Title: From the Sky
Rating G (with several rude words
Word Count 1129
From the Sky
This continues my AU where they did not go to Renown. This is the same storm though. And somehow they have collected Mr Wellard. Such things do happen, but best not to ask me how...
“She's carrying too much sail, Archie.”
Horatio's words were shredded by wind, and he gasped to find air in all the water. Archie raised his eyes, blinking the sting of rain from them. He could not see anything really in the tumbling darkness. The world was black and white and noise, and water that stung, and air that shouted. The Indy was going with a rocking horse motion, down by the bow. If they didn't shorten sail now she would dig in and pitch-pole.
He heard Horatio give the orders in a roar that had gone hoarse with use. Archie clenched and unfolded his hands. They were stiff with cold. His feet were worse. They were soaked and icy in his last pair of intact dirty socks. The men went by in a a soggy trample, men of Horatio's own division, pale faces blurrcd by rain, mouths tight. Archie saw one seaman cross himself, bring his hand to his mouth. Those poor fuckers. The deck was bad enough tonight. Of course they were afraid, they were numbed, half blind. They would not be able to see or hear up there. The wind and rain made it impossible. The weather earring tonight might as well be on another planet.
They had known it was coming. They had known by the glass, by the clouds. And there were many on the Indy who felt in their bones, In backs, in hands, in all the places that years at sea had broken. Places in bodies that the sea claimed bit by bit. Archie felt it in his toes. He did not think that Horatio knew that.
So they had had some time to prepare. Time enough for coffee. Time to get a good hot meal down before the blow came. That hot meal was a fond memory, three days old.
The old men had seemed to be everywhere at once, at least two of them on the quarterdeck at any given time. But looking around now Archie could not see them. Hardly surprising, he could not see ten feet beyond his own nose. They were somewhere useful, doing something important. Maybe checking men at the pumps, maybe checking on the sick and battered. No decent command would do less. He swiped fiercely at his wet face. The mid standing at his elbow was shuddering with cold.
“Go below and inform Captain Pellew that we have shortened sail.”
Wellard nodded, and departed, stumbling, sliding. There was no particular need to deliver such a message. The decision to take in sail was Horatio's to make. But it got shivering Wellard out of the cold at least.
He felt a hand at his elbow. He turned.
“Aye, Mr Cleveland?”
“I have the watch!”
Cleveland shrieked. He pointed at the bell. It must have been rung, and the time called and the glass turned. It must have been done, but nobody heard it. Cleveland pointed at Horatio. Horatio was staring numbly out to sea. Archie turned to shake Horatio, so he was turned away when it happened.
The cry came high over the wind, helpless, already despairing. And then the shock of contact, transferred from the deck to Archie's feet. This like the recoil from a great gun, more a feeling in the chest than a sound.
“Ahh-- ” That was Cleveland, stunned on the deck.
Numbed and helpless a man had fallen from the yardarm, just as they all feared, on such a night. He lay, limp. But he was breathing. He was not dead. Had he fallen in the water he would be gone. Had he fallen on deck they would be cleaning him up with a shovel. But he had had the great good fortune to fall on Mr Cleveland. They lay in a tangle of limbs, stunned, cursing together.
Matthews, dropped almost as fast, down the backstay.
“Let me get him-- Lost your wind. Here you are Sir, just lie there a moment.”
Horatio, kneeling beside both men.
“Send for the doctor.”
Someone scampered away.
The seaman, dark hair, dark eyes, rolled himself free and sat up. His nose was bleeding, and his eyes were dazed, but he could move, would live.
Cleveland was gasping air in now with shuddering whoops. He was clutching his arm close against his chest, and his teeth were bared in pain. Horatio reached forward and Cleveland flinched back.
The doctor came, knelt briefly. He was a small man, quick and with an otter-like appearance. He spoke in a series of exclamations as a matter of habit.
“You are not dead! Very good!” He said. “Best get some light on the matter. Both of you, below!”
Morning came with a cessation of rain, and the glass rising. Archie washed his last pair of socks in the washbasin, and has some hope of them drying. Fires had been lit, the smell of coffee came back with Horatio as he opened the door.
“How is Cleveland?”
“Still asleep. They gave him enough laudenum fell an ox, but they got the arm back in. He'll need to rest it some while. He and Seaman Smithers were both snoring.”
“Is Smithers badly hurt?” Archie had little impression of the man, he was young, and he was in Horatio's division.
“No-- being watched for concussion. The doctor says it was the most extraordinary thing, Captain Pellew said he'd never seen such a thing either, and he used to do headstands on the yardarm.”
“I didn't believe it either. I had had the tale from that cross-eyed man that mends nets. You know the one,Archie he had a little dog and he sits outside the Goat and Spar? I thought he was practicing on me, but the old man said it himself, today. He told the doctor.”
“I suppose it must be true if he says so.”
“He was in a fine humor. And he said he says we'll stand in to the yards for a bit. We should have a little time ashore. Don't drip your socks on me!”
Archie draped them over his sea-chest. Really, they might dry by nightfall if the sun came back. He cared not if Captain Pellew had been the lead act in a traveling flea circus, but a night in an inn was another matter.
“Time off, night off-- lovely.”
“We can--” The kiss was better than words, a long searching questioning kiss. It felt like sunrise, like day. It had been ages.
“We can shop for more socks,” Horatio said faintly.