Word Count: 765
Rating: Silly G
Justinian, off Spithead
The rain had come with sunset, a deep sound audible through the bulkhead. And it came in, because Justinian leaked, because all ships leaked. So here in the dark the dirty water came, to fall onto Archie with an irregularity that wrecked his sleep and made him want to shriek with frustration.
They had come back from so far he and Horatio; back from Kent. Back from the doctor's neat little house, from the peaked blue bedroom where everything had changed. And Archie knew that they would not be here long. They were being transferred to another ship, and not just any ship, but a frigate. And not just any frigate, but to Indefatigable.
He tried to think on that, tried to recapture the joy he had first felt with the news of his orders. But here he was in the same dripping fetid place. And it looked the same, and it smelled the same. It made his heart race,and his underarms slick with sweat. Simpson was gone, but still he and Horatio could barely touch hands here without being seen. God he longed to touch, to kiss Horatio and hold him close in the darkness as he had done for the last week.
He could see Horatio's hand, inches away, folded pale over the place where their two hammocks met. The palm on Horatio's side, the long fingers folded down over Archie's side. Horatio's fingernails were ragged and black. His hands were dirty because they were leaving Thursday, but today was Monday. And as they were still on the watch-bill. Mr Eccelston had put them both right back to work. They had been sent aloft, not together, he with a bucket of rancid slush and Horatio with a bucket of tar. It had not been raining then but the wind had been cold. They had worked in separate discomfort beneath a torn sky.
Horatio had come down the back-stay at dog-watch with a blister on his wrist and a hacking cough. Archie had a raw throat himself. They were going to arrive on the Indy with streaming colds, obviously. Then they could ingratiate themselves by infecting the entire frigate-- Archie pulled his blanket higher, huddling into it. Horatio was breathing next to him, even if they were unable to share a bed this was the next best thing. The evening watch would come in a moment to put the lamp out.
There-- the step of the marine and the darkness, sudden and total as his own eyes tight shut. And now he could touch a little, here embraced by the darkness. Only a little, he would not break Horatio's good sleep. But he could do this-- he need only turn his head. There now, the folded down fingers against his lip. A kiss for a promise, until he could do more.
“M Bofuss--” Horatio said. At least that sounded like what he said, the nonsense word distorted with a sudden cough.
“Nothing. I think I was asleep.”
“I am sorry I woke you.” Horatio's hand in his now, palms together lovely and tight.
“I don't think you did. I think it was the coughing, and the drips.”
The hand moved in Archie's grasp, turning to stroke along the inside of his wrist. Horatio was making promises too.
“Just think, a week from today we will be aboard the Indy,” Archie said.
“Hmm. I was just thinking that-- might explain the dream I had,” Horatio said.
“Was it a bad dream?” Archie still had his share of those, but the thought of Horatio having them was intolerable.
“No-- not a bad one.”
“Well was it a good one?” He nudged Horatio to show what he meant, and was rewarded with something between a cough and a laugh.
“No!” The whisper was adamant.
“It was just a stupid dream. The kind that seems real and then makes no sense once you wake up. I dreamed we were going to a different ship, some sort of research vessel. Except it was made of steel, and it was all red. It had no sails.”
“Did you learn the name of this pinnacle of sea-worthy perfection?”
“I did-- but you are going to laugh at me.”
“I won't laugh, I promise.”
“You are laughing already.”
“Only a little---” Archie bit his lip.
“All right,” Horatio wriggled in his hammock, and Archie did not need light to know that the dark eyes sought his own.
“She was called-- Boaty Mcboatface. Stop that! You said you wouldn't laugh!”