Family
by Simon

The OC's in this story were borrowed from Allison James wonderful
story "Landfall", with her kind permission. She is in no way to blame
for what I've made them do here!


Chapter Twelve

Downstairs, the Pellew's and Jacob were in the conservatory, amid the
party rubble. They had pulled three chairs together and were sharing
the last bottle of champagne.

"It went well, I thought, Sophie. You made a splendid job of it all,
my dear."

She smiled at him, tired but happy. "Yes, I thought that it was what
they had hoped for. Mavis certainly seemed happy. And Horatio"I've
never seen him smile that much in one evening. They are lovely
together."

"They're upstairs now, are they?"

Sophie gave him a look telling him exactly what she thought of his
asking a foolish question.

Jacob spoke up. "I was speaking with some of his men. His division?
Is that what they're called? I was pleased to hear them speak well of
him. I'd never thought of the fact that he truly does command men.
Silly of me, I know."

"He's had the same division since the first day he came aboard the
Indy almost seven years ago. They were the roughest bunch on the ship
and he had them turned around within just a few weeks. They'd credit
him with walking on water if you asked them."

"Edward, forgive my asking, but in truthhow good is he? Between us
and these walls."

The commodore paused a minute as he sipped his drink. "He's the best
officer I've ever seen, and I include myself in that. He has more
intelligence, more native ability and creativity that any three men
together. And more importantly, he has an unparalleled ability to
effortlessly command loyalty. In all candor, his future is unlimited.
As I've told him myself, there will come a time when he will surpass
me. I've no doubt of that."

Jacob stared at the other man. "Surely you exaggerate. He's bright,
of course, but."

"I tell you the truth as plainly as I know how to, sir."

Horatio's father seemed somewhat stunned by at he had just
heard. "Does he have any idea?"

"No, I don't think that he does. He's also one of the most modest men
I've met. He quite amazes me."

"Jacob, Horatio is an extraordinary young man, Edward and I have
often remarked on him. And you must know that we truly couldn't be
more pleased about this marriage."

"You've been so kind to him, Lady Sophie, both of you have. I'm
grateful to you for that."

Sophie raised her glass. "To the happy couple."

The men seconded her toast. His eyes fixed out the windows to where
Renown lay at anchor below, Edward added another. "To a safe voyage."

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Upstairs Horatio and Mavis were embracing, lying together, catching
their breath; they were, for the moment, sated. It wouldn't last.

"The ceremony was perfect, wasn't it? All those flowers smelled so
wonderful and the men all looked so handsome in their dress uniforms.
You looked so beautiful that I almost cried when I saw you waiting
for me."

Horatio was laughing quietly. "I've never been referred to as
beautiful before."

She rolled on top of him. "You are, you know. Very." She kissed him.
His hands stroked her back, from her shoulders down to her backside.
His arms held her to him.

He stayed her for a moment. "You know, I used to think of you as my
little sister."

She kissed him again and asked, "Do you still?"

Rolling them both over so that he now lay full upon her, "I've
revised my opinion in the last few weeks." He lay still for a minute,
languidly kissing her.

They had all night.

 

Later, they lay together, neither one of them wanting to move from
the other, still tightly embracing. Their breath, again, came in
gasps. God, she loved the feeling of his weight on her. His solid
body, his heat and his clean smell, it was how she knew that he was
really hers, that he was really here and that he wouldn't ever leave
Oh, God. He would leave. He had to. In just two days he's sail. Oh,
God. He'd leave.

She felt, as much as she heard, Horatio whisper in her ear, heard the
smile in his voice. "Le petit mort"

She began to cry, silently. Tears trailed from the corners of her
eyes down into her hair. Le petit mort. Death. He had brought it up,
tonight. He had brought up death as they made love.

He couldn't die. He couldn't. She'd die if he did.

No, she wouldn't, she corrected herself. She would want to die if he
did, but she wouldn't. She would raise their child. She had to, she
would have no choice. But he wouldn't die. He had promised that he'd
come back. Matthews had promised that he'd see Horatio safely home.
Papa would be close to keep watch. He couldn't die.

Oh, God, he might be killed.

He touched her face, felt the wet.

"Mavis"love, what is it? Is something wrong? Did I hurt you?"

She knew his concern; she couldn't let him know her
fears. "Everything is perfect. Tonight was everything I wanted." She
kissed him. "You're everything I want."

Not convinced, he asked again. "Please tell me."

She shook her head, kissing him again. "I just love you so. I love
you so very much." She would never let him know how she feared for
him. She wouldn't have him carry that with him. Ever.

He gently moved to her side, holding his arms about her. Curled into
him, her head on his shoulder, and her arm across his chest, they
finally slept.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Horatio was late coming down after a leisurely breakfast with Mavis
in bed.
As he walked down the stairs to the main front entranceway he saw
that his father's bag was packed and waiting by the door. Hearing
voices coming from the study, he entered to find the elder Pellew's
just bidding Jacob a safe journey.

"Horatio, good. I was hoping that you'd make an appearance before the
carriage would have to go."

"Must you leave already, Father?"

"Yes, you know that I do. You know that I have patients waiting as
always.

Horatio seemed awkward, unsure of what to say or how to express
himself. He finally managed a stiff, "I'm pleased that you came for
this. It was good to see you again."

"I'm glad, too. Will I see my new daughter in law before I leave?"

"She's just finishing dressing. Father--would you consider writing to
her? I fear that she'll be..miss me and perhaps you could, somehow"

"I would like that very much if she'll allow itah, here she is."
Mavis had entered the room, coming to Horatio's side, his arm going
around her waist. "You look as lovely today as you did last night, my
dear.

"Jacob, I fear that if you're to arrive home before dark, you must be
away."

"Yes, you're right. I can't thank you enough for your kindnesses. I
am in your debt, all of you."

He was in the hallway now, Preston handing him into his greatcoat.
Mavis moved to him, hugged him and kissed his cheek. "I'll write you,
we'll tell each other everything we can."

"Yes my dear, we shall write. Horatio, I would very much like to
write to you, if you'll allow it."

"I would be pleased if you would, and I'll answer." With final
embraces to Mavis and Sophie, a handshake to Edward, Jacob stepped to
the walk.

"Father" Horatio caught his arm and pulled him into a warm hug. "I'm
glad that you were here. Thank you."

His throat tight, Doctor Hornblower nodded and was handed up to the
carriage. A moment later the horses were away.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The next two days were going quickly. Every hour, every minute was
another one less that they would have together.

Horatio and Mavis spent the time together, of course their friends
and the older Pellew's seemed to understand, giving them the privacy
they needed.

Lady Sophie quietly and efficiently made sure that his clothing was
cleaned and mended, that his sea chest contained paper and ink and
enough quills to last him. She saw that he was provisioned with
coffee and jam and the other small luxuries that made life at sea
more bearable. As she packed his sea chest for him, allowing him that
much more time with his new wife, she slipped the old drawing of
Mavis inside. Done in Gibraltar when she was a child, it was how she
looked when they had first met. He would like to have that, she knew.

While Sophie was busy with that end of things, Edward was engaged
with other aspects of the imminent voyage for Renown. He had found
out her assignment, knew her likely route, when she could be expected
to make port in the Indies, and the most likely harbor. He learned
that she would have a new second Lieutenant, that he was known as a
solid but unremarkable man of good reputation.

Edward also found that there was a common belief among the more
senior officers that James Sawyer would benefit from retirement. This
was not spoken aloud, of course, that would hardly be the thing to
do. It was an awkward situation, really. When one of the Admirals had
suggested it"in a round about way, of course, well. One would have
thought that he had suggested that Sawyer might wish to cut off his
own ear for the reaction he'd gotten.

When the man returned from the Indies they would have a new Captain
for Renown all picked out and Sawyer could be safely retired to
whatever the name of his estate was. And if there were any problems
on this assignment? Oh, come now! Ships ran into trouble all the
time. They could handle it. It's not like he had a green crew under
him or God's sake! They would be fine, the lot of them.

Leaving the Port Admiral's office, Sir Edward was, once again,
greeted by the very man he had come to find out about.

"Commodore Pellew, what a pleasant surprise to see you here again.
I've been meaning to write your lovely wife a note of thanks for
including me in the wedding the other evening. How fortunate for you
to have both a beautiful wife and an equally stunning daughter. She
quite made me speechless when she appeared."

"Good of you to say, James. Glad that you could make it on Friday.
You're off tomorrow, aren't you?"

"Yes, that's right, with the land breeze at dawn. I trust that your
new son in law will be there when he's expected? I wouldn't want the
joys of being a newlywed to delay him."

"I'm confident that he'll report as ordered. I've always found him to
be reliable that way."

"Umm, yes, of course. He's a bright fellow, isn't he?"

"Intelligent? Yes, of course, quite."

"Have you found him to be"ambitious, Sir Edward?"

Surprised by the tactlessness of the question, Pellew could only
stare for a moment. "Ambitious? I suppose, but only in that he would
naturally wish to advance."

"And if there were no natural advancement? What would he do then do
you think? You know how these bright young officers can be if they
feel that they're being held back. Make his own advancement, perhaps?"

"Captain Sawyer. Are you suggesting that the Lieutenant has married
my daughter, merely to advance his career?"

"Suggesting such a thing of him? Of course not, sir. I was just
wondering how you feel he might react to an particular situation."

Refusing to allow Sawyer to see that he had managed to shake him,
Edward responded with a curt, "If you'll forgive me, I must be about
my business. I wish you good voyage, sir."

As Sir Edward walked away to his carriage, he was unaware that
Sawyer's eyes followed him until he was out of sight.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

That night Mavis and Horatio both forced themselves to eat a light
dinner. Though they attempted to keep up a steady stream of talk with
Edward and Sophie, the older couple said nothing when they were
excused before desert to retire. A few minutes later Preston and the
footman could be heard carrying Horatio's sea chest down to the
foyer, ready for the morning.

Seeing it sitting by the door, Sophie turned to Edward and with the
only real bitterness he had ever heard from her, said, "God, I can't
bear the sight of those things packed and ready to go. I hate it, I
absolutely hate it."

He put his arms around her, attempting to offer her comfort but she
would have none of it. "No, don't try to appease me. You've no idea
what it's like. You go off to your ship, off to adventure and to save
the Empire. I"we"sit here, waiting for letters and the occasional
package. Pouring over newspapers and the Naval Chronicle for any
word, and waiting. Just waiting for months or years, not knowing if
you'll walk in the door today or next week or never."

He spoke quietly, calmly. "Sophie"you knew that I was a serving
officer when we married, as Mavis knew the same about Horatio. You
both understand what it means."

Equally quietly, she answered him. "Yes, we both know. We both know
that there's a fifty percent chance that you won't return."

"Do you wish me to resign?"

"Of course not."

"Well then?"

"I hate the look of those things in the hall." She turned and went
into the conservatory, sitting in one of the big chairs. Edward
joined her, taking her hand, sitting in the other chair. Together, in
the dark, they sat watching the harbor below, each wrapped in their
own thoughts.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Horatio knew that Mavis was determined not to cry. He hoped that he'd
be able to accomplish the same.

God, he didn't want to leave her.

Coming upstairs, alone in the room they had shared for the last two
weeks, they had slowly undressed one another. They lit no candles.
The only light was from the small fire and the moonlight through the
windows.

Each caressing the other's body as the garments were removed.
Waistcoat, shirt, bodice, skirt, chemise, trousers, undergarments,
all were removed and carefully put aside. Hairpins and ribbons
followed. Mavis' earbobs were carefully taken from pierced flesh. The
only thing that remained was her wedding ring. That would stay.

Words seemed superfluous, each knowing what the other was feeling,
the loneliness and the sadness.

When they were both naked, Horatio picked her up in his arms, as one
would carry a small child who had fallen asleep up to bed. He laid
her gently on the feather mattress. Looking at her, studying and
memorizing her body, the look on her face, her hair fanned on the
pillow. He sat next to where she lay on her back looking up at him,
his hands stroking over every inch of her as though his fingers could
remember what she felt like.

Her eyes were watching his face, seeing the intensity of what he was
doing, on how he wanted her to feel pleasure from what he was doing
to her. She refused to close her eyes, determined to watch him as he
watched her.
Closing her eyes, she could concentrate on the feelings he was
bringing her. His hands moving over her, she could feel his
confidence, his strength.

She could feel her heart pounding, feel and hear his gasping for
breath, feel the sweat on his back as she moved her hands over his
muscles. Finally, inevitably, she felt him start to tense his body in
the final moments of the act, her own body responding and joining him.

Finished, exhausted by what they had just shared, he collapsed on
her, a dead weight. His breathing ragged, his skin slick with sweat,
his heart pounding so hard that she could feel it through her own
chest. His mouth was still kissing her neck where he could reach her
with out having to move any other part of him. Every minute or two
one of them would move a muscle or two a fraction, setting off a new
wave of sensation to their still overly sensitized bodies.

Finally, after neither one of them knew how long, Horatio opened his
eyes to look over at her, sharing a pillow. His hand slowly moved up
to caress her cheek, to move a lock of hair from where it had fallen
across her eyes. She met his look. They moved enough so that their
lips could meet gently, tenderly.

Finally, with infinite sadness he managed to tell her, barely a
whisper. "I love you"so much."

Her eyes welled up. "And I you."

"I will come back. I promise that I will."

She attempted a small smile. "I know. And I will wait for you."

Neither of them slept for what little was left of the night for them.
There was no point in even trying.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

At three thirty the next morning Preston came up carrying a pitcher
of hot water and a candle. Letting himself into the room, he placed
the water on the stand and lit several more candles. Horatio and
Mavis had been expecting him for a while and were ready for him.
Horatio was dressed in most of his uniform, Mavis in the navy blue
silk wrapper. He withdrew as quietly as he arrived.

Mavis sat on the edge of the bed, watching Horatio wash, shave and
put the finishing touches on his dressing.

Ready, he slipped his coat over his shoulders, buttoning the front
across his chest.

He kissed her cheek as she put her arms around him. He folded his
arms around her.

"I wish that you'd let me come down to the dock to see you off."

"It's raining and cold. I'd rather remember you here, warm in our
room, not shivering and wet on the quay."

"I'll write you everyday. I'll send you some more shirts, yours are
in tatters."

He smiled. "Yes, thank you. I'll write you, every chance I can." He
heard the sharp inhale of breath as she tried not to give in to
tears. Her arms tightened.

"I promise that I'll come back. We will be together soon. I swear it.
I love you."

They heard sounds in the hallway, knew that it were likely the elder
Pellews up to bid him goodbye. They could hear the carriage being
brought around to the front. Standing together, neither one wanted to
be the one to break off contact.

Finally, knowing that it was past time, Horatio pulled away. "Mavis,
we sail at dawn. I must go." He leaned down for a last, long kiss,
straightened and left the room.