Title: Honey and Cannonballs
Word Count 1599
Disclaimer I did not invent them
This story takes place directly after Anteros' The Height of Ambition.
Honey and Cannonballs
Horatio was wheedling, caressing, implicitly promising lovely things. He was rubbing Archie's shoulders again, soothing the tight muscles, moving forward to run his fingers over collar, neck and throat.
Archie let his neck roll forward. He could feel the tight sinews strain and sing under Horatio's strong fingers. Archie was 22, surely not old, by any count, but on nights like these, he was tired to the bone. The Indy and the officers on her were unusually kind. Tonights dinner had proved that. It would help the young men settle, it would soothe the pain of their lonesomeness. It would also, not incidentally remind them to be good to each other, because the older men were watching, and knew all the cruel tricks that boys will play. But even Pellew could not remove the pain of the past. Archie knew that his tale of the Spanish cannonballs was more normative. It was the lot of boys to weep alone. They did it in school, they did it at home, and God knows they did it all over the Kings Navy. And, no matter what Horatio said, Archie knew quite well that he was not worthy of anyone's admiration.
Archie wanted to be happy. God how he wanted it, But the tired bleakness could come up out of nowhere, like a squall, and leave him struggling. If he could head the memories off, sometimes he could avoid the worst of it, push it all off into dreams, at least. Horatio knew when the bleak hours came. He didn't leave Archie then, he stayed without complaint, to help fight them. He was here now, fighting the despair with Archie, offering his body, in joy, without reserve. His eyes were dark and bright, his long hands were tugging Archie up from his chair. Horatio's love and his body were Archie's to learn again, to love, as always, not new, but constant. He would allow Archie to not think tonight, but only feel, only just be.
“Come to my cabin, Archie, I have something put aside to soothe your...throat.”
Now it was Horatio's voice gone husky and low. Archie felt the flutter in his belly, and he let his token resistance wane. There was no one to see them. Hand in hand, they left the wardroom.
The little cabin had a door that shut, that was the main thing. They were used to being quiet. No need, really to speak. Archie could see the need in Horatio, and it made him yearn. The little room was dim and snug. Theirs alone, for now. Archie leaned close, he gave Horatio's chin a gentle nip. He felt the kick of the heart against his own, and his hands tightened on the sway of Horatio's back. It felt so good to give in.
Archie followed the angle of Horatio's jaw, with his own seeking mouth. The skin there was soft and hot, just a little abrasive, now at the end of a long day. Horatio gave a growl of contentment, and he tipped his own head back. He was supple in Archie's arms, languid and pliant. This was a secret Horatio, known only to Archie. The sound of his assent, and the hard press of his response was for Archie, only ever Archie. That was a thought to heat the cold nights. It was a memory to dream on, when they were both clothed, and acting proper lieutenants. Archie did dream of it, on the days and nights when they could not touch.
When they could, they were half frantic, trying to grasp at the sweetness, to gather it all, and store it for later. Archie's hand was at Horatio's shirt buttons now, slipping them with ease. He knew every shirt, indeed every button, that Horatio owned. He was, himself, still clothed, but no proper lieutenant. His hair had come loose. It was fine and straight, and slippery, all down his back, and in the way of everything. He could feel the flush of his own face, and the rasp of his own breath. Horatio's knee was between his legs, as if by accident, but this was no accident, and it was lifting and pressing and rubbing delightfully. Horatio's hand was working itself into the back of Archie's waistcoat. It was freeing his shirt, by force, and finding warm skin. Archie spared a hand for his own buttons, and the shirt slumped to the deck.
It was past time for lights out, Horatio by moonlight was a thing of silver and darkness, his warm mouth, and his hands and his small sounds, more real to Archie than vision.
“Lie with me H'ratio.” The blankets made a warm nest on the deck. It was quieter that way, and there was more room too, Archie knew. He pulled Horatio over onto himself, and let his hands slide down the thin shoulders, to the soft skin of Horatio's sides. Horatio was caressing Archie too, but somewhat clumsily, and Archie saw that he held something in his hand .
“What have you there?” He asked. Horatio rolled to the side, and opened his hand, revealing a small bottle. It had a glass stopper tied off with ribbon.
“Its honey. Got it from home. I've been saving it to give to you, anyway. But I thought it might soothe your throat.”
Archie propped himself on an elbow. “If you had honey all along, Horatio, why did you feed me that vile--”
“Well, I didn't know about your old nurses recipe then, did I?”
This was Horatio logic at its inflexible worst.
“Anyway, “ Horatio said in an aggrieved tone, “We have no whiskey.”
“Hmmm, so what are you going to do with it?” Archie asked. He could feel his skin going to cold goose-bumps. He burrowed closer to Horatio's warmth.
“I had thought to put it on your throat.” Horatio worked the stopper loose, his fingers stoked Archie stickily under the chin.
“Supposed to apply it to the inside.”
“My father always said it had healing properties for the skin.” Horatio had adopted a logical tone, only somewhat hampered by his licking of Archie's neck.
“Oh God, Archie, you taste so good.”
Archie felt the laughter bubbling up in him. “You silly thing.”
“Not silly.” Horatio's voice was a warm buzz. He was pulling Archie close, and he was so warm, and it felt so good. “Do you know how many times I've almost lost you? Got to take better care of you, Archie.”
Archie wanted to protest that getting sticky honey caught in his hair was—was not-- but somehow it didn't seem important. Horatio was grazing on him now, rubbing his mouth over the soft skin where Archie's chest met his arms. Horatio's curls were under Archie's lips, and kissing made more sense than talking.
Horatio's hands were at his trousers now, undoing buttons, sliding off over Archie's lifted hips. His own went as quickly, and they were naked, all down against each other. The heat was so good, they were both gasping, sighing with it.
Horatio's hands were sliding down his back, cupping under Archie's arse, to pull him close, and it felt good. Archie knew that Horatio could feel the scars there, and for so long he had not wanted any touch on that part of himself. The flesh back there had been, for so long, the place only of fear, and pain, and shame. But, Horatio loved Archie entire. He saw no need for shame. In a hundred dark nights, he had persisted. He had persisted through nights apart, through nightmares, and fits, and the jaw clenched silence of memory. Horatio's touch was welcome now, everywhere. Touching Archie there had become just another way to draw him close, for love.
“Do you have the other bottle?” Archie asked, he was breathless with need, his heart was beating in his prick now, and his brains seemed to have gone there too.
“Right here.” The second bottle was the work of a moment. Neither of them wanted to wait.
“Oh, there-- feels so good.”
They rolled. Archie drew him over. Horatio was above him, his mouth open, his eyes closed. Archie could rock Horatio's hips this way, could watch the pleasure rise and strike. It was always the same, wanting it all, wanting it to last. Archie shook, biting his lip, holding back. The tension was building in Horatio, he could feel it, could hear it. And he was almost gone over when, Archie heard, from far, Horatio's soft cry. He let go, so grateful, and his own pleasure roared like fire.
Horatio was crouched over him, against his chest in a boneless heap. Sweat prickled between them. Archie could feel the sticky patch under his chin. He had honey in his hair too. Didn't seem to matter. He stroked the soft skin of Horatio's back.
“Where did you get the honey, Horatio?” He asked. The question was idle, he just liked Horatio's voice, in the quiet, after.
“My father sent it. Has to do with a charity he works with...Heifer something. They provide people with farm animals, also bees. He got the honey from them.”
“Ah.” Archie said. “Well, we won't tell your father how it ended up stuck in my hair.”
“We can wash it out with that horrible lemon juice.” Horatio said. “But lets wait until morning.”
Heifer International did not exist at the time of our heroes. But it does exist now. It is exactly as Horatio described it. Donations to Heifer International sponsor the purchase of farm animals, for needy families. The acquisition of a goat, or a hive of bees, can make a big difference, to families, and whole communities.
I am quite sure, that Dr. Hornblower, would have approved.