Horatio couldn't have said the time when he startled awake again. After the exhausting day of travel (and other trials), and freed from the constant sounds and movement of the ship, he had fallen quite deeply into slumber. It took some seconds before he realized what had disturbed him. Groans, and muffled thuds had him shooting out of bed and throwing open the adjoining door.
Light from candles not yet burned out illuminated the scene he'd feared. Archie was writhing on the ground, in the midst of a potent fit. His friend had at least been fortunate enough to fall partly onto the bedding left out from earlier. Horatio pulled Archie more fully on the mattress, and held the boy as tightly as he dared, trying to cover his friend's mouth. He didn't want Archie to wake the house. On Justinian the condition had ceased to do more than annoy those disturbed by the noise. It had not been the subject of open comment. But he thought his friend would hate family or the servants to witness it. Besides, Horatio knew the seizures had something to do with the other mid's obvious tension with the earl, which needed no further provocation.
The attack was mercifully brief, though of course he didn't know how long Archie had suffered before he woke. But it was among the most violent Horatio had witnessed, and he collected several hurts from flailing limbs and head. When the spasms finally eased, then stopped, it wasn't soon enough.
"There, Archie... shh, it's over now." He had been babbling the whole time, he suddenly realized, soothing nonsense like Clayton had always done. If only it helped. A sound penetrated the sudden calm, making him look up. John Kennedy was standing in the doorway in a nightshirt, looking at them both with concern.
"Mr. Kennedy must have had too much port, he tripped and fell." Horatio lied automatically, surprised at how quickly it came to his tongue. He shifted to put more of himself between Archie and the door.
He wasn't sure Archie's brother believed him, or how long John had been watching. "Is he going to be all right?" the man asked.
"Oh yes, yes. I'll just get him to bed. He needs to sleep it off, is all." Horatio hoped this was the truth.
Those pale brown eyes moved from him to Archie behind him, and back. "You've seen him like this before?"
Horatio hesitated, then shrugged agreement. "A time or two." He saw the other man adjust to this admission, John's lips pressing together tightly for several moments before coming to a decision.
"Right. Thank you for your care of my brother, Mr. Hornblower. If you are sure you can manage, I will leave him to you." John started to close the door, pausing part way. "Best not to mention this tomorrow. The earl doesn't approve of... drunkenness. And mother would worry."
John waited for his nod of understanding before shutting the door. Horatio turned back to deal with his patient as the man's footsteps faded away.
Feedback from readers is the best motivation in the world. Please consider clicking the review button. I accept anonymous reviews.