Title: Small Moment
Word Count 582
He was working. He was.
Here was his
pen in his hand. He was making notes. He was. Anyone could see that.
And if Horatio had his ear was trained on the sound of cannon below,
and his heart on the latch of the door-- well.
The roaring ended. The silence beat
like wings. He was holding his breath. A minute, maybe two, no more
than five, if all was well.
And there was the step. He twisted
quick, to face the door.
Archie's eyes were red from smoke,
his nostrils rimmed with black. The his face was pale where it was
not caked with soot. He was still wearing the sling, over his uniform
jacket. And he was smiling.
“How did it go?”
Horatio took the dirty hand, pulled
Archie to stand between his knees
“Oh, they did very well. Came in
under time. I had my watch out, but I could feel it. They were
Horatio nodded. He knew. Speed was
the thing, and the need to move smoothly in the heat and the noise
and the crushing sweaty danger. That why they drilled, over and over
and over. That is why His Majesty had a Navy that could out-shoot any
on the sea. Practice. It was work.
But sometimes they soared. Sometimes
there was that perfect evolution, when everything moved with
synchronous speed. And when it was over, and the sweat stung the eyes
and the ears were ringing like bells in the silence, men who were
only human, could grin with justified pride.
Archie had been out two weeks. He had
been frighteningly ill. He had kept his arm, but it had been a near
thing. No one had said it to the men he worked with, the men he
commanded. Not in so many words. But the ship was a small world. His
men had given him perfection, to welcome him home.
“Sit down, you are swaying.” He
gave the hand a tug.
“Aye, I am tired.”
Archie came willing to the deck, to
sit, and lean against Horatio's knees. He tilted his head back with a
Horatio leaned forward. The kiss was
upside down. It tasted of soot and smoke. It was none the worse for
that. He rested his cheek on Archie's hair a moment.
“How is the arm?”
“Didn't think of it.”
“I am to have the stitches out today
“I don't really want to go all the
way up there and wait on the physicians convenience, Horatio.”
Archie said this with a slight curl of
the lip. His tone was glacial. Horatio thought again of the small
sick boy that Archie had been, and the adults who could only hurt him
again and again, and not cure.
“Will you take my stitches out for
me, Horatio?” And the airy diffidence hurt to hear. An old pain,
this one, for them both.
“All right. In a minute.”
Horatio brought his hands to slide
under Archie's hair. The braid was heavy and bright, even in the
shadows where they sat. Archie tipped his chin down, and now Horatio
could feel his neck-bones. Horatio pictured them, stacked, delicate,
luminous, safe within strong muscle. He pressed into the muscle to
ease the clench, and he heard Archie sigh.
“Let me see the arm then.”