Fic: A Solitary Boy
A Solitary Boy
Horatio landed, sitting, knees up, hands buried in the soft earth. His knee was bleeding through his stockings only slowly. He could, if he bent over, see how the blood came through the little lines of Mary's knitting. It came in a sensible way, first through the gaps between the yarn fibers, and then into the wool itself. Under the stocking it felt hot and wet. He pushed a little on it with his thumb, winced.
He had gotten dirt up his shirtsleeves when he slid. Little bits of twigs were lodged there too, some as high as his elbows. Mostly that was itchy. His hands were sore, but only a little, beads of bleeding under the dirt. He dusted them off together, gave his palms a lick. The sun was low, and it getting cold. Time to go home.
It was harder to climb up than it had been to fall down. The embankment was raw, muddy at the bottom, crumbly at the top. But there were juts of tree roots to pull himself along with. Horatio used those. He fell going up only a few times, just forward, onto his face, not down to the bottom again, so that really didn't count.
At the top he collected his things. He had a little boat he had carved. It wasn't very good, but better than the previous one. He had a slingshot too, he had been practicing with pebbles. There was some trick, certainly, to getting an accurate result. A trick he did not know. And he had a book, of course. He always had a book. It was wrapped in a bit of clean toweling that Mary had given him. She said books should stay indoors, but father said No, Horatio can take them out, so he did.
For a while while the sun was high, today Horatio had taken his sling and played at being David. But David was not quite right alone. There ought be another boy, to think up adventures with. A boy to talk to, about important ideas. That would be Jonathon.
But really there was just only Horatio.
At the step he remembered to use the boot scraper. It wasn't easy with everything he was carrying. He had to balance against the house, awkwardly.
Mary opened the door.
“Where have you been? Look at you covered with mud. Twigs in your hair, Never get them out...” The words didn't matter much. These were just sounds she made. Like a big soft bird singing.. It took a lot to get Mary angry.
“A big boy of almost seven years, nearly have the bottom out of those new breeches the doctor bought you. My goodness. Let me see your hands.”
“They don't hurt.”
“Well. Good. Glad to hear it. Arms up, I don't know how I will get this shirt clean...” Mary said.
The hearth stones were smooth and warm beneath his naked skin. Away behind him Horatio could hear the sound of Mary pouring wash water. The heat of the fire tightened the skin of his face. He stared into the flames and let his eyes blur until it was only ribbons of orange in a blackness, like another world.
“Here now, wash yourself like a good boy. I'll get your nightshirt.” She set the basin down beside him. It was steaming, and the towel was soft, and Mary's soap was good. But Horatio did not unfold himself to wash. He sat naked on the hearth and watched the fire.
The fire was in parts. The bottom was ashes, which looked soft, like the fur of a cat. But you could not touch them, of course. Some of the ashes were split with chasms of red, not soft, not safe.
Above that the flames, that was the next part. Orange in black, waving like flags. Sometimes the flames crept under and between the logs, to shoot out someplace new and wave from there. Bits of flame broke loose from the main, too. They waved briefly, and collapsed at the chimney's edge to smoke. That was good. Father said they had a good chimney. They would not have a chimney fire.
The last part was the smoke. Still part of the house's fire, drawn away into the world to become something alone. Maybe it came out the chimney top, unformed and unsure. It looked that way. Horatio had seen it, wreathing the damp black trees.
If smoke could look down it would see all the houses with dark between them, each house a separate box of light, and heat. Each person in each house full of thoughts and plans and life. Each one alone, each one real as he was. How strange the world was made that way. He pushed on his knee a little. It was forming a scab now.
“Horatio, stop dawdling now and get washed and dressed.” So he did that.
TITLE: Youth of Delight, Come Hither, Part 8A/N: Archie is being a right prick, and I want to slap him, but unfortunately I have a rather lot of filler that I need to get through before I can expose him in all his awfulness. So I am trying to push through it as quickly as possible before I lose steam again. So this is mostly scene setting and time killing, sorry!
WORD COUNT: 2470
WARNINGS: Angst, more angst, and toast.
DISCLAIMER: Hornblower and characters belong to ITV and the Forester estate.
SUMMARY: An awkward breakfast
Horatio came awake slowly, uncertain of where he was but too comfortable to be unduly fussed over the mystery. It was only when his bleary eyes fixed on the small portrait among the gallery of landscapes opposite the bed that he remembered suddenly that he was in Kennedy’s bedroom, in London, in the house of an earl. Archie! He started to bolt out of bed, but the squeak of the startled maid brought him up.
“Goodness, your pardon sir!” She was his age or a little younger, Horatio reckoned, and looked well in her neat uniform, with an upright posture and a friendly round face---flushed now with embarrassment. “I didn’t realize you were stirring, I hope I didn’t wake you sir.” Her eyes were carefully cast down at her feet, but Horatio had the impression, nonetheless, that she had examined him thoroughly. Whether she found him as clownish as he did himself, her face didn’t betray.
After a pause, she glanced up cautiously. "Lady Anne thought you might prefer breakfast on a tray this morning, sir. Would you like me to have the kitchen prepare that now?"
Horatio realized a few seconds too late that he should have made some sort of response to her apology, not stood there at the edge of the bed in his night gown, staring at the poor girl. He must say something now, in fact. “I… er… ah… that would be…. Fine. Thank you, miss?” His mind spun around deciding if he was being offered a tray because of some gaffe the night before. Unable to settle on any glaring crimes, he tried to believe it was simple thoughtfulness after their long journey yesterday.
“Betsy sir.” She bobbed a curtsey, still not actually looking at him. “I’ll just go fetch some warm water and then tell Cook.” Gathering up her basket of brushes and fuel, she backed out of the room, leaving Horatio alone once more. He moved to the adjoining door, and listened for a moment. Hearing nothing, he cautiously opened it up, and peeked into the other room.
Archie was still sleeping before the fire, which had almost burned out. Betsy had not yet been into this room, then. A few stubs of candles were still burning, and Horatio crept about to extinguish them, then came back to kneel next to Kennedy. In the dim light stealing through the curtains, the boy looked better, not so pale, with the red flecks on cheeks and chest beginning to fade.
Horatio warred between the desire to let his friend sleep it out, and saving the gossip of being found sleeping other than in bed. Propriety won this battle, and he reached out, his other hand held up to protect his own face from any violent reaction, and shook gently. “Mr. Kennedy, the maid will be in shortly.
Kennedy must still be unwell, for the boy did not react immediately, beyond opening eyes dark and muzzled, blinking and then closing again. Horatio tried again, gripping a shoulder, and tugging gently. “Mr. Kennedy, you will want to be in your bed, or the servants will talk.” A frown then, or perhaps a wince, and then that blue gaze was fixed more directly on him, Archie sat up, Horatio helping until he realized Kennedy was staring down at his hand wrapped round the other’s arm.
“Thank you, Mr. Hornblower, I have it.”
Horatio let go at once, too relieved at hearing the familiar edge of irritation to be hurt by it. “Of course, Mr. Kennedy.” Gratitude was obviously not to be expected from wounded pride, so Horatio just stood up again, awkward, ready to help return the bedclothes until he realized Archie was glaring at him in resentment of his continued presence. “I’ll… just be there, if you need anything.” He gestured at the open doorway, then tripped over a discarded map case, on his way back through. He closed it on his own embarrassment.
Betsy came in a minute later, with a knock, but no pause to acknowledge his welcome. Carrying a lightly steaming pitcher in her hand, she crossed to set this on the washstand, not even giving Horatio a sideways glance. “You didn’t set your boots out last night, sir, shall I take them down now?”
His boots? Horatio wasn’t sure what she meant to do with them, but didn’t want to look more foolish, and assented. “Thank you, Betsy.” The few servants his father had employed had been less formal. He wasn't sure how to speak to the girl.
Betsy did not seem to notice his discomfort, and bobbed another curtsey. “I’ll be back with your tray presently, sir.” Gathering up his footwear---new when he boarded the Justinian, but already scuffed and scratched from the rigors of sea life---the maid swept out of the room with an air of efficiency, leaving Horatio to puzzle out what to do next.
He didn’t feel he could climb back into bed, and eat there, like some form of decadent. Instead he washed with French soap and hot water, luxury enough, then retrieved his uniform, neatly laid on a chair last night, and quickly dressed for the day. He shaved as much as he needed, and began the task of confining his hair with a ribbon, after losing an argument with himself over whether to knock on the intermediary door to request the service.
It was the kind of soft, normal, courtesy that they had often shared, in those early weeks, before Simpson, Clayton, and the fight in the hold. Whatever else his inverted heart longed for, Horatio ached most for that tender friendship. The safety of warm strong hands setting him to rights in the berths or guiding him through a complicated knot or welcoming him under the table with a silent joke.
It was ridiculous. After all they'd survived because of their care for one another, there was now no need to skulk and hide their friendship. How should there yet be so much of death and illness, lust and secrets between them, that Horatio could not even rap the door and ask the blasted boy to tie his hair for him? He was taking strides in that direction, determined not to let the awkwardness grow further, when both doors opened together. Betsy, surprised to see Horatio dressed before her, stopped tray in hand. Kennedy was wrapped in the coverlet, and similarly startled at having Hornblower almost nose to nose.
"Master Archie, sir!" Betsy smiled and bobbed, threatening Horatio's meal. "I'll just put this down and raddle your fire then? Or shall I go down for your breakfast first?" Recovering, she detoured around Horatio to set the crowded tray down on a small table near the window. She drew back the curtains to let in the morning light as she waited for instruction.
"I think you've brought enough for two already, Betsy. Midshipman Hornblower has not so robust an appetite." Archie sat himself at Horatio's table, looking over the contents proprietorially. "I've made a mess of things, bit of a drunk last night," Kennedy let the lie out without hesitation or embarrassment. "Leave everything save whatever clothes you find. Take those off to be burned and have a footman help you with the hammock mattress. Then worry about the fire. Ta, Betsy."
The maid took these orders with a saucy little eyeroll, very different from her humble correctness with him. "Yes, Master Archie." but trundled off to the adjoining room, closing the door behind her. Unsure what else to do, Horatio took the second chair, examining his friend critically in the clear morning light. Shadows around the eyes gave the other mid a faintly hollow air, but Archie’s expression showed nothing but avarice at the bounty before them.
A selection of tiny jam pots awaited of tower of thick-cut toast. There were scones as well, studded with currants, and a dish of stewed prunes and apples. A single coddled egg on a porcelain stand could be fought over later. Their hands had already met over the half rasher of bacon. Horatio could not but give way to the other mid, though his mild irritation forced him to at least protest. “It is my breakfast you know, Mr. Kennedy,” even as Archie snagged a handful of perfectly cooked slices.
“I'm helping, Mr. Hornblower,” the boy replied, stuffing two pieces in and mumbling over them, but returning the third back to Horatio. “I would not want you to be overset by Cook’s barrage. Though you will want to eat hardily, you’ll need your strength.” This warning, and the temptation of the bacon, distracted Horatio long enough for the other mid to snag the lone cup. Sighing over the tall carafe of coffee, Kennedy poured a measure with an air of resignation, and quaffed it with a wince.
“You could have asked the maid to bring you tea, Kennedy,” he snapped. Meat was one thing, but to stand between Horatio and his morning coffee was beyond the pale. “And what are we embarked on today?” He seized the sole egg in retribution, and began on it.
Archie took the time to slather a heap of jelly onto a piece of toast before replying. “I’m obliged to answer to the Captain for my innumerable flaws, and also to be measured for new uniforms.” By expression, the latter prospect was unfathomably more daunting. “You shall squire Anne about for a bit of shopping. She has instruction to visit the booksellers and at least one coffee house, but it might otherwise be a bit deadly. Fortitude, Mr. Hornblower!” To Horatio’s ear the jollity was a bit forced, but he was too unhappy at the idea himself to probe further into Archie’s distress.
“I should be happy to accompany your sister, of course, Mr. Kennedy.” Horatio hoped the quailing was not visible on his face, and attempted to further hide his dismay by fussing over the applying the correct proportion of lemon curd to blackberry on his scone. He had never attended a woman for anything more extended than a trip from dance floor the refreshments table, and that seldom, being unable to appreciate the music and clumsy on his feet besides. The thought floated across his mind that he had now an explanation for why he had never appreciated a lady enough to make the effort anyway.
“Excellent, Hornblower. I shall see about a trip to the theater tonight, to make up for it.” This treat was clearly cheering, and Kennedy dug into more of Horatio’s bacon as he expounded on the different acting companies and charms of their houses, beauty of their actresses, and talent of their playwrights, while requiring little more from Horatio than nods and grunts of agreement between mouthfuls of coddled egg. The voluble enthusiasm forced Horatio to forgive the boy even for the coffee, though as Kennedy finally rose, he did steal his cup back and poured himself what proved to be a simply excellent beverage. After so many long weeks of over-steeped and scalded dregs from inferior beans---when it was even true coffee at all, not blasted chicory---Horatio lost time in inhaling the delectable scent and savoring the first few sips.
When he blinked up again, the fog from his senses already beginning to lift, he realized that Kennedy had rummaged the walnut armoire in the corner and plucked out fresh garments. Elegant wool breeches in a deep gray were already pulled up under the nightgown. Though they had yet to discuss how Archie came to be in the gown, and Horatio thought Kennedy must not even remember the night before, nevertheless the other mid seemed to have decided that the same degree of modesty was no longer needed. Kennedy shucked off the shift, only turning away from Horatio to pick up the next article.
Though he did not intend to, Horatio stared at that straight back. It was marked, as he’d felt, with a scattering of narrow raised red welts that would not have stood out so, except the paleness of Kennedy’s skin. These crossed each other, meeting with a few more scars, thin and straighter, where back tapered to hips and disappeared into waistband. Horatio only had a few moments to take it in, as the boy slipped on two layers of fine shirts, then waistcoat. A jacket in deep evergreen waited, as buttoned, stuffed, and fastened, Kennedy moved to the mirror to work on tying a crisp white stock into a puzzle of folds.
Though no aficionado of fashion, Horatio did think that Kennedy’s clothes were well made, in rich fabrics. Coming close to watch behind Archie’s shoulder, he had a temptation to touch the waistcoat, which he thought was slubbed silk, in a merry blue-green color that gave a lovely ocean tint to Kennedy's eyes. However, the fit was slightly off, short at the cuffs and loose at the waist as if made when the boy had carried a stone more flesh on an inch less height. Clothes from before Justinian then, but after India, by the uncertain timeline Horatio had assembled from odd half-sentences and asides of two months’ conversations.
There were few words now, even as Horatio joined the other mid at the mirror on the pretense of refining his own appearance. Out of uniform, Kennedy seemed older. A wealthy---even foppish---stranger, frittering over neck gear, then the perfect set of jacket, and tuck of breeches. This bore no relation to the frequently heedless way Kennedy treated the standards of naval dress. A handsome stranger, as Horatio’s gut informed him with a churning warmth, without the bicorn that never sat well and bulky peacoat obscuring face and form. Yes, the Honorable Alexander Kennedy was quite striking, from gold touched waves and high cheekbones to rounded arse and strong thighs, ending in turned calves set off by bright white stockings and shoes with gold buckles, not pinchbeck. Horatio knew himself a dark country scarecrow in comparison, grateful for at least the distinction of his uniform.
Just when he meant to slip away again, Horatio felt a tug pinning him in place, and then the catch of a brush in his hair. Archie took time about it, first easing the tangles out, then running long strokes from crown to tip, long past what was needed to tame his locks. Even with the ribbon restored, Kennedy wasn’t done with him. Horatio watched as with a closed look of concentration, the older boy carefully smoothed locks over scarred fingers, coaxing the froth into trailing ringlets. Archie examined the effect, reaching up to drop a curl from his forelock, and wrestling Horatio’s coat into a minute adjustment; the familiarity with Horatio’s person was unchanged at least.
“There we are, Midshipman Hornblower, you’ll not disgrace my sister now. Let’s go below.”
Youth of Delight, Come Hither, Part 7RATING:
Angst, more angst, and almost no kissing.DISCLAIMER:
Hornblower and characters belong to ITV and the Forester estate.SUMMARY:
The world's most awkward sponge bath begins.A/N: I'm sorry. Sorry I abandoned this, and you all. Life, mental unwellness, more life, and a muse that desserted me entirely for almost seven years, got in the way. I thought, a time or two, about trying to go on, and never got past re-reading it all. But for some reason, this week, that vague yearning to know what happened next finally roused itself fully, and here we are. I know it's rusty, but hopefully not unreadable. There's still so much more in this story, and I'm not sure how far I will get before the muse abandons me again. But I'll try. eglantine_br and bauhiniakapok, wherever you are, I never forgot you. Hope you find this entry someday.
For anyone still here, but who has no idea what this is, here's the link to the first part of the fic and here's the last installment, posted six and a half years ago! I know LiveJournal is mostly dead, so I am cross-posting to FanFiction.net, you can find my fics in order here: https://www.fanfiction.net/u/2586527/KarasBroken
Horatio started where it was safest. With a gentle daubing motion he mopped the trickle of blood tracing down Archie's cheek, chasing it back to its origin. His other hand stroked his friend's damp temple, trying to soothe. Though still apparently unaware, the older boy's eyes were squinched tight, brow wrinkled with pain or its anticipation. The cut had slowed to seeping, and Horatio was able to stop it with some pressure, and clean the dark smears from Archie's hair. He was pleased to see the other mid’s face begin to ease. Next he wiped away the sweat, blood, and spittle from lips first pinched tightly, but gradually softening, falling open in a way that made Horatio's gut clench.
Kennedy once a fit had passed was always affecting. But Horatio had never seen the aftermath like this, flooded with the light of the fire and half a dozen candles. It gave no cover to the boy’s vulnerability, and left Horatio feeling a voyeur. He wasn’t meant to see eyelids swollen from shed tears--why had Archie been crying?--or the lower lip jutting out, swollen from being bit. Red freckling suddenly marred otherwise marble pale and translucent skin. A word floated from the memories of his father's medical books: petechiae. He did not know if it was typical, and with less light he'd just not seen it before, or sign of a fit of greater than usual harm. Should he ask John to wake the servants and send for a doctor? Kennedy would hate that.
The boy looked to be in no distress, breathing at a slow and steady rhythm. He would wait. As Horatio removed the last traces from Archie's face and began on neck and shoulders, his fingers felt the prick of stubble where a few hairs along the jaw had escaped a pre-supper shave. Leaning down, and swabbing gently with the damp cloth, he caught the scent of Captain Kennedy’s cigars, and under it soap and lavender. He couldn't help but contrast this to the stink of old sweat and dirt of the last, horrible time Horatio had treated Kennedy. He had been stopped then, from the same service he was doing now.A fancier of other boys
. So Simpson had named him, banishing him from Archie's side, and Horatio no longer denied it. He was mad for this
hapless, infuriating boy at least. Was there truth in all that vile man had said? Was he even now simply taking his opportunity to ogle and fondle? Was his friend the sort to invite those attentions? Had Kennedy bent over--even thinking the words sent a shudder through him--for other men? Could his own inversion been drawn out through some taint in the older mid? Horatio tumbled over, as he had half a hundred times since it happened, the feeling of Archie's willing, mocking lips against his in the carriage, versus the memory of a fist in his face and disgust in a dark hold.
His hand slowed, and his gaze dropped down to where it rested. He found it hard to look lower, as if the bright white of Archie's skin could blind him. It was not lust, though his stomach clutched and churned the longer he let his gaze linger on the dusky hair that lightly thatched the chest below him. He felt dizzy, and half ill, but not hot, not like the fever dreams he'd had, of a feminine and child-like Kennedy made of rounded softness, lush and wanton. The reality under him was hard, distant, cool, and very masculine.
Horatio let his washrag slide down over arms he never imagined were so roped with muscle, and remembered them wrapped around him, securing him to the shrouds, assuring him he could never fall. This was no womanish catamite. Reaching the end, he found the blood on the boy's knuckles wasn't his. He cleaned the scrapes, brushing the small raised scars he now knew were the broken welts of a caning, meant to teach Kennedy not to climb. He had never asked if Archie had been punished for going aloft to save him anyway.
There were so many things he had never asked Kennedy. And the body laying before the fire answered nothing, just hinted at more secrets. He washed down the rest of Archie's torso, marveling that he had ever thought the boy plump, and wondering at the shyness that led the mid to hide behind over-sized clothes and blankets. There was nothing to shame the lad, so compactly put together, symmetrical and strong and lovely. Horatio began to feel faint again, as he started to clean the rippled plane of Archie's stomach, and had to stop. Seeking distraction, his eyes, then fingertips found the thin seam of a scar between the last two ribs, left side, two fingers wide.
The boy under him twitched as he touched it. Even in the oblivion trailing a fit, some remembered pain caused the mid's face to pinch and tighten again. Horatio pulled back his hand at once, but peered closer. It looked like a knife wound. For a moment Horatio thought this must have been what Simpson did, on that shore leave--a lifetime and less than a month ago--that left Archie so sick. But no, it was well-healed and old, he realized. Studying closer, Horatio found several more odd marks, less orderly, most pale with age.
The ratings and older officers of the Justinian
had had scars enough, especially those who had fought in past wars. Even peacetime life on a naval ship lent itself to accidents. Archie did say he'd been to battle, but never mentioned any injury that would leave those irregular ridges at his waist. And this one, a partial ragged arc low on the chest, reminded him of a dog bite. Could be this was what Archie did not want others to see? Yet none were disfiguring. No, perhaps it was as the boy had always said, and Kennedy just did not like to be cold. Though it was warm enough close to the fire, Archie looked to be taking a chill, flesh goosepimpling and nipples--- Horatio re-wet his washcloth and tried to work more quickly.
Finishing up that disconcertingly firm stomach, he dared to swab lower, and had to look at what he was doing. Though he knew well enough that sleeping cocks lied, Archie's seemed appropriate, being rather thicker than his own, and somewhat shorter, and indefinably more manly. Perhaps it was that it nestled amid a damp mass of curls, darker than the hair on Kennedy's head. Horatio cleaned his friend's prick with a determined briskness, as much focused on his own body, expecting betrayal, as the helpless one before him. He cursed his lack of gentleness when Archie reacted with a low whine and turned aside, curling slightly, but not quite pulling away.
Still awkward, he tried to part Archie's legs to do a thorough job, but this set off an awful whimpering, and he desisted at once, settling for pouring some of the soapy water over the boy instead. The mattress would dry, and it should serve the purpose. Putting aside cloth and bowl, Horatio was relieved to have the worst done, and to feel no awful stirring in his own groin. He was not so lost, at least, as to find anything alluring in this pitiful scene.
Thinking it was best to be thorough, Horatio girded himself and set hand to Archie's hip, meaning to encourage the boy fully onto one side, so that he could wash his friend's arse down as well. It was then that he saw the mark. Not drying blood or dirt he had missed, but a tattoo the size of his thumbnail, a tiny symbol and the letter J, like the pip for the Jack of Spades.
Horatio froze. Many sailors had tattoos, of course. Some just crude things, done with a hot needle and boredom, others more elaborate dedications to their mothers, wives, or ships, crafted in distant ports. Even a few of the older officers had them--Simpson, for example--but none with prospects
. True, Archie's was in a place unlikely to be seen, across the right hip bone, but it was still at odds with his expectations for an Earl's son. Of course, Kennedy's manners and behavior were frequently outside what Horatio found seemly for a mere doctor's son, let alone a member of the nobility.
Horatio tried to put it out of his mind, just another aggravating secret. His attention was needed instead for Kennedy's refusal to turn over for him. Though still senseless as best Horatio could tell, the boy resisted his hand urging the mid to shift with an abrupt flailing of limbs that set Horatio back on his heels, forcing him to consider new tactics. While he could overbear Archie, he feared both hurting and rousing the lad prematurely.
With some thought, he took up the nightgown he'd found, now warm from the flames, and began to coax it up Kennedy's arms. Hoping to stave off more protests, Horatio started to talk, just babble at first, little shushes and reassurances. "It's all right, Archie. let's just get you covered, and you'll feel more yourself again. Where is that hand now? Here it is, careful, there's the cuff, and up... isn't it nice?" He moved to the lad's head, and wedged himself under like a pillow. "No, no, don't fuss. It's only me, Horatio. Are you going to lift up for me? Of course you won't."
With a sigh, Horatio heaved up the limp shoulders, using his legs to prop Kennedy long enough for him to ease the shift over the boy's head. "We're just getting you dressed," he said in the same coaxing voice he used with other small animals. He tugged the linen down broad shoulders by feel, aware, under his fingertips, of a few faint ripples, breaking the smoothness of the other mid's skin. More scars, no doubt. These at least were expected; Archie had been flogged on a previous ship and Horatio knew that it was common enough for such punishment to linger on the skin.
He felt carefully as he drew the nightshirt down, checking again for injury. "Shh, Archie, just making sure you haven't hurt yourself," he murmured, at the slight squirming. It seemed only bruises at worst. "Oh, Kennedy, I think you'll do. And we're not on ship anymore, you can sleep in tomorrow, long as you like." Becoming too conscious of the warm body laying on him, and on the strong swells of muscle he was lately handling, Horatio extricated himself.
"You are the most maddening man I have ever met, you know, Archie" Horatio grunted, as he used his own weight to help him pull Kennedy, mattress and all, farther from the fire. He took blanket and sheets from the bed, making up a nest carefully far enough back from the hearth to avoid accidents. "Or might I call you Alex?" He knelt again, tugging more gently than he felt to ease the boy's upper body onto the new pallet. Alexander. It was a grand name, suited to this high-ceilinged room with silver candlesticks and velvet curtains. It did not fit with the irreverent, lazy, jocular, aggravating imp he thought he knew. In this rich house, helpless and vulnerable, with nothing--not expression or wit or even clothes--to hide behind, his sometimes friend seemed just a frightening stranger, too elegant, too far above, to ever be anything to him.
Beyond his reach, yet able to pierce him fatally with one small whimper as Horatio's hands wrapped around the boy's ankles, to heave legs onto the sheets as well. "It's just me, Kennedy," he promised, "moving you somewhere dry, no need to kick." He held tight a moment longer, anticipating the boy waking enough to fight, but Archie lay still, looking at least less a man and more a child with his nightshift rucked around the waist, cock exposed and mouth thrown open, ridiculous and erotic and pitiful.
Horatio gingerly drew the gown down in soft jerks, covering the other's nakedness. "Have I even met you? How should I know?" For himself, he leaned down one last time to kiss hot eyelids, the cheek where a bruise was rising, and the center of the boy's forehead, whispering, "I should very much like to know you, Alexander Archibald Kennedy. I wish you would only let me." He stood then, gathering towels and bowls, returning all to their proper place, and dragging the sodden mattress out of the way.
Fearing for Archie to wake in the dark, Horatio took the time to set a few candles carefully about, where they had no chance of being overturned by a flailing limb or bump against a table. Kennedy had never in his knowing had a second fit in a night, but a nightmare was always possible, or simply a befuddled clumsiness on waking. Horatio considered laying down beside the boy, or even taking Archie's bed, to be close in case of further trouble. But should they be discovered, it would cause talk among the servants that he wanted to avoid.
As he closed the door between their rooms, and made his way back to his own broad, soft bed, Horatio heard nearby birds begin to twitter, though the window showed no sign of impending dawn. He thought he might not sleep, what with fretting over his ill and secretive friend, nerves about Captain Kennedy and the blasted log books, and general worry over the expectations of being an Earl's house guest. Much less because his palms still tingled at the memory of Archie's back and his heart ached with the soft vulnerability of a bitten lip. The brevity of rest in the last twenty four hours proved the master of both anxiety and tenderness, however, and exhaustion pulled him under even as his mind lingered on the puzzle of the tattoo resting so confoundingly upon Archie's iliac crest....
He did not even stir with the expectation of the bells, and woke with the sun full up, and a maid tending to the fire.
I find myself in the same position this year that I was last year; things going on in the real world plus different fandoms grabbing my attention leading to me not spending a lot of time in the world of Hornblower
. But thanks to the date being so easy to remember, I make sure to take a little time out of the day to say...
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HORATIO!
May your day be spent with the drink, food, and companions of your choice!
And best wishes to all my fellow Hornblower fans, regardless of if you're a member here, post all your fic on Ao3/Fanfiction.net, or just enjoy the show on your own. It's nice to know there are people still devoted to this show after all this time.
Word Count 800
He made it gentle, he put his hand up slow. “Best not, Honeybee.”
“Oh, All right then.”
Horatio was sleepy anyway. This Archie told himself. And it was true. Horatio was yawning already, rumpling his hair with his free hand, undoing his trousers with the other-- lovely. He squanched out of his shoes and he was clumsy, and it made Archie tight in the throat. Horatio rolled into bed.
Dark covered the space. Archie undressed quickly. He tried not to think about how he was the only only one who ever said 'no,' and only since France. Spain. Spain from Horatio's perspective, because that is where Horatio had found him. But it was France that was the problem. Oh yes.
France, of frozen mud, and cutting glass, of ice wind and leather lash. France itched memory like a ball shard in a scar. It moved with Archie, it rode his brain. He knew now that it always would. Another in the list of things to pollute him. Archie was not a child anymore, but that did not mean that he knew how to do what he was trying to do. He knew very damn well how memory can swell to monstrous size. He had known that before Horatio, before the Indy, before Papillon, before Bitche. What he did not know was how to make memory small again. How to secure it in a box and fit the lock. Pushing Horatio away while he tried was just a deranged attempt to keep one of them clean of it.
Today the mud had been the proximal cause. Footprints. Mud. But proximal was its own cause, if you wanted to look at it that way. Archie was letting things get proximal now. A man could not pretend to be rational, and push everything away all the time-- and some things, people, Archie wanted close.
They had come ashore in a nameless town to get water, Archie, Cleveland, and a jolly full of Marines. The Marines were good for lifting and carrying. But there was no point in hissing at them to be quiet, they just could not seem to do it. And anyone with a nose-- even a Frenchman-- could detect them from 50 yards by using it.
The sun had set by the time they got the butts filled. They set back in single file, Cleveland in front with a dark lantern, and pistol, and Archie in back with a cutlass. He could see well in the dark, as long as he did not look into the light. He kept his eyes down, focusing on the line of churned mud. It would be obvious by daylight, but by then it would not matter.
The lantern cast meager light backward, leaving pools of darkness inside some footprints, turning others to idiots gold. They were going a little uphill now, he could feel his legs working. His stockings had long since dried and the mud made them stiff. But he was warm, and he was wearing shoes. And even if he did have the smell of mud in his nose, he was warm, and he could use his hands to catch himself if he fell. He could hiss a command forward anytime and make the whole line stop, for any reason, or for none. He was senior here. And he was wearing shoes.
All he had to do was open his mouth and speak, and he could move to the front, on some pretext. Perhaps that would be better. Cleveland was not stupid, he would know something was odd, but he would wait until later to ask. All Archie had to do was speak up. But his mouth was clenched shut. His hands were down by his sides. They were not chained. They were light as air. He could lift them anytime. He could wave them about. He could kill with them. He could do anything with his hands. He could do anything with his mouth. He could open his mouth and scream and scream.
At the top of the rise the ground was more dry. They stepped into stony scree. And here was the cart, brought around to help them. The Marines loaded the water butts. He and Cleveland rode back to the shore. Cleveland did not say anything. Perhaps because he was smoking his pipe.
He was dozing when morning came. Dozing was all right. It would be several days before he dared to really sleep. The hard part was keeping that from Horatio.
“Good-morning Archie,” Horatio's voice was just that little bit thin. He did not put a question into it, but Archie could feel the shape of where the question should be.
“Come here, Honeybee,” Archie said, and drew him proximal.
This community has been pretty silent as of late, and I myself haven't been doing too many Hornblower related things thanks to various things going on in my life, but there are some traditions I don't step away from, and one of them is to take time out every Fourth of July to say...
Happy Birthday, Horatio!!!
I sincerely apologize for not having the time or the inspiration to play around in your world as of late, but hopefully I'll get some inspiration soon. And as long as this community exists, I'll make sure to post it here.
Many happy returns! May you allow yourself an extra glass of rum and indulge in a few games of whist.
Title: Nunc Atque Semper
Word Count: 3819
Pairing: Horatio Hornblower/Archie Kennedy (past); Horatio Hornblower/Maria Mason
AO3 Link: https://archiveofourown.org/works/14700108
Warnings: Past character death, Dead Kennedy Universe, period-typical homophobia
Summary: During their three years of marriage, Maria Mason had learned to weather Horatio's extended absences, changeable moods, and occasionally sharp temper, and to steer clear of the storms as best she could.
That is, until she found the men’s wedding bands and love poetry from an A.K. that Horatio had hidden in his desk
Thanks to Shakesperia for the prompt: "Set in canon, after Horatio and Maria are married, she finds some evidence of his (romantic) past with Archie, and begins to understand why he's so physically and emotionally distant towards her. If this could be done without vilifying Maria, that'd be great (because she is a precious, sweet thing who did not deserve this pain.)"
Thanks to Guardyanangel and Kedge for the amazing beta work!
(Incidentally, this is the only Dead Kennedy Universe fic I will ever write, because it just hurts too much, and Maria deserved a hell of a lot better than she got, in the movies at least. This is my attempt to make it better.)
I went down to Sheerness on Sunday morning, as part of a trip which also took me along the Thames and Medway on Waverley
and to Chatham - I wasn't sure if this was a step too far in AoS geekery, but actually it was very interesting!
There's nothing left of the Sheerness Bush would have known, because the whole dockyard was demolished and rebuilt between 1815 and the 1820s, which is a shame, and to be honest there's not much left of the working buildings of the current site, at least not accessible to the public - but what is there is fascinating. (And I need to check the dates, because although the rebuilding didn't start until after the war, I have a feeling that Bush must have been there about the time it was first being talked of, with this idea of everything becoming new and Sheerness becoming more efficient and more important.)
I'm also glad I went because it's given me quite a new view of the place - I'd seen it described somewhere as the ends of the earth, and it is in a way, these days, although not as much as before the big bridge and new road opened. But start thinking about it, as with the Lords of the Isles at Finlaggan, not in terms of how hard it is to get there by land, but in terms of how easy it is to get to everywhere else by sea, and suddenly it looks completely different - at the mouth of the Thames and the way to the Channel, right at the anchorage at the Nore, and only a few miles by water from the dockyard at Chatham on the Medway.
I've written it all up at wordpress, so I won't repeat it here, but here it is: Sheerness
This page, From Spitalfields to Sheerness
is also well worth a look - possibly more than mine, as the author got inside the dockyard wall!
It's the LAST CHAPTER!!! Thanks to those of you who've seen this through all 148,000 words, and thanks also to everyone else for dealing with my repeated updates!
Also, this chapter is kind of absurdly long, so it had to spill over into 2 LJ posts. Sorry about that!
Title: Harboured and Encompassed
Word Count: 15647
Pairing: Horatio Hornblower/Archie Kennedy
AO3 link: http://archiveofourown.org/works/9135700/chapters/25825650
Trigger warnings: hospitals
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