Title: On Going Home
Word Count 1234
Disclaimer: I did not invent them
On Going Home, Chapter 21
Deep night came, and the little blue room was dark.
There was time to warm, each other,and slide together. They had time to render, in silence and whispers, their thanks and promises. The night was long, but morning did come, as usual. It pressed the window with a merciless light that nobody wanted. They were asleep, curled together like two mice. It did not find them right away.
“I don't suppose we can expect a freak snowstorm?”
“In August? In Kent? 'Fraid not Archie.”
Archie was frowning at his shirt.
“I am missing three buttons Horatio. And, here – I guess it's a grass stain. By the time I scrub this out, the whole back will be gone. Make and mend... if I keep rolling on the ground with you, I will need a bigger wardrobe.”
“I am missing two trouser buttons. You don't hear me complaining.”
“Yes I do.”Archie said.
Horatio, threw a ball of stockings at his head. He was beginning to learn, however that throwing things at Archie, although a great relief, bothered Archie not at all. Archie had two elder brothers and a saucy tongue. He was entirely accustomed to people yowling in beastlike frustration and throwing things at his head. In this case, he caught the stockings neatly, stuck out his tongue, at Horatio, (In the manner of a four year old, not a lover,) and sat down to put them on.
“Well. We will do the best we can. Your shirt buttons won't show under your waistcoat. I can cover the missing buttons somewhat with my belt. We won't have to move around to much.”
“Unfortunately,” said Archie with a rueful smile.
“Yes, well...” Horatio was sitting on the bed they had never used. It was still made tight. Archie pulled up his stockings, and stood up. The other bed was a rumpled disgrace.
Horatio reached out and trailed his fingers down the back of Archie's bare knee.
Archie stood, indecisively, in shirt and stockings, trousers trailing forgotten from one hand. “Horatio we'll be late for breakfa—ooh.”
“I can't stop touching you Archie.”
. Horatio drew him close, and bit him gently, through the cloth.
Archie made a very feeble attempt to push him away. “These are my last clean drawers. Horatio—oh. You are going to get them all... slobbery.”
“Take them off.”
“But I just put them on.”
“All the more reason.”
“That makes no sense, Horatio.”
“Just for a minute.” Horatio's voice had dropped to a sort of wheedling growl. He was working the buttons, himself, sliding the soft linen down over Archie's thighs.
“There is coffee downstairs.” Archie gasped.
“Damn all coffee.” Horatio said with his mouth full.
There was, in fact,coffee downstairs. Ten minutes later, they each sat before a big cup of it. There was also toast and bacon. Mary came in after a moment and set down a big platter of breaded eels. She looked at them both, brushing down her apron. “See what you can do with those.” She said. She smiled, and Archie realized that it was a smile he had come to like very much.
John Hornblower was sitting back in his chair. This morning he did not have his little case-book beside him. He was quiet, as usual. Archie could see, as he had seen that first night, that the older man was devouring Horatio with his eyes. The love on Dr Hornblower's face made Archie ache. Archie had wept, at 14, when he had left home for the Navy. He had missed his mother terribly. He had missed everything. He treasured his letters from home.
But this was something different. He had to look away. He felt intrusive seeing it. He drank his coffee and ate his eels, and thought a little dizzily about love.
In time, the cups were empty, the eels reduced to greasy crumbs. The dunnage was stacked outside the door. It was time to go sit on it. The Post-chaise would come soon. Archie stood, and murmured something. He wanted to give Horatio a moment alone with his father. He had been sitting alone a very short time when they came out. Horatio sat down beside him.
Mary carried the big wicker basket. She handed it to Archie. “I've put some pies in there.” She said, rather gruffly. “For later.” She dropped a kiss on Archie's head. He found he didn't mind at all. She placed another one on Horatio, and drew him close for a moment. He leaned a long moment against her apron. She stoked his head, kissed him once more. She stepped back, to speak to them both.
“Be good boys.” She said. “I know you will. I will keep you both in my prayers. Keep – keep safe.”
She shook out her apron, emphatically, and hustled away. Archie felt strange. It seemed prudent to look carefully at his shoes for a while. But now Dr Hornblower was addressing him. He set the basket down, and rose to stand respectfully.
Dr Hornblower said kind things. His eyes were deep and clear and knowing. He did look a little like Horatio. Archie was fairly sure his responses were appropriate. He really could not have said, later. He felt so strange. He was pulling away a little. Not all away, up and to the side, , the way he did when the hurts came. (And maybe that would never happen again anyway.) But a little, as if something was hurting. But nothing was hurting, surely. He had come and gone from so many places before. He was a sailor, after all. Four years now.
Dr Hornblower was taking his hands, pulling him close, embracing him. The faded blue eyes were so knowing. Archie could barely breathe.
Then, Dr Hornblower went away into the house. Archie sat down, and took up the basket. He leaned against Horatio, and sighed a little. And that felt better. He rested a while. Horatio slipped an arm around him. The Post-chaise came. They loaded their things and got in.
Inside, the light flashed and striped, as the trees went by. Archie shut his eyes. He didn't feel well. There was no one to see. They could touch freely here, a little at least. But it was dusty, and too bright. His mouth was too full of spit suddenly, and the thing was lurching. Archie felt that peculiar despair that comes with nausea. He would not. He would not. He was going to--
He lunged across, and got the door open, barely in time to spatter the road below with eels and coffee
Black spots swam and reeled around the edges of his vision. Ugly sweat prickled under his arms. The next thing he knew, he was half against Horatio's chest. Horatio was kissing his face, and stroking his fouled hair back away to cool him.
“I'm disgusting.” Archie whispered.
“Don't be silly. You got sick is all. I don't see how it can signify, when you had your hand all up my --”
“That's different. That was love.”
“Well,” said Horatio in a reasonable tone, “so is this.”