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To Give the Past

Title: To Give the Past

Author Eglantine_br

Rating G

Char-- Cleveland and Miss C

Word Count 675

To Give the Past

She leaned against him, and his arm went numb.

Christopher reclined in the soft bed, and felt the strange numbness in his arm, and smiled and smiled. She did not ask why he was smiling like a fool, she was smiling too, and every so often she leaned up to give him a kiss. That was better than fine. They talked about childhood things, kites and books, and schoolmasters.

“ But you left home at 12?” Saphronia said


“So young.”

“That is why-- better to start young, there is so much to learn.”

“I wish I had known you then.”

“You might not have liked me. You probably would have liked Mr Kennedy better.”

Cleveland had walked the dockside with Kennedy exactly once. They had been 15 then, and Kennedy had not gone with the girls who opportuned him. But the memory was scalding still.

“Is he the tall dark one?”

“No. That is Hornblower. Kennedy is the smaller reddish one. Girls seem to like him.”

“I suppose--” She said slowly. “ But only think, Christopher, if we had met when we were 12, we could have loved each other even earlier. We would have had more time together. What were you like then? Tell me?”

Christopher thought of himself, as he had been then, round-faced, foolish, afraid. Old Captain Keane had frightened him. The ship itself had seemed hopelessly confusing. Archie Kennedy had come in the same week. He had been a friend. He had been kind. They had struggled in parallel. Then Simpson had come, and changed everything. Simpson turned his attention to Archie, and Christopher had found out how weak he really was.

Christopher had looked away, he had done nothing. Worse than that, even though he tried not to remember, Simpson had made him watch, or help. Had made him part of Archie's pain and horror.

This shame he would never share with Saphronia. He did not speak of it to anyone, except once obliquely to Kennedy. He, Archie, had been newly returned to them then. He had been so thin and pale. It had not ruined his looks, but made him glow from the inside somehow. Which figured, Christopher thought. On that day he had been standing astern watching the wake. His mind was far away. Christopher could see that, and he moved to stand next to Archie, wordless, but nearby.

“Simpson is dead.” Archie had said.

“Aye, and in hell.” Christopher had replied.

Archie had given a soundless snort, a sort of huff through the nose, a sound of amusement.

“Hell is in France.”

He had said it, and he had walked away. The silence had beat around Christopher then, like the moment when cannon fire stops. It was the closest Archie had ever come to a rebuke. It had been more than enough.

But Saphronia was waiting to hear stories of his early life. He picked through and found things to tell her-- lesser mistakes to amuse her. She rested against his numb arm, and laughed and asked questions. She looked at him as if he was twice as handsome as Kennedy, and five times as clever. That felt as good as anything, ever. It felt as good as moving inside her, as knowing she wanted him to.

They talked slow and sleepy, and they both began to yawn. Finally he let the tide of sleep wash over him. He knew he would wake at 8 bells in the morning. He supposed she would not, and he could watch her sleep. Maybe he would wake her up. There would be breakfast then, and coffee, bacon maybe. And there would be more time to talk in the morning. She had turned in his arms, now, and she was delicately snoring. It was a delightful sound, nothing like the snores of men. What a funny creature she was. His, his.

Christopher slept.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 4th, 2012 11:15 am (UTC)
This is proufoundly sad and also lovley at the same time.Poor Cleveland - his own guilt and struggle at the ways in which Simpson exploited him and his desperation knowing that he can't take back the past

and all that running alongside his happiness and being made to feel as handsome as the tall dark one and the smaller reddish one, whom girls seem to like (no, really? :D )

which latter part will go down in this years annual review of Archie descriptions as the most unexpectedly glorious ...
Dec. 4th, 2012 12:00 pm (UTC)
I am smiling because you totally got what I was trying to do.

This was a piece that came easily. It just sort of showed up. I had a picture of Miss C snoring. It began with that and went from there.

Cleveland is growing into a complex and thoughtful guy. He regrets the past on Justinian desperately.

And it is just as well he and Miss C did not meet at age 12. They would not have known how to deal with each other. He might have tried to charm her with a dead bird or something equally gross!
Dec. 4th, 2012 10:02 pm (UTC)
For such a short piece this has left me with a lot to think about. Poor Cleveland, he was another of Simpson's victims in many ways, but I still find it hard to forgive him. I wonder if Archie ever did? I suspect not, though I also suspect he understood. Archie doesn't forget, but neither is he vindictive.

It had not ruined his looks, but made him glow from the inside somehow.
Yes, somehow that's right.

“Hell is in France.”
Dec. 4th, 2012 10:24 pm (UTC)
He said that once before, to Horatio, when he was half delirious. This is different.

I realized, after writing this, I made a mistake. I have said before, Archie came in at 14. So if he and Cleveland entered at the same time they could not have been 15 together. Archie must be two years older. He would have been 17 when he and Cleveland walked the docks.

Dockside whores still exist, of course. I have seen women in Norfolk throw their dresses up over their heads when sailors drive by. Skinny sickly women with dresses that are not warm enough-- and nothing at all underneath.

As for Archie's forgiveness-- I think he must struggle with it. He did things he was ashamed of. He knows what it is to not be the man you want to be.
Dec. 22nd, 2012 04:24 am (UTC)
Oh dear. I'd like to think I wouldn't have had the same causes for guilt that Cleveland did... but ouch.

*returns to happy thoughts of Horatio and Archie curled up safe by their fire with a Newfie at their feet*
Dec. 22nd, 2012 04:33 am (UTC)
It is one of those 'what would I do if it were me,' moments. Impossible to know. I tend to think that there was really no way to win against Simpson, short of shooting him. He was everywhere at once, like a boa constrictor. He was a true psychopath.

Blech-- enough about him. Newfie dogs, you say?
Dec. 22nd, 2012 04:36 am (UTC)
You met the Newfie. He got slobber and dog hair all over Edrington's coat. :) I have REALLY got to figure out a way to file down the more blatant LKU bits from Love Continuance before I submit it more places.
Dec. 22nd, 2012 04:54 am (UTC)
Yes-- Archie's puppy. And a Very Good Dog, as I recall. (I have never known a retriever that was not.)
Dec. 22nd, 2012 04:58 am (UTC)
When I put him in the Christmas story, he couldn't understand that the snowball fight was NOT a huge game of Fetch, and he so desperately wanted to help with all the silver paper wrapplngs!

The story that's going up on Sunday over at Speak Its Name has neither the puppy nor his proud parents, though he'd have been six months old at the time. It does have the consolation of peg-dolls, and baked apples.
Sep. 28th, 2016 10:35 am (UTC)
This was another story that stayed with me for a long time after I read it - especially the part about Cleveland walking with Archie and being outshone by him. There must have been such a complexity of feeling there - resentment of Archie's good looks, but at the same time perhaps some sneaking relief that he didn't share them, and was not thus Simpson's target for *that* particular type of abuse. Perhaps even some sneaking, reluctant feeling of payback? That schadenfreude when people you are envious of go through suffering?

It is sad too to think that Cleveland avoided walking the docks with Archie after that, either through his own insecurity about his looks being compared to Archie's, or shame after being forced to participate in Archie's abuse, and thereby they both lost out on friendship and ended up even lonelier on that ship.

And that Simpson had made Cleveland watch, or help - that is even worse than if he had just hauled Archie off to the cable tiers. It is a wonder that Archie could ever speak to Cleveland again after that, could even hold his head up enough to keep living and eating and doing his duty, after being abused right in front of his mess mates.
Sep. 28th, 2016 12:41 pm (UTC)
Yes. All true. Cleveland will never forgive himself, even if he knows that Archie can put it aside somewhat. I guess that if we are possessed of a normal human conscience we all have things we regret not doing, not saying. Archie and Cleveland have adult regrets.
Oct. 1st, 2016 04:18 am (UTC)
True. I'm glad I've never been in Cleveland's shoes - that my regrets have been about smaller things. It's easier to read about cowardice in others than it is to be faced with my own.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )