Title The Promise
Word Count 530
He was leaning over the chart table, the dividers in his hand. He walked them across, getting the same answer as before. He stopped to make a few trigonometrical checks, but his calculations were correct. He had known that they would be. He nodded in satisfaction.
He announced his findings with care. It was only as he did so that he realized that his feet were on fire and he had written his workings on the side of a large melon.
Dreaming, he was dreaming. Of course. You could not write on a melon, the ink would-- He pushed to the surface of sleep. His quarters, in the modest light of dawn in November. He was not on fire, but Archie's feet were resting on his.
Archie was curled against him, hot. It was Archie who was hot.
“Archie, wake up!”
“Don't shout at me H'ratio, my head hurts.”
“You have a fever. Sit up, let me look.”
Archie sat up readily enough, but there was a mulish set to his mouth that Horatio knew very well.
Archie held his arm close against his chest.
“It's all right, it is not--”
“Then let me see.” He reached out to feel Archie's brow. “
“Christ, Archie why didn't you--”
“I wasn't sure. And then I just wanted to sleep.”
“I'm going for the surgeon.”
Archie scrabbled his feet to stand, stood swaying.
“Don't, please. Just – don't. See, look, I'm sweating, the fever is breaking already. You can mend me, remember, you cured me in Spain.”
“I had no choice in Spain. We got lucky--”
Archie was pushing against him, bringing his burning body close. He nestled winningly, but he had his face averted as he spoke.
“I can't. Horatio, please-- I, it's-- I can't bear to be touched by anyone but you.”
Archie's voice was small, and it hurt to hear it so. Horatio sighed.
“Come over where I can get a better look.”
The light was miserly, everything drained of color. Archie's eyes were red, and his face paler than usual. Horatio unrolled the bandage, and put it aside. It needed to be changed anyway. He pressed firmly all up the arm, watching Archie's face. Archie looked down and away, his breath was rapid. The wound was on the outside, above the elbow. It was slightly swollen, and bruised all around, but Horatio could see no trouble beyond that really. He brought his face close, breathing deeply, it smelled of Archie, that was all.
Horatio put his tongue out, he could taste the wounded flesh, and the rough scab that had formed in the night.
He moved as gently as he could, feeling with his lips and tongue, searching out a core of heat. There was no
center of infection that he could feel. The whole area was warm, but healing did that too. Still--
“I will give you until noon,” Horatio said slowly. “If you are still ill then, we report it.”