On Going Home, Chapter 5
Rating R (in which they finally get up to something)
Word Count: 2414
Disclaimer: I did not invent these people
On Going Home, Chapter 5
Horatio was lost in a dream of bliss. Surely this was a dream, because he was wrapped around Archie, free to kiss and touch. Around them was his childhood room. Archie was smiling, sighing, happy under his caresses. Surely it was a dream, because it could not be real.
Even in his dream, Horatio knew that he wanted to touch Archie only as slowly, and gently as he could. In his befuddled state he could not say why, but it seemed to him terribly important. It had something to do with his memory of Archie's bruised body months ago back on Justinian. It had something to do with the trust in his upturned face. It has something to do with Simpson. That much Horatio knew, ignorant as he knew himself to be. He did not need to know more, he only needed to kiss, as tenderly as possible, and feel Archie, safe under his hands.
“Horatio!” It was Mary's voice, calling up the stairs .
“Be right there Mary.” He sang out. He and Archie broke apart, startled, and panting.
“Stay here, I'll be right back.” Archie nodded, and Horatio rattled down his childhood staircase, to see what she had to say.
“I don't know what you and Mr Kennedy have planned for your day,” Mary said, “But if you are going out, I have a basket of medicaments that needs delivering. Up to God's Pocket, and along New Lane. The Doctor has been worked to a frazzle lately, I'm worried about him.”
“Yes of course, Mary.” . After all, Horatio thought, staying in the bedroom all day was a really bad idea.
Mary nodded sharply, “See if you can collect some money from them too. The Doctor lets them slide too often. The basket is in the hall.” Her face softened a moment, in the old way he remembered. “ Mr Kennedy is a nice boy,” She said “I'm pleased you brought him with you.”
Horatio returned to his room to find Archie. It took only a few minutes to tidy into respectable Midshipman again. They were accustomed to hurry.
The world outside was still there. This came as something of a shock. Horatio blinked at it, the sun was warm, and the air was fresh and cool. His own yard sloped down green to the narrow white track to the town. As a child he had rolled down the hill giggling and bouncing, a careening bundle of small boy. He felt he could almost do that today. Instead he whirled around, for a moment he was almost dancing, then he broke into the boy's coltish run, that he had almost forgotten. “Can't catch me Archie!”
“Can too!” Archie's response was immediate. Of course, he had brothers. Archie's legs were not as long, but he was still very fast. Horatio stretched his legs out long, and his foot slipped, and he flailed ludicrously, and he was laughing, and still trying to run, and Archie was laughing too, and flailing to catch him. They ran faster and faster, as the slope dropped them down, and they fetched up under the horse-chestnut tree, panting.
“Oof,” said Archie. You're very fast Horatio. You can always turn to foot-races if whist deserts you.”
Horatio's chest was still heaving, his long nose was flared. He was checking the basket to make sure that none of the little bottles had been disarranged. Mary had wrapped each in flannel, he saw, to pad them. All was well. Each was labeled in John Hornblower's hand, as well.
Archie had gathered a hand full of horse-chestnuts, turning them over, abstracted, as they shone in the sun. “They are so beautiful. Nothing at sea is this color.”
Horatio could not say, they are the color of you, Archie, shining like your hair, as burning smooth and perfect as the kisses, oh.
“Wonder if I can do it still?” Archie muttered, he tossed one chestnut experimentally, and then they went into in the air in a perfect juggled arc.
“You can juggle!” Archie, where did you learn that?” (And how, Horatio thought dazedly did I come to be standing here, with my prick hard as a hawser cable, watching Archie Kennedy, in a blue coat, juggle horse-chestnuts?)
“London.” Archie replied. “Vauxhall gardens. Throw me another one.”
Horatio leaned against the tree, to watch. Another thing Archie knew that he did not. Horatio had never been to Vauxhall. He had heard about it, of course. Some of what he had heard was likely true. He had never been to London, for that matter.
Horatio was brought again and again to the awareness of the expanse of Archie's life before they had met. Little things revealed it. There was a gulf between them. A divide, in experience, in money, in birth. Archie could ignore it, Putting the difference aside when he chose was part of that birthright. Horatio, for his part, could not forget. Horatio heard again, in memory, that voice, casual and refined, “It's as my father explained to his gillie...” He sighed. He didn't like to think of it.
He heard the soft sound of the horse-chestnut's dropping. Archie could move quickly indeed. Blue eyes assessed him sharply. Archie pulled him into the shade on the backside of the tree. His hands were strong, his face questioning. “What is it, Horatio? I made you sad. Tell me. I want to mend it.”
“It's nothing. But I don't – It's-- I want to know you better.”
“Horatio, I will always tell you, anything you ask. Just ask.” The blue eyes were wide and close. The truth in them was impossible to ignore.
“I don't want to loose you Archie.” He felt himself butting against Archie, burrowing under his chin, as if he could stay under there safe forever. Something was unraveling inside of Horatio, something deep and integral, and it had been coiled down so careful all his life, he had not even known it was there. Now it was in disorder, and the disorder was new, and it felt so sweet, and disorder frightened him, and Horatio could not explain more clearly.
And Archie was holding him gently, and he never wanted it to stop. “Won't, won't, won't loose me.” Archie was murmuring into his hair. “I won't let you loose anything...Give you everything Horatio.”
Archie drew back slightly, to look into his eyes again. “Here is what we will do. We will take the basket, and deliver your father's potions.” Archie had burrowed a clever hand under jacket and waistcoat, and his rubbing hand was slow, and deliberate, warm through Horatio's thin shirt. It made him shiver. “We will deliver the damn potions,” Archie continued, “And then--” rubbing his abdomen, making him gasp, “Then Horatio, we'll find a place to be alone, and you can get to know me better.”
The first two families took the medicine with thanks, and gave him coin. The last family took the medicine with a grim look, and gave him a basket of ducklings. “They are good ducks, good for eating, good for eggs. Your father can sell 'em if he wont eat duck.” The woman stood in the doorway, arms akimbo, face closed. “Your father's last doses didn't do no good.” She said belligerently.
“Thank you for the ducklings, Mrs Smith.” Horatio said. “I'm sure father can use them for something. I hope Sam soon feels better.” Horatio bowed carefully, holding the basket of hysterical ducklings. They walked back to the road. Archie looked rather dazed.
“Her son is dying.” Horatio said quietly. “Bad heart. Father's treating him with valerian, but it can't save him. I'm actually surprised he's lasted this long.”
Horatio stood in the narrow road, blinking in the light, he was clutching the basket of ducklings to his blue-jacketed chest.
“Noisy things.” Said Archie
“Yes, ducks are. Do you still want to go somewhere?”
Archie's hand was back under the jacket now, rubbing Horatio's back, just above the lace of his trousers. “I want to go somewhere where we can be noisy.”
“All right.” Horatio couldn't think why kissing should be noisy, but he wanted to find out.
They did not have to go far. Down the track, and around the corner was a field of tall waving grasses.
It was interspersed with tall wildflowers, it smelled of earth and summer, and as they went to the ground Horatio could hear the sound of outraged nesting song-birds.
Horatio set the duck basket carefully aside. This was different than the kiss on the step, or even the embraces in his room. This was more deliberate. There was no other reason to be here, where they could not be seen from the road, except to do the things he was thinking of. He had been having these thoughts since the coach, and now at last something was going to happen. Horatio was painfully engorged, his mouth was dry, his heart was hammering.
Archie lounged on the grass, propped on one elbow. Only Archie could make reclining in a field look elegant, but his own flushed face and bright eyes betrayed him.
Archie reached out gentle fingers to touch Horatio's face. He touched Horatio's cheeks, his throat, the side of his neck. Still lounging on an elbow, still watching closely, he let his fingers find Horatio's lips. How could fingers kiss? Horatio's mouth opened to ask, and the fingers went in, tasting of something delicious that had to be just Archie. They were shameless, Archie's fingers. They caressed his tongue , his teeth, his soft insides. Horatio felt stupefied.
Horatio had seen those fingers use a pen, use a fork, tie a reef knot. He had seen them clench in pain and anger, he had seen them unfold in sleep. He had not known that Archie could kiss with them. It seemed terribly important to understand. The touch of the them burned like sunshine, like smooth heat, like the color of Archie's hair. Horatio leaned forward, compelled to follow the clever fingers, wanting only to suckle and bite at them. Archie drew the fingers away, back and back, and into his own mouth. Horatio followed there, beyond thinking now, kissing anxiously, working his tongue over Archie's mouth, and the hand still trapped between them.
Archie rolled over, pulling Horatio half over him. “Let me touch you.” He worked the Horatio's shirt loose, and stroked Horatio's back. Horatio could feel the pads of callous, tracing his spine, rubbing the sheets of muscle beside it. The imperious demand was still there, in his lower half, but the stroking soothed even as it enticed. Horatio tucked his head under Archie's chin again. Archie was solid beneath him, supporting him in the strangeness of this thing. And, after all, he couldn't think. He would let Archie do the thinking. Archie would know what to do.
His own hand was working Archie's shirt loose, wanting to find the warmth of skin. Archie's stomach bucked as he found it. Archie made a small tight noise. “Wait.” He said. He sat up, and struggled out of his shirt. He found the buttons of Horatio's and lifted it off over his head. “Touch you now.” Archie said hoarsely, and pulled him close.
The demand rose again, inevitable as a deep ocean swell, lifting them both smoothly. Horatio could feel his breath huff in his constricted throat. He could feel Archie's skin against his own, and it was maddening. He was on his back now, trembling against the crushed grasses, with the smell of summer in his nose, and Archie above him, blotting out the sun. He worked his mouth up the column of Archie's neck, feeling the great vessel there, thumping with life. He worked it along Archie's jaw line, biting between kisses, and they were both making soft senseless noises now, and he didn't want to ever stop.
He felt Archie fumbling between them, pushing Horatio's trousers down, clawing at his own, a button breaking loose, never to be seen again. Didn't matter, Horatio knew, because it only mattered that they be bare and touching. Down to the knees, and they could kick the tangling cloth away. And he was bare beneath the sun, and he felt no shame. Archie's hands were loving on him, and touching there, there. It was all rising in him, and it was too soon, but he heard himself give a yelp like a kicked puppy, and then the arch and spray, and it was over.
“Oh no.” Horatio said weakly.
Archie rolled sideways, propped on his elbow, smiling naked in the sun. His hair had come loose somehow, and he looked like an angel of fire. He was smiling dreamily.
He took Horatio's hand and guided it down. “My turn.” He said. And Horatio found that he knew what to do. Touching Archie, after all, was not so very different from touching himself while thinking of Archie. He had done that, stealthily, for some months now. Only this was better, because he could watch. Archie lay back, brazen in the sun. He gave himself over completely, hips tilted, strong back arched. His mouth fell open and his eyes shut, but he let Horatio watch.
“Yes, there, oh.” He whispered, his skin flushed sharply, and Horatio stroked him, and felt the hard, under the soft slide of skin, and Archie cried out, and Horatio felt his surge come.
After a number of heartbeats, Horatio found himself sane again. Sane and sticky. The discarded flannel from the medicine basket served to clean with. Trousers back on, shirts off, they rested in the grass. In the other basket the ducklings had gone to sleep. The sun had hardly moved.
“Can we stay here for a while?” Archie asked. “I don't think I can move.”
“I don't ever want to move.”
“Come here then.” Archie drew him down, and the grasses waved around them, and the flowers were weedy wild and sweet, and they slept.