Passing the Time Away
by Archer's Aim

Respectfully dedicated to sarah (zenia1) whose email of a few weeks back (before I got sick) about how the years had rolled by, and our favorite characters were pushing eight years old, but still kept going thanks to the list's dedication to them, inspired this little bout of insanity . . .

It was a truly lovely day. The sky was that deep, Royal Navy blue, a soft breeze was ruffling his hair, the air was scented with the tang of the sea and the warm rays of the sun shone down on his face. No Frogs were trying to kill him, and for once (after he'd finished the climb up the ropes), he sat evenly balanced on the yardarm without those annoying feelings of nausea and vertigo troubling him.

Horatio Hornblower, his eyes closed, his hand safely holding the yardarm in a death grip, took a deep breath and smiled to himself. It was turning out to be a wonderful day.

"Well, hell, this just won't do."

Except for the fact that he was sitting next to Archie Kennedy.

With a martyred sigh, Horatio opened one eye and peered over at his friend. "/What/ won't do, Archie," he said patiently. 'As though we haven't had this conversation a few hundred million times already . . .'

"This. Sitting here, perched on the yardarms like a flock of, of -- /bluebirds/."

From the other side of the mast, William Bush snickered, then spoke up.

"He's right, Mr. Hornblower ­ Horatio," William corrected hastily at the glare from Horatio. "I am /truly/ grateful for our fans and their belief in us, which has kept us alive long past the end of our show ­ but we really /cannot/ remain up this mast forever."

Horatio waited patiently for what he knew was coming.

"What he /means/, Horatio, is that, while the fans write those /magnificent/ stories about us, there are times when their attention is turned elsewhere, and when it is ­ we need /something/ to do. Besides, that is, sitting up here on a perch ­"

"Like a bunch of bluebirds," Horatio finished, "I heard it the first time you said it. But why not? It's a beautiful view, there's no Frogs around ­".

"And I'm bored out of my mind," Archie finished flatly.

Horatio snuck a glance at his friend. 'Yes, he's pouting, the curls are falling on his forehead, /and/ he has that sad-eyed expression ­ all the traits that make our fans love him. /And/ that are guaranteed to signal the cast getting into trouble.' Aloud, he asked, "So, Mr. Kennedy, what do /you/ suggest we do?"

"Get jobs."

"WHAT!" Four voices yelped out, as Styles and Matthews joined in from their perch below their officers.

With a flourish, Archie whipped a newspaper from behind his back.

"And /how/ precisely is the Kingston Chronicle going to help us find jobs?" Horatio asked in amusement. "/Not/, mind you, that I agree we need to get jobs. I am perfectly content to remain here." Then he took a second look. "Wait. That's /not/ the Chronicle. The Chronicle doesn't have ­ /pictures/? /Color/!? Archie, WHERE DID YOU GET THIS, THIS ­"

"Variety."

"HUH?"

"Variety. 'A trade journal for those seeking work in the entertainment industry'."

"We are /not/ becoming actors," Horatio declared in as loud and commanding a voice as he could manage.

"And just /what/ would you call our roles in the stories our fans write?" Archie asked bluntly, one eyebrow arched as he out-stared his friend ­ while they both ignored another snicker from William Bush.

Horatio's mouth opened, and closed, then, in desperation, he blurted out, "Look, is that a sea-monster?"

Archie would not be deterred. "Listen, we /have/ to do something. And there are /thousands/ of possibilities here -- we'll just review them until we find something suitable for each of us." Ignoring Horatio's sputtered attempts to stop him, he opened the paper and selected an ad. ""Older actor with curling hair to assume lead role in long-running Science Fiction television show. Must be able to act in a giddy manner and wear strange clothing with flair'. William -- "

"I'm not playing a stereotypical English fop in weird clothes," William Bush stated.

"'E's not a fop, sir," Styles called up. "I've seen the show. 'E's more of a -- ." He looked at Matthews for help.

"The Doctor's more of a 'comedic-hero', sir," Matthews explained, having spent some of his recent freedom from adventure on the high seas reading his way through Kitty Cobham's library.

"I'd have to be /funny/?" Bush plaintively asked Archie. Horatio stifled a grin as he tried to picture solid Mr. Bush 'being funny'. Sighing, Archie turned back to the paper. "We'll find another one for you." Scanning several more pages, he placed his finger on one. "'Older, handsome actor, dark hair, for role in British crime drama. Is he or his he not a murderer? Only the story's conclusion will tell.' Maybe you could take this one?"

"/What/?!?" yelped Bush, nearly toppling off the yardarm. "I'm /not/ playing some ax-wielding mass murderer!"

"We /have/ to stop him from reading any more TV Guides," Archie muttered to Horatio as he rapidly skimmed the ads. "Wait. Here's one for you, 'Ratio! 'Tall, dark-haired younger actor to join ensemble cast in Arthurian drama. Swordfights, daring rescues, political intrigue' ­ oops, forget that one."

"/Why/?" demanded Horatio. Interested (despite himself), he leaned closer to Archie and tried to read over his shoulder.

"You'd have to ride a horse for at least half the movie."

Shuddering, Horatio tightened his grip on the yard. "Try again," he ordered.

"Would you prefer to play a 'dashing American lawyer in a futuristic legal drama'?"

Horatio glared at Archie. "We. Have. Had. This. Conversation. Before. I may have to share my birthday with that country, but if I must do this 'acting', I will /not/ play an American. I, sir, am a /BRITISH/ officer."

"Right," Archie said hastily. "Let's see, oh, here's one for me ­ 'heroic nobleman who saves' ­ uh, no. I'd have to die again. I've had /enough/ of that. Maybe this one ­ 'dashing young man about town' ­ no. 'Hero in futuristic space-based drama' ­ um, again no."

"Sir?" called Matthews.

"I'd have to lose the girl in /both/ of those," Archie called back, defiantly.

"And you've /never/ lost track of a lady friend, right, Kennedy?" Bush teased ­ then leaned out of the way as Archie attempted to reach around the mast and hit him with the paper.

"Keep it up, William," Archie said, eyes glinting with mischief. "I /could/ send you to audition for a role as lapdog to a Czarina."

"Hey," Horatio objected, "why are /you/ deciding who gets what roles? Both William and I outrank you!"

"I've got the newspaper," Archie replied as he continued to scan the ads.

"Wha' about us, sir?" asked Styles.

"Well, Styles, there's a role here in that Arthurian drama ­ 'plainspoken actor to portray loyal groom to knights'."

"Sir, I shoveled one damn dungcart fer ya, I'm not touchin' another shovel ­ that stuff stinks!"

"Right, Styles, I'll look for something else. Matthews? You've got a friendly voice ­ would you be interested in acting as narrator for a show that cleans up messy houses?"

"Not really, sir, no," Matthews looked pleadingly up at his lieutenant. "Sir, look for somethin' wi' a garden for me? I could do wi' a bit o' a break from the sea, 'bout now."

Horatio leaned back and listened to his friends as they worked their way through the rest of that damned Variety's entries, driven to ever-more hysterical laughter as the roles became increasingly bizarre. 'Gassy space villains, pathologists and, oh dear god, /now/ he's found something with comic book heroes,' he thought desperately, 'please, /please/, let the torture end soon . . .'

"Um, Archie?" he heard William Bush ask softly. Turning his head, Horatio recognized the mad gleam in Archie's eyes. 'Damn. Wonder if he wants to jump off /another/ cliff ­ or this yardarm . . .'

Straightening to attention, Archie declaimed. "'Four British actors to form ensemble cast for modern-day comedic-drama. Exuberant, fun-loving lead vocalist; dark-haired, brooding guitarist; calm, older bassist as straight man; and glowering working-class drummer to portray newly-famous rock band. It's perfect ­ I'll do the lead vocals, you take the guitarist's role, William will be the bass-player, as he can't be funny," -- "HEY!" William interrupted, "I could be funny if I wanted to be!" ­ "and Styles can relieve all his aggression by destroying the drums!"

"Wait. Why can't /I/ be the vocalist?" argued Horatio. Their show had been, after all, called 'Hornblower'. William and Archie just stared in shock at him, and below, he could hear Styles and Matthews laughing. "Oh. Right. I can't sing. Wait a minute. I can't play a guitar /either/!"

"That's fine, 'Ratio. The ad says only the vocalist has to be able to sing. The others will just /pretend/ to play their instruments."

"Wha' about me, sir?" asked Matthews nervously. "You wouldna leave me behind?"

"Haven't forgotten you, man," Archie said cheerfully. "There's a role here for 'an older, retired rock legend, owner of the local pub who offers advice to the newly-famous band'. Just right for you. You've been advising us the entire run of this show!"

"Works for me," William said amicably, leaning against the mast and closing his eyes. "Personally, I'll be glad to get out of this uniform for a bit, wear some nice blue jeans. What's the show called, and where do we apply?"

Silence.

"Archie?"

"Uh-oh."

"/Don't/ tell me," Horatio said, "we have to go to some strange place, like the Fiji Islands, to apply."

"No, no, the show's being filmed right in London."

"Then what's the problem?" William asked sleepily.

"The show has a rather ­ odd ­ title."

"Such as?" Horatio demanded, as William gave Archie a worried look and asked, "We are wearing normal clothes, right?"

"But that's only because it's a remake of an older television show. Maybe they'll rename it?"

"/Archie/!?!" four voices chorused.

Archie Kennedy grinned weakly. "Ah, well, the show's named after the band," he said, not meeting any of their eyes.

"And the band's name is?" Horatio asked in a dangerous tone.

"Um ­ 'The Monkees'?"

"Kennedy!!!" Four voices yelled, and, startled, Archie leaned too far forward, just as William said "I told you I wasn't going to wear weird clothes!" and slapped him on the back­

It truly had turned into a wonderful day, Horatio thought wickedly, watching as his best friend climbed back aboard the Indy, dripping wet ­

And without that damned paper.

The End.