He waited until night to leave his quarters. It was never really a safe thing to assume the men had all retired or that he wouldn’t meet someone lurking about after dark. But the fewer who saw him the better. One rumour was easier to deny than a dozen.
James was almost getting used to the temperamental little hobble that his step had acquired since his foolish injuring of himself. He knew he really should have sought help the moment it happened. But even here, in the middle of bloody nowhere, his pride had niggled. Wait, it had said. Just a day or two. The pain would ease. No point in bothering Stanley. He had far bigger concerns.
But three days later, when the discomfort still hadn’t eased, his sense of duty had won out. No good having a commander who couldn’t walk properly. What if he had to run somewhere at a moment’s notice? Or hike out into that rough, ice-blighted wasteland? If his ego cost one life, then he’d have worse than embarrassment to contend with.
Sighing, he stopped at the sickbay door. He knew he was being dramatic. But hell’s bells, he was good at it and it made him feel marginally better. He knocked with the vague sense of a man walking to his pillory. He really would have to impress upon Stanley the importance of the matter remaining private—
He heard footsteps on the other side of the door and plastered what he hoped was a breezy, casual smile on his face. If he was going to endure this humbling experience, then he could at least playact that he was unruffled by it. The door swung open with a shrill squeal of its’ hinges.
James felt the smile slide off his face like the last setting sun.
Goodsir’s hair seemed even more ruffled than usual. His eyes widened at the sight of his commander. “Oh! Good evening, sir.”
James swallowed and stared. Where in the blazes was Stanley? The petulant doctor must have already retired to bed. Damn him. He took any chance he could to avoid the sickbay.
Goodsir cleared his throat. “Can I help you?”
James’s brain eventually creaked into action. “I… I’m sorry to bother you so late, Goodsir. May I come in?”
The young surgeon’s cheeks went pink and he scrambled backwards, bumping into the wall behind him in his haste. “Of course, sir.”
James entered, conscious of how the cramped quarters made it necessary for their bodies to become momentarily flush as he squeezed past him. The sound of the sickbay door closing tightly and securely behind him against prying eyes and ears was a miniscule shred of comfort, but it was lost in the discordant anxiety and humiliation.
He turned to face Goodsir, noting that the flush hadn’t entirely left his face. He noted with something like despair that Goodsir looked as though he hadn’t combed his hair since they left England. He had such a bounty of dark, rebellious curls and tangles. Unkempt, yes. But soft. Clean. It rather made James want to lean forward and—
A gentle cough interrupted his almost feverish stream of thoughts. Goodsir was peering at him, a concerned frown wrinkling his youthful features. “Are you well, sir? I can call Doctor Stanley if—”
“No,” James said too quickly. He cleared his throat, attempting a smile. “That won’t be necessary, Goodsir.”
God forbid the whole damned ship get involved.
“Then?” Goodsir prompted. He didn’t seem irritated by his superior’s behaviour, merely somewhat bewildered.
Dear man, James thought before he could stop the notion.
“I have a small concern, Goodsir.” James was looking at the wall just past Goodsir’s head. It made things easier. “I hope you’ll appreciate that it’s a somewhat… delicate matter and I would appreciate your discretion immensely.”
“Of course, sir.” Goodsir nodded furiously.
James sighed and perched gingerly on the edge of the sickbed. “It’s in an—Ah.” He took a breath. “An—Intimate area.” He spat the words out like something rancid.
There was a brief silence. He forced himself with difficulty to meet Goodsir’s eye. The man stared back at him, his expression quite blank.
And then he laughed. A soft chuckle that was akin to treachery as far as James was concerned. He bristled and folded his arms.
Goodsir clearly saw he had offended him for he hastened to explain himself. “Forgive me, sir. I just… I thought it was something far worse. You were being rather mysterious.”
“Frankly, I think I’d find it easier to admit I had the plague,” James said, though he felt himself relax. Knowing Goodsir was laughing at his folly and not his medical malady was comforting somehow.
Goodsir chuckled again and gestured to the bed. “Could you lay down? I’ll need to examine you.”
James took a breath. Now it was time for the part he had been dreading. He nodded dumbly and carefully lifted his legs onto the bed to avoid jostling his tender area. He laid back and stared at the ceiling.
He gave a startled jump as Goodsir’s cold fingertips brushed his arms. “Sorry,” Goodsir murmured. “I’m just going to feel about your stomach and then I’ll have you pull your breeches down if you don’t mind.” He sounded apologetic.
James just nodded. He felt Goodsir’s hands, in places soft and in places calloused, tug up his shirt and unbutton the three bottom buttons so he could feel his stomach. James’s skin flinched a little at the sensation.
“Sorry. Cold hands,” Goodsir said softly. “Tell me if you feel any pain, sir.”
He prodded and squeezed the muscle and skin around James’s lower stomach. He felt his thumbs brush against the arch of his hips. Goodsir’s hands were warming up now. And so was James.
“No pain?” Goodsir remarked.
“No,” James said tautly.
Goodsir took away his hands. James had just been getting used to the sensation. And perhaps… something else.
Goodsir cleared his throat in an unmistakeably awkward manner. James knew what was coming next. “I need you to…”
James swallowed. “Ah, yes. Of course.”
He had the belated thought, as he unbuttoned his breeches, that Francis would have laughed his bloody head off if he could see where James’s fastidious hygiene habits had gotten him.
James worked his trousers down his hips and thighs, hissing softly at the whip of cold air against his exposed privates. He struggled to get his breeches down any further than his mid-thigh. And he was utterly loath to bend over or splay his legs out like some—
Before James could reply, Goodsir had hooked his thumbs into the waistband of his breeches and tugged them down cleanly over his knees and around his boots.
James gritted his teeth. Lord have mercy.
He caught Goodsir’s eye. There was an impish edge to his expression that struck James as distinctly impertinent. But the fact his prick was now on full display between them discouraged him from scolding him. And frankly, achieving authority with his trousers around his ankles was a feat beyond even him.
Goodsir didn’t look away. His expression was its usual mask of professional detachment and concern, but there was something brewing in those hazel eyes. Intense, churning and distinctly knowing. James felt exposed. Terribly (wonderfully) exposed.
Goodsir’s left brow quirked very, very slightly. “I might need to take your breeches off completely, sir. For… access.”
Damn him. James stared at him, his mouth feeling almost too dry to speak. He jerked his head in more of a spasm than a nod, unable to say the word. Goodsir lowered his eyes, the corners of his mouth twitching upward almost imperceivably. He yanked James’s boots off one at a time and let them drop to the floor with two low thuds.
James stood up and kicked off his bunched trousers from one ankle and then the other. He could feel Goodsir’s eyes on him. He folded the garment in what he knew was a farcical display of navy fastidiousness and returned to perching on the edge of the sickbed. Now clad in nothing but his partly unbuttoned shirt. Almost feeling defiant, he looked up at Goodsir.
He caught the latter end of a sweeping look up and down his person. He stared at Goodsir’s face and when the younger man finally looked up, he at least had the decency to look sheepish at being caught. His cheeks went faintly pink behind his whiskers.
Good, thought James ungraciously. Well might he blush. Leering at his superior like that. James looked down and bit the inside of his bottom lip. Mercy, even the word “leer” threatened to get him into a state that he couldn’t come back from.
“Would you lay back down for me, sir?”
Goodsir’s voice coaxed him. The hairs on James’s arms stood up like there was static in the air. Wordlessly, he lifted his legs onto the bed and arranged himself so he was propped up on his elbows. A probably fruitless attempt to maintain some control (and a modicum of dignity) in the situation.
Goodsir donned a pair of white gloves and gave him a brief, tight-lipped smile before carefully touching his abdomen. He applied a bit of pressure as he worked his way down his stomach to his hips.
Goodsir always sounded so much in control when he was playing doctor. James closed his eyes. It really was… too much. He gave a jerky shake of his head, like his neck joints were in need of oil. Goodsir made a noncommittal sound and James felt his hands pass down below his hips.
“Sir, you will need to tell me precisely where the concern is so I can focus my efforts.”
“Focus his efforts”. James felt a wild, uncanny desire almost to laugh. It really was too much. He was too much.
He opened his eyes and released the breath he didn’t realise he had been holding. “It’s ah… downwards.” He winced.
Goodsir glanced at him. “I know it’s in an intimate place, but I really do need to know precisely where—”
“The most intimate place!” James snapped before he could stop himself. “The most intimate place, Goodsir. Now, please—”
He didn’t even know what he was asking Goodsir for. To stop talking. Keep talking. He didn’t know which one would make the situation less ghastly.
Goodsir did not speak for a moment. Then, he cleared his throat and licked his lips. “And you have no pain anywhere else?”
James huffed. “Christ, I don’t know. Maybe? The pain below makes it difficult to distinguish anything else.”
“My apologies. I know this is not a pleasant experience.” Goodsir’s tone was so understanding. It was the last thing James needed at that moment. He wished for the impishness to return. “I will need you to spread your legs so I can find the root of the problem.”
James nodded wearily. Refusing now would be like grasping at a fig leaf. He allowed Goodsir to guide his legs apart and squirmed as he felt gloved hands trail down the inside of his thighs to his aching core.
He hissed helplessly as his prick was taken in hand, fondled like a baby bird as Goodsir squeezed and turned it over in search of injury. The stroking and squeezing had the inevitable effect when done by someone James was so haplessly attracted to. He could do nothing but grit his teeth.
“Pain?” Goodsir queried, looking up at him.
“No,” James croaked.
Goodsir nodded and released his cock. James almost released a whimper in return, but somehow by the grace of God managed to contain it. He noted with no surprise that when Goodsir let go of him, he was half-erect. He shook his head silently.
As though he hadn’t noticed, Goodsir moved his hand lower and gently cupped his balls. James’s hips bucked. Goodsir sent him an apologetic look. His eyes were hooded and dark. Stormy. James knew the look only too well. His body inwardly roiled in response.
“Does this hurt?” Goodsir said, his voice low and intimately close.
It hurts that this is only an examination.
Goodsir gave him a small smile and returned to his ministrations. His fingers moved from James’s sac to an area he had heard called as “perineum” by doctors and by something far more vulgar by sailors.
Taint. His fingers were on his taint.
There was slight pressure, almost a caress. James examined his position on the sickbed: legs splayed, another man’s fingers on a part of him that was usually only touched by him. Alone, in the darkness, when his loneliness morphed into writhing need. And his mind turned to desperate fantasies. The wild thought entered his head that he wanted to move, wanted to rub himself against the firm, broad fingers pressed into him.
“I’m going to have to examine you internally now.” Goodsir’s tone was apologetic. His face was calm. But his eyes were not. Burning. Like something possessed. Something wild.
James spread his legs wider. Ne didn’t even mean to. His body had just decided it would do so.
May God and the Admiralty have their eyes closed tight against this sin. James cringed. Especially the bloody Admiralty.
Like a cautious lover, Goodsir began to press inside of him. Two gloved fingers together, careful but firm. But the pain was immediate, though not as intense as it had been a day prior. James hissed softly in discomfort. Goodsir stopped pushing but didn’t remove his fingers.
“You feel pain here?”
James jerked his head in a nod. “Yes. And a little deeper.”
He couldn’t quite believe he was practically inviting Goodsir to push in further. Not least because that was where the greatest pain was.
“How did you do this to yourself?” Goodsir’s question carried an implicit, second question: Did you do this to yourself?
James bristled at the suggestion he would allow someone on ship to use him to the point of injury. “I have a… precise process of toilette.”
Goodsir raised one eyebrow at him. “How precise is precise?”
James sent him the most withering look he could muster while spread out like a picnic in front of him. “Deduce it,” he growled.
Goodsir’s eyes fluttered and he looked away. James observed a pretty blush creep up his neck. A thrill went through James’s body, through his clammy hands and up his spine. He had caused that. Goodsir’s veneer of detachment was slipping.
Goodsir returned to his ministrations. He leant forward like he was examining some medical specimen, his head dipping rather obscenely between James’s legs like an obedient housemaid. With his face so close to James’s hole he probably could have reached out with his tongue to touch it. Jame’s cock throbbed with interest at that thought. Goodsir pressed his fingers in half an inch further.
James choked on the throb of pain. “Ah!”
At the sound of his cry, Goodsir quickly retracted his fingers. There was a little blood on his fingertips, but not nearly as much as James had expected from the level of soreness. Goodsir delicately removed the gloves.
“You’ve injured yourself.”
James resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “I had gathered that much. How badly? Do I need…” He swallowed. “Surgery?”
Frankly, the idea of having a needle stuck in such a place made possible infection almost desirable in comparison.
To his slight annoyance, Goodsir laughed. “Nothing so drastic. It will heal in its own time. Keep it clean.” He gave James a look. “And please stop poking at it. You’re making it infinitely worse.”
James was about to protest at such an insinuation, but he decided against it. Likely, Goodsir could observe where he had disturbed the healing process in his foolish attempts to maintain his usual cleanliness habits.
Goodsir walked across to the sink and washed his hands. James watched him carefully dry them and turn to face him, leaning on the edge of the sink with his arms folded and the sleeves of his shirt rolled up. James couldn’t have been more het up at the sight of him. His prick was still rigid and still being ignored by both of them.
Goodsir coughed. “Well… if there’s anything else…”
James jerked like he was emerging from a trance and scrambled off the bed. “No. No, I—Um, that’s just fine.” He fumbled for his belongings on the floor.
Goodsir hastened to help him, grabbing for James’s boots while he struggled to yank his breeches up his legs. They both straightened up at the same time. James staggered unsteadily back against the sickbed, his breeches still down around his thighs. Goodsir stared at him, holding one of his boots in each hand. Their chests rose and fell in unison.
The two thumps were like muted cannon fire, as James’s boots hit the sickbay floor. James grasped at Goodsir’s shoulders, yanking him against him at the same time that the other man pressed himself into James’s arms. It was less kissing than ravaging. Goodsir’s hands threaded through his hair, urging his face down, closing the few inches of difference in their heights.
Goodsir was the one who broke away first, not stepping back but tilting his head back an inch or so to look at James’s face with a bleary expression. “I’m sorry.”
James held his jaw between his hands. “Peace, Goodsir.”
“Please,” Goodsir panted. “Please, call me Harry.”
James could have melted, even in this frozen heart of the north, at his vulnerability, his sweetness. Asking something so fervently of James that he was all too happy to do.
James rubbed his thumb over Goodsir’s mouth. “Harry.”
And Harry smiled back at him, in a way that was endearingly pleased. He closed the gap between them. James gasped as his stiff cock was pressed into the softness of his partner’s lower stomach.
Their second kiss was less animalistic, but still walking a tenuous line between fervent and desperate. James couldn’t resist taking Harry’s behind in his hands, squeezing and kneading it like he had fantasised about in idle daydreams.
Harry gasped into his mouth. “Sir.”
“If I’m calling you Harry, I think you should extend to me the same courtesy,” James mumbled, with a smirk.
His partner hummed contentedly. “Very well, Harry.”
James scoffed and laughed at the same time. “Fool.”
Harry placed his hands on his chest, pushing gently but firmly. James allowed himself to be guided back onto the sickbed. He realised belatedly that it was difficult to manoeuvre himself with his breeches still around his knees and fell very much ungracefully backwards. Harry leant over him with a laugh and curled his hand around James’s prick, still standing erect and eager between them.
James moaned aloud. It felt like a relief to make the sound. Like he’d been bottling it up since he had set eyes on Harry Goodsir that evening. Finally having the man’s hands on him the way he wanted, not just as his doctor or as his surgeon. It coaxed sounds from him that he’d only been choking into his pillow at night
“Yes… Oh God, yes.” He moaned again, rolling his hips up to meet Harry’s earnest, though slightly clumsy strokes.
Harry panted and leaned hard against him, his mouth very close to his ear and breathing hot, heady air onto his neck. His hand clasped tighter onto James’s erection. His other hand felt exploratively underneath him, creeping up to cradle his balls. James’s eyes fluttered at the sensation.
He thrust up into Harry’s curled hand, fucking into his fist like a man possessed. Harry was gasping and gulping, rubbing himself against him, rutting into his thigh and his leg. James could feel the tender spot between his buttocks rubbing a little uncomfortably against the sickbed.
“Yes, darling.” James didn’t even mean to use the pet name, but it had spilt so naturally from his mouth.
Harry groaned low. James felt it reverberate up through his chest. There really was a new, delightful sensation within every moment with him.
With jutting, irregular jerks of his hips against James and harsh, panting breaths, Harry’s hand began to move with a new desperation. He was very nearly making love to James’s bare thighs now with his clothed cock so stiff and eager against James’s skin he could hardly bare it.
James arched up against him. “Harry. I’m going to…” The words collapsed into a moan.
With a choked sound, he came all over Goodsir’s hand. And his shirt. And trousers. James threw his head back and closed his eyes, enjoying the ebbing moments of the ride as his orgasm crested and rolled.
All of his writhing and sound and fury seemed to be what Harry needed, because the next moment he could feel convulsing against him and shuddering breaths hitting his ear, hot and frantic. The thought that Goodsir was coming in his trousers against him, had brought himself off by simply rubbing against him sent a last, belated burst of pleasure through James. Burning hard and brief.
Harry fell almost limp against him. Both of them clung to each other and panted. James stroked Harry’s thick, unruly hair with a gently trembling hand. He cooed nonsense in his ear. The sort of nonsense he loved to hear himself in his own afterglow. Concerning how precious he was and how good he had given it to him. Harry gave a soft whimper into him.
In his liquified state, he threatened to slide right off the bed and take James with him.
“Harry,” he whispered. “I think we might fall on our arses if we don’t move.”
Harry grunted against him and then tittered, giving his head a shake. They carefully disentangled their limbs like some botched sailor’s knot. James tugged his breeches up with one hand, wincing at the renewed pain around his poor, abused hole. He groaned aloud at the sensation.
“I’m sorry.” Goodsir stepped back, looking at him with concern. “Did I hurt you?”
James snorted softly as he leant down to yank his boots on one foot at a time. “No, darling. I hurt myself.”
Goodsir cocked his head at him slightly and stepped forward to plant a soft, chaste kiss on his lips. Well, more chaste than the rest of the kissing they’d done that evening.
He broke away and looked at James with something like mingled hope and apprehension. “So, was this…” He trailed off, looking away and then back at him.
The gentle, unpretentious hope in his voice made James want to take him into his arms again. He decided not to seem too pathetically eager, to save the very last shreds of his pride. He buttoned his shirt carefully as though considering it. As though there was ever a question of James’s feelings on the matter.
“Once I’ve given myself time to recuperate, we shall have to put your medical skills to the test and ensure I am fully healed.”
James was gratified to see the faint, pleased blush that came into Harry’s face. He nodded with an almost shy smile. “Pleased to be of service, sir.”
James briefly cupped a hand to Harry’s cheek, as though sealing their agreement and then took his leave.
He walked through the silent bowels of the Erebus still in pain (and perhaps hobbling slightly more pronouncedly than when he’d gone to Goodsir in the first place) but feeling lighter than he had for days. Perhaps weeks. And to think Francis had teased him about the overzealousness of his daily toilette. If only he knew how fruitful being overzealous had proven.
He hastened to his quarters before a truly harebrained smile could work its way onto his face.