Often Goodsir found himself seated at the captain’s table, his presence being warmly welcomed by both Sir John and Fitzjames. It was such an honor, one he felt did not befit him. Though in that time he was not seated as Erebus’ assistant surgeon, but as a naturalist. His notes and drawings would be spread across the flawless wooden surface and preened over by Sir John’s aging but careful hands. Fitzjames looked at specimens with quiet delight, as the sciences had always attracted him.
Their fingers grazed with the passing of pencils and journals. Glances were exchanged as numerously as notes and papers across the table. Goodsir found his evenings were spent more and more with Captain Fitzjames, when said captain was not sharing dinner with his superiors or his officers, of course.
He found he was comfortable in Fitzjames’ presence. While on land he was rather personable, his gentle voice and studious charm was always remarked upon by his siblings and colleagues. It was what helped get him his position as the conservator of the Surgeons’ Hall Museum (with a bit of input from his brother, John, of course). But on the ship he was out of place; nervous and quiet, afraid to be in the way or to offend. It had left him feeling lonely and out of sorts.
Thankfully no one had yet been cruel to him, although Stanley had seen to being less than kind. Fitzjames assured him that that was just how Stanley was, noting their time together in China when Stanley cruelly fished a musket ball from his back. Fitzjames, much to the good doctor’s surprise, took to him instantly. He would bring sloshing buckets of creatures to his superior’s room, a cloth spread out across the little table so the captain could get a closer look at mollusks and Crustacea while the two of them sketched and laughed over the slimy surfaces and wriggling movements. A man like that, so beautiful and intelligent, noticing and enjoying him…
It was wonderful.
Goodsir found himself wanting more from his relationship with Fitzjames. Something beyond friendship and admiration. He found himself wondering things one should not wonder about his captain.
Things that could get a man into trouble.
These thoughts were not even lewd and yet they still left Goodsir with a blush. This was no bawdy, steamy melodrama. Just the softness of a kiss, the touch of a hand to a cheek, the carding of fingers through hair.
“Harry, my good man, is everything alright?” Fitzjames’ voice broke through the doctor’s thoughts and snapped him back to reality. He had nearly forgotten they were dining together that night. The captain laughed, “You looked to be miles away. Am I really that boring, doctor?”
“N-No sir, of course not. I was just thinking…”
“May I ask what about?”
“I would rather you did not.” His reply put a quirk into one of Fitzjames’ brows. “That is to say, you should not waste breath asking, as it is not of importance.”
“I am always interested in the things you have to say, Harry. You need not keep things from me. You are amongst friends at this table.”
Friends. Yes of course, they were friends. That was what Goodsir was worried about. Fitzjames seemed keen on being the only man in all of Erebus to refer to Goodsir by his preferred name, and yet every time he said it, it made Goodsir’s heart flutter. A flutter that should not have been elicited by one man saying the name of his friend.
“Forgive my prying, but you seem terribly preoccupied this evening. Have you been getting enough rest?” Fitzjames rested his carved jaw on the crook of his hand, thumb pressed against one of the lines that dug handsomely into his face. There was concern laced in his voice and knitted into his brow. “I recall you saying something about insomnia?” Fitzjames talked, more trying to grab Goodsir’s attention back to him instead of whatever land he was fantasizing in, “Did you know that Captain Crozier suffers from insomnia as well? Sir John was telling me about it the other day.”
Goodsir gave a quick nod, “Yes I’m privy to most of the medical histories of all the captains of our expedition’s ships. I have to be.”
“I suppose you know my body very well, then? Seeing as you’re one of my doctors.”
“Not as well as one would like.” Goodsir’s head immediately shot up, gaze meeting with Fitzjames’. He did not say that. He did not say that. “Th-That is to say… What I meant to say was… That came out wrong.”
There was a silence that was only mildly interrupted by the soft clink of silverware being laid upon fine china.
“Tell me, Harry,” Fitzjames leaned forward. He pushed his plate daintily to the side and in its place rested his elbows so that he may more squarely look at the doctor, “what fantasies have been occupying that intricate mind of yours?”
“Fantasies? I-I have no idea what you mean.”
“Oh do not play coy. You’re not very good at it.” Fitzjames rolled his jaw as he did when he was irritated or in thought. It always made his face look just a touch more serious. “Do not play coy.”
“I-I assure you, James,” the lump in Goodsir’s throat refused to go down no matter how hard he swallowed. His mouth felt painfully dry. He was having a hard time discerning Fitzjames’ tone. Was this anger? His face did not read as angry, though the captain’s eyes felt as if they were burrowing into his skull.
It was then that Fitzjames stood. He towered over Goodsir while the man was seated, making his movement to close the gap between them in the third captain’s room that much more intimidating. Was he irritated? Was he going to open the door and bid a rather stern goodnight to the doctor? Would Goodsir be allowed back, for dinner? For meetings? Into the captain’s good graces?
Goodsir felt his body tensing with anxiety. Every muscle in his body seemed to lock up and yet he still managed to crane his head up to meet Fitzjames once the man took his place beside the seated doctor.
And then, it happened. A hand, with its long fingers somehow smooth and left without callouses despite years on the sea and the battlefield, found itself a place just so to tuck under the doctor’s bearded jaw. The thumb of his captain ever so gently grazed along Goodsir’s bottom lip, leaving the doctor with nothing to say and widening eyes.
“As I said,” A smirk spread along his angular face, and Goodsir realized that Fitzjames was, of all things, pleased. “You are not very good at playing coy. And you are far less good at hiding your interests. When something grabs your attention, you become invested. And something has certainly grabbed your attention, has it not? Well, I correct myself. As it is not something more as it is someone.”
Blood rushed to the doctor’s face and he silently wished his heart would stop beating so hard, as he feared Fitzjames would hear it as well as he could hear it in his own ears. Had he heard him correctly? Did the captain know of his desires? A silly question of course, why else would they be situated in this very position.
“Do not go silent on me now, Harry.”
“I’m merely taking a moment,” his voice waivered and soften, “you’ve left me a bit out of sorts.”
Fitzjames laughed again. That laugh caused a bit of tension to leave Goodsir’s body, much to his relief. Perhaps the captain felt it, the tension leaving the other’s jaw, as his own hand relaxed as well.
“I’m not sure if I’ve ever left you speechless, doctor.”
“Not speechless, but you’ve certainly left me mesmerized…” Goodsir reached with a tentative hand with the intention of taking Fitzjames by the wrist. He guided the man’s fingers closer to his lips, kissing them individually and collectively. He moved to kiss the palm, then the wrist. He could feel Fitzjames’ pulse against his lips, counting the beats. His heart was pounding alongside the doctor’s, so it seemed. “Your skin is softer than I imagined.”
“So you have had fantasies about me?”
“How could I not?” Goodsir paused his sentence to place more gentle kisses against Fitzjames’ flesh, “You are one of the most handsome men I’ve ever laid eyes upon. I cannot help but think of you nearly night and day.” He knew Fitzjames loved to be complimented, but to be able to say this felt like a burden lifting from his shoulders. His feelings could finally be expressed to the object of his romantic and physical desire, now that he knew a similar desire was shared between them.
“Tell me then,” Fitzjames spoke softly now, “what your fantasies are.”