Dark, Disturbing Water
by DasNDanger


"Go away, Horatio." Archie spoke into his mattress.

Horatio sat at his head fingering the tattered edges of a rag;
uncertain how to begin, uncertain if he would survive this
humiliation. An amicable mask had disguised his panic, but his eyes
were unable to lie.

"Archie, I only want..." He caught his words up. Archie did
not need to know what he wanted or what he really needed. Too
dull-witted was Horatio to notice the halting moment as Archie held
an expectant breath.

"Archie, you are too weak to escape with us," his voice
softly caressed the room. "And I will need your help to get us
out of here." A lie. But it had to be said and he was confident
that his deceit had gone unnoticed. "You need to get strong
you need to want to get better this, this is only a
start..."
Gently he laid a hand on Archie's cringing shoulder; and he
rinsed his rag in the basin of crystal water.

"Oh God, please don't touch me...," Archie begged into
his knuckles.

In one horrid moment those agonized words awakened filthy suspicions
that twisted Horatio's gut. In waves of unrelenting nausea came
the sudden comprehension of all that he had seen and all that he had
heard - and all that he would never accept. How could he have been
such a fool?! So blinded with himself, he could only see what he had
done to Kennedy; he had not fathomed what others might have done.

(Lord, how can I do this now?)

Praying his voice would not tremble, he spoke, "It's okay,
Archie, I won't..." The words "hurt you" choked in
his throat and did not emerge. He fought with all his strength to
suppress his repulsion of the very thought that Archie must have
suffered worse than he. The panic in his eyes had given way to
repugnance, but then the repugnance gave way to pity. With coaxing
hands he urged Archie onto his back, but his face would not turn.

"Leave me alone." Archie whispered to the wall.

But it was too late, his head was cradled in Horatio's hand, and
gently the slaver and the filth were washed from his face. His eyes
stayed shut, he had found an escape, hiding away in a dark, consoling
corner. But Horatio did not notice, he only marveled at the taut
pale skin and the hollow cheeks and the pretty face he had just
unveiled.

As if holding a sparrow's egg in his palm, Horatio gently nested
Archie's head into his jacket pillow. Then with a fear he had
never known in battle, his trembling hands pushed away the dampened
blanket, and a spike of sweat and urine drilled through his
nostrils. With a disturbing sensation he awkwardly peeled away the
acrid clothes, just as he peeled away Archie's dignity, and then
he rinsed his rag in clouded water.

(Oh Lord, help me to do this...it must be done.)

Now he bathed Archie's naked flesh, now he saw scars never before
seennow he wondered how they got there. With an odd familiarity
he washed shoulders he once thought broader and a chest he once
thought fuller. He was numb now; he no longer noticed his shame, he
could only see agonizing scars.

"Bloody hell! Look at this, what am I to have buggery
right here in front of me?" The spiteful voice cut the silence
like a guillotine. Hunter! He had forgot about Hunter, the only
observer to his grotesque display of compassion. Inside, the anger
and the humiliation tied Horatio's heart and stomach to an anchor
and dropped them into a bottomless sea. For his shame, he could not
answer; for Archie's protection, he could not move.

(Damn, Hunter...if you only understood.)

But maybe Hunter did know; for he could speak and he could watch no
longer - to his bunk he retreated and to the ceiling he stared; and
he hid away in a dark, consoling corner.

>From grey water he lifted his rag, and Horatio once again held Archie
against him as he bathed his trembling body; as he washed his hollow
belly, then down his spine to the small of his back...and down...

"Oh God, don't hurt me..." Archie pleaded in his silent
heart.

Horatio could not hear Archie's unuttered prayers for death; he
could not grasp that this attempt to save the man was more
effectively killing him. Nor would he notice the painful tear that
crept from under Archie's ruby lid.

But then it was over, and Horatio dropped his rag in blackened
water. Taking his own warm blanket that he miserly withheld the
night before, he covered Archie's clean flesh and for a
courageous moment he peered into those lifeless eyes.

"Thank you." Replied those eyes.

But his voice asked, "Why are you doing this Horatio?"

Horatio attempted to speak, but the attempt failed. It mattered not,
for Archie comprehended the silence.

"I am grateful......my friend." Said the flicker in
Archie's eyes.

But then he was gone again, and shrouded in shame he retreated back
into that dark, consoling corner.

And Horatio sat alone; and no consoling corner could he find...there
was only his basin of dark, disturbing water.