Fandom: War Horse
Pairing: Gen. Jamie Stewart/Captain Nicholls (Benedict Cumberbatch & Tom Hiddleston's characters)
Synopsis: Captain Nicholls is nervous the night before the big charge
Word count: About 2500
Note: Happy birthday to jenthegypsy! I know we disagreed about the movie but we can agree on the pretty horses and pretty men, yes? :) Thanks to elise_509 for looking it over! No real spoilers for the film.
And there's a picspam and icons over here
Here's some film clips (for those who haven't seen the movie):
Riding contest between Stewart & Nicholls
The General's speech to the men
Waverly shows off his new cap to Nicholls
The charge (SPOILERS!)
The men are drinking and who can blame them? It's the night before the big push and, to a man, they can't wait for their first taste of real combat. Mount their horses, rattle their sabers and just have at the damn Jerries. It's why they're here, after all.
Nicholls downs a mug or two alongside the other men inside the mess tent. The mood is oddly celebratory, as if they're toasting their success, as if the charge itself is a technicality, a thing of complete certainty.
Lt. Waverly is asking for a song and one of the Irish soldiers obliges.Soon the entire tent is swaying to and fro as they join in, everyone a bit tipsy by now. He scans their faces and sees only the same pride, the same spirit he's seen at every practice run. Not one hint of doubt or fear, and that's good, really it is.
They're all young and fired-up and their fervor should be catching. Perhaps Nicholls has had too much to drink, as the tent is suddenly too warm, the other men too close, the song far too loud.
He steps outside, into the cool night air. It's a clear evening, and crisp. He looks up at the stars as if tomorrow's events might be written there already. The stars look exactly the same as they did last night and doubtless will the night after. He should feel reassured: the world of men marches on at a thundering pace but the world itself, these trees, the grass beneath his feet, the stars up above, haven't changed. They won't change. He'd feel more reassured if this were his country, if these were the trees he'd grown up climbing, if this patch of land wasn't foreign soil. If it wasn't about to be a battleground.
He wonders if even the horses have caught the excitement in the air, if they've any idea of what awaits them tomorrow. Will Joey know that it's finally the real thing, that all this running and stopping and starting has been for a purpose? He finds himself walking towards the stables to check on his horse. Joey's no more his than the ground under the feet is his home and yet Joey is his. He's only had the horse a few days, but he knows Joey will run his heart out for him, that he need only ask and Joey will do the impossible.
The horse tent is dark, save for a lantern burning outside where the sentry stands guard.
Joey lifts his head, at the ready with a welcoming whinny as if he were expecting him. The other horses turn to register his presence, then return to their feed. He's only got to put his hand out for Joey to come to him, to snuffle his palm and then his face. Nicholls can't help but smile.
"That's a good boy," he says, patting Joey's beautiful muzzle. "That's my fine lad." He presses his head against Joey's neck. He made a promise to bring Joey back safe and sound and he intends to keep that promise.
He's startled when another horse brushes against him.
"Ha, Topthorn," he laughs as the black mount demands a pat as well. "There's no separating you two, is there?"
"No, indeed," comes a deep voice behind him and Nicholls jumps.
"General," he says with a sharp salute. He hadn't expected to see General Stewart in here, hadn't expected anyone else to be with the horses.
"Should have known you'd be in here, Nicholls," the General says. "Don't tell me you're going to bed down here with the horses?"
Nicholls has to laugh. "No, sir. I just wanted to check on Joey."
"He's fine, aren't you, boy?" Stewart says, patting first Topthorn and then Joey, who's nuzzling Topthorn's neck. "Best to get some sleep, while you can. We're up at first light, you know."
"I know." Nicholls is still rather impressed with Stewart; he's never met anyone taller than him and the man's confidence is staggering. No wonder he's a general at such a young age. He seems to know everything about everything and his mere presence gives Nicholls a sense of being steadied, as a horse by a good rider.
And yet, he's not steadied, not exactly. He's more nervous to be speaking here alone with the General on tonight, of all nights, suddenly full of a kind of fizzing energy, like a bottle of seltzer that's been shaken up. He can't let on that he's nervous, not to his commanding officer, but he also has the strange compulsion that he must be absolutely truthful, that the General would surely know if he were holding anything back.
"I don't think I shall get any sleep tonight," Nicholls confesses. "Tell me, how do you ever get to sleep on a night like this?" Stewart smiles. "The lads out there have the right idea. A drop to drink will help with that."
"I've had my drop," Nicholls sighs. "I'm just a bit ... keyed-up," he says, in what the General will surely realize is a complete understatement. "I wish it were the morning already. I wish..." his voice trails off. Again, he feels the need to speak from his heart. Those stern eyes focused on him demand that he say nothing but the truth. "The men are so sure, aren't they? But we've never, none of us, done this before. We've no idea, do we...?"
"They won't know what hit them," the General says firmly. "It'll all be over with quickly. Now's not the time to lose your nerve, Nicholls."
"No, sir, of course not." He feels like an ass. He's been speaking as freely as if the Stewart were his best mate here, not a General who's responsible for all their lives, for the success of an entire campaign.
"You're a fine horseman and Joey won't let you down," the General is saying -- Nicholls had tuned him out a bit in his panic. "We've got God and right on our side, haven't we? There's nothing to worry about." He claps Nicholls on the shoulder. "That's a good lad. Why don't we leave the horses to their rest?" As if as an afterthought he adds, "Come have a dram with me."
Nicholls nods, giving Joey a farewell pat. He can't turn down an invitation from the General.
His tent is just a few yards away. Stewart waves Nicholls over to his cot -- there's really nowhere else to sit because the one camp chair is clearly for his commanding officer -- and busies himself with a bottle of brandy.
"Here you go. Chin chin," he says as he hands Nicholls a glass that's rather alarmingly full. Nicholls dutifully downs the drink, choking a bit and cursing himself for not having drunk it more slowly as it's clearly the best brandy he'll ever taste in his life.
"Local stuff," Stewart says as he polishes off his own glass. "Quite good, too." He shrugs off his jacket and undoes his collar. Maybe it's the glow of the alcohol or that he's not quite in uniform anymore, but he seems less and less general-like with each passing moment.
"Waverly tells me you're quite the artist," Stewart says.
"Oh? Oh yes, well, I did some sketches of Joey to send to the boy I bought him from. I promised him I'd bring Joey back and ... well, I thought he'd want to know that Joey's all right."
"Haven't you got a girl to write to?" Stewart says and there's a hint of laughter in his tone.
"No, sir," Nicholls says, shifting on the cot, unable to refuse when Stewart refills his glass. "Not one I know well enough to write to, that is. After we're all done here ..." he stops, his laugh somewhat shaky. "I suppose I'm the only man here who hasn't got a sweetheart."
"What's wrong with the girls in your town?" smiles Stewart. "Haven't they got eyes?" Stewart brushes his finger over his mustache, as if it tickles. Or as if he's trying to hold back an even bigger smile. The gesture gives Nicholls an odd feeling. Being here, alone with the General, is making him almost as nervous as the thought of the push tomorrow.
"Probably I was too shy," Nicholls says. He's quite hot now, the tent is stifling, so he shrugs off his jacket as well. "And I suppose I've missed my chances now, haven't I? When we hit France, some of the men... the French women are beautiful, but I just didn't..."
"Are you telling me you're worried you might go to your maker without ever having made love to anyone?"
He blushes red-hot, his whole body probably as crimson as his face feels just now. "There'll be plenty of time for that after," he chokes. When the General doesn't answer, he adds, in a voice that quavers too much for his liking. "Won't there be?"
"Of course," Stewart says. He leans forward, his eyes dark and intent on Nicholls, as if he's enjoying the discomfort he's caused him. "There's still time tonight to do something about that. If you like."
"There are women at the camp?" Nicholls panics at the idea. He'd never pictured his first time like this. He can't imagine lying with some French whore, some total stranger. "Sir, I don't think... I mean, I'd rather not... if it's all the same to you..."
"No, no women." Stewart's on his feet, rising to his full height. He stretches, his shirt coming up just above his waistband. He walks over and sits next to Nicholls on the cot. "But there are ways to amend your situation." He puts his hand on Nicholls' knee. Nicholls doesn't move, doesn't brush away the hand that seems to be burning a hole in his trousers. His heart is in his throat and he's suddenly very clear on what the General means.
"You've never had anyone else touch you?" Stewart's hand moves up to his thigh and Nicholls's head is pounding now. He's sure he's going to pass out when Stewart's hand moves to his crotch. "Like this...?" He doesn't move a muscle as the General rather roughly undoes the buttons on his trousers. He's got to concentrate all his might just on breathing; he can hear how ragged his own breath is in his ears. He can't help the sharp intake of air as Stewart's hand closes around his cock.
He has nowhere to look but into the General's eyes, but that's too overwhelming, so he focuses on that bristly mustache, those lips curved in a smile and he realizes now how hard the General is breathing too. His hand has never stopped moving and it's, God, it's so good. Nicholls never knew it would be this intensely pleasurable to have someone else touch you, that you'd feel it all over your entire body. His whole being is now just one throbbing muscle, his limbs jelly, his cock, oh god, aching and so near to bursting he can hardly take it. "General," he gasps.... "Stewart..."
"Call me Jamie," Stewart says with a soft laugh. "Breathe, lad. Don't want to lose you before you've even seen battle."
"It's Jim," Nicholls gasps out, since that's his Christian name and he's quite sure no one knows it. He's near to coming, so very, very near and he can't help it when his whole body starts to shake. His head falls back against Stewart's shoulder and then it's as if his entire being explodes in one glorious burst. But the General doesn't stop what he's doing and he finds he can't stop the embarrassing twitches and jerks his body makes. He has no control over himself, none at all, so when he bends to kiss the General, that's not his fault. He simply has to kiss him, to touch him in return.
He's soon fumbling at the General's fly and then those strong, sure hands are guiding his. They're panting with one breath, as if they're running a race together. There's nothing but the thundering in his ears and the pounding of his blood as if they were on the field right now, as if their combat were with each other. But no, that's wrong, he realizes as the General cries out and clenches his hand tight over his own. They're comrades, best mates.
I'd die for you, Nicholls gasps and realizes he's always felt this way about him. As the General, Jamie, lies, spent next to him, re-gathering his strength, Nicholls knows this bond between them has always been there from the first, that all their parrying was really about this.
Jamie's hands are twined in his hair now, as if he needs to touch every inch of him. Or maybe he's marking him with their mingled scents, like a trail for a hunter. If he ever needs to find him again, if they become separated tomorrow....
He hasn't forgotten what the morning will bring, not even when he was gasping out his pleasure at Jamie's hands. This wouldn't have happened if there weren't the possibility of dying in a few hours, if this didn't feel like their last night on earth.
Thomas Nicholls has never run from anything in his life but now he wants to take Jamie and the horses and ride away, away from the battlefield, away from the Jerries. Back to England, back home where they can be safe and sound and together.
But now Jamie is stirring. He fetches a towel and cleans up Nicholls' sorry trousers and then his own. He buttons himself back up and so Nicholls does the same.
"Best go back to your own quarters," Jamie says crisply and Nicholls nods.
"Of course. Sir. Thank you, sir." What does one say? He's not even sure what to call him now. He might have said "Jamie" a moment ago but despite the fact he can still feel his hands on him, he's become the General again. He claps Nicholls on the shoulder as he did just an hour or so earlier, but that feels like a lifetime ago now.
"My dear Jim. You get some sleep. I'm sure you'll sleep now," he says with a hint of a smirk. "And then I'm not letting you out of my sight tomorrow." He leans in, and while there's no need to whisper, he drops his voice as he says, "Be brave, for we are fearless men."
It's an echo of a speech the General's given before, but that was said to all the men. This, and the kiss he gives -- a quick press of lips on Nicholls' forehead, like a blessing -- are just for him.
The night is sharply cold as Nicholls makes his way back to his own tent. He shivers, not sure he will get to sleep. He's fired up in a way he didn't know was possible. He'll ride tomorrow, for king and for country, and for much more. Jamie and Topthorn will lead the charge and he and Joey will be right behind them. He'll outrun the other men. He'll outrun them all. He is fearless.