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Shore Leave (Horatio Hornblower)


groundcontrol

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Looks like my few little drabbles on this fandom just weren't enough to satisfy me :) So here's another, longer story. I hope someone enjoys!

The rain pelted down in diagonal sheets, and the two figures that had the misfortune of being caught in the streets for the downpour pulled their collars up as high as possible to shield themselves, but thanks to the whipping wind they were quickly soaked anyhow. 


“Horatio!” One called to the other above the howl of the wind. “What do you say we take cover for a moment in that shop up ahead?”


“I’d say that’s a wonderful idea, Archie!” Horatio yelled back.


Soaking as the two young men were, they could have been stepping into a French prison for all they cared, so long as it was dry and warm. Their shelter, however, proved to be something less extreme, for which they were more than grateful.


Archie deciphered the backwards lettering on the window of the shop they were in. “Livingstone’s Tailoring.” He turned to Horatio with a grin, shaking some of the wetness from his coat and boots. “What do you say we get some new uniforms to replace this sodden mess?”


Horatio didn’t comment on his friend’s joke but rather on the shadow descending upon the stairs in the corner of the shop. “And that must be Mr. Livingstone.”


The man appeared, clad in his nightshirts and holding a small lamp. He held the light to his face, and the long shadows fell sideways across his trembling jaw. “Damn right it is! What are you two bloody fools doing in here? Can’t you see I’m closed for the night?”


Horatio could do no more than clear his throat, chagrined, but Archie attempted an answer. “We saw that, sir, only it’s raining like hell out there and as you can see..” Archie his dripping arms for emphasis. “We needed a bit of a dry spot to wait the worst out.”


“I don’t care if you’re the bloody king of England needin’ a bit of a dry spot! I’m closed and I’ve got a sign that says it.” Mr. Livingstone walked down a few more steps, each stride heavy and purposeful. “Who do you two think you are, disturbin’ a poor man as he tries to get his rest--”


Heh’tschoo!” Horatio rubbed his nose, surprised by his own outburst.


“See there, sir,” Archie said, patting Horatio on the shoulder. “My poor friend is soaking wet. He’ll catch cold if you turn us out into that, sir.” Archie gestured behind him to the store window, against which rain still lashed with furious fingers.


Horatio shook his head as he watched the color rise in Livingstone’s cheeks. The last thing he wanted, least of all tonight of all nights, was an altercation on his behalf. “Archie, he’s--heh’tschh--he’s right. We should go. We’re sorry to have disturbed you, sir.” Horatio sniffed lamentably; it was as if the wetness of his hair and his clothes had somehow migrated to his nose. 


Remarkably, Livingstone’s expression softened minutely. “Stay here if you want, then,” he said gruffly. “But as soon as the rain lets up I want you gone.”


Both Horatio and Archie nodded. “Thank you, sir.”


Livingstone retired up the stairs, plodding slowly up each step and never taking his eyes off the two sailors until he’d disappeared from their sight. Once he was gone, Archie slapped Horatio on the back.


“Now that’s what I call a miracle, Mister Hornblower.” He grinned. “Perhaps you should sneeze more often.”


Horatio offered up a faint smile in return. Both turned their gaze to the window. The rain had already slowed to a steady patter. 


“Where to once it stops?” Archie asked; they had just been leaving a tavern, walking nowhere in particular, when the skies opened up. The night was still early, they could have easily gone to another tavern and added more to Horatio’s winnings or blown the money on drinks as they saw fit. But at the moment that course of action seemed like the utmost chore to Horatio.


He sighed, combing his fingers through his wet curls. “Perhaps an inn, if you don’t mind, Archie.”


Archie cocked his head. “Are you alright?”


“Of course. Only tired.”


“And rightly so, I suppose. You’ve been drilling those men at the guns for weeks now, haven’t you? Only…” Archie broke off, his blue eyes searching Horatio’s face so deeply the latter couldn’t help but physically squirm. “You must be very tired to walk away from a chance of whist twice in one evening.”


Horatio cleared his throat; Archie was referring to his conduct earlier that night. They had been at the tavern, Horatio deep in a game of whist and Archie watching. With each hand, Horatio felt more dreary and heavy and tired, and so he'd cut the game short, leaving with his winnings before his fatigue manifested itself in a loss. “I didn’t walk away, Mister Kennedy, I retreated while I still had the tactical advantage.”


“A rose by any other name.”


Horatio’s eyes took on a twinkle, and his lip curled slightly upward. “Perhaps then I shouldn’t divide my winnings with someone so ungrateful.”


“A valid point.” Archie held up his hands in mock surrender. “Though, strictly speaking, you aren’t obligated to give me a halfpenny of what you earned.”


Horatio shook his head, having put up with this nonsense once already when he had insisted at the tavern that Archie take half the winnings. As lieutenant and acting-lieutenant, they made close to the same pitiance, and it was meager. Archie needed money just as he did. “It’s not as if I’m giving you a portion of my pay. If making money off the poor decisions of drunk men in a game of cards can be called ‘earning’, I’m only too happy to split it with a friend.”


Archie shook his head, but pointed outside, where the ferocious storm had faded to a haphazard drizzle. “Shall we wander out then? See what lodgings we can find along the way?”


“I can find a room myself, Archie, if you’d like to stay out a bit more.”


“Nonsense, Horatio. It’s probably best I don’t blow all of my--your money in one night.”


“Archie…”


“You know I must tease. Come on then, who knows how long this calm will last? We don’t need Livingstone on our backs again, do we?”


Horatio’s face turned solemn as he opened the door. “That we most certainly do not.”


*********
“Damn! I think the Good Lord has it out for us tonight, Horatio!” Archie called. The rain had begun again in earnest as soon as they had walked a block down from the tailor shop. Horatio groaned, pulling his greatcloak close about him, shivering ceaselessly. 


“There we go!” Archie said, pointing at a squat gray building only barely visible through the downpour. “Boarshead Inn. That sounds like as good a place as any!”


Horatio nodded his assent and they all but ran to the door. Both rapped upon it impatiently as the rain continued beating at their backs. After a moment, a middle-aged woman opened the door, wearing a nightcap and frock. 


“We’re full for the night,” she said, already closing the door. Though he’d be ashamed to admit it, Horatio could've cried at the words. Archie stuck his foot in the door. The rain still assaulted them mercilessly, the wetness snaking down Horatio’s spine. He was sure he'd never feel warm again. 


“Ma'am, are you sure you have nothing?” Archie asked pleadingly, uncomfortably aware of the way his friend was trembling like a leaf beside him. “We’ll take anything at all on a night like this so long as it's dry.”


The woman looked weary, but she nodded all the same. Her beady eyes lingered on Horatio. “Come in then. I'll see if my husband can't find a place for you.”


“Thank you,” Horatio said. She lead them inside, past rows of men drinking at tables, past ladies warming themselves by a fire in the hearth. Horatio ached to join them for a moment, to rub the chill from his bones, but the innkeeper lady was leading them away. She took them to a small room in the back of the inn, furnished modestly with a small table and bed, likely where she and her husband slept. 


“These boys are pestering me for a room, Richard,” she said matter-of-factly to the man who sat with a guestbook at the table. A candle burned low at the table in front of him, barely casting light on the paper much less his face. “What should I tell them?”


“That we’re full,” he growled, his gaze never lifting from the book. “Same thing you've told every other sorry sod come this way.”


Heh’ishhooo!” Horatio sniffed and stood more stiffly, trying to resist as his shivers redoubled. “Pardon me.”


“Sir, please,” Archie all but begged. “We've been out in the rain for the better part of the night. We’ll pay well for a place to warm up.”


At this, the innkeeper lifted his head and regarded Archie and Horatio with hooded eyes. “Well, I suppose there's one room that isn't occupied,” he said begrudgingly. “Follow me.”


The innkeeper led the two sailors up a rickety back staircase that surely would have collapsed to ashes if anyone’s foot came down upon a step hard enough. At that moment, the innkeeper could have been taking them to a stable to sleep with the pigs for all Horatio cared. He’d never felt so tired in his life; it seemed with each passing minute his fatigue sucked up more and more of his body, like a ball of snow rolling down a hill. He was beyond grateful when they reached the top of the stairs; he wasn’t sure he could have managed another flight.


The innkeeper pushed open a knotty wooden door that was tucked away in a corner of the hall.


“Belonged to the barmaid,” he said, leading them inside. “She died last week and I keep forgetting she isn't ‘round no longer. There's only one bed but I suspect men of your profession won’t see that as a problem.”


Archie bristled at the implication, and Horatio shifted awkwardly in his uniform. He prayed to God that Archie wouldn’t let his hot head get to him at this moment; Horatio would have shared a bed with a plague patient if it meant getting rest. Besides, a room like this with naught but a bed, a chair, and a small fireplace was bound to be cheap enough that they could actually afford to spend their shore leave in it. 


Horatio spoke before Archie’s temper could manifest. “How much do we owe you?” He paid the innkeeper off, then all but sank into the bed as soon as the door was shut.


I don’t suspect men of your profession will see that as a problem,” Archie mimicked, sneering foully. “Who does he think he--Horatio, what are you doing, getting the bed all wet?”


“Oh, right,” Horatio said blearily, forcing himself upright again. He fumbled with undoing the buttons on his coat. “Sorry, Archie.”


Archie set to undoing his own coat with half as much trouble. “Is everything alright with you, Horatio? You seem a little… lost tonight.”


Horatio nodded. “Just so bloody tired.” He laughed as he continued shedding his wet clothes. “I haven’t even done anything all day. Imagine that, I stand for half a day in battle and I’m right as rain, but I spend one evening on shore playing whist and I can’t hardly stand.” 


Archie laughed as well. “Sometimes it all catches up to you, I suppose. If you’re that tired, climb into bed and I’ll get a fire going. Looks like the barmaid left us a few scraps of wood in her will.”


Horatio sighed, the relief flooding his face so heavily it was nearly palpable, but then he caught himself and stiffened again. “Are you sure, Archie?” It was unacceptable for him to recline in comfort while his friend was still up and working.


“As Acting-Leftennant of Her Majesty’s Ship Indefatigable I believe I can manage to light a few sticks on fire without assistance,” Archie said lightly. “Go on, Horatio, I’ll join you in a moment. Just try not to hog all the space, if you please.”


Horatio smiled and got into bed, drawing the covers close around his shoulders and sighing at the warmth it brought him. By the time Archie had finished lighting a fire and spreading their wet uniforms on a chair before it, he found his friend already fast asleep, his breaths coming calmly and evenly. Archie felt pity stir within his heart; Horatio must really have been dead on his feet if he fell asleep that fast. Shaking his head, Archie climbed into his side of the bed, looking forward to waking without the aid of the ship’s bell for once. 

--I was thinking of ending this here, but now I'm not so sure... There very well might be more to come ;) 

 

 

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I'm going to selfishly encourage you to continue writing. ;) I'm a sucker for Hornblower fic, and am so happy you decided to share this!

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It's been ages since I watched Hornblower but every time a fic for it pops up, I remember what a sucker I am for these two! Lovely little fic :)

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Aw, boys! :wub:

 I agree with Snowshie: please do continue! 

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On 3/17/2018 at 8:08 AM, groundcontrol said:

“Perhaps you should sneeze more often.”

I know I would certainly get behind that idea...

Joking aside, I'm delighted that's there's even more Hornblower fic from you! I'm a little busy at the moment so I haven't had time to fully read and appreciate the details, but I enjoyed my quick read-through of it (including the line I quoted). I'll leave another comment after I've had a chance to give it the attention it deserved, but I definitely wanted you to know that I appreciate the time you took to write and share this! And of course, to encourage you to write more if the urge strikes you, regardless of if it's part two of this story or some other Hornblower based plot bunny...

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Mhmm, he should sneeze more often ;) And I should watch the series again :)

I wouldn't mind another part of this, or anything else Hornblower/Ioan.

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On 3/17/2018 at 9:44 PM, Jelloicious said:

I really need to find this series.  It’s my fav unknown fandom.   I hope you’ll continue this!

You really, really do. Perhaps then it'll become your favorite known fandom!! :) 

And how could I say no to everyone's requests to continue?? (not that it takes much to convince me to write more Hornblower ;)) This was great fun, and now I think I might be hooked, so there may be even more coming...

Archie awoke, though judging by the dim light that crept through the curtains it was far from morning. He felt a movement beside him and flipped over, realizing the problem at once. Horatio was on his side, his back to Archie, and he was curled tightly in upon himself, trembling. Archie had seen his friend like this exactly once before, and that had been that first night on the Justinian, when Horatio had just arrived and they were both seventeen. He’d lain down in his bunk that night, seasick, and cried for hours without making a sound. So far as Archie knew, he had been the only witness.


“Horatio,” Archie whispered urgently. Was he crying again? Had something happened last night to cause him to be so absent-minded? “Horatio what’s wrong?”


The only reply was a moan. Worried now, Archie sat up and shook Horatio’s shoulder, flipping him onto his back.

“Horatio, wake up! What is it?”


“Archie,” Horatio murmured groggily, his eyes still shut. “What time is it?” He coughed weakly, but the sound trembled deeply in his chest. 


Not caring for the sound, Archie felt Horatio’s cheek. “Still early and--Horatio, you have a fever!”


Horatio merely turned away and sneezed into his pillow. “KSSHHH!”


“I knew all that time in the rain would make you ill.” Archie’s hand found Horatio’s forehead and he winced. “Oh your skin is positively burning. I’m going to see if I can’t get some wet cloths to bring your temperature down.”


“‘s nothing,” Horatio muttered, his mouth still half-obstructed by the pillow. “Go back to sleep, Archie.” 


Years serving alongside Horatio had left Archie with a fairly good idea of how to deal with his nonsense, and most of the time that was to ignore it. Archie got out of bed at once, and a violent shudder seized Horatio as the covers were drawn back. He scrambled to pull them back on. 


Hih’KSSSH!” 

Archie’s expression softened. “Perhaps the innkeeper has a hot water bottle? That's something you'll never get from the doctor on the Indy.”


Horatio said nothing, and Archie wasn't entirely sure his friend hadn't fallen asleep again. Keeping that in mind, he went as quietly as he could to retrieve his coat from the chair by the fire. He dug some of the money Horatio had given him out of his pockets. 


Horatio was watching him. “Archie…” His voice broke and he paused to cough. “Take my--my portion of the money.”


Archie shook his head, the corners of his lips quirking upward in the slightest of smiles. “I don’t think I will, Horatio.”


“Please.” The single syllable sounded like it took so much out of Horatio that Archie almost acquiesced. Almost. 


“Think of it as a gift. You’ve given me many.”


Horatio was all in all too tired to keep fighting, but he still looked extremely disconcerted at the fact that he perceived his friend as paying for his care. That was a burden he did not want to place on anyone’s shoulders. 


*****
The innkeeper had been more than a little annoyed with being woken at this hour, but Archie had let his money do the talking. Sure enough, the inkeeper was able to find a few cloths and a hot water bottle. Archie returned to the room with the supplies a short while later, and was shocked to find his intended patient out of bed and buttoning his coat. 


“What are you doing up?”


Horatio sniffed. His voice was so low and congested it was scarcely intelligible. “I’m going to find another place to stay.”


Archie nearly dropped the supplies.

“What?”


“I can't sleep with--next to you like this. You'll catch this.” He gestured at his pallid face and flushed cheeks, knowing as well as Archie that he was ill but not having the sense to stay in bed because of it. Archie shook his head with a sigh. 


“I haven't died from sharing a berth with you for years, so I don't mind in the slightest. But in any case, if anyone were leaving to wander the streets in search of another room, it sure as hell wouldn't be you. Lay down.”


Horatio looked mortified and, damn it all to hell, determined. A lethal combination. “I can't ask you to find another room, Archie. It's not your fault I'm ill.”


Archie’s voice flew high with exasperation, his temper ashamedly close to breaking. “It's not yours either!” Horatio made no attempt to say he didn't believe that it was. “Dear God, Horatio, don't tell me--”


Heh’TSCHHH! Heh’ICCHH! Hihh’ihh’ISSHHH’uhh!” Horatio swayed dangerously, and Archie was quickly at his side. Horatio looked up at him meekly, and Archie understood at once how embarrassing a predicament this was to him. His expression softened, all anger and exasperation seeping instantly from him. 


“Come, you can barely even stand up straight,” Archie said softly, leading his friend by the elbow. “Back to bed before you collapse and give yourself a concussion.”


Horatio nodded and allowed Archie to guide him back to bed and even to pull the covers up to his chin, a testament to how exhausted he truly was. As pitiful and miserable as he looked, shivering beneath the blankets, there was something almost endearing about Horatio in this state, though Archie couldn’t pinpoint it. 


“Now I'm going to ask you, and you're going to answer honestly, alright?” Archie’s tone was formal, businesslike, as he found Horatio responded best to that sort of thing. “You have nothing to gain from lying now. How do you feel? What's bothering you most?”


Horatio squirmed and Archie could tell that the former was seriously considering lying although explicitly commanded not to. “M-my throat, I suppose,” he finally conceded. “Can't hardly swallow.”


“I won’t ask you to talk any more then.” Archie filled a glass of water from the pitcher at the nightstand and gave it to Horatio, who sipped at it gingerly, wincing inadvertently with every swallow. He was shivering even more now, and Archie touched his forehead again, frowning at the heat.


“I’ll get the compress, just lie still.”


“Archie,” Horatio rasped, “there’s no need--”


“For you to be talking. Yes, Horatio, I know.” Archie grinned at the dark glower Horatio shot his way as he soaked the cloth with water. When the wet cloth touched Horatio’s skin, he gasped as though he’d been burned. 


“Too cold?” Archie asked instantly, ready to remove it.


“No,” Horatio sighed, relaxing a little. “‘S nice. It’s perfect.”


“Good.” Archie shook his head. “Poor you, Horatio. Can’t you do anything by half?”
Horatio gave a small smile. Archie continued. “I mean really. It’s come on so quickly. You were fine last night, albeit a little wet.” At this Archie’s eyes narrowed, an idea crawling into his mind and taking shape. “Unless you weren’t.”


Horatio cleared his throat, both out of necessity and embarrassment.


“That’s why you were acting so strangely last night, wasn’t it? You weren’t feeling well, were you?”


“Nothing as bad as this,” Horatio said truthfully, albeit weakly. 


Archie gave a small hmph and shook his head, equal measures amused as reproachful. “Just wait until you’re feeling better, Horatio. Then I’ll kill you.”


Horatio laughed, then coughed. A violent shiver snaked down his spine, and Archie immediately removed the compress. There was nothing but concern and sympathy in those bright blue eyes, and the sight made Horatio feel sick to his stomach. He wished he were well, he wished his friend wouldn’t worry, and he wished there was nothing for him to worry about. 


Hehh’TSCHHHH! Ihh’TSCHH!” The sneezes grated mercilessly against Horatio’s throat like sandpaper, and he descended into a fit of coughs, deep and chest-rattling. He kept his sleeve against his mouth and nose until he saw, through half-closed eyes, a handkerchief floating in his periphery.


“Thadk you,” he whispered, clasping the cloth to his face desperately. He blew his nose softly, the sound still unbearably wet, and once he had finished he peeked up apologetically at Archie. Archie felt Horatio’s hot forehead again, pushing back stray curls in the process. 


“For the love of God, Horatio,” Archie chuckled, though there was still a note of seriousness in his voice, “next time you aren't feeling well, tell me before we spend the better half of the night in the rain, will you?”

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Poor Horatio, always putting everyone else's needs before his own. Good thing Archie is there to care for him :)

On 18-3-2018 at 3:44 AM, Jelloicious said:

I really need to find this series.  It’s my fav unknown fandom.   I hope you’ll continue this!

If you don't mind the quality the movies can be found on YouTube. Otherwise there are box sets to very decent prices (or were when I looked for it a few years ago anyway). I hope you like them if you decide to watch them :)

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Oh, Horatio! You dear, sweet, stupid boy! I'm so glad you have Archie around to keep you upright...or push you into lying down, as the case may be. ❤️

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D'awww...this fic is great so far! I love banter between close friends, I love Horatio being stubborn but then eventually giving in and being vulnerable, I love caretaking, and I love sneezes, and you hit all four! Thank you so much for sharing with us!

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Fandom casts Archie as the woobie a fair amount, so seeing him as the caregiver and Horatio as the reluctant patient makes me so happy. :heart: I'm so glad you continued this! Oh Horatio, you idiot. Never takes help when he should. At least we get to enjoy it. ;)

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Part 3 (and the likely conclusion) is here! Happy Easter as well, if you celebrate :)

The day passed in relative peace. Horatio was an easy patient, likely stemming in no small part from the fact he didn’t feel well enough to do anything but sleep. He awoke periodically, just long enough to have a sip of water or relieve himself, before dozing off again. Archie placed the compress on Horatio's brow every so often, still concerned at the sheer heat which radiated from his friend’s skin. When he did this, Horatio murmured his thanks. Archie would then ask if he could get anything else to ease Horatio’s obvious discomfort, but the answer was always no. Feeling slightly guilty but not much of a nursemaid himself, Archie accepted the refusals and went back to his chair to read and keep a vigil. When night fell, Archie slid into bed next to Horatio. The latter immediately moved to the edge of the bed, as far away from Archie as physically possible, and flipped to face away. 


“Horatio, don’t worry,” Archie whispered. “Come closer. You can’t be comfortable on the edge like that.”


Horatio sniffed but did not move. Once his breathing had faded into soft, congested snores, Archie gingerly sat up in bed. All the time he’d spent that day watching over his friend had given him time to consider the reason there was something endearing about Horatio being ill. And in the soft night light dancing across Horatio’s pallid cheeks, the reason was evident. He was more open, vulnerable even, than he’d ever be when he was well. Archie exhaled, easing himself back into a prone position and wishing that Horatio would come to his senses and make full use of his share of the bed. And yet somehow, Archie got the sense that there would be more nonsense to come before this illness had run its course.
******
Archie sighed heavily. “I can’t urge you to reconsider?”


Horatio, trying to conserve what little voice he still possessed, pursed his lips and shook his head.


“Horatio, the captain won’t think less of you if you say you’re ill. It happens to everyone. If what he has to say is that important, he’ll send another messenger.”


Horatio shook his head again. Rationally, he knew what Archie said was true, but his fear of displaying weakness in front of the very man who should never see him as such reigned supreme. He would meet Captain Pellew in his quarters as the messenger that morning had requested, discuss what needed to be discussed, and then come back to the inn for all his coughing and sneezing. Since they were at port, the meeting couldn’t possibly be very long, and Horatio simply needed to perform his duty and be off. The captain wouldn’t be any the wiser. As far as he should know, Horatio Hornblower never took ill.


This time it was Archie’s turn to shake his head. He pressed a palm to Horatio’s forehead, which Horatio quickly shook off. “At least your fever’s gone down a bit since yesterday. Just don’t make yourself too much worse.”


Horatio rolled his eyes. “You should go out a bit too. You have better ways to spend your leave than breathing in my sorry air.” Though his voice was scarcely a whisper, Horatio paid the price for his words, doubling over and twisting away from Archie to cough breathlessly into a handkerchief. Once he was finished, he flushed and looked at Archie through watery eyes.


Archie smiled. “I can’t think of any.” He nudged his friend’s shoulder. “Go on then, if you must. Best not keep the captain waiting.”
******
“Captain Pellew, sir,” Horatio rasped upon entering the man’s quarters. Pellew spun in his seat, his head cocked, regarding Horatio with an expression of shock and something else the lieutenant couldn’t quite place but didn’t care for. He coughed a few times behind his handkerchief, trying his best to suppress them but not quite succeeding. He winced at the sound. “Forgive me.”


Pellow cleared his throat perfunctorily, that look of shock still knit across his brow. “Under the weather, Mister Hornblower?”

Horatio swallowed heavily, wishing he could sink through the floor. His cheeks felt hot, and he was sure at this moment that it didn’t have to do with his fever. “A slight cough, sir. Nothing, really.” Of course, he couldn’t help but cough a few more times, his throat voicing its displeasure. Already he was cursing himself for choosing to come, for being so foolish as to think he could hide his rather noticeable ailment from the captain’s keen eyes. 


“Yes, slight,” Pellew said, imbuing the words with trace amounts of sarcasm, which Horatio detected straightaway. The captain rose and went to his decanter of rum. He poured his lieutenant a healthy glass. “This’ll help keep it at bay.”


Horatio had half a mind to respectfully refuse, but his nose tickled and he had no breath to spare. “Heh’NGT! Hih’INGXT!” He had barely had time to pinch the bridge of his nose to stifle; horrified, he retrieved his handkerchief and mopped himself up quickly. “My apologies, sir.” He gulped down a sip of rum to save face. “Thank you.”


Pellew’s eyes held a twinkle for a brief moment, before it was gone and he launched into the details of why he had requested Horatio’s presence on board. Horatio caught a few words about gun repairs and drills and new seamen, but in truth he found it uncommonly difficult to follow what the captain was saying. Every so often he would snap to and bite the inside of his cheek in the hopes of keeping himself alert, but then he would slip off again and come to, only to find himself hopelessly adrift once more. 


After what felt like hours, Pellew paused, his back to Horatio as he peered out one of the ship’s windows. “And what say you to that, Mister Hornblower?”

Horatio’s stomach clenched. He had absolutely no idea what Pellew was asking his opinion on, and he couldn’t even discern enough from the captain’s voice or body language to gauge whether he wanted a positive or negative response. Horatio was debating the merits of choosing one or the other, when a sneeze burst from him without warning.


Hih’ETCHHH!” Horatio felt a mess spill onto his upper lip, and he slapped his handkerchief to his face. “I’b dreadfully sorry sir, but I--” his voice broke and gave way to a cough. “I don’t know what you just asked me.”


Horatio’s gaze immediately fell to the floor, unable to raise his eyes to see the fury that was undoubtedly fleshing out across his captain’s face. He felt his shoulders quake at the thought, and he tried to square his back to keep them still, but exhausted as he was he couldn’t manage it. Now in addition to his whole host of other symptoms, he was sick to his stomach, and it was all he could do not to lose control and embarrass himself all over the captain’s floor the way he had done in the midshipman’s berth years ago. 


“Mister Hornblower,” Pellew said, his voice low and even. “You are dismissed.”


“Sir, it was a temporary lapse of--”


“Lapse be damned,” Pellew said, and the twinkle returned. “It would be an smear on my skills of perception if I didn’t notice when one of my officers was ill.” Horatio squirmed, sure his cheeks were the color of the Royal Marine’s jackets by then. “Finish that glass if you’d like, and then you are to find yourself a warm bed and, by God, stay in it.”


“Sir, I--”


“Do I have to make that an order?”


“No, sir.” Horatio hung his head and drank the rest of the rum guiltily, unable to look at any more than the floor. 


“You are a strange man indeed, Mister Hornblower.”

Horatio choked on his drink. “Sir?”


“I’ve given you a chance to rest, and yet you look as though I’ve sentenced you to be flogged ‘round the fleet. Most men would jump at the opportunity to lay about.”


Horatio tried to think up a response, but his body determined one for him. “Ihh’TSHHH’uhh!”

“Go on. Take yourself off to bed. Hard luck to be caught ill on shore leave, eh?”


Horatio cleared his throat awkwardly. “Indeed, sir.”


“Rest well, Mister Hornblower,” Pellew said, his usual gruff manner returning as he turned to look out the windows once more. “The Indefatigable will require all hands in fighting condition when we leave port.”

Horatio returned to the inn and all but collapsed into bed, out of shame or bodily exhaustion or perhaps a bit of both. But whatever the motivation that put him there, the fact was that Horatio did rest and, much to his chagrin, Archie kept him company all the while. So when the time did come for the Indy to shove away from land, Horatio felt well again and satisfied that all hands were indeed in fighting condition as the captain had hoped. That was, until he was jolted awake in the middle of the night by a loud sneeze from the direction of Mister Kennedy’s hammock. 

 

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On 4/2/2018 at 8:20 AM, snowshie said:

Pellew!! 😍 This part makes me so happy.

Thank you for reading, Snowshie, and everyone else who kept up and left nice comment. You all make my day :) 

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 02/04/2018 at 2:10 AM, groundcontrol said:

his cheeks were the color of the Royal Marine’s jackets by then.

this is just one of many nice touches!

I loved this whole thing. Archie's sweet, aimiable attentiveness, the whole deal. Thanks so much for writing.

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Real life made kept me from reading and commenting on the final part until now, but I wanted to make sure I left you a comment (even if it's better late than never) to let you know that I enjoyed it! Your thoughts about a sick Horatio jive very well with my own; a man who tries his best to hide or downplay his symptoms until he's just too weak to do it anymore. There's a reason I wound up accidentally creating a recurring character (Dr. Cornell) who just rolls his eyes and sends Horatio to bed the minute Horatio gets sent to the infirmary.

Your Pellew interpretation is much like mine as well, someone who looks out for Horatio and tries to gently reassure him that it's all right to show weakness at times. Not that that lesson ever sticks, of course...

I guess what I'm trying to say is that your Hornblower stories work very well for me, and I sincerely hope you'll continue to write stories in this universe for as long as you're inspired to do so. I will happily read them all, even if it takes me awhile to comment on them.

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On 4/21/2018 at 3:34 PM, Salamander said:

this is just one of many nice touches!

I loved this whole thing. Archie's sweet, aimiable attentiveness, the whole deal. Thanks so much for writing.

 

On 4/24/2018 at 11:57 PM, Wig_Powder said:

Real life made kept me from reading and commenting on the final part until now, but I wanted to make sure I left you a comment (even if it's better late than never) to let you know that I enjoyed it! Your thoughts about a sick Horatio jive very well with my own; a man who tries his best to hide or downplay his symptoms until he's just too weak to do it anymore. There's a reason I wound up accidentally creating a recurring character (Dr. Cornell) who just rolls his eyes and sends Horatio to bed the minute Horatio gets sent to the infirmary.

Your Pellew interpretation is much like mine as well, someone who looks out for Horatio and tries to gently reassure him that it's all right to show weakness at times. Not that that lesson ever sticks, of course...

I guess what I'm trying to say is that your Hornblower stories work very well for me, and I sincerely hope you'll continue to write stories in this universe for as long as you're inspired to do so. I will happily read them all, even if it takes me awhile to comment on them.

Thank you to you both!! And Wig Powder, I'm so glad we're on the same Horatio wavelength :) His character just begs to be the type that denies illness until his body gives out, doesn't it? Dr. Cornell seems to be a very logical creation, at least for Horatio's sake. Between him and Pellew, perhaps someone can talk a little sense into our sailor... Rest assured, as soon as real life craziness settles down, there will be more to come in the Horatio-verse. Thanks again :) 

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I'm not Wig, but...

40 minutes ago, groundcontrol said:

Between him and Pellew, perhaps someone can talk a little sense into our sailor...

...or not. Not even with Archie on their side. Horatio's too stubborn. But hopefully they (or Archie, at least) can maneuver him into resting when necessary.

41 minutes ago, groundcontrol said:

Rest assured, as soon as real life craziness settles down, there will be more to come in the Horatio-verse.

Yay!

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