Title When we wake
Word Count 1697
Disclaimer Not mine
When we Wake
Horatio felt the gentle warmth remove. Dawn was rising, gray and pink, against the white window frame.
Horatio felt the nuzzle of a kiss down his neck, he sighed, pressing close. Comfort rose to something else, with the gentle grip of teeth at the hairline. He closed his eyes, shivering.
He felt, in a muzzy way Archie drawing the covers over him. He heard the quiet footsteps cross the room. Archie was not going to let fever, stop him, and he would concede nothing to the ruin and pain of his feet. Horatio heard the quiet homely sound of him feeding the little fire up. He was still too thin, but he was getting stronger. Always so strong, Archie.
Horatio felt a silly sleepy smile, tugging up the corners of his mouth. He turned, curled in comfort, to watch the day touch Archie. Archie sat in the little cane chair, his thin body arched forward, elbows on knees. The firelight caught the sharp high swipe of a cheekbone, pooled dark in the pool of his eye. The dear mouth was clenched tight, holding back the softness Horatio knew so well. He was staring into the little fire, seeing a past Horatio could not reach to heal.
“Love you so much,.” Horatio felt, in his sleepy way, that Archie felt it, although the little whisper didn't cross the room.
The room was bright and warm when he woke the second time. The little bed sagged. Horatio felt the soft huff of breath against his cheek. Archie's voice was quiet as he said “Come here, to me.” He rolled willing, and found himself cradled in Archie's arms.
Fingers trickled down his spine, learning, as if for the first time each knob of his backbone. Horatio arched more closely in delight, and found himself shaken with Archie's chuckle.
“You seem to be feeling a little better,” Horatio said. He was trailing fingers over the jut of clavicle-- still too sharp. He rested his cheek against it. Archie smelled so good.
“I am feeling better.” Archie said. “you make me feel much, much better.” His voice grew gruff and breathless as he spoke, and the caressing hand came down over the curve, to rest against Horatio's thigh.
Archie's heart was strong, under his ear, steady, lovely, a piece of music even Horatio could understand. He sighed. He could hear, from the landing, the chime of the clock. He counted 10 and rose on his elbows to squint down in horror.
“Its so late. How did it get so late? I slept through breakfast. I'm sorry Archie. I have to visit Hunter and the others. And –stop that just a moment, I can't think-- I am to dine with the Don.”
“That sounds...entertaining.” Archie said. His eyes slid away from Horatio's and his voice grew airy and casual. “I have not seen the man, since he had me flogged and thrown in a pit.”
“It's not my choice, Archie. I would rather --”
Archie sighed. “I know. I know that. Of course. Its not your fault. Go, ahead. I'll be here. Think I'll take a nap.”
Horatio gave a nod. He shrugged into his clothes, twitched them into place, and hurried from the room. He could feel his brows drawn down, his shoulders tensed. All the lovely warm ease of the morning had burned away like fog. Command at sea was simple compared to this.
Hunter was in his usual place, at the dusty trestle table, a half eaten heel of rough bread sat untouched before him. He was getting thinner too. Horatio longed to sit down with Hunter, and convince him with logic. He wanted Hunter to trust him. He had never wronged the man, that he knew of, but somehow, things had gone wrong between them. The Don encouraged the suspicion of course. Division between them was in his interest. Horatio understood why, but it made things no easier to bear.
Horatio stopped a moment to speak with Matthews and Styles. They met his eyes at least. “We're doing fine, Sir.” Matthews said. “Don't you worry about us. You let us know what you need, and we'll do it.” The sound of Matthew's voice was so familiar, so solid, that Horatio found himself blinking back tears.
“That's right, Sir.” Styles added. “Don't you worry.”
Horatio clapped them on the back, and walked on.
“Enjoy your lunch, Sir.” Hunter called out. “Bring us some scraps, maybe some fruit?” The snickers of the men sitting near Hunter had an ugly echo. Horatio's division was loosing trust in him. He didn't seem able to stop it.
The dining room was pleasant. It was dim and cool. It smelled of clean wood, and books, and then of food. Cool soup was followed by chicken. Horatio, found himself eating hungrily. The Duchess sat opposite him. The third dinner guest was a French officer. Horatio found him odious.
Really, none of it made any sense. The Indy made sense, Matthews made sense, even the strange pulling between himself and Hunter made a kind of sense, though he did not like it. But the tiny chair, and the linen napkin, and the delicious soup, these were and always had been alien.
The meal concluded with strong coffee. After so long without, it made Horatio's neck prickle with sweat.
The Don was sitting at the head of the table, his smile was close mouthed, his arms were folded. The Frenchman had spent most of the meal needling Horatio, he had said that Horatio was a fool, a puppy, that his men lacked faith in him, that he was too young to be command of anything. Horatio had done his best to ignore the remarks. They felt so true.
Finally the meal came to end. The French officer stood to escort the Duchess from the room. He said something, to her quietly, that Horatio only caught half of. He heard “...who you really are.” It should have meant nothing to him, he almost missed it, but he happened to be looking up, and he saw her look of stricken fear.
Made no sense. Horatio set the little glimpse aside, to think of later, along with the growing heap of other senseless things.
Climbing the little winding stair, he was aware of the tiredness in his legs. He had secured a little bundle of supplies, he had things for the men of the division, and for Archie. That, and a promise of a more varied diet. In this at least he felt he had done well. No fruit for Hunter however, he thought with a twitch of a smile.
He opened the little door quietly. His eyes sought Archie. They always did, in every room, in every space they had ever shared, Horatio's eyes went to Archie first. Eyes could caress, it seemed. Eyes could touch with tender awe. Horatio had learned this that first day on Justinian. He had learned it anew since then, learned it, joyously, over and over. How strange, and how kind of the creator to allow eyes to give and receive pleasure.
Today Archie was nothing but a lump of shoulder and a tumble of hair. He was turned away, asleep. His breath was soft and even, his body limp and still. Horatio smiled. He poked up the little fire. This little room was chill, always. Spain in summer ought to be warmer.
No need to wake him. His sleep was precious and healing. He needed all of it. Horatio would wait. He settled in the little chair, he wished he had a book.
Horatio allowed his eyes to shut. The fire was warm against his legs, and Horatio floated in a shallow sea of drowsiness. Archie was the ill one. It made no sense that Horatio was so tired.
The noise, when it came, crashed like ice-water. It always did. He was never ready. He was across the room within a gasp. “Oh Archie, please no...”
But it was as always. Archie's eyes rolled up, his body was wracked by helpless shuddering. Archie blue in the lips, barely breathing. A real fit this time, not a nightmare. There was nothing to do but try to cushion him, and to wait it out. He had done this before. He knew how little help he could offer. Archie was fearsome strong at such times. His mouth was bleeding now. Horatio rolled him, not easily, so he would not choke on his own blood.
“I'm sorry, Archie....Almost over now.” Nothing useful he could say. Archie's pride had grown, from childhood, in the shadow of this monstrous thing.
Finally the rigid postures and shaking subsided. It had been five minutes. It seemed, as always, forever. Archie drew a real breath. His eyes were lucid, but only half open.
“Goddamn it.” He said with feeling and perfect diction. He spat some blood into his hand. “I chipped a tooth.”
“Its funny you know, Horatio. I had not been troubled with them until ---”
“Until I came.”
“I didn't mean it that way.”
“I know.” Horatio sighed.
“I'm so tired Horatio.” And that was all the weakness Archie would admit. But he let Horatio push his hair back, kiss his brow, and the corner of his bruised and bitten lip.
“Sleep with me a while.” And he moved to give Horatio the sunlight dusted edge of the narrow bed.
Horatio rolled to him again, trying to be gentle against the body that he knew was hurting now, although Archie would not say it.
They fit together so well. It was so easy now to slide arms and legs for comfort, to tangle into a knot that suited them both.
“I have some things to show you, when we wake.” Horatio said.
“Really? Do you? To show me?” Archie's hand descended in a slow caress. “I'd like that—when we wake.”