Title: What the night extracts
Word Count 673
Spoilers Not really
Disclaimer Not Mine
What the Night Extracts
Archie had been waiting. He knew these things. The years had taught what can be drawn in pain, in daylight, and what the night extracts. The hurt was sunk deep, in Horatio, a splinter, lodged in a dark place, where neither could reach.
So he had waited.
He waited in even in sleep. Even those best times, when he lay replete, and smiling against the damp heave of Horatio's chest, even then, some wary part of himself, kept a watch. Because Horatio was back from the pit, but not entire.
It took two weeks.
Archie had been deep asleep, and wandering in dreams of his own, something about a book he had loved at age six, a treasure trove of acorns, a beloved uncle. He had fallen into sleep, crushed against Horatio, he remembered that much, the heat and the slowing of their hearts as the sweat prickled and dried on his neck, under Horatio's hand. He had rolled somewhat away, in the intervening hours, but his hand was for some reason tucked into Horatio's armpit.
Tucked there, he felt the kick of breath, as Horatio gasped awake.
“Oh, God, No, no!”
“Wzzt? What is it?”
“Archie.” Horatio was kneeling now, wobbly as a newborn elk. His hair was askew, and his eyes were unfocused, wide with fear and miserable grief.
“Of course.” Archie took the hand, brought it to his mouth.”Obviously, I'm Archie, you chucklehead.”
“You aren't bleeding?”
“No, Horatio. I'm fine. No bleeding anywhere, not today. You had a dream, is all. Here--” He poured some water into the cup. He made Horatio take it, and drink some.
“Dream.” Horatio drew a shuddering breath.”Guess, guess it was a dream.”
His eyes were not seeing Archie proper even yet. He was touching Archie, with a strange swift pushing patting motion, quite unlike his usual caress.
“Everyone was bleeding, dying. They were lined up, and I had to walk, you know – like a thief.”
“Yes, I know.” Archie had seen it done, on Justinian.
“But they didn't beat me. They bled, and they died, and it was my fault. Because I didn't do – something.”
Horatio took a gasping breath. “Clayton was there, and Keene, and my father, and Eccleston, and Hunter, and Captain Pellew, and, Simpson, and Cleveland, and Hether. They all accused me. They stood in line, and agreed that it—something-- was all my fault.”
Horatio faltered a little, squinting up at Archie now. He was coming to the worst of it.
“You, Archie. You were at the end. They'd shot you. You were blood – here. Oh God. You were dying. My fault, because, something.”
Horatio pushed his hand against Archie's abdomen, searchingly. He seemed still more confused than relieved to find it warm and whole.
We are children, deep in the night. Archie knew this as he knew his own names. We put aside our age, with our shoes, at the close of day. And in any case, Horatio never minded cosseting. So, seeing the shivering start, Archie pulled the blanket around Horatio's shoulders, drew him close and warm.
“I'm fine, Honeybee. Whole and safe. It was just a dream. A bad dream.”
He let his own hands stroke warm down Horatio's back. He moved gently, slowly, into a soft open kiss.
“Sorry, sorry I woke you.”
“I'm glad you did.”
“I'm afraid to go back to sleep.”
We are children, in the night, and this was the admission of a child, a motherless child, alone in the dark.
“I'm here. I'll stay awake with you.”
“We were lieutenants.”
“I don't want—”
Archie drew back, let his hands rest loose
“Tell me, Horatio.”
“I don't want to think anymore tonight.”
“I expect I can help you with that.”