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 Nine

As Horatio walked back to the Pellew house he began to think, to
reflect on the last couple of weeks and where the next year or two
might find him. He had been obsessed with these thoughts for months,
but since he had asked for Mavis' hand they seemed to consume him.

He was astonished that he was to be married the next evening. He
loved Mavis. He knew that he did. He had loved her for years and the
knowledge that his love for her had grown and matured was a source of
wonder and joy to him. That she loved him in return filled him with
awe.

This was good, what they were doing and what they were about to do.
He felt it in every part of himself. There was a quiet certainty
about the rightness of it all.

He thought about it and felt content.

And if she were pregnant, what then? He searched his own feelings and
realized that beyond the fear for her safety, he was happy about the
possibility. He'd never really thought about having children, about
being a father, but he now realized that he wished for it with all
his heart.

And, he admitted to himself, were he to not return (Oh, say it, he
told himselfif you're killed either by the enemy or by that lunatic
Sawyerif you're dead), then Mavis would have some part of him
still. He would give her that, if he could. There was precious little
else that he could leave her with.

He would be a father. God! A father.

Pray that he would make more of a success of it than the man who had
sired him.

As he walked along he began to dwell on that thought. Would he be a
better father than Jacob had been to him? Could he be? He would be
away most of the time, at sea. Whether he was absent through his own
choice or not was immaterial. The fact was that he would be away,
seeing his child, his children only now and then, just occasionally.
Probably barely recognizing them, nor would they know him.

Was that really any different than the way he'd been raised?

Yes, damnit, it was. He would want to be with his children. The
Doctor had him sent away.

But Jacob had arranged for him to come home for holidays and breaks.
He was the one who had refused to enter the coach.

He was the one who had refused to come home.

But Jacob was the one who sent him away.

He was approaching the house. Pausing briefly, he made a decision.
Preston opened the door for him, taking his hat and cloak. Thanking
the man, he asked if he would happen to know where Doctor Hornblower
was at the moment. Why, yes. He's in the conservatory writing a
letter.

Thanking the butler, Horatio strode into the glass room. Looking up
as Horatio approached, Jacob had a look of apprehension on his face,
wondering what was to come.

"Father, could we speak for a few minutes?"

He set his paper and quill down on the small table beside him. "Yes,
of course. Please sit with me."

Taking the chair next to his father and turning it to face the older
man, Horatio started talking in a low voice, calmly.

"I regret that we are strangers, father. I don't know if it would be
possible, but I would like to attempt to reconcile."

Jacob couldn't have been more surprised if Horatio had announced that
he had decided to move to the New World and join an Indian Tribe.

His son continued. "I know that our problems seem insurmountable. I
think, perhaps, that I've been the main obstacle to our
rapprochement, but I would like to make an attempt. That is, if you
are in agreement and are also willing."

Jacob stared at Horatio, unable to think how to respond. Finally he
found his tongue. "Yes, yes, of coursewhy on earth have you changed
you mind? Just this morning you were implacable in your refusal to
even consider the possibility."

"I know that. I realized some things while I was returning from
town." He looked out the windows toward Renown in the
harbor. "Tomorrow Mavis and I will be married and you must be aware
that she may well be with child. I would like to" He trailed off.

"You would like to what, Horatio?"

Turning back to his father, "I would like to know what you thought
when you sent me away. I can't imagine doing that to my child. I
would hear what you think about fatherhood and what was in your mind
when you sent me away. I would like to know how you finally came to
accept Mother's death and when you decided that you could face me
again."

Jacob shook his head. He had been expecting that at some point
Horatio would ask him these questions. "I don't know that I have ever
come to accept her death. I stillI still reach my hand over to the
other side of the bed in the morning when I wake and find myself
surprised to find it empty. I'll read a passage in a book and wish
that she were there to hear it. I wish that she could see what you've
grown to become. She loved you so."

"Do you still blame her death on me?" His voice was quiet.

"I did, for quite a long time. I know now that she would likely have
become ill whether she'd nursed you or not. I don't know that anyone
could have saved her. I wish to God that she had lived, but I think
that it was out of my hands."

Jacob took a sip from the glass of port that was on the table. "I
sent you away because I was so deeply drowning in my own grief that I
feared that I would do you harm. I feared for your safety. Finally
when I could control the darkest of my demons, I wanted you home with
me. You are so very like your mother." He paused, taking another
sip. "But by then you would have none of me.

Horatio sighed and looked away again. His eyes falling again on
Renown.

"Sir Edward thinks that you will go far. He told me that he expects
you to have your own ship soon, within a year or two at the most."

"I know."

"He also fears that this next voyage will come to a bad end."

Horatio said nothing, his eyes still on the ship.

"Are you marrying the girl just to make an honest woman of her should
you be killed?"

His son looked over at him at this last. "I suppose that's part of
it, but I do love Mavis."

Another pause. "The Pellew's are decent people. I'm glad that you've
become close to them."

"They've been my family for the last few years. I'm more than
grateful to them."

Jacob knew the veiled insult was for his benefit. Horatio had no
family of his own, so had found himself a new one. He chose not to
rise to what could have been bait. "They are fond of you. Sir Edward
obviously takes you for a son."

"Yes." Seemingly at a loss as to where to next go with the
conversation, Horatio stood. "Forgive me, but I know that Mavis will
want to speak with me about tomorrow. We could talk more later, if
you would like."

"I would like that, yes." Nodding, the younger man left the room.

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

Walking into the room he now shared with Mavis, Horatio found her
sitting at her writing desk, bent over a letter. Hearing him enter
she turned to smile at him. "You're back."

Crossing to her, he knelt at her side, his arms going about her, his
face nestled on her shoulder, his mouth on her neck and throat. "I do
love you so."

Her arms around him also, she kissed the parts of his face that she
could reach. "And I you." They kissed, deeply and repeatedly. He
stopped before they ended up in bed again. He needed to tell her
something.

"I spoke to my father just now." She shook her head as though to ask
him how and why such a thing could happen.

"When I was walking home this afternoon, I began thinking how I would
feel if I were himif I had a child from whom I was estranged." He
ran his finger down from her breastbone to her belly. Even now their
child might be growing there. "I don't know if I could bear that."

His arms tightened about her again. "I know that it will be
difficult. We are strangers to one another, but I'll try."

"That's all I ask, Sweeting. Thank you."

He looked at her as a smile broke out on his face. A real smile, one
full of joy. "Tomorrow you will be my wife."

Her arms around him still, she said, "I am your wife. Tomorrow we'll
be married."

Their kissing continued as they moved over to the bed.

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

Sir Edward walked into the conservatory a few minutes after he had
seen Horatio leave the room to go upstairs. He found Jacob still
sitting in the large chair, looking thoughtfully down at the ships
below. He spoke without removing his eyes from the ship.

"Just how much danger is Horatio going into on this next voyage?"

"The assignment is of no more or less danger than many others."

The doctor looked over at him "That's not what I asked. Will he be
killed?"

Edward sat heavily beside the older man. "I don't know. Perhaps."

"He was in here a few minutes ago, wanting to talk with me. He seems
to be putting his house in order. I think he expects to die."

The Captain hesitated, not sure of how much to say. "There is a
situation on Renown which could become a problem. I hope that it will
not, but the possibility exists. If what could happen does in fact
come to pass"yes there could be serious trouble for the men aboard
her."

"I see. He seemed like he was trying to say goodbye."

"I hope to God that he's wrong, sir."

"Yes, so do I."

After that, neither man knew what to say.

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

Sophie found the two men still in the conservatory an hour or so
later. Not talking, they were both lost in thought.

"Edward, is something wrong?"

Looking up at her as she stood next to him he took her hand. "No, my
dear. We were just talking about Horatio's next voyage and his
likely career path in the Navy."

Seeing the look on the faces of both men she added, "You mean if he
has a career after he's finished on Renown."

Edward gave her a look known to stop one of His Majesty's officer's
at twenty feet. She returned it.

"Forgive me Jacob, but as you two seem to speaking about the reality
of the situation, we may as well drop the pretenses. We all know that
this marriage is happening now because Horatio might not return and
Mavis may well be pregnant."

"Sophie"please."

"Well, we've been dancing around those simple facts for days now. We
may as well have it out in the open."

"Forgive me, Lady Sophie. Are you suggesting that they wouldn't marry
if not for the circumstances?"

Sophie spoke quietly. "I think that an all likelihood the two of them
would have married if both King George and King Neptune stood in
their way. I don't think, though, that it would have happened for
several more years."

"I see. Then I was not mistaken in thinking that this was happening
in some haste."

Edward and Sophie exchanged a look. "No, Jacob. Less than two weeks
ago I told Mavis that I wouldn't allow her to marry until she was at
least eighteen."

The doctor gave a slight smile. "Evidently you reconsidered."

"After it became obvious that to try to block them would have been
pointless."

Jacob addressed the next comment to Edward. "Is that about the same
time you consented to their sharing a room under your roof?"

"I, and Sophie, accepted that they would ultimately do as they
wished. Horatio is an adult and Mavis is strong willed. There seemed
no reason to pretend otherwise. Were we to forbid them, I would think
that Horatio would honor that, but they could simply have gone
elsewhere. I saw no point in hypocrisy."

"Any circumstances aside"are you happy with the marriage? As we are
being honest, have you any reservations?"

"Oh, Jacob"" Sophie crossed over to him, taking his hand in both of
hers, "I could wish for no better match for my daughter than your
son. He's a lovely young man. He's kind and intelligent and loves
Mavis deeply, as she loves him. They will have a good life together."

He was barely able to whisper the next. "But what if he's killed?"

"Then I will be here to help Mavis. She's a strong girl. She'll
survive."

"I would very much like to get to know Mavis better. She will be
Horatio's wife and if "He stopped. "If something were to happen,
then I would like to still haveI would like to be close to the
child, if there is one. If you have no objections."

Sophie answered, his hands still in hers. "Jacob, of course. I know
Mavis wants that"

He nodded and smiled his thanks. Attempting to brighten a bit he
asked, "Are all of the preparations ready for tomorrow? I've never
seen such calm the day before an event such as thisyou must be
performing a miracle, Lady Sophie."

Edward joined in the effort at lightening the atmosphere. "Sophie
works wonders with this sort of thing, Jacob. You're in for a treat
tomorrow. I understand that the kitchen has been working for days now
and the flowers will be arriving in the morning. She's even convinced
your son to purchase a new shirt for the occasion."

"Then she deserves the knighthood, sirHis mother and I could never
manage to have him care about such things."

"Mavis is only sorry that she didn't have time to make him one
herself. And she has a new gown to wear tomorrow, so they'll both be
looking their best."

Edward pulled his best `dressing down a new Midshipman' face. "She
had a new gown two weeks ago for the Admiral's partydo you mean to
tell me that she has another new gown on top of the expense of this
entire wedding? Have you any idea what all this is going to cost me,
madam? I am a working man, a mere career Naval Officer. I'll have you
understand and my purse is not the size of the King's, much as you
would seem to believe that"

She leaned over to his chair where he was working himself up to a
small rant. Kissing his forehead she calmly informed him, "Oh,
Edward, really. You'll just have to go capture some more French
ships."

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

James Sawyer was sitting in the great cabin of Renown. Like all
British Navy ship's Captains, he was required to sleep aboard his
vessel whenever it was in port. He also, by force of common sense,
slept aboard her when they were at sea. The ship was, in all sense of
the word, his home. Oh, certainly he had a wife and she had given him
children. He would even admit being rather fond of the dear girl, if
anyone had cared to ask.

No one did, of course. He was the Captain and, as such, maintained a
professional distance from his officers. They were worthless, less
than worthless. Standing about, spending all their time worried about
their precious careers and their mentions in dispatches. Afraid to
soil their delicate hands or tear their lovely uniforms.

The other officers he viewed with the distain they deserved. Most of
them were hardly competent and the few who did know the bow from the
stern couldn't be trusted as far as they could swim.

Buckland he knew to be a weakling and a fool. He was easily cowed.
Roberts was becoming too independent for his own good. He had been
transferred off just three weeks ago. Kennedy was still unformed and
so was no real threat on his own, but that Hornblower lad was the one
who bore watching.

Too sharp by half, that one. And ambitious, too. He had Kennedy in
his pocket, that much was obvious, and the men seemed to follow the
boy.

Yes, he would be watching that one. An ambitious young officer who
had the loyalty of his men could turn at the least prevarication. He
wouldn't allow himself to be caught napping. Hornblower may have his
men, but he had his own. He'd not be surprised by that whelp.

And now he was actually marrying Pellew's daughter. Well, he was
nothing if not clever. He would find every path greased for him from
now on, to be sure.

It was so damned unfair! He'd had to earn every promotion ever to
come his way, every honor had cost blood and this pup would just
stroll in where he had no right to be. There was nothing that would
stop his advance, it wasn't possible. Well, short of the boy
committing murder or some such and the odds of that were slim.

Well, there was nothing for it. He'd have to show up at the
Commodore's home tomorrow night, smile and best wishes in place along
with his dress uniform.

Sounds over his head pulled his attention back to Renown and the men
aboard her.

The ratingsah, the ratings. They were the true heart of a ship. They
were they ones who got their hands dirt and made her sail, they were
the ones who climbed and strained and pulled until the ship became a
great bird flying along.

Hearing other voices his mind jumped back to the officers. Worthless,
useless, the lot of them. Hornblower the worst of all, because he was
the threat, where he led, the others would follow.

Of course, they'd be a long way from England.

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

That evening, knowing that the servants would have a very long day
tomorrow, the family and the Hornblower's agreed that an early dinner
out would be the best idea.

As the family and their guests were gathering in the study to go,
Jacob saw Horatio and Mavis coming down the stairs together. They
were holding hands and laughing quietly at whatever they were talking
about. As they neared the bottom, Mavis stopped. Horatio, on the step
below her turned to look at her, asking if she had forgotten
something. As he faced her, she placed her free hand about his neck,
pulling him close. Standing in the step above him, their heights
became equal. Their arms encircled each other as they stood there for
long minutes until Jacob finally removed himself to the dining room.

They entered several minutes later, smiling, their hands still
clasped.