Title Hands of Love
Word Count 996
Disclaimer I still did not invent them
Hands of Love
A note: I tried to write this several different ways. This is the one that seemed to work. It does not really follow the movie – is it then AU? I don't know. I hope it is not too jarring.
The little room was close and kind. He could feel the canvas under his knees. The shudders had gone to fine shivers. He sniffled a little, against the strength of Archie's shoulder. Love was this. Coming back to himself, and feeling warm hands on the bones of his back. Coming back after loosing the prize ship, and still Archie was warm and near, and just the same.
“I'm so tired.” Horatio said. His tears had spilled, too at the end, flooding his eyes with hot. “It means it really matters.” That is what Archie had said, up in Horatio's boyhood room, months ago now. Archie never laughed at him.
“Lets get you dressed.” And then, strangeness. Archie bundled him into his clothes, holding him close, sharing the good heat of his own skin. Archie reached up the sleeves backward, and drew Horatio's hands down, and there was the memory, long forgotten, of being a small sleepy boy. Just so, had his father put small Horatio into a night-shirt. The love in those long ago hands had made him feel so safe.
Horatio stumbled back to berthing. He rolled into his hammock, and he let the good dark come. Here too, he was safe. The last sound he heard was Archie turning the pages of his book.
In five years of watch-standing Archie had developed preferences and habits. Everyone did. He loved being aloft. The giddy swooping height was a delight to him. Even on Justinian, the wind of the sky had made him feel clean. Quarterdeck watch was his least favorite. Some Midshipmen liked it. Horatio, for example liked being able to hear the mighty talk to each other. Archie didn't care for that at all. But His Majesties Navy didn't care what a midshipman liked best. Today he had quarterdeck watch.
Time to go up top. Archie put his book aside, he washed his face. He tidied his queue. His shoes were good enough today.
Horatio was sleeping, belly down, as was his habit, .boneless as a jelly-fish. Archie hated to wake him, but he had promised. He pushed the damp dark hair back from Horatio's face.
“I'm going up topside Honeybee,” He whispered. There was no one nearby to hear. “You said to wake you.”
“Nnng” Horatio said.
“Sleep, Horatio. I'll see you soon.”
Archie went up the ladder, and out into the fog and wind.
The first hour passed slowly. Indefatigable rocked through a blanket of muffling fog. A fine mist coated Archie's cheeks with cold, and snaked its fingers down his collar. Sight and vision were all askew. Sounds too loud, and nothing to see. Archie set his feet wide, blanked his cold-itching face, and settled to endure.
It was so sudden. The ship roared up out of the fog, French. She was visible, draped in evil yellow fog, lit by the firing of her guns. The ship receiving fire was not visible to Archie's straining eyes, but the sound of her dismantlement was horrible.
“After her Mr Bowles, don't let her get away!” Pellew's voice was huge. Archie found that he was standing by the rail. His fists were drumming on it, as if he could make the Indy faster.
But the French ship slipped into the covering fog. Pellew had the glass to his eye. He was standing on his toes, body tensed like a hunting dog.
“Where is she? Where is she?” But Captain Pellew was talking to himself.
Archie could feel the grinding in the soles of his feet as the Indy hit debris in the water. Far off to starboard, carried on the fog, were the sounds of drowning Englishmen.
“Launch boats.” Pellew said. “Pick up survivors.” He glanced around. “Mr Kennedy, Mr Cleveland, Mr Cadogan, you will each command a boat. Save anyone you find alive. Send for Dr Searle. Tell him bring blankets.” Captain Pellew sounded suddenly very tired.
More quickly than he had thought possible, Archie was in the stern of the boat, with the tiller in his hand. The men were grim faced, trying to hurry, trying to listen, trying in vain to see. Archie gave it an hour. By the time he gave the order to return, the flotsam had sunk. The sea was silent.
The men rowed back without a word.
Back on the Indefatigable, Archie's boat was the last one back. Cadogan caught his gaze, and shook his head. He gave Archie a teeth bared face of pain and regret.
“Cleveland found a couple” He said. “They're up with the doctor.”
“Well done, gentlemen.” Eccleston's voice was tired too. “Watch is over. Get below and warm yourselves.”
“Aye Sir.” Archie turned to go, Cadogan behind him, down the ladder. Archie was shivering now. He wanted nothing more than to get warm in his hammock, to hold a book, unread, and to watch Horatio sleep.
As he came into berthing, Cleveland caught his elbow.
“Need to talk to you Arch.” He said. “Its important.” The look on Cleveland's round face was unsettling. His brows were lowered. He looked sad, and somehow diffident, apprehensive.
Archie let Cleveland draw him aside. He waited to hear. He was cold and tired himself now, but the ice in his gut, was an old and unrelated warning. Trouble, it said.
“I heard you saved a few men.” Archie started for him.
“Yeah – about that,” Cleveland said. “You need to know – you and Horatio. He's up with the doctor now, Archie. One of the men I saved, was Jack Simpson.”