||[Mar. 8th, 2009|12:10 am]
"All The King's Men" scrapbook
(Just out of interest, is anyone reading this?)|
As before, a chunk of WT in pretty-solid-draft form. Please don't repost/link. Any increases in word count mentioned last time have been completely obliterated by the two pages I cut from this chunk. Ah well. I'm adding in whole new scenes soon.
Edrington studied the other two in the half-light as he wished them goodnight. Hornblower looked weary and more than ready to withdraw for the night; Archie held himself as though tired in body, but unsettled in mind. Cheerful enough, but Edrington saw the tension around his eyes as he glanced from Horatio to Edrington and back again.
"Horatio," Archie said, "I'll follow you in a moment."
Hornblower nodded and turned on his heel, leaving them alone in the hallway.
Archie caught his lower lip between his teeth, nervously. "Alexander, I -- we -- oh, hell!"
Edrington gave a wry half-smile. "Quite." He stretched out a hand in invitation and, after a moment's hesitation, Archie came to him, his arms circling around Edrington's waist and their foreheads touching. "My bedroom is at the other end of the hallway," he said quietly.
"I -- no, Alexander," he said, pulling away a little. "It's not that I -- oh, damn it." He shook his head to clear it. "It's just -- he's -- look. We're asking rather a lot of Horatio, and -- and, he was rotten sick in the carriage. Do you mind?"
"Only a little." He spoke as lightly as he could; it was Archie's choice to make, and there would be other opportunities.
"I shall put myself entirely at your disposal."
"I -- thank you, Alexander. I'm grateful. I'd only fret about him, anyway."
"Well, good-night, then, I suppose."
Archie squeezed his arm, but did not go, and they stood irresolute for a moment longer, until Edrington laughed and pulled him into a quick embrace, saying as he released him, "See you get some sleep yourself, will you?"
He watched Archie turn and tap softly on the door of Hornblower's room, then made his way to his own room, feeling, against his better judgement, decidedly out of sorts.
At the other end of the hall, Archie entered to find Horatio divested of his coat, and untying his neckcloth.
"Let me help you," Archie said, and reached for the knot.
"Archie," said Horatio lifting his chin, "I thought you would --" Archie removed the neckcloth, and he lowered his chin again. "I thought you would go to him."
Archie shook his head, and reached for the buttons of Horatio's waistcoat, but Horatio caught his hand before he could unbutton them.
"You should go to him."
"I have been thinking about it, Archie. He -- he has a right, Archie, more than I do --"
"Please, Archie, hear me out. If I had been more beforehand in telling you, well -- in any case, his lordship was quite right, and he has the prior claim."
"No, Horatio. Never that."
"Archie," said Horatio, softening in his resolve for a moment. But he had resigned himself to the fact that Edrington would most likely claim Archie's company tonight, had decided even before they had even come upstairs to let Archie go with as much grace as he could muster, and having made his decision, was determined to be firm. "He is our host," he pointed out with all the calm reasonableness he could muster.
"And he invited us both. And now he has gone to his own bed, and left us together" Pulling back, Archie removed his coat and threw it over a chair, then sat on the bed began to pull off his shoes and stockings. "I mean to stay here."
"Don't you want me to stay?"
"I'm tired, Archie. And besides, I have had the pleasure of your company these last three nights."
"Then you shall have another."
Archie's resistance wavered, as Horatio had known it would, but he said, "I won't be passed around like a damned parcel."
Horatio kissed him then, briefly, a chaste press of his lips against Archie's jaw. "I will be here tomorrow." He manoeuvered Archie towards the door, guiding him inexorably across the room, and put a candlestick in his hand. "Now, go."
He shut the door and leaned against it. It was a small enough sacrifice. Why, a warm fire and a feather bed, even an empty one, were far more than he was used to. To have Archie as well -- well, he had never deserved such felicity in the first place. He removed his clothes and put them on the chair beside Archie's coat, and slid in between the sheets of the bed, curling himself to fit as much of his body as possible into the patch of heat left by the warming pan before he firmly closed his eyes.
In the hallway, Archie stood fuming for no more than a moment before he set his shoulders determinedly and marched down the hall to Edrington's door.
* * *
Edrington stripped his coat off, hesitated over the buttons of his waistcoat, and looked without enthusiasm at the bed; long journey or not, he was not in the least inclined to crawl beneath the covers -- alone -- just yet. On the table by the window sat a pile of papers he should probably attend to: Manningham's report, a letter from Cornwallis, sketches from the gunsmith... No, damn it. Not tonight.
He found himself in front of the fire, looking at the handful of books on the mantel without much hope; perhaps he should go back down to the library for something. A few tattered volumes of his uncle's, probably best kept upstairs, considering their content; a sturdy tome on scientific agriculture that Edrington had brought up one night when he had been unable to sleep; a French romance -- ah! Donne. When had he left that there?
The volume was bound in red leather, the gilt all worn off long ago. Edrington took it from the shelf and opened it, turning the pages slowly, scanning the familiar phrases.
His legs were starting to scorch. He pulled up a chair to a comfortable distance, and reached for his dressing gown. He was pulling it on when he heard a knock at the door.
"Should I ask who else you were expecting?"
The door opened and Archie stepped inside. Edrington rose to greet him. Archie closed the distance between them, and, with considerable determination, wrapped himself around Edrington and kissed him.
When he found an opportunity -- which was not for some moments -- Edrington said, "I could have -- ah -- sworn we decided you would be spending tonight with Lieutenant Hornblower."
"And I," replied Archie, nipping at his neck, "could have sworn that at least one of you thought me old enough to find my own way to bed." His tone was as light as his words, but there was a brittleness in it; Edrington looked at him sharply -- as sharply as he could at such close quarters -- and had opened his mouth to reply when Archie continued. "Your bed. Now."
Damn it, thought Edrington. He should try to find out what had passed between them to bring Archie here in this mood, but by the time he had started to formulate a question the mattress was pressing against the backs of his thighs, and Archie was bearing down on him, working at his buttons with one hand and already beginning to tug at his shirt with the other.
Edrington pushed the counterpane aside, and they scrambled onto the mattress together and pulled the bedding up behind them, sending the remains of their clothes to the floor once they were securely beneath the heavy quilts.
"Christ!" Edrington jumped as Archie wriggled against him. "Your feet are freezing."
"They'll warm up. Come here."
Edrington found himself on his back, with Archie, no less resourceful than he was determined, reaching for the bottle of oil Edrington always kept close at hand for such occasions. It was as well, he thought afterwards, as they lay in a sticky tangled mess, that his ancestors had seen fit to supply him with a particularly sturdy bed, with posts as thick around as his thigh.
"If I'd known you were in that sort of mood..." Edrington said.
"I wasn't. I didn't think I was." Archie pulled himself away from Edrington, and lay on his back. "I don't much care for being told... where to sleep."
"Ah." Edrington rolled on his side, propping himself on an elbow. "I take it I have Mr Hornblower to thank for your presence?"
"Yes." Archie frowned. "Alexander, how do you manage it?"
Edrington raised an eyebrow. "Manage -- it?"
"You know what I mean."
"For the most part, I trust to providence."
"Oh." There was a long pause. "I -- I prefer not to."
Edrington nodded and, shifting closer, slid an arm around him. Archie turned, and they lay together, silent, for a long while. Edrington waited, wondering whether Archie would pursue the thought; he had spoken of it once -- I count nothing as mine, unless it is between my hands -– and Edrington knew enough to understand why, but it seemed he was not minded to on this occasion.
"It will be fine," said Archie at last. "I mean -- I'm sure it will."
"My thoughts exactly."
"Perhaps I should go back to Horatio."
"No," said Edrington, ducking his head against Archie's shoulder, and nuzzling it. "It's still early..."