Fic Challenge: Father?
by HMS Lozzy

The carriage came to a halt outside, just as Margaret Dabney, the
housekeeper at Dr Hornblower's house, came outside to collect the
washing off the private hedges. She stopped in her tracks as she
watched the dust settle it. The horses breathing hard after their
journey, which must have been a long one as their coats glistened with
sweat. That's strange; she thought to herself, nobody was due to Dr
Hornblower today. She watched from her position beside the doorway as
the carriage door opened and a tall young man with dark curly hair
stepped out. Wearing a linen bandage around his neck, binding his left
arm to his chest. "Master Horatio," she cried as she recognised his
lanky form and she moved down the steps toward him. Half happy to see
him and half worried to see him in this condition.

Horatio looked up and smiled at the familiar voice, he then felt he was
home.

Mrs Dabney moved beside him, her heavy skirts brushing against his neat
breeches. She took hold of his good arm. "Oh Horatio what has happen
to you? What scrapes have you got yourself into now?"

Horatio chuckle to himself, shaking his head, "I was doing nothing more
than my duty, Margaret." And he tried to step away from her. He didn't
want fussing.

Mrs Dabney stepped closer to him, taking his good arm in her hands as
if she would try and carry him into the house. "It's no good trying to
cover it up Master Horatio." No matter how old he was now, he was
still the boy she helped to bring up and she knew him inside and
out. "You must have suffered a bad injury to be bound up so much."

"It is nothing Margaret." He argued back to her, but even he knew it
was no good trying to hide the fact his arm and shoulder hurt
terribly. Margaret would know anyway and would insist on fussing over
him. In truth though, Horatio didn't mind the fussing, it made him
feel that someone still cared for him.

"Yes Horatio nothing." Called the second young gentlemen who climbed
out from the carriage.

Mrs Dabney turned to see where the voice came from, "Mr Kennedy!" She
beamed, relieved to see he was not injured.

"Hello Mrs Dabney." Archie greeted, grinning. He looked at the
Hornblower home and felt glad to be back. It must have been a good few
months since the two of them were there. But a visit to Hornblower's
home was always good. "I hope you have got some off you famous beef
tea on the boil Mrs Dabney. I've been looking forward to it throughout
the whole journey."

"It will be on presently." She answered proudly, she felt so pleased,
her two favourite young officers where home again. "But for now," she
spoke to both of them, "I want you both to go inside and get yourselves
warm. I wont have two young men with fever each, as well as one being
injured." She looked at Horatio, who looked away, "Your father,
Horatio, will be back this evening and he will want to have a look at
that arm of your."

"Yes Mrs Dabney" He knew it was better to agree then argue with her.
Plus he would never argue or be harsh to Mrs Dabney. She was such a
good friend as well as good a housekeeper. As they walked up the step
Horatio told her that they "Were just here on leave for a couple of
weeks, nothing more." Horatio did not want to be a bother to his
father.

At the threshold Mrs Dabney stopped, putting her hands on her hips, not
believing that this was the only reason why they were there. Archie,
following behind, noticed the awkward silence and interjected, "Don't
believe him Mrs Dabney, Dr Sebastian told him to go home and to get
better. It was hard enough trying to stop him going on watch when he
was suppose to be resting his damaged shoulder."

Horatio glared at him, "I was quite capable of working Mr Kennedy."

Archie rolled his eyes, "Of course you were Horatio." he had answered
this retort many times already. "Maybe now Horatio you will finally
rest and get better, and lets get inside its very cold out here."

"Aye aye Sir." Horatio muttered and allowed Mrs Dabney to assist him
inside.

* * *

Dr Julius Hornblower arrived home just as the sun was setting. The
golden rays of light glowing on the side of his house and the ash trees
in the drive, giving everything a bright golden lining. This time of
day was very special to him, it always reminded him of the days he used
to spend with his only son Horatio, reading Greek legends and
Shakespeare under the bows of these trees. Along with his wife
Lousier, who would take the female roles. He remembered a happy day in
particular, when she had chased Horatio around the garden
calling "Romeo Romeo, where for art thou Romeo" and Horatio running
ahead of her laughing. Not wanting to be caught by the waist and
kissed on the cheek. The echoes of his laughter still rung in his
ears and the memory made him smile. "Oh Horatio," he sighed to
himself. "When did that happy little boy become the proud silent
officer?" He shook his shoulders, the cold seeping through his coat
and the clunk of his wooden walking stick on the stone steps,
accompanying him as he climbed towards the entrance of his home. He
stopped at the top step and looked back towards the setting sun, "and
where are you now son?" he questioned, before turning back and heading
inside his quiet home, with only the ghosts of his memories to
accompany him.

* * *

"Dr Julius your home" Called Mrs Dabney from the hallway.

"Yes Margaret, Lord Ellsmith plays an expensive game of whist, but
luckily I did not have to pay to much this time," he chuckled and
removed his coat. Margaret walked towards, a tray of empty pewter
plates and mugs. Dr Hornblower looked at the plates, they had been
used, "Have we had visitors today Margaret?"

"Yes we have." She grinned and looked towards the study. "They are
still in there if you wish to see them. They have been waiting all
afternoon for your return."

"Is it anyone I know?" Dr Hornblower asked, wondering who would wait
all afternoon to see him.

"Oh I think you will Sir." She grinned. She then turned away and took
the tray off to the kitchen.

Dr Hornblower straightened his collar and waistcoat, and went to enter
his study. Upon entering joy filled his heart as he recognised his son
and the son of his heart. Horatio was sat on the long sofa in the
centre of the room, and Archie was stood by the fire. Both looked calm
and at ease and were both looking away as he entered silently. "Uh -
huh" he finally spoke gaining their attention.

Archie looked up, "Dr Hornblower" he grinned in greeting

Horatio turned quickly, surprised to see his father standing in the
doorway, and quickly stood up to greet him, wincing a little as he
moved his shoulder. "Father" he greeted.

Julius beamed, "Horatio, Archie its such a pleasure to see you both
again." He took in the fact that Horatio's left arm was strapped to
his chest, but that could wait for the moment.

Archie moved away from the fire and shook Julius's hand. "And it's a
pleasure to see you again. It's been so long since we were here you'll
probably have forgotten what we looked like."

"Well you both look healthy," he gave them a brief look over. Both
looked like they were eating well and Archie's face glowed with a youth
exuberance that a young man should have, except Horatio. Who looked a
little pale and worn out. "So Horatio?" He looked at his son, "are
you going to explain what happened."

Horatio blushed a little and looked away. He knew his father would
want to know, but he felt he didn't need all the details. "Yes father,
but this is nothing," he looked at his bandage, "its just another wound
in the line of duty."

Julius raised his eyebrows at that comment, as did Archie, who look
straight back at him. "I will be the judge of that Horatio. Now are
you going to tell me what happened or will I have to get it out of Mr
Kennedy."

Horatio shrugged his shoulders, he didn't want to explain what had
happened as he still felt ashamed about it, but with two pairs of eyes
boring into him he knew when he was beaten. "It was just a foolish
mistake." He blurted out, returning to his seat. His father sitting
beside him, Archie remained standing.

He hated having to drag up the memory of what had happened, but it was
better his father knew all the facts, then not know. He began "Mr
Kennedy and myself were on a mission on the coast of France. We were
in an old barn about a mile inland. We were on stood on a wooden stand
inside the barn. We could hear some Frenchmen below us discussing
something, and," he still could not believe he had been so foolish, "I
stepped forward to try and hear them more clearly and the wood on the
stand must have been rotten. One minute I was moving forward, and the
next I was falling. I remember grabbing something as I fell."

"It was a rigging hook hanging from a beam in the ceiling" Archie added.

"But my wrist got caught and it twisted and twisted me round with it.
Dislocating my shoulder." He looked down ashamed, feeling angry with
himself. Why had he been so foolish he thought, but didn't say. "I
then fell and hit the earth floor below."

"Mmm" Dr Hornblower responded.

"Thank God Mr Kennedy," Horatio continued, "if he had not of been there
I who knows how I might of ended up."

Dr Hornblower looked up at Archie, "What happen Archie?"

Archie sighed and continued the story, "Well, the two French officers
heard Horatio crash through the stand and hit the floor. I watched as
they pulled out their pistols and then looked up at me. One fired, the
bullet missed, thank fully and I managed to shoot back. I hit one
officer and just grazed the second. I then jumped down and went to
help Horatio."

Horatio remember himself lying on the ground rolling in agony and
feeling Archie kneeling beside him.

"Poor Horatio was rolling on the floor in agony and I had to get him
out of there and back to the Indy."

"But I guess you had a struggle with the French Officer being there?"
Dr Hornblower added.

"But that was the strange thing," Archie answered, "Instead of running
for help the officer stayed with the officer I had shot and allowed us
to escape. The French officer watched me and we were only a few feet
apart, but he was too concerned about his comrade. I remember him
looking up and shouting at me to get out! I shouted back confused in
the end I manage to get Horatio to his feet and drag him back to the
ship."

Dr Hornblower was stunned at what Archie had told him. He contemplated
for a second himself as to why the French Officer did not hurt them.
But then felt relief at the fact they had manage to get back to the
ship. He then felt compassion for the French Officer, who had stayed
with his comrade and not caused more blood shed. Privately he hoped
the injured officer was not too badly injured. "Thank you Archie for
getting him back safely." He finally said.

Archie looked away, relieved and amazed himself that they had managed
to get back. He then continued, "Once back onboard Dr Sebastian
strapped up Horatio's shoulder and tried to get him to rest." He
looked down at him, Horatio glared back at him, "But he has been
refusing too. Horatio has been driving Sebastian and the captain and
myself mad. Demanding that he be allowed to work."
"But I'm well Archie," Horatio suddenly interrupted, why was everyone
stopping him from working, "It's just a bad shoulder nothing more." He
just wanted to go back to doing his duty, not lying around the place.

Dr Hornblower chuckled, not surprised that his son was wanting to go
back to work so soon, trying to defy the much need rest that his body
needed. "Was he really that much of a nuisance Mr Kennedy?"

Archie nodded, smirking, "he was, worse even because we could all see
he was not well, but or some reason Horatio couldn't." Horatio didn't
like Archie talking over him, like he wasn't there. He was about to
interrupt again, but Julius put his hand out to silence him. "So when
we sailed into port this morning. The decision was made between
myself, Captain Pellew and Dr Sebastian, to send Horatio here and
better."

"They said it was a couple of weeks leave Archie." Horatio interrupted
enforcing his superiority through his voice.

Archie ignored him, and continued. "They asked me to come along and
make sure he got better. Along as he is here he has not got the excuse
of needing to be on watch or taking part in any duties, and this is why
you have the pleasure of our company." He was standing by the
fireplace again when he finished. Looking back at Horatio and his
father, he felt himself relax knowing that he himself would not have to
do any work. These two weeks of leave would be good for himself as
well as Horatio.

Dr Hornblower raised himself from his seat and moved over to where
Archie was standing. He felt he should say something just for the fact
they were there in his home. He put his old hand out to Archie, who
accepted his, "Archie, I'm very pleased you're here, and thank you
Archie."

"For what?" Archie asked a little confused by this gesture.

"I want to say thank you for bringing Horatio safely back to ship and
for bring him home and your very welcome here to as you well know."
Archie grinned, he liked being told he belonged somewhere. Not even
his own family would be so grateful for him being home. But of course
Dr Julius Hornblower would feel grateful, this young man need a home,
somewhere where he felt loved, and Julius hoped that he could provide
that home.

But something was still troubling him and for once it was not Archie.
He still felt there was something missing from the story that Archie
had told. There must be something that was bothering Horatio for him
to be so desperate to be on duty and refusing to rest, but what could
it be? Julius felt he would most likely question it out of him, but
would Horatio tell him what was worrying him. Julius moved back
towards his son. "Well Horatio, I hope you will allow yourself to get
better while you're here and I hope you don't mind but I would like to
have a look at your should. I trust Dr Sebastian's skill but I will
not be happy till I have examined it myself."

"Yes Father," Horatio agreed, there was no use arguing. He really
wanted to go to be and just be alone with the ache in his should, but
he knew his father would not be happy till had examined him.
Archie sensing that Horatio would not want him watching over him and no
doubt Dr Hornblower would want some spend some time alone with his
son. So he made an excuse to leave the room. "If you will excuse me
I'm going to see if Margaret has anymore of that beef tea of her's".
Moving away from the fireplace he quickly stepped out of the room and
went off to the kitchen to go and both Mrs Dabney.

Horatio tried to think of an excuse to stop him leaving, he knew he
would have to face his father alone but he wasn't ready, and nothing he
could say would stop Archie.

After Archie had closed the door, both father and son sat in silence
for a few minutes. With only the burning fire and the ticking clock on
the mantelpiece, creating any sound in the room. Horatio looked around
reabsorbing the warm and relaxing atmosphere of his home, and
rekindling old memories. His is father's books lined the walls and the
paintings of himself, his mother and father smiling down on him. He
did feel happy to be home and he felt pleased that at least his father
was still sat next to him now. But Horatio still didn't want to share
the thoughts that had been plaguing him since he injured his shoulder.
The thoughts that had been running through his mind and he had been
wanting to distract away by trying to get back to work. He closed his
eyes as they suddenly rose up again in his mind.

Julius felt and noticed the unease in Horatio and he felt concerned as
any father would. He wanted to find out what was troubling him, but he
did not want to bombard him with questions. He decided to just examine
his shoulder and allow Horatio to tell him his troubles when he was
ready. "Horatio?" he asked.

"Father?" He looked a little solemn as he answered, as if tears were
about to fall from his eyes.

"Will you allow me to examine your shoulder" Julius asked gently.

Horatio, in response, moved closer to his father and allowed him to
lift the linen bandage over his head and gently begin to examine his
injury.

* * *

A few minutes later Julius was quite satisfied that Dr Sebastian had
done all he could to help Horatio. Horatio also seemed a little more
at ease after the examination was over. It was just as Julius placed
the linen bandage back over Horatio's head that Horatio asked him in a
whisper. "Father, are you proud of me?"

Julius didn't have to think. He knew the answer instantly. He looked
straight at him "Of course I am son."

But that was not good enough for Horatio, he wanted more of an
answer "But are you father, are you really, very proud of me?"

Julius answered his son with the best answer he could give, "Son, I was
proud of you the moment you were born. Is this what has been troubling
you?" He hoped to go straight to the source of his son's troubles.

Horatio sighed not feeling any more cheered by his father's
response. "Father," he paused, the troubling thoughts again rushing
through his mind. He closed his eyes and just kept talking, it made
him feel good to just speak. Rather then have the thoughts continuing
to repeat themselves, over and over again in his mind. "Father, I live
in a world were men die & where everyday, I put my life at risk. You
and mother gave me the gift of life and I put that gift at risk every
day. In an instant I could make some foolish mistake! And it will
end." He opened his eyes, and looked back it his father who was
listening patiently. He shook his head putting his face in his hand
feeling ashamed, "I should not of stepped further on that stand. I
should of stayed still!" He paused, clenching his fists. Holding in
his anger at himself for being so foolish. He then released his hands,
took a breath and continued, "When I fell through that stand and hit
the floor below, a thought came into my head, a memory. Through all
that agony I was still able to see this memory, but I don't know what
was happening in the memory."

"And this memory this is what has been troubling you also?" Julius
asked quietly, noticing his son's distress at this particular thought.

"Yes," He stat up a little and recited this memory to his father, "you
might even be able to help me find out what this memory is?"

Julius sat up also, wondering if he could really help, he didn't say
anything, he just sat and listened.

Horatio began, speaking clearly; he looked towards the large painting
of his mother above the fireplace, as if he would ask her answer to
answer his query too. But she just looked down on both of them,
smiling in silence. "When I was a child," Horatio began, "I remember
the day I saw mother in your arms crying. She was screaming as if in
pain, as if something had hurt her so deeply that she would never feel
happy again. It's this memory that has been playing in my mind. What
was she crying about? Was it because of me, something I had done?"

Julius stared at Horatio and shook a little, "You remember that son?"
he asked, suddenly remembering that black day himself. Horatio looked
back at him hoping to see the answer in his father's eyes. But they
were glazed over, lost in his own memories and thoughts. Julius had
hoped that Horatio had forgotten that day and that he would never had
to explain what had happened. But Horatio had remembered and the best
thing Julius could do was tell him the truth, the whole truth. So he
began to explain. This time Horatio not saying thing and just
listening. "Son that day was a very long time ago and I'm surprised
you remember. That day was a black day for me and your mother. You
were only three at the time, but I guess a child's mind can at times,
be sharper then a grown man's and children can sense emotion deeper
also."

Horatio looked hopefully at his father, if he could tell him about this
troubling memory he might be able to let himself calm down, and rest.
Not having to play this confusing thought through his mind, time and
time again. "Father can you tell me what had happened?"

Julius was not sure what he would tell him would be the answer he
wanted to hear, but he had sworn to Lousier that he would tell him if
Horatio had asked. "Horatio, I will tell you, but that day has nothing
to do with you. But it did affect your future. You probably remember
it because of the emotion you witnessed, but I will tell you
everything."

Again the room fell silent, and then Dr Hornblower began to speak
again. "On that day Horatio, we were declared bankrupt. We didn't even
live here. We lived in a much larger house then this one."

"Bankrupt," Horatio queried, confused. He knew they were not rich, but
he never knew they would have been destitute and that they had lived
somewhere else.

"Yes son, I have never told you this before but your mother was the
favourite niece of a very wealthy land owner who had no children. He
was a good man and he had been giving her a dowry, which where helping
me to train to become a physician. This kept us in a very good
living. We had a large house, servants, horses, a good sized estate."

Horatio was intrigued; this was something he had never known before, he
could of grown up on an estate like Archie. Horatio again looked back
up at the painting of his mother, and suddenly he noticed, surprising
himself that he had never noticed before a small image of a grand house
in the corner of the painting. The image was of a grand hall, with two
stories and three gables across, with a small deer park beside it. "Was
that our first home?" He asked.

"Yes." Julius looked at the painting too.

"What happened?"

"Her uncle was a bit of a gambler. He enjoyed spending money on card
games and drink. At times he didn't care where the money came from.
But one day his gambling drove him into insolvency and this included
your mother's dowry and our home. He drove us out of our home with his
debts. That day you remember was the day we discovered we would be
forced from our home. That I would have to stop studying. She was
crying because she was scared; she was scared for you, for me and for
herself. She didn't care about her possessions or the house, but that
we would end up on the street, starving and homeless."

The thought of this even frightened Horatio, he suddenly realised life
could have been so much different. But then he checked himself. He
was sitting in this country house, with a roof over his head. "How did
we get here then father?"

His father smiled, "Well Horatio, as you well know its good to have
friends in high and low places. At the time of our trouble it so
happened that I was good friends with a physician who owned this very
house." He looked about the room. "It's a lot smaller then the hall we
had lived in, but it was our saving grace. It was also this physician
who sent you on your road to becoming the commission officer you are
now. His name was Doctor George Talon, he gave us a home and allowed
me to continue studying to become a physician until I could earn my own
wages"

Horatio looked back at his father a little confused. "But how was this
man involved with my joining the navy?"

"Dr Talon, who owned this house, was the physician of Captain Keene,
the Captain of your first ship. He advised Captain Keene to use my
service when he was becoming too old to continue his work. Your mother
had died and I was just struggling to pay for your schooling and our
rent for this house." He looked about the room again, "It was one
fateful day that Captain Keene came to see me and I had run out off
money to pay for your schooling. I was planning to send you to medical
school, so you would be a doctor just like me, but the prices were high
and I knew I would never be able to afford the costs. But I really
wanted your education to continue, and I didn't know how. It was
Captain Keene who had given me the idea to send you into the navy. He
had been talking about a group of new midshipman that had arrived on
his ship. He talked about the work they did, how they used
mathematical skills to navigate around the world, how a well educated
man could rise to become a gentleman and a commission officer and
hopefully become commander for a whole ship full of men."

Horatio listen carefully. He had always wondered why his father had
never pushed him to join the medical profession.

Julius continued, "I knew you enjoyed your schooling, but even I knew
you were not really built for the medical profession. It was a hard
decision for me to make, but I had hoped that if I sent you to sea, you
could put your education to good use and you could even continue to
learn while earning a wage. If things had been different and in truth
I wanted to keep you in school and send you to university, but we were
in the middle of a war and prices were just continuing to rise. I
needed all my money just to be able to live, I could not have you in
school or at home any longer Horatio. I'm sorry if you think it was a
bad decision on my part, but I had no options left. You were
seventeen. Many families would of sent you away much earlier in your
life. But I just didn't want to give you up. But soon life was
becoming very difficult and I needed you to be able to support
yourself, so that I could support myself. I'll understand if you are
angry with me Horatio. But you have no reason to be angry with
yourself." He finished speaking and it was his turn to feel bad, maybe
he had been too hasty in sending Horatio into the navy without even
consulting him, but what else could he of done.

Horatio did not respond instantly, he thought for a long while about
what his father had told him. He thought about his mother crying over
the bankruptcy, the fact that his father had struggled to make ends
meet. The day he went off to the Justinian, he remember Captain Keene
telling him he had been accepted onto his ship as a favour to his
father. Horatio remembered the misery of that ship and how he could of
stayed at home and been a doctor like his father. Not suffering the
miseries he had faced, and all the troubles he had had to face and go
through. For a moment he felt angry with his father, and the fact that
the life he lead now should have been very different. But as soon as
his anger rose it subsided, and he felt a feeling of release and relief
and even happiness. He looked at himself, he was a commissioned
Lieutenant, he had been through a lot more enjoyable times then he
could count, while in the navy. He had a loving father, friends, a
good ship to work on and good living. As well as a good life, which
even he knew he would never give up. It was then he realised, even
though he had been having these troubling thoughts, which he tried to
push away by trying to go back to work, that he was actually beginning
to feel relaxed and happy about his situation in life. He was looking
away from his father and thought of him being happy caused him to grin
at himself. He even chuckled a little.

"Horatio, are you alright?" his father asked wondering what he was
thinking.

Horatio looked up smiling, "Yes I am father, I am now. I'm home and
I'm happy with my life. I would not want it any other way." He looked
back at the painting of his mother, "Maybe one change would be good,"
he sighed, ", but I have been through many trials in my life and I have
survived them all." He breathed out a relaxing breath, "Yes I am well
father and I'm happy."

Julius smiled at his son's response, thankful that his decision to send
his son into the navy had been the right one. "Yes we have Horatio, we
have all been through many trials in our lives and don't forget Mr
Kennedy. He's been through trials just as hard, but with you being
there for him, he is here now."

Horatio smiled at that statement, "Well he is in the next room
bothering Margaret."

"Yes." Laughed Julius, "I suppose he is." They both laughed then fell
silent again. Each of them looked about the room with a new fondness
and love for their home and each other. Each man happy with his
situation in life. Horatio was beginning to feel more relaxed and
quite forgot the ache in his shoulder. Till he lay back on the
chair, "Ouch!" He exclaimed.

"Take care Horatio, you have managed to hurt yourself quiet badly but
you'll mend and you'll learn." Horatio grinned and didn't mind his
father readjusting the bandage. "And Horatio?"

"Umm"

"Thank you Horatio, thank you for being my son."

Horatio could not think of an answer, he just felt his father's hands
on his shoulder and the warm happiness of being home and. All his
worried thoughts melted away and now he was home, he would rest and
recover. When it was time to return, he would return to the navy with
Archie a renewed man, with the warm glow of love and happiness in his
heart.

~ The End ~