Part of the SAC-2004
Stephen Maturin, ship’s surgeon, learned physician and natural philosopher, sat in the captain’s cabin of the H.M.S. Surprise, pensively staring into the rather indifferent red wine in his goblet. The sound of laughter and singing from the crew’s quarters brought his eyes up, and the bright, inquisitive gaze shifted to his dear friend, Capt. Jack Aubrey.
"Do you miss being home with your family for the holidays?" he asked curiously, thinking of the joy in Sophie’s eyes when she looked at Jack but knowing how pleasure was tempered by the presence of her mother in their home.
Jack swallowed the toast and cheese he was eating and looked at Stephen closely. "Of course I do, my dear; what man wouldn’t?" On deck he heard the call of seven bells and leaned back in his chair, contemplating his own wine. "Though I must admit I find life on the Surprise much more to my liking—and the company as well."
Stephen bowed slightly in his seat. "Better than your own wife?" he inquired blandly. Then he smiled. "I must admit to agreeing that females are most baffling creatures."
Raising his glass, Jack nodded vigorously as he toasted his friend. "Hear, hear, my friend! I had visions of what marital bliss would be, but I find that reality is far from the truth—not due in any way to Sophie’s failings; she is more fragile than I am used to."
"Females are the weaker species," Stephen agreed. "I find I much prefer the company of men, here on the Surprise. And I am most grateful for your companionship, my dear."
Jack nodded as he filled their glasses again. "I feel the same, as you well know. I feel ease with you, Stephen; an ease I feel with no other."
"As I do with you. I have not sought many friendships in my life, but I count you as my very dearest."
"The same is the truth with me." Jack smiled and reached out to cover Stephen’s hand with his own.
Stephen hesitated, gazing at their hands, before slowing turning his hand over and intertwining their fingers.
"I am most glad that we’re sharing this holiday," Jack murmured, looking at their hands, then into Stephen’s light eyes.
Stephen nodded. "There is no one else I would wish to spend Yule with." He paused briefly and added, "After giving the men their extra ration for the holiday, it would perhaps be best if you allowed them to celebrate without yourself as an authority figure.
"Perhaps we might celebrate privately," he offered.
"That is precisely what I had in mine, my dear," Jack answered, his normally booming voice subdued for once. "With the rations and the merriment, no one will miss either of us."
"And no one will disturb us within your cabin with the door shut." Stephen met Jack’s gaze searchingly.
"Not in the least; I believe they all fear it when we are together—I’ve heard Killick complaining about the caterwauling time and time again." Jack’s finger traced over Stephen’s palm as he spoke.
"Then they will be primed to ignore any strange sounds that might occur."
"Most definitely, and I hope I am correct in believing that the sounds will not be those of our instruments."
Stephen smiled. "I have long considered you my nearest and dearest. In all ways," he said delicately.
Jack smiled and raised Stephen’s hand to his lips, kissing it almost roughly. "I am most pleased to hear that. Now then, shall we give the crew some music to distract them?"
"A short concert?" Stephen questioned to be sure he was following Jack’s reasoning.
"For now," Jack agreed.
"And afterward we may please ourselves." Stephen rose from his seat to fetch his cello and began to tune it, his gaze darting often to Jack.
Turning his attention to his violin, Jack quickly tuned it, then flipped through their scores of music to find something suiting the holiday. "Care to give the count, my dear?" he asked, holding Stephen’s gaze the whole while.
"So I shall be setting the tempo tonight?" Stephen murmured as he nodded. "I shall be most pleased to do so."
Jack gave a small smile. "As long as you do not beat out of time."
"That is not my failing," Stephen retorted, smiling. "But I believe that we shall somehow manage to keep in step tonight."
"Indeed, we shall be quite in tune." Chuckling at his pun, Jack struck the first notes of the music.
Stephen sighed mentally, wondering if Jack would ever notice that he was the only one find his jokes amusing. "Indeed we shall," he agreed, setting his bow to the strings.
"So then, the crew is toasting my health with their extra ration, Pullings has the helm, and I am pleased with the way the ship lies; are your affairs in order on this day of the Christ child’s birth, my dear friend?" As he spoke, Jack opened a bottle of Madeira he had held in reserve in the stores and poured them each a glass.
"I released the last of my patients back to his duties before the first watch," Stephen replied, accepting the glass and raising it in a toast. "To deepening friendships, my dearest."
Jack drank deeply and set his glass aside under the bar designed to keep it from sliding across the table. "And to the season and all it entails."
"I look forward to unwrapping our gifts."
Bright blue eyes almost vanished in wrinkles of sun and wind darkened skin as Jack chuckled mightily at Stephen’s comment. "Oh yes indeed, my dear. Though I have seen you in the natural state a multitude of times during our swims, this time is much different."
"Much different," Stephen agreed, nodding. "For though I have seen you naked, I have never looked at you nude." He smiled faintly. "Well, in all honesty, I have perhaps looked from time to time..."
"And your thoughts at those times?"
Stephen smiled slowly. "That I hoped we would someday reach this point."
Jack smiled and plucked Stephen’s glass from his fingers, setting it beside his own. "I suppose it would be proper to say that I am very pleased that we have come to this turning."
Stephen rose to his feet, taking the single step necessary to bring him to Jack, and he held out his hand. "Then shall we take the next step, my dear Jack?"
"I feel this is one we have been on the edge of for years," Jack sighed, closing his hand around Stephen’s and drawing him nearer before leaning in, his lips brushing over the other man’s.
Stephen inhaled sharply, part of him surprised despite his desire for this. Then he pressed closer, his lips parting, and he deepened the kiss, tasting Jack for the first time.
When they broke apart, Jack smiled. "I am surprised, my friend; you taste as sweet as the honey from the bees you brought aboard."
"Perhaps I should keep a hive," Stephen mused, thoughts momentarily distracted. "We could then have honey whenever we liked."
"No!" Jack exclaimed, looking horrified by the thought.
"You do not care for honey? Very well then, it was but a thought. At present, however, I should prefer to concentrate on us." Stephen’s hands rose to Jack’s stock, unknotting it.
"I do not care for honey when it means that various parts of my personage are stung to obtain it!" Jack exclaimed, his hands moving to Stephen’s jacket.
"That is a fallacy. They only sting in self-defense." Stephen shook his head. "I thought I explained all this to you."
"As you were plucking their bayonets from my buttocks!"
"You sat on them!"
Jack shook his head and chuckled, knowing that arguing with Stephen over one of his discoveries was fruitless. "I am only surprised you tended to me rather than them."
"The ones that were squashed were beyond my help. And I was enjoying the view," Stephen admitted, a tiny smile, the most he ever allowed himself, curving his lips. He reached for the buttons on Jack’s breeches, intent upon finding out if the reality matched his memories.
"Of the bees?" Jack asked, pulling Stephen’s shirt open and smoothing a hand over the slim chest usually hidden behind the stained linen.
"Of you." Stephen’s eyes closed momentarily as he concentrated on the sensation of Jack’s hand on his bare skin. "Oh Jack," he whispered.
"My dearest Stephen," Jack murmured, leaning in to kiss Stephen again as he tugged the surgeon’s shirt from his trousers. Opening his mouth to the kiss, Stephen groaned when Jack’s tongue swept in and claimed it as thoroughly as ever Jack claimed a prize of war. Drawing Stephen roughly to him, Jack explored his mouth, groaning as long held passions rose to the fore.
Hands moving more purposefully now, Stephen fought to rid them of their remaining garments, growing desperate to feel Jack against him fully.
"Shall we adjourn to my cot, my dear?" Jack breathed, sliding his hands up Stephan’s sides, feeling his ribs as he did so.
"With the greatest pleasure," Stephen replied, arching his back like a cat being stroked. "I fear my knees will not support me much longer."
"Then we most certainly should move as I have no desire to crush you," Jack chuckled as they walked toward his swinging cot, Jack steadying Stephen when his steps faltered.
"Though I do have a great desire to be embedded in your arse."
"I suppose that is for the best, and I have no complaints about that idea in the least."
"I only hope we do not tumble out of the cot," Stephen stated with a slight chuckle.
"I promise to keep you safe, my dearest."
"I put myself in your hands." Reaching the cot, Stephen turned to face Jack and kissed him again before bending over to remove his boots and stockings.
"Mmm, now there’s a rare sight," Jack murmured, admiring the line of Stephen’s arse as he bent over even as he stripped down himself and climbed into the swinging cot.
"Hopefully it shall not be rare in future," Stephen replied, carefully settling himself alongside Jack, half atop the much larger man. "Ah, had I realized how pleasant this would be, I should have joined you years since."
"Knowing you as I do, Stephen, you would have fallen from the cot even with me to hold you had you joined me on the Sophie."
Stephen looked insulted, but he could not deny the accuracy of Jack’s contention. "You have your share of mishaps as well," he grumbled. Finally where he’d wanted to be for so long, he did not allow their conversation to keep him from pressing closer, nimble fingers exploring the ridges and hollows of Jack’s torso.
Jack chuckled and arched up into Stephen’s touch even as his own hands stroked over the doctor’s back. "Though mine seem to come in battle, not in the simple act of stepping from bark to ship." He felt Stephen trace the scar on his side and gave a low grumble of pleasure. "And you are most adept at setting me to rights when I stray too near a French sword."
"I should much rather that you cease such straying," Stephen replied acerbically. "However, I know that shall never happen, so I must do my best to keep you intact, for my own sake as well as yours." He shifted downward, pressing his lips to the ridged, shiny scars he’d caressed moments before, grateful that Jack had survived his many battles with so little to show for them.
Jack caught up Stephen’s hand and looked at the fingers from which the nails had been torn not too many months ago. "Then I shall say the same for you." He shifted, causing the ropes that helped support the cot to creak, and voiced a low moan as Stephen continued to explore his chest, his own hands stroking over Stephen’s back and shoulders.
Stephen smiled crookedly, reveling in the sensation of Jack’s warm, calloused fingers touching him. His hands crept lower, the sensitive fingertips, without the protection normally offered by nails—his were still re-growing—feeling every scar, every soft hair, and every tremor as he reached lower, lightly skimming over the pelvic bone until he was combing through the damp hair at the base of Jack’s rigid shaft.
"Stephen, please..." Jack whispered, twisting upward though carefully as he didn’t want to throw the notoriously clumsy doctor to the floor.
"Oh yes, you please me, and I shall please you," Stephen murmured, his hand traveling the final inch to curl around Jack’s erection, absorbing the heat ad weight of him. "You please me very much."
Jack gave a low, wordless cry of pleasure and ran a hand down Stephen’s back to cup and knead his buttocks as they rocked together.
"Oh my dear, you shall unman me too soon if we continue this way," Stephen groaned, hips thrusting against Jack.
"I find myself in the same condition, but I do not mind it in the least; it has been too long since I felt this way," Jack admitted.
"And we do have all evening and all the nights ahead of us," Stephen agreed. Feeling Jack against him, the heat and friction, the scent of their lust filling their nostrils, he knew that this first time would be all haste and fire. Exploring each other leisurely would have to come later.
Jack’s hand tightened on Stephen’s arse, and he thrust his other one between them, finding and stroking Stephen’s shaft, his body trembling with a need he knew he could not contain for much longer.
Jack’s touch was so similar to Stephen’s own and yet at the same time completely different. Stephen shook with the force of his arousal, his own hand following Jack’s lead and curling around Jack’s erection, pumping it to the same rhythm that Jack had established.
"Jack," he groaned, pressing his face to Jack’s shoulder to muffle his sounds of pleasure, the salty smell of fresh sweat surrounding him.
"My dear Stephen," Jack echoed, clenching his jaw as he spent himself, Stephen’s hand caressing him sweetly as he rode out the tremors of his climax.
Stephen gasped, eyes widening as he reared back to watch Jack’s peak, his hand moving in a slight twisting motion that drew a muffled cry from Jack. Only when the last spasm had passed did Stephen begin thrusting harder and faster into Jack’s momentarily lax grip.
Rousing himself enough to be aware that he wanted to give pleasure as well as receive it, Jack tightened his fingers around Stephen’s shaft, using a counter-rhythm to the other man’s movements.
"Jack!" Stephen’s movements sped up, his fingers biting into Jack’s shoulders, his mouth lax as passion twisted his features. He thrust again and again, then stiffened and cried out wordlessly as his seed exploded over Jack’s hand.
Sighing at the expression of pleasure on Stephen’s face, Jack continued stroking his slowly softening flesh until Stephen shuddered. "It is quite the gift you have given me, my dearest Stephen," he murmured.
"I should have said that it was I who had received the greatest gift, but perhaps we shall agree to a mutual bestowing." Stephen lay half atop Jack, his left hand lazily stroking Jack’s chest, pausing occasionally to trace the line of a scar, and he turned his head just enough to press a kiss to the shoulder pillowing him.
"We shall have to be discreet," Jack warned. "But I believe we are both men enough to accomplish that, and you are skilled in the art of subterfuge."
"And I have never had a cause dearer to my heart." Stephen inhaled the scent of sex and smiled lazily, his pulse speeding up as he considered the myriad possibilities for the future. "I shall, perhaps, come to love being at sea nearly as much as you do."
"Now if we could just keep you on the ship and out of the ocean, life would be much simpler."
"Are you implying that I am a poor sailor?" Stephen demanded indignantly, dark head rising from Jack’s shoulder so he could glare down at the big blond.
"Now, Stephen, everyone has their own particular set of skills..."
The light eyes narrowed still more. "Though I make no claim to be an expert sailor, I believe I handle myself creditably, Jack."
"You are a much better sailor than I am a physician, my dear."
Considering that Jack was no kind of physician, that wasn’t saying much, but Stephen accepted the peace offering and let his head fall back to Jack’s shoulder. "It’s true that I’m no Lucky Jack Aubrey."
Jack snickered. "Ah, but if you are lucky, you will have Jack Aubrey." His whole body shook with his barely restrained mirth at his own joke.
As ever, Jack’s amusement at his own wit was infectious, and Stephen’s rusty chuckle rang out as well. "I should count myself very lucky," he agreed.
"Exactly!" Jack beamed.
Stephen rolled his eyes. "Happy Christmas, Jack."
Jack caught Stephen’s face between his palms and kissed him soundly. "And to you too, my dearest."
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