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on the benefits of convalescence

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The storm moans and scratches at the hull like a cat left out on a wretched night. Thomas Blanky does his best to ignore it. Hopefully no one’s been forced out in such misery; he’s not sure he has the vigour to try and make yet another poor bastard laugh while their finger or toe clunks into that damned bowl like some sort of devilish offering. Maybe no one’s out after all, maybe the beast hasn’t been back since his dance with it and his blood can be the last spilled on this frozen altar. Maybe. Not very likely though is it?

Thomas rolls over with a grumble; he’s still not used to sleeping in the sick bay, but there’s not much to be done about that fact. Certainly could be worse. He doesn’t mind the little dingy shaped bunk nestled close and secure into the corner, nor the way the whitewashed walls catch that gold from lanterns never extinguished, he doesn’t even mind the seemingly endless susurrus of Doctor McDonald’s fiddly little occupations. It’s an unending melody in a room altogether too small for it to go unnoticed: the clink-tink of sorting through that menagerie of glass bottles, the creak of someone settling into a wooden chair, the fwip of leather backed journals full of words Thomas doesn’t know and doesn’t particularly care to... But despite himself he finds he isn’t vexed by it. In fact, Thomas finds he’s more grateful with each passing day that his confinement trapped him with quite possibly the one person on the whole damned ship whose company is more of a boon than a burden to him at the moment. 

Thomas’ own seemingly limitless store of cheer has been diminishing for days, ebbing away with each visitor who comes to the curtain with a hesitant knock and a hopeful smile. Lieutenant Hodgeson had come down this morning and settled in to “divert” him for ninety bloody minutes before McDonald returned and extricated the lad with an easy excuse and a furtive wink in Thomas’ direction and he could have kissed the man. 

Thomas tries rolling to the other side instead, facing one of those drawings hung up on the wall where muscles loop and lace around bodies like complicated dresses. The groans of the storm urge against the side of the hull and he suddenly misses it with a keen pang: that smell of snow, the cold on your face, the way it scrambles down your throat to steal the breath clean out of you. He wants to breathe the cold again, see the stars, feel the ice under his boots-- Boot. Damn it all…

“I can hear you turning your mind over back there,” McDonald’s voice comes, easy and light in the close space.

Thomas huffs. “Oh I doubt it, not much of anything to find in here.”

A small wooden drawer opens, there’s a clunk of glass, a shifting of cloth. “You should try to get some sleep,” McDonald says. “Will do you good.”

“Hm, could say the same to you,” Thomas parries.

The doctor makes a soft noise; a laugh, maybe a sigh. The wind moans in contrast, muted but mean against the beams behind him. How would the ice look tonight? It’s been well below zero for a few days now, long before the storm kicked back up, but with the windchill, well that would drop it even further and—

“I could give you something.” A hand lands suddenly on the beam above his bunk. “To help you sleep, I mean.” Thomas twists to look up at him. McDonald smiles down, expression guileless and patient as ever, jacket open just those three buttons he always seems to spare at the top. “Perhaps I could see if Lieutenant Hodgeson would like to return for a visit.”

“Don’t you dare,” Thomas growls into his beard. “I’ll commit a bloody crime.”

The doctor’s eyes twinkle. “Now, that would be a diversion. Not a terribly restful one though, so much to my dismay I can’t in good conscience recommend it.”

Thomas smiles despite himself. He adjusts in the bunk, muttering more to himself than anyone: “I’m sick of resting.”

“Don’t worry. You’ll be up and about in just a few days I’d suspect,” the other man says. “You’re doing remarkably. I’d say I was shocked, but if I’d been asked to put money on any amongst us simply deciding they weren’t going to be troubled by a mere amputation, well...”

Thomas frowns up at him. “You don’t sleep much either, you know that?”

The doctor gives him a needling expression. “Oh no, I hadn’t noticed. Please, elucidate me.”

Thomas snorts. “Alright, fine enough. What’s that they say again? About the sort of patients doctors make?”

“That we’re all quite lovely and terribly obedient.” McDonald pulls his hand away from the beam with a sigh. “I do apologize, however - if I’ve been disturbing you. Close space, much to do, all that.” Idly he adjusts the fingerless knit gloves on his hands.

“I’m used to it,” Thomas lies as he watches. He’s used to snores and grunts and creaks, not the fluttering little choir of occupation and ease that fills this room. One of the Doctor’s gloves is fraying on the thumb. Thomas frowns at it. “Can mend that, if you like.”

The doctor gives him a pleasantly surprised expression. “My, you really are terribly bored aren’t you?”

Thomas wants to crack some joke, brush it off, but finds himself shifting roughly instead. His shoulders feel uncharacteristically tight - probably the bed - he’s sick of being in bed. “Not used to sitting still. That’s all.” 

The man’s expression above him shifts briefly into something with such a genuine and clear pang of sympathy that Thomas feels his cheeks start to heat but he masks it easily enough, shifting upright with a grumble. “Come on then, give us a hand before I’m sick of myself.”

He half expects to be chided but McDonald simply offers him an arm which Thomas takes readily as he swings his legs over the edge of the bunk with a tight groan. The arm around his presses firmly for a moment.

“And where would you like to go this evening,” the doctor smiles, adjusting his arm under Thomas’ like he might for any school chum taking a turn around a park on some mild spring day.

“Anywhere. I don’t care. I’d like to go up—”

“Don’t think that’s wise what with—”

“—The wind and the storm and the whole damned rest of it - I know, I know,” Thomas grumbles.

“You shouldn’t go too far. Not just yet,” McDonald adds gently enough.  “You know Mr. Honey is very keen on the leg he’s been devising. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s ‘round tomorrow to help you take it for a stroll.”

Something sick suddenly surges in Thomas’ gut. He pushes it down with a tight smile. “Waltzing in no time, eh?”

“Mr. Blanky,” the other man gazes at him in the golden light of the little room, “I would not be the least bit surprised.”

“Come on then,” Thomas grumbles, looking away, “just a turn round the room, eh?”

“Should I get the crunch or—”

“No, no,” Thomas hears himself say hurriedly, hold tightening on the arm under his, “I don’t have to go far.”

“Alright.”

Thomas winces as he gets his good foot planted on the boards, doing his best to ignore the wretched sinking sensation that another limb is sharing his weight when it most certainly is not. But the arm around his is steady and solid and Thomas finds himself patting the hand there twice in thanks as he gets his balance.

“How’s about there then?” Thomas asks, nodding in the direction of the chair sat in front of all those cupboards of glass vials just across the room.

The doctor makes a low assenting sound and Thomas follows his lead, doing his best to not dig his fingers too deeply into the arm under his as he hops, one step, then another -- and Christ he wants to focus on something else, so his mouth snatches readily at the fancy closest at hand. “Rather tall, aren’t ye - surprised you don’t brain yourself on these beams on the regular.”

“I’ve gotten used to it. Anyways, Doctor Stanley has it worse off.”

Thomas scoffs. “He’s not that much taller than you.”

“Oh, is that right?” McDonald smiles and Thomas feels himself start to flush again which is as idiotic as it is useless but then the voice next to him chimes “Ready?” and he finds he’s already made it to the chair, so he catches a hand on the back and lowers himself down as steady as he can manage.

“Well?” the other man asks, wearing that knowing smile that might have been irritating if it weren’t so insufferably congenial. “Worth the journey?”

Thomas leans back, knitting his hands behind his head with a flair of drama. “Aye, a proper fucking throne.”

The doctor shakes his head, smiling to himself.

“What?” Thomas asks, his own grin widening because he’s bored and he’s worn out and he can’t help it.

McDonald’s gaze lifts back to him and he seems, for a moment, to consider several possible answers, before landing - with the mischievous glint of someone about to say something they know they probably oughtn't - on a final one. “You’re a bit of a marvel. Has anyone ever told you that?”

“Not outside of the sheets,” he says before he can stop himself.

The man laughs - genuine, open - and a heavy hunger to hear it again catches Thomas by surprise.

“What’d you do then?” Thomas asks, pushing the odd sensation aside. “When you can’t sleep, I mean.”

“Ah, well, you’ve been party to most of my methods, much to the detriment of your own recuperation I’m afraid.”

“I don’t mind it,” Thomas says honestly.

The other man looks away in a manner that makes Thomas' chest do a strange sort of swoop, and that’s about enough of that right now Thomas Blanky . He’s being a fool. If he isn’t careful it’s going to catch him round the ankles and knock him directly onto his arse faster than any bloody haunted rug. 

“Just the puttering then?” he asks, feigning an adjustment in his chair.

“Oh yes, the Puttering,” the man sighs, “eternal puttering. Reading dull books I suppose, sterilizing instruments, reciting muscles (they have terribly redundant names). And, well, if all else fails...” his voice falls away.

Thomas raises an eyebrow. “Now that sounds promising”

The doctor shrugs, adjusting the edges of his gloves again. “There are more... medicinal options.”

“Knock about the head?”

The man laughs. Again. Dammit. “Thankfully, a bit of a softer touch than that.”

Thomas points back over one shoulder to the rows of glass bottles behind him. “One of these then?”

“Ah, well-- no...” he drifts, and suddenly that gleam is back in his eyes. It’s a sharp-edged warm sort of thing, like a slice of sun on a horizon. “It’s… well, more unconventional.”

“If you’ve got a little teddy bear who cuddles you off to sleep back there, Doctor, swear I won’t be the one to tell,” Thomas taps the side of his nose.

The man holds his gaze for a beat longer then spins on his heel and abruptly leaves the room.

Thomas stares at the curtain for a moment as it swings shut behind him before calling “If I was bloody right—!” But then McDonald is back, almost as soon as he’d left.

He tugs the curtain shut behind him, ignoring Thomas’ raised eyebrow at that, focusing his attention instead on a small parcel that fits into the curl of his hand. It’s a cream-white and cornflower-blue handkerchief wrapped up in just the manner that Thomas or anyone else might keep tobacco. McDonald steps closer, finding a low table close to Thomas’ chair and leaning back against it. Thomas notes that his coat is open now where it hadn’t been before. It hangs loose at his sides. Suits him. Easy like that. He has that sort of way about him, doesn’t he? Made up of all those neat and tidy pieces, but each one just softened into something more comfortable, something barely unlaced on the edges. His hair’s like that, Thomas thinks. Always tumbling a touch into his eyes. He’ll push it back sometimes when it does so, when he’s working with his sleeves all rucked up past his elbows or with his tie just loosened or--

“Here we are then.” 

Thomas blinks. McDonald’s settled in against the table and is unfolding the handkerchief carefully. Something flaky and pungent is revealed inside - green, leafy, and Thomas is quite certain it’s not any sort of tobacco he’s ever seen. It doesn’t much smell like anything he’s familiar with either.

“Well, go on then” Thomas grins, “educate me.”

McDonald pulls a pipe out of the pocket of his great-coat and begins, carefully, tidily, to arrange a pinch of the stuff into its mouth. His eyes land on Thomas’, glittering with that slice of mischief seemingly despite himself. “Have you ever had hashish Mr. Blanky?”

Thomas can’t help the bark of laughter that flies out of him. He tries to catch it back again, succeeding only in choking on it with a wheezing cough and then he’s falling into bloody giggles as the other man shakes his head and chuckles. The doctor’s wearing a smile that shows all of his teeth and Christ that’s nice. His hair’s a little more mussed than it had been before he left, isn’t it? Or is he just imagining it… 

“Surprised?” the doctor asks.

Thomas wipes a tear from the corner of his eye with a rough knuckle. “Will ye despise me if I say no?”

“Quite the opposite,” McDonald smiles, voice warm and low from laughter. “It’s not exactly the same, mind,” the doctor admits, long clever fingers picking up the task again: adjusting the delicate buds, maneuvering the pipe between his knuckles without the help of his other hand. Thomas likes watching his hands, likes how they work seemingly without thinking. There’s something familiar and yet fascinatingly novel about it-- how he moves over tools and potions and even flesh as easily as Thomas twists knots or dances along the ratlines. 

“It’s not quite as strong as anything you might have gotten round the Mediterranean or further south I’m sorry to say,” the doctor adds.

Thomas pulls his gaze away from the man’s hands, shoving his own into the pockets of his coat before he does something idiotic. 

“But it is easier to transport,” McDonald continues, “holds up well over time, and frankly, the mildness is quite fine by me given the, well, unique requirements of our current situation.”

“Fine by me,” Thomas grunts, “last time I had hashish I thought I was a bloody pegasus.”

McDonald lets out a laugh so sudden and so loud he seems to surprise himself, checking the sealed doorway before shooting Thomas a thoroughly chiding expression, as if Thomas has done it on purpose, which of course he has.

“Well,” McDonald glances down at the pipe he’s apparently finished preparing. “I won’t press you of course. But it does help, I’ve found. In a number of ways.”

Thomas shrugs. “Never been one to let a friend drink alone.”

“No,” and there’s that flicker again, like something gold and glittering at the bottom of a cold, quick river begging to be snatched out. “You’re not, are you?”

And before Thomas can say anything he’s snapped a match to life, leaned back with a “cheers then,” and raised the flame to the pipe, hollowing his cheeks around the end of it as he sucks in.

A pleasant earthy sort of smell oozes through the golden light of the room. It’s deep and curious and entirely different than what he’s been expecting. McDonald sets the lamp down, stands back up properly ( he was tall wasn’t he? ) and takes in a deep inhale that has the herb in the bowl glowing. 

The doctor settles back against the table, one ankle crossing over the other, long fingers arching out of those knit gloves to hold the pipe, as easily as he holds the smoke in his lungs, as easily as his coat hangs on either side of his slim hips, until finally, like a kind of sigh, he tilts his head back, eyes slipping shut as he leisurely lets the smoke spiral out of his nose. His head lolls forward, lips parting to release the rest of the stuff in lazy tendrils that curl warm around a familiar smile.

Thomas is staring. He knows he’s staring, and he also knows - with a sudden strange thrill - he doesn’t bloody care.

McDonald holds the pipe in his direction and Thomas leans forward to take it far too readily, hands grazing against his bare fingertips. 

Thomas settles back into his own chair, adjusting his grip to rest the warmth of the bit in his mouth.

“Hold the smoke longer than you normally would,” McDonald says, leaning back against the table, and then adds with a fucking wink: “But don’t tax yourself.”

And well, if that’s how it is Thomas doesn’t even try to stop the dare of a grin that drags across his cheeks as he holds the pipe between his teeth and sucks in, deep and confident.

Warmth slips, sinks, and slinks through him: deep and lazy and shivering on all it’s edges. The taste deepens into a pungent bitter swell all down his throat: musky, and acrid, and funnily enough a bit like walking in the woods in early spring. The way it seeps and spirals tickles a vague, gooey memory of the other stuff, but it’s a lighter touch for certain, just enough to turn the gold of the room and the warmth all around them into something slow and sweet as honey.

The other man is smiling pleasantly across from him, arms knitted loose over his chest. He raises an eyebrow expectantly.

Thomas lets the smoke out with a huff, and suddenly doesn’t trust himself to answer without hacking like some ship’s boy sharing a pouch for the first time so he offers a firm thumbs up instead.

McDonald laughs lightly, taking the pipe back for himself. The weight of him leans looser into the table, expression contemplative and Thomas looks, because suddenly it’s the easiest thing in the world to look at him, at how the light catches in his eyes, at how the line of his neck disappears into the high edge of his collar, at how his thumb eases up and back, up and back on the bit of the pipe before finally raising to his thin lips and breathing in again, and Thomas feels as though he’s being drawn in right along with it.

The man holds his breath for a long gauzy moment, gazing back at Thomas all the while, before (finally, finally) letting the smoke slip free. It leaks in loose twisting lines over his lips and Thomas knows he’s smiling like a bloody idiot, but why shouldn’t he? He feels good. This feels good. It’s good to sit in a warm room on a cold night with someone he likes to talk to, someone he likes to laugh with, someone he likes to look at.

“Alright?” McDonald asks, the last of the smoke releasing as he does to spiral around them.

Thomas tries to focus. “Aye.” There ought to be something that comes after that. Some jib or jest-- something clever or comforting, but in this heady present that offers, so pleasantly, to swallow him whole, there simply isn’t.

McDonald holds the pipe out again and Thomas reaches, grazes, hesitates. “It’s good. You shouldn’t waste it all on me.”

McDonald’s brow furrows. “What do you mean?”

“Didn’t have much left in your stores there it seemed.” He swallows, because his mouth is dry. Probably the smoke. Hopefully the smoke. “As someone on their last bag of tobacco I know the feeling.”

The doctor leans forward, and suddenly his eyes are so clear Thomas thinks he might drift away in them. “I’m quite certain, that you, Mr. Blanky, are the opposite of a waste.”

“Thomas,” Thomas hears himself say.

“Alright,” the man says. “Then, Thomas,” he taps his forefinger against the bowl of the pipe in an idle easy rhythm, “you are my guest, much as things are, and it is my pleasure to offer you whatever you’d like.” He looks at him again, “If you like. That is.”

Thomas feels as though this room is shifting around him. Slowly, but surely. Almost like the ice. That was the thing about ice. It moves strange but steady, so that most don’t notice they've moved at all till they look down and realize they’re in a quite a different place than where they started. 

“I like it,” Thomas says. The grate of his voice feels better now: deeper, closer. “But I wasn't raised to impose.”

The other man hums, twisting the pipe a bit to the side and looking down at it with consideration. Thomas can see a thought skimming over the surface of his mind like a gull grazing the water. “I suppose we could always share.”

“Aren’t we sharing?”

The doctor looks back at him, countenance now filled with all the complicated turnings of someone evaluating some strange intricate mechanism. Thomas has a feeling he’s doing that thing where he grins like a bloody fool when he oughtn't, but damned if he can help it. The other man’s eyes are very bright, and he realizes, with all the inevitability of a growing wave, that he’s always liked that. His hair has tumbled artlessly against his face, just as it does when he’s focused on stitching someone back together or sorting through papers or laughing in the mess. He’s always liked that too.

McDonald unwinds his arms from across his chest, standing from that easy slouch. He steps up to him, close enough that Thomas’ right leg just brushes his left. He considers, with the air of a fox evaluating a trap, and then carefully, steadily, puts a hand on the back of Thomas’ chair. He leans in, close enough that Thomas can discern the smell of wool and copper and something of whatever soap he must use just through the herbal edge of the smoke.

Thomas feels a knuckle catch under his chin, tilting his head up, back. It’s careful, almost clinical, if not for the warm untethered edge that hangs around them. Thomas wonders hazily if he’s about to wake up.

“Just,” the man starts, soft eyes tracing the lines of his face with a dizzying fascination, “breathe in when - well... you’ll see.” And then he’s leaning forward and their noses are brushing and Thomas’ breath catches as he feels the hot press of smoke against his open lips.

Thomas inhales with a soft sound, pulling in the smoke that’s been offered into the whisper of space between them. He blinks, watching as the other man simply gazes down at the line of his mouth. They stay there, for a moment. Then another. With a sharp little hiss the doctor moves to pull back.

Thomas grabs his arm. 

Smoke escapes Thomas in one rushed breath as he blinks down at his hand on the other man’s coat, realizing he’s actually done it, that he is in fact very much still doing it. He swallows, waiting for this whole golden world to come crashing down around him. But McDonald doesn’t pull away. He doesn’t frown, or wince, or ease Thomas’s hand back with the devastatingly gentleness he’s fearing. Instead, he shifts, easily, impossibly, and with two quiet but clear steps he comes to stand just in the space between Thomas’ spread knees.

He looks at Thomas as if he is something quite dear and yet still undeniably distant: a painting on a wall, or a sunset across the sea, and Thomas feels his throat catch. His hand slips all on it’s own, stumbling down the other man’s arm until it reaches the warmth of skin, the scratch of a knit glove. Clumsily but firmly, Thomas tangles his fingers with the ones he finds.

Outside the storm gives a low plaintive moan. Inside the hull creaks back it’s answer.

Unhurried, almost indulgent, McDonald raises the pipe back to his lips. He takes another long breath in, wisps of smoke curling round in the dim light. Thomas’ thumb skates over the heat of his bare wrist just once. Alexander McDonald pushes his hand into the mess of Thomas’ hair and pulls his mouth up to his.

It’s warm. All of it. 

Smoke spirals in his lungs. Fingers lace in his hair. Lips brush his with all the stark grazing beauty of wings lifting off of snow.

It’s lavender, Thomas realizes vaguely. The soap. He smells of wool, and copper, and lavender.

McDonald pulls back. Thomas doesn’t chase him, though he thinks he might have made a sound, something caught between a grunt and a sigh. He blinks his eyes back open, looking up at the man in front of him. He’s blushing. Just at the tips of his cheeks, and it’s as impossible as it is bloody charming.

Thomas considers, let’s out a low “huh”, and then he’s knitting fingers in the other man’s waistcoat and tugging him onto his open mouth.

Breath catches against his teeth, fingers tighten in his hair, and he’s kissing him back - readily, eagerly - and Thomas lets himself sigh into it as a bone deep rush curls through him. 

There’s the sound of a pipe hitting a table and McDonald’s hand finds it’s way clumsily to the back of Thomas’ chair again, only this time he pushes, tilting it back until it thunks softly against the wall so he needn’t bend quite as far over to reach him and Thomas huffs out a delighted little laugh against his mouth, earning a smile that he feels more than sees.

Everything beyond them (the light caught in the whitewashed room, the storm stalking around the hull) seems slow now,  syrupy even, while everything between them (the stubble rough on his lower lip, the dig of smart-cut nails against his neck) has gone so crisp on the edges it’s almost overwhelming. It’s almost like a dream: some impossible place strung between the trials behind them and whatever uncertainty lies in wait across the long vast dark, leaving just this, this snared and shining present trapped between them. And it’s good, it’s better than he deserves, so he lets himself drown in the sheer wonder of it.

Thomas slides his tongue into the other man’s mouth, winning a groan that’s deep and earnest and almost sing-song at the edges. It’s a greedy beast of a kiss, Thomas knows. He ought to have a care, reel himself in and kiss him Proper, or at the very least in a manner that’s a tad more considerate than twisting the hand he’s got in his hair to tilt him right and get his tongue exactly where he wants it. But he’s dizzy on the way he’s tipped him back and how he smells of smoke and lavender and how easily, impossibly, perfectly he just opens for him, so Thomas simply can’t bring himself to care. He runs his tongue over the back of the other man’s teeth and McDonald suddenly tugs back with a soft swear that lands hot on Thomas’ mouth.

He doesn’t go far, breath catching in close pants as he gathers himself. Thomas hesitantly lets go of his hair, sliding his hand down to land on his shoulder, rubbing his thumb there in smooth circles. The other man’s hands flex on the back of the chair with a small wooden sound, keeping it tilted and Thomas pinned in a way that he’s realizing has him feeling delightfully vulnerable and harder than he’s been in bloody years.

“Mm, that was—” the other man licks his lips once, looking down and away, cheeks delightfully flushed.

Thomas grins, lazy and sharp. “Awful?”

McDonald laughs, seemingly despite himself. God he loves that sound. He wants to make him laugh like that for the rest of his fucking life, then steal it away into something shocked and untethered and joyous. His hand tightens against the strong line of his shoulder, watching as he lets his thumb dip just into warmth under his collar which earns him a half-hearted scolding expression. He’s still so close, close enough for Thomas to feel every bit of heat radiating off of him and he wants to curl up in it, forget the whole world in it--

“I’m—” the doctor lets his head fall, shaking it lightly, “it’s… well, probably not terribly ethical for me to drug you then—”

“Fuck me?” Thomas asks plainly.

Eyes snap back to his and they’re quite wide and quite, quite dark. 

When his voice comes back it’s low and close. “I’m not fucking you, Thomas.”

“Why not?”

McDonald blinks at him and then he’s laughing again. This time it’s something entirely new: cut apart and just there, as if it doesn’t quite believe itself and Thomas doesn’t stop himself from catching his cheek in his hand, tilting his head back, easily, wondrously and simply takes him in. His chest tightens with regret that he can’t get to his feet, back him up against the nearest wall, and not stop touching him until he’s too fed on pleasure to regret anything in his whole damned life. 

He wants to tell him for lack of doing so, wants to tell him he’s always wondered how he’d smile if he kissed him, wants to tell him he sometimes falls asleep hoping he’ll dream of clever, careful hands taking him apart and putting him soundly, safely, back together all over again. But he’s drunk on kissing and smoke that smells like some temple half a world away, so he licks his lips, and lamely manages: “Does me good. You do. I mean. All of you.”

A furrow finds its way between the doctor’s brows, even as something in his eyes opens, deepens, reaches out like dark water—

“You’re good,” Thomas smiles brokenly. He lets his heavy-lidded gaze linger where his thumb grazes the pulse-point of his neck. He isn’t even sure if his voice is loud enough to hear any longer. “Good to me. Good fer me.”

“Thomas—” the other man tries, voice rough on smoke and something closer, something warmer held just between them, “I—”

“Just get down here before I make even more of arse out of myself—” Thomas growls and tugs him in to kiss him for all he’s bloody worth.

McDonald groans, meeting him with all the readiness of a sail in the wind: tongue urging into his mouth, hands shoving messy and hard into his hair, knees knocking into his and— he pulls back quite suddenly, with a frankly sinful wet sort of sound. The front legs of the chair hit the floorboards again with a solid “thunk” and Thomas gets two blinks to take him in - looming with that coat kicked back behind his hips, hair shoved in every direction, lids heavy, eyes blow out, breaths coming fast as he tears his gloves off, lets them drop - and then he’s moving, quicker than Thomas is ready for. He plants a booted foot on the chair between Thomas’ legs and shoves, forcing the chair back with a sharp squeak. The moment it hits the wall a hand lands wide and solid on Thomas’ chest and McDonald is melting into his lap with all the heat and tumult of an overturned candle.

Thomas just manages to get his hands on his hips before the other man urges down and in, tight and smart and right where he needs to be to slide the line of his own arousal against the aching heat of Thomas’ own trapped cock. Thomas swears between his teeth, head falling back against the wall and thumbs digging in firmly to the hips under them. McDonald’s mouth opens hot and present against the line of his neck, kissing him in a way that’s more breath than anything, nudging his nose along where his beard falls away, biting a mark under his jaw, and before he knows it Thomas is laughing, because he’s fucking happy so why shouldn’t he sound like it? A thumb runs along his lower lip, firm and reverent. Thomas lets his teeth catch on it.

“You’re going to do me in with that,” McDonald presses, voice deliciously shaken. Thomas cants his hips up, chasing the heat of the other man’s pleasure.

“What with?” Thomas hums into his mouth. His hands slip from McDonald’s hips, catching his arse, urging him forward as a soft “ Christ-- ” escapes the other man.

McDonald lets his arms hang on around Thomas’ neck looking back at him all dazed and pleased and Jesus Thomas wants to keep him here forever. 

“The way you laugh.” The doctor runs his thumb along his lower lip again, watching it’s progress with a lazy smile. “It makes me feel a little immortal.” And then he’s kissing him again, warm and soft and real in a world that seems hell bent on being nothing but cold and hard and impossible.

“Lean back,” Thomas hears himself say, one hand fumbling at the closures of the other man’s trousers as the other slides full and open up the warm weight of his thigh. The doctor listens, barely, leaning back just enough to catch Thomas’ face between his hands and dive deeper into the heat of his mouth for one kiss, then another, before pulling back with a sound so soft and so intimate it makes Thomas’ stomach flip. “Jesus,” Thomas mutters as he kisses him again, pawing with increased vigor at the buttons of his trousers. “I want to take you apart.”

McDonald blinks down, looking at him with a hazy curiosity.

“What?” Thomas asks, voice raw and smile barbed.

“You,” the other man says simply, pushing Thomas’ hair behind his ear with a devastating domestic simplicity that sends him spinning. “You’re charming.”

“Right, charming,” Thomas snorts, hanging on for dear bloody life, looking down and summoning both hands to the apparent herculian trial of getting into a doctor’s fucking trousers. “That’s what they tell me in court.”

“I’ve thought about this, you know?” the voice above him continues, apparently quite blithely unconcerned with his valiant struggles. A hand cups his jaw, tilting his head back up to meet his eyes. “Thought about you.” And Thomas finds himself struck with an image of some courtly queen, holding a rare delicacy between her fingers, twisting it to and fro and considering just which part she’d like to bite into next.

“’S that right?” Thomas just manages.

“Mm,” he’s running his thumb back over Thomas’ lower lip. “Several times.”

“Oh, only several?” These fucking buttons are going to be the death of him. He gives up, seized by a sudden ferocious need to see him shiver and shoves the weight of his hand around the clothed heat of the other man’s cock, rewarded instantly with almost the exact reaction he’d been hoping for.

The man groans, eyes fluttering, breath stumbling. “I’d like to see you in a field.” And then he’s smiling, startled, as if he’d hadn’t realized he’d said it aloud. Thomas firms up his grip and the expression falls apart into a hiss. 

Thomas shifts his hips, getting the line of his own cock against the weight of a thigh and winning a golden tendril of relief. The haze of the smoke is still wrapped around him, melting into lust in a way that’s mingling urgency with just the opposite, stringing him delightfully between the two. 

The thumb that McDonald had rested on Thomas’ lip finds the edge of his teeth, dragging against the line of them. “A warm field. Maybe on a spring day,” he says, smile just edged with something deliciously wicked. “You taste like clover.” He lets his arms rest around his shoulders again, rolling his hips, pressing his cock deeper into the warmth of Thomas’ hand. “Has anyone ever told you that?”

And he should say something pretty or cheeky or sultry, but there’s a plain simple want that is suddenly so heavy in his throat that there’s really nothing to do but do but force the last of the closures free, mutter “No”, and shove a rough hand around the other man’s bared cock.

God —” McDonald swears through his teeth, head dropping hard to Thomas’ shoulder.

Thomas gets his grip where he wants it as his own breath catches. He pumps him, once, twice. McDonald’s hands stutter, one knitting sharply in his hair, then with a soft swear of his own Thomas pulls his hand away.

The man under him makes a truly broken noise and without thinking Thomas presses a palm clumsily over his mouth. 

“‘S alright— alright, just,” he slides the damp hand away from the other mans’ lips, back over his cheek, deep into his hair, “hold on--” and sucks two fingers messily into his own mouth before bringing them wet and urgent to wrap around his prick again.

The man in his lap shudders so hard that for a moment Thomas is actually terrified he’ll fall right off of him and onto the damn floor, but that doesn’t stop him from twisting his wrist, working his hand down tight and hard just the way he likes on himself. McDonald’s neat-cut nails scramble, digging into his neck, shoes making soft soft sounds as he tries to get purchase on the planks under foot,  and then he’s snatching Thomas’ free hand, pressing it back to his own mouth and groaning into the meat of it. It’s honest and full and deep in a way that rumbles through his chest and Thomas is lost.

“Come on,” falls out of him, and he’s bracing his good leg for leverage, flexing his grip,  setting a punishing and precise pace into the tight space between them, “come on--”

The hips under his hand stutter and jerk and Thomas drags his hand off of his mouth, knits it in his hair, pulls him back to see him properly because how in all of Christ’s green fucking earth is he supposed to not? McDonald’s brows are furrowed, breath coming fast, eyes flickering from open to closed like a candle in the wind, and God Thomas wants to kiss him, wanted to tear that fucking tie off of him, bury his face into that neck, and sink his teeth into him. McDonald’s breath catches with a shocked sound, then he’s planting one foot firmly on the ground and landing a hand hard on the wall behind Thomas’ head. His hips kick forward like a bloody horse and Thomas is utterly incapable of doing anything besides working his prick for all he’s worth and watching awestruck as his orgasm tips through him.

McDonald lets out a shattered noise as he spills that Thomas can’t help but pull to his mouth, swallowing it down as hot pulses of come coat his knuckles and he, steadily, firmly sees him through it.

The man in his arms gives a little shudder. Carefully, Thomas loosens his hand, and, with a slow shaky breath, the doctor actually manages to stand.

Thomas blinks as the chair creaks at the sudden loss of weight. He lets his soiled hand fall to his side. McDonald is still terribly close, close enough that Thomas’ cheek brushes the edge of his coat as he looks up at him. He can feel the mess drip from his fingers to the boards of the floor. He tries to clear his throat. “Erm— are you—?”

“Alex,” the other man said roughly. He’s dropping to his knees, clever hands tugging Thomas’ trousers open. “I want you to call me Alex.”

“Alright,” he says, because Thomas Blanky is a lot of things, but he’s never in his life been impolite enough to deny much of anything to someone who seems like they might just be about to suck his cock.

Thomas stares as the other man tugs him free with one efficient motion, wets his lips, and looks up at him expectantly through devastatingly mussed hair. “Alex,” Thomas manages again, running a thumb along his cheek. The man in his lap makes a pleased sort of sound and then proceeds to swallow his cock entirely.

“Fuck me—!” Thomas swears, head falling back against the wall with a loud thud.

And that mouth - that clever, terrible, miraculous mouth - actually smiles around him which is so damnably smug that Thomas is about to summon the presence of mind to give him hell for it but the doctor hollows his cheeks and presses his tongue firm and hot along the underside of his prick and Thomas can’t do anything but curse high bloody murder.

He scrambles to slap a hand over his own mouth, but the other man snatches it back. McDonald drags his mouth off of him, replacing it smoothly with a hand that keeps his pace all while pinning Thomas’ wrist against the chair. 

“Don’t bother,” he fairly fucking purrs. “If anyone hears, they’ll just think I’m in here torturing you again,” and he smiles like a damned devil before consuming his cock again with a staggeringly brutal efficiency. 

A laugh punches out of Thomas that’s so broken he thinks it might actually be a sob. “ God- Christ--” He braces one hand on the other man’s shoulder, in that damned wool of his coat, and like the utter fool that he is, he can’t stop himself from brushing his hair back from his face with the other.

McDonald looks up at him at that. Thomas smiles. The other mans’ eyes darken with a hungry intent, but Thomas is too quick for him. He gets a hand around his jaw, holding him in place, and the man’s eyes flutter, waiting, patient, until Thomas slowly eases him back, watching with tight, twitching fascination as his cock slides between the other man’s lips. Thomas shivers, holding him steady, just at the top, feeling his thick weight resting almost reverent on the heat of the doctor’s tongue. McDonald looks him dead in the eye and slowly, steadily, slides his hand away from it’s grip on Thomas’ wrist to rest, quite firmly, on the meat of his thigh, just above where he’d cut into him. 

Thomas feels himself jerk, cock bobbing on the other man’s tongue, and McDonald surges forward, sucking him down so tight and so sudden that Thomas doubles over and spends before he’s ready for it.

Come floods the other man’s mouth in spits and jerks and without thinking Thomas is bringing the hand still dripping with spend up to clutch his hair for dear fucking life. The chair gives a protesting squeak as Thomas gasps, and McDonald - no, Alex, Alex, Alex - runs a soothing thumb against his hip, easing him through it as he swallows around his cock.

Thomas shudders with a quick inhale. After what seems an eternity, the lips around him loosen, pulling back with a just audible sighs into the space between them. Thomas realizes he’s petting the other man’s hair: easing through it over and over, tightening just on the edges, and soothing him back as they pull apart. McDonald drops onto his arse, falling back against the opposite cabinet. He gazes at Thomas with a mildly drunk expression, letting one arm come to rest over a bent knee.

Thomas lets himself look back, taking him in with a lazy greed: the cockeyed smile, the edge of his prick still just visible between the folds of his trousers, the mussed hair— ah. Thomas croaks, “I uh, sorry-- about that.” 

The doctor’s eyes narrow, following his look and raising a hand to the side of his head to find the mess there. He makes a mildly disgusted face before sighing, standing, and giving one long stretch. He steps up to one of those low cabinets nearby, dipping a ready cloth in a water basin, and surprises Thomas by turning right back and striding over to stand between his knees again. He lifts Thomas’ hand, curling his fingers around the wrist and pressing one thumb into his palm. He looks him in the eye and sucks Thomas’ index and middle finger into his mouth.

Thomas cock’s gives a painful twitch and he swears openly. McDonald simply smiles, mild and easy, letting him go to wrap that hand in the damp cloth instead, neatly wiping him clean. Once he has, he leans forward, tucks him back into his trousers, and buttons him up nimbly, which is honestly a bloody feat given how Thomas still can barely even move. McDonald leans back, pushes some of Thomas’ hair back into place behind his ear, and Thomas wants to pull him down again, kiss the taste of his spend off his tongue, but his bones feel like melted butter so he settles for warmly squeezing his hip. The doctor gives him an answering grasp at the back of his neck before turning away to button himself up. He returns to the basin, wets the cloth again, runs it twice over his hair, cards his fingers through it a few times, and, apparently satisfied (or maybe just too exhausted to do much more), turns back to him again, stepping up to lean against that same table where the pipe is still slowly smoldering. Thomas doesn’t stop himself from reaching out and pulling one of his hands into his own.

“I’ve,” Alex starts after a moment, shifting to knit their fingers together more solidly, “well—”

“Wanted that?” Thomas asks, praying he manages to keep all the brittle hope he feels out of his voice.

The man’s gentle, vivid gaze lands on him, his own thumb tracing the line of Thomas’. He makes a soft sound of agreement.

“Well,” Thomas looks down at their joined hands. Outside the storm paces around them, hungry and plaintive out on the ice. Cold. It must be cold out there, all alone, without a hand to hold in a little golden lit room. Thomas squeezes the fingers in his. “You’ve got me.”

Alex squeezes back. His free hand finds where he’s left the pipe and lifts it again. He takes a long slow drag that coaxes the embers back to life and lets it out again with a contented sigh.

“You look like a bloody god when you do that, you know?” Thomas says.

Alex smiles smugly as the heady smell of smoke curls through the room once again. “Oh yes, I know.”

Thomas feels his grin grow. “You cheeky bast—”

“Now come along, Mr. Blanky,” he steps forward, slipping a hand into his hair as he leans forward and presses a kiss to his forehead. “Let’s get you into bed.”