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Here is No Water

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Jopson has a sweet tooth.

Edwards discovers this by chance, Christmas morning ‘46. To mark the day, the Captain has ordered the leftover shortbread be shared among the men and Edward watches Jopson’s eyelids flutter shut as he nibbles at the biscuit, one hand resting softly on Diggle’s stove.

They don’t have to resort to rationing yet, but stores are far from plenty; Edward scrapes the jam off his breakfast biscuits, pockets a teacake in the Great Cabin, hoards his share of tinfoiled chocolates like a treasure.

Jopson is bashful, embarrassed, at first, but Edward persists and Jopson blushes as their fingers meet around the chocolate.

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In his dreams, he still sometimes hears the voices: the solemn harmonies and the sweet cadences, the rise in his chest and his small hand holding onto his aunt's sleeve. The perfection of the moment is preserved within his mind, as crystal-clear and pristine as the stained glass windows high above his head in a church a lifetime ago.


George has lost count of the calendar weeks ago, one featureless day blending into the next; he doesn't think anything of it when Billy Gibson asks him to step belowdecks for a moment to tend to a pressing issue.

What greets him when he sets foot onto the fo'c'sle is nothing short of a cacophony: the shouting of two dozen men, the noisy whoops eventually solidifying into the first couple bars of “he's a jolly good fellow”; Above it all, Irving's determined tenor, trying to herd the ruckus into something resembling a choir. Implausibly, Edward Little seems to be involved as well, shuffling his feet and pretending to move his lips to the music.

It's not perfect, far from it, but the song sinks into George’s bones like hot grog, slow and sweet. The warmth remains for days afterwards.

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„Sir, let me just – your collar,“ Tom says, and there is really nothing out of place with lieutenant Little's collar, but Tom's hands are already moving of their own accord and he cannot make himself stop.

As always, Little lets him, raises his chin to allow Tom to fuss at his neck, doesn't mention it if Tom's fingers brush against the soft skin of his throat more than is strictly necessary. His eyes are half closed and with the mop of dark hair falling over his eyes he reminds Tom of nothing so much as Neptune, the same doggish expression of patient, wordless gratitude.

Tom wonders where the lieutenant tucks it away in his mind, what story he tells himself to turn what passes between them into something ordinary, to let himself have that little kindness.

“All set, sir,” Tom says, and smiles brightly through the brittleness in his voice.