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Loving is Hard

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“Ye know what Jopson?” his Captain’s voice came more of a growl out of the silence that had filled the room.

Jopson let out a breath he didn’t realize he had been holding as the silence that had filled the room for several agonizing minutes, while he tended to his tasks in the great cabin, was finally broken.

“Captain?” he asked standing up with the blanket he had been folding draped over his arm.

Francis swayed a bit, as he reached for the bottle of whiskey and his glass.

“Please, Sir, allow me.” Thomas gushed as he draped the blanket over the back of a chair and took took the glass and the bottle from the man.

He poured the man another round of bandy and he couldn’t help but feel a little anxious for his captain, he had downed almost two two whole bottles this evening with the ten glasses he’d had prior.

Jopson knew from experience than to try to tell the captain when he thought he’d had enough.

Francis took a small sip of the newly poured glass and let out a distressed sigh.

“Did I do something wrong Jopson?” the man asked wearily.

“Sir?” he asked, confusion written on his face.

“Her.” was the only thing the captain was willing to offer as an explanation.

Puzzled at first it took him a second to understand who exactly the man was referring to.

“Sir, Miss Cracroft?”

The captain just nodded miserably and Jopson brushed some of his stray bangs aside as he fell, his nerves starting to get the best of him.

He wasn’t really sure if he was the one that the captain should be asking for an opinion when it came to the niece of the captain aboard Erebus.

Thomas absolutely envied and hated that snake of a woman for how miserable she has made the man he so deeply cared about.

Retrieving the blanket from the back of the chair he started to fold it neatly into the tidy square he was accustomed to.

“No, I don’t think so Sir.” he offered simply, opening a drawer to put the linens away.

Francis took a large gulp of his whiskey and set the glass back down upon the table with an audible thud.

“She rejected my proposal… twice I might add.” he stated.

Jopson paused, looking up at the man as he brushed the captain’s greatcoat with finesse. He’d heard the man say this before but he wasn’t about to interrupt him.

“I was invited to dinner over at the Franklin’s residence the day of my second proposal, to discuss the expedition. Did I ever tell ye what that fat oaf said while he thought I wasn’t there lad?” he asked his brogue coming off thick as he spoke.

“No Sir, I don’t believe you did. It really is none of my business.”

“He said that we shouldn’t be together because I was middle-bred and that he didn’t want a man like me under their family banner.”

Jopson said nothing as he was told this but immediately he was fighting with himself on whether he should retire or at least take his duties and do them elsewhere like the wardroom but at the same time, the frustration inside him as he watched his captain sit in this room, drinking himself to death in a giant cloud of gloom over a woman who didn’t love him made his blood boil, and he fought with the idea of saying something to the man or just leaving.

Deciding to do the latter he set the clothes brush down and bowed his head respectfully, “Sir, if you’ll excuse me I must go check on supper preparations.”

Crozier waved his hand at him in dismissal and Thomas turned around to leave the room, sliding the great cabin’s door open part way before finally he fought with his choice and quickly shut it rather roughly, spinning on his heel to face the man with a look of hurt and upset on his face.

“Sir, I begging your pardon, it really is none of my business, but may I say something?”

Captain Crozier just looked at him expectantly, clearly already wanting to know what it may be that he had to say.

“I think Sir John is a fool if that is indeed what he thinks of you!” he hissed sharply.

Francis promptly sprayed the whiskey he had been sipping all over the table upon hearing his steward’s uncharacteristic candidness.

He started to chuckle softly but it soon disappeared when Jopson continued speaking, his voice nothing but seriousness.

“Sir, with respect, have you considered that maybe she has refused your hand because she does not care for you the way you care about her?”

Captain Crozier’s previous amusement vanished altogether.

“If I were you Jopson I would watch your tone.” he snapped pointing at the young man in warning.

That shut him up immediately and he felt the tears of shame threatening to fill his eyes at the distaste he had caused to fill his captain’s voice but still he needed to convey to the man somehow that he was and had been here by the man’s side for several years while he was chasing a woman who clearly had no interest in being with him.

He at least wanted the man to see that he deserved better. If he saw it in him fine, if he didn’t at least he could help the man move on with his life.

“I-I won’t Sir!” Jopson mustered up, trying to stand tall as the older man rose from his chair.

“What has gotten into you Jopson? It’s my fault, I shouldn’t have asked for your input. Why do you feel the need to step out of line in order to rub salt in the wound? It has been made quite clear to me that Miss Cracroft doesn’t care for me as I do her.” Francis grumbled, glass of whiskey still in hand as he pointed accusingly at the poor steward who looked about to faint in the face of rage on the Irishman's face.

“It’s… it’s… Sir, it’s because….” Jopson stumbled over his words and Crozier, pissed as one could be on his alcohol induced tirade, had no patience.

“What!? What in Christ's name is it!?” he all but screamed in Jopson’s face.

“Because I love you captain!” Jopson cried desperately.

Thomas felt all colour draining from his face as soon as he realized his mistake.

Crozier’s eyes became something so terrifying that Jopson let out a small squeak and his knees almost buckled beneath him.

Francis was too lost in his drink to think clearly and the only thing he saw was red.

Red from the immense hurt that stabbed at his heart, red from the anger and the sheer outrage that Thomas Jopson thought he was like that, and most of all the red he felt at the overwhelming twinge of betrayal of the possibility of having been taken for granted hurt far worse than anything.

"You WHAT!?" he roared furiously.

When his steward did nothing but start stumbling over his words and babbling uselessly he just lost it.

With a fierce growl the drunken captain hurled the glass of whiskey at the poor steward’s head but the younger man moved, hitting the deck on his hands and knees to avoid the flying projectile.

“Sir wait, I… oh christ!” Jopson’s shrill cry sounded as he dodged the flying bottle of whiskey which smashed against the far wall of Crozier’s great cabin with a clearly audible smash.

There were footsteps outside the great cabin door and Jopson could hear the voices of a handful of the lieutenants.

Crozier was lost in his own world of drunken rage and it almost seemed like nothing else mattered than getting a hold of him as he charged at him from where he still was on his knees on the wooden floorboards.

Thomas felt his heart hitch violently in his chest and immediately he was scrambling on all fours trying to get to his feet and away from the older man’s wrath.

He couldn’t quite move fast enough it seemed as the angry captain tackled him and flipped him over onto his back, fist raised to strike as he straddled his hips.

Frantic knocks upon the door were followed by Mr Blanky’s loud booming baritone of 'Francis! What the hell is going on in there?!'

'Oh thank god, someone heard.

“Captain wai-ahh!” Thomas let out a shout of pain as Crozier’s fist came down upon his face hitting him in the side of the temple which caused his head to spin angrily.

“Mr Blanky, sir help!” his panicked cry sounded as he raised his arms slightly in attempts to protect himself, one hand pushing against Crozier’s chest and the other arm trying to shield his head as he saw another blow about to come at him.

Crozier was panting from the exertion as he continued his furious rage, he was in mid-punch when the door to the great cabin was yanked open and Jopson briefly saw the Ice Master Mr Thomas Blanky standing there with a look of awe upon his face before his world went black when a strong vengeful fist collided with his forehead.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Mr Blanky was horrified when he pulled the heavy wooden door open only to reveal his old friend sitting on top of his steward giving him the thrashing of a lifetime.

He had seen Jopson’s hands raised slightly in efforts to protect his face but another successful punch from Francis cleaned the poor boy’s clock and his body went still.

The captain was raising his fist again to strike at the unconscious man and that was when Thomas snapped out of his stupor and ran into the room.

Unfortunately he wasn’t quick enough to prevent that last blow which landed square in the centre of the unconscious young man’s nose, causing copious amounts of blood to immediately start streaming heavily down the steward’s face.

“Fucking Christ! Francis get off of him!!” he yelled angrily causing a very confused, Lieutenant Little and an equally confused Lieutenant Irving to hurry in upon hearing the shouts.

Finally closing the gap between them Thomas hurled himself at Francis’s back, trying to loop his arms underneath the other man’s armpits to restrain him as he continued wailing on the poor boy beneath him.

“Get off of me Thomas!” he roared fighting against his old friend furiously as the man pushed him into a chair and held him there.

He looked over his shoulder at the Lieutenants who were trying to rouse poor Jopson.

The bottom of his pea coat had a rather large tear from where the captain had grabbed it and dragged the smaller man to the ground.

His left eye was swelling and his temple already starting to bruise, there were two thick streams of blood trickling down his face, dripping off his chin and onto the collar of his uniform.

“Mister Jopson...” Lieutenant Irving called quietly giving the younger man a shake.

’Oh for Christ's sake boys!’ Mr Blanky thought irritably.

“Well what the bloody hell you waiting for?! One of you get him out of here and someone wake that bloody doctor!” he yelled in agitation as he continued to restrain their captain to the seat he had him pinned to.

The two men looked at each other desperately as if trying to figure out who would do what but it seemed Edward already had it figured out because he was the first to move.

“I’m stronger, go wake Doctor McDonald.” he urged Lieutenant Irving who disappeared without question.

Blanky watched desperately as Edward slipped one arm beneath Jopson’s knees and the other beneath his back and shoulder blades.

Jopson must have let out a noise because he could hear the older man speaking some reassurances to him and hushing him softly before letting out a grunt as he rose to his feet with the smaller man lying limply in his arms.

As he watched Lieutenant Little disappear from the great cabin he heard the Lieutenant's sharp voice address the eyes that were more than likely staring curiously, “As you were gentlemen!”

Francis was still spewing profanities none that had made any sense at all and Thomas turned to the man with a look of rage upon his face.

“Francis have you gone and lost your god damned fucking mind!?” he yelled stepping away from his friend in disbelief.

“You don’t know what he said Thomas! He was out of line!” the captain tried to defend his behaviour.

“Neptune’s fucking balls Francis so were you! You beat the poor boy! Good god man was out like a light!”

Captain Crozier sat there glaring angrily like a scolded child and Thomas couldn’t figure out for the life of him what had set the man off, on Jopson of all people.

“He said he loved me.” Francis slurred with a scowl.

Thomas stared at his friend with an exasperated look on his face. “Is that what all that fuss was about?” he whispered softly.

When he didn’t get a response he got pissed and proceeded to walk to the liquor cabinet. He grabbed another bottle of whiskey from the cabinet and chucked it across the room where it shattered against the wall in a mess of glass and amber liquid.

This infuriated the other man who stood up angrily. “Bleedin’ hell Thomas what the hell are you doing?!”

“Making a point Francis!”

Francis said nothing so Mr Blanky continued.

“You are so hell bent on making yourself miserable that you sit here wallowing in your own fucking self-pity, drinking yourself to death! I have had it with your whining over Miss Cracroft. That woman will not commit to one man Francis, she doesn’t want you but there is someone else that does.”

“How dar-”

“No, I have done fucking nothing wrong! Of course that boy loves your miserable more than a friend Francis, it’s been obvious since day one and it has been plainly obvious to me that you care about him.” he snarled being sure to keep his voice down.

“I-I that’s not true! Not like that!” Francis slurred his drunkenness starting to take it’s toll on him.

Thomas barked a sardonic laugh before meeting his captain’s gaze again.

“Please, don’t insult me Francis. I know you more than anyone on this ship. Now, you are going to sober up and tomorrow, so help me, if you do not beg that poor boy for forgiveness, there is going to be hell to pay! Do you understand me?!”

Captain Crozier groaned in irritation and he felt a headache coming on. Christ he just wanted to go to bed.

“Fine, fine.” he grumbled.

Mr Blanky let out a snort as he made his way to leave, but as he slid the great-cabin shut he decided to give the captain one last piece of advice.

“You know what they say you bloody idiot, acceptance makes way to happiness. Denial leads to more misery. You need to make a bloody choice.”

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

As Edward had expected out of the whole situation, Mr Blanky clearly had no inclination to tell the Lieutenants aboard Terror or anyone for that matter what exactly he and their captain had talked about in the great cabin.

In fact the other man offered a few small grumbles along the lines of 'Fucking senile Irish bastard' and... some other things that Edward dare not think of.

He had reluctantly accepted that it must be a private matter and he wasn’t going to press the matter any further.

Still, as he found himself sitting in the sick-bay watching a sleepy Dr McDonald quietly fuss over Mister Jopson he couldn’t help but wonder what sort of thing rewarded such privacy after their captain seemed to have lost his mind in a moment of drunken rage.

“Fortunately, as far as I can tell all that is here are some nasty bruises because his nose doesn’t appear to be broken. I think Mister Jopson will be just fine.” Dr. McDonald reassured the pondering Lieutenant as he dipped a wet rag into a basin partially filled with warm.

Edward just nodded idly, his eyes transfixed on the large knuckle shaped bruise that resided on Jopson’s temple and the faint bruising around the bridge of his nose. The crimson streams that had gushed from the young steward’s nostrils all the way down his chin, having passed over his full lips it’s path.

He eyed the two small but painful looking cracks on his upper lip, their captain’s knuckles no doubt having split the delicate skin.

Jopson’s mouth was parted slightly as he dozed quietly, courtesy of the captain’s brutal blow. Small puffs of the man’s sleep evened breath coming out in a faint clouds within the mild coldness of the doctor’s sick ward.

Out of the corner of his eye Dr. McDonald was watching the First Lieutenant curiously, and he couldn’t help but question Lieutenant Little when he sudden scrunched up his brow with an obvious distaste.

“Lieutenant? Is there something on your mind, besides the unfortunate incident that just took place of course?”

Edward looked back up at the surgeon having been snapped out of his daze.

“I find is strange Sir, that despite what just transpired Mister Jopson almost looks peaceful sleeping right now. I would have assumed one would be fitful.”

Dr. McDonald nodded as he listened to Lieutenant Little’s statement and to be honest if his current patient had not been the captain’s steward, he probably would not have had an answer for his friend.

“I would assume that Mister Jopson here has been neglecting to take care of himself while he focuses on his duties. As we all know, Jopson tends to run himself ragged trying to take care of Captain Crozier as well as the other duties he is issued in his position. He’s a very busy hard-working young man I have to give him that. My theory to your question, Lieutenant Little, is that he may not have been getting enough rest and as cruel as it may sound, the captain’s temper very well may help him get the rest his body has been needing.” Dr. McDonald explained, dipping the rag into the basin once more and wringing the excess water from it.

“But Sir, I still don’t understand. His voice, he sounded absolutely terrified. How can he be sleeping so soundly?”

The older man nodded in understanding.

“Well to be completely fair Edward, while Mister Jopson might be taller than a fair few men on the ship but he’s very lean. With respect of course, Captain Crozier is bigger than him and likely outweighs him by a good twenty to thirty pounds of muscle if I had to guess. Thomas is a very observant man as well, he probably realized very quickly that a fistfight with the captain was not a battle he wanted to get himself into, and I would imagine, like most of the men aboard this ship, would be hesitant about striking an officer lest of all the captain...” the older man paused for a second trying to decide whether his next words were appropriate and to choose them carefully.

“You also have to remember son, that while Captain Crozier is an excellent leader, he is Irish and his temper is very well known. It is one of his strengths as an individual but it can also be his biggest weakness, namely when it comes to his consumption of drink, I am very sad to admit. I cannot say that I myself would have wanted to stand my ground for such an encounter.”

The other man just listened patiently still watching the doctor work as he spoke.

“However despite the awful incident, as I mentioned before if his body had been craving the rest that I suspect Mister Jopson was not allowing himself, it could be that his body has made the decision to block everything else out, and take time to build his strength back up.”

Edward still didn’t quite understand how such a thing could possibly be but as he thought about it some more it sort of made sense to him. They had all seen how hard Jopson worked after all.

Dr. McDonald placed his left hand underneath Jopson’s chin tilting it up slightly as to see better, and started to gently wipe the partially dried blood from the steward’s face.

The Lieutenant continued to watch quietly with sad eyes that also swam with a spark of anger and resentment that McDonald knew was silently, wordlessly, directed at their captain.

When he gently dabbed at Jopson’s cracked and split lips they parted further ever so slightly and despite his unconscious state, the younger man instinctively let out a small whine in response to the sting.

“Shh, it’s alright son.” the doctor soothed softly running his fingers through Jopson’s hair momentarily in hopes it would soothe the man back to sleep.

It seemed to work too as the younger man settled down again, instead just tilting his head slightly to the side.

Edward swallowed thickly as he thought back to the heated argument between captain and steward, the origins of said argument still unbeknownst to him.

All he remembered was being woken up from his fitful slumber to the captain’s shouting muffled through the walls of the ship despite his room being right next to his.

He had thrown on his coat and boots before running out of his berth, colliding with Lieutenant Irving who had also heard the angered shouts from his cabin next door. The other man also not appearing to have bothered getting into full uniform more worried about what their captain was yelling about.

Mr Blanky had come barrelling down the hallway as well a look of alarm on his face as if he knew something they didn’t. It wasn’t a secret that their captain and the ice master had a history going back further than this expedition, they were good friends and as such Lieutenant Little didn’t even object as the larger man shoved his way in front of them to stand outside the great cabin, rapping his knuckles furiously on the heavy wooden door.

“I can’t help but wonder, Doctor, if perhaps it would be wise to have someone else make sure that Captain Crozier’s needs are met, so that Mister Jopson can give him some space?”

Dr. McDonald paused for a moment seeming to think the idea over before shaking his head at the suggestion.

“I can understand your concern Lieutenant Little, however knowing Mister Jopson’s devotion to that man I doubt that this is going to make him stay away from the captain for long. I honestly doubt we could keep him away from his duties if we tried. I believe it’s all he knows.”

Edward let out a sigh and nodded in agreement, “You’re probably right.”

“I think we should see how things pan out tomorrow morning. If there is another fight, I will voice my concern to Captain Crozier.”

The Lieutenant felt a bit of relief ease his mind on the matter with the doctor’s words. At least there was someone with some sort of authority, in his own way being a medical professional, that could try to make the captain see reason if things got bad.

“Thank you Sir, I think I am going to return to my quarters now.”

McDonald smile warmly at him, “Don't worry about a thing Lieutenant, he’s in good hands. Get some rest you look like you need it.”

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The next morning Jopson was awakened by a long wet tongue running over his face and he realized that he felt too warm.

'Too warm? In a place like this?' he almost laughed at the thought but his head throbbed painfully.

A small whine was accompanied by more determined licks and he could feel the large furry body on top of him wiggling as the beast's tail wagged eagerly.

’Neptune, noo not now please.’

When the dog’s affections moved up to his nose he felt a sharp tender pain and would have bolted upright in bed if the large Newfoundland wasn’t keeping his torso pinned down, but the dog did get the hint and got off his small bunk.

’What time is it?’ he thought quietly pulling out his pocket watch to double check.

His eyes widened in absolute mortification as he stared at the time on the brass watch.

“Oh no!” he yelped bolting upright in his bunk he swung his legs over the side of it before all at once the his mad dash for the his wardrobe halted as the the events from last night suddenly came flooding back to him.

Captain Crozier and him were talking and things got heated after he said some things about Miss Cracroft and Sir John, trying to let the man know that he would defend the man’s honour against anything and then…

Tears pricked at his eyes as he realized what a terrible mistake he had made last night.

It had been an accident of course, he hadn’t meant to just blurt his feelings for the man out so candidly.

After the slip up the captain had become enraged and attacked him. He….

Thomas’s head lowered as he felt not only a burning shame for upsetting the man he had held so high respects for, whom he had lived to serve for the past eight years, but just as much the feeling of rejection that made his heart twist like the twisted ropes of the Terror’s rigging.

He couldn’t help the tears that immediately started trickling down his face, noticing the sting the salty tears caused his left eye.

Soon the tears morphed into sobs that he was trying so desperately to stifle before someone saw him, burying his face in his hands.

Neptune’s excited tail slowed seeming to sense the human’s upset and moved to sit in front of it between it’s legs that were planted on the floor.

He nudged the Thomas’s elbow with his great nose, trying to get him to pull his hands away from his face.

When it didn’t seem to work he let out a small noise of distress and proceeded licking at Jopson’s hands until finally he lowered them slightly to which he then moved and started licking his face affectionately.

Thomas let out another sob as he sank to his knees on the floor, he stroked the dog’s head a couple times before he buried his face among the large canine’s dark black fur, and wrapped his arms around Neptune’s flank desperately seeking no needing a hug, and hell if the dog was the only living thing around here that would let him offer one than that was good enough for him.

Neptune just sat there calmly, licking the human’s arms and neck every now. He didn’t like it when his people were upset and he’d found at times that sometimes he had seen the water stop coming from their eyes if he pestered them enough.

He wagged his tail happily at the thought and licked the man’s arms some more.

Gradually Jopson’s sobs stopped and he released the dog who sat there smiling happily with drool threatening to drip onto the floor.

Smiling weakly as he tried to force the sniffles to subside he rubbed and scratched the large dog behind his ears a couple times.

He wiped his face on his shirt sleeve and realized with slight alarm that someone had dressed him into his night shirt.

They had to have because the last thing he remembered before he woke up just now was Mr Blanky shouting and the captain’s fist coming down on him.

A light flush briefly flashed over his cheeks but it was gone almost as quick as it had appeared.

“Thank you Neptune, such a good boy.” he spoke softly causing the dog’s tail to wag faster at the words ‘good’ and especially ‘boy’.

“Come, let us go outside now. I shall see about getting you a treat once I’m dressed.” he lead the dog to the door and let it slide open the dog hurried out into the hall and Jopson paused at the sound of a voice.

“How did a the captain actually expect a beast like you to be able to gallop threw the halls! Watch it!”

Jopson poked his head outside his cabin keeping his body mostly hidden as he spotted Tom Hartnell just past Lieutenant Iriving’s cabin.

“Mr Hartnell, Sir!” he called to the sailor.

Hartnell turned around and Jopson couldn’t help but notice the man’s face initially appeared startled upon seeing him, but it soon vanished after he cleared his throat.

“Mister Jopson, what can I do for you?” he asked with a strained smile.

“I’m sorry to bother you Sir, but I overslept and I have Neptune to thank for waking me up. Do you suppose you could go to the galley and talk to Mr. Diggle about getting him a little something? I already uttered the word but I really must get moving.”

Tom Hartnell smiled broadly at this and gave him a wink, “Heaven forbid, you said the word in front of him? No wonder he’s galloping around the place like a wild stallion, I shall accompany that mutt immediately Mister Jopson.”

“Thank you very much Sir.” he gushed and Hartnell gave him another smile before disappearing down the hall after Neptune.

With a weary sigh he closed the door and turned around a little too fast causing his head to throb painfully in protest.

He walked over to the drawer with his belongings and started to get dressed, pulling on his trousers, boots, and slipping on the white under shirt he commonly wore underneath his pea coat.

Grabbing his cravat he tied it neatly as he looked around the room in search of his coat and it didn’t take him long to locate the blue article draped over the back of a chair.

As he made his way over to it his brow furrowed upon noticing the large tear at the bottom of the dark fabric in the back.

’Oh. It must have been torn in the scuffle last night.’ he concluded with a weary sigh.

Either way it’ll have to do for now, he’ll fix it later tonight during his own time.

His own time…

Already an hour or so late into his normal routine as he was, Jopson frantically tried to think of what he would say to his captain.

His hair. He had to do something with his hair. He reminded himself silently as he did up the brass buttons on his pea coat, already moving toward the mirror as he was accustomed.

When he finally looked into the mirror he couldn’t help the startled gasp that escaped him as he stared at his face.

There was a giant bruise extending from his left temple to his left eye which was slightly swollen and bloodshot. A similar bruise crept up laugh lines to the bridge of his nose.

Ugly, dark blackish blue bruises that left the steward at a loss for what he was going to do to cover them.

The more he thought about it, the more he found no solution to remedy the obvious signs from the fight between him and the captain.

Hot tears burned his eyes once again as he combed his hair, parting it to the side as he normally did.

’No wonder Mr Hartnell looked upset when he first saw me.’

Even though he knew the entire ship must have been awoken from the violent scenario that had occurred last night, he hadn’t wanted to be stared at all day.

They would probably think he was weak.

That’s how he felt himself.

Regardless of bruises or no bruises, he was a steward aboard one of the ships belonging to Her Majesty’s Royal Navy. He had a job to do and a reputation to uphold… if he could.

Drying his tears he grabbed hold of the door with a trembling hand.

“Here we go.” he spoke aloud to himself and pulled the door open taking one last deep breath before exiting his cabin.

Chapter Text

As Jopson walked briskly down the length of Terror’s lower deck on his way to the galley to start his routine by fetching the captain’s breakfast he felt eyes peering at him from all over.

Lieutenant Irving and Mr Blanky were sitting in a couple chairs beside each other at the far corner, Blanky was still eating a bowl of porridge and the Lieutenant was munching away on a biscuit.

Jopson swallowed anxiously and ducked his head, he’d rather avoid Mr Blanky if he could help it. Embarrassment burning hot in his chest as the events of last night still lingered heavily in his mind.

As quietly as he could and trying his hardest not to draw anyone’s attention, which was very hard, he made his way to find Mr Diggle knowing that the cook would have put the captain’s breakfast aside as he normally did.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Mr Blanky listened with mild interest as Lieutenant Irving went on about something he had read in a book of scripture.

And by mild interest he really meant, no interest at all.

The man could be great company at times but then there were times the young lieutenant was just so damn annoying.

He took another spoonful of his porridge and rolled his eyes with disinterest not all surprised that the younger man didn’t notice as he was too busy moving his gob.

Out of the corner of his eye saw Neptune run into the galley accompanied by Tom Hartnell who approached Mr Diggle and started up a conversation.

A sly smile formed on his face as he watched the large black hound.

His plan had worked.

The Ice Master had gotten up later in the night hours last night to check on the captain’s steward in the care of Dr. McDonald.

Dr. McDonald had just been finishing up with Jopson’s injuries when he had arrived.

The good news was nothing was broken on the boy but Thomas couldn’t get the young steward’s shrill cries for help while he was under the wrathful assault of his friend from his head.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The sound of Francis’s furious roar is what woke him.

Lifting his head groggily from his bunk and scratching his arse briefly he looked around, it was dark.. or he supposed it was always dark on the lower deck but something told him from the lack of noise, aside from the groans of the ship as the ice squeezed it like any man would a nice set of bosoms, and the stillness in the air that the last watch had started not even an hour and a half ago.

Why in god’s name was Francis yelling when he knew men were trying to get sleep?

He grumbled irritably and went to lay back down when the distinct sound of glass shattering against a wall had him immediately swiveling to get out of bed.

Already he could hear the Third Lieutenant Hodgson next door scrambling to get dressed muttering some curses, and he imagined the same was with Lieutenant Irving and Lieutenant Little as well.

Being as quick as he could he threw on his under shirt and yanked, on his trousers and boots before sliding his door open.

When he passed Hodgson’s cabin door that was when Irving dressed in just his trousers, undershirt, boots, and his hat to cover his sleep messed hair, emerged from his swiftly opened door and the man sprinted right into Edward Little’s back as he exited his cabin near the same time.

In any other situation he would have laughed at the fact that Edward was clad in just his stockings, boots, and the unbuttoned great coat that hung around his shoulders left his bare chest exposed, hair frizzled up all over the place like one of them fancy parrots.

Edward cast the younger man an irritated glare over his shoulder indicating he wasn’t awake enough for his clumsiness before moving swiftly towards the great cabin.

“Sir wait! I-… oh christ!” the panicked voice of the captain’s steward reached his ears.

‘What the bloody hell are they doing?’ he thought a sly smile growing on his face as he considered the possibility that the two finally hooked up.

The smile disappeared just as quick as he reminded himself that Mister Jopson sounded terrified, not in a state of blissful euphoria.

Something was wrong.

Lieutenant Little quickened the pace to reach the sliding great cabin door and Thomas heard Lieutenant Hodgson’s door finally open behind them.

The man had actually gotten into full uniform.

The sound of glass shattering against hard wood once again made the three of them move faster, and he pushed his way past Irving and Little when they finally reached the great cabin door.

Loud bangs and thuds from inside the cabin could be heard from outside the door, despite his sleep ogled mind it didn’t take him long to realize that it was the familiar sound of bodies hitting the floor.

’What on Earth?’

He raised a hand and knocked loudly on the door, “Francis! What is going on in there!?”

An audible ‘thunk’ followed by a loud yelp and a choked breath was his answer.

He could hear Francis’s panting in exertion and it sounded like Jopson’s hitching voice in clear distress. “Captain wai-ahh!”

There was no mistaking that noise, he’d heard far too many men get punched in the face to know what knuckles hitting someone’s nose sounded like.

’Did the captain just HIT Mr Jopson!?’

“Mr Blanky, sir help!”

He yanked the door open and immediately he was mortified by what he saw inside the great cabin.

Both the captain’s steward and captain were both on the floor, Jopson on his back and Francis bracketed on top of the younger man’s hips as the boy wiggled and writhed under his weight, legs twisting and straining to find some sort of purchase to get out from beneath the enraged Irishman.

The boy’s arms were raised, one hand pressing hand against the captain’s chest in attempts to hold him back and the other was trying to shield his head as Crozier got ready to throw a punch, it was now that he was able to clearly see the blood streaming freely from Jopson’s nose and lips.

Still in absolute shock at what he was seeing he stood there, and watched as his friend’s fist collided with the center of his steward’s forehead the impact slammed the back of Jopson’s head back against the wooden floorboards and that was when the boy’s legs and struggles had ceased altogether.

He just laid there like a corpse in the snow.

When he saw the captain raise another fist he swiftly moved forward, realizing that the captain very well may beat the boy to death if he hadn’t already.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Mr Blanky shook his head to get rid of the thought and swallowed another spoonful of his porridge.

’That bloody idiot.’ he thought bitterly to himself.

He and the doctor had taken Jopson back to his cabin and Thomas had volunteered to help the younger man into his bed clothes so that exhausted doctor could return to his cabin and hopefully get some more sleep before the bell was rung to wake the crew up for the next day.

After he had stripped the young man of his torn pea coat and trousers he’d left his stockings on but helped did find the steward’s night clothes after a good few minutes of looking.

He didn’t have any idea how the steward could possibly have his cabin neat ALL the time, but he did it somehow.

Mr Blanky was so tempted to just leave the clothes strewn about like he normally would in his own cabin til morning, but out of respect for the poor steward he made sure to leave the clothes in a neat pile beside the door and hung the pea coat over a chair.

Then he had gone to fetch that scroungy beast Neptune.

His plan had been to shove the dog into the room with Jopson for the night so that he would know when exactly Jopson woke up the following morning.

He wasn’t worried about Neptune, he knew Jopson adored the dog as it was.

Hell knowing first hand how the Newfoundland could frequently be found laying on some sailor’s bunk or insisting to climb into the bunk with the unfortunate victim for the night, he figured the hairy mutt would keep Jopson warm.

So the sight of the mangy mutt was a clear sign that Jopson was up and about.

Lieutenant Irving had been made privy to his plan and it wasn’t until he felt the man elbow him in the side that Mr Blanky realized that the man had finally stopped talking.

When Jopson hadn’t woken at his regular time this morning to wake the Captain he and Lieutenant Little had spoken and decided it best to let Jopson rest as long as he needed and it seemed lady luck was on their side today because their captain was still asleep as well.

Lieutenant Little had made sure the men started their normal routine but other than that they had no desires to wake either man after the… incident.

Thomas agreed with Dr. McDonald, depending on how this morning went when Jopson would come to begin his duties, as he knew he would, it was not likely to be a good idea for them to meddle.

“Mr Blanky, are you sure we shouldn’t check on him first?” Lieutenant Irving asked uncertain if letting Jopson throw himself back into the same room as the captain was a good idea.

Blanky replied with another spoonful of porridge and simple nod of his head.

John still looked unconvinced and that only increased as he was able to make out Jopson’s figure enter the galley to locate Mr Diggle as he normally did every morning.

He turned to look at Mr. Blanky who clearly noticed the steward walk in as well because he was just staring at the man a look of barely restrained anger had formed upon his face, seeing the dark contusions that covered Jopson’s face.

It was getting so bad that Irving saw the man’s hand holding his spoon visibly shaking with rage.

“Mr Blanky?” he asked quietly but the man paid him no mind, grabbing his bowl and storming off in a different direction.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Mr Diggle had told him to be back in about five minutes or so in order to get the captain’s food ready.

Though, he had a feeling such would have been the case.

With a nervous huff he turned to make his way back to his cabin to shave, he was going to skip it but with Diggle needing a couple minutes or so he figured he had time to get it done with.

’What do I say? Do I just act like it didn’t happen?

So lost in his thoughts was he, that he didn’t see the Caulker’s Mate Mr Hickey as he slipped out of Billy Gibson’s cabin until he ran smack into the shorter man.

“Oh!”

The sudden collision made his head throb painfully and he hissed as a massive wave of vertigo suddenly hit him and his vision was swimming as he felt his knees buckle.

Mr Hickey reacted on instinct, his arms darting out to grab the captain’s steward around the waist while he used his other hand to try to help keep his torso upright bracing it firmly against his sternum.

“Easy there, Mr Jopson.” he spoke carefully supporting the taller man’s weight with a bit of effort, waiting patiently for the steward’s dizzy spell to pass.

Thomas could see Hickey’s brown eyes peering up at him curiously.

Hickey could see the large patches of black and blue that riddled the young steward’s face in various parts. His swollen eye and cut lips.

Feeling insecure under the Caulker’s Mate’s, intense gaze while he studied his injuries he took a deep breath and nodded at the red haired man appreciatively.

“I- pardon me Mr Hickey.. thank you sir.” he uttered softly, straightening his posture allowing the small man to take a step back.

They stood in an awkward silence for a few moments.

“If I may, Mr Jopson. You look like you got into one hell of a fight.” Hickey finally offered with a wry smile.

“Mr Hickey!”came the sharp demanding tongue belonging to Lieutenant Little as he came up from behind the smaller man.

Hickey turned to the lieutenant acknowledging his presence and he was about to greet the man before he was cut off by him once more, his tone sharp , “As you were.”

Cornelius knocked his hat a couple times in a silent solute before he manoeuvred around Thomas and continued on his way to the galley.

Almost as soon as he had heard Lieutenant Little’s voice Jopson had immediately looked down at the floor, unwilling to meet Edward’s gaze.

“Mr Jopson.” Little addressed him.

It was here that he found himself struggling to swallow the lump that had risen in hit throat, having to swallow three times before it finally disappeared and allowed him to respond.

“Sir.” he was barely able to force the word out still refusing to lift his head to give the first lieutenant his full attention, even though he knew it was something that he could very well get reprimanded for given their rank.

It was expected on board any of the ships of their majesty’s royal navy to treat the officers, lieutenants, and most of all their captain with the utmost respect. Even though he was considered a petty officer, he was still lower on the chain of command.

He felt terrible and guilty for it, the fact that he couldn’t muster up the courage to look at a superior officer just because the shame he felt was so overwhelming.

Nothing was said and as the uncomfortable silence continued, Jopson couldn’t help but feel scrutinized under the Lieutenant's watchful gaze.

He could hear Edward’s footfalls as he began to approach him, and Jopson found the closer the older man got, the more he could feel tears threatening to gather in his eyes.

It puzzled him, how Mr Hickey’s staring gaze had caused him a mild stirring of anxiety, yet it was in Lieutenant Little’s presence that his handle over his emotions slipped drastically, and he was like he was floundering around like a fish out of water just to try to get them back under control.

Jopson didn’t consider himself a vain man but maybe he thought, perhaps he was had been all along and he was being selfish.

There have been several injuries already over the course of this voyage as there was with any voyage.

Life on a ship was by no means without it’s risks and accidents of course.

Men could loose their footing while manning the masts or climbing the rigging, things could fall on top of someone, bruises could be given from the wooden walls of the ships if someone was close enough to them when the ship hit some rough waves while sailing. Of course in these temperatures, men’s ears, fingers, toes, and other extremities could turn black with frostbite at times ending with the appendages requiring amputation.

If he remembered right, there was already someone who had lost all the fingers on his left hand except his forefinger and thumb, but Jopson couldn’t recall which man it was.

Some men suffered permanent disfigurements and here he was upset over the bruises that he knew would heal and fade in time.

When Lieutenant Little’s booted footsteps stopped directly in front of him his shadow was cast over him in the dimly lit lamplight of the lower deck.

“Mr Jopson.” Little’s voice was calm, even, and held no hints of reprimand nor his usual gruffness that came natural being used to giving the men orders at but a word from their captain.

Thomas was quickly losing his emotional war against himself and he ducked his head lower til his chin touched his collar as a couple tears started to trickle silently down his face.

He watched as the droplets dripped off his face, landing on top of his boots with a small ‘pat’.

When a firm hand was placed upon his shoulder and a calloused hand gently slid it’s way underneath his jaw, he stiffened, shame burning deep in his guts as the man pulled up gently.

“Please, Sir, don’t.” he whispered voice cracking with emotion as he tried to will the tears to stop.

“At ease.” was the soft reassurance he received from the older man.

Finally giving in the captain’s steward allowed the lieutenant to lift his chin, no doubt to get a look at the ugliness that had decorated his fair skin since this morning.

He bit his bottom lip nervously, trying to look anywhere but Little’s face that he was sure to be twisted in disgust, or judgment.

“Mr Jopson, look at me.” Lieutenant Little ordered.

The younger man choked on a sob, at the tenderness of the other man’s voice. Edward’s voice was so full of concern, worry, and despite this he could hear the unease that was almost buried completely deep within that strong voice of his.

Letting his eyes drift up to meet Little’s gaze, he stared into those deep brown eyes that were flecked with light reflected by the lamps.

The two of them had never had much interaction on the ship, never had much reason to, but Thomas could have sworn he had always thought he was taller than Little by a couple inches, however that was incorrect as the man actually towered over him by those same inches.

Little’s eyes scanned his face briefly and he reached a tentative hand up to let finger tips brush gently the bruise on his temple.

Thomas flinched at the disturbance of the tender skin and ducked his head away from the lieutenant’s curious hand.

“I’m sorry Sir.” he spoke his voice hitched briefly with a barely suppressed sob.

Edward’s brow furrowed at his words clearly not understanding.

“For what, exactly are you sorry for Jopson?”

When Jopson said nothing and made to move around Little he was stopped when Edward placed a firm hand against the left side of his chest, that pressed him back to remain standing in front of the lieutenant.

“Whatever happened last night Mr Jopson, you have nothing to be sorry for.”

He didn’t know why, but something about the lieutenant’s words was the final straw and he broke down in a mess of tears and angry sobs, covering his face in his hands as his legs shook beneath him.

Edward’s eyes had widened and his mouth hung open in surprise, he hadn’t expected such a strong reaction from the younger man.

Looking around for any watchful eyes and finding none, he wrapped an arm around Thomas’s shoulder and guided the hysterical man toward his room which he knew was the one sandwiched between Ice Master’s and Gillies MacBean the Second Master.

He pulled the sliding door open and walked the younger man inside using his free hand to slide the door closed as they entered.

Thomas hadn’t argued as the First Lieutenant led him, he couldn’t if he wanted to, he couldn’t stop the tears caused by the overwhelming shame and disappointment from last night.

’Thomas you really are a right mess. he scolded himself internally.

Wordlessly, he stepped out from underneath Little’s arm and sat down on his bunk where he proceeded to let his emotions come out like a roaring waterfall.

The lieutenant stood there awkwardly, not knowing what to say nor do.

He didn’t want to leave the poor man like this, but he also hadn’t meant for his words to upset him either, they were supposed to be reassuring.

Clearly they had not been.

Swallowing the uncertainty that was constricting his chest, Edward quietly approached the bunk and sat down beside the sobbing man placing a warm hand on his back to rub soothing circles into it.

“There, there Jopson. All will be just fine.” he whispered softly in reassurance.

The steward only shook his head face still buried in his hands as he choked on a violent sob that made his shoulders hitch.

“I-I was such a fool, Sir… I-I knew that the captain w-was... quite inebriated.” Jopson gushed, his words were bordering on the lines of being inappropriate to which Edward was surprised the man didn’t start stuttering out apologies like he normally would.

He decided not to say anything about the comment and let it slide.

After all, he figured the man had enough ‘disciplinary’ after last night. The comment was in Edward’s opinion much deserved on Crozier’s part, plus it was not unfair to say that the steward's words held no truth.

Curiosity getting the better of him in hopes he could pry a bit what had happened even though it was of course not his business by any means he decided to respond to the man’s statement.

“Seeing how hard you work for the captain, I cannot seem to think of a single thing that would have warranted that type of behavior from him, whether he had indulged in drink or not.”

Jopson sniffled pitifully in response, “I-I was…. very much o-out of line, Sir.”

Edward continued to look at the young man curiously. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of the claim.

“I-It was an accident.. it just slipped out.”

Lieutenant Little frowned watching the other man try to force his sniffles and sobs to cease.

“Begging your pardon Mr Jopson, but if it was something you felt you deserved I don’t think you would be this upset. You said it yourself, it was an accident.”

Jopson shook his head desperately a couple tears were flicked from his wet face where they landed on Edward’s collar.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“I-I can’t, sir… I-I am sorry.” he insisted, pulling out a handkerchief from his shirt pocket and gently e wiped the water droplets off of the dark fabric on lieutenant’s coat.

Despite his unhappiness with the steward’s reply he wasn’t going to press the matter, the last thing he wanted was to upset the man further.

For reasons he know not, something had transpired regarding how he felt about the younger man last night.

Maybe it was when they found their captain beating the poor steward like a punching bag, wailing on him in an angry rage.

Or perhaps it was how helpless the other man had looked as he lay motionless with blood trickling down his face and bruises already starting to form on his fair face.

Perhaps it was when he lifted the captain’s steward into his arms with such ease and Jopson had whined in a barely audible voice, ‘Please don’t.’ in his unconscious state.

Then again it could have been when he inhaled deeply the man’s scent on the way to the med bay. Jopson smelled of soap, ash, and the musk of a hard working man.

Now he just had this urge to protect the younger man, to make sure no harm ever came to him again, ready to fight tooth and nail against any unwelcome hand that would dare try to harm him.

Even if that hand was Captain Crozier’s… lashes or hanging be damned.

It was strange to him, it was something he had never felt before. He’d seen men get into brawls many a time and turned a blind eye, felt nothing, just stayed out of it.

Not as an acting Lieutenant of course.

So why was Crozier’s scuffles with Mister Jopson any different?

Was it because of his position as a Lieutenant on a ship of her Royal Majesty’s Navy? Where one of his duties was to keep order in check and chaos out of the ship?

Could it have been that it was completely uncalled for that their captain would behave so violently? If the steward had done something wrong, disciplinary action was in order. Not… not what transpired the night before.

Or was it because Mr Jopson worked so hard trying to tend to the captain’s every need and the captain just beat the man til he lost consciousness, as if all his hard efforts mattered not a bit to him?

Edward glanced over at him, he was now leaning forward with his chin resting on the hand belonging to the arm propped up on his knee.

He studied the man hard taking in his features.

Sea blue eyes were big and glassy with tears not yet shed.

Full lips were pushed into an upset pout but he could see how the lower lip was being worried between the man’s teeth.

His inky black hair was combed nicely and he noticed that despite that one annoying straggler lock that the steward frequently could be found pushing back into place, hanging in front of his forehead the man did not bother to move it back, something so uncharacteristic for him.

The way his pea coat complimented his physical body, fitted nicely and nipping in just a bit at the waist.

It was here that Edward couldn’t help but stare awestruck at the captain’s steward beauty.

How had he never noticed before?

Maybe it was because they had never interacted very much on this voyage, at least never just the two of them alone.

It was a strange feeling that stirred the lieutenant’s loins and he inhaled deeply to regain his composure.

The two sat in silence for a long time, Edward gently rubbing Thomas’s back, he would make sure those tears left those beautiful sea colored eyes.

“Mr Jopson... Thomas… may I call you that?”

The man’s use of his given name surprised him a little but he honestly was too much of a mess to find a reason to say no.

Lieutenant Little was known to be quiet, laid back even, when he wasn’t busy giving orders in front of the men that is.

There were some officers, he’d learned on his expedition with Crozier and Ross to the Antarctic, who found formalities to be tedious and a bit annoying. It wasn’t uncommon for them to drop them when they were alone with friends and not among the watchful eyes of superior officers or the captain who would reprimand.

Perhaps Lieutenant Little was just one of those men.

“N-No, Sir.” he responded with a sniffle.

Lieutenant Little nodded and offered a small smile.

“Thomas, nothing you could have possibly said nor did last night would give the captain an excuse to beat you in the manner that he did.”

The steward shook his head insistently, before he spoke and despite his reluctance to accept his words Little found he was still satisfied when he found that the small hiccups and sobs were now becoming less and less frequent.

“S-Sir, I-I did though… I-I said some very... inappropriate things, Sir. Things regarding matters that were... n-none of my business.”

Edward frowned at this the only thing he could think of at the moment that Jopson could have possibly done to anger the captain was giving his input on how the man commands the ship.. or maybe his drinking… or his constant feud with Erebus’s captain James Fitzjames.

“I would hardly say that you questioning the captain on how he commands the ship is rewarding of such a beating Thomas. Especially given the fact, that is, the captain gets questioned on his decision making several times a day often required to repeat himself… I will own that I have questioned him a few times myself.”

“Sir, I-” Jopson started only for the lieutenant to let out an exasperated sigh.

“Can you not call me Edward, Thomas? We are among ourselves, I find no reason to keep using the formalities.”

Although it was hard to make out through the dark bruising on his chiselled face, Edward could see how the man’s face lit up with a blush that blazed fiercely upon his cheeks that were still streaked with drying tears.

The younger man seemed to stumble over his next words.

“Yes sir- … Edward. S-Sorry, sir.”

Edward sighed tiredly which caused Jopson’s blush to creep further down his face going as far as the top of his neck while he struggled to accustom to the non-use of formalities.

It was part of his job, he used formalities with everyone.

“It was not a matter of anything here Edward. It was private, Sir, and I should have kept my thoughts to my own person.” Thomas explained.

“Oh.” Edward replied simply, he knew that the captain’s steward likely was entitled to some of the captain’s personal secrets given how close the duties of a steward required one to be.

He also knew better than to pry those secrets from the man. It would be highly inappropriate.

A knock at Jopson’s door made Edward jump and he removed his hand from the smaller man’s back and stood to attention.

Thomas sniffled one last time before he stood up to open the door to the newcomer outside.

His blood turned to ice and his stomach to knots as he found Captain Crozier standing before outside his door.

The captain was already in full uniform but Jopson could see how the man’s collar was crooked and his shirt tails were sloppily tucked in, his hair was still a mess.

Mr Blanky and Lieutenant Irving were standing a meters behind him in the dimly lit hall, Irving sitting there looking like a nervous puppy and Mr. Blanky was looking alert and tense.

“I-I um… good morning, Captain.” he greeted the man nervously.

Crozier’s eyes finally focused on his face and Thomas saw so clearly how his eyebrows raised in surprise and his mouth hung open in a silent scream of despair.

He swallowed heavily, tears starting to form at the corners of his eyes again.

The captain’s eyes didn’t linger long and he cast his gaze to Lieutenant Little who bowed his head ever so slightly. “Good morning, Captain Crozier.”

Francis cleared his throat and gave the other man a nod of acknowledgement before wetting his dry lips and speaking calmly.

“Lieutenant Little, will you please find Mr Hornby, I need him to send a message to Erebus.” he asked softly pulling a sealed envelope from one of the pockets on his coat.

Edward nodded and Jopson moved ever so slightly to let the man exit his cabin.

Lieutenant Irving and Mr Blanky disappeared after the first lieutenant already aware that the captain would send them away as it was to talk privately.

Captain Crozier could see the top of Jopson’s adams apple bob nervously above his cravat.

He let his eyes trail upward to peer guiltily at the bruises that marred his steward’s normally fair face.

“I’m.. I must apologize sir, I was just about to.. to..”

Crozier let out frustrated sigh, of course the lad would still be at the ready to carry out his duties.

He narrowed his brow giving the young man a sharp look. “Jopson.”

“Sir?”

“Shut up.”

“Yes Sir.” the steward replied defeated.

Francis lifted his hands to his face and let gentle fingers run over the bridge of his nose but he didn’t pull away at his flinch.

Instead his eyes became very sad, ashamed even before he moved to his swollen eye.

Jopson swallowed nervously not moving a muscle as the captain inspected the injuries he had inflicted upon him the previous night.

Finally with a weary sigh the captain pulled his hands away to place them heavily upon his shoulders.

“I treated you most unfairly last night Thomas and for that owe you an apology.”

“Oh.. but sir, I was out of line last night.”

The older man raised a questioning eyebrow. “Did I not tell you to be quiet a couple minutes ago?”

“Yes, Sir.. sorry Sir.”

Francis let out a sigh.

“Jopson, I do not know what came over me last night, but it certainly was not your comments about Sir John or Miss Cracroft.”

Thomas was quiet as he let the captain speak uninterrupted.

“I would assume your… confession just took me by surprise, I hadn’t expected you to be- -” Crozier trailed and it suddenly dawned upon Thomas that his situation was more severe than he realized.

A clear violation of the Articles!

How could he be so stupid!

He hung his head breaking eye contact. “Oh.”

Would he be lashed? Disranked?

It took him a second to muster up the courage for his next words.

“Sir, I-I... I will of course accept any punishment you deem necessary.”

Francis let out a small noise from the back of his throat, not quite a squeak nor a cry and he stared at him incredulously.

“W-What? Bleedin’ Christ lad! Don’t you think you’ve had enough already?”

Thomas stared at him, confusion written plainly on his face. “Sir… the Articles say-”

“I know what the damn papers say!” Crozier’s snapped voice raised in irritation.

Jopson heard footsteps fall outside the door and it was Crozier who looked completely and utterly annoyed having heard them as well.

“Mr Blanky, if you don’t sod right the fuck off in five seconds I am going to lose it. We are just talking! Go smoke a pipe!” he yelled angrily.

The footsteps receded but they were accompanied by the ice master’s angry grumblings of, ’Irish arsehole’ and a very clear ‘How about I smoke that pipe right up your arse.’

Francis let out a sigh and turned his attention back to him.

“Thomas, you did nothing wrong, that is to say, nothing I deem appropriate to warrant disciplinary action. Not after last night, your secret is safe with me.”

The steward swallowed hard as he nodded in response and he watched his captain let out another sigh before he approached his bunk to sit down upon it.

He followed the man over to sit down next to him and there was a heavy air of silence for a few moments before Captain Crozier met his eyes. “I suppose I should have expected this.”

“Sir?”

“Your feelings, lad. You have done far more for me than most stewards do for their captains.”

Jopson could feel the blush as it formed on his face. “I-I did mean what I said Sir.”

With a sad smile Francis patted his thigh reassuringly, “I know you did lad, I know you did.”

Chapter Text

“Oh, but Sir! That is really not necessary!” Jopson insisted desperately.

“I mean it Thomas, I’ll tie you to your bunk if I have to.” Crozier gruffed.

As appealing as that sounded to the younger man, he knew the real meaning behind the man’s words.

“Captain, sir I am still able to work. Please sir, it’s what I am here for-”

Crozier shot him a sharp look.

“I said no Jopson! Your duties can be taken care of by another while you take time to rest lad.”

“But, Sir-!”

For the love of Christ why couldn’t the lad just listen.

“Belay that! That is an order Mr Jopson and you will see to it.”

Jopson’s shoulder slumped in defeat.

“Sir, if… I may… is this because of what I said?”

Francis was left gaping at the question.

How in the world could the lad still want to serve him after what he did, especially with his face black and blue.

“No. You exhausted and you are injured. Have you seen your face? Thomas, I just want you to take time for your wounds to heal.”

Thomas still looked unconvinced but he also looked dissatisfied with something else on his mind and the captain let out a weary sigh.

“Jopson, you know I care about ye very much, but this… this is a new encounter for me and I do require time.”

The younger man peered up at him with sad, guilty eyes.

“Yes, sir. I am truly sorry that I upset you last night. I should never speak of a lady in such ways, especially one as… lovely as Miss Cracroft.”

His captain sighed once more and placed a heavy hand on his shoulder.

“No lad. I am.. grateful that you did, that is to say, you helped me open my eyes to the unfortunate fact that Miss Cracroft and I were never meant to be.”

Jopson remained silent, eyes downcast as the captain continued.

“Thomas, I know your intent was to help not hurt,” he paused to place a hand on his steward’s cheek that wasn’t bruised.

Slowly the younger man raised his eyes to look at him so he kept going.

“Ye’ve only ever tried to serve and help this grumpy old man, and when if not me ye caring for it be someone else who needs it. Never yerself. I know not what I have done in my life that would warrant me the privilege to have your services, friendship, and that heart of gold you possess.” Francis stated is brogue, that Jopson knew he hated and often tried to suppress, was unintentionally mingling thickly through his words.

He could feel tears gathering in his eyes once again.

Hadn’t he cried enough today?

Carefully he lifted his hand to the captain’s, still resting softly against his face, and placed it over the large hand pressing the warm palm against his cheek as the tears rolled down his bruised face.

His breath hitched sharply as he choked back a sob, running his thumb over the back of Crozier’s knuckles, feeling the scars from the many years of his career at sea underneath the pad of his finger.

Taking a deep breath he leaned his face further into the captain’s hand, letting the soothing warmth calm his nerves so he could will the tears away.

Francis watched with mixed emotions.

Although he wished to pull his hand free of Jopson’s grasp as he watched the lad lean into his touch affectionately, he didn’t because he figured if it would keep the man calm for the moment he would gladly allow it.

“Captain, whatever you decide, sir, it will never change how I feel, nor my wish to continue to be your steward, sir. Even if you don’t believe you can return my feelings, the past eight years I have spent aboard this ship have been the happiest years of my life. I truly hope, sir, that you would allow me the opportunity again should you sail away on another expedition once we return to England, for there is nowhere else I would rather be than by your side, even if only as a friend, sir.”

Francis stared mind boggled at the younger man’s words and Jopson smiled sweetly despite the pain it caused from his split lip.

“Sir, it is fine if y you can’t return my feelings, all I ask is that things do not change between us or that you think any less of me.”

It was the captain who smile next, a warm toothless smile that lifted the corners of his lips.

Francis moved his hand from Jopson’s shoulder to the rest it upon his other cheek, being mindful not to put too much pressure on it’s bruised surface as he cupped Thomas’s face in his hands.

He felt his heart melt as he stared into his steward’s sea blue eyes.

They were so full of hope, warmth, love, and purity as they sparkled beautifully in the lamplight of his cabin.

“Never. Thomas, I could never in this or any other lifetime think any less of you.”

His steward smiled gratefully but despite this his bottom lip wobbled slightly and a single tear of relief and joy strolled down his cheek and Francis wiped it away with his thumb.

Jopson released his hand and the captain took a step back toward the sliding door of the cabin but he turned abruptly and pointed a finger at him, his expression sharp.

“Get some rest Thomas. That’s an order. If I find out you were doing anything even remotely related to your routine, I’ll have Dr McDonald tie ye to your bunk.”

The glum look appeared on the young steward’s face again, remembering the conversation earlier.

How would the captain manage for a week without him?

What would he possibly do to keep himself busy?

“Do you understand?” Crozier asked firmly.

Though he was of course still reluctant he nodded his head. “Yes, sir.”

Francis eyed, him suspiciously. “Let me hear it then.”

“I am to stay here until my wounds heal.” Jopson swallowed looking down at his lap.

“Yes, keep going.”

Thomas peered up at the man miserably, “I am not to go anywhere near the laundering.”

“And?”

“And… the china.”

Crozier nodded in approval and with that he exited Jopson’s bed cabin.

Chapter Text

Four days.

That was as long as Petty Officer Thomas Jopson could take not doing his work.

He had awoken early this morning and discretely decided he was going to tend to some of the laundering after bribing Billy Gibson with some tobacco in exchange he didn’t tell the captain what he was doing.

So now here he was, while the captain was away to Erebus to speak with Captain Fitzjames sneaking about the captain’s berth to put some of the fresh linens away. He knew he shouldn’t disobey the captain’s orders but he was going stir crazy in his cabin, if he didn’t do something that he was supposed to do he was going to go mad. Taking care of others most of his life, he couldn’t not be helping in some way, it was all he knew how to do. It really was quite tragic.

He really hoped the captain had taken Lieutenant Little with him to Erebus, he wasn’t sure how he felt about having another encounter with the man. Since the other day when Little had stood in the passage of the mess hall talking to him he’d had two dreams while he slumbered fitfully. Thomas couldn’t help but flush slightly as he recalled these dreams.

They were at dinner with the rest of the officers and Lieutenant Little was there dressed in full uniform the epaulettes dangling off his shoulders. He could see the man’s big brown eyes studying him as he poured more Allsopps into his glass.

The sound of someone clearing their throat at the sliding door of the great cabin snapped him out of his thoughts and made him startle, letting out a gasp and dropping the pile of linens onto the floor in horror. Slowly with a guilty expression he turned around to find Lieutenant Little standing staring with his big brown eyes holding a hint of amusement despite the disappointed frown being directed at him.

“Oh! I.. um… lieutenant I was just feeding Neptune!”

Edward lifted an eyebrow at him. “No.”

Thomas blinked in confusion at the man’s simple response. “No? But I am Si-”

He was cut off when the lieutenant let out a small whistle and as if on cue the large hound bustled through the doorway from behind Lieutenant Little, running to him with a happy grin on his face and his tail wagging so fast it could cause gale winds itself.

“I was.” Edward stated simply and Thomas felt his face go hot with embarrassment having been caught in the lie as he reached a hand down and patted the dog on the head.

Lieutenant Little chuckled softly at him as he entered the room sliding the great cabin door closed. “Mr Jopson, you are a terrible liar.”

He felt the heat spreading from his face down his neck and he pushed the stray lock of hair to the side where it absolutely refused to stay.

“I-I’m sorry… sir.” he stuttered as Edward sauntered over to him and stood before him.

“Thomas, I do believe you were under strict orders not to perform any of your duties as Captain’s Steward for a week.” he stated the fact simply with the slightest hint of reproach.

“I-I… really… forgive me sir, I’m not going to bother, you caught me red handed and I... I can’t give you a reason why I am here other than I’m doing what I am being paid to do.. against the captain’s orders, sir.”

Edward stared at him in silence for a moment until a grin broke out on his handsome face and pretty soon he started to chuckle. That chuckle soon turned to a roaring laugh deep from the man’s belly and he had to grab the side of the table to keep himself from falling over. Tears of mirth started running down his cheeks, now red from the hearty genuine laughter that had overtook him.

Jopson stood there really not understanding what was so funny, but as he watched the man laugh he couldn’t help the smile that formed upon his own face making his dimples stand out prominently. He didn’t think he’d ever heard Lieutenant Little laugh before, it was a beautiful, welcoming sound that he wished he could hear more often. It took a few moments for the man to recover from his fit of laughter, it seemed every time he would settle down he’d break out into small giggles that soon turned into a laugh again.

Neptune whined longingly at his feet and he gave the dog a few good scratches around his ears causing the dog to lick gratefully at his hand afterwards.

It was then that he felt someone close to him and he lifted his head to find the lieutenant standing right in front of him and he took a step back with a start, the back of his knees hit the side of the table as he tried to put distance between himself and the lieutenant and he stumbled backwards laying on top of it for a second before he rose to a sitting position propping up on his arms as Edward stared down at him.

“I-I.. um… Sir?” he stuttered, blush creeping up onto his face under the man’s beautiful brown eyes' intense study.

Seeing the man’s lips pursed into a tight line he let his own eyes wander silently. The lieutenant was a handsome man, tall and broad shouldered, with dark brown hair, and big brown eyes that looked almost like coal in the right lighting. He stared into those eyes and it was then that he understood, it wasn’t just him. Brown orbs that carried confusion, faltering restraint, and lust driven need. Adam’s apple bobbing with nerves and sweat that beading down his neck, the man looked like he was about to lose it. Thomas wasn’t sure what to do, nor what he was feeling… just the other day he had been admitting to the captain that he loved him. He did love the captain. So why was he now feeling this swell of desire towards Lieutenant Little?

Both of them stared for several minutes in total silence, neither one of them willing to make the first move nor speak the first word and it was agonizing, this silence, someone had to break it.

“Thomas, do you know how beautiful you are?” it was Edward who did.

Jopson felt his cheeks burn brighter at the man’s words and he found himself stumbling for his own as the man put his hands on his shoulders and gently pushed him down on the table.

“Oh… Si- - Edward… um.. we… I-I.. shouldn’t…” Thomas stuttered as Edward leaned his face in close to his their lips only a breaths length away.

“You feel it too don’t you?” Edward breathed the question out his eyes full of a want and desire that made Jopson’s loins burn with need. He couldn’t deny that he hadn’t felt something between them the other day.

As much as he hated to admit it, he gave the man a reluctant nod. His heart floating as he saw those eyes change into something marvelling relief and his heart broke at the fact that he had to admit to the man that his love belonged to someone else. The lieutenant dipped his head down nuzzling his neck before he started laying kisses up towards his jaw.

He needed to stop this.

“Yes… I can feel it Edward, but… I um… love… ah…the captain.. ” he stuttered feeling the man’s stubble as he kissed his neck affectionately.

Edward jerked back looking at him in surprise and stood upright, taking a step back so that he could get up. He was looking down ashamed of himself and it broke Jopson’s heart.

“Oh… I see.” he said stroking Neptune’s head when the dog came trotting over to him.

“I.. I am sorry.”

Edward looked at him with a look of hope in his eyes, “Are you certain?”

Thomas opened his mouth to reply but he couldn’t find the words to answer so he just nodded.

The lieutenant just nodded in response and cleared his throat, readjusting his collar. “I shall leave you then. If you ever change your mind Thomas, you know where to find me.”

As Edward left the great cabin Thomas couldn't help but feel guilty and selfish. It was clear the captain wasn't interested in him wasn't it?

He would ponder about such things later, he decided, right now he had to get these linens put away before someone else caught him in here or worse the captain returned and would make good with his previous threat of tying him to his bunk for a week.

Chapter Text

After the lieutenant had left him alone in the great cabin Jopson felt a sharp pang of guilt.

He knew the lieutenant’s feelings were probably hurt.

Trying to avid thinking about the encounter, Thomas quietly put the clean linens away in the captain’s bed cabin with fluid ease.

A low whine beside him diverted his attention to the large Newfoundland following him with an eager tail wagging back and forth. He smiled softly at the dog, he knew that Neptune was extremely fond of him. He had to admit, he liked him too, the captain had himself a wonderful companion of that he was certain.

Patting the dog on the head he pulled a couple books from the captain’s shelf, both revolving around arctic survival information and sat down at the table to read..

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

It was past eight bells, where was he?

The captain had left for Erebus several hours ago and he still had not returned to Terror with Lieutenant Irving.

Was he alright? Wad he hurt? What if that monster on the ice got him? Had they got caught in the storm that had befallen both ships? Did he succumb to the piercing, ever present cold?

“Ah Jopson! Just the man I was looking for!” Mr Blanky’s deep baritone addressed him from behind.

Setting the book down upon the table top he turned his attention to the ice master offering him a nervous smile.

This was the first interaction the two of them had had between each other since that dreadful fight a few nights prior, without the watchful gaze of others anyway.

“Good evening, Sir, may I get you anything...” he trailed off remembering what the captain had said.

Mr Blanky seemed to notice his conflict and gave him a grin, “Some tea would be nice.”

He couldn’t help but let out a sigh of relief, beaming brightly as he bounded off to go get some water.

Blanky chuckled as he watched Jopson dart out of the room in a dire eagerness at being given something to do.

Dr. McDonald was right of course, it seemed that taking care of other people was all the man knew and anything else clearly made him uncomfortable, the captain telling him he wasn’t allowed to do these things for a week was in his opinion, quite harsh.

Obviously the younger man loved what he did, he enjoyed it with a roaring passion, taking care of others.

Of course he understood that he wanted Jopson’s face to heal before he was bustling about the deck, likely to cover his own shame as well as to keep the peering eyes off the steward.

Jopson returned with some hot water from Mr Diggle’s stove, entering with some bounce in his stride and Mr Blanky couldn’t help the entertained smirk from forming on his face.

It seemed as if his request for a mere cup of tea had made the young man’s entire day, all concern and longing disappearing from his pale eyes that had filled with a grateful fire of joy as he moved.

He watched the young man prepare his tea in the far corner of the room for a few moments before returning to him with the saucer and the steaming cup, a large dimpled smile upon his handsome young features.

Nodding appreciatively, he accepted the drink when Jopson held it out to him.

“Christ lad, I think that was record time. Now, that we got that of the way, I hope reading is the only bloody thing you intend to do in here Jopson, if I remember right the captain gave you strict orders.”

Blushing slightly the young man nodded, “Yes, sir, it is. I am just waiting for the captain to return so I may have a word.”

Mr Blanky seemed to hesitate much to Jopson’s confusion and he couldn’t stop himself from asking, “Sir, did something happen?”

With a sigh the ice master grabbed one of the chairs circled around the table, pulling the seat away so he could settle himself into it, the wood made an awful grinding noise at it scrabbled against the floorboards.

“Nay, but the captain informed me that he and Lieutenant Irving are to remain on Erebus for the night due to this fucking storm.”

Jopson looked down feeling disappointment swell in his chest at the information.

Mr Blanky took this moment to study the bruises on his face, the ones on his nose were still rather dark but they had faded from a blackish color to a more dark blue. The one on his temple however, was still black and it had small patches of various colors, varying from blue, purple, red, and even yellow.

“Actually, I had been wanting to speak to you, but for someone relieved of all their bloody duties for a fucking week, you’ve been quite hard to track down.” he said with a knowing smile.

The young man looked up at him puzzled, “Me sir?”

“Aye, I wanted to talk to you about the fight with the captain.”

Alarm bells suddenly went off in Jopson’s head and he cleared his throat getting ready to start spinning a tale for the older man but he held up his hand and said something that blew him away.

“No need for fibbin’ Jopson, I already know, but I also bloody well aware of the fact before you even developed the stones to tell him.”

Jopson’s mouth dropped open in both horror and confusion.

’Had it really been that obvious?’

“I-… Sir, if I may… how many of the men...”

Mr Blanky shook his head in response to the young man’s not fully voiced question.

“Very few have suspected a thing Mr Jopson, the only people who have talked to me about it are Mr Peglar, William Gibson, Tom Hartnell, Dr. McDonald, and Lieutenant Hodgson.”

Sweat started to trickle down his forehead and the back of his neck, this was not good.

“As far as I am aware, not a soul has a problem with your bloody feelings Jopson. I am worried about your decision on who you want to be with.”

A look of confusion phased over Jopson’s face, he wasn’t quite sure he was following.

“I know that Francis is all dreamy and shit, and you have known him a long time, but he is a man who is still trying to figure out who the hell he is, and by god everything that is personal in his life takes forever, I would know because I have known the man far longer lad. Lieutenant Little has been fond of you from the start of this expedition and dammit all if the other night didn’t send him head over heels for you…”

The older man trailed off and let out a weary sigh, “I’m sorry Jopson, it’s none of my fucking business, I should have kept my mouth shut.”

Thomas sat there, still sweating and now biting his lip nervously.

’Did I make a mistake?’ he wondered quietly.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Lieutenant Little of course was in charge while the captain was gone, which meant he had one of the last ones to retire to his cabin, having to make sure everyone was where they needed to be and that things were not going to be chaotic if the captain did return in the morning.

Knowing this fact had kept Jopson up that night, he hadn’t even undressed for bed he was so distracted.

He was tempted to go talk to the man. He felt he should.

What if Mr Blanky was right? The man had no reason to lie about the captain, he had a very close relationship with Crozier after all. Could it be possible that the man was hinting at him to go talk to the lieutenant?

Unable to ignore his wandering thoughts any longer he pulled himself from his bunk.

He’d go talk to him about it, if anything he could make sure that there were no resentments between the two of them.

Sliding the door open on it’s track as quietly as he could he walked light on his feet towards the first lieutenant’s cabin. He had always had good night vision even as a boy so the dampened lights in the passage made no difference to him.

Butterflies were tingling his stomach as he stood outside the lieutenant’s door, his ear pressed against it as he listened.

Would the man turn him away? Would he understand?

He could hear light snoring from inside the cabin and fought with himself for a moment, was it really fair to wake him up?

On the other hand this was the best opportunity he would get with the captain being aboard Erebus for the night.

Thomas took a deep breath and slid the cabin door open just enough for himself to squeeze in quietly shutting it with just as much cautious care after he made it inside the lieutenant’s living quarters.

He looked around, noticing the man’s slops and uniform strewn about the room in a messy disarray made him visibly cringe in distaste at such lack of orderliness.

When he looked to the bunk he saw Edward sprawled upon his back, his right arm draping off the side, his mouth parted as he snored lightly in his exhausted slumber. He was stripped down to dark gray stockings and his undershirt which was pushed up slightly from a restless sleep, giving Jopson a clear view of the dark trail of coarse hair that disappeared below the waistband of his small clothes.

The younger man couldn’t help but blush at the sight, and he found himself padding over quietly to stand beside the bunk. He looked down at the sleeping lieutenant, observing how his chest rose and fell in steady tempo of his breathing. Edward was sweating as he slept and Thomas really wasn’t that put off by it, his little brother Bobby used to sweat a like a leaky sieve when he slept. Their mother had simply said that some people sweat more than others and he never questioned it again.

It just took him by surprise a little that the man’s skin was covered in just enough to have a light sheen on his shoulders. One would think the cold of this awful place would help him from overheating, even then the man was using light blankets.

Something on the man’s side caught his attention, it was a stark contrast against his skin in the dark. Along his ribs he could see a dark tinted scar it looked to be about three inches in length and it lay just in the middle section of the man’s rib cage.

Before he could stop himself he had reached out a hand, laying it gently upon the warm skin letting his fingers run over the ridged flesh.

Thomas started when Edward made a noise in his sleep and shifted away from his touch with a little wiggle and turned his head to the side facing the wall.

He stood there frozen, afraid he’d been caught and it wasn’t until he heard the man’s breaths even out again into a steady pattern that later turned to the light snoring he had heard earlier that he dared move a little closer.

Recalling his encounter earlier today he felt his loins stir slightly at the remembrance of how tempted he had been to kiss the handsome man who had been initiated with such a display of passion and need.

He also remembered how he had turned the man down, and Mr Blanky’s words of wisdom from earlier.

Maybe, just maybe it was okay for him to indulge? After all, the captain hadn’t given him an answer and it almost seemed like he had been avoiding him because he hadn’t seen him since he came to apologize for striking him.

Nervously he tucked his hair behind his ear before leaning down over the sleeping lieutenant’s bunk, bracing his arms against the wall to hold himself steady he allowed his face to hover over the sleeping man’s for a second before pressing his lips to the skin just beneath his ear where his jaw started. He noticed how the beginnings of the man’s sideburns tickled his nose just so slightly as he did this.

The snoring stopped and before he knew what was happening, Jopson let out a small yelp when he felt strong hands upon his waist, they pulled fiercely and he found himself yanked onto the bunk on top of the man.

It was as if he lit a match! He had to admit he was impressed by how fast the man could coordinate for someone just being awoken from a dead sleep.

“I-I.. hold on a sec-mmp!” he didn’t have time to finish, his mouth had been sealed off by the lieutenant’s ravenous lips.

He pushed a hand slightly against Edward’s chest in an attempt to protest and the man looked at him with lidded, brown eyes that were almost black with want, he grabbed his wrist and soon gathered the other holding them tightly between their chests in one of his large hands.

The action startled him, but at the same time it also started to do wicked things to him and he blushed in frustration, a small mewl of protest was swallowed by Edward’s passionate mouth.

When he parted from his lips he put a finger over the top of his own, and Jopson felt his loins stir again, this time marvelled by how arousing he found the lieutenant’s dominance was.

Edward leaned in close to his ear, “Thomas, you wouldn’t have come here if you only wanted to talk. You know this.” his hiss sent jolts of electricity through his spine.

He felt his whole face heating up further and he imagined he looked like a tomato all he could do was nod, the man was right after all.

With that Edward released his hands and rolled them over, straddling his hips he paused for a second to pull his own shirt off and toss it where it was left abandoned like the rest of the articles he owned on the floor.

He decent down upon him again with a hungry fervor, peppering him with kisses and light nips across his throat and jaw, his hands pulling clumsily at the buttons on his waist coat.

Jopson swallowed nervously as he watched the man work, studying his body up and down. The lieutenant had an impressive build, strong biceps and a muscled chest that glistened with perspiration decorated with dark hair that started just below his clavicle spanning across the breast area before it died down to the dark trails he had gotten a glimpse of earlier.

’Oh.’ he thought quietly to himself as beads of sweat started to trickle from his neck and face.

“You woke me up...” Edward growled softly into his ear then giving the outer shell a rough bite with his teeth causing him to yelp in alarm at the pain.

“Ah! I’m… I’m… sorry...” he whimpered but Edward grabbed him by the chin.

“Stop being sorry, kiss me.” he demanded of him big brown eyes dark with a primal lecherousness.

The tone in Edward’s lust driven voice made all his will-power cave and he attacked the lieutenant’s mouth with needy desire.

Edward’s lips were velvety soft, yet aggressive in the frenzy of this moment of dire lust. He tugged at his bottom lip with his teeth, demanding entrance to which Thomas gladly allowed. Edward’s thick tongue slipped into his mouth and danced with his own as they fought for dominance, despite knowing that it was clear who was going to be in charge of this tonight and Jopson found the idea so enticing.

He felt the man finally get the last button of his waist coat undone and he allowed the lieutenant to move him how he needed to get the article off of him.

The lieutenant was bout toss it and all at once, he broke away from their kiss and glared sharply at him.

“Edward Little don’t you dare throw that on the floor!” he spat, voice low and devoid of any humor.

A sheepish smile played upon Edward’s face, and he carefully set the article on the small table beside his bunk.

Nodding in appreciation he pulled off his neck cloth and his shirt, he was surprised when Edward got off the bunk to strip off the dark stockings and his small clothes.

Jopson couldn’t help but stare, shirt still halfway over his head he gawked at the monstrosity protruding from the lieutenant’s legs.

“O-Oh… oh lord.” he muttered softly and Edward chuckled in response, climbing back onto the bed like some jungle cat stalking his prey.

Edward pulled his shirt off the rest of the way putting it on the table with the rest of Thomas’s clothes.

He took quick note of the a few small tufts of black chest hair in the center of his chest, unlike himself who had more generous amounts, that immediately faded down to a dark coarse line that trailed to his belly button.

A shiver of want shook him to his core.

“I have wanted you for so long Thomas.” he purred, his hand groping at the front of his trousers.

The rough touch was explosive and if Thomas hadn’t have been completely hard before he most certainly was now, his arms snaked around the lieutenant’s neck to pull him down into another fiery kiss his hips pivoted slightly against the man’s hand as want took over.

“E-Edward...” his voice coming breathlessly against the man’s lips when more pressure was applied against the fabric confining his arousal. Thomas bit his bottom lip desperately, trying hard to keep his control in check he knew if this didn’t stop he was going to come inside his pants.

Some how, whether the lieutenant could read minds, or experience Edward picked up on this, or maybe it was just a coincidence. His left hand was cradling his head kneading the soft black hair as while he used the other to undo the snaps and laces on his trousers.

In two swift movements he had removed them as well as his own small clothes, and was about to toss them onto the floor only to be corrected when he jabbed him sharply in the ribs causing the man to grumble under his breath.

With all clothes discarded Edward turned to study the younger man, his fair pale skin shined with the beginnings of sweat, his obvious erection nestled between a dark thicket of pubic hair was standing proudly with the head flushed a deep maroon and pulsating with pre-cum.

The man lay there already panting heavily from the activities as was he, his belly fluttering with each breath that caused his chest to hitch upwards.

“I’m going to bugger you so hard, you’ll not walk tomorrow.” he breathed.

When that face turned an even brighter shade of scarlet at his words he lost all control, diving down and capturing his lips in one last passionate kiss.

With a firm hand he stroked the young man’s erection with gentle teasing touches while he explored the rest of his body, nuzzling the tufts on the steward’s chest and nipping at one of the perky dark coloured nipples to elicit a small cry of pain that was followed by a delicious needy moan as he continued his ministrations.

“Please.. please….” Thomas begged desperately his hands desperately clinging at his wrist in attempts to stop his touches on his hard cock.

He needn’t say anything, he understood just by the look in his pale eyes.

“You want this?” he teased running fingers along his inner thigh.

“Why else would I be here.” Jopson spat, clearly not in a teasing mood and Edward noticed small shivers were starting to shake his shoulders so he grabbed the blankets and pulled them over the top of them, cursing himself like an idiot for not doing it sooner.

Releasing his cock he brought two fingers to Jopson’s lips. “Go on then.”

Thomas didn’t need to be told twice as he took the digits into his mouth gathering up as much saliva as he could while he swirled his tongue around them diligently.

Edward pulled his fingers free after a few moments and patted his hip lightly, “Roll over for me.” he gruffed nuzzling his throat tenderly.

Already eager as it was, Jopson had no problem complying with the order and he did just that, and more in fact, lifting his arse to tease the man.

The lieutenant let out a quiet growl and jammed one finger into his quivering hole and he gasped initially at the roughness before he laughed softly.

“You are naughty.” he growled lowly into his ear.

He could hear the man’s mischievous grin, he didn’t need to see it. “Am I?”

Face flushed to match the color of his raging erection Edward found himself losing patience with prepping the man.

“Yes!” his lusty growl stirred the steward’s loins even further.

’Time to get this fire started.’ Jopson thought a devious grin spread upon his face.

After a few seconds silence he craned his neck to look over his shoulder at the lieutenant and spoke,

“Then maybe you should do something about it, Sir.” he drawled, his voice provoking but still dripping with want and need.

That seemed to do the trick because Edward’s mouth fell open in a silent outrage and those fingers left him, strong hands gripped his hips tightly and pulled back lining himself up properly.

“Cheeky little bastard… I’ll do something about it alright.” he snarled lowly.

With that he thrust forward, pulling back on the lithe hips at the same time and Jopson let out a yelp of both pain that soon morphed into pleasure.

The noise was so obscene that Edward had to reach over and cover his mouth half-way through it.

“Shh… quiet Thomas.” he urged softly, removing his hand.

He didn’t move yet he wanted to give the man time to adjust to the stretch and it was a good few seconds or so of watching him spread his legs wider and shifting his hips before Thomas gave him a breathy ‘go ahead’.

God it was like heaven being encased in such tight warmth. He took a moment to relish it until he was prompted to move when Thomas’s hips wiggled impatiently against his.

“Don’t worry, I’ll get there.” he reassured giving his hip a pat with his left hand.

“Oh Edward please...” the steward whined desperately and the noise, Edward thought, was the most beautiful one he’d ever heard in his entire life.

Who was he to deny such a thing of beauty?

He started to move with a few experimental thrusts to make sure the man below him was alright but the obscene noise that came from Thomas’s lips was all the confirmation he needed and he happily let his control leave him.

It didn’t take long for Thomas to try to meet his animistic thrusts, the pace they set was hard and unrelenting and Edward knew it wouldn’t be long for either of them to reach completion with how long the foreplay had been.

One particular thrust had Thomas moaning loudly his name and it startled him into action clamping a hand over his companion’s mouth to stifle the noises.

Jopson couldn’t help it, he was too inexperienced to force down the noises that tore from his lips, the feelings were so intense and heavenly. He’d fancied being with a man before but he’d never actually been bedded by one yet.

“Shhtt...Tom… good god…” he panted as he thrust into that tight heated passage keeping his hand firmly over the younger man’s mouth as the moans continued.

After a couple more thrusts he watched how Thomas’s body seized briefly before he spent all over the sheets crying loudly into his hand.

“Oh.. oh god...” he choked out the sight was so beautiful to behold that he came shortly after with a quiet roar and one last brutal thrust of his hips.

He let his hand fall from the steward’s mouth and collapsed on top of him, taking a second to catch his breath. That was heavenly.

“That was amazing Thomas.” he breathed into his ear before rolling off onto his side in the small bunk.

When he got no response he peered over and found the young man had blacked out already and was now laying asleep in his bunk next to him.

A grin spread across his face and tasked himself with making sure the young man was comfortable before pulling the blankets over the two of them.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

In the ward room Mr Blanky grumbled as he tossed a coin to Harry Peglar who was sitting there grinning like a proud peacock as they shared a drink together.

“I told you so.” the younger man chimed happily.

Chapter Text

“Francis, you look dreadful.” James stated as Terror’s captain entered the wardroom. He made hand motion towards him, a silent command for Mr Bridgens to assist the captain in removing the extra layers that were dropping pellets of ice and snow that had already started to melt.

John moved forward with an acknowledging nod to the captain as he stepped behind him to let the man shrug out of his great coat.

He did look a sight.

His graying blonde hair was in a tizzy from the trek across the ice from Terror sure, but he could see dark circles under the man’s eyes as if he hadn’t slept in days.

“A warm hello to you too James.” the man grumbled in annoyance.

Fitzjames shrugged, “I am an opinionated man Francis.”

Blue eyes looked up at him with a surge of frustration. “Well I don not recall asking for your opinion.”

James watched as the older captain settled himself into one of the seats at the large mahogany table.

“Can I get you anything, Sir? Tea per-”

“No, thank you Mr Bridgens.” the captain cut the steward off and James frowned.

“Well you are in a cheerful mood.”

As he’d expected his response was a piercing scowl before the man went into a brooding silence.

“So what’s on your mind Francis?” the younger captain asked reading the tension in the man’s body posture.

“I need to talk to you, privately.”

James raised an eyebrow in question before looking over at Bridgens.

“That will be all for now Mr Bridgens.”

The older man bowed his head politely and took his leave. “Sir.”

“You didn’t need to be so rude.” Fitzjames sighed standing up to retrieve the whiskey decanter and a couple glasses.

Francis scoffed irritably clearly in one of his moods but he nodded when James held up a glass in a silent question whether or not he wanted a drink.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Eventually the two of them had migrated to sit in James’s study mainly because the Erebus captain had more whiskey stashed in there.

That is how they now found themselves well into their third bottle of whiskey after they both had eight glasses already, totalling the two previous bottles which now lay on the wooden floor. Fitzjames was sitting at his desk and Francis across from him.

“So.. if I understand this correctly. You’re telling me that Jopson confessed his love for you the other night.” James asked words somewhat slurred from all the glasses he’d already had.

Francis said nothing but he did indulge in gulping down the rest of his glass before grabbing the crystal cut decanter and pouring himself a new one.

He glanced over to Erebus’s captain who donned a light coloured sweater underneath his now unbuttoned jacket and he had untied his black neck cloth after about eight glasses earlier so it now hung limply around his neck. Black hair framed his face which was flushed slightly from the alcohol in his system and dark eyes were dancing with life.

’Bastard tells me I look dreadful, well he can’t look any more attractive than he already is if he tried.’ he thought sarcastically.

“… and after that you hit him in a rage not believing you felt the same way for him?”

His words snapped him back from his thoughts and he nodded.

“Aye.”

An awkward silence filled the room before James snorted into his hand, the snort turned into a snicker, then a giggle, and soon a full rumbling laugh as the man leaned back in his chair.

Francis was taken aback by the man’s reaction.

It was not funny. Not in the slightest.

“James! God damn yer eyes! There is nothing amusing about this ye bleedin’ English buffoon!” he snarled his brogue coming thick off his tongue in his drunken state.

Nonetheless, James laughed heartily as Francis sat there with a very not amused scowl at his reaction to the story.

“I-I’m sorry Francis, this is most unkind of me.” he choked out through his giggles.

“Well, I am very glad ye find my troubles entertaining James.” he snapped.

Fitzjames shook his head in earnest as he forced his giggles to subside, “I don’t Francis.”

He stopped for a second to rub at the bridge of his nose, he knew he was going to have a headache tomorrow.

“I have seen how you look at Jopson, Francis. There is something else there that crosses the intent of just friendship on both sides. With Thomas it is more obvious, his unyielding devotion and admiration of you is a clear enough sign. On your part it is hard to recognize because you try to repress these feeling so desperately.”

When the captain said nothing in response the younger man sighed deeply leaning forward in his chair to rest his folded hands on top the table.

“Francis, from what I’ve learned about you… I find myself uncertain that love was really what you craved when it came to Miss Cracroft.”

Crozier’s eyes widened in shock and soon turned to outrage as he shot up from his chair turning red all the way to his ears.

Was Fitzjames insinuating that he was just after sex with the woman like she was some doxy in a whorehouse?

“How dare you accuse me of-”

“That is not what I meant Francis and I was not finished!” James snapped irritably.

Clenching his fists at his sides Francis lowered himself back into the chair sitting there in a brooding silence as the man continued.

James traced the edge of the table lazily as he pondered over his words he knew he was being rather bold in this statement.

“I think.. that it could be possible that the real motive behind Miss Cracroft’s hand very well may have been to prove to yourself that you were not mildly interested in men.”

“That is preposterous.” the Irishman sneered with a glare.

’Well then Francis, let us test that theory.’

Fitzjames lifted a questioning eyebrow. “Is it Francis? Is it really?”

A challenging glint had formed in the man’s eyes and Francis didn’t like it one bit.

He glared sharply in response to the challenging gaze.

“Yes.” he replied simply.

This was when James leaned forward grabbing him by his lapels and yanked him forward and he was too surprised by the sudden movement to pull away when he felt the Commander’s lips crashing against his.

His blue eyes were blown wide in surprise and his first instincts told him to push the man away but as he felt those velvety soft lips moving eagerly against his own he found himself parting his own in response.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

~ The Next Morning ~

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

George Hodgson awoke an hour or so earlier than was his normal, which was still an hour or so before the first bell rung to wake everyone up.

He decided to go two doors down and see if Lieutenant Irving had returned.

If that was the case it would mean that their didn’t stay there the entire night like he had done a couple times now yesterday and the second day after his fight with Jopson.

Lieutenant Little had told him he wanted a report first thing on the captain’s status when he woke up knowing full well that he was an early riser.

With a grumble he swivelled his legs out of the tiny bunk and started to get dressed which didn’t take him but five minutes being used to such a tedious routine at this point.

Sliding his cabin door open he walked across the floorboards on deftly quiet feet to the door next door. He knocked quietly and got no response so he quietly slid the door open and peered inside.

John was nowhere to be seen his bunk was still made in a neat organized fashion by Mr Gibson.

Grumbling under his breath he walked to the cabin next door belonging to Lieutenant Little and knocked softly.

“Who is it?” came a tired groan from inside.

He rolled his eyes, “Your dear Aunt Sally, Edward.”

“Lieutenant Hodgson…?”

George grumbled softly and slid the cabin door open ready to give his report but he stopped immediately when he caught sight of Edward’s horrified sleep addled gaze staring up at him from his bunk as if caught doing something he wasn’t supposed to be.

He was confused for a brief second before he finally was able to notice the second figure bunking with the Lieutenant, the young face of Petty Officer Thomas Jopson, the captain’s steward. His still bruised face lay on the pillow with his eyes closed in a blissful slumber, he could see small spans of bare skin where the blankets had slipped off his back.

’Oh goodness.’

A grin broke out on the blonde’s face and he gave the man a silent salute.

“Captain’s not back yet, I’ll leave you two be.”

The blonde was about to slide the door closed when Edward suddenly felt a rush of panic hit him hard finally comprehending what it was that just happened.

“George.” he hissed quietly but it was just enough to call the man back to attention and thankfully it didn’t seem to disturb Thomas.

When the third lieutenant turned to look at him with a warm smile and a shake of his head Edward didn’t know what to expect.

“Not to worry Sir, your secret is safe with me.” he said and with that slid the door shut behind him.

Edward stared for several moments in absolute disbelief his sleep addled brain still trying to comprehend what just occurred.

Chapter Text

“Thomas.” the captain’s voice reached his ears between his pants of exertion.

Trying to match his Irish captain’s brutal pace he looked up at Captain Crozier staring into those piercing blue eyes so much more marine than any body of water be it stream, lake, or sea. His greying blonde hair was plastered to his forehead with perspiration and his breath came in ragged panting as their bodies moved together.

His trembling hands clenched desperately around Francis’s broad shoulders and he keened softly as one of the captain’s thrusts hit that spot deep inside him that made every single problem in the world at that moment go away.

It made his thighs quiver pitifully and his grip on the older man’s shoulders was almost lost to him for the pleasure was so maddening that it threatened to make him loose all sense of control.

He needed more of that mind numbing friction!

With a small whine he wrapped his trembling lgs around his captain’s waist in an attempt to pull him closer while fingernails dug deep into the man’s pale shoulders.

The captain slid an arm beneath his shoulders and lifted his weight slightly craning his neck down he gave Thomas a pleased grin.

“Right there lad?” Francis purred into his ear and oh did that husky voice do wicked things to him.

“Y-Yes Captain...” he managed to gasp out before the man’s lips met his with an intense hunger.

Francis continued to thrust into him with an incredible stamina and Jopson could feel the heat pulsing within his belly like the hottest of fires, he knew he was getting close to his limit.

“S-Sir – mmn-- going-- come…. Mnn- I-I” he struggled between his captain’s insistent kisses.

The older man pulled back just enough to catch his breath.

“Permission granted Mr Jopson.” he breathed the order huskily inches away from his mouth before attacking it again.

Captain Francis Crozier’s lust tainted voice did wicked, wicked things to him indeed.

It unravelled him completely as his body seized violently before he spent his hot essence against both of their stomachs and the obscene noise that escaped him was swallowed by his captain’s ravishing lips.

Francis let him fall back on the bunk panting heavily as he began to come down from his euphoric high while he finished.

“Thomas….” the captain groaned softly.

Jopson awoke to a pair of lips moving softly against his pulse and he couldn’t help how his body shuddered in pleasant surprise.

‘Oh… Captain...’

He let his hand move down to clutch at the back of the head belonging to those ravishing lips.

At first he was startled when his hand met a mane of soft yet wild waves of hair that threaded between his fingers.

Hair much too thick and too long to be that of Francis Crozier.

“Oh.”

Slowly he opened his eyes and found a pair of tender dark pools the colour of the finest chocolate, which he knew, belonged to Lieutenant Little staring down at him.

“Good morning Mr Jopson.” Edward purred softly his left hand traced up and down his hip that lay flush against his body.

“I… good morning Lieutenant.” he whispered quietly he could feel warmth running to his face.

Edward’s smile fell as he studied him and Jopson was worried when those brown eyes sparked a change and they looked deeply sad.

“You sound disappointed.” the man murmured softly that sadness in his eyes quickly morphed to hurt.

Jopson couldn’t meet his eyes and that appeared to be all the other man needed because he let out a sigh and climbed over him to get out of bed.

Thomas could feel the tears forming in his own eyes and he looked at the man desperately.

The other man said nothing else, didn’t look at him as he silently started getting dressed for the day, gathering things off the floor from the previous day where he set them in a pile for Gibson to tend to later.

He looked so heartbroken and Thomas knew he’d caused it.

“I-I don’t know what to do Edward.” he admitted quietly trying to hold back his tears as best he could.

Those brown eyes slowly cast their gaze to him from across the room and the man let out another sigh as he pulled his shirt over his head.

“You still care so deeply for the captain?” Edward asked quietly and Thomas was surprised he didn’t hear any sort of envy or anger within his voice.

He couldn’t find his voice, he wanted to say something, needed to, but instead he found himself watching as the man got into his uniform.

Just as he was getting ready to put on his boots was when he finally found it, and oh how pitiful did it come, “I-I… do… but I feel things for you too Edward. It’s hard for me to understand what I should do when I’ve grown to love two people.”

Edward’s ears perked at this and Thomas watched as that sadness that had filled his eyes was replaced by a determination.

He sauntered back over to where he now sat on top of the lieutenant’s bunk a playful gleam shining in his brown eyes.

Was it something he said?

The older man placed his hands upon his shoulders and gently pushed him onto his back atop the bunk.

“Edward I-” his words were cut off by Edward’s possessive lips that soon trailed down his jaw and to his throat.

Thomas wiggled slightly he could feel his loins already starting to respond to the touches, it was even worse when the man straddled his hips.

Helplessly he stared with wide eyes looking the man up in down in his uniform he couldn’t help but note how much more handsome he found the man in it, the dark colors made his brown eyes and the freckles on his nose stand out more prominently.

Little leaned in close to his ear and his voice had dipped to a cacophonic purr as he whispered into it, “If that indeed is the case Mr Jopson, I look forward to proving to you that I am the only man you shall ever need in such ways.”

He punctuated his statement with a gentle nip to his outer ear and Thomas could feel himself turning all the shades of red there could possibly be.

Edward could feel the younger man’s obvious arousal poking against him through his trousers and decided he’d stop here for now, climbing off with a grin.

“I’ll let you take care of that Mr Jopson then you’ll need to get dressed, the day’s about to start in a couple hours.”

Chapter Text

When Francis woke up the next morning with a massive hangover in a bunk that was very, very much not his own he froze with absolute horror.

Horror soon morphed into a downright panic as he realized that he could feel a long arm wrapped around his waist.

The Erebus Captain’s room was all the information he needed and he shifted slightly onto his back to look at the sleeping face of Captain Fitzjames.

“Oh fuck me...” he grumbled softly.

“Again?!” the other man clearly heard him, his head shooting up making messy dark hair bounce as he looked at him with barely controlled excitement and Francis felt his face burn with embarrassment at the eagerness that had resided in the Erebus Captain’s voice.

“I-I...” he stammered to find his words and that sent James into a fit of giddy giggles.

‘ Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier… you are a right fucking mess. You just buggered your second in command.’

He found himself growing increasingly angry, angry at himself for having no sense of control, angry for being such a hypocrite after what he’d done to poor Jopson, angry at James for being so damn good looking and angry at Jopson for being equally as such.

“Wipe that grin off your face you pompous poodle!” he snapped angrily.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

When Captain Crozier returned to the ship he found Edward in a suspiciously good mood as he met him on deck. The man was dressed in full uniform as to be expected, but somehow he looked almost... different than what he was accustomed to. Yet he couldn't place his finger on it. He was smoking his pipe as he leaned over the gunwale, brown eyes full of renewed vigour, full of life.

"Captain." the man greeted knocking his knuckles against his cap.

"Lieutenant."

The younger man smiled at him and that was when he finally lost it.

Something was going on.

"You seem in an awfully good mood today Edward. Did something happen?"

Edward hummed softly to himself momentarily, puffing on his pipe as he thought over his words, before shaking his head.

"No Sir, nothing out of the ordinary." he replied, but not before letting the smoke billow from his mouth in a dull grey cloud

As he watched the man continue to work on his pipe, the captain suddenly realized how appealing a good smoke sounded right now.

He would need to go talk to Jopson after this so perhaps it would be best if he calmed his tensions before he did so.

"Edward, I trust you wouldn't mind some company?" he asked, retrieving his own pipe and pouch of tobacco from his right coat pocket.

"Not at all Captain." he gave him another smile as he leaned over the side of the icy railing. It was now that Crozier realized what was different about the younger man as he continued to pack his tobacco into his pipe.

The man had shaved some of the scruff off his face. He hadn't been keeping up with it the past month like he was supposed to, but with the frigid arctic air he hadn't bothered to get after him about it. Sometimes the extra facial hair could help keep a sailor warm after all. Well that and the fact that Fitzjames hadn't been over to Terror for quite a while, the would always warn the men ahead of time if Erebus's captain were to show his face on Terror, man always ft the need to perform a routine inspection as if he believed he didn't do one himself... which he didn't, most of the time.

Francis lit his pipe and took a deep inhale off of it, the nicotine instantly calming his nerves.

"How was your night aboard Erebus with commander Fitzjames, Sir? He didn't bother you too much I hope."

At the mention of Erebus's captain he bristled.

'Goddamn that Fitzjames!' Francis thought bitterly.

He couldn't believe the audacity of it all, getting them pissed to all hell on whiskey, laughing at his incident with Jopson, then telling him he was in love with the man.. men in general, and just to prove his point he made advancements... that led to much more than just a single pass.

Oh he hated that man.

He exhaled deeply, some of the smoke streaming from his nose as well as his lips. The burn was much more welcoming than that of the cold dry arctic air.

"No more than usual, I heard the cheetah story for the tenth time now, of that I am certain."

Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Edward smirking at him and he turned his head to glare at him in question.

"Is something funny Lieutenant?"

Edward coughed slightly and motioned to his collar, "Sir, you might want to pull that up a bit more, before Mr Jopson sees that."

Frowning he pulled his compass out of his pocket turning it around to aim it's shining silver surface towards his neck.

Francis felt his face burn with both embarrassment and boiling anger towards Erebus's captain. He should think the horny scoundrel knew better than to leave marks on his skin, especially skin normally so visible.

To his surprise, he felt Lieutenant Little's hands upon his shoulders pulling to get him to face his direction. Normally he would have reminded the lieutenant of his rank but he was too intrigued as the younger man pulled at his neck cloth, his pipe held tightly between his teeth as he used his hands to untie the stiff fabric. He readjusted the article shifting it upwards so it would cover the dark passion inflicted blemishes, before tying it again and fixing his collar.

He took a step back and nodded, clearly he was satisfied with the fixed appearance.

"There, Sir, now no one will ever know."

Crozier was still in shock, his mouth agape as he stared at Edward in nothing short of surprise and all the sudden the man's words from before registered fully and his eyes widened in horror.

"I-I- how did you!?-" he stuttered and Edward just laughed with absolute delight.

Something was definitely going on.

"Captain, Sir, if I may speak plainly?"

He couldn't help lifting an eyebrow, that was new, usually his second aboard Terror was too afraid to speak plainly, that was usually Mr Blanky he had to worry about.

A grin spread across Edward's face when he nodded his permission.

"It would seem Captain, that the two of us are being put to the test. That is to say, Sir, that our common interest on this vessel is lovestruck between two men and cannot make up his mind."

Francis felt his throat go dry and he stared at the young man in surprise.

Edward had feelings for Jopson?

Jopson had feelings for Edward too?

He cleared his throat. "I see."

The lieutenant nodded and took another drag off his pipe.

"With all due respect Captain, this is one battle where ranks don't matter..." he paused leaning in closer to Crozier as the man exhaled a cloud of smoke before finishing his voice quiet, "... and I intend to finish it, Sir, but I will say may the best man win."

Captain Crozier gazed at him, unable to hide his amusement at the challenge.

Perhaps a challenge is what he needed to help him come to terms with things.

He held out his hand to the younger man in silent agreement and he was pleased when Edward took it in a firm hold as they shook on it.

"Aye, good luck Lieutenant."

Chapter Text

"Oh Captain one more thing."

He turned, fixing Edward with a curious gaze.

"A piece of advice, Sir, I would recommend caution, he's quite noisy."

What the bloody Christ did that mean?

Had Jopson still been upset about his rejection and sought the lieutenant for emotional support?

No matter.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

As Francis walked into the great cabin, the last thing he expected was to walk in on Jopson in the process of giving Neptune a bath.

The dog had been standing, yes standing surprisingly since the hound just tended to loaf around most of the day, in one of the medium sized tubs Jopson normally used for doing laundry.

The size of the makeshift tub clearly didn't do his poor canine companion much justice, the great beasts legs due to his stance barely fit. Poor boy was likely not comfortable at all, still, he'd been needing a bath for a while, he smelled almost as bad as a decomposing seal.

Jopson was just in the process of rubbing some soap into a lather on his hands to apply it to the large mutt when he'd walked in, both parties noticed his entry. His steward's eyes widening in a silent despair and protest as the dog's ears perked and he stiffened.

Within seconds, water was sent in every direction possible, as Neptune leaped from the tub, the great oaf's back leg accidentally knocking into the metal side sending it flying backwards, effectively soaking Jopson from head to toe, his hair immediately came undone from it's part and his bangs slid to overhang an eye.

Neptune sopping wet as he was bounded over to greet him with his tail wagging and his tongue hanging out, jowls dripping as he looked up at him with big brown eyes.

"Dammit Captain! I just got him to settle!" Jopson couldn't even hide his frustration, but he quickly recognized his mistake. "I-I apologies, Sir, I did not mean to shout."

He was about to respond but quickly raised his hands in a futile attempt to keep the massive assault of small streams and droplets of warm water away when the dog shook wildly to rid his soaked fur of the water's tedious weight.

Jopson couldn't help it, he let out a giggle at the godawful look on the captain's face, a silent outrage as he glared daggers at poor Neptune who continued to wag his tail, staring up at Francis with large adoring eyes.

The captain heard his noise of amusement and shot him a glare, he immediately straightened his posture, clearing his throat as he tried to keep from smiling

Francis took in the state of his steward and found himself entranced really. His dark hair was now the color of the finest ebony in it's saturated state, bangs hanging limp over one of his sparkling pale green eyes, dripping with the lukewarm water. The longer he stared it seemed, the darker the flush now starting to form on his young cheeks, still speckled with faint traces of brown and yellow from the dissipated bruises, became.

Jopson indeed looked a sight and he found himself chuckling, he gave Neptune a pat upon his great wet head before he approached the linen cabinet to retrieve a couple towels.

"Captain? Is there something I can get for you?" the younger man asked quietly, waiting for orders.

The captain shook his head before he started to approach him.

"Yer going to freeze like that Mr Jopson."

Thomas nodded and reached out a hand to take one of the towels but he was surprised when Crozier pulled it back, and he was more surprised, gobsmacked even, when the man ordered him to disrobe.

He could feel his face burning in both embarrassment and the shame he felt as excitement from waiting for these words for six agonizing years made blood start to rush in the opposition direction of his head.

"I... pardon?"

The captain raised an eyebrow, in response.

"Strip boy, out of those wet clothes this instant."

"Oh.. yes, of course Sir." he stuttered and carefully stated to tug at the diamond knot on his cravat.

All the sudden he stopped and let his arms drop to his sides looking down at the floor with tears gathering in his eyes, and his captain found himself growing increasingly alarmed.

Had he been too bold with the request?

"Jopson.. you do not have to I was just-"

Jopson took a shaky inhale and shook his head before meeting his eyes with both gratitude and a guilt ridden sadness.

"N-No Captain.. I- I know what you were trying to do, and I am very grateful, Sir, and I want to but... I can't bear the thought.. of hurting your feelings."

Francis blinked in confusion not understanding, so Jopson decided to elaborate.

"I um... had an encounter with Lieutenant Little last night.. and we... oh Sir, please don't be mad at him, I was the one who sought him out."

Already having a good idea what encounter meant now he hung the towels around his shoulders before reaching up with determined hands to loosen the knot on his steward's neck cloth.

Jopson's breath hitched as it came undone and the captain was letting his eyes scan the plains of his skin, and the blemishes and light bite marks that resided on it courtesy of Edward Little's aggressive bedside manners.

To his surprise his captain didn't look angry, if anything he looked guilt shaken.

"Thomas, if anyone should be nervous about marred skin it's me."

"Sir?"

"Let us just say that Commander Fitzjames decided to prove a point to this foolish old man, in a rather unorthodox manner."

Jopson's eyes got absolutely huge, and as the silence between them continued they watered, and his shoulders shook before the lad burst out into hysterical laughter.

It was unfathomable! That these two men who hated each other would sleep with the other in the same bunk, or even the same room.

"I-I'm sorry Sir!"

Francis was blushing like mad and the sight was so shockingly funny to Jopson that he couldn't stop laughing.

Captain Crozier stared at the man's handsome face, now lit up with a broad grin that revealed his dimples, the movements from his heaving shoulders were causing more water droplets to slide down his hair where they would land with the faintest sound of 'tap' with each that dripped onto the wooden floorboards.

He couldn't take it any more.

With two swift movements he grabbed Jopson by his wet lapels and yanked him forward. He crushed his lips against his laughing steward’s.

Jopson's laughter had died almost instantly, and it was replaced instead by a small squeak of surprise, one that was eagerly swallowed by his captain who continued ravishing his mouth with a thick tongue, teeth, and small suckles here and there.

He pulled away momentarily trying to speak a few words of protest, he wasn't sure if the man knew what he was doing.

After everything that had happened this week since his confession, he couldn't help but remain unconvinced as to his captain's motives.

Was this what the man wanted himself, truly? Or was this the captain's way of apology, to toss him a bone in hopes that they'd never speak of his desires again?

He did not want the man to bed him out of mercy for his feelings.

"C-Captain I-" but the older man brought his left hand up to the back of his head, tangling itself into his wet hair to deepen the kiss effectively cutting his protests off, and used his right to begin unfastening his waistcoat, working nimble fingers to slide the buttons from each eyelet. He couldn't help but spread his legs, now trembling with want, further apart when his captain forced a thigh between them, a wordless command that clearly stated his intentions.

That was it for him and he immediately tossed all doubts aside, he could deal with them later. He melted into the man's touches, returning the kiss and letting his arm find his shoulders. Jopson felt his prick respond with a twitch, hardening as the captain's thigh pressed against him.

The sliding grate of a door on its tracks when Francis reached around him had made Jopson realize that Crozier had steadily been moving him backwards towards the captain's bed cabin, he nudged him back through the threshold before reaching behind and sliding and locking it shut.

'Oh..' he mused silently as the captain's hands returned to finish the last button of his waist coat.

It came free and Crozier started to slid it down his shoulders, he moved with the captain appropriately to allow the soaked article to be tossed to the floor.

Despite his irritation at the treatment of his uniform.. only uniform at that, he wasn't going to protest, not against the captain who was already working the buttons on his undershirt.

He pulled away from their intense make out session to catch his breath, Crozier had stopped moving towards his bunk wanting to get him free of his wet clothes first.

The older man moved his hand from his hair to undo the buttons on his wet undershirt with more haste, making quick work of them so he could rip it open , exposing his abdomen. He shivered with cold when his damp skin met the coldness of the air made so cold by the Arctic temperatures, nonetheless he allowed the captain to remove his shirt where he tossed it atop his waist coat.

Crozier pulled away slightly from his lips just enough to breath the words against his lips, "Don't ye worry lad, we'll get you warmed up."

Thomas just nodded groaning softly at the warm hands that had started to explore across his chest, the fingers that combed through the hair upon it, and moving on to trace circles around his dark nipples with his thumbs, a cruel, teasing, gesture.

His breath hitched violently against the captain's lips, and he threw his head back letting out a small groan his body shuddering when those thumbs ran acrossed the nubs, already having been made as hard as the erection straining in angry protest against the fabric of his trousers, just from the teasing circles before.

"Oh.."

Crozier seemed to lose interest in their kissing, an amused grin spreading across his face, and his eyes sparked with something devious before he looked down at his chest.

He ran his thumbs against the twin peaks standing hard to the touch once again, only this time he used the very tips of them causing the faintest of touches that Jopson knew, if they hadn't have been so overstimulated already from both the cold and Crozier's previous touches, he probably wouldn't have even noticed it, unfortunately for him they were indeed stimulated and it resulted in an unbearable, even painful tickling sensation that made him moan loudly.

His captain gave a small intrigued noise from the back of his throat before speaking, "Sensitive, hm?"

The only response he could offer at the moment was a soft keen, accompanied by a vice like grip squeezing Crozier's upper arms.

”Oh, so very sensitive...” he whispered into his ear, giving one of the peaks a rough squeeze, the man held tight against his body whined in protest at the harshness but his hips rutted against him shamelessly.

Francis found this most amusing and curious, he found himself wondering silently, what else on the boy could be sensitive, besides the obvious one of course, the one he'd felt getting harder and harder against his thigh the longer this went on, and now could feel it's painful awareness poking him with desperation.

Without another word he moved his hands to his steward's trousers unfastening them with in such desired haste.

Jopson was visibly trembling with want, and he ground his thigh against his confined prick one more time causing the young man to choke on a desperate euphoric sob.

"Hush now, Mr Jopson, I promise I shall get to that when you're ready."

His steward clung to him desperately, his now quite swollen lips pushed apart by the heavy pants of desire.

"Oh but Captain... I-I.. oh God.. I am, Sir."

When he met Jopson's eyes he was a little surprised to find the pale irises had darkened in color to a grayish hue, filled with both unshed tears and a distinct appearance of something primal, need perhaps?

Was it caused by their activities? He didn't recall James's brown eyes darkening last night.

Quietly he shook his head to rid the younger captain from his mind. Now wasn't the time.

He slid his hand down the front of the beautiful boy's trousers and drawers and Jopson whined and wiggled against him, hips pressing into his hand as he found his swollen prick, hard as the ice outside but unlike the cruelty of the glaciers, it was warm, almost hot to the touch beneath his hand.

"S-Sir please.. I-I've wanted this for so long..."

He ran his hand through dark, dripping hair, and Jopson was able to recognize how the captain's voice held a source of empathy as he spoke, "Aye, I know lad. I can feel the evidence right here, but you're captain is a weak man to temptation son, and I have every intention to do something I should have a long time ago, I hope ye'll forgive me for making you wait just a bit longer?"

Jopson just nodded before speaking lowly, "You're not weak, Sir."

It made him smile as he leaned in for another kiss, Thomas Jopson, ever the devoted and loyal servant that he adored.

"If you will Mr Jopson, stay right where you are, don't move a muscle until I say otherwise."

Jopson nodded at the command a blush spreading fiercely across his cheeks at the power play.

"Yes Captain, of course."

' Oh ho, so the lad likes to be commanded in the bedroom as well.'

Crozier removed both hands from their current tasks so he could kneel before the younger man. He began to unlace his boots and looked up at him. "Lift your feet, one at a time so I can get these wretched things off."

"Yes, Sir."

Without another word he helped the boy step out of his boots, moving them aside. He rose again, and let his hands rest heavily upon Jopson's hips for a second before curling his fingers beneath waistband, long drawers, and small clothes, he pulled them down the young man's long legs, marveling at muscled calves and spotting the familiar long ruddy looking scar on his right leg.

As soon as his painfully hard erection was free Jopson let out a breathy sigh of relief, his head thrown back as a tear ran down his cheeks.

He helped the boy step out of the layers of clothing pooled at his ankles then He stepped back to look the young man up and down.

The lad's beauty truly was stunning, surely, dare he even think such a thing, would put Miss Cracroft through a life crisis of competition.

Sophia Cracroft, with her beautiful waves and curls of gold, with her bright blue eyes and full lips, fair, flawless young skin. Her tiny waist with modestly curved hips, round shapely buttocks normally hidden beneath her skirts or dresses. Slim shoulders and a petite build, and of course her small but perky, supple breasts.

Then there was the young steward in front of him.

Briefly he recalled the first time he'd actually seen Thomas Jopson shirtless many, many years ago on the Ross expedition when he was but a boy of roughly 18.

It had been accidental of course, he had walked in on his steward when he was changing, the reason why he had barged in escaped him, he was likely in a mood at the time.

He’d come face to face with Mr Jopson in the process of taking his trousers off, but of course when the boy had heard his door slide open he’d frozen, face alight with a mad blush as he’d stared at him in surprise and no doubt some sort of alarm had been running through his young head.

After all if, he had been in the poor boy’s situation then and his captain had slammed his cabin door open he definitely would have been scared to death. Captains were supposed to be calm and composed, below deck or at least have some sort of manners, he must have been really pissed to barge in like that.

Even then, at that time he’d been remarkably attractive at such an age.

All smooth pale skin, dark hair under his arms and barely a few tufts of hair on his chest. Still beautiful pale eyes and black hair in a messy fringe, and that defined jawbone devoid of any hair and had still been in the process of maturing.

Still now, here the boy.. no man... stood in front of him.

Water droplets dripping from hair made from an inky color to a pure midnight black in its wet state. Eyes the color of stormy grey clouds, wet with tears of emotion, framed by long dark lashes. Lips a light pink and full were swollen from aggressive shared kisses, face prickled with stubble.

His body was fair in complexion, soft looking pale skin, a lean figure with muscle distributed evenly. His chest now held a small thatch of dark coarse hair in the center and dark fuzz spread out between his hard nipples, it traveled down in a fine line towards his belly button where it became thicker again coming around his genitals. Strong muscled arms were devoid of hair up until the forearms where he could see more dark hair, his legs were surprisingly rather smooth. The man’s prick was a thing of wonder too, it was swollen with arousal, standing flush against his lower stomach in its hardness, he could see dark veins throbbing against the skin underneath the shaft, a dark angry red in color with a dark maroon head where pre-cum was dribbling slowly down the side.

The realization came to him suddenly that he’d quite literally had the honor of watching Jopson grow from a boy into a man over the time period in which they’d sailed together, and he couldn’t help but be left in silent awe at the realization that the young man had gone from pretty to fucking beautiful as he’d aged.

Definitely more beautiful than Sophia Cracroft.

“S-Sir?” Jopson asked pushing his wet bangs back as he watched him with worry.

“You’ve come a long way from that young boy I remember from long ago, haven’t you son?”

Thomas’s face came alive with one of the darkest blushes of embarrassment that Crozier had ever seen on a man in his life.

“I-I.. yes Sir...” he could hardly sputter the words out he’d been so effected by his stated question.

Crozier chuckled softly, “Hold still lad.” pulling the towel off his shoulders he stepped forward and covered the boy’s head with it, tousling his hair to a dryer state so he wasn’t dripping everywhere.

Jopson let him dry his hair and looked up through hopeful eyes as he tossed the towel to the floor.

Wordlessly he moved towards his bunk to sit down legs splayed open as he leaned back on his arms, he stared at Jopson with an intensity that made the other man whine as he fought with himself to follow his command for him to stay where he was, clearly he wanted nothing more than for him to pound his arse into the floorboards right there.

The sight of Thomas Jopson fighting with his own person to follow orders was, truly, very amusing given how eager and quick he always was to act on any command given to him. Always aiming to please.

Finally unable to take the silence any more the young man spoke, his voice shy and anxious, “S-Sir?”

He smiled cruelly, enjoying the entertainment as the man visibly trembled before him.

“Yer, going to have to show me how much you want this Mr Jopson.” he informed that beautiful pleading face.

It was almost like a gun had been fired, the eager lad was on him in an instant, his mouth crashing against his as he leaned over his sitting form while fingers began to pull at his waistcoat. Wordlessly he grabbed the wrists gently and moved them down to his pants, “It is early in the morning lad, best not get me too undressed in case of an emergency, hm?”

Swollen lips parted from his ever so slightly to breath out a small acknowledgement “Aye Sir.”

Hands shaking with want as he unfastened his unbearably tight trousers, the young man paused letting out a breathy moan as he freed his captain’s erection, how he wanted that magnificent cock inside him.

Crozier leaned forward moving his head away from the lad’s insistent kisses and let hands rest upon Jopson’s hips giving them a gentle pat, “On your knees Mr Jopson.”

Thomas dropped to his knees with a thud that made the captain wonder silently if it had hurt, but whether it did or didn’t the boy said nothing, just stared at him with pure lust as he panted softly.

He stroked himself a couple times before glancing down at the beautiful face before him, “I would assume you know what your next orders are?”

When the young man nodded eagerly he pet the dark hair softly before leaning back on his hands legs splayed open in silent wait.

Jopson adjusted himself on his knees for a second before carefully wrapping his hand around the base of his erection, holding it steady as he took his prick into his mouth slowly.

The sensation of Thomas’s hot mouth surrounding his hard cock was otherworldly, good god he’d never dreamed that something could feel so damn good as his steward’s tongue traced the pulsing vein on the underside of the shaft, tongue wrapping around the weeping head as much as it were able, he did a great number of things that had him cleaving his fingers tightly into the bed sheets his hips raised slightly off the bunk as the man worked.

“Oh fucking Christ boy...”

This was when Francis made the mistake of looking down as the young man worked, because he met lust glazed grey eyes that stared up at him with something that made his control snap like a twig.

“Up.” he snapped urgently, and Jopson looked at him alarmed, confused even, he had just started hadn’t he?

He pulled off the man’s prick with an obscene sucking noise that made his captain groan and the side of his mouth twitched in frustration.

“But Sir I-”

“Bed, now. Immediately.” Crozier used some of his captain voice and that was when he decided not to question.

He climbed up onto the narrow bunk and barely had time to get comfortable before he felt the man’s hands on his thighs pulling them apart so he had better access.

Jopson frowned, something was amiss… but what was it?

As soon as he felt the captain’s hardness trying to line up with him he realized quickly what it was.

‘Is he seriously going to try to fuck me without any preparation? Captain Fitzjames must be quite the masochist…’

“I um.. Sir… Sir..”

The captain didn’t seem to hear his meek voice and just grabbed his hips getting ready to pull him back towards him.

His experience with Edward had been one thing, the other man had clearly done his research or knew more about sexual encounters with another man that he’d let on at first glance. At least he’d tried to prep him a bit before hand.. but then he’d gotten impatient. The captain however, if he was indeed new at this he didn’t feel comfortable being taken dry by someone who might not know what they were doing, that might not be pleasant on either one of them.

Impatient but at the same time concerned as to the older man’s previous experiences.. especially if Fitzjames was involved, he couldn’t help but raise his voice slightly as he threw his weight forward to crawl out from beneath him.

“Captain stop!”

Francis looked like he’d been burned as he stared at him in confusion, Jopson swallowed nervously taking a second to breath before he lowered his voice again. “Just… just wait a second Sir.”

“I didn’t hurt you did I?” the man asked softly.

He shook his head, “No, no sir but I have to ask you a question.”

Crozier just blinked clearly listening.

“Did… Did you and James use any preparation before you got to it?”

“What?”

“Like oil, or something to ease it in?”

Something seemed to spark in the captain’s mind because he realized where he was going with the question as he blushed ever so slightly as he shook his head.

“No, I didn’t realize you were supposed to, he didn’t say anything... but there is oil in the second drawer of the night table beside you.”

Thomas nodded and rolled onto his side a long arm stretched out to retrieve said oil as he slid the drawer open.

When he turned to the captain he almost laughed at the complete and utter frustrated embarrassment that lay upon it, but he kept his laughter at bay but he did offer a kind understanding smile, “It’s alright Sir, its nothing to be abashed about. You are still new at this, and different people have different preferences, I just think it would be better on both of us if we used something to.. assist.”

Francis nodded but that blush remained all the same, so Jopson averted his eyes to his captain’s prick as he rubbed some oil into his hands.

“Permission Sir?”

His confident voice seemed to snap the man out of his surprise and he cleared his throat. “Granted Mr Jopson.”

With a wide beaming grin he moved quick hands over his captain’s arousal at the same time doing his best to keep the dark trousers of his uniform free of any of the oil.

Finally satisfied he wiped his hands on the bottom of the sheets, he had to do laundry later today anyhow.

Before he lay back down he decided to slide up for a quick chaste kiss and was pleased when the captain hummed silently in approval.

When he finally did settle himself back down he heard the captain’s gruff voice. “You ready Thomas?”

He couldn’t help but smile in satisfaction, “Yes Captain.”

What followed was about thirty minutes or so of intense passion that he knew would never leave his memory.

Chapter Text

George had put on one of his God awful records and his pipe was the only thing keeping him from walking across the room to smash that infernal machine to pieces while Irving was busy watercoloring away, after promising Mr Gibson he wouldn't make a mess, much like a boy would promise his mother he wouldn't make a mess of the kitchen if he tried to cook.

However John was so skilled at his hobby at this point that he hardly splashed any water on the table at all, not that he'd seen yet anyhow. There was something serene about the hobby, even though Edward found it rather childish, but it brought John comfort as who was he to argue with that. Edward watched the younger lieutenant with an awe of fascination, the man was actually very good at what he did. It was kind of adorable too, how the tip of the man's tongue occasionally could be seen from the corner of his mouth as he concentrated.

It was a rare time of leisure for the three lieutenants, courtesy of another storm befalling the ships, the frigid gale winds and blinding billowing of snow had made the daily outside work impossible.

As for the men on watch, the rotations had been made to thirty minutes. It was too cold to risk anything longer than that.

The door to the officer's mess opened and they all watched as a dishevelled Mr Jopson came storming in.

Edward could only smirk as he noticed how Jopson had limped rather than stormed into the room, oh he was trying to hide it, but still there it was.

George and he stared at him in surprise, his once combed hair dripping with water, clothes soaked through, his face flushed red in anger.

It was Hodgson who found his voice first.

"Good Lord Jopson, what happened to you?"

John looked up at the steward as the poor man stood there gaping, silent outrage painted all over his face.

Edward's lips twitched and he quickly took a puff off his pipe to mask his amusement.

He knew what he did.

Letting the smoke billow past his lips he eyed Thomas with feigned confusion.

"Mr Jopson, what can we do for you?"

Jopson's voice came small at first but it grew louder and more exasperated as he spoke.

"Edward Little! Did you put that bucket of water on top of my sea chest?!"

Both of his fellow lieutenant's looked at him in silent question and Edward took another puff of tobacco.

"Who me? Now why would I commit such a crime Jopson?" he stated innocently and Thomas's mouth was a thin pursed line for he'd easily been able to recognize his lie.

"Then who did!?"

He went to take another drag of tobacco when the captain's steward moved forward and three strides of his long legs and snatched the pipe from his hands.

"Oh no you don't! Answer me!"

John looked about to chastise Jopson but thankfully George stood, grinned at Edward with a wink, and abruptly snatched his paper and darted out of the room.

"Hodgson! Bring that back here!" he cried darting out after his friend in a frustrated frenzy.

He felt sorry for the young lieutenant, hopefully it had been dry enough Hodgson hadn't ruined it when he'd swiped it up.

"Edward!"

"Yes love?" he asked happily, standing from his chair.

Thomas's face was alight with more than just frustration now and his lip stuck out slightly in a pout.

Jopson punched him in the shoulder when he tried to reach for his pipe, stretching his arm out to keep it out of grasp. Damn those long arms.

"Why!? Blast it all Edward I just got cleaned up!"

Edward blinked, "I put that up there two days ago."

His smirk fell and he felt himself flush, covering his face with his hand at the slip up.

"It was you!!"

Casting his eyes back up at Thomas he stared at his beautiful face, flushed red in anger and his dripping hair, watched those pretty pink lips moving as he ranted angrily.

Immediately he could feel heat coiling itself deep in his belly and his prick started to stir to attention.

"Damn you Edward Little! Are you listening to m-!!"

Blood pounding through his ears, he moved quick, sealing Jopson's words back into his mouth with his own, grabbing the smaller man by the waist and pushed him against the table, and Thomas sat down on its edge. Jopson's angry eyes seemed to soften slightly and Edward grinned against those soft lips before he reached his arm up and plucked his pipe from the steward's hand.

He rose quickly to a stand, leaving poor Jopson panting, his lips now swollen and red from the kiss, looking disappointed, and still bent over backwards on the table.
The steward stared at him, flustered and frustrated as he took another drag off his pipe, with a content hum.

"Edward Little, you are a wicked man." he spat irritably.

"Mm.. I think you quite like it." he put his pipe away and moved to close the door completely.

Thomas stared wide eyed as he moved towards him like a lion on the prowl.

As soon as he reached him he was nuzzling at his wet hair, his mouth on his neck while his young lover eyed the door skeptically. "The risk is too high we could get-"

Once again he was cut off by Littles's starving lips only this time his wrists were grabbed and he was slammed down against the table so hard the legs rattled beneath it from the force.

His arms wrapped around Edward's shoulders, hands finding the beautiful ocean of dark brown wavy hair.

Edward parted their kiss to unfasten the front of his pants.

"Don't worry, I'll be quick."

Jopson just nodded, still appearing uncertain as the lieutenant slid his hand down the front of his pants.

A small moan muffled by Edward's other hand escaped him as Edward wrapped his hand around his half hard cock.

"Gentlemen." came the voice of their captain startling both of them to attention, Edward scrambling back and Thomas hastily buttoning his pants as he stood.

"I-Sir I can-!" Jopson gushed face a just as much a deep red as Edward's.

To their surprise the captain turned to slide the door closed allowing them a moment to straighten out their clothes, then after a moment he slid it back open glancing over his shoulder he beckoned them, "If you will both follow me to the great cabin please."

"I-I yes, Sir, of course." the steward replied quickly hurrying towards the door while Edward sulked along behind, knowing a reprimand was coming his way for being so careless.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

As they stepped into the great cabin Edward was still hanging his head in shame as Jopson closed the door without needing to be asked.

Francis stood by the liquor cabinet, he was pouring himself a drink even though Jopson protested he could do it.

"Mr Jopson, I believe we had a talk last week about you running around the ship in wet clothes, did we not?"

Jopson's face turned beet red, and Edward noticed how the captain offered a sly smile.

"Y-Yes.. Sir, we did..."

Crozier threw the rest of in his glass of whiskey back, sitting in the chair facing the table and poured himself another drink.

"Right then, I took the liberty of informing Mr Blanky that I am not to be bothered for the rest of the day until supper."

The lieutenant blinked, not understanding why the captain had them here if he was not to be disturbed.

"I," Jopson had to clear his throat to continue, "Yes, Sir, shall I go make supper preparations?"

The captain said nothing, just tossed back another gulp of whiskey.

"S-Sir?" Jopson asked, pushing his wet hair out of his eyes.

"Edward if you will, continue what you were doing in the Officer's Mess. Pretend I'm not even here."

Both men gaped in shock and Thomas was so red that Edward worried he might faint, however he didn't need to be told twice, already having an idea what his competition was up to.

The poor steward looked absolutely defeated as he shook his head in a desperate, embarrassed pleas.

God damn it! He was sore! He's been battling a limp from how much sex he'd had the last two weeks! The two men had been so exceedingly horny, they scarcely gave him time to rest!

"Oh, Sir, that-" Jopson had started to protest only to let out a yelp as he once again found himself slammed down on a table, this time Edward had to use an arm to prevent him from cracking the back of his head on the mahogany.

The smaller man hissed at the way he felt his back hit, he had a feeling he was going to have bruises tomorrow.

He was about to shout at Edward for being so rough but the older man's lips were quickly pressing against his to stifle any protests.

Hands were unbuttoning his waist coat, quickly sliding it off his shoulders, fingers didn't bother undoing the buttons on his shirt instead ripping it open sending buttons flying everywhere.

Irritation soaring like an eagle, Thomas punched Edward hard in the shoulder, pulling free of his insistent kisses, "And who do you think has to fix that!"

Large hands slicked back his wet hair and held his head up as to expose his neck, and the lieutenant's mouth was on the delicate skim in a mere heartbeat.

Edward hummed softly against his jaw, hands understanding his trousers before cheekily responding with "Well, it is what you are being paid to do, is it not?"

Thomas blushed, mouth falling open in silent outrage and he looked up at the captain when he barked out a small laugh.

"C-Captain.. I-I don't... think this.. I-I - Ah!"

Edward bit down on his ear and at the same time he shoved his hand down the front of his trousers, carefully wrapping a large strong hand around his semi-hard prick.

"You were saying?" their captain inquired with a smug expression on his face, enjoying how Thomas wiggled and squirmed beneath his lieutenant's strong figure.

"I- I... yes, Sir, I.. ah.. hardly think this is- nnh... appro-..ah!..priate!" the steward whined, his face was starting to sweat as Edward began to handle him with long, firm, painfully slow, strokes.

Edward was getting hard already too, Francis could see the younger man's privates gradually raising with his trousers, clearly his lieutenant wasn't abashed by being watched, unlike the poor steward still a deep shade of crimson, if anything it seemed to excite him.

Francis knew it definitely excited him.

Little pulled the steward's trousers down enough that he had access to that beautiful bare bottom and Francis could see how Thomas was struggling to keep his arousal despite obviously being turned on.

Nerves of a third party was likely the cause.

Thomas pushed against Edward's chest but the lieutenant grabbed both of his wrists and pinned them high above his head leaning his weight on them as Jopson sputtered shy protests and wiggled against his hold.

"Mm, hold still Tom." Edward purred voice low and dripping with lust.

"Edward.. I-I can't.. not... not right now..."

At the statement Edward leaned in and bit down on the junction of his neck and shoulder, and Francis was surprised when he noticed blood start to trickle from the wound, smearing on Jopson's white shirt collar as Thomas let out a small cry clenching his teeth around his bottom lip to try to stifle it.

Francis knew, now without a doubt, why poor Jopson was so flustered with choosing a lover between the two of them.

Lieutenant Edward Little was aggressive, dominating, relentless, not afraid to leave some bruises or flaws upon skin. His passion was raw, animistic, with very small amounts of self-control that crumbled easily in the wrath of pure want, desire, and primal need. Edward led with aggression, warning, and bodily force, the lieutenant unafraid to hold the young man down as he did these fascinating things to him. He clearly knew what could make Jopson weak at the knees. There was more conversation, often bickering, to which Edward took great pleasure in silencing the steward with a strong hand or a demanding tongue. Edward relished in the chase and how the beautiful man would struggle against his bites and scratches, the pale eyes that screamed wild with panic, clearly not enjoying the teeth and nails but at the same time his cock would swell with blood, gradually getting harder with each nip.

He, Captain Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier, was not quite as.. cruel as the lieutenant. Though he did tease the boy to extremes at times, he led Jopson with his authority as his captain, and lover, Jopson swooned immediately every time he barked an order. He didn't hold his beloved steward down, too afraid he'd accidentally loose control and hurt the lad. Of course there were the occasion he'd have to pause because his young companion could get very, very loud indeed, and he'd sit there til the lad had caught his breath and enough focus to repress such noises. He also had a lot of self control compared to Little. Often times he'd make sure the boy was comfortable.

The captain held an authoritative fire and a gentleness.

The lieutenant had an wild primal thirst that was rough and demanding.

Indeed, they were two very different men when it came to being a lover.

“Ah.. Edward… not here...” Jopson whined squirming against the lieutenant, his cheeks still burning with discomfort at the third party.

Edward paid no mind to his protests, instead he brought two fingers to Jopson’s lips and when the steward refused to take them into that pretty mouth he just shrugged and sucked on them for a few quick seconds himself.

“Captain… please, I-I don’t… this is… this is humiliating, Sir...” Jopson tried to plead with him, but when Edward nipped faintly his earlobe and let out a small growl, he quieted down again.

Francis probably would have considered the words, had he not been so fascinated by how Edward managed to control the younger man with just a noise. He took another sip of his whiskey and watched as Edward continued to pepper the poor steward with kisses and love bites, to his neck and chest. His hand with the wet fingers moved down underneath Jopson’s bottom.

With just allowing his fingernails to dig into the steward’s hip the silent command was clear, and Jopson spread his legs enough that Edward was able to access the small ring of muscle.

When he had called them here, his original intention had been to watch, to study just how determined Edward was to win the challenge that had been agreed upon above deck a couple weeks ago. Poor Jopson was running himself ragged between his duties as the captain’s steward, and their own private activities and Little always getting the smaller man roused up for a tumble whenever he has spare time.

He’d noticed the limp the young man had been trying to hide for a couple days now, and while he was amused, he was also a merciful man, and because of this he had decided he’d forgo any intimacy between the two of them until the limp had gone away.

Despite this, as Francis continued to watch the two men, one of them getting pleasured on top of the fucking table in the great cabin a new idea came to his mind and he stood up slowly, to fetch two more glasses that he filled with brandy.

“Lieutenant.”

Edward looked up at him from where he was still leaned over Jopson and as their eyes met, he gaped in surprise for a second but Crozier knew he understood.

Chapter Text

Francis downed his glass and tapped a couple fingers upon his desk for a moment eyeing the two men with an intensity.

His young steward, Petty Officer Thomas Jopson, with his dark black hair still damp, pale green.. blue.. hell if he knew anymore, eyes wide and shimmering with tears of frustration, face a fierce red, lips swollen and pushed apart with small pants and uncomfortable pleas, hips wiggling beneath the larger body that held him down on the table. Shirt unbuttoned.. or more button-less and neck cloth no where to be seen, pants pulled down just shy of his knees and fingers already buried up to knuckles, thrusting inside his beautiful body.

His second aboard the ship, First Lieutenant Edward Little, his strong physically able lieutenant with his eyes dark and animalistic, his hair equally as dark and smoothed back into a windswept appearance that ended in untameable waves. Those muscles sculpted into the lieutenant’s arms were twitching with effort that appeared to be needed to keep the struggling steward down on the table, it was rather amusing really that Edward hadn’t been able to hold his gaze having lost his battle with temptation and had returned to ravishing the pale neck with kisses and love bites.

The longer he stared at the pair of young men... well Jopson was still quite early into his youth, Edward if he remembered right was nearing forty, either way he was younger than himself, he suddenly felt quite old and rather envious of the two, given the fact that he knew his own body was already in the middle stages of ageing.

He used to have that youthful energy long ago, his blonde hair didn’t always have the prominent flecks of gray, and he certainly wasn’t born with the wrinkles he had started getting in his mid-forties. He used to be in as good physical shape as these two men before him.

“S-Sir! I-I really must protest!” Jopson tried again, his voice coming as a shrill whine.

This was going to be entertaining.

He cleared his throat loudly causing both men to look up at him from their spot again.

“On your knees gentlemen.”

Blinking, it took a moment for the order to register for Edward, but Jopson had squirmed out of his grasp with a sigh of relief pulling his pants back up and glaring at the missing buttons on his shirt as he sank to his knees.

Edward soon followed, there was a hint of confusion and unease within him, but he followed the order all the same.

Francis grabbed the other two glasses and held them out to both men. Edward took it with an appreciative nod and Jopson just eyed it uneasily but he did accept it.

“It would appear Mr Jopson, that you are in a difficult situation. I can’t have you disobeying orders, certainly not ones that could jeopardize a man’s safety, and it would appear that this competition between me and Lieutenant Little may be coming to a draw.” their captain stated, circling the two kneeling men slowly.

Jopson stared in confusion, “W-What competition!?”

Edward snorted softly but he masked it by gulping back the rest of his drink setting it up on the table and Francis stopped behind the lieutenant and knelt himself. Little visibly tensed unsure of what exactly was going on.

“Oh I think we can get to that later, first I believe one last effort is necessary from the two of us.” Francis insisted his hands falling firmly upon his handsome second’s muscled shoulders.

Little flinched abruptly realization finally dawned on him as to why their captain had them both on their knees instead of just Thomas.

‘Oh.. well… this is unexpected… I don’t even know if I can…’ he thought quietly.

He knew he wasn’t.. attracted to the captain in that way. Not that the captain wasn’t a good looking man for his age… it was more so the fact that in all honesty, Thomas’s young age helped boost his own self-esteem given his ageing self. Edward was, of course, grateful that he was ageing nicer than most men but still the thought of his own looks wavering was a silent, most private internal crisis he dealt with on a daily basis… especially since his fortieth birthday was a few months away.

So this was what the captain’s true challenge was.

‘Oh blast it all! If I have to bugger with the captain to prove myself, fine! I refuse to lose to him!’

“N-No! What competition! Captain that’s not-!”

“Belay that Mr Jopson!” the captain snarled in his full captain’s voice that made Edward jump slightly in surprise.

Jopson fell silent though still gaping ahead of him in a brooding choler.

Then it occurred to him how eager Jopson had been to get out from underneath him to his knees when the captain had ordered it.

A knowing smirk played upon his lips.

‘Oh. So that’s what he brings to the table.’

He hadn’t expected Jopson to be into that sort of thing but once again the man surprised him.

Glancing over at the steward beside him, he watched while he angrily tossed the drink back and slammed the glass on the table behind them as well with a loud 'clang'.

Oh Thomas was angry.

He was very angry.

So angry in fact that his red infuriated face had his ears and neck burning bright cherry-red.

“Edward, as you were son.” Crozier ordered softly, moving around them to retrieve something from the cabinet.

Wait? What? He hadn’t done anything!

Confused he stared only to get an idle gesture in Jopson’s direction much to Jopson’s obvious dismay when he let out a miserable whine.

“Oh, please, Sir… both of you have been buggering me non-stop all week, I’m uncomfortable. I-I can’t even walk without limping.” the steward gushed face hot as embarrassment swelled in his chest.

Those words alone made Edward's prick twitch eagerly, and he huffed out a breathless lust driven moan before grabbing Jopson around the waist from behind.

He dragged him onto his back so he could pin him to the ground by the shoulders, but when his body hit the floor this time, Jopson let out a growl of irritation and he put up a real struggle.

A fist, with full intent on causing damage, went flying directly at Edward’s face where it collided with his mouth when he'd leaned in for a kiss despite being upside down.

Surprised by the sudden taste of blood, Edward froze for a moment staring down at him with disbelief.

“Did… did you just….?” he sputtered, blood dribbling down his chin.

“Edward! God damn you! If you want to continue being so damn rough, blazin' hell, I’m going to give it back, you pompous ass!”

The words had a grin breaking out across his face, white teeth shimmering with blood as he grabbed a wrist in each hand.

“Mm, Thomas, if that is indeed, how you want to play this.. I fully encourage you to give me your worst.” Edward purred his voice low and dripping with lust as he worked to untie his neck cloth.

Jopson’s beautifully light-colored eyes sparked with a fury at the challenge and he jerked against Edward’s hands nearly getting one free before Edward pinned his arms with the weight of his knees.

“Why you son of-nargh!” Jopson was cut off when Edward grabbed his bottom jaw holding it open with a firm hand, balled up neck cloth in the other hand.

Thomas’s eyes flashed angrily, threateningly, almost daring him to do it so he could kick his arse for behaving so awfully.

However, Edward’s were lustrous with something dark and primal, bold and daring, knowing he was bordering the line of his comfort zone and he was so very, very willing and inclined to do so.

“E-Eard ‘ittl! on’t ‘ou ‘are!” the barely comprehensible growl came strained around the hand keeping his mouth open.

His threat was paid no attention, in fact it was quite ignored indeed, because Edward stuffed the fabric snuggly between his lips.

“Shh.. how about we keep things civil love, hm?”

‘Edward Little, I may be smaller than you, but I swear to god I’m going to kick your arse over the damn gunwale tomorrow.’

Hands were suddenly on Edward’s shoulders after the captain had made his way behind him, clad in under shirt and long drawers.

Edward’s kisses and bites died almost instantly when the captain nuzzled the hair behind the lieutenant’s ear, he inhaled sharply tensing against the captain’s touch.

“Shall we get started Lieutenant Little?” came their captain’s low, breathy, baritone against the man’s ear, the man’s voice sent involuntary shudders up Edward’s spine.

What on Earth had he gotten himself into?

Chapter Text

Francis reached his hands around the front of his second, uttering a soft reassurance into the younger man’s ear when he tensed slightly as he started to undo the brass buttons on his coat.

Those shoulders relaxed at his voice and he carried on with what he was working on with Jopson who had really started to struggle against Edward’s hold, eyes angry and frustrated.

Something deep down told the captain that maybe they should pause, but… maybe this was just how the two men were during their.. moments of passion?

Edward nipped at Jopson’s neck, and the man let out an outraged snarl that came muffled around the cravat stuffed into his mouth, and he strained to sit up from where he was kept pinned by the lieutenant’s weight on his arms.

The captain had to admit when he finally did shed his first lieutenant of his coat, waist coat, shirt, and under shirt he was hadn’t been expecting what had lay beneath the layers of clothing.

Little was ridiculously fit for a man of his age, not a single spot on him was soft, no his lieutenant was all muscle.

His skin was a shade darker than Jopson’s fair complexion, but he definitely had a lot more hair, it fanned across his breast and dusted his abdomen before starting a thicket of coarse wiry pubic hair, there were a couple light dusts of fine fuzz of hair, almost reddish in color on the back of his shoulder blades, from a distance he probably wouldn’t have even noticed it.

There was a pale three inch scar on one of the man’s flanks along the rib cage. He could see a freckle every so often, but other than that his lieutenant was all sturdy muscle.

Strong as an ox.

Francis watched those strong back muscles flex as he continued to assault the poor steward’s neck, grinning softly as those eyes glared up at him angrily.

“Aw, don’t be like that.” he scolded kissing his forehead lovingly, causing Jopson to growl low as the glare intensified.

It all happened so fast.

One moment Edward had been enjoying himself, and the next Francis found his lieutenant flying back against him when Jopson had freed a hand after Little had shifted his knee too far. He’d sent a fist straight into he man’s face striking him in the eye and taking him by surprise.

The steward rolled onto his side, ripping the silk from his mouth and clambering to his feet. His body was absolutely red with unconstrained rage, from his hands, neck, all the way to his ears.

He threw the cravat and Edward’s coat at the two of them, body shaking with outrage.

“What in the name of fucking Christ do you two think you are doing!?” he snarled low and furious.

Both lieutenant and captain shared a look, blinking in confusion.

“Well… we… were just...” the captain actually found himself stumbling over his words, he was not accustomed to hearing the calm steward so upset, not to mention the boy had just swore, that itself was a marvel.

“You were what? Ordering me to just sit there and let you two try to one up each other by using me like some poxy riddled whore?!” Jopson shouted, his voice becoming hysterical with tears as he looked for the buttons that had been ripped off his shirt.

Crozier was taken aback and he could tell Edward was too.

Jopson’s teeth chattered from the damp clothes he still wore, and Francis, still not sure what to do, but knowing the young man very well may get sick at this rate, failed to think before he spoke.

“Lad… you really should get out of those wet clothes...”

His steward turned to him with fierce pale eyes that looked like lightning.

“How dare you!” he snarled actually making to move towards his captain, fully intent on confronting him, but Edward jumped to action.

“Shh. Tom! Thomas that’s not what he meant, your clothes are still wet-”

“Don’t touch me!” the steward yelled, swatting at Edward’s chest, taking a step back out of his reach.

Both men stood there, unsure of what to do for the young man who was becoming more and more upset by the second as he cradled two of the lost buttons in his palm.

“I-Is this just a game to you two!? A competition? A bet?! About who could bed me first!? Like some whore in a pub?! I-Is that all I am!? If that’s to be the case, then I will let Mr Armitage know that I will gladly take you up on your offer captain to swap my duties with him because I refuse to be treated like this, not by you.” he voice broke with a sob as tears welled in his eyes.

Francis was about to respond, but the man stunned both him and Little when he stormed out of the great cabin, sliding the door open and slamming it closed with enough force to make it rattle against it’s track.

Edward let out a groan, resting his forehead in his palm. “Fuck.”

Captain Crozier couldn’t believe what had just transpired, not necessarily that Jopson had gotten angry but the fact that he actually just requested to switch his duties with that of the gun room steward.

He’d made him the offer shortly after that awful night when he’d struck the young man in his drunken rage, it was made in case he didn’t feel comfortable or safe to continue serving him after the heated exchange. Which he wouldn’t have blamed him.

“Should one of us go talk to him?” he finally stuttered.

Edward swallowed nervously, “I-I’m… not sure.”

They really had fucked things up.

“Gentlemen.” came the disapproving voice of Commander Fitzjames as he emerged in the doorway.

Francis bristled, “Get the hell off my ship James, I am not in the mood for this right now!” he snarled pointing at the door.

Chapter Text

Despite his words voicing that he would be talking with Mr Armitage, Jopson still showed up the next morning as per usual and Francis just figured that he’d had time to calm down.

However, the young man was doing his darnedest not to look at him, never meeting his eyes for more than a fleeting moment.

“Is there anything else you require, Sir?” the boy’s tired voice reached his ears.

Blinking at his steward trying to gather the courage to say Yes you can look at me he finally settled for a small ‘I’d have you sit down so we may speak, Jopson.’

His eyes narrowed in frustration and when he spoke his voice was angry in challenge, “Is that an order, Sir? Or may I go?”

Captain Crozier was taken aback slightly, “Its.. not an order, lad. I just wish to speak with you.”

Jopson’s eyes softened slightly before he allowed himself to sink into one of the chairs by across from his desk while he sat down at it.

They stared at each other for a long time, young Jopson looking at him expectantly and Crozier trying to think of what he should say.

Eventually he cleared his throat, “I owe you an apology Jopson.”

Pale eyes studied him cautiously for a second before softening with an acknowledging nod.

“Thank you very much, Sir.”

“My intention last night wasn’t to upset you. I didn’t realize that you would be so uncomfortable with such a thing.”

Jopson blushed slightly, a look of frustration crossing his features. “In all honesty, Sir, I can’t be mad at you for your intentions. Not really. You’re new at this, and… Little’s not. He told me he’s slept with men before a couple times. Me and him have rules and he was breaking them. Edward should have picked up on it, but he was too wound up.”

Crozier eyed him unconvinced but he did offer softly, “He loves you, Thomas, just as I do. I can see it in his eyes.”

When his steward’s eyes became sad he was worried for a few moments that he’d said something wrong, but instead Jopson spoke so very softly, “I know he does.”

“You love him too.” he stated the very clear observation with a gentle firmness.

Jopson slowly met his gaze, eyes frustrated, ashamed, and most of all distraught. “I do. That’s not the underlying problem, Sir.”

The captain leaned back in his chair, baffled, he didn’t understand why or how this had gotten so damn complicated.

“What is it then? For goodness sake, lad.” he huffed.

Neptune came bustling out of his bed cabin around this point his large nose pushing the cracked open door wide enough for him to move his large body through, and Jopson smiled softly when the dog failed to open it wide enough and got himself stuck in his eagerness to come see them.

He stood moving to the door to help the poor beast free from the door, to which the great hound licked and pawed at his leg with big brown adoring eyes staring up at him, jowls dripping with drool and his tail wagging happily.

“One would think you would learn that just because you can get your head through the door, that doesn’t mean the rest of you will.” he teased the black beast playfully, reaching into his pocket he gave the dog a look.

Francis observed how the beast’s ears perked and he licked his lips eagerly.

“Sit.”

It was as if he’d said the simplest thing for a dog in the world as the black mutt’s hind quarters immediately lowered and he brought himself to attention, reminding Francis very much how Jopson always waited patiently to serve any need be it big or minor, anything his captain would request of him.

Maybe he’d taken the lad for granted.

Jopson hummed softly, and patted the dog on the head as he pulled a biscuit from his pocket, Neptune’s tail wagged happily and he licked his lips again.

“Stay.” Jopson ordered, reaching his hand forward he gently placed the biscuit on Neptune’s nose and Francis was stunned that the thing wasn’t already devoured.

No the dog stayed still as statue though he eyed the treat eagerly and Jospon smiled, “Steady.”

Neptune remained still and oh Francis could see how the large hound struggled but he’d been trained well.

Thomas beamed brightly, those beautiful dimples made so very prominent as he took a step back.

“Up!”

At the word, Neptune flipped the biscuit up off his nose and caught it in his mouth, likely swallowing it whole or at the very least one or two giant chomps of his teeth.

Jopson giggled happily, and patted the oaf on his great head a couple times before turning back to his captain who was staring with his mouth open in shock.

Smiling proudly he walked back to the desk and slid back into his seat to continue their conversation.

“I just don’t think it’s fair on anyone, Sir.” Jopson admitted quietly, his smile dropping as he stared into his lap with a thoughtful frown.

“W-What..?” Francis asked, trying to remember what they were speaking about.

“I can’t choose between the two of you, Sir. I don’t think it’s fair to make promises for forevers to the both of you when we get home if it can’t stay that way.”

Francis felt his heart clench in both a fondness and a familiar pain, rejection, was Thomas rejecting him?

Like Sophia did once?

No.

Twice.

She rejected him twice.

Crozier couldn’t speak for his second aboard Terror, but he could speak for himself.

The marvelous creature that Thomas Jopson was, the selfless, loyal, kind hearted young man he’d already spent almost a decade serving with, he knew the man deserved all the happiness in the world could give.

If he found happiness in both him and Edward, who was he to argue with that.

He was a weak man, yes, but not a selfish one. Not in the way of possessive.

There was also the fact of his… performance. With the heavy weight of melancholy were he to go into one of his moods, he doubted he could keep up with the younger man’s… desires.

Edward on the other hand. It seemed like the two men couldn’t keep their hands off each other half the time.

At least in that sense he could be rest assured the young man would be taken care of.

Sharing wouldn’t be a problem on his part.

Deciding to pick his words carefully, he reached across the table to place a large hand over Jopson’s idle one.

“Who says it can’t stay that way Thomas?”

Jopson appeared surprised by his response as a blush formed briefly across his cheeks, before he shook his head, “I don’t know if Edward...”

He leaned back in his chair and nodded, “Maybe you should talk to him? Perhaps the three of us need to have a discussion?”
The young man licked his lips nervously as he thought before nodding, “I think you’re right.”

An urgent knock on the door garnered both men’s attention and as it slid open Lieutenant Irving appeared, face red from the cold, icicles in his beard.

“Situation outside, Sir! That that thing was spotted again on the ice!” his voice was grim, something had happened.

Both captain and captain’s steward shot up out of their chairs, Jopson hurrying to fetch the captain’s great coat and Crozier grabbing his pistol, “Report.”

“Lieutenant Little, Mr Darlington, Mr Hartnell, Mr Peglar, and Mr Lane were out doing some repairs, Mr Lane came back to inform us of a situation out on the ice. Everyone was scattered, Little is still unaccounted for, Sir!”

Francis noticed how Jopson’s posture tensed visibly at the news and he swallowed thickly, just as soon as the tension came it was gone as the young man hurried over to him and helped him into his coat.

“Inform the doctors Jopson, then get some hot water heated. I’ll be back soon.”

“Of course, Sir.” he replied with a polite bow of his head.

As Francis hurried after Lieutenant Irving the sound of gunshots could vaguely be heard over the sound of the creaking ice.

Chapter Text

Christ he was cold.

He didn't think he'd ever be warm again as he lay there without letting his chattering teeth give away his position.

That thing had ambushed them while they were working on repairs to the foretop, Pegglar fell and damn near almost landed on Mr Lane.

Thankfully the canvas broke the foretop captain's fall, he'd be sore tomorrow surely.

Mr Hartnell was able to help the man below deck after he'd distracted the thing by throwing an oil lamp at it.

The creature didn't take kindly to it's back leg being set ablaze.

Not at all.

It had reared back putting it's impressive, mass of a size on full display as it roared with a ferocity that all but screamed clear intentions of further bloodshed.

As he lay beneath a large pressure ridge that had a large hollowed out indent, tunnel like as if it used to belong to a small animal as a dwelling he couldn’t seem to quell his heart as he shivered violently.

Once he’d had the creature’s attention he’d had to think quickly, and he had to admit now, he had a feeling he made some very bad decisions tonight.

Especially when he’d jumped over the gunwales and fired his riffle at it to divert its attention back from Mr Darlington.

The monster bellowed with such lethal rage and clambered after him.

That was when he’d ran.

He’d heard their Captain’s infuriated and panicked shouting vaguely through the heavy thrumming of his own heartbeat and frantic breaths as he tried his best to leap over icy obstacles and keep his footing.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

“Edward!” Crozier’s voice bellowed over the gunwales from Terror’s deck.

Mr Lane must have found John right away, thank god.

The beast behind him let out a blood chilling snarl as it continued to gain on him.

“Shoot it! God damn yer eyes lads!” he hear their captain yelling at the men.

Nothing.

“Belay that!!! I don’t care if you hit him! I’d rather he die from a stray musket ball than torn to shreds you incompetent sniveling swine now shoot!!!”

Edward huffed a laugh as he jumped over a small pressure ridge, he couldn’t help it, it warmed him to know the captain held the same sentiment as he in this situation.

HE would rather be shot than torn to shreds.

A panicked shout escaped him as a massive set of snapping jaws grabbed the tails of his great coat, jerking him back slightly before the fabric tore and he staggered forward continuing to run as gun fire sounded behind him.

Oh shit! Oh shit!

Eyes flitting back and forth he spotted a thick wall of ice from a pressure ridge the bottom was weathered away creating a hollowed out point that looked like it was once a small animals burrow.

Maybe he could?

The beast roared again and he made up his mind as a huge sharply clawed paw swung at him, claws cut into his coat and he felt a searing pain as those lethal knife like finger nails tore straight through layers of clothing and into his skin upon his back.

“Arrgh! Oh god!!

A stray bullet hit an ice pillar as he passed it and the beast stumbled over its feet or from a blow and skid on the ice, claws digging into the cold ground like dragging anchors helping it right itself.

Four yards…. Three…

He kept going breathing heavily as he tried to beat the beast to the small icy shelter.

The beast roared at him, he could hear its thundering paws gaining on him again.

As soon as he was close enough he dived for the small burrow in the ice, shimmying forward as fast as he could.

There really wasn’t much room and the beast was desperately trying to get at him, he pulled a spare pistol out of his pocket and fired it once, twice, into that gaping maw and the creature bellowed in both pain and rage, jaws snapping at him.

“God damn you, with all the blazing fires of hell you devil spawn!” he yelled pressing his back against the ice and kicking at the thing.

A large paw forced its way through and slammed his shin into the ice and Edward heard a loud crack that immediately sent agonizing pain through it.

This was it, he was going to die.

Squeezing his eyes tightly closed he startled when the beast let out an agonized scream of a howl and it withdrew it’s arm and then there was nothing blocking the entrance.

He felt his breath stop as he stared in fear and confusion, where had it gone?

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

It would not surprise Edward if his leg was broken because he hadn’t been able to move much after.

So now as he lay here he was trying to keep his breathing low in case it came back.

It had been several minutes.

“Little!”

His eyes snapped open.

‘Was that the Captain?’

“I’ve got blood here Francis.” Terror’s ice master’s distinguishing voice flooded his ears.

“Gods...” Crozier’s voice swore softly.

“S-Sir!” his voice came so small he was so dreadfully cold and he was trying to wiggle his way towards the entrance of the small cavern.

A sliver of lamplight could be seen among the darkness outside the burrow.

Frantic to give the men a sign of any sort with his vocal cords seemingly not willing to cooperate he tightened his grip around his pistol and placed it on the ground with his shaking hand on top of it.

“It leads over here, Captain.”

'John?'

The lamplight grew brighter and he could see feet outside and soon knees as their owner crouched.

“Edward, son?” came the captain’s concerned and hopeful voice.

With what little strength he could muster he shoved the pistol roughly forward and it slid across the ice just enough to hit the captain’s knee.

The man grunted at the frozen metal and then let out a breathy laugh, lowering himself onto his belly so he could peer into the small cavern he’d hidden in.

“Aye lad, I see you.” the captain reassured blue eyes staring at him with concern but a relieved smile upon his face.

“M-m-my… m-my… l-l-le...l-leg…. B-b-b...bro….oken….” he finally managed to force out.

Crozier nodded and reached his arms forward towards him and he grabbed the heavy mitten-clad hands in his, allowing the man to help him out of the icy hiding spot.

“Nice thinking, that.” Mr Blanky chuckled, inclining his head towards the pressure ridge.

Nodding he hissed as Crozier with the help of Lieutenant Irving lifted him to his feet between them each wrapping a shaking arm across their shoulders.

“Easy Edward, try to take pressure off it son.”

“Fucking Christ, Little, your back.” Mr Blanky grumbled moving forward and shifting some of the tattered fabrics aside.

With that they began to their trek back to Terror.

Chapter Text

“Oh… oh good Lord...” Dr McDonald gasped out as the Captain entered his sick bay with Lieutenant Irving and Mr. Blanky close behind, the two men supporting an unconscious lieutenant Little between them.

Dr Peddie looked up from where he was tending to Mr Peglar’s wounded shoulder.

Immediately both men flew to their side, pretty much shoving Crozier aside in their desperate pace.

Edward’s skin was almost a purplish-blue and despite his catatonic state his body was racked with violent shivers.

“Put him over there.” Peddie instructed, already working on heating up some water.

The two men maneuvered Edward to the bunk closest to the galley which would mean more heat from Mr Diggle’s stove.

“What happened?” Dr Peddie asked urgently.

“That bloody fuckin’ thing out there. Edward jumped off the ship to lead it away from the others.” gruffed the ice master.

“That blood is it all-- oh dear God...” Dr McDonald trailed off as he got a good look at the lieutenant’s shredded layers and the dark crimson that still dripped off the dark fabrics

“Gentlemen, if you will, help us get Mr Little relieved of his top layers. We’ll need to assess those immediately.” the fair haired doctor requested.

Mr Blanky and lieutenant Irving were moving almost instantly, settling Edward in an upright position on the bunk and pulling one arm from a sleeve, Edward letting out a pained groan in the process.

Gentle hands took hold of lieutenant Irving’s elbow and the man looked to see the concerned but calm face of Mr Jopson.

“Here, sir, you look a fright, allow me.”

John looked at the man puzzled for a second before he realized how badly his own hands were shaking, and not from the cold.

Glancing at the Captain who nodded in approval he took a step back and allowed the steward to take his place.

“John, go find Mr Diggle get some food and turn in for the night. You’ve earned, I’ll have you find lieutenant Hodgson send him this way with Mr Gibson.”

Irving was just about to respond when Dr Peddie beat him to it.

“Gibson is tending to Hodgson right now, he’s come down with snow blindness.”

There was a moment of hesitant silence before Crozier simply let out a small, ‘Ah’.

“Captain, if you should allow it, I can tend to lieutenant Little, sir, I have no pressing duties to tend to at this time.”

Francis’s heart thrummed heavily in his chest, he knew the real reason that Jopson wanted to tend to Edward and he wasn’t quite sure if the lad was ready to see these kind of injuries should they be as bad as the look.

Looking into those pale green eyes though, so wide and sparkling with hope and determination and… need.

Need.

Not the lusting need, but one that said ‘I must do this for my own sake’.

He felt guilty.

“Sir?” that gentle voice reached his ears again snapping him from his thoughts.

Caving he nodded in response, “Aye, see to him Thomas.”

With that both the young steward and Mr Blanky proceeded to ease Edward out of his blood soaked great coat.

Edward let out a sharp growl of a whine as the fabric pulled free from his back, some of the fabric having frozen to his skin with all the congealing blood.

Mr Armitage had been called from the side as he was passing through the galley to come assist and he was currently busy with Mr Peglar’s arm so that both doctors could work on Little.

Peddie was feeling his neck and wrist for his pulses and McDonald assessing the shivers.

They were trying to be as gentle as possible while removing the lieutenant's layers, but each article seemed to be frozen into the blood, and always drew forth a loud choked sob.

As soon as they had Edward’s torso bare Thomas was being careful as he peered at Little’s face. Judging by how often small noises of upset were coming he had a feeling he was awake.

Oh how his heart broke, especially when he was clearly able to make out two brown eyes that, though heavy lidded, were cracked slightly open and very wet.

Dr McDonald ushered Armitage and Peglar from sick bay, ordering them to go sit by Diggle’s stove and pulling the flimsy curtain near the sick bay’s entrance shut to block out peering eyes.

Jopson stared into those brown eyes, long lashes batting tiredly and still covered in frost.

He was in pain.

A lot of pain.

“W-Whe….w-w… where…?” he asked groggily.

“Shh… easy, sir, try not to move.”

“T-T-T… Thoma….. T-T-T… T-om…?” the poor man’s voice came so broken by the cold.

His own eyes watered heavily and before he could stop himself he’d shoved Mr Blanky out of the way, grabbed Edward’s whiskered face, still sparkling with pale crystals of ice on the wiry hair, and pressed his lips to the lieutenant’s.

Everything in the room stood still and Edward’s eyes went wide in absolute shock, his whole body tensing under his touch.

The doctor’s gentle prodding at his back faded immediately and it wasn’t until Mr Blanky let out a small chuckle that Jopson had realized he’d forgotten himself.

“Atta boy lad, get that color back into his face!” Blanky chortled clapping him on the shoulder.

“O-Oh!”

Both doctors just smiled at him, Dr McDonald actually having a broad grin on his face, and Crozier had his face in his palm, Edward’s big eyes were just raised up miserably at him.

“I... um… sorry...”

Dr Peddie shook his head at him, giving him a reassuring pat on his arm.

“Nothing to be sorry for, in fact, if that is the manner of your relationship then we have our man to help him battle hypothermia once his injuries are addressed.”

“Sir,” Jopson replied, face still slightly flushed while idle hands carded through frosty hair.

“Right, lieutenant, let’s get you on your side.” McDonald instructed.

“B-B…. Bro…… oo….k-ken…..”

“Broken?” the fair haired man asked quickly.

“Earlier, he said he thought his leg was broken.” Crozier supplied when the two men stared at each other and Edward struggled to speak through chattering teeth.

Dr McDonald moved around to Little’s front, easing a trouser leg up and winced slightly when he saw the clear bruising all over the poor man’s leg. “Aye, it very well could be.”

“Alright then, Mr Jopson if you would please go fetch a couple bottles of whiskey we need to get him warmed up.”

“Stay where you are lad, I’ll get it.” Francis voiced turning his back to the men.

“Oh but, sir! I can-”

“Nay, stay with lieutenant Little lad.” the captain smiled reassuringly before making his way out of sick bay.

“Right then, on three gentlemen. Brace yourself lieutenant.” Dr Peddie warned in advance.

Edward swallowed trying to steel himself before he was moved again, it still tore a cry from his throat though the three men moved him onto his side, his wounded leg being jostled as they moved it onto the bunk with the rest of him.

“Nngh! O-Oh… G-God….” he rasped.

Thomas was immediately uttering small apologies and wiping tears from his eyes.

Dr Peddie and Dr McDonald were conversing their tactic for closing the wounds and Jopson had noticed the grim expressions on both their faces.

It must be pretty serious.

Vaguely he could make out bits of their discussion.

“Cauterization? Are you mad man?” Peddie hissed.

“I don’t like the idea either, John, especially with the risk of infection but look at the man, he’s already lost so much blood.”

“Then we stitch him up-”

“No, stitches would take too long, those wounds are still heavily bleeding.”

The words sent a shiver up Jopson’s spine.

This would not be pleasant.