Title: Oh Fearless Leader
Word Count 348
Oh Fearless Leader
“Ow uz i' ook ?” Horatio asked gingerly.
“It doesn't look too bad really.”
The bruising would come up later, and it would be astonishing. Archie reached out as if to touch Horatio's jaw, and did not. His hand hovered, close enough to warm the skin. He would touch later, when touch could comfort. Now was too soon.
“Can you close the jaw?”
Horatio nodded. “Urts.”
“Here, sit down, you are off the watch-list today anyway.”
The Horatio of most days would have argued, would have protested that he could give orders with hand signals or somesuch nonsense. The Horatio of this morning only sank to sit on his sea-chest. His shoulders slumped. Archie moved to stand behind him, drew him back. He pushed the sticky hair back from Horatio's brow,that was safe enough. He watched Horatio's eyes close. Horatio's eyelids were dark smudges in the pale oval of his face.
“You puked on him in grand style Horatio, which is all he deserves. Doctor says he nearly broke your jaw, carrying on as he did. Bracey said that they are going to put the man ashore at the next port. He is useless as a seaman-- and he was lying when he said he knew teeth. Why on earth did you not tell him he had the wrong tooth?”
Horatio lifted one shoulder and let it fall. Eloquent enough. Anyway, Archie knew the answer. The whole ship knew. Mr Hornblower had simply been asleep. The men of his division were already boasting that their lieutenant was so brave he could sleep through having a tooth drawn. Oldroyd wanted to inscribe it on a gun. In fact, thought Archie, they had something even more rare, a fearless leader who had had two teeth drawn, the second one in pieces, because he had fallen asleep.
Asleep. “Come on, let's get you into your hammock.”
Horatio nodded and stood up. He rolled into his hammock, and Archie drew the blanket up.