Title: Feels Like Home
Word Count 3,100
Rating R for smut
Feels Like Home
The Indy smelled the same. The smell struck his face as he saluted the quarterdeck. It nearly made his knees buckle. It was tar, and polish, and powder, and food and coffee, and the collective sweat of tired men washing with soap that did not foam in salt water. It was the universal smell of His Majesties Navy. And it was lost love, and respect and fear, and blue and white and gold, and pain and lust, and shouting weeping singing, and the beating wings of the silence that comes in the hollow after the cannons fire.
“If Mr Hornblower has given his word that holds good for me.” He had been watching the old man’s face as he said it, and Pellew had smiled just a little. It was his most minimal smile, not much more than a flickering tuck at the corner of his mouth, but Archie had felt it even so.
As it turned out they were not returned to El Ferrol that night, or the next. The Indy had needed to stand in, and supplies had to be sent to go with them this time, and Mr Bracegirdle too, easy in the jolly boat over a sea smooth as glass. A formal Bracegirdle this, resplendent and gleaming, with papers in hand for the Don.
In the meantime there were questions. Archie and Horatio were called into the great cabin separately. Horatio went first. Archie had no notion of what was said to him of course, but Horatio came out quite soon. He gave a smile with his wide dear mouth, and that smile was just for Archie, and something unwound just a little.
“Mr Kennedy, come.” Archie went.
They were all three there, Bracey, Bowlsie, and the Old Man. They said he might sit. He did, and gratefully, but the chair was hard under his bones. His legs ached and he could not seem to put them comfortably anymore. He was sweating. He had known they would need to question him, he had just hoped it would not be so soon.
His last interrogation had been in Biche. It had been comprehensive. The beating had missed no popular landmarks or fashionable spots along the way. It had gone on until he was curled up and vomiting, and it had finished with the traditional bucket of ice water. They had had questions, he had given answers of some sort; pushed the words out through his swollen and bloody mouth. His answers, it transpired had not mattered. They had said then that he would be shot the following morning. He had felt nothing at that time but a dull hope that they meant it. But it had been another lie.
This time he felt more. He could not help it. Horatio had come, and he had made everything real again. Archie had tried to resist that at first too. He had tried to cover his face, to turn away. But Horatio had made the light come in. He had made Archie real again. Making Archie real was what Horatio did, always. Real was very small, and very visible. Archie could not get far away inside the way he had used to do. He had lost that too. He shivered as he sat. There was so much to do all over again, and he was so tired.
“Wine, Mr Kennedy?”
The glass was sharply faceted, catching the light from the great port windows. Easier to look at it, so Archie did that. It came warm from the Captain’s hand to his own, and the wine was sweet and complex. He took just a little at a time, to make it last.
He observed the wine glass carefully, turning it in his hand.
“Ha’hm.” This was Pellew, and he had to look up.
“Mister Hornblower tells me that you never gave your parole. That you came to Spain under— under other circumstances. Are you are certain you mean to leave us again? You need not do so. No one would require it of you.”
Pellew’s eyes were shrewder than Archie liked.
“No sir. I never gave parole. I was never asked to do so. But I wish to return with H— with Mr Hornblower. If I may be permitted to do so.”
“Very well Mr Kennedy, you may certainly go if you wish. It will give us time to add you back onto the muster sheet.”
“You have missed some time— but you can continue from where you broke off. You may need to pay extra attention to your studies. I am sure that Mr Hornblower will be willing to— to extend himself to help you.”
Something about that statement seemed to startle Mr Bracegirdle. He snorted into his wine glass, and had to stop and cough. His blue eyes watered. Mr Bowles thumped him on the back.
Archie swallowed carefully himself. He made himself ask, he had to be sure. For all Horatio’s talk about standing on the deck and feeling the wind, Archie had to be quite sure.
“Sir? You-- that is-- the Indy still wants me?” His voice felt small and thin. He watched the wine glass. It was empty now.
“Mr Kennedy. Think, Sir. We are not going to leave a division of men and two promising officers to sit around Spain and do nothing. So rest and recover, but do not become lazy. You are going there only to allow Mr Hornblower to keep his word. A short time, while we effect the details of your honorable release. That is all. Then back here and to work.”
“We are very pleased to have you back safe. I have written to your parents. Perhaps while you are in Spain you will do the same. Parents worry. That will be all, Mr Kennedy.”
The door shut behind him, and he rested a moment against it. Horatio had gone. The passageway was dim and empty. Archie pulled a big breath in and went forward.
It was make and mend day. That is why it seemed so crowded. The air was cool, and the sun was warm, and the deck was crowded with men working at an easy pace. Archie picked his way across, careful not to step on anyone. Most of the faces were the same.
“Mr Kennedy, Sir—”
“Hopkins, good to see you.”
And it was, this was a wide brown face that Archie knew well.
Hopkins had made the usual the knuckle salute, but seemed to feel something more was needed. His hands reached out, and Archie took them. They were cracked and and dry, like goats hoofs.
“Matthews told us you was not dead after all. And I wanted to say we are so glad of it.”
“Well I’m glad of it too Hopkins.”
“Still working our number 6 gun?” Archie asked.
“Aye, big Hannah, same as ever, the bitch. We are all still the same except old John Bunter died.”
“The caulkers mate? With the runny eye?”
“Aye. That’s the one. But his nephew came on, and he is our sponger now. His name is Bunter too. Mervyn Bunter.”
The man’s face wrinkled.
“Matthews said you was all going back to Spain again with Mr Hornblower.”
“Yes, that is right. For a little while at least.”
“I hope not too long Sir, if you don’t mind me saying.”
“No, I don’t mind you saying. Not at all. I hope not too long as well.”
Hopkins was missing an upper eye tooth. It gave his smile a crooked appeal and Archie felt his own face smiling in return. The man knuckled again, and stepped back and away.
“Almost feels like home.” He flopped himself onto the bunk by the door, claiming it. Horatio clambered into the other one and gave him a nervous smile.
“It feels strange.”
“Strange Horatio? To be returning to the tender mercies of a man who locked each of us in a pit underground? Or is it returning here not knowing when we will be actually free again? Strange?”
Now the smile was sad.
“I suppose that must be it,” Horatio said.
“Well the accommodations are private at least,” Archie said, touching his hand to the stone of the wall. “More so than on the Indy.”
“Yes. There is that.”
In fact Archie could hear dim sounds of the men in the courtyard. Some of the younger lads of Horatio’s division were out there in the dust and the sun. They had procured a ball from somewhere and were kicking it around. But this was late afternoon. It was, in Spain, time to rest. The shadows were lengthening, and in this room it was cool and dim.
“Are you very tired Archie? You could sleep.” Horatio’s hands were twisting together in an old gesture that Archie knew well. His brow was furrowed too. Archie’s fever and cough were gone, and the frightening listless ache was coming less and less. For the last two weeks he had been eating everything in sight. He had been gaining weight back too. He was getting better.
But Horatio worried. And this was Archie’s doing and so he needed to undo it too. And that was just fine.
“No Horatio,” Archie pitched his voice low but carrying. “I do not want to sleep. What I want is this:”
And he detailed an itemized list. It included at least four verbs. It included words he had not said in years. He was rather proud of it actually.
"Oh.” Horatio was breathing rapidly and his hands were no longer clasped together but open on his knees. His ears and cheeks were pink, and Archie felt a rush of sheer fondness. After all this time he could still make Horatio blush.
“Shall I—” Archie said.
“You should come over here, and say that again. Just exactly as before. With— with words.”
The mattress sagged as Archie climbed onto it, rolling them together. He collided with Horatio’s chest, and that was fine. Horatio’s arms came around him tight, Horatio’s warm breath whuffled his hair, and he could hear already how Horatio’s voice was lowered to a choppy growl. “Say it all again.”
And so Archie said it again, face to face, lip to lip. He said it all again and he let Horatio feel the words, the formation and the mouth, and the breath of them. When he was done he pushed Horatio gently back against the blankets. It had been three weeks since Horatio found him. In that time they had done little but kissing, and not nearly enough of that. Once or twice Horatio had used his hand to ease Archie a little. As far as Archie knew he had not done the same for himself.
Now Horatio moved under him, a tightened bow as Archie worked loose the cravat, then the jacket and waistcoat. The clothing was warm from Horatio’s skin, and it was soft and clean. Clean clothing still felt like a wonder to Archie. He thought maybe now that it always would. But there were better wonders. It went over the side in no time, and Archie’s own with them. Archie sat up and back, straddling Horatio’s thighs. he let himself look long at the slim pale shape, the heave of Horatio’s excited breath, and the great dark eyes looking up, trusting Archie, after all this time still trusting him.
They were down to shirts and breeches now. Now was the time to go slowly, to anticipate and to remember. This shirt was worn and thin. Horatio had not brought his best to the prison, of course not. In truth Archie liked Horatio’s old shirts the best. They showed the shapes of him, draping softly, patched and mended and that much closer to the heat of skin. Archie leaned down for one soft kiss, letting his own mouth coax Horatio’s mouth to open. It was not easy to force himself to stop, and to sit back up, but he did so. Horatio made a small sound of protest, not a word really at all.
His hands grasped Archie’s hips, trying to press Archie close. “Been so long.” Horatio whispered. His head rolled on the pillow, and his hair had come loose. Archie reached to push it back, to feel the spring of the curls. Horatio turned his face to press a kiss into Archie’s palm.
Looking directly down, Archie could see the long shape of Horatio’s cock, strained and confined by the breeches. It was a little forward of where Archie sat, and he did not touch it. Not yet. The shirt next. He pulled it loose and free, and watched as the shirttails rasped a departing caress.Horatio did not make a sound, but he bit his lip hard. Archie pushed the shirt up and watched Horatio struggle out of it, and it too fluttered to the warm stone of the floor.
“Yours too.” Horatio was breathless, and Archie could see where the great pulse raced under his jaw. Archie put gentle fingers there. With his other hand he wrenched his own shirt up and away. And it rasped him the same in passing, and he felt himself buck forward just a little bit.
And Horatio felt that and he smiled and reached to touch. His hand cupped over where Archie was rigid and aching. He squeezed gently and began on Archie’s buttons there. And Archie was watching that through eyes that wanted to close to feel it better, wanted to stay wide to watch. The buttons gave way and Horatio was pushing at the fabric, back and down.
He laid his open hand against the flat skin of Archie’s abdomen, a shivering place, as vulnerable and private as below.
“Come and lie beside me Archie, close to me, please?”
And asking was enough. Archie rolled himself sideways, his back to the wall and his face and hands already reaching out.
And it was Horatio pushing the last of Archie’s clothing down and away, and Archie kicking it free.
And now skin sliding warm against his own, between Archie and the rest of the world. The weakening ache closing Archie’s throat, huge and painful. He swallowed hard to fight it, and it was strange and new. His eyes were wet, and he pushed his face against Horatio’s shoulder. And the words Horatio said were small nonsense sounds, and his touch was slow and light.
“There you are now, there. Waited so long—"
Horatio’s eyes were huge and dark, and his hair was stuck to the flush of his cheek and the corner of his mouth, and it was soft soft where Archie pushed it back to kiss him. He could feel the kick of Horatio’s heart, against his own chest. He reached down to stroke and his hand remembered the shape and the skin like hot silk. Archie moved his hand, once and twice. That was all it took. Horatio thrust into the curl of Archie’s hand, and he made a high tight sound as the spill came.
“Oh no. Oh no, no.”
“Its all right,” Archie said. “We have time.”
“Oh.” Horatio shook his head. He was limp, breathless and stunned.
“Honeybee. Its fine.”
Horatio nodded, his face still pressed close. He took a deep breath.
“Your turn for a little bit then,” Horatio said. His mouth soft at Archie’s neck, at the angle of jaw. A trail of kisses then, over the curve of shoulder.
“Your arm,” Horatio said. And it knocked the breath from Archie because he knew what was coming. He was desperately hard, and it was so good when Horatio did this, and he was half mad with need already, and the kisses lingered down the outside of his arm, and that was not the way, and Horatio knew, and Archie knew he knew.
Horatio smiled with that dear wide mouth, and his eyes were dark, and his face was flushed, and he brought his mouth down on the inside, on the soft inward of Archie’s elbow. Just a graze at first, and then small kisses like little promises. He held Archie’s wrist, pinning the arm still, slightly bent. His other hand moved down, slowly. From far away Archie heard himself gasping, pleading. The hand did not go to Archie’s cock, as he had hoped, but under to lift the aching clench of his balls. He clenched his teeth, whined through them.
“In me Archie.” Horatio was gruff, his voice choppy and breathless.
“Oh yes— do you have—”
One good stroke with the oil then, unbearably good, unbearably not enough. Archie was dripping slick already. Horatio rolled above him, pinning the arm high. He held it there, as he sank down and back, taking Archie in. Archie, shaking held himself still as he could. The heat was tight around him, Horatio gasping.
“Are you all right? Is it—”
“No, it— it burns a little. Been so long. Oh Archie I missed you so much.”
He leaned forward to kiss, and he was hard again, and it was pressed between them. They were rocking together now, slowly, and then faster. Archie opened his mouth to pant, to gasp, and Horatio slid his fingers into it.
Better and better, the aching rocking. Horatio’s fingers on his lips, his tongue, the heavy strike of Horatio’s cock against his belly, and the slippery stroking best of all best. Then Horatio was leaning down and forward, and the angle changed.
“Your arm.” He said it so that Archie would know what was coming. He gave one tender soft kiss, not enough. Then he bit down, a hard sucking bite. Archie heard himself shout as the world exploded.
It was sometime later when the world had stopped reeling around him that he thought to ask. “Do you think they heard us in the courtyard?”
“No. I don’t think so. But it doesn’t matter Archie. I think they know. And— what? Why are you laughing?”
“’Extend himself.’ Oh dear lord Horatio. I think you may be right."