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 Fourteen

Exhausted after the day with Neddy, Mavis was in a dead sleep when
she began to dream that Horatio, her sweet Horatio, was making love
to her. She smiled to herself as his hands gently moved her nightgown
up to her waist. " Horatio?Sweeting?are you all right?" There was
no response. "Horatio?"

With no warning he breathed in a great shuddering gasp, grasping her
tightly in his arms and was sobbing against her, holding her,
clenching her to him.

Frightened by what was happening she continued to hold him, running
her hands gently over his back, trying to sooth him as she did the
baby when he wouldn't be comforted and she didn't know what was
wrong. She felt the agony pouring from him, knew that he needed his
release just as he had needed the physical relief a few minutes ago.
God, what was wrong? What had happened to him?

Finally, after she didn't know how long, the painful gasping sobs
diminished and he merely lay in her arms. Turning over onto his back,
bringing her with him, his arms about her, he began to speak. His
voice was so low that she had to strain to catch all of his words.
His voice was emotionless, dead sounding. It was awful to hear.

"Archie is dead. Shot by the Spanish prisoners when they tried to
take the ship. The bullet was meant for me. Bush told me that. I
guess he thought that I knew, but I didn't until he said so. Sawyer
is dead, too. Archie confessed to the murder. He didn't do it. He
just did it to save my worthless neck. Buckland is ruined. About
forty of the crew deserted in the Indies and were murdered. We found
their bodies but didn't have time to bury them. I saw the crabs
starting on them.

"Your father presided over the Court Martial. For mutiny. I hoped
that he wouldn't be the one to have to order my execution. I don't
know if he could have done that"no I guess that he'd do what he had
to.

"I felt so sorry for him having to be there.

"He's in an unmarked grave outside of Kingston. Archie. It took him a
week to die. I couldn't even see him. We were kept in different
cells. It was only after the trial was over, when he only had an hour
to live that I was really able to speak with him."

Unheeded tears ran down his cheeks. Unaware, they were ignored until
Mavis wiped them away. He didn't notice.

"I brought a prize home. That's why I'm here in Portsmouth.
Retribution. She's a sloop of war. We got in two days ago." Mavis
looked at him"why hadn't he sent word sooner?

"I had to sign the ship in and I"forgive me, Mavis. I simply
couldn't bear to speak with anyone just then.

"I've lost my promotion. I was made a Commander, but it's not been
approved as the war is over. The ship was paid off yesterday. I'm
sorry." He stopped speaking then, out of words.

"I'm not." Her voice was as quiet as his had been. "For almost a year
I've spent everyday worrying about you, writing you letters I didn't
know that you'd receive. For a year I've not been able to hold you or
touch you. I'm glad that your ship is paid off. I'm glad that peace
is declared."

He looked at her, then put his head down and closed his eyes. She
didn't understand.

"I've been walking since about two this afternoon. That's when I
finished with the Port Admiral. I got here a while ago, let myself in
the kitchen. I sat in the conservatory, looking at the harbor."

He was starting to frighten her, she didn't know him now. She touched
his cheek, attempting to reach him. "We have a son. Did you know?"

"Yes, I got that letter. I was so worried about you being all right.
You are, aren't you?"

She smiled at him, nodding. Turning, she rose and left the bed.
Pulling her nightdress down, she walked barefoot across the hall to
the room that had been outfitted as the nursery.

Returning a minute later she told him to sit up. Pushing himself up
to lean his back against the pillows lining the headboard, she placed
the small bundle in his arms.

"This is Neddy. Well, Edward Horatio to be correct."

The full moon outside gave enough light. Horatio stared at the
sleeping infant in wonder. He traced the outline of the round cheeks
with the tip of one finger, his other hand cradling the baby as he
grasped one finger with his entire hand.

"He's so strong." There was a small smile on his face, finally.

"Yes. He's perfect."

Taking one hand, he looked at her sitting next to him, touched her
hair. His other hand still protecting the baby, he murmured, "I do
love you, Mavis. You know that, don't you?" She nodded.

There was a light tap on the door. As it opened, Sophie walked in,
intent on Mavis. "I heard voices"Is the baby ill?"

"Mama, Horatio is home."

Seeing him in the darkened room, she breathed, "Thank God."

Sitting in bed, his nakedness covered, barely, by the sheet and the
night, with his son on his lap, Horatio kissed Sophie's offered cheek.

"We were worried about you. I know that's the one thing that we're
never supposed to tell you, but that's the truth."

"I'm home and I'm fine. Better than fine now." He looked down at the
sleeping child in his lap.

"And you're exhausted, too. Sleep now, both of you." She started to
lift the baby away.

"Could he stay? Please?"

Seeing the look on his face, she relented. "I'll get his basket, he
can stay on the floor here next to you."

The baby asleep in his carrying basket, Horatio smiled his thanks as
she closed the door behind her.

They settled down, the babe next to them, Mavis on her back, Horatio
on his side
Facing her. He rested one hand on her hip. He turned his head to
look at the sleeping baby. "God. He's amazing."

"He is. I think it every day."

He leaned over to kiss her. "I'm sorry. About before."

"It's all right. I understand."

Tears welled up again in him. Nodding his thanks, he quieted himself
to sleep, Neddy safely beside them. She curled into his shoulder, his
arm around her.

"I was so afraid when you went to sea with Sawyer. I was afraid that
you wouldn't come back."

"I'm all right, love. I'm fine. And I'm home for a while."

"I love you, Horatio."

"I know that you do. Sleep now."

She could feel the tension in his muscles, in the way his arm held
her, the sound of his voice. He wasn't all right, and she knew it.

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

The next morning Horatio was still deeply asleep when Mavis took
Neddy down with her for breakfast. He had lost more weight in the
last year and the dark smudges around his eyes were frightening to
see.

Sitting at the table with Sophie she quietly voiced her concerns. "He
was telling me about some of what happened, Mama. It sounded so
awful. Did you know that poor Archie was killed? He was shot and he
lingered for over a week before he succumbed. Horatio sat with him as
he died. And Captain Sawyer was killed, too, possibly murdered. Then
he said something about a Court Martial and that Papa was the main
judge. How could something like this have happened?"

"Mavis, your father wrote me about all this a month or so ago. Wait
here, I'll show you." She returned with a thick letter that she
handed over. "You need to know about this so that you can help him,
darling."

After reading Edward's recounting of the events in the Indies
regarding Renown and her crew, Mavis was unsure of what to do. The
enormity of what had happened overwhelmed her. The deaths, the trial,
Horatio's guilt over his Archie's confession and subsequent death and
the gain and loss of his ship were almost beyond her. "Why didn't you
tell me?"

"I decided to wait until he was home, or we at least had some idea
when he might arrive. I saw no point in your fretting before there
was anything that you could have done to help."

"You should have told me."

"Perhaps, but concern yourself now with how you can help him. Anger
at me won't accomplish anything."

Mavis was silent for several minutes, thinking while she picked at
her food. "He's not himself. He's like a different man. Last night he
was a stranger."

"After what he's been through, you can't be surprised. He'll need
time and your understanding. You must help him, darling. He needs you
now."

"I know that, what I don't know is what to doMama, did anything like
this ever happen with Papa?"

"Yes, once. When he came home after Horatio and the Spanish captured
his crew. He blamed himself. He said that those good men had been
lost through his carelessness, that he's had to write the letters to
their families. He would have written to Jacob now that I think of
it. He just kept repeating what a waste of good men it had all been."

"What did you do?"

"There wasn't all that much I could do, really, other than listen to
him and let him know that I loved him. He had to come to terms with
it, to accept that in fact it wasn't his fault and that men lost in
war are tragic, of course, but part of the price that's paid. Finally
he was more himself, but he felt it keenly.

"Let Horatio lead you. Listen to what he has to say and pay
attention. Let him play with Neddy, that will help him see life again
instead of death. And dearest---understand that there will likely be
times when he'll need to be on his own."

Mavis was looking at her plate. "What if he doesn't return to the man
he was before he left?"

Sophie paused as she chose her words. "He probably won't be ever be
quite the same, darling. After what he's endured over the past year
and more, I don't see how anyone could be. You must decide if who he
is now is a man you still love."

"You're not suggesting that I leave him, are you?"

"No, I'm not. That would be the wrong thing for you and he both. I
think that if he lost you on top of everything else, he might not be
able to recover. Let him move at his own pace. He needs sleep and
food and to be loved."

"Perhaps we could go to Kent, stay with Jacob. It's quiet there.
Jacob was telling me about it one of his letters, and he's dying to
see Neddy."

"Perhaps, but let Horatio decided when he's ready. Remember, they're
still repairing their breech." Mavis nodded in agreement. This would
take time.

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

He slept well past one in the afternoon. Preston had accepted
delivery of his sea chest and Mavis had gone through it to see what
could be salvaged and what would need to be replaced. Most of his
clothing was in tatters. Things that had been old when he had left
were beyond repair and the new things were about at the end of their
use. Taking a set of civilian clothing from where they had been
stored for him, she entered their bedroom to find him awake but still
in bed, now sitting up and looking out the windows. He turned his
head when he saw her.

"Good morning. I seem to have overslept."

"It's good afternoon and it doesn't matter."

There was a silence. "I've brought you clean clothes."

"Thank you---Mavis, I'm truly sorry about last night. I don't know
what I was."

She crossed the room, sitting on the edge of the bed next to him. Her
hand gently covering his. "It's of no matter. You're home and you're
well and you'll be here for some time. You can rest and become
yourself again." He looked at her sharply at that remark. "And you
can get to know your son. He's really quite marvelous."

"I've not heard a word from him this morning, where is he?"

"Nanny has him out to the park. I didn't want you to be disturbed.
They should be back soon." He nodded, turning his face back out to
the window.

"Dearest, you told me some of what happened. Would you tell me more?"

"What would you like to know?"

"What happened to Sawyer?"

"He was killed by the Spanish prisoners when they were trying to take
over Renown. He was shot along with one of the Mid's. That's when
Archie was shot, also, and the second lieutenant, Bush, was wounded."

"Papa said that he had to preside over a trial."

"Yes."

She was quiet for a minute as she tried to think what next to
say. "After you're dressed, would you like to walk with me? We could
take Neddy out again. It's a beautiful day."

"Yes, all right."

"I'll have some hot water brought up and have some food ready for you
downstairs."

"Thank you." He turned away. She rose, feeling awkward, and was
leaving when she heard his voice. "Mavis."

"Yes." She turned.

"Please." He lifted his hand to her, beckoning her to him. Bridging
the few feet between them, she slid across the bed, embracing him,
pressing close to him. His arms encircled her, pulling her to him.
His hands stroked over her, his mouth was in her hair next to her
ear. "Thank God that you're here. I missed you so desperately. The
entire time we were in the Indies I thought of you. Through Sawyer's
insanity, the beatings and the bad food and the heat. Through the
Spanish and the storms and the fighting and the deaths and the trial,
yours was the face that I clung to. When Archie died, all I wanted
was to tell you, to hold you and have your arms about me. I needed
you so desperately and I was so afraid that you were in danger with
the baby. I had the most awful nightmares where I relived my mother's
death, except it was you instead of her."

She was stroking his face now as he spoke, letting him again talk out
what he had been through.

"I couldn't bear to lose you."

"Nor I you."

"How long will you be home, dearest?"

"A while, I've been reduced back to Lieutenant and am without a
position unless I can find something."

"Papa will be home soon. He'll now more of what's happening with the
Admiralty."

"Mavis, I won't trade on his connections, you know how I feel about"

"Yes, I know. That's not what I said. He'll simply know what is
happening with the fleet. He'll do nothing that you don't agree to,
you know that."

"I won't have him pass me along. I'll do this on my own, Mavis. You
know that."

"Yes, I do, and you will."

"I'll get dressed now. Would you have that water sent up?"

Nodding, she went over to the door. "I love you, Horatio."

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
The days passed uneventfully and slowly. They were fine.

The nights were bad. He had nightmares at first. Horrible dreams
where he would thrash and cry out and finally, if Mavis were lucky,
wake to be comforted. If she were not that fortunate, he would sleep
on, lost in his own world of death and pain, unreachable. He would
wake in the morning tired and grim and closed to her for the rest of
the day, snapping at her should she think to intrude on his silences.
He would sit for hours, staring down at the harbor. The day that
Renown dropped anchor was among the worst since he had returned home.
He barely said a single word all day, finally going out for a walk
that lasted more than seven hours. Frantic when he came home well
after midnight, Mavis received no answers to her questions, only a
polite request that she leave him in peace.

Finally, painfully, slowly, over the weeks and then months, Horatio
started to return to the man he had been, seemingly beginning to come
to grips with what had happened. The bad dreams became less and less
frequent, though they didn't entirely disappear. He began to smile
more easily and took delight in Neddy, holding him for hours,
studying him, and making him laugh.

Mavis let him set the pace of his days. He would rise to breakfast
with the two women, then retire back upstairs where he would give the
baby his bath. Thought they had a housefull of servants and a Nanny
for that purpose, he preferred to do the simple task himself with
only Mavis as his occasional helper.

Soaping the small body, carefully holding the child, rinsing the
soap away and then drying and dressing the small body seemed to relax
him more than almost anything else. One day, while bringing him a
clean towel, Mavis heard his voice as he spoke to the infant.

"So, you see, that's why you reef a sail in a high wind. The safety
of the ship and the men are the prime issue at all times, Neddy. A
good captain never forgets that the men under his command are in his
care and not just there to do his bidding. It's a fine line to walk,
young man." She waited a few moments before entering the room.

He hadn't spoken about the last voyage since the first few days of
his return. When questioned, he would politely decline to answer or
change the subject. Neither Sophie nor Mavis pushed him on this.

Finally, during the second month of his return, Mavis suggested that
they might travel to Kent to let him see how Neddy had grown.
Somewhat taken aback, Horatio had asked if perhaps Jacob might make
the trip to Portsmouth instead, saving them the trouble of the
journey with an infant.

"Well, yes, we could ask him here and I know that Mama would love to
see him again, but I've never seen where you grew up. And I know that
he wants to show off his grandson to his friends."

"Perhaps. But I prefer that Neddy not have to endure that trip. He's
so small, Mavis."

"He's not small, he's quite robust for a six month old and he's in
perfect health."

"I thought that Sir Edward was expected home shortly. I'm sure that
he's eager to see the baby. It would be thoughtless to not wait for
him, dearest."

Knowing that Horatio would come up with endless excuses, she let the
idea drop for the present, sending Jacob a letter of invitation for
the next week.

Later that night as they prepared to retire Horatio asked her if she
was annoyed at him for not wanting to travel to the village.

"No, I realize that the journey would be complicated by the baby.
It's fine, Jacob will likely come here, and you're right about Papa
coming home soon."

"But you're disappointed?"

"I'd like to see where you grew up, that's all."

"And you will, when the time is right. I promise."

She climbed in beside him, taking his hand. He turned on his side,
head in hand, his other still in hers resting on her stomach. "Are
you still worried about me? I am fine, you know. Being here with you
and Neddy has acted as a tonic."

"No, I know that you're strong. It was awful, but you'll put it
behind you." He raised her hand to his lips, nodding. "I'm sorry that
I wasn't here for you with Neddy. I thought about you with a big
belly and wanted to put my hands on you and feel him kicking. I had
dreams about that when we were away. I'm sorry that you had to do
that without me."

"I missed you desperately, but I had Mama and then your father was
here to help when Neddy came. He was wonderful with me. I kept
thinking that you would have been like that if you'd been able to be
here"kind and gentle and patient."

"I was so frightened for you. I was so afraid that there would be
problems and that you would be"that everything wouldn't be alright."

She kissed him so that he'd know she had been fine. He settled back
down with his head on her chest.

"I'm sorry, Mavis. We shouldn't be doing this. It would be too hard
on you to have another child so soon."

She leaned down to kiss the top of his head. "It will be alright. I
love you and I can never deny you anything. You know that."

"Yes, I know. That's why I shouldn't have done this tonight."

He kissed the hollow between her breasts, carefully moved to her
side, and cradled her against him spoon fashion.

"I'm fine. You worry too much, love."

She heard his quiet laugh. "You're not the first person to tell me
that. Good night, Sweeting."

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

Three days later Horatio was sitting in the favorite chair in the
conservatory when he heard a commotion coming from the front of the
house. Thinking that something might be wrong, he hurried to the
foyer.

Embracing Lady Sophie stood Sir Edward, resplendid in Commodore's
full uniform, minus only the hat and cloak.

Mavis was coming down the stairs at the sounds. Carrying Neddy who
she handed over to Preston, the happiness on her face matched that of
Sophie's. "Papa! Finally!" Pellew was transferred from one embrace to
another, equally heartfelt. Turning he saw Horatio standing slightly
apart, allowing the inner family their reunion.

Gently putting Mavis aside, he held out his hand to the younger man.
Wordlessly, they clasped hands, searching each other's faces. "Are
you all right, Horatio?"

"Yes, sir. I am."

Nodding, "Good."

A moment of silence them Sophie broke the quiet with, "Well! This
uniform needs a good brushing and you must be famished."

"First I believe that I would like to meet my namesake, if that might
be arranged, madam."

Taking the baby from Preston, Horatio passed him to Sir Edward.

"Well, you are a fine fellow, aren't you?" Neddy regarded him
steadily, curiously, his small fingers reaching up to Edward's face
and grasping his nose. Neddy's eyes were what everyone noticed first.
He had his father's eyes"large, dark, serious and looking
uncompromisingly out at the world. "There's no doubting who your
father is, now is there, Ned?"

Without warning the child burst out with a gurgle of laughter as
though the very idea was the silliest thing that he'd ever heard. His
hand slapping against Edward's face, his grandfather joined in the
joke.

"Well, this one makes it all worthwhile, doesn't it then?" Keeping
hold of the baby, Edward allowed himself to be moved into the
conservatory where he sat himself down in preparation for the ritual
series of questions that he knew from experience he would be expected
to answer from both his wife and daughter.

After assuring themselves that he was, indeed, just fine and that the
voyage had gone well"other than the awful business in the Indies"the
women allowed the two men to have the conversation that Edward was
obviously anxious for. Taking Neddy with her, Sophie kissed Edward
gently on the forehead. "I'm glad that you're back, dearest." "As am
I." Their shared smile was warm. "I'll leave you two alone then."

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

Sipping their brandies, the Commodore was the first to speak.

"I've heard that war is likely with France soon. Have you been
keeping up with current events?" To the point, as always.

"Yes, so far as I've been able. I thought so, too from the reports.
I've heard rumors that the military will be recalling halfpay
officers shortly."

Edward nodded. "Will you go? You'll receive that promotion
confirmation, you know. You'll likely be given a ship."

"I thought as much. Yes, of course I'll go." He hesitated. "Sir
Edward, you've been so solicitous of me and my career, but I must ask"
forgive me"but I really must ask that you do nothing to facilitate in
anyway a position for me with the Admiralty. I really must insist on
this."

Looking over at him, he agreed. "Yes, if that's what you wish, I'll
not lift a finger."

"Thank you, sir."

Another pause while they watched the ships below in the harbor. "That
was a nasty business with Renown, Horatio. You were lucky to come out
of it as you did. Guilty or innocent, you could easily have been hung
for your part in that."

Horatio looked into his glass, as though studying the contents. "If
it had come to it, would you have ordered my execution?"

"I honestly don't know. If I have thought you guilty, I think so, but
I knew that you were innocent and that you saved the ship and most of
the men aboard her. After I knew that, I only had to find a way to
allow you to be freed."

"I was guilty, you know. Technically. We did discuss how to remove
Sawyer from command. If Archie hadn't confessed, if he hadn't taken
the blame from the rest of us, the outcome would have been different."

Seeing that the young man was wanting more than was in his words,
Pellew answered the unasked question. "Sometimes you have to weigh
the reality of the situation against the regulations. Guilty of
discussing mutiny or not, the fact was that Sawyer was mad and you
were in an impossible position with him in command. For the good of
the ship and the men in her, he had to be removed. You did what you
had to do. As did Kennedy."

"Yes, I know thatthank you for allowing him to be buried at sea. He
would have appreciated that. I know that I did, and the men."

"I owed him that much."

"I wrote his family, but never heard back. I fear that their minds
are made up as far as he was concerned."

The companionable silence returned for a few minutes. "Everything all
right with you and Mavis?"

"Yes, it's good between us. It was difficult when I first returned,
but now it's fine. Neddy is wonderful. I had no idea that a baby was
so much fun." Horatio was openly smiling, the love for his son
obvious. They could hear the baby crying in another room.

"I wouldn't know, actually. When I married Sophie, Mavis was twelve
and ready to fall in love with you."

"Yes, so it seems. It took me a bit longer, but I get there."

"Yes, and not a minute too soon." Mavis walked around the corner to
where they were sitting. "Your son was crying for you, here you
are." Placing the crying infant in his lap, she pulled a hassock
over, sitting down in front of the men. Neddy had quieted almost
immediately and was happily pressing against Horatio's chest,
grabbing his fingers.

"Mama says that she's had a bath prepared for you and you're to go up
and let her have those clothes that you're wearing as she thinks that
they'll likely need attention."

Knowing the futility of even attempting to argue, he rose, nodded and
left to face his wife.

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

Later that night, bathed, fed and relaxed in bed, Sophie's voice
sounded in the darkened room.

"*Do* you think that you could have ordered his execution if it had
come down to it?"

"No."

She turned over to face him, sliding over so that she could kiss
him. "I knew that. I just wanted to hear you say it."

"I take it that you missed me, madam?"

Lying together, he embraced her tenderly. Kissing softly, exchanging
small endearments.

"I do love you, Sophie.

"And I you, dearest. It's so very good to have you home."

Through the wall they could hear the bed protesting in the next room.
In the late night silence they could near the cries and moans coming
from the younger couple. It continued for quite a while. Quite a long
while, in fact. Finally they heard what could only have been the
conclusion from both Mavis and Horatio.

"They do that every night, do they?"

"Well, yes, so far they have, I believe.

"Good God. How on earth do you sleep?"

"I've learned to turn a deaf ear, Edward."

"Good God."

They spoke quietly together of the last voyage, of the trial. Edward
asked questions about the baby and how Mavis had fared without
Horatio to help her. Sophie answered him calmly, occasionally
reaching to kiss his hand or shoulder or cheek.

Finally, "Good Night, Dearest." "Sleep well, Sweeting."

The bed on the other side of the wall began its protest again.
Laughing, they attempted to sleep.

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

Another fortnight passed with Sir Edward regaining his landlegs after
the troubles of the last voyage.

He spent the time in quiet pursuits, reading, letter writing, eating
well and talking with his family. He took great pleasure in Neddy,
transforming himself overnight into a doting Grandfather. Lady Sophie
had silently backed out of the room the day she came upon him on his
belly on the study carpet, dangling his gold watch and jangling fobs
for the baby's amusement, leaving the two at them to their game.

A week after that, war was declared with the new French Government.
There had been rumblings for weeks, of course, but they all knew that
this would mean the recall of all officers to active service. They
were at dinner when the dispatches arrived for each of the men.

After a quick first reading Horatio announced to the table that his
promotion to Commander was now approved and he had been assigned to
command Sloop of War, Hotspur.

"When Horatio?" Mavis' question was asked softly.

"We sail in ten days." She nodded, accepting.

Sophie looked down the table to Edward. "Well?"

"I'm to have the eastern Med fleet. I leave for Gibraltar as soon as
is feasible. I'll meet my ship there. It looks like I'm to have
Tonnant as flagship."

"Congratulations, sir. I'm attached to your fleet, it appears."

"Yes. I hope you don't mind that I requested you. I need someone
there I can count on for some work that we'll have to do. Perhaps
you'd be so kind as to provide me with transportation to my ship."

"Of course."

"Ten days isn't much time to prepare a vessel. You'll be busy. Have
you anyone in mind as a first?"

"Bush, if he's available. The Admiralty will know where to contact
him."

"I hope that you don't mind, but I though that you'd say that. I've
already made inquiries. He's on his way here from his family home."

Horatio looked at him for a second. "Thank you."

"We are pressed for time, Horatio. I thought it best and I was under
orders not to discuss the mobilization."

"Of course, sir."

"As one of the first ships to ready, you should have no problems
getting a decent crew, so that should be help.'

"Yes, I'll see what I can do about securing any of my old division
who might still be about."

And so the discussion about the fitting out went on, the men retiring
to the study to discuss the mission the Commodore had selected for
Hotspur. Horatio would leave early for the dock in the morning and
the next week and a half would be taken up with the needed prep work.

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

Much later Horatio went upstairs in search of his wife. He found her
leaning her arms on the edge of Neddy's cradle. Evidently she had
been there for sometime.

Silently approaching her, he put his arms around her waist from
behind. Leaning back she rested her head on his shoulder, her hands
on his at her waist.

"I'll be fine. You're not to worry about me."

"I know that you'll be all right and you know that I'll worry. Just
like Mama and Papa."

He kissed her neck.

"We still haven't had a chance to move into out own home. It's almost
finished, I wanted to surprise you with it."

"You will, when I come back."

He felt her head nod.

"Do you think that you're pregnant this time?"

"I don't know, maybe. With Neddy I knew the time that it happened.
This time I'm just not sure."

"Stay with your mother while I'm gone. I don't like to think of you
alone."

"You're alone."

"That's different, and I'm surrounded by men. I'll be fine, love.
Truly I will." She turned to face him. Nuzzling her throat he
added. "Yes." Taking his hand, they crossed the hall, knowing that
Nanny would tend to the baby if need be.

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

The time went quickly. The night before Hotspur was to leave there
was a small gathering at the Pellew home. Officer's from both Hotspur
and a few from Tonnant were there as well as some of the men whose
time had not yet come to leave or who were posted to shore stations.

Mavis and Sophie, acting as hostesses, stayed in the background. They
knew that this was a situation where the men were together to discuss
the business of a new war. Though Edward and Horatio would ask them
their opinions in private, here they knew their place.

Finally, the evening over, the guests gone to their homes or billets
or ships, the family retired for what would be a short night for them
all.

The sea chests had, once again, been packed and taken aboard, there
was nothing left to do other than wait to board in a few hours.

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

Horatio and Mavis were lying naked half sitting up against the
pillows along the headboard. Partly covered by the sheet, she was
curled into his shoulder, feeling him, his skin, and his warmth,
breathing in his smell.

They only had a short time left.

"I'll write you, you know that. And I'll send you pictures of Neddy.
I'll tell you all about him."

"He'll forget me. He's too young, he'll not remember."

"He will, I'll be sure of it. I'll read him all your letters and I'll
tell him about every mention in the Chronicle. He'll know you."

"This trip isn't like the last, you know that. There'll be no Sawyer
and I've my own ship this time. I'll be fine."

She slid her leg up across his, coming to rest against his genitals,
caressing him with her knee.

"Mama says that when you're married to a sailor, every time they come
home, it's like a honeymoon."

"Then we've something to look forward to." He kissed her.

His mouth nuzzling her neck, probably leaving a mark, he was the only
one allowed such a liberty.

 

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

He turned back from the open front door to kiss her once more.
Embracing, she felt the heavy uniform through her thin nightdress and
wrap. The brass buttons pressing into her.

After a moment, she let him go.

 

The End.