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 Seven

 

The dinner was as awkward as any the Pellew's could remember.

Sophie and Mavis trying to keep up a steady stream of conversation
with Sir Edward doing his part to keep things rolling while the two
Hornblower's maintained a mutual silence--- at least between
themselves. Jacob did his level best to respond to the questions that
came his way and to enter into the conversation and to contribute to
it. Horatio, however, was hard pressed to put more than two words
together in a sentence. He seemed to be studying his father, much as
a scientist would study a specimen under a microscope---watching his
reactions to the talk and his surroundings. Even Mavis could barely
get a smile from him.

Finally after the cheese had been served, Edward suggested that they
adjourn to the parlor for a hand or two of whist.

"That would be a treat, Sir Edward. Horatio, do you still play as you
used to?"

"I'm afraid that I haven't time this evening, sir. If you'll excuse
me, I've much to do with the wedding so close."

By now becoming fed up with his recalcitrance, Mavis
interrupted. "But Horatio, I'd be happy to take care of whatever you
have to do. I'm sure that you'd enjoy a game with my parents and your
father. You're so good at whist." She smiled sweetly ay him, all
innocence.

"I believe that you asked me to help you with some of your lists
earlier, did you not?"

"I can take care of them. You go ahead and play. I'll be fine."
Kissing his cheek, she left him alone with the other three.

"Well, then, shall we move to the other room?"

Reluctantly and with no real choice, Horatio joined the others in one
rubber before begging off, pleading complete exhaustion.

After he had left the room, his father sagged into his chair. Sophie
had started to make apologies for the young man, mentioning how
hectic the week had been and that he would be leaving so very soon
after the wedding. Jacob cut her off. " No, you're very kind, Lady
Sophie, but I fear that Horatio hates me now as he has for years. I
must beg your forgiveness for bringing discord to your home at what
should be a happy time for you all. We have never been close and I
fear that he sees me as a stranger, or worse. I doubt that the breech
between us will ever be mended. It's gone on too long and is now too
wide to span"

"That doesn't sound at all like the young man I know, Doctor." Edward
looked genuinely confused. "I've never met anyone so fair minded as
he is. I can't believe that he would carry a grudge as you say, no
matter what the cause might have been."

"This evening's proof to the contrary."

"Might there be anything that we could do to help, sir?"

"Lady Sophie, you're very kind, but"

"Sophie, please. I'm not just asking for your benefit. Mavis will
need all the support possible after his ship leaves on Monday. If she
is forced to carry the weight of your estrangement, I know that it
will be more difficult for her. I am thinking of her as well as you
and Horatio."

"Yes, of course you are." He managed a wan smile at her. "Forgive me,
but she is quite young, isn't she?"

"She's sixteen."

"And Horatio is now twenty four. Eight years. That's the same age
difference which existed between Horatio's mother and myself." He
seemed gone away in his own thoughts for a few moments. "We were so
very happy. And then after Horatio was born, I could hardly believe
my good fortune."

Edward spoke quietly. "He's mentioned his mother to me once or twice.
I understand that they were very close. I don't believe that he is
over her loss even now."

"No, I'm sure that he's not. They were so very alike, not so much in
looks as in temperament. He could have been her reborn." He looked
over at his hosts. "You see, that's why I sent him away to school for
those years. I couldn't bear to have him about. It was like living
with her ghost. I simply couldn't bear it."

"But surely after a while you wished to have him back with you,
Jacob."

"Yes, of course. I finally left my depression to realize that I
missed him dreadfully. I had him sent for. When he returned he was no
longer the child he had beenalways laughing, full of smiles and
teasing. He was a quiet solemn child who rarely smiled and preferred
books and solitude to the company of family or friends. I blame
myself for that."

"Would you like a brandy, Jacob? I'd very much like to hear what
might be done to help the situation."

"Thank you. Yes, perhaps we might arrive at a solution together."

Edward moved over to the sideboard to pour, preparing to settle in
for a long spell.

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

"Horatio, how could you be so horrid to him? He's come all the way
from Kent to see us marry and you barely said two words to him."

He looked at her, wanting the whole subject to simply disappear. "I
loath him as he loathes me."

She had never seen his face so set or so angry. She wouldn't have
thought him capable of such feelings for someone who he should be
close to. "But, why?" He was sitting on the edge of the bed, jaw
clenched and obviously angry.

"We've always beenhe's never. Mavis, I've never had a father and
don't need one now."

She knelt before him, looking up at his face, her hands lightly
resting on his knees. Reaching, she put one hand on his cheek,
sliding it down to his neck. He could have been carved from stone.

"What did he do to make you feel this way?" He didn't answer her,
just sat there, unmoving. "Please, tell me. How can I understand if
you won't explain it?" He looked down at her, weighing his options.
He knew that she wouldn't give up until she had her answer.

"He blames me for my mother's death. He has since the day she died.
Two weeks after her funeral he sent me away to school. I was kept
away for over ten years. Two days after I finished school and had
finally, finally gone home, I was informed that a position had been
found for me on Justinian Justinian! I left three days later and
haven't returned since."

"But why would he blame her death on you?"

He took a breath and turned his head to look out the window,
remembering. Turning back to her he spoke in a monotone. "There was a
fever that had gone through the village. Father was busy tending his
patients. I was told to stay home so that I wouldn't get sick. I went
to a friend's house to play anyway. Daniel had gotten sick. Two days
later, I had it, too. Mother nursed me. She caught it from me. I
lived, she died."

"But you didn't mean to"

"The day she died I heard him talking in the next room. He said, I
still remember this exactly. He said, "It's the fault of that
Goddamned child. She'd still be alive if not for that brat."

"But he was upset, you have to know that."

Horatio just looked at her coldly, refraining from replying.

"How old were you when she died?"

"Six."

"God, Horatio, I had no idea." She laid her head on his thighs, her
arms around his waist. "I'm sorry. We didn't know." His hands went to
her head and her back, lightly holding her. He moved his hands under
her arms, lifting her up and pulling her with him as he lay back onto
the bed, embracing her.

"I know that you didn't. I know you and your mother were trying to
surprise me."

"Please don't be angry."

He smiled at her, sadly. "No, not with you, never." He kissed her,
and then sighed. " It's only two days. It will be all right. I'm
sorry for how I acted in front of your parents, I'll speak to them
tomorrow."

"He didn't mean it, I'm sure. He had just lost his wifehe wasn't
thinking clearly."

Horatio's wall had gone up between them. He pulled away from her just
enough to establish a distance and closed his eyes.

"Mavis, after this, after he leaves, I'll not see him again.
Understand this."

She knew that he meant every word he said.

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

An hour later Horatio walked into the study in search of either of
the two older Pellew's. He had intended to apologize to them about
his behavior at dinner and afterwards.

He found, instead, his father sitting by the fire with a book. Jacob
looked up at his entrance.

"Forgive me, Father. I didn't intend to disturb you. I was looking
for Sir Edward." He started to leave.

"He just left to find Lady Sophie. Horatio, I wish that you would
stay." His son looked at him with no emotion, as though accosted on a
street by some urchin. Finally he decided to respond.

"Father, I realize that you see this as some sort of rapprochement,
but to be honest, I do not. I've no desire to hurt your feelings, but
we both know that we may as well be strangers and, I have no desire
to alter that fact."

"I've always wanted your happiness, son, I wish that you would
believe that. I wish for your happiness now with your young lady. She
is charming. Do you know how like your mother she is?"

Horatio simply looked at him mildly, as though he were a teacher
giving a boring lecture barely worth listening to.

"If you'll excuse me, I was looking for Sir Edward."

"Wait, please. Won't you even sit with me for a few minutes? You're
my son. I would like us to"

"To what, Father? Be friends?"

"Would that be so terrible?"

Horatio again looked at Jacob as though he were something, to be
pitied. "You sent me away when I was six years old. You kept me away
for ten years and then you sold me off to the Navy as cannon fodder.
In the eight years since then you've written me three times. You
couldn't even manage a note when I was released from prisonyou did
know that I was captured, didn't you?"

Jacob was looking at the carpet, unable to meet his son's eyes and
the anger there. "Yes, the Admiralty informed me that you had been
taken prisoner and later that you had been set free by the Spanish
Government for valor."

"Did they tell you that I had been tortured?"

The doctor looked at him in horror. Horatio continued, as emotionless
as before. "No? In hindsight, it was an interesting experience. Not
one I would recommend, though."

"Horatio, please. I want to heal the breach between us."

His son was about to retort when Mavis came into the room. Neither
man had heard her approach. "I would like you to do so, very much."

Horatio turned to her. Calmly and clearly he said, "This doesn't
concern you, please don't involve yourself here."

"Of course it involves me. It concerns you and everything about you
matters to me."

"MavisI would like you to please leave."

"No. Not until you agree to attempt to meet your father at least half
way. If he's to become the grandfather of our child, he has every
right to be part of our family, whether you think so or not."

"When that time comes, we can address it."

"It might be here now, and you know that as well as I do."

Seeing the look on Jacob's face, Horatio went white with anger. His
voice under tight control he said, "That's enough, Mavis. You've said
too much. Leave this room immediately."

Knowing she had truly angered him, she ran out of the room,
disappearing around the corner of the hallway.

"So this marriage is occurring because you've gotten that girl
pregnant? Is there nothing that you won't do to escape your past?"

"What the Hell are you talking about now, Father?"

"You impregnated that young girl so that you could marry into a
powerful and wealthy family which will advance your career for her
sake. Are you so ambitious that you'll stoop to that?"

Furious, Horatio maintained his outward calm. "Believe whatever you
want. If you choose to stay for the wedding, have the courtesy to
stay away from me." He turned and walked out, leaving his father
looking into the fire.

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

Moving quickly down the hall to find Mavis he first encountered Sir
Edward coming towards him.

"What is going on? Mavis is collapsed in tears in the conservatory
with Sophie and says that you wish to call off the wedding. What have
you two quarreled about?"

"I don't want to cancel anything. I'm just going to look for her."

"See that you straighten this out." It was Edward in command mode.

"Yes, sir, I will."

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

He heard the crying before he entered the room. Sophie was murmuring
comforting words and Mavis was responding. He couldn't make out the
words, but the intent was clear.

As he got closer he could begin to understand the conversation, or
parts of it.

Between the sobs and gulps for air he could make out, "Mama, he was
so angry. I've never seen him angry before. He told me to leave; he
wouldn't even talk to me. He hates me now, I know that he does."

"Dearest, you know that Horatio loves you. He's upset, that's all.
You'll see."

"Oh. Mama, it was so awful."

Lady Sophie saw him standing near them. Gesturing, he came closer.
Sophie kissed Mavis' head and gently transferred her to Horatio's
arms, moving quietly out of the room and leaving them alone.

"Mavis, can you forgive me? I'm so terribly sorry. I never meant to
upset you. Never. Please, stop crying."

She continued weeping, more quietly, but still copiously. "Dearest,
please, don't. I'm so very sorry that I've caused this. Please."

She tightened her arms around him, still crying but slowing reducing
the sobs to mere hiccups. Her head was against his chest and he began
stroking her hair. "I'm so sorry. You had no way of knowing what was
between my father and me. I should never have allowed him to anger me
as I did. I took it out on you and I was wrong. Please forgive me.
Please." He was kissing her, using his thumbs to carefully wipe the
tears from her cheeks.

"No. I was the one who was pushing you two together. I didn't know
that you didn't get along. It never occurred to me that anyone
wouldn't get long with you."

He kissed her and started laughing. "What's wrong?" She looked up at
him somewhat mistily. "That has to be the wettest kiss I've ever
experienced."

She gave a slight laugh and a rather damp smile.

"Were you serious about him being a grandfather? But it's too soon to
know, isn't it?"

"Yes, it's too soon. We can't possibly begin to think on it for at
least several weeks and we can't be sure for probably a couple of
months."

"You must write me the instant that you know either way. You must
promise that."

"Would you be terribly disappointed if I'm not?" She seemed afraid of
his answer.

"If you're not then we'll have to keep trying, won't we?" He still
had his arms around her and was holding her closely to him.

She pressed her face against his shirt as she asked quietly, "Could
we go upstairs and try some more now?"

He smiled. "Whatever you wish, Sweeting."

She turned to look up at him. "That's the first time you've ever
called me that."

"It won't be the last."

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

Preston entered the study where Sir Edward was speaking with the
Doctor. "Forgive me, Commodore, but this was just delivered for the
Lieutenant. I believe that he has retired for the evening. I thought
that it might be important."

"Thank you, Preston. I'll see that he gets it. If you'd like, you may
as well tell the staff that they should go to bed themselves. I don't
think that we'll be needing anything else tonight."

Nodding and bowing slightly, he left the room, pulling the door
closed behind him

Edward looked at the sealed note. He had immediately recognized
Bracegirdle's handwriting on the back. Obviously it was the response
to Horatio's request. Well, it could wait until morning. He turned
his attention back to Jacob. The two of them were in the familiar
leather chairs before the fire. Edward wondered how many times he had
sat here, talking with friends, sipping brandy as they were doing
now. He and Horatio had passed many a pleasant evening there.

"I cannot apologize enough for the discord my being here has caused,
Edward. I fear that the hurt I caused my son is too deeply ingrained
for him to forgive our past. I wish that weren't the case."

"I'll speak to him in the morning. I don't know that I'll be able to
get through to him, but I'll make the effort."

"Well, I can only wish you luck, but he's as stubborn as the day is
long."

"Jacob, I don't wish to pry, but what has caused this breach? I know
that you sent him away after his mother passed on, but how is it that
you never reunited?"

"He was only six when she died. I was distraught and couldn't bear
the thought of him being underfoot. When I was ready to have him
back, when I could cope with having a child about, he had already
turned against me. He believes that I blame Louisa's death on him."

"Did you? Do you?"

"At first I did. I needed to blame someone and he was handy and
unable to defend himself. I said things I regret with all my heart.
He has never forgotten nor forgiven them."

"How long was it before you wanted him back in your home?"

"Almost three years. By then he hated me. When he came home he would
spent the time in his room reading. By the time he was ten he had
stopped coming home. He preferred to stay in the dormitory alone to
coming home. I would go to get him and he would refuse to come."

Edward refilled their glasses.

"His hatred has grown into a solid wall which I've no idea how to
circumvent. When I received Lady Sophie's letter I hoped that he'd
had a change of heart."

"Horatio didn't know that he letter had been sent. She simply assumed
that he would want you to be here."

Jacob gave him a sadly wry look. "Yes, I suppose that would be a
natural assumption."

They were both silent for a few minutes.

"I must admit to some surprise at your allowing them to share a room
before the wedding. Forgive me, I certainly don't mean any criticism."

Edward gave a small smile. "That's alright. I think that they're
surprised, too, to be honest. I simply didn't see any point in making
an issue of it. Horatio is an adult, and Mavis knows her feelings. We
likely couldn't have stopped them anyway, were they determined and
they will be separated soon enough. I saw no reason to stand on
etiquette."

"You're right, of course."

They were silent again for a bit. "You seem to be quite fond of
Horatio, almost as though he were your son."

"Yes, I am very fond of him. So is Sophie. He's been almost a member
of our family for years now. Does that upset you?"

"I'm glad that he's managed to find a father he does respect. I would
rather that it were me, but I'm happy that he's found you and that
you seem willing to take him on." He smiled. "He's never been an easy
son, even when he was small. Stubborn, opinionated and smart as a
whip. He would no more cede a point than jump off the barn roof."

"Then he hasn't changed much."

"He's the image of his mother as far as that goes. She was the
brightest woman I ever met, and the most well read. Smarter than me,
beyond doubt. Horatio is her son."

"She would not be pleased at how things stand between you two."

"No. But were she here, it wouldn't have happened."

"I'll speak to him tomorrow, as I said. If you'll excuse me, Jacob, I
must to bed. I'm afraid that this wedding business is more trying
than battle."

"I would think that battle would be an easier day that being caught
between Horatio and myself. Good night, sir."

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

"Edward, did you speak with Jacob?"

"Yes, he seems resigned to the estrangement. I think it's been in
place for so long that he's at a loss at to how to cope with it. I
told him that I'll speak to Horatio in the morning."

"Do you think that will help?"

"They're both intelligent, reasonable men. I'll do what I can."

"You do know that Mavis is hoping she'll become pregnant before he
leaves?"

"I'd thought as much. Well, if they continue as they are, she'll
likely get her wish."

"Do you think that she's too young for all of this if he's not even
about to lend her support?"

"Sixteen is a reasonable age, I think. Perhaps it would be better if
they waited a year or two, but you'll be here and he'll be back now
and then. She'll be all right."

He put his arm around her shoulder as they at up against the
headboard, kissing her forehead as he did so.

"And then you'll be a grandfather."

"And you'll be a grandmother."

"Oh, God."

"C'mere, Granny." She was still laughing as he extinguished the
candle.

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

"Horatio, please talk to him. Please, for my sake. I can't bear that
you two aren't on good terms."

They were lying together in her bed, embracing and warm together.

"Is it really so important to you?"

"Yes, it is. I love my own parents so terribly much that I can't
imagine that your feeling you have none when you might have your
father."

"I'm older than you, Mavis. I'm well past needing a parent for
anything."

"He's not past needing a son."

Horatio turned his head, looking up to the ceiling. "If it matters so
much, I'll speak to him in the morning."

She leaned over him, resting on his chest. "Thank you." She slid up,
kissing his mouth and bracketing his face with her hands. "You are so
good to me."

Their foreplay continued for a few minutes. "You're quite nice to me,
too." She nipped him with her teeth, laughing.