy just stared at him, weary-eyed and uncomprehending. He looked so haggard Roach couldn’t help but grip the back of his neck and squeeze, watching the rest of the tension drain from his shoulders. He moved carefully around behind Izzy, keeping a hand on him at all times like one might when moving behind a horse, broadcasting his position so as not to spook the man. He gave Izzy’s shoulders a squeeze this time, grimacing as he found the muscles there to be pulled so taut they felt just about solid.

“I think we should use the bells as a signal,” whispered Roach, digging his thumbs in hard. Izzy sucked in a sudden breath.

“I suppose we can ring it… unconventionally” he replied.

“Pour your pent-up frustrations into it Izzy, everyone will recognise it is you.”

Izzy huffed quietly.

“Wouldn’t want to break the thing.”

“Ah, a joke. You are recovering.”

He pinched the base of Izzy’s skull and moved his hands down slowly along the back of his neck, gratified when Izzy sighed and ducked his head. 

“We will need weapons.”

Izzy shook his head.

“Too much of a risk, us running around to steal shit. And besides, I’ve seen you lot fight. Might not be the best pirates, but the insanity makes up for it in a pinch.”

“A compliment?”

A wince.

“The truth.”

Roach dug his fingers into Izzy’s scalp and he melted , first burying his head in his hands, then gradually wilting further until his head was pillowed on his arms on the table. He lay there for longer than Roach was expecting, breathing much more softly now while Roach kneaded at him. It was extremely satisfying, feeling Izzy’s shoulders return to being pliable and, well, human

“The tricky part’ll be getting everyone out,” said Izzy.

“The tricky part will be trying to make you look respectable,” said Roach.

He let Izzy lie there for a few moments longer, watching his soft breaths and savouring the brief moment of peace. Then, he pulled Izzy upright again. 

“Come on, old man.”

It was endearing, though Roach would never say it out loud for fear of being murdered by the volatile little man. But Izzy was tired and muzzy, his expression vulnerable because of it. Roach wanted nothing more than to kiss him again. Instead, he focused on combing his fingers through Izzy’s tangled hair. He hadn’t cut it, and so it had grown longer and now fell to just below his ears. 

“I’ll have to wear a hat or something,” murmured Izzy, “I look a right mess.”

“Don’t worry, Roach will fix you up nice and proper. Make a real gentleman of you.”

“Why does that not fill me with confidence?”

His name was Frank. Franklin Lewis Walker the Second, though nobody actually called him that. Of the people currently crewing the Revenge, Frank was one of the few who had actually had a stint in the navy, though his stint had been short-lived due to insufficient funds. In simpler terms, this meant that he had been unable to quite scrape together enough money to buy his way into an officer’s commission, though he had enough, at least, to have a version of the uniform made for this journey. The reward from turning in the legendary Blackbeard and his Gentleman Pirate would be more than enough for a second chance at fame and fortune on the seas. Especially once he eliminated some of the competition. 

He kept a knife concealed at his hip alongside his usual weapons, and some nights he dreamed of a glorious moment where, in the heat of battle, he faced a pirate head on and slit its throat, catching it by surprise while it clutched at its neck and the rest of his crew looked on in awe. Sometimes in these fantasies, everybody applauded. At no point, however, did the corpse in his mind’s eye ever bleed.

Navy Man.

Frank’s footsteps stilled in the middle of the corridor. Was this the fellow in the brig? The strange person down there oscillated between silent brooding and insults shouted in Spanish. It didn’t sound very much like them, nor the Scottish one who kept talking to the goats. Both of them had actually been fairly quiet for the last few hours, since they’d threatened them.

Little Navy Man.

Frank whirled to see who had spoken. Peering through the door to the ball room, he saw that whoever was in there was fast asleep.

“Who’s that?” he said, straightening out his coat. One of the prisoners was baiting him, he knew it.

“What’s that?” called one of the others from down the hallway - Hester, who had a similar plan to himself, but a slightly less quality uniform. That’s what happened when you were a copycat.

“Thought I heard one of the prisoners,” called Frank, “being a bit of a cheeky asshole.”

“Don’t pay ‘em no mind, or give ‘em a bit of a bashing if they’re causing you grief. Not worth getting your pants in a twist over.”

Little itty bitty Navy man.

“Oi!”

Frank opened the nearest door, only to discover it was an empty storage cupboard. Nobody was inside. 

“Right there?” called the man down the hall.

“Yeah.”

A pause.

“I’m not that short, am I?”

The man’s eyes widened, then he turned and strode briskly down the hall and around the corner. 

Frank clenched his fists and went to close the cupboard, when suddenly out of the darkness two hands shot forwards and grabbed him by the lapels while another clapped over his mouth, stopping him from crying out. Then something hard hit him in the back of the head and he crumpled.

“I still think he is a little taller than you,” whispered a voice with an accent Frank couldn’t quite place.

“I think your obsession with my height is fucking with your perception,” responded another voice.

“I don’t think he is unconscious yet.”

“Right, because I have to do everything myself around here.”

And then everything went black.

Jim wanted to pace. They wanted to throw things and shout and kick the stupid bars of this stupid brig that their stupid Captain and his stupid boyfriend Co-Captain had had built in here for their stupid bullshit pirate play-ship.

Not that they weren’t happy here, but of course the first and only time their brand new brig was being used was to keep them confined here. Stede and Edward had spent ages designing it for comfort and security, because a gentleman pirate couldn’t be seen mistreating any of his guests, even if those guests were technically prisoners. They even had a bed, which was nice.

A quiet scratch from the walls drew their attention, and they scooted closer so they could listen.

“We’ll ring the bell after first watch. Get free by then.”

Jim jerked their face back when something jabbed them in the cheek. 

“Sorry!”

It was a hairpin, sticking out from a gap in the wood. They grabbed it and put it in their mouth, then grabbed the nail scissors that were shoved through and put those in their boot.

Is that really the best you can do? ” they said in Spanish, giving the bars of the brig a kick for good measure.

I’m sure you’ll manage!” whispered Roach’s voice.

“I’ll manage these up your ass!”

“That doesn’t even make sense!”

Listen ,” whispered Jim, their voice growing lower, more urgent, “ you swear the others are gonna cope?

Izzy says they will.”

The pause was one of surprise. Through the split in the wood, Roach saw Jim’s eyebrows’s raise as they pondered this.

“What’re you saying about me?” whispered Izzy.

“Jim says you’re smart and cool to trust them because they’re gonna do a great job, now let’s go.”

Jim had half a mind to stab the scissors back through the wall and see what they managed to hit, but a quiet swish of fabric on wood told them that Roach and Izzy were already gone.

Tilly, once again, ran to Roach with barely a need for coaxing. Roach felt a small pang at the fact that he couldn’t sing to her properly. When this was all over, perhaps.

“Nae problem lads. Bess and Tilly here make great battering rams, don’t ye?”

“Would you stop bouncing that fuckin’ ball?”

Wee John caught the ball in one hand, then looked at Pete.

“You could’ve just asked nicely,” he said airily.

“Alright. Would you stop bouncing that fuckin’ ball, please?

Wee John sniffed and bounced the ball again, only to have it batted out of the air by Black Pete. 

“Hey!”

He got up and hobbled over to where it had rolled, a little unsteady from having sat down for so long. When he bent down to pick up it up, however, a piece of paper came out of the wall and floated gently down to the floor. 

On it was a little drawing of two stick figures - one tall and curly-haired and holding a cleaver, one smaller with an angry face and a scribbled goatee. The angry man had a bell on a string, and wiggly lines indicated that it was being rung.

Underneath these were crude drawings of Wee John in his overalls, and an absolutely terrible likeness of Black Pete that they could only really discern from the fact that he was bald. These two were punching a man in a bicorn hat.

“Without any weapons?” whispered Pete.

“Pick ‘em up as you go along,” came Izzy’s quiet reply.

“Don’t love those odds,” said Wee John.

There was a long, measured exhale of air from behind the wall.

“Listen, I’ll be there too. Just… do your thing. You’re good at it, or whatever.”

Pete and Wee John stared at the wall, hardly believing what they were hearing. Izzy Hands, reassuring them?

“Aye aye,” whispered Pete.

There was a rattling sound in the wall, and a hairpin slipped out. 

“What’s that for?” murmured Wee John, “we doin’ our hair before we go out?”

“I won’t need help with that,” said Pete, “but are we gonna have to look nice for it?”

He smoothed his hands nervously down his rumpled vest.

“Pick the fucking lock ,” hissed the voice of Izzy Hands from behind the wall, “Jesus motherfucking Mary and-”

Wee John and Pete listened as the angry whispers were dragged out of earshot.

“Roach, I’m not sure-”

“Hush.”

Roach punctuated this by placing his hand over Izzy’s mouth, which earned him a firm bite to the palm. The two of them were back in Bonnet’s auxiliary closet, trying to shove Izzy into something vaguely resembling a British Navy officer’s uniform. It was hard going - even clean shaven, his hair combed back as neatly as they could manage it, and with little tacking stitches to help the uniform fit him a little better, there was a roughness about Izzy that no amount of forcing him into a uniform could erase.

Nevertheless, Roach smoothed both hands over Izzy’s freshly combed hair, then settled the bicorn onto his head.

“You look lovely,” he said with a small smile, and Izzy squirmed from the fact that for once, it seemed as though Roach was not teasing.

“Sure as fuck hope not,” he grumbled.

“I hope I never have to see you dressed like this again, but I am enjoying it while it lasts,” said Roach. 

In truth, Roach was a little terrified, too. He knew that Izzy was more than capable of holding his own out there, but these were unfamiliar waters, in every sense of the word. Their crew was in danger.

And he was worried about them.

This never would have bothered him before Stede Bonnet.

“Your sword,” said Roach. 

He bent and buckled it around Izzy’s waist. Izzy looked away while he did it, though he rested a hand on his shoulder and did not try to interfere. 

The bell sounded to signal the change of watch, and Izzy looked up at Roach. He opened his mouth, then closed it again with a grimace.

“You will be alright,” whispered Roach, “here-”

When he’d undressed, Izzy had slid the ring off his cravat. He’d held it in the palm of his hand like he wasn’t sure what to do with it. It was such a little thing, and clearly precious if he kept it on his person at all times. 

Izzy had taken Roach’s wrist and, with a silent plea in his expression, slid it onto his pinky.

Now, Roach slipped his amulet off and fastened it around Izzy’s neck instead, tucking the two little pouches underneath his collar where they wouldn’t be seen.

“This will keep you safe,” he said quietly, “and I will be there too, just out of sight.”

Izzy pressed a hand to his chest, feeling the weight of the amulet under his shirt, and nodded. Once more, the two of them opened up the cupboard doors and stepped into the darkness.

Izzy squinted against the bright morning light as he emerged onto the deck. He kept his posture straight and clasped his hands behind his back in an attempt to emulate the stance of the officers around him. 

It was his first chance at getting a proper gauge of who they were dealing with - and it was as he’d suspected. Upon a first glance, Izzy would have been convinced that they’d been taken over by His Majesty’s Navy. Certainly the men looked the part, and in a pinch - under duress, when there wasn’t time to really look , it would seem that they were on their way to a reckoning with the law.

But Franklin’s uniform was stained and worn, threadbare in places, and was missing a button. This was not unusual for the group of men gathered on the deck, and so Izzy mentally recalculated: These men were not in the navy at all. Their uniforms were… of too high a rank, and too low a quality.

Izzy made his way up to the main mast at the leisurely pace of someone unconcerned with the drudgery of sailing. This part, at least, he had had some experience with. He allowed his gaze to skate over the sailors who had taken over their vessel, noting with interest that they did not appear to be much of a crew at all. They kept their heads down while they worked, each of them apparently suspicious of each other while they moved around the deck. Izzy realised that he’d grown accustomed to chatter, to songs and the strumming of Frenchie’s lute guitar. 

Edward had been tied to the main mast. He was half dressed in his Blackbeard leathers, which meant that he’d at least suspected that something was amiss before they’d been captured. He’d clearly had a difficult go of it - it was hard to make out, but there was an undeniable slump to the way he stood, his hair flying wild in the breeze as he leaned far too heavily on the ropes to keep himself upright. 

Izzy paced a purposeful line to the bow, then turned sharply to look up at the quarterdeck. 

Just as he’d thought, Lucius and Frenchie were up there, tied back to back to the mizzenmast. The setting sun shone directly into Frenchie’s eyes, making him squint as it blasted golden light at his face. Lucius, on the other hand, looked down at Izzy and then looked away quickly. 

Good. He’d learned, then. 

Edward in front of him. Lucius and Frenchie behind. Roach in the walls, waiting to run out into a fray he’d only had a scant amount of time to prepare for. Izzy tried not to think about what would happen were he to fall into a situation where he had to choose.

He turned in a circle, mentally mapping out where the crew would emerge from, and who he’d have to cover instead. Freeing Lucius and Frenchie seemed like the smartest thing, since they were closest to the bell. Then, clearing the entrances to the deck. He’d have to keep an eye on Edward, though, in case nobody else went to help him. It would be a close one, but he’d manage. 

He strode purposefully up into the quarterdeck, surprising the navigator, but gracing him with a curt nod that seemed to do the trick of convincing him he ought to be up here.

“Where’s the Captain?” he said.

The navigator gave a nervous laugh and jabbed a thumb at Edward.

“I meant our Captain,” said Izzy.

The man peered at him suspiciously.

“Are you trying to start something?” he said. 

Panic flared in Izzy’s chest, making his skin prickle.

“Not at all.”

“Got ideas, do you?”

“No! No ideas here.”

“Good,” said the navigator, “we don’t need any of that Captain shit. Equal shares, all of us. Don’t fuckin’ forget it.”

Equal shares. No Captain. 

The Revenge had been taken over by a bunch of fucking idiots in costumes. The irony of it was not lost on Izzy.

“Hey, not to be nosey or nothin’, but have we met? I thought I’d talked to all of the men on this crew, but a voice like yours - figure I would remember it.”

Oh, shit.

“No, we haven’t,” said Izzy, and then lunged for the bell. He grabbed it and rang it as hard as he could manage, then drew his sword and ran it straight through the throat of the navigator.

“Sorry,” he said, as the man went down with a gurgle, “you were in the way.”

There were whispers from the crew now, as they grabbed for their own weapons and began to advance on him.

This hadn’t been in the plan.

Where the fuck was everybody else?

“Excuse me, you up there! What are you trying for, a bigger share or something?”

“What did we fuckin’ say about shit like this?”

Izzy backed up beside Frenchie, watching as the men began to congregate, closer and closer.

Come on, you bastards-

And then finally, Roach came barrelling out of the Captain’s cabin, brandishing his knife and screaming. The men up on deck recoiled, and then drew their own weapons, amidst quiet whispers of what the fuck and who-

Roach faltered as he found himself faced with over a dozen armed men, realising suddenly that he was alone. He turned around in a circle, and Izzy grappled with the urge to simply vault over the edge of the quarterdeck and defend him. He was alone down there, and a loud giggle escaped him that Izzy could hear the edge of panic in.

But then a chicken made a horrendous screeching noise from somewhere below the decks, and voices from beneath them began to scream. 

Izzy had but a moment to feel relieved before he turned and sliced through the ropes binding Frenchie and Lucius to the mast. The two of them stumbled, suddenly no longer held up by ropes, but they recovered quickly.

“Plan?” said Frenchie.

“Attack,” said Izzy with a shrug.

The shouting grew closer, the sounds of cracking wood and screaming men. The kind of screaming that heralded the sort of unhinged pain the crew of the Revenge took great pleasure in doling out, when the time was right for it. He heard Roach’s scream cut through the rest of the noise and smiled to himself before launching himself back down the stairs.

On the deck, Roach appeared to have stolen himself a sword and had it held out in front of him in a perfect mimicry of Izzy’s usual form. His eyes darted from side to side, quick and clever and with the gleam of someone who was ready to draw blood. Izzy noted with amusement that he’d gotten a hold of his cleaver and was holding it in his left hand in a strange echo of the way Izzy held his parrying dagger. The two men he was facing down were staring at it, trying to figure out what kind of madness they were in for.

Roach grinned and lunged, taking advantage of their confusion to smack first one sword, then the other away. He slapped one of the navy men with the flat of his cleaver and Izzy rolled his eyes at his propensity for theatrics. Then the blade embedded itself squarely between the eyes of a man.

Roach turned to him, his face splattered with blood and grinning from ear to ear. Izzy gave him a quick nod before launching himself into the fray. He hewed his way through a man twice his size, ducking under the arm that slashed at him and stabbing him swiftly through the ribcage before stepping in beside Roach. 

He’d taught Edward too, in the early days. Back when they’d been young enough to notice a distinction between the boy Edward Teach and the man Izzy Hands. Edward had, of course, surpassed him easily once he’d gotten the basics down. He had his own way of doing things, his own style and ability to take the rules and bend them to his own will. When he fought alongside Edward now, all he could do was keep up.

But Roach was… predictably unpredictable. He heard the man let out a howl, and spun to cover his back as Roach charged, brandishing that cleaver of his. It found its mark as Izzy kicked another man squarely in the chest, slashed at his front, then looked up to find Pete trying to free Edward. It was a valiant effort, but left his back exposed. 

He grabbed Roach by the sash around his waist and shoved him towards Pete. He got the hint fairly quickly, charging into the side of Pete’s would-be attacker while Izzy fended off the other two men advancing on them. 

He heard the sound of metal whipping through air, and mentally recalculated for a third opponent. 

That was okay.

He could do this.

He and the two in front of him toyed with each other for a while, worryingly evenly matched, two to one. Behind him he heard the sounds of Roach and Pete dealing with the third, and out of the corner of his eye saw Jim rush across the deck to stab someone in the eye.

Good. Fine. This was going well.

He parried both men with dagger and sword, then feinted and clipped one across the chest, smoothly ducking the other sword and then plunging his dagger into the heart of the second man. 

He did not, however, count on the pommel of the first man’s sword coming up to smack him in the face.

Izzy reeled for a moment, his vision blurring and panic setting in as he tried to will his balance back to himself. 

This was it. He was done for.

The man levelled his sword, and Izzy forced his own up as well. The interruption in the flow of his fight had broken his focus, and he was suddenly all too aware of how sluggish the movement felt, how his arm ached.

The tip of his sword was trembling, and sweat made his dagger feel slippery in his hand. He could feel the muscles in his thighs jumping and twitching from the effort of maintaining his stance, and he stumbled backwards, his footwork leaving him in the wake of exhaustion. His opponent’s sword whipped through the air once, twice - and he only just blocked the blow that would have sliced his throat right open. He did it clumsily, and the force of the attack sent a jarring pain up his arm to the shoulder. Izzy gritted his teeth as he barely blocked another attack, and then another, a relentless combination of attacks cleverly assembled as the other man pressed his advantage - and then gave a wet, gurgling moan.

Izzy stared at the man as he dropped to the deck, revealing a blood-splattered Roach standing behind him, breathing hard. There was a manic glee in his eyes as he wrenched his cleaver from where it had been embedded in the man’s skull, and wiped it off on his shirt like it was so much tomato sauce. 

Along with the demise of this latest opponent, the din around them was dying down now, and they were both accustomed to this, the sound of victory. Izzy let his sword clatter to the deck, then flexed his hand, which felt like it had frozen to the grip. Roach took it, then when Izzy swayed he pulled him close, squishing Izzy’s face against his shoulder in a tight hug. 

“If you go by Roach’s rules you will live a little longer, I think.”

The words were whispered into his hair, and Izzy couldn’t tell whether it was himself or Roach who was shaking so badly. Roach held him there for a while, and Izzy was content to give himself a few moments to recover before he gently pulled away to survey the aftermath of their fight.

There was Buttons, his face smeared with blood, chatting to the ship’s goats who flanked him like two little bodyguards. Izzy tried not to think about the blood smearing their horns, too.

Jim and Oluwande had fallen easily into step with each other. Izzy wondered how they’d fared, and then his gaze landed on a fallen man with a pair of scissors through his eye. 

The rest of the crew looked alright, armed with improvised cudgels and stolen knives. Stede had somehow liberated a very fancy-looking sword from somebody. 

“Who did you get that from?” shouted Izzy, pointing at it.

“This?” said Stede, swinging it over his shoulder and making the Swede duck out of the way with a yelp, “oh, I knocked a man out for it! Would you believe he just went down like that?”

He snapped his fingers for emphasis, and Oluwande rolled his eyes.

“He tripped over a loose rope on the deck,” he said, “I don’t think it was really-”

“Knocked him right out,” said Stede, nodding. 

Izzy went over to the prone body and nudged him with his foot.

“It’s a wonder these idiots managed to get this far at all,” he murmured, “I suppose sometimes you can win from being too stupid to fight.”

He tried to pair the comment with a pointed look at Stede, but Stede was already crossing the deck with long strides to get to Edward, crumpled at the base of the mizzenmast. Izzy and Roach watched him go, dropping the sword on the way, amongst the fallen strangers who had, for a day, just about succeeded in taking over the Revenge.

“Well,” said Roach, and then trailed off.

It was strangely anticlimactic, looking around at the carnage. Usually at the end of these things there was loot to be taken. They would be high on the excitement of success and at what they had gained from their raid or from winning the fight. But right now, there were simply a lot of dead bodies to be thrown overboard.

Izzy closed his eyes as the exhaustion he’d been pushing to the back of his mind finally took over. A fog seemed to descend upon him, screening the images in front of his eyes off from his ability to interpret them. The crew were chattering amongst themselves, swapping accounts of their captivity and comparing the bizarre weapons they’d improvised. Most of them were impressed with Jim’s thing with the scissors, and were taking turns congratulating Tilly on her place in everything. She accepted the pats with a pleased tippy-tap of her hooves.

Roach slapped the ridiculous bicorn off his head, and then tugged the coat off him as well. 

“Before you go any further with that-” said Lucius.

“Shut the fuck up,” hissed Roach, “he looks ridiculous. I need to fix it.”

He spat on the hem of his shirt, then used it to rub the black spot off Izzy’s face while he spluttered indignantly. 

“You know, technically I think that counts as having spat in his face,” said Frenchie, “did you just spit in Izzy’s face and get away with-”

Roach rolled his eyes, then grabbed Izzy by the shirt and mashed their lips together. It was an awkward, fumbling kiss because it took Izzy a few moments to catch up and kiss back. His eyes widened in shock, then closed in surrender. He gave himself up to the feeling of Roach’s lips against his, savouring both the sensation and the sounds of shock and scandal as the rest of the crew realised what they were doing. He reached up and grabbed fistfuls of Roach’s shirt too, clinging on to him for dear life. It was over, but relief was making him feel faintly ill.

That, or perhaps it was the smell of stale sweat and rot that had seeped into their clothes.

“Smell terrible,” murmured Izzy once he pulled away.

“I know you are talking about yourself and not me,” said Roach, “given only one of us threw up in the Captain’s hat box.”

“You did what?” exclaimed Stede, who had one of Edward’s arms slung across his shoulders.

 “Captain, I would like to remind you at this point that Izzy and I technically saved the ship,” said Roach quickly, “and that he threw up because he is ill! Aren’t you, Izzy?”

Izzy narrowed his eyes at Roach.

Roach squeezed his cheeks, making his mouth pucker like a fish.

“Yes Captain,” he said, squeezing his cheeks in time with his words. He spoke in a high pitched voice that sounded absolutely nothing like Izzy, “I am feeling particularly under the weather at this moment-”

“For fuck’s sake-” spluttered Izzy, trying to wriggle out of his grip.

“You see, Captain?” said Roach, nodding earnestly like he hadn’t just spit on, kissed, and then humiliated Izzy Hands in front of the rest of the crew, apparently with absolutely no consequence.

“Yeah, actually I can smell those two from over here,” said Lucius, sensing a change in the ship’s dynamics and latching onto it before it could slip through their fingers. 

“Don’t be mean babe, they’re not that bad,” said Pete, who then yelped as Lucius stood on his foot.

“Actually, yeah, they smell awful,” he amended quickly, “so bad.”

Izzy stared as the rest of the crew nodded, murmuring their agreement. Roach wanted to laugh at how bewildered he seemed.

“Alright, Iz?” said Edward, a weary smile on his face.

Izzy straightened a little, then inclined his head silently.

“They do look a bit shit,” said Edward, turning his head to Stede, “and you probably don’t want ‘em throwing up in any more hat boxes.”

“It was an empty one,” mumbled Izzy.

“Yeah, not many of those around.”

“Right!” said Stede, clapping his hands together, “that sounds wonderful. Off you go then. Please .”

Roach grinned and saluted him, then ushered Izzy out of the way before Stede could backtrack and figure out what he’d agreed to.

There was one thing that Stede and the rest of the crew of the Revenge, Edward included, could never quite agree on. 

For Stede, baths were a solitary affair. One took a bath to calm oneself down, to have a private moment to relax and enjoy the heat soaking into tired muscles and smell the sweet scents of whatever oils and soaps he’d put into the water.

For the rest of them, baths were strictly a communal activity. What with the resources and work that went into a bath, the request for one was never taken lightly, and the partaking in one never done alone. 

It was, perhaps, the best possible option for Izzy and Roach. Physically and emotionally wrung out, they were desperate to stay close to one another but out of words to convey this precise feeling. Instead, they sank into the hot water together, after Roach had made a big show of poring through Stede’s bath oils and selecting a mostly inoffensive sandalwood.

Izzy was huddled in his own space at the other end of the tub, his knees tucked up to his chin and his arms crossed in front of his chest. Granted, it wasn’t like he had a huge amount of space to begin with, but he was making the most of claiming his side. Roach stretched out experimentally, and watched as Izzy frowned, trapped between his legs.

“Could you perhaps keep your overly long fucking limbs to yourself?” he ground out.

“It is always two steps forward and one step back with you, isn’t it?” said Roach. 

He wished he had a cigarette. And that Izzy would fucking relax, like he had in the galley. That would make this scenario just perfect.

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

“It means you are pissing me off, little man. The battle is over, you can relax.”

Izzy mumbled something under his breath. Roach cupped a hand to his ear and leaned closer.

“What was that? You will have to speak up.”

“I said, I can’t fucking relax.”

Roach knew what he meant, actually. There was a lingering buzzing under his skin, and he was reluctant to close his eyes for too long, reluctant to be in the dark at all, under any circumstances. He feared nightfall, when they would put out the candles and the lanterns, and the stars would be there, but would they be enough? 

“I know,” Roach said wearily, letting go of the light humour in his voice for once, “I know.”

Izzy watched him slump against the end of the bath, lost in thought. He slowly uncurled then, tentatively allowing their bodies to press up against each other in the tub.

“Is this better?” he whispered.

Roach nodded, and then an idea occurred to him. Well, not quite an idea. An impulse.

He opened his arms, and watched as Izzy stared at him, unsure.

“In or out, First Mate Hands?” said Roach, “this will be much more comfortable. You won’t be pushed out of the way by my too-long limbs, as you say.”

Slowly, tentatively, like a stray cat testing the waters, Izzy inched forwards in the water and lay down on Roach’s chest. The water around them was pleasantly warm, and he could feel the tickle of Izzy’s hair where their skin pressed against each other, slippery but solid and alive.

“Oh, shit,” said Izzy, “I’ve gotten your necklace wet-”

“It has survived much worse than bathwater, silly man,” said Roach, “keep it a little longer.”

“You don’t need it?”

“I have you here, don’t I?”

Izzy laid his head down on Roach’s shoulder, and Roach reached up and grabbed one of his pecs, squeezing firmly and making a noise like a bike horn.

“What the fuck was that?”

“I am enjoying you.”

“Enjoy me more normally, Roach.”

“I cannot.”

Nevertheless, Roach trailed his fingers up Izzy’s side, satisfied when this drew out a slight shiver. He shifted so that the two of them were pressed more closely together, tangling their legs and freeing up his arm so that he could brush the backs of his knuckles against Izzy’s cheek. 

“Looks strange,” he said quietly, “you having a smooth face. How does it feel?”

“Fuckin’ awful.”

“We can draw one on perhaps, a fancy moustache while you wait for it to grow in again.”

Roach traced a finger over Izzy’s upper lip in a swirling pattern, and the corner of Izzy’s mouth ticked up in a little self-satisfied smile. 

It disappeared very quickly when the door creaked open a crack.

“Hello?” said the Swede, poking his head in, “I was just wondering if you two would be okay to answer some questions?”

“Fuck off,” hissed Izzy.

“I thought you might say that, but you say this quite often, and I think maybe it is not so scary a thing to hear anymore,” said the Swede, inching his way further in. 

“Yeah, it’s sort of. I dunno, I think we've all gotten over the whole intimidation tactics thing. Except for you. But I think you might be maybe catching up to it or something,” said Frenchie, poking his head in too.

“Christ, you too?” said Izzy. 

Frenchie opened his mouth to respond, but then fell forwards with a quiet oof as the combined weight of Oluwande, Jim, Wee John, and Pete - also, apparently crouched behind the door - sent him stumbling to the bathroom floor as they toppled over one another.

“Listening at the door?” said Roach, wiggling his eyebrows. He seemed entirely unfazed by the appearance of the rest of the crew.

Lucius wandered in after them and sat on the edge of the tub, watching the two of them together with a smug little smile on his face.

“Don’t you dare give me any of that I told you so shit,” grumbled Izzy, “you didn’t have a fuckin’ clue. We didn’t have a fuckin’ clue.”

“I did,” whispered Roach, softly enough that only Izzy could hear. He felt Izzy go still in his arms.

“Not what I was going to say, anyway,” said Lucius.

He turned his smile on Izzy, who tensed at the way he was smiling.

“What.” said Izzy flatly.

“I just think it’s interesting, you know? The fact that you two rescued all of us.”

"Oh for crying out - what, were you expecting Roach and I to fight everyone off the ship by ourselves?"

"I think you could, if you wanted to. I mean, Roach has been taking lessons from the great Israel Hands, finest swordsman in the-"

"Fucking... shut the fuck up-"

"I though it was a nice touch too, the two of you fighting together."

“Lucius-” said Izzy through his clenched teeth.

"Lucius," said Roach, uncharacteristically sober, "let him be. Annoy him when he has the energy to chase you around the deck, hm?"

"Just thought I'd get a few in while he was down," shrugged Lucius, "but for what it's worth, that swordfight was pretty hot."

Roach soothed his thumb over Izzy's ribcage as he felt tension seize him once more at Lucius' words. He wondered if Izzy recognised the attempt for what it was - a thank you, wrapped up in the sharp-edged needling Izzy needed in order to hear any kindness that was directed at him. 

“We just want to know what happened,” said the Swede, inching up to the side of the tub and peering over it. It was not unlike looking into the gaze of a curious puppy.

“Ah, you want a story!” said Roach.

“Mmm, not from you,” said Jim, waving him off, “you’ll just tell us a bunch of lies that you’ll laugh about later. Like when you convinced us you were one of Spanish Jackie's husbands.”

"You have to admit, that was a good one."

“What, and you trust me not to?” scoffed Izzy.

“Uh, no offence but you’re a shit liar," said Lucius, "and you have no imagination.”

He primly folded his hands in his lap as he said this, content with the knowledge that Izzy was too tired to jump out of the bathtub and strangle him. Izzy flipped him off, then thought better of it and splashed him with the bathwater instead. Lucius shrieked and fell off the side of the tub, and the same small, satisfied smile settled on Izzy’s face once more.

“He has a point,” said Roach.

“Prick,” said Izzy.

He looked around at the eyes of the crew that were trained on him, and Roach felt his body relax against him as he blew out a long sigh.

“We were walking back to the ship, and then we realised-”

“Wait!” shouted Frenchie, holding up one hand, “we’re not even comfy yet!”

There were murmurs of agreement as everyone shuffled themselves so that they were sitting on boxes and crates, as Lucius re-settled himself on the side of the tub and as someone fetched a chair for Wee John. Roach craned his neck so he could watch the look of bewilderment that had settled on Izzy’s face as he looked at everyone getting to work.

“Christ,” whispered Izzy, “they’ve put me in charge of storytime.”

Roach pinched his side, making him yelp.

“Bold of you to believe you are in charge of anything here, little man. Now tell them the story from the start. When we walked through the markets together."

I said I loved you in a tongue you could not understand, but I think you heard me anyway.

"Is that true? Roach took you on his super secret supply run?" said Wee John.

"Cute," said Frenchie.

"It's not a - a fuckin' romance story!" spluttered Izzy.

"Perhaps," said Roach, "but when we have told it, that is what the people will remember."

Izzy was silent for a long while. For an excruciating part of that time, Roach feared he'd done it again, pushed Izzy too far and ruined the fragile new something that had grown out from the cracks of the Revenge's secret passages. 

Izzy took a deep breath.

"The markets are too fuckin' loud for my liking. But there were some... nice parts. After we left, though-"

"What were the nice parts?" said Frenchie, "you can't just say 'there were some nice parts' and then not say."

"Why not?"

Izzy seemed genuinely bewildered by this.

"Because we want all the juicy details," drawled Lucius, "that's what makes it fun, Izzy."

"I will fill in the details," said Roach, "and you can all guess whether or not what I'm saying is true."

If they could fight back to back, they could tell their stories like that too. Roach settled in to tell some of the wildest lies of his life, content to keep the truth close to his chest, next to where Izzy was laying his head.