Actions

Work Header

Two Hours After Midnight

Work Text:

Horatio found himself eagerly anticipating the next week. Four weeks ago, Bush had come to Portsmouth to collect his half-pay and they had met by chance outside the dockyards. And next week he would arrive to collect his next month's pay. They had agreed, before parting, that on his next visit, Bush would stay with Horatio in his lodgings on Highbury Street. Bush would arrive late in the morning on the carrier's wagon and and not depart until the next day. Horatio had been looking forward to the visit all month, but as the time approached he had felt his excitement growing.

After a string of good luck, Horatio had managed to retrieve a number of items from pawn, but his pea jacket was still there. Despite the cold winter air that made him ache for his thick foul weather overcoat, Horatio couldn't keep a smile off his face or the spring out of his step. Winter had settled in Portsmouth in the form of freezing fog and a bitterly cold wind that was enough to cut to the bone but not enough to clear the fog. The only bright point since the Christmas season for Hornblower had been the promise of Bush's return visit to town. That morning, the water in his washbasin was frozen over as it had been on a few occasions that winter, the tiny coal fireplace no match for the gaps in the window in keeping out the cold, but even having to scrub down with with that icy water couldn't affect his good mood.

His regulars in the Long Room even noticed his smile and teased him mercilessly about it, absolutely sure it had to be a pretty young woman that had caught his eye. Hornblower laughed along good-naturedly. He didn't remember being this excited since he was a boy being fitted for his very first midshipman uniform.

Bush arrived four days later. Hornblower did not want to go out for fear of missing Bush's arrival and so he attempted to pass the entire day alone in his room in the attic. He mended a hole in his stockings and his shirt, polished his newly re-acquired saber, polished his shoes, pressed his neck cloth, and supervised the delivery of the cot before personally fitting the thin mattress with the stiff sheets Mrs. Mason had deigned to provide. It was very nearly a quarter to noon when he heard the door downstairs open and then close and Bush's familiar and distinctive timbre float up the stairs.

Hornblower stood and straightened his clothing and cursed himself for not having thought to re-tie his queue, but he passed his fingers through the unruly curls at the top of his head and brushed back what he could. Clinging to what dignity he could, he restrained himself from clattering down the stairs and showing Bush to his room himself. The man was likely worn out from a long and uncomfortable ride to town, Horatio reminded himself. But when Bush ascended the stairs and greeted Horatio at the door, he looked as happy to see Horatio as Horatio was to see him. Horatio couldn't help but grin at him and pump his hand enthusiastically before pulling him in to the room and attempting to divest him of his pea coat despite the fact that Bush's hands were full.

Bush laughed and let him slide it off his shoulders, struggling to toss the bags down on his cot and turn to let the coat slide off his arms before it got twisted and hung up on his elbows due to Horatio's enthusiastic pulling. Horatio was at a loss as to what to do with the coat for a moment before he remembered the hook by the door where hung his own when he still had it.

"I trust your journey was well, and that you have managed to visit the dockyards, and that your sisters are well?" Horatio asked in a rush, before turning back to see Bush grinning at him.

Bush laughed heartily and shook his head. "Yes, yes, all is well," he said. "I am quite glad to see you, these last four and a half weeks have passed abominably slow!"

Hornblower couldn't help but return the laugh and clapped Bush on the shoulder. It was not yet three. They would have time for an ordinary on the way to the Long Rooms if they hurried. During one of his more lucrative nights at the table, Hornblower had set aside the funds to pay for the six-penny meal and some drinks as well.

"Are you hungry?" Hornblower asked eagerly.

"Ah, no." Bush said with disappointment. "I'm sorry! Truly!" he exclaimed at Horatio's crestfallen look.

"My sisters always send me with a dinner. But look!" Bush turned to the bundles on the bed and extracted two similarly sized ones - large kitchen towels tied off tightly and obviously heavy with food. "Ann packed extra, for you, and Jane -- who is a magician with sweets! -- insisted that I save a piece of cake for you."

Bush picked up one of the wrapped bundles he had dropped on his cot and shoved it into Horatio's hands. The bundle was heavy. Ann had done more than simply pack extra; she had sent enough food for at least a few meals. Horatio felt his throat close up in shame. During Bush's last visit, they had discussed Horatio's lack of pay and how he had at times needed to beg Mrs. Mason to extend him credit. If Maria didn't slip him extra at breakfast on those days, he'd hardly eat all day. He opened to his mouth to refuse the food, pride making his chest tight, but he was arrested by Bush's happy and open expression. He didn't want to offend him, so he stammered his thanks and felt his cheeks flame.

"Ann is the youngest and Jane the eldest?" he asked, searching his memory for anything and everything Bush had said about his sisters. It wasn't much: around the wardroom table, Bush had always been ready with an anecdote, but seldom offered details. From one quiet conversation on the quarterdeck, not long after they had received letters from England, Horatio remembered Bush had four sisters and a mother. Bush was particularly fond of one of his sisters, quite liked another, and had no strong feelings about the other two. He wasn't keen to speak of his mother.

Bush laughed at him again. "You have it backwards. Ann is the eldest."

"Oh! Of course." Horatio looked at his feet and shuffled them, unsure with what to do with the bundle in his hands. He was hungry; Maria had not been able to slip him extra at breakfast and dinner wouldn't be for hours yet.

He turned quickly and dropped the bundle on the bed. When he turned back to Bush, he could swear that for a brief second the look had been soft and full of affection. The look confused him, as he had nothing to offer that would result Bush's affection. Admiration? Yes, he admired Bush as well, greatly so, but affection was not something Hornblower was acquainted with. He shook his head to clear the thought.

"I'm due in the Long Rooms shortly, but you should join me! Read the latest Gazette?"

"I've been hoping to read it here," Bush exclaimed. Hornblower grinned, pleased that Bush had been planning for the visit as well. Bush eyed the bundles of food on Hornblower's bed. Hornblower looked in the direction his gaze.

"We bring it with us," Hornblower said, with a flash of inspiration. He leaned over and scooped both bundles up and shoved one into Bush's arms. "I'm sure whatever Ann sent will be far better than the four-penny ordinary we had last visit!"

"It's simple country fare," he said, with a shake of his head as he took the bundle. "From our garden and coops. I grow tired of it, if you can believe it."

"Not so tired of it you'd trade for a piece of tough meat swimming in grease with a few turnips?"

Bush couldn't control the shudder of revulsion at the thought. It was true that he often longed to treat himself to a hot meal while in town, but the thought of it actually made him crave the solid if plain food he knew was wrapped in the bundle. He caught Hornblower's grin and realized he was being teased. He knocked his shoulder into Hornblower's, who stumbled back with a laugh before he caught his balance by grabbing Bush's arm. They both staggered off balance for a moment together in the small room. Bush giggled and Hornblower responded in kind. They were both still snickering like schoolboys while Bush slipped into his greatcoat and they hurried down the stairs together.

Horatio was confident in the maths of the game and felt sure that tonight the odds would correct themselves. He only needed to take a few more rubbers to get his greatcoat back and keep him current with Mrs. Mason. Perhaps it was just happiness at having Bush for a visit, but he felt more confident tonight than he had all month.

The weather outside was cold and harsh, and Hornblower's laughter died as he shivered in the icy north wind that cut through their clothes into their bones. Despite the noon hour, the day was dark and dreary and a icy fog had settled in, clinging to the city despite the chilling wind.

Bush walked as close to Hornblower as possible, using his body to block the wind as best he could. Despite his best efforts, by the time they arrived at the Long Rooms, Hornblower was carefully flexing his stiff fingers and his nose was red and dripping. Bush was chilled through as well - scars aching from the cold despite his extra heavy layer.

They both hurried to the large fire, lifting the tails of their coats to warm their backsides. The servant appeared and took Bush's overcoat and their bundles. Hornblower assured Bush they could sneak away to the cloak room and retrieve their food at the appropriate time.

The Long Rooms were nearly deserted at this early hour, but the Marquis appeared only minutes after they did. He greeted Bush and seemed to recall him immediately even after only his one brief visit.

"This one here," the Marquis said, clapping Hornblower on the shoulder, "was in such high spirits even when he was losing! You must come back more often!" Bush chuckled and shrugged. He would love to visit more often, but he couldn't imagine that Hornblower would want someone sharing his tiny attic room for more than just a few nights.

Bush settled himself in a chair in the corner, attempting to be unobtrusive enough to not be invited to the tables, but accessible enough that if someone desired quiet conversation they would find a willing companion. Hornblower took up a relaxed pose, leaning on the mantel against the fireplace, but close enough to Bush they could engage in easy conversation. Although he had never been one to chat easily in the Wardroom of the ship, Bush had mastered the ability to hold a conversation without saying much at all.

With Hornblower, however, it was different and he found himself engaged in a lively exchange about anchors. But they had hardly gotten started before the room quickly filled, the warm fire and good food a draw for everyone, and Hornblower was asked away to play whist. Bush was sad to see him go, but cheered by the fact that they would have tomorrow together.

Bush had read through the issues of the Gazette he had missed as well as a few copies of the newspaper and was beginning to wonder if he would end up being quite bored by the end of the night when Hornblower re-appeared at his elbow. Hornblower bent low and whispered in his ear that they had approximately an hour and they should take the opportunity to eat. Bush rose and followed Hornblower out the door to the cloak room. The servant must have been busy, because they slipped in and out without seeing him and up a back staircase with a pilfered candle.

"The Marquis's office is up here, as well as the lumber room, and a few other store rooms. We can eat up here and not be disturbed."

"And the Marquis won't mind?" Bush asked. Not that he minded much, but he wondered just how much sneaking was required for their dinner.

Hornblower shrugged. "He keeps his office locked and the more valuable stores in a storeroom accessible only through his office. As long as that is undisturbed he shouldn't mind."

Bush nodded.

"But," Hornblower continued. "Perhaps we should take care?"

He let them into a room stacked high with furniture. Chairs were haphazardly balanced and in some cases leaning against sofas and tables. The room was small, which contributed to its overcrowded feeling, and most of the furniture was draped with sheets. The single candle cast sharp shadows over it all and they crawled up the wall, dancing in time with the flame. No stranger to dark ill-lit spaces stacked high with cargo, Bush nevertheless shivered and not just from the cold that seeped into the unused spaces. Hornblower made his way to an uncovered sofa near the center of the room and settled in. It was small, but the only place they could both sit near each other. The cramped space and weak light pushed them close to each other, and Bush's leg pressed solidly against Hornblower's.

Hornblower tore at the knot that secured the sturdy kitchen cloth and laid it open across his lap. A thick cold cut of meat of ham, soft slices of country bread, dried apple slices, a large hunk of farm cheese, shelled walnuts, and a hard boiled egg was all somehow tucked in. It was feast. More food than he had had to eat in the whole previous three days and far better than tough mutton in a gravy that was more grease than sauce.

His eyes burned in shame and embarrassment and he felt them fill with tears. He blinked to clear them. He glanced up at Bush, horrified at his weakness both in needing the food and being too grateful to refuse it. But Bush was fully absorbed in his own bundle and a similar spread.

Horatio attempted to stammer out a thank you anyway, but Bush waved him off. "Ann was happy to do it and Jane was excited to bake for someone other than her brother and sisters." Bush gestured to a small square wrapped in waxed paper with the hunk of bread in his hand. "Honey cake," he said by way of explanation. "And no matter what, I'm telling her you were in raptures."

Hornblower grinned. "I never realized you were such a sentimentalist."

"And if you tell anyone, you'll regret it, Hornblower, mark my words."

Hornblower nudged Bush's leg, hard, with his foot and they got in a brief kicking match. Bush wondered if this was what it would've been like if he had grown up with a brother instead of sisters. But the candlelight caught Hornblower's sharp cheekbones and put his fine features into sharp contrast. His eyelashes were impossibly long and his lips impossibly lush, and Bush felt a rush of heat suffuse his body. He knew that this was something else entirely.

Horatio grinned, oblivious, tearing off pieces of bread and cheese and shoving them in his mouth. He followed them quickly with an apple. His mouth was so full he could barely chew around the food. They both fell silent as they occupied themselves with the food, taking this opportunity to eat their fill. Despite the fact that he saved half of what was in the bundle, Hornblower was still more satisfied in a single meal than he had been for weeks. Both left the cake untouched; Bush wanted to save it until he had a chance to truly savor it.

They were able to slip back down the stairs unnoticed, and Bush was pleased to see the chair he had been occupying all night was still empty. He settled back down, Hornblower again propped himself on the mantle, and they fell to chatting once again. It was only a few minutes, though, before Hornblower, with a shrug and a smile, was again pulled away to play.

It didn't take long for Bush to get new company, though. A post-captain, one of the lucky few to have a ship during peacetime, settled in the chair across from him and asked if Bush would care for a drink. Bush agreed and a bottle of good quality port appeared at the post-captain's elbow along with two glasses. Bush was handed a generous pour, and over the next several hours, his glass was kept topped off.

The captain was friendly and it hadn't taken long before he had begun dropping hints about desiring Bush's company elsewhere. The Long Rooms were a respectable establishment and not for such liasons, but Bush was sure that if he had been interested, a very pleasant evening could be had at the captain's own lodgings.

But Bush pretended he didn't understand and kept the conversation to naval topics. The brandy made him loose and relaxed, and he enjoyed the flirt nonetheless. If it weren't for Hornblower, he would give the notion serious consideration. But if not for Hornblower, he also wouldn't be comfortable in front of a warm fire, and halfway to drunk on port.

It wasn't often that he allowed himself the indulgence of a liaison and he maintained strict rules regarding the when, who, and how. His affairs with men were few and far between, really; he could count the number of times on one hand - and only once in a bed, and that was with a navy man. Excepting that memorable occasion, the remaining had been dark and anonymous against a wall when he had been too drunk to care about beds, sheets, or warm water to wash with when the deed was done.

Most of the time, Bush satisfied himself with whores of the type that could be found at any semi-respectable drinking establishments frequented by officers of the Royal Navy. Girls were clean and easy, and were satisfying in their own way even if he longed for something different. Women were safe. But occasionally, very occasionally, he would indulge his true desires. He would find himself another man to satisfy something no woman could.

He was unused to conversing with potential bed partners beyond what was strictly necessary agree on arrangements. Because of this, he wasn't sure how to play this particular game. The knowledge that he would not be accepting any offers tonight freed him to simply be flattered by the attention from the post-captain. He allowed his mind to drift back to his shared meal with Hornblower upstairs, and then earlier, the two of them crowded into Hornblower's small room, and then forward to tonight when they would strip to their night clothes and settle in close enough to touch in the dark, quiet and alone.

Horatio, too, had enjoyed his evening. He had managed to be asked to join a table with three somewhat competent players even if they were far too talkative for his tastes. There was a merchant man, a colonel, and a captain - the merchantman and colonel he had played with before, the captain was freshly returned and paid off, but clearly still had plenty of money to spend. The chatter distracted them from counting the cards and resulted in a few bad plays, but their good cheer and otherwise fairly adept play kept the smile on Horatio's face a genuine one. A bottle of schnapps had been ordered and poured for all three by one of the men, then another reciprocated. Although Horatio had kept to his customary slow drinking pace, after a few hours and a glass that was never allowed to be emptier than half full, he found he was just on this side of drunk.

He was high on his luck and and the schnapps and had ended the night with not only his reserve ten pounds in his pocket, but an additional four as well. More than what he would receive even collecting half pay. Four pounds plus his reserves meant that he could get the rest of his kit out of pawn, set aside money for Mrs. Mason, and afford decent food for a few weeks at least.

It was two hours after midnight when they finally left the Long Rooms and set off for Hornblower's Highbury street lodgings. It was even colder, the freezing fog slicking the stones of the street and stinging their noses. They huddled close, the drink making them loose and easy with their affection. Hornblower stumbled into Bush, slipping on a curb, and Bush caught him around the shoulders, pulling him close and laughing. Hornblower returned the laugh and leaned more heavily into Bush's side. Bush thought back to the post-captain. Bush was not sorry in the least to have turned the post-captain down, for nothing could be better than Horatio's loose-limbed gait bumping into him every few steps.

Bush hummed a few bars of a tune, happy, and then laughed uproariously at Horatio's curled lip. He sang a few lines in his clear voice and ruffled a hand through Horatio's hair before pulling his head down to lay a smacking kiss on his cheek. Horatio laughed and shoved him off.

"You sound like a dying cat!" Horatio said, knowing full well that even though he had no ear for music, his companion's voice was well liked by all aboard the Renown, and that he was often begged to sing.

Hornblower stumbled and Bush caught him, righting him before he could fall to his knees. "And you walk like one!" Bush rejoined with another friendly bump. Their teasing lasted the remainder of their cold but pleasant walk back to their lodgings.

They were only as quiet as two young gentlemen in high spirits could be expected to be, vigorously whispering to each other to be silent as they let themselves in the front door. Maria appeared in her housecoat and a crooked cap to shush them, and Horatio was immediately contrite.

Bush grinned; it was obvious the young lady had been anticipating their return. But he rolled his eyes and pushed Horatio up the stairs with a sharp shush of his own before Horatio even had a chance to stammer out more than a half an apology to Miss Mason.

Horatio entered their room first and stripped off his coat, throwing it on the chair. A fire had been lit earlier and banked carefully. Bush had no doubt that Maria knew Horatio's hours and had lit it in anticipation of his return. Hornblower didn't seem to notice it as unusual which made Bush suspicious that it was a regular occurrence for him. Bush took off his overcoat and hung it on the hook by the door, before he stepped around and added a few coals to keep the heat going a bit longer.

"William, I can't tell you how glad I am to have you here!" Hornblower exclaimed, flinging his arms out wide and encompassing the whole room. His white shirt and waistcoat was the brightest thing in the room in the weak light from the fire. Bush stripped out of his own coat and laid it on the chair over Hornblower's

"Horatio!" Bush responded with a wide grin and a similarly expansive gesture about the room. "The pleasure is truly mine. I only wish I had an excuse to come more often!"

"You are most welcome to come as often as you'd like and to stay as long as you'd like." Hornblower's face was bright and eager. "We still have more room with the both of us in this attic space than we did aboard the Renown, and I'm happy to share it with you."

Bush grinned happily. He would like nothing better. His fingers picked at his neck cloth, tugging at the knot. Horatio did the same, then quickly removed his breeches and stockings, standing in the cold attic room in just his long shirt, his legs bare and thin underneath, the hem of the shirt brushing the tops of his thighs.

Bush focused his eyes elsewhere - not that Bush wasn't well familiar with Horatio's nakedness; nearly the entire crew of the Renown had at some point or another witnessed him taking a deck shower in the altogether. But tonight it felt different. Perhaps it was nothing more than the mood brought on by his conversation with the post-captain that opened his mind to the possibilities. Perhaps it was something else.

"Oh!" Horatio said, delightedly. "We have cake still!"

It felt like something else. Bush fetched both the paper-wrapped treats from their bundles, happy to share cake with Hornblower in the dark and almost warm attic room.

"You haven't lived until you've eaten Janie's cakes!" Bush said excitedly as he handed one to Hornblower and then sat on his cot to unwrap his. "They are truly remarkable," he continued. "This one started as a plain honey cake, but she added lavender from the garden, and it's truly amazing. Ann's cooking is satisfying, but Jane's cakes are what makes every visit home tolerable."

Mrs. Mason's precious tallow candle was nearly burned down, and they had no interest in being chastised for burning another, so they ate the cakes carefully but quickly. Bush watched as Horatio pressed every last crumb onto his fingertips and licked them off his finger and thumb, one by one. He is beautiful, he thought, but Bush had never lay with a friend and he would not consider it even now.

At that moment, Horatio looked up and Bush felt his heart stutter in his chest. He could only imagine what expression was on his face, and hoped desperately that Horatio was too naive to understand what it meant. Horatio broke his look and carefully folded the wax paper that had been wrapped around the cake. The deep blush on his cheeks hinted that Bush was not as lucky as he hoped.

Afraid that his own straying thoughts were affecting him too much, Bush broke the moment by standing and stripping out of his remaining clothes. He laid his breeches and stockings over the back of the chair and pulled his shirt over his head, exposing the still angry-red scars left by the Spanish cutlass. Bush stood by his trundle bed in his drawers and kept his back to Horatio as he fumbled his nightshirt over his head. He turned around and caught Horatio's eyes lingering on him.

"They healed up nicely, no?" Bush asked. The scars were still red against his skin, not yet faded to the white lines they would eventually become. He could still see where the stitches had held if he looked closely. But the work had been true and in time the lines would simply be unremarkable.

Horatio started and tore his gaze back to Bush's face; he looked pained for a moment. "Oh… yes, you hardly notice them. The surgeon was very neat in his work." He stood and quickly threw back his blanket, crawling into his bed.

He fidgeted for a moment with the edge of his blanket, something clearly on his mind. "You should pull your bed over," Horatio said, softly. "If we talk after the candle goes out we won't wake the other lodgers that way."

It was a weak excuse and they both knew it, but Bush nodded and pulled the bed next to Horatio's and blew out the candle. It would be warmer away from the small attic window that let in a terrible draft anyway; he knew from experience it would leave him chilled after the fire died. The blankets rustled softly as they both settled in for the night.

They were silent for a moment before Bush felt Horatio's fingers reaching for his, brushing over his own. His fingers were still cold from their walk.

"It feels darker in the city, for all the lamp boys, fires, and candles, than it is on the deck of a ship during a new moon." Horatio whispered. "I've always found that strange."

"I don't know what to do with the quiet of the countryside when I am in the cottage. It's too quiet, no creak of the ship, ringing of the watch bells, stomp of the feet on the deck, snap of the sails when the wind catches them." Bush tangled his fingers in Horatio's, the dark making him brave. In the dark, with Horatio unable to see his face, his gesture could mean anything.

They fell silent except for their breathing.

Bush felt like he was balanced on a knife's edge.

"William," Horatio whispered. Breaking the stillness.

"Horatio," Bush answered, breath ghosting across their tangled hands.

Then there was a shift from the other bed, a soft huff of warm breath against his cheek, and then the firm press of soft dry lips against his. He held perfectly still. Horatio started to pull back, but Bush followed his mouth and answered the press with a gentle one of his own.

Time paused. Then Horatio's fingers untangled from his and he felt them slide across his jaw, cupping it gently. The next kiss, and then the next, and the next after that were careful, unhurried, and oh so sweet and simple. He could tell Horatio was un-practiced at kissing and it made him smile.

He felt Horatio start to back away at his smile, perhaps embarrassed, perhaps losing his nerve, but Bush couldn't bear to lose the moment. He caught Horatio's jaw in his hand and pulled him back.

Horatio was braver than Bush, brave enough to charge into any situation, whether it be a daring raid on a fort, a ship overrun by rebelling prisoners, or kissing his friend in the dark.

Bush encouraged Horatio's mouth open and slid his tongue inside. His first taste was heady and he was drunk on it in an instant. Horatio answered back in kind, sloppy in a sweet and innocent way, but driven by instinct and so, so eager to do well. Bush guided him carefully with encouraging gentle touches and soft murmurs.

Horatio gasped as Bush threaded his fingers into his hair and pulled his head back, exposing his jaw and neck to Bush's teeth. He scraped them, hard enough to feel but gentle enough not to leave a mark, down his neck. He bit softly at Horatio's collarbone. He smiled at the soft whimper the bite pulled from Horatio's throat.

The angle made it difficult for Bush to do what he wanted to do - pull open Horatio's nightshirt and kiss his way down his chest, then lower to his belly, and then lower still. The hard sides of the cot and the tangle of blankets made him reconsider what came next and he worried that such an interruption and shuffle would allow Horatio time to think and reconsider.

So Bush untangled his fingers from Horatio's hair and reached for his waist. Horatio took the opportunity to answer with his own gentle exploration of Bush's neck. Bush grunted with impatience and suddenly he was desperate for Horatio's skin. He reached instead for the blanket and shoved his hand under it, finding Horatio's hip, fingers scrambling for the edge of the shirt and tugging it up so he could stroke the soft expanse of skin from upper thigh to waist.

Horatio's hands fumbled at the neck of Bush's nightshirt, eagerly pulling it open and stroking over his chest. Horatio whimpered, his movements growing frantic.

"Shhhh," Bush soothed.

"Please," Horatio answered, desperately. "Please."

Bush allowed his finger tips to brush across Horatio's hip, moving towards his groin slowly. "Is this…?" He left the question open ended.

"Yes, please William, yes." Horatio chanted.

Bush's fingers found Horatio's prick and stroked it gently. Horatio gasped into his mouth and whined.

"Shhh," he soothed him again, as his hand took up a gentle and steady rhythm.

Horatio's hands fumbled under Bush's blankets, tangling in his haste. Bush didn't release Horatio's prick or offer any assistance, too enraptured with the noises he was pulling from Horatio with every twist and tug.

Horatio's hands found him soon enough and he was clumsy, struggling to find the right angle and rhythm with a grip that he had only practiced on his own cock. His eagerness was arousing and Bush let out his own grunt of pleasure when Horatio finally found a good angle and steady rhythm.

It wasn't perfect, or elegant, or practiced. They bumped their noses, knocked their teeth, and and interfered with each other's arms more than once. And yet it wasn't long before both lay gasping and spent in their own blankets.

The room felt warm and full, the scent of sex heavy in the air. They were wrapped in the peace and quiet of the night and the satisfied boneless happy tiredness of bodies well satisfied.

Come morning, Bush knew, there would be no mention of what had just occurred. If he was lucky, this would not be the only night spent like this, but there would be no acknowledgement in the bright light of day. But here, in the silent darkness, darker than even moonless night at sea, under blankets on the firm ground a port city in the small room of a cheap attic lodging, he would have this.