Title Well Spent
Rating R (for smutty stuff)
Word Count 1686
The gleam from the harbor was gold and blue, splintering light from the water, and pitching into the air where it went to heat and rainbows. The sun was warm, but the air was damp enough to lay the dust of the road, nothing impeded the sunlight. It was bright enough to make a young man blink.
The young men did in fact blink, but they were used to the glare of the sun and the sea, their pupils shrank rapidly, after that they merely squinted. Squinting did not trouble them, their eyes were young and their vision keen. They were composed of gold and blue themselves. There were four of them. They shone as they moved, and caught the eye. They were unaware of this. They walked, not abreast exactly, but in a clump formation. Their four faces were tan. They were ready to be happy from this dawn all the way to the next one. Their speech was rapid. Only their hands were still. Eight hands, with forty fingers gently bent, lay clasped behind the blue wool on four backs.
“Have you been to Mahon often before, Mr Bush?” this was Cleveland, speaking from behind a trickle of pipe smoke.
“Aye,” William Bush said. “But not in recent years. Not-- not on Renown.” There was a slight hesitation to his words here. He swallowed, after he spoke.
Archie Kennedy, walking beside him, gave him a swift look, and Archie's mouth tightened slightly. William Bush was unaware of that.
“Here it is,” Archie nodded toward the building on the left side of the street. “Looks just the same. The food is good, and the beds are soft. I was here in November, and I had the best sleep..” He smiled, but carefully, not at Horatio
An hour later found them at table. The table held nothing but wine glasses and plates festooned with a few crumbs. They had reveled in food. All four of them had been taught young to eat what what was put before them. They all knew to the marrow of their young bones, that such things could be snatched away. Today there had been time to drink and laugh, as well as eat. There had been time to stretch their legs out under the table and lean their elbows on it. Cleveland had smoked his pipe. Archie had smoked a cigar. Horatio had wrinkled his long nose, and made a sound like an offended horse. Bush had laughed until he nearly spat his wine onto the table.
The lamps had been lit when they turned for bed. Archie and Horatio had the room at the top of the small stairs.
Outside the room, day had at last paled into a night that smelled of flowers. Insects knocked stupidly at the glass drawn by the candlelight. Horatio could see his own dark reflection, wobbled slightly by the imperfections of the glass makers art. He was aware of his heart as he waited. He was not thinking about sleep.
Archie was saying something to Cleveland, laughing at a laugh returned, shutting the door. Horatio heard Cleveland's steps as he went on, to the room down the hall. Face averted, Horatio waited. He heard the homely rattle of the lock shooting home, only then did he turn. Bush and Cleveland would share the room at the end of the hall. They would share a bed, and sleep back to back, with snoring frugality. Horatio would share his bed with Archie, as he shared his soul and body, and his future, on the Indy and everywhere else.
Archie crossed the room, working free his jacket buttons with one hand. With the other he reached out to draw Horatio close. Horatio's eyes were deep and black in the dim light, he was composed of simplified shadows and bits of white, white shirt, white skin, hair an inky shadow. The heat of him was more real than sight, the sigh of him most real of all, as he closed the distance with a step.
They did not linger in undressing-- not usually. Time dawdling over such things cut into sleep, if nothing else. Each had had times, even on the Indy, where sleep took them down, in oilskins, in boots. Archie had slept on deck, exhausted, on scores of dirty nights, when the fires were out, and the sails taken in, when they ran before a wind that howled for their deaths as it raced after them. He had his own fears of dying at sea. He pushed those down into some locker of the soul, where he tried not to look. He knew the others had the same. One did not speak of it.
So it only made sense to give way totally to joy.
Joy. Archie could feel Horatio's warm breath against his hair, his brow. Horatio's sensitive mouth moved against his skin. Horatio's arms were around him, his own hands between them still, working shirt buttons. Archie's shirt hung loose, past his hips. Horatio was hauling it up, as one trices a bunt, gathering the linen in his hand, unwilling to release his embrace. At last he reached the thin hot skin of Archie's back. Horatio's fingers traced the dip of spine, a road between the hills of muscle. There were little lanes of scar there too, all over. They were faded and white, now, finally. Horatio had said so. .Some were numb, some were still places of flinching. They did not matter. Not tonight.
Horatio was pressed against him tight. Both of them were hard now, and it felt so good to stand this way, to rock and rub just a little, as the warm hands lifted off his shirt. Now the mouth on his, slow and soft, and Horatio's hand on his neck. Archie pushed into the kiss. They were both breathless when it broke.
“Bed,” Horatio gasped.
They fell back onto it and struggled out of the rest of their clothing. The bed was old and loose roped, it sagged in the middle, it rolled them together. And that was very good.
Horatio was above him now, smooth strong heat. Horatio's hair had come loose, it draped around them, shielding Archie from the meager candlelight. Archie tugged the nearest curl straight, just to watch it coil up again. He huffed a small laugh. Horatio smiled down at him, kissed his brow.
“Want everything tonight.” Horatio's voice was gruff and breathless. “Everything.” He pushed down as he spoke, and Archie squirmed against him.
“Did you bring the--”
“Here.” Horatio pressed little jar into his hand.
There was no need to hurry, but hurry was a habit. Archie forced himself to slow. He stroked his hand along the skin of Horatio's side. Any other time, Horatio was ticklish here, but tonight they were beyond that. This skin was soft under his hand, it moved with Horatio's breath, deep and rapid. Ribcage, flank, hip. Horatio had scars of his own, though not as many. High up on his side was the white divot where Simpson had shot him. Archie pushed the thought away, it came to him often enough when he was alone. He would not give it a place here now.
He uncorked the little jar, and breathed in the smell of the salve. It was waxy and herbal, a complicated smell, and it was the smell of urge and memory and pleasure. Had he not been achingly hard already, the smell of the nard would have done it. It worked that way on Horatio too. It was a good thing, Archie had sometimes reflected, that spikenard was not essential gear for a fighting ship.
Lucky that it was not essential to anyone but the two of them. He had the stuff in his hand now and he gave it a moment to warm. Horatio was over him, shivering like a wet dog, Archie could hear little half words, jagged with breath.
“Please Archie the-- I need you to-- can't wait.”
No need to wait, after all. He reached down and back, to apply it. Horatio was small and hot here, he gasped and held utterly still as Archie pushed his fingers in.
The moment broke, they were breathing again, and Horatio had the little jar, and his greased hand closed around the solid ache of Archie. Archie bucked forward into the rasp of it, the tight slide of it. Horatio's hand went just once, all down and all back up and then away.
“Everything.” He whispered. Archie bit his lip hard, and shuddered.
And now Horatio was sliding down over him, and he pushing up, and it was going to be fast, and he knew he could not slow it. Horatio's knees against his sides, gripping him, and Archie watched through slitted eyes, but Horatio moved down against him, and held him tight, and the rubbing was more, and the good of it was so much. His eyes closed, he pressed his face to Horatio's neck, and here was the taste of Horatio's skin, and the dark curls fell and covered him.
“So close now, Archie.”
Horatio's voice was a gasp, and he faltered and shuddered with sudden blooming heat. And , in the next heartbeat it came for Archie, and he heard his voice, soft and wordless, muffled against Horatio, and lost forever in the dark air of the little room.
Archie rolled free but not far. He would get up and wash in a moment, say something in a moment. The room was warm and quiet. In a moment. There was time, would be time. But Horatio was pushing the hair back from Archie's hot face, gently unsticking it where it clung to his cheeks and mouth. And Archie's eyes were so heavy, and closing.
He would get up very soon. Dimly, he heard Horatio laugh, and the bed shift as he leaned across and pinched the candle out.