Title: Sharing the Quarters|
Author: Juxian Tang
Fandom: Hornblower, movies, Loyalty
Summary: Can't live with him, can't live without him
SHARING THE QUARTERS
He watches it from under half-closed eyelids,
quietly, pretending still to be asleep. In the pale light breaking through the
tiny window he sees how Bush runs the comb through his hair several times, then
gathers it in one hand and takes a narrow black ribbon in the other. He wraps
it around quickly, efficiently. The movements are precise, repeated countless
number of times. In the small mirror Cotard can see the thin mouth clamping on
the loose end of the ribbon.
And now it is a tight, thin braid bound in the black
strip of cloth almost to the end.
"That is a pathetic sight, this rat tail of
yours," he says, his 'r' deliberately French.
Bush gives him a weary, cold look.
"Now is it some English idea of etiquette, not
to answer when talked to?"
It finally gets to him, and Bush turns, his eyes
blue and angry and his hands buttoning the jacket waver a little.
"Why don't you give it some rest, Cotard? You
don't like me, all right, I got it. I don't like you either, and you're
lounging around in *my* quarters. But I don't see what we can do about it. So
would you mind shutting your mouth at last?"
"Allons dans les bois, ma mignonnette,
Allons dans les bois du Roi..." Cotard sings enthusiastically, his voice
drowning Bush's words. Bush's face distorts in disgust.
"Frog," he whispers. "Why the hell
don't you leave me alone?"
He walks out angrily, slamming the door shut behind
him. Lying in his berth, Cotard stops singing and looks at the ceiling above
"If you were a girl," he says, "I
would tug on your braids."
* * *
The walls are still swaying but at least it doesn't
feel, at every blow of the waves, that the wood is ready to crush at any
moment. The door opens, with a candle flame flickering in the draft, and Bush
stumbles in, streams of water running from his pea-coat.
Cotard watches how he takes it off and lets it fall
on the floor listlessly. Bush's wet pale face looks blank with tiredness and
for a short while he just freezes, as if forgetting what he was going to do.
Then he raises his hand, in a lost, uncertain
gesture, and pulls the ribbon from his wet, dripping hair. It catches, and he
curses softly, his hand dropping like a dead weight.
And Cotard gets from under the blanket and comes up,
meeting the stare of the wary, tired eyes, and says, reaching for the comb.