Word Count 662
Disclaimer Miss C is mine
Dark and Story Night
On nights like this she was close to alive.
She had breath and movement, and voice; especially voice, on such nights. She howled in her rigging, shrieking at the strain on her minimal sail. She moaned in her deck seams, as cold water fought to get in.
On a night such as this the sea sublimated into the air, and the rain came from everywhere, all at once. Sight was given in glimpses and flashes.
She shuddered. Kind steady hands turned her into the waves, but she plunged in the troughs, rolling sideways like a frantic beast. She could not be permitted to have her head. Each decline had be approached oblique. Even if she didn't pitch-pole, even if she was not struck abeam, she took air at each steep wave's valley. Too much of that would break her back.
She was a wooden thing, in the cold, in the dark. She was only as alive as those within her. The men were soft things, with beating hearts, with lurching guts. Their mouths were dry, and their feet numb as wooden blocks.
A cold wet hand pressed his bicep. A cup pressed into his hand. No sense to speak, the squeal of the wind blew all the sound away. Mr Bowles flailed a hand out in response. He found a shoulder, and patted it blindly. The coffee was cold, of course. The fire had been put out hours ago. Still he poured it down gratefully.
The officers and the people were running on regular watches. No need to exhaust good men, when nothing could be done anyway. They had taken in sail hours back, and made all secure. There might be hours at the pumps later, there might be – well, ugly things. Best to let those sleep who could. He himself, would be on deck until this was over, he and Bracey, and Ned, who had said he would sleep hours back, but could not bear to go. It already felt like forever. The coffee tasted of salt, from his lips and teeth. It was weak with rain, from everywhere. He was very glad of it.
“Fuck a duck!” said Archie.
He pushed the door shut with his back, and stood, dripping. He stood, legs splayed, head down, like a tired horse.
The Indy gave a dipping lurch, and the whole world slid. Archie planted a foot on the wall until his world righted.
He raised numb hands to fumble at his boat cloak, but Horatio was there, freeing him of the heavy dripping misery. He stood, passive and shivering, allowing Horatio to peel him like an orange.
“The wind is backing,” Archie could feel his jaw wanting to shake. He clenched it. “Cross seas.” He gritted.
He rolled into his hammock. He felt Horatio's kiss, and the blanket tucked around him. The heat drew him down into sleep.
Morning came. It was gray. In Portsmouth the harbor was cream over pewter. The wind had roared all night. It had torn at the roof like a wild thing, Miss Saphronia Cathcart had sat for a long time in the dark, chin on knees. The storm was passing now, the sound of the wind was less. Surely Christoper was safe. She felt certain she would know somehow, if harm had befallen him.
She stepped to the window, opened it to the rain. It cooled her face, soaking her instantly. She stretched her arms out to it, feeling the wind, letting the water drip down. This was the same rain, the same wind that had touched Christopher. Though he was out there, beyond her sight, he was that close.
Her nightgown was soaked to the waist. She looked down. She could see her breasts. He had never seen them, although she allowed him a touch. She smiled. Next time she would let him do more.