Title: The Deafness of Angels 2
Rating G—with some naughty sailor words
Word Count 822
Disclaimer I did not invent them
The Deafness of Angels 2
Archie settled into the wardroom chair, a respectful beat after Pellew's arse made its own contact. He focused his eyes on his own folded hands. Horatio was beside him, and further up the table, the lieutenants. Men were noisy in groups, Archie thought, not for the first time. Even when they were trying to be quiet. There were small mutterings, flutterings. Everyone was curious. The French ship, Papillon had been sighted at dawn. They had trailed her, since then, keeping well back, keeping the weather gauge.
Archie kept his eyes on his hands. His head hurt. Everything was too loud. The scrape of Horatio's sleeve against the table was unbearably distracting. Very well. Archie knew what that meant. His affliction was an old companion. It never came at a good time. He had had recourse to the Minorcan pills several times now. Horatio didn't know. He didn't need to know. Horatio had never had the sensation of the pressing sky, reeling overhead and squeezing, until a man wanted to scream. He didn't know about the lost time after, the head that ached for days, the humiliating weakness. Archie loved Horatio, but these things were not to be shared. He didn't want anyone to know.
Pellew was doing his throat clearing thing, getting ready to speak. Every face turned to his, expectant. Archie lifted his face too. He would force himself to pay close attention. He would take the pills. They would work. They had worked before, although they nauseated him. Worth it, even if he puked like a child. He had to be there tonight. He had to keep Horatio safe.
Pellew had his mouth open, when the door creaked. Archie could hear a heavy step, and a wet rasping cough, on the other side. Pellew lifted an expressive eyebrow, and shut his mouth again.
Oh Christ, this was the last thing anyone needed. Especially Archie. Most especially today. Simpson had dressed with care, obviously, for the Captain's table meeting. His uniform was clean, his hair – well someone had attempted to flatten and comb it. The rat face, and deformed soul were as always. Archie could feel his own body beginning to shake. He could not afford to leave it now. He had to stay here, and listen carefully, Pellew was speaking.
Archie felt Horatio's thigh shift to lie along his own, under the table. Archie knew that Horatio could feel him, shivering like a beaten dog. And Archie could feel his own shame, burning, but he couldn't help it. It was hard enough to stay in his own skin when Simpson was near. Hard enough, on a day when the world didn't swim, and press, and the light didn't hurt his eyes.
Pellew had stopped speaking. Now Simpson was speaking. He was using that crawling deferential tone that he used with the great. He stopped mid-sentence, to cough, then went on, bravely. Such a man should be on the stage, Archie thought. Though he would have been knifed in an alley long ago, if he tried his ugly tricks round Drury lane. Archie smiled a little at the thought.
Oh, his mind was wandering. He must attend. He had to protect Horatio. Had to keep Simpson away from him. He focused on the feeling of Horatio's leg. It was warm against his own. He was cold now, so cold. He had to get to the pills. Quickly now, and there would still be time.
There. Simpson was done quacking, and Pellew was gabbling something back at him. Everyone was rising. Everyone knew what to do. Archie too. He had to take his pills. Then things would make more sense. Then he would stay by Horatio.
He rattled down to berthing, quickly as he could. On his knees before his sea-chest, everything there was all ahoo. Oh God – where were they?
“Looking for these, Kennedy?”
He looked up. On his knees-- No. He would never kneel before Jack Simpson again. Archie stumbled to his feet.
“What are they for? Did you catch the pox? Did you catch arse pox from your fuck buddy Hornblower?”
“Give them back.” Jack affected not to hear.
“Oh, no..I see here.” He said. “For prevention of epilepsy... Epilepsy. That's fits, isn't it Kennedy?”
“Give them back.” Archie felt so weak. His voice sounded weak.
“I wouldn't want you to loose these Archie--” Simpson's voice was smooth with hate. “I think I'll just... hold them for you.”
“Mr Simpson-- what are you doing here?” That was Horatio. Keep them apart.
“Just talking over old days.” Simpson replied.
“These are new days, Jack.” Archie could hear the menace in Horatio now. Horatio's arm, around Archie.
“Come Archie,” he said, “Time we were away.”