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The wind picked up as soon as Thomas readied himself to leave the park. Very quickly, it grew from a mild breeze to a severe gust, whipping leaves off the branches of nearby trees and causing passersby to clutch at their hats.

“Goodness me, darling.” Sweeping a lock of unmoored hair from his own forehead, Thomas leaned down and tied Charlie's white knitted bonnet more securely. He lifted the baby into his black perambulator and rapidly gathered up the picnic blanket, baby's bottle, dog's ball, and the rest of their paraphernalia. “We should hurry home to Father, shouldn't we?” He whistled, which brought the spaniel—barely out of puppyhood herself, and named Sausage after her favourite treat—to heel. Pulling down the perambulator's hood, he began a brisk walk homeward, Sausage trotting along beside him.

Thomas had not expected to have a baby so soon. He'd always wanted children, but he'd thought to spend a year or two, perhaps as much as three or four, alone with Edward after their wedding. Still, it was the Christian duty of same-sex married couples to adopt as many orphans and foundlings as they could afford to raise, and from the moment they were introduced to Charlie, Thomas knew the boy was theirs. He even resembled Edward, with his big brown eyes and his dazzling grin, made all the more special by how rarely it was deployed. Charlie had a serious nature, like Edward, but Thomas knew just how to bring both of his gentlemen to fits of laughter. He pulled faces at Charlie as the perambulator bounced over the pavement, causing him to burst into sweet giggles. That in turn put a smile on Thomas' face that couldn't be shifted, not even by the increasingly foul weather.

When they arrived at the house, the woman Thomas refused to refer to by the generic term “Nanny” met them at the door.

“Put that in the shed, would you, please, Judith?” He indicated the perambulator, parked at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the mews house. Sausage had disappeared at once, likely to the kitchen and her bowl of food. “And then a bottle for Charlie, please. We'll take it in the drawing room. Thank you,” he added. He was always unfailingly polite to her, because he remembered quite well what it was to be a servant, and because she was the third nanny they'd employed in Charlie's short life. Edward would not be best pleased if they had to find another.

“Yes, sir.” Judith replied as she always did, no matter how many times Thomas implored her not to call him that. She was very young, and quite intimidated by both he and Edward. Most particularly by Edward, to whom she spoke only if absolutely necessary, and sometimes not even then.

“I don't give a fig if she never speaks a word to me in her life,” was Edward's response. “As long as she stays.”

“But we don't really need a nanny, do we, dear?” Thomas had tried, again. “I'm sure we will be glad of the help once we have five or six little ones running about--” Edward's eyes grew wide at this, although it was far from the first time Thomas had mentioned it--“but we can care for Charlie quite well on our own.” He wanted to care for Charlie. Every moment Charlie wasn't in his arms, or at least by his side, Thomas felt the loss of him, and he thought Charlie felt the same. Nobody could quiet the little one's cries as quickly as Thomas could; nobody could make him laugh as much as Thomas did. It seemed only natural that Charlie, therefore, be with Thomas, but Edward simply repeated, as he always did, “People will think it strange if a couple in our position doesn't employ a nanny.”

Thomas had never cared for other people's opinions when he was poor. He found he cared for them even less now he was, if not precisely wealthy, then at least comfortably situated.

“Oh, sir,” Judith called, as Thomas headed down the corridor. “I beg your pardon. There's a guest.”

He stopped. Charlie grabbed Thomas' neckcloth in one chubby fist, trying to bring it to his mouth. Gently, Thomas extricated it, and Charlie took hold of his finger instead. “A guest?”

“With Lieutenant Little. In the drawing room.”

They hadn't been expecting anybody. “Do you know who it is?”

“I think he is a naval gentleman.”

Thomas' thoughts went at once to the captain, but it couldn't be. Thomas would surely have heard if his expedition had returned to England. “Thank you,” he said to Judith. Hitching Charlie up on his hip, he continued on his journey towards the drawing room.

As soon as he saw who it was, Thomas knew exactly why he had come.

“Thomas!” Edward stood when Thomas entered the room. Sir James Clark Ross did the same.

“Mr. Jopson.” Captain Ross beamed at him. He was as handsome as ever, Thomas noted, even as a feeling of dread settled inside him. “And this must be Charles. What a lovely little chap.” The captain came over to chuck Charlie's chin and tickle his belly. Charlie didn't laugh, but looked back at their guest with his typical reserved interest. “And very lucky to have you for his parents.”

“Thomas is an exceptional father,” Edward agreed. Thomas caught his eye. Edward's expression was bordering on grim. Whatever he and the captain had been discussing was obviously of a very concerning nature. Thomas had never thought it might be otherwise.

“I have no doubt that is the case.” The captain replied, looking at Thomas. “You always were quite wonderful at caring for others. I've had the benefit of your skills myself.”

Thomas normally cared a great deal for flattery, but not this time. “I know why you're here, sir.”

Sir James' smile faded. “Yes.” He returned to the sofa. Thomas joined him, shifting Charlie onto his lap as Edward took the armchair beside them. “I am certain you do, Mr. Jopson. I know you care for him as much as I.” Ross was not speaking of Charlie now, or of Edward. “And I know you will be most concerned for his well being.”

“I am very concerned for Captain Crozier and his expedition.” The question was, how much was Thomas prepared to risk to bring them home?

***

Like most people, Thomas learned about soulmates at a young age, before he even knew what words like “love” and “marriage” really meant.

“Everybody has a soulmate,” his mother told him. They were sitting in front of the fire, Thomas remembered, he in his usual spot by his mother's feet, holding her skein of wool as she knitted. “A perfect partner. The person you are meant to spend your life with. If you are lucky enough to find them, at the moment you meet both of you will be granted a vision of how your lives together will end.”

“That's terrible!” Thomas was shocked. Shouldn't meeting a soulmate, a sort of absolute best friend as he understood it, be a happy occasion?

“Oh, no, darling!” His mother reached out to rest a comforting hand on his head. “It's a very special gift. You should count yourself most fortunate if ever it happens to you.”

Thomas was not convinced. Still, she sounded so sure that he asked, “What did you see when you met Papa?” His father had died of consumption two winters past. Did they know it was going to happen? If so, they hadn't let on.

His mother was quiet. Thomas looked up, to see her cheeks curiously red. “It is possible to make a life with someone who is not your ideal match,” she replied. “Your father and I were very happy together.”

Thomas never asked her about it again. He wondered, like everyone did, when and if he might meet his soulmate, and who that person might be. He didn't expect it to happen on ship, and he certainly didn't expect it to be a senior officer.

As a very young man, Thomas' got his first taste of independence aboard the Racer. Terror, however, was the first ship he really loved, the first place he really felt at home. When he returned to her two years after the end of the Antarctic expedition, treading her boards and running his hand along her taffrail felt like coming back to a place he truly belonged.

“There you are, my boy.” Thomas turned to see Commander—to see Captain—Crozier standing behind him.

“Good morning, sir.” When the captain so generously gave him the opportunity to return to Terror, this time on a voyage north, Thomas jumped at the chance. To see both ends of the world was not something many men experienced, and certainly not men of his station.

“Good to be home, isn't it?” The captain clapped him on the back.

“It is, sir. Very good.”

“Get yourself settled, and I'll come see you in your pantry.”

“The captain's pantry, sir,” Thomas corrected automatically, although he knew the truth of it as well as Crozier. That little room was the domain of the captain's steward alone.

“Whatever you say, Mr. Jopson.” Captain Crozier gave a wink. He seemed sober, as far as Thomas could tell, and Thomas always could tell. Perhaps, he thought, daring to hope, he has stopped drinking, or at least curtailed it.

Thomas' cabin was just as he left it two years before. He had few personal effects: his mother's Bible, a lock of her hair, the extra socks and gloves he set to knitting when he heard he would be going back to frigid climes. He placed them in his little room, and went to meet the captain in the pantry.

That room, too, was a small, although of great importance. Here, Thomas found ledgers, pencils, everything he would need to keep track of their precious stores, as well as the spices that would keep them palatable as the expedition went on. He would be working closely with the cook, Mr. Diggle. Thomas didn't know much about him, although Diggle had been quartermaster on Erebus in the Antarctic, so he must, Thomas thought, have a good head on his shoulders. Thomas was glad of it. He'd had good relations with Terror's last cook, and would sometimes sit up with him late into the night, listening to stories of the man's soulmate and their family.

Footsteps approached. Thomas turned, expecting to see the captain. Instead, his eyes alighted on the most handsome man he had seen for a very long time. Possibly ever.

Thomas barely had time to take in the man's sturdy frame, his luxurious whiskers, his gold epaulettes before he was assaulted by a wave of emotions as turbulent as a northern gale. Images cascaded wildly through his mind, fluttering like falling leaves. In rapid succession, he saw ice and snow and a furious, roaring bear, the uniformed bodies of men contorted in unspeakable anguish, someone's hand—the captain's?—signing an order to abandon ship and crew members attached like oxen to harnesses, hauling boats towards an unreachable horizon. He saw the two of them, Thomas and this lieutenant, clinging desperately to one another as some unseen force attempted to tear them apart. He saw himself, gaunt and pale with his hair in atrocious disarray, lying motionless in his undergarments on bare, white shale. He saw the man before him with chains of gold stuck to—no, pierced through—his face, collapsed at the captain's side.

Someone cried out. With a start, Thomas realized it was him. He clapped a hand over his mouth. Although the other man remained silent, his eyes were wide enough for Thomas to know that whatever he had just been subjected to, he was at least not alone.

“Ah, Lieutenant Little.” Captain Crozier appeared. “I see you've met Mr. Jopson. Mr. Jopson, our first lieutenant.”

“Pleased to meet you.” Little's voice cracked. Thomas bit his lip and nodded in silent reply.

He hid his turmoil well. He always did. The lieutenant left, and Thomas chatted with the captain about the stores, about Mr. Diggle, about the first meal he would serve the officers and about their upcoming adventures. After what seemed an interminable time, Crozier at last said, “I'll leave you to it, then.” Thomas waited for a count of twenty, just in case the captain returned. When he did not, Thomas locked up the pantry and went in search of Lieutenant Little.

He found him in his berth, dressed down to his shirtsleeves and unpacking a small trunk. The door was open. Thomas nevertheless knocked briskly on the frame. When Little saw him, he stood, a book in each hand, and fixed him with a gaze much softer than Thomas might have expected.

“Mr. Jopson.”

Just hearing his name in that man's voice made Thomas feel breathless. “Lieutenant Little, sir.”

Little's tongue darted out, wetting his bottom lip. He set the books on the bed. Seemingly at a loss to do with his now-empty hands, he placed them on his hips. “You...you needn't bother with that. Edward is my name.”

“Thomas,” Thomas replied.

“Yes. Ah. Good afternoon, Thomas. Please come inside.”

Thomas stepped into the tiny cabin and slid the door shut behind him. Once there, standing nearly nose-to-nose with the lieutenant, Thomas found himself unsure where to begin. They could not, however, stand in indefinite silence, and since Edward seemed reluctant to speak first, Thomas took the bull by the horns.

“I am certain I am not what you were expecting, sir...Edward.” A man of the lieutenant's stature must surely have dreamed of a wealthy heiress, or a peer, or another senior officer when he thought of his potential soulmate. Certainly not a captain's steward from Marylebone.

“On the contrary,” Edward replied without the least hesitation, his expression sincere. “You are exactly what I wished for.”

The sentiment was so sweet, Thomas' heart melted. Edward was very physically appealing, there was no doubt as to that. To learn that he was so gentlemanly as well was more than Thomas ever dared hope.

He could not revel in the knowledge. There was no time. “You saw it too,” Thomas said. It was not a question. “What will happen to the expedition.”

Edward frowned. “Yes.”

“We must inform the captain.” He would know what to do, how best to act.

“You believe he will take us seriously?”

The captain had little time for the concept of soulmates. Thomas remembered him debating the issue on multiple occasions in the Antarctic with Mr. Blanky and Captain Ross, both of whom had found theirs. Still, Captain Crozier trusted Thomas. He would not dismiss this out of hand. “Yes.”

“Then we must go to him together.”

Thomas nodded, extended a hand, retracted it. Beset by sudden nerves, he felt himself flushing. This man was his destiny, his other half. He could not offer him a handshake. It would be beyond ludicrous. Leaning forward, Thomas instead pressed his lips, gentle and light, against Edward's. Edward responded eagerly, drawing Thomas into his arms and holding him tightly, exactly the way Thomas preferred. He smelled divine, and he felt like all of Thomas' happiest memories rolled into one. When Edward pulled away, Thomas could not help staring, enraptured, at the man's beautiful dark eyes and his lovely long lashes.

“You are just what I hoped for, as well,” Thomas admitted. It was true. Edward was nothing Thomas expected, and everything he ever wanted. My soulmate, he thought, savouring the novelty of it as he ran his hands up to Edward's shoulders. He kissed him again, this time opening his mouth, just a little. In response, Edward groaned. Without a care for the books, the bunk, or, indeed, his person, Thomas found himself swept quite literally off his feet, pulled atop Edward's sturdy body and tiny bed.

"Edward!" Thomas gasped, thrilled. Edward responded with another kiss, his hand snaking purposefully beneath Thomas' waistcoat and pulling out his shirttails to rub at the skin of Thomas' bare back.

Later that afternoon, fully clothed and composed once more, they stood side-by-side before Sir John Franklin. “Well, well.” A smile slithered onto Sir John's face. “You have my most sincere congratulations, gentlemen. I recall meeting my dear Jane. A memorable moment indeed. Of course, you will be aware the Navy does not allow soulmates to serve on the same ship.”

Thomas blinked. “No, sir.” He glanced over to Edward. “That wasn't quite what we...”

“I know you are attached to Captain Crozier, Mr. Jopson,” Franklin went on, “but I'm certain it will be no trouble for Lieutenant Little to swap places with Lieutenant Gore here on Erebus. I do hate to separate the two of you, particularly as you've only just found one another. But the Articles are quite clear on the matter, and for good reason, too.”

“Did you hear a word of what they said?” Crozier snapped, adding a very belated “Sir?” as if it pained him to do so. “The expedition is doomed.”

“Now, now, Francis. I know how you like a touch of the dramatic, but let's not get carried away, shall we?”

“Carried away?”

“These gentlemen have pointed out a danger of which we were already aware, which is the possibility of scurvy. We shall take further precautions to prevent it. And we are indebted to you for the warning,” he added, nodding magnanimously at Thomas and Edward.

Thomas, already standing ramrod-straight, felt his spine stiffen a little further. “I beg your pardon, sir, but it was not scurvy.” Perhaps that was what afflicted Thomas in the vision, it was hard to tell, but Edward's ailment was something substantially different. Thomas had seen scurvy. He'd never seen anyone thread chains through his face. And that was to say nothing of the vision of the bear, which was quite unlike any bear of which Thomas had ever heard. He cleared his throat. “If I may be so bold, sir, what did you see when you met Lady Jane?”

Sir John waved a hand, dismissive. “Oh, some damn thing about falling into a hole. I've simply avoided them. These 'soulmate predictions' are not set in stone. With a little intelligence, they can be altered.” That was one school of thought. The opposing viewpoint held that the predictions were the creation of God Himself, and therefore immutable. Thomas had never been sure on which side of the debate he stood, until now.

“We must postpone the voyage,” Crozier determined, his voice firm. “At least until we can sort this out. You know how I feel about this soulmate rot, sir, but both of these men are reliable, and they have told me we are in danger.”

Another man would have quaked before him. Sir John merely shook his head. “Impossible. Everything is in place. We shall depart on schedule, with the appropriate precautions taken. Thank you again, Lieutenant Little, Mr. Jopson.”

Thomas expected Crozier to argue. Thomas even considered doing so himself and damn the consequences, but Sir John said, “If you'll excuse me, gentlemen” In a flash, he was gone, leaving Crozier steaming.

“Fucking ridiculous.” He spat.

“I cannot go to Erebus.” Edward's expression was stricken. “I cannot be parted from Thomas.” Thomas reached out to him. Edward caught his hand and held it.

“No,” Francis agreed. “Neither of you can be on either of these crews.”

“But sir!” Thomas' objection came automatically. His duty was to serve the captain. It was likewise his desire, but Edward was right. The two of them barely knew one another, yet Thomas' heart was already firmly in the lieutenant's keeping. The thought of being separated from the captain, whilst painful, paled in comparison to the thought of being parted from this man he had just met.

So that is what is meant by soulmate, Thomas thought. Edward looked back at him, the same strength of emotion evident in his gaze.

“You're ill,” the captain declared. Before Thomas could deny it, he continued, “Both of you. I suspect consumption. Dr. MacDonald will confirm it. We cannot have you on this voyage, but, after an appropriate period of convalescence, it should not affect your positions within the Navy, provided you wish to remain part of it.”

An elegant solution. Thomas was not surprised the clever Captain Crozier hit on it, but still, it did not feel entirely right. “What of you, sir?” Thomas asked. “I couldn't bear to think of you in any danger.”

“Nor I,” Edward agreed.

“Someone sensible has to go along. I can't leave those poor bastards to bloody Franklin. But don't worry about me. I've got my own plan, and I will see you again in no time, happily wedded no doubt.” There was a wistful undertone to his joviality. Thomas knew of the captain's sorry history in matters of romance.

“You will find your soulmate, sir. I'm convinced of it.” It was not a meaningless platitude. Thomas believed it. He couldn't say why. Not everyone was so fortunate. As Thomas' mother had said, most managed to live happy lives regardless, but that was not the captain's destiny. Thomas could feel it.

“Well, if I do, it won't be on a bloody ship.” Crozier laughed and reached over to give Edward's hand a hearty shake. “Take good care of him, Edward. You are a very lucky man.”

“I know, sir.” Edward's look was equal parts tenderness and something saucier. It gave Thomas a tight feeling low down in his stomach. “And I will. I promise.”

***

“We don't belong there.” Thomas slid the rubber nipple from Charlie's slack, sleepy mouth and gently wiped the milk from his face. It was impolite to address Sir James Clark Ross without looking at him, but Thomas did not trust himself not to do so. “None of us do.”

“Francis told me,” Sir James replied, “about your soulmate vision. Believe me, gentlemen, I would not have approached you if I did not think you our only hope to find the lost expedition.”

“We saw nothing useful.” Thomas remembered the vision clearly. Parts of it haunted him even now. The image of Edward dying bedecked with chains often came at night, awakening Thomas in a cold sweat and with the urgent need to reach over and touch Edward's face, to feel his warm, unblemished skin and soft whiskers.

“You saw more than anybody not currently marooned in the Arctic.” Sir James' words could have been harsh, but his tone was kind, even empathetic. “Francis would be furious with me if he knew I was here, but I know how strong a bond lies between you and he, Mr. Jopson.”

He would do it for you. The words were unspoken, but Thomas could not say they were false.

Edward broke in before Thomas could respond. “We will discuss it, captain,” he said. “And let you know in the morning.”

“I am grateful for your consideration.” Sir James stood and looked down, smiling at Charlie. “Your son truly is lovely.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Edward saw the captain out. Thomas could have lain Charlie in his cradle, perhaps gone to see how Cook was progressing with their dinner. Instead, he stayed where he was, holding his sleeping baby in his arms until Edward returned.

“I will go,” Edward said, just as Thomas had known he would.

“Are you mad? You saw what will happen as well as I did.”

“I saw what might happen. Soulmate visions can be altered.”

“You don't know that.”

“I know this is the right thing to do. You, of course, must stay here with Charlie. Already, that will change what we saw.”

“And if that change is not enough?”

Edward sighed and sat beside him on the sofa. The movement jostled Charlie, but he did not stir. “The position on Sir James' Enterprise comes with a promotion, and with Discovery Service double pay.”

“That is what you are concerned with?”

“I am concerned with providing for my family. We don't want to live here forever, Tommy.” "Here" happened to be the most luxurious home Thomas had ever possessed, although he knew Edward thought of it as shabby. “I want to get you that little house in the country we talked about. Clean air. Space for Charlie to run about. Space for more children, too.”

“I can't raise them by myself, Edward.” The image of the grey-faced Edward, adorned with chains like some grotesque chandelier, popped so violently into Thomas' head, he felt ill. “I cannot lose you.”

“Two years,” Edward replied. “No more. I made Ross swear it, but he's no fool, and I trust his judgement. We will be home in two years, regardless of what happens. I know Crozier would kill me if I abandoned you for any longer than that.”

Thomas laughed bitterly. “He will kill you, full stop.” But at least he would be alive to do it, if Ross and Edward saved him.

Still, two years seemed like an eternity. Charlie would be walking by then, and talking. He would even be close to being breeched, to exchanging his infant dresses for the short pants of boyhood. This was, Thomas was given to understand, a momentous occasion for people of certain classes, including Edward's. He would not want to miss it.

“Two years,” Edward repeated, “and you will have me home for good.”

“Forever?” Thomas' voice was plaintive. He could not bring himself to feel ashamed of it.

Edward smiled. “For so long, you'll be sick of me, darling. You'll be inventing little errands for me, just to give yourself a moment's peace.”

“Never.” Thomas could not imagine such a thing. They were soulmates, after all.

***

The night before Enterprise left on her rescue mission, Thomas reluctantly put Charlie to bed in his nanny's room in the inn, and returned to the one he was sharing with Edward.

Edward was not Thomas' first lover. The church and society as a whole encouraged abstention until the meeting of one's soulmate, or at least until marriage, but Thomas had been a good-looking, eager young man living in close quarters with many other good-looking, eager young men. He considered himself well-experienced by the time he found Edward, although he'd quickly learned that being with Edward was quite unlike being with anyone else.

He'd always thought it would be. They were joined, in spirit and in mind, and although Edward was considerably less experienced than Thomas, it seemed that everything he did, whether it be kisses, caresses, or more, was at once more pleasurable, more exciting, and more comforting than anything Thomas had done with anybody else.

The thrill of it hadn't faded over time. Thomas promised himself he wouldn't spoil this final occasion with worry and sadness, and he didn't. It wasn't until Edward pulled his softening prick from Thomas' body and rested his forehead against Thomas' that Thomas felt the tide of tears begin to rise.

“Tommy.” Edward sighed. Leaning past Thomas, he reached over to the bedside table. “Here.” He pressed something into Thomas' hand. Looking down, Thomas saw it was his watch chain. “Keep it for me,” Edward said, a catch in his voice. “I shall have it back from you when I return.”

Thomas drew him closer, kissing him at first softly and then harder, as if he could memorize every detail of Edward's lips, his face, his body through sheer force of will.

The next morning, Thomas stood at the dockside beside Captain Ross' soulmate and spouse, Lady Ann Coulman. A couple of her children dangled toys into Charlie's perambulator. On deck, Captain Ross and Commander Little stood at attention with their men.

This expedition was a sombre one. There was none of the fanfare that saw off Terror and Erebus, or Thomas' previous voyages. Different, too, was the fact that Thomas was staying behind. Looking at the men aboard, Thomas felt an urge, sudden and ludicrous, to jump onto the ship and join them.

“It is most difficult the first time,” Lady Ann said. Thomas looked at her. “I cannot say it gets easier, but one does get used to it.”

“I hope I won't have to, madam.”

“He's told you he's staying home after this?” On another woman, Thomas might have called her expression pitying. Lady Ann seemed as possessed of natural empathy as her husband. “You were one of them, weren't you? A sailor?”

“I was a steward.” Most recently, in any case. Thomas did not feel Lady Ann required his entire life story.

“Then you will know what they're like. There's always one more voyage.” That wasn't true, surely? If it hadn't been for the chance to save Captain Crozier, Edward would never have returned to sea. Would he? “You must join us for tea one of these days,” Lady Ann continued. “The children are getting along so well.”

As they watched, the ship manoeuvred away from the dock and headed out to sea. Thomas didn't wave, but he kept his eyes on Edward, and then on the ship until it was just a speck on the horizon.

***

When Thomas was young, after the Racer but before the Antarctic expedition, he tried to strike a deal with a friend.

“If we have not found our soulmates by the time we are twenty-five,” he said to Elisabeth as they sat on a street corner, passing a bottle of sour wine back and forth, “you and I ought to marry.”

The thought seemed a reasonable one. He and Elisabeth had been close almost since infancy. They knew one another well. There would be no surprises. It would not be a passionate marriage, but it would be a companionable one.

Elisabeth turned him down flat. “I am no saintly sailor's spouse,” she said, “who would spend her life awaiting your return from adventure. That's not my way. It wouldn't be yours, either.”

At the time, it had stung, although Thomas thought he understood what she meant. He didn't. Now, he knew, and he knew she was entirely right.

A couple of letters came from Edward, arriving weeks after they were sent from Stromness and from Greenland. Thomas read them to Charlie as the baby lay chewing desperately on a damp, knotted handkerchief, his cheeks reddened by his incoming teeth.

“It says Father saw a pod of narwhals. 'They swam up right beside the ship. We counted at least a dozen, adults and babies both. You would have loved to see them, my darlings. They followed us just like dear old Sausage when she thinks we've got something to eat.'”

At the mention of her name, Sausage raised her head from her cushion.

“'I am quite sad to say that this will be the last...'” Although there was only the baby and the dog to hear him, Thomas cleared his throat and willed his quivering voice into submission. “'This will be the last you hear from me for some time. Charlie, you must be a good boy and not give your Papa any trouble at all.' Do you hear that? Father wants us to tell those little teeth of yours to go right back into your gums and stay there. 'Sausage, do not sneak tit-bits from the kitchen, even if you think nobody is looking.'” He fixed the dog with a stare. She yawned, stretching her jaws wide, and lay her head on her paws. “'And Tommy...'” This part, he read silently. He didn't trust himself to do otherwise.

And Tommy, I want you to remember always that we were made for one another. This is a temporary separation. It could only ever be such, because there is no force on Earth that will keep me away from you any longer than most strictly necessary.

Edward signed off with his love to all three of them. Thomas folded the letter neatly, then held it to his lips, as if by kissing Edward's words, he could kiss Edward himself.

Two years, he reminded himself. It would seem like nothing once Edward was back and they had Captain Crozier sitting on their sofa, with Charlie on his knee and Sausage lying across his feet.

Thomas had to pass the time somehow. He took Charlie on endless walks in the perambulator. They visited the park so often, it felt like a second home. When spring came, they went to see Edward's family, so Charlie might spend time with his many, many cousins. The experience was not entirely enjoyable. Some of Edward's siblings were fond of Thomas, and he of them, but others looked down their noses and did not bother to hide their derision. Thomas pretended not to notice the little jibes, grinding his teeth silently when Edward's brother John asked, all smiles and false innocence, to “Please remind me where you went to school, Thomas? I can't for the life of me remember whether Edward said it was Eton or Harrow.”

“He went to the Antarctic, which is more than you ever did, you lazy swine,” Edward's sister Margaret replied for him. “And you know Edward would bash you in the nose if he heard you talking to his soulmate like that.” John grumbled, but slunk away.

“Thank you,” Thomas said to Margaret, who shook her head, bouncing Charlie on her knee. In truth, he could not picture Edward doing violence to anybody, let alone his own brother, but in this particular case, the thought was a pleasant one.

“It is I who have to thank you, Thomas. We were all so pleased to hear Edward had found you. Both of you.” Margaret beamed at her nephew, who grabbed at her hair. “You are a part of our family. Don't let anyone make you feel otherwise.”

This encounter was brought to mind some weeks later, when an invitation came from Lady Ann for Thomas and Charlie to join her and her children for a strawberry tea. Thomas had presumed that initial offer, made on the dockside as the ship departed, had been an empty one, borne of sheer politeness. Evidently not. He hesitated, but even he, a man who was never idle, was beginning to feel boredom. Deciding Lady Ann's family could not possibly be worse than some of Edward's relatives, Thomas accepted the invitation, then wondered what on Earth he was going to wear.

As they sat out on her sunny lawn, the strawberry-stained Charlie lying sated and asleep on the lap of her eldest daughter, Lady Ann turned to Thomas and said, “James' family was quite convinced his soulmate would be his cousin Helena. A remarkable woman. She's a commander in the Women's Royal Navy. They would have made a handsome couple, I admit. And they never would have seen one another.”

“Did his family end up accepting you?” Thomas asked. Thomas had told Lady Ann about John, but few of Edward's relatives were as ill-mannered as he. There were plenty, however, including Edward's parents, who had looked upon Thomas with a barely concealed air of disappointment when first they met. Of course, Ann was no rookery-raised manservant, but a lady in her own right, even if she was not the one Ross' relations had expected.

“Eventually,” she replied. “But would it be terribly bad of me to admit I sometimes make rude gestures behind their backs?”

Thomas laughed. “Perhaps I shall use that technique next time.”

“It is most satisfying, I can assure you.” She smiled into her teacup, and Thomas felt a kinship with her he would not have expected.

Quite to his surprise, that kinship grew gradually, bit by bit. By autumn, he considered Ann a true friend. She and the children were at Thomas' house when Charlie pulled himself up to stand for the first time, a look of immense pride on his face, and they were present when Charlie celebrated his first birthday.

They were present, but Edward, of course, was not. Thomas purchased a handsome wooden train as a gift, the sort of thing he himself would have coveted as a boy but could never have hoped to receive, and signed the greeting card from both he and Edward. As he was thinking of how many more birthdays, and Christmases, and other important events would pass before Charlie could have both his parents with him again, Ann came up beside him and linked her arm with Thomas'.

“You look dreadfully sad for a birthday, Thomas, dear.” She didn't ask why. She didn't have to. “But I have something that will cheer you up. You remember my friend Mrs. Allen?"

"The one with the gammy leg?"

"No, dear, that's Mrs. Phipps. Mrs. Allen is the one who is learning Italian. And she's hosting a séance on Tuesday next. The thirty-first.”

“A séance?”

“A lady named Miss Petrie is the medium. It is sure to be amusing. Mrs. Allen said Miss Petrie helped her neighbour spoke to George III. Mrs. Allen's neighbour, that is.”

Thomas blinked. “What did he say?”

“That the neighbour's soulmate is alive and well on her ship, and she will be coming home soon. That's what it's for, Thomas. To hear from somebody else that the people we love are all right. You should come. It is an evening out, if nothing else, and I'm certain you could use one of those.”

Perhaps he could. Ann squeezed his arm as the kitchen door swung open and Cook brought out a raspberry sponge decorated with a single long candle, Sausage following eagerly at her heels.

***

Mrs. Allen's home bore more resemblance to Thomas' than it did to Ann's. It was even in his neighbourhood, near enough for him to make the journey on foot despite the greying skies and impending rain.

Thomas had not known quite what a medium might look like. Something like the ancient fortune teller he and Edward had encountered on a trip to Blackpool, he assumed, with a headscarf and bangles and an exotic accent. Miss Petrie was dressed like any woman one might pass on the street. Far from being a wizened crone, she was quite young, and rather pretty. When she spoke, she sounded like Edward did: like someone from the country who had been strictly taught to hide it.

“You are in for a treat tonight, Mr. Jopson,” she said, looking at him. Thomas had not told her his name, but no doubt she had received a guest list from their hostess. Mrs. Allen herself had greeted him with a hearty, "Buona serata", and Thomas remembered her at once. “It is the best night of the year for contacting the spirits.”

“Oh, yes?” Thomas endeavoured to sound interested.

“The gates are open,” she replied. “It is easy to pass between our world and the others.”

“How lovely.” Calling on an internal well of tact and diplomacy he had not delved since his days as a steward, Thomas smiled at her and moved into the parlour.

Mrs. Allen had clearly worked hard to create an ambience suitable to the event. Thomas couldn't help but appreciate such attention to detail. The parlour curtains were drawn, and a single oil lamp in the corner cast feeble light. Miss Petrie took a seat at the head of the short, rectangular table. Once the rest of Mrs. Allen's guests had arrived—four women and two men, all with soulmates in the Navies or the Armies, although Mr. Barry's wife was currently on furlough—she instructed them to join hands with their neighbours. Thomas caught Ann's eye as he did so, raising his eyebrows. She smiled back at him and squeezed his hand.

To say Thomas was skeptical would be an understatement. His faith was not improved when Miss Petrie, after a moment of low humming, suddenly cried out. The lightning that crackled at the same moment was pure coincidence, but it caused Mrs. Allen to shriek.

The assemblage shifted in their seats, some more uneasily than others. Miss Petrie's eyes rolled back in her head, her eyelids fluttering. I have to hand it to her, Thomas thought. She does have a sense of the dramatic. Thunder rumbled. The lamp guttered. Abruptly, Miss Petrie fell from her chair, landing with a thud on the parlour carpet. Thomas leapt to his feet, followed quickly by the others.

Mio Dio! Is she all right?” Mrs. Allen asked. Thomas knelt beside her. The woman's skin was ice-cold, but her pulse was strong. She seemed merely to have fainted.

“We should move her somewhere more comfortable.”

With Mr. Barry's help, Thomas placed Miss Petrie onto the sofa against one wall of the room. Mrs. Allen went for smelling salts, but before she returned, the medium's eyes popped open.

“Oh.” She looked between Thomas and Mr. Barry, her eyebrows furrowed. “Where am I?”

“Miss Petrie, dear!” Mrs. Allen reached past Thomas to grip Miss Petrie's hand. “You gave us quite a scare. Was it the spirits? Were you overcome?”

Miss Petrie's gaze rested on Thomas. “Yes,” she said, still peering at him. It gave Thomas a curious feeling, one he could not quite identify. “That must have been it.”

The séance resumed, but it seemed different somehow. Thomas listened along with the other guests as, through Miss Petrie, Mrs. Allen's dead mother informed her that her husband was well in India and would be returning before Christmas. Mrs. Allen was pleased with that.

“But you must be tired,” she said, once Miss Petrie was no longer speaking in a Scottish brogue. “We could reconvene another night, if you like.”

“Perhaps that would be wise.”

As the party broke up, Miss Petrie's gaze again caught Thomas'. He smiled politely and turned to Ann, just as she said, “Shall I give you a ride home, Thomas, dear? The weather looks ghastly.”

Thomas glanced out the front window. “It's fine. Just a bit of drizzle. A walk will do me good.” The parlour had been stuffy, and the oily smell of the lamp was making his head ache.

Ann looked uncertain. “If you're sure.”

“Yes, thank you.” Thomas turned to their hostess. “I've had a most enjoyable evening, Mrs. Allen,” he lied. “Thank you for the invitation.”

The weather was poorer than he had anticipated. The rain had slowed almost to nothing, but the wind was vicious, whipping about Thomas and slicing, it felt, directly through his coat. It even seemed to follow him home, sweeping up the front steps of the house and tearing the door from his hands to slam it shut behind him.

He hesitated in the front hall, to see if the bang had disturbed Charlie or Judith. Sausage came to greet him, licking at Thomas' fingers and sniffing at his shoes. Hearing no other noise, he crept upstairs as silently as possible.

Charlie was too big for the cradle now, and too liable to climb out of it. Although Edward would roll his eyes if he knew, Thomas was still loath to have their son sleep in the room meant for that purpose. Charlie's little bed remained in Thomas' bedroom. Darling Edward, who demanded very little, would no doubt insist upon removing Charlie to Judith's supervision in the nursery as soon as he arrived home, but for now, Thomas was happy to have the boy so near. Thomas bent to kiss his soft cheek, then changed into his nightshirt and slipped into bed, the wind still battering the shutters.

Thomas rarely dreamt, at least not that he could remember. That night, however, his mind was full. He dreamt of Ann and Mrs. Allen and Miss Petrie, of Sir James Clark Ross and of Edward's kind sister Margaret and of his own sadly departed mother. Most of all, he dreamt of Edward.

After their wedding, they had taken a week-long honeymoon in a rented cottage in the Cotswolds. Thomas had been fortunate enough to travel all over the world, not least to the southernmost regions of the globe, but this was the most enjoyable trip he had ever taken. He and Edward had spent a week in each other's arms, stirring from bed only to stroll hand-in-hand down country lanes, pausing to kiss beneath leafy oak trees and against fence posts. In his dreams, Thomas was savouring this experience all over again, embracing Edward naked in the grass in a way they most certainly had not done in reality, when his reverie was interrupted by the barking of a dog.

At first, Thomas thought it must be some Cotswolds farm dog objecting to their unclothed presence. As he began to surface from sleep, he realized it was his own Sausage.

“Shh,” Thomas hissed, eyes still closed. The barking continued. “Sausage!” He rolled over. “Be quiet! You'll wake Charlie.”

“Who is Charlie?” A voice replied, puzzled on the verge of fretful. “Who are you?”

Thomas sat up so fast, his head spun. He fumbled with the candle by his bedside, dropping the matches in his haste and scrabbling to pick them up again. When the wick at last caught, he held it up, peering into the gloom.

A man stood at the end of Thomas' bed.

He was shabbily dressed in garments which may have once been white, but were now a dingy grey. A brown blood stain marred the fabric over one thigh, coincidentally in the same place Thomas himself had a bad scar. The man's dark hair was long, and his beard was unkempt. Sores littered the skin around his mouth, and his colour was pallid. He looked ill.

“How did you get in here?” Thomas asked, his mind whirring as the candle flickered in his hand. He needed to place himself between the intruder and Charlie, who still slept soundly, but he could risk nothing that might rouse the man's ire. Thomas needed to remain calm. Could he somehow alert Judith to run for help without provoking the man into attacking? “What do you want?”

“I don't know.” The man's voice sounded more forlorn than threatening. “I don't know where I am.”

Thomas took a second look at the man. Now that the pure shock of him being there had eased, if only a little, he realized he had seen this person before. It was none other than Thomas himself, sickened by scurvy or by something else, looking exactly as he had at the end of his soulmate vision.

It cannot be, Thomas told himself. There had to be another meaning to this. Could the man be a deliberate imposter, perhaps? But to what end? In any case, only Thomas and Edward had witnessed the vision. It would be impossible for someone to know to costume himself so accurately.

Thomas slid out of bed. The man shrunk back, as though he thought Thomas might be the one to do him harm. Positioning himself in front of Charlie's bed, Thomas looked long and hard at the man, as if staring at him might reveal a more plausible explanation for his presence. It did not.

“What,” Thomas asked at last, trying to keep his voice even, “is your name?”

Thomas knew it before he spoke the words. “I am Thomas Jopson,” the intruder said. “Of Her Majesty's ship Terror.”

There was a rustling behind Thomas. With a little hiccup, Charlie began to grizzle, and then to cry. The other man, this other so-called Jopson, looked on silently as Thomas put down the candle and slowly bent to pick up the baby. Charlie settled quickly in Thomas' arms, blinking in the dim light and turning his big eyes on their visitor.

“I do not mean to disturb you,” the other Jopson said. From the way he was gaping at Thomas, Thomas assumed he, too, had noticed something of the familiar in him. “I really do not know where I am.”

“What is the last thing you do remember?” Thomas sat on the edge of his bed, keeping his son on his lap. Evidently feeling she had done her duty for the evening, Sausage snuffled happily and curled up on the counterpane beside them.

The other Jopson frowned. “I was in a tent. I was very ill.” Something dawned in his eyes. It did not seem pleasant. He swallowed visibly. “They left me. He left me.”

“Who did?” The soulmate vision had been mostly broad strokes. Thomas had seen enough to know tragedy would befall the expedition, as well as he and Edward personally, but not enough to identify every detail of how they would get there.

“The captain.”

“Captain Crozier would not have done such a thing.” This, Thomas knew for a fact.

“They left us all behind.” The other Jopson's expression was so troubled, Thomas felt a human urge to reach out and comfort him. He kept his hands to himself. “I was alone.”

“What about Edward?”

The other Jopson furrowed his eyebrows. “Edward...Genge?”

“Little,” Thomas replied. “Edward Little.”

“Lieutenant Little?” He scoffed. “He was eager to abandon the ill. He was probably the first one gone.”

“No.” Of all the many impossible events apparently taking place, that was surely the most unlikely.

“I remember that clear enough.” The other Jopson gazed at him. “You're not...I mean, you look like, but you can't possibly be...”

“Thomas Jopson,” Thomas admitted.

The other man shook his head. “This is another hallucination. Another dream.”

“I might say the same about you.” It would be more likely than any alternative. There were no alternatives.

“Who is that?” The other Jopson turned his gaze on Charlie.

“My son.” Thomas pulled him closer. Charlie sucked on his own fingers.

“I haven't got children. Who is his mother?” Jopson hesitated. “Is it Elisabeth?”

“He has no mother,” Thomas replied, as smoothly as he was able. “He is mine, and Edward's. Edward Little,” Thomas clarified, before they went through that again. “We are soulmates.”

Whoever this man was, he could not somehow have been brought to life from Thomas' soulmate vision. That, Thomas knew, because this man had never heard of the concept of a soulmate.

“And you say you are married?” The other Jopson looked at the ring on Thomas' left hand with evident skepticism. “To a man?” He sounded as incredulous as if Thomas had claimed to be wedded to a fine china tea set.

“Yes,” Thomas confirmed. This dream, because it must be a dream, was growing stranger with each passing moment.

“To an officer?”

“To Edward.”

“I see.” Jopson's voice made it plain he did not. “And where is your...husband now?”

“He has gone to rescue Captain Crozier and the expedition. With Sir James Clark Ross.”

“Captain Ross. I hoped so very hard he would come. Prayed for it, even.” Relief coloured the other Jopson's voice. “I hope he arrives in time.”

Thomas hoped so too, very much. Perhaps that was what this dream was about, where its origins lay.

Charlie pulled his fingers from his mouth. With the air of a man proudly recognizing a vague acquaintance on the street, he looked at the intruder and said, “Papa!”

For a moment, the other man did nothing. Then, he laughed, so loudly that Charlie startled before giggling himself. “My mind,” the other Jopson said, “must be far gone indeed to picture something like this. But at least it's a pleasant insanity.”

The wind clattered the shutters once more. Jopson's eyes went to the window, then back to Thomas and Charlie. Still smiling, he shook his head. “Lieutenant Little. Fancy that.”

Thomas could think of no possible reply. He didn't have to. Before his eyes, the other Jopson shimmered, like a limb being viewed beneath the sun-dappled surface of a lake. In an instant, he was gone.

Thomas sat for a moment, stunned. Rising, he looked about the room. He peered behind the drapes and the wardrobe. He even opened the bedroom door and looked out into the dark, silent hallway. He saw nothing. Assuming he was about to awaken from the dream, he returned to bed, keeping Charlie with him, and waited for it to happen.

It did, eventually. Some hours later, Thomas jolted awake with sunlight filtering through the curtains, Charlie and Sausage slumbering in bed beside him.

Thomas did not mention the dream to anybody. What possible interest, he thought, could anyone have in his dreams, as strange as this one was? Thomas tried not to think of it himself, although he did wonder if it might recur. It did not. For the next few nights, he slept his usual dreamless sleep. The bizarrely disquieting incident, whilst not forgotten, had faded into the background of his memory by the time Ann next came to tea.

“Did you enjoy the séance the other night?” Before Thomas had to diplomatically lie, she went on, “Mrs. Allen was most distressed.”

“Why is that?”

“She attempted to contact Miss Petrie to arrange a second soirée, but the woman has quite disappeared.”

Thomas gently set the teapot onto the table, and passed a teacup to Ann. She took it with a grateful smile. “Disappeared?” Thomas repeated, stirring a spoonful of sugar into his cup. A vague uneasiness rose within him, although he could not define the source. A glance showed him Charlie was perfectly well, sitting on the rug with his wooden train.

“Apparently. She is no longer at her boarding house, and the landlady has no forwarding address. What a pity. I was so looking forward to another session. I thought I might ask Charles the Second's advice on my new drapes.” Ann sighed. “I suppose I'll have to make do with the living, now. Do you think red damask too outrageous for the drawing room?”

“It would depend on the shade,” Thomas replied. The sense of agitation disappeared as quickly as it had come.

They spent the rest of the morning talking about Ann's decorating. When she and the children were preparing to leave, Thomas asked, “Have you ever heard of a person who did not know about soulmates?” He wasn't sure where the question had come from. Still, he clarified it. “Not someone doesn't believe in them, but who has never heard of the concept.”

“No one past childhood.” Ann bent to fasten her daughter's coat. “Why do you ask?”

“No reason.”

“Have you run into some strangely uneducated foreigner?”

Had he? The thought had come to him, sudden and shocking, as he'd walked in the park the previous day. Miss Petrie had said the gates “were open between worlds” the night of the séance. Could there really be another world, one in which soulmates were unknown? One in which Thomas Jopson had departed with the expedition as planned, and suffered for it?

“No,” he said, decisively. Such musings were senseless. “It's nothing. You must have me over when the new drapes are in.”

“Certainly.” They kissed one another's cheeks in farewell. Thomas watched as she and the children climbed aboard their coach. When his guests had gone, he went up to his bedroom, pulling open the drawer in his bedside table. He took out Edward's watch chain and held it tightly, until the metal was warmed by his skin, and an impression of the links lingered on his hand when he finally put it away.

***

The letter came with the morning post, one Tuesday in late May.

Charlie had recently taken mortal offence to his morning porridge. Thomas was trying to coax it into him, with little success, when Judith brought the letters in to the dining room. She set them at Thomas' elbow, and Charlie knocked the porridge-laden spoon to the floor.

Sausage was there in an instant, eagerly licking up the mess. Charlie laughed and upended the rest of his dish onto the dog. Ignoring the chaos, Thomas ripped into the envelope so eagerly, he nearly tore the letter itself.

My darling Tommy,, he read, the mere sight of the familiar poor handwriting enough to bring tears to his eyes, I wish I could bring you better news. We found traces of the expedition, but alas, we were too late. All of the men had perished. Thomas' stomach dropped like a stone. There is one small crumb of happiness to impart. We became acquainted with a native family who met some of the men before their death. Captain Crozier's was one of the pictures they recognized. They said he had left a message for us. I quote the gentleman directly—through our interpreter—when I say 'Tell Jopson I found my soulmate.' The Enterprise will dock at Portsmouth at the end of June...

The rest was long-awaited details of Edward's return. Thomas' heart soared to picture Edward back at his side, even as it broke for the captain and the rest of the expedition.

“I'll do that,” he said to Judith, as she brought in a cloth to clean up the mess. “Might you take Charlie and dress him?”

“Of course, sir.” If she was surprised by the unusual request, Judith didn't show it. “May I ask, sir, is that a letter from Commander Little?”

“It is. He is returning home.”

“I'm glad to hear it. I know how you miss him.” Her cheeks pinked, as if she'd said something shocking. She bustled Charlie up to the nursery. Kneeling, Thomas nudged Sausage away from where she was gorging herself on milky porridge.

Captain Crozier's soulmate, Thomas thought, wiping at the floor with the cloth. Edward was right, the thought was a happy one, a lone spark of comfort to go with the worst possible news. It made him smile, to think of the captain and this mysterious soulmate of his, at the same time he wished very much he might have met this man—and it must have been a man, if the captain had met him on ship—in person. Thomas would have liked to know who was destined for his captain, and he would have liked to see them happy together, if only for a little while.

***

Thanks to Lady Jane Franklin and her prodigious knack for raising funds, the monument to the lost men of Terror and Erebus was raised just three years after the Enterprise returned to England. Thomas and Edward came from their country house for the unveiling, bringing with them their three children: Charlie, his younger brother Francis, and the baby, called Meg after her kind Auntie Margaret. Naturally, the Rosses were also in attendance. After the dedication, Edward joined them, the older children rolling about gleefully on the grassy verge as Thomas looked at the names engraved on the austere grey stone.

Soon after Edward arrived home, Thomas told him about the strange dream, of the Thomas Jopson who died in the Arctic and who didn't know what a soulmate was.

“Doesn't bear imagining,” was Edward's reply.

Because it was Edward, Thomas then said what he hadn't told anybody else, what he had barely permitted himself to think. “What if it wasn't a dream?”

Edward propped himself up on one elbow, the better to see Thomas as he reclined in their bed. As expected, Charlie had been exiled to his nursery upon Edward's return, but he didn't seem to mind overmuch. Surprisingly, neither did Thomas. Other people were capable of caring for Charlie with love and affection, he was beginning to realize. He just had to permit them to do so. “What do you mean?”

Thomas told Edward about the medium, about the “night when the gates were open” and about waking up with Charlie beside him when he was quite certain he had put him to sleep in his own bed. Even as the words came out of his mouth, Thomas could hear how stupid they were. He expected Edward to laugh at him. He didn't.

“If that is true,” Edward said instead, after a moment's consideration, “and there was something otherworldly afoot, then I feel even sorrier for the fellow. But I feel most sorry for the Edward Little he knew, because I am most certain he will have been longing for his Mr. Jopson, even if his Mr. Jopson did not know it.” He looked at Thomas, his eyes glinting in the dark.

Thomas embraced him, throwing his arms about Edward's shoulders and burying his face in his neck. “I am fortunate indeed to have you,” he muttered, glorying, at long last, in the sensation of Edward's whiskers against his skin.

Thomas was fortunate in very many ways. Reaching forward to touch the cold stone, he pressed lightly on the engraved letters of Captain Crozier's name. There was so much he wished he could tell the captain, the greatest of which was a simple "thank you." He hoped that somewhere, Crozier knew how grateful Thomas was. Perhaps, in that same place, the captain and his soulmate were together, and happy. It was a comforting thought. Thomas permitted himself to keep it.

Slowly, the wind picked up. Thomas pulled down the perambulator's hood to shield little Meg from the breeze. With one last, long look at the monument, he turned away. Pushing the baby over to Judith, Thomas went to join his soulmate, who was hoisting one of their sons beneath each arm and smiling broadly, his eyes crinkling with pure delight.