DOVER Chapter 16

Dustin unwrapped his legs off Callum and set his feet on the floor. He still kept his hands on Callum's shoulders, as their eyes were locked on one another. The smile from Dustin was infectious, and Callum too, was smiling from seeing it, as well as those sparkling wet eyes.

They were interrupted by the sound of someone clearing their throat. They both looked in that direction. Martha was standing in front of the dry sink, her hands folded in front of her apron, her smile was warm, and her eyes were wet as well.

"I am sorry, my dear, to have ignored you." Callum said, as he freed himself from Dustin and stepped toward her. She reached out her arms and put them about his neck, kissing his cheek as they drew near to one another, and then she clutched him tight.

"Understandable, my boy." She whispered in his ear. "Very understandable. He has been lost without you here."

"Rest easy now. I am home." Callum whispered back, then pulled back from her. "So, I have news that we need to talk over."

"We are to be back at sea." Dustin said, his eyes still watered up.

"Is that true, Quintan? So soon?" Martha asked, raising a hand to her mouth. "Your fortnights leave is not up yet."

Callum backed up a step from Martha, looking back and forth at the both of them. Callum took one of her hands in his and then reached out toward Dustin with the other. Dustin stepped forward, taking it. He pulled them both closer to him.

"It is true. I have received new orders from the Admiralty. We are to sail in three days time with the squadron." Callum looked at Dustin. "I cannot divulge all of what was said, but, this mission is vital to the success of the end of the war. If, we are successful."

"My God." Martha said in a low voice. "You make it sound as if it may be impossible to return." Callum only smiled at her comment. He raised a hand and cupped one her cheeks gently. He looked over at Dustin, then back to her.

"Something smells absolutely heavenly." Callum said, trying to change the subject. "I leave you two alone for only a day, and you start all this wonderful cooking without me."

"A simple dessert." Martha said, looking up at him. "The real prize is in the oven now. I must be about getting the rest of it ready. You two go and have your talk of war and such, but out of my kitchen. Now, be off with you two." Martha turned toward the dry sink and moved different things about, looking like she was busy. Callum took the hint, and pulled Dustin toward the kitchen door, into the front parlor.

Once they had left the kitchen, Callum turned, still pulling Dustin along. He reaffirmed his grip on the youth, pulling him to him, and then kissed him deeply. Dustin melted into the kiss, wrapping his arms about Callum's waist, running his hands up his back. The kiss was so intense and passionate, it was taking Dustin's breath away. Callum had never kissed him like this before. He loved it, and loved it that his love, his true man was back before him again. He moaned softly in Callum's mouth. Callum slowly pulled back, letting Dustin go. They went eye to eye.

"Walk with me." Callum whispered. He let Dustin go and turned toward the front door. Dustin followed and they headed down the path, then started crossing over the grass toward the far corner of the front of the property. Callum slowed and halted when he felt they were out of earshot of anyone around the house.

"Dustin..." Callum had turned and looked at him, "you know how my heart belongs to you. I have missed you so being gone all of the day. And, I have come to a difficult decision." Dustin was horrified by his words. His throat closed and he couldn't breathe. "I am going on this mission, but I wish for you to remain here, and await for my return." Dustin knew at that moment, down deep, that Callum knew that there was to be no return. He stiffened in his stance.

"Sir, beg pardon, sir, but you cannot possibly navigate without me, sir. You have said so yourself, sir."

"I can have one of the others man the helm for this mission." Callum said, in his authoritative voice.

"Beg pardon, sir, but no one knows how to helm the Dover like I do, sir. I know her moods, I know how she handles different waters, sir."

Callum leaned forward. "I don't want you on this mission." Dustin firmed himself.

"Then I will sign up on one of the other ships of the squadron."

"I don't want you there! At all!" Callum said, almost yelling.

"Don't you think that is my decision to make, sir?" Dustin returned, asking in an angry tone.

"I say no."

"Why? I will sail if I wish to. If I sign aboard another..."

"Because, we are not coming back!" Callum almost yelled, again. Dustin's eyes went wide with fear, then came realization, and then his eyes welled again.

"What?" Dustin whispered, his lip began to quiver. Callum turned away from Dustin and looked out over the fields. He drew in a long deep breath, then let it out.

"I volunteered the Dover for a very dangerous part to the mission."

Dustin walked around and stared up at Callum. "Why? You would volunteer to knowingly die? What of us? You would throw that away?"

"No." Callum whispered, hanging his head.

"You have proved to the contrary with volunteering. And what of the crew? What of the Dover?" Dustin clasped his hands on Callums arms. "Tell me this not just for glory seeking."

Callum angered, lifting his head. "You know better than that."

"Then tell me why? Why you would throw all away?"

"I wish this to be over." Callum said in a soft voice.

"Us? If that is true, then I will take my leave of you."

"Not us...this...this pointless conflict we are in." Callum said, backing up a step. "Men die every day in this conflict, on both sides." Callum shook his head. "If I can step in and make a difference in that, to short up or to stop this conflict and all of this needless destruction, then yes, I would gladly volunteer, whether it means my life or not. Don't you see?"

"All I see is that the man I love, the man I want, the man I need, is never coming back to me. So, I say to you, if you are to die, then I cannot go on living. If you are to die, then I wish to die alongside of you." Dustin said, sliding his hands down, taking Callum's hands into his. "For without you, there is no reason to live."

"Dustin..." Callum whispered as he squeezed his fingers around Dustin's.

Dustin pulled his hands free of Callum. "I must see if Martha requires any help. There is some packing to do as well. I take it that Owen will be driving us to Portsmouth?"

Callum only nodded. Dustin turned and walked back toward the house. Callum watched him walk away from him, feeling full of love, but yet empty.

The Boson's pipe sounded, as the Boson and two Marines manned the side. Mr. Arvin had finished walking up the gangplank, stepping onto the main deck of the Dover. He tipped his hat toward the Quarterdeck and then walked aft. He was met by several of the officers that had already come aboard. He nodded toward them. One young officer raised his hand to his own brim.

"Welcome aboard, Mr. Arvin."

"Thank you, Mr. Middleboro. I see that provisions are already underway?"

"Aye, sir." Middleboro said, looking forward as a large net was being lowered into the front hold. "Looks like extra shot and powder, sir."

"Indeed, any word from the Captain?"

"An attaché from the Admiralty, a Lt. Eddington was here earlier, sir. He is enroute to Birmingham to see the Captain, with official orders, sir.

"Very well." Arvin said, turning back to the officers. "Mr. Talon?"

"Sir?" The young midshipman asked.

"Fetch the Dock Master, if you please?"

"Aye, sir." He gave his obedience and then turned, crossing the main deck, then walked down the gang. Arvin turned and saw the large net lowering out of sight into the hold. His eyes narrowed. He knew what it meant with the extra shot and powder coming aboard.

"Mr. Tomlin?"


"See to that net. Make sure everything is stowed properly. I want nothing for the Captain to disagree with."

"Aye, sir." The young man tipped his hand, and then set off to the companionway. He disappeared down the stairs.

"Mr. Middleboro, has Mr. Carson come aboard yet?"

"Aye, sir. I believe he is in the Great Cabin, sir."

"Very well. You have the deck, I'll be below with Carson."

"Aye, aye, sir." Middleboro tipped his hand, then turned away toward some of the men working.

Arvin walked to the companionway, he went down the stairs and walked aft toward the Great Cabin. He looked about seeing things that were out of place, making a note to talk to Carson about it. He saw the doors were open to the Great Cabin as he went through the galley. He stepped up, taking off his hat, not entering yet, as was the custom.

"Mr. Arvin, sir. Good to see you, sir."

"Thank you, Carson. Is everything alright here?"

"Oh, yes sir. I was just turning down the bed for the Captain, should he arrive earlier than expected, sir."

"Very good. I noticed a few things that need to be stored away."

"Yes, sir. Some supplies from the Dock Master. I have already started to list them in the ships catalogue, sir.

"Very well. Do you require any extra hands?"

"I should think not, sir. I should have everything ready for the Captain's arrival."

"Well, let me know if you need anything."

"Thank you, sir, I will." Carson said, tipping his hand toward Arvin. Arvin turned and headed back along the companionway toward the stairs. He was met by Middleboro, who was coming down.

"Mr. Arvin, Mr. Talon's compliments, sir. The Dock Master has arrived on board, sir."

"Very well." Arvin said, as he started up the steep stairs. Once on deck, he turned and headed forward seeing Talon standing next to a slender man in a dark long coat. Arvin walked toward them, Middleboro following him.

"Mr. Arvin, this is Mr. Plumridge from the Dock Master, sir. Mr. Plumridge, Mr. Arvin, 1st Lieutenant of the Dover."

"Mr. Arvin." Plumridge gave a slight bow toward him.

Arvin tipped his hand to his hat. "Mr. Plumridge. I would like to ask about the status of the supplies coming aboard."

"We are loading them as fast as they are arriving, Mr. Arvin."

"That is not fast enough, sir." Arvin said, tilting his head back slightly, looking along his nose at Plumridge. "We are at war, sir. The Dover is to set sail in three days time. I need her out into the bay by tomorrow, at anchor. She needs to be checked for possible leakage and I must be certain that all stores are on board."

"I understand, Mr. Arvin. However, I am constrained by the fact that the supplies are only trickling in."

"That is not my concern, sir. My concern is to have a ship of His Majesties Navy outfitted and ready to be under way without delay. By my reckoning, we will be delayed."

"I am most sorry, sir. We are doing everything that we can."

"Which appears to be not enough." Arvin said, staring at Plumridge. "Mr. Talon?"


"Fetch me a quill, ink, and paper. I will send a message to the Admiralty immediately."

"Mr. Arvin, may I ask where the Captain of the Dover is? And why he is not seeing me?"

"Captain Callum is on his way, sir. And may I remind you, while he is not here, that I am in command of the Dover, sir?" Arvin turned and looked at the young midshipman who was walking away. "With dispatch, Mr. Talon!"

"Right away, sir." Talon called back, almost trotting now.

"Mr. Arvin, I assure you, sir, that we are doing the best that we can."

Arvin turned back and looked at Plumridge. "I beg your pardon for saying this, sir, but your best will have us lose this war, sir. We have had trouble before in Portsmouth having the ship refit. I, for one, sir, will not want to disappoint the Captain at having to wait for supplies before getting underway. So, we will see if the Admiralty can suggest another course of action or perhaps suggest where else to be refit from. Good day to you, Mr. Plumridge." Arvin put his hands behind his back and turned away.

"Mr. Arvin, I beseech you, sir. Please, let me check with my office before you do something rash."

"Something rash?" Arvin turned and looked back at Plumridge, as Talon reappeared on deck, coming up behind Arvin. "I will be brief, Mr. Plumridge. You will either answer to me, or you will answer to the Admiralty. Excuse me a moment, will you?" Arvin turned, and took the quill from Talon and grabbed a piece of parchment he carried. He dipped the quill in the inkwell Talon held.

"Mr. Arvin. Give me an hour, sir, please. I will have an answer for you by then." Plumridge said with wide eyes.

"You have until the last of the extra shot and powder is unloaded, sir. By my estimate, that gives you a half hour at least. I will expect to hear back from you by then. Otherwise, I will have this message prepared for the messenger to London."

"I shall return in short order, sir." With that, Plumridge turned and almost ran to the gang and left the ship, trotting down the dock, dodging different workers and carts with horses. All the officers watched as he ducked into a door in one of the buildings. Arvin smiled to himself.

"Mr. Middleboro?"

"Aye, sir?"

"Let's not waste time with the unloading of the extra shot and powder, shall we? Time is of the essence."

"Very good, sir." Middleboro turned and walked a few steps away from Arvin. "You there, on that line! Lively now! We are losing the light of the day! Step up lads! Lend us a hand! We have to have everything stowed away before the Captain arrives!"

"Quintan, is it true?" Martha asked as Callum stepped up beside her at the stove. "You are to sail again?"

"Yes, my dear, it is true." Callum said. He looked around but didn't see Dustin. "And where has our young lad gone off to?"

"He went upstairs to get things packed and to bring down the clothes that need to be washed." Martha said, looking at Callum's tunic. "I see that I will be up all night getting you ready to go as well."

Callum looked down at his tunic, then at her. Callum smiled and put a hand to her shoulder. "My dear, you have nothing to up all night for. I assure you that we sailors can deal with a bit of smut and smell."

"I think not." Martha said, turning toward Callum, holding a wooden spoon in her hand. "Now, you take off that uniform and leave it with me. I will take care of it. And then, you set yourself upstairs and have with a talk with the young master. I do not know what you two said to one another, but he is in a dreadful state." Callum looked up toward the ceiling, knowing Dustin was above him. Martha smacked his chest with the spoon, getting his attention. "Hurry now. Supper will be ready soon."

"Yes, of course." Callum said softly, then slipped off his tunic.

"Put them on the back of the chair there." Martha said, turning back to the stove. She looked over her shoulder now and again as Callum slipped out of his clothes. He stayed in his long pants, and went to leave. "All of them, Quintan."

"What? I shall not parade around in my bares."

"I have seen it before, young man. I mean to wash those as well." Martha said, making Callum frown, he opened the flap and slipped out of them, watching her. He caught her giving him a side glance.

"Here now." Callum said, half smiling. "You naughty thing. Have a care."

She chuckled as he turned and walked out of the kitchen in his 'bares'. He didn't look over his shoulder, but went up the stairs and opened the bedroom door. Dustin was knelt in front of the trunk against the wall, packing Callum's items in it. Callum saw the group of clothes on the bed. He assumed that Dustin was taking those down to be washed. Dustin turned his head as he heard the door close, then his eyes went wide seeing Callum standing there.

"Where are your clothes?"

"She made me remove them to start washing them." Callum said as he started across the room toward Dustin. Dustin stood, looking Callum up and down. "Come, come, you've seen me like this before. Close your mouth or might catch something."

Dustin snapped his mouth shut and gulped. "Yes, I have seen you like this before, but we have always been in bed."

"Well, now you have something new." Callum smiled as bent down past Dustin, reaching for a shirt and pantlets out of the trunk. "Packing is a little premature, don't you think?" Callum asked, as he stood, slipping his shirt over his head.

"Well, I thought you want to be ready..."

Callum stepped into his pantlets and tucked in his shirt. He looked Dustin in the eyes. "What I want is to explain to you why I decided not to have you come on this mission."

"You don't have to explain it." Dustin tensed, folding his arms across his chest. "You're the Captain. It's your ship, your decision. All I have to do is follow your orders."

Callum narrowed his eyes. "Do not take that tone with me, sir."

"And what tone would that be?"

"That tone." Callum replied as he buttoned the flap on his pantlets. "I will tolerate much, but not that."

"I don't know how else to be, it is just me."

Callum reached out and grabbed Dustin by the shoulders and squeezed his hands tight.

"I don't like this any more than you do."

"Then why did you volunteer?"

Callum fell silent for a moment, his eyes scanning Dustin's eyes deeply. "I didn't volunteer alone." Callum said in a soft voice.

"Oh?" Dustin said in that snide tone of his. "I suppose His Lordship volunteered the Valiant?"

"No." Callum replied, easing his grip, but still holding Dustin by the shoulders. "Captain Smythe and the Tarkington."

Dustin's eyes went wide. "He is...he..."

"Exactly." Callum said, letting go of Dustin, bending down to grab some stockings out of the chest. He picked up the pair and stood, looking at Dustin again. "So you see, my love, with Smythe about and in the thick of it, that is why I don't want you there." Callum said as he sat on the bed, putting on the stockings.

"But surely, with Captain Smythe, there is a chance." Dustin said as he knelt on the floor before Callum.

"You don't know the odds we are against, nor can I tell you. Just know that we...are outgunned."

"Quintan...for God's sake...for mine...can't you retract? If it is what you say it is, please?"

Callum finished pulling up his stockings. He smiled at Dustin, then cocked his head slightly. "If it were anyone else, other than Smythe, I would. I cannot, nor will not retract as it is him."

"The Tarkington is only a forty gunner." Dustin said in a soft voice looking down at the floor. His eyes went wide with realization, and he lifted his head. "It's because of draft, isn't it? It means a bay or inlet engagement." His eyes went wider as Callum looked away. "It will be on the midcoast. There are several fortresses along the midcoast and only a few ports." Dustin gasped at another realization. "There is also fleet, isn't there? You are ordered to stop them, aren't you?"

Callum half grinned at the insight of his young love. "You are correct."

"The squadron won't be enough. The Dover and the Tarkington are going in first ahead of the squadron. You...are going to try and draw them out? It will be either Brest or La Rochelle."

"Well done." Callum folded his arms across his chest and raised one eyebrow. "Why did I even make the trip to London? How long have you been running the Admiralty?"

Dustin cracked a smile for the first time. "It would only seem to be true. The only choice."

Callum reached out and clasped Dustin by the shoulders, pulling him toward him. They went nose to nose and Callum slowly closed his eyes.

"You know so much, for not actually being there. Now, do you see why?"

"Oh, Quintan...I do see why. Don't you see why I have to be there?"

Callum opened his eyes, and then exhaled slowly. "I suppose that you are right, again." Callum reached up and put a hand to Dustin's chin, cradling it. Their eyes were locked on each other. Callum smiled wide looking at his young love. "We should go downstairs and see what she is about, before she calls us." Callum stood, lifting Dustin with one hand. They crossed the room, together, Dustin carrying the clothes from the bed.

Martha pulled out the lamb from the oven and set it upon the table. She turned back to the stove and pulled a small pot off filled with potatoes and carrots. She set them on the table as well, as Callum and Dustin walked into the kitchen.

"Would you care for wine, Quintan?" She asked.

"Not as much as the night before." Callum replied. He watched as she set things out on the table and then a glass indicating where Callum was to sit. Callum looked up as there was a knock at the backdoor. He saw Bockman standing there. He walked over and opened the door.

"Good evening, sir." Bockman said.

"Good evening to you, Mr. Bockman."

"Wanted to let you know that we were leaving for the day. I see that you are about to have your supper, I won't keep you, sir."

"Thank you, Mr. Bockman." Callum said, with a slight nod. "I trust that everything is going well? I haven't had a moment to look around yet."

"Yes, sir, it is. Thank you, sir."

"Was the other matter taken care of? For the men?"

"Not yet, sir. I was neglectful in seeing the young master, sir."

"I see. Well, do come in then. Let us take care of that." Callum stepped aside, letting Bockman into the kitchen. "Dustin, do you have the notes I left you?"

"Yes, of course. Let me go and fetch them." Dustin said, and walked out of the kitchen.

"Please, have a seat, Mr. Bockman." Callum said, pointing toward a chair.

"Tea, Bertram?" Martha asked, setting a cup in front of him. He looked up and smiled at her warm face. She went to the stove and came back with a kettle, pouring tea from it into his cup, as Dustin came back into the kitchen. He handed a stack of notes to Callum.

"Thank you, my lad." Callum said, and then turned back toward Bockman. "So, by your reckoning, what is it that the men require?"

"Ten should be enough, sir."

"Ten?" Callum asked with wide eyes. "Well, I'm no builder, sir, but I hardly think that ten is enough to go round. How many are staying?"

"There will be only four, including myself, sir."

"I see." Callum replied. He peeled off some notes out of the stack in his hand and handed them to Bockman. "Here is twenty. Share this amongst them, and give them my thanks."

Bockman stood, his eyes wide, looking at the notes, then up at Callum. "I don't know what to say, sir, but thank you, and I will." Bockman stretched out his hand, Callum taking it.

"We are leaving for Portsmouth to sail again soon." Callum said, "The lady of the house will have the remainder in her possession should we not return in time."

Bockman looked over at Martha and then back at Callum. "I see. Very good, sir. Again, I thank you."

"I thank you, Mr. Bockman, for your efforts."

"A pleasure, sir. Good night, then."

"Good night." Callum said, watching Bockman walk out the backdoor. Callum sat at the table and looked at Martha. "Are you up for that, my dear?"

"Certainly, my boy." Martha replied, smiling. "Your mother would have been so proud of you."

"Oh? How so?"

"You being so generous and all. You know that these folk have very little."

"Yes, I know." Callum said, and then rubbed his hands together. "This smells absolutely divine. Wouldn't you agree, Dustin?"

"I would indeed." Dustin said, sitting next to Callum, wiggling in his chair. Callum smiled at him, as Dustin was always bright and smiling at mealtimes. Martha joined them at the table and they all began to enjoy the lamb. Callum watched as Dustin simply inhaled what was on his plate and then looked up. Martha chuckled as she dished out more for him.

"I see that you like the lamb?" Martha asked. Dustin nodded in reply. Callum smiled as there was a knock at the front door.

"Now who could that be?" Callum said, as he got up from the table. He walked into the front parlor to the door. He opened it, and his eyes went wide. "Lt. Eddington. Well, this is a surprise."

"Good evening, Captain. I am sorry to disturb you at this hour."

"Nonsense. Do come in." Callum said, holding out his hand. Eddington took it, and removed his hat with the other. "We were just having our supper. Do join us."

"I do not wish to intrude." Eddington said, looking a little nervous now.

"On the contrary. What brings you here?"

"I carry dispatches for you from the Admiralty."

"Oh? I was just there this morning."

"Yes, I know." Eddington said, as he was pulled into the house. Callum closed the door behind him. "I carry your official orders from Lord Fitzwarren, and something else."

"Something else? What would that be?" Callum asked, as Eddington pulled out two envelopes from his inner breast tunic pocket, handing them to Callum. Callum took them, but could not see them very clearly.

"Come into the kitchen. The light in here is terrible." Callum said, turning, leading the way. Once into the kitchen, Dustin saw Eddington, in uniform. He stood up, and tipped his obedience to Eddington. Eddington nodded in Dustin's direction, and then looked at Martha. "My dear, you remember Lt. Eddington?"

"I do. Won't you join, please?"

"I do not wish to intrude, madam." Eddington bowed his head slightly.

"It is no intrusion, I assure you." She said, rising from the table.

Callum leaned close to Eddington. "You'd best sit or she'll use her wooden spoon on you." Callum whispered. Eddington's eyes widened. Callum directed him to the far chair at the table and Eddington moved around and sat, while Martha retrieved a plate and flatware.

"Would you care for wine or tea, Mr. Eddington?"

"Uh, I suppose wine would be alright." Eddington said as she set the plate in front of him. She filled it for him and then set a glass down in front of him. She poured from the bottle as Callum opened the first envelope.

He read it, knowing it was his confirmed orders, reading what was discussed at the Admiralty. He read further down and his eyes went wide. He slowly sat down reading further. Eddington was watching Callum and then his plate, as was Dustin.

"What is it, sir?" Dustin finally asked, setting his fork down.

"The orders require that I am to leave immediately for Portsmouth." Callum looked up from the parchment, looking directly at Eddington. "Did you know of this?"

"I was only instructed to wait while you read them." Eddington replied.

"But your uniforms, Quintan." Martha said.

"It's alright, my dear." Callum said, looking up at her. He turned back to look at Eddington. "Do you know what this one is then?" Callum asked, holding up the other unopened envelope.

"I do not." Eddington replied as Callum opened it and then he stood. "What is it?" Eddington asked, seeing the look of astonishment on Callum's face.

"I have been promoted to Post Captain." Callum said, lowering the new parchment.

Eddington stood, holding out his hand toward Callum. "Congratulations, sir."

"Thank you." Callum said softly, taking Eddingtons hand.

"I thought you were already Captain." Martha said, looking confused.

"If I may explain, madam. Captain Callum was promoted in field, as Captain Powers was killed during their engagement, he was the 1st Lieutenant of the Dover, and still was only a 1st. . Now he has been officially promoted, being posted as the official Captain of the Dover." Eddington said, then looked at Callum. "Then that would explain the box that I was given. It is in the carriage."

"Box?" Callum asked.

"I was instructed to give you these, but was told not to give you the box until after you had read them."

"Epaulettes." Callum and Eddington said together. They both threw open wide eyes and headed for the door. Callum was first and Eddington was right behind him. Down the path they went toward the waiting carriage. Callum reached the door of the carriage, as the driver watched them both. Callum looked about and saw the box. He grabbed and turned back to Eddington. They grinned at each other and headed back off toward the house. Once inside, Callum came back into the kitchen. He set the box on the table, pushing his plate aside. Dustin rose to his feet as Callum opened the box. He set the lid down and reached inside, pulling out the prize inside. He lifted them and held them out for everyone to see.

The braid that adorned them was gold in color, the many tassels that hung from the bodies were about a fingers length long each. The hem stitching that ran along the top made circular rows like ropes, there were three on top of each, signifying the rank that Callum now possessed. Callum slowly let out the breath he had been holding, and gently ran his thumbs over the top of the braid. He looked at Dustin first and then at Martha, and finally toward Eddington.

"Very impressive." Martha said softly. She placed a hand on Callum's shoulder. "Your mother would indeed have been very proud of you."

"You think so?" Callum asked softly.

"I truly do." Martha answered. "Now, I have to clean your uniform."

"No, my dear." Callum said. "I shall get another, after this mission."

"But that would cause you to spend money needlessly."

"If I may again, madam?" Eddington said, looking at Martha. "His new rank also provides for a larger pay."

"It does?" Martha asked.

"It does indeed." Eddington answered. "About five times what a 1st is entitled. And there are other benefits as well. Prize amounts are higher."

"Prize amounts?"

"Yes. If he brings in another captured vessel, the prize amount is almost triple from what a 1st would receive."

"I see." Martha whispered.

"This is why most Post Captains are so fierce when they are at sea." Eddington said. "So, Captain, we are to be off soon?"

"Yes." Callum said. "I have some things to prepare. But, as it is getting late, I would hate to arrive in the dead of night."

"I agree." Eddington said. "Might I suggest that we set out early in the morning?"

"That would probably be best."

"I shall seek lodgings in the village then." Eddington said.

"Seek out my friend at the livery on the other side of the square. He will refresh your horses and be able to give you lodgings as well. I only wish that I could offer you the same."

"Most kind of you, sir." Eddington bowed his head slightly. He turned and looked at Martha and took her hand. He bowed and kissed the back of it, then stood straight. "A wonderful meal, madam, I am most grateful."

"Most kind, good sir, and you are most welcome here." Eddington bowed his head slightly at her words and then returned her hand.

"Captain, I shall return for you at sunrise."

"Thank you," Callum said, "I shall see you out."

"Good night, everyone." Eddington said, as he followed Callum out.

Callum returned a few moments later, coming into the kitchen, he stopped at the table, looking down at his new additions. He smiled inwardly to himself, and then looked at the two that stood near him.

"What?" He asked them.

"So, you are leaving ahead of me then?" Dustin asked.

"Yes, it would appear so. Have Owen bring you, along with my trunk, would you?"

"Then, you want me to go, to sail with you?"

"I thought we had already decided that, or you did, at least."

"This new turn of events has led to point in another direction, it would seem." Dustin said.

"Hmmm, I think not." Callum said, sitting down at the table. He picked up his glass of wine. "I see it as something else."

"And what it that?" Dustin asked, sitting back down.

"I see it as sympathy from Fitzwarren. Knowing full well what the outcome will be, and the Admiralty not really losing anything in the long run, save a ship or two."

"But, now that they have promoted you, they cannot take it back."

"True, my love. But, if we do not survive this mission, then they ahead, I should think." Callum immediately regretted his words, as he had not said anything to Martha about the extreme danger of the mission.

"What do mean you may not survive the mission?" She almost shrieked.

Callum snapped his head in her direction. "I misspoke, my dear, I apologize."

"And you are a terrible liar," Martha said, her hands on her hips, "what aren't you telling me?"

Callum got to his feet and stepped toward her. He reached out and took her hands in his. He squeezed them gently. Her eyes were searching his.

"It is nothing."

"Quintan, she deserves the truth." Dustin said, as he stood. He came round the table. Callum turned back and glared at him. "Tell her the truth, or I will." Callum was angered by Dustin, it was the first time, and his stomach became knotted from it. He turned back and looked at Martha.

"It is true, I am a terrible liar." Callum said. He squeezed her hands gently again. "We are going on a very dangerous mission, it is true. The odds are very against us, and there is a possibility that we might not survive it." Callum said it slowly, watching her eyes as they began to well up. "If we do not return, the house is still yours, and I will have what is paid out by the Admiralty to you. It will let you live in comfort for the rest of your days." Callum let go of her hands, and wrapped his arms around her shoulders, pulling her to him. He rested his chin on the top of her head, as she sobbed into his chest. "I shall leave everything for you to pay out for the repairs to the house, as I agreed with Mr. Bockman." Callum said, hearing her sob. "Now, now, my dear, we're not quite dead yet." Callum patted her shoulder very softly. "We might even win the day, who's to say, right?" Callum could not get her to stop sobbing into his chest. "Now, I think I will finish my wine, and then be off to bed. There, there, now. Nothing to cry over yet. And, I will have Dustin with me. You know how protective he is, nothing will befall me."

"Do not jest, Quintan." Martha sobbed, pulling back from him a little. "I have already lost one son, and now, I might lose another."

"It must be done." Callum said matter of factly. "I am an officer in the King's Navy, it is required."

"I know." She said in a hushed voice, drying her eyes with the bottom of her apron. "Well, at least let me brush your uniform out, if I cannot wash it in time."

"If you insist then."

"I do. Finish your wine. I will place it here on the back of the chair for you."

"Thank you. I appreciate that very much."

"We can't have you going aboard your ship looking like a field hand, now can we?"

"I suppose not." Callum turned and walked back to the table. He picked up his wine glass, and took a drink from it. He looked back at Dustin, and still felt angry toward him. Callum nodded toward him to have him follow him. They walked into the front parlor, Callum turned halfway across the room and glared at Dustin. He opened his mouth to speak, but Dustin raised a finger, stopping him.

"Before you say anything," Dustin said, stepping close to Callum, keeping his voice down, "you should know full well that she is the only family that you have left. You are far more fortunate than I in that respect, as I have no one to mourn my passing. She deserves to know everything that involves you, and even though she is not your mother, she is the closest thing to that that you have. Do not for a moment think that she would not mourn your loss as a son, she said so herself, and you, sir, were going to be callous about it and keep her in the dark. Her memory of you would be tarnished if she found out from another that you knew you were not going to return. Think of her and not you. She deserved to know." Dustin said, folding his arms across his chest, looking very stern.

"Are you finished?"

"Yes." Dustin blurted.

"I so hate it when you're right." Callum smiled out of the corner of his mouth. Callum leaned forward and kissed Dustin on the forehead. Dustin turned his look into a smile.

"You're not angry with me?"

"Well, I didn't say that."

"Quintan." Dustin said, looking astonished. Callum chuckled. Dustin slugged Callum in the shoulder.

"You know, it's a hanging offense to strike a superior officer."

Dustin put his hands on his hips, squinting one eye, and pursed his lips. "You, sir, are pressing your luck."

"And you, sir, are absolutely adorable when you look like that." Callum said, stepping closer, wrapping his arms about Dustin's shoulders, pulling him in. Dustin tilted his head back and waited a long moment, wanting, needing, and then finally Callum leaned close enough, touching his lips, just grazing them. Dustin could feel Callum's breath on his face, his embrace around him, warming him, melting him. Dustin was immediately hard, longing with desire.

Callum was deliberately teasing him, brushing his lips across Dustin's, then pulling away, breathing on him. Callum could feel Dustin straining in his pantlet against Callum's own crotch. Something had snapped in him, wanting to lead Dustin on, to bring into a passionate rage, to make him want Callum more than he already did. Callum moaned softly as he grazed Dustin's lips again, and then Dustin lost all control. He reached up and clasped Callum's head with both hands as Dustin lunged into Callum's mouth with his tongue, the deep lustful passion was too much for Dustin. He went deep inside of Callum's mouth, cutting off air, pushing Callum's tongue out of the way. Dustin was moaning deeply into Callum's mouth as his tongue was flying about, exploring every possible part of Callum's mouth. Dustin began to breathe hard through his nose, still moaning. They were broken apart by the sound of throat clearing. They both looked in that direction. Martha was standing there in the doorway, hands on her hips, looking at both of them, with a raised eyebrow.

"There will be plenty of time for that later tonight, you two." She said, sternly. "Now, in case you have forgotten, I have a dessert ready for you. And at my age, I certainly do not wish to eat it all by myself." She turned and walked back into the kitchen.

"If only I was back aboard ship." Callum said, shaking his head.

Dustin looked at Callum. "Why?"

"Then I would be the one giving orders." Callum said, looking down at Dustin. Dustin chuckled, and then kissed Callum. They walked into the kitchen together. They both smiled at seeing new plates out, steaming coffee in cups, and the dessert presented in the middle of the table.

"Gentlemen, if you please." Martha said, pointing out their usual chairs. They sat down and she joined them. She picked up a knife and sliced the torte, and then set some in front of each of them. Callum picked up a fork and smelled of the torte in front of him. He cut off the tip of the slice and scooped it into his mouth. The sensation of flavor overtook him. He groaned and looked at Martha. He chewed very slowly, and then looked at Dustin, who was halfway through his, woofing it down as if there were no more.

"Enjoy it, my boy. Don't just swallow it." Martha said, watching Dustin.

"It is just so good." Dustin said as he gulped. Martha chuckled.

"This is the last of the preserves that your mother put up before she passed, Quintan. I wanted to save it for a special occasion, possibly for Christmas or the New Year perhaps. But, I think this will do."

"Ohhh," Callum moaned as he sat back in his chair, "I think this will do quite nicely, my dear." Callum smiled at her. "Perhaps, after the war is over, I will purpose to the Admiralty a fact finding mission. I will sail the Dover to the West Indies and return with all manner of exotic fruits for you to bake with." Callum's smile was infectious. Both Martha and Dustin smiled wide. "Yes, I think I will. I'll bring you back mangos and pineapple, and if I can find any, some bread-fruit."

"Bread-fruit? Did I not hear of that from some tale of another sea Captain?"

"Yes, Captain Cooke." Callum said, taking another bite, and then set his fork down and picked up his coffee.

"That's right." Martha said. "His return sparked quite a controversy, as I recall."

"It did, indeed." Callum said, sipping his coffee. He set the cup down and picked up his fork, watching as Martha put another slice on Dustin's plate. He wasted no time in starting to inhale it. "His voyage sparked what every sea Captain wishes to have."

"What is that?" Martha asked.

"A voyage of discovery, not destruction." Callum said, not being able to finish his slice. He was finding it too sweet for his taste. He slid his plate toward Dustin. Dustin saw it and wasted no time with it. "And after this mission is over, I think I shall invite my steward to visit us. I would wish you to teach him the fine art of cooking, as Dustin has remarked several times." Callum said, looking over at Dustin. "What say you to that, lad?"

"I think that would be a Godsend." Dustin said, with a full mouth. Callum and Martha laughed out loud.

"We will make it so, then." Callum said, clasping his hand over Martha's, giving it a squeeze. She looked at him. "Now, fret not, my dear. I shall return to you, and in good order, you have my word." Callum smiled out of the corner of mouth. Martha's eyes welled again. "Fear not, my dear. As I look about, there is too much to come home to. I would not wish to miss this ever again."

Martha squeezed his hand, "Quintan..." They both looked at Dustin, as he shoved the last of the torte from Callum's plate into his mouth. His eyes were wide, seeing the both of them looking at him.

"What?" Dustin asked, looking very much like the little boy. Callum and Martha laughed out loud again.



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