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The Cure

Chapter Text

Dr. Harry Goodsir was somewhat apprehensive and confused when Thomas Jopson, armed with a shotgun, came to his main medical tent to fetch him and his doctor’s bag for assistance in the questioning of Caulker’s Mate Cornelieus Hickey over the deaths of Lieutenant Irving and Mr. Farr, and the near mutiny in camp. Though he mistrusted and frankly despised Mr. Hickey, he hoped that the senior officers understood that as a medical man, he would not under any circumstances engage in the torture of a prisoner. Even though his knowledge of the human body’s workings might suit him well to that task, he had sworn his Hippocratic Oath, and fully intended to hold to it. At least these were the thoughts that swirled through his head like the fog between the tents as he followed Jopson over the shifting slates, and between the men’s shifting stares and glares to the command tent, that grey and tense morning. His worst suspicions were confirmed, he thought, when Lieutenant Edward Little, also armed, opened the tent flap to admit them, and he was presented with the sight of Captain Francis Crozier, Captain James Fitzjames, and Mr. Thomas Blanky, sitting in grim and silent judgement around the nude and shivering form of Cornelieus Hickey. Hickey looked even smaller than usual, and rather pathetic, just a pale and skinny slip of a man, huddled with cold, but he greeted Goodsir with his usual cheeky smirk.

 

“Ah, hallo doctor! Can’t imagine what these gents might’ve brought you here for!”

 

“Shut up, Hickey!” chorused Blanky and Jopson in unison. Captain Crozier was more civil.

 

“Dr. Goodsir, thank you for joining us here. We were hoping that your expert medical opinion might assist us in our investigation.”

 

“No matter what he has done, I will not harm this man...” began the doctor, warily.

 

“Harm him?” Crozier smiled benignly, while Fitzjames looked up, a sudden, odd frown furrowing his brow. Blanky grinned broadly, obviously relishing the idea.

 

“We’ve no desire that you harm Mr. Hickey, doctor,” continued Crozier, his voice deceptively kind. “We simply wish for you to give him a full physical examination, looking specifically for signs that he may be suffering from any symptoms of scurvy.”

 

“Scurvy, sir?” Goodsir was now genuinely curious. “More than half the men are showing some sign or other of some ailment, be it scurvy, or something related, sir. I should be surprised were he not.”

 

“Indeed, doctor, and yet Mr. Hickey here appears to be in uncommonly good health. A bit on the skinny side, but… “ Crozier waved a hand toward the naked prisoner. “That is why we would appreciate your professional opinion on the matter.”

 

“Very well, sir.” Goodsir nodded, and approached Hickey cautiously. Even though he was stripped bare, and under armed guard, Goodsir did not trust the man in the least. For his part, Hickey, in spite of his shivering and gooseflesh, preened himself, and struck a pose like that of a girl in an indecent postcard.

 

“Enough of that, Hickey!” barked Crozier. Hickey rolled his eyes theatrically, but stood still, feet apart and arms held somewhat out from his sides, allowing Dr. Goodsir to begin his examination. He made it an extremely thorough examination for the benefit of the officers gathered around, observing the condition of everything from Hickey’s teeth, gums, and scalp, to that of his nether regions and toenails. And when he was finished, Goodsir was forced to admit himself baffled.

 

“Gentlemen, Mr. Hickey appears to be somewhat underweight, but otherwise in absolutely perfect health. How that might be so, I cannot for the life of me understand, considering that virtually nobody else at this camp is in such good condition. If I might ask, Mr. Hickey, is there anything different from everyone else here that you’ve been doing, consuming, or not consuming, as the case may be?”

 

Hickey paused in pulling on his drawers and trousers to give a wide-eyed, dramatic shrug.

 

“Not that I’m aware of, doctor. I’ve been eating the same godawful slop as everyone else, and freezing my arse off, the same as everyone, hauling those damn boats, just like you all… No, I’ve got nothing!”

 

“You’ve not been hoarding any extra rations, or anything of the sort?” asked Fitzjames, an eyebrow quirked toward the cap he thought hid his bleeding hairline.

 

“Little bastard’s made a deal with the Devil,” grumbled the ever sardonic Blanky. “I say we throw him to that beast and make a deal of our own back.”

 

“No, no, I’m just as much of a godless heathen as anyone out here, and if I’d any extra food, I wouldn’t be so goddamned hungry,” was the response from the fox faced prisoner, who carefully ran his hands over his sleek red-gold hair, after pulling his undershirt back on. He paused, a carefully studied thoughtful expression settling on his face.

 

“You know gentlemen, there is one thing I can think of that I’ve been doing differently from the lot of you, ever since we were first iced in… “ The other men in the room leaned forward expectantly, hanging on his every word now. “I’ve been sucking a hell of a lot of cock.”

 

The tent was suddenly alive with shouts of angry disgust. Captain Crozier, his patience worn through, knocked Hickey to the floor with a powerful backhand across his sharp cheek, and Jopson raised his shotgun, ready for orders. Both Fitzjames and Blanky were half out of their seats, when Dr. Goodsir strode into the middle of the commotion, a hand raised.

 

“If we could all wait just a moment, gentlemen, before any further acts of violence, I’m not entirely convinced that Mr. Hickey is playing us for fools here.” Hickey stared up at him from the tent floor with a bloody lip and something like wary curiousity in his eyes . Crozier, however, was having none of it.

 

“Be serious, Harry. He’s playing a game here, insulting authority, like he has all along. “ Goodsir shook his head.

 

“I’m not sure of that at all. Though I have never made a proper study of the male generative fluids, nor do I have the necessary tools or equipment to do so here, I think that there may be merit to what this disgusting creature says. Consider, after all, the incredible life giving properties of the substance we are discussing here! The very seed of life itself! Oh, I know and agree absolutely that the methods necessary for both procuring and ingesting the substance are... distasteful… to say the least! But are we willing to give up on what might be our last, best chance for survival because we find the acts necessary distasteful? I propose, gentlemen, that before we carry these proceedings any farther, we allow a small number of the sicker men among us to volunteer to test this treatment. If their condition improves, further decisions may be made from there.”

 

Blanky was shaking his head slowly.

 

“You’re mad. He’s bloody mad.”

 

“I’m not so sure of that myself,” said Captain Crozier. “If you think you can find anyone willing to try this experimental treatment of yours, Goodsir, I’ll not let more men die unnecessarily. Good luck.

 

Thank you, Sir!” For the first time in what felt like weeks, Dr. Harry Goodsir smiled.

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Not twenty minutes later, Dr. Goodsir’s assistant, John Bridgens, slipped quietly into the tent where Harry Peglar was trying to get a bit of sleep, if only to ease the pain a bit. In spite of being the oldest man in the camp, Bridgens was also still somehow one of the healthiest, his grey hair still full, and his muscles still strong and without pain. But Harry, his poor Harry, though twenty years younger, was suffering badly, he knew. It had taken a bit of talking for Dr. Goodsir to convince him that this “treatment” was not a complete load of bunk, but had even the slightest chance of working some good. And even a slight chance was enough, if it might bring Harry back from the shadow he was walking under, and into the land of the living again. It had been years since they had actually been lovers, but their love was still there, a warm, quietly banked fire fuelled by traded books, gentle touches, and thoughtful conversation. Watching Harry die would kill John just as surely as scurvy, or hunger, or the creature on the ice eventually would, he knew. It hurt his heart and sickened his stomach just to look at his Harry as he was now, with the bones pressing out through his flesh, his skin mottled with bruises that would not heal, and his lips dark and peeling. Still, he sat down at the edge of the nest of furs and blankets arranged on a thin pallet, where Harry was curled, cupped his feverish face in his hands, and leaned forward, kissing the skin stretched thin over his forehead, the lids of each of his sunken eyes, and even those painful looking lips, softly and gently.

Harry’s eyes flickered open, bigger than ever in his starved face, but still warm and beautiful under their thick lashes.

“John,” he whispered in a cracked voice. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m going to try to save your life, my love. If you will allow me.”

“What would there be to allow? Please, help me if you can, if you think you can. Even if you can bring some relief. God, John, how I’ve been missing you! And I… I’m frightened, John. You make me less fearful.” Harry tried to sit up, his hands fisting in John’s thick woollen jumper, but John just eased him back down to where he lay, and laid himself beside him, folding Harry’s frail body in his arms.

“There’s nothing to fear here, Harry, unless you’re afraid to look on or touch my wrinkly old body again. You see, it seems our cure happens to be the semen of a healthy seaman. Administered orally. If I recall correctly, you always did enjoy that, and had some great skill, as well.”

Harry laughed out loud, though it seemed to pain him to do so.

“You’re having me on, for the sake of one last tumble.” Tears sprang to John’s eyes at this.

“I swear to you, I am not, though I’d gladly tumble you again, and more than once if you’d let me. Dr. Goodsir says that there is a chance, and so I would snatch you back from Hades like a poorly cast Orpheus, though it make the Furies weep. And I would not look back until we were safe above the ground, my love.” Harry’s broken smile was full of adoration.

 “Then rescue me, my handsome Thracian liar, I’ll follow you anywhere; just close your eyes. Remember, you are not permitted to see me ‘till we are safe.” This time John laughed.

“Safe? In that case I’ll be blind ‘till we’re back in England! And even then, I’ll dare not look. Though I’m beginning to wonder if that rule wasn’t just to hide that Eurydice had grown such a lovely, luxuriant beard as this.” John gently combed his fingers through Henry’s new beard – he’d always been clean shaven when they’d been together – and they both giggled. “But yes, I’ll shut my eyes for you dear, if you’ll open my trousers for me.”

John closed his eyes as he’d promised, and felt the warm familiarity of Harry kissing him, just as they used to. Though his lips were rough, and his breath tasted foul with the scurvy’s rot, John didn’t care, and pulled Harry closer against his chest, throwing a leg over his narrow hip. He ran one hand up under Harry’s shirt, skimming lightly over ribs that were too close to the surface, so that he could brush his fingertips over one hard little nipple, then the other, feeling the heart beneath his hand still alive and beating faster. He grabbed Harry’s bottom with the other hand, not so roughly as he’d liked it before, afraid to hurt his sickly love, and pulled his hips in closer as well, pressing back with his own, and feeling the twitch and jump in his groin that he remembered so well when they ground together. He could feel Harry’s hands now on his back, too thin, but sure of their path, up under his jumper and soft flannel shirt.

“Off,” whispered Harry, and John simply nodded, and helped him remove the offending garments as efficiently as possible. He knew that he must look unfairly good, for all his age, to a man so ill, but Harry just pushed him onto his back, and kept on kissing him, on his mouth, his neck, trailing his way down John’s bared chest, pausing to nip a nipple here, then lick down from his sternum, and tongue his navel. Harry’s hand slid between his legs, and squeezed affectionately at the firm swelling there, and John let out a low groan.

“Have mercy on an old man! Nobody else has touched me there since you, my love. Apart from myself, but that counts for little enough. I’ll be off like a shot if you’re not careful, and we can’t let a bit go to waste!”

“I’ve no plans to go wasting any time or spendings, love,” mumbled Harry, from somewhere below John’s waist, his fingers fumbling at trouser buttons, and then Harry felt the cold Arctic air on his hot member for half a moment before it was enveloped completely in warm, wet, suction. John arched up off the blankets and cried out, and he heard the sound of Harry laughing with his mouth full of cock, just like he had so often before.

“Now this is a meal I’ve missed!” Harry mumbled, before setting himself to work, first rolling the head on his tongue, then sucking greedily down the shaft, as John let himself fall back in body and in time, working and flexing his thighs and buttocks in time with Harry’s movements. John forgot himself and their hellish predicament completely for the first time in years, and allowed the pleasure to swallow him just as Harry was swallowing his prick, just as things had been between them before they’d grown apart. He ran his hands over Harry’s head and shoulders, eyes squeezed tight shut, vaguely aware that the raw keening sound he heard was coming from his own throat. For a moment he felt that he could hang suspended in time, frozen like this forever, and then his orgasm hit him with the sudden force of a cannonball to his gut and hindbrain, and he gasped and spasmed for longer and harder than he would swear had happened since he was five and twenty.

Harry stayed where he was, gently licking and suckling, his arms wrapped loosely around John’s waist, until John’s prick was softening. Then he gave the foreskin an affectionate kiss, and crawled up John’s body, a wide grin splitting his face as John cautiously opened his eyes again.

“John, love,” he said, as he nestled his head into his onetime (and now, oh how he hoped, forever!) lover’s shoulder, “Did Dr. Goodsir say how long it was supposed to take? For the cure to start its work, I mean?”

“He has no idea, dear. But it does my heart good to see you smile again.” John tenderly kissed the top of Harry’s head.

“I only ask because I would swear on every Bible, Torah, and all other holy books in this world, that my head has stopped aching for the first time in six months. Everything hurts less, in fact!” John held himself back, incredulous, trying to get a good look at Harry by the dim foglight inside the tent. He still looked sick, and too skinny, and perhaps all the friction had worn the rough skin off the surface of his lips, but they weren’t bleeding, and Harry’s eyes had a spark of life to them that had been missing for months.

“Maybe it works after all...” John laughed aloud and hugged Harry close again.

“So if it works, then...” Harry murmured against John’s chest, as John stroked his hair, “… just how long until you can get it up again, old man?”

John shoved him down into the blankets and kissed him long and deep.

 

 

Meanwhile, Cornelieus Hickey was being held prisoner in a small tent next to the main command tent. He lay on his back on the thin pallet, his bound hands tucked casually behind his head. Thomas Jopson sat at his feet, shotgun laid comfortable and ready across his lap.

“’Scuse me, but why did you arrest Tozer back there?” asked Hickey in one of his more ingratiating manners, staring thoughtfully at the ceiling of the tent. Jopson’s response was to level the shotgun toward Hickey’s ginger head.

“You’re lucky you weren’t shot back there, Mr. Hickey.” Hickey tilted his head, and lifted a sceptical eyebrow, in answer to which Jopson moved a hand toward the shotgun’s trigger guard.

“Back home, everything we had to eat started with a gun. I’ve shot smaller hawks than you.”

In all honesty, Hickey was sure that Jopson was a good enough shot to kill him at nearly any range with that thing; what he wasn’t sure of was whether he was a good enough man not to pull the trigger point-blank when his prisoner might have more value alive than dead. But Cornelieus Hickey couldn’t resist a challenge. So he rolled his head back and forth a bit, batting his red-gold eyelashes almost flirtatiously. Jopson didn’t rise to the bait. He merely sat there by the tent flap, waiting, calm but alert. The only real movements that Hickey saw him make were minute shifts of his eyes or tilts of the head at sounds outside the tent; footsteps crunching past in a hurry, or a raised voice;

“… first test seems promising… need more samples...”

“… could you, Doctor… “

Jopson began to idly run a finger back and forth under his upper lip, as if his gums were troubling him. He slowly removed it, and rubbed it against his thumb, hesitating just a bit before looking down. The tips of his finger and thumb were wet and red. He frowned slightly. Hickey raised an eyebrow again. Now this was interesting. The Captain’s pet coming down ill, right after witnessing the ever so instructive discussion of his own good health and its possible reasons? Jopson was so clean, Hickey reflected, that he probably shit soap flakes. He’d never in his spotless life sink so far as to put another man’s prick in his mouth, or if he did, it would only ever be his precious Captain’s. No, Jopson would let himself shit blood like the rest before he…

What the ever loving fuck?!?

Thomas Jopson had stretched out his long legs, stood up, strolled the three steps to the head of Hickey’s pallet, and placed the muzzle of the shotgun directly against Hickey’s forehead, with the same calm, half-smile he’d had on his face while speaking of shooting hawks. Suddenly, Cornelieus Hickey decided that he’d best lay very still for a while, and attempt to keep the young man happy. The feeling of cold steel between one’s eyes tended to have that sort of effect on a person, he’d found. Only Hickey was far more accustomed to being the one in possession of the steel in question, rather than at the opposite end of the equation.

“It would seem, Mr. Hickey, that we’ve got a wee bit of a problem here.” Jopson’s tone was as calm and untroubled as his smile. Hickey attempted to match his demeanour, but the sweat he could feel prickling at his skin was likely only one of a dozen tells that he was thrown off his stride, and was a sudden bag of jangling nerves. He’d not expected this at all! Still, he’d brazened his way through all manner of trouble before, and was still breathing. He could do it again, and again after that. There was something about Jopson’s comportment that he couldn’t read, though, and this bothered Hickey deeply. He made a game attempt to keep his voice light and even anyway.

"Yes indeed, Mr. Jopson, Sir, this is a most problematic situation.” He risked a nervous smile. This won him a bruising prod to the forehead with the shotgun that was already firmly planted there. Jopson’s smile turned to an equally mild frown.

“You see, Mr. Hickey, I’ve begun to feel a bit unwell of late.” The frown grew deeper. “And you seem to be in possession of the cure for what ails me.”

With another swift motion, one of Jopson’s boots was planted in the centre of Hickey’s chest, winding him, and the shotgun was repositioned slightly, braced against Jopson’s shoulder with the young officer’s finger directly on the trigger, ready to turn Hickey’s ever so lovely and clever head into a shallow, messy hole in the ground.

“The real trouble, Mr. Hickey, is that not only do I loathe you personally, but I do not trust you any further than you could run before I could blow your brains out right now. And I find it absolutely repulsive that you might enjoy the means by which I obtain my cure in any way whatsoever.” Privately, Hickey thought that this was not only extremely unfair, but also highly unlikely to even be possible. Apart from everything else, in his vast personal experience, he’d never once gotten one off without at least enjoying it a little. That was the entire point, wasn’t it?

Hickey chanced a glance up at his captor and potential killer, always seeking his angle, and found himself reflecting that if he was to be shot by a Naval Officer in the arse end of nowhere, he couldn’t have picked one more handsome if he’d been asked to make his own specifications. He was staring up not only the double barrels of impending death, but also up a pair of long, lean legs in battered but well tailored trousers, topped by a peacoat which couldn’t hide shoulders that were still broad in spite of privation, and then there were those pretty, pretty blue eyes… In fact, in a bizarre, twisted way, this entire absurd situation was oddly… arousing. Maybe, just maybe, he had a chance here after all.

“You know,” mused Jopson, “the thing I really hate the most about you is having to listen to you talk. If I could just shut you up while I get on with my business, this just might be tolerable.” He dropped into a low crouch next to Hickey’s head, smirking a bit as Hickey took a few deep heaving breaths, having the pressure of Jopson’s boot removed. The shotgun’s aim, he noted, was redirected to his temple.

 “Now, Mr. Hickey. I tied your hands myself, and I happen to know that you won’t be getting out of those ropes. My knotwork is extremely secure – the Captain taught me himself. But I’ll be right here, watching anyway. And as far as keeping you quiet, well, open your mouth, nice and wide.” At this point Hickey felt he had no option other than to obey, but he was also somewhat fascinated to see what Jopson would do next. His own physical discomfort had always mattered little to him – whatever the pain or deprivation, he’d likely had worse as a lad – but he was endlessly curious. He dropped his jaw, and was not entirely surprised to taste the tang of cold metal and gun oil sliding along his tongue, like a double-barrelled cock, until it poked bluntly at the back of his throat. He was mildly surprised to feel his own cock give an excited jump at the sensation, but he’d long since gotten used to his body’s perverse pleasures.

Jopson laid the rest of the gun full length down his torso, with the stock nestled in his crotch, next to where he was already stiffening, and now he slid down there himself.

“I’m about to take whatever you’ve got to give here, but I’ll have my finger by the trigger the entire time, and if you make a single move or sound out of line, Mr. Hickey, I won’t hesitate to fire in self defence.” With that, Jopson crouched down between Hickey’s legs, and unfastened his trousers with the skill of a man whose job was to undress another man for a living. Then he looked up, his expression a mix of amusement and disgust.

Really? Enjoying this already? You’re fucking disgusting.” Jopson jabbed the back of Hickey’s throat again with the shotgun to emphasise his point, and his cock gave another traitor’s twitch. Jopson shook his head in disbelief, then lowered it to his work.

And to Hickey’s own disbelief, he did a damn good job of it, too. This was obviously not a first time for clean, honest Thomas Jopson. He swallowed Hickey’s long, slender prick whole, right to the root, then closed his lips around the base, and began to slowly work his way back up, all tongue and suction. Then he dipped down swiftly again, and repeated the action. Hickey broke out in a sweat just from the effort to hold himself still and silent, while Jopson expertly milked his cock with his mouth. Then, just when it seemed he had started a predictable rhythm, he pulled off for a moment, licked and fondled the sensitive, dripping head with his tongue, and sank back down to his incredible technique.

Where the fuck had he learned to do this? Hickey wondered silently, as he trembled and ached, sucking as much air as possible in through his nose, while the shotgun tickled his gag reflex. He’d considered himself to be the best cocksucker in the entire Royal Navy, but was beginning to question this conceit, as absolutely ridiculous levels of pleasure coiled and burned deep in his belly, were briefly tamped down, then raised to even higher plateaus. Finally, as Jopson was doing something completely indescribable around the root, all lips and tongue, Hickey felt himself inexorably slide over the edge of a sheer, icy cliff, infinitely high, and couldn’t stop that single upward thrust, or the muffled, strangled, sound that escaped from around the steel gag in his throat.

At least I’m going to die happy, a distant, still lucid bit of him thought.

There was no blast though, and no pain, no sweet oblivion.

When Hickey was able to open his eyes again, Jopson was kneeling just over his head, trousers open, legs spread, jerking fast and hard on one of the finest pricks Hickey had ever had the pleasure to see. His head was thrown back, and his face wore an expression of exhilaration and exultation on his gorgeous features. Before Hickey had a chance to consider just which of them was the truly sick and twisted bastard in this tent, Jopson gasped, then grunted loudly, and Hickey’s face was sprayed copiously with hot, thick Officer’s spunk. He whined around the shotgun at the sharp stinging as some spattered into his left eye, and inwardly cursed the handsome twat for the mess he was surely making of his hair. After what felt like forever, and a sticky, viscous tidal wave, Jopson heaved a deep sigh of satisfaction, tucked himself neatly away, rebuttoned his trousers, and stood, dusting off his knees.

“Y’know, Hickey, I feel better already.” Then he retrieved his shotgun, leaving Hickey’s mouth gaping, speechless for once. Thomas Jopson casually stuck his head out the tent flap and called out,

“Pardon me, Lieutenant Little, would you mind trading watches for a spell? I need to speak to Dr. Goodsir, urgently, about our research!”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Captain Fitzjames had taken an indirect route from the Command tent to the main Medical tent, darting furtive glances about himself as he went, in hopes of arriving unobserved. He paused for an uncertain moment before the tent flap, heard the grinding of footsteps on the stones nearby, and ducked inside before he could be seen. Much to his relief, only Dr. Goodsir was within, writing quickly in a thick leather bound book that Fitzjames took to be a journal of sorts, perhaps making note of his astounding, if bizarre, new discovery. He looked up from his work when he heard Fitzjames enter, and greeted him with his usual mild smile, dark eyes warm behind his wire rimmed spectacles.

“Ah, Captain, hello! I wasn’t expecting to see you here!” The doctor was friendly as usual, now that he’d broken through some of his customary reserve. “How might I be of assistance?”

“I was curious,” replied Fitzjames, “as to any early reports you may have had pertaining to your new experimental treatment. Has anyone actually given any report yet?” His meaning was more to the line of “Has anyone actually been mad enough to try this treatment, and then speak of it?”, but the good doctor was blissfully ignorant of these words left unspoken.

“Actually, yes, I’ve had three reports thus far, Captain, though two have been from the same source.” Dr. Goodsir’s smile was that of a proud father, while Captain Fitzjames’ frown was one of confusion.

“Two from the same… I’m afraid I don’t quite follow.”

“Surely you are aware, Sir, that John Bridgens and Henry Peglar had previously had a… ahem… romantic attachment, prior to this expedition. Bridgens has performed admirably as my assistant, and Peglar has been quite ill from scurvy, though not yet a hopeless case. They were both more than happy to assist this investigation, and test my theory themselves. With positive results thus far. Twice. Thus far.”

Fitzjames’ eyebrows had risen slowly during this explanation, and were now nearly covered by the cap he still wore under the pretence of extra warmth even in summer, while actually attempting to hide his bleeding hairline.

“Indeed? I must admit, Goodsir, I’d not ever dreamed that such acts might be the difference between life and death – for an entire crew, no less.”

“Oh, indeed, Sir. The results are almost miraculous in their efficacy!

Miraculous...” repeated Fitzjames, quietly. “Out of curiosity, doctor, who else has reported to you with results?”

“That would be young Jopson, Sir.” Now Fitzjames’ eyes grew wide.

Lieutenant Jopson, Captain Crozier’s steward, as was? That upstanding young man?” Dr. Goodsir shrugged eloquently.

“He has not, apparently, been entirely well for some time, but had not spoken of it to anyone. He was on duty guarding Mr. Hickey, and as I’d given dispensation for the use of Hickey by any men suffering the effects of scurvy, Jopson decided to test the cure for himself.”

And? ” prompted Fitzjames, horrified, yet fascinated.

“Lieutenant Jopson reports that much of his pain has eased, and that his gums have nearly ceased to bleed.”

“Incredible,” breathed Fitzjames.

“Isn’t it though?” agreed Goodsir, beaming. “So, Captain, is there anything else that I might be able to help you with?

Captain Fitzjames shifted his weight from foot to foot in a state of deep mental agitation. The tests were showing success thus far. There was hope. Yet this wisp of hope, so close within his reach, would require of him the humiliation and agony of both literal and metaphorical self-revelation. And quite a lot of what made up Captain James Fitzjames would rather die than endure that. He might have stood there, dithering, for the rest of the day, had Dr. Goodsir not called his name, peered cautiously into his vacant stare, and laid a gentle hand upon his arm. Upon his wounded arm. The sudden shock of pain snapped Fitzjames from his daze of indecision with a yelp, and he leapt back from the startled doctor, curling in on himself protectively.

“Oh my, Captain! Are you sure you’re feeling well?” asked Dr. Goodsir, already drawing out a folding chair, and placing it behind the ashen faced Fitzjames. He more collapsed than sat in the provided seat, and hung his head.

“No, doctor, I’m afraid not. I’ve not been well at all for some time now, and I’ve been too much of a proud fool to do a thing about it, except to wait to die nobly. You may scold me now.”

“Scold you, Captain?” Dr. Goodsir’s kind face drew together with worry. “No, I’m sorry, but my duty is to attempt to heal you. If you might allow me to know what ails you.”

“It’s the scurvy.” Fitzjames said dully. “It might not be so bad, but my old battle wounds, from a single damned musket shot…” He looked up, his eyes hollow with pain. “They’re reopening, doctor. A bit worse, every day.”

Dr. Goodsir nodded gravely.

“I’ll scold you now, if you like. No doubt the wounds are quite painful, but you’ve also been working yourself far too hard for an injured man, and making a dangerous situation worse. I don’t intend to allow you any further suffering that I can prevent,” and at this he turned to a shelf covered in bottles, and plucked one out, as well as a small measuring spoon. After pouring out a careful dose he held out the spoon to Fitzjames, who raised a stubborn eyebrow.

“Oh for God’s sake, Captain, you’ve no further need to martyr yourself! A bit of laudanum will do no harm, and if you insist, I will not tell a soul.” At this, Fitzjames crossed his arms petulantly, but opened his mouth, and swallowed the trickle of bitter liquid. And he would indeed confess it to nobody, but it soon began to do its work, easing the constant, gnawing pain, making his head a bit lighter and limbs a bit heavier than they had previously been.

“Now,” said Dr. Goodsir, “I’m afraid that in order to treat your wounds, I’m going to need to be able to see and reach them. That will mean removing your coat, jumper, and shirt, if you would be so good as to assist me.” For once, James Fitzjames did as he was asked. He had come this far, he may as well allow the doctor to patch him up as much as possible. And even the small dose of laudanum made disrobing so much easier than it had been in so long now, though he had to peel his shirt away from where the cracked old scars had begun to suppurate a pale, yellowish fluid. Fitzjames could see the growing concern, and a measure of what looked like revulsion, perhaps mixed with fear, on the doctor’s face.

“Is it that bad then, doctor?”, he asked, not bothering to look down for himself.

“It is,” Goodsir responded in a careful, even tone, “a very good thing that you have come to me when you did, Sir. Had you waited much longer, I may not have been able to be of much assistance, except perhaps to ease your passing. As it is, with care, we should be able to improve your condition until you have as much of a chance of survival as any of us.”

“Was that intended as reassurance then?” This time, both of Fitzjames’ eyebrows rose in doubt.

“It is the best any of us can hope for, Sir.

And with that, Dr. Goodsir bent to the business of being a Naval surgeon. He carefully cleaned the ugly wounds in Captain Fitzjames’ arm and side, then packed them with clean cotton gauze. This he affixed with heavier muslin bandages, wound around the Captain’s upper arm and chest. Though Fitzjames was loath to admit it, along with the laudanum, even the pressure of the snugly wrapped bandages were a comfort and relief after his long endurance of such pain. Such a comfort, in fact, that he didn’t hear Dr. Goodsir’s next words. He shook his head a bit, to clear the cobwebs of relief and narcotic drowsiness.

“You’ll have to pardon me, doctor, but I completely missed the last bit of what you just said. If you wouldn’t mind repeating…?”

“Of course, Captain,” said the doctor, back to his habitual gentle manner. “I was simply saying that now that you’re properly bandaged, it’s best to move on to the actual treatment for the scurvy itself.”

“Treatment...” repeated Fitzjames, as though he had not quite understood.

“Yes, Sir, I would think that time is of the essence in treating the condition itself. There are a few healthy men about camp whose services you could select from, or...”

“Oh God,” groaned Fitzjames, burying his face in his hands. “Just shoot me now.”

“I’m sorry Sir, but I cannot...”

“Wait.” Fitzjames looked up, cutting him off. “What about you, doctor? You don’t seem to be showing any outward signs of illness. How have you stayed so well?”

Dr. Goodsir backed up a few steps, until he ran into his worktable, a bright flush spreading across his kind face.

“Well, Sir, I must confess that I understood the means and mechanism of Mr. Hickey’s continued health so quickly because it... that is to say… I… it… it aligned so well with... questions… I’d had regarding...my... my own wellness… if you understand my... er… meaning.” He finished this stammered sentence mainly addressing his own boots. Which was just as well, so he could not see how Captain Fitzjames’ jaw had dropped, or that his eyes were staring out of his head nearly as widely as his mouth was gaping. He too found himself at a loss for words.

“You mean you’re… you’ve been… with other men… for God’s sake… all this time… nobody knew… and you a doctor!”

“Yes, yes, I’m a doctor, precisely!” Goodsir latched on to this thought in an attempt to explain to the stunned Fitzjames. “Therefore I may not look at certain acts in the same light as, for example, a sailor or a vicar might. Where some see crime, or sin, I see simple functions of the human body, which harm no-one. If you must know, many students of anatomy turn to each other for… relief of tension, particularly since we mostly had spent all our money on dissection specimens, and had none left for, oh, drink and whores as other students might… Well, we found money for drink, at least, but…”

The shock on Fitzjames’ face was slowly turning to amazement.

“So are all anatomists sodomites, then, doctor?” Dr. Goodsir managed to glare at the Captain through his heavy blush, and addressed him rather than his own feet as he snapped,

“I prefer if you not use that word, Sir. Not to offend, but I did just bandage your wounds. And no, not all have such a preference, any more than all sailors prefer the company of women. Which, if you must know, I enjoy equally, if not more.” The image of Dr. Goodsir doting on Lady Silence, following her about like a lovesick puppy passed through Captain Fitzjames’ spinning mind.

“But you still have had… relations… with other men. On this voyage. In spite of everything else.” He waved a hand vaguely around him, as if it could begin to describe the cold, fear, homesickness, hunger, exhaustion, and outright terror of attacks from the Thing on the Ice. Attacks that Goodsir had been forced to treat the mangled survivors of, particularly since that damned Carnival had left him their sole living doctor. Oh. That would explain quite a lot, wouldn't it?

“Well, yes, Sir.” Goodsir drew himself up, not without some dignity. “How else is a man to keep himself sane through all such horror, and why not indulge, when surrounded by handsome and willing men?”

“Willing?” asked Fitzjames, forgetting himself completely now. “Who?”

“Well, Lieutenant Gore was the first, I don’t suppose it could do any harm now to mention his name. And Bridgens, of course, I’m sure you’ve already assumed, and Dr. MacDonald, Mr. DesVoeux, and then...”

“Stop, stop, I don’t need the entire crew manifest, doctor!” Fitzjames was waving his hands again, as if they could clear certain images from his mind. They could not, and curiosity still got the better of him.

“So, about how many then, doctor, just for my personal knowledge? I promise that I will do nothing with this information, and you will see no trouble for it.” Goodsir tilted his head to the side a moment, as if doing some difficult calculations.

“A score, at least.” he finally said. “maybe as many as thirty. But never Mr. Hickey. Something about that man is simply wrong.” Now Fitzjames could not help but laugh out loud.

“You’re the village pony, doctor!” It was Dr. Goodsir’s turn to frown, uncomprehending.

“Village pony, Sir?”

“Indeed!” Fitzjames clapped a friendly hand on his shoulder. “Everyone has had a ride!” The doctor’s blush began to flare brighter, but then he began to laugh softly as well.

“I suppose I have earned that,” he half-giggled, shaking his head, his thick curls bobbing attractively. He turned toward Fitzjames, and his smile was slightly shy again. “So Captain, are you too proud to take your cure from the Village Pony, or will this humble doctor fit your needs?” Fitzjames returned the smile, equally shyly.

“Actually, doctor, I think that you might be the solution to more than one problem that has been troubling me of late.”

“Please Captain, if we’re going to do this, call me Harry. I insist.”

“Very well, Harry, and you shall call me James. I’d be most uncomfortable – even more uncomfortable, that is to say, to be called “Captain” in such an… intimate situation.”

At this Harry Goodsir shrugged.

“Some men enjoy that sort of thing quite a lot, you know.”

“No, Harry, that’s my problem, I don’t know!” Now it was time for James Fitzjames to blush, and stare down at his own clenched fists. “There is, in fact, someone here, in this godforsaken camp, that I would like to know, far, far, better than I do… As more than a friend should, as I’ve never felt for a man before in my life! And I’m lost, I haven’t a clue what to do, or say, or any of it, really! And I’d have been happy to just die with him beside me, but now,” he spread his hands helplessly. “Now I...”

“Yes, I see,” said Harry gently, kneeling down beside James’ chair, and brushing the still thick, chestnut hair back from his gaunt face. “Now you have the perfect reason to get as close to Captain Crozier as you like, and you’ve no idea what to say, or how to do what you want to do. If it’s any consolation, I’m quite sure he feels much the same for you, and will not turn you away. And I can help you right now, give you some extra strength, and teach you at least a bit of what you need to know, if you like.”

They were both already leaning in toward each other, so that when James whispered,

“Please,”

Harry as much felt it against his lips as heard the word spoken. He parted his lips in response, and ran his fingers down through James’ lovely hair. James found himself drawn into the kiss, enjoying it far more than he’d ever suspected he might. Apart from the somewhat odd sensation of Harry’s beard against his face, it was much like kissing a woman. In fact, Harry was far better at kissing than some women James had known, with soft, full lips, just the right balance between tenderness and aggression, and the most delightful interplay of tongues. Part of James wondered what the hell he thought he was doing, while another part idly wondered about what sorts of other amazing things the tongue currently inside his mouth could do. He scarcely noticed that he had slipped from his chair, onto his knees, pressed close against the doctor where they knelt in a tight embrace on the floor of the tent. And he couldn’t restrain a soft, humming, moan when he felt a slender thigh slide between his legs and then press upward at just the right angle. There were hands, long fingered and steady, gliding down his back with the lightest pressure, then skimming along his hips, only to meet just beneath his buttocks, where they squeezed, lifted, and pulled him in even closer, so that his nether parts were pressed impossibly tightly between Harry’s hard thigh and even harder cock.

James broke the kiss, gasping out loud, and experimentally shifted his hips within Harry’s firm grasp, inadvertently rutting their fully clothed, but also fully hard cocks against each other, setting off signal flares in his groin and his brain. Harry was also breathing heavily now.

“Ahhhh! So you enjoy this, James? Ohhhh!”

“Oh Christ, yes! Yes! Please, give me more! Please, for God’s sake Harry!”

“How have you never touched a man before, damn you? You’re a natural, so far! Here, let me...” Harry slid a hand between them, using his surgeon’s dexterity to unbutton both their trousers in a heartbeat. And suddenly, as hard, heated flesh met and slid against its mirror image, their pleasure was multiplied exponentially. James found himself entirely paralysed and breathless for a moment, before managing to choke out,

“Harry? We’d best get to the treatment soon, or I’m bound to disgrace myself all over your trousers… Ohhhhh dear God!” Harry clutched him close for one more hungry and lingering kiss, punctuated by sharp gasps and taut groans from both men, before they were able to pry themselves apart enough for Harry to kneel-walk them over to the ubiquitous pallet at the side of the tent, where he laid himself out on his back, trousers open, prick standing at full attention. James had not thought it possible to luxuriate on one of the wretched things, but what Harry was doing seemed to come close. He’d managed to half unbutton his own shirt, revealing a surprisingly and pleasingly masculine combination of light, tight muscle, and dark hair, and James couldn’t resist running a hand down from the base of his throat almost to his navel. Harry grinned and pulled James down onto him, into another deep kiss, encouraging his curious hands and mouth to wander over as much of his body as they could find.

“I tell you, James,” he breathed, his voice full of delight, as James mouthed his way down his neck, to latch onto a small, hard nipple with first lips and tongue, then not entirely gentle teeth, “you’ve been utterly wasted on the ladies! Oh hell, yes, that hand, please!”

The hand in question had found its way into the opening of Harry’s trousers, and was cautiously exploring new territory. Though not at all as frighteningly new as he’d feared, James realised. After all, though somewhat different in proportion and heft, it was a cock, like the one he’d been fondling between his own legs since he was a lad, and he knew more or less how they worked, far better than the mysteries women hid beneath their skirts. He leaned up on his elbow a bit, to watch what he was doing, fascinated by Harry’s responses to his every touch, and how they both mimicked and differed from his own. He wet a thumb in the fluid leaking from the tip, then slid it up the back of the organ, from base to tip, then circling slickly in the rim just below the fat, shining head.

“Jaaaaammmmeeeeessss!!!” Harry’s voice shook nearly as hard as his entire body did at that action, so James gathered his courage, and dipped his head down and repeated the same motion with his tongue instead. Harry’s hands reached down and clasped the sides of his head, holding it upright so that James was forced to look straight into Harry’s wild-eyed, nearly savage stare.

“James, I must warn you that it is imperative that you begin your cure now, or I may feel the need to force you, for your own good, and I would rather that this were a pleasurable experience for both of us. I would hate to ruin your experience with the use of force, and I would hate myself for it.” James grinned the most wanton, roguish grin that Harry could have dared to imagine on his far-too-handsome face.

“Rest assured, I am enjoying every second of this, deeply enjoying it, and if you feel that a bit of force is necessary, well, I trust you completely in this matter. You are, after all, the doctor here.”

And with that, he dipped his head down into another long, excruciatingly slow lick that had Harry involuntarily thrusting upward with his hips, while gripping James’ head as steadily as his hands would hold, shoving the head of his cock up between his lips, as James worked to adjust to the taste and the sensation. He obviously needed to relax a bit, as Harry ground out the single word,

Teeth!

from between clenched jaws, and James attempted to relax his own jaw more, and to place lips and tongue between his teeth and Harry’s most sensitive flesh. From the sigh he heard above him, it seemed to be working. The taste was nowhere as bad as he had feared it might be, reminding him somewhat of briny raw oysters, and the texture of a hard mouthful, moving inside a sheath of skin as delicate as rose petals was nearly as intoxicating as the sounds that Harry was making as he guided James’ head up and down the shaft, gently pumping his hips in time. The rest of it, James figured, must have to do with techniques of lips, tongue, and suction, so he set to work experimenting with a variety of motions and depths. And he found himself rather enjoying it, trying to suck more in, deeper, massaging with his tongue, listening to the exquisite sounds that Harry was making, not noticing the saliva running down from his chin, or that he was straddling one of Harry’s legs and rubbing himself desperately against it, bringing himself closer and closer to his own climax as he sucked harder and harder, and…

“Oh God, James, swallow it all if you Hhhhnnnngggg!!!” And suddenly Harry had thrust so deeply into James’ throat that his eyes watered and he had to fight not to gag and lose all this precious medicine, but he squeezed his eyes shut, and swallowed hard, at the same time grinding his own bare cock harder than he had yet against Harry’s rough trouser leg, the very thought that he was swallowing a great mouthful of another man’s seed sending him over the edge as well, his whole body spasming with his mouth tight around Harry’s cock, and Harry’s leg pressing ever harder against him. They stayed frozen like that for what felt like an eternity to James, who was frankly not used to partners who were quite so expert, then collapsed bonelessly over each other, Harry laughing out loud.

“Oh God,” groaned James, “I should hope it wasn’t as bad as all that!”

“You’re joking,” gasped Harry, “That was bloody brilliant! And your first time at that!”

“It was all my teacher!” Now James was laughing too. “He’s not only a brilliant doctor, he’s also a genius shag!”

“And he needs to change his trousers,” said Harry, setting them both off into a fresh laughing fit, as he studied the obvious stain James had left all over one leg.

At that they both attempted to rearrange themselves to look somewhat tidy and decent, then helped each other to their feet.

“So how are you feeling now?” asked Harry.

“Well, I know that the laudanum is most likely still in effect, but the wounds that you bandaged – they’re itching, as if something were beginning to heal.” James had forgotten what hope felt like, but now it flooded his chest, nearly bringing him to tears. “Thank you. Thank you so much, for all of it. I can’t...” Harry just smiled, and laid a hand on his shoulder.

“There’s no need, James. I understand. And if things don’t work out with your intended, you’re welcome here, any time at all. No questions, no judgements. Just take care of yourself.”

“I will,” said James, as he opened the tent flap to leave. And he meant it.


Chapter Text

Lieutenant Edward Little was furious. True enough, he’d not been terribly close with the late George Irving (in honesty, few had been able to stand his self-aggrandising piety for very long), but the mere thought that that rat-faced little ginger bastard, Hickey, might be allowed to stab two of his crewmates to death in cold blood – one of them a Third Lieutenant, no less – and still be allowed his life because of some doctor’s cracked theory, set his blood to boiling. Compounding his rage was the humiliating knowledge that he’d been taken in, hook, line, and sinker, by Hickey’s confederate in mutiny, Marine Sergeant Solomon Tozer, and had actually been gulled into allowing the distribution of guns to far too many among the crew who should not have ever been entrusted them, one of whom had actually had the gall to fire on their own returning Captain! He might have confessed that a great deal of his anger was self-directed, had he been a man of more introspection than he was, but for the moment his mind was utterly consumed with a single objective: revenge.

After discussion with the Captains and other wardroom officers, a more subtly chilling punishment than hanging was decided upon for Tozer, one not in any list of Naval regulations, but surely regulations had never been written, or even conceived of, to cover circumstances quite like theirs before. The important matter was that Tozer would be extremely uncomfortable as they had left him, had a minimally slim chance of survival, and would continue to be useful in some respect or another to the remainder of the crew, for a while at least. As he trudged back from the western boundary of the camp, where he’d just finished assisting in the disposition of the sulking and protesting Tozer, Little had to shake his head in admiration at the creative cruelty that his superiors and fellow officers were capable of. Blanky, for one, had not surprised him, nor had Captain Crozier, but that boy Jopson had a surpassingly and admirably nasty turn of mind!

Speak of the devil, there was Jopson, waving to him from the opening of the tent where they were currently keeping their prisoner under constant armed guard. Little hurried his pace until he was within sufficient distance to hear Jopson calling out to him.

“Pardon me, Lieutenant Little, would you mind trading watches for a spell? I need to speak to Dr. Goodsir, urgently, about our research!”

“Can it wait just a short moment, Mr. Jopson?” he called back, still approaching, then pausing to rest companionably by the tent flap, leaning on his musket. “I’ve just returned from tending to Tozer, and I could use a small bite to eat – I’ve a biscuit I put away in my tent last night. I’ll be back to spell you in no more than five minutes.”

“That couldn’t be fairer.” Jopson nodded amiably. “I’ll see you presently then. You have my thanks.”

Oh, Edward Little did not mind taking over guard duty on that whoreson Hickey at all. But rather than take the most direct route back to the tent he’d been sharing with Irving, Hodgson, Robert Sargent, and Henry Collins, he took a brief tour around the cluster of tents that were being called “Officers’ Country”, where those in command positions had set up, nearest to the main Command tent. With so much less to be done here on land than even on a crippled ship frozen into the ice pack, there were a number of men in Officers’ Country with little to do. Men who Little knew well enough. Men whom he trusted. Men who might assist him.

Henry Le Vesconte was the first friend that Little chanced upon. He was simply sitting outside his tent, smoking a foul pipe, with the look of one lost in abstraction.

“Henry!” Little got his attention quickly enough. Le Vesconte stood, with an apparent stiffness that Little was too polite to mention. He nodded politely to Little in turn.

“Good day, Edward, what are you about here? Aren’t you on duty?” Little flashed a grim smile.

“I just got back from dealing with Tozer, and now Jopson’s asked me to trade watches with him for a while. He’s been guarding Mr. Hickey. I thought that perhaps you, and a few of the other gents might like to stop around while I’m on duty there for a bit of a visit. To give him your best, on behalf of Mr. Irving.” A slow smile played around the serious, but handsome features of Lieutenant Henry Le Vesconte.

“Yes, I think I would rather enjoy paying Mr. Hickey my regards. Who else do you intend to invite to come visiting, if I may be so bold as to inquire?” Little’s eyes shifted about, but it was impossible to see far through this damnable fog, which even seemed to mute the sounds of footsteps over the scraping, clinking, shales between the close set tents. Anyone could be nearby, listening. He leaned in, and kept his voice low.

“Wardroom officers only – the Marines and likely some of the Petty Officers were in on the mutiny plot. See who you can find, only not Des Voeux or Hodgson – I have an ill feeling about them, but nothing that can be proven. Still, I’d rather no chances were taken right now.” Now it was Le Vesconte’s turn to take a quick, darting look about, then inquire almost below the level of hearing,

“So is it to be…?” He drew a single finger across his throat. Little shook his head.

“We’ve unfortunate orders to keep the captive alive. But that shouldn’t preclude a bit of amusement, in memory of the late Mr. Irving.”

“No indeed,” agreed Le Vesconte. “And after all, there are so many ways for a man to be kept alive.” The two Lieutenants’ eyes met, and both smiled thoroughly unwholesome smiles.

“I must be on my way, my friend,” said Little, adjusting the shoulder strap of his musket. “We’ll meet again soon enough.” He continued toward his tent, where after a bit of excavation, he managed to find the stale, mouldy biscuit hidden in his pack. It was better than nothing, marginally, though his teeth ached as he chewed the hard, flavourless thing. He tried to ignore the fact that the last few bites tasted faintly of blood, then slowly set off back toward where Jopson was expecting him. On his way, he met Robert Sargent, and made a quiet suggestion that he visit the prisoner’s tent a bit later, before finally heading there himself. Lieutenant Jopson was waiting by the entrance, his shotgun shouldered, glancing out the tent flap with uncharacteristic impatience, and then rushing to join Little outside.

“You’re in one blazing hurry to escape that rat-faced bastard,” noted Little. “He’s that bad, is he?” This time it was Jopson’s turn to do the hurried glance about them, making sure that nobody was near enough to mark his next words.

“It’s not that, Mr Little, though I don’t mind admitting that I hate the swine,” said Jopson in a rushed half whisper. “I just need to talk to Dr. Goodsir most urgently! This may sound completely cracked, but his suggestion to cure scurvy? It bloody well works!” Little laughed out loud at this.

“You’re having me on here! The sawbones is mad!” Judging from the urgency in Jopson’s eyes and tone, Edward Little would have sworn that he was mad too.

“He is not! This morning my gums were bloody as hell – now look!” Jopson ran a finger to and fro beneath his upper lip, then held it up for inspection. It was clean.

“The hell you say! You mean you…?” Little’s face screwed up in a combination of confusion and disgust. Jopson laid a friendly hand on his arm, before heading off to see the doctor.

“Desperate times and desperate measures, old man,” he said softly over his shoulder with a wink. “It’s not as bad as all that if you can keep him quiet!”

Completely unsettled, Edward Little ducked into the prisoner’s tent, and supposed that he should not have been shocked by the sight that greeted him there, given his conversation with Jopson. Cornelius Hickey lay flat on his back on the thin pallet that they’d become accustomed to thinking of as “beds”, his skinny wrists tied above his head, his trousers open and genitals exposed, and his face thickly spattered with a suspicious milky jelly, his left eye bloodshot, and half swollen shut. If a picture was worth a thousand words, then the story told by the state Jopson had left Hickey in was not one suitable for print. Little prodded his sore gumline with his tongue for a moment. This was worth a bit of consideration. Before he could consider seriously though, Hickey spoke, his usual smirk fixed in back place.

“So is this what’s happening here then? I’m to be passed around between the officers like some cheap doxy?” Little scowled like a polar thunderstorm.

“Have you ever been good for anything else, you murdering Molly? Shut your smart mouth unless it’s needed.”

Hickey began to giggle at this, and seemed on the verge of more commentary when the tent flap opened, and Lieutenant Le Vesconte entered, followed by Robert Sargent, and his friend James Reid, who all stopped dead when they laid eyes on Hickey’s state.

“What the bleeding hell...” began Sargent.

“I thought the plan was just to give him a bit of a drubbing, Little!” said Le Vesconte, taking a step backward.

“Yeah, so did I!” said Little gesturing to Hickey on the tent floor, “But this is how Jopson left him when we traded off, and…”

Jopson?!?” chorused the other three in obvious disbelief.

“Sweet as pie, Captain’s boy, bloody Jopson?” repeated Reid.

“Yes, him,” said Little, who then sighed deeply. “Look gents, you weren’t there this morning when this rat bastard was questioned, but Jopson and I were, and Dr. Goodsir made a very strange, very disquieting line of inquiry into this little shit’s state of health. ‘Cause he’s got no trace of scurvy, lads. None. Can any of us say the same?” There was silence, apart from an uncomfortable shuffling among the three standing just inside the tent. “Right. Same here. Well, the only thing that the doctor could figure he’d been doing differently from the rest of us was… “

“I believe I said that I’ve been sucking a lot of cock!” supplied Hickey cheerfully from the floor. Little groaned, and dropped his face into his hands, as Hickey cackled with laughter. The laughter was duly cut off, as Sargent fetched a sharp kick into Hickey’s ribs, leaving him curled to one side, making small, pained gasping sounds. Now Sargent smirked.

“There’s a better noise to hear from him! So, Little, did anyone actually give any orders as to what was to be done with this filth?” Edward Little shook his head.

“Only that we’re to keep him alive, under armed guard, and that the doctor wants to use him for his experiments. I’d figured that he’ll still be fit to experiment on after a good kicking, but it looks like Jopson’s found other uses for him. If that cure of Goodsir’s actually works...”

“You’re seriously considering this!” Reid was incredulous.

“Feel like living a little longer?” asked Le Vesconte, removing an unmarked bottle from the canvas bag he’d had slung over his shoulder. “This is good, strong, spiced rum, straight from Jamaica, not the shite that’s been going into the common grog. I’ve been saving it for a special occasion.” He grinned, his gold tooth glinting wickedly in the dim tent. “I think we could all use a bit right now.”

“I second that motion!” called Hickey, from his place on the floor. This time, Little kicked him in the gut, hard enough to knock the breath out of him. Then he held out a hand toward Le Vesconte.

“About that rum then, sir?”

Le Vesconte passed it over and allowed Little to do the honours, cursing as he dug out the cork with his boat knife, then drinking deeply, straight from the bottle.

“Goddamn, that’s good! Brilliant planning, my good man!” He made a mock salute, and passed the bottle back to Le Vesconte, who raised it in a toast.

“To Her Majesty’s Navy, and our most excellent discipline!” They heard Hickey snort at this in disdain.

“Discipline? More like rum, sodomy, and the lash!”

This time Reid’s boot caught Hickey in a lazy swing to the jaw that knocked him flat back from the sitting position he’d squirmed into. The men all laughed at this, as he curled up defensively, a thin trickle of blood running from the corner of his mouth, and the bottle went around the circle. After a few circuits, in their semi-starved condition, the men were most definitely feeling the alcohol, and were eyeing their prisoner speculatively.

“So Little,” said Sargent, “You’re sure that Jopson wasn’t just having you on about this cure of Goodsir’s working?” Little rolled his eyes.

“This is Jopson we’re talking about! And he showed me himself – his gums weren’t even bleeding. I’m willing to try.” Le Vesconte gave another of his wicked grins.

“So that means you’re going first, then?”

“Wellll...” Little looked at the other three in turn. “And just have you lot watching? I say we go together, have some fun with it. Use the little Mary-Ann like a girl. Like Jopson did.”

“That’s one ugly girl,” said Reid, shaking his head.

“So, we don’t have to be gentle about it, right? We make the bitch hurt for everything he’s done.” Little was beginning to truly enjoy the idea, and against his expectations, his cock was stirring in his drawers. “Look, anyone here ever get off with a man before, anyone know what he’s doing?” Le Vesconte stepped forward, his hand already resting lightly on his trouser buttons.

“It wouldn’t be my first time making use of a prisoner, if that’s what you mean, Edward. You take the front, for the antiscorbutic, if you like; I’ll take the rear, and make this boy cry for his mama.”

Hickey had been tracking them nervously with his eyes, half amused at their ever-so-masculine indecision, but now his smile failed as the two larger sailors approached him. He turned his head, winced, spat out a mouthful of blood and half a molar, then looked up, steeling himself for what he knew was about to come. It wouldn’t be his first time, no, but that didn’t mean it would be pleasant. Still, he’d survived this sort of treatment before, and he could survive it again. After all, they’d been ordered to leave him alive, and in decent condition. As Little and Le Vesconte roughly pulled the trousers and drawers from his body, he could only hope that they remembered their orders as well.

That was when Hickey noted something strange and wrong, more wrong than his being rolled onto his aching side, more wrong than the sound of LeVesconte opening his trousers, spitting into his palm, and beginning to work his cock into awakening. What Hickey noticed was the clear expression in Little’s eyes, scarcely masked by his anger anymore. He looked up, and saw the same emotion mirrored in the eyes of the men avidly watching, veiled by alcohol and vicious excitement.

It was fear. They were possibly even more frightened than their victim was, and Hickey wasn’t sure whether this was cause to rejoice or panic. Frightened men, were, after all, stupid and reckless men. His traitor prick bypassed his mind again though, and gave a jump at the sense of power that their fear had given him for a split second.

“Can you fucking believe this? The skinny whore wants it!” Hickey could not see his face, but Little’s voice was incredulous. He couldn’t tell who spoke next.

“So give it to him then!”

Which is precisely what they did. Little took his hardening prick in his mouth, and began to suckle at it amateurishly, though his lack of skill didn’t take the pleasure from the act, unfortunately. Meantime, Le Vesconte raised Hickey’s upper leg for better ease of access, and began to force what felt like a massive and hardly lubricated cock into Hickey’s arse, without warning or preparation. Hickey tried his best to feign indifference, but he couldn’t keep the wince off his face, or the tears from springing to his eyes. The other men laughed and cheered encouragement, until he was flat out being brutally dry-fucked from behind, Le Vesconte grasping his hipbones, and breathing hot and heavily against the back of his neck.

“Lads, you have got to give this arse a go! I’d no idea this slut would be so fucking tight!”

The trouble was, that every time Hickey tried to pull away from the tearing, searing punishment behind, his still-hard cock would slide ever deeper into the wet warmth in front, only to be yanked back, then swallowed whole over and over again. The conflicting sensations of pain and pleasure were beginning to overwhelm him, and he did not want to give these swine what they’d come here for. Just then, Reid, who had been standing aside and quietly palming the crotch of his trousers, stepped forward, saying,

“Bugger this, I want some of the fun too!”

Within a moment he was on his knees at Hickey’s head, prick in one hand, a fistful of Hickey’s hair in the other, yanking his head painfully back and tearing at his scalp, forcing his cock past his lips, then easily past teeth that were now too painful on one side to clench with any real resolve, and to his deepest chagrin, Hickey’s traitor prick gave another kick. Little pulled off for a second just to laugh out jubilantly,

“Hey boys, he likes it! The dirty fucking whore loves it!”

The tent filled with raucous laughter, which Hickey made his best attempt not to hear, and then it quieted again, apart from the sounds of determined fucking, of one man being thoroughly defiled by the cocks invading his arse and his mouth, and being forced to enjoy the sensation of being clumsily fellated at the same time. That precise thought of what was being done to him circled Hickey’s mind like foul water circling a drain, and he couldn’t help himself or stop himself. He thrust hard into Little’s mouth, the friction and stretch in his arse tingling almost like something other than pain, grunted around Reid’s cock, and came, his orgasm a reflex almost totally devoid of true pleasure. Almost, but to his shame, not quite. At the same time, he looked up, just for a moment, and saw Sargent pulling at his prick, his face beatific, just before he splattered Hickey’s face. This time Hickey remembered to close his eyes first, at least. Before the warm rain had finished, he heard a long, loud groan behind him, and felt a pulsing and scalding inside his already raw arse. Someone, he couldn’t tell who, called out,

“Alright lads, who’s next?”

It was going to be a long day. 

-----

Not far away at all, but separated by two tents and the white curtains of sound dampening fog, Captain Francis Crozier sat in the chilly private tent that was his dubious due as Captain of this damned crew, squinting in the dim light at one of the many maps spread before him on the small, folding table. He hadn’t bothered to light a lantern, sparing the oil for night time use only. Though Goodsir had reported his first results to the Captain, he was still low on hope for their ultimate survival. A cure for scurvy might be a solution to a number of their troubles, but they still lacked enough unspoiled food to see them all to the mainland, even. Particularly if those who might have been carried off sooner by the scurvy regained their health and appetites. Now, instead of bleeding, they would all slowly starve to death. Provided that the Creature didn’t kill the lot of them first. Francis sat, motionless, a deep, pained scowl etched onto his blunt features, his thoughts running over and over the same bleak territory. It is useless. It is hopeless. We will all still die out here. More than ever, since his agonising break with the bottle, he longed for good, Irish whisky to drown his agony. Or bad whisky, of any origin. Hell, even fucking gin would do at a time like this. He was, in fact, so lost in his own tortured mind that he didn’t hear his Second enter the tent, or even notice his presence until Fitzjames’ hand was on his shoulder.

“Are you all right Francis? I said hello twice, and you didn’t move a muscle.”

“Hmmm… I suppose I’m just in one of my old “brown studies”, James. I keep staring at these maps, and taking tallies of our supplies, and estimating how far we might get, and how quickly or slowly… And in spite of what Goodsir says about the scurvy, it still seems… Well, James, to be honest, I simply don’t believe it’s possible. Barring another damned miracle.”

James sat down in the low chair beside Francis, his long, slim legs folding elegantly beneath it. He tilted his head, studying his friend’s anguished face.

“I disagree.” James held up a hand as Francis opened his mouth to argue. “Let me say my piece here, Francis, and then you can tick me off all you like. But even earlier today, I would have agreed with you. God, earlier today, I wouldn’t have believed I’d more than a week left in me, two at most. And I was content with that.”

“What on Earth are you talking about?” Francis’ frown was suffused with concern now. “I know you haven’t been well, but why would you think...”

“The Chinese sniper’s revenge.” said James simply, as he removed his coat and thick jumper, revealing the ugly stains left on his shirt. “My old wounds had reopened, here, here, and here,” he pointed, “and until I got up the courage to visit Dr. Goodsir about them, I knew that they would only continue to worsen, and that eventually I would lose too much blood to go on. And I would have been happy to allow my condition to remain hidden, and die in due course, with my truest friend by my side. But now… Now they’ve been cleaned and bandaged and the cause has been… treated… And I have hope again, and a reason to continue. I refuse to give up, Francis, and so should you, both for the sake of these men who look to you, yes you, as their true leader, and because… oh hell!” James turned his face away, a bright spot like windburn flaming high on each sharp cheekbone.

“Because…?” asked Francis, his ice grey eyes gone soft as the fog.

“Because, if you must know, you are the most damnably infuriating man I have ever known, because I truly believe that you are the only man who might be able to lead us home alive, and I, for one, could not imagine going on a single day without you! I’d be utterly lost!” Francis cupped James’s sculptured chin in a rough, weathered palm, and turned his face back toward him. He was startled to see the tears spill over from those dark, lovely, tip-tilted eyes, and to see lips straight from some frivolous painting shape the words,

“Can’t you see, Francis, that I love you, you fool?”

Like the thinnest ray of light through a stormcloud, a fragile smile broke onto Francis’ face. He thumbed the tears away from the corner of James’ eyes, and studied his face as he had his precious maps.

“You beautiful, ridiculous man, and you were just going to up and die without saying a thing?” Francis couldn’t help laughing aloud, and after a brief moment of hurt pride, James joined him.

“I suppose I was at that! Silly, now that I think of it...” He didn’t manage any further words, as Francis covered his mouth with his own, in a slow, tender, and extremely thorough kiss. When he finally pulled away, still holding James’ face in his hands, he gazed at the pure wonder that shone from James’ gaunt, weathered, but still so handsome features.

“You care for me as well,” James said softly, as if beholding something sacred, a treasure far too delicate and rare to even disturb by speaking of it too loudly. “Dr. Goodsir seemed certain, but I didn’t know...” Francis kissed him again, lightly, then rolled his eyes.

“Dr. Goodsir, that gossiping trollop! So he told you that I share your feelings on this matter?”

“Wait – do you mean to say that you knew about… That you and the doctor!” Francis shrugged, almost sheepishly.

“I’d seen the doctor about my troubles sleeping. And, well, you know how it is with Dr. Goodsir.”

“Honestly, Francis, until this morning, I’d no idea about Dr. Goodsir, or what that man is capable of!”

“James, you have been missing out on quite a lot there! Sometimes I think you might be enough of an idiot to be promoted as soon as we get home! And for the record, yes, I do love you. I love you far too much to allow you to go and nobly die on me without serious mutual discussion first!” They both began to laugh again, on and on, like schoolboys. Catching his breath, Francis repeated, “Not without discussion, or without some very serious catching up that we have to do...” And he took both of James’ hands in his, and led him over to the pile of sleeping furs at the side of the tent, the warmest and most comfortable place in possibly the entire camp, where they fell to their knees together, then sunk down onto their sides, already in a close embrace, their legs entwined, their kisses deep and unhurried. Their hands wandered slowly up and down each other’s chests and backs, until James pulled back from Francis’ lips just enough to murmur,

“Skin, Francis, I need to feel your skin,” as he began to undo waistcoat and shirt buttons, grazing his lips reverently over every bit of newly revealed flesh. James felt the calloused fingers opening his own shirt, and welcomed their touch until they suddenly stopped at the line of fresh bandages.

“Mmmm, love, I can’t let you catch your death here,” said Francis, his lips tracing the words against the skin of James’ bared clavicle, and he rolled himself over, then tugged the double thickness of the fur sleeping bag after him onto James, entrapping him beneath a wonderfully warm, solid weight, kissing him as hard as he had longed to do for so many cold, lonely months.
“So warm… so good,” was all James could manage to say as he laid back, opening his mouth to Francis’ tongue, and spreading his legs as Francis slid a thigh between them. He arched up into the contact, mumbling, “So good...” again, and tried to wriggle a hand between their bodies, to search out their trouser buttons. What his hand found first though, was the hard swelling between Francis’ legs, and he allowed it to pause there, grasping and stroking through heavy fabric, causing this wonderous, incredible man that he loved to become completely inarticulate, moaning with pleasure that sounded halfway to pain, directly into his mouth.

It was no wonder, really, that neither of them heard the sounds of motion at the opening of the tent, that neither of them heard anything but a familiar voice, heavy with concern.

“Daddy? Are you alright?”