DOVER Chapter 36
Tomlin woke slowly, looking around in the darkness of the room, not remembering where he was. It gave him a slight start, and he sat up in the soft bed. He looked about and then it came back to him. He threw back the covers and got out of bed. He reached for his clothes and dressed quickly and went for the door. He went down the stairs and looked in the tavern portion of the inn, seeing the man behind the counter.
"I beg your pardon, sir. I wanted to tell you that I was leaving now, but the Doctor I spoke of last night will be coming to take the room."
"Very good. I shall have the girl take care of it for him, and freshen it for him."
"I thank you, sir, I appreciate it very much." Tomlin smiled and nodded.
"We understand, my lad."
"Good day to you, sir." Tomlin tipped his hand toward him.
"And to you." He nodded and gave a smile toward Tomlin, who turned on his heel and headed out the door, down the street to the Admiralty. The Marine sentry opened the door for him and snapped to attention as did the other one at the other door. Tomlin walked by a different Registrar this morning and to the surgery, knocking and then opening the door. Tomlin saw Crawford and several other men standing around Holt as he lay on the table.
"Ah, Thomas." Crawford said as he looked up seeing Tomlin. "Gentlemen, this is Lt. Tomlin, the rescuer of our patient here." Crawford smiled. "Come and have a look, Thomas." Crawford smiled, as Tomlin walked up to the table. "Notice here and here," Crawford said as he pointed. Tomlin saw that the leeches that clung to Holt's neck were a different color now, not the black, but more golden in tone, "the leeches are absorbing the toxins out of our young Marine as you can see. It's quite remarkable actually."
"They seem to be of a different color now." Tomlin said as he leaned closer and then looked at Crawford.
"Yes, as I said, it's quite remarkable. No of us have ever seen this before. Once they reach a certain color, they stop taking in the toxin and die themselves. It might be that he may be up and about in a day or so." Crawford smiled.
"It's a truly a miracle, Doctor. Thank you very much."
"On the contrary, my dear boy, it is you that has performed the miracle actually. Our young Lieutenant here spoke quite a bit last night about you and your miraculous rescue of him. According to him, you pulled him from the clutches of the vilest person that has ever come from the Orient. Which leads me to another point, we must do something about this man, for he is truly a danger to the rest of the community that he resides in."
"And there is that housekeeper as well. She is the one that administering the treatments to him." Tomlin said as he looked down at Holt.
"Yes, I understand that she is very surly as well." Crawford raised his eyebrows. "I shall see about a detachment of regulars and have them sent to collect them both." Crawford said as he leaned down over Holt. "Lt. Holt, can you hear me?" Holt nodded without opening his eyes, "Good, Lt. Tomlin has returned to see you and your progress this morning." Holt opened his eyes slowly, and looked to his right only with his eyes, trying to focus. Crawford stepped back, as the other doctors watched as Tomlin stepped close into Holt's field of vision.
"Good morning." Tomlin said softly looking down at Holt. Holt gave him a faint smile and then licked his lips softly, and then struggled to try and speak.
"Nonsense, you would have done the same for me." Tomlin smiled. Holt lifted a hand, bending at his elbow. Tomlin looked down and saw it, and then took it in his own, giving him a gentle squeeze. "That is what friends and shipmates do for one another." Tomlin smiled, and Holt squeezed back. Tomlin smiled wider.
"Well, another miracle, he can move on his own. Your presence is obviously of benefit to him." Crawford said, behind Tomlin's shoulder. "But, we must treat him further now. The rest of the toxins must be drawn from him. He is not out of danger yet."
"I will be outside waiting. Let them continue to help you, and then we can get you out of here." Tomlin smiled. Holt nodded, and gave another faint smile. "I will see you in a bit then." Tomlin let his hand go and turned, Crawford giving him a smile and a pat on the shoulder.
"Dr. Martin and Dr. Collins will tend to him. You secured the room at the inn, I take it?"
"Yes, here is the key for you." Tomlin pulled it out of his pocket and handed it over. "They know of it at the inn and of your coming, it is at the top of the stairs on the left at the end."
"Excellent, thank you." Crawford smiled taking the key. "I shall go and get some much needed sleep, and then return in short order." Crawford said to his colleagues. He turned back and looked at Tomlin. "There is a place outside that you can wait, I'll show you. Trust that they will take good care of him now." Crawford said and led Tomlin outside.
Dustin moved down slowly in the bed, kissing Callum as he went, going slowly, being careful of the stitches in Callum's side and stomach. Dustin slowly rolled over the top of Callum and then licked at the tip of his long length as Callum watched him, running a hand over the top of Dustin's head, guiding him slowly. Dustin looked up as he ran his tongue around Callum's flared head, teasing it, making his shaft flex with the touch. Dustin watched Callum's eyes and his reaction to what he was doing to him. Callum took in a sharp breath through his nose and moaned softly as Dustin opened his mouth and slowly began to suck on the head only. Dustin pulled off making a popping sound as he let Callum out of his mouth.
"You have wanted this, haven't you?" Dustin asked softly.
"You know I do, and you know that I want to do it to you as well."
"Perhaps I will make you wait a little longer." Dustin smiled and then licked at tip again.
"You tease me so." Callum smiled as he propped his head up on the pillow with a folded arm behind his head. "Why is that?"
"You bring the devil out in me." Dustin smiled and then licked his length again.
"You are so beautiful in the morning light, you know that?" Callum asked as he cradled Dustin's chin in his fingers.
"Not as beautiful as seeing you like this." Dustin said, as he looked down at the long hard length in front of his face.
"I wonder." Callum said. Dustin looked back up at him and narrowed his eyes.
"Again something takes you away from here and me." Dustin rolled slightly and rested his chin on Callum's hip. "Quintan, what is it? You said last night that you would tell me, but did not."
"It is my own mind, that's all."
"Tell me, please. I tell you of everything, and sometimes too much."
"You're right, you do, and I am grateful in that." Callum smiled, and then turned into a frown. "I look at you, in the morning light, your beauty, your radiance, and then I look at myself and what I have become, a patchwork quilt as it were. Like sliced bread, someone said."
"Is that what bothers you?" Dustin brought up a hand and rested his chin on the back of it, placed on Callum's naked hip. "Quintan, you have been wounded, and more than once. Dr. Crawford has said that it is a wonder how you have survived what you have been through, and I agree. You can't blame yourself for what has happened to you and your body."
"That is not what you said the other day in the carriage when we went to the docks. You yourself said that I take things to the extreme and I am my own worst enemy. Do you not recall?"
"I do, and I'm sorry that I spoke out of turn. I meant nothing by it about your body."
"It is my body that concerns me and all of its knitting." Callum flashed his eyes.
"Quintan, you are still as beautiful to me as the first day that I saw you those two years ago. That will never change for me, it can't, and don't you see? It's because I love you so, you will always be the most beautiful man to me, and it matters not to me that the doctor has had to sew you up to make you whole again. This will heal and then there will be the most beautiful scars that I will enjoy tracing with my fingertips or with the tip of my tongue, which ever you prefer." Dustin wiggled his eyebrows. "Now, I think I have had you wait a sufficient amount of time."
"We need to up and about." Callum smiled softly and then reached down, pulling Dustin up to him. He kissed Dustin softly as Dustin put a hand to the back of Callum's head. They pulled back from one another. "I want you to save yourself from what I have planned for you this evening."
"Oh? And what is that?" Dustin asked.
"You wanted to see everything in London, did you not?"
"Yes." Dustin scanned Callum's eyes.
"There is a certain place that you will find...magical. I will take you there, tonight."
"Really, and what is this place?" Dustin asked his eyes flashed with excitement.
"It's a bathhouse, from Roman times. You can indulge in a swim in warm waters and then a steaming."
"A what? A steaming?"
"Yes, it's quite the luxury actually." Callum smiled. "They have all manner of things that go on there."
"Really? This sounds to be exciting."
"It is, an experience of a lifetime. You'll enjoy it immensely." Callum smiled and then lay back on the pillows. Dustin sat back on his haunches.
"And a swim in warm water? You mean like as a bath?"
"Yes, there is a large pool of water that is very warm like bath water. You can swim about like a fish in it." Callum smiled.
"Why have you never told me of this?"
"Hmmm, I guess it never occurred to me, until now. It might help my stitching as well, with the steaming. It makes the skin softer."
"I see. This sounds too good to be true, and rather exciting."
"As I said, you'll enjoy it very much." Callum said and then rolled off the bed. He pulled on his shirt over his head and let it drop down him, and then reached for his long pants, getting into them. "Now, we must get ready for the afternoon visit to the Arvin's."
"But that isn't for some time yet." Dustin said, sitting naked on the bed, still on his haunches. Callum loved to look at this young beauty of his, and wanted to ravish him over and over, but stopped himself.
"Yes, but they will want the room shortly, I'm sure. I also wish to have a look about the village. We haven't the time necessary to do what I want to do to you here. I cannot wait to get you home to Birmingham." Callum said as he tucked in his shirt and reached for his vest. Dustin got to his knees and came across the bed up close to Callum, smiling a devilish smile.
"Nor can I." Dustin said as he put his arms around Callum's neck. He pulled him into a long deep kiss. Callum melted into Dustin, dropping his vest back on the bed as his hands wrapped the smooth skin of Dustin's back. Callum slowly ran a hand down and cupped a cheek of Dustin's butt and he squeezed it gently, making Dustin moan in Callum's mouth. Callum could feel Dustin's hard length climbing up between them, and Callum slowly pulled away, and looked down at him. "Now what am I to do with this?" Dustin pointed at it and then wrapped his fingers around it, holding it out.
"I'm not certain." Callum said, raising an eyebrow. "But I know you'll think of something." Callum smiled, reaching down, rubbing fingers over the tip of it, making Dustin moan again.
"You are the one that is such a tease." Dustin said, still holding it out from him. Callum picked up the vest again and slipped it on. Callum smiled and then kissed Dustin again.
"I'm going downstairs for coffee, do you want me to have them set you out some breakfast?"
"Ah, I see how it is now." Dustin said, letting himself go. "Coffee is more important, is it?" Dustin asked and then pursed his lips together.
"No, nothing is as important as you." Callum smiled, slipping on his buckle shoes. "However to make love with you requires more time than we are granted at this current moment. I shall make it truly worth your while tonight." Callum said as he slipped on his tunic, pulling his ponytail out and tossing it over the collar. Dustin gave him a deflated look. "I'll see you downstairs." Callum winked and walked out of the room, leaving Dustin frustrated.
"Mr. Tomlin, is that you, sir?" Tomlin looked up hearing his name and then saw young Collingwood standing there.
"Mr. Collingwood." Tomlin said as he got to his feet. Tomlin stuck out his hand, Collingwood took it.
"What brings you here, sir?"
"An errand of mercy actually." Tomlin answered.
"And what is that?"
"I had chance to see our Marine Lieutenant at his home yesterday in Cambridge and discovered that he had been poisoned. I brought him here in hopes of trying to save him from it."
"In Cambridge? You say he was poisoned? Dear God."
"Yes, it seems we got him here just in time to save him, otherwise..."
"Then he is alright?" Collingwood asked.
"Yes, the doctors are with him still, but he is doing much better."
"Thank heavens that you were there." Collingwood said. "So, I take it you are staying in London then?"
"For the time being, yes. Once they have set the Lieutenant free of the toxins, I am not sure where I will be going."
"Well, do you have lodgings?"
"Yes, actually, Dr. Crawford and I are sharing lodgings one the next street over."
"Ah, at the Boar's Head. I know it well. They have a lovely young chamber maid there. Her parents actually own the establishment. I have stayed there many times actually." Collingwood smiled.
"I believe I met her last night. I don't really recall what she..."
"You probably had other things on your mind, I suppose." Collingwood smiled out of the corner of his mouth.
"Yes, no doubt." Tomlin said. "I understand that you have been posted to the Dover."
"Yes," Collingwood smiled wider, "I have been, along with Morris and Dorland. I am very excited about it and can't wait actually."
"I, for one will be glad to have you on board. I thought you were very capable." Tomlin smiled.
"Why, thank you, sir. Thank means a great deal to me, you have no idea."
"I remember when I first came on board the Dover near two years ago. Captain Callum was the 2nd officer, Mr. Dunhill was the 1st, and Captain Powers was a man to fear, he never spoke much, but when he did, they were words to heed, and you listened the first time, as there was never a second." Tomlin smiled at the memory, "I learned much my first year aboard, that's when we sailed around the Cape heading for the Persian Gulf. It was Callum that taught me how to sail, and how to handle a ship. If you listen to and watch the Captain, he will teach you, and teach you well. He treats all that come aboard as a member of our family as it were."
"Family." Collingwood said softly, looking at Tomlin thoughtfully.
"That's how he treats all aboard Dover, all are family, and that's why I am here, a member of our family was in great need. We stand together and help each other. No question ever goes unanswered, no assistance is too much." Tomlin smiled faintly. "You will never find a more trusting ships master than Captain Callum."
"I have come to have the deepest respect for him and his abilities."
"He is one of a kind, and will always be there for you if you show him the loyalty he deserves."
"I will bear that in mind at all times, thank you." Collingwood said. "I'm sorry, I must take my leave. I have duties to perform for His Lordship. Perhaps I shall see you later on today and we can talk more?"
"Yes, I'd like that." Tomlin said, holding out his hand to Collingwood, they shook. Collingwood turned and walked up the wide staircase going up to the second floor. Tomlin watched him for a moment and then sat back down on the bench seat outside the surgery.
"Well you certainly took your time in coming down." Callum said as Dustin joined him at the table.
"Yes, there was something that required my...attention." Dustin widened his eyes for a moment.
"Oh? And pray tell, what was that?" Callum said as he sipped more coffee.
"You know what it was, you devil." Dustin whispered and Callum chuckled softly. The barkeep brought Dustin his breakfast and set it in front of him and Dustin was wide eyed at the size of it.
"I told him that you were famished and didn't get enough of the excellent supper last night." Callum said softly. Dustin looked at him and then began to eat. "I hope you don't start putting on extra weight with all this food. I'll have to have some of the ballast removed from the keel during the refit." Callum said, and looked up at the ceiling. Dustin went wide eyed again as he looked at Callum.
"Will you gentlemen be staying for luncheon before the coach arrives?" The barkeep asked as he returned with the coffee pot, pouring for Callum and Dustin now.
"No, we are having a luncheon with friends before we go."
"Would that be the Arvin's then?"
"Yes, do you know them?"
"Well. They are a good family, they have been here for generations up there in the manor."
"I didn't know that."
"The master, did he sail with you gentlemen?"
"Indeed he did, a very fine officer."
"I'm sure of that. His entire family was sailors."
"You seem to be a fountain of knowledge my good man." Callum said. "As large as the manor is, were they Squires here as well?"
"They were, sir. The masters father's father was the last Squire actually, God rest him. I remember a little of him as a boy here. They all be good men." He smiled.
"I'm certain that they all are. Thank you for your insight." Callum said, giving him a nod. "You have a very fine establishment here, it was a pleasure to stay in lodgings so comfortable."
"Thank you, sir. You and the young master are more than welcome at any time."
"Well, thank you, again." Callum said. Dustin sipped his coffee and looked at Callum as the barkeep walked away.
"He seems like an honest fellow." Dustin said softly.
"Yes, he does, but he also seems very familiar as well, doesn't he to you?" Callum asked, and Dustin looked at him.
"He does, but I can't place him. Who does he remind you of?"
"A certain crewman, a certain topman perhaps?" Callum asked and looked at the man again and then the realization hit.
"Jarter." Dustin said, setting his fork down.
"Yes, Jarter. Perhaps he is his father?"
"You may be right. It is a small world we live in, isn't it?"
"Yes, and if it is his father, I wonder where the son might be?"
"I hadn't thought of that." Dustin said.
"Finish your breakfast, I wish to tour the village for a bit and then it should be time for our appointment." Callum said softly.
They finished what they had on the table and got up to leave. Callum gave the barkeep a little more money, thanking him again for their hospitality and then he and Dustin walked about the village seeing the various shops there. Dustin purchased a couple of shirts from a mercantile and put them in their bag and then they started toward Arvin Manor as it was referred to by everyone in the village. Several people turned out in the street to watch them walk by. Some nodded and Callum nodded back, also giving them a smile. They walked back by the inn and then down the main road until they came to the drive and started down it. In a few minutes they were there at the front door.
"It certainly is a very large house, don't you think?"
"Yes, it is, and it does look as though it needs quite a bit of repair as well."
"I noticed that too." Dustin said as he looked around while Callum pulled on the chain for the bell. The door opened a couple of minutes later and the young Arvin opened the door, dressed in full uniform.
"Captain, Mr. Perkins, a pleasure to see you gentlemen, do come in, please." Arvin said as he opened the door wider for them. Callum took off his hat as he entered and shook the young Arvin's hand. Dustin shook as well as he entered behind Callum. Arvin closed the door. "Please, gentlemen, father is in the drawing room, this way please." They followed him into a very large room that was paneled all in deep wood with very high ceilings. Callum could not get over the immense size of everything about him as they walked through the various rooms to get where they now stood. Arvin, Sr., was in his hospital lounge on the far side of the room. He brightened as they came in.
"Captain, Mr. Perkins, good to see you both, do come in and be comfortable please." Arvin said. "Andrew, would you pour these gentlemen some sherry, please?"
"Certainly, father." Young Arvin said and bowed slightly.
"Captain, come and sit here next to me." Arvin said, patting a comfortable looking arm chair next to the lounger. "Mr. Perkins, I have a comfortable bench seat here for you as well." Callum went and sat down, setting his hat next to him on the floor. Dustin sat down as young Arvin brought them the sherry, handing the glasses to Callum and Dustin. "To your health, gentlemen." Arvin said looking at both of them.
"Aren't you having any, Mr. Arvin?" Dustin asked.
"Oh, I never touch the stuff. Wine is about the only thing I will have, Mr. Perkins. I only keep the sherry for guests that might stop by."
"William, I must say that this is quite a house. I am most impressed by all of it."
"Yes, well only about a third of the house is useable actually. It has fallen into quite a state of disrepair over the many years, and we find that we have not the funds to do the repairs on a sailors pay that is, until now." Arvin smiled at Callum. "After you left yesterday, I had tucked the second envelope away as I was so focused on the letter from His Lordship, I didn't really open it and see how much it contained until this morning actually. As I said yesterday, it looked like a King's ransom, but it wasn't until we actually counted it and the fact of it actually hit us. Quintan, this is more than incredible, and you know that. Your share alone must be near double what this contained."
"I will not contest that, William, and it certainly is. And believe me, I considered retirement right then and there after signing for it, but, I find that my purpose in my service has doubled greatly."
"I share your feeling on that point as well."
"Then you have made a decision."
"I have." Arvin said. "I will accept the offer from His Lordship and the duties that go along with it, and I have also come to another decision. Andrew, would you be so kind?" Arvin asked his son, pointing a finger. The young Arvin turned and reached for something, and then handed it to his father. "Thank you, Andy." Arvin threw back the throw that was covering him and took the large stick handed him and used it to stand up out of the lounge. Callum and Dustin jumped to their feet quickly, trying to help him and also not trying to spill their glasses of sherry. "No, it's alright, gentlemen. Have no fear, I have had a little practice with this before Dr. Crawford took the leg from me. Quintan, you will remember that night, they had that timber strapped to my leg, well this is the next best thing."
"A walking stick, William?" Callum asked, setting his sherry down.
"Exactly. Regulations be hanged I say." Arvin smiled. "I can take the old windbags at the Admiralty and pop them in the rump with this if they don't move fast enough up the stairs, eh?" Arvin grinned from ear to ear. Callum laughed deep and loud never hearing Arvin like this before.
"You certainly have a mind for it, and a plan." Callum laughed again. Dustin was wide eyed and the young Arvin did not really think it was funny at all. Arvin smiled wide. He looked over at his son and wiggled his eyebrows at him.
"Father, you are not to overdo yourself, remember what the doctor told you the other day."
"Yes, yes. He wants me to relax in this lounger and be wheeled about. Well, I tell, sir, I feel the need to up and about. Today is a new day and I feel absolutely brilliant." Arvin smiled at his son. "You tell him, Quintan, you felt the same way, more than once as I recall clearly."
"Well, William, I think that the circumstances were quite a bit different."
"Tell him of that night, the night we were boarded. You came like the devil at them from your death bed." Arvin said, flashing his eyes.
"Well, it was hardly..."
"I beg to differ, sir." Dustin said, sitting back down, "I saw it, I was there. I can tell him exactly what happened."
"Dustin, I hardly think that this is the time." Callum said frowning slightly.
"I'd like to hear the tale, Captain, if that's alright." The young Arvin said, looking at Callum and then at Dustin. "Father, perhaps you should rest yourself again." The son said to the father.
"You're right, my lad." Arvin said with a sigh and swung back into his lounger. "Go ahead with your tale, Mr. Perkins." Arvin said, getting comfortable. Dustin looked up at Callum, who only held up a hand in surrender slightly shaking his head.
"We were on course to La Rochelle to support the squadron. I was below in the Great Cabin tending to the Captain as Dr. Crawford had asked me to keep watch on him and to keep him from moving about with his wounds. The Captain and I heard the sounds at first from a distance. We were being fired upon. Then we started to fire back. The Captain became more awake and sent me to the Main Deck to see what was going on and then report back to him in the Great Cabin. I got to the Main Deck as the ship was under a full broadside when I stepped out and was knocked to the deck. I looked up as the Quarterdeck was fired on and that's when your father was thrown from above to the Main Deck below and that's when his leg was broken. I went to him and he gave me orders to steer away from the Frenchman that was firing on us, but it was too late when I reached the wheel. They had tied off to us and were pouring over the side onto our decks. The crew fought as hard as they could and the Marines were trying to get into formation, but there were too many for us.
"On the Quarterdeck, there were only two other hands with me, and that's when the Captain came out on deck. I saw him go to your father and check on him, and the French were on them both. The Captain fought them off, but they kept coming more and more. He was able to fight the group of them back until he reached a few members of our own crew and they grouped up. The Captain led them and they drove through the French like a wedge until they were able to reach the Marines and form up. The French ship was still firing into us with muskets and the Captain was shot with a ball across his shoulder. He kept going however and that's when he saw me on the Quarterdeck, and the larger group of French sailors that the three of us were trying to fight off to protect the wheel.
"The Captain charged back through the lines and reached the Quarterdeck and took them all on, singlehanded. There must have been at least fifteen if not more, and he turned them by himself and forced them to retreat back to their own ship. I know, I can see it in your eyes, but it's true, so help me. The Quarterdeck was cleared and the Captain went back to the Main Deck as I took the wheel again. He ordered the gun crews to continue firing as the French were retreating. He went below decks with the Marines following and that's all I saw. But, I was told by several that were there that the Captain and our Sergeant of Marines took the Gun Deck from the French and between them cleared the entire deck. So help me, that's what happened."
"My word." The young Arvin said in almost a whisper. He looked at Callum and gulped hard. "I had no idea, sir." Callum only held up his hands, then picked up his sherry, taking a long sip.
"You know, this is quite excellent, William." Callum said, and Arvin chuckled.
"And then there was the battle at the fortress." Dustin said, his eyes bright, and the young Arvin just looked at him with wonder.
"The fortress?" The young Arvin asked, and then looked at his father, and then to Callum.
"I believe the young Lieutenant has had enough excitement for one afternoon." Callum said, looking at Dustin.
"I beg to differ with you," Arvin said, putting a hand on Callum's tunic sleeve. "I am unclear about this part myself and need that clarified as well."
"Oh, very well. It's your tale, Dustin, go ahead." Callum said, throwing up a hand again.
"We were at anchor in the bay at La Rochelle after destroying the French fleet there, as well as a Spanish sixty gunner."
"What?" The young Arvin asked, with wide eyes.
"Oh, yes. It was quite a bit of excellent seamanship. Your father was there as well, but was struck down by a musket shot. That was the second time that the Captain had to get up off his death bed from the surgery." Dustin said, looking at Callum, "You know that is not a boast as well, it is fact. You were taken below to the surgery and then came back up after the fight became too much. You see, Lieutenant, your father was in the surgery with his leg as well as the Captain waiting to be worked on by the Doctor. Lt. Tomlin was in command and was sailing into the harbor to support the squadron but they were bottled up and under attack. Lt. Tomlin went below to the surgery and your father was brought back up and placed on a box to support him while we sailed in to save the squadron. As the battle started, that's when the Captain came back up, bleeding and near death, not another exaggeration by the way, and that's about when your father was struck down by the musket ball to his own shoulder.
"Anyway, we were at anchor in the harbor, the squadron was saved and ready to sail back here to England. The French were coming overland to retake the fortress, the Captain had a plan to blow the fortress up to make it unusable by the enemy. He went ashore with all the Marines from Dover and they set the explosives. The French attacked, and the Marines, all but a dozen retreated and the Captain with the Marines blew up the fortress. We lost Captain Anders though, that was very sad," Dustin paused for a moment, "and then the boats were sent to pick all the Marines and the Captain up as Dover sailed around the bay to fire on the fortress and destroy what was left.
"The Captain was cut off though, and was involved in a fight with the previous Captain of the Tarkington, Captain Smythe, he turned out to be a traitor and was working for the French. Anyway, we all watched the Captain in this terrible fight with Captain Smythe and we couldn't do anything about it, as the boats were bringing back the Marines. The Captain's gig was finally sent back to the beach as the French were right on top of the Captain and he had to kill Captain Smythe in the duel. The boat landed and took care of the French, they got the Captain back to Dover and that's when we started back to Portsmouth." Dustin sat back and exhaled heavily.
"My word." The young Arvin said, wide eyed at hearing everything. He looked at Callum in a totally new light now.
"Well, that was certainly more than exciting to hear." All eyes turned and there stood Mrs. Arvin. All of them got to their feet as she stood there, all but Arvin, who only smiled at her. "Hearing of such heroics does bring on one's appetite." She smiled as she crossed the room to where they all were. "Good afternoon, Captain, Mr. Perkins." She smiled at them both and they both bowed their heads toward her.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Arvin." Callum said. "We thank you very much for having us."
"It is our pleasure, Captain, and it is long overdue, I must say." She said, "Gentlemen, I have the luncheon set out for all of us, in the dining room. If you will follow me?" She held out her hand, showing the way.
"Allow me, William." Callum said as he got behind the lounge and started to push him. Callum leaned down next to his ear, "One old wounded sailor pushing around another." Arvin chuckled. The younger Arvin got up next to Dustin.
"Mr. Perkins, you tell quite the tales of the Captain. My father has told of a few, but are there any more like that?"
"A few, but not firsthand I'm afraid. I have heard it from some of the hands that have been with him since he was a midshipman, but as to their accuracy, I am not quite sure."
"I would love to hear them." He said as he leaned close to Dustin.
"I would love to tell you, if there were time."
"Perhaps we can make the time in the near future, Mr. Perkins."
"Please, Dustin." Dustin smiled, "Yes, perhaps we can." He said as they entered the dining room. It was immense as well. The table was large enough for over twenty people. Callum had never seen a table as long as this before. It amazed him.
"My God, William." Callum said quietly leaning down as he pushed Arvin into the room. "This house is just incredible, and so beautiful."
"Thank you." Arvin said as Callum pushed up to the end of the long table. "My family had the original house built here in eleven fifty. It has been added onto over all that time until just a few generations ago. We have held this land since that time. My grandfather was actually the last Squire here in the district."
"Yes, we heard that from the innkeeper this morning." Callum said.
"And he looked familiar to you, I'll wager."
"Yes, he's Jarter's father, isn't he?"
"Yes, he is. You have a good eye, Quintan." Arvin smiled, as everyone was seated at the table.
"So, now that you have all of this from your tally, are you planning to do reparations to the house?"
"We discussed that, yes, didn't we my dear? But there are other considerations as well."
"Oh, and what would those be?" Callum asked as he placed his napkin in his lap. He sat next to Mrs. Arvin, to her right. The young Arvin and Dustin sat opposite across the table from them.
"The lands need to be tended to first, I should think, as they can actually become a source of income again. They have been unkempt for so long, it has become woodlands rather than pasture as it once was. I remember that as a boy living here. I would love to see it as it was once upon a time. My mother and my grandmother had beautiful gardens right outside these windows actually. But as time went on, and I was at sea more and more, and leaving my wife alone, she could not keep up with all of it. We were unable to keep servants of any type here on the salary of a sailor alone, so the manor has fallen into this poor state that you see today."
"I'm very sorry, but now you should be able to correct that misfortune."
"Yes, and with that and the prospect of this new posting, I should be able to oversee its transformation."
"That is wonderful, William." Callum smiled. He raised his glass, "A toast," Callum said, and they all lifted their glasses, "to dreams realized." Callum smiled and touched his glass to hers, and she smiled softly at him and lowered her head a bit.
"Yes, very much so." She whispered, and then looked at her husband. She sipped from her wine glass and then sat it down. She served from the platters that were on the table and they all began to eat and talk of the house more and the lands surrounding them. Arvin asked what Callum intended to do when they returned back to Portsmouth.
"We shall go on to Birmingham and home for a time while Dover is being refit and then I shall organize the squadron and get ready for the next mission." Callum said.
"Organize the squadron?" Arvin asked.
"I'm sorry, it completely slipped my mind, with everything else that was going on."
"The Captain received a promotion to Commodore." Dustin said, with a deep amount of pride in his voice, looking at Mr. Arvin at the head of the table.
"Is that true, Quintan?"
"Yes, it is, I'm afraid." Callum said, rolling his eyes a bit. "It came from Lord Hood himself, apparently."
"Well, and deservedly so." The young Arvin said, setting his glass down, "If the tales of what Dustin has relayed are of any indication at all."
"Yes, quite." Arvin said and smiled. "Congratulations, Quintan, or should I say,...Commodore." Arvin held up his glass toward Callum.
"As I said to Mr. Tomlin, just the other day, it's just a title and means little except to check bilge levels on the other ships in the squadron."
"Oh come now, it means that you can carry out the missions with greater success, leading the other ships as you see fit with your own tactics. I'm sure His Lordship has great plans to that effect."
"Yes, we already have a mission that is ready for us."
"Really, before Dover is ready?"
"Yes, but it is a mission that requires timing."
"Timing?" Arvin asked.
"Yes, apparently there is a madman on the loose in the Channel wreaking havoc with merchant shipping. I don't want to give any details as they are too ghastly to speak of here at the table, and I beg your pardon, my dear lady, for saying too much already," Callum looked at her, and she touched her lips delicately with her napkin, "but as this madman attacks his targets only at certain times, the next should be in about a month from now."
"How do you know?" The younger Arvin asked.
"There is no moon." The senior Arvin said in a flat voice. "He strikes in cowardice out of the dark."
"Exactly." Callum said.
"Dear God." The younger Arvin said, looking between the two of them, drawing a stern look from his mother.
"I beg your pardon again, dear lady, we should change the topic of conversation." Callum said, taking her hand gently in his on the table.
"Thank you." She said, "Such distressing matters should not be discussed over a meal."
"You are all too correct, especially one as fine as this is to be sure." Callum smiled at her.
"Thank you for your gallantry, Captain." She said softly. Callum bowed his head slightly, letting her hand go. The luncheon was over shortly after that and they all retired back to the drawing room. Dustin and the young Arvin pulled off into their own private conversation on the other side of the room.
Mrs. Arvin had poured brandy for her husband and Callum and had served them as they talked. They had her join them and the conversation turned to Callum's home in Birmingham. He described it for her, and his dear aunt that waited there for his return. She smiled as he spoke of her, she was seeing how much he actually cared for her. It made her feel comfortable the way he spoke about her and his home. She saw him in not just being a brave and gallant officer, but as a man who had deep feelings about those he cared about and she also noticed the way that he and Dustin looked at one another and she knew, and she was not bothered by it at all, in fact she thought it was very special between the two of them, the love they obviously shared for one another, and she was warmed by it, as she sat next to her husband and he took her hand in his as they all talked with one another. The afternoon drew late and they had to leave to catch the coach for London. They all said their goodbyes at the front door. Callum bowed and kissed the back of her hand, thanking her again as well. She curtsied in reply to him, and Callum and Dustin set off down the driveway together, as the Arvin's watched them for a bit and then closed the door softly.
Tomlin was sitting on the bench seat outside the surgery and had nodded off as he had waited for so long for word or Dr. Crawford's return. He woke to a light shake to his shoulder. He jumped slightly and opened his eyes, seeing a man standing in front of him that he didn't recognize.
"Lieutenant, you may come in." The man said quietly.
"You may come inside." He said, as he stood up straight. Tomlin blinked hard and then got to his feet. He followed the man into the surgery. The table that Holt was on was surrounded by many men and Tomlin could not see what was happening as he drew near. The man that had woke Tomlin came up behind the group and parted them with touching their shoulders. He stepped out of the way as the group parted further and Tomlin's eyes went wide seeing Holt on the table.
"Thomas." Holt said as he was sitting up on the table. His color had returned to him and his eyes were bright and sparkled in the bright light of the room. Holt had some small cuts about him on his neck from being bled earlier the night before, but other than that, he looked perfect to Tomlin's weary eyes.
"Christian." Tomlin said barely above a whisper as he walked up. He took Holt's outstretched hand in his and came up next to him. "How do you feel?"
"I feel better than I have in quite a while. I'm not all the way myself yet, but I am alive." He smiled and Tomlin's chest pounded seeing it.
"That's absolutely wonderful, Christian. I'm so glad you're better."
"Thanks to you, yes."
"No, thanks to these wonderful doctors." Tomlin turned and looked at all of them and smiled at them. "Thank you, gentlemen. I told someone in Lt. Holt's hometown when I went after him that I was bringing him here as the best doctors in England were here at the Admiralty, and thank God I was right." They all smiled back at him and then bowed their heads slightly toward him. Tomlin turned and looked at Holt smiling wide. "When are they going to release you from here?"
"They haven't said." Holt replied and then looked at the group.
"I think Dr. Crawford will want to keep an eye on him for a bit longer," The man that brought Tomlin in said, "this has never been seen before and I'm certain he will want to make another examination of the Lieutenant just to be on the safe side."
"Alright." Tomlin said and smiled, nodding to them. "We will wait for Dr. Crawford then." Tomlin turned back to Holt. The group of doctors walked away from them, tending to other tasks about the surgery.
"Thomas, I can't begin to thank you enough for what you did for me. I surely would have died if you hadn't come when you did."
"Now Christian, remember what I said, that's what friends and shipmates do for one another. We're always looking out for each other."
"There's something else, isn't there? It's your father, isn't it?"
"Yes, I'm not sure he'll understand."
"Understand what? You were being poisoned, you needed help. What is there that he won't understand?"
"How you came to be there." Holt said, looking into Tomlin's eyes, scanning them for a sign.
"Ah, well,...it's something you said that day I saw you off, at the Garrison. You said something to me that struck me as being odd, and I felt that I needed to check on you as I made my way home to Norwich."
"What did I say?"
"You told me that home was a place where you were not going to be able to heal at. Do you remember?"
"Yes, I do. Home has too many bad memories for me. My mother's passing, my father never really being there with his career in the Marines. Home could never truly heal me, you see."
"I do see, and I'm sorry. Home for me is somewhat the same thing, empty." Tomlin said.
"But you wanted to get there so badly. I remember you saying something about it. I have fairly wrecked that, haven't I?" Holt half smiled at him.
"Absolutely not. I was delayed in Portsmouth with the Captain. There have been some issues there and he required protection for a while as he healed from his wounds. So you see, it was a matter of timing. You have not wrecked any of my plans. You have actually added to them, and that is a most welcome outcome I assure you." Tomlin smiled at him.
"You spoke of the Captain, is he alright?"
"He needed protection?"
"Yes, but he managed to deal with that himself, as only the Captain can." Tomlin rolled his eyes slightly, "You've been with him in battle, you've seen how he can be."
"Yes, I witnessed it firsthand." Holt said and rolled his eyes as well. Tomlin chuckled at him.
Dustin was sitting on the bench of the coach, near Callum, looking out the window, thinking about the day. He knew that Callum was worried about the looks of his own body and how it appeared to Dustin and Dustin was trying to think of a way to get him past it, if only he could convince Callum that his wounds and eventual scars meant nothing to Dustin at all, that Callum's true beauty was he himself and the way he was as a person, a man. Dustin looked over at Callum and gave him a long gaze up and down and then looked back out the window of the coach.
"You were quite the story teller this afternoon, my love. I had no idea that you were quite the narrator." Callum smiled and Dustin looked at him.
"I apologize if I went on too much."
"No need to apologize. I found it quite interesting to hear your version of those events. I was not as eloquent in my reports to His Lordship. Perhaps I should have you dictate them to me while I put them to paper." Callum smiled.
"Surely you jest, at my expense."
"On the contrary," Callum chuckled, "it was very accurate, and I even suppose thrilling to hear it as you told it. It made me stop and think about what you said the other day in the carriage, and you were right, I do rush in headlong and do not think about the consequences that follow." Callum said and he paused for a moment, thinking, "Perhaps I do need to change my way of thinking."
"No, absolutely not." Dustin said as he turned at an angle toward Callum, "I was wrong in saying that, the other day. If you were to change your way of thinking and not take action, then then those events might have a completely different outcome."
"You may be right, but I can't help but wonder, is it worth the struggle?"
"You doubt yourself now." Dustin said softly.
"No, not myself, those around me. Seeing Mr. Arvin today and the way he was, did you notice?"
"Yes, he seemed to be more at ease with himself, yes."
"Yes, and I would like to think it was what I said to him yesterday when we first saw him. His mood was very melancholy when we first arrived and it concerned me very much, but today he was uplifted and very animated about his actions, and lively in his spirits."
"And how does that concern you, I don't understand?"
"If I were to say...in taking the fortress again, should I have gone? Or should I have given detail of what needed to be done, and then ordered one of the officers to carry it out, say Thomas, for instance."
"No, it would have had a totally different outcome. He is a fine officer to be sure, and yes, he would have carried out your orders to the letter, but, he would have not done what you did. Could he have dealt with Captain Smythe as you did? I think not. Only you were able to deal with him in that way. Don't you see, Quintan, it's because of the man you are, what you do, what you know that makes you who you are. I was wrong to think anything else, very wrong. I was only putting my own selfish interests first when I said that."
"What selfish interests?" Callum asked looking at him.
"Don't you see, if anything were to happen to you that you would not recover from or come back from, it would be the end of me." Dustin said as he put his hand in Callum's, holding it tight. "My entire world revolves around you now. I am totally in your grip, and if you were not there at all, I would cease to exist."
"I think you make too much of this." Callum said softly.
"On the contrary, it is everything, you just haven't realized it yet." Dustin said lifting Callum's hand and kissing the back of it, then lowering it, and looking back out the window.
"You are very insightful, you know that?" Callum asked as he smiled softly. "I have said it before, you should be running the Admiralty."
"Things would be different to be sure." Dustin smiled softly and then looked out the window again, seeing the city rise up closer to them now. "It won't be long till we are there."
"Yes. I noticed something else this afternoon, you and Lt. Arvin were getting along very well."
"Yes, he seems to be quite taken with you." Dustin said flatly.
"Yes, it was all that he was asking about when he and I talked, you and you're 'adventures' at sea." Dustin said as he still looked out the window. "I suppose I should feel a bit jealous."
"I was going to say the same thing, you spending all that time with him. He is quite the striking fellow."
"Yes, he is isn't he?" Dustin turned and looked at Callum, and smiled softly at him. "He did tell me that he has sights on a young lady in the village however."
"Really, that came up in conversation?"
"For a short time, yes. He seems to be quite taken with her actually."
"I see. Well, I think we are almost there." Callum said as the buildings became tighter and tighter around them. "I wish to present these reports to His Lordship at the Admiralty and then we can secure lodgings and then proceed onto that bathhouse I mentioned."
"I am looking forward to that actually." Dustin grinned.
"I bet you are." Callum smiled wide. The coach began to slow and then came to a stop, near King's Cross. Callum waited a moment, looking out the window and then the other door opened.
"Here we are, gentlemen." The driver of the coach said, holding the door.
"Thank you." Callum said getting out after Dustin. Callum pulled out some coins and handed them to the driver for the fare. "Is there a cab nearby that we might find?"
"Yes, sir. If you step around this corner behind me, sir, there should be one there, if not, very soon then." The driver said, closing the door.
"Very good, thank you, my good man." Callum said, as Dustin slung the bag over his shoulder. They walked out to the street that the driver had said and there was a cab sitting there. "Cab, we need to get to the Admiralty, please." Callum said and the driver nodded toward him in reply. The carriage set off and they were quiet with each other during the rather short drive there. The cab pulled up in front of the Admiralty building and the sentry's snapped to attention seeing Callum in his tunic as he got out. Callum handed a few coins to the driver and then turned and walked up the steps with Dustin behind him, who was looking up at the building with wide eyes in awe of it all. The sentry's snapped and opened the doors for them. Callum stepped inside with Dustin behind him and walked over to the Registrar.
"Have a seat here." Callum said quietly to Dustin showing him a bench. Callum turned and looked at the Registrar, "I'm Captain Callum, I have dispatches for Lord Fitzwarren." Callum said with authority in his voice, lifting his chin slightly.
"Certainly, sir." The Registrar said, and beckoned to a Paige in uniform. "Captain Callum to see Lord Fitzwarren."
"If you will follow me, sir?" The young man asked with a slight bow. Callum followed him up the stairs. Dustin watched him walk up the stairs as he sat down on the bench, the Registrar went back to writing in his book. Dustin looked around and then he saw Tomlin across the large lobby sitting at a doorway on a bench as well. Dustin got up and started to walk but the Registrar stopped him.
"I'm sorry, but you must wait here." The man said.
"Excuse me, but there is one of my officers over there." Dustin said, nodding toward Tomlin. The Registrar looked toward where Dustin was nodding.
"Hmmm, I suppose it will be alright then. Please, keep your voice down." He lifted an eyebrow and Dustin gulped.
"Thank you, sir." Dustin said softly, giving him a nod and Dustin walked across the large lobby toward Tomlin. They saw one another and Tomlin got to his feet.
"Dustin, what are you doing here?" Tomlin asked as he got close to him.
"I'm here with Quintan, we just came from seeing Mr. Arvin." Dustin said softly, tipping his hand toward Tomlin, knowing all too well where he stood. "What are you doing here? I thought you were on your way home?"
"I was, until I saw Lt. Holt." Tomlin said quietly, he looked around seeing different officers and Paige's walking about the lobby.
"Is he alright?" Dustin asked.
"He was being poisoned. I discovered it and brought him here, to try and save him. I had to...spirit him away from his home." Tomlin said lifting his eyebrows for a moment. "I found Dr. Crawford and he has been treating him for the poison."
"I know, it's all incredible, but that's what has happened. Dr. Crawford is with him now in the surgery." Tomlin nodded toward the large doors, then looked back at Dustin. "Where's the Captain?"
"He's seeing His Lordship right now. You say Dr. Crawford is here as well?"
"Yes. I'm waiting on word from him."
"Captain Callum, to see His Lordship." The Paige said to Barrington, bowing slightly toward the man that was wearing the familiar long tailed dark coat. Barrington nodded toward the Paige and then bowed slightly toward Callum.
"Good afternoon, Barrington." Callum said, nodding toward the bowing of both.
"Good afternoon, sir. It's an honor to see you again, sir." Barrington said in his baritone voice.
"I'll just announce you, sir." Barrington said turning toward two large doors, knocking on one, and then opening it. "My Lord, Captain Callum to see you." Barrington said, giving the room a bow.
"What? Callum? Send him in." Callum could hear Fitzwarren's booming voice from inside the room. Barrington bowed slightly again and Callum walked by the man.
"Thank you, Barrington." Callum said softly as he walked by him.
"Callum." Fitzwarren said.
"Good afternoon, My Lord, I hope I'm not disturbing you."
"On the contrary, my lad, we were just discussing some strategy actually. Your timing is impeccable." Fitzwarren said, and then Callum's eyes went wide seeing Fitzwarren was not alone. "Your Grace, may I present one of my best officers, our youngest Captain,...Quintan Callum." Fitzwarren said, holding out a hand. "Callum, may I present His Grace, the Duke of Wellington." Fitzwarren said, giving Callum a half smile.
"So this is the young man that I owe many thanks to." The Duke said as he stood. Callum was sweating as he approached him. He stopped and gave him his best deep bow, putting out his right foot formally, using his hat in the sweep of his arm.
"You Grace, it is truly an honor." Callum said as he bent down.
"No, Captain, the honor is mine." He said as he stepped forward as Callum straightened. "I understand from His Lordship that you were singlehandedly responsible for taking the fortress at La Rochelle."
"Not entirely, Your Grace."
"Come now, Callum," Fitzwarren said, "don't be so modest. His Grace has heard it from many of your fellows as well as Major Simmonds."
"Indeed." Wellington said as he turned back to the large table, picking up his glass, then sitting down in one of the large chairs. "It was actually Major Simmonds account of the events that has brought me here. I was in hopes that I might meet you."
"I am overwhelmed, Your Grace." Callum said as he eyes flashed.
"Edmund, such a man as your Captain here might do well as one of my advisors. I might just have to steal him from you." The Duke smiled briefly watching Callum who went white. Fitzwarren turned and looked at the Duke.
"I would have to protest that strongly, Your Grace." Fitzwarren said, putting a hand on his hip, lifting his chin up slightly.
"What say you, Captain? Might I entice you to become one of my advisors? Your knowledge and foresight in military matters might put a quick end to Bonaparte."
"I am deeply honored, Your Grace, beyond words," Callum said, bowing again slightly, "and I thank you for your consideration, truly, however I would be lost on land. The sea has been all of my life and without is waves, I..."
"Spoken like a true seaman." Wellington said, with a wide smile, "I can see that's where your heart lies, Captain, fear not. We must all do what we do best, is that not right, Edmund?"
"Indeed, Your Grace." Fitzwarren said, giving him a slight bow, obviously relieved in Callum not accepting his offer. Fitzwarren took in a slight breath and then turned and looked at Callum, "What brings you, Callum? It is obviously not a social call."
"I have brought dispatches, My Lord, from my own hand, but I can see that perhaps now is not the best time."
"Nonsense, let's have them." Fitzwarren said and held out his hand. Callum pulled out the envelope from his tunic pocket and handed it to Fitzwarren. He opened it and looked it over carefully, and then at Callum. "I see that you have wasted no time in forming a plan for your squadron." Fitzwarren said and read further down the first page, then flipped to the next, and then the next. "Very good, Callum. This is shows that you are indeed what I expected from a squadron commander." Fitzwarren looked up again. "You are hereby duly authorized to use whatever means to see this plan of yours is carried out. Perhaps you can indeed put an end to this madman on the seas as you put it."
"Madman on the seas?" Wellington asked looking at the two of them.
"Yes, Your Grace," Fitzwarren said, "a minor problem that needs to be dealt with involving merchant shipping."
"Tell him, Callum, you seem to have quite the opinion on the subject." Fitzwarren said tossing a hand in the air.
"With your permission, My Lord," Callum bowed slightly again, "Your Grace, there seems to be a French Captain that is attacking merchant vessels in the Channel. He is rather brutal in his tactics..."
"Brutal? That's an understatement." Fitzwarren said as he picked up his own glass from the table.
"Yes, I suppose it is, My Lord," Callum nodded, "he is attacking at certain times, and rather than taking the cargos, he's killing only the crews."
"What is this?" Wellington asked.
"He's a monster, my lad, you know that all too well from all the reports." Fitzwarren said loudly.
"Yes, My Lord, you are quite right." Callum said.
"A monster you say? What does this,...monster do actually?"
"He doesn't just kill the crew, Your Grace, he has them,...dismembered." Callum said.
"What?" Wellington asked.
"He mutilates them completely, Your Grace." Callum said. Wellington set his glass down and his eyes widened.
"What are you doing about this, Edmund?"
"We have sent out patrols in order to catch him, but all attempts have failed thus far. We have ascertained that he does this on some type of a schedule. Do continue, Captain, please." Fitzwarren said.
"It is true, Your Grace, there is a method to his 'madness'. He strikes only at a certain time of each month, when there is no moon, so he is under the veil of complete darkness when he attacks."
"Dear Lord." Wellington said softly. "Is there no way to find him other than to wait for this time frame?"
"There have been several searches of all of the ports and harbors, but none have revealed his hiding place as of yet. That is why I believe that he is harbored farther to the north in the Channel, more into the North Sea perhaps." Callum said.
"How many ships are you speaking of?"
"Five that we know of, Your Grace." Callum said.
"And he has done this to all of those crews?"
"Yes, Your Grace." Callum said, bowing his head slightly. "His next attack is less than a month away from now, and we will be ready for him."
"You say that with such certainty, Captain." Wellington said, narrowing his eyes at Callum.
"I am quite certain, Your Grace."
"Well, I would say, good hunting to you."
"Your Grace." Callum bowed again slightly. "My Lord, I shall not interrupt any further. I only wished to bring you those reports and to also give you the answer from Mr. Arvin. He has accepted your offer, My Lord, with great zeal I might add, and it has made him a new man, after suffering from his difficulties."
"Excellent." Fitzwarren said and gave a brief smile at the news. "I shall put him to good use. It is always a pleasure to see you, Callum."
"Likewise, My Lord." Callum nodded toward him. Callum turned and looked at The Duke, and bowed formally again, "A true honor, Your Grace." Callum said. Wellington got up from his chair.
"I believe the real honor was mine, Captain." Wellington nodded toward him.
"A good evening to you, gentlemen." Callum said, bowing slightly again and then turned and walked to the door, going out. Once the door was closed he exhaled deeply and saw Barrington standing there. "A little prewarning next time, if you please, Barrington?"
"I apologize, Captain. I shall remember that for the next time, sir." Barrington said as he bowed his head slightly.
"Thank you." Callum said softly and gave him a soft smile and then walked away, going toward the wide staircase. Barrington followed Callum with his gaze for a minute and then went back to his duties.
Callum reached the bottom of the stairs and looked around for Dustin, he didn't see him at first, and then he caught sight of him, talking to someone, who was seated on a bench, Callum couldn't tell who it was as Dustin was blocking the person. Callum walked across the lobby and walked up behind Dustin, then looked around him, Callum seeing Tomlin sitting there. Tomlin jumped to his feet, as Dustin turned around.
"Thomas, what are you doing here?"
"It's a rather long story, sir." Tomlin said and then he turned seeing the door open to the surgery.
"Quintan, what are you doing here?" Crawford asked, as he stood in the doorway.
"Arthur." Callum said, "I would ask you the same thing? Can someone tell me what's going on?"
"Come in and see for yourself." Crawford said, holding the door open for them. He turned and walked across the surgery, the three followed him and walked up to the table. Callum was surprised to see the young Holt sitting there, smiling at him. Holt saluted Callum, who nodded back to him.
"Lt. Holt, this is rather unexpected, and here in the surgery. Are you well?" Callum asked, giving him a soft smile.
"A pleasure to see you again, sir, I am well, thanks to Thomas and the excellent care of Dr. Crawford."
"What's this?" Callum asked, looking at Tomlin.
"Thomas had stopped at my home to see about me, and had discovered that I was being poisoned by a local doctor of sorts. He rescued me and brought me here. Dr. Crawford and the other doctors have been treating me."
"And our young Lieutenant here is truly making a miraculous recovery, I might add." Crawford said. "So much so, that I feel that I must release you, and send you on your way."
"Really, Doctor?" Holt asked with bright eyes.
"I don't see why not. You seem to be doing quite well actually, given what you've been through. I still would recommend bed rest for a few days, however. You should not over exert yourself until you are feeling stronger."
"That is wonderful." Holt said, but looked worried now.
"Something wrong?" Crawford asked.
"Well, it's just that I have no place in which to go." Holt said, giving Crawford pleading eyes. "I certainly can't return home, not where this all began."
"You most certainly have a place to go." Tomlin said as he stepped up next to Callum, looking at Holt. "You will go with me. I have some of your things at my lodgings already." Holt looked at him with longing in his eyes.
"I have already been some much of a burden to you, Thomas."
"And I have already told you about that as well, it is no burden." Tomlin gave him a slight scowl.
"I don't think I would argue with him, Lieutenant." Callum said, as he looked at Tomlin, standing next to him. "It may be an argument that you cannot win." Callum smiled as he looked back at Holt. Callum looked at Crawford, "So, Arthur, you seem to be in the thick of things."
"Not as thick as others, I would say. What brings you two here?"
"I had business with His Lordship, but apparently, he was already engaged as I interrupted him with the Duke." Callum answered.
"The Duke?" Tomlin asked and went wide eyed.
"Yes, he is here, apparently discussing strategy with His Lordship, and I have no doubt that Lord Hood may be here as well, somewhere in the building." Callum said, and then looked back at Dustin who was completely drained of color. "I think, gentlemen, it may be best to make a rather hasty exit."
"I would agree with that assessment." Crawford said, "Too many titles lingering about here, makes me uncomfortable." Crawford looked back at Holt, "Lieutenant, I would suggest that you follow your fellow shipmates and we can have this partial reunion elsewhere." Crawford said and helped Holt off the table. Tomlin took one of Holt's arms, and put it over his shoulder.
"Is this alright?" Tomlin asked softly.
"Yes, it is." Holt smiled and nodded his head, trying to walk with Tomlin going very slowly.
"Dustin, would see about securing a carriage, please?" Callum asked and Dustin nodded. He walked out of the surgery ahead of them quickly. Callum saw Tomlin and Holt struggling to walk along, and came beside Holt, taking his other arm, putting it over his own shoulder.
"Sir, I think I can manage." Holt whispered to Callum.
"I rather doubt that, Lieutenant, it may be dawn by the time you two reach the front doors of the building at this rate." Callum said softly. "Arthur, are you coming?"
"Right behind you, Quintan. Be careful of your stitches if you please." Crawford said.
"Then be so kind as to get the doors while we take him." Callum said, and Crawford came round them and opened the doors to the surgery. They came out and went across the lobby, with all the officers and Paiges watching them as they went. "We seem to be quite the spectacle, Lieutenant." Callum whispered.
"I apologize, sir." Holt whispered.
"Quiet now." Callum whispered as they reached the front doors of the building. Dustin was holding the door to a large open carriage. They came down the steps toward it. "Dustin, get in and then give us a hand with him." Callum said. Dustin jumped and waited for them to reach him. He took Holt by the arms and pulled him gently.
"Mr. Perkins, isn't it?" Holt asked Dustin, Dustin smiled and nodded to him.
"That's right, Lieutenant, thank you for remembering." Dustin said as he helped him onto the back seat, with Tomlin's help. Callum and Crawford getting in as well, closing the door to the carriage.
"Boar's Head Inn, driver." Crawford said over his shoulder, as he settled on the seat behind the driver, "I feel like we just made a prison break. Quintan, why are you always in the midst of this kind of thing?"
"It seems to follow me, Arthur, like a black cloud." Callum smiled out of the corner of his mouth. "Isn't the Boar's Head on the next street over?"
"Yes, did you want to carry him?" Crawford asked as he looked Holt over.
"Certainly not." Callum said, "I have had enough strain in the past few days on my stitches as it is." Crawford smiled as he gave him a side glance leaning across in front of Holt.
"Mr. Tomlin has a very nice and comfortable room already secured. You can rest there." Crawford said to Holt. Holt nodded and then looked at Tomlin and gave him a brief smile. The carriage pulled round the corner and came to a slow stop in front the inn. They all got out, Callum paid the driver the fare, and they helped Holt inside. Callum stopped as Crawford and Tomlin carried Holt up the stairs, Dustin was helping them as well. Callum looked over as the innkeeper walked up next to Callum looking up the stairs and then at Callum with wide eyes.
"They just brought him from the surgery at the Admiralty." Callum said and it seemed to settle the innkeeper, "Good evening to you, my good man, I was wondering, would you have a couple of more rooms available?"
"Why, yes, sir, of course."
"Excellent, then I would like to secure them for the night, if at all possible."
"Certainly, sir, I'll have them made up right away, sir." He nodded toward Callum, and then turned back calling for someone as he walked into the tavern portion of the inn. Callum looked up the stairs and watched. His thoughts were interrupted by a soft voice next to him.
"Excuse me, sir. I was told that you required two rooms." She said and Callum looked her. She was young and pretty and had a nice smile. He smiled back at her.
"Yes, that's correct."
"If you would follow me, sir?" She walked up the stairs and Callum walked up behind her a few steps back. She opened a door in the hall and went in and lit a candle next to the bed. Callum saw the room from the doorway and waited as she turned down the bed, and fluffed the pillows. She looked about to make sure of everything and then went across the hall and opened another door. She did the same there as he watched her and then she came to him. She handed him the keys to the rooms and he reached into his tunic pocket and pulled out his purse.
"Begging your pardon, sir, you should see my father downstairs about that." She smiled.
"Alright, I will." Callum smiled back at her, and she walked away. Callum watched her for a moment and looked back down the hallway in the other direction seeing an open door, and walked in that direction. He stood in the doorway and saw his companions getting Holt into the large bed, making him comfortable, near the middle of it.
"Can he eat anything, Doctor?" Tomlin asked.
"Yes, if he's hungry. It might be the best for him, besides sleep." Crawford said, looking down at Holt. "When was the last time you actually ate, Lieutenant?"
"I don't really remember, Doctor. I think it has been quite some time."
"No wonder you are so pale and thin." Crawford said, "And that may also be why that poison took such a strong hold of you as well." Crawford frowned, then looked at Tomlin, "Thomas, you should probably see about something like potatoes and bread, something that will not only fill him, but absorb the toxins as well. He shouldn't drink anything but water for the time being, weak tea will be alright, I should think, nothing spicy however as far as food."
"I'll see to it, Doctor." Dustin said softly.
"Thank you, Mr. Perkins, you are always the angel of mercy in these matters. I am going to steal you away from the clutches of your Captain." Crawford smiled, patting Dustin's shoulder. Dustin turned and saw Callum standing in the doorway and smiled over at him.
"I think not, Doctor." Dustin said, "By the look on his face, I think he might have other ideas." Crawford turned and looked at Callum, and chuckled seeing him.
"I have a room secured for you, Arthur." Callum said, "It's down the hall on the left. We are across the hall from you."
"Most kind." Crawford said, then turned and looked at Tomlin, "Well I know it has been a rather trying day for you, Thomas, all that waiting about. We should let you get settled and you can probably unpack the Lieutenant's things that you collected." Crawford said, and turned walking toward Callum.
"Thank you, Doctor." Tomlin said as he sat on the foot of the bed, looking at Holt.
"The rescuer and his prize." Crawford whispered and then smiled as he looked back at them, standing next to Callum. "Quintan, I think you can buy me an ale." Crawford said as he stared at the two on the bed. They both turned and walked away, Callum closing the door behind them.
"Thomas," Holt said softly, lying in the bed, looking at his young rescuer, giving him soft eyes, Holt held out a hand toward him. Tomlin smiled softly in return and moved up the bed next to him, taking his hand in his, "I know I keep saying it, but thank you so very much."
"Christian, you're very welcome. I know this must be very overwhelming to you, but you must listen to the doctor and rest."
"I will, but first, I want to talk to you about that evening on board Dover."
"What about it?"
"Do you remember it?"
"If you are speaking of when we,..." Tomlin said and his voice trailed off, as Holt sat up and took Tomlin in his arms, kissing him hard and tight. Tomlin could only moan over it softly, and then wrapped his arms around Holt, kissing him back. Tomlin melted into it, wanted it, needed it, so desperately, he let Holt lead the way with it all. They touched each other with hands, sliding them up and down their backs, losing themselves in the deep and passionate kiss. They were so lost in it and each other, they didn't hear the door open.
"Oh, I beg your pardon." Dustin said as he held the tray in his hands with wide eyes. Tomlin pulled back and blushed slightly. Holt was wide eyed himself and lost what color he had back. "I didn't even think. I'm so very sorry." Tomlin got up from the bed and walked around it, looking at Holt, who was sitting there not knowing what to do now at all.
"It's quite alright, Dustin, do come in, please." Tomlin said reaching the door. He closed the door behind Dustin, and Dustin brought the tray over and sat it down in Holt's lap. They did not look at each other at all. Tomlin moved and came up behind Dustin and stood there, as Dustin straightened. Holt looked very nervous as he eyed the tray. "Perhaps we should have a little talk."
"That's really not necessary." Dustin said as he started to turn away, giving Tomlin a brief glance. "It was very wrong of me to just walk in, and I do so apologize."
"Dustin, wait a moment, please." Tomlin said, putting a hand on Dustin's arm. "We had a talk about this in Portsmouth as you know, but I have not had the chance to really talk to Christian as of yet. I think we were just getting to that actually." Tomlin smiled briefly and Holt looked up even more scared than before now. Tomlin came and sat down next to Holt. "Perhaps I should tell him, don't you think, Dustin? I mean if it's alright?" Tomlin looked up at Dustin.
"Quintan and I do not really discuss it much ourselves, actually."
"The Captain and I did, however, one morning, in the Ward Room actually." Tomlin said, and Dustin went wide eyed about it. Tomlin looked over at Holt, and smiled. "You were actually there as well, Christian, asleep on the pallet they had made you, but you were there."
"I...am not sure about this, Thomas."
"Christian, do you have feelings about me?" Tomlin asked softly. "Because truth be known, I have very deep feelings about you."
"Isn't it apparent? I mean, the real reason I came to Cambridge was because I wanted to tell you how I felt about you. It would be wrong for me not to tell you, not only to you, but to myself."
"Christian, hear me out. Since you first came onboard, that first day, I was drawn to you. You are so striking to me, and so much a presence that it lifts my heart when you are near. The Captain made realize that it was alright to show those feelings toward you and to let them be known to you." Tomlin turned on the bed and looked up at Dustin, "Dustin, you and I had that talk at the Heritage Arms, about that very same thing. You and the Captain together in all that you do with one another, has made it easier for me, and I owe you both the deepest debt for that, as you have shown me that I can love and show it if I wish. Farrow was also kind in showing me that I can speak of it to others, if I so choose." Tomlin turned and looked back at Holt, who was looking at Tomlin with such deep longing in his eyes. "Christian, I can tell you that this feeling that I hold for you is special and even though I can't really put it into words yet, I want you to know how much I..."
"Love me?" Holt asked, and then broke a soft smile. "Thomas, I was trying to tell you that onboard Dover, and on the way here to London as well. The love I feel for you, is beyond words as well. You saved me yesterday, and I know now that it was really out of love, it's what you were led by, isn't it?"
"I suppose it was." Tomlin said, looking into Holt's soft face. Tomlin lifted a hand and cradled Holt's chin in his fingertips. "I just didn't know until that moment that I really could love someone, and now I guess that I can say it, and can put it into words. Christian, I do love you."
"And I have loved you as well, Thomas." Holt smiled and cocked his head slightly, letting Tomlin's hand cradled his cheek. "The problem is, what are we going to do about it?"
"I might be able to help with that." Dustin said softly as he put a hand on Tomlin's shoulder. Tomlin looked up at him, with questioning eyes. "Our home in Birmingham, it is not that large, but we are accepted in it by the lady of the house. She is Quintan's aunt, a wonderful caring soul, and I know that she will love you both as she loves both Quintan and I."
"I cannot ask that of either you or the Captain." Holt said. Dustin lifted an eyebrow at him.
"And that is the beauty of it, you do not have to. It will be given freely, I assure you. Quintan knows what it is between you, as do I, and believe me, there is no one stronger than the love in my life, Quintan Callum that will make certain that the two of you are given what we have shared."
"I don't know what to say, Mr. Perkins."
"First of all, Dustin, if you please. Secondly, all you need to do is trust that it will happen as I will take care of it myself."
"Dustin then." Holt said, "I am Christian." He held out a hand and Dustin took it.
"You are, until we have to observe the proprieties of formality. Quintan and I have learned that we must safeguard ourselves in certain things and around certain people. I have actually taken a beating over that." Dustin frowned. "Be forewarned that there are some that will not understand what we do with one another, thinking it unnatural."
"Yes, I can see that." Holt said, and then looked at Tomlin. "May I ask you something?"
"Anything." Tomlin smiled.
"Are we sharing this bed tonight?"
"If you so wish it." Tomlin smiled and took Holt's hand.
"That I do. I want to feel safe, as I do with you."
"Then tonight you will be safer than you have ever been in your entire life." Tomlin smiled, then kissed the back of Holt's hand.
"Not that that's settled," Dustin said with a sigh, "I have to pull Quintan away from Dr. Crawford. We are visiting a bathhouse this evening."
"A bathhouse, the one in the north end?" Tomlin asked.
"I suppose. Do you know of it?"
"Yes, it is quite an ancient place. The waters are very warm there. It is quite the experience and will rejuvenate you." Tomlin said, then looked at Holt, "When you are feeling better, I will take you as well, it will do you wonders. The steaming alone will draw out the rest of the toxins from you, I'm certain."
"I see." Holt said, looking a little nervous about it. Tomlin chuckled softly.
"Now, eat your supper, I must be off and collect our dear Captain." Dustin smiled.