"What are you thinking about?"
"Very funny, Mr. Kennedy..." His companion smiled, his eyes closed against the warm mid-morning sun, snuggling a little closer against Horatio's hip. "Haven't you had quite enough?" he added.
"I very much doubt that's possible." Archie twisted, reaching up to catch one hand in Horatio's thick curls and easing him downward once again until their mouths brushed, once, twice, then opened into a full, warm kiss. Horatio hesitated, then nibbled a path along the line of his jaw, finding a neat earlobe and sucking it thoughtfully.
"Archie..." he murmured.
Archie shuddered as the breath tickled his skin. "Yes, Horatio?" he whispered.
"How long has it been since I told you..."
"Since you told me..?"
"...that I do not intend to make love on the top of a cliff?"
The sky was said to be at its bluest there, five hundred feet above the sea. So they had climbed, going easily at first, leaving the path further on and struggling over rocks and through great waves of campion and clover until they drew too near the edge for even other adventurous walkers to stray, and lay in the grass panting in lungfuls of cool salty wind.
Archie gave a disappointed little groan. "Horatio, if my memory of the past two days serves me correctly, you seemed to be extremely enthusiastic about making love at every other time."
"That's neither here nor there."
"No, but I'd very much like it to be here!"
"Savage," Horatio murmured, tracing the outline of his friend's mouth. Archie bit gently on his fingertip. The moist-velvet brush of his tongue, and the sudden memory of that tongue in other places, doing its joyful, wicked work, produced an answering surge of heat somewhere deep inside Horatio's belly, and he removed the finger with a tiny shudder. *Wait,* he ordered that part of himself, sternly, *wait.* He loved Archie like this, smiling, shameless, sliding beneath him, on top of him, until he had to hold him more than tight and still that teasing mouth with a firm, determined kiss just to find his bearings again. At times like this, Horatio felt himself to be in the grasp of nothing very much short of madness. But even madness had to have its limitations.
Archie shoved him away and dropped back onto the turf, flinging a hand to his side to tug up a clod of loose sandy earth and short grass and beat it once on the ground in frustration. "Get off me. Either do... something... or get off, and let me find a place where I can get you so drunk that you'll take me bending over the capstan."
"Archie!" He did get off, though, in a hurry, hot and blushing and not knowing which part of the other man would be the safest to look at, and Archie threw his handful of grass over his head and lay on his back and grinned at him; the gasping, breathless grin that was half pure humor and half the sort of laughing that was wont to happen at the times when Horatio had least imagined that there would be anything to laugh about.
But then nothing about sex was anything like he had imagined. Particularly not with Archie Kennedy.
After a time, Archie stopped grinning, and lay watching him quietly with sharp, bright eyes. "Do you think me wanton, Horatio?"
"Yes... no." Horatio smiled gently, the drums behind his ribcage slowly beginning to quieten with the short distance between their bodies. "Perhaps a little," he admitted. There was no admonishment in the words.
Archie stared up into the vast, dizzying expanse of sky, where the gulls dipped dangerously close above their heads, screaming indignantly at this rare invasion of their territory. For a moment, his soul looked gone. "I never thought of myself that way, you know. I thought... for a long time... that I'd forgotten about it, how to take pleasure in it."
"Archie?" The breeze came cool off the water, and Horatio shivered in it, because for that little time, Archie had not been laying with him in the sunshine, but in a midshipmen's berth where the shadows grew and lengthened, and the arms about him belonged to another, and when he looked at his friend's own arms under those fingers, they were bruised. Then there was a shifting sound as the layers of the world slid back into conjunction again, and Archie smiled.
"I believe that that's what it is about, Horatio. Realizing that finally I am free."
The sound of a strange mixture of laughter and tears rose in Horatio's throat, but he swallowed it before it manifested, because even the tears were glad ones. Rolling onto his own back full length, he followed the patterns of the clouds chasing each other far out to sea - a matter that, for a few more hours, was of absolute and blissful unconcern to him. And further below, the silhouettes of birds tumbling against a bright blue.
"I believe, Archie," he said, thoughtfully, "that it is about learning how to fly again."
He could not see Archie's face from that angle without turning his head, only his hair, red-gold with the bright summer sun, contrasting against the grass. "Exactly, Horatio. Learning to fly."