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The Crack House: A Home For Orphaned Prompts

Chapter Text

Prologue

- OR -

Charlie Causes Problems, and What Else Is New?

Two high and husky sing-song voices: "Charlie, Charlie!"

"Oh no, go away, not you again!" groaned Charlie. "My side still hurts."

"Charlie, come drink from the pool!" "Yeah, Charlie, the beautiful clear healing waters of the pool!"

"No, no, I'm never going anywhere with you pink and blue demons again!"

"Charlie, delicious cool water!" "Come on, Charlie, you'll love the water!"

"Oh, all right. One drink from the pool and then leave me alone!"

Charlie bent to take a sip, and the blue and pink unicorns pushed him in.

Chapter Text

Chapter 1

- OR -

House Elves?

Erurainon spent his last summer of freedom with his cousin Rochendil. They spent it with boats: near the water, on the water, in the water (Erurainon pulled Rochendil out of the water the many times they found themselves dunked). Dreaded fall approaching, they tried running away to sea, and were soundly, and equitably, beaten by Rochendil's father for their pains. August ended and there was no hope for it. Erurainon was bundled on to the coach.

~*~*~*~


Rinion recognised the messenger at once. Strix uralensis was endemic to Scandinavia, but never seen in the Emerald Isle. He resigned himself to yet another seven years of misery.

~*~*~*~


As the numbers of men increased, the Clans dwindled. Many returned to Aman, but the Teler would not leave the oceans they had grown to love. They did their best to adjust to the changing world around them. They sent their young to one of the few schools of Men they understood.

~*~*~*~


The coach seated six inside and perhaps as many more on the roof, but at least fifty youth were already aboard when Erurainon climbed on. The first several seats were naturally crowded, so Erurainon continued making his way back until he found a free spot. He missed the reptilian glare which was half the reason the spot was free; he was focused on the other half - a much battered 'cello case. "D'ye play, then?" Erurainon asked eagerly, immediately sitting down, his generously-sized frame squeezing the case uncomfortably into its slight owner's body.

Giving up on the glare, Rinion responded, "I scrape a little, yes. I torture the violincello from time to time."

"So do I! So do I!" cried Erurainon, bouncing up and down in the seat. "I play the violin!" he added, holding up its case in evidence.

~*~*~*~


"Hmmm," thought the hat into Erurainon's head, "Loyal, generous, kind... Hufflepuff?"

"No! Not Hufflepuff!" said Erurainon in a furious whisper. "I'm not a pansy." Not that Erurainon had anything against pansies, mind; he just wasn't one himself.

"You could do very well in Hufflepuff."

"No, no, no," prayed Erurainon desperately. "Not Hufflepuff." None of the Clan ever went to Hufflepuff if they could help it. Attending a place named "Hogwarts" was bad enough. The Clan in the Isles referred to it simply as "The School". To own that one was a "Hufflepuff at Hogwarts" was absolutely impossible. One might as well renounce one's Elvish heritage altogether and go live in Lower Muggles Bottom.

"Oh well then, if it is not to be Hufflepuff, then it must be...Gryffindor!" Much cheering from his new housemates as Erurainon with his beaming red face took his place at the table.

Erurainon had long forgotten his lengthy debate with the hat by the time the last student took his turn on the stool. He was simply impatient for dinner, having eaten nothing on the coach except a couple ham sandwiches packed by his tearful old nurse, a few boiled eggs, an apple, a biscuit, and a pint of ginger-root ale. The only consolation for being torn from the sea and practically buried alive in these infernal old mountains, he meditated, was the legendary dinners (and breakfasts, and luncheons, and teas) that were served at the school.

"Ooh, another challenge!" thought the hat to Rinion. "I live for the challenges." Rinion endured this with long-suffering patience. "Slytherin?"

"No!" thought Rinion right back, surprising himself. He hadn't realised he cared about the houses. But he doubted the pure Clan among the members of Slytherin would tolerate a mixture such as himself.

"Ravenclaw?" the hat tentatively suggested.

"Acceptable," agreed Rinion. Yes, Ravenclaw would do very well.

Chapter Text

Interlude

- OR -

What is Charlie Up To Now?

The pool had no bottom. Charlie struggled and kicked out as hard as he could, but he was sinking farther and farther down into the pool. Though the water was crystal-clear, he could see nothing. Faintly he could hear tinkly musical laughter. "Bye Charlie!" "Bye-bye!" "See you again soon, Charlie!"

Charlie was falling again, but in air. Falling through the air until he splashed into an ocean.

Chapter 2

- OR -

Yet Another Thing That Never Happened in the Aubreyad

Jack dove from the deck of the Polychrest and was immediately distracted by what looked like a narwhal treading water beside him. "There are no narwhals in the English Channel," he thought briefly whilst a bullet plunged into the water, narrowly missing him. He swam on to the Fanciulla.

"And narwhals swim in the water; they don't need to tread," he thought upon waking several days later. The morning of his duel with Stephen. Groaning, he heaved himself out of his cot.

begin filch from astolat's Three Ways to End an Acquaintance
Dundas and Rankin watched on either side, silent and grim-faced; a surgeon stood waiting beside Jack's coach with a disinterested air, fiddling with a pair of tongs: he was often employed in affairs of this sort; on Stephen's side a priest, stiff and disapproving.

They had not looked at one another; now they moved to their appointed places. Only twenty paces lay between them; the morning was very clear and the sun was coming up but not yet striking them directly. Dundas stepped forward, a white handkerchief ready, and with a last look at both principals he let it fall.

A single sharp crack; Jack's arm stabbed with sudden pain, lost its grip, and the pistol he had not yet fired slipped from his fingers and struck the ground. Rankin and the surgeon came over: the ball had lodged painfully against the bone, and blood was spilling freely.

Dundas joined them and asked urgently if honor was satisfied; Rankin impatiently agreed, not looking up, and at once Stephen was kneeling beside him, pushing aside the surgeon. A few moments of work and the ball came smoothly out, though both seconds looked on a little doubtfully.

Jack had been looking at him all this time, anxious and with a desperate kind of hope, but Stephen had not met his gaze, and his face, even whilst he worked, was closed. The wound cauterised and dressed, he stood at once, nodded to Rankin and Dundas, and left, so quickly that the words Jack had been trying to formulate in his mind had no opportunity to find expression.

He returned to his ship the next day, the wound already troubling him very little, to find a stranger waiting nervously in his cabin under Killick's eye. Dr Thomes was a colorless, diffident young man with an appointment from the Sick and Hurt Board as the Fanciulla's surgeon, and no information other than to say that Dr Maturin had been obliged for certain reasons of which he knew nothing to withdraw from his post and resign the Navy.
end filch

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

- OR -

Is There a Doctor In the House?

Erurainon looked wistfully over his shoulder at the Quidditch grounds as they disappeared from view around the other side of the school. He could still hear the wild cheering from the stands packed with every person at the school. Everyone, that is, except himself and Rinion. Rinion had assured him that now, during the match, not before nor after, was the best, indeed the only time to look for the wondrous and rare member of the Co-something family Phan-something something something. Not that Erurainon had any interest in looking for some rotten old beetle, no matter how pretty or magical it was supposed to be; but last week he had convinced Rinion to watch Gryffindor's capital Quidditch team stick Slytherin's collective broomsticks up their collective arse, and they only way he had done that was to agree to come out with Rinion today. A deal's a deal; that's only fair. And if Rinion preferred to scare up a scarab than cheer on his own house against Hufflepuff; why, that was no concern of his. "Scare up a scarab," thought Erurainon, meditating on a rare and wondrous discovery of his own; "scare up a--"

Here Erurainon's incipient witticism was interrupted by the sudden appearance of a tall thin mop-headed man. Sudden appearances of strangers were not such a startling event for students at Hogwarts, but the tall blue box marked "Police" that he stepped out of was a tad unusual. "Odd object to use for a Portkey," thought Rinion.

"Ah ha! Perfect! Both of you here together; no one else around. Very good, please step this way," said the man cheerfully.

"What?" gaped Erurainon. "Why?" asked Rinion.

"Why? To save the world, of course! Can't always be expecting it to look after itself, can we? Poor old thing has got herself all twisted up this time, and I've determined you two are just the lot to fix 'er right up."

Erurainon was still processing that someone expected him to fix something more complicated that the rigging of a jolly-boat when Rinion politely said, "No, thank you, we are currently engaged on a pressing mission of our own just now. Perhaps another time."

The man fell in step with Rinion as he resumed his search; Erurainon's feet automatically followed whilst his mind worked desperately to catch up with current events. "Who are you?" he demanded suddenly, interrupting their discussion of the relative importance of a significant find in natural thaumaturgy versus Saving Civilisation and the World As We Know It.

"Me?" said the man. "Why, I am The Doctor, of course."

"Whose doctor?" asked Erurainon suspiciously.

"Not whose doctor. The Doctor." At Erurainon's blank stare The Doctor continued, "Never mind, my dear boy; who I am is not nearly as important as what you need to do."

Rinion had proceeded on during this exchange, slowly and crouching farther and farther down. Suddenly, he leapt. He landed full length on the ground, his hands cupped around a creature, his face exultant. "I have it," he said with quiet triumph.

"Have you indeed? Do let me see," said The Doctor. "Ah, yes, a true Phanaeus vindex M'nDungis. The shifting pattern of metallic colours along the wing sheath is unmistakable. Congratulations, young man, a most remarkable discovery. Now, can we proceed with saving the world?"

"Will you look here now, Erurainon," said Rinion, turning towards his friend. "I told you we would find one! They feed off the energy produced by a mass of wizards and witches, gathered together for some silly or frivolous purpose, such as a sporting event. Psycho-thaumaturgical offal, so to say. They require the presence of a large number of people, as I said, but are naturally exceedingly shy, so they will be nearby, yet set some way apart, such as on the other side of a large structure. Their magical properties of anamnesis extraction and projection also dictate that they remain some distance from large concentrations of sentient life, as they would otherwise become entirely overwhelmed..." Rinion continued his enthusiastic instruction, but Erurainon was stuck back at "sporting event".

"Frivolous! Silly! You think Quidditch is... is trivial?!" Erurainon was outraged.

Rinion looked up from his fond study of the beetle to gaze affectionately at his friend. "Come, old soul, I have my find. Let us now attend the match, if you so desire."

"Now hold on, my boys; we still have a world to save, remember?" The Doctor clapped a hand on each shoulder.

"Boys?" Rinion narrowed his eyes dangerously. "My dear sir, I expect we are older than you."

"Ha ha," laughed The Doctor, "I expect not. Yes, yes, I know all about elves, and I still expect not. However, we shall leave that be for now. You are surprised I know you are elves? But of course I know. Why do you think I have come so long and crossed so many dimensions to seek you out? Two elves studying at Hogwarts is exactly what this particular task requires."

"And what exactly is this task?" "And how does it save the world?" "And will we be back in time for dinner?"

The Doctor laughed, "Yes, Erurainon, upon the completion of the task I will return you here just before the gong. Will that suit? The trouble, my young men," The Doctor continued, steering them towards the TARDIS, "is that Lord Voldemort is arisen again."

"Lord who?" "Never heard of him."

"No, you wouldn't have, being stuck in your own timeline, long though it may be. Lord Voldemort will be born some hundred or so years from now, but being repeatedly defeated then, he has decided to wander back to now."

"And how is this Lord Volde-who so dangerous?" asked Erurainon. "Besides time-traveling," added Rinion.

"I could list the many nasty deeds he has committed, or rather I should say will commit; but I believe prodigiously more important to you (this is the era of 'prodigious', is it not? I have longed to use 'prodigious'!) is that he is on the track of a Silmaril."

Two gasps, and one "Impossible!" from Rinion.

"All too possible, I'm afraid. He is closing in on the Silmaril lost to the sea. And if he obtains it, his power will be – well, Sauron ain't in it."

Chapter Text

Interlude

- OR -

Charlie Is In Hot - er - Cold Water


The ocean had no end. Though Charlie struggled and swam with all his might, he could not reach shore. Soon the waves swallowed him up. The water grew thinner and thinner and he was no longer swimming. He was falling. Though the air was crystal-clear, he could see nothing. His flailing hooves struck something. Something that cursed. "Damn your ey--!". And something else that cursed in another language. Several other languages.

Chapter 4

- OR -

This Is Where It All Gets Really Confusing


The Doctor opened his eyes, vaguely aware he had missed something – highly unusual – but he was in his usual place. Something about a kick, and a thump. He looked about; inside the TARDIS everything was normal. Except his two passengers were missing.

The door he stepped out was also fine, and he was in the London park he planned. Stepping around the TARDIS he saw a large hole kicked out of one side, and the next side missing altogether. Lying flat on his back beside it was Rinion – no, Dr Maturin now, also as planned.

Before attempting to open his eyes, Stephen took inventory. All parts appeared present, and entire. In that case he was suffering solely from a massive headache that seemed to radiate from him in waves, as well as extending the whole way down his body to his toes. He opened his eyes. A grave mistake. The world also seemed to radiate in waves, which sent heaves through his stomach. Also, a tall thin mop-headed man was standing above him. This was not so much a problem as the rainbow-coloured haloes that radiated in waves from him. Stephen closed his eyes again. "Jesus, Joseph, and Mary."

"No, just The Doctor, I'm afraid, dear Dr Maturin. Do come along now. There appears to have been some sort of accident – no doubt that dreadful unicorn again – it seems your friend did not make it here. I expect he is still where we started. The TARDIS is undamaged in essentials, so I'm sure nothing has gone too terribly wrong."

Whilst the odd man was blathering on, Stephen attempted to make sense of the jumble of thoughts in his head. He was Stephen Maturin, yes? Why did the name Rinion insistently pound at him? And why were his robes those of Ravenclaw, when he was certainly in the house of Slytherin – no, wait, Rinion was in Slytherin, his own name was Stephen, and he could not be both an Irish/Catalan physician and Noldo/Sinda student at Hogwarts, could he? Reaching a hand into his pocket, his fingers closed around a distinctive beetle, a scarab. He was sure it would prove to be Phanaeus vindex M'nDungis.

The Doctor continued to lecture him on the details of his mission. Stephen attended with half an ear while intently studying the shifting colours of the beetle. The world had stopped wavering and settled down in one place. The pain had subsided somewhat, at least enough to think straight. But straight thinking did not seem useful at this juncture. "Juncture, certainly," mused Stephen. "The juncture of Rinion's life – not just one Rinion, but two. One Rinion in Ravenclaw, hunting a magical scarab with his friend; one Rinion in Slytherin, sabotaging the work of his foolish housemates, who were wasting their time watching an absurd sport. The juncture of two Rinions with Stephen Maturin – how many Stephens? This man seems to think at least one, but one whose true life path has been deflected by unwarranted interference by a – a unicorn? Well, the Rinions know unicorns exist, so I suppose it is possible." Stephen left off the consideration of exactly how many of him were in him, and focused on absorbing the memories the beetle projected at him. The colours along the wing sheaths were no longer shifting; the pattern was settling into place. Soon it would fade altogether, and the poor creature would perish. "Nothing elvish or magical in this place to nourish it. Why is that man so intent on saving this world?"

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

- OR -

What the @$?! Even I Can't Keep Track What's Going On

Note: poor Erurainon has ended up in Jack Aubrey's body in the Evil!MirrorVerse

Erurainon could not understand why the French men kept calling him "Captain Aubrey", nor why they expected him to know the whereabouts, activities, or associates of a man named "Stephen Maturin". When he tried to explain that he was a student at Hogwarts, they laughed at him. When he said he was an Elf, they laughed harder. Having bound him in iron, he could do nothing to prove either, but burn where the chains bit into his skin. He burst out with, "My ears, look at the points of my ears!"; and they laughed and laughed. Finally they brought a mirror. Certainly his ear was round, what was left of it, much having been hideously torn away; but what struck him more was his face - even beyond the scars, it was the face of a mature man, not a young student; the weather-beaten face of a man who had already seen much of the world, not all of it pleasant. Erurainon could hardly recognize it.

~~~***~~~***~~~***~~~

Note: Back to the canon!AU, with the Doctor and the Stephen now housing at least 3 souls: two Rinons (Ravenclaw Rinion that we met, Slytherin Rinion from the Elves at Hogwarts mirror!verse, and evil (sort of :-) Stephen from the Evil!MirrorVerse

"Well," continued The Doctor, "Since your friend did not accompany us, you will have to carry on by yourself. It may be a bit trickier, but I'm sure you will manage. The challenge is that in this universe, Erurainon's counterpart is not such a close acquaintance – not since the interference of that blasted unicorn. You may have to be disguised. Ah, here we are – Sir Joseph Blaine's apartment. He will set you all up. Go on, inside with you – I am after that damned unicorn. Toodle-oo!"

~*~*~*~

"Aubrey, is it?" Stephen murmured.

"Yes," said Blaine, with a discrete look. "We thought it might be best for you to be in disguise for this mission."

"It would have to be an excellent disguise to fool Aubrey. We did sail together for several years; and whilst the man may be inept in affairs on land, he is no fool."

"Yes, exactly, I am coming to that. One of the captains in the squadron at the Cape is Lord Clonfert, whose wife has already written to ask Aubrey for passage there." Here Blaine stopped and gave a slight cough. He continued carefully, "We propose that you should go in her place."

As understanding came upon him, Stephen's mouth slowly dropped open, but for the first time in his adult life, he could find no words.

~~~***~~~***~~~***~~~

Note: Now we meet canon!AU!Stephen, mysteriously waking up in a London park, about to find the world has changed dramatically.

Stephen opened his eyes, wondering why he was lying on the ground in a London park. If he could figure that out, perhaps it would explain the headache that somehow encompassed his whole body, and the wavering of the world.

Before he could make sense of any of it, a figure came running towards him, calling his name, "Doctor! Dr Maturin!" It was Bonden, but a Bonden curiously adorned with moustache and beard, braided into a long queue. "Dr Maturin, come quickly," said Bonden, helping him to his feet. "The Captain has been taken by Dutourd."

~*~*~*~

Sir Joseph Blaine's house was not far away, and he was at home for Stephen. "Yes, I have heard of this unfortunate development," said the intelligence chief. "I am relieved that you are still at liberty. Aubrey was useful in so many ways; it will be difficult if not impossible to replace him, but we will carry on."

Stephen looked at him. "I do not mean to 'carry on' without the captain, I assure you. I mean to rescue him, if I can," Stephen said coldly. "I am here to ask for whatever assistance you can provide."

Blaine laughed. "Assist in his rescue? When we have gone to so much effort to deflect suspicion from you onto him? Like any other agent that is foolish enough to be caught, Aubrey is now on his own."

Stephen could not believe he was hearing this. Blaine was cold certainly, little to no human warmth; he did not scruple to play with men's lives in his dedication to his work, and he had no particular care for Jack. But to laugh? To dismiss Stephen's own concern so lightly? And when did he grow that dreadful thin moustache and goatee?

~*~*~*~

With Bonden, Stephen called on Pullings and Mowett, who were rooming together. Stephen almost did not recognise Mowett, who had shaved off his voluminous side-whiskers and now sported a thick brush around the mouth. Pullings looked nearly diabolical in his thin black queue of a beard. He also had trouble concealing his glee at the news of the captain's capture. "I am so sorry, of course, doctor. But this may mean my step at last! The Surprise! Mine at last!"

Stephen merely inclined his head slightly, and took his leave without another word. Had all men lost their hearts as well as their razors? How long had he lain unconscious in the park? Outwardly everything looked to be in place, but this was like living in a nightmare. At least Bonden seemed to be normal still. And on him the matching queues in front and back were almost handsome.

They were only a few paces down the street when Mowett caught up with them. "I'll help you rescue the Captain, sir," he said quietly. "Then we'll serve out that turncoat Pullings."

Stephen considered his old friend. Was it the odd facial hair that made him seem so changed, or the lack of cheerfulness that he had always associated with the lieutenant?

"Thank you for your assistance, Mr Mowett. My information is that Captain Aubrey is being held on an island controlled by the French. Without Pullings' help, how can we obtain a ship?"

"I've been thinking on that, doctor. I believe there's someone whom you've helped out of a scrape or two. Perhaps it's time to ask a return favor from her."

"Her?"

~*~*~*~

Note: I did mention that this mirror verse has dragons, didn't I?

She was as striking as ever, even in her green aviator's uniform. The long black braid of her queue accentuated the long slim lines of her neck. She leapt down from her dragon with the same boyish grace he had fallen for so long ago. "Villiers."

"Maturin," she returned, smiling. "Lord, Stephen, you must be troubled indeed. I have never seen you so rumpled and scruffy."

A slight flush rose in Stephen's pale face as he rubbed his stubbly chin. It was true he had usually taken particular care in his dress and appearance when around Diana; but in his concern for Jack, and confusion over the oddly changed state of the world – so odd that the appearance of dragons was hardly the most startling difference – he had entirely neglected his clothes and hygiene. Before he could apologise, her dragon thrust his head between them to greet Stephen.

"Good day, Doctor. I am so happy to see you again. My wound has healed nicely, see?" He lifted one foreleg and twisted his torso to show the long jagged scar along the side of his chest; incurred, Mowett had informed him, when Diana, without official leave, had taken him joyflying and buzzed church spires in the surrounding countryside at twilight. Unwilling to summon official help, Diana had turned to him to patch up Invictus enough for him to fly back to their covert.

"It does not trouble you now, Invictus?" Stephen asked.

"No, not at all. I am perfectly well and can fly you and the whole crew to the island to rescue your friend. We can be back before dawn!"

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

- OR -

Does This Frock Make Me Look Fat?

It was with a measure of satisfaction, although no feeling of complacency, that Stephen gazed in the modiste's mirror at his reflection. The corset had been provided with an ample bosom, and the petticoat was cleverly enhanced in the hips to provide the illusion of a feminine form beneath. "It is most unfortunate," said the discreet clothier, "but you must wear these antiquated fashions with the high necks and the long sleeves. And please to remember to wear gloves at all times! Now, about your head..."

Stephen reached up to finger his short sparse dark hair.

*

"Oh, no, hon, y'all don't want no wig now," said the coiffeuse, a prodigiously talented young woman from, apparently, America. "What you wants is some extensions. They won't worry you none on your voyage. Why, you can sleep in them, bathe in them, treat them just like your own hair. They won't trouble you no-how. Now you just sits tight there, and Ah'm braid these beautiful new locks right on – look at this perfect match in color. Honey, you is soooo lucky you come on in today!"
*

Clothed head to toe as a gentlewoman, albeit perhaps a somewhat old-fashioned one, Stephen headed back to his rooms. He had declined all offers of accompaniment, preferring to wander a bit through the park, collecting himself – himselves.

He was distracted from his thoughts by the sight of a striking seabird, far from its usual range. Stephen followed its flight as it passed between himself and a tall handsome gentleman, who now gazed at him admiringly. "Madam," the man called out, "so rare to see a goldeneye in the middle of London, yes? What a pleasure for us to witness." Johnson smiled as he approached.

Stephen eyed him warily, and decided to use this opportunity to test his disguise. "Sir," he began in his usual harsh, grating voice. Hearing it he winced, and decided he would need to have a vicious cold requiring minimal speech for the duration of his disguise. "Bucephala islandica – a joy indeed," he added in a hoarse whisper, affecting a cold, and gave a slight curtsy.

"Are you an ornothologist? I myself am a mere enthusiast. Could it be your learning matches your beauty? That is the true joy, certainly." A practised smoldering look accompanied his smile as he lifted Stephen's gloved hand to his lips.

Stephen resisted the impulse to snatch his hand away and backhand the smirk off Johnson's face, and merely nodded. He used a cough as an excuse to withdraw his hand.

"I am so sorry you are not quite well," Johnson continued, his expression changing to one of concern. "My housekeeper has the receipt for an excellent hot posset – will soothe your throat soonest. May I beg you to come this way? My home is but a step away."

"No, thank you, sir. I had best return to my own rooms." Stephen began to move away.

"Ah, my dear madam, you mistake my meaning!" cried Johnson, falling in step beside him. "I have recently acquired a collection of paintings of British avifauna; I would dearly love to have them examined by an expert. Being from America my acquaintance in London is so limited. My housekeeper would be most pleased to offer the hospitality of her rooms, whilst you drink a soothing posset and examine the paintings at leisure."

"Is this what all women suffer?" thought Stephen. "I turn and walk away directly; feign illness; still the animal pursues me. Is there a way to be rid of him short of knocking him on the head?"

It was not easy, but Stephen was resourceful; and by persistently mentioning the "tediously long packing" needing to undertake for a "tediously long journey" to rejoin a "tediously jealous husband" he eventually disengaged the hovering Johnson.

*

At the Grapes, Stephen hurried to change out of his becoming but uncomfortable clothes. "A lady enters my rooms, but does not emerge," he said. "Oh, my reputation!" He had composed himself and was meditating on this morning's events, and on disentangling the various strands of his personality, when an uncertain knock was heard at the door.

"Very sorry to disturb you, sir, a delivery came for 'the lady at the Grapes'?"

Stephen took the package and nearly dropped it. It was remarkably heavy for so small a parcel. Curious, he set it on the side table and pulled out a lancet to open it. A short anonymous note, clearly from Johnson, wishing "the lady" well, and enclosing an amusing object he hoped would help relieve "the tedium of a long and lonely journey." Inside was a black obsidian phallus. It seemed to give off a soft glow, and it was slightly warm to Stephen's hesitant touch.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

- OR -

Things You Never Learned Reading Jane Austen

Diana Villiers was greeted at the door by a dog wagging its tail so energetically that its single hind foot hopped back and forth to maintain its balance. In the drawing room Mrs. Hincksey was pouring out tea for a young woman Diana did not know. "Oh Di," cried Sophie, trying to rise in greeting while still pouring the tea, "here you are!" Diana waved her back down and sat in a nearby chair, displacing the one-eyed, earless cat with a yowl. "Diana, allow me to introduce Clarissa Harvill."

A walk in the gardens, and Clarissa left their side a moment to amuse the twins. "Yes, I do enjoy having her here; although truth to tell, she does seem a bit odd at times. She speaks her mind directly; always asking... odd questions." Sophie blushed a moment. "She seems more comfortable playing with the boys in the garden than sitting with company at tea." From the beyond the hedge came a distant call: "Now Charlie, you know we don't throw rocks!" The women walked on. "Charles found her in London, in some sort of trouble. Diana, what is a house of ill-repute? Is it some sort of gambling den?" Sophie asked earnestly. Diana gave a startled cough and quickly assented. "Di, I know what you are thinking, but it is not like that at all. Having brought her here, Charles is perfectly civil to her, but nothing more: pays her no mind. She spends nearly all her time with me or the children. She is so anxious to be liked!" At Diana's dubious look, Sophie, blushing again, continued, "I know there is nothing between them; she told me so directly. She said frankly that it's – that what you are thinking – that it's what she had expected to happen, too; but no such thing. She told me this as casually as she said Francis had put a toad in her bed!"

When Clarissa regained their side, Diana was regaling Mrs. Hincksey with tales of her travails with the Cannings and Johnsons of the world. "Yes, it is a very lamentable fact, but all too true, that the most eligible men will be, in the end, the most demanding, the least amusing; while the pleasant, amusing men are inevitably ineligible!"

And Clarissa asked, in her forthright way, "And so have you known ineligible men, then, too?" Diana, startled, looked at her in amazement, but then smiled and said, "And so I have, a few. I remember one from when I was last in England, an officer, all scarred up already, but hardly more than a boy, really; at least so he behaved."

"And what was he like, to know?"

Diana glanced at Sophie's calm, untroubled face. "Well, his sword never needed polishing, if you understand me. His weapon was always ready for use."

Clarissa looked wise. "He must have eagerly anticipated his engagements. Did he plan them out carefully, as some officers do?"

"Oh no," Diana laughed. "'Never mind maneouvers; go straight at 'em!' That was his motto." Diana continued laughing, wiping her eyes. "No maneouvers at all: 'There's not a minute to lose!' he would cry." Diana glanced at Sophie again, who was beginning to look puzzled and suspicious. Diana hastened to change the subject. "During the same period I knew another young man – well, I say young, because he was about the same age as the officer, but at times he seemed twice as old! He was a doc- a surgeon. It seems a surgeon needs to spend quite a bit of time preparing his instrument, before he operates." Clarissa nodded encouragingly. "And then he was so concerned that his, his patient would die, so to speak, that he hardly seemed to enjoy his, ah, procedures, at all! Even though he was quite skilled, after all."

"And did he 'go straight at 'em' as well?"

"No, no – he was a naturalist, in addition. He preferred to move slowly, to enjoy the scenery."

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

- OR -

No Matter How Many Stephens You Cram Into One Body, He's Still a Landlubber

"Is that God-damned woman aboard yet?" grumbled Captain Aubrey, stewing over the loss of one tide already, as he approached the officer of the watch.

"Aye, sir, just come aboard now," the officer nodded to where Stephen was disentangling himself and his skirts from the bosun's chair. "And her dunnage too, sir."

Lady Clonfert was reputed to be a beautiful woman. Assessing her figure, Jack could not see any remarkable beauty himself. She appeared scrawny, angular, all knees and elbows in an unfashionable dress which did not enhance any charms she may have possessed. As she freed herself from the last clinging ropes, Jack moved forward to greet her. When she turned toward him he received the full blast of a glare from startlingly pale eyes.

"What can the creature mean by raking me with his eyes in such an obnoxious manner," fumed Stephen to himself. "Am I - are all woman mere objects, little more than animals, to him, to be judged as one would a horse, on form and gait?" As the captain made his leg, Stephen did not endeavor to curtsy, but merely inclined his head and shook Jack's hand limply in return to his welcome.

Perhaps some find beauty in those piercing eyes, Jack thought. Her face was as angular and pointy as her figure. Maybe a gamine allure? Looking away from the lady's still-hostile countenance, Jack's eyes lit on a battered 'cello case, one part of her dunnage. He turned back to her, his spirit reviving, to inquire if she played? Only to see her already moving down the companionway. "Well, apparently she knows her way about a ship," reflected Jack. "Or perhaps not," upon immediately hearing a cry and a thump from a fall.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

- OR -

A Dragon-Ship By Any Other AU Is Still Just As High

Stephen kept his eyes screwed close, lay as flat as possible, and clung tightly to the harness. He tried not to think about how high they were in the air, with nothing at all between them and the Atlantic thousands of feet below...

On the flight out to the island, Mowett had been talking with Bonden, and now took the opportunity to speak to Stephen, hoping to distract him some from his obvious misery. "Begging your pardon, sir, but we're a bit surprised to find you so anxious about the Captain."

By now Stephen had learned not to be shocked by nearly anything, yet this from Mowett - young Mowett, the first to show him around the dear Sophie in his tubular guernsey - strangely pierced him. "I do not understand you, sir. The Captain and I may have had our differences, sure. But how could I abandon him to the likes of Dutourd?"

"Well, to tell the truth, sir, we thought you held him a bit in contempt."

"Contempt? Captain Aubrey? He is the finest seaman I have ever known, as well as an excellent musician and mathematician. How could I hold such a man in contempt?"

"I don't know, sir. It was just an impression. You always was 'a deep old file', as the Captain said."

Stephen was learning that only he seemed to find anything strange in this notion that every man looked out only for himself, had 'friends' only so long as they were useful, that society had become a tenuous web of mutual enemies and favours held out like threats. And apparently this was a revulsion of feeling on his own part, too. Evidently he had previously agreed to and acted in accordance with this most cynical of worldviews.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

- OR -

Dizzy Yet?

For the first few weeks of the voyage, Lady Clonfert kept to her cabin (the captain's coach and half the great cabin), indisposed. When they left the rough waters of the Bay of Biscay for the somewhat calmer swells of the Atlantic, she emerged at rare intervals to take the air on the quarterdeck. She tripped on her skirts going up the ladders or down the stairs; she lurched from side to side as waves rocked the ship's motion; she stalked the quarterdeck with long mannish strides. The officers soon learned to avoid her; especially not to offer any type of assistance, as they would be repelled with a reptilian glare from her icy pale eyes. Anything more than a civil greeting would be returned with a sneer and the shortest possible response. Except in the case of one brave young man, who ventured to point out a stormy petrel to her. To his amazement she responded with a cry of joy and something almost approaching a smile. She even offered a comment regarding its particular species. Any officers still wishing to further their acquaintance with her avidly perused what few pages on avifauna and natural philosophy they could glean from all the ship could offer.

Her treatment of the Captain varied not a bit from that of the first night, or indeed from that towards any other officer. And as Jack had no desire to brush up on birds, she soon appeared even colder to him than to any other of his officers. However, after she had appeared on deck for several days in a row, he felt it incumbent upon himself to invite her to dinner. To his surprise, she accepted. Having not the least notion of a tête-à-tête with a fellow officer's wife, he invited the lieutenant and midshipman of the watch as well. Fortunately, they were two of the more devoted to showing away what little knowledge of wildlife they possessed. Whilst Jack abided by the naval rule that no one other than the Captain could initiate a conversation at the dinner table, he did not take pains to enforce it, and Lady Clonfert ignored it altogether. Again to Jack's surprise, the dinner was not a complete disaster, and he found Lady Clonfert much more amiable company than he had expected, although she did not speak much, due to her lingering hoarse voice from a vicious cold.

After this, the wardroom began to invite her, and she proved as valuable company there as at the Captain's table. They invited her as often as they could provide a dinner suitable for a lady, and the Captain dined with her once a week, on Sundays when the wardroom extended their invitation to him.

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

- OR -

It's a Wrap! (Of One Storyline, Anyway)

The Frenchman were pulling out the third fingernail when a commotion distracted them. Erurainon had no idea what the commotion regarded, and he did not care. Any more, he was aware of little else but pain. The questions that were put to him made no sense. His own mind was foreign to him now. He stopped even trying to understand what had happened, what was happening.

His head was swimming towards unconsciousness when the door opened again. Erurainon looked up in horror, but to his amazement he saw his old friend enter. "Rinion?" he gasped hoarsely. His friend came closer, sorrow and concern all over his face. But it was not Rinion - or else Rinion had somehow aged just as his own strange body had.

"My dear, it is over now," Rinion said. No, not Rinion. To the Teler, the Singers, all other Clan had rough voices, almost as bad as Men. But no Elf of any descent had a voice as harsh and grating as that.

More men - not French - were entering the room, and releasing the bonds. "Who are you?" asked Erurainon. He was glad they were not French, and that they were releasing him, and he wanted to thank them properly. At his question, though, they stared at him in amazement.

"Brother, I am Stephen," said the Rinion-lookalike. "Do you not recognize me?"

Erurainon shook his head. "Stephen? Stephen Maturin? They kept asking about you."

"Yes, they would, naturally. What did you tell them?" The bonds were free, and the men were working on a make-shift stretcher to carry him.

"Nothing. How could I? I don't know you." Erurainon saw the puzzlement on the strange yet familiar face. "But you look like a friend of mine - Rinion. Perhaps you are kin?"

"Ah, Jack. They have hurt you very much, have they not?"

Erurainon nodded, the tears welling up in his eyes overflowing and tracing paths down his cheeks.

~*~*~*~

"Tell me now, Jack, have you flown by dragon before?" asked Stephen-not-Rinion as his rescuers carried him out.

"No, never," said Erurainon. "Why do you keep calling me Jack?"

"Because that is your name, my dear," Stephen said gently. "Captain Jack Aubrey."

"Oh. That is what the French fellows called me too." Erurainon attempted a small smile, "If you all agree on who I am, then I must be the one who's crazy."

"Never mind, my dear. We will soon have you well again." Stephen eyed Invictus as they drew closer to the shore. "You may perhaps be not the only one somewhat out of touch."

Erurainon turned his head to look and suddenly understood Stephen's question about dragons. Erurainon knew all about dragons, of course: Smaug, the last dragon under the mountain in Middle-Earth; and the modern-day dragons the wizards kept away from Muggles; but had not heard that any man had domesticated one enough to wear harness and carry passengers. Then it spoke: "Dr Maturin, you are safe! Were you able to retrieve your friend?"

"Yes, Invictus; I would like you to meet Captain Aubrey. He is in the Royal Navy."

Invictus lowered his head and bent a foreleg in greeting. "It is a pleasure to meet such a distinguished officer in His Majesty's service."

Filled with astonishment and horror - Invictus' head was now next to his, and besides being bathed in warm sulfurous dragon breath, Erurainon could not help but notice that just one of Invictus' teeth was about the same size as his own body - and still addled by pain and confusion, Erurainon could come out with nothing better than, "Nice dragon?"

Near him he heard a throaty laugh. Turning his head, he beheld the most beautiful woman he had ever seen in his life. "Jack, you always were a lack-wit, but surely you have better manners than that."

Evidently not, for he could not form any words at all but merely gaped at her. She was in uniform - one he did not recognize, but from her comfort around the dragon, she must be an officer associated with it.

Stephen frowned at her. "Villiers, he has suffered much, including an extensive form of amnesia. He has some confusion about his own identity, and does not remember any of us."

"Is this so, Jack?" she cried. "I am so sorry. Truly, you do not remember me?"

Erurainon shook his head, "I'm sorry, madam. Would you tell me how we are acquainted?"

Diana looked a little blank at this, then said discreetly, "I am your wife's cousin." After a moment she cried out, "You do remember your wife Sophie - you must!"

"No, ma'am. Is she - is she as beautiful as you?" Too late, Erurainon thought how crass that sounded, and blushed.

But Diana just smiled kindly and said, "She is far, far more beautiful than I."

Erurainon relaxed a little and smiled back. Suddenly, being Jack Aubrey no longer seemed so awful a fate.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

- OR -

Life Aboard As a Broad

Having been invited to dinner by the Captain, Lady Clonfert evidently felt required to issue one in return. She still dined often by herself, and had not invited anyone else. So Jack found himself tête-à-tête with her after all. The Captain had his fore-cabin to act as dining room; Lady Clonfert however had only her half of the great cabin. A full great cabin is a spacious room, especially in comparison with the tight quarters found anywhere else on board; but half of one, already taken up by a gun and a 'cello case, makes for surprisingly cramped dining, even when only for two.

Seeing the case again reminded Jack of his earlier question, which he now ventured to ask. "Yes, I do play, at times," came the answer. "And it is with no small pleasure that I have listened to your performance on the violin."

Jack blushed and stammered out a response. His officers never commented on his playing, and he had become accustomed to thinking himself unheard in his cabin, as he was so often essentially invisible even on the quarterdeck.

"Indeed, sir, may I make so bold as to invite you to join me in a duet?"

The truth was, Stephen did still play occasionally, but only in his most melancholy moods. The solo 'cello had always struck him as a mournful instrument, which initially had a strong appeal. After his break with Jack, however, its plaintive tones had only increased his grief, and it was long before he could play with any semblance of detachment. The opportunity to resume their duets was irresistible.

"Why, certainly, madam. I should like that of all things."

~*~*~*~

Captain Aubrey and Lady Clonfert discovered that they each had many of the same pieces for violin and 'cello, and soon they were playing together harmoniously, as if they had been for years.

It was during these musical sessions that the difference between his old friend Jack and this Captain Aubrey truly struck Stephen. On the quarterdeck the Captain was stern, remote, aloof from his officers and men. His seamanship and fighting skills commanded their respect, but there was not the affection that Stephen had witnessed before, not even from the few old Sophies aboard.

In company at the table, the Captain's mask relaxed some, but his smile was merely social, with little warmth. His anecdotes were smooth from long practice; his laughter never more than polite. And no matter how much he drank (and he drank prodigiously, exceedingly unhealthy amounts), his posture never softened; he never slipped into spontaneity. Stephen almost missed the wretched clenches the old Jack tried so hard for, and he certainly missed the mirth that would engulf Jack's whole body when he succeeded at one.

It was only during their musical evenings that the Captain's formality slid away altogether, and Stephen saw the joyful, human face of his former friend: Jack concentrating intensely on the score, his whole body focused on his instrument; Jack with eyes closed and a smile hovering, swept away by the music; Jack gazing affectionately at Stephen himself as they flew off together into improvisation.

It was beneath this gaze that Stephen became intensely self-conscious, conscious of his posing as a woman in a way that no tripping over his skirts had ever done. He was conscious of the sweat trickling down his skin underneath his corset, conscious of his spread legs holding the body of his 'cello between them, conscious of his hands gently holding his bow and stroking the neck of his instrument.

It was after one of these sessions, lying in his cot with every fibre in his body feeling vibrantly alive, that Stephen found himself searching through the nearby locker. His hand curved around a smooth, firm, curiously warm object. Its fluid lines slid easily under his caresses, and the obsidian seemed almost to come alive. "Why not?" Stephen thought. He lay back and lifted his nightshirt, raising his knees to his chest and sliding the phallus between his legs. A few moments later, Stephen's eyes began to glow with an unearthly silver light.

~*~*~*~

"She wants to what?!" said the exasperated Captain. His premier looked uncomfortable, as well he might, and repeated Lady Clonfert's request.

This was ridiculous, thought Jack. What she was asking for was indelicate to say the least, possibly vulgar, certainly brazen, maybe even licentious. But one could hardly say that to a lady. She was expected already to know. And if her judgement led her instead to make such a shameless suggestion, how could he politely refuse? As Captain, he supposed he could just deny her request without offering an explanation, but that would hardly do.

"Very well then," he finally answered the embarrassed lieutenant. "Have the jolly boat made ready. I will take her myself."

They were anchored of the coast of Brazil, near Recife, replenishing their water and bringing in fresh produce. Through his telescope Stephen had spotted the signs of a shallow coral reef, and wished to wander among it - the opportunities for natural philosophy were irresistible. He had become comfortable with the crew, almost comfortable in his disguise, and had momentarily forgotten how inappropriate his notion would seem coming from a female - a gentlewoman. He almost wished he had not raised the issue - but the opportunities for natural philosophy were irresistible. When Jack came to tell him that he would be delighted to row Lady Clonfert to the reef - a piece of very bad acting - Stephen's joyful smile in return was unfeigned and wholehearted.

Stephen's joy only increased as he wandered - shamelessly - through the reef, marveling at the abundance and variety of life he found. Jack, on the other hand, found the afternoon tedious in the extreme. Natural delicacy - natural in him, at any rate, if seemingly foreign to Lady Clonfert - forbade him to watch her brazenly wading about in her wet clothes, or possibly unclothed - as he was resolutely not watching Jack had no idea how she was managing that difficulty. Any bits of the reef he could see without watching held no interest for him after a few moments of desultory glances. The efficient progress of the ship's boats in ferrying water and provisions was a pleasure to observe, but one that soon grew repetitious and dull. Jack had not the foresight to bring anything with which to occupy himself; and he could certainly not going swimming himself - not with Lady Clonfert right there. Although the sun was damnably hot, and the water so deliciously inviting... But some people were not wantonly licentious. Some people understood proper decorum between officers and ladies, and had standards to uphold.

At long last the enervating afternoon came to an end, and Lady Clonfert returned to the boat with an abundance of specimens, which she proceeded to describe in enthusiastic detail as Jack rowed them back to the ship. Jack had little interest in any of it, but smiled at her politely, until she came to show some sort of octopus. She actually held the thing in her hands, it waving its snake-like tentacles in the air. Then one of its arms wrapped around Jack's hand on the oar and he recoiled in horror, nearly swamping the small craft, and upsetting much of the collection. Lady Clonfert hurried to set the specimens to right, which provided time for Jack to recover from his horrible lapse of seamanship, a lapse which he had not experienced since he was a bleating mooncalf of a mid, still blubbering in homesickness. He could only pray that none of the crew happened to be looking his way during that instant.

After regaining the ship and bringing Lady Clonfert and her collections damply aboard, the Captain was approached by the first lieutenant who asked if all was well with the jolly boat. "Yes," said Jack, puzzled, looking inquiringly back.

"Sorry, sir. It just looked like the boat was giving you a spot of trouble there, on your way back." Jack's eyes narrowed. Was the man making a game of him? Jack could hardly officially discipline an officer for such a thing, but there were many ways he could make a lieutenant's life hell... "Oh, Lady Clonfert was moving her specimens about, and caused some rocking in the boat, that's all."

Crossing through the fore-cabin on the way to his half of the great cabin, Jack encountered Lady Clonfert discussing improved enclosures for some of her specimens, which she meant to keep alive in seawater for a time. Jack edged carefully around her, as she was again holding her octopus as if it were some sort of pet. Just as he'd reached the bulkhead door, of the damned thing's tentacles again reached towards him, this time sliding along his cheek and ear. Repressing a shudder and a noise of disgust as best he could, Jack made his escape.

~*~*~*~

Sometime in the middle watch, a tentacle pushed open a lid, flattened out enough to squeeze through the narrow gap, and wrapped around the latch holding the lid down.

~*~*~*~

Jack dreamed: He lay in the jolly boat, hot under the sun, waiting for Lady Clonfert. She returned, cool and damp from wading in the water. She lay down alongside him, damp skirts clinging. Her long cool fingers lightly brushed his cheeks, his lips, sliding across his chest. Kisses followed, a line of kisses from his ear along his jaw to his mouth. Her hand moved lower, down his belly, and lower...

~*~*~*~

It took some time for the octopus to find the intriguing creature again, but it was persistent. The tremours from the snores led it through bulkhead door across cabin through another bulkhead door. A tricky climb into the swaying cot and there lay the magnificent being. It touched first where the breath emanated. With its several arms, it could explore many parts at once. The creature's arms - so sadly stiff, and flayed into ragged tips at the end. The octopus searched under the creature's strange covering. A great huge body, enclosing a massive brain no doubt, to control so many followers. Two more large appendages - stiff like the upper arms. A smaller appendage between; and this one more pliable. It caressed this smaller one gently, and felt it grow.

~*~*~*~

A still night at anchor off Recife. A sleepy harbour watch.

A full-gale battle roar to the mast head shook the whole ship: "KILLLLIIIIICKKK!"

Chapter Text

Chapter 13

- OR -

Let's See How Many Souls Can Be Crammed Into One Poor Stephen

The men started reporting visions of a shadowy figure with silver glowing eyes in the night watches. They huddled together in clumps and refused to go to the taffrail or bowsprit alone in the dark. Jack wished Stephen were aboard to calm the men and explain away the apparition. Jack often found himself thinking of the doctor, although he had not seen him in years. Perhaps it was playing duets with a 'cello again, or maybe it was Lady Clonfert's similarly pale eyes... Odd how he had once thought her ugly and clumsy, when really she was so lithe and elegant. And perhaps she was not the most adept in moving about the ship, but her grace in bowing and fingering her instrument was unparalleled. And the expression on her face when she was rapt by their music - head tilted up, eyes closed, lips slightly parted... Jack quickly turned himself and began his pacing again. These kinds of thoughts would never do. Lady Clonfert was a fellow officer's wife! And beyond their music she had expressed no interest in him. None at all. He brought his mind back to the problem of the ghost with glowing eyes. Really, what the men will come up with! No doubt just caused by some spray of phosphorescence from the sea.

Jack sighed and wished Stephen were here.

~*~*~*~

A couple days later he was wishing for Stephen again, after a visit from his surgeon: a stolid competent man, but unimaginative and with no experience outside routine naval injuries and diseases.

"Several of the men have reported minor wounds to their necks, something like insect bites," the surgeon told the captain, somewhat hesitantly.

"Yes?" said Jack. "Sounds like lice or bedbugs. What is your concern?"

"It's the pattern of the injuries. Always in the same location, always in pairs, always the same spacing apart. And the bites do not look like insect stings or bites. They are bigger and deeper. Almost... well, almost like fangs. Except," the man went on hurriedly, noting the scepticism on the captain's face, "a bite wound from any animal on board, like a cat or dog, or indeed any animal I know, would include not only the fangs but other teeth marks as well. Honestly, sir, I have no idea what may be causing them."

"Well, well," said Jack, after a moment. "Are the men affected suffering any other symptoms?"

"Minor pain and tenderness in the affected area, with a slight pallor and presyncope - light-headedness, sir - both of which passes by the following day."

"No fever? Can the men be released for work?"

"Yes, I have had no reason to keep the men from work. I have been giving them a physic to calm their nerves. These unusual bites combined with the reports of the ghost have had a troubling effect." Fortunately, the surgeon himself seemed unconcerned with the coincidence. There was something to be said for the lack of imagination.

"We are not far out from Brazil. Could a - a creature of some kind, maybe even a vampire bat, have come aboard?"

"I really could not say, sir. Even if one had - well, sir, bats are quite small; I don't see one making this type of wound. However, I would have to examine the creature in question before make a final determination."

"If we send the men on a hunt for an animal hiding aboard, that may at least divert their minds from talk of this ghost. However alarming, an animal is at least a natural thing."

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."

Stephen heard about the ghost with silvery eyes, of course. In his role as Lady Clonfert he had no interest in the tales, and even less in the constant reassurances from all the officers, from the youngest prepubescent midshipman (who really looked as if he'd prefer to seek reassurance himself, maybe by being gently rocked in the gunner's wife's generous lap) all the way up to the Captain, which he immediately quelled with a disdainful sneer. "I am not in the least concerned with the fairy tales of a pack of superstitious sailors."

"No, no, of course not," Jack hastily replied. "Shall we try the Corelli again?"

The more physical reports of the wounds Stephen treated the same way; as if being a passenger left him immune to anything afflicting the ship's crew. However, it was much more difficult to dismiss the eerie and disturbing dreams he'd begun having. He wanted to attribute them to the silly tales, but they were so vivid and detailed, consistent from night to night. And alarmingly contained elements from his task assigned by The Doctor. Every night it was as if he could hear a voice - but not speaking to him; more like speaking inside him. And it wasn't exactly like hearing these thoughts, but feeling its desires. And the desires were all about power - power over other men. So every night he dreamed he roamed the ship, converting men into followers of Lord Voldemort, and drawing their lifeblood to provide substance for the Lord's form to come. Still, as distressing as the dreams were, he could more easily ignore them if it weren't for the odd metallic taste in his mouth each morning. And the fresh drops of blood on his pillow.

Interlude

- OR -

JFC, Enough With The Fuckin' Crossovers Already!

A tiny bit in the modern world. I don't even try to explain how they get back and forth to this AU; or how Bobby heard about the case - probably the Doctor, or summat.

"Nah," said Dean into the phone, "We're retired."

"Who is it?" called Sam from outside their Mexican cabana.

"Bobby - got some job for us but I'm turning it down."

Sam took the phone from his brother. "Hey, Bobby, you know we're taking a break. Why you need us on this?"

"It's got some interesting features," Bobby drawled. "Angles that might appeal to a long-time huntin' family like the Winchesters."

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 14

 

- OR -

 

Drowning In Angst: I'm Not the Only One Who Writes Bad Fanfic

Jack browsed through a relatively recent issue of the Chronicle, picked up from a ship they'd passed off the coast of Brazil. Jack had already read the news articles, but he had yet to run through all the marriage and birth announcements. He always found them vaguely depressing. Today he discovered anew why: "To the Lady of Rev. Charles Hincksey, a girl, Georgianna". He sunk his head into his hands.

This should have been a beautiful run down to the Cape, except for the tedium. No prizes, not even the sight of another sail. No storms - squalls of course, but no real blows - nothing to work up a man's blood, or bring a ship's crew together. No wonder the men were dreaming up ghosts and mysterious creatures that bit them on the neck; they had nothing else to occupy their minds. And a woman on board. Always bad luck, that. Although she was not causing any problems directly that he could see, except prompting more discussion about birds than he had heard since Stephen had stopped sailing with him. She was civil to everyone - well, tolerably civil - but encouraged no one. No rivalries, no scandals. And he had to admit enjoying their duets, of course. Such pure joy in music he had not felt since he'd last played with Stephen. And he was tired of these constant thoughts of his former friend. The doctor had been out of his life and out of his mind for years. Anyone would think he was lovesick for him... or for her, Lady Clonfert. No, he would not think of her, nor Stephen, nor Sophie with her new baby, nor this ridiculous ghost.

Jack pulled out an old journal, one he'd started keeping as a lieutenant, when he finally had some privacy. All of maybe ten square feet, but still it was his own private space, not shared with a group of nosy rambunctious silly mids. He'd picked the journal up again some years ago, when he'd learned of Sophie's marriage. He'd needed something to distract himself from thoughts of her. It would work again now.

 

"Aubrey," said Nelson to the young golden-haired lieutenant across from him. Aubrey turned his rosy smiling face towards him and their eyes met. Why had he never noticed that delightful shade of blue before? thought Nelson. Out loud he asked, "May I trouble you for the salt?" To himself he added, "And I may just be troubling you for something else later, my bold young officer."

After dinner, Aubrey accompanied Nelson in his barge back to his flagship. Nelson muttered something that Aubrey could not quite catch, "-most foolish remark I ever made-". "I'm sorry, sir," said Aubrey low, into Nelson's ear, "I could not hear you." Nelson felt the warm, port-sweet breath against his cheek and shivered. "Oh, it was nothing" replied Nelson. "I once declined the offer of a boat cloak on a vicious cold night such as this, protesting that 'my zeal for King and country keeps me warm.' Well, it did that night, headed into battle as we were, but on damned dull blockade duty such as this, an extra layer would not go amiss. However, will anyone now offer me a cloak? Oh no, 'his zeal keeps him warm', they all think."

Naturally Nelson had not finished this speech before Aubrey had flung his own capacious cloak around the Admiral's slight frame and drew closer to him, to share the heat from his own generous body. "Are you more comfortable now, sir?" asked Aubrey. "Yes, much," smiled Nelson.

The pull to the ship was a long one. Their thighs pressed up against one another, Aubrey felt his own zeal to serve his Admiral increasing. "Never mind manoeuvres," he thought, "Go straight at 'em." Keeping his left hand holding closed the cloak in front of them, Aubrey dropped his right hand onto Nelson's left thigh, at the same time whispering into his ear, "Sir, if you are concerned your zeal may be flagging, I know something that may help improve it." He slowly brought his broad hand caressing up Nelson's thigh, letting his fingers drift inside. "Yes, do proceed," murmured Nelson. "I am open to productive suggestions from my officers."

Aubrey looked out over the bargemen as he stroked Nelson through the placket of his breeches. It was dark already, and the cloak hid his hand, but still the notion that they were all watching him and the Admiral sent an exciting thrill though him; not unlike a night-time cutting-out expedition, stealthily coming up on his prize all unawares.

"My handkerchief is in my left-hand breeches pocket," whispered Nelson. Aubrey took the hint and left off the caressing long enough to pull out the handkerchief and spread it out over the belly of the Admiral. Then his fingers, adroit from years of work on rigging knots, undid the placket and gently released Nelson's burgeoning member. Deftly he stroked Nelson's surprisingly large prick and caressed his balls beneath, using his large capable hand to cover as much territory as possible.

Nelson turned his head into Aubrey's neck, but no words did he speak. Aubrey felt the Admiral's warm breath come in hot short pants. "Handsomely," he murmured, "handsomely now." Then Nelson's hand was upon him, urgent as his own need. Thrilled beyond control, Aubrey's release came upon him in a blinding flash. At the same time, he felt Nelson's hot load shoot against his hand. "A full broadside perfectly synchronized," he thought. He cleaned up his Admiral carefully, and tucked him back into his breeches, fastening the placket. There was nothing he could do for himself, but keep the boat cloak tight about him.

 

Jack flipped through the journal to an entry he had started on some time later, after Sophie's marriage. In it, Nelson had heard of his taking of the Cacafuego and been so impressed that he'd invited him to Merton Place, the home that he shared with Lady Hamilton. By that time Lady Hamilton had put on some weight and was no longer considered the great beauty that she had been, but Jack never objected to comfortable curves in a woman. And as Lady Hamilton's husband, Sir William, also lived with them at Merton Place, clearly she and Nelson were not entirely opposed to a little ménage à trois, either. There was fertile ground for any number of scenarios...

After a bit Jack found he had stopped writing and was chewing the end of the his pen, a frequent habit whilst mulling over his compositions. His thoughts too had drifted, from Lady Hamilton to Lady Clonfert. "Difficult to imagine two more completely different women," he thought. He wondered whether Lord Clonfert now was anything like Nelson. He had sailed with Clonfert years ago, when they were both lieutenants. Jack had changed much since then, he knew; had matured - he hoped. Had Clonfert grown too, or was he still like a boy, striving to do right, but unsure how; always seeking approval. So insecure, but really without need to be. That's what Jack could never understand, because Clonfert had plenty of ability. Perhaps he was not perfect, but who was? Everyone had faults; no one blamed you for being human. You worked with your strengths, and tried not to let your weaknesses get in your way. But Clonfert seemed to need to be perfect, faultless; couldn't stand criticism, and sought approval from everyone, even a junior lieutenant such as himself.

Jack remembered how Clonfert would lay out for compliments, seemed concerned about what Jack thought of him. At the time Jack thought he was just being amiable because good relations in the wardroom were so critical on a long commission, but looking back from years of experience, it seemed odd to care what a newly-made lieutenant thought of you. And even after the incident of the cutting-out, Clonfert looked so conscious, almost guilty, as if he hated to think that Jack now thought of him as a scrub. If anything, his notice became even more particular.

Jack wondered what the attraction was between Lady and Lord Clonfert. Clonfert had charm, good looks, a title, enough wealth to attract anyone, he supposed; but somehow Lady Clonfert struck him as a woman who looked for more than these superficial traits. Those piercing eyes of hers that saw through to your soul, what did she see when she looked at Clonfert? And here she was on a long uncomfortable voyage to stay in an isolated uncomfortable port to be near her husband, so even if the marriage had been a family-arranged match, she must be satisfied with it.

And now Jack was to be Clonfert's superior. If Clonfert had admired him back on the Agamemnon, how much more would he now lay out for Jack's good will, for his approval? And if a mutual desire had sprung up between his wife and his commodore during the long journey... Here Jack brought himself up short. It was one thing to muse about situations that would never happen, could never happen; quite another to be taking very scrub-like liberties with the wife of a captain he was soon to be working with. He needed Clonfert in a fighting frame of mind towards the enemy, not towards himself! But Clonfert had been in the Navy all his life, too, or near enough; and just why was it he wanted approval so from a young golden-haired lieutenant?

Jack shook his head. It was getting late, his mind was not under any better control now than earlier; he would not solve any mysteries about the Clonferts - the captain or his lady; nor ghosts with silver eyes nor mysterious creatures that bit people on the neck. He'd best turn in.

From his cot the Captain could hear the men still playing and dancing on the forecastle. He'd encouraged his officers to turn up the men every night they could whilst the weather stayed fair. It would divert their minds from silver eyes that bit necks, or whatever; anyway no one would be huddling around in fear during the noisy amusement under the lights of the lanterns.

Jack's mind still filled with lubricious thoughts, roaming over women past and present; filled with music of the sailors' songs, drifted off to sleep with an odd ditty echoing in his dreams:

 

Got a whale of a tale to tell ya, lads
A whale of a tale or two
'Bout the flappin' fish and the girls I've loved
On nights like this with the moon above
A whale of a tale and that's no blow
I swear by fiddle and bow

There was my first, Sally, met her when stationed on the Cape
Ebony smooth and soft as sable, sweet as muscat grape
Hidden in the cable tier; her to me I would hold fast
Blow me down and pick me up!
I was kicked before the mast

There was my heart Molly, met her in the Port of Mahon
When prizes I won, the coach bench we would lay on
Then she gave me the scare of my young life
Blow me down and pick me up!
She was the commandant's wife

Got a whale of a tale to tell ya, lads
A whale of a tale or two
'Bout the flappin' fish and the girls I've loved
On nights like this with the moon above
It sounds a whale of a tale I know
But's true by fiddle and bow

Then Sophia Williams, met her at home in England
The sweetest lines since the Sophie, my first command
Certain was I she was destined to be my wife
Blow me down and pick me up!
She walked out of my life.*

There was Miss Amanda, met her up in Halifax
She admired me - a naval hero, that's the facts
Several months later she made me feel a knave
Blow me down and pick me up!
Wrote I'm the father of her babe!

Got a whale of a tale to tell ya, lads
A whale of a tale or two
'Bout the flappin' fish and the girls I've loved
On nights like this with the moon above
A whale of a tale and it's no joke
I swear by my best coat.

There was a lovely lady, met her down in Botany Bay
She wanted to kiss me, that much I would say
Then one evening we walked down through the shrub
Blow me down and pick me up!
She swapped me for a scrub.

There was Queen Puolani, met her down in Moahu
We had no language that her I could speak to
But one evening her flame of love blew bright
Blow me down and pick me up!
She jumped me in the night.

Got a whale of a tale to tell ya, lads
A whale of a tale or two
'Bout the flappin' fish and the girls I've loved
On nights like this with the moon above
A whale of a tale - away I don't show
I swear by fiddle and bow.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15

- OR -

A Spy By Any Other Name Is Just As Stinky Sneaky Shifty and Sleazy

Stephen had opted to travel without a servant; highly unusual in a lady of his supposed station, but the risk of discovery of yet another man traveling as a woman too high, and sharing close quarters with a real maid too awkward. Stephen's habitual secrecy, greatly enhanced in this mission, and his habitual misanthropy both led him to prefer solitude.

Therefore Killick appointed himself as keeper of the lady's clothes, and Stephen frequently came upon him in his cabin either removing items on which he had detected an infinitesimal stain, or an incipient tear; or replacing said items. Stephen had not yet discovered him snooping amongst his papers or other possessions, but as Killick seemed acutely aware of Stephen's presence - never attempting to enter while Stephen was there - he was not at all convinced Killick's motives were entirely sartorial.

Stephen was particularly infuriated because he had always been meticulous in his dress and person, certainly no less now. He had routinely shaved daily; and now that he often spent evenings with the Captain and their instruments, he sometimes shaved twice in a day. He did not find these extra demands tedious; rather, they helped fill up his days, as he had little else to do, with no duties on the orlop or elsewhere to occupy him.

Stephen remonstrated with Killick often, at first politely: "I'm sure as the Captain's steward you have far too much to do already." "No, ma'am, it ain't no trouble at all. T'ain't fitting for a lady to do her own mending and washing."

Then with increasing irritation: "Killick, as a sailor's wife I am perfectly capable of looking after my own clothes. Please leave them be." "No one will ever say of Preserved Killick that he don't know his duty to the Captain's guests, ma'am. Don't you go a-fretting about it."

Finally with downright rudeness: "You will leave my cabin this instant and you will never enter again, or you will be Preserved no longer!" "Yes, ma'am, as you say, ma'am," was the reply; but Stephen continued to find his worn clothes missing, only to have them re-appear in pristine condition the next day. And now he had the added frustration of never catching him in the act. No matter how suddenly or in what obscure times Stephen would leave or return to the cabin, Killick always managed to evade him. Now he wished he had simply acquiesced to Killick's apparel fetish, and required his own presence whenever Killick came in. However, he supposed that sneaking spying slinking lurking skulking shifty wily snake of a shrewish steward would manage to sidle his way into Stephen's cabin one way or the other regardless.

Stephen became so incensed about Killick's continued creeping about his quarters that he was almost tempted to ask Jack to order Killick away. But of all the things Stephen had done in all his lives, informing had never played a part. He would cheat, lie, and steal to meet his justified ends. He would assassinate, back-stab, or misrepresent if it served his noble purpose. But an informer he would never be.

Thinking of informers brought the trend of Stephen's thoughts to his past life as a revolutionary. His mind skimmed over the painful times of informers in Ireland, back to the heady, passionate days of the initial French Revolution. In the early nineties in Paris he ostensibly studied medicine during the day, but it was his nights in the salon of Madame Roland that he truly came alive. Her linguistic and literary scope matched his own, and they would ramble from Plutarch to Locke to Rousseau in Latin, English and French until late into the night. Although nearly two decades older than he, and not renowned for her beauty, Stephen found her attractive beyond measure, in her intellect, her drive, her commitment to her ideals, and in her person. Her passion for music equaled his as well, and when they grew tired of talk and books, they turned to their instruments. Under her tutelage his skill on the 'cello advanced significantly, and he occasionally made up part of the entertainment at her amateur musical concerts.

Stephen would have done anything she asked of him, performed any service. Indeed he often wished she would ask some task of him that would allow him to demonstrate his devotion, but her personal integrity would lead neither herself nor those around her into any dangerous compromise. Stephen thought never to find her equal among women, no one with her spirit, intelligence, and honour. He had left France before her imprisonment; he knew she was allowed visitors and he tried to send her Mary Wollenstonecraft's just-published Vindication of the Rights of Woman, but he was never sure if she had received it. He knew her disgrace troubled her, not because of her beliefs, nor her fate in holding them; but that she expressed them at all. This was needless in Stephen's opinion: her concern regarding the tension between society's ideal of the female's proper sphere being purely domestic, and her own wish to influence government towards its proper role as guarantor of liberty for all citizens. She worked a careful, fine line between society's restrictions and her own conscience; but in the end it was all for naught. Her death was a tragedy; the charges against her so obviously false. Stephen was thankful he was not in Paris at the time of her execution; he honored her for her dedication to her principles, but could not have borne to witness it.

Chapter Text

Chapter 16

- OR -

That Damn Sneaking Spying Slinking Lurking Skulking Shifty Wily Snake of a Shrewish Steward Saves the Day!

During one of their musical evenings, Jack had launched into an extended solo section and Stephen was watching him intently, waiting for his cue to enter. As the measures went by, Stephen felt himself enter almost into an hypnotic state - the familiar rhythmic lilt of the music, the periodic movement of the bow, the warm tropical air, the steady gaze into Jack's eyes. Slowly Stephen rose from his chair, setting the 'cello quietly aside. Jack's bow moved more and more slowly over the strings, each maintaining his gaze into the other's eyes. Gradually he stopped playing and let the bow and violin hang from his hands.

Breathing deep and slow, lips parted, Jack watched steadily as Stephen approached. Reaching him, Stephen placed his fingers over Jack's lips, caressing them lightly. As Jack's gaze went wide and blank, Stephen reached up to ghost light kisses along his cheek, from the corner of his mouth down to his jaw, tongue flicking out lightly to taste along the way. Still gently pressing lips with his fingers, Stephen continued kissing, more firmly now, along the length of Jack's neck. Taking slight nips with his teeth, he felt Jack's moans through the vibrations against his fingers. Under his lips he could feel Jack's pulse through the skin of his neck. Stephen drew back his lips and opened --

Killick backed in through the cabin door, grumbling in his piercing nasal whine, "Which the toasted cheese--"

Stephen sprang back from Jack, his eyes locked on Jack's but now wide with horror. Jack stood in place, expression slightly bemused, violin and bow still held down low in a light grasp. As Killick turned and saw Lady Clonfert so close to the Captain he stopped. Jack turned towards Killick and smiled slightly.

Killick begged pardon for interrupting and made to leave again, but Jack said, "No, no, not at all" still with the slight bemused smile and motioned for him to set down the supper. Stephen turned to put away his 'cello in its case. After Killick had stopped fussing, unnecessarily long in Stephen's opinion, Stephen begged the Captain's pardon and said he would retire without joining him for the meal, as he felt slightly unwell. Jack expressed his concern but did not seem unduly upset about anything that had happened. Stephen was somewhat reassured by the Captain's composure, but did indeed feel remarkably unwell as he went back to his own cabin.

Stephen could not determine which disturbed him most: that he could no longer hide from the knowledge that he was the one biting the unfortunate seamen's throats; that he had now to be grateful to that wretched sneak Killick for preventing from doing the same to the Captain; or that if he had not been about to drink Jack's blood, he would have dearly loved to have continued kissing him.

~*~*~*~

Starting in on the second flask of aqua vitae, Stephen regretted his laudanum. Knowing his own propensity to abusing it, and having no patients for whom to prescribe it, he had not brought any. Hence, he was reduced to drinking himself into oblivion: no easy task.

Stephen hated drunks. He hated their sudden inclination to conviviality, their slurred speech, their foul breath. He hated their staggers, their unpredictable turns, their tendency to lean on others for support. He hated their loss of respect for personal boundaries, their maudlin confessions, their weepiness.

Stephen hated himself when drunk. He never got drunk; he could not afford the loss of control. He could certainly not get drunk around any other person. He was not trying to get drunk, precisely; he was attempting to skip the drunken phase and go directly to the alcoholic coma, but without going too far and killing himself. Self-murder was a mortal sin: one would be damned forever, no chance of parole; go straight to Hell, do not pass Purgatory, do not collect two hundred indulgences. He was not reduced to suicide yet. He did not know if ignorant and unwilling vampirism was a mortal sin or not; possibly it was, but he had not always been a vampire, so perhaps there was a cure. And a chance for forgiveness. Maybe even salvation. What he needed was a priest. A real priest, not a minister of some newly-sprung off-shoot of the True Church. But not right now. Not while he was drunk. Even if he found a priest, likely all he'd do is slur maudlin confessions in a foul breath while leaning on the poor cleric as if he were his last friend on Earth and bathing him in tears.

Stephen hated himself. Or drunks. Himself while drunk. Or something.

Chapter Text

Chapter 17

- OR -

A 21st Century Red-Neck in Jack Aubrey's Navy

"It has to be Lady Clonfert," said Sam. "We've eliminated everyone else."

"But Bobby said it was a guy, definitely a guy."

"Then Lady Clonfert is a guy."

"No way!" said Dean. "She's got boobs. Real boobs. Those ain't man-boobs."

"How do you know they're real?" asked Sam skeptically. "Have you seen her without clothes?"

"Well, no, but I've seen a lot of fake boobs, and those ain't faked. They're real. And anyway, how could she be a guy? Wouldn't her husband, this Lord Captain Clonfert fellow, know? No way could anyone fool a husband, for Christ's sake."

"Maybe he does know. Maybe that's why he has to go around dressed as a woman - so they can be together."

"What, you mean like they're gay?"

"Yeah, why not? People were gay in these times too, you know, only they don't have any 'Don't Ask Don't Tell Or We'll Kick You The Fuck Out' in the Royal Navy. More like 'Make Sure We Don't Find Out, Or We'll Hang Your Sorry Ass'."

"Really? Shit," said Dean, looking thoughtful.

"Yeah, haven't you been listening to the Articles of War the Captain reads off every Sunday like it was the goddamn Ten Commandments?"

"Sure, it's all 'If You So Much As Spit On Our God-Damn Holy Deck You Die'."

"Exactly, so what the hell you think it means by 'sodomy shall be punishable by death'?"

"Sodomy is just gay love? Man, I thought it was like fucking goats or something."

"Nah, that's bestiality. So anyway, this guy Clonfert --"

"Wait, so is sodomy like anytime two guys, you know, like, make out, or whatever?"

"Dean, why are you so hung up about this?"

"Well, shit, man, it's been like, six months on this fucking boat and we don't even get shore leave --"

"It's only been two months, Dean."

"That's still two months too long without any chicks, man. A guy's gotta do something."

"How do you even have time to think about sex? They've been running our asses off. I haven't got a whole night's sleep since I don't know when."

"There's no such thing as too tired for sex, Sam. So even if it's just a - a hand-job, are they gonna--"

"No, Dean, sodomy's more than just a hand-job."

"Well, damn, it'd better be. Because, fuck, a hand-job's just like masturbation, anyway, really, just another dude's dick - or hand, I mean. And if they outlawed masturbation they might as well hang all of us and be done with it."

"Right. OK. So anyway, about Clonf-"

"So what exactly is sodomy? I mean, is kissing--"

"Dean! What have you been --! Wait, don't answer that; I don't even want to know. Look, I'll just tell you, OK?" And he did.

"Ouch! Damn! I'd never let a guy do that!"

"Well, they'll still hang you if it's you that does it to some other guy."

"Right. All right then. But, man, if a girl ever lets you - in her - fuck, that's hot, is all I'm saying."

"In a girl's ass wouldn't hurt any less than a guy's."

"Yeah, but girls are built to take it, you know?"

"Not in the ass. Dude, it's actually guys that have this gland, makes it feel good."

"What? A gland? So it feels good to have some other guy's cock up your ass? Are you shittin' me?"

"No, man. Look, haven't you ever had an exam by a doctor?"

"You mean where he tells you to turn your head and cough? Fuck, last doctor tried that move on me I nearly took his arm off."

"Right. Well, next time, don't. I mean when we get back to our time - I don't trust these goddamn surgeons, fuckers don't even wash their hands. Man, we ever get hurt we are so screwed. It's just as well they don't let you near any chicks around here; back in the day they all got STD's and what they ain't got is penicillin, so don't you go catching anything."

"So anyway," continued Sam, "that's your prostate gland, and you gotta start letting doctors - our doctors - check it once in a while, because men can get cancer there. And if it's stimulated right, it feels good, so that's why gay guys like sex like that."

"So, Sam, how do you know all this stuff anyway - all this about how it feels so good?"

Sam rolled his eyes. "Jesus, Dean. I wasn't the one all hung up about what sodomy means. Look, now you know, all right? Can we get back to trying to catch the vampire now?"

"I suppose Lady Clonfert might be a guy. I overheard her once talking about watching boobies. And another time she was going on about what kind of tits she liked to see. I thought maybe she was a girl who was, you know, into other girls, but if she was a guy that would make more sense."

"Dean, you fucking idiot. Boobies and tits are kinds of birds, dumbshit. She - He - likes bird-watching; about the only thing the fucker does like, near as anyone can tell. Except sucking people's blood."

"I still don't get how your so sure it's Lady Clonfert. She's the only chick on a whole fucking ship full of men!"

"I just never believed she's a woman. Look, she's got no maid - there's no lady anywhere in this day and age that would travel on a ship full of men without her maid. She just wouldn't. And her dresses - always with a high neck, so it hides the adam's apple, I bet. And always long sleeves, and always gloves! Even in fucking one hundred-ten fucking degrees, she's wearing clothes to cover her from neck to fingers to toes!"

"She likes the heat, I heard her say that. And she's probably trying to protect her complexion. Ladies used to do that, before tans got so hot. Probably to keep from getting skin cancer, too."

"Complexion! Have you looked at her face? She ain't got no complexion to protect any more!"

"Probably from looking at too many titties and boobs."

"Boobies and tits, you ass."

"And how come you know so much about lady's maids and dress fashions all the sudden? You been watching chick flicks like Pride and Prejudice or something?"

"There's nothing wrong with liking - Look, Jane Austen wrote some of the finest literature in the English language!"

"Jesus fuck! I knew if we let you go off to college you'd come home all perverted! Anal sex and Jane Austen! Fuckin' A!"

~*~*~*~

"The ghost is that American boy, that landsman Winchester," said Joe Plaice to his cousin, Barrett Bonden.

"Which one?" asked Bonden.

"Either o' 'em. The tall one, pro'bly. I seen 'im get an odd glint in his eye even in broad daylight."

"What makes you certain it's one o' them? They're just landsmen, but strong and willing. Coming along, even."

"Their teeth. They're so white - it's unnatural, I tells you. And they still gots all of 'em. And damn pretty faces, too. They're too old to have pretty faces like that, unless they was gennelmen, which they ain't."

"Well, I suppose it stands to reason the ghost's got to be a landsman. If it was a seaman, he'd a been found out long ago, and we'd a heard about it. But maybe Americans just got better teeth." Bonden added doubtfully.

"Don't you believe it. I've sailed with plenty of Americans, and all their teeth were rotten, just like Christians. Damme, not even the skipper's teeth are that white!"

"I've got it!" said Bonden. "They don't chew their quids. They usually trade it for more grog from someone. At least the short one does. Not sure about the tall one. Which it's the baccy that stains the teeth, so if they don't chew, they'll still have white teeth. Stands to reason."

"The Captain don't chew neither, that's why he's got the best teeth on the barky. 'Cepting for these unnatural Americans, I tell you. That white'll blind you in the sun."

Chapter Text

Chapter 18

- OR -

Wherein Angst Is Had

At the end of a magnificent sonata, Stephen lay down his bow. To continue would be anti-climatic. He turned to place the 'cello in its case.

"Oh, beautifully played, Lady Clonfert! The most amazing thing I have ever heard! I have never felt such joy in playing harmony in all my life. Truly amazing!"

Stephen rose to leave the cabin. To his surprise, he found Jack standing right next to him, beaming down from his bright flushed face. Jack lifted a hand to cup Stephen's chin, and holding it gently, lowered his head to kiss him. Caught unprepared, unable to think, Stephen found himself responding with great intensity, opening his mouth to let in Jack's questing tongue, bringing his hands to Jack's shoulder and back. After a blissful moment, Stephen noticed an odd lopsided pressure on one side of his chest. Jack was cupping one non-existent breast. "The animal - who does he think I am, to be groping me in this way! I am not some trollopy street-walking strumpety harlot!" While these indignant thoughts warred with more urgent emotions, Stephen heard himself murmuring, "No, no," through the kisses. Jack must have heard him too, for he pulled away. Regret and resignation in his countenance and voice, he stammered out apologies. Stephen did not stay to listen nor reply, but turned and fled.

Jack sat down heavily and put his head in his hands. What had he been thinking? She was his guest; an officer's wife. Just because he had dreamed - it had been a dream, surely - she had not really been kissing him that evening when Killick came in... But he had not been dreaming just now, and she had responded to his kiss, she had returned his embrace, she had opened up under him - no, just as she had said, it could not be. They had been spending too much time together, too isolated on this ship. Under any other circumstances, the idea of a relationship between them would be absurd. The simple fact was that she was apart from her husband, her friends and family; and he was apart from - well, he was always set apart from everyone, anyway. No wonder he had reached out to her for companionship. Lord knew, life in the Navy had created even stranger bedfellows, but he needed to demonstrate better discipline, have more self-control. No more dining together, no more evening duets. No more duets... "Oh God," he said. He didn't think he could bear that loss a second time.

Chapter Text

Chapter 19

- OR -

Plot? Is There Really a Plot In this Mess?

Late in the middle watch, a short, piercing shriek was heard from the forecastle. All attention was directed forward, where the taller of the Winchester brothers was soon discovered in a dead faint.

The shorter brother slipped over the taffrail, unseen, dropping down to the stern gallery.

The shriek, which was not a normal-working-of-the-ship noise, roused the Captain, who was half-way up the companion-way ladder in his nightshirt before fully awake.

The shriek did not wake Stephen, who had convinced the ship's surgeon to prescribe him laudanum for a recurring headache with insomnia, without undergoing the usual complete physical examination first.

The entrance of an intruder likewise did not cause him even to stir.

~*~*~*~

Upon learning the story from the startled landsman - the typical "saw them staring glowing eyes, felt a cold ghostly hand reach out for me" - the Captain returned back to his cabin. On his way he was intercepted by an unusually anxious Killick. "Sir, the lady's not in 'er cabin."

"What do you mean?" demanded the Captain. "How do you know? She's most likely asleep."

"Well, sir, after I heard that howling noise, I was afraid for her. Thought it might have been her a-screaming. Or that she might be worried, like. So I knocks on her door, sir, but no answer. I knocks really loud and calls out, but still no answer. So finally I opens the door just to take a quick peek, sir - but her cabin's all a-hoo, and she's not in it!"

The Captain looked suspicious during the recitation of Killick's story, but turned to the Marine sentry. "Did you see Lady Clonfert leave her quarters?" The guard was so placed to see anyone leave or enter either the Captain's or Lady Clonfert's cabins.

"No, sir. When I came on watch, report was you were both in your sleeping cabins."

Jack nodded. And he had passed the Marine, alert and in proper position, on his own way to investigate the scream.

"Pass the word for your officer. Killick, we will check again to be certain before we raise an alarm."

The lady was indeed not in her sleeping cabin, nor in her half of the great cabin. Jack had no expectation of finding her in any of his cabins either, but looked through them to be certain. Having verified that she was not taking air on the quarterdeck, nor seeking assistance in the sickbay, Jack instructed the Captain of the Marines to begin a thorough search of the ship.

~*~*~*~

After the officers had - finally - left the stern cabin, Dean hauled his now-awake and infuriated prisoner from under the stern gallery where he had been hiding them. Dean was now quite thankful for the last two months of training in how to tie knots - useful knots that would hold under any circumstances; and how to tie knots under any circumstances, even one-handed, maybe just using your mouth; and knots for any circumstances, such as quickly binding a potentially dangerous possibly demon-possessed woman, or securing her and himself to the sloping underside of a slightly overhanging stern gallery.

Now more comfortably established back in the lady's side of the great cabin (Sam was right, dammit, last place they'll search again), Dean was profuse in his apologies to his bound and gagged captive. "It's my brother who's convinced you're our demon-possessed ghostly vampire. He's also convinced, by the way, that you're - uh, well, we don't need to go into all that now. But we're pretty sure it's just a routine demon possession, and we'll have you right as rain in no time. I'm sure you'll be much more comfortable without a demon with a vampire fetish in your head, don't you agree?" Dean smiled his most charming, but received only a reptilian glare in response. Dean was unfazed, used to much worse from victims of demon-possession, and continued with his preparations. "And if we're wrong, no harm done. The ritual has no effects, side or otherwise, on the non-demon possessed. We'll just apologize for the inconvenience, treat any rope burns, and, uh, throw ourselves on your, uh, mercy? about not, uh, telling the Captain what we've done; 'cause likely they'll hang us for it, seeing as they pretty much hang you if you so much as look cross-eyed at the wrong person." The last bits of this speech were uttered in a lower and lower voice. "God dammit, Sam," he muttered under his breath, "you had damn well better be right about this."

Preparations complete, Dean began the incantations. Stephen had not recognised the various talismans, nor the need for salt, but he did recognise the prayers. He calmed down somewhat. During Dean's speech he realised that the fool at least intended no harm, but since he had no idea what idiocy the man was going to attempt he had not been much reassured. However, unless the American bishops had gone seriously astray, he could not believe this man was an ordained priest, and severely doubted that his attempt at an exorcism would work. He hoped it would be limited to just the prayers, in which case it would at least do no harm.

Dean, of course, had no doubt in his ability to perform an exorcism, having been successful on countless occasions already, often in much more difficult situations. As it was, about halfway through the ritual both men received a shock.

Inside his head Dean heard laughter, a deep booming voice ridiculing the notion that Christian prayers could have any effect on him. "Holy Jesus fucking Christ," thought Dean, "Sam's the one who hears voices and sees shit, not me!" Other than that, Dean thought it a pretty paltry effort on the part of the demon. He'd heard and seen at lot more intimidating and persuasive arguments than that. Faltering a bit at the surprise of it, Dean nevertheless continued as strong as ever.

Stephen was also shocked, both at the realisation that Lord Voldemort had been possessing him, and that the incantations were obviously affecting him, at least in rousing him enough to make his presence known. Possibly Voldemort was correct that a Catholic exorcism would not force his expulsion from Stephen's body. But what the Dark Lord did not know was that he and Stephen were not alone in the doctor's body. Stephen now brought his Rinion self to the fore. Rinion was trained in the same arts of wizardry as Voldemort, of the same House, but more importantly, was an Edhel of both the Noldor and the Sindar and possessed power and skills of which Voldemort knew nothing.

The battle was brief but intense. Dean's rhythmic chanting gave comfort to Stephen and lent him strength enough to keep body and soul and sanity together while Rinion fought to expel the dark wizard. Dean's chanting was merely irritating to Voldemort, but annoyingly so. Overwhelming annoying irritation, like a endless constant drone of bees in his head, keeping him from thinking, from concentrating his focus, from forming his words of power. Rinion pushed, and Voldemort fled.

Captain Aubrey did not notice the amorphous gray vapor that flowed over his head through the open door as he burst into the room. He saw Lady Clonfert bound and gagged with a seaman kneeling over her. In one stride he was over the sailor hauling him up with one hand on the neck of the shirt and one on the waist of the trousers and in another stride he was set to fling the man out the window over the gallery into the Atlantic.

The Marine officer and his corporal stepped quickly to his side and smoothly relieved the Captain of the seaman. "Thank you, sir. We'll take him down below and clap him in irons. He'll be sorted out properly at the Cape all right."

Jack, still breathing hard and with a surprisingly vicious look on his naturally good-humored face, said "Yes, Captain. Very well." As they left with their prisoner he knelt to release Lady Clonfert.

Dean could have fought off the Captain and gotten past the two Marines. He could have escaped, he told himself, even from a man who had suddenly appeared even freakishly taller than Sam and certainly twice as broad. But to what purpose? He knew he hadn't done anything wrong; well, not really wrong. He had seen the demon leaving Lady Clonfert, even though he was certain the thick-witted officers hadn't noticed. He hadn't hurt her. Once he struck an officer, though, it would be all up with him. Right or wrong, he'd be hanged. His hopes lay on Lady Clonfert's being grateful she was no longer possessed, and interceding for him.

And besides, even if he had escaped, where would he hide? Where would he run to? He was on a god-damned boat in the middle of the fucking ocean.

And maybe locked up here in the hold they'd let him sleep for longer than four miserable hours.

~*~*~*~

"Lady Clonfert, are you all right?" asked Jack anxiously as he removed the gag.

"Yes, yes, very well, thank you," said Stephen impatiently. He was in fact much touched by Jack's fierceness in coming to his rescue, but had little inclination to show it. He was worn, and exhausted, and nauseated by the ordeal, and mostly just wanted to sleep. However, he forced himself to speak up for the unfortunate American. "My dear Jack," he said, little noticing the endearments he used, "the seaman - he wasn't hurting me. In fact, he was assisting me." This was going to be difficult to explain.

Her use of his Christian name, the endearment, these did not escape Jack's notice. He looked at her, astonished. "He was assisting you? He had you all tied up!"

"I know. He was - we wanted, I felt in need of an - an exorcism," Stephen winced as he said it. This was ridiculous. Absurd. It was lying, and true, and utterly utterly ludicrous.

"An exorcism!" Finished removing the ropes that had bound her, Jack helped her up from the deck to sit in her chair.

"Yes. I've been having terrible dreams." Stephen fingered the cross around his neck. He wore it only at night, when he could tuck it under his loose nightgown. "The ghost the men have been seeing, I became worried..." For the first time Stephen was glad he was disguised as a woman; he could take refuge in female vagueries. "Of course I would have preferred to consult a priest. I expected to wait until we reached the Cape. But the American seaman, he said he - he could help. He knew the right words, that the ritual did not require a priest..."

"You amaze me." But that didn't explain why she was tied up, or why she went missing. Jack was still very suspicious, but he was certainly not going to interrogate her now, while she was clearly still so distraught. "Are you certain you are all right now? Shall I send for the surgeon?"

"No - I am perfectly well," said Stephen, his acerbity returning. "I have no need for the surgeon, nor any medical care."

"Is there anything you need, that I can get for you? Brandy, perhaps?"

"Yes, if you please. Brandy would go down gratefully right now."

"Killick! Killick there," the Captain gave the steward his instructions. He turned back to Lady Clonfert, who was looking somewhat more composed. "Would you take it in my cabin? The steward can clean up in here meanwhile."

Sipping the brandy, and watching the colour return to Lady Clonfert's face, Jack noticed the graceful way her nightgown fell about her lissome figure. Becoming conscious of the intimacy of the silence, Stephen spoke more to break it than out of any desire to provide further explanations. "During an exorcism, the - the demon can sometimes - fight back, so to speak. We thought it best if I were... restrained, during the ritual. I assure you, I was never in any danger. From the seaman. He is an honest fellow, if unorthodox."

"I am very glad to hear that, Lady Clonfert."

"I wish you will not use him too harshly." Stephen stood up to take his leave. "Thank you for the brandy. Good night to you, now."

Bitterly Stephen regarded his now-tidied sleeping cabin, which Killick had taken the opportunity to straighten up as well as her coach.

Interlude

- OR -

Don't Ask Me What the Hell Voldemort Has To Do with Violin/Cello Slash; I Dunno Either

The amorphous gray vapor had passed into the Captain's stern cabin, searching - quickly - for a new home. Before it disintegrated entirely, it drifted down towards a locker. Its last remnants seeped through a case.

The case was surprisingly easy to open from inside. The bow proved flexible and nimble, with its cute little pointed tip working through the gap between lid and case to release the latch. With the case now open, the fiddle had little difficulty seeking its next victim.

Though larger, the other instrument's case opened easily under the bow's practiced tip. The 'cello herself lay inside, quivering slightly. The violin hummed soothingly; the bow whispered gently over the 'cello's strings. The shivers modulated to rhythmic shudders, the 'cello moaning under the increasing pressure from the bow. Now the bow was drawing across both sets of strings, bringing forth a song of sighs from the violin and a deep melody of longing from the 'cello. Her own bow rattled under its latches until released by the clever tip of its companion. The two bows played together across both instruments, releasing unearthly sounds, the inexpressible music of want and desire.

Chapter Text

Chapter 20

- OR -

Who Am I?

On retiring to his cot - again - Stephen expected to wake rested, feeling well - removed of the possession, why would he not? However, he woke feeling more ill than he had the previous night. His head ached in various places, as if damaged in the epic battle between Voldemort and Rinion. He was still nauseated - possibly more so, as he could now remember everything he'd been doing those nights the seamen were attacked. But worst of all, he felt... disintegrated, as if Voldemort had taken away the glue that held his psyche together. Lady Clonfert could hardly rise from the cot - no, wait, of course he was not Lady Clonfert, he was Rinion, an Eldhe - but why on Middle-Earth would Rinion need to dress as a human woman? Wait, of course he was Stephen Maturin, on a discreet mission - several discreet missions... This was too much. Instead of feeling internally crowded - as if he'd had more than one self; he now believed his various selves could not add up to even one complete person.

~*~*~*~

Upon learning that Lady Clonfert was indisposed this morning, Jack was not inclined to forgiveness towards Winchester. However, the Marine officer was correct; the man would be sorted out at the Cape. Right now Jack had more urgent matters to worry about, like the barometer that was dropping fast. Very fast.

The gale hit early in the forenoon watch, and it hit them hard, sending them almost onto their beam ends. But Captain Aubrey ran a taut ship, and his lieutenants, whatever their faults may be, were at least seamen. Several days of skudding before the wind and riding out cross-seas ensued. Jack had all the pleasures of a Really Good Blow, including being frapped to a stanchion; no coffee nor anything hot; watching the crew pull together in cursing the elements, the fates, and himself; and shouting himself hoarse. The ship's experience was also typical of a gale-strength storm, but less pleasurable: loss of the fore topmast and mizzen mast, springing of several butt-heads, and damage to several of the rotting knees. The sprung butts were repaired as soon as wind and waves allowed; jury masts would be sent up once the wind came down; but little could be done for the knees until they reached a dockyard.

Lady Clonfert continued indisposed, but that was to be expected, in a blow like this, considering she had spent most of the Bay of Biscay ensconced in her cabin under conditions not even as bad.

When the wind had calmed from its piercing shriek to a dull roar, the waves no longer threatening to swallow the ship entire, and breaks in the clouds appeared long enough to fix a position, Jack had a scrap of sail set and checked with the surgeon on casualties.

"None dead, sir, thankfully; but a dozen with the usual storm-induced injuries. However, sir, I would like to speak with you about Lady Clonfert."

"Yes? Was she injured?"

"No - at least, not by the storm, that I can tell. In fact, she doesn't even appear sea-sick, as such. We've been able to feed her the portable soup, and she's kept it down." The surgeon, being unimaginative, could not understand how anyone could ingest the vile stuff, let alone keep it down; but it was what the Sick and Hurt Board provided him, and he fed it to his patients. "It's that she's become unresponsive."

Stephen spent the appropriate amounts of time sleeping and waking, but during his waking time he moved very little, did not speak at all, did not even look at the men entering his cabin. He accepted food and water, but did not interact at all. While tending his patient, the surgeon naturally discerned her true sex. He could not imagine why the man was traveling as a female, but it was not his place to discuss nor reveal such facts discovered about a patient during a course of treatment.

Jack was greatly concerned for Lady Clonfert, but there was nothing he could do for her. He turned his attention back to the condition of the ship. The carpenter was beside himself, the poor man literally wringing his hands. "We need to get her to land, sir. Even in this calmer sea she's still making too much water. We need to heave her down." Jack agreed, but they were hundreds of miles away from any land. The Cape was the closest, and their course was already set for it.

The only satisfaction Jack drew from the situation was his ordering of the Winchester fellow to be chained to the pumps, which were being manned every watch.

Interlude

- OR -

That Fucking Unicorn Again...

Charlie had been falling and swimming and falling and swimming for what felt like an eternity. His hooves at last struck something solid - something that did not break, and did not curse. He found himself climbing up onto a beach. He pulled himself out of the water and lay down, sides heaving. At least those little evil demonic candy-colored unicorns were not here...

Chapter Text

Chapter 21

- OR -

Where Am I?

"Land ho! On deck there, land fine on the larboard bow!"

Captain Aubrey was instantly up in the crosstrees with his best glass. Certainly, there was an island, where no island ought to be. He set a course for it while he and the master double-checked their calculations of position.

Double-checked, triple-checked, their position confirmed at noon against both chronometers; against all odds, Captain Aubrey had stumbled upon an unknown island in an area of ocean that had been criss-crossed for centuries and entirely charted.

Not a new volcanic island either - it was fairly covered in green. As Bonden took him over in the barge, he saw the huge old trees growing all about. He looked over at the carpenter, whose mouth was near to drooling with delight at the sight of all that untouched timber. "Sir, look at them huge angled lower limbs! Them'll make perfect knees!"

As the men set to work under their competent officers, Jack wandered about aimlessly for a bit. He thought of Stephen, who'd be delighted at a bit of naturalising on a newly discovered island; then he thought of Lady Clonfert, who also apparently enjoyed naturalising. When he returned to the ship for the surveying equipment to set down the island's location, he would inquire about her health. Perhaps a brief visit to land would help?

"Certainly, sir; no harm in trying, in any case," the surgeon replied. "Her condition has not changed. Fortunately she is not worsening, either."

Jack sat by her stretcher in the boat back to the island. He picked up one hand, cold despite the glove and the balmy weather. He chafed her wrists and studied her open but unseeing eyes. He hoped for a response from her - pulling back her hand, a malediction, a glare. But nothing. He sighed and kept her hand clasped.

Stephen was vaguely aware of the surgeon's tending to his physical needs, but could not bring himself to care. Nor even when Jack chafed his wrists nearly raw. Life was too much work, pointless, purposeless. What purpose could there be when he did not even know who he was? There was no longer any "I" in him to desire anything.

He now lay on shore, the still, unmoving shore. He could hear the men working, the officers cheerfully inciting them on with a variety of curses. Above him tree limbs swayed in the gentle breeze. He could hear the call of seabirds; one passed above him. He followed it with his eyes - certainly it was a shearwater, but could it truly be Puffinus pacificus? Not here in the Atlantic, surely. He sat up and looked about him with more interest. Sure, there was a petrel - Pterodroma hypoleuca - that particular species found only in the Sandwich Islands. And the small tern there, that must be a kind of fairy tern (sterna nereis), which ranges far enough, in all conscience, but only in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The flora, too, looked much more Pacific than southern Atlantic. How long had he been ill? Their journey was to end at the Cape, yes? How did they arrive at a Pacific island?

The Captain noticed Lady Clonfert sitting up and hurried to her side. "Lady Clonfert, so good to see you up again--"

"Yes, yes," Stephen interrupted impatiently. "Jack, how did we come to be in the Pacific? What island are we on?"

"Why, as to what island this is, I do not know precisely; it is not on any of our charts. But I can assure you we are still in the Atlantic - nowhere near the Pacific. We are within a few hundred miles of the Cape, in fact."

"I hesitate to contradict you; I am certain your navigation skills are excellent. However, we most certainly are in the Pacific; much of the flora and fauna here are found only in the Pacific."

"These are some damned odd trees, I grant you that. I can't tell you how they come to be here, but it is just as well for us they are, for now we can effect the repairs we need to complete our journey in relative safety."

"Most curious, most curious," said Stephen, standing up. Jack quickly offered a hand under his elbow and for once Stephen did not disdain it. "I wish to look about a bit, if you will permit me."

"Why certainly, ma'am. The carpenter and his mates will be occupied some time. Will you allow me to accompany you?"

Stephen looked at Jack's open honest face, seeing nothing but his concern there. Light-headed and still weak himself, Stephen nodded his head. "If you please."

Chapter Text

Chapter 22

- OR -

This is Where It Starts To Get Really Weird

Several hours into the thick underbrush, Jack wondered what excuse he could use to lure Lady Clonfert back to the shore. It had never occurred to him that a woman only just risen from a sick-bed could have more stamina than himself. Navigating the alternately sandy and rocky, but always unyielding, forest floor after months at sea left his legs trembling and exhausted. If he'd realised that "looking about a bit" meant a day-long trek, he would have at least brought some water, and perhaps something to eat.

He suddenly caught up with Lady Clonfert, who had collapsed on top of a slight ridge overlooking a small pool in an open clearing of the forest. "Lady Clonfert! Are you all right?"

Stephen couldn't answer. The will had gone again. It had gone soon after he began walking, the mystery solved; regardless of Jack's sextants and chronometers, this was definitely a Pacific island. Instruments may deceive but birds and trees do not. Only inertia had kept him moving until his legs gave out from exhaustion. He sat staring down at the pool; beautiful clear water, but something distinctly wrong...

When Lady Clonfert did not answer but stayed frowning at the pool below, Jack said, "You must be thirsty - shall I fetch us some water, then?" and started down the slope. "Jack, wait," said Stephen with an effort. Jack stopped and turned, surprised. He hadn't missed Lady Clonfert's continued use of his Christian name, every iteration causing his heart to skip a beat.

"The clearing - so odd," Stephen continued as best he could, trying to pull his selves together. "Around the pool, all young, immature plants - so strange."

Jack looked about. It was certainly true - the forest they had been traveling through was filled with old, but healthy, vegetation. All around the pool the older and larger plants abruptly ceased, and only very young sprouts could be seen. However, these sprouts and saplings were dense and lush - likely there was nothing wrong with the water nourishing them. "Yes, well, certainly we could both use a drink, on such a warm day. I will try some first, shall I?" Jack continued down to the pool.

Stephen continued wondering. "Not a fire, that would have left scorch marks on the older standing trees. Not a great tree fallen to create this clearing - no trace of any down or dead wood..." This was the most his mind could accomplish before he fell over, eyes looking out blankly.

At the pool Jack knelt down and scooped the water in his hands for a sip. It tasted wonderful and he instantly felt better, the aches and pains from the bruising received during the gale gone, the exhaustion in his legs evaporated. He took another brief drink then scooped some water for Lady Clonfert.

When he turned and saw her fallen over, he bounded up the rise like a young gazelle. Although unresponsive to his words, she drank down the water he gave her. She started to look better, frown lines smoothing and color returning to her cheeks, but she still would not answer his inquiries. He ran back to the pool for more.

Having taken a quick drink again himself, he returned to Lady Clonfert's side. Whilst he was giving her more of the water, he noticed that his breeches, which had become rather tight during the voyage, had somehow grown suddenly too loose. His coat and waistcoat likewise. "Perhaps this water is not so good after all, if it sucks the meat right off your bones," he thought. He looked down at Lady Clonfert and to his horror he saw she had shrunk. She still looked quite healthy, cheeks smooth and glowing. Her eyes had closed and she seemed peacefully asleep, breathing easily. Her arms and hands were shorter and smaller, underneath the now ridiculously baggy gloves and sleeves. As he lifted her into his arms he could feel her legs also proportionally reduced, as if she were suddenly become a child again. Her head tucked against his shoulder, she breathed a great sigh and snuggled into his arms as he began the hike back to shore.

Chapter Text

Chapter 23

- OR -

Oh Hell, What's One More Crossover?

The surgeon declared her perfectly fit and healthy, for a 10-year-old child. He was sceptical that drinking fresh water from a mysterious pool on a strange island - drinking any kind of water, for that matter - could cause a person to revert to childhood. However, having never heard of such a thing happening under any circumstances at all, he could provide no other explanation either. He advised that everyone remain close to shore, away from the pool.

While the carpenter and his mates continued the repairs, Jack detailed Bonden to look after Lady Clonfert, who upon waking, was no longer inert. Instead she appeared rather overly active, running back and forth along the beach, alternately splashing into the waves and climbing trees, calling out in a variety of languages, some of which sounded not entirely... human.

Stephen still felt his selves split asunder inside him, but instead of leaving him frozen, he now had a restless energy that drove him on under one impulse then another. Apparently his personalities were in battle for control over his activities.

Bonden had as much as he could do simply to keep Lady Clonfert corralled close to shore, and not kill herself. Even offers of food did not entice her, which is what had always worked for every other child Bonden had ever known, including himself. He began to be concerned for her nutrition. "Come, miss, just drink a little of this down. It's quite tasty."

"What is it?" Stephen came over suspiciously.

"Your lime juice, miss. Which it's to keep you from the scurvy--"

"I know what it's for! I'll take it in my grog, like everyone else!"

Bonden was not attending. The corner of his sailor's eye had caught a curious phenomenon descending from the sky. As he stared the figure resolved into a woman, drably dressed much as Lady Clonfert usually was, holding an odd kind of umbrella that appeared improbably to be slowing her unsupported drop through the sky from the expected deadly breakneck rate to a sedate pace more suitable to a lady.

"Good day, sir," said the stranger to the astonished seaman. "I am Miss Poppins. You seem to be having some difficulty with your young charge here."

Bonden was perfectly willing to accept at face value an angel sent directly from Heaven itself if she would help him manage the young termagant.

"Yes, ma'am. She needs to drink her lime-juice, which it's for her health, but she refuses!" Bonden held it out to Miss Poppins, as if for her inspection.

"You tell a lie, Barrett Bonden!" said Stephen hotly. "I am perfectly willing to drink it in my grog, like everyone else!"

"But, miss, I can't give grog to a little girl like you!"

"Little--! I am not a girl! You imbecile, I have been drinking stronger spirits than grog since before you was breeched. Take this away and bring me my grog!"

Miss Poppins laughed cheerfully. "My, she certainly has an active imagination! I know just the thing that may help." She started singing, "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down--"

Stephen interrupted, "It bloody well does not! I do not need any syrupy sweet stuff! Grog will do fine."

Miss Poppins noticed the number of bird inhabiting the island and flitting about. "I'll bet the little birds would like it. Come, let's feed the little birds." Again she sang: "Come feed the little birds, show them you care and you'll be glad if you do. Their young ones are hungry; their nests are so bare--"

Stephen stared incredulously then scoffed. "These birds are feeding themselves perfectly well without your inane help. Only Trochilidae would drink sugared fruit juice, and there are no bleeding hummingbirds here!"

Suddenly inspired, Bonden said, "Look, miss, there! It's... it's a hoopoe!"

Attention caught, Stephen asked, "A hoopoe?! Where?!" With his mouth gaping open as he looked about the sky, Mary Poppins poured down the lime-juice.

Sputtering, Stephen glared at her. "You-- you hussy! You meddlesome interfering officious busybody! You nosy intrusive pushy forward trying toublesome minx! Jade!"

Under verbal assault Miss Poppins remained unperturbed. "And she has an extensive and colourful vocabulary too! What a young prodigy you are, to be sure!"

Bonden looked apologetic. "I'm sorry, ma'am. She's been traveling with us sailors for the past couple months."

"Ah, I see. Then perhaps she would do better if treated like a sailor, with a sailor's responsibilities, and discipline."

Bonden looked sceptical. He could imagine, with difficulty, assigning Lady Clonfert some of the duties of the ship's boys. But as most of the "discipline" consisted of blows to the head and various other parts of the body, he doubted that would be tolerated.

Mary Poppins saw Bonden's doubtful shake of the head and provided another helpful bit of advice: "In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You'll find the fun, and...snap! The job's a game!"

"Snap! The job's a game," she repeated, and with a snap of her fingers her umbrella took her wafting back up into the sky.

Bonden stood gaping up at her for a minute, then looked wildly about for whatever mischief Lady Clonfert had got up to now. Fortunately, she hadn't gone too far, just alternately examining then trying to fry an anthill with a small glass. Bonden felt his pockets. "Miss - ah Lady Clonfert, would you care to learn a game we sailors like to play?"

Stephen looked around irritably, then saw the dice Bonden was rolling about his palm. The gambler in him rose to the fore, a gleam entered his eye and he answered smoothly, "Is it a game, now? Sure, if you please."

Chapter Text

Interlude

- OR -

He's Baaaaaack!

After sleeping about a dozen years, without once being awoken by any irritating high squeaky voices, Charlie cracked one eye open. He was terribly thirsty and terribly hungry. He saw innocent blue sky over innocent blue sea, with innocent waves washing gently on the innocent sandy beach, an innocent mild breeze stirring the innocent palm leaves above. He opened the other eye, rolled himself up and looked around. No pink or blue unicorns - no unicorns of any color - no one at all around. A stream gurgled from the hilly forest down to the beach and out to the ocean. He walked over, looked carefully again, and very cautiously bent to take a drink. A quick sip and he backed off immediately. Nothing happened. Just waves washing, breeze blowing, stream gurgling. He bent to take a longer drink. A buzzing startled him and he jumped back five feet, but it was just an innocent fly. A swish of the tail flicked it away. He returned to the stream and drank his fill.

No longer thirsty, Charlie waddled along the shore, his belly sloshing with that uncomfortable feeling of several gallons of water in an otherwise empty stomach, hoping to find something to eat. Maybe a cafe, or a grocers, or even a convenience store. A food cart? A vending machine? Anything?

Chapter 24

- OR -

All's Well That Ends. Well...

After Captain Aubrey confiscated Bonden's dice and set him to hauling timber for the carpenter, he stood hands on hips looking down at Lady Clonfert, who stared defiantly back at him, and wondered how in God's name he was going to explain this to Captain Lord Clonfert. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the tip of a white horn come around the curve of the island along the shore. "It's that damned odd narwhal again!" he cried.

"What?" Stephen looked around.

"A narwhal - a narwhal's horn - tusk rather - but on a creature with legs. Look!" Jack remembered his odd vision of a narwhal treading water years ago while cutting out the Fanciulla, just before his duel with Stephen. He'd never even had a chance to mention the creature to him. And here it was again, years later and on the other side of the ocean.

Charlie had seen them and came trotting up quickly. People meant food, especially the tall healthy-looking full-bodied yellow-haired man.

"A unicorn," breathed Stephen. The Rinion in him knew all about unicorns, and for what they were especially useful. He walked up to meet it.

Charlie obligingly lowered his head to gaze upon the young girl with his eyes as adorably soft as he could make them. She reached up gently to stroke his horn.

As Jack stood staring, astonished beyond words, Lady Clonfert grew. Right back to her old self. Well, not quite her old self - she looked much healthier and happier than Jack had ever seen her. Her cheeks still retained their rosy glow, the frown lines that had seemed etched in her forehead and mouth were erased, the forward hunched stoop of her posture relaxed and lightened.

She turned towards him smiling. "The touch from the horn of a unicorn has the power to heal any illness or injury." Stephen himself was almost overwhelmed with happiness, a condition he'd rarely experienced before. Although pleased to be restored to his proper age (he had not looked forward to experiencing the throes of puberty again), feeling himself united inside once again engendered a wonderful sense of relief mingled with joy.

Jack's mind had wrapped around the idea that a unicorn could possibly exist - certainly not all the lands of the world had been thoroughly explored. But his amazement at Lady Clonfert's regrowth still took him aback. His mind was just forming the words, "Now I won't have to explain anything to Clonfert--!" when yet another figure stepped from the forest.

"Ah, my dear Rinion, excellent work! I knew I had chosen the right man for the job." This figure was at least human, and he spoke English. How he had come to be on this previously unknown island in the South Atlantic was a mystery that did not even make the short trip across Jack's mind. The man was fixing a halter over the unicorn's head, which was allowing it, albeit reluctantly.

"Do you have anything to eat?" whined Charlie as The Doctor led him away.

"Oh yes, of course," said The Doctor, rummaging in his pockets. "Here you are." He held out a couple sugar cubes and an apple, which Charlie snatched up instantly.

"Thanks," he said, a little wetly. "I was hoping for maybe a hamburger? With fries? A milkshake?"

"Oh, ah, let's see what we have back at TARDIS, shall we?"

A talking unicorn proved too much for Jack, but the odd man was leading it away into the forest, where they both vanished from sight. No longer a problem, then. And Lady Clonfert was back in her rightful shape, so also no longer a problem. He could now forget all the ridiculously absurd things that had happened here. Except for the sudden appearance of this island at all, but that wasn't strictly impossible...

Something the man had said suddenly struck Jack. "Beg pardon, Lady Clonfert, are you acquainted with that gentleman?"

Stephen hesitated, "Yes, a little. Perhaps not well enough for introductions."

"Oh no, not at all. Clearly he just came for - for his unicorn. I thought I heard him address you as Rinion?"

"Yes, I believe he did."

"Then you are not Lady Clonfert?" cried Jack.

"I am not."

"And you are not married?"

"No, my dear, I am not."

"Then will you marry me?" Jack blushed at the sudden baldness of his proposal.

Stephen looked up at Jack, into his ridiculously blue eyes, the red flush climbing his face intensifying the blue. In all the universes, in all the forms he had known Jack, always the same ridiculous blue eyes. But Stephen had no more time to contemplate the absurdity of it, for from his own lips he heard himself say, "Yes, Jack, I will."

He had the pleasure of watching the blue deepen as Jack's eyes crinkled to slits under the force of his smile. Then Jack's mouth descended upon his and they were kissing.

Some time later: "You do understand, joy, that I am not a woman."

Jack smiled. "Yes, Stephen, I know you are not. I do not know why you choose to go about dressed as a lady. I do know that I love you dearly, and I wish to be with you always."

Unfortunately for Jack he was wrong about the odd man being gone, for now here he was returning, although at least without his unicorn.

"Well, Dr. Maturin, or Rinion I should say, TARDIS is ready to take you back home."

At these words Stephen felt the same dismay that he saw on Jack's face. A coldness gripped his heart. His selves - Rinion and Stephen - had integrated so well. He no longer felt that same sense of emptiness, or incompleteness that had plagued him all his life: that Stephen had attributed to his bastardy and Rinion to his mixed heritage. He felt whole. And then Jack - at that thought his dismay gave way to an indescribable sadness. He could see his friend preparing to say goodbye. He could not bear the thought. "No, thank you, I believe I - we - will stay here, as I am. I have an - an engagement still to keep," he smiled at Jack. "A most pressing engagement, which I expect will last a lifetime. Or two."

~*~*~*~

For the wedding Captain Aubrey was magnificent in his full dress uniform, complete with his Nile medal, one-hundred-guinea presentation sword, and the chelengk glinting from his number one scraper. Stephen's eyes were transfixed by the central glowing gem. "Ain't it a pretty bauble?" said Jack, working the mechanism that turned the diamond aigrette. "The Sultan of Turkey gave it to me for knocking a rebel of his on the head."

"Sure, it is the beauty of the world," said Stephen. "May I examine it?" Jack unfastened it from his hat and passed it over.

"Pure light itself, for all love," Stephen murmured to himself, as he viewed the Silmaril in the palm of his hand.