Free fic!

Oct. 22nd, 2009 11:27 pm
jl_merrow: (Default)
[personal profile] jl_merrow
When I wrote Through a Western Door, I wasn't initially sure where I was going with it.

Chris and Henry in the following ficlet are… not exactly Sam and James from Through a Western Door. But this is a direction the story might have gone in, and didn’t.

Chris was lost. And his head was hurting like hell.

And it was dark. God, it was dark. Why the hell didn’t they put streetlamps up in the country?

Chris stumbled down the lane, hoping there wasn’t a ditch by the side as the first he’d know of it would be when he fell in. It was eerily silent; even his own footsteps made barely a sound. No friendly owls hooted, although there was the odd furtive rustle in the hedgerows. He wondered if a car would come past, and what he’d do if it did.

After all, he wouldn’t know until too late whether it was Mark, would he?

Damn, his head hurt. Chris shied away from touching the tender spot to check, but he was fairly certain he was bleeding.

“I say, are you all right?”

Startled, Chris whirled round. He could just make out the figure of a young man standing in the middle of the road. Relief warmed him from the toes up. “I—no, actually. Had a bit of an accident. Got hit on the head.” No point going into detail right now. “Do you live round here? Could I use your phone?”

“My house is nearby, as it happens, yes.” Chris couldn’t see the face too well, but the voice sounded friendly. “You’d be very welcome, and I’d be glad to offer you any assistance within my power. Come this way.”

Thank God. Chris felt abruptly weak in the knees and staggered a little as he approached the stranger.

“Here, let me help you.” A strong arm wrapped around his waist, and Chris stiffened for a moment, then gave himself a mental shake. Christ, he was just getting paranoid. Not everyone was like that bastard Mark.

The stranger didn’t appear to have noticed. “I should probably introduce myself. Henry Merton.”

“Chris. Chris Baines.” There was something bloody comforting about that arm holding him, supporting him.

“I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what on Earth happened to you?”

In a move that would have surprised his family, Chris thought before he spoke. But somehow, he didn’t think Henry would be the sort to get nasty about him being a queer. “Met a bloke at a party, and well, you know. But he turned out to be the sort who wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

Apparently he’d been wrong about Henry taking it in his stride. He stopped dead, face pale in the moonlight. “He tried to—to, well, force you?”

Obscurely, Chris felt guilty. “Well, you know—I mean, you go home with a bloke, you know the score, but in my book, it doesn’t mean you’re up for any kind of weird shit. I mean, if he wanted someone who was into all that tie-me-up-and-call-me-master crap, he should’ve asked first, shouldn’t he?” Chris couldn’t halt a cringe as he finished speaking. Henry was staring into the distance like someone had just told him the Tooth Fairy wasn’t real.

“Look, I’m sorry,” Chris hurried on with. “Too much information, I know. That’s the trouble with me—a couple of Bacardi Breezers and I don’t listen to myself talking.” He laughed. “And I’ll go off with any good-looking bastard who asks me, apparently.”

Henry was still frowning. “You shouldn’t. I mean, you should be more careful.” His arm seemed to grip Chris’ waist tighter. It hurt a bit, reminding Chris that Mark had kicked him in the stomach too. “You should value yourself more.” He sounded troubled. “Come on. We should get moving. If the moon goes behind a cloud, we’ll have the Dickens of a job finding our way.”


The house, when they reached it, was not what Chris had been expecting. For one thing, it was a dump. Literally—all kinds of crap had been chucked in amongst the weeds that had taken over the front garden several decades ago, by the look of things. The windows were boarded up and the roof sagged dangerously.

This is where you live?” Chris asked incredulously. He’d never have pegged Henry for a squatter. And didn’t squatters usually go for properties that looked like they might actually last out the week?

“Not all the time, obviously. I have a house in town as well,” Henry said matter-of-factly. “Why don’t you come in?”

He turned a key in the lock and opened the door.

Chris stared.

Inside, the house was warm, brightly lit and inviting. There was an old-fashioned coat stand by the door upon which hung a trench-coat and a couple of hats.

Chris took a look back into the garden—which was now neatly tended, if necessarily rather bare in view of the season. He blinked.

“Chris? Is everything all right?”

“Er, yeah. Sorry. Christ, what did that bastard put in my drinks?” Chris followed Henry into the house. There was a thick brown carpet running the length of the hall. Standing on a half-moon side table was the sort of telephone Chris had only ever seen in old Sherlock Holmes films. “Does this actually work?”

“Oh yes! Although they can be rather slow at the local exchange, I’m afraid.” Henry hesitated. “Are you in a terrible hurry to be off? Because I rather wondered if I might offer you a drink.”

The correct answer to that, Chris knew, was that he’d quite clearly had more than enough to drink tonight already, what with the hallucinations and the head injury and all. Somehow, though, he wasn’t surprised to find himself saying “Yeah, that’d be great!”

Henry’s smile washed away the last of Chris’s misgivings. Now that Chris could see him properly, he looked, well, nice. Slender, with light-brown hair and the most perfect skin Chris had ever seen outside of a make-up advert. “But first we’d better see to that head of yours. This way. I keep the iodine in the kitchen.”

What’s chemistry got to do with this? Chris wondered vaguely, but he followed Henry into the barest looking kitchen he’d ever seen. No fridge, no kettle, no microwave—just an old-fashioned range and a huge wooden table and chairs. How did he manage to cook anything?

“You sit down there,” Henry told him with just a touch of Victorian nanny in his voice. Chris pulled out a chair and sat, and looked around him while Henry searched around in cupboards. “Here we are.”

Henry pressed a cloth soaked with some dark liquid gently to the wound in Chris’s head. Chris gave an involuntary yelp. “Bloody hell! That stings like buggery!”

“Baby!” Henry grinned, and then looked more serious. “That’s a nasty wound. I’d say we should call a doctor, but…” He trailed off, looking troubled.

“No, I’m fine,” Chris assured him. And it was true—he did feel fine. Whatever that iodine stuff was, someone ought to patent it. His head had stopped hurting altogether. He grinned, and Henry grinned back.

“How about that drink, then?” He led Chris into the living room, which was comfortably furnished and had a roaring fire blazing in the grate. No TV, though.

“I—damn.” Chris’s spirits sank. “I really ought to phone the police. Report Mark. I mean, he might hurt someone else.”

Henry’s face was grim. “He hit you? Deliberately?”

Chris shrugged. “Yeah.” It didn’t seem so important now he was here with Henry. There was a newspaper on the side table and Chris picked it up. It was one of those reproduction ones, he saw with amusement—full of stuff about the Boer Wars and genteelly-worded adverts for pomade.

Lower down on the front page there was a brief column about the suicide of an earl’s son: Lord Henry Savile had shot himself after a disagreement with a close male friend. It was full of the coy innuendo of the times. Poor sod. Probably worried he’d end up like Oscar Wilde.

“Don’t look at that,” Henry begged him. “Look, you can tell me what that strange picture-frame is.”

Chris looked up. “That… wasn’t there a moment ago.”

Henry smiled. “I know. Isn’t it exciting?”

The TV screen flickered into life. “…has been identified as Christopher Baines, of St Albans, Hertfordshire. A twenty-seven year-old man has been arrested.”

Chris stared at the scowling face on the screen. “That’s Mark.”

“Good.” Henry stilled, and then gently pressed a kiss to Chris’s lips. “You don’t need to worry about him any more.”

There was a humming sound coming from the kitchen now. It sounded like a fridge. Chris wouldn’t mind betting that when he opened it up, he’d find it full of Bacardi Breezers.

“No,” he said, slipping an arm around Henry. “I don’t suppose I do.”
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