Title: It had to be said
Rating technical G
Word Count 1957
Spoilers – shoulders of giants more like
Disclaimer Even less mine than usual
This story owes a lot to 'Hearts of Oak.' I cannot find that author to ask or thank. I can only hope she does not mind.
I also want to frontload an apology. I can't tell if this piece worked or not. I can only hope so. If it seems unrealistic, or like a piece of self-indulgent weepy crap, I can only hope you will disregard it. Usual giggles and smut should be forthcoming in the new week.
Archie treasured the feel of Horatio's long warm body, reposed against his own.
Just now, Horatio was on top. His dark curls rioted around Archie's face, and draped the pillow. Lower down Horatio's other crisper curls tangled with Archie's own, with everything warm and damp and replete. Horatio was stealthily resting some of his weight on his elbows, because he had the mistaken idea that he would 'crush' Archie. The very idea was silly. Archie did not crush.
“Hmmm” Archie said, “That was so--”
“I know. Me too.”
“I should get up, Archie I have some other things to show you. I was given ink and paper. We can write letters. We can write home!” Horatio scrambled up, his heat and his bones suddenly all motion.
“Oh?” Archie sat up, and smiled at Horatio's pleasure, but he could see that his own muted response did not please.
“And I have this.” Horatio held up a bottle of brandy. It was not large, but ample for two.
“Now that looks good.” Archie said.
“We'll have to share the cup.” Horatio poured the brandy into the little cup, and gestured with it to the table. You can write your letters first.” Archie sighed.
“I fear they've thought me dead for sometime now.” He said.
“Then there is not a moment to be lost.” Horatio smiled.
“I suppose you are right.” Archie held his hand out for the brandy, and drained the cup in an extended swallow. He stood, naked, holding the cup, flexing the pewter in his hand, wanting to crush it.
“Don't you want to write to your mother? Your father? Imagine their joy, Archie.”
“Well, my mother, I suppose. My father-- its complicated.”
Archie saw Horatio's face become immobile with puzzlement.
Horatio knew precious little of Archie's family. Archie had made sure of that. Archie had become very good, over the years, at turning the conversation to other things. Of course with Horatio it was even more easy. Archie could stop his mouth, stop his thoughts, quite effectively, at least in the short term.. He had made quite sure of what Horatio did and did not know.
“Complicated how, Archie?” Horatio persisted. “I mean, he's your father. How complicated can it be?”
Archie looked at Horatio, for a long silent moment. Horatio loved him. He knew that. And there was so much they could share, could talk about, laugh about, agree about. But sometimes Horatio seemed so young. He was 20 now. They both were. But sometimes Horatio still seemed a boy. Archie had been an exile from boyhood for six years now. Archie had come into Justinian at 14. Horatio knew that. Horatio knew about Simpson, knew more than anyone. But he did not know that the slamming door of boyhood had hit Archie's arse in the months before Justinian. Horatio didn't know why. Archie had not wanted him to know. Now Horatio was sitting in the ruin of the bed, his brows slightly lowered, his hands twisting the way he did when he wanted something. He wanted answers. Well. Horatio loved him. Hold fast to that.
“I am a sore disappointment to my father, I fear.” Archie gave a small brief smile. It felt false on his face, and it faded within a breath.
“I cannot imagine that, Archie. I am sure any man would be proud to have you as a son.” Horatio's voice was calm and certain. But his brows were crumpled in concern.
“You may not be able to imagine it, Honeybee, but I assure you it is true.” Archie said. He was speaking gently. This was, after all painful news about a being Horatio loved. Archie wanted to spare Horatio pain.
“Horatio, did you never wonder why I have plenty of money, but no interest? Why, if my family is so well placed, I was on Justinian? “
“I never thought about it. I was just so grateful you were there.”
“Oh Horatio. The Earl of Cassilis was not best pleased to think his son was a molly.”
Archie said this last word with a careful lack of emphasis. But his chin came up, clenched as if for a blow.
“That is an awful word.” Horatio said.
“Oh Archie, I don't think of you, of us...” Horatio stopped. He was floundering, but he went on, with certainty. “I just love you. I never think about girls, or men or anyone else, really.”
“But did you ever think about girls, in that way?” Archie asked.
“Wondered maybe. Wondered if I would want them someday. But once I met you, only you.”
“Well. In the months before I came to Justinian, I was in London. My parents were down in our house in town, down for the season. I spent a lot of time at Drury lane. I helped out with play productions. I even acted a little. Things were difficult, at home. It was best to get away. And I had a lover in the months before I came into Justinian. A man. An actor. My father found out. He was so angry. He was insane with anger. I mean, I had never been what he wanted. The fits and all. But this time was worse. He beat me so hard that I was pissing blood for a week, and --”
Archie had been looking down, as he spoke. Looking away, into the past, into the distance. But some small abortive movement from Horatio drew his eyes. Horatio was in pain. This was hurting him. Best finish it quickly.
“My father barred me from the house. My mother and the others were not to speak to me. I went back to Scotland, and stayed there alone. In no time at all, he had found me a place on Justinian. He just wanted to get rid of me. You know the rest.”
“I don't understand. Why? Why did he care so much?”
“He thought me weak, do you see. Unmanly. He was ashamed of me. But things are a little better now. I can write to my mother. He sends me money. But he certainly does not want me home.”
“You are so lucky Horatio.” Archie could not help gulping a little. Stupid, this pain should be old and dull. “Your father, well. You are lucky.”
He looked up then, and was dully unsurprised by Horatio's tears. How many tears had Horatio shed for him? Sure, they could fill a lake.
“I'm sorry I hurt you Honeybee.”
“Hurt me? Me? God, Archie. I never thought. I never knew.”
Horatio was curled now, knees up, chin on them, his chosen position for unpleasant thoughts. His bones stood out, on knees, shoulders. His chin was a point, his mouth a downgoing bow. Horatio, a boy.
Archie put on his shirt. It covered him a little, and he wanted to be covered now. He would write to Captain Pellew. Had to be done, anyway. He sat down, drew the inkpot close. It felt strange to be holding a pen. The smell of the ink, and the scratch of the quill had its own comfort.
“Did you love him?”
“What?” For a moment Archie thought Horatio meant Pellew.
“Did you love him? The—the actor?”
Deep breath. Somehow, facing those eyes, Archie knew only the truth would do.
“Yes. He was a good man.”
“Oh.” Horatio buried his head in his knees. This was a new pain for Horatio. Archie watched him take it, watched him learn its parameters.
“You were 14.”
“He didn't know that.” Archie's response was quick. “I lied. He thought I was older.”
“What was-- what was his name?”
Day-vid, a double beat of sound that Archie knew perfectly damn well his mouth had not formed in six years. Trippingly upon the tongue. It was enough, it was too much.
The pain hit Horatio's face like a sea-wave, like a board. Archie watched him take it. Horatio performed a full body flinch like a boy doused with boiling water and he was suddenly heaving with sobs.
“I'm sorry Archie. I'm so sorry. Of course I'm glad he was good to you. I'm sorry. I don't know. I just thought we were --- I thought I was, I thought oh...”
Archie surged standing, he nearly upset the ink, flailed and caught it. He crossed the room in a step or two, and got his arms around Horatio. Enough, enough pain. Archie let his hands speak, let his mouth warm what it could reach of the shivering top of Horatio's head.
“I never loved anyone but you, Archie. And my father of course.” And the thought of his father, or of fathers in general, perhaps that made was the final unraveling. Horatio wept, against Archie's chest, as if his heart had broken.
“Nobody, ever. I never. I—only you, Archie. I'm sorry.”
“Shhh, shhh now. No. Don't be sorry.”
“I want to go home.” It was almost a wail.
“I know, I know you do.”
Foolish to rock him a little, as if he were a small child. But there was no one to see. Horatio's world had been so lonely and small. He and his father, and Horatio's books. That was it. Archie had been the fortunate one. He knew he had been wicked and selfish to ever forget it. Archie drew a deep breath. His shirt was soaked all down the front now. He pushed Horatio's shoulders back, and pried his chin up with careful strength.
“Do you remember that first night on Justinian?”
Horatio nodded, wetly. “Course.”
“You threw up on my feet..”
“No –I mean, that's not what I mean. You threw up on my feet, Horatio, and you were so dear, and so new, and you were trying so hard. And I knew I loved you, in that moment, and I have loved you every moment, of every day since then. Whatever went before, it doesn't matter. And I don't care what my father thinks, or anyone else. Only you. Do you understand?”
“Yes.” Horatio's voice was mouse small.
“I knew first.” Horatio ventured, after a bit.
“Yes. You had rain in your hair, and it was all dripping. And you reported to Mr Eccleston, and all I could think of was that the rain must be running right down your back.”
“I loved you then. I have you beat by at least two hours. I felt so strange. Being near you made it worse, and that was all I wanted. I wanted to look at you, speak to you all the time. Never felt that before. I didn't know it was love though. I just thought that I was probably dying”
And there was a small smile at least. The tears had stopped. He had sobbed himself empty.
Archie looked around for the brandy. Filled the little cup to the brim.
“Drink.” Horatio nodded, he drank. He blew his nose, and smiled a little.
“Do you think Clayton knew?”
“Clayton knew everything.” Archie replied.
Archie pushed himself back against the headboard. He set the bottle between them. He took the cup, lifted it.
“To Henry Clayton.”
“Aye aye,” said Horatio lifting the bottle.