An American Encounter
By Skihee :)
Chapter 21 Aftermath
"Sit at my desk, Mr. Kennedy. You may as well begin your report." Pellew reached in his desk drawer retrieving paper. Placing it on the desk center, he pulled the ink pot and quill near.
"Sir?" asked Archie gingerly sitting in his Captain's chair.
"Write down your part in tonight's action. I see Dr. Sebastian has your arm in a sling. That must be more comfortable than .... you know."
"Yes, sir." Taking the quill in hand, he thought for a few moments.
Pellew stood at his sideboard pouring them both a small brandy. He sat the glass in front of Kennedy glancing at his scroll. Taking a step towards the stern, sipping his brandy, Pellew considered where to begin to get his ship and crew back to normal. Only Dolphin now required men from him and a resettling of those who had returned.
"Sir, do you want me to include my supposition about the crab?"
"Hmm? Crab? What crab?" He squinted at Kennedy wondering what he could be talking about.
"Well, sir, on the lower deck..."
"Yes, yes, yes. Just, just write it all down, Mr. Kennedy."
"Yes, sir." Focusing on his paper, he suddenly felt compelled to look back at his Captain. There stood the man that ruled his life and the lives of his fellows. And, what a man he was. Wisdom, knowledge, stern when necessary, but always fair. A man of duty, that lived his life a credit to his country, his people, his king, himself. *If I could be but a quarter the man he is, my life would be fulfilled,* he thought. Looking at himself sitting at his Captain's desk, wearing his nightshirt, his shoulders dropped.
"What is it, Mr. Kennedy?" He turned his head to peer at his writing. "Are you stuck on some point?"
"No, sir. I ...I was hoping I wasn't a disappointment to you, sir."
"Why would you, sir?"
"Well, I...I never seem .... I never..."
"Mr. Kennedy. You performed in an exemplary fashion this night, sir. Despite your injury and incapacitation you rose to the challenge. You had the gunnery crews at the ready as well as the cannon. I find no fault."
"But they were not needed, sir."
"But they could have been. If Kaliakra had not exploded we would have been in a very different and difficult situation. One must always be prepared. There is a saying my father taught me, Mr. Kennedy. The five *P's*. Prior planning prevents piss poor performance. Or, is that six *P's*?"
"It was six, sir."
"Indeed. Well, we were ready. You were needed and you were there, despite your....clothing. I suppose as long as you did your duty, sir, it would not matter if you performed naked."
Kennedy struggled to suppress the grin and laughter erupting from his chest. "I just wanted to say, sir, it has been a privilege serving on Indefatigable under your command."
"Do not doubt your abilities, Mr. Kennedy. If I did not think you capable I would not have put your name forward for the next leftenant's exam."
"I, I... you did, sir?" Kennedy felt his stomach do a somersault.
"Yes. Did I not tell you? The dispatches I sent before we left Gibraltar. Well, you have been studying in all this idle time you've had, haven't you? I thought I told you. Well, no matter. We may be there in four or five days. I suggest you make wise use of your time. Finish up that report. Then, get yourself back to sick berth. You are still officially confined there."
Pellew emptied his glass, giving Kennedy a last look. A smile crept over his lips. Pressing his hat on, he went in search of his command.
In the waist, he found Bracegirdle still sopping wet, giving orders to his returned crew.
"Mr. Bracegirdle get yourself below and into some dry clothes. I need all my men in good health."
"I was just about to do so, sir."
"I'll follow you. I'm looking for Captain McCann." The two men headed down to the officer's quarters.
"Nasty business this, sir. Have you any idea how the prisoners escaped?"
"I can make a guess, Mr. Bracegirdle. When I have all the reports in I think I shall have a decent picture of what transpired this night."
Two men were removing the body of the marine guarding Pamela's cabin. McCann was overseeing the process, trying to glean the happenings bringing death to one of his men.
"A surprise attack, Captain Pellew," said McCann.
"Indeed. I fear a *sneaky* one provided by our visitor yesterday," added Pellew.
"That is my deduction as well, sir. If my men would have had some warning..."
"How many lost, sir?"
McCann inhaled deeply, "Four dead, one still unconscious, a second conscious but dazed. I expect he will be able to tell us something."
"Put it all in your report, sir."
Several ratings worked to clear the blood from the deck in front of Bracegirdle's cabin.
"Begging your pardon, sir."
Pellew turned to see Matthews' grizzled face, he too, still in wet clothing. "Matthews. You did a fine job tonight, man. I am in your debt."
"It was my duty, sir."
"It was more than that, sir. Your bravery above and beyond the call of duty shall go in your record. Your quick thinking and action concerning our passenger saved her life, I have no doubt."
"Thank you, sir," Matthews reddened under his Captain's praise. "Dr. Sebastian's asked if I could get Miss Pamela some dry clothes, sir."
"Hmm? Oh yes, Mr. Bracegirdle. We had best get Mrs. Hornblower's things moved out of your cabin. Matthews, Styles, you are both in wet clothes yourselves. Go change."
"Sir?" Matthews realized he was questioning his Captain. "Aye, aye, sir."
"I'll find some clothes for Mrs. Hornblower. If you see anyone else wondering about in wet clothes tell them to change. I do not want two thirds of my crew coming down with colds and what have you. Dr. Sebastian and Mr. Brandon are busy enough as it is."
"Mr. Hornblower, too, sir," added Styles.
"Dry clothes for Mr. Hornblower, sir," said Styles turning to leave.
"Yes, yes. Very well. I wanted to check on them anyway."
Pellew stepped into Bracegirdles cabin. Lifting the lid of her trunk, he stared into the piles of female clothing. Bracegirdle watched him with a smirk on his face, beginning to disrobe. "Good thing we are married men, sir."
"Why's that, Mr. Bracegirdle."
"Well, you'll know what to get her, sir."
Pellew realized his first officer was enjoying his predicament. "Indeed. And tell me, Mr. Bracegirdle, how do you think it will feel to sleep in the bunk previously occupied by our lady?"
"Now, that is hitting below the belt, sir."
Pellew couldn't stifle the chortle. "Ha! Mr. Bracegirdle, I'm surprised at you. I never knew you were given to bawdy jests, sir!"
Bracegirdle studied the items in the chest. "She will probably need one of those, sir."
"Indeed. Give me your blanket to wrap them in."
Stopping by Hornblower's cabin, he collected clothing for him. He sighed and shook his head. What wrath was Dr. Sebastian going to rain down upon him for letting Hornblower go to Kaliakra? He knew Dr. Sebastian wanted him on light duty, him still recovering from his concussion. Ah well, he had survived under Hood, he would survive Sebastian.
Making his way down the gun deck to the sick berth, several ratings saluted him. Any man he saw in wet clothing he commanded to "Get out of those wet clothes!" and they obeyed immediately with an "Aye, aye, sir," no matter what any other officer had commanded. Pellew looked a sight carrying a bundle in a blanket, with a nightshirt draped over all.
The sick berth was a flurry of activity. Some men leaving with minor bandages, some relegated to sick berth hammocks. Brandon was back in his element, stitching up a slice in a leg. Sebastian was bent over what appeared a serious gash in a man's side. He decided to approach his midshipman first.
"Mr. Brandon, is it too early to ask for a report?"
He glanced up from his stitching momentarily. "Well, sir. We have taken care of most of the serious wounds. Mainly, stitching, bandaging, medicating. A couple of minor bullet wounds. I think that marine bashed on the head is our most serious casualty, sir. Only time will tell if he will make it." Brandon placed a salve over the stitching, then the bandage. "Take it easy on that leg, Dobbins."
"Yes, sir, Mr. Brandon."
Pellew stood hesitating. "Umm. Mr. and Mrs. Hornblower, how are they?"
Brandon looked at his Captain and sighed. "I don't understand women, sir. You best speak to Dr. Sebastian or Mr. Hornblower."
"Mr. Hornblower is all right, then."
"Over there, sir." Drew pointed in the direction of Sebastian's cabin. Hornblower was sitting on a chair, naked from the waist up, his upper right arm bandaged, elbows on his knees, holding his hands over his face. "I'll let Dr. Sebastian know you are here, sir."
Pellew could have forgone Dr. Sebastian, but he let Brandon go anyway. He joined Hornblower.
Clearing his throat, he spoke, "What seems to be the trouble, Mr. Hornblower?"
Hornblower stood immediately. "Captain Pellew, sir."
"I've brought your clothes."
Hornblower blushed, "Thank you, sir."
"And, your wife's."
Hornblower smiled nervously, taking them from him. "Thank you, sir."
"Don't just stand there. Get out of those wet breeches. I don't want my men catching cold. Where is your wife, Mr. Hornblower?"
He nodded towards the closed door. "In there, sir. She has locked herself in and will not open for me or Dr. Sebastian. I am worried about her, sir. And...and I don't understand her. When we were on Magie Noir she would not leave me except by force and now she will not let me see her. I am beside myself, sir."
"Magie Noir? That was the black ship, eh?"
Sebastian arrived, having turned over the final bandaging of his patient to Brandon. He stood with his arms crossed glaring at Pellew. Pellew acknowledged his presence with a nod. "You seem to have our wounded well in hand, Dr. Sebastian. Mr. Hornblower looks well. Are you all right, Mr. Hornblower?"
"Yes, sir," he answered pulling his gown down and removing his wet stockings and trousers. Hornblower glanced from Doctor to Captain.
"I understand Mrs. Hornblower is being difficult."
"She has locked herself in my cabin," answered Sebastian. "She refuses to open the door. I have not been able to care for her injuries."
"What are the extent of her injuries, sir?"
Sebastian looked at Hornblower and sighed. "I did not have the opportunity to examine her fully, but she has a number of facial contusions."
Pellew took note of Sebastian's demeanor. He was clearly agitated with him, and most likely, over using Hornblower in tonights activity. Did he think he did not recall his warnings about Hornblower over exerting himself? He knew. He understood him well. He imagined the over exertions had caused him to pass out in the boat. But he also knew he needed a man of officer rank on board with Bracegirdle. He felt vulnerable in the situation hoisted upon him with so many prize ships needing crew. It was with finality and some dismay when he concluded he might have to give up so fine a one as Kaliakra to save his own. "May I speak with you, Dr. Sebastian?" He inclined his head to follow him over away from Hornblower and other listening ears. Sebastian did so reluctantly.
"Listen Doctor. I understand you are not happy with my decision to allow Mr. Hornblower in our action tonight," whispered Pellew, "But under the circumstances he was the logical choice. I do not have unlimited manpower, sir. I would hope you would understand I would not put any man under my command in undue peril unless the situation demanded it."
Sebastian's demeanor eased visibly. "Yes, Captain."
"Is that all you have to say?"
"Yes, Captain. Unless you have the magic words to make Mrs. Hornblower open my door."
Pellew squinted at him. "I just may. Would that put me back in your good graces?"
Sebastian smiled, "Why, Captain, I had no idea my opinion meant so much to you."
"Hmm. How much hot water have you?" he asked sternly.
Understanding dawning, Sebastian's smile broadened, "Excellent, Captain! Your powers of observation never cease to amaze me!"
Pellew looked at Sebastian wondering if he were being sarcastic.
"I do not know, but if we need more, I know where to get it."
Sebastian began checking the buckets for hot water. Finding it gone tepid, he sent a couple of loblolly boys to the galley for more. The fires relit, after standing down, there should be plenty.
Pellew teetered on his toes standing next to Hornblower, watching Sebastian. "Come over here, sir." He motioned Hornblower away from his wife's cabin. Sebastian joined them. "Now, listen, Mr. Hornblower. There is nothing a woman likes better than being clean. We have sent for hot water for her for....well....a sponge bath, but they will take that if there is nothing else. She will definitely be won over if you suggest she do her hair as well. Now, since we have no other females aboard, and you are her husband, you are the logical choice for this...expedition."
"Capital idea, Captain," smiled Sebastian.
"Now. Dr. Sebastian says she's got facial...."
"Contusions," inserted Sebastian.
"And, that means she was hit in the face, right Doctor?" Hornblower looked sadly at the floor. "Buck up, man!" urged Pellew, "That's why she doesn't want to see you because she doesn't want you to see her. Right, Dr. Sebastian?"
"Most plausible, Captain."
"Hm." said Pellew with a nod. "Now, I am supposing there was not time for anything...else...to have been done to her...... I pray not, anyway. But, I am sure the whole experience was traumatic for her. We will just have to hope her desire for cleanliness and dry clothes will outweigh her distress over her face or anything else."
Hornblower stood taking all this in.
Sebastian grabbed his arm saying seriously, "Mr. Hornblower, she has good reason not to want you to see her face. I am sure she used my shaving mirror to see the damage. You must be prepared to tell her it is not as bad as she thinks. But it is not good. If you can, get her to let me tend her first, all the better, but I will not get my hopes up."
"If we are going to do her hair, I will need her toiletry items from her trunk."
"That's the spirit!" said Pellew. "Here, you!" He motioned over another of the sick berth attendants to run the errand. Hornblower explained what to look for.
Pellew's foot knocked into a bucket sitting next to the dispensary sloshing water onto the deck. Looking down into it, he saw a most curious sight. "Is that Mr. Kennedy's?"
The water arrived. The toiletries arrived. Sebastian and Pellew urged Hornblower to begin his persuasion.
"Pamela. Pamela. It's Horatio. Please, dear, won't you open the door? Pamela?"
"I can't!" Her speech sounded thick from her mouth injuries.
Hornblower looked at his superiors. "Yes, you can, dear. Listen, I've arranged for some lovely hot water for you. You're still in those wet clothes are you not?"
Hornblower took a deep breath feeling the flush in his face. "But wouldn't you like to wash away the sea salt and, and wash your hair?"
She was silent for a few moments. "But I would need my soaps, Horatio."
"I've got them for you, sweetheart. I've, I've got the..." he turned the bottles over to read them, "The, the lilac and, and, also, the rose." "
"Tell her you love her, Mr. Hornblower," whispered Pellew.
Horatio needed no prodding to do this though saying it where others could hear him brought a color to his face. "I, I ...love you, Pamela."
He heard her sob. "Horatio...that man, he...he hit me," she cried. "More, more than once."
Hornblower put his hand on the door. "I know, dearest. Dr. Sebastian told me. You will be all right. Please open the door."
"You really have hot water?"
Hornblower smiled. "Yes. Yes I do. Three buckets full."
"Don't look at me, Horatio."
"I won't, dearest."
She slid the latch over. Hornblower looked back at Pellew and Sebastian.
"Let me know if she will let me tend her," whispered Sebastian.
"And, Mr. Hornblower, I need a written report from you about this evening as soon as possible. About the engagement with the enemy, I mean."
"Of course, sir."
He opened the door. The light inside had been extinguished. The candlelight entering from the sick berth revealed her kneeling on the bunk, pressed against the wall with a blanket wrapped around her. Her hair was lose and she used it to cover her face.
Horatio moved in the three buckets, her clothes, towels, and soaps. Looking back at his superiors, he closed the door.
Pellew sighed. "I'll talk to you later, Dr. Sebastian. You'd better feed that pet of yours." He commented pointing at the bucket.
"Pet? That's my dinner!" Sebastian looked at the lone crab, pulled a few crumbs from his pocket, and dropped a bit of ship's biscuit in to him.
Horatio stood looking at his wife in the dim light that came through the slats of the door. Seeing her pressed against the wall grabbed at his heart. He sat on the bed next to her, reaching to stroke her hair. "My lady, I have been beside myself with worry. Why will you not let Dr. Sebastian see you?"
"Because then you would want to see me." She turned her head to spill her hair completely over her face.
Horatio sighed. "I love you." He sat looking at her huddled against the wall. "Come to me, Pamela."
She shook her head no. "Go, now, so I can wash."
She shuddered at his answer. "You must!"
"No. I'm not leaving you."
"The water will get cold!"
"Then it will have to get cold. I am not leaving so you can lock yourself away in here again." He moved himself next to her on the bunk. Her damp hair was cold, her arms equally as cool. He pulled off his night shirt.
"Horatio, what are you doing? What happened to your arm? Are you all right?" She had moved her head enough to peer through her dark curls to see his bandaged arm.
"Your hair is getting my night shirt wet, so I removed it. I don't know what happened to my arm. I don't remember getting the injury. And, yes, I am all right except for my stubborn wife who is huddling against a wall when I want to hold her in my arms."
She sniffed. "Don't, Horatio."
"Make me cry! I don't want to cry!"
"How can I make you cry? I love you. I want to hold you. Is that too much of a husband to ask a wife?" He thought for a moment then asked quickly, "Did something happen tonight to make you disdain the touch of a man? Any man?"
"No!" she answered quickly. "No, thank God. Not really," she added remembering the filthy man's hand on her breast. "I...I don't want you ... to see me." She moved her hand to her face touching it gently under her hair. She lowered her hand to look at the blood spotting her fingers. In the dim light streaming through the door, Horatio saw her hand and grabbed it.
"Pamela!" She tried to pull her hand from him, ducking her head deep into her chest, loosing hold on her blanket. He released her hand to embrace her, her hair and body chilled him while his warmed her. "Darling! You've got to let Dr. Sebastian tend you."
"I don't want you to see my face, Horatio!" she cried.
"Then, I'll go, but you've go to let Dr. Sebastian tend you."
"All right, but I want to avail myself of that bath first."
Was this a ploy to get him out so she could lock the door once more? Blocking off aid from him or the doctor? "I want you to see the doctor first, Pamela. You're bleeding."
"It isn't as bad as it looks, Horatio. I will see the doctor after the bath." If she felt like it, she thought. More than anything, she just wanted sometime to be alone. She was back on the Indy. Horatio was back on the Indy. There would be time for probing later. Just not tonight! *Can they not understand I need some time alone?* She was glad to have him with her, if he would just sit there. Not ask her questions, not ... insist that she be cared for.
"If it isn't as bad as it looks then show me."
"No!" She tried to wriggle out of his arms. "Don't deprive me of a hot bath!" she said trying another line of reasoning.
"Very well." Releasing her, he arranged an empty bucket next to a full one. "Give me your leg," he said gently pulling on her foot.
She resisted. "What are you doing?"
"I am going to give you a bath." He sat on the bed so his back was to her. "Give me your leg."
Give her a bath? Never in her life had a man done that, at least not since she had been a small, very small, child. She sat stubbornly against the wall, peered over at the bucket of water, a puff of steam still rising from the top. She looked at him with his back to her. His back! God, he was naked! She had not fully realized his state of dress, or rather undress. She shifted her body so she sat on the bed to the back of him, but could still extend her leg. The warmth of his body relaxed her. She felt herself give in to his requests. Giving him her trust and her leg, she asked, "Where are your clothes?"
He began to wash her leg and answered her question. "I told you, your hair was getting my night shirt wet."
"But, where...are the rest of your clothes?" He was drying the first leg.
"Give me your other leg." She shifted her seat so that now the first leg was bent behind him, her inner thigh riding next to his outer one. He swallowed as he looked at her thigh next to his. Taking a deep breath he ran the wash rag over her long shapely leg.
The smile pained her, but she could not stop its forming over his obvious reactions to what he was doing for her. Or was it she to him? "Horatio. You didn't answer me. Where are the rest of your clothes?"
"Well," he moved the cloth slowly over her leg again, "Captain Pellew didn't think to bring my under garments, if you must know. He brought the nightshirt but I guess he didn't think of the other."
"Yes. He brought some things for you, too."
She looked over at the items Horatio had placed on Sebastian's table, including her soaps. "Oh," she answered meekly.
"Yes," he swallowed nervously.
He wondered at the reaction he felt in his body over giving his wife a bath. Was it because he had never done so before? Was it because he was touching every inch of her soft skin, skin that another had sought to deprive him of forever? "Stand up, dear. She hesitated. "I won't look at you. I mean, I won't look at your face."
She leaned against him as she moved to stand. He could feel the cool dampness of her sea-watered hair and body. He breathed in at the touch of her breasts on his back as she slipped by him. He swallowed again as he began to wash the lower half of her body. Glancing in the direction of her face, she held her hair draped like a veil over all but her right eye. He smiled at her stopping in mid-wash. He could tell from the corner of her eye that she was smiling, too. Part of her hair was draping her front and her back. He stood up beside her. He glanced down at himself, and felt his cheeks blush at his condition. He sighed. What could he expect when he was in a room naked with his wife who was also naked? Injured face or not the rest of her was as he remembered, though he did note some bruising around her ribs. "You...you will have to hold you hair up for me to do your back. She turned a little, reached behind her with her other arm and lifted her hair. He felt his heart rate increase looking at the back of her neck. Placing the wash rag on her shoulder, he wiped across and down her back. Reaching around to her front, he ran the cloth over her breasts. She gasped and leaned back against him. He breathed onto her neck, kissing her there, but continuing her bath. "Are you all right?" he whispered.
The touch of his loving hands over her excited her, and relaxed her. His were loving hands. Not hands that wanted to harm her. "Hardly," she answered breathlessly, "Do you know what you are doing to me?"
He slipped his lips from one side of her neck to the other, "Washing my wife was my intention." He leaned down to gather clean water in the rag for rinsing, running the cloth over the same areas. "Give me this arm." Indicating her right arm, she adjusted her hold on her hair complying with his command. He washed her arm and hand, taking it to him to hold against his own face, he kissed her palm. Each touch, each caress, told her she had nothing to fear. This man loved her, treating her with tenderness and devotion. "Give me your other arm," he whispered. She turned her body and her head, released her hair, extended her arm. He finished by drying the slender limb, then wrapped the towel around her tucking it above her breasts. "Hair next."
"Yes, I can. Hold this over your face," he said, handing her a small towel, "Unless you will let me see you."
She shook her head, no, taking the towel. As much as she accepted his care, she could not allow him to see what that man had done to her. She felt it would kill her to see rejection in his eyes. God willing, she would be all right in a few days. She just needed some time.
Horatio looked at the situation trying to decide the best way to proceed to do her hair. "Lay on the bunk with your head here."
"Just a minute." She picked up Sebastian's shaving mirror from the table. Glancing back at him she said, "Don't look. Turn around." She waited until his back was to her, then looked in the mirror at her damaged features. She picked up a piece of gauze from the table Sebastian had left from his visit. She dampened a corner in one of the buckets of remaining clean water, daubing at her face. She did not see any big hurry for Sebastian to tend her. She did not see there was anything he could do. Holding the towel over the wounds, she checked to see it would properly cover them. Doing as he asked, she lay on the bunk, carefully lowing her upper body. She glanced at his manhood noting its lessening. "Its a pity we had to waste that."
Deciphering her gaze, he grinned. "Don't worry. I know where the ammunition is kept."
"Don't make me laugh, Horatio. It hurts!"
Moving the buckets, he adjusted her hair to fall into the catch bucket. "Which soap would you like me to use on your hair?"
"You choose. It won't take much." She just wanted it done, if he was going to do it.
Pouring the water through her hair, he picked up one of the bottles. It was the rose.
He began to wash her hair gently.
The touch of his hands on her head was a balm to her soul. Plus, her hair would be clean. If only her face were not a shambles. "I'm in heaven!" she said. "This feels wonderful, darling."
He smiled. "I'm glad." He leaned to lightly kiss her exposed right cheek. Then, began to rinse her hair. He wrapped it in a towel pressing the water out. Light fell onto the side of her face from the door. Her right jaw was purpling with a bruise. He felt a sting behind his eyes. "I love you, Pamela."
"I love you, Horatio."
"Finished," he sighed. "Time for Dr. Sebastian."
She almost felt like a traitor after accepting a gift. She had no intention of seeing Sebastian. There was nothing he could do for her. She was happy to have Horatio near her, but she did not need anymore men in her life just now. It was time to explain it to him. "That was lovely. Thank you, sweetheart. I...I don't need Dr. Sebastian, dear. There is nothing he can do. I will go back to my cabin." But after that last bit was out of her mouth, she was not sure she would. Could she not stay here for a while? *Just let me alone, that's all I am asking. Maybe after a while I will be amenable to an examination. Just not now.* Could he not understand that? How could she tell him without upsetting him.
He sighed. Controlling the anger that sought to rise in his being, he asked himself, *Why are you getting angry? You knew she was going to try something like this.* Leaning over, he picked up the cloth and using the leftover water he began to bathe. She leaned against the wall to watch him, losing the towel from her hair but not the one covering her wounds.
"What ...what are you doing?"
"Just washing up." It seemed a way to buy him time while he considered his options. He could not leave her in here untended. Seeing her eye on him resulted in another effect he did not seem to be able to control. He tried harder to combat his own flesh by thinking about her condition....without much luck. Why did she have to look so alluring? Her hair wet, clinging in long ringed curls, her body giving off a sweet perfume from her soaps. She naked except for the towel HE had wrapped around her, for God's sake. And his mind wondered back to the feel of her body under the silky suds.
She retrieved her hair towel, bending her head to let the long dark tresses fall over into it, drying it briskly. She lay down the covering towel letting her hair once again drape the left side of her face.
He put his foot in the bucket to wash one long leg and then the next. She glanced at his growing profile. She sucked in her breath. What was he doing? Why was he...how could he....why didn't he? She blinked wondering why she couldn't form a complete question in her head. Oh, why didn't he leave? Hadn't he already brought her to the brink one time tonight? If her face were not such a mess...if her face were not such a mess they would not have done any of the things they had just done. It was so lovely feeling his hands on her, knowing his eyes were on her, too. But, she couldn't. He might see the awfulness of her face. It would certainly revolt him. It revolted her.
"Are you nearly done?"
"Well, I was hoping you would do my back for me."
He handed her the wash rag, sitting with his back to her. She swallowed looking at his broad shoulders before her. *Oh God! He's so beautiful!* she thought. Her hand trembled as she lifted the wash rag to touch his body. She sat up letting her hair fall away from her features. Her left eye was swollen. A deep gash on her cheekbone had barely stopped bleeding. A bluish-purple outline of a hand covered the left side of her face. Her bottom lip was split open, and the coloring on her left jaw line matched the right. She wiped him down with a sigh, feeling like crying that she could not have him, would not have him, to keep from seeing the horror on his face if he looked at her.
Her touch made it more difficult for him to think. As a way to buy time, this was turning out to be a lost cause. More and more he realized it was not giving him time to think about anything but making love to her. "What are you thinking, Pamela."
"I...I'm thinking what an incredible man you are." She had to get out of the bunk before something happened. She jumped from the bed, grabbing her towel that had fallen away, securing it back around her body. She needed him to leave, now. She spoke dispassionately, "Thank you for coming for me tonight." Dropping the cloth in the bucket, she faced the wall and said, "All done. You can go now."
Well, that brought him back to his senses. "I'm not going anywhere." Did she think she was going to dismiss him just like that? While he found the bath an intriguing exploration of her body and his senses, it had been done with a purpose. He had fulfilled her prerequisite for seeing Sebastian, and he expected her to keep her end of the bargain.
"Well, yes you are. You can't stay in here with me. You know what Captain Pellew would say."
"It was Captain Pellew's idea that I come in here, dear. He won't mind. I can't very well leave this cabin with you being non-compliant."
"What do you mean, non-compliant?"
"Dr. Sebastian wants to check you. Until you allow him to come in, I cannot go out."
"But, ...I don't need him"
"Fine. Then, it should not be such a big deal for him to have a look at you. Shall I call him?"
"No! I don't need a doctor." She wanted to be alone, and she did not want to be alone. How could she explain it to him? Why could he not understand without her having to?
He sighed in agitation. It was good that she had moved away from him. It made it easier to say what his subconscious had been formulating. "When I saw you crumpled on that deck tonight, those men standing over you, I nearly went mad. When I ordered you to jump and you refused, I would have spanked you if I could. That was the first time tonight I wanted to take you over my knee. The second time was just a moment ago when you told me you would not allow Dr. Sebastian to have a look at you. So far I feel I have done admirably in controlling my temper with you, but it is wearing thin. When a rating commits insubordination, he is liable for a flogging. You are my wife and I love you. But you are being ridiculously difficult for this late hour. Now, as I see it you have three choices. You will either show me your injuries to convince me you do not need a doctor, you will allow Dr. Sebastian to tend you, or you are about to get the spanking of your life."
He watched her stiffen at that pronouncement. "You wouldn't!"
"I would," he said flatly.
"You don't love me."
"Yes, I do," he sighed angrily.
"Then, respect my wishes."
"They are unreasonable. You are unreasonable."
"I am not!" She began to cry. She put her hand to her face trying to stop the pain. "You don't love me."
"Yes, I do. Please stop crying!" He walked up behind her. Another mistake. He wanted to take her in his arms. He backed away from her desiring to maintain the controlled anger he was utilizing. "Your tears will not change my mind, Pamela. Make your choice."
She turned to him her hair once again shielding her wounds. Why was he forcing her into this? "Don't look at me, Horatio. Turn around."
He struggled with her request. He put his back to her. She looked at him for a moment. Taking a halting step she moved behind him, leaning against his back, wrapping her arms around him. He closed his eyes, his being exploding with desire for her. "How can you do this to me, Pamela? You know I want you." He began to turn in her embrace. She kept her head bowed, shaking her head no, holding the side of her face with her left hand. He put his hand under her chin lightly lifting.
"No, Horatio, don't look at me,. You won't want me once you see," she pleaded softly.
He swallowed as her face slowly tilted up to his. He saw her lower lip, split, swollen, dried blood filling the creases. He felt a bomb explode deep in his being, that a man had done this to the woman he loved. His eyes began to fill with tears. Sebastian's words came back to him, to tell her it wasn't as bad as she thought, but he could not form them. A hot tear rolled down his cheek to match the ones coming from her eyes. He cupped the less injured side of her face. Taking her hand covering the wounded side he began to lift it, she gently shaking her head no. His lips parted whispering, "I love you, Pamela." He moved her hand away shaking his head in disbelief , tears rolling down his face at her swollen eye, gash, and purpling cheek.
She looked into the face of the man she loved and found no revulsion, no horror, but love mixed with sympathy, and one more thing, ... failure. She should have known, but she did not think. "Horatio, don't blame yourself. Don't blame yourself! You couldn't have known!"
"I shouldn't have left you. I shouldn't have gone to Kaliakra."
"Yes. Yes, you should have. You did everything right, sweetheart." She couldn't kiss him so she put her fingers over his lips, then wiped away his tears. "It will heal. I know it will. I didn't want you to see. I thought it would revolt you not cause you blame."
"You could never revolt me. How could you think such a thing?" He pulled her against his chest, letting her damp hair cool him. "If I do not make love to you it isn't because I don't want to. Your injuries...I would not want to harm you further." He did not want to hurt her, but he did not want her to think she was not desirable. "I've wanted to make love to you twice this evening."
"So your desire to turn me over your knee is running neck in neck with making love to me."
He hugged her tighter. "Yes. I guess it is. Will you let Dr. Sebastian see you now?"
"No, not yet."
"Make love to me first." She only wanted him, to be alone with him.
"Are you sure? I wouldn't want you to think I put my own desire before your well being."
"Who is asking whom?"
He blinked wondering if he could knowing her injuries. "You aren't too tired?"
"No. But if you don't want to, I will understand. I see your cannon is no longer run out."
He snorted. "I told you I know where the ammunition is."
"Where might that be?"
He backed her over to the bunk, took her towel end in one hand pulling it slowly from her. "It's right here, underneath this towel."
He moved her to the bed. Leaning over her side, she suddenly let out a yelp.
"That does it. I'm getting Dr. Sebastian right now."
"It's just a bruise! Don't call him!"
"No, arguments. I'm getting the doctor." He pulled on his night shirt and opened the door. Brandon spotted him. He waved and nodded to Hornblower moving to get Dr. Sebastian. At last, someone knowlegeable would see to her. He could not stand worrying about her any longer. There could be something terribly wrong with her eye, or her side. What if she had a rib broken? Or worse, what if it were in danger of puncturing her lung? That is all he would need to do, lean on her, break her rib and puncture her lung. He knew of such things from his father. A farmer injured in a fall had refused care and nearly died when his horse knocked him into a stone fence.
Resigned to his wishes, at least she would see the doctor clothed. "Give me my clothes, Horatio." She said holding a blanket in front of her.
"No. He will need to check your side."
"Oh, men!" she threw herself back on the bed. "Oooo, Lord!" she held her face with one hand, her side with the other. She kicked the blanket and tried to roll over on the bruised side. "Argh!" She sat back up wrapping the blanket around her.
Hornblower stood watching her flail about the bunk. "That'll teach you."
Trying to lean her head on her hands, she finally settled for leaning on her right cheekbone. She pulled her hair over the left side of her face again, scowling at him. *That'll teach me, that'll teach me! Just wait!* she thought angrily.
He waited at the door until Sebastian arrived. He would not give her a chance to lock any more doors.
"Well. Finally," sighed Sebastian. The late hour and casualties were telling on him. He looked at Pamela seeing her unhappy stance, while Hornblower's visage was set with determination. Eyebrows up, he said with a smile. "I see we are all in harmony once again. Mr. Hornblower set these buckets outside for the boys to dispose of. Did you enjoy your bath, Mrs. Hornblower? It smells like an English rose garden in here. Reminds me of home. Have you ever been to England, Mrs. Hornblower?"
She scrunched her brow at Sebastian. "No." Was he going to engage her in a traveling conversation or examine her?
"Ah, well, wait till you see it. The flowers of England have no comparison. It is truly a garden, especially in the spring." He lit the candle on his table. "Now, let me have a look at you."
She remained leaning on her hand. "There is nothing you can do. It will just take time to heal. I've told him that. He won't listen."
Sebastain turned the chair so he could sit in front of her.
"She is being very obstinate, Dr. Sebastian," commented Hornblower as he moved the last of the buckets out of the room.
"Hmm. So I heard. Well, I pray I shall not have to threaten her with a spanking to get her to comply with my requests." He turned and winked at Horatio.
She sat up, going two shades of red, looking at Hornblower who was struggling with a smirk on his face, as well as some color. *What else did they hear in sick berth?* she wondered, feeling completely mortified. Brandon came to stand in the door to observe.
"Ah, that's better." He needed her sitting up, not leaning on her cheek. "Let me have a look at you." He gently moved her hair away from her face. Turning her head from side to side. "Tch tch." The eye worried him. He held his left index finger under her chin and his right index finger in front of her eye. "Follow my finger, Pamela." He moved it to the right, to the left. "Cover your right eye. How is the vision in your left?"
"It's fine." She felt a slight twinge of remorse at her attitude when he used her first name, but she was not going to let that get to her. She would not tell him any more than necessary.
Sebastian looked over his shoulder. "Ah, Mr. Brandon, come hold this candle for me." Stepping around Hornblower, he took the candle. "Look into the light, Pamela." He moved his head around peering into her eye. "Hmm." He sat back down. "I am going to touch your face. Tell me if I hurt you." He pressed above her left eye, to its side, underneath.
"Ow!" She flinched away from him.
"Some tenderness there." He put both hands under her chin to lift her face. He turned her head to view the injured side. "Bastard! Pardon me, Mrs. Hornblower. That man that did this to you makes me very angry." He sighed. He tilted her chin up higher. Turning to his table, he located the gauze from earlier. Dampening it, he began to daub at her lip, removing the dried blood. She winced a few times. "Tell me if I am hurting you too much."
She glanced at Horatio. He looked more concerned for her than angry. She began to study his face. The angular line of his chin, the high cheekbones, his expressive lips, the deep brown eyes that looked up from where Sebastian was working to meet hers. They stared at each other while Sebastian worked on her lip. Damn, he was handsome, but she was angry. *Just you wait,* she thought, *He is not going to be able to do a thing for me. Not for my eye, my cheek, my side. Nothing! You mark my words!* she thought.
"How is the inside of your mouth?" asked Sebastian. He looked into her eyes realizing she was focused on something behind him. He turned to see, shaking his head with a smirk, and sighing. "Mrs. Hornblower." Now Brandon was turning to glance at Horatio. "Mrs. Hornblower!"
"How is the inside of your mouth? Any teeth loose?"
Her teeth? Lord, she hoped not! She closed her mouth, looking down, moving her tongue against her teeth, concentrating on her mouth. "I don't think so. The inside of my bottom lip hurts a little."
"Do you have much pain in general?"
"It hurts when I put my head down suddenly or bend my head over too far. Other than that, it just sort of aches. My cheek hurts when I blink this eye." She sighed at the length of her answer.
"What do you think, doctor? Is her eye all right?" asked Hornblower.
"I would say, yes, the eye is all right. I believe the swelling to be caused by the cut on the cheek here. The flesh covering the face is very close to bone underneath. The blow caused the skin to break and this goose egg of swelling adjoining the eye. Even though there was bleeding to relieve some of the swelling, it still remains, here just above the cheekbone. Does your neck hurt at all?"
"It feels a little stiff."
"Yes, as I suspected. When he hit her, the head moved to this side so there will be some muscle strain. The other blow was taken mostly on the chin here and on her mouth. You may find your jaw to be sore here," touching by her left ear, "As time passes." He sighed. "The third blow was the lightest of the three, probably a back hand hitting the right chin." He tilted his head, squinting into her face. "That is what I would say."
Hornblower's face became a mask of anger listening to the description of blows to his wife. He turned to the door, grabbing it forcefully. "What can be done?"
Sebastian sighed again. "Well, the best thing for this type of injury is ice. I find that reduces the swelling the best, alleviates some pain. But, we have none, so cool compresses. That dip in the ocean was probably beneficial. Salt promotes healing. When it becomes less sensitive to the touch, in about three days, massage would help." Sebastian smiled at her. "Lips tend to heal quickly. I have some oil you might put on to ease the soft tissues."
"Her side is bruised, Doctor."
Sebastian looked at Hornblower with his back still to the room. He eyed Pamela who sighed and rolled her eyes upward. What was this attitude she was displaying?. "Lay down, Mrs. Hornblower."
She sighed again fumbling with the blanket twisted about her.
"Do you want Mr. Brandon to leave?" He recalled the embarrassment both of them had suffered the last time Brandon was present to care for her.
"He may stay if he wishes," she answered more casually than she felt. Watching their reaction, she secretly smirked. Hornblower turning to Brandon, a mild look of shock on his face matching Brandon's.
Sebastian exhaled at Pamela, eyebrow arched. "Any objections, Mr. Hornblower?"
"It is her choice."
"Mr. Brandon?" asked Sebastian.
"Are you staying?"
"If you need me, sir." He knew Sebastian wanted him to have medical experience with the opposite sex. Mrs. Hornblower was the only one of that gender. If she were willing, how could he refuse?
"Very well. Come nearer and hold the candle."
Sebastian sighed, finding a spare towel. He pulled the blanket down to her waist, then covered her breasts. "Come around this way, Mr. Brandon. Hold it just here." He moved Brandon's hand to fight the shadows and get a better look at her ribs. The bruising was confined to the right side. He touched her gently looking from her side to her face. "Sensitive to the touch, yes?"
"Yes." She glanced over at Horatio who was back to staring at the door.
"Do you remember how you got this?"
"Any difficulty breathing?"
He squeezed her sides together. "Does that hurt?"
Sebastian exhaled. "Any other places I need to check, Mrs. Hornblower?"
"No." She sighed.
He bowed his head and shook it, no. Sebastian took in his stance, and her look of indifference.
"All right. Thank you, Mr. Brandon for your assistance. You may go. Mr. Hornblower, would you wait outside a moment while I speak to your wife?"
"Of course." He left closing the door behind him, taking a final glimpse at Pamela.
She gazed at Sebastian with disinterest, that same simper on her face. This look agravated him. What has brought on this behavior, he wondered. Could she be pregnant? He had thought a number of times to offer to examine her. Little was known of conception. Another dim area in the annals of medicine. He had some ideas of his own. She was already disrobed, laying before him. He decided to seize the opportunity.
He pulled the blanket down to her groin and gently began to press around her lower abdomen.
"What are you doing?" she asked in shock.
"Have you ever been pregnant, Mrs. Hornblower? I understand Mr. Hornblower is not your first husband."
She had not requested this. What did he think he was doing? His questions were so incredible she could think of nothing but a simple answer. "No." She moved up on her elbows grasping the towel covering her breasts.
"Were you active with your first two husbands? Lay back down."
She blushed. "Why are you asking these questions, doctor?"
"You have been active with Mr. Hornblower, have you not?"
She just stared at him. He pulled the blanket up to her chest and returned her stare.
"Though we do not understand how, we know the act of joining leads to children. You do know that, do you not?"
"Well, yes, doctor, of course. I do not think I need a lecture on the birds and the bees, sir."
"Ah! You have remembered to say sir to me. Thank you, Mrs. Hornblower." She irritated him and he was letting her know.
His tone sounded a might testy. "Really, doctor." She started to get up. He pressed her back down.
"I am not finished with you. Is your monthly cycle regular?" He knew from his own experience with his wife and the reports of other women he had tended that once a woman became pregnant the monthly cycle stopped.
Her eyes grew large at this questioning. What was he calling *the monthlies?* A cycle? That must be what he is asking about. A gentleman would not bring up such a thing, but then he was a doctor. "Dr. Sebastian..."
"Answer me, Mrs. Hornblower."
She sighed. "Well, yes, in the past it has been."
"What do you mean, in the past?"
She sighed loudly, staring at the ceiling. "It was due about a week ago. Nothing came. I am supposing it is from being upset about my father's death and all the other recent excitment in my life. This has happened when other upsets have come. I am sure it will return. Now, why are you asking about such a personal thing? You surprise me, sir." She emphasized the sir, still feeling annoyed with the doctor, his questions, and his prodding. "May I get up now? Haven't we wasted enough time here?"
"What are you implying, Mrs. Hornblower?" Was she saying his examination was a waste of time? Could she be more insulting to his profession?
"I told Horatio you would not be able to do anything for me. I was right. There is nothing you can do." Just like there was nothing anyone could do to stop that man from abducting her.
"If you do not feel I did something for you, then consider I did do something for your husband."
"Oh? What might that be?" she asked sarcastically.
"I gave him peace of mind that there was not something more serious wrong with you. I would think you would feel the same."
"May I get up now?" she asked mildly embarrassed listening to him tell her she was ungrateful, but not willing to concede the point.
"Not yet. I have something to say to you. Number one, you should realilze you may be pregnant."
She laughed out loud derisively. "I doubt it, doctor."
"Why? How long do you think it takes for a baby to begin forming? Number two, I did not like your attempt to embarrass Mr. Brandon and upset your husband."
She felt her face color. Had her devise been so obvious? "I thought you wanted Mr. Brandon to stay?" she said flippantly. "It hardly mattered for what good it did. You asked. I said, yes."
Her words were raising his ire. Again she dismissed his profession. "But it was the WAY you said yes. Thirdly, your husband has been beside himself with worry over you tonight."
"So he said," she shrugged. She felt her eyes sting at the remembrance of her peril.
"Mrs. Hornblower it takes a good deal to make me angry. Senseless acts like this man that attacked you are one. Another, is when someone becomes indifferent over the concerns of others. Turn over, Mrs. Hornblower."
She sighed. "I thought you were through with your examinations." She rolled over.
"Well, what now, sir?"
He judged the location of her round bottom and gave her sound smack. She jumped to move against the wall.
"Personally, I would have liked Mr. Hornblower to have given you that spanking tonight. You deserve it." He stood. "I do not know what has occured to make you behave as you have. I have not seen you act so childishly since our first meeting. I suggest you start acting like the lady I know you can be!"
She swallowed. Watching him leave, closing the door loudly behind him. She turned her head into his pillow and started to cry.
Hornblower watched Sebastian exit the cabin and made his way for it. Sebastian saw him coming and grabbed his arm. "Do not go in there."
"Mr. Hornblower..." he stopped as if he were going to say something more,but then repeated "...do not go in there." He released his arm, knowing nothing he said would prevent him. "Wait! Have her drink this for pain." He pressed a cup into his hand. Sebastian shook his head as Horatio closed the door quietly.
She was sobbing into the pillow. Setting the cup on the table, he moved to kneel next to the bed, wondering what had transpired. "Pamela..." he was flabberghasted to see her in such a state.
"Leave me alone!" she sobbed.
"I love you," he said stroking her hair.
She tried to think of the meanest thing she could say. "I want to go home!"
He thought about her words, then sighed. "Well, how many ships does the American Navy have?" he asked.
"I don't know!......... Ten!" she said between sobs.
"Ten? That's an awfully small navy. I'm surprised you won the war. Well, I suppose I shall have to look into joining if I am going to be anywhere near you."
"You can't. They're all full!"
Horatio wondered what Sebastian had said to her to put her in such a mood. "What if I brought my own ship? Do you think they would let me in then?"
"Why not? Don't they need ships? I mean with only ten in service surely the American government would be glad to have an officer that brought his own ship."
She stopped crying to think up an answer. "No. They won't take you. You'd be suspected as a spy or something. Then they could ..." she added relunctantly "...shoot you."
"I would be willing to denounce King George and swear alleigance to your president. Who is it now?"
She turned to look at him over her shoulder. "Horatio?"
He gazed into her tear streaked pumeled face with sad loving eyes. "Yes, Pamela?"
"You're an idiot."
He laughed. "When it comes to you, I will gladly play the fool."
She turned her body so she could face him better. Putting her hand on the side of his face, she sniffed. "Dr. Sebastian thinks you should have spanked me."
"He spanked me."
"He said I was behaving childishly." She started to cry again.
"What else, dear?" he asked stroking her hair.
"You are what?"
"Behaving childishly! Oh, Horatio. Don't you hate me?"
"No, sweetheart. I love you. You've had a very trying day. I'm sorry Dr. Sebastian spanked you. Would you like me to hit him for you?"
She laughed. "You can't do that. No. No, I did deserve it. I tried to embarrass you and Mr. Brandon."
"No, I think you are overwrought. It is nearly six bells and you have had an exciting evening." Taking her spare night gown, he pulled it over her head. She stuck her arms into the sleeves. He pulled her hair out the back.
"Here, drink this." He handed her the cup.
She took it. "YAGH! That tastes awful! What is it?"
"Something for pain from Dr. Sebastian."
"Oh gad! Maybe he has poisoned me!"
Horatio laughed. "I don't think so, darling." Opening the door, he picked her up in his arms.
"Six bells is three in the morning, right?"
"Yes." He was decidedly cheerful.
She leaned against his shoulder, stroking his chin with her hand. "Why are you so happy?"
He tilted his head. "Because I know you will be all right. Because I love you. Because we won tonight. It is good to win." He smiled.
"Where are we going, Horatio? Are you taking me to my cabin? I ...I don't want to go in there."
"Well, that's good, because you can't."
"Shhh. Whisper dear the men are asleep. Mr. Bracegirdle is in your cabin, er... his cabin."
"But my things are in that cabin."
He stopped about midway the gun deck to look at her. "No, they're not." he whispered.
"Where are they?" she asked whispering, looking into his happy loving face running her hand over his head and playing with his curls.
"They are in my cabin."
"They are in your cabin?"
"Hmm hm." He began walking with her again.
"But, what if Captain Pellew finds out?"
"He already knows."
"Yes. He put them there."
"What about Archie?"
Horatio smiled. "He's confined to sick berth."
Archie Kennedy finally reappeared to his place of confinement. He was amazed at the number of new residents.
"Good evening, gentlemen, or, should I be saying good morning. You know it is nearly six bells. I say, we've got a number of new berth mates down here! No officers, I see. Ah well, such is my lot. Oh, except you fine gentlemen, of course."
Sebastian was poking at instruments in a steaming bucket of water. Johnson, recently returned from Kaliakra, sat making notes on herbs to be replinished from the ship's hold.
Brandon feeling weary having done the first watch as a regular midshipman, then after only a half hours rest called back to duty in sick berth, yawned broadly at him. He sat rolling bandages to replace those used. "Where have you been, Mr. Kennedy?"
"Ah, Mr. Brandon, you should have been there. Mr. Bracegirdle relayed his part in tonights action and then I came upon Styles and Matthews regaling the men with tales about Mr. Hornblower and the Magie Noir. I should write a story! I could call it Leftenant Hornblower and the Black Ship! Has quite a ring to it don't you think? He was his regular dashing self from all accounts, swinging on the lines from one ship to the other!" Kennedy's smile widened at the three men listening to his tale.
He stood looking about him again. "I say, where is Horatio? There should be an officer among this august company." He grinned at Sebastian, noting the look he and Brandon were sharing. "What? Where is he? Did you send him back to our cabin?"
Brandon went on rolling bandaging strips, Sebastian pulled intruments from the hot water he had them soaking in.
"Well, you are a dreary lot! I should have stayed with the ratings. Well, what about Mrs. Hornblower? Is she all right?" Brandon and Sebastian exchanged looks again. Kennedy watched becoming more and more confounded.
"Well, come on Dr. Sebastian, why is everyone so glum?" He stepped over to the dispensary looking in at Johnson working away. He saw the bucket by the door and took to peering in it. He kicked the bucket with his foot. "Well, somebody tell me. Has someone died besides this crab?"
"What?" asked Sebastian taking an interest. "My crab is dead?" He walked over to look in the bucket.
"Well, maybe you should have fed him," commented Archie.
"I did feed him."
"With what, may I ask?"
Kennedy raised an eyebrow. "As I always suspected. The Admiralty is trying to kill us all with those inedible, circles of flakey granite. I swear I nearly broke a tooth on the last bit I had. Ah well, sorry, Dr. Sebastian."