Title: Office Visit Chapter 4
Word Count 2914
Disclaimer I only invented the nameless doctor
Office Visit Chapter 4
Horatio fell back into the feather bed with a resounding flump. He had books with him, of course. Archie did too. He would read in a little bit. For now it was enough luxury to lie naked and stare at the ceiling. The ceiling was white plaster. Nothing strange there, the world was full of plaster ceilings. But Horatio had not seen one in a long time. He lay in starfish position, and let his thoughts range.
This was another gift from Archie, of course. Time alone. On the ship, it was the most precious thing. It was a luxury of such value that only one man could have have it.
After some time he found his book. He rested it open on his chest, and let his eyes close. He would read in a minute. In a minute...
Quite a lot later, Horatio heard from far away, the sound of the door opening, and closing quietly. Someone lifted the book away, and pulled a blanket over him. He snuggled into the heat of it with a sigh. The someone ran a hand over his head, and went away. Horatio slept.
He sat up.
“Urgh. I'm sorry Archie. How long have I been asleep?” His face was stiff, his mouth dry.
Not too long. I've been back just a little while.”
Archie was lounging back in the chair by the fire, reading a copy of the Naval Gazette. He was all flickering fire, and blue broadcloth. He looked like a painting. But when Horatio spoke, Archie smiled at him.
Horatio realized how silly he must look. He was naked, and awkwardly folded into his knee chest sit, and his hair all everywhere. His big silly feet stuck out before him, knobby and pale, ending with those ridiculous toes. All his life, his body had disappointed him. As a boy there had been a game that he played in his head. He had looked at other men and boys – at the sizes and colors and shapes of them – he had imagined being them, instead of himself, and he had asked himself 'Would I trade? Would I trade with him? With him? The answer was almost always yes.
Certainly Archie knew nothing of such games. His body was as lovely as a marble statue. He was a rich man's son, he had been on the Grand Tour. But Archie loved him. Archie could have had anyone else, but Archie loved him. Horatio returned the smile, with eyes suddenly brimming. How lucky he was. He was permitted to love Archie.
“How did it go?” He asked. He wasn't sure that Archie would want to talk about it. Archie was tricky to talk to, about his illness.
“Well, it was damn strange,” Archie said. He put the paper down, and leaned forward.
“I told you, I know that as a child I had been dragged off to doctors. I don't think that I really emphasized how much I hated it. I really hated it. My brothers and sisters would go on with their play, or their studies, and I would be packed into the coach, in my good clothes, to visit some foul smelling old man who would talk over my head. My parents would tell him about my fits. I would have to listen to that, I hated that. Then the old man would drag me off somewhere, and tell me to be a brave boy. I would have to-- to let him stick a fleam in my arm, or a bellows up my arse.”
“A bellows?” Horatio yelped..
“Oh yes. Absolutely. Several fellows learnedly agreed that a good infusion of smoke up there would be just the trick. Didn't work.”
“How awful.” Horatio wiggled closer to the edge of the bed. He could imagine small Archie so clearly, being a 'brave boy.' He felt his heart constrict with painful love.
“So you really dislike doctors?”
“Hate 'em – well for the most part. I like your father very much Horatio.”
“I wish you could have gone to him as child. We could have been friends back then”
“Yes. I've thought that too.”
“So – today.”
“Yes. Well, I walked to the office, thinking about all of this, and wondering what dreadful new treatments were awaiting me. I worked myself into a really foul mood.”
Horatio smiled. Archie in a foul mood was a lovely, if frightening, sight, something like an angel with a toothache.
“I got there and he asked me all the same old questions. This one left me clothed, but I thought, 'here comes the fleam.' I hated that the most I think. It used to make me so tired, for days after.” Archie rubbed his arms, unconsciously.
“This man was younger though. He asked what treatments the other doctors had tried. I told him, as best I could. When I told him about the bleedings, he shook his head. He said he didn't approve of them. Horatio – I was so relieved. They do it until you faint, you know.”
“Have you never been bled?” Archie asked.
“No,” said Horatio. “My father was against it, and I didn't really get sick much.”
“Good choice,” said Archie.
“Well,” he continued, “what this doctor did do was really strange. He had me undress, down to my drawers, and he had me do all sorts of … well things.”
“Things?” Horatio was sitting forward now, too, and his tone was rather forbidding.
“Nothing bad. Just...strange. He had me hop on one foot, then the other. He had me walk along a straight hallway, still in my drawers, while he watched from the back and then the front. He had me put my tongue out. He spent a very long time looking into my eyes with a strange candle and mirror arrangement. He made me show him how strong my hands were, by squeezing his.( I think maybe I hurt him, doing that.) He listened to my heart. You'll be interested in this, Horatio. He used a rolled up piece of stiff paper to amplify the sound. That way he did not have to rest his head on my chest directly.
He made me stand on one foot, and touch my nose with my eyes shut. I felt like such a fool. He looked in my ears, with his mirror light. He looked up my nose.”
“I know. Oh, two more things. He had me play catch with him, in the hall. We spent some time throwing a ball back and forth, with me in my undershorts. By this time I was thinking, that he was not a doctor at all, just a madman. But it was not unpleasant. And the last thing, he had me sit on a high bench, and he hit my knees with a hammer.”
“Not hard.” Archie said soothingly. “And not a real hammer. “Just a little, here, with a little hammerish sort of thing.”
“And all this time,” Archie continued, “he was asking me about the ship, and my family, and my past, and what I liked to eat, and what other things I had been sick with. He was really strange.”
Archie stood up and stretched. The story was almost done.
“He had me get dressed again. He said that he thought that he believes fits are generated by the brain. Not by 'moral derangement.' I wish someone had told me sooner. I spent a lot of childhood worried about my moral derangement. He said in his opinion, my brain is healthy. I don't see how he can determine that by having me play catch in my under drawers, but I am not going to argue. .He said that the fits were an odd thing that my brain did as I was growing. But that they had done me no lasting harm, and would soon stop. He said I may not have any more, or maybe only a few more, ever.
He gave me some pills, he said to take one if I think I am about to have a fit. If I am awake I can usually tell when one is coming on. They are supposed to prevent it. I'll be surprised if they work, really, but today could have been worse.”
“I'm glad its over.” Said Horatio. “You had been brooding over it for days.”
“Yes, I suppose I had.” Said Archie.
Archie walked to the bed with a smile. He sat down. “You might want to put trousers on for a moment at least, I have sent for food to be delivered. The inn-keepers wife seemed to feel sorry for us, she said something about 'poor lone lambs.' said she was making something special. You don't want to alarm her.” Archie caressed Horatio, stoked as he spoke, with exquisite slowness. Horatio drew a long shuddering breath.
“Trousers would have fit better before you did that.” He said. Archie gave a breathless laugh, and stepped back. “Sorry Horatio.” He said, with an absolutely unrepentant smile.
Horatio struggled into them, and had his shirt on too, by the time the scratch at the door came. He had a glimpse of a stout motherly woman, in a white apron. Archie took the covered dishes from her, and set them on the table by the fire. She said something to him, in Spanish, and handed him a final smaller dish. Archie took that one too, and replied with a smile. The door shut.
“I didn't know you spoke Spanish.” Horatio said.
“Wait, let me set this down.” Archie placed the last plate carefully. “Yes, I speak, – baby Spanish, I guess you'd say. My cousin's nurse – oh its a long story. But, I speak it well enough to thank an inn-keepers wife, anyway.”
“Archie, this is so good.” Horatio was starting with soup, which was only proper. But he was downing it with indecent speed. “It has oysters, and sausage, and rice and – do you have the same?”
“Yes. Looks like she gave us two of everything.”
The soup was followed with pork, and cabbage with raisins. It was so good to eat until they were creaking full. At sea, even on the best ships, midshipmen went a little hungry. On the worst ships they fought over rats.
Archie discovered the roast potatoes. They fell on them too, but more slowly. After a little while, Archie was sitting by the fire, chasing the last bits of potato. His eyes were shining.
“Feeling satisfied?” Horatio asked with one of his rare grins.
“No, but I'm full of food.” Archie said. “Come here, Horatio.”
Horatio was so full. He could feel his belly bulging. The fire was warm and tight on his face. Archie looked similarly indolent, in the chair by the fire. He drew Horatio down gently between his knees. Horatio was content to let Archie kiss and pet him. He thought, dreamily, that this is how Jeoffrey Mittens must feel. Archie's hand slid under his hair. Archie's hand was warm and smooth with callous. It was a kind clever hand, to make him feel this way. Horatio let his head loll against the solid heat of Archie's thigh. He let his eyes squint almost shut, so that the firelight made red and blue shadows inside his eyes.
“We have all night, Horatio. But you might find the bed more comfortable.”
“Mmm, in a minute.”
“Look,” Archie said, “there is one more plate here.”
Horatio nodded, eyes closed. He felt he would never need to eat again. He could hear Archie fumbling with the covered dish.
“Oh my.” Archie sounded awed. “Oh Horatio, you have to try this.”
“I'm stuffed to the gills Archie.” Archie's hands were no longer caressing him, but the fire was so warm on his chest, where his shirt was open. He would open his eyes in a minute.
Then he felt Archie's fingers sliding over his lips. They were coated with something – something. He opened his mouth. Something was the most delicious thing that Horatio had ever tasted. It was smooth as butter, but sweet and melting even as he sought to possess it.
Horatio opened his eyes in amazement..
Archie was eating the substance with his own fingers. It looked like-- well, mud.
“Archie what is that?”
Archie smiled and held out the little bowl. “Its chocolate, Horatio.”
Horatio shook his head. “I've had chocolate. Its a drink, its bitter. Nothing like this.”
“No, this is special.” Archie said. “I have read about this. You can take chocolate, and mix it with sugar and oil, to make a sort of confection. That must be what this is.”
Archie took a considering taste. “I think it would have been more solid if we hadn't left it so close to the fire. I think we melted it.”
Horatio reached into the bowl, and coated his own fingers. He looked at Archie. Slowly, with deliberation, he rubbed it over Archie's lower lip. Before Archie could lick the stuff away, Horatio leaned in, to kiss. The chocolate was so sweet, trapped between their lips, they licked at it in turns, tasting it on each other. Horatio was clutching tightly at Archie's shirt now, pulling him close, almost out of the chair.
“Wait, wait.” Archie murmured. He lifted his shirt off. Then he peeled Horatio's away as well. He slid from the chair, bringing the chocolate bowl with him. Horatio loved to see Archie this way, half naked, before the fire. Just seeing Archie felt like an act of love.
Archie reached into the bowl, and put a finger-full of the stuff on Horatio's mouth, just at the corner. He took Horatio's head in his hands, to steady it. Horatio could see the desire in Archie. His eyes had gone black and deep with it, his breath was rapid. Archie set himself to gentle licking, all around, working his tongue, softly, everywhere that chocolate wasn't.
“Oh.” Horatio said foolishly. It felt so good, he was content to do nothing more than submit, and let the seeking tongue continue. Under his hands, he could feel the wide fine skin of Archie's chest. It was hot from the fire, and his heart was bucking. When Archie released him, he was tingling as if scrubbed.
“Oh yourself,” said Archie.
“My turn.” Horatio reached for the bowl. They had eaten most of it now, but there was still some left.
Horatio was reaching for Archie's face, when Archie stopped his hand.
“Do my arms.”
Archie actually looked shy. “Yes, remember when you bit my arms? Here?” He indicated his bicep. “Felt so good. It felt – oh.”
With his eyes on Archie's face, Horatio put the last of it onto Archie's near arm. Archie was watching too, with his mouth open, his breath racing. Horatio bit gently on the bulge of muscle, loving the flex of it, the strength waiting under the white and tender skin. He could taste the chocolate, and faintly underneath, the particular taste of Archie. Archie was shaking like a man struck by lightning. His free arm was locked around Horatio, he was half in Horatio's lap now, his eyes were heavy lidded and glazed.
Eventually the sweet residue was gone. Horatio reveled in the taste of just Archie. Archie seemed to have passed the point where he could speak.
But, in fact he could speak. “Trousers off. Bed now,” he said quite distinctly. Horatio was happy to comply.
The big white bed billowed around them, and over the sides of them. This time Horatio didn't care. He received Archie into himself, with grateful joy. They were, at last, both beyond speech. It didn't matter.
There was time, afterward, to lie still, sweating, and to remember the world, and who they were. Another luxury denied them on the ship – even should they dare to couple.
The silly bed rose up between them, but they did not need to see, now.
“This has been the best day, Archie,” Horatio said.
“I know. I was so worried that it would be horrid. The doctor and all.”
“Mmm,” Horatio was getting sleepy. “So glad you don't have moral derangement.” He said.
A few notes. According to my (very amateur) research, neurology as we know it could not begin before the invention of the reflex hammer, and a good pinpoint light. It was 1840-ish, before these things came along. Also, chocolate as a candy or confection was so expensive as to be unattainable, for our boys. But I did it anyway. Maybe it could have been this way.
I regret to say, that the stuff about the bellows, and the bleedings, and the 'moral derangement' is true. Archie was a brave boy—he had to be.
Finally, the chocolate is because of Stylissmo. He said something about chocolate cravings a few posts back, and that suggested it to me.