Title: The Things We're all too Young to Know
Rating G with a few salty words
Word Count 11225
The Things We're All Too Young To Know
There was a song/video posted in Following Sea a while back, called 'The Book of Love' I love the song, and it seems to sum up the whole Archie/Horatio love story.
Also, in my au he never meets Maria, so he had to get those nice warm gloves somewhere else. Also, the crappy thing about seizures is the way they wait long enough that you hope they won't come back, and then they do.
It was all Archie's fault. Another thing wrong. One more entry on the log he dragged behind him everywhere. Twenty years of fault, wrong, sin. More if you counted his first year of life, but he couldn't remember it, so sometimes he told himself it maybe did not count.
Today he had opened his eyes to a view of the overhead, and knew again exhaustion, soggy and somehow brittle. There again, the blood in his mouth, the smell of his own vomit and urine.
"It was a bad one,” Horatio said.
Horatio's voice was quiet, purposely hushed, but the sound pierced Archie's head like a rapier. Everything fucking hurt.
“It wouldn't stop, Your mouth turned blue.”
Aye, well, he could feel that too. Among the hurts a deep ache in his chest where he had struggled for air with a body that had forgotten how to get it.
He wobbled to a sit, and began the motions to undress. His hands were stupid, fumbling and heavy. Horatio reached out to help, and his hands were light and careful. He slid Archie's vomitous shirt away and reached for the buttons of the foul drawers, and at that, even his touch was too much. He struck out with his open hands, like a child.
“Stoppit-- Go away, Horatio.”
Horatio stopped, and looked at Archie. Archie could see the crease in his brow, the way his thin shoulders lifted in distress.
Archie stripped his drawers away with his stupid wood-block hands. He backed himself against the bulkhead,his naked spine against the wood. He drew his knees up, but he was too tired now to sit long. He let himself subside. The deck of the little space was cool under his cheek. His back was to the wall, his eyes to the door. So tired, his eyes fluttered. His eyelashes came down, sealing him in where the light did not poke him. Distantly he heard the bell. Someone must have stood his watch. Three guesses who, he thought, and the thought was bitter. Sleep came again.
He woke to the sound of a pen. His blanket was resting on him, gently. It was also tucked between his skin and the wall. The shadows had changed, he had missed the whole day.
“I'm sorry H'ratio.”
“It's no matter. How do you feel?”
“Better, I think.”
And this was very nearly a lie, but he could not bring himself to say 'Shamed, sore, bitterly disappointed.'
“It had been so long-- I thought maybe I had outgrown them, the way the doctor said.”
Horatio nodded. “Me too. I hoped.”
“All my life I--”
Well, his voice didn't seem to want to finish that thought. Still, Horatio of all beings came closest to understanding. Horatio and perhaps Mother.
“Did you tell the old men?”
“Yes. I had to, Bracey came and peeked his head in, when you were sleeping.”
Archie found himself hoping that he had been covered with the blanket by then. And that was really stupid because Mr Bracegirldle had been aboard one ship or another since age 11. He was quite unlikely to be shocked by a nude lieutenant. And the light was dim, standing in the passageway, he would not have seen Archie's scars.
Horatio had closed his book now, and was coming near to sit. He was nervous of rebuff, Archie could see that clearly.
Archie knew he smelled foul. He was offended by the smell of himself. In a moment he would get up and bathe. He had his own washbasin, and a clean towel. Horatio had a strange inclination to get naked on deck and be hosed with a pump. The men of his division found it delightfully eccentric. Archie had never indulged. He liked his skin covered with his clothing. It was not modesty exactly, no one in the Navy was modest. It was more like putting his back to the wall, it just made him feel better.
But Horatio did not complain of Archie's smell. He reached out gently and gathered him close.
“I was horrid to you.”
“I'm so sick of it.”
A great lump had come up in Archie's thought. Wisest to be quiet and let it subside. So he sat quiet and let Horatio cosset him a little. Horatio said nothing either. He pressed kisses into Archie's sweat soaked hair, rubbed his neck just hard enough to feel good.
“What day is it?”
“No, I mean the date.”
Horatio told him, and Archie felt himself give a deep sigh, something leaving.
“I have something for you-- top of my sea-chest, brown paper.”
“What is it?”
“For you, open it.”
“Meant to give you it yesterday but--” But he had been hiding away like a sick dog, growling at everyone, trying to deny what he knew was coming.
“Oh, they are beautiful. Where did you get them?”
He was trying the gloves on now, stroking the wool admiringly. The soft gray suited him.“So warm, and they fit just right. But why?”
Archie took the questions in order.
“I made them, I got the wool in Portsmouth.”
“I didn't know you could knit, I can't.”
“Matthews taught me, years ago.”
Matthews had tried for a while to be a sea-daddy to Archie, keep him busy, teach him things. Hadn't helped much, in those early years on Justinian. But there was only so much a common seaman could do. But Matthews had seen too clearly, and Archie had been horrid to Matthews too, in the end. Another fault.
“There is no shame in a sailor knitting. You've seen me darn my stockings, it is actually easier than that.”
“Will you teach me?”
“Yes, but not today.”
“I know.” Horatio touched Archie's eyes, with gentle fingers. “When your eyes feel right again.”
“I love it when you give me things. But why give me a gift now? It isn't my birthday or anything? And I have nothing to give you.” The brow crease was back.
“A year ago, you found me again, in Spain. And you did give me-- you gave me back my life, Honeybee. I would give you anything.”
The arms around him were warm and close, and he didn't have to move. The swish thud of Horatio's heart was bringing sleep near again. There would be time to figure it all out after that.