When Clarence awoke, the first thing he registered was that his body itched terribly. He tried to roll over, to get away from the sensation, but he found his way blocked by a wall of some kind. There was a wall on the other side as well, and then one above him, just centimeters away from his nose.
As anyone would do, he panicked. Shouting, he threw all of his strength against the wood that formed the ceiling of the box—coffin?—and never had he felt more relieved than when the lid gave way, sliding to the side and allowing sweet, fresh air to touch his face and fill his lungs.
It was only when he scrambled out of it that he realized he had been contained in a heavy shipping crate. How the bloody hell he had come to be there, lying in hay and wearing nothing at all, he hadn’t the slightest clue.
Rubbing his forearm nervously, he took stock of his surroundings. There were piles of crates everywhere, though none of them looked the same as the one he had been in, nor did any of them have air holes punched into the top, so it seemed safe to assume that he was alone. But for how long?
A door clanged open, somewhere across the large room and Clarence panicked for a moment. He needed to hide, but he wasn’t going to get back into that crate, not for a million pounds. Instead he ducked into a small shadowed space between two larger crates.
He couldn’t hear any footsteps, but that barely meant anything. The floor was metal of some kind. His captor – captors?—might merely be the type to tread lightly.
A man appeared in the clearing in which the open crate sat. He was tall and finely dressed. He wore a large coat, cut in the military style of the airship captain. An airship, Clarence realized. That explained the floor.
The man crouched down beside the crate, his expression twisted first into one of confusion and then quiet fury. He muttered a curse under his breath, got to his feet and looked around.
“I’m well aware that you’re in here Irwin,” the captain called. “There’s no use in trying to deceive me any longer. I want to know what you’ve been hiding.”
He waited for a moment, standing very still. Clarence held his breath, listening for any sign of another person. There was none.
“Come out,” the captain said, in a tone that sounded almost reasonable. “We’ve much to discuss.”
All of the sudden he whipped around, a gun appearing in his hand as if by magic. He fired a shot down a corridor, the end of which Clarence couldn’t see. He heard the bullet impact, the cracking of wood a sure sign that no one had been hit.
“He wasn’t supposed to wake up yet,” a voice yelled, high and whining. “I didn’t mean you any harm, Captain, I swear it.”
Feeling indignant and a little sick at the same time, Clarence leaned against the crate at his back. How long had he been unconscious?
“I run a clean ship, Irwin,” the captain said, still pointing his gun down the pathway. “That means no smuggling of any kind. Now come out here.”
There was a moan from Irwin, which echoed around the cavernous room. “Please, Captain, I didn’t– I didn’t–“
A thud cut off any further sound and Clarence watched as the captain raised one elegant eyebrow, a faint smile turning up the corners of his lips.
“Good work, Basil,” he said, pocketing his gun. “Though I had hoped he might remain conscious long enough to tell us who he was keeping in that crate.”
A third man came into view, dragging an unconscious Irwin into the clearing. He was frowning and had a billy club tucked under one arm.
“My apologies, Captain. I suppose we’ll just have to work that bit out for ourselves.”
Clarence recognized an opening if he ever saw one. He coughed, taking a step out of the shadows, his dignity be damned.
“I think that would be me,” he said, voice shaking a bit despite himself. “Clarence Foster.”
Those were the circumstances that led up to him sitting on the bunk in the captain’s private quarters, wrapped up in the man’s own warm greatcoat and clutching a cup of tea. The captain—Jedediah Price—had just handed him his cuppa when the first mate, knocked at the door announcing that Irwin had regained consciousness.
“I’ll be back shortly,” he had said, squeezing Clarence’s shoulder. “He won’t take long to deal with.”
There was fire in Jedediah’s eyes and Clarence swallowed nervously, nodding. He wasn’t sure that he wanted to know what ‘dealing with’ precisely entailed. As the door closed, leaving him alone, he tucked up his legs, arranging the coat to cover himself, and leaned back against the wall.
He was on a ship en route to London, which was good if a bit worrisome. His home was in London, which begged the question of how long he had been missing and where exactly the ship was coming from. His sister must be worried to death about him. What in the world had he been taken for? And how?
The wall behind him vibrated slightly with the thrum of the engines . It was just soothing enough to make him realize how bloody exhausted he felt. For having been asleep for heaven knew how long, it was remarkable how tired he was.
“You’ll be feeling that way for at least another day,” a voice said. Clarence startled, knocking over his tea cup. A hand saved it from spilling its contents just in time. The captain had returned. Clarence hadn’t even heard the door open.
“Easy now.” Jedediah pressed the warm cup back into Clarence’s hand. “That’ll be whatever the chemist gave you to stop you from waking. “After some persuasion, Irwin admitted that he had been keeping you drugged.”
“But what for?” Clarence asked, confusion washing over him anew. “I’ve done nothing.”
“You bear a considerable resemblance to a young Lord Aldington, apparently, whom the rascal intended to ransom. He had you stored away on the ship before he realized his mistake.”
Clarence absorbed this news numbly, taking in a long draft of his tea. He tasted the burn of hard liquor against his throat and was surprised into a cough.
“I’m terribly sorry that you’ve gotten mixed up in this,” Jedediah continued, looking truly chagrined. “I’ll see you home myself, once Irwin has been taken to the Yard.”
“How long?” Clarence asked. He drained the rest of his tea and placed the cup aside.
“How long ago was I taken from my home?”
“Ah,” the captain shifted, uncomfortable. “Nearly two weeks.”
“And how is it that I have survived?”
In response, Jedediah took Clarence’s wrist and turned his arm over. A scattering of needle marks littered the inside of his forearm.
“Daily injections to keep you healthy,” he said, stroking his thumb over the marks. For several moments, neither man spoke. Clarence’s mind was reeling from all that he had learned. At least, he mused, he had not come off worse. The entire ordeal would have been more traumatic for his family, who had no idea of his survival, whereas he had slept through most of it.
“It’s terribly embarrassing,” Jedediah said, finally. “That this should happen under my command. Again, I apologize. I should have realized-“
“No.” Clarence slid his hand into the captain’s own and gave it a squeeze. “You’ve been very kind.”
It had only been for Basil’s insistence that Jedediah had been convinced not to kill the smuggling rat in front of him. It was a very poor man indeed that found abduction acceptable and perhaps even poorer that felt no shame in taking advantage of his superior’s trust.
In the end he had been satisfied with dumping Irwin’s body in that crate and nailing down the lid. Let him scream when he woke up and get small taste of his own cruelty. Basil would let him out in a couple of hours, but not without first implying that he would be stuck in there for the five more days of travel it would take to arrive in London.
Meanwhile, Jedediah had a somewhat traumatized, naked, handsome young man sitting on his bunk and he hadn’t the slightest idea how to move forward. It took several minutes of contemplation and a hurried consultation with Basil before he had a plan of action.
“He hasn’t had anything solid in his stomach for a couple of weeks, Ambrose,” he told the man in charge of the mess. “Could you find something light for him?”
“I always knew that Irwin was a nasty one,” Ambrose replied, nodding as he dumped some flakes and milk into the saucepan on the stove.
“I should’ve known it as well,” Jedediah agreed, feeling bothered by it. The cook shook his head and waved a spoon in Jedediah’s direction, reading his mood instantly.
“Now don’t you go blaming yourself for it, Jed.” He fixed Jedediah with a stern look. “There’s no one to blame but that rascal, and the way I hear it he’s getting his comeuppance. You just focus on looking after that boy he took.”
“Yes sir,” Jedediah replied, giving his friend a somewhat eccentric bow before accepting the bowl of—whatever it was Ambrose had made up.
When he returned to his quarters, he found Clarence curled up on the bunk. The crew, all intent upon showing their dedication to Jedediah, had done a rather uncoordinated job of providing him with clothing. The clothes were of various colors and ill-fitting, but did a decent enough job of covering him up.
“You look like a pirate,” he announced, as Clarence sat up. He passed the man the bowl and spoon, even as Clarence looked down at his borrowed clothes.
“I do,” he mused. “Well, I must say I like it better than being a student.”
“Oh?” Jedediah settled on the edge of the bed, watching his charge. “What did you study?”
“Medicine,” Clarence replied around his spoon. “It was dreadfully boring.”
“Well I can’t encourage you to take up piracy,” Jedediah said, stifling a laugh. “You’ve seen how I deal with illegal types on this ship. Though you do cut a rather dashing figure.”
“Thank you.” There was a blush dusting Clarence’s cheeks. He avoided Jedediah’s eyes by watching his food intently. “And my compliments to the cook.”
On the second day, in the evening, Clarence was up and about. Jedediah was pleased that he had recovered so quickly, but slightly less pleased to find that Clarence was inclined to chat with the crew when the men in question ought to have been working.
“Perhaps it’s time you get back to bed for a bit,” he suggested, gently steering the young man away from the rather conflicted looking mechanic. Clearly it had been a conversation of some interest, but the secondary steering mechanism wasn’t going to fix itself.
“I’ve been in bed all morning,” Clarence protested. “And then again, after lunch. Your bed really isn’t interesting enough to warrant so many hours of my attention.”
“Well you can’t keep distracting the men.” Jedediah opened the door to his quarters and ushered Clarence inside. “They have work to do.”
“And what about you?”
“I have work to do as well,” Jedediah admitted. “But I do feel as though I’m somewhat responsible for you.”
“I’ve been talking with the crew about you.” Clarence sat up straight, posture he had indubitably learned at the dinner table. He held eye contact with Jedediah. “They all speak very highly of you.”
“I would hope so.” Jedediah knew that he was blushing somewhat. Very few people had ever stared at him with such intensity.
“They also say that you believe my abduction to be your fault and that they’ve never seen you so preoccupied.”
Embarrassingly, that much was true. Jedediah forced himself to look away. He had been rather preoccupied by Clarence’s presence. Ever since he had first laid eyes on him he had found himself somewhat unsettlingly fascinated by the young man. He was resilient and strong, not letting the incident phase him in the least. Jedediah could barely imagine him studying medicine. He seemed far too active and adventurous for such a future.
“I do not blame you for what has befallen me,” Clarence said in a clear tone. He leaned forward from his place on the edge of the bed and took one of Jedediah’s hands in his own. Jedediah shifted, unsure where this was going. “In fact I believe I might have to thank you for showing me this—this life that is so much more interesting than dusty old books and dusty old lecturers.”
“In fact,” he said again, lifting his eyes. Jedediah’s knees felt oddly weak. “I am very glad I met you, Captain Price.” He pressed his lips to the back of Jedediah’s hand and then gave him a smirk.
“Now do you think, perhaps, you can find some way to keep me interested in this bed?”
He knew that it was a ridiculous thing to say the moment that it left his mouth, but Clarence couldn’t help putting the proposal out there. There had been signs, if he wasn’t much mistaken. Jedediah’s eyes had lingered upon him for a bit longer than was strictly proper, when he sat upon the man’s bunk dressed only in that oversized coat, for example. Clarence couldn’t help but wonder if the captain’s feelings of responsibility translated into feelings of attraction or affection.
His conversations with the crew had only confirmed his suspicions. Rules of propriety were more lax in the air, away from the stifling atmosphere in civilized society below. He watched as Jedediah’s expression shifted the instant he understood Clarence’s intentions.
“You can’t possibly mean—“ he began, making a move as though to stand. Clarence held fast, his fingers tightening around Jedediah’s wrist.
“I’d like you inside of me,” he said bluntly, and was rewarded by the sight of the man blushing. “I’m sure you know better than I how it’s done.”
Jedediah’s tongue flicked out, wetting his lips and teasing Clarence with a glimpse of pink. He nearly had the man convinced; it would just take one more push.
A choked breath of laughter caught in Jedediah’s throat and Clarence took it to be consent. He leaned up, gripping the taller man’s shoulders and pressing their lips together. Intending it initially to be a quick exploration of what might follow, Clarence was surprised when Jedediah deepened the kiss, refusing to let him pull away until they were both breathless.
“Brilliant,” the captain said, running a hand through Clarence’s hair when they finally parted.
“We can beat it.” Clarence leaned forward to prove his words, but the hand on his shoulder kept him at bay.
“I was referring to you, actually,” Jedediah clarified. “After all of that’s happened you don’t seem to have been affected in the least.”
“I assure you, I am quite affected.” Taking hold of the hand on his shoulder, Clarence pressed Jedediah’s fingers against the crotch of his trousers, forcing him to feel the hardness beneath the thick cloth.
“And impatient, as well,” Jedediah laughed. He pulled his wrist free and began to unbutton Clarence’s trousers. Quick hands pushed his braces aside and tugged the buttons of his shirt through their button holes. It didn’t take long before Jedediah was pulling him entirely out of his clothes. Clarence lay back on the thin sheet of Jedediah’s bunk.
“You next, sir,” he said, nodding toward the only layers that remained between them. Jedediah stood and complied, stripping out of his clothing with remarkable efficiency.
“I thought I was the one giving orders,” he said, when finally naked. He knelt on the bunk, hands braced on either side of Clarence’s chest.
“I thought you might appreciate a bit of guidance.” Clarence lunged up to press a kiss to Jedediah’s shoulder, then made his way up to the lobe of his ear, which he pulled gently between his teeth. “Captain.”
Jedediah responded with a groan, lowering himself to lean on his elbows in order to bring their groins into contact. He thrust against Clarence’s hip, pressing kisses to his cheeks and lips.
“Do you like that, sir?” Clarence asked, bringing his hands up to rub across Jedediah’s nipples before they drifted lower, capturing his hips and drawing him closer. “When I call you by your rank?”
“Don’t be cheeky,” Jedediah ordered. He moved out of Clarence’s grip, backing down to straddle his thighs. “It doesn’t suit you.”
“I think you’ll find you’re mistaken there.” Clarence arched up against the touch that teased his cock. “It suits me rather well.”
“You talk too much,” said Jedediah. He ran his fingers along the crevice of Clarence’s hip, exploring him. Fingers dipped through the path of curls that spread down around his groin and explored the space around his balls, now deliberately avoiding touching his cock, Clarence was sure.
“P-please, sir…” The man was being too much of a tease. Clarence writhed, snatching at Jedediah’s shoulder to gain the leverage to sit up. He caught the captain’s lips in another kiss, but was pushed away after only a handful of seconds. “I want–”
“I know what you want,” Jedediah said, smiling into the crook of Clarence’s neck. His hands rested tantalizingly on his hips, thumbs very near to where Clarence wanted them to be.
“Then why don’t you–”
“No more talking, Clarence.” Jedediah kissed him again, a long suffocating kiss that grew hotter with every stroke of tongue. “Captain’s orders.”
Clarence nodded, swallowing dryly as he lay back down against the bunk. Jedediah’s hands were hot against him, running over his abs and thighs, smoothing over his biceps as he leaned up to capture Clarence’s lips again. He moved away for an instant, and Clarence wanted to speak out—but he had been given an order. In this game of theirs it would feel wrong to disobey.
Jedediah’s hands returned, pushing his legs apart. One pressed against the wall that lined the edge of the bunk while the other hung over the edge, bending at the knee. Jedediah moved to straddle the leg handing over the edge so, half standing and half kneeling on the bed he was both balanced and able to torture Clarence with his hands.
It wasn’t torture precisely, but in the instant that he had been gone, Jedediah had procured a lubricant of some sort. The lubricant slipped down across Clarence’s balls, caught at his opening by Jedediah’s waiting fingers. Those fingers swiped and prodded at his ass hole, but refused to slip in.
“Have you ever had another man inside of you?” Jedediah asked. “Do you know what it feels like?”
Clarence whined in his throat, wanting to know and trying to push back and get those fingers inside of him.
“You may speak.” The slick fingers trailed over his balls, massaging them gently. “Answer the question.”
“No. I haven’t ever—not someone else.”
“Ah, but you’ve tried it yourself, with your own fingers?”
“Yes,” Clarence replied, but the word devolved into a gasp as Jedediah pressed in past the tight ring of muscle.
He had tried it with other things too, sometimes, whatever he could find that seemed clean and safe, so that it wouldn’t break off inside of him or get stuck. A boy at school had shown him how good that could feel, but he hadn’t known the least of it.
The sensation was better than his own hands had been able to give him. The way Jedediah’s fingers crooked and jerked, twisting and stretching him out as the other hand massaged a place on his hip, expertly relaxing him. The fingers inside him paused and Jedediah’s voice rolled over him smoothly. It took a moment to realize what he had said.
“Say it again.”
He didn’t have to ask what.
“Captain, please sir—“ he didn’t get any further before Jedediah moved to kneel completely between his legs again. The fingers were pulled swiftly away and Jedediah’s cock lined up against his entrance. He edged back, desperate to fill the sudden void.
“Easy lad,” Jedediah intoned, sliding forward slowly . The process seemed to take ages, but Clarence felt wonderfully full when the captain finally came to a rest.
“You know, I’m beginning to think I might have to thank Irwin for being such a bloody idiot as to bring you on board my ship.”
As he spoke, Jedediah remained still. Only one hand moved, drifting along Clarence’s outer thigh. It was maddening. He tried to shift, to give himself some sort of relief, but the hand on his leg clamped down, stopping him.
“No more talking,” Clarence bit out, linking his fingers with the ones pressed against his body. “Just move will you?”
He was startled, though gratified, when Jedediah did so. It was more of a rhythm than Clarence had ever managed to work up on his own, touching that place inside of him on every thrust and making him squirm and buck. Jedediah’s hand came down on his cock, squeezing it and then moving to pull him off, long fingers curled into a perfect ring that drags on every stroke, driving him mad.
“Jed–“ Clarence gasped, clutching for anything to keep him anchored and ending up with his hand curled over Jedediah’s bicep. His name became a chant, punctuating each thrust. “Jed, Jed…”
When Jedediah came he froze, curled over Clarence’s body. His hand didn’t move, but Clarence moved for him, thrusting up and into it, feeling the heat flooding his ass and the heat of the captain’s breath on his chest. The overwhelming sensation pushed him over the edge and he came, spilling between their bodies.
“You’ve ruined me,” Jedediah announced with a groan, carefully pulling out and lowering himself onto his side, an arm curled across Clarence’s chest, despite the mess there. Clarence hummed, pressing fingers against the man’s hip.
“How do you mean…” He turned his head to the side, enjoying the cadence of the warm breath against his cheek. “Captain?”
“Cheeky.” Jedediah pressed a kiss to Clarence’s cheek and then another. Clarence got the impression that he didn’t really mind. “I mean that I will be thinking of you every time I hear my men address me and I have you to blame for it.”
“I’ve no complaints, should you like to think of me often.”
For several minutes they lay like that, exchanging breaths and slow kisses. Clarence felt as though, for the first time since he had woken in that crate, his world had finally settled back into something he could control and comprehend.
“Have you, by chance, a doctor on the crew?” Clarence asked, not daring to look the captain in the face as he spoke. Instead he looked to the low ceiling of the room, tracing the curve of metal with his eyes.
“Have I hurt you?” Jedediah’s brows drew together in concern, but Clarence gave him a smile and shook his head.
“If you are to be thinking of me often, I should hate to leave you without comfort on this ship of yours,” he said. “But I would need time to settle my affairs and relieve my family of their worry.”
“We’ll remain in London for a fortnight,” Jedediah said immediately. He smiled into the crook of Clarence’s neck. “And we shall be happy to have you aboard, Doctor.”
Clarence’s arms came up around the man, pulling him impossibly nearer and smiling at the captain’s admission. The prize was indeed worth the pain.