To Be Turned Into Corruption
Fandom: Horatio Hornblower (TV series)
Pairing: William Bush/Charles Orrock
Warnings: Slash, graphic sex, relationship between military ranks.
Spoilers: Through Loyalty.
Summary: The unspoken deal is that the rules are different at sea - but that's scant consolation for a young midshipman who finds himself falling for a superior officer.
Word Count: 1,634
It was dark in the cabin, the only light a thin silver thread snaking through the portal. Orrock still knew every inch of the place. The hammock (only one midshipman’s hammock left), the single battered trunk, the creaks and whimpers of the boards on that narrow patch of floor – even the smell, dust and cracked leather mingling with the wild harshness of salt, was so familiar now that he scarcely regarded it, for all he’d tried to spend as little time as possible here since Jack… since Jack, his mind concluded firmly.
It was dark in the cabin, but Orrock could see every delicate, achingly beautiful line of the other man’s face.
He scarcely knew when it had begun, and the earliest moment he could recollect was a moment of realisation, not corruption. The corruption must have seeped under his skin long ago, but he could not for the life of him understand when. He remembered clearly the day he had received his orders. He’d been so giddy at the promise of a post with the near-legendary Captain Hornblower – this mystical half-child, half-demon who’d taken command of a frigate during the last war and shamed admirals three times his age with his exploits – that Orrock had stood half the men in Portsmouth drinks that night. It was lucky for him that his new friends had all clapped him indulgently on the back and refused to let him pay, otherwise he’d have left his new uniform in a pawnshop and come aboard the Hotspur in nothing but his socks. He’d expected the captain to be a hearty young Titan with golden hair and broad shoulders, who would wave a gleaming sword to urge them into battle at the first opportunity, peace or no peace. He’d found a dark, mercurial creature, who for all his finery and noble bearing still moved like a shadow across the deck. Occasionally, some stray word would tease a smile out of Hornblower, or the captain would fall into one of those strange moods of his, when his eyes held a soft light and he looked about to start quoting verse at them (Matthews whispered that those smiles used to be more common, once, and Orrock listened hungrily before hushing him). At other times there would come a flash of anger, frightening in its dark intensity but at the same time brittle, as if the mood – and the man – were in danger of shattering, and that was more frightening still. More and more, however, the captain was a saturnine shape in the prow, remote and motionless against the pale light.
Orrock gasped quietly. The fabric of his trousers was eased gently away from his slender hips, and he barely noticed as it slid to the floor. The salt and dust of the room grew heavy as they mingled with the scent of sweat.
No, from the beginning it had been the first lieutenant who had trained them, with Hornblower himself making the occasional visit below decks, like a wealthy woman watching impassively as the governess trotted out her well-groomed children before her. First Lieutenant William Bush. As eager as Orrock had been, as certain of doing well as he had been (and not without cause), he’d been brought up short by his first encounter with the lieutenant – by those Aegean blue eyes that weighed and did not forgive short weight easily, by the voice, like a knife sheathed in silk. That voice, with its serpentine curves, had followed him in the months afterwards, ordering, reproving, slithering its way into his mind until every cold recrimination and every deadly soft smile seemed to be a phantom of his own thoughts.
That voice was with him now, whispering in his ear as calloused fingertips clutched at his skin.
And perhaps it was the fault of that voice that, months later, he did not feel the revulsion he would have felt – the revulsion he should have felt, Orrock considered ruefully, his back arching in helpless pleading as he thrust into the touch – when the thought first occurred to him. He was standing in the mess, winding his way idly between tables, listening to a snatch of conversation here and there, as Lieutenant Bush had taught him to do, when he came upon the lieutenant himself, deep in quiet conversation with Matthews. Bush’s hand was wrapped casually around one of the beams. Orrock glanced at the long, slender fingers, pink and roughened at the edges yet retaining all the delicacy of a musician’s hands – a musician of ships perhaps, a fiddler of winds – and the thought was there. Unbidden, it came into his mind, cold and clean as if born of a different world: How beautiful.
Strong, smooth fingers wrapped around his cock now, stroking the burning skin with an expert, tormenting caress, and Orrock’s mouth was open soundlessly, his hips rocking.
That tiny thought had been sudden and pure, but what followed was agony. The next morning, Orrock had been unable to tear his eyes away from the stern, flawless lines of the lieutenant’s face. Half his mind was frozen in horror; the other half wondered how he’d gone so long without noticing, without seeing the delicate tracings of those cheekbones and the supple sweep of the proud mouth. Orrock had heard of the things that happened on ships, the things that men could do with one another, and while he’d had no trouble giving a worldly shrug when his friends had mentioned such rumours, this was… different. The boy understood that the sea was another world – gleefully threw himself into understanding it, into adoring it – a world with its own rules; and the thought that a man might withstand another man’s caresses, even relish them, while it was a thing rightly to be despised on land, did not seem altogether wrong or out of place when put against the exotic past of a secretive man like the captain, a man ruled by tides and imperatives far more alien than the petty rules of shore. (He’d tried to suggest such a thing to Jack once, but Jack could not fathom even that the niceties of social rank were different at sea, and Orrock had all but despaired of him.) But to have these thoughts invade the recesses of his mind and the intimate responses of his skin, to have such a thing inside him – he could, with his usual sanguine humour, have forgiven such a sin anywhere, except in his own body.
His body arcing in great rolling swells like the waves outside the portal, his breath hitching as those sure fingers slid over him, urging him relentlessly on –
He could no more have stopped the thoughts than have stopped himself breathing – his body would betray him each time. It was all he could do to conceal the sick sweat that broke out on his fevered skin at the sight of the man, at a glimpse of that trim form coming up behind him like a ghost, at a flicker of those heavy-lidded eyes. Orrock was a fervent Catholic, and for a time he had spent his evenings kneeling, bone-tired as he was, on the rough boards of his cabin, and clutching at his tiny golden crucifix as he more wished and strived than prayed to have the thoughts taken from him. He’d run the little cross over his throat, swallowing nervously at the desperate solemnity of it and feeling the movement scrape the still-delicate skin of his neck on the metal; over his chest, trying to sanctify the obscene sweat; over the shuddering, terribly responsive skin of his stomach; over – but no, he would not go so far, even if the intent was to purify; it would still taste of blasphemy. So then he would clutch the crucifix hard enough to bite, and he would pray.
But Orrock did not have a martyr’s disposition. In the end, he was practical; he turned his energies from purging to hiding, steeling himself to be the even-tempered, eager young midshipman again, even if his eye caught the first lieutenant’s.
Still, he could not understand how he had come to this pass. Somewhere along the line, this lush and secret night-time discipline had replaced his cross, under the ravages of that voice –
– that voice was with him now, moaning in his ear, demanding him, begging for him, hissing, “Oh, my God, oh, God, my beautiful Mr. Orrock…”
The voice was so near, so achingly like the dream, that Orrock had to smother a desolate cry as he came suddenly into his own hand. He opened his eyes again, reluctantly, in the dim cabin; the moon was low and brassy, and there was a pounding at the door.
“One moment, Mr. Bush!” the boy called, hunting for a towel and his jacket, trying to fight down the flush on his skin.
“We haven’t got a moment, lad! All hands to quarters! I need you at the guns!”
Orrock wrenched open the door and stood, shivering, as he pulled his jacket on. Bush ran his eyes over the boy’s pale face and misinterpreted it. That starkly beautiful mouth softened slightly, and curved up at one corner.
“You’ll be fine, Mr. Orrock. I’ve never seen you lose your nerve yet.” And he reached out and clasped Orrock’s shoulder… and that slender hand clutched tightly for a moment, then swept up to brush the boy’s cheek, only for an instant, the gently trailing fingers like roughened silk.
Orrock turned away with a mumbled, “Aye aye, sir,” and staggered up the hatch. He was grateful when the chill night wind hit him full in the face, grateful for the immediate terror of the French frigate silhouetted against the pendulous moon; but the echo of that touch remained, like a brand.