"Do you know anything about printing, Mr. Monaghan?" The Lieutenant's voice was low, even, his words measured.
"No, sir," Dom replied, looking up from where he was cleaning his musket. "You mean like books, sir?"
"Aye," Boyd made to shift higher against the pillows at the head of his cot. Dom set aside his gun and hurried over to the bed, but didn't quite manage to make it before the other man braced his hands against the mattress and pushed up. One look at the Lieutenant's white, sweating face convinced Dom that the shock of pain surely ripping across the other man's ribcage was punishment enough for the foolhardy move without the addition of a scolding. Besides, it probably wasn't the best of ideas to have a go at an officer, no matter how informal things had become between them since Assaye. There were lines and a wise man could sort out where they lay before he crossed them. Biting his tongue, Dom merely settled the bedding around Boyd's new position and went back to his gun.
Boyd frowned. "Sit closer. I can hardly see you to talk to you and I'll bet you can barely tell the difference between your musket and your own arse off in the gloom there."
Dom obediantly dragged his low stool closer to the edge of the bed and into the circle of light cast by the latern set next to the bed. He sat back down, bringing his musket across his lap.
Boyd nodded, then picked his line of thought back up. "Aye, printing, like books. Like pamphlets and bills and newspapers, too. My father was a printer, did you know that?"
"I apprenticed under him until he died. I miss printing, sometimes. The smell of ink and the feel of paper as you feed it into the presses. The way the shop used to sound -- louder than anything, almost louder than battle."
Boyd paused and Dom wondered if he was expected to say something. He wondered what he was expected to say, if he was. But the other man was only gathering his thoughts, or perhaps recalling a particular memory, or possibly just fighting the effects of the laudanum, which Dom could tell was beginning to take effect. There was a tell-tale flush riding high across the Lieutenant's cheekbones and his eyelids were beginning to droop. The silence stretched, then stretched further, as Dom bent his head over the musket, his hair falling forward into his eyes as he did so, and Boyd drifted.
"Can you read?"
Dom blinked, startled, at the sound of Boyd's voice. He'd been sure that the other man was asleep. "I...yes, sir. A little."
"How much is a little? Enough to read to me?"
"Depends on what you want read, sir. My mother taught me to read with Bible. She's a religious woman."
Boyd smiled a little. "That's enough. I have a book in my trunk, over there."
Dom set aside his gun again and went over to the trunk, which sat on the other side of the tent. He had to move stacks of papers from its top before he could open it, as the Lieutenant had been using it as a makeshift table. Dom carefully restacked the papers in tidy piles on the ground next to the trunk then lifted the lid, feeling a little as though he were tresspassing, despite the fact that Boyd had given him permission, had in fact asked him to go into his private belongings. The Lieutenant's spare uniform was folded neatly at the top of the trunk and Dom was careful not to crease it unduly when he shifted it. A heavy kilt lay beneath and, below that, a set of spare shirts.
"It should be in the lower left hand corner, behind the letter box."
Dom nodded his understanding, sorting through the Lieutenant's belongings until his fingers touched the slick, polished wood of a letter writing kit, then the soft cover of a slim, leather-bound book. Pulling the book out, he tucked it beneath his arm without looking at it and set about settling everything back where it had been, closing the top of the trunk, and replacing the papers.
On his way back to the side of the bed, Dom flipped the cover of the book open to look at the title page.
Boyd smiled and shifted his shoulders in what might have become a shrug had he not cut the motion short with a sharp indrawn breath and a grimace. "Shakespeare. My father printed it," he explained when he'd caught his breath again.
Dom opened the book to its first page, absently stroking against the rippled edges of the pages. They were soft, feathery against his fingertips, worn from years of careful reading. The candle light flickered a little as he drew a breath and began.
"When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain? When the hurlyburly's done..."
Boyd closed his eyes and relaxed back against his pillows, his lips moving, half mouthing the words along with Dom as he read. After a few minutes, having stumbled over an unfamiliar word, Dom looked up to find that the Lieutenant had fallen asleep, the corners of his lips still turned up in a small smile.