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 Three

 

After Mavis had left him along in the study, Horatio was torn as what
to do next. He desperately wanted to go to her, hold her and beg her
to forgive his stubborn stupidity. He wanted her completely. He
wanted to hold her and kiss her and .

He shook his head. He wouldn't. He refused to give in, he couldn't.

Looking up he saw that Sir Edward standing in the doorway.

"She's frightened for you, Horatio. That's why she's being so
difficult. You know that she loves you."

He nodded in a distracted sort of way. "Yes, I know that I." He
shook his head, unable to articulate what he wanted.

Edward crossed over to the sideboard and poured two glasses of
brandy. Handing one to Horatio he gestured for the young man to sit
with him by the fire.

"You want her and you'd probably like to marry her now but are afraid
to hurt her should something happen to you. Am I correct?"

He looked over at the older man who had been his teacher for
years. "Yes. I don't know what to do. I'd marry her tomorrow, with
your permission, but if I don't return, then she'd be left here and"
Again, words failed him.

"And might be left with a child to raise alone. Is that about the
size of it?"

Hornblower nodded without saying anything.

"Horatio, your concerns are laudable, but have you considered this
from her perspective?"

"Sir?" His eyes were on the father's face.

"Mavis has been in love with you since that first day she laid eyes
on you when she was a child in Gibraltar. In the years since what
first started as a childish crush has grown into the deep love of a
young woman for a young man. She has told me that you've said the two
of you will marry when you return from this next voyage, is that
correct?"

"Yes, it is, but."

"Might I make a suggestion?"

"Of course, sir."

"May I suggest that we take the opportunity of the Admiral's party
tomorrow night to announce your betrothal? This way you might each
have at least part of what you want. You will have a delay until your
return and Mavis will have her commitment from you."

Horatio thought for a moment. It did seem like a simple solution. If
he returned, that is. "Well, perhaps that would"

"Good. It's settled then. You might want to go find the girl. If I'm
to tell the assembled worthies tomorrow, then you should have an
acceptance from the bride to be, don't you think?"

Horatio didn't move. "Sir, if I may speak freely?"

"Of course you may, for the love of God. What's the problem?"

"Mavis, sirI fear that she may not accept a simple betrothal. I
think that she might insist on the actual ceremony before I leave."

Pellew looked into the fireplace for a long moment. " I think that
it's prudent to delay the marriage itself until you return. I agree
with that and I'll stand by it."

Horatio knew that it was because Sir Edward also feared for his
return. It seemed like a reasonable compromise.

"Thank you, sir. If you'll excuse me, I'll speak to Mavis." Rising he
left the room.

Edward remained where he was. If all went well with the voyage of
Renown, Horatio would be back in six months or so and the wedding
would be in the garden attended by a crush of friends. If Renown
experienced what both officers feared, well, then at least Mavis
would know that she had been loved and wanted by the man she adored.
And if she ended up pregnant, well, having Horatio father his
grandchild wasn't the worst thing that could happen.

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

They were up in her bedroom where he had found her. Mavis was sitting
on the edge of the bed, Horatio on one knee before her.

"Oh, yes! Yes." She put her arms around his neck and kissed his
cheek, his forehead, his chin, his eyelids and finally his mouth.

Breaking apart, laughing, he stayed her and said, "Now, you
understand that we will wait until I return before actually having
the ceremony. I really must insist on this, Mavis."

Instant tears came to her eyes as she thought of the reason for their
needed delay. "Yes, I understand." She kissed him again, differently
this time. Gently and tenderly. "We'll wait, if we must." He stroked
her cheek and she saw a small smile on his face.

"I do want us to be married. As soon as I return." His smile
broadened as he had another thought. "You'll have the entire voyage
to plan whatever you would like. It shall be wherever you wish."

"And I shall cause Papa to be glad to be rid of me after he sees in
what style we shall be wed." She laughed happily.

"You do realize that you are to marry a penniless Lieutenant? I shall
be hard pressed to keep you in any but the most basic of styles"

"Styles! We must invite himand Mr. Matthews and all of your
division. They're all such sweet men. We can, can't we?"

"Of course, if you would like them to be here, they shall be."

She looked at him thoughtfully, sadly. Her gay mood suddenly
gone. "You're not just doing this to make me happy, are you? You've
been saying all along that you think me too young to marry." She
looked down at her hands on his arms. "You will come back, won't you?
This isn't just some way to delay so that I'll forget about you and
perhaps find another?"

"Mavis, you know me well enough to know that I would never do such a
thing. I will return, my word on it. When I return you'll be that
much older. And we will marry." He tried his smile again. "You'll
grow quite tired of me and wonder why you gave in to my pleadings and
didn't wait for some rich Earl to come along for you."

"Yes, when I'm surrounded by twelve screaming brats all looking like
you and you're off to the South Seas, I shall curse you and the Navy
and Mama will tell me what a fool I was not to marry a fat, rich old
Duke."

He kissed her again, and again as they stood with their arms around
each other. Her hands stroked his back and his caressed her shoulders
and neck. "We're betrothed now, it's different."

"Mavisnothing has changed as far as that is concerned. I won't risk
leaving you with a child when I'm leaving so soon and I'm not sure"
He stopped.

"Not sure if you'll come back?" She stepped back, angry. "And I'm now
supposed to live with that thought for the next six months or a year
while you're out on that damned ship?"

"Mavis, be fair. You know that I'm a career Naval Officer. As is your
father. You must understand what that means for everyone involved."
She glared at him. "You see your mother and how she is affected by
the reality of this. If we are to marry, you can't think that I will
end my career."

" I know that, but there must be something that you can do other than
simply accept what even Papa says is a suicide mission for you."

"It's no such thing. And I'm sure that's not the phrase that he used
in any event."

Mavis looked down at the floor, contrite. Putting her arms around him
again and hugging him tightly she said, "Forgive me. I get carried
away sometimes and I shouldn't. I just know that I will miss you so.
Come, let's go tell Mama and Papa that you've asked and I've
accepted. I think that they're both downstairs."

What she didn't say was that the phrase `suicide mission' was exactly
the words that her stepfather had used to her mother.

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

The completely expected announcement to Mavis's parents went as one
would think. There were toasts from the Commodore and kisses and
embraces from the women. After the young people had retired back to
their favorite area of the conservatory, Edward and Sophie sat in the
study, quietly talking.

"She's so happy, Edward, they both are." She was positively basking
in the contentment of the two. They had both thought for years that
this day would come.

He looked so sad as he replied. "May she have reason to remain so."

Seeing his expression, she asked, "It's that serious with Renown?
Tell me the truth. Do you not think that he'll come back?"

"Dearest, I wish that I " He shook his head. "I fear that here will
be situations that no one will be able to control."

"She doesn't know?"

"I think that Mavis may suspect, but she won't want to believe that
it's as bad as it really is. The young always think that there will
be a happy ending."

Seeing the look on Sophie's face, he took her hand, bringing it up to
his lips. Kissing it he added, for her benefit. "Perhaps she'll be
right." His reassuring smile didn't reach his eyes, and his wife knew
that he didn't believe what he said any more than she did.

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

Preparations had been going on for weeks for the Admiral's annual
Birthday Dinner. All of the senior officers were expected to attend
along with their wives, if available. Mavis would, as always, go as
Commodore Pellew's lovely daughter and Horatio would be there as her
escort.

Sophie and Mavis had both chosen to use the occasion as an excuse for
new gowns and Horatio was easily pressured into having the two
missing buttons on his new dress uniform replaced. It was then
cleaned and pressed by Sir Edward's servants. A note sent to the
Admiral's good wife asking that the betrothal announcement be made
before the dancing began would, naturally, be gladly accommodated.

The next night the two couples were surrounded by the best and the
brightest of His majesty's Navy to be found in Portsmouth. The
Admiral and his wife both enjoyed entertaining and so spared neither
expense nor trouble to be sure that their festivities were the finest
around. An invitation to join them was considered a social triumph of
the first order.

The Pellew's and Horatio arrived at the stated time, the women
looking remarkably lovely in their new gowns, the men handsome and
elegant in their dress uniforms.

As always, the evening began with the usual round of greeting friends
and acquaintances, making small talk and catching up on the latest
gossip. Horatio was relieved to see both Archie and Mr. Bracegirdle
attending. Mavis seemed to know almost everyone in the room.
Countless officer's came up to her, begging to have dances promised
later when the music began. She politely demurred them all, all the
while keeping Horatio's arm firmly in her grip.

After half an hour or so, Mavis moved off to tell some of her friends
the news she couldn't possible keep to herself another five minutes
and Horatio wandered off with Archie and Bracey.

"So, I understand that you Renowns are off to keep the world safe for
from the Dons soon, eh?"

"Yes, next week we'll be away, Joss. Any idea where you and the
Commodore are headed this time?"

"No, I'm afraid not. You know that we're always kept in the dark, at
least us lowly Lieutenants are. I'll likely find out our destination
after we're halfway there, if I'm that lucky."

"You're still posted with Sir Edward then? You're a lucky man."

"Thank you, Archie. I know that I am. I've been with the man for
almost fifteen years now, and I'd sail another fifteen with him if
the Good Lord would allow it."

The two younger men smiled somewhat ruefully. Looking to see that no
one was nearby, Bracey continued. "You know, I once sailed with a
captain who had. problems. There were times when I questioned
whether we would see port again."

The other two looked at him closely. He knew.

Archie spoke up first. "And what did you do, Joss?"

"We did what we had to. We followed our orders, but we made sure that
the ship remained seaworthy and that the crew never knew that there
was any dissent among the officers. And we all did two other things.
We made sure that anytime an order was given, at least two officers
were present to hear it. That prevented any misunderstandings, you
see. And we kept journals. Detailed, private journals."

"Did anyone ever read these journals, sir?"

"Yes, Horatio. They were collected and read by an examining board at
the Admiralty when we returned. To clear up any possible questions as
to how things progressed on the voyage, you see." He smiled at
them. "Ah, I see Captain Cooper across the room, if you'll excuse me,
please, gentlemen. I'll look forward to us dining together shortly."
Nodding, he walked away.

Archie and Horatio looked at each other. Fine, it was a start. Others
knew.

The dinner, as expected, was excellent. The food was prepared as by
an artist and the wines were as perfect as could be hoped for. Mavis
and Horatio sat together at a table with Archie, Bracey and several
others along with two young ladies who Mavis was friendly with. The
talk flowed easily. The women were witty and bright, the men charming
and extravagant in their compliments. The toasts to both the King and
their host's birthday finished, the guests adjourned to the large
room for the dancing. Just as the orchestra leader was about to
start, the Admiral stepped up for several announcements.

There had been a number of prize ships brought in and there had been
several successful encounters against the Dons, he was happy to
report. He thanked everyone for being kind enough to join him this
evening and now, if they would please attend, Commodore Pellew would
like to say just a very few words regarding a personal matter.

Standing on the small platform that had been built for the musicians,
Sir Edward, resplended in full dress uniform, stood while the crowd
quieted.

"Ladies and Gentleman, it is with the greatest of pleasure that Lady
Sophie and I have the honor of announcing the betrothal of our dear
daughter, Mavis to Lieutenant Horatio Hornblower of His Majesty's
Ship Renown." Smiling and raising the glass he had been holding he
finished with "To the happy couple!", echoed by everyone in the room.

Horatio and Mavis, standing in the center of the crowd were
immediately swarmed with well-wishers. His back was slapped countless
times, his hand shaken and Mavis's cheeks were kissed so many times
that she began to fear they would begin to chap.

As the music started Horatio took her hand, leading her in a graceful
waltz to the approval of the other guests. As they started their
second circuit of the dance floor other couples joined in, the room
awhirl with flowing skirts and glittering military decorations.
Hundreds of candles lit the scene; hundreds of hothouse flowers
scented the air. Handsome men and their beautiful ladies danced and
laughed and managed to forget that they were at war.

It was a never to be forgotten night.

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

Later, after the last of the food had been eaten and the final bottle
of wine was gone. After their feet were too tired for even one more
dance and the candles were finally guttering, the party ended.

Back at the Pellew home Sir Edward made his customary check of the
house before retiring. He knew that the servants had already locked
up, but it was his nature to be cautious.

Seeing the study door ajar and the fire still burning low through the
crack, he quietly pushed into the room.

Standing before the fire were Horatio and Mavis, closely embracing
and kissing deeply. His coat was off, his cravat and waistcoat gone.
Pellew saw that her hands were actually inside of his shirt, which
was almost completely pulled free from his trousers, stroking his
back. He seemed to be returning the favor, but at least she still
appeared to be in her garments, although she had changed from her
heavy gown into a light wrapper. How long she would remain so was
anyone's guess.

They were completely unaware of being watched.

About to interrupt he thought better of it as he recalled a
conversation at the party. James Sawyer had approached him and Sophie
after the announcement, offering his good wishes to the young couple.
As he was about to wander off he had suddenly turned and, looking Sir
Edward directly in the eye had asked if a date had yet been set for
the marriage. Upon learning that it had not, being contingent upon
Horatio's return the Captain had smiled and then laughed. "Indeed?"

Sir Edward quietly closed the study door and left them alone.

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

"They're downstairs again, aren't they?"

"Yes, they're in the study."

"Studying what, might I ask?" Sophie was smiling at him as she patted
the bed beside her.

"Yes, quite." He climbed in next to her.

"Do you want to stop them, Edward?"

He spread his hands in a gesture of futility. "There's nothing that
they can't do if they decide to, you know that as well as I do.
Horatio is honorable and will be careful of her, I've no doubt."

"He's also a perfectly normal young man and a sailor about to leave
his young lady for months, if not longer. And Mavis will do whatever
he wantspossibly somewhat more, in fact."

Edward raised an eyebrow. "She's your daughter."

"And he's your officer."

He smiled at her, blew out the bedside candle and received no sleep
for another hour. Nor did Sophie.

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

"Mavis, enough." He was having trouble catching his breath as they
lay on the floor before the fire. Mavis had spread a throw and they
were fully reclined on it and each other.

She looked up at him. "You don't want to stop any more than I do."
She smiled slightly, knowingly.

"Of course I don't want to stop. I want to do what is right."

Her hands moved up to his back again, slowly stroking the skin up and
down his spine, each stroke bringing her hands down closer to the top
of his trousers, finally moving just under the waistband, pulling his
hips even closer against her. She could tell how much he wanted her.

He was kissing and nuzzling her neck and her throat. "Mavis, no."

"Why not, Horatio? We're betrothed. We love each other. We both want
each other." Her hands were moving between them to the buttons of his
trousers.

"You know why not." His mouth was down on her shoulder and moving
lower, the wrapper barely doing its job of coverage.

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

The buttons were now undone, as was Horatio.

His hands brushed against hers at his belly as he moved to gently
pull loose the gown's tie. He rolled her under him and began kissing
her in earnest. They could each feel the other's skin pressed and
rubbing against their own and the sensation was intoxicating. The
light from the fire illuminated the room enough for them to see the
expressions on their faces. Looking down at her and hearing her
breath coming as rapidly as his was, he pulled his face back just a
few inches.

"This isn't the way it should be with us."

"Horatio" She sounded exasperated.

"The first time for us shouldn't be on the floor here like furtive
youngsters. I don't want it be like this, afraid that someone will
walk in. Hurried and furtive like this."

"Oh, for God's sake." She was suddenly very angry, pushing him away
and pulling the robe tightly about her as she sat up. "I thought that
you loved me, that you wanted me. I thought that we both wanted this."

Pulling himself slightly together, he sat beside her, his arm about
her, pulling her head down onto his shoulder. Taking a deep breath to
steady himself he spoke quietly.

"Of course I want you, how could I not? I've wanted you since that
night at your parent's party when you woke me and I first laid eyes
on you and saw how you had grown and changed. It's been all I can do
not to take you here and now. You must know this."

He took her hand, placing it on his chest. Smiling he said, "Feel how
my heart is pounding." She began caressing the skin under her
fingers, her pique forgotten. "Mavis, please"

She looked up at him from his shoulder. "Did you know that my parents
expect that we'll end up doing this? I overheard them talking this
afternoon when they thought I was still in my bath. They're not all
that concerned. They think that it's normal."

The look on his face was one of amused disbelief.

"On my word, I swear that it's true. Papa was wondering if he should
say something to you to behave yourself and Mama told him not to be
silly, that we'd do whatever we wanted anyway. Then she said that we
loved each other and that it wasn't anything that they hadn't done
themselves."

He laughed softly. "That's not quite a seal of approval."

"They know that we'll be apart for a long time andHoratio, please.",
she finished quietly. She was speaking not as a child would who
wished for a denied sweet, but as a woman speaking to her lover.

He looked at her for a moment, making up his mind. Standing, he
quickly fastened his garments, gathering the discarded items. Then,
reaching his hand down, he pulled her to her feet. Tossing the throw
back on the couch and still holding her hand he led her out of the
room and up the stairs stopping only at her open doorway.

She looked at him sadly, thinking that he was about to bid her
goodnight when he pressed her inside. Still holding her hand he
moved in with her, closing the door behind them.