DOVER Chapter 38

The carriage pulled up to the front of the building, rocking slightly to a halt on the cobbled street. Dustin got up from his seat and opened the door, stepping out, followed by Callum, and then Tomlin and Holt. Dustin closed the door to the carriage as Callum paid the driver and asked him to return in an hour. He was given a nod and then reined the horses and the carriage pulled away.

"Gentlemen." Callum said as he stepped up to the door of the Shoppe and they followed him in.

"Good morning, gentlemen, how may I be of service?" The older man in a long coat smiled giving them a slight bow.

"Good morning, my name is Callum. I am told that there are several tunics that were being made for me here. I have come to check on them or to claim them."

"I see, sir." The older man said, "And if I may ask, did you yourself order them, sir?"

"No, I did not. I believe the order was placed by Lord Fitzwarren from the Admiralty." Callum said and the older man's eyes flashed for a moment.

"Ah yes, you, sir, would be the new Commodore of the fleet, I take it?"

"Yes, quite." Callum said.

"If you will come this way, sir?" The old man said, holding out a hand and giving a slight bow, he turned and walked back toward the rear of the large Shoppe. He stepped up to a large wardrobe and opened a door, opening it fully. He turned and looked at Callum and gave a brief smile. "As I recall, sir, His Lordship gave only a vague description of your size. If it would be alright, may I ask you to try these on as they might need some alteration?"

"Certainly." Callum said, as he slipped off his tunic and handed it over to Dustin, who was standing right behind him. Callum stepped forward as the older man pulled a new tunic out and held it for him. Callum turned and slipped his arms into it, and the older man slid it up and onto Callum's shoulders. There were several tall mirrors that were in the corner next to the wardrobe. The older man held out a hand to show him where to stand as Callum looked at himself in the mirrors, turning slightly to take in the view of the long tunic. He marveled at the way it shined in the light of the Shoppe's lamps, the gold braids all about it, the epilates that were on the shoulders, the gold buttons. Callum could see that his long pants were rather dingy in their white against the brilliant white of the new tunic, making Callum frown. Dustin was wide eyed seeing the way Callum looked, as well as Tomlin, Holt merely smiled at seeing him.

"I think the fit is about right." The older man said, as he moved about behind Callum, adjusting the tunic on his shoulders and stepping back and then forward again as he took Callum in. "Yes, I think it is ready. What is your opinion, sir?" The older man asked Callum.

"I think it's a bit on the brilliant side with all this flashing about."

"Well, sir, the braid and the lapels are what is required for such a rank."

"Yes, I suppose they are." Callum raised an eyebrow, looking at himself. "Well, shall we try the others?"

"As you wish, sir." The older man said and then helped Callum out of the tunic. He went to the wardrobe and hung it up and then returned with the next. The process was repeated for the four tunics that had been ordered.

"Why so many?" Callum asked, growing tired of what he was going through.

"It is His Lordship's manner, I'm afraid." The older man said, "When His Lordship has new tunics made for himself, he always orders them in fours, sir."

"I see." Callum frowned slightly, "And tell me, how much are these going to lighten my purse?"

"They are eight pounds each, sir." The older man said with more than a hint of pride in his voice. There were very audible gasps that came from Callum's companions. Callum looked at them using the mirrors.

"Well, I see." Callum pursed his lips, looking over the tunic he still he had on. "I suppose that with this new posting comes a larger expense as well."

"Might I suggest also, sir, that with this, you might think about a new hat as well?" The older man suggested carefully.

"Uh, I take it that mine might be a little on the worn side?"

"I mean no insult sir, but it does seem a bit frayed and rather out of date with the current stature of your new posting." He said, putting his hands together, giving Callum a slight smile. Callum lifted an eyebrow in the mirror at him.

"I'm certain that you are correct in that." Callum feigned a smile. "Is there anything else that might also be out of style with this new posting?"

"To that end, sir, if will allow me, most of the officers that bringing their uniforms up to date are also choosing a tall boot as well."

"Really," Callum frowned, "I hadn't given much thought to my feet, I suppose, what would you suggest, my good man?" The older man smiled more and then turned and walked away. He went over to another large wardrobe and opened another door. He looked over his shoulder down at Callum's buckled shoes and then back to the wardrobe, as Dustin stepped up behind Callum.

"Quintan, are you sure about all of this?" Dustin asked as he looked over Callum's shoulder at him using the mirror.

"I suppose that if I am to dress the part and be effective in my new duties, I should follow it all the way through, don't you think?"

"I suppose you're right, but it seems a little on the excessive side as far as price." Dustin said, and then Callum smiled wide at him in the mirror.

"Well, then we will have to be back out to sea in order to obtain another prize ship or two in order to offset this little expense." Callum rolled his eyes. Dustin chuckled and stepped back as the older man came to him, holding a pair of shiny new black cavalry boots.

"I think these might suit you, sir." The older man offered them out. Callum turned and looked them over for a moment, and then looked at the older man.

"That is what they are wearing?"

"Oh yes, sir. And at three pounds, they are quite the bargain, if I may say."

"Well then, I suppose I should give them a try." Callum said looking about seeing a chair. He went over and went to sit down. The older man was right there, having Callum turn around and took the tunic off him and then had him sit down. Callum kicked off his buckled shoes and then started to put the new boots on. He was having a bit of difficulty with them, and then the older man stepped in, helping him, guiding him to point his toes, and pull on the small ringed straps inside the boots. Callum was able to get them on and then stood, stamping his feet one at a time, feeling the boots. The older man slipped the tunic back on Callum and he stepped to the mirrors again. Callum smiled. "Yes, I see what you mean about the boots, it does set the tunic off slightly, especially with the banding about the cuffs." Callum said, as he looked himself over in the mirrors. "What say you, gentlemen?" Callum asked as he looked at his companions in the mirrors.

"Quite striking, sir." Tomlin said.

"Indeed, impressive to say the least." Holt smiled as he stood next to Tomlin.

"Dustin?"

"If I may be so bold, I think when the enemy sees you they will turn tail and run." Dustin smiled.

"Well, if that's the case, we will never win any engagements, and the war will continue on won't it?"

"I hadn't thought of that, sir." Dustin smiled. The older man looked over at Dustin, giving him a brief smile and then looked back at Callum.

"Yes, I suppose I should take all of it then." Callum said to the older man.

"A new vest perhaps as well, sir?" The older man asked with his hands folded together in front of him.

"Yes, if you think it necessary as well," Callum frowned looking at him. "since you seem to be on a mission to lighten my purse even further." Callum then gave him a half-smile.

"That was not my intention, sir, I assure you."

"Oh come, come my good man, you're in business for a reason, are you not?" Callum asked raising an eyebrow again, "Let us get whatever else is required. I must prepare for my meeting with The Duke later this afternoon." Callum said, and the older man's eyes went wide hearing The Duke mentioned.

"Ah, His Grace has had a few garments made here as well."

"No doubt why you charge what you do." Callum smiled, "I shall pass on to His Grace that I was here and make certain that he understands it by his recommendation through his excellent taste."

"That would be most welcomed, sir, I thank you." The older man bowed his head slightly.

"I shall take a new hat to finish my transformation as well, one on your recommendation that will accent this look."

"As you wish, sir." The older man said and went to a table, bringing back a hat that was wider brimmed and had wide gold braid sewn into its edges. It also had a golden broach, a great medallion, that was very ornate and that secured the two brims together on the left side. He handed it to Callum and Callum placed it carefully on his head, and then looked back in the mirrors.

"Well, I seem to be rivaling His Lordship in the size of ornamentation with this medallion."

"I find it very striking, actually." Dustin smiled from behind him. "I might have to change my state of dress just to seen in your company from now on." Dustin lifted his own eyebrow now. Callum smiled at him.

"I think you dress the way you do for comfort, and I understand and appreciate that. I only wish that I could do so from now on. I envy you, actually." Callum winked in the mirror at Dustin. "Alright, my good man, shall we tally all of this bounty up?"

"Tunics, boots, two vests, and the hat, of course, that comes to forty pounds, sir." The older man said, giving Callum a firm look.

"Forty, I see." Callum said with a sigh and then stepped over to Dustin, who still held his old tunic in his arms. Callum pulled out his leather purse from the inside pocket and looked at Dustin for a moment and then he opened it, pulling out some notes and then handed them to the older man. "Forty." Callum said, flatly. The older man took them, and gave Callum a slight bow and a warm smile.

All the other items that Callum had purchased, but did not wear out were carefully bundled and wrapped with great care. The bundles were handed over to Callum, Dustin and Tomlin took a couple of them as well. Callum took the older man's hand giving it a firm grip of thanks and then they set off. The carriage was waiting outside for them. Callum asked the driver to take them to a general mercantile, and the driver set off. Once there, the driver was asked to wait and they all went inside. Callum wanted some other items for Holt to wear, as what had been brought was not enough for the journey back to Portsmouth. Callum had Holt pick out a few things and Tomlin offered to pay for them, but Callum insisted as he knew that Tomlin was going to have to give most of his tally to his mother to keep their home going. Callum also purchased a selection of combs and brushes as he needed to look his best for the meeting today, The Duke, His Lordship, the embassy men, and Vice Admiral Parring. Callum wanted everything to be just so for this to go off just right. They loaded back up in the carriage and set off back to the Boar's Head.

Callum sat on the chair as Dustin combed and brushed out Callum's long blonde hair. He took his time to make sure that Callum was going to look his best for the meeting at the Admiralty. Callum loved the feeling of Dustin doing this to him. It was a new feeling to him as he had never had anyone do this other than cutting his hair. Dustin was moving slowly, with the comb and then the brush trying not to pull on the strands and locks.

"You move with such care." Callum said softly. Dustin bent sideways a little and smiled at Callum, he leaned in a little more and kissed Callum on the cheek.

"I love your hair, the way it feels in my fingers." Dustin whispered.

"I find it almost...intoxicating, the way you do this to me."

"Perhaps we need to do this more often then?" Dustin asked. He soon discovered that he could curl the length a little with the brush and it made him smile.

"I just might have to set that to an every morning chore for you." Callum chuckled.

"One that I would enjoy doing, I think." Dustin smiled softly. "It is rather too bad that you have to go to the Admiralty this afternoon."

"Oh? And why it that?" Callum asked.

"You look rather striking in your new uniform."

"Do I now?" Callum asked as he turned his head slightly, trying to look behind him.

"Hold still." Dustin said, slapping one of Callum's shoulders. Callum turned his head back, looking directly ahead of him. Dustin grinned as Callum did as he was told. "Now, let me gather all this up and I shall tie it for you in a tail. Do you want it low, or perhaps a little on the high side?" Dustin asked.

"I would think possibly low, what do you think?"

"Well, probably on the high side as you have that very high collar on your new tunic."

"Then we should make it high then." Callum said as he sat still for Dustin. Dustin took the hair with brush and began to gather it, going higher on the back of Callum's head, lifting the tail and then tying with the black ribbon that Martha had given him. Dustin made a very nice bow in it, making the tails of the ribbon drop below the hair tail. He looked it over on either side and then smiled wide, taking the brush and the comb and coming back around Callum.

"Yes, I think that will do nicely." Dustin smiled as he looked into Callum's face. "Very fetching indeed."

"I wish we had a looking glass." Callum smiled and then leaned forward and kissed Dustin, "Thank you, my love."

"It was my pleasure." Dustin smiled, "Especially to see you look like this. I so wish I could ravish you right now."

"After I return." Callum smiled, kissing Dustin softly and briefly, "Be ready."

"You know I am always that." Dustin smiled and wiggled his eyebrows. "I wonder what the rest of our company is doing?" Dustin asked as he stood.

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Holt had been trying on the various items that had been purchased for him in their own room. He changed a few times as Tomlin watched him dress and then undress, Tomlin smiled as he watched him go about it from the foot of the bed. Holt seemed to be feeling better to Tomlin but still looked rather tired. Tomlin watched him closely, still worried about him and his recovering from his poisoning.

"Perhaps we should have you rest a while. It's been a rather busy morning for you." Tomlin said.

"No, I feel fine, Thomas." Holt smiled at him, "You think something is wrong?"

"You just seem to look a little tired that's all. I want you to be well again." Tomlin returned the smile from the foot of the bed. Holt walked up to him, standing in between Tomlin's knees. Holt put both his hands on Tomlin's shoulders and looked down at him.

"Now don't you become some old worry bucket on my account. I'll be just fine. It may take a little bit more time, but I do feel much better." Holt smiled wider. Tomlin reached up with a hand and put it on one of Holt's.

"Alright, but let's not overdo it."

"You have my word." Holt said and then bent down going nose to nose with Tomlin. "You make me very happy, you know that?"

"How is that?"

"You care about me. I've never had anyone that truly cared about me before, about how I feel." Holt said quietly with soft eyes.

"You make it easy to care." Tomlin smiled, squeezing the back of Holt's hand. "May I kiss you?"

"I thought you would never ask. But I wish to kiss you." Holt smiled and then leaned forward more, kissing Tomlin. Holt slid his hands around Tomlin's shoulders as they fell into a deeper kiss, and then Holt pushed Tomlin back on the bed. Tomlin wrapped his arms about Tomlin's waist as he pulled Holt closer to him. They kissed very deeply and passionately as they blended more and more together, arms and legs working about each other. Holt soon found himself in between Tomlin's legs and they felt each other rubbing their firming lengths as they ground their hips. Holt slowly pulled back.

"I can feel you against me." Tomlin whispered as he kissed Holt's earlobe.

"I've never felt this before." Holt whispered as he loved the feeling on his ear, "You feel so good under me."

"You feel as if you weigh nothing at all." Tomlin whispered back, tonguing Holt's inner ear, making Holt moan softly at it.

"I think we can finally figure out how we're supposed to do this with one another."

"Christian, I so want to be naked with you."

"Oh, Thomas, yes. Do you think...?"

"Yes, I do, but it's not time to think." Tomlin said and he rolled to his side taking Holt with him. They frantically worked each other's clothes off, tossing them away as they freed themselves. After each piece of clothing was tossed away, they smiled wide at each other seeing each other's bodies. Tomlin was amazed at what he saw, the tight muscles of Holt's chest and stomach, the definition of it all, and then there was his hard length. They ran their hands over each other, taking in the feel of their smooth skin. Tomlin hissed through clenched teeth as he was getting so lost in the lust he felt. Holt shifted on the bed and rolled Tomlin to his back, resting him on the pillows of the bed. Holt straddled over him, sitting on Tomlin's stomach, putting his hands on Tomlin's chest, looking down at him, giving him a soft growl from his throat.

"You feel so good to me." Holt whispered, as Tomlin ran his hands up and down Holt's arms.

"Not as good as you feel to me. I have wanted this for so long."

"What do you want?" Holt asked softly.

"You, all of you." Tomlin answered quietly, giving Holt soft eyes. Holt bent forward, coming down closer to Tomlin's face. They went nose to nose as their eyes looked into each other's.

"If it's me you want, then you can have every bit of me." Holt smiled softly and fell onto Tomlin's parted lips. Lips came together, mouths open wider and tongues met, working each over again and again.

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Callum had gotten up from the chair and had put his tunic on, reaching back behind him pulling out his tail and throwing it over the top of his high collar. Dustin smiled wide seeing him do it, and stood before him. Callum put his arms around Dustin's shoulders and Dustin reached his hands up, placing his palms on Callum's chest.

"Very striking." Dustin whispered looking into Callum's eyes.

"I am glad that I can make you think so. My only hope is that when we are old and grey you still think that as well."

"The grey might make you look more striking. It might be so with the color in your eyes."

"You like the color in my eyes?"

"They shine like the sun on the waves." Dustin looked back and forth at both of them, seeing in them what he spoke of, "They are so very much alive." Dustin leaned forward and kissed Callum softly and briefly. Callum let a breath out through his nose, and then smiled softly.

"You fill my heart so much, with your touch and kind words. I would be so very lost without you."

"Then I will make certain that I am always there to keep you on your course."

"You'd best." Callum said as he looked deep into Dustin's eyes, "It would be very difficult to try and train a new helmsman." Callum said, raising an eyebrow. Dustin went wide eyed, and his mouth opened.

"Why you..." Dustin slapped Callum's chest gently, and then backed up a step. Callum chuckled as there was a knock on the door. Dustin narrowed his eyes at Callum, and then turned for the door. He opened it, and there was the young girl standing there. She surprised Dustin slightly.

"I am sorry, sir, but there is a carriage that is waiting downstairs for you." She said softly.

"A carriage?" Callum asked as he stepped close to the door. "I was actually going to walk to the Admiralty, beings it's only on the next street over. Obviously His Lordship wants me to come now." Callum said, "Thank you, I'll be down presently." Callum nodded to her slightly, and she curtsied in answer and then walked away. Callum turned and picked up his new hat and turned back to Dustin. "I am not certain how long I shall be. Will you be alright?"

"Yes." Dustin smiled at Callum, "I will be waiting for your return."

"I will do my best to make it brief." Callum smiled and kissed Dustin on the cheek and then went around him out the door. Dustin stepped out and watched him walk down the hall to the stairs. Callum stopped as he reached the top stair and then winked at Dustin. Dustin grinned back at him, and Callum went down the stairs. Dustin went to step into the room again but he stopped hearing something. He looked toward the door of the room at the end of the hall, Tomlin and Holt's room. He heard it again and then stepped closer to their closed door. He stopped and listened again and then he heard it. He knew the sound all too well, and then smiled wide at it. He knew what they were about in the room. Dustin went back to his own room and closed the door.

Callum got out of the carriage and stepped up toward the front doors of the building, the Marine Sentries snapping to attention and opening the door for him as he approached. Callum went through the door and came into the large lobby area. The Registrar turned toward him from his table area and bowed his head slightly toward him.

"Good afternoon, Commodore." He said, catching Callum slightly off guard as he had not been addressed with his new rank before. Callum cleared his throat.

"Good afternoon. I am to meet with His Lordship."

"Of course, sir." He said and then signaled to a young Paige, who stepped up. "Escort Commodore Callum to His Lordship." He said and then bowed his head slightly again toward Callum. Callum followed the young Paige up the wide staircase, and then along the wide open walkway to meet Barrington. The young Paige held out a hand.

"Good afternoon, sir." Barrington said in his usual deep voice.

"Good afternoon, Barrington." Callum said as the young Paige walked away.

"His Lordship is expecting you, sir. He is accompanied by The Duke as well." Barrington said, remembering what Callum had asked of him previously.

"Thank you, Barrington." Callum gave him a brief smile. Barrington bowed his head slightly and then knocked on the door and opened it, stepping in, and bowing.

"Commodore Callum, My Lord."

"Ah, Callum, do come in." Fitzwarren said loudly. Callum walked into the room and Barrington closed the door as he stepped back out. "Callum, I believe you know His Grace?" Fitzwarren asked, holding out a hand toward Wellington. Callum stepped forward and bowed formally using his new hat to sweep across himself as he bowed.

"A pleasure to see you again." Wellington said, nodding toward Callum.

"The pleasure is truly mine, Your Grace." Callum said as he stood up again.

"I understand that you spirited someone away from the surgery after we met." Wellington said, putting a hand on his hip.

"Yes, Your Grace, I did. A young officer that serves aboard my ship, he was under the care of my ships surgeon and we thought it best to have him rest and recuperate in other surroundings."

"I see." Wellington said, looking Callum over carefully. "You are of the opinion that there are better surroundings than here at the Admiralty?"

"For rest and comfort, there needed to be a quieter and calmer place than here where there is always so much activity, Your Grace."

"I can see your point in that." Wellington said. "Your officer, he is well then?"

"For the time being, Your Grace. My ships surgeon has been overseeing to his care."

"What is it that you mean, for the time being?"

"It is a delicate matter, Your Grace. Perhaps we can speak of it after we have our meeting?"

"A delicate matter?" Wellington asked. "Perhaps we should speak of it now. Commodore, come with me for a moment and let us speak of this...delicate matter." Wellington said, turning and walking toward a doorway behind him. Fitzwarren was wide eyed, as he watched Callum follow.

"We will only be a moment, Edmund."

Callum followed Wellington into another larger room, and the door was closed by Wellington. Callum stopped and was feeling anxious about what was about to happen. He stood very still as Wellington came up close beside him.

"Callum, you must know who this officer actually is, do you not?"

"I have been informed, Your Grace." Callum said softly. Wellington went almost eye to eye with him now.

"And what is it that you intend to do with him?"

"My intentions are to have him become well again and to return to duty, Your Grace."

"Very admirable, Callum, but you spirited him away, not only from here, but from his home."

"Only to save his life, Your Grace." Callum lowered his head slightly.

"You realize that you are in a very difficult position, do you not?" Wellington asked, "You have kidnapped a regent of the Crown."

"I understand that, Your Grace," Callum said and then paused a moment, looking Wellington in the eye, "however it was the circumstances that led to such action being taken."

"What circumstances?"

"He was being poisoned in his own home, Your Grace. And to save his life, he needed to spirited away in order to be saved. I do understand the position this has put me in, but I would do so again if it meant saving him from certain death."

"You believe that?"

"I do, Your Grace."

"He means that much to you?"

"He is a very capable officer, and a valuable member of my crew. If I may be so bold, if it were you that were in his position, I would risk all to ensure your safety, as I have done for him."

"I am touched, Callum, very touched by that indeed. What would you suggest we do about this?"

"Your Grace, I am subject to follow the rule of law, and will surrender myself to that end if need be, but as free men, I suggest that we have him continue to heal from what has been done to him, and let him make his own choice." Callum said, letting out a breath slowly. He thought about it for a moment, "Your Grace, may I ask, how is it that you know?"

"Your officer was recognized by one of the Registrars. He had cause to have me alerted to what was happening."

"I see." Callum said, thinking about all of it.

"Callum, you have done right by him, and for that, you should be commended." Wellington sighed himself and then put a hand on his hip, "But, it's how it happened that is of great concern. The boys' father will undoubtedly be very distressed over the whole thing. There will be consequences from all of this to be sure. I will, however, intervene on your behalf and stop anything from a legal standpoint. I will speak to His Majesty and ask him to issue a pardon absolving you."

"I am most grateful, Your Grace." Callum bowed his head and breathed a sigh of relief.

"But this will come with a price." Wellington said, narrowing his eyes at Callum. Callum felt anxious again all of a sudden. "And that price may be one that you may not like."

"I understand, Your Grace."

"Come, we will speak no more of this. We have more pressing matters to deal with. I will send for you after I speak with His Majesty."

"I am deeply grateful for your efforts, Your Grace." Callum said, bowing his head again.

"You may not be very shortly." Wellington said and then walked out of the room, Callum followed. "Gentlemen, I do apologize for making you wait, there was an affair of state that needed to be handled. Now, shall we be seated and begin?"

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"Dear God." He whispered as he let out a deep breath and lay back on the pillows, "I have never felt anything like that in my life." He smiled and then rolled his head over to his left looking at the smiling face that was beside him.

"Neither have I, Christian." Tomlin said turning to lie on his side, putting an arm over the smooth chest that was rising and falling next to him, "But, I do know that I want to feel it again."

"Many, many more times, Thomas." Holt whispered as he turned toward his new lover. He lifted his head and kissed Tomlin softly, and then pushed into him, rolling Tomlin back onto the pillow, climbing on top of him. Holt reached up with both hands putting them to each side of Tomlin's head, feeling his soft blonde hair. Holt smiled as he spread his legs more, capturing Tomlin's underneath him, and then rolled his hips as he lay on his lover. They could feel themselves trapped between their bodies and Holt smiled softly into Tomlin's face. "You bring such a desire in me."

"And what is it that you desire, my love?" Tomlin asked as he traced fingers up and down Holt's spine, feeling the soft warm skin under his touch.

"To be with you, like this, forever." Holt whispered and then kissed him softly.

"I wish that as well." Tomlin said softly, kissing Holt gently. They pulled away from each other as there was a knock on the door. Holt went to jump but Tomlin stopped him, gripping him tight and then smiled wide. "Calm yourself." Tomlin whispered, and then looked at the door. "Who is it?" Tomlin asked louder.

"Dustin." They heard the muffled reply from the other side of the door. Tomlin looked up at Holt and smiled wide again.

"Come in." Tomlin said loudly, making Holt's eyes go wide. The door opened, and they saw Dustin give them a shocked look and then lower his eyes to the floor. "You can come in and close the door, Dustin." Tomlin said and then chuckled. Dustin closed the door but had his head down. He lifted his head slightly, seeing the two in bed, covered up over their butts barely by the sheet.

"I am very sorry for the intrusion." Dustin said softly, looking down at the floor again. Holt and Tomlin started to move and get out of the bed.

"It's alright, Dustin." Tomlin chuckled as he got out of bed. "I'm certain you have seen far worse."

"Well,..." Dustin said, still looking at the floor.

"Is there something wrong?"

"No, nothing is wrong, I was only wondering...?"

"Yes? What is it you were wondering?" Tomlin asked as he slipped on his breeches. Holt was getting into his undergarments.

"If you would care to join me in having...?"

"Something to eat, possibly?" Tomlin asked, and then looked over at Holt, "Yes, I'm hungry, aren't you hungry Christian?"

"I suppose I am." Holt said, struggling with his clothes, as he looked at Dustin.

"And where is the Captain?" Tomlin asked, as he pulled his shirt on over his head.

"He is at the Admiralty. They sent a carriage for him early. He said he didn't know how long he would be."

"Obviously His Lordship had many things to be discussed if he sent it early." Tomlin said and looked again at Holt and then smiled at him. He stepped over, helping him with his new pants, buttoning the flap for him. Dustin looked up and saw that Tomlin was rather enjoying what he was doing to Holt. The wide grin was there and Tomlin had the tip of his tongue out, pinned with top teeth to the bottom lip, a true look of mischief.

"Yes, I'm sure that he did." Dustin said, knowing what he would do to Callum if it were them like that. "Perhaps I'll just wait downstairs for you." Dustin said slowly, and then opened the door a little, just enough to slide out. Tomlin and Holt were just staring at each other as Dustin slid out the door and closed it quietly behind him.

"I believe that you can be a true devil." Holt said softly, trying to tie the strings on his shirt.

"I love being a devil sometimes." Tomlin smiled and lifted an eyebrow. He reached up and took the drawstring away from Holt's fingers. "Leave it open like this. It reveals just enough to catch the eye, and I so enjoy looking at it." Tomlin said softly. "You spoke of desire a few moments ago, well I have a desire as well." Tomlin said looking into Holt's shining eyes, Holt put his hands on Tomlin's hips and stepped up closer.

"And what is it that you desire?" Holt asked with a sly grin.

"To see you, all of you, naked in that bed again."

"We will have to do that." Holt said and kissed Tomlin softly. "But I have a desire to eat something."

"What would you like to eat?" Tomlin wiggled his eyebrows, and Holt chuckled.

"Besides you? I think it should be something a little more, that possibly comes off of a plate." Holt smiled and then backed up. He tucked in his shirt and Tomlin finished dressing as well. They walked out of the room together finally and went downstairs, joining Dustin who was at a table.

"I'm very sorry that I interrupted you." Dustin said softly after they sat down at the table with him. He seemed to blush with embarrassment.

"Think nothing of it." Holt said, giving Tomlin the eye. Tomlin chuckled again softly, then reached out and patted Dustin on the shoulder.

"I for one am rather glad it was you, Dustin, and not the Captain."

"I suppose." Dustin smiled briefly at Tomlin.

"Dustin, you still seem bothered by my letting you in the room. I suppose I should be the one to apologize." Tomlin said softly, seeing how Dustin was behaving toward them both.

"No, it's alright really." Dustin said softly as the girl brought a tray and began to set plates down for them. She smiled and left them alone again.

"Then what is it?"

"I guess it's because I really have never seen you in that kind of a...situation before. I have known you for two years and you have always been so..."

"Formal?" Tomlin smiled, and Dustin nodded in answer. Tomlin looked across the table at Holt, giving him a warm smile, "Yes, I suppose I have been, but I have found something else to make me feel a bit different." Dustin looked back and forth at both of them and then picked up his fork.

"I can agree with that." Dustin said, and Tomlin chuckled.

************************************************************

Callum was sitting near end of the long table next to Fitzwarren on his left, as Fitzwarren was at the very end. The Duke was at the head of the table, with the Vice Admiral Parring seated to The Duke's right. They all sat quietly listening to the two men from the Spanish Embassy, as they sat across from Parring. The Duke was placid to all of what they said, Callum watched The Duke to see if anything peaked his interest, but it seemed to Callum that he knew of everything that they were saying or were about to say about Bonaparte and his troops movements through Spain.

Once the two men were done speaking of Bonaparte, they began to talk of the French Captain that Callum was supposed to hunt down, his mad man. The two recounted how the French Captain had done the same to a couple of Spanish merchants as well as some Portuguese ships. They made mention that each of these ships were sloops or smaller, nothing of the size of a frigate or larger. All of the cargos were found intact on each vessel.

To Callum, it all fit, this man, the way he does things, the vessels he attacks without mercy are all smaller than he, easily taken, but the crews mutilated maked no sense, and Callum was lost in that thought only. Why mutilate the crews, what did he hope to gain from doing that? Callum, lost in thought, now came under the eye of The Duke, watching Callum instead of the reverse. Callum turned a deaf ear to what the men from the embassy were saying as he kept running the facts he knew over and over in his own mind. Callum only became aware of anything when he felt Fitzwarren kick his shin lightly under the table. Callum looked up and over at Fitzwarren, who had wide eyes, looking at Callum.

"I beg pardon, My Lord." Callum said.

"His Grace was saying..." Fitzwarren said holding a hand out toward the other end of the table. Callum felt a pang of shock and looked toward the head of the table.

"Your Grace, I humbly offer my apologies." Callum said.

"What troubles you?"

"I was trying to reason why this Frenchman is doing what he is doing, Your Grace. The thought overtook me." Callum said.

"Understandable. Do you have any conclusions?"

"Not yet, Your Grace." Callum said, and paused for a moment, "It does occur to me that there is nothing to be gained by attacking the Spanish, as they are now neutral in the conflict with Bonaparte, and there is certainly nothing to be gained at all in attacking the Portuguese. Why does he do it? He does not take the cargos of the vessels, so he is not a pirate of any type, nor is he supplying Bonaparte. What does he really want?"

"Callum, surely you can't reason with insanity, you must realize that." Fitzwarren said.

"I agree, My Lord, but let us look at it from another direction. What if he isn't mad?"

"Of course he's mad." Fitzwarren said, balling up a fist.

"I am not certain, My Lord." Callum said, looking at Fitzwarren, "As I said, what purpose would it serve to attack the Spanish or the Portuguese? And then not take the cargos of any of the vessels he has attacked, ours included? No, I believe he wants something, or is at least trying to send a message to us."

"There are other ways to do that without killing the way he does." Fitzwarren said.

"Yes, there are, My Lord, but what has he really done? He has our entire merchant fleet frightened into not sailing, for any price."

"What do you think his ultimate goal is?" Fitzwarren asked.

"Possibly revenge, My Lord."

"Revenge? Against us? For what?" Fitzwarren asked.

"He is obviously a very experience Captain with his tactics and using his time table. Perhaps it is revenge against us. Perhaps he was at Trafalgar, or perhaps we have hurt him in some other way, but everything points toward us, all of the ships attacked, with the exception of the Spanish and the Portuguese have all been found by us. All of those ships were set on a course toward the English coast when they were discovered. He is trying to send a message, My Lord, we just need to figure out what he is trying to say."

"I think we need to stop him, and see him hanged."

"I agree, My Lord, but with that, if he has a message that he is trying to get across, might he not also have supporters? Who is resupplying his ship? He does not take the cargos, so someone has to be supplying him for his attacks. And if he is destroyed, does that not make him a martyr, if he does have supporters?"

"Blast." Fitzwarren said quietly and thumped his fist on the table, "Politics, always bloody politics."

"Yes, My Lord, I share your frustration in that." Callum said softly.

"The question remains, will you be able to catch him?" Wellington asked as he put his fingertips together resting his elbows on the arms of the chair. Callum looked up toward him.

"Yes, Your Grace, without question, we will catch him."

"You said that also the last time we met, Callum, what makes you so certain?"

"My plan is simple, Your Grace." Callum said as he leaned forward a little on the table, "He attacks smaller vessels, this we know, and does it when there is no moon. My plan is to take a captured French sloop which is in Portsmouth, outfit it, giving it a small crew, but rather than cargo to have the hold filled with a force of Marines. It appears to me that these merchant vessels that have been attacked are barely able to defend against him. I wish to change that. We will have him strike and launch a counter attack, and have my squadron surround him."

"What makes you think that he will follow your plan?"

"He will have no choice, Your Grace. He has shown it time after time that he cannot resist a smaller target. I will have my squadron spread out and conceal themselves as best we can against the coastline. When he launches his attack against the sloop, we will make his presence known by launching rockets, lighting up the blackness of the night, the squadron can close in and we will have him."

"And who will you have sail the sloop to its possible slaughter?"

"I would not ask any of the officers under my command to sacrifice themselves, Your Grace."

"You did not answer my question, Callum." Wellington said, in a stern tone.

"I would undertake that myself, Your Grace."

"I think you will not." Fitzwarren said, thumping his fist again on the table. "Have you gone completely mad? It would be sheer folly to have you sail the sloop to bait the trap. I'll not hear of it, and I order you not to attempt it."

"My Lord, if I may, would you have a suggestion as to whom you have sail the sloop?"

"You go too far, sir." Fitzwarren said, giving Callum a stern look of his own. "You have several capable officers under your command, you can press one of them to sail the sloop."

"That is very true, My Lord, however I feel that in this particular mission, one of extreme peril, that it would not be right to order one those officers to do something that I myself would not be willing to do. And as such, I would have it weigh heavily on my mind and in my heart if my plan went bad, leading to such an officer being killed."

"I can see where this might distress you,..." Fitzwarren said, but was cut off.

"He is quite correct in what he says, Edmund." Wellington said from his chair, making all eyes go toward him. "Surely you can see that our young Commodore is a man of compassionate means."

"I do, Your Grace, and I have seen it firsthand, but I still feel that he should not be willing to sacrifice himself to see his plan carried through."

"Does it not remind you of something?" Wellington asked Fitzwarren, raising an eyebrow, "Perhaps the fortress at La Rochelle. From all accounts, it was Callum that led that part of the mission, carrying out his rather daring plan."

"Yes, Your Grace, but that was slightly different in nature."

"I don't agree, Edmund. It seems to be a sound military strategy that Callum has come up with, yet once again. He has seen to the fact that his squadron will be close at hand to act as reinforcement, and if he has a large company of Marines to aide him as well, I think we should let him carry out his plan. If he survives it, he will eliminate this threat in the Channel, and hopefully will also find out what has actually been going on with all of this madness."

"I seem to be forced to agree with your plan, Callum." Fitzwarren said with a soft growl in his throat, as he shifted his eyes to the table top.

"What are your thoughts on this, Admiral Parring?" Wellington asked the large man next to him.

"I agree with His Lordship, Your Grace, acting squadron commanders should not be placing their lives at risk, when they have subordinates that can carry out actions for them." Parring said, "However, Commodore Callum's reputation is growing rapidly throughout His Majesty's Navy. I have also heard that he can be quite the hero when pressed."

"I have heard that as well, many times over actually." Wellington said softly. "I am reminded of a line from a poem, 'for fools rush in where angels fear to tread,' I would not want to count you as a fool, Callum."

"With thanks, Your Grace, I would not wish to be thought of one as well." Callum bowed his head slightly toward Wellington, and then looked at Parring, "And as for being a hero, sir, I do not consider to being thought as one when I am merely doing my duty for my King." Callum said, rather coldly, and Parring's eyes went wide, and then he cleared his throat. Wellington tried to suppress a grin. Fitzwarren cleared his throat as well and dropped his eyes toward the table.

"Well said, Commodore." Wellington said and then got up from his chair. The others at the table followed his lead, standing as well. "Gentlemen, this has been very enlightening. I will see His Majesty in the morning and relay to him all that we have discussed. Commodore, as I said to you earlier, I will send word for you after I see His Majesty."

"It is most appreciated, Your Grace." Callum bowed slightly.

"Nonsense, after what I have heard from you today, there is no reason for concern." Wellington said, and he stepping slowly away from the table, "Edmund, I shall meet with you and Lord Hood, at this time tomorrow after I return from His Majesty."

"We look forward to that, Your Grace." Fitzwarren bowed slightly, as Wellington walked toward the center of the large room.

"Good day to you all, gentlemen." Wellington said as he walked to the door and opened it, the men in the room, bowing formally as he walked out. Fitzwarren rose and turned to Callum.

"Callum, wait for me in my private chamber." Fitzwarren said softly.

"As you wish, My Lord." Callum bowed slightly toward him and all eyes watched him walk to the other side of the room and go through the door there.

************************************************************

Dustin pushed his plate away and sat back in his chair. The girl had brought them coffee, at Dustin's request, and he picked up his cup and sipped at it, using his eyes only to watch the looks that Tomlin and Holt were giving each other across the table. Dustin thought it sweet the way they looked at one another. Dustin set his cup down seeing a well-dressed young man walk into the tavern. He went to the long counter and spoke for a moment to the innkeeper, who nodded toward Dustin and their table. The well-dressed man turned and looked at them, making eye contact with Dustin. He walked over to their table, and gave a nod. Dustin nodded back as Tomlin looked up over his shoulder.

"Good afternoon, gentlemen. My name is Merclin. I am looking for Captain Callum. I was told by the landlord that you gentlemen are friends of his."

"That's right." Tomlin said, "What do you want of the Captain?"

"I am a writer for The Times."

"The what?" Tomlin asked.

"A newspaper, here in London." Holt said, setting his fork down, looking at this man, "Why do you wish to see the Captain?"

"Well, his exploits are becoming very well known. My editors wish to have me write about him."

"The Captain would not wish to boast of his duty, sir." Dustin said, sitting forward in his chair.

"Well, whether he would wish to or not, the people of our nation would wish to hear of his adventures." Merclin said, looking at Dustin and giving him a rather fake smile.

"The Captain is a very busy man, and his time is precious." Dustin said flatly, "And as I said, I know he would not wish to boast of his duty."

"You seem to know him very well then, young sir," Merclin said, "May I ask your name?"

"My name is..."

"His name is not important, sir," Holt said, standing up now as he cut Dustin off, "your intrusion is however. You have been told that the Captain is a very man with his duties, and I feel that we should leave it at that." Holt said, giving the man a cold stare.

"I think I would like to ask the Captain for his own opinion on that." The man said, returning the stare.

"You may think as you wish, but you were told that he is a very busy man." Holt said flatly and the stare became more intense. Tomlin saw it and went to stand as well. Holt held out a hand to stop Tomlin without looking at him. "Now, if you have no other business, you have interrupted our luncheon and our discussion." Holt said coldly, Dustin looked up at Holt with wide eyes, hearing his tone and now seeing his face.

"Perhaps I will try and see the Captain at another time. Thank you, gentlemen, and my apologies for the intrusion." Merclin bowed his head slightly, turned and walked away toward the door of the inn. Holt watched him for a moment until he was out of sight, and then sat back down.

"Christian, that was very impressive." Dustin said looking at Holt.

"Yes, to say the least. What is it that set you off like that?" Tomlin asked.

"They ask a lot of foolish questions and then never get the facts correct, blowing it out of proportion and that is how gossip spreads. Parasites, the lot of them." Holt said, with a tone of disgust to it.

"By I say, you certainly dealt with him quite well." Dustin said, sitting back again.

"I have had trouble with his like before." Holt said and then looked down at his plate, pushing it away from him, "And now he has made me lose my appetite." Holt looked up and toward the doorway that Merclin went through, "Mark my words, we haven't seen the last of him."

"You truly think so?" Tomlin asked, following Holt's gaze, and then back again.

"As surely as the sun rises each morning." Holt said slowly and shifted his eyes back to the table and his companions. "Well, what are we about until the Captain returns?"

"Well, as Dr. Crawford is not here, and I know what he would say about you, you should go up and rest a bit more." Tomlin said, pushing his plate back as well.

"Perhaps you're right. He did set me off a bit."

"Who, that writer?" Dustin asked, "I think you made your point with him, I don't think he'll be back."

"Don't let your guard down, and if he does return say nothing to him at all. If you give him anything as far as information, he will just keep asking more and more questions. They are not to be trusted at all, his type." Holt said, getting up from the table again.

"I will remember that, thank you." Dustin said, watching Holt walk away toward the stairs, Tomlin was watching him as well, and then looked back at Dustin. "Something about that man has him extremely bothered now."

"I agree. I've never seen him like that. I thought it was going to come to blows for a moment."

"So did I. I wonder what is really troubling him." Dustin said.

"I'll find out later. I'll give him a bit of time to himself before I go up."

"A good idea I would think, let him calm himself. I wonder if Quintan is doing alright at the Admiralty." Dustin said as he looked at Tomlin.

************************************************************

Callum waited for a few minutes and then he heard the door open behind him, knowing it was Fitzwarren. He turned and saw him close the door behind him and then look at Callum for a moment and then come toward him.

"Let us have a seat and be comfortable." Fitzwarren said and walked over to a small table. He set out glasses and opened a decanter and poured from it, then reset the top and picked up the glasses, turning and walked toward Callum handing out a glass. Fitzwarren sat in a large overstuffed chair, and sighed as he got comfortable, as Callum sat down on a small stool seat. Fitzwarren held up his glass, "To success from the darkness." Callum lifted his glass, looking at Fitzwarren, and then lowered it, taking a sip of the brandy. "It is that darkness that I wish to speak to you of, Callum." Fitzwarren said after he sipped his own brandy, "It rather shocked me that His Grace would speak to you alone, which I trust was a matter of state as he put it, leaving me in the dark."

"Yes, My Lord, I regret His Grace doing that here in your private chamber. I had hoped to have a private word with him, but elsewhere."

"So, was it a matter of state as he said?"

"It could be construed as such, My Lord." Callum said, bugging his eyes a little.

"Well?"

"I,...find it...rather difficult to speak of, My Lord, as there are implications that could arise."

"Implications?"

"Yes, My Lord, if I were to divulge the nature of the matter, it might implicate you as well."

"So, you're trying to protect me from something?" Fitzwarren said as he sat forward in his chair, staring at Callum.

"Yes, My Lord, I suppose I am."

"I see." Fitzwarren said, still staring, "Callum, are you in some kind of legal trouble?"

"I am, My Lord."

"A criminal act that you perpetrated?"

"Not exactly, My Lord."

"And as a matter of state, it must be an act against the Crown."

"It is, My Lord." Callum said quietly, and Fitzwarren got up from his chair.

"Is this what His Grace meant when he said he would send you word after meeting with His Majesty?"

"Yes, My Lord." Callum said softly.

"Well, what have you done, man? Stolen the Crown Jewels?" Fitzwarren was upset now, starting to pace in front of Callum.

"Not exactly, My Lord. There is a young officer that was assigned to me aboard Dover. He was brought here in order to save his life." Callum said and Fitzwarren stopped his pacing, looking down at Callum.

"I heard something of that, the young Marine Lieutenant, what's his name?"

"Holt, My Lord, Christian Holt."

"Yes, yes, and so what has this to do anything?"

"His father, My Lord, is the Ninth Earl of Cambridge, and the Lieutenant..."

"Oh dear God, Callum, you kidnapped a regent of the Crown?"

"It actually wasn't I, My Lord, the first time, but rather..."

"The first time? There was more than once?"

"Yes, My Lord, actually it was twice, once from his home, and the second was from here in the surgery." Callum said evenly, and then finished his brandy hoping that there would be lots more before this day was out. Fitzwarren went back to his pacing.

"My God! One of my best officers! And you can just sit there and keep calm about this?!"

"Actually, My Lord, I..."

"Silence! Let me think for God's sake!" Fitzwarren was pacing, pounding the rug under his feet, "Blast! Of all the stupid..." Fitzwarren stopped pacing and looked right at Callum, "Did you even think? Did you even know?"

"No, My Lord, I did not know until after we were at our lodgings."

"And you still have him in your company?"

"Yes, My Lord, he is still far to..." Callum started to say, but Fitzwarren leaned into him red faced.

"My God, man! We must return him to his home."

"I think that would be a slight problem, My Lord." Callum said, trying not slink back on his stool.

"Problem? How could that be a problem?" Fitzwarren turned and clasped his hands behind his back as he started to pace again.

"It was at his home that he was being poisoned, My Lord." Callum said it as he was looking at Fitzwarren's back. Fitzwarren stopped pacing and turned with wild eyes.

"What?! Poisoned in his own home? Intentionally?"

"Yes, My Lord, so you can see that returning him there would be a rather..."

"Dear God!" Fitzwarren growled, and threw his hands in the air, "Alright, we have to get you out of the country, I'll get you a carriage and send you to the Valiant, she is in the mouth of the Thames, ready to..."

"My Lord, if I may, The Duke is fully aware of this situation, and was aware of my Lieutenants position the entire time apparently. When he meets with His Majesty tomorrow, he intends to have His Majesty issue a letter of pardon."

"Callum, if this is not kept quiet, your letter of pardon, if His Majesty does issue it, will cause scandal throughout the fleet. If it happens, I will have no other choice but to accept your resignation from the service."

"I understand, My Lord, and this is why I wished to keep from you, to not involve you in possible scandal." Callum said softly, and Fitzwarren sighed then shook his head.

"Callum, I order you to never keep anything else from me, is that clear?"

"Perfectly clear, My Lord."

"I give you this order to save you from yourself, and your acts of compassion. I have said that they will be your undoing, and you are proving me right."

"With deep regret, My Lord." Callum bowed his head slightly after he stood.

"Give us your glass, we're not done yet." Fitzwarren said, taking the glass from Callum's hand and walked back to the table and the decanter.

***********************************************************

Tomlin was quiet, sitting at the table with Dustin, their conversation had slowly dropped off after the girl had come and cleared the table of their dishes. She had poured more coffee for them, but they didn't seem to be interested in it. Dustin could see that Tomlin had other things on his mind but obviously he didn't wish to discuss it without being prodded.

"Perhaps I shall return to my room and have a rest myself." Dustin said, starting to get up from the table. Tomlin looked over at him, pursed his lips for a moment and started to rise as well.

"Do you think he has had ample time to get settled?"

"Who, Christian?" Dustin asked, Tomlin was just staring at him, "I'm certain he should be settled by now, but you would know better than I."

"Maybe he has. I just hate to see him bothered, it troubles me." Tomlin said softly.

"Then go up and do something about it." Dustin said, dropping coins on the table for the innkeeper. "Thomas, do not hesitate when it comes to him, be certain every time. It's not like you to be so guarded."

"You think me guarded?" Tomlin asked.

"When it comes to Christian, yes. You second guess yourself, not wanting to step over a boundary that you think is there, I've seen it. He will appreciate it and you far more if you become more assertive toward him." Dustin said softly as he leaned over the table a bit.

"I really can't be any more assertive than I already have been with him, if you take my meaning." Tomlin said. Dustin rolled his eyes, knowing exactly what he meant.

"And with that, I take it was only one time so far, but that is not what I speak of. He is confused right now, not only with what is happening with you both, but his very future, his home, his family. Take that assertiveness you have shown countless times aboard ship and use it to help him, to guide him. He said to me once that you lead him, and he needs it, requires it."

"Hmmm, you may be right. I have been rather cautious with him as of late." Tomlin thought about it for a moment, and then seemed to draw up his reserve, "You're right, I'll do that, thank you, Dustin."

"You're welcome." Dustin smiled and they walked toward the stairs of the inn. Tomlin stopped and looked at Dustin who was stopped as Tomlin stopped.

"You know, you're very wise, for being so young." Tomlin said with a soft smiled. Dustin blushed slightly.

"Quintan has said that as well, many times to me, and I'm not much younger than you are."

"I'm sure that he has. And I'm also sure that he appreciates you and your insights, as I do." Tomlin smiled, putting a hand on Dustin's shoulder for a moment, before they walked up the stairs. They reached Dustin's door and he reached into his pocket for the key, as Tomlin kept going walking toward his own door, stopping at it for a moment. Tomlin took in a deep breath and then let it out. Dustin watched him as he did it and then Tomlin opened the door and walked into the room. Dustin saw the door close softly and then entered his own room.

Tomlin stood still for a moment, looking at the bed and the still form that was laying in it. The room was so quiet, and Tomlin thought for a moment not to disturb the quiet, but remembered what Dustin had just said downstairs and Tomlin knew what he had to do. Seeing the still form of this young man, who had stolen his heart, his very soul, Tomlin walked over to the bed and sat on the edge and leaned toward him. Holt's long hair had been untied in the back and was partly covering the soft pretty face, and splayed out on the pillow. Tomlin reached up his hand and picked up some of it and rubbed it between his fingers, feeling the softness of it, seeing the color and then he saw Holt's eyes open slowly from being touched. Holt smiled softly at Tomlin, and rolled his head slightly to see his face.

"Christian, I feel the need to talk to you." Tomlin said softly.

"What do you wish to talk about?" Holt asked as Tomlin continued to feel the strands in his fingers.

"What troubles you. You seemed to become very agitated when we were approached downstairs by that writer."

"He will bring nothing but trouble as I said."

"While I understand what you're saying, but I also think that you are holding something back. I want you to tell me."

"Thomas, you just have to take my word for it." Holt said with a slight tone that reminded him of the tone that was used downstairs.

"Christian, you know that I am only trying to help you." Tomlin said, as he looked into Holt's eyes, seeing them becoming more intense. "There is no reason to become angry over this. All I ask is for you to talk to me about what worries you." Holt rolled away from Tomlin and sat up on the edge of the bed. Tomlin sat back up on the edge of the bed. He got up and walked around the bed and got down on his knees in front of Holt, putting his hands on Holt's thighs as he looked up into his eyes. "Christian, do not turn away from me. This runs deep in you, tell me what has you so troubled."

"Thomas," Holt said softly, "you have been so kind to me. I do not want you to be hurt, nor do I want Dustin or the Captain to be hurt either. Maybe it would be best if I did return home." Tomlin narrowed his eyes at him, and then he felt angry, but wanted to keep it buried.

"You know what that would mean to you, the danger that come from that. Who's to say if it wouldn't happen again?"

"I would be more guarded now." Holt said softly.

"I don't believe that." Tomlin said, making Holt's eyes go wider, "You said it was your father that started all of this, leaving you in the care of that...woman. Who's to say that it wouldn't happen again? You had your wits about you when you went home the first time from the Garrison, and then it happened, who's to say that they wouldn't try it again, possibly giving you poison in your drink or in something you might eat? No, Christian, I can't let you leave to go home to that possible danger, unless that is truly what you want to do. I will not let you simply throw your life away because you think that is what your father wishes in order to save his reputation or standing." Tomlin could see a change in Holt's face, his own anger building now.

"I will not be told what I can do or cannot. Who do you think you really are?"

"Someone who loves you, someone who truly cares." Tomlin said as he rose up on his knees going face to face with Holt. "I can't let you go, don't you see? You mean too much to me." Tomlin said as his eyes scanned Holt's. "There is something more about all this and you're not telling me. I think you owe me that at least." Holt looked down, but Tomlin stayed as he was.

"I'm sorry, Thomas, you're right, I do owe you." Holt said softly.

"Tell me what angered you about that writer. Please?" Tomlin asked softly. Holt lifted his eyes.

"There was scandal when my mother died. It nearly destroyed our name and my father's standing. Several questions were raised about her death, and though there were really never any accusations made, it was implied that my father had been involved in her death." Holt spoke softly making Tomlin give him wide eyes.

"What do you believe?"

"I was away when it happened, with my regiment. My mother was growing ill before I left, but I never gave it much thought. My father came and went with his own regiment during that time, and he wasn't there when she finally died. Word was sent to both of us and we returned home to attend to her and her burial. After that, we parted and went our separate ways. But there were writers that persisted in asking questions about the events leading up to her death, and those writers published their own accounts of what they thought their facts were, leading to other questions being asked and my father being brought before The Lord High Chancellor. He was finally left alone and all of the possible thoughts of implication were forgotten, but seeing how my father was treated and looked at after all of that made her loss that much more difficult to bear, possibly not for him, but for me. I became bitter over what they wrote and to deal with them again brings it all of back to the surface." Holt said softly and Tomlin could see his eyes beginning to well up, still feeling the pain of his mother's loss.

"Christian, I'm sorry, but it occurs to me that there is a pattern starting to emerge."

"What do you mean?" Holt asked as he sniffled once.

"You said that your mother became ill before you left to join your regiment. I assume that the housekeeper was there as well?"

"Yes, she has been in the house for almost ten years, when I was but a boy."

"And if I remember correctly, you also went to La Rochelle as a boy." Tomlin said, "Was she with your family then?"

"No, it was after we returned from La Rochelle as I remember." Holt said, narrowing his eyes.

"And how did your father act with her?"

"What do you mean? What are you trying to say Thomas?"

"I'm merely trying to put everything together. Christian, do you think it's possible that your mother was being poisoned as well?" Tomlin asked, pulling back from Holt. The question shocked Holt and his mouth opened slowly. And then he looked angry again.

"You think my father murdered my mother?"

"That's not what I'm saying, but you did say that he was responsible for the doctor, and responsible for your 'treatments', and has been gone for all of it, as well as being gone when your mother died." Tomlin said as he got to his feet. Holt lost his look of anger and was slowly being taken over by the horror of it all as everything was starting to come together in his mind. He sobbed and then put his face in his hands and began to weep softly. Tomlin leaned down and wrapped his arms around the naked shoulders, hugging him tightly. "Christian, I am so sorry." Tomlin said softly as he used a hand to stroke Holt's long hair.

"Thomas, do you think it's really possible?" Holt sobbed into Tomlin's chest.

"I don't know, my love, but it seems to make sense to me. And I can't let you go back there, ever." Tomlin said and Holt sobbed louder and slowly wrapped his arms around Tomlin's waist.

*************************************************************

"Callum, how well do you know Admiral Parring?" Fitzwarren asked as he returned to his chair.

"Only by reputation, My Lord, I know that he was with Lord Nelson in Copenhagen during that battle."

"Yes, it was rather difficult there to say the least." Fitzwarren said. "He seems to know you, have you met before?"

"Yes, My Lord, actually it was merely by chance last evening."

"Really, and where was that?"

"You are familiar with the Roman Baths in Whitechapel, My Lord?" Callum asked and then sipped more brandy.

"Yes, I have been there a few times actually. What were you doing there?"

"I had a thought that the steam rooms would actually help with my stitches, My Lord. I was correct in that assumption."

"Oh, they have been giving you trouble as of late?"

"Yes, My Lord, they have grown increasingly tight and making it difficult to breathe correctly. I thought they might loosen up. My surgeon was of the same opinion."

"I see, and what has this to do with Admiral Parring?"

"He was there as well, My Lord, but as everyone is not recognizable being out of uniform, we had a chance meeting and spoke only briefly, in polite conversation about the waters."

"Oh, I see." Fitzwarren said and then took a long pull of his brandy. "What do you know of his reputation?"

"Only that he follows the lead, My Lord, always taking a defensive posture rather than offensive."

"Yes, quite. That's exactly what Nelson said of him as well." Fitzwarren said. "As you know, he has recently returned with his squadron from Gibraltar. He was somewhat successful in stopping some French supply ships there, but as you may have surmised he let a few slip by him, those were the ships that came into La Rochelle that you engaged."

"I see. At least we were able to stop them finally, My Lord."

"Yes, and I brought that up to him as well. He seemed to take great insult from that fact." Fitzwarren said, drinking down the last of his brandy, "I tell you this Callum, as I can now begin to see that you have insulted him with your daring and better seamanship."

"It was not my intention to cause insult, My Lord."

"I know that, but he does not see it that way. I only say to you to have you be careful, my lad. He has strong political connections and can be rather...vocal in those circles. With your present circumstances in your involvement with your young officer, there may be other difficulties."

"I see, My Lord, and I thank you for alerting me to those facts." Callum said as he got to his feet. Fitzwarren stood and set his glass on a small table next to his chair. Fitzwarren stepped close to Callum.

"You are one of my best officers, and a key asset to my command. I have ordered you to inform me of all relevant facts that come to light. If anything happens involving Parring, I need to know of it immediately."

"I understand, My Lord." Callum said bowing his head slightly.

"Good. Now, what are your plans?" Fitzwarren asked, putting a hand on his hip.

"I will wait to hear of word from The Duke, then I will be off back to Portsmouth and check on the progress of Dover."

"I see. Send word when you find out about your repairs. Make certain of your squadron as well."

"Yes, My Lord." Callum said, nodding, and then saw Fitzwarren's outstretched hand. Callum took it in his, giving it a firm grip.

"Always watch over your shoulder, Callum. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer."

"Sound advice at any time, My Lord." Callum nodded, taking his hand back, then tipping it. Fitzwarren watched as Callum walked toward the door and then out of the room.

"May God keep you safe, Callum." Fitzwarren whispered as the door closed.

 

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