He was sulking again. Jules sighed. Lately, Phileas had spent a lot of time off by himself, sulking. For some reason, he seemed deeply upset by Rebecca's behavior. Every time Rebecca attempted to do something on her own, he would get all huffy and overly protective. And heaven forbid she should exhibit any interest in a man... Jules sighed again, then slipped up quietly beside his friend and mentor, as he stood looking out from the forward deck of the Aurora.

"What's bothering you, Fogg?"

"What makes you thing there's something bothering me?"

"Well, let's see..." Jules replied with a faint smile. "You won't talk to anyone, you're barely civil even to Rebecca, and you're hanging over the rail of the Aurora as it flies through a cloud. Need I say more?"

"Oh, very well, then. There's something bothering me." Phileas straightened from his slumped posture, but still did not look at Verne.

After a moment of silence broken only by the steady thrum of the engine, Jules prompted him to continue. "And what would the problem be, old lad?"

"It's of a rather... personal nature, so if you don't mind I'd-"

"Rather not talk about it, I know," Jules interrupted. "It's my guess that your problem is Rebecca."

At that, Phileas did turn to glare at him. "Rebecca is not a problem, she is my cousin."

"And as such, you care about her deeply... perhaps too deeply?"

"You know nothing of my troubles, Verne! Go now, and trouble me no more!" His eyes betrayed his inner turmoil, despite the unchanging facial expression.

"You don't mean that, do you." Jules continued to gaze steadily into his friend's eyes.

Tension hummed through the damp air for a long moment, then Fogg glanced away. "No, I do not."

"I thought not. Now, if you're done being difficult, perhaps you could tell me what is going on in that head of yours?"

"Perhaps I could- but then, perhaps I could not." Fogg allowed himself a faint twitch of a smile.

"Phileas-" Torn between exasperation and amusement, Jules settled on shaking his head with a smile of his own.

"Verne, my friend, there are some things which you simply do not want to know- such as the true cause of my troubles." A flicker of emotion crossed his face, then was gone before Jules could identify it. Phileas turned away, with a curious reluctance which sent a shiver of hope racing through Jules. Could it be possible that- no, surely not. He must be imagining things, seeing something he only wished could be there.

"Always a possibility, granted." Jules started to sigh, then caught himself. He was starting to sound like a bellows, all that gusty sighing. "Lord knows I haven't the spotless clean soul and mind. Doubtless there's things in there nobody wants to know. I know for a fact there's things in there I'd rather not tell you, so I suppose you're entitled to your own privacy. Unfortunately, your turmoil has begun to affect this entire crew of thrown-together adventurers. And so I shall continue to nag at you until you divulge the reason for your atypical upset."

Phileas snorted. "Atypical upset, indeed."

"Yes, indeed. You have always been the level-headed one of us, least likely go off half-cocked. And yet look at you now, my friend- acting like a lovesick schoolboy."

"And so what if I am?" Phileas' gaze bored into Verne's very soul. "So what if I am indeed lovesick? The object of my affections does not return them, nor does even Rebecca. Now leave me to suffer in peace."

The Aurora hit a trough in the air with a dip and a lurch. Verne's insides echoed the maneuver. Had he misheard Fogg's words? He took a deep, steadying breath.

"Someone... other than Rebecca?" was all he could manage. Even with those few words, his voice sounded strained.

"Yes, someone other than Rebecca. Now do leave me alone." Phileas turned back to the clouds.

Jules retreated quietly into the interior of the dirigible. He passed Rebecca and Passapartout where they sat playing a card game without a word, and sought the privacy of his cabin. Phileas was interested in someone other than Rebecca. Dared he hope it could be... him?


Phileas leaned out over the railing, feeling the moist coldness of the cloud slipping through his fingers like silk. He caught occasional glimpses of the ground as it sped by far below. What would it be like, to fly without a machine? To soar through the air, without a care in the world? Or even just to jump from the ship without the power of flight... to feel the air go by with increasing speed, to hear the wild keen of the wind, to see the ground spiral ever closer... and then the impact, the final end to it all. He leaned farther yet, considering. But death was the coward's way out, and his father had not raised him to be a coward. Reluctantly, Fogg straightened. The blood pounded in his head, providing a welcome diversion from regret.

He made his way back into the interior of the Aurora. He was faintly surprised to find all had gone to bed. Surely he had not been out there so long? He shrugged and made his way to the liqour cabinet. Some port would go down a treat. He poured himself a glass and settled into his favorite wingback chair. He sipped at the port, wishing his mind would quiet and allow him to rest. Insomnia was nothing new to him. What was new was the disturbing direction his thoughts were taking.

How was he to deal with this... this strange obsession he was feeling with a certain young man? Worse yet, the- unnatural- dreams. Dreams of soft touches, of warm lips, of caring brown eyes... He was disgusted with himself. How could he even think such things? It was unclean, unnatural- and punishable by death in some circles. Not that he'd ever cared much for social conventions, or facing death for that matter, but it simply wasn't done. He should just give over these improper urges and feelings and make an effort to cultivate a relationship with Rebecca. Yes, that was the route he should go- socially acceptable, safe, expected by his peers- and utterly the opposite of what his most secret heart yearned for.



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