Title: As Beloved Sons
Word Count 1030
Disclaimer Not mine
As Beloved Sons
It all felt very strange. Horatio had come onto the deck, to find the men of his division, shining clean, and rigged as if for Sunday. They stood for his inspection, smiling broadly. They were his, his. They were twice-over his now, because they had chosen him.
The sun came rising, pink and yellow over the blue sea. It shone, festive and luminous, through Oldroyd's ears. Something was making Horatio's eyes tear. He blinked a little, and Matthews smiled at him. He wanted to say something they would remember, but in the end, blinking fiercely now, he dismissed them with thanks.
Breakfast came and went, Forenoon watch began. Horatio and his division had no work to do. They were not on the watch-bill. Still, Horatio felt the churn in his gut. Archie had been locked away with Captain Pellew for hours now. He and Horatio had not had time to speak-- or do anything else--- since the afternoon before. Horatio knew that Archie disliked any notice from the quarterdeck. He would leave the interview prickly and short tempered.
So Horatio paced, and eventually the door opened. Archie came out. His face was a careful, correctly Naval blank. Horatio thought that maybe one tawny eyebrow twitched, but in the end he was not sure. There was no time to speak anyway. Mr Bracegirldle was there, resplendent himself, and smiling.
The Indy came close to the Spanish shore, taking the morning tide, neat and sweet as a settling bird. She flew a flag of truce overhead, fair as a wedding dress. They were going in with pride. The boats lowered away, and the dark Spanish Coast swelled on the horizon.
Mr Bracegirdle sat in the stern of the jolly boat, squinting into the wind. The men rowed with precision, the sea was like glass. Horatio could feel a number of things, all of them pleasant, and he had time to notice them individually. He could feel the sun warming his hair, and the strange sensation of his own idleness. The sky was a deep blue vault, speckled with wheeling gulls. Archie was next to him, close enough for their hips to touch, but too far for Horatio to feel him breathing. Horatio was warm inside with food, and comforted with coffee. A seperate boat followed, with all the dunnage. They would have books to read now, they would have clothing to spare. They had back pay, correct to the dot. They were not the bedraggled prisoners of the week before, they were returning from the Indy as her beloved sons.
Horatio was still watching Archie, from the corner of his eye. Usually he knew what Archie was feeling, sensed it with his own skin, somehow. Archie was sitting easy, knees apart, face tilted slightly into the sunlight and wind. His hands rested on his knees, open, loose. But Archie's very mobile face was still, and his dear mouth was just a little flat. He did not seek Horatio's eye.
In time the jolly grated to a stop. The sensation of soaked feet and sloshing stockings had its own familiar rightness. They squelched, in formal formation to the doorway of the keep.
“It almost feels like home.”
Archie lounged on little bed. They had taken the little infirmary room again. There was need now, they were both well, but they had been given leave to stay there. Horatio had felt a great need to steer for the room with no bars on the windows. It had been shockingly painful to see Mr Bracegirldle rowed away, trailing the empty boat behind him. The little peaked room was quiet, the little bed was narrow and sagged between them as they sat.
“I was worried this morning, Archie.” Horatio said.
“Oh?” Archie was drawing an aimless line on the bed-cover, his eyes were fixed on it intently.
“You were in so long with the Captain--” Horatio floundered, Archie's face was no help. “Is all well?” he finished weakly.
Archie gave a long sigh. His mouth gave a wry little quirk that Horatio did not like the look of.
“Yes, all is well. He questioned me at length as to my movements since my leaving the Indy. He had to see if I had learned or seen anything useful, during my time with the French.” Archie sighed again. “He asked about my escape attempts, how they had failed, my different prisons, everything. Bracey took notes.”
Horatio made a small noncommittal sound. Archie's gaze flicked up, and he gave a brief twitch of a smile.
“I'm all right .” Archie's voice was smaller now. “I knew they would have to question me. I was expecting it. But I am not sure I observed anything useful really. My mind was not always on it, you know.”
“Oh--” Horatio began, but Archie spoke over him.
“And they needed to see how—how damaged I am. How useful I can still be.” He lifted his eyes, finally, and pinned Horatio with the force of the blue gaze.
“Well, I understand it. I do. You should too, Horatio. Captain Pellew said that when we return to the Indy, whenever that is, he will promote me to acting Lieutenant. He seemed sure that we will be back, at least. And, I'll be out of the cockpit. Its not so much fun without you there.”
“Cleveland said you were sleeping on the deck.”
“Mhmm.” And now Archie was reaching for him, “Sleeping there alone, Horatio. But not alone tonight, I hope.”
Archie pulled him close, and the soft kiss bloomed between them. Archie's fingers were in his hair, touching the back of Horatio's neck, making him shiver.
“No more talk, Honeybee. I want you now.”
“Oh I--” He sighed as his body went hot and pliant against Archie's heat. He felt there was more to say, but Archie was licking him behind the ear, and it would have to wait.
'No more talk.” Archie said again. He sounded very sure. Horatio could only comply.