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Over Cards

Title Over Cards


Author Eglantine_br


Rating G-ish, a few sailors words


Word Count 886






Over Cards








The cards were faded. They were limp
and greasy with the oil of constant use. As he moved them in his
hands Horatio could smell cigar smoke. They were perfect. He turned
to look at Archie. Archie was perfect too.




“Are you sure you don't want to
play?” Horatio himself was eager, his feet were dancing just a
little under the table, and he knew he was smiling wide and happy.




“No,” Archie said. “I'll watch
you though.” He gave his own lazy grin, and lifted his glass. He
was drinking whiskey, and Horatio knew he would taste of it later.
Horatio would try to chase down the taste of it, the taste on
Archie's tongue like autumn leaves. And Archie would be pliant and
warm, and laugh into their slow kisses.




Horatio was himself drinking ale. It
was neither bad nor good. He was sipping abstemiously. He was
careful, when he was at cards.




The game was short and sharp. The two
across the table had been strangers to them an hour ago. Now they
felt something like friends. The lieutenant across from Horatio lost
with grace. He slid his coins across with a rueful grin. He turned to
the chair beside his own.




“Pay up Mr Inkslate, Mr Hornblower
has bested us fair.” Thus addressed, Mr Midshipman Inkslate
nodded. He left off gnawing his lip, (which he had done the whole
time he held at his cards.)




“Of course. Only right.” Inkslate
had curls and red cheeks. He was quite ridiculously young. He looked
just a little like a very earnest sheep.




“An honor to play you, Mr
Hornblower.” His coins were warm from his hand, his voice had not
broken yet.




“So you are both on the
Indefatigable,” The
lieutenant said. He was a round shouldered fellow named Spivins, or
Spavins-- Archie seemed to find the name amusing. “How lucky you
are.”




She
is a happy ship.” Horatio said. “And we have had our share of
prizes. Captain Pellew never shrinks from the chase.”




Aye,
and our share of freezing-arse blockade duty too.” Archie said. His
eyes were bright and his foot found Horatio's under the table. They
all laughed together.




Did
you two meet on The Indy?” Mr Spavins asked.




No,”
Horatio said. “We were mids together on a smaller ship. The

Justinian. She
never left Spithead.”




He
was moving the cards in his hands now, shuffling absently, enjoying
the feel of them. He was warm and he was sleepy. But not to sleepy
to-- Inkslate's voice broke his thoughts, shrill now with excitement.




Justininan!
I
had an uncle there--” And suddenly Horatio was watching in slow
horror. It was like watching someone fall from a great height. The
moment was viscous, stretched. He knew what the next words would be,
and they were. “--Midshipman Jack Simpson.”




Horatio's
mouth was hanging open. He shut it with a snap.




Inkslate
was still talking. “I did not know him well. He is my mother's
elder brother. He only visited a a few times when I was very
little. And he died, years ago, of course. But I always wanted to go
to sea. To be like him. Did you know him, gentlemen? Can you tell me
what he was like?”




Horatio's
mouth was dry. He had to speak, he –




Archie's
voice, came smoothly into the silence. It was perfectly timed, smooth
and casual. Only Horatio could hear the sudden intensity of his
natural accent. Only Horatio could hear the bands of steel.




I
knew him longer than Mr Hornblower, actually. I remember him very
well, indeed.” Inkslate leaned forward, eyes bright.




He
was a tall man, as tall as Mr Hornblower here. Very strong. He had
yellow hair. He was articulate, and-- active. I will tell you one
thing, Mr Inkslate. When Mr Simpson decided on a course of action he
pursued it with all his strength and resource. That is a quality any
Navy man can emulate.”




Everyone
was looking at Archie. It had to be now. Horatio flicked his arm
out, and sent the ale flying. It drenched the cards and the table.
Most of it landed in Archie's lap. The leaping and cursing was all
that he could have hoped. It ended the public portion of the evening
quite nicely.




Five
minutes later they were in the bedroom of the inn. The door was
closed and locked. Archie's trousers were in the washbasin. Archie
stood, barefoot, in his shirt.




Damn
me, Horatio. That-- he was just a boy. I didn't know what to say. I--
he obviously did not know. I could not say. Do you think I did
right?”




Nothing
you said was a lie.” Horatio was thinking back.





No, I did not want to do that
somehow either,” Archie said.




He
may come to know the truth sooner or later.”




I
hope it is later.” Archie said. “Much later.”




He
gave a deep sigh. Horatio watched him push the past aside, or back
down, wherever it went.




Take
me to bed, Honeybee.” Archie said. And Horatio did.






Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
eglantine_br
Mar. 1st, 2013 04:07 am (UTC)
I want to apologize for the strange way this looks. The first word in each para seems to have been given a line to itself. I did not do that.

At least the cuts worked this time.
charliecochrane
Mar. 1st, 2013 11:31 am (UTC)
Well, that's a 'missing scene' I'd never have thought of, but yes, it could indeed happen and in just that way. Luvverly.
bauhiniakapok
Oct. 3rd, 2016 03:46 pm (UTC)
Inkslate was so cute too, poor thing. I love the earnest sheepiness.
eglantine_br
Oct. 3rd, 2016 10:34 pm (UTC)
Nobody gets to pick their family. And nothing Archie said was untrue. Archie is habitually kind.
bauhiniakapok
Oct. 4th, 2016 12:31 am (UTC)
Yes, that is one of the lovely things about him. Like his kindness with the little French boy.

It was good of Horatio to get him out of there though. Was he afraid Archie wouldn't be able to keep his composure through a longer discussion on Simpson?
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )