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 two

 

Now that Mavis and Horatio had a new understanding, things between
them seemed to move swiftly. Sir Edward and Lady Sophie allowed them
much more freedom than they previously had, although not nearly
enough to please Mavis. Breakfast this morning was not the quiet
interlude that could have been hoped for.

"Really, Papa. We were just reading aloud to each other. You're
blowing it entirely out of proportion."

"You were alone with a man who is not your husband, after midnight,
lounging on a bed with the door closed. I most certainly am not over
reacting, young lady, and you will do well to remember that."

"Mama! Speak to him. Please!"

"Well, you won't get him to propose by trying to force his hand, if
that's the game you've decide to play."

"I'm planning nothing of the kind. He's already told me that he won't
marry until this next voyage is finished, at the earliest."

"Mavis, I do think that you could at least keep the door open. Why on
earth don't you simply go down to the study or the conservatory?
Those rooms are perfectly comfortable. And it was quite late,
darling."

"Mama! Really. Horatio's leave ends in just a week and a half and
then we won't see each other for months, if not longer. We were just
searching out some privacy."

Sophie and Edward exchanged looks across the table. The child was
right. She would be separated from Horatio for a long time when he
left. In all honesty, there was nothing that they couldn't do if they
chose to. Mavis was young, but she was no child and Horatio was a
grown man.

They looked up as Horatio walked into the room. He was wearing shore
clothes, a light gray pair of trousers and a dark red waistcoat over
his white shirt. "Good morning, Sir Edward, Lady Sophie. Forgive my
being late this morning, I fear that I overslept somewhat." His eyes
fell on Mavis with a small smile. "Good morning."

She glowed at his entrance, a look not lost on any of the other
people present.

"It's quite alright, Horatio. We just sat down ourselves. Have you
any plans today, Edward?" He had begun to look at some official
papers and was starting to be lost to them.

"I've a meeting with the Port Admiral at ten. After that I believe
that I'm free for the rest of the day. What are you up to, my dear?"
His answer was spoken vaguely.

She looked over at him calmly. "I was planning to see about the
redecorating. I've been informed that the fabrics Mavis and I chose
for the study and the master bedroom are now unavailable for some
reason. I need to pick something else."

"I'm sure that whatever you chose will be a triumph."

She looked at him wryly. "I'm glad that you think so."

Mavis looked across the table to where Horatio was just starting on
his food. "Would you like to take a walk after we eat? It looks like
the bad weather has left us for now. We could see your Renown. I
would very much like to be able to imagine your surroundings after
you leave, then could picture your berth and where you eat your meals
and write your letters"

Not meeting her look, Horatio answered, "A walk would be pleasant,
but I fear that we won't be able to go out to the ship. Captain
Sawyer dislikes visitors unless they are there on Navy business. You
could see her from the quay, though, if you would like that." She
nodded at him.

Edward noticed the awkward hesitation in Horatio's answer. It was a
Captain's prerogative, of course, but it was common to allow family,
especially of officers aboard when a ship was at anchor. He had
certainly never seen any harm in it. It seemed to give loved ones
something to hang onto after their men were away. He would ask
Horatio about it later.

"Have you heard where Renown is bound for this time?"

""No, sir, not a word. It could be anywhere from the Med to the
Indies and beyond. I suspect that the Captain will open his orders
after we're away."

Pellew nodded. Yes, that was another common thing. Secrecy was the
military's stock in trade. He'd nose about at the Port Admiral this
morning and see what he could learn. There seemed to be something
about the entire voyage that made him uncomfortable.

A few minutes later, breakfast finished, Sir Edward and Lady Sophie
left for the business they each had in town. Horatio was in the guest
room when Mavis walked, neglecting to knock.

"Are you ready to go? I would really very much like to see the ship,
even if it is only from a distance."

He was just getting his coat on. "Yes, of course, Mavis. We can leave
if you're ready."

She crossed the floor to where he was standing. "You'd rather not go,
wouldn't you?"

He gave her a small smile. "No, it's fine. I know that you want to."
She took his hand.

"There's something very wrong with the ship, isn't there? I heard you
and Papa talking the other night. He's afraid that there will be
problems with this voyage. He told Mama that he's worried for you."

He looked at her, knowing that lying would be pointless. She was both
too intelligent and too well connected to be taken in for long.
Besides, he was basically an honest man. Horatio sat on the edge of
the bed, pulling Mavis to sit beside him, their hands still joined,
his eyes fixed on their entwined fingers.

"I know that you're concerned about me. I wish that I could speak
with you about it, but I can't. I wish that I could, but it's
impossible."

"So it is dangerous, then."

"I'll be fine, I don't want you fretting. We'll do our job and return
when we're finished. Just like always."

She played with his hand, turning it over, rubbing the skin,
smoothing the fingers then curling them around her own.

Horatio continued. "And we'll write, just like always, but now we'll
have more to talk about." He smiled at her as he lifted her chin and
kissed her. She returned the kiss and he felt that her cheeks were
wet. He kissed the tears off as her hands went around his neck,
pulling him very close. Their kisses were becoming more intense,
deeper and their breath was starting to come faster. His hands were
beginning to caress her and they were about to fall back onto the
mattress when he pulled back from her just enough to speak.

"No."

"My parents won't be home for hours."

"I'm leaving in less than a fortnight. I won't risk leaving you
pregnant."

"We can get married this week."

"No. I told you that I wouldn't until this voyage is over."

She looked straight at him. "Because you might not return?"

There was a hesitation as he though of how to say what he needed to
have her understand.
"I'm an officer stationed on a Ship of the Line during wartime.and"

"And you don't want me grieving if you're killed. Is that what you
want to say? God, Horatio. Whether we're married or not, should
anything happen to you, you know that I would grieve. What difference
would marriage make as far as that is concerned?"

"Mavis"

"I know that you will be in danger. When you were in prison I could
think of nothing else. When Papa is at sea I know how Mama is. She
waits. She goes about her daily chores and errands, but what she
really does is wait for word from him. I know what that is like."

"I don't want to put you through that. Don't you see that?"

"Whether you marry me or not, I go through it."

He stood up, standing over her as she looked up at him. Shaking his
head to himself he said, quietly, "I can't do this to you. I
shouldn't have come here, I should have stayed on the ship."

Her face was still and her back was rigid. Her eyes focused on the
carpet at her feet. "You don't think that you'll come back, do you?
You think that you'll be killed. That's why you won't get married
until you get back."

Horatio said nothing. There was nothing that he could say. She
continued, her voice matter of fact.

"I don't care. I`m your wife whether we're married or not and I'll be
your widow if you're killed whether I wear your ring or not."

"At sixteen."

"My age doesn't matter. I've loved you since I was eleven. My parents
thought that it was cute, that I would out grow it." She snorted in
disgust. "They didn't believe that I could really know what I wanted
when I was that young. But I knew then and I know now. I want us to
be together when we can and I want your children."

Horatio was unsure how to react to her declaration. They had yet to
exchange revelations of their feelings for each other, obvious though
they were. He had never thought that he would hear such words from a
woman, and"sixteen or not-- woman she was.

"Mavis. I I'm not sure what to say to you. I know that our feelings
for each other are deeper than they were and they have become more
mature. Your parents have given their permission for us to court, but
I can't marry you now. I simply can't and I'll not hurt you by
forcing myself on you."

"You wouldn't hurt me if it's what we both want." She rose from where
she had been sitting on the bed and crossed over to where he was
standing by the window. Her hand was on his arm.

"Can you honestly say that you don't want me?"

Looking down at her he shook his head. "You know that I would take
you now if I thought thatevery night since I've been here, it's been
all I can do not to go to your room."

"I've lain in there wishing you would open the door and come in."

"No."

"Horatio"

Taking her hand he pulled her towards the door. "Come with me. We
said that we would walk down to the harbor. Let's go. I'll show you
Renown."

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

Sir Edward and Lady Sophie were returning from their errands in town
as the carriage passed Horatio and Mavis on their walk. Deciding not
to bother them, they passed the younger couple by without stopping.

"How dangerous is the new assignment that's been given to Renown,
Edward?"

"It's no more or less dangerous than most. That's not where the
problem will lie, I fear."

"Can you tell me your fears, dearest?"

Pellew hesitated, he knew that he shouldn't tell Sophie what truly
concerned him, but he knew that she worried for Horatio and for how
any loss would affect Mavis.

"I fear that Renown is a troubled ship. Her officers and her men seem
to have no faith in each other and I've seen that there are several
camps of divided loyalty onboard. It seems that the Captain isof the
belief that his officers are not to be trusted and has conveyed this
belief to the crew. It puts them into a difficult position."

"James Sawyer? But he's always been so supportive of his men. That
doesn't sound like him. And you know better than I that Horatio is as
trustworthy as the day is long."

"Yes, he certainly always has been so."

"Edward! Are you having second thoughts about him? I can hardly
believe"

"No, dearest, of course not. What I fear is that he will find himself
placed in a situation from which there may be no simple solution."

"You think that he might not return?"

"I pray God that I'm wrong. I've even tried to inquire as to a
transfer for him, but I'm afraid that there's no way to force it
without questions being asked at this late date. They sail in less
than a fortnight. I'd need a very good reason to have an experienced
Lieutenant pulled from his ship and replaced now. And I doubt if
Horatio would accept it anyway."

"Does Mavis know any of this?"

"I doubt if he would have told her."

"If anything should happen to him, she will take it very hard,
Edward. You know that. When she found that he had been taken
prisoner, I feared that she would never leave the house for fear of
missing the post, well, other than to haunt the Port Admiral. And
then she was still a child, now she's truly in love with him."

"I know that. do you think that he loves her? He's so reserved that
I wonder. Might he still see her as a youngster with a childish
infatuation?"

"Are you suggesting that he's toying with her?"

"No, not that. I'm merely wondering if the depth of her feelings are
returned."

"He did ask your permission to court her."

"Yes, he did."

"You don't think he's merely trying to form an alliance with you or
some such thing, Edward, do you?"

"I don't think so, no, but I wonder why a twenty-four year old man
would be attracted to a sixteen year old girlbeyond the obvious."

"Really, dearest. You've known Horatio for years, do you think him
capable of such a thing?"

"I don't want to think so. But you know as well as I that an alliance
with me will be advantageous to his career. And he is nothing if not
ambitious."

"If you think that of him, why did you agree to his courting Mavis?"

He hesitated while he looked out the carriage window. They were
arriving at the house. "Because, in fact, I don't think that he would
ever do that. It's just something to consider."

The carriage stopped and they were about to disembark when Sophie
said,

"Edward, you're borrowing trouble."

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

"Renown is larger than Indefatigable, isn't she?"

"Renown is a 74, Indy is a 44."

"So she'll have many more men, too, I'd imagine."

"Yes, over seven hundred."

Mavis turned and looked at Horatio, standing straight and tall next
to her, their arms linked. Staring at the ships at anchor, he had an
unreadable expression on his face.

Finally she realized what it was. "You hate that ship. It's written
all over your face. You do, you hate it and you fear it. What, in the
name of God is wrong with her? What frightens you about sailing on
her?"

He attempted a smile. "Mavis, you're imagining things. I don't fear
the ship. Good God, I live on that ship and have for over two years.
She's my home."

"You may live on her, but she's no home to you."

Just as he was about to answer they heard a voice behind them. "Mr.
Hornblower, you're not due back for over a week yet. Feeling
homesick, were you?"

Horatio disengaged his arm so that he might salute. "Good morning,
sir. Might I have the honor of presenting Miss Mavis Pellew. Mavis,
Captain Sawyer of Renown."

"Ah, Miss Pellew, I had the pleasure of making your acquaintance the
other evening at your parents dinner party. I had a lovely time and
have been quite remiss in thanking your gracious mother for being so
good as to include me."

"You're very kind to say so, Captain."

"Mr. Hornblower, I hadn't realized that your friendship with the
Pellew family extended to the next generation. How clever of you to
be so bold."

The implication of an alliance of convenience was obvious, though
outwardly the two young people both kept their composure. "Miss
Pellew and I have been friends for a number of years, sir. We often
exchange letters when I'm at sea."

Smiling sweetly, Mavis added, "I think of Horatio as an older
brother, Captain. He's always been so kind to me."

"How very pleasant for you both. Enjoy the remainder of your leave,
Lieutenant. Good Day, Miss Pellew." Sawyer boarded the tender that
was waiting to take him back to Renown. As they watched him go, Mavis
turned to Horatio. "What a horrid man."

Mildly Horatio answered, "He's my Captain, Mavis."

"I don't care who he is. He's a terrible man and I think that he
dislikes you very much. He's dangerous."

Knowing that she was right, Horatio said nothing but instead
suggested that they retire to a nearby tearoom for some refreshments.
Grudgingly changing the subject, Mavis agreed.

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

"Papa, he's absolutely the most awful man. He practically came out
and said that Horatio was courting me so as to advance his career.
There must be something that you can do."

They were in Pellew's study, Horatio was upstairs bathing and Sophie
was overseeing the dinner. "Now, Mavis, you know that I really can't
say anything against a fellow captain without reason. Simply not
liking a man is hardly just cause."

Well, can't you have Horatio transferred? Request him back to
Indefatigable. You'd love to have him with you again. You know that
you would."

"No, absolutely not. First of all, he's too close to sailing on
Renown to leave without causing all sorts of problems for everyone
involved and secondly, that would be a large step backwards for him
He'd be sure to see it as some sort of discipline without knowing
what he'd done to warrant it."

"You'd probably be saving his life."

"That's something of an exaggeration, don't you think, my dear?"

"Papa. You think that I'm being foolish, but I swear that he dislikes
Horatio for some reason. He'll be terrible to him. I truly think that
he'll be in danger."

"I'm sure that he'll be just fine. Simply disliking someone is hardly
a death sentence. Horatio is more than capable of taking care of
himself. You're not to worry." He kissed her cheek. "I worry more
about the two of you down here alone in the middle of the night."

She had the good sense to blush and look suitably
embarrassed. "You've less to worry about with Horatio that with any
other of the men I know." Smiling, she left to see if Horatio was
ready for another game of chess.

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

After dinner Edward went out to the conservatory, looking for the two
young people. Somewhat surprised, he found Horatio alone in the large
chair, quietly watching the ships below. There was only a single
candle burning.

"Am I disturbing you, Horatio?"

He gave a small smile. "No, of course not. Please join me."

"No Mavis?"

"She and Lady Sophie are looking over gowns for the Admiral's
birthday next week."

"Good. I wanted to talk to you alone." Horatio gave his full
attention.

"Yes, sir?"

"Mavis is worried that Sawyer is predisposed against you. She fears
for you. Is she correct?"

"Sir EdwardI can hardly"

"Oh, stow that. Is the man after your hide or isn't he? Between you
and me, in this roomis there reason for concern?"

He looked down at his ship at rest. "God, I hate this. Yes. He seems
to think that I'm trying to take his command and that I'm a threat to
him somehow, personally."

"How far will he go?"

"God only knows. When he's rational, he's fine. When he's having one
of his episodes, he's capable of anything."

Edward sat back in his chair, his hands clasped before him. "So you
are in danger on that ship."

Horatio spoke in a low voice. Obviously he'd given this thought. "And
I can't request a transfer. He'd refuse it. Even if he didn't,
there's no circumstance under which he'll allow my division to leave
with me and I can't just desert them. We've been together for seven
years. Plus they're marked with my stench as far as the Captain is
concerned."

"Will he try to have you killed? Is he that bold, or that mad?"

Hornblower nodded in the half darkness. "If he thinks that he can get
away with it, he might."

Edward's response was barely breathed aloud. "Dear God. So this is
why you won't ask for Mavis' hand until you return."

Horatio looked over at him, saying nothing.

They heard a sound behind them. Mavis came around the corner. Looking
directly at Horatio she was angry. "So it's true and you wouldn't
admit to me that you're in danger. And you're just going to board
that ship next week as though nothing is wrong and you know that you
might not come back."

"Mavishow could I"

"You go to Hell." She turned and ran out, obviously in tears. Edward
spoke calmly. "You should go after her. She's frightened for you."

"Yes." Sounding resigned, the young man rose and walked off to find
her, leaving the Commodore alone.

She hadn't gone far, just to the study, probably hoping that he'd
follow her. He quietly closed the door behind him. She was crying.

"Mavis. I couldn't tell you. I didn't want you to worry about me.
There's' nothing to be done about it and you know that I'll be fine.
I'll be back in a few months and we can discuss our future then. I
want to, you know. I want us to be together."

"How can we be if that maniac is trying to kill you? At sea he can do
anything he wants."

"At sea there will be seven hundred men watching him. He'll be
careful, as will I. If I just do my job, I'll be fine."

"I don't believe that any more than you do."

He moved behind her, putting his hands on her shoulders, gently
squeezing and ribbing the tense muscles there. She leaned back into
him, her hands coming back to hold his hips. He pressed closer, his
arms around her waist. He kissed the nape of her neck and she turned
to face him, their arms still around each other.

"Don't go."

"I have to."

"Horatioplease."

"You know that I have no choice. I'll be all right. I promise that I
will. As soon as I return we'll be married. You've my word on that."

"I want us to be married now, before you go. Please, Horatio."

"Mavis, what possible difference can it make?" She looked at him as
though he were speaking a foreign language. She spoke patiently to
him, as though explaining the most obvious fact in the world.

"The difference is that I want to be your wife, I want to sleep
beside you and have your children. You know that."

"And after I return you shall have all of these things."

"If you return. I heard what you said to Papa. You think that it's
likely that you'll be killed. I want to have you now."

He looked down at her, kissing her forehead as he thought of his
response. In truth, he would marry her that very day if he could, but
feared the consequences if he didn't return, which seemed
increasingly likely. He had no money to leave her and if she were to
bear a child there would be hardship for her. True, her parents were
well endowed, but he would never presume to impose his problems on
them, even though she was their daughter.

But, God! He wanted her. He longed to hold her against him and to
make love to her. He ached with it. At night, it was all that he
could do to stay on his side of the door.

Her hands were inside his coat, working their way under his
waistcoat, closer to his bare skin. His breathing was starting to
come faster and his own hands were moving over her with more and more
intent, holding her tightly, clenching her skin through the fabric of
her bodice. They were kissing each other roughly, as though trying to
somehow merge themselves together.

"Mavis. Stop this."

"Why? Because you're afraid that I'll become pregnant? What do I
care? That's what I want. I've told you that."

"When I get back. Not now. No."

She dropped her hands and pulled back from him. His own arms relaxed
their hold, though his hands still rested on her hips. She didn't say
anything, just stood there, looking at some point about his
breastbone.

"Will you wait for me to get back?"

She nodded, still not meeting his face, turned and left the room.