Title The Rock in the Field
Word Count 920
Rating G (This is a half, the second half will be more spicy)
The Rock in the Field
“Oooh-- where are we?” Horatio rubbed his eyes, and peered through the gloom. He had fallen into a cramped and uncomfortable sleep. It had been light then, and not raining and Archie had been reading with the book balanced on his knee. Now it was dark, and pouring.
“Almost into Portsmouth, sleepyhead.” Archie smiled.
Horatio did not feel much like smiling. His starboard side was warm and happy, tucked against the heat of Archie's shoulder, side and thigh. The other side was damp and cold. Somehow the contrast of the two felt especially miserable.
“Must all coaches leak?” He knew he sounded peevish. He felt entitled to peeve. His head ached, and his bladder was full, and he was shivering with the chill of inactivity.
“Our coach never did.” Archie said softly.
“You had your own coach?” Horatio blurted the words before he could stop them. Horatio had been in a coach--rented-- less than 6 times ever. It was easy to forget Archie's family and wealth. Archie certainly wanted to do so, and Horatio was happy to comply. But it cropped up, a rock in the field, where neither expected or wanted it.
“We needed a coach. We had to drag back and forth from Scotland somehow.” Archie said. “It always seemed to take ages, and every year my sister Anne would ask 'Are we there yet? Are we there yet?' because she was too short to see out the window. Drove us half mad. One year she heaved up all over me. We had to get the coachman to stop, and the servants coach had to stop too, and everyone was angry, and I had to change my clothes behind a tree.”
Archie gave a rueful laugh. This memory seemed to please him rather than hurt. He drew Horatio close then, his arm strong, his hand warm. He kissed the end of Horatio's freezing nose. Then he kissed the spot just above it, between Horatio's eyebrows.
“Anyway, I like damp coaches,” he said, illogically. “It was in that horrible drippy coach , that we sat close this way, the first time.”
The kisses were softer now, nose, eyes, cheeks, neck. Horatio let his head rest against Archie's shoulder. There was no one to see, after all.
“But I do pity the coachman.” Archie said. His mouth was on Horatio's now and Horatio could feel every movement of tongue and lip. “It is not just rain-- listen to the wind. It is coming on to blow.”
By the time the coach stopped Archie was proved right. The wind was a constant moan, buffeting the sides of buildings, and shrieking where the streets forced it to narrow. The world was more water than air, and full of flying grit and leaves. They stumbled toward the dockside.
It was hard to see. They could only breathe in gasps. The water stung against Horatio's face. And they knew what they would find. Nonetheless, they had to be sure.
“She's put out.” Archie howled. He did have a fine quarterdeck voice, though he resorted to it rarely.
Horatio nodded vigorously, the harbor was a horrid churning slate black, and it was empty of ships. Only a sailor bent on suicide would stay near the land tonight. They stood a moment, arm in arm. They gazed from the empty land to the empty sea. Men were out there, struggling. By rights Archie and Horatio should be there too. They had had their nights fighting the sky and sea. They would have more, but tonight they were stuck at the edge of the land. Portsmouth.
The money Archie's father sent was another rock. It lay between them, pointed, hurting Archie. Horatio had come to hate the days the money came. Those were days of prickly silence, split by Archie's short harsh statements, self-mocking, and brittle as glass.
Spending the money seemed to comfort him. And when he spent it on Horatio he actually smiled a little. This was one of those nights. Horatio was inclined to be frugal, but he had learned not to argue. Tonight Archie charted a course for the nearest warm bed and good table.
The opening door nearly came off its hinges. They struggled together to shut it again. The smoke belched in the fireplace. Four betty lamps guttered out. Archie stepped to the counter and laid his gold down.
The room they were given was large but warmed by a lively fire. There was one bed, curtained in brocade. A screen by the fire provided a place for modest clothes changing. Horatio went first. He was wearing nothing but one soggy stocking, and he was bent over fighting with his garter, when the door opened.
A cheerful female voice assaulted his ears. He peered around the edge of the screen Archie said something in a teasing voice, and more money changed hands.
“I'll bring it right away, Sir.” the girl departed.
“What is she bringing?”
“Food and a bath. I'm having them brought to the room,” Archie said. “I'm not letting you anywhere near the card tables tonight.” He said this, but his smile and his eyes were soft and fond.
“I know you are tired, Honeybee,” Archie said. “I am too. We can stay right here.”