Title: Sweet Sorrow
Word Count 619
The Indy was laid up until after 12th night, having her bottom scraped. Cost the earth too, though that was a matter for those above a frigate lieutenant.
Pellew had opened his house to all who could fit in it, with kindly meals and good cheer. But someone needed to be nearby, someone needed to make sure that those dogs at the yards actually did as they were told. So John Bracegirdle would leave early, to keep watch.
Someone steady, and experienced. His mouth quirked at the thought. How the years had rushed by. At sleep's edge he was as always just himself. Lying here he felt like the self that had had a boys face, under a tumble of hair like straw. But he had only to move to feel age again, falling back on him. Sitting on the edge of the bed he let the years press down. He took a deep breath. There, the twinge in his knee, there the scar on his hip, the rounded belly he had not had 20 years back. In the looking-glass, he saw the boys eyes in a face very like his father's. And somehow, somewhen, most of his hair had gone over the side.
This morning he had a full day's work ahead. His watch chimed six, followed immediately by the case clock downstairs.
Hannah rolled , missing the heat of him. She made a small snuffling sound. “Is it time already?” She had asked him that for years. Her voice was soft and hoarse with sleep.
He reached back and patted the plump swell of her hip. He could feel the heat of her through her shift, through the blankets. He could see her reflection in the dark window, wavering as the candle-flame shook. She saw him looking and smiled. She sat up and wiggled herself back to rest against the headboard. She drew her knees up. She looked very like the girl she had always been.
He dressed quickly, aware of her gaze. She liked to watch him dress, always had. The shaving water was hot, someone had slipped in with it as they dozed. And it was fresh water too, making a lather, as salt did not. He shaved.
“You were a splendid Bottom,” She said.
“Thank you my dear, you have a splendid bottom too.” He wiped away the last of the soap.
“No, I-- well thank you-- I meant in the play. Bottom, the donkey.”
“Oh. It was fun, wasn't it?”
“Great fun. Worth it to see young Hornblower in a dress. Does your head ache?”
“Come here-- we have time.”
So he sat, dressed now, and she rubbed the spot where the headache always came, just between his eyes, just above his nose.
“Weather's changing,” John Bracegirdle muttered.
“I am sure you are right John, but I think this particular sore head may have more to do with the wine you drank, at cards with Mr Hornblower.”
“Aye-- maybe so. And the paper donkey head.”
“And the donkey head too.”
And she leaned forward then to kiss his nose.
“Yes.” Mr Bracegirdle had had better days, he was willing to admit, if only to himself. Still the nose rubbing helped.
He picked up his hat, and turned to draw the blanket over her.
“Go back to sleep. I will see you the day after tomorrow.”
“Hmm.” She curled herself like a cat. Warm sleepy.
“Until then.” Her eyes closed.
Hat under his arm, he went, quiet, down the stairs