Title: Face to face
Rating Somewhat past G
Word Count 1208
Disclaimers Not mine
Face to Face
Archie curled onto his side, watching Horatio with heavy eyes that were still too bright with fever. He was cooler, sure, but his pallor was alarming. Dawn was streaking the window, the shadows lengthened in the little room, as Horatio blew the candle out.
“Sleep, Archie.” He said. “I'll be right here.”
“Will you – will you take my hand again, will you hold it as you used to do? Its only that I'm afraid that I'll wake and find you gone.”
“Of course, Archie.” Horatio pulled the cane seated chair a little closer. He pushed Archie's lank hair back. He felt the need to touch Archie too. He brought the palm to his mouth again, kissed it and folded it shut.
“Can I still do this?”
“Oh yes.” Archie sounded breathless. Horatio felt breathless too.
“I wasn't sure – I wasn't sure you still felt --”
“I love you Archie.”
“I thought everyone had forgotten me.”
“No! Nobody forgot you, not for an instant. Nobody has. Missed you so much. Archie...”
They dozed and woke, on choppy seas of discomfort. The sun was climbing when Horatio surfaced, to find Archie watching him.
“How do you feel?”
“That's good.” Horatio sat up with sudden energy. “Let me go down, and I'll see what the innkeeper has in store.” Horatio could not stop smiling. “I'll be back soon. You just – stay here.”
“I'll be here.” Archie's mouth curved up. The smile was faint, and not very Archie-like, but it was there.
Down the stairs it was colder. The early sun had not reached so low yet to do its work. Hunter was colder too, pacing the courtyard like a mangy lion.
“We have to get out of here Sir.” He said. “We must escape.”
“Yes, Hunter. We will. I'll get us out of here, but it takes planning. And we must get Mr. Kennedy healthy first.”
Hunter grimaced. “Ah, yes,” he said, “Your Mr. Kennedy. How is he today.”
“Somewhat better.” Horatio said shortly. He tried to be fair to Hunter, but the man was so easy to dislike.
“We cannot let him hold us back.” Hunter said
“Hunter! We've been here one day. We will escape, yes, but we will do it when and how I say. And we are all going when we go. That includes Mr Kennedy.”
Hunter growled, deep in his throat, and turned away, to pace the dusty courtyard. It was not an insolence that Horatio could call him on, exactly. But it made Hunter no easier to take.
Up the stairs again. The bundle he carried was heavy and awkward. He opened the door with his knee. The fire had died. Archie was turned away, toward the wall, his back curved, thin and vulnerable.
Horatio set the food on the little table. He had brought his own for Archie too. He fed the fire up, until it was robust and hot, and put the water before it to warm. He dragged the little chair over to the warm hearth, and set it up. He had thought just how they could manage most easily.
He was crossing the room quietly, when the gasping whimpers began. Horatio's heart kicked. He was not fast enough. Archie surged awake, sweating, wide eyed.
“No – no – Simpson.”
“Archie – shh. Shhh. ” Horatio gathered him in. Archie felt so small, so ill, shuddering there in his his arms.
“I should have told you, right off.” He said. “Simpson is dead, Archie. He's dead. He'll never hurt you again.”
Archie nodded tiredly, but Horatio felt he was not really listening.
“Would you like to eat?” Horatio settled him back against the pillows, limp and damp.
Horatio handed Archie the bowl and spoon, but Archie made no move to take them up. He sat looking mutely down at the oatmeal, as if he had never seen such a thing before.
“Here, Archie. I'll help you.” Horatio took up the bowl, and poked the spoon toward Archie. It felt strange, and somehow disrespectful to feed him this way, as if he were a baby, but after all, there could be no disrespect between them.
Archie opened his mouth, automatically, for the spoon. He took the food neatly enough, and shut his mouth. He looked at Horatio in astonishment, his eyes wide and blue. His eyes glistened, bright with unspilled tears.
“Oh God, Horatio, it tastes so good. Its warm!”
“Of course its warm, silly. It was hot when I came up the stairs.”
Archie ate hungrily after that, until the bowl was empty.
“Nothing ever, ever tasted so good.” He said.
“You can have mine too, if you feel up to it.”
“I don't want to take your food, Horatio.” The protest was automatic, a token only. Archie was easy to convince. By the time the plate was put aside, he had a little color in his face, at least.
“Do you want a rest? Or a bath first?”
“How can we do a bath?”
“I have a plan, .” Horatio said. He felt rather proud of his plan, actually
“I was thinking you could sit on the chair by the fire, and we could sort of – clean you up.”
It was not difficult, in the end. Holding Horatio's arm, Archie was able to lurch across the room. The water was hot now, and the soap was soft and sweet. Kneeling before Archie, before the fire, Horatio started at the top. He cleaned Archie's face first, careful, with the heat and the soap.
“Are you warm enough, Archie?”
Down over his neck, the bones, of his shoulders, Horatio worked the cloth gently, Archie moved toward the heat, biting his lip. Horatio dipped the cloth often, to keep it hot and soft. He lifted Archie's arms, and washed under them, careful, careful, along his ticklish sides.
“I missed you so much Archie. I was so lonely without you.”
“Oh God, me too.”
Horatio, kneeling on the floor, felt happiness rising up in his chest and throat. There would be time to talk, there would be time to get Archie well again, and get them all safely free. Time for everything, time for this. He worked the cloth down over Archie's belly, the hair there was dark and crisp, in the dim of the room, but tawny in the light of the sun. Horatio had seen it both ways, knew it as well as his own. Archie's cock was not hard, but slightly lengthened, and Archie's breath was quick.
“Do you remember what you said, the first day at my father's house?” Horatio asked.
“I think so, yes.” Archie's eyes were huge, luminous.
“You said I could kiss you whenever I wanted.”
“Can I --”
Horatio put the cloth down.