Lost at Sea
June 8, 2004
The phone rang, loud in the mostly empty house. Bell tone
echoed off warm, polished wooden floors and caused ears of huge
dogs to perk.
"Standing Stone Farms. Sanchez. " The tall, well muscled Hispanic woman frowned at the telephone. "You're kidding, right? In this? Come on, Riley, what gives? Ok, dios, we'll be there as quickly as this godforsaken weather permits. " Alicia Sanchez hung the phone up, frowning across the room at the bookcase built into the wall of her office. Long fingered hands punched the button that activated the comm system out to the stables.
"Yes? " A disembodied voice floated over the speaker.
"Hey, Morgan. Your buddy Dr. Riley from Mass General called. He says that you need to be over at ICU. He's got a case, and I quote, "'screaming for her particular talents.'"
Morgana's voice was puzzled. Sanchez could picture one silver eyebrow raising in inquiry. "He what? "
"No shit, that's all he'd tell me. He said it's important. I'll drive. "
"Ok, give me a minute to get things settled here. Grab my laptop on your way out, it's in the front parlor. See if the Dumas kids want to come keep an eye on the place, would you? "
Sanchez acknowledged, calling the neighbor to secure the eighteen year-old twins to watch the house and stables in the gale. Pulling on a jacket, she started her midnight blue BMW and waited for the familiar small form to dash across the yard through pounding rain. "It'd better be damn good to drag us all the way out to freaking Boston in this storm. Get in the car, I'm dying of curiosity here. "
Morgana tossed herself into the passenger seat, fastening the seatbelt. She began toweling long, pale hair with the towel Sanchez offered. "We need to work on your people skills again. "
* * * * * * *
Kevin Riley looked at his watch again, pacing in front of
the ICU ward, old vending machine coffee in a paper cup in his
left hand. He rubbed the bridge of his nose with his right, looking
back over his shoulder into the glare of florescent lights. Relief
flooded through him as he spied the two familiar forms striding
quickly through the hospital.
"Kevin! We're here, what in hell is this about? " Morgana skidded to a stop, wet hiking boots squeaking loudly, barely a foot from the man's green scrub covered form, cocking her head to look up at him.
"I figured if anyone believed me, it'd be you. Justput a mask on and follow me. This borders on the bizarre, even for me in the ER. "
The two women obeyed, exchanging a puzzled look as they followed the doctor past security doors and into a private room inside ICU itself. A lone young man lay on the sterile white hospital sheets.
"The Coast Guard pulled him out of the water around one, and flew him here. Shipwrecked off of the Cape. "
The women moved closer to the bed, Sanchez hovering over her much smaller friend's shoulder. "He's beautiful. " Morgana murmured, then turned back to Riley, "You've got him in restraints, Kevin, why? "
Riley sighed, raking a hand through sandy hair. "He wasn't exactly coherent when he was brought in, and I didn't want him getting hurt. Passed out cold just before you got here. He was so combative, it took six of our male orderlies to hold him down long enough for the straps to go on. "
Sanchez looked over at him. "Why not just sedate him? "
Riley sank into a nearby plastic and aluminum hospital chair. "That, you see, is where it starts getting complicated. And why I called you, Morgan. What can you tell me about HMS Courageous? "
Morgana tilted her head to the side, long damp hair cascading down her shoulders and arms, brushing the patient's forearm. The young man shivered with the light contact. "HMS Courageouslost at sea in 1804, all hands went down with the ship. It was a frigate, if memory serves, a pretty big one for the Brits, too, carrying nearly fifty guns, bringing troops and members of the diplomatic service to Boston. I think they were carrying the new ambassador, actually. The British lost some of the best of their diplomatic core and one of their most promising young Naval captains that day. Why? "
Riley gave her a humorless smile. "Our friend there was found floating on an elaborately carved and painted piece of wood. It was a nameplate, beautiful workmanship, for HMS Courageous. Couldn't have been in the water more than three or four hours when they pulled him out. He was all but raving about a storm, something about the mast splitting in half, and someone named Matthews. I left the pile of clothing we cut off him over in the corner. It isn't exactly every day street wear, and I've been hanging around with you long enough to recognize a pretty good period costume when I see one. "
Sanchez coughed into her hand, a sound remarkably resembling the word 'bullshit', as Morgana crouched near the sodden pile of clothing. "Either this fellow was going to a very expensive costume balleven the shoesmusketwaitblood" Pale eyes looked up at Riley, over the silver rims of glasses. "He's hurt? Have you treated him yet? "
"I don't dare. We pulled blood, Morgan, he's missing a hell of a lot of things modern blood has in it; antibodies, pollutants, you name it. What if he is who I think he is? How do you think he'd react to modern drugs? I figured you maybe could do something"
"Ok, but both of you out. I'll call if I need you. " Morgana began removing her jewelry, putting it into a pocket of her leather jacket, and dropping the laptop bag she never traveled without over the chair Riley vacated. She pulled another chair closer to the bed, sat down, and studied her patient for a moment. He had sun-touched curly dark hair and tan, weathered skin. "You spend a lot of time out in the wind and sun, my friend, don't you. " Morgana murmured, stroking an errant curl off the high forehead. The beautiful young man had come to, dark eyes wide with fear.
"Please, madam, where am I? " Pleasant tenor voice enhanced by an English accent, panic-stricken.
"It's all right, you're safe. Sleep now. " Her hands were warm and gentle against the side of his face, small, strong fingers slipping in through his own, solid and comforting, and he knew no more.
My name is Morgana Igraine Lyon. I have always been odd...the
freak with silver eyes and white hair. My family is old
we can trace roots back in England before the coming of Christianity, to old, old Celtic blood. My great grandmother had the sight. I remember being very small, listening to her have conversations with people who simply weren't there. I discovered, when I was very young, that some of the old blood made its way into my veins. I have the ability to heal. When I'm in close contact with someone, sometimes, I can feel what they're feeling. There are perhaps a handful of people who know about thisability, gift, cursethat I seem to have.
I was sixteen when my grandfather died; I inherited his country estate and money. Quite a lot more money than any of us ever thought Grandpa had, actually. Paid for my education, and I do pretty well for myself. I teach because I love to teach. I've been at Yale for just about five years now, and I love it.
Sanchez (she hates her first name, something about an aunt she disliked) and I have been friends going on ten years. She won an Olympic silver medal for sharpshooting. She's with the Coast Guard now, splitting time between sailing with cadets on Eagle and classroom education in the inner city. She spearheaded a pretty successful anti-drug program for inner city kids, co-sponsored by the Connecticut State Police. It's nice to have the company; my big house echoes when she isn't home.
If anyone had ever told me that in the summer of my thirtieth year, a sailor who died two hundred years ago would be rescued from the Atlantic Ocean and that I'd be brought in to care for him, I would've told them to go seek the nearest psych ward.
Funny how life takes these turns, isn't it?
HMS Courageous, a one hundred sixty-five foot frigate of His Majesty's Navy, was lost in a storm in 1804, under command of one Captain Horatio Hornblower. No one survived the ship going down, in storm-tossed seas. Somehow, miraculously, this beautiful man in the hospital room was a sailor from Courageous. An officer, too, to judge by his clothing. Without the topcoat, we can't tell if he's a midshipman, lieutenant, or perhaps Captain Hornblower himself.
I've managed to heal him enough that his life is no longer threatened by internal injuries, and confirm for poor Riley that this man is, indeed, not a product of our time. His blood is wrong, his body is cleaner, there are different pollutants in his system than someone who was a product of the late twentieth century. I'm sitting now, waiting to see if he wakens from the slumber I've coaxed him into. This is one of the reasons I love my laptop; I can sit here and watch, and do some research at the same time. The Internet is a wonderful tool.
Riley is off making arrangements for this poor soul to be moved to the farm. There's nothing really wrong with him, and I think it'd be better if he woke again somewhere not quite somodern. Somewhere without banks of too bright florescent lights, computerized monitoring equipment, and intercoms calling doctors and nurses at all hours of the night and day.
Besides, I must admit, I'm fascinated. It's that curiosity that lead me to a B.S. in Chemistry, master's degrees in English Literature and Art History, and a Ph.D. in History by the time I was twenty-four. Sanchez says I'm like one of our puppies with a new toy. They'll play with something until it either bites them back, or they figure out how it works and take it apart.
Riley comes in to tell me that the move has been approved. Anything to clear bed space. I've taken full responsibility for my guest, signed all the papers, paid his bill, and now I'm just waiting for the EMT's to come with a stretcher to transport. Sanchez has gone home to get a guestroom ready. I've been staring at the screen on my laptop for too many hours, now. Papers in London, Jamaica, New York, and Boston all carried the story of Courageous' sinking. The Navy Chronicle had a whole three-page spread. My friend here certainly fits the descriptions of the dashing young captain. Bit of a rogue hero, apparently. Promoted to Commander, then Captain after a distinguishing, bold command of a sloop of war not long thereafter. He fought Spanish pirates with our own U.S.S Constitution, whose captain spoke highly of his ingenuity and courage. I close down the laptop, and stand to stretch. My patient is still out in a healing sleep, and will most likely be out for at least another few hours. Hard to tell, really. His breathing is deep, even, and steady. I pack my computer into the worn leather travel case, tie my hair up with an elastic, gather my now unnecessary jacket, (storm's abated), sling my bag over one shoulder as I follow the rolling gurney down to the ambulance bay. It won't take long to reach my home in Connecticut at this hour. I pause, watching them load Horatio (A conceit on my part, I know.) into the back of the ambulance.
Carlos and Sheila, the EMT's, help us install our guest in a first floor room. All the electronics have been removed, the wooden furniture is all heavy antique stuff, and candles provide light. Some of the dogs follow us in; Grendel in particular seems taken with the new guest. The great lout plants himself at the foot of the bed, keeping a watchful eye on the new addition. Sanchez feeds the medics some of her excellent coffee, and sends them on their way with a thermos of it.
"Another stray, then, gatita? " Her voice is low and scratchy, she's tired. I look at my watch and realize it's nearly five. It'll be light soon.
"Seems so. He should be out for at least a few hours still. Grendel, keep an eye on him. " He seems agreeable, wagging his tail. Sanchez heads up the stairs to her room, while I settle myself on an overstuffed living room couch.
There's something large and wet on the side of my face.
Large, wet, and insistent.
This is the first coherent thought I have. I crack one eye open. Goodie, it's seven in the morning. Then it registers, and I crack the other eye open. Sure enough, Grendel, all one hundred sixty-five pounds of him, is trying to get me up.
"Ok, ok. I'm coming. " I mutter, sitting and managing somehow to untangle myself from a much too large afghan. White Amalthea, the Maine Coon cat, watches in disinterest from the back of the couch. My little dog, Mabrook, a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, whines from where I've kicked the blanket over his head. Lancelot, sleeping next to the couch, is, at seven, the elder states hound of the estate. He picks his great white head up off the floor with interest. "Go wake up Sanchez. Get Sanchez, Lance, go get Sanchez. " This is a familiar game, and he makes his way slowly up the stairs to wake up my housemate, Mabrook in tow. I follow Grendel down the hall, knowing how long it will take Sanchez to be woken up at seven a.m., even for a hundred forty-five pound Irish Wolfhound.
I pause to knock on the doorjamb.
"Hello? " The accented tenor voice is confused. And well you should be, I think to myself.
"Can I come in? " I call through the gap in the door. Grendel pushes in ahead of me, tail wagging.
I walk into the room, finding my patient sitting up in the big bed, looking lost. Grendel has already situated himself on the foot of the bed, smiling.
"Do you know who you are? " I ask, pulling a low wooden stool over to sit next to my guest.
"Captain Horatio Hornblower, of His Britannic Majesty's frigate Courageous. Where am I? What happened to my ship? "
Aha. So. The beautiful sailor is actually Horatio. "I am afraid, Captain, that your ship was lost at sea June 8, 1804. You are the only survivor. " He pales under the weathered skin, bowing his head. He mumbles something, names I think, and I look up at the familiar soft tread of Sanchez' bare feet on the hall floor. She must be carrying Mabrook, otherwise he'd be in on the bed already. I wave her off with one hand, registering her footfalls heading off in the other direction, probably going to make coffee. I hope she puts water on for me, I could use tea. My attention turns back to our houseguest.
"Madam, where am I? How long was I at sea? If I may be so bold, who are you? I feel as though we've met. "
I smile at him gently. It's a reaction to the healing, having been inside his mind, and 'inside' his body. It's not surprising he recognizes me.
"I'm Doctor Morgana Lyon, Captain. You are a guest in my house, for as long as you care to be, to recover your strength. "
"Are you American, then, Madam Lyon? "
There's hesitation in his voice. He senses something amiss. It dawns on me that my tank-top and cut off sweats are decidedly not what he's probably expecting a young woman to be wearing. I'm quick like that in the morning, really. "Yes, I am. I live in the country about two hours from Boston. You were brought here from the hospital. "
"Madam, I must get word to the British consul" Wide dark eyes narrow, mistrusting me. "There is something you do not want me to know, Madam. Please, how long was I at sea? "
I sigh, pushing my hair out of the way with one hand. "How best to put this. Captain, until very recently it was believed you were lost at sea with your crew. The Courageous was lost exactly two hundred years ago yesterday morning. The United States Coast Guard pulled you out of the water in the midst of one of the worst storms we've seen in fifty years. "
Brown eyes become startled at this pronouncement. Fear. Grendel's massive head comes up, and he turns to lick his new friend's hand.
Promising to return, I walk the few steps to the parlor I slept in and retrieve my laptop in its leather bag. Wordlessly, I boot it up, time and date in the upper right hand corner of the color LCD screen. I retrieve the last document viewed; the Navy Chronicle copy dated June 30, 1804. The headline, in bold black letters, read 'HMS Courageous lost at sea!" Long, sun bronzed fingers touch the screen hesitantly, causing the colors to run together. Those large, intelligent dark eyes looked up at me, back at something that could not have existed in the world he had known, and finally back to me.
I am Horatio Hornblower, Captain of HMS Courageous.
The last memory I have is the godawful sound of one of the masts
cracking in half, screams of dying men all around me, and the
keening howl of the worst storm I'd seen in thirteen years at
sea. New England was beautiful and green in the first heat of
summer, and not half so hot as Jamaica. The crew was excited
to be destined for Boston, a place few of us had traveled to before.
Our orders had been changed at the last moment, marauding bands
of pirates were molesting trade routes, and the ambassador felt
much safer travelling on a frigate than a faster and less well-armed
sloop of war. We set sail out of Plymouth, making good time across
the Atlantic and set to arrive two days earlier than scheduled.
The storm came out of nowhere. One moment, the sky was clear and blue, with a moderate wind, just enough to fill the sails. The next, black as night and we were lost.
I almost remember a too-bright place, filled with noise and an appalling, unnatural smell.
I awake to morning sunlight, in a clean room with cream colored walls and warm, dark wood wainscoting. A nightstand holds pewter candlesticks with thick white candles, and a fine glass oil lamp for reading. There is a fireplace across the room, with a grate across the front. The bed I find myself in is a sleigh bed made of a rich, reddish, warmly polished wood. Cherry, perhaps. The sheets are fine cotton, white and clean and crisp against my skin; I cannot remember the last time I slept in a real bed, not in a ship's berth. The great weight against my legs turns out to be one of the largest dogs I believe I have ever seen. The great, shaggy thing licks my hand, jumps off the bed, and trots away, wagging his tail.
I manage to pull myself up into a sitting position against the headboard, and decide to stop there. That much is as exhausting as anything I have ever done.
Where in God's name am I? Outside the window, I can see horses behind a fence. What sounds like a grandfather clock chimes somewhere nearby. Seven in the morning, then.
My friend the dog is back, long tail wagging still. He jumps onto the bed easily. I do believe he weighs more than I myself. I like him; he has a comforting presence. There's a knock on the door.
God, my hand is shaking like a leaf in a storm. She's very small, this woman, with silver rimmed spectacles and long snow-white hair that falls in waves down past her waist. Far down, I think, if I would let my eyes follow it. She is striking, a pale fairie creature possessed of clouded silver eyes and forceful presence of character. Her skin fairly glows in the early morning sunlight. I feel as though I have known her for my whole life, and find myself blushing. My mind focuses on her, avoidingsomething. It occurs to me that I am wearing nothing but sheets, which I quickly pull up farther. I am not decent, while my hostess seems completely at her ease in mere rags of clothing. Her silver gaze is compassionate, and I look away. I'm not sure I can bear compassion just now. My ship, my crew, lost. I am stranded, more a prisoner than when the Spanish held me.
I find myself staring at my hands, tangling in the sheets of their own accord.
She has put thecomputer, she called it, away in its bag.
"Captain? Horatio? " Her hand stills both of my own in the sheets, her warmth brings me back to reality.
"Madam. " Why is my voice shaking like that? "YouhowI cannot believe this. It is ludicrous, Madam. " I cling to the hope that it is a bad dream. Her fingers tighten on mine, a strong grip for so small a woman. Her sincerity and kindness are confirmation I do not want. "Oh, God. " I whisper, trying to curl up into a small ball on the bed. My mind reaches, but cannot grasp all that has befallen me. Strong arms pull me against a warm shoulder, and I shame myself by crying like a frightened child. I'm holding to her now, this strange woman, so tightly it must hurt her, but she does not complain. She just holds me, rocking gently, letting me mourn. God in Heaven, I am two hundred and twenty-nine years old. This summer has lasted two hundred years. My father, my friends, everythinggone. How can I possibly exist, when everything I have ever known is dust?
There is a voice, inside my headher voice, whispering to me. It promises sleep, relief from the pain, the confusion. I follow gladly. Perhaps I shall not wake again.
"I brought you some tea, little cat. " Sanchez,
using her old nickname for me, hands me a steaming mug. Horatio
has fallen asleep against my legs, seemingly in desperate need
of that small human contact. Grendel has snuggled up against
the man's back, as comfortable a back rest as anyone could want.
I smile my thanks at Sanchez, watching her settle onto my abandoned
"He's asleep again. " I have a terribly good grasp on the obvious, early in the morning.
"You put him out deliberately, yes? " She sips what is probably her fourth cup of coffee, looking at our guest with pity.
"I had to, San. His mind was shattering. "
She makes a noncommittal noise, in the back of her throat. "Can't say as I blame him, Morgan. He's had quite a day. What happens next? "
I swirl the tiny bits of tea floating in the bottom of my cup, finish the last swallow of still-warm liquid, then put my cup down before answering. "I don't know, San. Lady help me, I don't know. I'm not altogether sure I can keep him from going over the deep end. Pardon the inappropriate pun. "
The man asleep against me begins to tremble. I close my eyes to concentrate, running gentle fingers through his tangled curls. It's sort of like trying to bandage a burn victim trying to heal without inflicting more damage. It's also easy to lose track of time, in healing trance. Moments to Sanchez can feel like days to me. I'm in no hurry, insinuating myself carefully into his mind. It takes what feels like forever, but the base of what is to be a healing balm is spread across his psyche. I open my eyes to find Sanchez staring at me.
"What? " I mumble, my voice feeling as thick as old honey.
"That's incredible. You sort of made this little noise of triumph; he let out this huge sigh, and settled again. The whole time, I swear, where your hand was touching him, you were glowing blue. "
I hmmph, and reach for her coffee. She hands me the cup and I swallow, remembering as I do why it is that I despise coffee. Sanchez chuckles at my disgusted face. "How long did it take? " My watch is in the parlor still.
"Not nearly as long as you probably think; forty-five minutes. You didn't look like you were having any trouble, so I got up and got more coffee and came back. Call Jason, by the way, when you get a chance. "
I groan. Right. School. Yeah. My brain seems to be picking up speed finally.
"Our sailor needs a shower, hey. " Sanchez sniffs, unimpressed. "Didn't they wash him in the hospital? "
"I think his being combative and subsequently restrained kind of put a damper on a bath. " I remind her, wishing devoutly for something to get the coffee taste out of my mouth. "But you're right. He does need a bath. They didn't have deodorant in the Royal Navy in those days. "
Sanchez takes herself off to supply the guest bath connected to this room. She returns with an armload of soap, deodorant, towels, a brush and a toothbrush, and a razor. She pauses in the bathroom's threshold. "Think he'll be up any time soon? "
I close my eyes again, listening without ears. I haven't done this in some time, reading my patient correctly will become easier each time. Right now, it's an educated guess at very best. Damn, I hate assumption. "He'll be back in an hour or two, I think, San. Give an hour or a day. "
"Some bloody help you are. Think we could sponge-bath him before he wakes up? "
The thought has merit. Being clean would probably make him feel better, too. I nod, and she goes to get a basin and some water. Horatio stirs against me once more, moaning in his sleep. I run my hand gently across his shoulders, wincing in sympathy at the thickness of old scar tissue. "Shhh, it's all right. You're safe, you're safe. Rest, Horatio. " I'm not sure if it's the sound of my voice, or the contact, but the heart wrenching moans stop and he settles again.
"Either he nightmares a lot, or he's a light sleeper. " Sanchez comments, arranging the basin and her other supplies on the bedside table. I manage to untangle myself from our patient, and we strip the covers off him in a quick motion. Grendel protests, being suddenly covered in linens. With a disgusted snort, he slides out from under the impromptu tent and pads out the door.
"We'll have to leave his hair for later, more's the pity. " Sanchez comments as we begin washing. She washes, I dry.
"You know, for someone lost at sea, he's pretty dirty. " I mutter, picking up my third clean hand towel. San is already on her fourth wash cloth. Two or three of them are discolored with dried, crusted blood from wounds I've healed.
"How badly hurt is he? Is there anywhere I should avoid rubbing too hard? "
It's easier to tell physical injury now that I can actually run my hands over him. "He's lucky he's in such good condition, or he'd be a lot worse off than he is. Right knee is a bit stiff, but I think that's an older injury. His stomach and front left shoulder and most of his left side will be sore still, from getting rammed with whatever hit there. I'm not sure if it needs more healing or if I should just let it go as it is. Other than that, he should be ok. "
"Ready to flip him? "
"I wouldn't mind flipping him. " I grin at her, as she shakes her head at me. "Oh, come on, San. I'm trying to lighten the mood. Ready whenever you are. "
"Roll toward his right, then, we'll try to cushion that left side. "
After a few minutes, we manage to roll our charge onto his back fairly gently. Sanchez gives an irreverent whistle, wagging her eyebrows suggestively. I toss a washcloth at her. "And you think I'm bad, woman. " Playing aside, she's a good nurse and goes gentle on the still bruised left side of the torso.
"Damn, that hurts just looking at it. Can't you fix it or something? " Concern colors her voice, deepening her accent a bit. Funny, her voice is higher than mine, and she's taller and broader than I am. You'd think it would be the other way around.
"After I've had more than two hours of sleep, one cup of tea, and a nasty mouthful of your coffee. You don't even have the decency to put sweetener of some sort in there. "
Her reply is a cheerfully flipped middle finger. Some of us got more sleep than others, I think to myself, growling an obscenity at her in German. That's one language she hasn't been able to master cussing in. Her voice is softer now, "Hey, I'll clean up. It looks like you'll be awake for a bit. Go get yourself a shower, something to eat and a pot of tea, and come back. I'll stay with him in case he wakes up again. "
We cover the patient again, and I head off to do as I'm told.
The room comes into focus around me again. My head has ceased
pounding, my shoulder aches less, and I have the distinct feeling
that I must really answer the call of Nature.
"Awake again, I see, Captain Hornblower. "
The voice is different, higher, with a light Spanish accent. I turn my head, blinking. I distinctly remember a much smaller, paler, not Spanish woman. Perhaps I have gone mad, then. Raving lunacy would be preferable tochilling, horrifying sanity. Captain Sawyer always seemed to be in fine spirits, I think dejectedly, and he was mad as a hatter.
"I'm Sanchez, Captain. La professora has gone to wash up and have breakfast. She should be back soon. "
My Spanish is pretty good, but I can't place her accent. Not from Spain, then. Perhaps the accent has changed in two hundred years. Perhaps Spain no longer exists. Perhaps I shall not dwell on this line of thought at the moment. "Madam Lyon is a teacher, then? "
"Si. She teaches Music History, History and Art History at Yale University. How are you feeling, can I get you anything? "
"Madam, I would be greatly appreciative if you could get me the chamber pot. "
I have learned that when a woman smiles that way, trouble soon follows.
"I'm afraid I can't do that. "
"Madam? " She cannot be serious.
"We did away with chamber pots a while ago. Can you stand on your own, or should I help you? "
I begin to attempt standing, when the sudden realization that I am completely naked hits me for the second time today. Warm blood suffuses my cheeks, and I clutch sheets to myself quickly.
An amused voice from the doorway is my salvation. "There's a pair of loose pants with a drawstring at the end of the bed, Captain. They should fit you fairly well. San, let the man dress. Go do something useful like take the dogs out. I fed them about half an hour ago, they should be ready soon. "
Sanchez smiles at me and removes herself; pausing long enough to murmur something I do not catch to her companion. Morgana Lyon nods, as I reach for the trousers.
"Captain, I will be just outside the door if you need help standing, once you've dressed. "
I nod my thanks, somehow unable to meet the smaller woman's gaze. I have always been shy around women; it has gotten no easier to deal with them as I grow older. I would much prefer to be back on the quarterdeck of my ship, under fire from French corvettes, than try to guess the intricacies of proper social etiquette. The pants are some soft, warm, wooly substance, and do indeed fit well. The partially open door must be the wash room, I realize, and attempt to reach it on my own. I get as far as putting my feet on the floor and then clinging to the stout bed for support. This is humiliating.
"Madam. Iseem to require some assistance. " Words learned in years of sailing come to my lips, I manage to choke them down.
Wordlessly, my patroness slides an arm around my back, supporting me on the right. Small though she is, I feel solid muscle in her shoulders and arms. There is something, a tingle, where my skin meets hers that is driving me to distraction. A most appealing scent is rising from Miss Lyon's damp silver hair. If Nature were not calling quite so loudly, it would be maddening.
"I think we'd better wait on getting you in the bath until you can stand a little better on your own. Maybe after breakfast. "
I nod again, trying to untie the knot in my tongue. Almost managed to get a word out.
"Madam, thank you. I" I look around, searching for words. "I am a refugee here, at your mercy, you honor me with your patronage. " That, at least, was respectable.
"You're welcome to stay as long as you like. When you're ready, we'll see about feeding you. " After a quick explanation of how everything works, she gives my arm one last gentle squeeze, and leaves me, pulling the door shut behind herself. I manage the necessities quickly, realizing that this is what most likely drove me to wakefulness, and look at the bath in longing.
I sit instead on the cool tile floor, and lean my head back against the wall.
"I am in the year 2004. It is a new MILLENIUM. My God. "
I remain on the floor, fighting black depression and sorrow. Time is a luxury I am unaccustomed to. It would appear I have nothing but time on my hands, now.
"Jason? Hi, yeah, it was a long night. It's going to
be a longer day. You won't believe me if I tell you. No, no,
I promise I will later, after I've absorbed it myself. Yeah,
class. Look, I've only got the two art surveys for the end of
the trimester. There's only one more week left, can you and Dom
handle them, between you? I'll email you all my notes and stuff.
The finals are online, so you won't even have to correct them.
Great, I owe you both big for this. I'll be sure to tell Sanchez
you miss her. Thanks again, you're really pulling me out of a
I hang up the phone and run my hand through still wet hair, tucking it absently behind one ear. Jason and Dominic, my two hulking ex-football player teaching assistants, will cover classes for me. Thankfully, that gives me well into September before I have classes again. Prying myself off the sofa, I glance down the hallway toward the guest-room. Horatio has been in there for a good hour, and I'm giving him five more minutes before I go check to see what's going on. I really hope he didn't try to get in the tub, I don't think Sanchez and I could get him out between us.
The bedroom door opens, surprising me. Horatio has found the oversized linen shirt I left for him, and pulled it on with the loose sweatpants. He looks at the cell phone in my hand, one eyebrow going up in a silent question.
"Hungry? " I ask, switching the phone off and putting it in my pocket.
"Yes, Miss Lyon. Just some bits of bread would be fine, really. "
I smile and shake my head, motioning for him to follow me. The Captain's walking well enough on his own, his body seems to be recovering from its ordeal. I watch out of the corner of my eye as Horatio looks all over my three hundred year old house, trying to find things that don't fit in. He's inquisitive and sharp, and quick wit will serve him well in the next few months. We make it down the hall to the kitchen, and I sit him on a high stool at the breakfast bar. His eyes are wide as he takes in the copper clad hanging pots, gleaming stainless steel refrigerator, mixers and other odds and ends. This is the room that will prove most easily that he's really not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
"Tea or coffee? " I ask, then add, "I've got milk and several kinds of fruit juice, too, if you'd rather. "
"Coffee? Please? "
I put on enough water for several cups of tea for myself, and put a cup and saucer down in front of my guest, pouring him some of Sanchez' Ethiopian blend coffee. It isn't my fault the woman buys sixty-five dollar a pound coffee.
"Do you like eggs? "
My companion nods. I can see him trying valiantly to cope with his surroundings. Grendel, bless his heart, sits with his head on the man's knee. The dog seems to help my charge's grasp on reality. He rests one hand on the animal's head, and I go about making an omlette with ham, cheese, peppers and sausage inside. By the time the tea water is ready, so are the omlette and some toast, and I offer my confused guest choice of jam.
As I watch Horatio eat, it occurs to me to wonder what in the world I'm going to do with him.
For a man, even a Captain, used to sea-rations, this meal
is excellent. I slip a bit of egg to the dog, and suddenly find
myself surrounded by five of his very large friends.
"Despite their starving, neglected appearance, they really don't need any people food. Especially your friend Grendel, there. He's getting fat. Hey, you all, out! " A sharply waved hand sends the pack of dogs through the arched doorway of the kitchen into another room.
"My apologies, Doctor. I was attempting to be polite. " I offer repentance for my transgression with a small smile. Not, I fear, the last I will ever offer this woman. She just grins at me, sipping tea from a delicate green and white china cup.
"Just leave the dishes there, I'll take care of them later. Bring your coffee into the library, if you like."
I straighten to follow, coffee in my hand, and find myself, the scalding hot liquid, and delicate china on the floor in a broken heap in the next heartbeat. Miss Lyon is kneeling at my side almost as quickly, towel in one hand. I realize abruptly that I've cut myself on the sharp edges of broken china.
"This is humiliating. I'm sorry for the china. "
"Forget the cup, what happened? " She manages to clear away enough blood to peel up the sleeve of the shirt I've now managed to ruin, looking at my arm critically.
"II'm afraid I don't know, Miss Lyon. My whole left side refused to support any weight." Damn, but my arm throbs.
"Morgan! " The other woman, Sanchez, has returned, coming to kneel quickly by my other side. Possibly, if I asked, they would throw me back into the sea and I would be allowed to die instead of disgrace myself every other time I draw breath.
"Really, ladies, please, I'm ok. "
The women exchange a look, and Sanchez takes herself off. She does something with the dishes, and I am again alone with Morgana Lyon.
"I'm afraid I need to get you somewhere you can either lie down flat or sit more comfortably than this. Do you think you can stand? " I nod silently, and with her aide, manage to lever myself upright. She guides me into the next room, a parlor of some sort, and helps me lie on my back on a long, low couch. It's heavy, dark wood of a style I'm not familiar. The dark upholstery is incredibly soft and inviting. Her small hands make short work of the buttons on my shirt, sliding it gently back off my shoulders. I'm blushing again as she disrobes me. Hell and damnation.
"Horatio, I need you to take a slow, deep breath for me. " Hands on my left side, sliding smoothly up and down my skin with that enticing tingle. Exhaustion is all that prevents a most embarrassing reaction. "And again, please. " Hands on my right side, repeating the motion. It has been years since last I felt a woman's touch.
"Horatio, look at me. "
I hadn't realized my eyes were closed. With a deep breath, I look up at her, sitting with one leg against my side. Preternatural warmth radiating from her body almost scalds my skin.
"You got battered around pretty good in the storm, " she tells me, "there's still some internal damage that I need to heal. I did so before without your permission, and I apologize for that. Will you let me help you? "
"You 'healed' me, Madam? " Acceptance of what must surely be witchcraft comes rather more easily than I would have liked; then again, I am, after all, here.
"Yes. I healed your worst injuries. "
"What will it feel like? " I can't help but believe healing will be far gentler than any treatment at the hands of a British Naval surgeon.
"It will be a pleasant warmth spreading through the part of your body affected. Sort of like if you were lying in the sun, and a cloud passed over head, blocking off all but your left side. "
I nod my assent, and her gentle, warm hands return to my skin. And somehow, I feel she is inside my head with me. The promised warmth spreads through most of the left side of my body; it is a very pleasant, intriguing sensation. I don't think I've ever been this intimate with a woman before.
"The contact is very sensual, isn't it? " She asks casually, luminous silver gaze focused intently on my side, just under my armpit.
"I-I'm very sorry, miss, I hadn't meant to say that out loud! " My face must be scarlet.
"Oh, you didn't. Lie still, I'm going to mend the problem. "
The warmth intensifies, not unpleasantly, and a great weight I hadn't felt till then is lifted off of me. My breathing comes easier, suddenly. The newly cut arm no longer hurts. I raise my eyes to look at the woman sitting against my side. Her strange silver eyes are laced in a star pattern with a startling frosty blue, and she smiles at me tiredly.
"There. You shouldn't have any further difficulty walking. "
"Madam. " I whisper, capturing one of her tiny hands in my own, feeling huge and clumsy beside her, "What am I to do now? Where do I go? " I want to say more, but am unsure of what exactly it is that needs saying. Doctor Lyon's closeness, both physical and mental, has unsettled me greatly. I press my lips together, jaw clenching desperately against the mindless fear creeping up in the shadows.
She helps me sit up slowly, an arm around my waist for support more emotional than physical. I find myself awash in the doctor's pale mane of hair, which has loosed itself from restraint. "For the near future, Captain, consider yourself a welcome guest here. We'll take it one day at a time, and see where the Fates bring us, shall we? "
I nod, glad of the warm, human contact. Whatever my conflicting emotions, the solid presence of this strong, capable woman acts as a balm to my frayed nerves. She helps me back into my room, and after a short while, sleep claim me once again.
My guest spends the next forty-eight hours almost completely
asleep. It's not terribly surprising that he does, with the immense
physical and emotional trauma he's undergone. I've forced quite
a bit of healing on him in a very short period, his body's now
catching up on all the energy it's been compelled into spending.
When he does wake, Horatio has a voracious appetite. He's able
to walk steadily, which is a relief to us all. I've taken to
sleeping on the parlor couch, after the first terrible night,
when he woke screaming at two thirty a.m., caught in the throes
of a nightmare. If you've never heard nine full grown Irish Wolfhounds
baying in distress all at the same time, it's something.
Grendel is pushing his big, wet nose into the palm of my hand, and I raise myself blearily from the couch. Good old Grendel, he's becoming nearly as sensitive as I am to Horatio's nightmares. I squint at my watch, it's not much past midnight. This is the fourth day Horatio has been in my house.
"I know, old man, I'm coming. " I tell the dog, stepping over the sleeping Lancelot at the side of the couch. Lance snorts as I walk over his prone body, not deigning to join me. It's beneath his dignity to move.
A startlingly loud 'crack' hurries my steps a bit. I slip into Horatio's bedroom, glad there's a moon tonight, and sit on the bed at his side. He's thrashing violently about, tangled hopelessly in the sheets, breathing hard and moaning pitifully. His entire torso is bathed in a thin sheen of sweat. The coffee-colored curls are damp and tangled.
"Horatio, you're dreaming. " I catch his forearms, shifting to put most of my weight around his elbows, trying to pin him to the bed before he hurts himself. If I have to, I'll get Grendel to sit on the captain's legs. I can already see a bruise darkening the skin on his right forearm. Shit. "Horatio, wake up, you're safe, it's a dream. " Grendel whines, looking up at me as if to say 'hurry up, already'. With a sigh, I straddle the captain's hips, kneeling across his thighs, my weight just enough to still the violent thrashing. If he'd been really fighting me, I would've had no chance at all of restraint; but it's the nightmare he's fighting, not me. This contact allows me to slip inside his mind, whispering again, "Horatio, wake up! You're safe. It's only a dream. "
Wide brown eyes fly open, staring at me blankly in the moonlight, before a great sob wracks his body. I move off of him before he can register embarrassment at our position, lying next to Horatio on the bed and slipping my arms around him in comfort.
"Oh God, Morgana, I failed them. I failed in my duty, and my ship sank. I lost four hundred men. Oh, God, what have I done? "
That heartbroken, wretched question brings tears to my own eyes. I stroke hands up and down his back, attempting to soothe, holding him close against me. The tone of my voice, pitched to be soft and soothing, will register more than my words, I know, so I speak, offering what poor little comfort this guilt-stricken time traveler might accept.
"There have been hundreds of ships lost off the Cape, Horatio, in freak storms just like the one that got you. There was nothing you could have done differently. We still lose them, with all our sophisticated equipment. You did all you could have done. " I brush an unruly curl off his forehead, looking across into guilt filled eyes. He's trembling, exhausted, drained. Tears shimmer in the moonlight, on the verge of spilling over.
"Go back to sleep, Horatio. I'll stay, if you like, and keep the nightmares at bay. Grendel and I will guard your sleep. "
Hornblower nods, accepting the offer, too exhausted to do much else. He closes his eyes and buries his face against the hollow of my throat. I slide one hand into his curls, holding him loosely, and soon his breathing slows. Grendel settles on the foot of the bed, head on his paws, watching with worried amber eyes. Even with my gift, I can only guess what such trust, and such great vulnerability must cost this stoic warrior. I know it embarrasses Horatio terribly, to let San and I see him like this. When he moves away from me in his sleep, I sit on the low stool at the bedside, to allow some dignity when he wakes.
I rouse to an unfamiliar sensation. There's gentle fingers stroking hair off of my face. Blinking in the early morning light, I open my eyes. Horatio is awake, having been watching me sleep. I can see on his face that he's torn between mortification and amusement, now that I'm aware.
"Good morning. Did you manage to get some rest last night? " I ask, stretching under the blanket I've mysteriously acquired in the middle of the night. Lancelot, curled around my feet, peeks out from underneath a corner of blanket. I reach down absently to scratch my old friend's massive, hoary head. Hornblower smiles at me sheepishly, a lopsided twisting of his full mouth. Gods above, he's beautiful.
"Yes, miss. Ithat is" He's off guard, unsure of his footing.
"Well, I have to say, this is less comfortable than the couch in the other room. " I joke, trying to put him at ease. He blushes vividly under the seaman's tan, muttering something under his breath, hiding his face in the pillow. I chuckle to myself.
"I'm going to go make something to eat, if you'd like to wash and come to breakfast. " I invite, heading off toward the kitchen.
I turn, surprised at the use of my first name, hand on the doorknob, to look at my ward. Lancelot, close on my heels, nearly bowls me over.
"I cannot say this enough, it would seem. Thank you. " The warm brown eyes are sincere, if slightly embarrassed.
"You're welcome, Captain. " I smile, closing the door softly behind myself.
Standing in my bathing room, I look up uncertainly at the shower head. I have pulled the curtain closed 'round the tub as instructed, and prepare to take my first modern shower. Hesitantly, I reach down and turn the knob nearest to hand. Cool water streams down my body, in a strong spray. This is delightful! Much encouraged, I pick up a bottle of hair-soap, sniffing interestedly. The label claims that it is 'Balsam and Protein'. I begin to work it into my hair, quite enjoying the scent. This is much better than the Navy's harsh lye soap.
"Bloody DAMN HELL!! "
I've launched myself over the side of the tub, and land unceremoniously on the floor. Grendel is growling outside the door, and footsteps draw nearer.
"Horatio! Are you all right in there?? " Morgana's voice through the door.
She opens the door when I fail to respond, glancing from the still running water forming a very large puddle on the black and white tile floor to where I've ended up, back against the cabinet. She tosses me a towel, and goes quickly to shut the water off.
"What happened? Are you all right? "
Soap burns my eyes, dribbling down my face. I glare at her.
"You didn't tell me it got so thrice damned HOT! "
Morgana blinks. I continue to glare, my pride injured.
"Horatio, are you all right? " She asks again, mouth working oddly.
"I am quite uninjured. " Wrapping the towel around my middle, I stand shakily, nursing my bruised dignity.
"I'll go get a few more towels. " Her lips are twitching.
"It isn't funny, Morgana. "
Silver eyes twinkle madly as the woman turns again, unable now to hide the grin.
"Next time, I suggest you turn the hot water on first, adjust it with cold, and then get into the shower. I'm sorry I didn't warn you. "
"Indeed. So you should be. " Damn her eyes, that silent laugh is contagious. She's almost as bad as Archie was.
Chuckling, she withdraws, leaving me alone with my injured pride and a bathroom full of wet Wolfhound.
"Some help you are. " I tell Grendel, now rolling onto his back in the puddle. The hound's thick tail slaps wetly into the soapy puddle at my feet. Splendid. Just ruddy splendid.