Title: All to Burn
Rating PG, I suppose for one naughty word
Word Count 600
All to Burn
The night was still warm, but there was a change in the air. He could feel the coolness underneath. It was in his mouth when he inhaled through his mouth. Autumn would come. Autumn would find him here, on the Indy. Last autumn he had been in the Biche.
He looked up, focused his gaze on the night sky. He forced a slow breath, in and out. The ship was quiet, full of sleep, even the water purling her sides was quiet. There was little wind. He thought of the men of the Indy, safe asleep, tucked around and below. The sleep of men held no mystery for Archie. He could see them clearly in his mind: the midshipmen, the men of his division. He counted them, Archie saved the image of Horatio for last, most known and most beloved. Warm and safe, all of them.
Somewhere men still suffered in chains, but not his men. Not the Indy, not today. That is what watch was for.
Time to move, therefore. Watch standing was not for standing. He moved along the rail, agile in the dim light.
“Arch.” A bit of bulk pulled free of the dark.
“Hmm.” Cleveland said. He was sitting quiet, chin on hands. He too, was staring out over the water.
“You ever think on marriage, Arch?”
“ Why, Mr. Cleveland-- I thought you would never ask,” Archie squeaked.
Cleveland growled and his punch was solid on Archie's arm. The laughter bubbled easily between them.
Archie sat down beside him, on a coil of line.
“You are thinking of marriage, I infer,”
“Well, it seems to be marriage or burn, and well... I don't find the burning pleasant.”
“You and Miss Cathcart have not--”
“No.” Cleveland shook his downcast head. “It is not that she doubts me. She wants it too, at least she says so. But she wants to wait, lest, you know-- a baby.”
“Have you not found other company?” Cleveland came from Portsmouth, after all. He had to push willing girls out of the way just to reach his front gate.
“I only want her, so that just seems lonely. And I am trying to save my coin.”
“Lieutenant’s examination,” he offered.
“Yes.” Cleveland said. “ I have turned to with my studies. I have even asked for extra time with Bowlsy, but he can only spare so much. Do you think Horatio would go over some things with me?”
“I expect so,” Archie said. “You should ask him.”
“Hmm.” Cleveland said. Archie was standing when Cleveland spoke again, and his voice was so soft that Archie had to strain to hear it.
“Did you hear about the Africaine?”
“No, what's happened to it?”
“Well, they don't call it the man-fucking ship for nothing you know. They caught two Mids in the cable tiers. Trousers down and everything. Looks like a trial, and a hanging.”
Cleveland stared out over the dark water.
“In the Navy we are all to burn..” He said.
Cleveland looked up, his face a white blur in the shadow, looked away again.
“Take care, Arch,” He said. His voice was hesitant, and sad. “Stay safe. It was dull here when you were gone.”
“Aye Cleveland. I will do that.”
He walked aft, one hand under his jacket, pressed to his pounding heart. Safe, safe.