Stephen faced that first storm aboard the Sophie with an inescapable certainty that death and the sea would claim him. Surely the ship, or sloop, or whatever the devil they called this fragile scrap of timber, would come apart. Or the whole would survive but either the rope around his waist or the post it tied him to would give way allowing him to be swept into the sea. Perhaps he would simply parish standing on the open deck as wind and wave forced enough water down his throat to drown him. Also, the captain had lost his mind.
Jack grinned at him. Stephen noted that colour warmed his cheeks despite his cold, sodden clothes. The wind drowned Jack's laughter, but the rain couldn't hide the wild joy in his eyes. Stephen almost loosened his grip on the rail to reach out to his friend, but another billow caught them, and he fell to his knees. From then on, he turned his attention to keeping both arms wrapped around a post and his face down and out of the blasting spray. An indefinite number of bells later, when the world stilled enough to safely look up, Jack had gone.
Feeling it safe to stagger, Stephen went below to look for the tincture of laudanum that he most definitely should have taken before this terrible business began. Instead he tripped over Jan Jackruski who was waiting morosely by the galley with a three fingers that needed splinting. That done and having found his relief at last, the physician dragged himself into the captain's cabin as the first light of dawn crept through the stern windows. He found Jack already there, sleeping sprawled across the lockers in his shirt, his coat and trousers discarded in a slowly spreading pool on on the deck.
Stephen knelt next to his friend, feeling that he would be better off in his cot and in a dry shirt. Or at least not lying on his right arm with his left leg dangling off the edge of his makeshift bed, boneless as a child. When voice failed to provoke even a twitch, Stephen shook Jack's shoulder gently. Jack muttered an indistinct inquiry and waved vaguely at Stephen's chest, causing his left arm to fall free as well. This shifted his centre of balance dangerously towards the deck, and the doctor had to shove him forcefully back to equilibrium.
The captain started awake, and pushed his salt-matted hair from his eyes as he rolled on his side. "Why, Stephen," he said, "There you are. What a glorious night, eh?"
Stephen nodded, still feeling rather dazed and not sure that comment quite covered it. He hadn't taken his hands from Jack's side and back and could feel goosebumps through the clinging cotton. "We must get you dry, my dear," he said. Jack nodded and sat up to allow Stephen to pull his shirt over his head. Realising that he was dripping on his patient, Stephen added his own clothes to the growing pile.
They rose and rubbed each other dry with an old shirt, and fell into the cot exhausted. Stephen lay half across Jack's chest, cheek pressed into still damp skin, legs tangled together, and a hand ensnared in golden hair. Jack had pulled a sheet over them both, leaving one arm outside across Stephen's shoulders, and the other inside on the small of his back, hand spread over his ass. Stephen sighed and closed his eyes against the rays of new sun that had broken through the scattering clouds. The heat bathing his face and growing between their bodies lulled him to sleep.