An American Encounter, Part Three
by Skihee

Ch 10 Farewell

Comfort, ...warm, soft comfort. He lay on the down mattress with the heated body snuggled closely. The gentle rhythm of breathing spoke to her peaceful sleep. What a night it had been. The ride home in the coach gave a chance, after many hours of entertaining Daniel Dawson, to share a moment of intimacy.

He had been through this before, knew now what was coming when he took the last boat ride out to Indefatigable. Separation, loneliness, heartsick with loss of the beloved. Yes, he knew, and it made each moment alone with her more precious. Each one he wished could go on for an eternity.

Arriving home, all he could think about was sharing this bed with her, even after so many weeks of closeness upon Indefatigable. He wondered if he could ever grow weary of having her near him, much more, simply having her.

The sensual body of his much loved wife, his American wife, lay beside him, growing slowly more that of an expectant mother. The mounded home of his, no, their son, did not stay either of them from pleasuring one another. He reckoned, at the most, the babe was just over five months, if conception took place the night of the wedding. Last nights passion nearly rivaled that first one.

He inhaled long thinking on how the two of them had reveled in the body of the other. Could such relish of the human form be condoned by a Holy God? But they were man and wife, husband and wife, joined with His blessing, twice. No need to be concerned for sin. They dwelt in holy wedlock. Making love to and with her was near a religious experience.

Love in his gaze, he lifted a strand of her hair to his nose and inhaled the familiar scent. *I love you my wife. Dear God, let us grow old together.* Is it a prayer when you make such requests of God? He was not sure and would be much too embarrassed to ask. He feared for her life. Why a child so soon?

Too many wives were lost in child birth or soon after. The anguish on the face of his father, he saw it too many times upon the doctor's return from the frantic call of a midwife when things had gone terribly wrong.

His father would come in the house and lock himself away in the study, sometimes for days, if there were no need of his services. The housekeeper would be beside herself with worry, knocking incessantly at the door until he mumbled some reply or shouted angrily through the closed door. Days of silence ensued until some other emergency forced Doctor Hornblower to come out of the melancholy. It was like a pall on the household.

The death of wives and mothers seemed to bring the weight of their own loss to the fore and they would avoid each other, as if one look could bring the pain crashing down on the two of them anew, descending into solitary weeping for the loss of Louisa, his wife, *...my mother. I know you wept, father. I could hear you.* His fathers cries seeped through the planking into his bedroom above the library. Pressing his pillow over both ears, he turned into the mattress to stifle his own emotion.

His face turned to agony and he covered it with a hand. The weight of what his father and the husbands of those women endured pressed his heart exceedingly, and he shook his head. *Not you, not you, my love! I have known the loss from the viewpoint of a child. Let me never know it as a husband. Father! The anguish you felt! Must I gain this understanding, too? Let it not come to that with you, my lady!* He pressed his eyes tightly to push back the tears.

A hard swallow came and a quivering lip and he shook his head no, no. The thought that bloomed came from Pamela concerning her own mother, that she had not known her, that the mother had died soon after she was born. *Let it not be! Let it not be!* Could he be thrown into a similar relationship, as he and his father, with his own son? Could he love a child that caused Pamela's death? Pamela's father had loved her...deeply so...forsaking the love of any other, making Pamela his life. Would it be easier to love a girl baby than a boy in such an eventuality?

He gently cupped her chin and touched her lips with his. *Not you, not you.*

She stirred beside him but slept on, blissfully unaware of the fearful desultory thoughts of her husband.

"Do not make me live the life of my father or yours, Pamela.* He sighed and collapsed gently onto the pillow, raising an arm to rest over his head.

Turning to look out the window, he could see a deep blanket of fog, white outside. He slipped from the covers, stood naked and shivered. Clean small clothes, trousers, a shirt, he hastily pulled them on from the clothes cupboard. He donned a pair of wool socks and wrapped in the green dressing gown purchased for him months ago. Walking to the window, there was nothing to be seen except the gray whiteness of the light trapping fog. Assured she was covered, he stepped out the door to Drake's room at the back of the house.

The beds were made. In fact the shirt he removed while Archie reclined there still lay upon the foot of the bed. The dirk was on the chest. He stepped to the middle bedroom. No Drake there either. He clutched the robe tightly. The house was cold. Stepping rapidly down the stairs, he checked each room on his way to the kitchen. Where was Drake?

"Good morning, Mr. Hornblower!" said Carden cheerfully. "I've just made some coffee, sir. Would ye like me to take care o' the grate upstairs, sir? Usually Manuel does the duty, if needed. Fog must be delayin' them comin'."

"Good morning, Mr. Carden. Where is Drake?" he inquired anxiously, barely remembering to be civil.

Carden grinned broadly. "Poor little nipper. Look 'ere."

He led Hornblower over to his closet behind the bathing room. It was quite tiny. A small cast iron stove of a fireplace, a bed, a foot square table top, and a spindly chair were the only furnishings. Drake was curled up in the bed, snugly warm under the down comforter. Each of the beds was equipped with one of the fluffy coverlets. They were like laying beneath warmed blankets once they absorbed ones body heat.

"He ain't used to sleepin' alone, sir. Been with his mates fer over a year on the Indy. He berthed wi'me last night. Didn't mean to cause ye a stir, sir."

"It is quite all right, Carden," he whispered relieved and pulled the door to. The two men stepped back into the kitchen. "As long as he is all right." He licked his lips, feeling somewhat guilty as he realized the position he put Carden in. "You know Captain Pellew is his guardian and god-father."

"Yes, sir. I been told." He cocked his head ruefully at the admission.

"I know you will do your best to watch over him,... both of them."

"I do try, sir. If ye don't mind my sayin', sir, ...yer wife has been a trial."

Hornblower blinked at the floor, successfully halted the erupting chuckle, but could not stop the slight smile on his lips.

"I realize that, Mr. Carden. I am grateful for all your attempts. I would not hold you responsible as long as you try. I know better than anyone how headstrong Mrs. Hornblower can be."

"Aye, sir," Carden sighed. "Can I pour ye a cup a coffee, sir?"

"I would be in your debt. And, I will speak to Mrs. Hornblower about her behavior."

"Thank ye, Mr. Hornblower," said Carden, but he thought *For whatever good that'll do.* "That babe has to slow her down, don't you think, sir?"

Hornblower nearly snorted in his coffee. "He had better!" For a second the earlier dark thoughts pressed to enter his conscious thinking, but he pushed them away with a will. Hornblower smiled wryly, thinking, *I will have a talk with him, as well. That will please my lady.*

"Have you some spare hot water for a shave, Carden?"

While performing the morning toilet in the bathing room, Horatio could hear noises coming from the kitchen. He emerged much refreshed. Being used to washing with little water, he made the kettle full Carden gave him go a long way. While upstairs retrieving his shaving gear, he snagged the missing items of his normal daily wear and appeared in complete uniform save his topcoat and hat. The coolness of the home registered through the sleeves of his shirt. Aroma coming from the kitchen drew him there, noting the pit opening in his internal regions.

A woman was bent over the open door of the oven, drawing out a pan.

"Good morning, Maria! Those look very much like scones!" He felt a grumble in his middle.

"Good morning, Mr. Hornblower. Indeed they are! The lady of the house, before your wife, insisted I learn the secrets of a fine west country scone. I hope you find them pleasing. Full breakfast?"

"To be honest, if those scones taste as good as they smell, ma'am, just those and some bacon would do nicely."

She grinned. "Carden tells me you wish Pame...Miss Pamela to sleep longer?"

"Yes, yes," he blinked bashfully. Did he detect her grin broaden?

"Very well. Sit yourself in the dining room and I will bring it."

With a nod, he headed towards the front of the house and tossed the dressing gown over the stair railing. A sound of metal scrapping came from the parlour. Manuel bent low to prepare a fire.

"Good morning, Manuel," he greeted, rubbing warmth onto his arms.

"Good morning, Senor Hornblower...er, Mr. Hornblower." The boy struck the flint.

Hornblower took the time to study the room. Only once he was at sea did he regret not examining the surroundings in which his wife lived. He set his eyes to learn the details.

The overall color tones were a deep rose color and gold. The wall paper was a floral design and the colors and motif were repeated in the rectangular carpet used to delineate the seating area. Dotted about the room were small paintings of flowers, singular, in groups, in vases, in pictures and on plates. Pushing the back of the padded chair he passed, it rocked back and forth. A gentle smile rose to his lips, thoughtful of the owners to have provided a rocker, with their little son on the way. The bow window contained a window seat, cushioned in a solid poppy color, the windows having sheer ivory lace for coverings. A heavier red and gold brocade curtain could be pulled to hide the window seat and provide a barrier to the chill air bleeding through the windowpanes. The house faced west and the cold was easily felt, especially since the great rock of Gibraltar blocked the direct rays of the sun until mid morning. These same portals would permit the warming rays for wintertime once the sun was in proper position.

Next to the bow window was the writing desk. It was plain, more functional, than artisitc, not large, mahogany, but contained two side drawers and a short console cabinet on top with mail slots and small drawers. It was here she withdrew the note for Deluca. He smiled wryly and pulled open one of the small drawers. He lifted an oval brass seal. The hollow appeared to be a dolphin leaping over the middle line of the upper case letter 'H'. The muscles of his cheek deepened the happy lines of his lips. There was a stick of sealing wax the color of the ocean. Replacing the seal, he closed the drawer.

He pulled two letters from one of the slots. They were addressed to Mrs. Pamela Hornblower, unopened, and from America. Concern altered his features. These were clearly letters that had arrived while she was aboard Indefatigable. Maria must have placed them there for safe keeping until she returned. He tapped them against his palm. The communication had waited this long, it would keep another few hours.

Laying a hand on the lightweight desk chair, he rubbed the wood with his fingertips. This is where she would sit when she wrote a letter. He closed his eyes and imagined her here, the curtains drawn open, and the orange light of sunset falling on and caressing her features.

Pulling the chair, he sat down and observed the room from this vantage point. He opened the top drawer of the desk. Inside, the brush she had laid into him with yesterday, sat atop writing papers. The sight recalled to mind the expected meeting with the artist. Would the fog delay him or his purpose? He pushed the drawer closed and opened the bottom one.

Inside this one lay a stoppered bottle of ink to refill the desk top ink well, new quills, sand to dry the ink, a blotter, and some mail she received. Thinking they were his letters, he pulled the clump out onto the desk.

The top three were letters from him. Is that all he had written? There was one from America addressed to Pamela Dandridge, the last name marked out and scribbled above to read Hornblower. Opening it, he read the worried words of her sister, Patricia. Would he ever meet her? Does she resemble his wife? *I have nieces and nephews!* He inhaled as the thought surprised him, *and a sister and brother-in-law!* Here was proof they existed. It had been a long time since the two of them discussed family, other than Daniel Dawson.

The next was some local missive, by the looks of it, addressed to Mrs. Pamela Hornblower. Curiosity getting the better of him, he opened it. Glancing at the signature, it was from Dr. Blakeney and there was another folded letter inside addressed only as Pamela. He felt a burst of butterflies in his middle. His eyes fleeted over the words of the doctor.

 

Dear Mrs. Hornblower,

I am happy to inform you that the sight of Major Edrington seems to be fully restored. I know that under the terms of our agreement that neither we nor the wounded will have the benefit of your ministrations until said major departs. We appreciate your kindly visits and you will be sorely missed in the interim.

I do not know what occurred when last you visited the major. I know you appeared extremely distraught in your hasty departure that day. He, too, seems in a similar state and, I believe, heartily sorry for whatever transpired between the two of you on the battlements.

He has importuned me to deliver a note to you from him which is enclosed herewith. I am ignorant of what it holds, but he seems contrite and I pray he seeks to apologize for whatever mischief he has wrought.

It is neither here nor there, dear Lady, what may have transpired between you and the man. I can only say, once more, as his physician and surgeon, how grateful I am that your interventions gave him the will to live that he so desperately needed.

I am forever in your debt.

Your obedient servant,
Dr. Reginald Blakeney

 

Hornblower lay the doctor's note down and held the one from Edrington, his wife's Christian name the only address. Hesitating, he opened it.

 

 

Dear Pamela,

Even in writing you, I am forced into familiarity not knowing your last name, your married name.

Forgive me. Forgive me, dear Pamela. My remarks that day, though unkind, revealed my heart of concern for your safety, and for that of the child you carry. As a man, let me speak for your husband. These escapades you partake in are not suited to a woman in your position or condition. I will say no more.

I fear to voice it here, but feel it is true, it is the reckless abandon with which you approach life that attracts me, that and the fact that I will be forever in debt to you for my life. Not only did you rescue me from the jaws of death in the hands of the blackguards that held me, but also from the certain despair into which I had fallen over my assumed and apparent blindness.

I confess, dear Pamela, I would rather be writing words professing my love for your sweet person, not merely one seeking your forgiveness and offering words of apology that I pray will replace those so thoughtlessly and precipitously uttered.

Please, will you not change your mind and let me see the woman to whom so much I owe? I would tender these apologies and thanksgivings with strictest reservation, keeping my person in check, you may rely. As to the secrecy you so desire, that too would I keep in confidence. It is doubtful I shall ever meet your husband, whoever the lucky man may be.

Do I still have your kind attentions? I almost hate to end this letter, knowing it may be the last contact I may ever hope to have with you.

Thank you. Thank you, Sweet Lady, for all you have performed on my behalf.

Your Devoted servant,
Alexander Edrington

 

Horatio stared into space as he contemplated the words of Edrington. The man fell in love with his wife, this he knew. *How could he not? Did I not fall in love with her? I thank whatever the fates may be for bringing her into my life. Edrington, Pellew,...me... and my men... saved by this American ... and a woman, no less. The woman I love. The woman that bears my child. All wrought by a lack of gun powder!*

The thoughts returned of those worrisome days aboard Dolphin when he realized he suffered under the same circumstances as the pirates that inadvertently brought them together, the lack of powder.

*She is certainly worth the powder, however much would be needed to rescue her, though I despise that her father was killed. I wish I could have known him. How did he disuade his daughter from misadventure? But, I will depend on her impending motherhood to stay her activities. No matter what Edrington thinks, I believe no amount of paddling her behind would stop her.* He laughed to himself.

*Why am I not more upset at finding this 'love letter' from Edrington? Because I know she loves me. Because I overheard her tell Edrington last night that she would not have me believe anything but that she loves me. Above all, she loves me! And, I love her. More certain am I of that fact, ...if ever I needed more certainty.*

Footsteps sounded in the hallway. Hastily folding the letters together, he placed them back into the drawer and closed it. Standing, he replaced the chair under the desk.

The mantle held two matching empty vases at either end and a large sea shell. Above it, there was a pastoral scene of England, rolling green hills, a thatched cottage, a stream. On the hearth, a stand contained the equipment which Manuel recently employed to tend the grate.

Manuel entered the room and sat a full coal scuttle on the tiled pad.

"It will warm in here very quickly now, Mr. Hornblower," he advised.

"Thank you, Manuel."

The boy bowed slightly, then departed, closing the parlour door.

Stepping to the stuffed chair near the fire, he pressed the back and felt it give. Covered in chintz, it was soft, and reminded him of the bed that held his wife. Toward the dining room was the sofa, a Chesterfield style with outward curving sides and back, the color a muted green Damask.

The opening into the dining area was a broad arch. There was another bowed window opening out onto the side of the house. It mirrored the accouterments of the front one. In fact, the same style of wall paper and curtains continued from the front parlour, even the carpet was a twin to the other.

A round table and four matching chairs sat centered under a simple candle chandelier, with its glass prisms of various oval shapes. The table was capable of lengthening with added leaves. A bowl of roses, like the red and pink ones in the front garden, lay in the center, adding color and a floral fragrance reminiscent of Pamela's perfumes. He inhaled slowly.

Against the wall was a dark ornate sideboard with two doors. It had a backstand of shelving and plates were displayed, a floral pattern. The Selbys certainly had a penchant for flowers! Another piece of furniture looked to be a cellaret. He opened the door. Indeed it was and contained decanted liquors that he guessed to be port, brandy, sherry, and possibly a claret. There were a half dozen corked bottles of wine laying on their sides, in cradles, and a small tray containing glasses of various styles for the different potables.

"Ah! Sorry to keep you waiting, sir. The bacon took longer than expected!" said Maria, bustling in with a tray. Sitting the tray on the table, she opened the side board and produced a place mat and hot pads to protect the table's surface. Transferring the items from the tray to the table, she asked, "Do you require anything else, Mr. Hornblower?"

He smiled kindly and replied, "No. This looks lovely. Orange marmalade! One of my favorites!"

"Enjoy yourself, sir."

He barely had his tea prepared when he heard Pamela call his name rather frantically from upstairs. He stood quickly and by the time he opened the parlour door, she had said his name again and was rushing down the stairs, in her night gown and barely covered with a wrapper, her hair mussed from sleep.

She stopped midway down the stair when she saw him, framed by the door of the parlour and an anxious expression on his handsome face. She grinned and sat on the stair and leaned and stared at him through the balustrade. "I thought you had been called away, my love."

He stepped to the foot of the stairs and extended his hand. "I would not leave without ... I have not."

She stepped down until she reached a stair that left her slightly taller than he. Leaning against him for a hug, she kissed his neck and nuzzled his ear. "I love you, my man."

He sighed, smoothed her hair, and kissed her cheek. Wrapping his arms around her, he lifted her off the stair and carried her into the parlour, kicking the door closed.

Setting her on her feet, he proceeded to kiss her like he had not seen her in a month. Pressing, searching, seeking, the warm moist softness, the intimate abandon of all senses save concentrated touch. The passion of it surprised even him and he could only account for it from the musings of the morning.

"Whew! Mr. Hornblower!" She said blinking and breathless and speechless.

He grinned. "Hungry?"

"Me or you?" she asked incredulously.

"I know I'm hungry!" He smoothed her hair once more, tucking stray strands behind her ears.

"Hungry for what?" she asked sultrily.

He let his hands roam low down to her backside and pushed her hips toward his. "All sorts of things. But I confess, Maria has concocted the most delicious smelling scones. Would you like one?"

"I know her scones are delicious. Yes, I would."

Taking her hand, he led her to a chair, and assisted. After pushing it in, he bent to her neck and nibbled the flesh up to her ear.

"You are giving me chills, Horatio." She reached a hand back to glide her fingers into his rich dark hair.

"I love you, my lady."

The parlour door opened and Maria entered with a tray of dishes for Pamela.

"I thought I heard you, Miss Pamela." She sat the tray on the sideboard, produced another place mat. "Would you like a full breakfast, this morning? I have brought the same as your husband has requested."

"This will be fine, Maria. You out do yourself."

"Call if you need me."

She curtsied and departed, shutting out the cold of the hallway. They were alone.

Pamela rubbed her hands over her face. "I must look a sight to be sitting at a dining table!"

"You look beautiful." In fact, the look reminded him of the morning after their wedding night when she so mercilessly teased him with breakfast food. He took her hand and kissed it and then reached to stroke her cheek.

The two gazed into the others eyes.

"I cannot express how happy I am to have you here, Horatio."

"Nor can I that I am." He poured her a cup of tea, then sipped from his own. "Hm. This is heaven. I am in heaven. This is the best tea I've had since I can remember."
He took a bite of bacon and prepared a scone, watching the butter melt into the warm white flesh of the bread, then topped it with a smattering of sticky marmalade. "Hm. Hm. This is delightful!" he commented chewing with relish.

She sat watching him with a pleased expression.

"What?" he grinned and then popped another bit of scone into his mouth. "Hm."

"I'm beginning to wish I was a scone," she teased.

He chuckled deeply and leaned to kiss her cheek and whispered in her ear. "I can only eat them once, my dear."

"Horatio!" she giggled. "Don't tempt me so. What will Carden and Maria think if we spend the day in bed together?"

"I would not care a wit what they thought. Think what they may, but they would know I love you. Shall we do that and put off this man Deluca?"

"Oh! OH! Mr. Deluca! What is the time?" She started to rise. He placed his hand on her shoulder.

"Sit and finish your breakfast, Pamela."

"But, Horatio...!"

"Sit! That's an order. There is too much fog this morning to.... Sit, I say!"

"Yes, sir." She looked through the lace of the curtains and saw the fog. "Oh, I do hope it burns off soon."

He reached under her chair, grabbed the horizontal rail, and pulled her closer. Then, slid her place mat of dishes closer to his end of the table. Looping his arm around her shoulder, he pulled her to him and kissed her until he felt her relax into the kiss.

"Horatio!" she whispered, her lips touching his as she said it.

He kissed her again and felt her arms encircling his shoulders. The briefest thought of taking her here on the dining room floor entered his mind as a gust of cool air buffeted his cheek. Opening his eyes, he saw Drake standing behind her chair, rubbing sleep from his eyes.

"Good morning, sir," he said.

Pamela jumped at his voice. "Drake!" She was suddenly out of Horatio's embrace, chair pushed back, and clutching the boy. "Drake! Master Drake! I am so pleased you are staying with me. I am so pleased!" She kissed him on the cheek and released him.

He beamed, suddenly lively and awake. "Are you, Miss Pamela?"

"I am! I am indeed! We shall have such fun together! Are you hungry?"

"Yes, ma'am," he smiled.

Hornblower was up and gave a call to Maria who soon appeared with dishes for Drake. He sat to Hornblower's right, opposite Pamela.

Drake looked at Hornblower shyly and Horatio realized he had not spoken to the lad. Reaching underneath Drake's chair, he tugged him closer to their end of the table. "Good Morning, Drake."

The boy smiled. 'It is, sir."

Pamela asked the time seeing the clock hanging above the cellaret had not been set since anyone's returning. Hornblower pulled his pocket watch and informed her. She clutched the wrapper at her chest and rose, Hornblower and Drake stood.

"Sit, both of you. I am going to wash my face and get dressed."

Hornblower watched her departure wistfully, then gave Drake his attention as they both settled onto their chairs.

"More tea, Drake?"

"Yes, sir, thank you."

Pouring both of them another cup, Hornblower sipped and watched the boy prepare a third scone liberally with butter and marmalade, licking his finger tips with a smack.

"Sir Drake!" He watched the boy's eyes sparkle at the address as Drake attempted to smile, chew and swallow at the same time.

"Yes, sir?" he grinned. "You saw Mr. Kennedy last night!"

"I did indeed. Your sword awaits above, Sir Knight. Now, as to your orders..." Hornblower leaned low towards the boy. "You are to guard our fair lady with your very life and you are to see she goes on no more escapades or dangerous adventures. Is that clear, sir?"

"Yes, sir, Mr. Hornblower, sir. I shall do my best, sir."

"No climbing. She is to do no climbing, and ..." he leaned lower and whispered, "...no outings with Mrs. Orego, Miss Maria, you know."

Drake leaned in towards him, speaking low and serious. "Yes, sir. No climbing, no dangerous adventures. I shall keep her close hauled, sir."

"Good man, Sir Drake." He paused a moment and wondered if he had covered all eventualities. "Anything else, Drake, that you deem unseemly for...a woman in Miss Pamela's condition, you are to put your foot down and tell her no. You have my permission and commission, Sir Knight, to order her,...and invoke my name if necessary."

"I will not hesitate to do so, sir," he whispered.

"Very well. We are of one mind where she is concerned, are we not?"

"We are, Mr. Hornblower, sir."

"Have you had enough breakfast?"

"Yes, sir."

"Any questions?"

"No, sir,...not really," he hesitated.

"What? Ask what you will, Drake?"

"When are you leaving and when will you return, sir?"

"Indefatigable is to leave Friday, unless Admiralty changes its mind, or the wind does. When will I return.....?" His face saddened. "I do not know, Drake."

The boy got up from the chair and stepped beside Hornblower's as the leftenant pushed it back. Drake reached to hug him and spoke.

"Don't worry, sir. I will look after her. And, I shall pray for you and god-father and the crew and Indy."

Hornblower returned the hug tightly. "Thank you, Drake. We will not forget you either."

"You haven't much time left, sir. You should go to her."

Hornblower cocked his head sadly, yet appreciatively, then hugged the boy again. "Thank you, Drake. You are a good friend." Hornblower stood, towering above the boy, tousled the blonde curls, and strode out of the combined rooms.

Upstairs, he found the bed unmade and Pamela still missing. He picked up the telescope from the window seat and extended the glass. The fog was misting and the sun was growing brighter. He could see the tops of masts from here, but not the ships themselves. The bay was full of shipping. It was a marvel. No doubt some were waiting for the fog to clear, indeed, he saw the slow movement of one with mizzen top sail unfurled, inching slowly amongst the moored vessels. A sound, and he turned to see Pamela beaming at him, her wrapper tied tightly about her, the night gown over her arm, and her hair tidy and pulled back with a ribbon.

"What do you see?"

"You."

She laughed gaily. "You are such a romantic this morning!"

He collapsed the glass and lay it, not looking, on the cushioned window seat. Striding to the bedroom door, he closed and latched it. Two steps and he stood before her.

"What is ... Horatio... I know that look... darling..."

He pulled the ribbon and loosened her hair. Then tugged the sash of her wrapper till it fell open and revealed a sliver of her nakedness.

"Horatio?" She turned her face up to his and as she watched him, he slipped his hand inside the robe and began a slow light caress of her body. "Darling.... Mr. Del...

"Shhh. No talking." He looked down at his trousers and unbuttoned them as she watched. They fell to the floor. Pulling the tie that held his small clothes, they, too, dropped. He kissed her cheek, stroked her chin, and whispered, "No mast. The bed will have to do."

With the slightest push from him, she did as he wished and reclined before him. She was ready, marveling at how little it took to be prepared for what he wanted to give. This was luxury. A bed, time, nothing to press them, no duty, no ship, no crew. The weight upon her was glorious. The smell of his recently shaven cheek entered her senses. The feel of his smooth face sliding against her cheek to offer kisses from his full sensual lips. The tenderness of his tongue pressing and caressing against her own. He was beautiful and he was hers. She raised her hands to undo his hair, running her fingers through the curls, and felt his chest flex and press against hers. The muscled torso and arms were not diminished by the waistcoat and shirt he wore, the strong thighs between hers rocking and pressing against her. And, then he spoke.

"I had to have you, my love. I had to join you and make love to you." He panted and his thrusts became longer and stronger. "You are mine," he breathed, "Say it, Pamela."

"I am yours. I will always be yours." She felt a tear glide down her temple. "I love you, Horatio."

"Are you close, darling?" he asked.

"Yes, love, whenever you're ready."

"I do not want to stop. I love you, Pamela. You feel so marvelous, I don't ever want to stop."

She moaned, holding off with him from the moment of ecstasy, and then the two burst simultaneously. There was an explosion of light behind her eyelids. He moved in her past the climax and she with him, panting with release and drying her lips.

He raised up just in time to see her lick the dry lips. He grinned and lowered to kiss them. Raising, he smiled broadly. "Thank you, my love. I think I am ready for Mr. Deluca now."

She giggled beneath him. "Well, I am certainly not."

He started to move off her and felt her legs wrap his and her hands clutch his sides.
"Not so fast, Mister. I want a proper kiss."

With a sigh and a smile and a rapid perusal of her shining eyes, he lowered his lips to hers, and then his chest to hers, and he relaxed atop and within her. It was the longest kiss in memory and that was saying something after last night. While it continued, he slipped his arms beneath her shoulders and cradled her head in his hands. How else could he fully possess her being? At last, they slipped to cheeks.

"Pamela! Pamela! I love you so much."

"I love you, Horatio."

"Our son is protesting."

"I know."

"I need to speak to him."

She giggled.

He slipped his arms from beneath her, raised, and kissed her nose, then separated his body from hers, with a gasp. Giving her a last wary and satisfied gaze, he slipped down and kissed the mounded tummy.

 

His lips lightly tickled the warmed skin and she watched him lay a hand lightly on the left side. She felt the solid kick against his palm, and saw the eye brows raise on her husband.

"Sorry, old man, but she was mine first," he teased lightly. "Now, listen, my son. I do not want to miss an opportunity to speak to you, and fearing I might get caught up in other matters and not remember to have this little heart to heart, I will speak now and risk making your mother melancholy."

He glanced at his wife then continued. "I am expecting you to pull your weight and do your duty, little one. You are to be good, obedient, love your mother, and keep her out of trouble. Do not become trouble yourself, and do not provide her with any reasons to get herself in mischief. I expect you to do all those maddening things that babies do to keep their mothers suitably entertained, until I return, of course. Then, you shall be on your own. Well... for a while, at least."

He smiled at Pamela. "I love you, my son. Your mother has heard me say it and that should put me in her good graces. I love your mother. She is the love of my life and I will always feel this way about her." His face became serious and he realized he was no longer talking solely to the fetus within, but to her, reminding her of his promise and his vow. "Time nor tide shall keep me from her. I will come to her. I will love her forever and always." Leaning on one arm, he hovered above her caring countenance, wiped the tears gliding down her temples, and paused just above her lips. "I will always love her," and he kissed her.

About mid-morning, a note from Mr. Deluca arrived saying the fog had delayed him and he suggested they meet in town at eleven. He mentioned the painting scenarios she requested and it was then Horatio learned she planned on not one view, but three to be done of him.

"Three!"

"Horatio!"

"Very well, my love, if you wish it." He was astounded but acquiesced to that one whom he loved.

 

After meeting at Deluca's studio off the square, the three of them trouped down to the battlements, carting the artists supplies. Horatio struck a pose next to a cannon, clutching his hat under his arm and his left hand resting on sword hilt, bending a knee casually.

The ship in the background was Vanguard. This was like serving watch duty except for the requirement of standing still. The artist did not have to admonish him too many times not to move.

Pamela hovered between looking over Deluca's shoulder, to an embrasure looking out to sea, to a seat on a nearby bench. Hornblower talked of Naples to the man who was saddened by the state of affairs in his homeland.

Daniel Dawson arrived around twelve thirty, having been to the townhouse, then to the studio, and finally locating them here. Pamela introduced him to the little Italian artist. He gazed at the drawing of Hornblower then at the man himself, seeing a bead of sweat sliding down the side of the lieutenant's face. Though it was October, woolens in full sun at high noon was daunting.

"You need a beer, Mr. Hornblower," Dawson announced. "Come, Mr. Deluca, let me treat the lot of you to lunch."

"Not yet, Mr. Dawson. I must check the palette for skin tones and so forth on your son-in-law."

Dawson cleared his throat and glanced at Pamela over the artists error. She smiled and shook her head and he let it go. Son-in-law. He squinted at Hornblower and marveled inwardly at the changes wrought in his opinions nearly overnight after so many years of dislike. He noted where he was, a British fortification. The flag of that country flew from the pole centered in the square below them and on the ships at anchor. He spied out Patriot's Dream and saw the Stars and Stripes blowing in the gentle sea breeze, the only sign of America among so many foreign vessels.

Deluca was holding paint samples next to Hornblower's face checking hues for skin tones, eye color, and hair. He made notations for each, then splashed a bit of navy blue. That was easiest. This color was used on many occasions.

"Molto bene! Finito!" the artist announced. "Did you say lunch, Mr. Dawson?"

The next two hours were spent amicably with Dawson and Deluca. Pamela invited her uncle to sup with her and Drake since Horatio would be with his fellow officers. Then, it was on to the studio for the remaining two sketches that would become portraits. One of them was Horatio alone, a waist up view, and the other was of both of them together.

Horatio sat on a bench, legs spread to make a space for Pamela to sit close, her back to him. Both gazed towards the artist as he drew them. Horatio could not resist tickling her side now and then, and whispered what he would do to her once they were alone later that evening. She giggled now and then and on one occasion when the tickling became too much, she turned to him laughed and demanded...

"Stop! Stop tickling me!" She grinned as she looked into a similar expression from her husband.

"Perfect! Do not move! This is the view!" proclaimed Deluca. With a rip, the drawing was gone and the new one begun.

"Now look what you've done?" she stated.

He grinned back. "I must say, though I love every inch of you, I do prefer seeing your pretty face."

"Flattery, Mr. Hornblower?"

"Keep smiling, both of you," ordered Deluca.

"Horatio, this position is very uncomfortable."

He tightened his grasp about her middle and could not resist pressing his fingers into her side. "Is that better?"

She jumped and laughed. "Stop, you evil man!"

"Evil, am I?" he grinned.

"I do not think I have ever seen you smile for such a long stretch at a time," she commented.

"You have not been watching at the proper times, then."

"Oh? I will not ask, with Mr. Deluca so near," she whispered.

"Do you truly think a portrait of us grinning at one another like a pair of hyenas is appropriate? Where will we put such a painting? Behind a curtain in our bed chamber?"

"I do not know, but it will definitely not be behind a curtain!"

"Mr. Deluca, is this pose a proper one for a portrait?" asked Hornblower.

"Oh, si, yes, Mr. Hornblower. The two of you look lovely together. You will adore it when it is complete. It is amore...the love... so evident between you."

"Good Lord, does it show?" whispered Pamela.

Horatio's face became serious as he examined hers and he was tempted to kiss her.

"Horatio?" she asked warily, knowing what the look often presaged. "Not now? You will shock Mr. Deluca!"

The grin returned. "He is Italian, my love. He cannot be shocked when it comes to amore," he whispered. "Can you, Mr. Deluca?" he said loudly.

"What is that, Mr. Hornblower?"

"Love does not shock you, does it?"

Deluca laughed heartily. "You know, Mr. Hornblower, this one I do for you is a pleasure. The English are so...how you say, staid?...they do not smile, always the face, so serious. And, then one afternoon, your lovely wife appears behind me. So fresh, so lively, so interested and complimentary! She is a joy to paint. She is not as you British would say,...inhibited. She is a free spirit, generous in every way!"

Hornblower listened to the Italian assess his wife, watched the pink rise in her cheeks, and felt his heart skip a beat.

"You have seen the portrait I did of her for you, yes?"

"Yes."

"Did I not capture that special quality? Could you not see the liveliness and gaiety of her soul, that spark in the eye?"

"Yes." He tightened his grasp around her.

"I will catch the fire between you. I can see it! Yes! Yes! This will be a masterpiece de amore!"

"If all of that is in this portrait, perhaps we HAD better keep it behind a curtain," she whispered.

Hornblower chuckled and grinned into the countenance of his wife.

When Deluca announced "Finito!" once again. The two took a long breath and stepped warily to the easel to see the sketch. As she gazed at the drawing the way Deluca saw them, she covered her lips to hide a satisfied smile. Horatio stood behind her, snaked an arm around her waist, peered over her shoulder, and felt his cheeks flush.

"It does show!" he whispered amazed.

Deluca heard the whisper and grinned broadly. "Si, Mr. Hornblower. Anyone who sees this painting when it is completo will know these two people are deeply in love!"

"Ahem! Well..."

Deluca and Pamela stared at him waiting for another word. None came.

"Are you speechless, darling? It will be beautiful, Mr. Deluca. I shall wait anxiously for its completion."

"I should have the two small portraits to you by the new year, Mrs. Hornblower. And the full length one soon after. I will stretch the canvas tomorrow and make a beginning."

"Do keep me posted. May I come to observe the progress?"

"By all means, lady, come anytime."

The sun was shining when they exited the studio, though it was late in the afternoon. The air had a chill to it as the sun lowered and became less direct. The two walked silently down the footpath, Pamela stealing glances his direction.

"You are very quiet, Horatio. What are you thinking, darling?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "Deluca is a very talented man. I am surprised he wastes his talents here, on a British outpost."

"I was pleased to find him. I think there is some difficulty for him to return to Italy, but he has not made a decision yet as to what he will do. I guess Gibraltar is a good interim position for him till he decides. The upper echelon officers and their families keep him busy."

"And now a lowly second leftenant is having three portraits done."


"You ... are upset about the money," she said staring at the ground as they walked.

He glimpsed her bowed head. "He cannot be...it must be costly."

"Horatio,"she said pleadingly. She took his hand, faced him, and looked long into his features before she spoke. "You know I have money. It is yours if you want it." He turned his head away and she placed her hand on his cheek. "I know, darling! It is why I never speak of it. If there is anything you need... Do not be angry with me for wanting them. Please?"

"I am not angry with you, Pamela. I truly do not know what to say. I know how much I value the portrait you have given me. I think I can understand why you would want one of me. I think you love me."

"Think? You only think I love you?"

"Know. I know you love me." She was in his arms. "Forgive me, love. I know you love me. Do not cry. I do not doubt you. I did not mean to make you cry. I never want to make you cry."

She slipped her hand inside his coat breast pocket and removed the handkerchief.

"Whatever do you do when there is not a man around to provide you with linen?" He embraced her and did not care who saw. "I love you, my rich American wife."

She laughed into his chest.

"But ... I could never ask you for money. Spend it as you will. One day it will be mine that you spend."

It was while he was holding her that he saw him, astride a black horse, dressed in the scarlet regimentals and gold. Their eyes locked. Horatio gave a nod and the major returned it and trotted on down the lane.

"It is late, my dear. Time to meet your uncle at the King and Crown and time for me to meet Captain Pellew and Lord Hale. Come now. Dry your eyes. We need not speak of it again."

The dinner with Hale, Pellew, Edrington, Dodd, and himself was tense. They were the only ones at the meal, no females. It was more like a duty though Hale did attempt to lighten conversation.

Hornblower was glad not to have Edrington's presence sprung on him. He knew he would be there, and Pellew informed him before they arrived for dinner. He was slightly amused to know the Major was unaware of his knowledge of the conversation with Pamela, or that he had read his letter of last July. Though he was certain of Pamela's feelings, he considered the major with customary caution that any husband would have toward a man infatuated with his wife. He was relieved to know the man sailed with them and would be glad when he was deposited in England, far from the shores of Gibraltar.

Pamela and Uncle Daniel took a carriage back to the townhouse. Having sent a note to Maria, she prepared the house, meal, and Drake, and would remain late to serve them. As the carriage pulled up to the house and she was about to let her Uncle help her down from the conveyance, she halted and questioned him.

"Uncle, you will be on your best behavior, won't you?"

He grinned. "I will try, niece. I look forward to meeting your young charge. Are those two servants still in your employ?"

"Yes, Uncle."

Pamela's eyebrows twitched at Maria being named a servant, but it was one of her devices, and she knew if her uncle should revert to his stodgy, imperial self, that Maria would handle him well enough.

Drake was dressed in some of the new clothes Archie acquired for him and pulled at the neck of the starched shirt. "Welcome home, Miss Pamela," and he bowed.

Pamela was pleased. Drake was such a mannerly boy. "Drake, this is my Uncle Daniel, Mr. Dawson. Uncle this is Drake."

"How do you do, Drake?" He offered his hand and the boy took it, giving it a firm but quick shake.

"I am well, sir. Welcome to our home."

It was not the first time Dawson had been to the townhouse, but he observed it more keenly now, realizing it was more than temporary housing for his niece.

"May I offer you a drink, Uncle?"

He followed her into the parlor. "Yes, thank you."

"Sherry? Port? Brandy?"

"Sherry sounds light enough."

Putting the glass into his hand she excused herself. "I need to freshen up before dinner, Uncle. Take your ease. If you need anything, just ask."

"Well, Drake, how old are you?"

"I will be eight in January, sir."

"Pamela tells me you were a powder monkey on Indefatigable."

"I was, sir."

"See much battle?"

"We did, sir. Captain Pellew is well know for the prizes he takes. The French know him, too, and dread his name."

Dawson smiled wryly. "Indeed? And what of Mr. Hornblower?"

"Mr. Hornblower is like a son to Captain Pellew. I'm like his grandson, sir. All the men love Mr. Hornblower. He is a fine officer. He will be an admiral some day. Miss Pamela says so."

Dawson chuckled. "Indeed?"

"Have you met Mr. Carden?"

"Not formally, no."

"Would you like to? He was on Dolphin when he lost his arm."

"Certainly."

Drake led him back to the kitchen.

"Drake! Mr. Dawson!" Maria exclaimed and curtsied. "Did you need something, sir?"

"Maria, is it not?"

"Yes, sir."

"Don't mind us, Drake was bringing me to meet Mr. Carden. I must say, whatever you are preparing smells delightful."

"Thank you, sir."

Dawson followed Drake out the back door.

"He must be tending to Belinda," grinned Drake.

"Belinda?"

"Oh, she's the cow Captain Brecon got for Miss Pamela. Dr. Sebastian insisted she come with us. They've just brought her today. She probably hasn't got her land legs yet!"

"Who's Captain Brecon?"

"Oh, he is captain of Emerald. Miss Pamela is in a family way, you know, and Dr. Sebastian insists she drink milk three times a day."

"Does he indeed? Who is Dr. Sebastian?"

"You don't know anythin', do you, sir? He is the surgeon on Indefatigable. A fine one he is, too."

"I see." He followed Drake to the small outbuilding that could barely be considered a barn. It had two stalls for animals on one side. Of the two stalls opposite, one was filled with fodder and the other with coal. A chicken coop was built onto the side of the structure. The soft clucking of the hens could be heard through the walls.

"Mr. Carden! Mr. Carden! Miss Pamela's uncle is here to meet you."

Carden emerged from the front of the stall that held the cow. "Who's that?"

"Mr. Carden. Daniel Dawson." He extended his hand to the sailor.

Carden wiped his hand on his waistcoat and shook Dawson's hand, a little wary that someone of his apparent station would offer it to begin with. "Pleased ta meet ye, sir," and he nodded, glancing in Drake's direction.

"How is Belinda?" asked Dawson.

"Oh, she's startin ta settle in. I think she misses Styles." He grinned crookedly at Drake. "Ol' Styles is gonna miss her, too, me thinks," he chuckled.

"Drake tells me you were on Dolphin with my niece."

"Yes, sir. She was a might of a surprise, she were! Thought we'd cleared Dolphin o' them pirates and two days later she showed up. Mr. Hornblower's raisin' as a doc's son come in handy fer him, I reckon."

"Mr. Hornblower is the son of a doctor?"

"Yes, sir."

"How was my niece when she was found?"

"Oh, not well, sir. She din't talk fer a couple o' days, it seemed. Seems she seen her da killed, but you probly know all that."

Dawson blinked and bowed his head.

"Sorry, sir, din't mean ta bring up bad membries."

"Drake says you lost your arm on Dolphin."

"Aye, sir, and me brother."

Dawson stared into the eyes of the sailor. "You lost your brother?"

"Aye, sir. Them pirates' mates come lookin' fer 'em and wanted Dolphin back." Carden shook his head. "Near killed us all. Mr. Hornblower was wounded. Miss Pamela and Mr. Kennedy wounded, me, some others." He sighed. "Some dead. Me brother's one."

"Pamela was wounded?"

"Yes sir. Bad splinter in the leg about here. But the way she carries on, you'd never know it. Do ye know what a trial she can be, sir?"

"If you mean she is head strong, you can blame her father for that."

"Uncle Daniel! Drake! Are you out there? What are you doing, meeting the chickens?" Pamela's voice became more distinctive as she drew nearer. "Oh no! Captain Pellew sent Belinda?"

"Aye, Miss. Dr. Sebastian's orders. Styles were here instructin' me on her care. He was sorry he missed tellin' ye hello."

"Oh Lord! I thought I was done with milk! I am sorry I missed seeing Mr. Styles though. Who was with him?"

Carden grinned. "Matthews, Oldroyd, and Hardy."

"Oh fiddle faddle, I wish I had known they were coming."

"Friends of yours?" asked Daniel.

"Yes, Uncle. They are the best of men. Maria has our dinner ready. Would you like to wash before? Thank you, Mr. Carden. Come along, Drake." Once her uncle could not see, she shot Drake a serious look. "Oh, Mr. Carden, would you ask the cabman if he would care for a bite of dinner? Uncle's hired him for the evening and he may not have come prepared with a meal."

"Will do, Miss."

Dawson stopped with one foot on the bottom stair of the back entrance and turned to Pamela. She was a Dawson through and through to think of the driver.

"What, Uncle?"

Hesitating, he leaned and kissed her forehead and took her hand, giving a warm squeeze. "Ladies first." She was surprised, he could see, even in the dimming light. He picked up Drake and put him on the second stair up to follow her in.

Daniel was full of questions through the meal and Drake obliged him with answers after an okay glance from Pamela. He learned about Kaliakra, her second kidnapping, and a blatant rescue by Hornblower. Pamela thought knowledge of Horatio's bravery would not go amiss with her uncle, but steered the conversation away from her own adventures as Maria's apprentice. Seated comfortably in the parlour, Daniel posed the question she was hoping to avoid.

"How did you come to be on Indefatigable again?"

With an unexpected and early arrival home of Horatio, she was able to side-step the question as Hornblower entered the front door.

"Horatio, darling! I did not expect you so soon! Maria has a delicious caramel flan she is about to serve. Come and sit down."

Dawson rose and extended his hand. "Hornblower."

"Mr. Dawson. I trust you and the family," he grinned at Drake, "have had a pleasant evening."

"Very informative, Lieutenant. And, yours?"

"Oh, mostly business," he smiled, stealing a glimpse of his wife.

They seated themselves in the parlour, Maria served the flan, Hornblower the port. During the afters, Drake nodded off against Pamela, his desert half finished. Hornblower lay his plate down and carried Drake upstairs.

"I'd say that is my cue to leave, my dear. I have enjoyed the dinner but most of all your company and Drake's. He is quite a boy."

"He is the sweetest of boys," agreed Pamela.

"Will I see you tomorrow?" inquired Dawson.

"Horatio's ship leaves early...I do not know that I will be much for company, Uncle."

He saw the moisture gather quickly in her eyes. He swallowed standing before her, took a step, and pulled her to his chest. He heard the sniff. "Don't start that, now, my dear. Give him a brave face."

Reaching into his coat, he removed the linen and recalled how she had refused it those months ago. She slipped it from his fingertips immediately and dried her eyes.

"Thank you, Uncle. I will. Brave. Happy." She smiled into the elder mans face. "I am so glad you came to dinner tonight."

"I am delighted."

Hornblower hesitated on the last stairs, as he descended, seeing Pamela and her Uncle in close conversation. He stepped slowly into the parlour.

"Leaving so soon, sir?" asked Hornblower.

"I have been here a while, son. You two have things to say to one another, I am certain."

Maria appeared in the hallway dressed in her cloak with Manuel at her side.

"I am giving them a ride home, my dear. Do not look so startled. Dawsons take care of their people."

"Uncle..." Pamela started, knowing he knew she had lied about Maria being a live in servant. She bit the side of her finger.

"We will speak of it later. Goodnight, niece." He kissed her forehead. It was becoming a standard greeting of his with her and he enjoyed it.

Hornblower raised an eyebrow at the finger she was biting. It was one of the subconscious signs she gave when she was caught in something or about to be. He pulled it out of her mouth, taking her hand.

"Goodnight, sir."

They watched from the stoop as Dawson handed Maria up into the carriage and then Manuel. With a wave, they were gone.

"What?" she asked as she looked into the disgruntled features of her husband.

"Did you tell him Maria stayed with you?"

"Horatio, don't start that now. I have Drake and Carden with me....and Belinda!"

She turned and walked back into the house as she spoke and he swatted her bottom, barely making contact.

"Belinda? You mean the cow?" He trotted up the stairs behind her. "I would hardly call a cow a companion."

"Well, ...she is a female."

He chuckled and reached for her hand, pulling her to him. "Pamela..." he shook his head, then wrapped her in his arms. "How am I going to live without you?"

While Pamela performed her nightly ablutions, Horatio chatted briefly with Carden about the cow, missing the men delivering her, Drake, Dawson. He told the one armed man again how much he appreciated the position he filled as Pamela's servant, and that he trusted him implicitly. Wishing the man goodnight, he went to the parlour and retrieved the portrait of his wife which sat open upon the writing desk.

He gazed at it as he walked up the stairs. Stepping into Drake's room, he sat it on the wash stand and checked Drake, making sure the boy was well covered against the chill night. Entering their bedroom, he closed the folding picture frame and wrapped it in a shirt. Opening the canvas bag, he packed it with the few spare things he brought with him, then, dressed in his night shirt.

He stirred the coals in the grate and added some to see them well into bed before the embers died. Blowing out all the candles but one, he peered out the window to the lights in the harbor. Each ship had night lights glowing. He looked towards the spot where he knew Infefatigable lay at anchor. It was time to go. It woud be the last time he would be with her for he did not know how long.

What could he say to her that he had not already said? How different his life was from a year ago. A year ago, he was still suffering under the guilt over Mariette's death. Would the guillotine have been a better way to go? Surely, they would have killed her for her complicity. Was it better that she died in an escape attempt? With him? How he had failed her. *Why am I thinking about her, for Christ's sake?*

He stretched his fingers across his forehead and held it as he regained his composure. He could not answer the question and the hints at the edge of his mind were not comforting. He asked himself. *Am I going to fail her as I failed Mariette? But I love Pamela, far more than I ever cared for her.*

He thought back to that eventful time, a little over a year ago, when he first met Edrington, and he and Archie ran for their lives across the bridge. After that summer until April, life on Indefatigable had been routine, the crew settled in, fortunate in battle and prizes, six weeks in Falmouth during the worst of the winter, barely on patrol a month when they spied Cymbaliine afire and under attack by Dolphin. And, then, Pamela.

His whole life seemed to be wrapped up in her now. His duty, side-lined, nearly. *God! I did truly consider deserting! I was so love sick! Missing her, and I am about to miss her again. Thank you, Archie for stopping me...I think. Mr. Dawson's offer is tempting. So tempting. But I cannot. I cannot. I have promised the captain. She has not asked it of me. It is my duty.* He looked to the door.

"How...how long have you been standing there?"

"Not long, my love."

"Would you ask me? Would you...ask me?"

"Ask you what, my darling?"

He waited, gathering the will to say it. "Would you ask me ... to leave the service?"

Tears welled and spilled over onto Pamela's hot cheeks, huge tears splattered where they fell. She covered her face and turned to the door as if she would leave.

He strode to her, embraced her. "Forgive me, Pamela. Forgive me. I should not have asked. Oh, my love, forgive me!"

She wept soaking tears onto his night shirt and his fell silently into the deep tresses of her hair.

Not removing his embrace, he shut the door and ripped back the bed clothes. Reaching into the breast pocket of his topcoat that hung on the bed post, he removed the linen and put it in her hand. He shifted her onto the bed, then climbed over to take his place at her side. He grabbed the covers and pulled them up and held her to his chest, rubbing her back, her arm, his cheek against her hair.

"I do not want to go. I do not want to go," he managed to whisper.

Her sole reply was a squeeze of his torso and a sniff. She was quieting. The two of them lay silent, unable to speak, the touch of hands and bodies, the intake and exhale of air. He blew out the last candle and only the embers of the coals lit the room.

"Raysh?"

He swallowed. She never called him that except in the most heated throes of passion.

"Yes, my love?"

She was silent for ages. "If tonight were our last night together, forever..."

"Do not say it, Pamela! Do not say it!" He squeezed her roughly.

She lay silent against his chest and thought. *Why do I think it? Why do I feel I know it? Why do I feel this WILL be our last night together? How could I live if I could never see him again, never feel his arms again, his kisses!* She squeezed her eyes tightly shut and bit her lower lip to stop its trembling. She could not stop the shudder in her chest, but she placed the handkerchief to catch the hot tears from wetting his night shirt further. *Oh God, Horatio! Forgive me for thinking it! My darling, my darling! I am going to lose you! And I cannot say it. It would kill us both to acknowledge it. What is going to happen to our baby? Dear Lord! Dear Lord! Let it not be! I pray you, let it not be!*

He felt her shaking in his arms and turned his agonized features to the wall and held her tighter. He felt the emotion rising in his chest and choking at his throat. He could not cry. *Oh God, don't let me cry!* In trying to force it back, the agony sounded. *No!* He struggled to fight back the tears, the cries that wanted to scream out of his heart. She was moving out of his grasp. He felt her hand on his cheek. He shook his head, trying to avoid the tender press of her palm to face her.

"I don't want to cry," he whispered.

"It's all right," she said softly. "My darling, it's all right."

He turned into her bosom, feeling his body shake as he tried in vain to stop the emotion. "I don't want to cry," came the murmured sound, burying his face in her chest. Tonight he would not have what he wanted, for cry he did, and she with him. Silent tears flowing over his muffled ones, spending the emotion that had been mounting for days.

"I love you, my man. My brave man, my captain, my admiral. We will be together again. We will." She rocked him in her arms and felt him quieting. The tidal wave of emotion subsided and as it did, a memory came. She saw them standing on the taff of Dolphin, the clear cool night of the sea and the stars. The peace that came over her then was here now. She had forgotten. In the long months of love, passion, and striving, she had forgotten, but it surfaced tonight, when it was most needed. When both of them needed it. Peace descended over her. She pressed the linen he had given her into his hand and she felt him snort a stifled laugh.

"Thank you."

She took a deep breath, feeling the calm of remembering. He needed to know. She needed to tell him, to say it, to remind him of what he would be. She held his head against her and stroked the curls of his soft dark hair.

"I love you, Captain Hornblower. It's still true. I can feel it. It has been ages since I stretched out on the winds of our future. But, I can see it. I can, my love. An admiral you shall be. Remember on Dolphin that night, so many months ago, when we were first falling in love? I told you then that you would serve your country well, that you would be a captain with men under your command? It's still true, and more. You will come to me as an admiral some day. I know it. I know it, my darling, my love. I know it."

There was such surety in her words. A proclamation, a prediction, a predesignation, a presignification, or a predestination even! A guarantee of life, of love!

The force of emotion, that erupted from his being, broke down a wall and all that lay behind it came flowing out. He heard it echoing in his thoughts and she deserved to hear them. They were all her. His heart for her. Things he did not know were there consciously but were there all the same. He was calm now. The storm was over.

"Lay down, Pamela. Let me rest my head on your breast. Let me listen to your heart beat. Your loving heart, that supports the woman I love, the son we will have, and my own poor head."

She eased down beneath him and he rested his head over her heart, hearing the steady rhythm.

"I love you, my lady. I have loved you since that first night you threatened me with a dagger. I loved you the night I was forced to take you in my arms to comfort you after the death of your father. I loved you the day I saw you give your attentions to Styles for the flag of your United States, and the books from Matthews...when you asked me to kiss you....when you climbed the shrouds and that sock cap blew off your head and you reached to grab it and my heart stopped. I loved you when you climbed up to meet me at the mast head and I held you in my arms for the world to see...and Captain Pellew did. I've loved you when you've given your hugs and kisses to Pellew, and Kennedy, Styles, Matthews, Oldroyd, Hardy, Rampling, Bracegirdle, Sebastian, so many, have I seen you give your affections to, Drake, Edrington. I loved you when you called me conventional, when I saw you in your wedding dress, both of them. I loved you when I saw you in those flimsy, revealing clothes dancing for the French and helping to cover our escape. I loved you as I saw your approach with Brecon, and listened to Edrington tell me how he had spent days with you, and nights. I loved you the night you made me so angry and jealous I caused you to fall overboard and then spanked you for it. I love that you spent time with the boys and told them Indian stories and then nearly set the ship afire." He chuckled. "I don't know why I'm laughing about that one." He looked up and smiled at her. "I love that you are always willing for me to have you, that you shared my bed, and healed my hurts. I love that you carry our son." He caressed her tummy and kissed it. "I love that you have made me speak to him and one day I will say it to his face and I will embrace him and it will be like embracing you, because I love you. I love that you can stretch out on the winds of our future and take away all my fears, ...for I have them. But you are so sure," he looked at her, "in your voice, your conviction, is so sure, my love, you have driven all doubt from me...and I believe you."

He did believe her. Were not these words of hope? Are not words of hope better to grasp than words of despair? He held her gaze as he rose and looked at her tenderly. *God, I love you, Pamela. Can you hear me think it, my love? For I shall think it the long months we are apart. Tell me you love me. Tell me you hear my thoughts towards you.*

"I love you, Horatio. I always will." She tugged at a chain about her neck. "This was in my clothes chest from Cymbaline. Uncle Daniel brought it with him when he came looking for me. You see, we Dawsons believe in our futures, and he was so sure he would find me alive. This was in my jewelry box and... I was waiting for the right moment to...." The gold cross caught the fragile light of the dying coals. "It is only a symbol, my love, only a reminder. He can help you, if you ask." She removed it over her head and placed it over his. "Will you wear it for me? He can be where ever you are. My father gave it to me when I was twelve years old and now I give it to you."

He picked up the gold cross. It was very plain, just smooth yellow gold on a long gold chain. "If you are sure you want me to take it, Pamela."

She nodded and smiled. "Don't forget. He will help you if you ask. You only need ask."

The bed clothes rustled as he took her in his arms and held her tight. "I love you! I want to press you inside me and take you wherever I go."

"My darling, my captain! My brave Captain! I will be there...in your heart....and you will be in mine."