Disclaimer: I don't own them! No money!

Notes: This is set during the Napoleonic Wars (early 1800s), and hopefully will lead right up to the battle of Trafalgar. It is from the British point of view, and hence disparaging remarks about the French might be made. Not my opinions at all. As for yaoi, if it does pop up (I'm not planning on it, but you never know), I'll treat it as it would have been treated then. I'm going to try to keep it as historically accurate as I can, but there's a distinct lack of information about anything but the officer's way of life. The ship names are subject to change if I can find a list of ships that actually served in the Royal Navy. Most of my information on naval protocol is pulled from the 'Hope' Series by David Feintuch, and period information is mostly from the Sharpe novels by Bernard Cornwell.

-Southhampton docks, England-

Quatre stared up at the massive warship. The Valiant. She was beautiful, with the familiar Cross of St. George snapping in the wind at the top of the mainmast, hull freshly scraped, and sailors swarming all over her. He glanced at the figurehead and gave an involuntary start - the maiden there was slightly more. voluptuous than he'd seen before. Not to mention the lack of anything to cover that splendid bosom. Her face, though, was what drew his attention; it seemed to snarl a challenge at the waves.

He wrested his attention from the carved wood with difficulty and started towards the gangplank. As he went he adjusted his dark blue uniform jacket and checked to make sure he still had all his silver buttons. His hand stole up to his throat to check for the midshipman's pips that he knew wouldn't have moved since he'd last checked them five minutes ago, and ended up pulling at his collar. He wasn't used to wearing his jackets quite this tight. He reached the top of the plank and saluted the officer supervising the provisioning of the ship.

"Midshipman Winner reporting, sir! Permission to come aboard!"

The Lieutenant he'd addressed returned his salute almost mockingly.

"Permission granted, Middy. At ease. You'll find your personal effects in the wardroom. Can you find your way there or do you need help?" The Lieutenant's tone was condescending and sarcastic, and Quatre bristled internally. However, discipline won out over personal outrage, and his voice was properly respectful as he answered.

"I've memorised the plans of the ship, sir."

This time, the Lieutenant didn't even deign to answer, and Quatre was left saluting to a blue-jacketed back. He shrugged inwardly. He was, in his father's words, still 'as green as they come'. Lack of courtesy, however, was not what he'd expected. The words 'an officer and a gentleman' had been drilled into him from the time he was a small boy, and didn't seem to apply to the Lieutenant. Quatre, however, was determined to conduct himself as such, and set off to find his quarters rather proud of his self-restraint in not causing an incident. It was, after all, his first day, and he didn't want his first impression to be that of an undisciplined brat.

A quarter of an hour later, having explored from abovedecks to the bilges, he found himself passing the galley for the fourth time. He was exasperated, sweaty, and he'd managed to step in something that squished, which he preferred not to investigate further. The sailors hadn't been much help, either. Not out of lack of respect for an officer (albeit a bottom- rung one), but they'd all been completely occupied with loading the last of the supplies and hadn't had a second to spare. A finger strayed up to tug at the still too-tight collar. A brief battle between willpower and need to breath ensued, with the latter finally winning. The top three buttons were undone, and Quatre took a deep breath and relaxed a bit.

"Can I help you, sir?" Relaxed, that is, until he jumped a foot in the air, narrowly missing the deck ceiling and rotating a full one hundred and eighty degrees to come down with a thud facing the person who'd spoken to him. Who was currently standing at attention, trying hard to look polite despite the annoyance evident in the way he kept half-frowning at the sailors scurrying around behind him with bags of flour and potatoes. At Quatre's continued silence, the man raised one black eyebrow. "Ship's cook Wufei Chang, sir. Can I help you?"

"Er, um," Quatre became suddenly self-conscious of his undone buttons and the disparaging way Chang seemed to be looking at him. He stood up straight and willed his sweaty hands not to fumble as they did up the offending pieces of silver. "Midshipman Quatre Winner, Mr. Chang. Could you please tell me how to find the wardroom?"

In the back of his mind, he heard his father's voice berating him. 'Command, boy, don't ask. A common sailor does not need courtesy - indeed, he functions only on orders and courtesy only confuses him. He must know his place'. Courtesy, however, was automatic to Quatre. Especially since Wufei had offered no offense. However, Chang responded to his request as he would respond to an order, and turned to shout over his shoulder.

"Mr. Barton, sir! The new midshipman is here and needs to find the wardroom."

Midshipman Trowa Barton turned from where he was quietly supervising the sailors' proper stowing of the foodstuffs at the sound of the cook's voice. His presence was not at all necessary - Chang was quite capable - but the importance of the task required an officer's presence. His immediate impression, once he got past the back of the cook's head, was of gold and blue. He blinked his green eyes once, slowly, and looked again. At his second glance, he had to restrain a chuckle. The new middy, to put it simply, was a mess. There was rat mess on his boot, his jacket was rumpled (with the top button in the wrong hole), and the expression on his face was bemused-ness distilled into its raw form. His blue eyes held quiet desperation, and the poor man looked exhausted.All this Trowa noted without losing his carefully maintained poker face. When he spoke, it was in a slow, deliberate voice.

"Thank you, Mr. Chang. Your name, Midshipman?" The new middy saluted, and again Trowa restrained a smirk. He'd saluted everything that moved on his first berth, as well, not so long ago.

"Midshipman Quentin Robert Winner," - a quick check of length-of-service insignia - "sir!".

"Well,Quentin - " Trowa stopped. The expression on the junior middy's face had changed. The man was blushing. "Yes, what is it?"

"Quentin isn't my name, sir. I mean, it's what's on my birth certificate, sir, but I'm called Quatre, sir." Trowa blinked again, and Quatre blushed even harder.

"Well, Quatre. There's no need to call me sir. I'm Trowa. Only first middy and above are sir. You'll meet him later. For now, wait here. Once this is done, we'll go to the wardroom."

Before Quatre could respond, Trowa resumed his position next to the wall - bulkhead, Quatre reminded himself. Quatre stood next to him in as close an imitation of stance as he could manage. His jacket still chafed. After about five minutes, Trowa spoke again, but quietly.

"You might want to rebutton your jacket, though."