“Tell me again how we met, sir,” Thomas says.
Edward’s protesting groan comes in a puff of white air. “You villain; you’d have your superior officer embarrass himself.”
Thomas slides closer, rests his clever head over Edward’s chest. “I would dearly love to hear it, please.”
Edward resists. Not so much that he would not comb his fingers through Thomas’ hair, but there is some fortitude involved; a semblance of determination.
“It was summer, sir,” Thomas prompts.
“May,” Edward clarifies without thinking. Bites his lip. Thomas is peering up at him. His eyes are the colour of the sea: distant, calling. “At the pub,” Edward adds. “It was at the Queen’s Head. You had no drink, you were merely mingling in the crowd and looking at me quite intently.”
“Don’t leave out the details, sir,” Thomas chides. “Remember, it was evening. You came late. You ordered an ale.”
“This is my story; I tell it how I see it fit; and I love to begin with your eyes.” Edward places two fingers over Thomas’ eyelids. Thomas hums, lets him do it.
“I was looking at you,” he says dreamily.
“You were staring.”
“You came up to me.”
“And that’s how we met,” Edward concludes. Jopson scoffs a laugh, and chases after his fingers when Edward pulls back his hand. Kisses his knuckles. A quick press of his lips; he always does it so softly.
“I can’t help but notice that you omit certain elements, sir; what was it you told me, in lieu of greeting?”
“Please, you must pardon me from repeating.”
“I recall you saying, sir, ‘how much?’”
Edward sighs. Glances heavenwards. “I did say that, didn’t I? Oh, don’t laugh. This is what you refuse to consider: we were at a pub frequented by lonely sailors and you wouldn’t take your eyes off me; what was I to think?”
“You took me for a rentboy,” Thomas teases, pressing closer. They lie with their limbs entangled. Dressed, for now, but that may change any minute. It usually does. If it weren’t for the cold, Edward would start working on Thomas’ buttons, because Thomas is meticulous about his clothing: he will not let him rush it.
“I took you for a manwhore,” Edward says, “and you fucked me like one.”
Thomas’ eyes darken. He likes it when Edward swears.
“If memory serves, sir,” he says, “it was you who did the fucking.”
“It was a collaborative effort,” Edward allows.
“You took me to your room.”
“You can’t ask me to relate all that; surely, you remember?”
“Made me bend over your sea-chest,” Tom supplies without flinching. “You had a perfectly functioning bed at your disposal, sir, and yet—”
“I was going to pay you for your trouble. You may guess why I wanted the memory of a pretty man such as yourself…” Edward waves his hand.
“You were busy with my bum for a while, sir. Slicking me up so well. You had just the right kind of oil at hand.”
“You always forget to recount that during all this, not a word had been uttered about your actual occupation—”
“I had agreed to a transaction,” Thomas chimes in. “You were not asking me for my credentials, sir.”
“If I’ve known you were the captain’s steward...” Edward begins, trails off.
Thomas gets up to an elbow. “If only you’d known, sir,” he says. “I’m certain you would never do such scandalous things to a steward, sir. The mere idea is unfathomable. Entirely alien to your character. You would never—”
“Not on the first night,” Edward grumbles.
Thomas lies back down the cot, clearly pleased with himself. He is so charming like this. Edward strokes his hair again. “You fingered my arse, sir,” Thomas says, pensive.
“Hush now, dear.”
“Made me count your fingers. Stretched me wide open. Dripping in oil and trembling for your cock.”
Edward clears his throat. “It was lovely,” he admits. “You were lovely.”
“My tightness was remarked upon, sir, if memory serves.”
“No, it was—”
“—more, you were enchanting, and you smelt clean and your hair was like silk and your voice velvet and your eyes—” Edward sighs. “Your eyes were the colour of ice.”
Thomas smiles at him sadly.
“It was back when I thought ice was beautiful,” Edward adds.
“You didn’t see much of my eyes, sir, not until you picked me up and carried me to bed. Remember? You’d already given me your seed but wanted more.”
“More of you. You haven’t had your fill of me yet. I wanted to see how much you could take. The whole night was paid for.”
“At the break of dawn, you were still moving in me,” Thomas says, his eyes shining. “I was swimming in your—”
“—essence, sir. When it seeped out, you just fucked it back into me again.”
Edward rubs his face. “I, uh. Had this idea that if I filled you up, no other man could claim you, not really, because I’d fucked you so full there would be no space left for them.”
“Do you suppose that would work, sir?” Thomas chats. “Anatomically speaking.”
“I don’t think so, no. I just got possessive about you.”
“A lying little rentboy.” Edward pokes his ribs playfully. They’re more prominent than they should be, more prominent than he remembers them ever being.
“Then tomorrow came.”
“Oh no, we’re not discussing tomorrow; please, I beg of you.”
Thomas blinks at him innocently. “I served dinner aboard Terror for the new officers as is my duty, sir. I fail to see what fault you found with it.”
“Were you, uh.”
“Still—” Edward gestures.
“I don’t understand, sir.”
“Damn you, were you still—”
“Oh, filled with you, sir?”
Thomas smiles at him, pleased. “No; but you were quick to change that—”
“I only came to your cabin to apologise for the misunderstanding—”
“—and only stayed to claim me anew.”
“You were in your shirtsleeves,” Edward says imperiously.
“Whoring out my delectable forearms.”
“You’re not the kind of man to welcome an officer without a jacket or sweater if you have no carnal intentions.”
“Yet I am the kind of man to get fucked in a pub until I choke on my spit and nearly swoon.”
“Exactly. You’re my kind of man, in short.”
“How sweet,” Thomas says.
Edward caresses his hair a final time. “Get better soon, all right?”
“Certainly; tomorrow I shall be good enough to haul.”
There is blood on Thomas’ forehead, and blood on Edward’s hand.
“Tomorrow,” he says. A plea; a request; a frightened prayer.