Title: Office Visit Chapter 3
Disclaimer I did not invent them
The Office Visit Chapter 3
With little safety to touch, they talked. They sat together, at meals, at make-and-mend, at what leisure there was, and as November came on, people did notice. The dark head was inclined to the bright one, and together, they made a pretty sight. A man, immersed in a daydream, might find his own eyes resting there, intended or not.
Men far from home knew much about the flavors of friendship. The friendships of men were like pea soup. They were nourishing, and dependable. In the middle of the cold sea, a true friend could warm a man through, and save his life.
The friendships of boys, (and they were boys,) burned hotter. They were mutable, an older observer could get tired trying to make sense of them. But the bright head, with the bright smile seemed to have a loyal companion. The soberer taller dark head leaned close to listen, turned bright eyes to reply, and as November came on, he laughed more freely.
“Do you think?” Ventured Mr Bracegirdle once.
“Mr Bracegirldle-- for shame.” The Captain's reply was low voiced, but it was harsh. “I do not think such a thing. And I wish to hear nothing about it.” He waited a long beat, and then repeated himself. Pellew seldom repeated himself. “I wish to hear nothing about it.”
“Aye Sir.” Said Mr Bracegirdle.
Archie was aware that he was being watched. He was very good at knowing that sort of thing. He knew that Bracegirdle rested those deceptively mild eyes on Horatio and on him, often. Nobody seemed to observe Cleveland, or Cadogan, or anyone else, with the same focus. But Archie was attuned to the variety and flavors that a gaze can carry. He sensed no harm there. This being so, he contented himself with watching Bracegirdle right back. Archie kept on the safe side of respect , but he was alert for any hint of threat.
Horatio seemed to have little awareness of when he was being watched. Archie wondered at that sometimes. For all his formidable intelligence, Horatio could be very oblivious. So Archie watched, and as November drew on, something inside him began to uncoil a very little bit. He did not notice it during the day, as much. Archie was learning then, and he was busy. But at night, as he floated half asleep, he felt some sort of change in himself.
Something like a great fist was closed around something very like Archie's heart. On the very worst of days, he felt it tighten until he gasped in breathless agony. That was fear. On the worst days it drove him out of himself, until he floated like a jelly-fish, watching from above as monsters savaged him. That was safety. The tightness around his heart had been there for four years now. Since forever, since childhood. Archie hardly felt it anymore. Hardly at all. But, as he worked his days, and November came on, something loosened, just a little. He felt it, and it puzzled him. It hurt, maybe. He was so accustomed to the tightness, to the fist of vigilance, that he didn't know what to think.
He thought on it some in the rising and and falling of sleep, as November came on. He thought about it, as he listened to Horatio's untroubled breathing, so close beside him in the dark. This was not something he could discuss with Horatio.
On the second week of November they pulled into Port Mahon. Horatio was watching Archie now, as well, with a crumpled look about the eyebrows that Archie knew he'd have to cope with soon. Horatio had questions. There would be time to answer them. There would be time for so much. Archie was trying not to think of all the delights there would be time for. If he thought about touching Horatio, his body would give him away. He stood for morning inspection, bright and clean, and nearly dancing to be away.
Then, then they were away. He and Horatio, trying not to grin, as the pellucid water slid underneath them. The day was sagging with unnatural stillness, a soup bowl of blue arched above them, cloudless and sharp. The water under the jolly boat was like a blue plate. The dip and drip of the oars was unnaturally loud.
They stepped out onto the dock, without even wetting their feet.
Horatio was looking all around, his eyes swallowing everything, his head swiveling, his hands twisting, all unaware. Archie smiled to see it. He had two hours before the doctor. Time enough to book them at the inn.
“This is the first land for me that isn't England, Archie,” He said in a low voice. Archie looked up and returned his bright eyed grin.
“Well, we hold Minorca, so its sort of like England.” Archie said, just to make trouble. He poked Horatio in the side, to make him giggle, just because he could.
“Ar—chie, you know what I mean.”
“Have you ever?”
“Yes, my eldest brother Theo made the grand tour when I was 10. I went with my family. We went to Rome, and Venice, and Florence. It was so beautiful Horatio. I wish I could see it all again now. I wish we could see it together.” Archie found himself smiling at the thought. Horatio seeing something new, learning something new, was beautiful to watch.
“Is your brother Theo, a Theobald?” Horatio teased back.
“No. Theophilos.” Archie said shortly. He disliked the long form of his name. As Someone whose name could not decently be shortened, Horatio felt little sympathy. Still he didn't want to make Archie frown, even in play.
“I love your name.” He said.
“Well, that makes one of us.”
Horatio stopped walking. “Don't you remember what you said to me? You said: 'It is a fine name, its your name.' Thats how I feel about yours.”
“Oh. Oh. I do remember.” The other memories of that day made Archie hot inside.
“Here is the inn.”
“It looks – costly.” Horatio frowned.
“I've got money from home. I wanted to stay somewhere special with you.”
“All right.” Horatio looked dubious. Well. Archie hoped he could be convincing.
In 10 minutes they were in the room. The door shut behind them, and locked. It was as Archie had hoped. He had a glimpse of bright windows, and a huge bed, white and flat. He took it in in a wide gulp of a glance, then Horatio was before him, close.
“How long do we have?” Horatio asked. His voice was hoarse, and he was doing that little wiggling motion that meant he wanted--
“An hour and a half.”
“You don't want something to eat first?” This was almost a joke, almost. Archie was almost always hungry Horatio did not answer clearly. His teeth were doing wonderful things to the side of Archie's neck already. He just growled.
“Oh God.” Archie had a sudden flash of memory, of what it was like when they could take their time, when they had a door that shut. This was going to be delicious.
Horatio was undressing him, with astonishing haste. Archie could feel the hands, the legs pressing his own. Horatio was shaking with need. His mouth was open. His breath rasped His eyes were huge. This was, Archie realized, no time to argue. Archie stood still, and let Horatio have his way. He had a momentary thought that this must be how trees felt, lovingly denuded by something as implacable as wind. The shirt, fell and the cool air ran over Archie's shoulders.
Horatio dropped to his knees. Horatio undid the buttons, and slid the trousers away, stockings and all. Archie lifted his feet, one by one, his hands on Horatio's shoulders. And he thought then, but no... Horatio merely dropped a kiss on each hip-bone, and stood up. Archie looked at him blearily.
“I need --”
Horatio was undressing himself, Archie reached over to help, to speed the process. The movement brought them close, brought them touching. Any pretense at control that Horatio had, broke. His trousers were half down, impeding him, as they staggered toward the enormous bed. The feather tick billowed around them, as they fell into it.
“Ridiculous bed.” Horatio was subsumed in a cloud of featherbed, puffing up between his starfished limbs. He was trying to growl about the foolishness of it, but he was smiling, because Archie had landed naked on top of him, and it had been so long.
“Land bed.” Archie said. He said it into Horatio's mouth, and his tongue was sweet.
“I slept for years in a land bed, it was nothing like this. This bed is... aggressive. Look.” He thumped, in demonstration. The bulbous feathers hardly moved.
“Hmmm.” Said Archie. In fact, the bed was very similar to his own childhood bed. He liked a lot of feathers. He was looking forward to sleeping the sleep of a hero, much much later
But he said none of these things, because Horatio was kissing him, and at last the trousers were gone, (Gone to hell for all he cared.) They were rubbing together in a way that was half rolling and half wrestling, and the land bed was great for that.
They were rubbing together,everything: hard pricks, soft bellies, gasping chests, and circling arms. They were too needy, too shaking, to do anything else. They were kissing, and it was so good. and skin was warm all down between them. Archie felt himself letting out all the words,and the small eager sounds he had kept in for months. He felt Horatio's hands on the sides of his face, holding him steady, and looking at him, looking at his eyes, as they moved, with a tenderness that was almost pain. The brown eyes were fathomless, and Archie knew that they saw him true. The love in Horatio's face was reflected in his own, and he knew that he saw true. It burned between them, and it was good, and it was unendurable. Archie cried out as he broke.
With some well placed blows, they were able to crush the feathers, so they could lie side by side, and actually see each other. They were both panting and grinning like fools. They were both damp, and sticky, and they could not stop touching. The worst of the burning need was quenched, and yet they could not stop touching. Could not stop laughing. It was ridiculous. They were ridiculous, laughing naked in a bed so heaped with feathers that they could barely see over them. Horatio's big serious eyes were crinkled shut, and his flat belly heaved as he giggled. Archie could barely breathe. He pulled his knees up, to ease his aching gut.
“Stop – 'Atio, stop please.” He wheezed
“Me stop? N' doing anything.” Horatio gasped.
Slowly the giggling tricked away. Archie fumbled for his watch. He stood to get dressed. Horatio sat up, wrapping his long arms around his knees. He rested his chin on them.
“Do you want me to come with you, Archie?” He asked. “There is probably a waiting area, you wouldn't have to walk back alone.”
Archie paused. It was obvious that Horatio wanted to go with him. It was equally clear that he could choose.
“No,” he said “Just let me go and get it over, you enjoy the bed. Read a book while you have the light. I'll order us some food when I get back.”
“All right.” Horatio was willing to be convinced. Easier that way, Archie thought, get the damn thing over, by himself. He dropped a kiss on Horatio's brow, twitched his jacket straight, and left the room. The door shut almost silently.