Title No good deed goes unpunished
Word Count 1091
Disclaimer: Still No
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
There was an implacable hand shaking Horatio from sleep. Not Archie's hand. Archie's hands were not always gentle, he could tussle and wrestle and punch, in fun. And he had gripped Horatio, in soaring pleasure, strongly enough to leave bruises. No, Archie was not always gentle, but he was always knowing. This shaking hand did not know Horatio's body.
Horatio opened his eyes, blinked the sleep blur away. Cleveland.
“What is it?” He repeated.
“Get up. Arch needs help. I think he's having a fit.”
There was something strange about Cleveland's manner. But Horatio did not stop to examine it more closely.
Archie was sitting at the mess table. His hands were gripping the edge of it, and his jaw was set. Just so, Archie had sat, on Justinian, the night Horatio first met Jack Simpson.
It was not a seizure, not yet, in any case, but the condition that Horatio thought of as Archie's leaving. Wherever Archie went, in these times, he was no longer in his own body. His eyes were blank. His face was empty, and yet somehow heart-brokenly sad. And, importantly, Archie was defenseless at these times. Archie hated being defenseless. Cleveland was right. Archie needed him.
“What did you do to him?” Cleveland recoiled from the menace in his voice.
“Nothing! God, What do you take me for?”
Horatio could feel his teeth drawing back in a feral snarl. He stepped between Cleveland and Archie.
“Sit down Horatio. I didn't do anything...” Cleveland made a placating gesture. “I do have something to tell you though. I told him. Better you hear it from me. We found wreckage in the water. French frigate. Couldn't catch her. But we picked up survivors – well, I did. One of 'em was Jack Simpson. I told Arch. He went like-- this. I've seen him do it before you know. I've known him longer than you, Horatio.
I didn't do right on Justinian, I know that. I was scared of Simpson. Scared he'd turn on me. I'm sorry for that now. “
Cleveland went on talking after that. Babbling. But Horatio stopped listening. Archie was breathing shallowly, almost panting. Tremors shook him, like fever shivering.
“We can't leave him here, like this. Wait here with him a moment.” Horatio lunged for Archie's sea-chest, and opened it. The pills were in a bag. He had seen it, that day in Minorca. Horatio pawed madly through a jumble of stockings and under-drawers.(Why did Archie not match his socks?) and found them. There was a horrible moment when he grabbed the wrong end of the bag, and they almost all spilled, but he flailed it right side up.
Cleveland had not moved. He was watching over Archie, and not touching him. Probably wise, Horatio thought. But he was going to have to.
“We can't leave him here like this.” Horatio said. “I have some pills, but... Can you help me get him to the sail locker?”
“Yes.” Cleveland said. “You...fix him up. I'm sorry. I couldn't leave Simpson to drown.”
“No.” Horatio said “Of course you couldn't. Help me get him up.”
Together, between the two of them, they half walked, and half dragged Archie to the sail locker. Horatio brought a lamp in with him.
“Here.” Cleveland handed over a flask, “It's only water.” He said. “You'll want it for the pills.”
“Thanks.” Horatio said automatically.
“Don't worry. I'll just...keep everyone away.” Cleveland said.
“Where is Simpson now?” Horatio asked.
“He's with the doctor. I expect he'll be there all night at least.” Small comfort, Horatio thought.
The door shut. He and the empty body of Archie were alone.
Acting on an instinct he did not examine, Horatio dragged a heavy roll of sail over, and placed it against the door. The sail locker door did not lock of course, but that would slow anyone coming in.
Archie was sitting on the floor, like a discarded doll. His legs were bent strangely, unlike his usual tidy folding. His teeth were bared, his eyes still uninhabited. Horatio eased down beside him.
“Archie,” he reached for the clenched and shivering hands. They were icy cold. “Archie, its me. Safe here, nobody here but us. Please come back, please...”
He kept Archie's cold hands in one of his own, and reached up with the other, to touch Archie's face, to draw him close. As Horatio brushed his cheek Archie flinched, . He ducked down into a cringe, eyes shut, shaking.
“Oh no. Please don't.” He said in that awful draggy voice, that was not his own.
“S'me Archie. Its all right. Nobody else here. Not going to hurt you-- not ever.” Speaking slowly, moving with delicate deliberation, Horatio was able to draw Archie close.
“Please don't.” Archie said. “Fuck me if you want, but please don't.”
“Shhh, no, no, no.” Horatio was rubbing circles on Archie's back. “Nobody's doing that.” Archie was not talking to him. He felt his tears, stupid useless tears, lost in Archie's bright hair. He would weep for both of them, Archie could not weep.
And Archie, who always seemed to strong and lively, was so small, in Horatio's arms. He was as hard to embrace as a wooden doll. And underneath, was the fear: What if he never comes back?
All Horatio could do was implore the empty air, and the empty Archie that might not even be able to hear him.
Horatio pressed a kiss onto the damp top of Archie's head.
“Its safe to come back.” He said
And with unspeakable relief, he felt Archie return. Archie drew in a great whoop of air, and he was back. Not well, not solid, but inhabiting himself again at least.
“There you are.” Horatio said quietly. He did not shift his position. He kept his hands steady, rubbing small circles between Archie's shoulder blades.
Archie seemed content to rest against him. Everything else could wait. Time enough, in a few minutes, to see if he wanted his pills. No hurry, no hurry at all. This is what Horatio said with his hands. And Archie, crumpled under his chin, seemed to hear it.
After a time, though, Archie spoke. “Horatio,” His voice was small, “What are we going to do?”
“I don't know.”