Title: On Going Home, Chapter 6
Word Count: 1342
Disclaimer: I did not invent them
On Going Home Chapter 6
“Archie, wake up!” Horatio's voice ,seemed to come from a long way off, and Archie was so liquid, so languid in the sun, on the weeds. He was half naked, and more than half asleep, he didn't want to move.
“Archie!” Horatio's voice was insistent.
“What time is it? How long have we been asleep?”
“Don't know -umm” He fumbled in his jacket for his watch. “Six bells.”
Horatio leaped to his feet, fumbling for his discarded shirt. “Archie, hurry up. We have to get home. Mary is going to want to serve dinner. We must have been asleep for ages”
“All right.” Archie stood up, yawning, reaching for his own clothing. “I shall do my best, but I'm still full from breakfast. If all we do is eat and kiss all week, I may never want to leave.”
Horatio turned to him, and the sight made Archie ache all over again. Tidy Horatio was half unbuttoned, his neck was red with bite marks, and he had weeds in his hair. “We have four days left.” Horatio said. “We should do a lot more kissing.”
“We could just stay here.” Archie tried. “We could eat lotus.”
“Those are cowslips.” Horatio said,
It was not very much later that they pelted up past the horse-chestnut tree, and into Horatio's house. . Dr. Hornblower's looked up from his desk, with a kindly smile. He had been writing up notes again, Archie could see the same little book and sand shaker. He closed the book gently as they came near. There was no need to explain about the ducklings. They had been shaken from their nap, and were honking in horrified protest from within the covered basket.
“Silly babies.” The doctor said. “Too small to eat, and a long way from laying eggs. All they can do now is shout. Take them to Mary, she can maybe trade them for something we can actually use.” He shook his head “I cannot fault the Smith's for their anger. I can't save their boy.”
This meal proved to be just as vast, if slightly more formal. The food was exquisite. Mary, in her rustic way was the equal of the cook of Archie's childhood London house. The doctor's talk was pleasant, as before, and the light slanted through the long windows on the other side this time. Horatio, on the other side of the table ate without noticing, and watched Archie's mouth with soft eyes. He'll have to govern that gaze by next week. Archie thought. He shivered then. He knew what he had to do. By next week it might not matter.
The plates exchanged, and now they were nearing the end. Horatio was drinking his coffee with indecent speed. He was burning his mouth, and blinking with pain. He set his cup down with too much triumph and gave Archie a crooked smile.
“Would you like to see my trigonometry books Archie?” The doctor looked up from his remaining coffee. Archie thought he say the man's mouth twitch.“Go ahead boys, I should get back to my work.” His eyes were as kind, his voice unruffled. Well, I guess the doctor knows.
“All right,” said Archie.
Horatio stood with his back to the door. Closing them into the little peaked room. His shoulders were raised, his eyebrows were raised. He was almost dancing with anticipation.
“Do you want to---” Archie stepped forward to silence him. By the time he pulled his face away they were both gasping.
“Yes.” Said Archie. “Yes, I do. But we need to talk too. There are things you should know.”
Horatio's brow creased. “Did I---”
Archie pulled him down to sit on the narrow bed. Horatio looked so pale and young suddenly, and knowing what he had to do made Archie feel older than Keane.
Archie sank to his knees, looking up at Horatio's face. He found himself taking those long nervous hands in his own, folding them, kissing them. Soothing as he spoke.
“It's all right.” (I hope.)
He pushed Horatio's jacket back, and brought his hand into the shirt neck, slowly caressing. He wanted to get this absolutely right.
“Remember when you fixed my broken ribs, Horatio?”
“Of course.” Horatio reached out to reciprocate the touch, reaching under Archie's bound hair, feeling the little curls where he had sweated in the sun. Archie sighed, it felt so good, so sweet. He wanted so much to forget all this, and just lean into the kisses he knew he could bring forth, and never speak of it again. But he had started this now, and now he had to know. He had to bring it clean.
“I'll never forget that night.” Horatio said. “I couldn't stop thinking of it after. That's when I knew, I --”
Archie stopped his mouth again. So sweet. He detached Horatio's hands, and set them free.
“You saw the scars on my chest and arms, remember?”
“Yes.” Now he could hear the growl in Horatio's voice.
“Well,” Archie sucked in a deep breath, and dragged the monsterous thing into the innocent light. “Simpson did more than that Horatio. He d-defiled me.”
Archie's eyes were fixed on the far blue wall. He could hear that Horatio's breath had gone to harsh gulps, but he could not bear to look. He felt the urge to let himself go up and small near the ceiling. That was what he did when Simpson hurt him. He could get away that way. It would hurt less, everything would be far and he could manage it.. But he wanted to stay by Horatio.
“He forced himself on me when I first came into Justinian. I was smaller then, I was 14. I fought him, but – and he did it, and that was the first time he beat me. After that he said he'd tell Eccleston if I didn't let him. He said I'd be hanged, and my parents disgraced. And so --But he beat me anyway. I think that was part of it for him. I couldn't stop it Horatio. I'm not clean like you.”
Archie sat, waiting. He wished he could cry. But that didn't work anymore. Not since he was 14. He had learned how to go away inside, instead. He felt himself cringing. Couldn't help it. He shut his eyes and waited.
The sound came to him from far away, and for a moment Archie didn't know what it was. He opened his eyes. It was Horatio, with his hands over his eyes, weeping. Horatio was coming apart with the ragged unpracticed sobs. Horatio was weeping for both of them.
“Do you blame me Archie?”
“ I said I'd kill him, and I failed. I shouldn't have challenged him, I should have killed him with my bare hands, like an insect But my mistake killed Henry Clayton instead. I will aways blame myself for that. Archie, you have nothing to blame yourself for, ever.”
Horatio slid down to the floor, kneeling awkwardly near Archie. He reached out, slowly uncertain again. His face was silver with tears.
“Clean.” He said softly, touching Archie's dry clean face. “Do you remember what else I said that night? I said that you were the bravest man I knew. I meant it then. And it was more true than I knew. And you, you said I had to get out more.” He chuckled, through his sobs.
Horatio stilled, his eyes were huge and dark and uncertain. His chest still heaved but the laughter and tears were all spent. “Can I still kiss you whenever I want Archie? Can I kiss you now? “He asked. And Archie drew him close. And it felt so sweet.