Title Blessing Enough
Word Count 1341
Disclaimer Boys are not mine
He gave the razor a downward flick. The soap and tiny bits of hair hit the basin with a satisfactory floop. Horatio smiled. Then he pulled his mouth straight. He began the tricky area under his nose.
“Come walking with me this morning, Archie?” he was trying to speak without moving his face.
“Dunno.” Archie smiled up at him. He gestured at the sea-chest. It had taken two men to get it up the stairs. “New books Horatio. We have new books..” Archie gave a sweet smile. “ Some of them are even about calculus. I'll let you read those first.”
Archie was squatting by the sea-chest, balanced easily on the pads of his feet. He was as yet unshaven himself, and wearing nothing but his worn linen drawers.. Archie drew the light, the the smallest bits of sun sought Archie's skin, and made it luminous. When the light was gray, Archie glowed, when the sun was full, he was an angel of fire. There was no explanation, Horatio know, in ocular science, or the behavior of prisms and lenses Finally, Horatio had been forced to conclude that the sun just wanted to touch Archie all the time too.
But Archie knew nothing of this. He was thinking about beach-walks. Archie gestured to the window. He was not an appreciator of mizzling rain. “Don't let me stop you,” he said. “Go on, Horatio. enjoy the damp sand. I know you get jumpy.”
And it was true. Horatio loved living in the little room with Archie, nobody bothered them, they could touch and love whenever the need rose in them. But sometimes a great restlessness came, and he longed for the deck of the Indy. Walking the waters edge soothed it some. The smell of the sea went up his nose, and he could stretch his legs until his muscles burned.
Archie felt no such urge. He went along sometimes. He went to be with Horatio. But he was just as willing to lounge all day, indolent as a cat. When Horatio pressed, Archie only shook his head. “I've done enough walking to last a lifetime..” And of course there was no argument for that.
So Horatio perched on the bed to watch Archie shave. He loved the abrasive morning Archie. The harsh little hairs were dark gold in early day. Sometimes Archie stropped those whiskers against him, sometimes, all down Horatio's soft belly, as Horatio gasped and wiggled pinned to the bed. He was pinkly abraded on those mornings, when Archie let him up, and he was gasping with airless laughter.
But not today. Today Horatio put his shoes on, and wrapped a cloak around himself. He pushed open the little door at the foot of the stairs. This was the same door that Horatio had opened with a frantic kick the day he had found Archie in the cells, and close to death. Horatio didn't want to think about that. Today the air was damp and delicious. It was cool as a slap with a wet cloth. Summer's end was going to come, and the death of green things. Today the flowers were still alive, though bowed under the soak of the rain. The little green lizards had gone somewhere else, he saw no the flies and spiders, none of the fellows that flourished in the heat.
The water was gray, choppy, lined with yellow foam where it met the sand. The horizon was indistinct, ocean sublimated into sky at the limit of vision. There were no ships visible, the world was a wet crescent out there, devoid of life.
Horatio stripped off his shoes and stockings. He put the stockings into the shoes, and placed the shoes carefully, sole up, in the sand. The world was wet and numbingly cold under his feet. He wandered down, closer to the water where the sand was firmer.
There was no sound but the surf and the rain. Somewhere, in the dunes, or on the water, the gulls slept. The dark sky made them sleepy. Even fish found rainy days dull. They were more easy to catch when it rained.
There was a jetty partway down the beach. Horatio usually went further, but today it was enough. He liked to stand by the rocks and just...look. He was staring out to sea, therefore, when the horses came. The trotting of hooves was muffled like the wider world. They were close before he saw them.
Archie knew about horses. He had lifted his pale eyebrows the day he had seen the Don's horse. He had whistled long and low, a sound that was at once cheeky and respectful. Horatio could see only that the horse was small headed with a high tail. It was a pale ghostly gray.
The horse danced down the sand, swinging its stern at the last, to present Horatio with a flank. It was slick with rain, and close up, he could see that its coat had small spots of darker color. The Don was soaked too, but lifted his own proud gray head. He did something with his gloved hands, his booted knees, and the horse grew quiet.
“Ah, Mr. Hornblower.” He inclined his head. “I have something for you.”
The paper was damp in Horatio's hand, and he had to wipe the rain from his eyes to read it. He had just time to wonder why the Don had ridden out to give him mail. Then he scanned the letter.
Horatio became aware sometime later, that he was moving down the beach at great speed. He had to tell Archie as soon as he was able. Matthews, Styles; he had to tell them all. Captivity was over, they were going home to the Indy.
Jack Simpsons voice, and the smell of vinegar, don'tmovedontmove, they'll get you if you move, shivering, naked and the fear rising. Kneeling in the dirt, and Archie had to kneel, but kneeling was bad oh very bad because Simpson---
“Dammit!” his voice sounded weak, and childish, even to himself. He forced his eyes open. Spain, Horatio's bed, their bed. It was deep night, the window was open, the rain had stopped, and the smell in the room was the smell of the sea.
“All right, shhh, I've got you.”
“So sorry Horatio.”
Archie burrowed close to the warm skin, the arms around him. He shuddered into the heat, and could not help himself.
“I hate the dreams, I hate being weak,” Archie said.
“Not weak.” Horatio's mouth was buried in Archie's hair.
“I dreamed of – of France.” They never spoke of this. Horatio knew nothing of it.
“I dreamed of being a prisoner, only – but only Simpson was there too. Stupid, stupid.”
“Dreams are strange.”
Horatio had pulled Archie close, and was rubbing his back, his shoulders, his bent neck. Archie let himself be gentled, be pulled close, and held as a child is held. He was breathing in huffs, his nose was blocked.
“I don't understand it.” Archie persisted. “We had the best news today. I should be glad to return to the Indy. You are, you're glad, right?”
“So why the bad dreams now, Horatio? Why can't I be rid of them?” He heard the plaintive sound in his own voice, and hated it.
“I don't know very much about dreams, Archie. But I am beginning to think that any event, good or bad, can stir them up.”
“What if I am never rid of them?”
“You will be.”
And Horatio sat back against the headboard, and his arms were warm. He hummed a little tuneless tune, and Archie rested against him. In time the shivering stopped. Archie shut his eyes, and tried to think about nothing at all. When his sleep came again, it was blank, and that was blessing enough.