Work Header


Work Text:

'Jack,' [Stephen] said, as they walked along the rim of the crater to a point where they could hail the ship, 'did you reflect upon Ganymede at all?'

'Yes,' said Jack. 'I was up with him all last night, and should be this night were it not for the Sultan's visit tomorrow. Such an endearing little pale golden body as he peeps out - he is easily my favourite. But I shall still have him almost all night, once the Sultan is done with.'

'Shall you, though?' said Stephen, looking at his friend's pleased, well-fed face, rather more florid than usual from the Sultan's wine; and after a pause, 'Brother, can we be talking of the same thing?'

'I should hope so,' said Jack, smiling. 'Jupiter is in opposition, you know. Nobody could have missed his splendour...the prettiest of the satellites. What a fellow you are, Stephen.'

'How well named. But I meant another Ganymede, the Sultan's cup-bearer. Did you notice him?'

'Well, yes, I did. I said to myself, Why, damn my eyes, there is a girl. But then I remembered that there would be no girls at a feast like that...why do you call him Ganymede?'

'Ganymede was Jupiter's cup-bearer; and I believe their connexion, their relations, their friendship, would now be frowned upon. But I use the name loosely, as it is so often used: I mean no reflexion upon the Sultan.'

'Curious that you should call it friendship,' said Jack, peering in the direction of the ship. They were still too distant to hail the Diane, and the lights of the mosques and the Sultan's palace were dim behind them. 'Ganymede is dominated by Jupiter - his property, if you will - though it is scarcely our place to question whether he might be ill-used by his lord and master.'

Jack chortled once, but Stephen frowned. Ledward had brought his fate upon himself, but the cup-bearer was only a boy, likely a minion to the Sultan by the status of his birth rather than by choice. 'The Sultan is not Abdul's only friend, sure,' he said. 'I saw him watching Ledward.'

For a time they were silent, treading carefully on the crumbled lava in the falling darkness. 'Stephen,' said Jack presently. 'If you are reflecting upon Ganymede, you may recall the mortal peril of those who tried to thwart Jupiter's will.'

'Indeed, I have studied the Metamorphoses,' Stephen replied irritably. 'How else would I come to know Ganymede's lowly position on Olympus? If the boy allows others to use him, then as you say, his fate is beyond our sphere.'

Pausing, Jack turned. 'I am not concerned with his fate, Stephen,' he said. The voice contained no trace of the intoxication coloring Jack's face. 'The Sultan may tolerate a man such as Ledward, but I will not believe you to be so foolish that you would risk your life over a pretty servant.'

'Brother, you have mistook my meaning.' Stephen smiled, then saw at once that it had been another miscalculation. 'Jack, I have no interest in that boy. Only in how his use might influence the outcome of our mission.'

'You are not to use him at all.' This was Captain Aubrey speaking. 'Whatever your mission in Pulo Prabang, so long as you serve as the surgeon aboard my ship, there is the dignity of the service to consider, particularly now that I have been reinstated.'

It would have been low to mention his own involvement in Jack's reinstatement, but Stephen grew peevish at Jack's words. 'I expect, then, that the dignity of the service dictates your own behavior, and would have prevented you from noticing any pretty satellite,' he snapped.

Even in the dimness of the evening, Stephen could see Jack's face flushed with anger. 'Noticing is not the same as using! Are you not the physician who insisted a man could not be hanged for sodomy with no evidence of penetration?'

That was a subject debated between Stephen and Jack more than once. Stephen remembered very well the circumstances of the most recent conversation, just one night before, when Stephen had been sober though Jack had been quite drunk, and the laws of the Navy had not weighed so heavily upon him.

'Jack, I have no plan to use that boy myself,' insisted Stephen. 'I observed Abdul with Ledward, and considered that if the Sultan came to notice the same private looks, it would bode ill for both the boy and that vile traitor.'

He took a step closer to Jack, whose anger had vanished as quickly as it had come upon him. 'Forgive me, brother,' said Jack in a low voice. 'Of course I did not mean to suggest that you would dishonor the service.'

'Nor did I mean to suggest that I would regard any Ganymede with such interest. Unless, of course, you wish to invite me to share your telescope.'

'I did believe I had explained that I would be up all night.' Now Jack was smiling; Stephen would have known it from his voice even fully in the dark. 'Shall I show you a closer view of Jupiter?'

'The greatest pleasure of the world, sure.' They stood so close to one another that their hands touched.