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Homeward bound

Chapter Text

Francis Crozier

My dearest Sophia, the weather was awful today. We have departed our camp on Beechey Island some time ago and are now sailing towards what we believe is the north west passage. It is the start of autumn and yet we had found ourselves trapped in an unusually early winter storm. I saw even some of my most experienced men walk around with a green tint upon their faces. Mister Blanky, our ice master on Terror, sees the storm as a bad sign. He said the ice will get thicker after a storm like this and the ships might not make it to the passage on time. I hope we don´t have to turn around to overwinter on Beechey again.

Whereas I am full of doubt, your uncle is positive we´ll reach the passage any day now.

Oh Sophia, you should have seen the splendid landscape we sailed past when the ships departed Beechey. Although still mourning the loss of our men, Torrington, Hartnell and Braine, the men cheered when they saw Beechey island fading in the distance. Soon we reached the open sea and came across icebergs as tall as houses, seals and the much bigger walruses are sunbathing on the ice as we sail past them. They are quiet the sight, last night I saw-

A loud shout startled Francis. The feather in his hand slipped and fell onto the cream coloured paper, smudging ink everywhere. The Irishman snarled as he tossed the letter into the bin next to his desk and got up to investigate what all the noise was about. The voices grew even louder when he stepped outside his cabin and almost instantly Francis knew something was off.

“Captain! Over here!” Lieutenant Edward Little called from the ship´s bow and handed him his telescope. “It´s Erebus. They`re signing us to stop, a men fell overboard.” Francis gasped, reaching for the telescope. “Let me see.”

He lowered the telescope towards his face, catching a whiff of Little`s scent. The man was an alpha, just like himself. As a matter of fact, most men on their ships were alphas. Apparently the royal british navy had little use for omegas or even betas in commanding positions, a fact Francis could only frown upon.

Through the lens of the telescope he could see a person with their arms reaching out towards the enormous ship. The water was below freezing and whoever was struggling in the water seemed to have trouble staying afloat. Francis watched in concern as a rope was tossed into the water but the man was too weak to grasp it. Francis knew his own ship was too far away to help, all he could do was watch as the man`s head disappeared in the water. He licked his dry lips and concentrated to find the man again through the small lens of his telescope. There!

His head breached the surface again, he spit water from his mouth, his dark hair clung to his forehead. Even from afar Francis could see the desperation in the man`s shocked eyes. His hands reached out one more time, lips moving. He must have said something, his blue tinted lips moving frantically, then his head disappeared in the ink black sea once and for all.

Francis lowered the telescope and straightened his back. “It´s over.” He sighed and moved past Little to get back into the relatively warmth of his own quarters, wondering what poor soul they had lost on this awful day.

Henry Collins

“No! Billy no!” Henry Foster Collins screamed when he noticed the familiar face in the water. He hadn´t even noticed the man falling off the ship, too deep in his own thoughts. One of his gloved hands had been drawing circles on his stomach. Now they were gripping the ship´s railing so tight, his knuckles had turned white. People barked orders at each other, a rope was thrown into the water, but Billy was struggling to do so much as stay afloat, there was no way he´d manage to get hold of the rope.

Then his head sunk underwater.

Henry inhaled sharply, his dark eyes widened in horror. Billy breached the water again, coughing and spitting water. He was losing his battle against the water and everyone could see it.

“Let me help him!” Collins demanded, opening his coat. He´d be faster without the extra weight. If he´d reach Billy in less than a minute maybe he could grab the rope and pull both of them back on board. A hand grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him back.


“It´s too cold, Collins. Don´t you see? He´s gone, let him go, he`s gone already.” Someone yelled into his ear. Tears threatened to spill from his eyes as Collins watched Billy´s head disappear in the arctic sea again.


“Billy Orren. His name is Billy Orren and he is my mate.” Collins announced, consequences be damned. “He is my mate and I am bearing his child let me help him!” The beta had expected his crewmates to gasp in shock, to let go of his shoulders and help him get into the water. He was not prepared for the silence that followed.


The men around him watched the sea in horror where Billy´s head had yet to breach again. But he didn´t. Collins eyes were fixed on the place he had seen his mate´s head disappear, it felt like hours passed before someone dared to speak again.
“I´m sorry Collins. He´s gone.”


“No.” Henry said more to himself, his shaking hands wrapped around his own body as he knelt on the ground, weeping like a small child. He couldn´t believe it. Not his Billy, his mate. He remembered their last real conversation on the day they departed Beechey. Collins had asked his mate to take a walk along the beach; they walked along the shore, shoulders touching. At some point Henry had stopped to stare out towards the bay where their ships currently sat.


“We´ll be different men when we return.” Collins had said deep in thought. “How can you be so sure about that, hm?” His mate had teased, wrapping his arms around Henry´s chest. “Because we might already have our baby by then. If we have to return to Beechey, if one of the ships gets stuck in the ice-“


“Shhh.” His mate had shushed him with a kiss. “You’re thinking too much. Sir John said he expects us to find the passage in less than a month from now. We´ll be way on our way home by the time you even start showing signs of the pregnancy.” The beta had leaned into his mate and nodded. “Alright, I trust you.”


“Mister Collins, what is all of this about?” Sir John´s deep voice startled him from his thoughts. “Why are you sitting on the ground?”


“H-he was my mate, sir. I´m sorry.” Henry apologized, rubbing the tears from his stinging eyes. They had already started to freeze against his skin.


Sir John gave an apologetic pat to his strong shoulders. “And he will be missed; I promise you that, Mister Collins. We will honour his name when we get back to England, William Orren, the fallen hero of the Franklin expedition.” The older man mused to himself, trying his best to sound cheerful. “For now I think it´s best if you go to the infirmary to get yourself checked up. You do look a bit pale.”


The beta looked up, his dark eyes found the captains. Was that a flicker of disgust he had seen in the older man´s eyes he wondered as two unfamiliar faces led him down into the infirmary. The ship and all its men felt alien to Henry, he didn´t recognized a single face. The creaking hull looked almost black, black like the sea that had swallowed his mate, the beta thought. It felt like the ship wasn´t moving at all. The soft up and down rocking motion he had grown so used in his years at sea had stopped and he wondered if this was truly happening.


Maybe he was still asleep in his tiny, crammed bed in the apartment he had rented with Billy during their last months onshore. Maybe he was dreaming and once he woke up he could tell Billy all about the nightmare he had. The alpha would nuzzle his head in the crook of Collins neck and inhale deeply at his pulse point, he´d nuzzle his scent glades like he usually did to calm his mate down and together they would get up and start their day like they usually did, a small breakfast, maybe some porridge and a cup of watery tea. Collins would sit in the broken rocking chair they had found on a market and knit, watching his mate work in the kitchen area through half lidded eyes like a cat.


Yes, surely he was dreaming, he tried to tell himself that over and over as Doctor Stanley told him to undress in his cold voice and held a stethoscope to his abdomen. He was trapped in a dream, he told himself. Yes, he was trapped.


Trapped in a nightmare.

Chapter Text

James Fitzjames

Heat suppressants and scent blockers had been his entire life. Starting at the early age of 12 years, James Fitzjames had been using them to hide his omega nature. In a way, he was lucky; his foster parents, the Coningham`s, had been kind enough to keep his stock full and wrote recommendation letters to the navy that made it easier for him to get appointed to a ship.

Not a month passed in which he didn´t swallow the dark brown liquid that would prevent him from getting his heat, he´d pull a face of disgust at the sour taste in his mouth that burned all the way down his throat. Afterwards, he´d unscrew the lotion of scent blocker that he kept hidden underneath his pillow and rubbed a small amount onto his pulse points and scent glands. Only when he was certain his true scent was well hidden did he dare to call for mister Bridgens, his steward. In his many years at sea, only two people had found out about his big secret. One was his best friend, Edward Charlewood, with whom he had lived in Brighton before leaving for the arctic, and Henry Le Vesconte, another friend of his. Whereas Charlewood had been intentional, Dundy had found out after a drunken night on board the Clio.

The ship had sailed into the harbour of Bahrain where the two men had decided to walk along the sandy shores, a bottle of whiskey in their hands, when Fitzjames, drunk out of his mind, proposed a dip in the lukewarm sea. The two men stripped in a haste and then chased each other through the shallow water, laughing. At some point Dundy managed to grab Fitzjames ankle and pull him underwater. Only when he had emerged from the water, wheezing and dripping water everywhere did he realize his mistake. Dundy took it surprisingly well. He offered Fitzjames his coat, which smelled heavily of alpha, and helped him, get back into his own quarters. He even spend the night by his friends side to make sure he`d be fine in the morning.

But he was an exception.

It was true, what the sailors told each other in private, when they sat around their tables during lunch and wolfed down their meagre meals of salted pork and hardtack, the navy didn`t take too kindly to omegas. In their opinion there was no place for them at any leading positions. Fitzjames had to learn that the hard way.

He did some things he wasn’t proud of to have his status removed from his official files, always working ten times harder than his friends and colleagues and still they wouldn’t acknowledge him the way they acknowledged Sir John or even captain Crozier.
The naval officers had laughed him in the face and pet his cheek when he enlisted at the age of 12. “Sweetheart you can try to deny it all you want. But at the end of the day you still are just an omega. Born to be bred and nothing else.”

He was younger back then. Foolish. Soon his files had been altered and James Fitzjames, the beta, was born. He served onboard the Pyramus and was promoted after just two years, no doubt Robert Gambier, the captain of HMS Pyramus and Fitzjames second cousin, played a huge role in this, but James tried to tell himself that it was mostly his hard work and discipline that kept helping him to rise in his ranks.

He made it to midshipman, then lieutenant and then finally to commander.

And oh, how proud he’d been of these promotions. His chest swelled in pride, his head held high as he made his way through London in his new uniform, boots polished into a shiny black, his long hair curled elegantly. He enjoyed how women and men alike turned their heads to stare after him.

Still, as much as he denied his status as an omega, he couldn´t control his natural instincts to nurture and care for something. Sometimes his instincts took over. That´s how he found himself drawn to the cheetah on board the Clio. At night he would take her into his cabin and cuddled her like she was a giant kitten, she wasn´t exactly tame, but she didn´t chewed his face off when he leaned in close and rubbed his face into her soft fur either. And that was also why he took a liking to Neptune, why he crouched down on the floor to pet the giant Newfoundland dog every time he was aboard the Terror.

Now, eight months after they got frozen in he felt his stomach drop as he pulled out his suppressants. The nights had gotten colder, now that they were short on coal. A bad feeling had made its presence known in the pit of Fitzjames stomach. One morning he pulled the bottles from underneath his pillow and sobbed. The liquid a now frozen block, unmoving even though he shook it forcefully in his hands.

James considered heating it up. But was the mixture even made to be heated up? If not he could cause a terrible accident aboard the Erebus. In one last desperate attempt he put hit under his clothes during the day, hoping his body heat might be enough to unfreeze it.

It did not work. The mixture just wasn´t made to withstand such low temperatures.

That night he forcefully threw the bottle against the wall, shattering the bottle into thousand pieces, as anger and desperation overcame him and made him groan in agony. It was only a matter of time now before he`d go into heat. What a terrible thought, James had thought, staring into the darkness of his room. A heat in a place like this, the possibility of a baby, born in this surreal place.

He wouldn`t be the first one.

About two months ago, Henry Collins had gone into labour. The poor beta was in the middle of having a late dinner when he felt a stabbing pain in his stomach and fell to his knees, groaning. Almost instantly, a group had formed around him, watching with interest. Two marines helped him up and guided him into the infirmary. Fitzjames had visited him afterwards, alongside Sir John who had clasped a hand against Collins shoulder in played sympathy. “Well done, sailor.” He said his eyes unable to even look at the tiny baby that was wrapped in white linen and pressed into the omega´s arms.

It was no secret that Sir John had little sympathy for omegas or even betas. He was old fashioned and a captain of the royal navy, born and bred. He showed that much when he ordered Collins to get dressed into a massive diving suit and take a dive in the ice cold sea. He was the most skilled for the job, Franklin had insisted even when Doctor Goodsir had tried to intervene.

And so Collins was send out into the unknown, a harpoon in his hand. The task was simple, break the ice jammed into the engine, see if it needs any repairs, but when he resurfaced there was a haunted look in his eyes. Henry Foster Collins hadn`t been the same man ever since then.

Once Franklin had left the infirmary, James had dared to walk up to Collins and have a closer look at the baby. He was small, with dark, curly hair on his fragile head. Collins had managed to keep himself together while the captain was visiting, but now the second master was near hyperventilating, crying and shaking he pressed his baby to his chest, whispering the name of his dead mate over and over.

“Well, if you´d excuse me, gentleman, I´ll be tending to more” Doctor Stanley made an almost dramatic pause before continuing “urgent matters.” And left the room before anyone could even raise their voice.

Fitzjames was left with a crying Collins and Harry Goodsir who looked as helpless as James felt. There they were; two unmated omegas who had been invited to this expedition through sheer luck and a beta that was looking forward to raise a fatherless child.
“Uhm... you know, Mister Collins, I-” Goodsir started but broke off as he realised he didn´t knew what to say to Collins.

“Have you thought of a name yet?” James had tried to change the mood with a lighter topic.

At first they hadn´t understood what Collins had said when he finally murmured something. “Pardon me?” Goodsir had asked and this time they clearly understood the name Collins said: “Billy. His name is Billy, after his father.”

Fitzjames excused himself, he couldn`t stand this awkward atmosphere any longer. His throat was closing up, the uniform pressing down on him. You need to leave! Get out of here! A voice inside of him urged him on. Hastily he stumbled out of the infirmary and back into the captain’s quarters, stopping abruptly when he practically collided with the steady frame of Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier, captain of the HMS Terror.

“James.” The alpha greeted him politely, although his voice sounded icy. It was no secret that the two couldn`t stand each other. Fitzjames ignored him and moved past the alpha into his quarters, slammed the door shut behind him and collapsed in his berth.

Chapter Text

Thomas Jopson


The polished China clattered when he sat it down, whipping his brow with the back of his hand. Thomas inhaled. The smell of alcohol made him pull a face. The captain had been drinking again. Not that that was unusual, it was merely the amount of whiskey he consumed that concerned his steward. Ever since they had been frozen in, Crozier's temper went from bad to terrible, he'd isolate himself from the rest of the crew, seek out every opportunity to share a drink with one of his fellow lieutenants and took less and less care of himself.

Jopson knew he was under immense stress. Almost a year had passed since they had been frozen in, became a part of the thick pack ice that surrounded the ships for miles and miles. Sir Franklin had taken it relatively easy. He was hoping the pack would thaw come summer but as far as Mister Blanky and Mister Reid could tell it was more likely that they'd be stuck for another year. Of course they had anticipated this. Their provisions would last them for up to five years. Maybe even more.

That was not the reason Crozier was concerned.

Thomas had been in the room, when Doctor MacDonald had arrived from Erebus, his coat speckled with snowflakes. The beta had sat down with a sigh and began his report, about Mister Collins and his baby. They were both fine, the boy would survive as long as they kept him warm and fed. It was late in the evening, MacDonald was tired and Crozier drunk. Jopson served both of them a cup of tea with two extra biscuits on the side of their saucers. "That's everything for now, Thomas." Crozier had said and dismissed his steward for the time being.

As he moved to close the door, the omega stopped dead in his tracks.

"There's another thing I want to talk to you about, captain. It's about the heat suppressants. Some men have complained about their supplies freezing to solid clumps." Jopson felt his heart leap into his throat. He had to swallow down the urge to burst into the room and yell; "Yes! The same thing happened to me last night!" But he held himself back. It was bad enough that he was spying on his captain.

"Really? Have they tried heating it up?"

MacDonald shook his head. "They can't heat it up. Some of the ingredients might catch on fire if they get exposed to heat for too long, it would be a catastrophe." If he hadn't already been shaking, thanks to the cold, Thomas might have started at the doctors words. No heat suppressants?

"What about pills? Didn't we pack a whole wagon load of them when we left London?"

"Of course, captain, but that was two years ago, we had to use some of them when we overwintered on Beechey. We have already started to give out pills to those who were affected first; Lieutenant Irving and I calculated that we'll run out of pills by the end of summer." Captain Crozier was silent for a moment the only sound in the room came from Neptune who was lying by his master's side, snoring peacefully as he slept. Then there was a sudden bang, the clatter of china and Neptune whose head shot up with a startled sound.

"God dammit!" The captain cursed loudly followed by a variety of swearwords that would make any noblewoman back in London blush. "Start handing out the pills to the rest of the crew as well, we can't afford another Collins it's- no child should be born in this place."

MacDonald moved to get up from his chair. "Of course sir. What about the betas?" Crozier thought about it for a second.

"We need to question every single one of them if they are prone to heats. Doctor I know how… delicate this is given that you are-"

"Do not worry about me, I have never…" He trailed off. "My mother used to say that I was more alpha than beta really." Crozier nodded. "We can only hope she was right."

Jopson had fled before anyone could see him standing by the door, he had felt terrible. What would happen to the crew once heat suppressants were gone?

Currently, the steward was serving coffee and some biscuits to the captain and lieutenants in the captain’s room as they talked about the ice. It was the end of May and still no sign of thaw. Sir John had decided that search parties were to be send out in the following days; with some luck the search parties would find signs of thaw along their way. Not that Jopson believed in it.

"Thank you, Jopson; I'd prefer a glass of whiskey with this." Crozier waved his steward off when he tried to set a cup of coffee down by his side. The steward frowned. The captain was already on his third glass of the day. "Very well sir." He said as politely as he could and wandered into the storage room to retrieve the bottle of whiskey. The loud creaking of the mangled wood in its icy death grip was louder, now that the sound of talking grew more distance. It was loud enough to drown out the sound of glass shattering and footsteps coming closer.

Jopson startled when a hand landed on his shoulder in the semi darkness. "Good god, lieutenant!" He breathed when he recognized Little's dark, wavy hair and the long whiskers along his jaw. "Forgive me; lieutenant Hodgson dropped his cup right into Irving's lap. I was merely looking for a rag to mop away the mess."

"You should have called me for that. It's no work for a first lieutenant." Jopson remarked.

"You've been working yourself to exhaustion, Thomas, believe me, I am more than capable of carrying a single rag from one room to another." Edward said with a wink of his dark eyes.

Here in the small passage leading to and from the storage room, Little's scent seemed to fill the room.

He had a strong scent that reminded Thomas of pine, freshly washed laundry and underneath that the typical alpha scent. Jopson himself was confident in his role as an omega; he liked his job as captain’s steward, even though the navy forbid him from rising any further in his ranks. It was probably the closest he'd ever get to real power on a ship; at least the position came with his own room, something the omega had learned to appreciate on a ship like Terror.

"Shall we?" Little whispered, his breath coming out of his mouth in puffs of cold air. Jopson nodded. The frozen bottle of heat suppressants weighted heavily in his coat pocket.

If my heat suppressants run out and I go into heat, he mused, I'd like to have a man like Edward Little by my side.

 

Harry D. S. Goodsir

 

After the birth of his son, Sir John kindly allowed Collins to take up his work as second master of Erebus again. He couldn't work full time, especially not while his son still needed to be fed every few hours, but it kept him occupied and everyone could see how thankful the beta was for the opportunity.

The only problem was Billy. The infant needed someone to take care of him during the time. Since most seamen were already busy enough with their own work the captain decided that Goodsir would be the perfect man for the job. Doctor Stanley strongly encouraged it. The infirmary was as good as empty, occasionally someone needed help with a frostbite, or something similar, but it wasn't anything the doctor couldn't handle himself. Goodsir spend a lot of his time experimenting on the many sea creatures he had caught during their journey. Fitzjames would help him whenever he got the time; the beta had a nervous energy to him lately. The omega wondered if it had something to do with the heat suppressants. Although Fitzjames had insisted he wasn't prone to heats he seemed more concerned than Sir John about the issue.

The older alpha had almost brushed it off as nothing. "If one of the boys goes into heat we'll manage. I have asked mister Weekes to issue a small cot for them to stay in. It'll be on one of the lower decks, close to the storage rooms where it's quiet." Of course Goodsir knew that was a lie. The temperature dropped below zero in the lower decks, water froze on the ground which led to icy puddles. Rats walked in the darkness of these storage rooms, squeaking and making enough noise to keep even the upper decks awake at night. The lower decks weren't a save heaven but an icy prison. But if Sir John thought it best for those in need then he would keep his mouth shut.

Fitzjames had merely nodded a distant look on his face.

The first time Collins visited him with Billy sleeping in a basket, the beta almost couldn't tear himself away. Only Goodsirs gentle coaxing helped to get the man out of the infirmary. The infant was an absolute dream. He kept silent and slept through the entire day.

Naturally Goodsir volunteered to take him again. The second time it was bad. Little Billy wouldn't sleep, he kept wailing in his little basket, no matter how gentle Goodsir talked to him. At some point doctor Stanley gathered his things and left the room to find some peace elsewhere. He was left alone with a crying baby.

First he tried to get him to sleep again. But Harry had no experience with babies so he didn't dare to hold him. Swaying the entire basket didn't help either. Then he looked if maybe the baby had soiled himself, which was not the case. He was on the verge of a breakdown when the door opened almost soundlessly and mister Bridgens, the subordinate steward, walked in. He looked almost nervous as he stepped into the light, his gaze fixed on the infant.

"I- sorry to interrupt you, doctor Goodsir, the baby is just-"

"I'm sorry. If his crying is in any way bothering Sir John or commander Fitzjames I shall ask Mister Collins to get him." Before he could get up though, the steward bend down and gathered the baby in his arms. "No, that won't be necessary." He swayed back and forth, making soft cooing sounds. The baby stopped his crying almost instantly.

"Henry and I- we don't have kids." It was no secret that the steward had a mate on Terror. Maybe it was no coincidence that they had been put on different ships. It didn't mattered; they still found time, if not much, to visit each other. "It’s just… I guess we just never found the time... But we often looked after our neighbours children while they were at work." Now that the baby was asleep he began to check his clothes again. "I think he might be a bit cold. Mister Murray, the sail maker, was so kind to sew the boy some clothes you should ask Mister Collins if he could bring some of them next time he's giving you the boy." Goodsir highly doubted there would be a next time.

He was wrong. The baby kept coming back to him, each time it felt harder to give him back into his father's waiting arms as he grew on Harry. Mister Bridgens helped whenever he found the time. He helped Goodsir to care for little Billy and soon they fell into a comfortable routine.

"You know." Doctor Stanley said into the silence one day. "It looks very naturally how you handle the baby. Almost as if you've been doing it your whole life." Harry looked up from the sleeping baby in his arms and smiled not used to the praise of the older surgeon.

"Thank you I-"

"That was actually not a compliment. I am running an infirmary not a nursery. You should see if you can bring him back to his father for today I'll need your help later. David Young came in earlier with a cough. We need to make sure none of the men is getting sick. Check for any symptoms of tuberculosis."

Goodsir pressed the child closer to his body at that. Almost as if he tried to keep him away from harm. "I'll ask Collins to take him." With a short nod doctor Stanley turned back to his work.

Hastily Goodsir moved to find Collins. It was almost time for him to pick up Billy anyways. Outside the infirmary everyone seemed busy with preparations. The sledge parties were to be send out in a couple of days, Harry himself would take part in it in lieutenant Gore's group.

He found Collins on a bench with some seaman, he had a distant look on his face and Harry wondered what was going on in his head. "Mister Collins?" The betas eyes widened when he saw the assistant surgeon. "Is something wrong with-?"

"Good lord no." He quickly reassured. "I was wondering if you could take him back early. Doctor Stanley is in need of some assistance." Almost instantly the second master got off the bench and walked back into his quarters. The ships weren't the most spacious place but somehow the carpenters had found a way to create a somewhat private little nook for the beta and his child.

Harry tagged along, still cradling Billy in his arms. The two men sat down on the cot, not sure what to say next. "I'll uhm; I'll leave you to it." Harry handed the baby over and got up. "Thank you." Collins words were almost a whisper. "I've seen some of the men's stares. How they look at me, at us. They don't want the baby on their ships; they say its bad luck or something. You're the only one I trust to take care of him." Did he know that Goodsir would leave in less than three days to join the sledge party?

"You humble me. But your son has captured the hearts of many people. Mister Bridgens for example. Doctor Stanley… he doesn't say it but he likes him as well, or he tolerates him at least. Either way believe me; your son is in good hands. He's safe here, on the ship."

"I hope so." Collins mumbled into his son's hair. He looked already like a small copy of Collins with the curly black hair." Harry decided it was for the best to leave. He pulled the curtain close behind him to give them the hint of privacy.

His thoughts kept wandering back to the baby. Billy was safe on the ship. The ice would soon melt away and they'd escape into warmer water. The crew was healthy and although they were alone on the ice Harry was sure they'd find fresh meat soon. Or maybe he was just too optimistic.

Chapter Text

Henry Peglar

The book that John had given him before his departure weighted heavily in his pocket. He could feel it shifting inside his pocket, hitting his leg with every step he takes, a constant reminder of his mate.

Not another Jonathan Swift.

"This is a comedy." His mate had told him in a soft voice as he handed the book over. "I thought you could do with a bit of a laugh on your fifty mile walk."

They hadn't seen each other in weeks, let alone talked to one another and Henry had felt the overpowering urge to submit to his mate. He had quickly nuzzled the older man's throat, catching the tiniest whiff of his scent beneath all those layers of clothes. John had allowed this small gesture of affection but his eyes were full of worry. "Did they gave you the-"

"Heat suppressants, yes Doctor MacDonald gave them to me just yesterday." Henry had been called into the infirmary along with all the other betas and omegas on board. They had listened carefully as the doctors explained the situation. Afterwards they had lined up in two rows and both doctors handed over bottles of pills. "Don't waste them." MacDonald had warned. "We don't know when, or if the leads will open again and you might need these pills to get you through the winter. Don't use your old stash, the liquid will freeze in these temperatures. Don't try to heat them up, the liquid could be inflammable." He warned each and every one of them.

Henry had taken the pills and stuffed them into his bag before he left with the rest of the sledge party.

They had been marching for two seemingly endless days. It was easy enough, to get lost in thought. The ice stretched on for miles, occasionally a pressure ridge was poking out of the landscape. The sledge would slow down and the men would have to maneuver the sledge around, or worse, over the ridge. Henry closed his eyes briefly, he was exhausted. Next to him Tom Hartnell looked like he'd be ready to pass out any second. The only one who seemed to be enjoying the sledge party was doctor Goodsir who walked without a harness and had a look of wonder on his face.

Soon Henry was back in thought. The sound of seagulls echoing in his ears.

He was back in John's small apartment, the two of them lying in bed, bodies pressed close together. Henry was breathing heavily, sweaty curls clinging to his forehead. The smell of sex was still noticable in the air. Henry felt himself being wrapped up in a pair of strong arms, fingers softly grazing his stomach.

Maybe this time they had managed to conceive a litter, he thought hopefully. After two failed attempts the beta was starting to wonder if something was wrong with him. "John… what if it didn't work?" Henry asked, gaze fixed on the roof over his head. The alpha shrugged. "We'll just have to try again." He said calmly.

"We already did. What if- what if something is wrong with me? What if I can't get pregnant? I read about it in a book!" John frowned. "Henry, don't say that, you know it's not true. There's nothing wrong with you. Rome wasn't built in a day, these things take time." His mates words had started to relax him. Yes, Henry thought, John was right they still had time.

"I just don't want to disappoint you." He mumbled, burrying his face in the older man's chest. "Henry, you are everything I could have ever wished for and I don't care if it takes us years to get pregnant, all I want is for you to be happy and healthy." His mate had whispered and pressed a kiss to the shell of his ear.

Henry had sighed and closed his eyes, ready to fall asleep any second. The thought about what followed send tears to his eyes.

It hadn't worked. Henry could feel no change happening to his body. His stomach stayed flat, he felt fine in the morning, not sick at all, and his scent didn't change either. By now he was used to the disappointment so that it didn't bothered him too hard.

After enlisting for the arctic they had went to a doctor to get their health checked up. Henry had felt nervous to talk to the doctor, his hands were automatically reaching for John's as he talked to the man, who appeared very surprised about his inability to conceive. He asked Henry to leave after he was done and talked to his mate. Although the door had been closed, Henry was able to hear their voices.

"I didn't wanted to mention this while your mate was in the room, but he failed to conceive for three times already. A beta of his age… and with such a qualified alpha by his side, he should be carrying his second litter by now."

Even through the closed door Henry could feel his mate tensing up. "It's not Henry's fault he's-"

"Unable to get pregnant? Mister Bridgens please calm down, I understand that-" The sound of rustling filled the room, then John pulled the door open with more force than necessary. Their eyes met.

And before Henry had realized it, John had pulled him into a bone crushing hug. "Don't you dare think any less of yourself, you hear me? Henry you are perfect the way you are-"

"Alright men we'll do a short break." Lieutenant Gore's voice startled him from his memories. "Oh thank god." Hartnell breathed next to him and wriggled out of his harness.

Henry watched the rest of their small group huddle together, his eyes fell on Gore who seemed in a high spirit today. Henry fumbled with the water bottle he had strapped to his body underneath his cold weather slops. The water helped against the rawness he felt in his throat. Morfin clapped him lightly on the shoulder and laughed about something, making Henry forget about the memories that had been haunting him these past few days.

Harry Goodsir

Lieutenant Gore was dead.

Harry's throat was raw from screaming in horror at the sight of the lieutenant, being lifted into the air by the tallest ice bear they had yet encountered. It happened so fast Gore hadn't even had the time to react. One moment he was on the ground, walking towards the pressure ridge where the rest of the sledge party was waiting for him, the next he was lifted high into the air and then there was blood everywhere. On the ground, on the lieutenant, on that thing.

Harry screamed, he lost his balance and toppled over falling hard onto the ice, his vision was swimming for a second, when he blinked his eyes back into focus the lieutenant was gone. The only trace he had been there in the first place was the enormous amount of blood on the ground.

Reaching out with shaking hands Harry inspected the blood. He couldn't believe it. There was no trace of a body. The bear must have taken his body with him. A very unnerving thought.

"Doctor Goodsir!" The second mate, Des Voeux's called out his name. Judging by the sound it wasn't the first time he was calling for him. "I-" Goodsir started, too quiet for anyone to hear. "I'm on my way."

He rushed back up the pressure ridge, meeting Morfin and Hartnell halfway. "Where's the lieutenant?" Morfin asked confused, looking around.

"He- he's dead. I saw it happening…" He panted heavily. "A bear took him." Both men looked at each other in shock before running past him to go look for a body.

Harry continued his way to the rest of the party. It was only when he rounded the last corner and came face to face with two strangers that he remembered why they had left their tents in the first place.

They had shot somebody. Out in this surreal, yet beautiful place, they somehow had managed to shoot another human being.

The man was lying on the ground, groaning in pain. Blood covered the entire front of his fur coat. Right from the start Harry knew he only had a slim chance to help the man. But he had to try. "We need to get him back to the ships. I'll do my best to get the bullet out of his body but we don't have much to treat the wound if it gets infected-"

The woman who had been sitting by, what Goodsir supposed was her father, grabbed him by the lapels and tried to push him away. "Stop! Please I'm here to help him!" He protested. A sudden gust of wind brought the strong scent of alpha with it. His eyes momentarily fluttered close, his mind going blank. The woman frowned and said something in her foreign tongue. Harry had a hard time concentrating. His body was suddenly very keen on submitting to this beautiful stranger. Harry Goodsir was in big trouble.

Chapter Text

Thomas Jopson

The first search party that returned was that of lieutenant Hodgson. His sledge party had come up empty handed, no open water and no signs of thaw. The blonde beta looked disappointed when he approached Terror after his visit to Sir John. He sat in the captains cabin, looking miserably, and drank lukewarm tea with his friend lieutenant Irving.

Soon after that, the second party was sighted. The rest of the crew had been in good spirits when they saw the sledge approaching in the distance. The small figures growing taller and taller the closer they got. Then the first men did the counting and realized one man was missing from the sledge party and all hell broke loose.

Jopson wished he wasn't bound to stay in the captains cabin, rearranging biscuits on a silver tray and mixing earl grey tea with a dash of whiskey for his captain, but duty was duty, and so he forced a smile on his lips and went to polish the delicate china while worrying what had happened to the men.

When they arrived on Terror, the steward managed to catch glimpses of the men as they were led down to doctor MacDonald and Peddie. They were all dusted in snow, their faces red, with skin peeling off ever so slightly. It looked like they would survive, in most cases it was merely snow-blindness and dehydration and half of the men were allowed to leave the infirmary after little over an hour. The only one that had to stay was the lieutenant.

The sledge party had found no open water or signs of a thaw, no game, nothing. They soon succumbed to snow-blindness and turned back to reach the ships before being unable to do so.

It was poor lieutenant Little who had suffered the most. Unable to walk any further he had been laid down in the boat next to cans of food and their unused tents and when the sledge party stopped the boat in the shadows of Terror's frozen hull, the crew soon realized that no, the sledge party was complete. Little was merely too well hidden in the boat to be spotted from afar.

He was stripped off his cold weather slops and wrapped up in a warm blanket. Jopson himself had made sure the blanket was warm enough to help the lieutenant feel less cold. The doctors bandaged his eyes and forced some water down his throat before leaving him to rest.

Jopson had spend the evening with his captain, he delivered his dinner, helped him undress and get settled in his bed and cleaned up the cabin. His thoughts kept drifting towards the dark haired alpha in the ship's infirmary. Was the lieutenant warm enough? Was he in pain?

He managed to wait until his captain dismissed him before making his way to the infirmary. Even though it was late, the doctors were busy tending to frostbites and other injuries. "Is something wrong with the captain?" Doctor MacDonald asked curious when he spotted the young steward standing in the door. "No, no I was actually looking for lieutenant Little. I wanted to see how he's feeling."

He felt stupid uttering those words. Little was a grown man he didn't need a omega dotting over him like a mother hen. But MacDonald smiled and nodded slightly. "He's in his berth, I thought it for the best to give him some privacy. He's in a lot of pain from the snow-blindness, but I think your visit will be much anticipated. He's been asking for you. You can go talk to him, but you have to be quiet and keep the lights out, he has a bad migraine."

The lieutenant had been asking for him?

Blushing, Jopson stepped out of the infirmary and made his way to the older men's quarters. The room was dark and the only sound he could hear was the creaking of the ice pressing against the ship's hull. He knocked three times. "Lieutenant? It's me, uh, Jopson. I was told you were asking for me?" Silence.

Maybe the lieutenant was asleep?

"Come in." The lieutenant croaked in a sleep muddled voice. Jopson waisted no time and pushed the door handle down to enter. He almost flinched at the sight, hand tightening on the door. The lieutenants eyes were covered in thick layers of bandages. His hair was sticking to his forehead, either from sweat or molten snow, Thomas couldn't tell. "Lieutenant-" The steward whispered.

"I was wondering… if you could- forget it, Jopson, it's stupid. You are busy enough tending to the captain, whom I certainly disappointed today." He rambled. It was clear that the lieutenant was in a certain degree of pain and not quite himself.

"No." The steward started in a soft voice, his hands found the alpha's. "Listen to me, Edward," He dared to use the lieutenants name, convinced the alpha wouldn't be able to remember his visit come morning. "you did so well. The captain is very proud of you. I heard him say so to Irving and Hodgson over dinner." His hands squeezed the older men's tightly. "Now tell me what it is you wanted to ask. I won't judge, I swear it."

Even though he could not see his eyes, Little made a surprised face and gave him the barest hint of a smile. "There's a- a book on my desk. I was wondering if you could uhm, if you could read it to me. I mean no disrespect, it has nothing to do with you being a- an omega, it's just… you've got such a nice voice…" The lieutenant was clearly delirious, Jopson thought.

He was glad the older man couldn't see the heavy blush on his cheeks. "It would be my pleasure." After a few minutes searching in the semi darkness, he found the book. The pages were well worn, the front almost came off when he opened it.

"Frankenstein." Thomas used his fingers to trace the faded letters on the cover. "Yes. It was a present from a friend. To keep me entertained during our travel." The alpha sounded exhausted. Jopson waisted no time, he found a stool, barely big enough to sit on, and sat down besides Little.

One of his hands absentmindedly started to play with a strand of his long, dark hair. He could barely see the words that were printed on the slightly yellow pages, but judging by the lieutenants breathing he was at the brink of falling asleep either way.

"Letter 1; To miss Saville, England. St. Petersburg Dec. 11th 17- You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings…"

 

Harry Goodsir

Harry had thought the worst part of their failed sledge party was the march back to the ships. Without lieutenant Gore the group seemed to unravel. Hartnell and Morfin believed that the bear that killed the poor lieutenant was still after them and their talking managed to terrify the young anatomist. The little sleep he found was riddled with nightmares of giant claws and blood fountains on the ice. When he wasn't trying to sleep or pulled the sledge, Goodsir was carrying for the injuried man they had found on the ice.

Although 'found' was the wrong word. Shot, was more fitting, they had almost killed an innocent man.

His daughter? Or maybe she was his sister? Was walking along side the sledge, one hand reaching for the man's limp arm. She was talking to him, sometimes, when she thought they were all asleep. Not that it would make a difference, no one in their group spoke her language.

Yes, the track back to the ships was horrible, yet the worst part of their journey was still ahead of them.

Upon their arrival, Goodsir was led to the infirmary. Two able seaman carried the injured man in after him. The news of lieutenant Gore's death must have reached Sir John because when Harry was finally out of his slopes and back in the infirmary, Sir John was there and he looked devastated.

Meanwhile doctor Stanley looked more aggravated than concerned about the man bleeding out on his surgery table. It was clear that he wouldn't do so much as raise a single finger to help him save the man's life. "Please, he had nothing to do with lieutenant Gore's death. I can try and help him." He pleaded, anxiously awaiting his captain's answer. With a single nod, the alpha gave his approval and he got to work.

Working helped Harry forget about the past few days. Minutes stretched into hours while his skilled fingers worked to dig out the bullet that was buried deep in the man's chest. Too deep.

All the jostling and moving must have pushed it deeper into his body, maybe it had already punctured the man's lungs, he couldn't tell without cutting the man open. "I- I'm sorry. I tried everything but the bullet is too deep." He apologized, his cheeks burned in shame. What a fine assistant surgeon he was. First he couldn't help the older Hartnell brother and private Braine when they died of tuberculosis, back on Beechey island, now he failed to help this stranger, if only John could be there to help him, his older brother would know what to do.

He missed them. John and his mate Edward with their cozy apartment full of books and drawings of molluscs, he wondered if they had any kids by now, and his other brothers Robert, Joseph and Archie, were they still alive? Harry tried not to think of the possibility of coming home to the news that one of his brothers might have died.

Someone moved by his side and for the first time in hours he realized that not only doctor MacDonald and captain Crozier where there, but the woman was with them.

She was talking in her strange language, pleading, from the sound of it. Pleading for her father not to die? Harry was feeling even worse. He let the surgical knife sink and closed his eyes for a second. He had failed everyone today.