Word Count 658
El Ferrol prison, upstairs
The sound woke him. He knew it for the cold bottom of the black bucket of the night. The wind was roaring. For the first time in a long time Archie thought of ships.
Somewhere out beyond the white line of surf, the Indy rode, snug and buoyant. There would be men at the pumps this night, but working easy, and only to keep the damp from getting ahead of them. Archie remembered the pump handle rasping his palm, and he could almost feel now the ache that grew in the shoulders and back, where his shirt stuck in sweat and pulled. Midshipmen did their turn at such work. It was how one learned. And older men, of any rank, liked to see the young at work. There was that underneath it all somehow.
Archie had worked, and mostly not minded that. He had minded--other things. He had been a young gentleman then. He was not sure what he was now. He had last been a gentleman the night that he shivered in the bottom of an forgotten jolly. He did not, no. He did not remember that. Young seemed done with as well. He was 21.
He could hear the surf beating the rocks out beyond the wall of the prison. He imagined the men in the guard house, shivering and bored. Hours creep on watch, when one has nobody to beat for attempted escape. He bared his teeth in something like a smile. He hoped they were freezing.
Horatio had drawn away in sleep. Even in the dark Archie could see the pale blur of Horatio’s face, and the way he had curled with his hands tucked under his chin. Archie pulled the blanket up, careful not to wake him. Sitting up still made Archie’s head swim. He had to stop for a moment,and gasp. His arms prickled with the chill, and underneath was slick with sweat. He sat there, head down, gripping the bed’s edge.He curled his toes against the floor. He was afraid to move. How foolish it would be to faint now and go head first onto the floor. It would break his nose again, and it would disturb Horatio, and lead to all kinds of nonsense. It was a near thing though. Sparks flamed under his eyelids— the same kind that came with a blow to the head, and with the same feeling of dizzy weakness. Should not come from just sitting up. That was frightening. He had not mentioned it to Horatio.
When it was safe he reached for the chamber pot, used it. Horatio had some notion that drinking water and pissing it back out was good for fevers. It was easier not to argue. There had been a physician, a thin sallow Spaniard who had come while Archie floated somewhere hot and hurting. The Don, it seemed, did not want Archie to actually die when anyone was there to see it. So now there was a bottle of something bitter. It lurked on the side-table and Horatio dispensed it with commendable regularity every four hours. It tasted horrid. Archie had asked today if he could not be let blood instead. But Horatio had scowled and shook his head. He had followed the medicine with a kiss though, so that was all right.
“Archie?” Horatio’s voice was hoarse with sleep, he was still mostly under, but he moved closer, curling around Archie to warm him. And it was warmer, the drowsy heat the nest of bedding. He allowed Horatio to draw him back and down, to fuss the blankets up over the both of them.
“Love you, Archie,” Horatio’s arm tightened, and he muttered something more, but his mouth was pressed to Archie’s spine, and the words were lost. But his hand tightened around Archie’s cold one, sleepy warm, and smooth with callous. So that was all right too.