Disclaimer: I don't own the characters. I don't even own the snow for goodness sake!
Warning: Archie/Horatio SLASH! Though very mild and sweet.
Author's Note: I was walking home in the snow yesterday, and a plot bunny (camouflaged by its white winter fur) leapt out from behind a snow bank and bit me. And when I got home, my feet were cold. Here is the result. I guess it takes place between Series One and Series Two, since they're both lieutenants.
Update: Just fixing a little anachronism which completely escaped my notice in my haste to get this posted. Thanks to Shezzawatto for catching it!
"My Feet Are Cold"
The two lieutenants stepped out of the theatre to find that it had begun to snow while they sat enraptured by the magic of Shakespeare's timeless words. Archie Kennedy grinned broadly at his friend, breath leaving his mouth in a white cloud.
"Isn't it beautiful, Horatio?" He exclaimed, his voice sounding unnaturally loud in the still air. The large crowd of theatregoers had already left, Archie and Horatio having lingered to talk to their old acquaintance Miss Cobham, whose performance as Cleopatra they had been privileged to see. Horatio looked around him. The snow was falling thickly, and sparkled in the lamplights.
"It is," he agreed, "but cold."
"Ever practical," Archie chuckled.
They discussed 'Antony and Cleopatra' as they walked briskly to their lodgings, but fell silent once there, out of respect for the late hour and their fellow lodgers' desire to be undisturbed. Horatio unlocked the door to the room they shared. It was much cheaper than getting separate rooms, and they were spending their shore leave together anyway. No sense in having an extra cot brought up, either—the two sailors need all the money they had to refit themselves while indulging Archie's passion for theatre. Horatio had once had occasion to wonder aloud if it were more economical to be in love with a brother officer, than with a woman ashore. 'Absolutely,' Archie had replied. 'If you were married, you'd have to send half your pay home to your wife. I make my own living.'
Horatio switched his attention from the memory of Archie's voice to the voice itself as Archie, stepping through the doorway behind him, said,
"Hell, it's cold in here!"
"I don't think Hell is the most appropriate comparison, Archie."
"No, you are quite right." Archie quickly moved to the small fireplace and struck a flame with flint and tinder, igniting the kindling surrounding the logs.
"You're leaving snow all over the floor," Horatio complained, tugging his boots off. Archie regarded his friend for a moment. His cheeks, nose, and ears were all bright pink from the cold, and melting snowflakes were trapped in his eyelashes and dark curls. His numb fingers fumbled with the buttons of his greatcoat, and Archie re-crossed the room in order to assist him, having thawed his hands somewhat in lighting the fire. Horatio shivered as the wet weight was removed from his shoulders, and, divested of his outerwear, he approached the fledgling blaze.
Archie hung Horatio's hat and coat, as well as his own, on hooks beside the door. He pulled off his boots, and tried to avoid stepping in the puddles he had left on the floor as he returned to the fire. He put one arm around Horatio, who was standing awkwardly hunched over, trying to warm his hands. At Archie's touch, he straightened up and leaned against his friend, keeping his hands sandwiched between them as Archie pulled him closer. The sides of their faces brushed together, and Archie noticed the absence of the stubble often to be found there when they were on board ship.
"I can't feel my ears," Horatio whimpered pathetically. He could be maddeningly stoical about cold and wet while at sea, but this ability seemed to have left him. Archie moved a hand to press against one of Horatio's ears, while he breathed warm air against the other. Horatio could feel the tingle of returning sensation as Archie switched sides, bringing his other hand to rub Horatio's hands as they rested, clasped together, against his chest. Archie fingered the delicate cartilage of Horatio's ear, admiring its shell-like curve. From there it was an easy step to toying with the damp curls framing it. Archie's face, already so close, nestled against Horatio's neck, and he wished that it were bare skin there, rather than the fabric of his stock. Something can be done about that, he mused, but not just yet. The poor boy's still too cold to start undressing. Or is he?
"How's that?" Archie asked, pulling back to observe Horatio's face.
"Much better, thank you. I am now satisfied that my extremities have not dropped off from cold."
Archie's smile was as warm as his touch, and as contagious as a winter flu. Horatio was smiling too by the time Archie leaned closer and murmured,
"I am glad to hear it. Perhaps your lips are also cold?"
As a matter of fact, Archie found them to be quite warm against his own, but he made no complaint. Horatio freed his hands, wrapping his arms around the sturdy body of his friend. Before their kiss could gain much momentum, however, Horatio's stockinged foot brushed against Archie's, and the latter jerked back sharply.
"Horatio!" He gasped, "Your feet are like blocks of ice!"
"Let me warm them up for you, then."
Archie released his grasp on Horatio, and stepped across to the bed, pulling the thick quilt off of it.
"Move over," he commanded quietly, and Horatio relinquished his position in front of the fireplace. Archie spread the quilt on the floor.
"I doubt our landlady would approve of that," Horatio commented.
"Horatio, I imagine she would approve even less of certain other things we've done, say, under that quilt."
"What we're doing now is quite blameless be comparison. Do sit down."
Horatio obeyed, stretching his long legs out toward the fire, which was now burning brightly. Archie added another log, stirred the burning wood with the poker, then seated himself by Horatio's feet. He pulled one onto his lap, and slid the stocking off. Horatio's foot was pink, damp and clammy and cold. Archie rubbed it briskly, trying not to tickle Horatio, whom he knew to be rather sensitive. Horatio, finding it difficult to maintain his balance with his foot elevated, leaned back on his elbows. Archie repeated this procedure for the other foot, before taking off his jacket and wrapping it around Horatio's feet.
"No point putting on dry stockings when you're about to go to bed," he explained, laying the wet pair in front of the fire to dry.
"Aren't you cold?" Horatio asked.
"No," Archie reassured him, "And I think you'd be more comfortable if you took your jacket off, too. Don't worry," he added, "I'll keep you warm."
Horatio struggled upright, and reluctantly removed the warm wool coat. Archie crawled around him, and they both lay down, this time with their fronts towards the blaze. Archie pulled half of the blanket on top of them, wrapping it and his arm around Horatio. A sudden gust of wind threw snowflakes against the windowpane, rattling the glass and making the house creak and groan like a ship at sea. Horatio snuggled back against Archie's body with a small sigh of contentment. In a few minutes, he felt properly warm for the first time since leaving the theatre. He reached up to untie his stock and unwind it from his neck. Then he felt Archie's hand untying the ribbon that bound his hair. Archie loved Horatio's hair, and when it fell loose across his friend's neck he buried his face in it, nosing though to drop a kiss on the skin beneath. Horatio opened his mouth to speak, but found himself yawning hugely instead.
"We shouldn't fall asleep on the floor," Archie said, making no attempt to move.
"But it's nice here," Horatio objected petulantly, "The bed's all cold."
"Well," Archie replied, tracing the outline of Horatio's hipbone through his breeches, "I happen to know a very good way of keeping a bed warm, even in the middle of a snowstorm."
"Warm enough for me to finish undressing?" Horatio asked, his interest piqued.
"I expect so."
"Excellent. And you?" Horatio twisted around to look at Archie.
"I am beginning to feel like I could remove another layer or two." Archie kissed Horatio again.
"Anything I could do to help…"
"You are too kind."
Archie somehow stopped himself from kissing Horatio's smile, instead throwing off the blanket and scrambling to his feet. He held out a hand to Horatio, helping him stand. Than, together, they lifted the quilt back onto the bed and smoothed it out before climbing under it.
"I believe you just offered me your assistance, Mr. Hornblower, in disrobing," Archie whispered, sliding seductively nearer.
"It would be a pleasure."
They managed to stay quite warm that night.
The End! Please make me happy and review! The warm glow your kind words will bring to my heart will help make up for the fact that I have no Archie to cuddle on long, cold, winter nights. Sigh.