Title: On Going Home, Chapter 4
Word Count: 1119
Disclaimer: I did not invent these characters
On Going Home, Chapter 4
Archie looked across the table. Even something as prosaic as breakfast seemed to have cast him onto an unknown shore.
This was nothing like the now long ago meals of his childhood. When he had been old enough to come to table with his parents, the atmosphere had been formal. It had been not unpleasant, but it had been meant to be instructive.
This was not the formality of the Captain's table. Here, he did not have to eat in silence, with eyes down , proper, lowly, and careful not to take too much.
And this was not the misery of the midshipman's mess. There, until Horatio's arrival, it had been his custom to lick everything on his plate, as soon as he secured it. He had done this deliberately, visibly, disgustingly. That way no one else would want to snatch his food away and eat it themselves. It did not always work, Archie had often stood up hungry. (Once Horatio had come, he stopped the licking. It was worth being hungry most of the time, to eat like a decent gentleman.)
Horatio's house was none of these. Dr Hornblower seemed content to do three things at once. He talked affably to Horatio about the doings of the town, smiling and including Archie in the conversation, all the while, eating nimbly with his left hand, and writing up case notes with his right. He had an inkwell and sand shaker set up next to his coffee cup. When he reached the end of a page, he applied the sand, and then neatly dumped it into a saucer, set there for the purpose. He made no mention of seeing them on the study couch. He merely said that he hoped that they had slept well, and that Horatio was making sure Archie had everything he needed. The mysterious Mary rattled in and out of the kitchen. She had greeted Horatio with a warm smile, and a horrified squawk at the state of his cuffs. They did not seem to treat her as a servant.
Horatio was languid in his chair, reveling in and muffins and bacon . The sun came in the window behind him, it lit his shoulders, and cast rays of heat down the open neck of his shirt. Archie could see that Horatio's chest and neck were warm as coffee, and smooth as butter and honey. The area of skin and sun changed shape, over and over, triangle to trapezoid, as Horatio lifted his coffee cup. Archie forced his gaze down. It was unwise to stare so long here. Unwise to think on how he wanted to touch.
Horatio explained briefly about the upcoming transfer from Justinian. There had been a letter already of course, detailing much. But it was clear to Archie that Horatio's father knew nothing of Simpson, or the duel, or the death of Henry Clayton. That was all right, more than all right, with Archie.
Dr Hornblower drained his cup, and folded his book.
“Well, boys, I must to work. Today is an office day for me. I will see you in the afternoon.” With a smile and a nod, he left the room.
“Have you had enough Archie?” Horatio asked.
“Oh, yes more than enough. Do you always eat this way Horatio?”
“Well,” he said “Mary likes to see my father and me eat well – eat quite a lot. I think she worries that we would fade away to nothing without her. And, it is more easy not to argue.”
“Can she not see that you are a capable midshipman, who can even cook eggs?” Archie could not help teasing a little, he felt so giddy, so light inside.
Horatio shook his head. “Archie she's known me since I wore skirts. There is no use resisting her. Come on, lets get set up in my room.”
The stairs were narrow and steep, although nothing like as steep as the ladders of the Justinian. Nothing like as dirty either, Archie reflected. They gathered up the dunnage of the night before, and carried it up.
Horatio's room was small, with a peaked ceiling, blue walls, and two narrow beds. Mostly there were books.
Archie took this in in one wide glance, and then stopped thinking about it. Horatio had stepped close, Horatio was touching him.
“You said I could kiss you when I wanted Archie. Can I kiss you now?” Horatio's voice was a sweet rasp, down his back, down and under and around the front.
Archie could only nod. Horatio's mouth was soft on his again. The kiss was a sweet question, a gentle question, asked in shivers of joy, and lightning flashes. And Archie smiled into the kiss, because to question was so very Horatio. Horatio felt the smile, and drew back a moment, uncertain. Archie drew him close, mouthing his own question, thinking of honey and coffee, wanting so much, wanting only Horatio's answer.
“Archie Is this right, am I doing this right?' He had his hands on Archie's jaw, and his eyebrows were drawn together slightly.
“Yes.” Said Archie. He was running his own nuzzling mouth over Horatio's brow, over his cheeks and chin, over that dear disparaged nose. “Yes, yes, right, yes.”
This was a new bliss. Archie had been willingly with others before. There had been lovely fumbles, with boys or girls who lay down with him for hurried and breathless moments, revelatory, but over too soon. This was entirely different. Horatio was touching him now, touching Archie's face and arms and chest, with all the deliberation he brought to his lessons. He was learning the shape and texture of Archie, as if he intended to never stop. And he brought to it, all the years of tenderness, unmet in the heart of a lonely and motherless boy.
Archie could feel the stiffness of Horatio now, lower down, pushing against his own. He reminded himself ferociously to slow. All Horatio knew of such things was from books, or from hearing the threats in the Articles of War. Horatio knew where kissing led, but only in theory. They would have to stop, this was no place... not with the doctor in the office below. It was so hard to think. His brain seemed content to throb stupidly in his trousers. He squinted at Horatio, Horatio didn't look terribly intelligent, delicious,absolutely but not intelligent.
Archie was saved the trouble by a step in the hall downstairs.
“Horatio!” Mary's voice seemed to come from another world. “When you get a moment will you come down here?”