Title: Of Baths
Rating R (But not as R as I expected.)
Word Count 1011
Disclaimer, as always, alas
It was warm in the sun, and the stones were flat and kind. Archie's thigh rested under his ear. It was not soft, but it was the best pillow possible. Somewhere deep, he knew they were in the open. They could not be—they should be – they should move soon. And indeed, Archie's stroking hand kept him from real sleep. But the courtyard was silent, and surely they could not be blamed for this. Surely they could be allowed this, at least.
Archie was weeping. Horatio could hear the little breathy huffs, they were all Archie allowed himself. Horatio knew that if he turned to look, (too sleepy,) Archie's face would be dry. He reached out with one hand, and let his fingers find Archie's knee-cap. There was something about Archie's knees that made Horatio especially happy. They were so round and sturdy. And the backs of them, he knew, tasted delicious. Horatio smiled, his mouth lifting against the rough cloth of Archie's trousers.
“I'm back.” He said again.
“We should go up.” Archie said, quietly. “There is a bath.”
They stumbled up the narrow stairs. Archie opened the door. The little room was all as before. The narrow bed was streaked with sunlight. Horatio sighed. “That bed looks so good.”
Horatio nodded, and began on his buttons, but Archie was there first.
“No let me.”
Horatio stood, like a patient horse, and let Archie undress him. Archie was so close to him now, Horatio could feel his warm breath. Archie was treating each button with care, he loosed the last one, and ran his hands back up, all along the front of Horatio, and pushed the shirt back, over Horatio's shoulders. Archie had not kissed him yet.
The shirt stuck halfway down his back, and Horatio gasped with unexpected pain. Archie's face, which had been soft with want, changed immediately. His eyes narrowed, his mouth went to a flat line.
“Let me see.”
“You did not tell me they had beaten you.” Archie's voice was cold.
“They – only a little. When they pu—put me in...” His voice trailed off. Archie was bristling like a pit dog.
“I'm sorry.” Now the tears came to Horatio, unmanly, unstoppable, all down his dirty face.
“Are you angry with me, Archie?”
“What? God, No! No, Horatio. Oh, Honeybee. Of course not. I'm angry at them.”
Archie's arms came around him then, very gently. Horatio tried very hard, but it took some time to stop shaking.
“Lets get you into the water, we can soak the shirt off in there.”
Trousers, drawers and shoes, Archie helped Horatio as one helps a small sleepy child.
“Here we go.” He helped Horatio into the water.
“Oh.” The water was soft. It stung for a moment on his hurts, and then the heat soothed. In a moment, he would bathe with soap. In a moment... Horatio, let his head fall back, let the steam tickle his nose. The shirt clung wetly to his back, time in a moment to deal with that too.
“So tired, Archie.”
“Rest for a while then, there is no hurry.”
Horatio shut his eyes, for just a little while, just a moment really. The water was cooler, and he knew that time had passed, when he felt Archie's hands on his shoulders.
“What'r you doing?”
“I'm washing you, you filthy creature. I think you are too sleepy to do it yourself.”
Archie's voice was jocular and gruff, but his hands were slow and Horatio had never known them to be so gentle. He eased the shirt back off of Horatio's front and arms.
He leaned Horatio forward, sharp chin on sharp knees. Horatio could see his own long white toes, under the water as Archie freed the linen from the softened scabs.
“Its not infected.”
Horatio sighed. Archie was working the soapy cloth over the bumps of his spine, over the sharp wings of shoulder blades, over all the dirt and the hurt. It was so easy to rest, curled the way he was, easy to just drift.
“You are very good at washing people.” Horatio said. It sounded stupid, when he said it, but Archie just laughed.
“I have never washed anyone else, I assure you.” Archie said.
“My father used to do my bath when I was very small. Mary too, sometimes.”
“Hmm,” Said Archie, “My mother used to do mine.”
“I always assumed you had servants for that sort of thing.” Horatio's voice was low and dreamy.
“Ewww-- No. My mother, when I was still in skirts. After that I washed myself, thank you.”
Archie leaned Horatio back, and moved the soapy heat down the front of him. He reached deep, and found the center of Horatio, washed his belly, his balls. There was want there, between them. Horatio could sense it in Archie, he could feel it in himself, but it was remote. He was so tired. And Archie seemed to understand. “I want, but – “
“I know, Honeybee. Me too. Lets sleep first.”
Archie was rinsing the soap from Horatio's wetly tangled hair, rubbing the worst of the water off, steering him for the little bed.
Horatio felt, as if from a great distance, Archie drawing the blankets up. So indolent, to sleep in the day. Some part of Horatio felt he should be doing something. But Archie was bare too now, and warm now, and drawing him close.
“Sleep, H'ratio. I'll be right here.” And Archie kissed him then, his mouth soft and open, and kind, over and over, against the skin of Horatio's face.
“I've missed you so much.”
Horatio felt the darkness come, and it was safe and merciful. From a great distance, he heard himself snore.