by Skihee :)
"Here is the letter for your wife's solicitor. As soon as you and Mr. Kennedy are ready, deliver these to the Port Admiral." Pellew gave Hornblower a second thick packet.
"Mr. Kennedy, sir?"
"Yes. Have him inquire as to his examination."
"Aye, aye, sir."
Reaching Rampling's cabin where Kennedy berthed, Horatio knocked.
"Come." He entered the cabin to find his friend completing a shave. "Horatio! Sounds like an army trooping over our decks. Spanish on their way off?"
"Yes. Captain Pellew has sent me for you."
His hand jerked nicking his chin with the blade. "Horatio, don't say things like that when I have a razor to hand. I know you do not want my death on your conscience."
"You are to accompany me to Gibraltar and inquire about your examination for leftenant."
Archie closed his eyes. "Dear God, must I start my day with that on my head?"
"You will do fine."
"Easy for you to say."
"Archie, you know your seamanship forwards and backwards."
"But if they ask some battle tactic, navigational exercise, or sailing anachronism, as they did you..."
"You will keep a cool head and answer them plainly. It
is not as if you have been distracted captaining a supply ship
with mutinous men and hungry, aggressive captains stealing from
your ship in quarantine!"
"True. Just fighting bands of pirates and Spanish convoys. A common day in the life of a British officer."
"Exactly," said Hornblower.
Archie smirked doubtfully raising an eyebrow to Hornblower's easy comment.
"Just think, Archie. Put yourself in the situation, keep a cool head, and answer plainly. Finish dressing, now. I am going to my cabin. Come get me when you are ready."
"Aye, aye, sir," replied Archie, yielding reluctantly.
Standing outside his cabin, Hornblower took a deep breath and knocked.
He opened the door, entered, and closed it quickly. The sight to meet his eyes amazed. First, she was standing in her underwear. Secondly, the entire contents of her trunk covered the small room. She was biting her finger worriedly and glanced his way briefly.
"Oh, I'm glad you're here!"
"Well, so am I!" he said shocked. "Pamela! What if it had not been me knocking at our door?"
"What?" she asked absently.
"Well, look at you! You're, you're practically naked!"
"But Horatio, what am I going to wear? I am going to meet my father's lawyer. I must look my best." She picked up the cream colored dress. "This one?" She noted his shocked expression. "Not this one?"
He cast the dress away and embraced her.
"What is it, Horatio?"
"You haven't listened to a word I've said."
She tried to take up the dress again. "But..."
He took her hand. "Dear... Pamela, ...look at me." He could tell she was still concentrating on the apparel. "Pamela!"
"Yes?" Worry tinged the single word.
He kissed her. Long. Until he felt he had her attention.
She smiled and touched his lips. "You are such a sweetheart, Horatio. I love you."
"I love you. But, you must not answer the door in your underwear," he urged kindly.
"I didn't answer the door in my underwear."
"Yes, you did."
"I did not."
"Dear, what are you wearing?"
"And, when I knocked on the door, what did you say?"
"I said, come."
"That is not answering the door, that is telling you to enter."
"Exactly! And look how you are dressed!" He released her taking a step back, motioning with a hand. "What if it had been Matthews or Styles, or, or..."
"But it was you."
"But you didn't know that!"
"I might have." She said smiling, inwardly understanding his point.
"You might have?" He cocked an eyebrow.
She picked up a dress and threw it onto the bunk. Moving closer, she found his sides and tickled him.
"Now, stop that. Stop, Pamela."
"Make me!" She challenged.
He took the challenge and returned the attack. Stepping onto the hem of the green satin dress, he slipped and fell to the deck, pulling her with him. The two were laughing loudly with occasional shrieks from her to stop. An anxious knock sounded on the door. Horatio attempted to rise.
She pulled him back yelling. "Come!"
"You're raving!" he whispered, pulling clothing to cover her.
The door opened. Running footsteps sounded. Archie, a piece of cloth stuck to his chin by a droplet of blood, stood in the doorway looking at the two of them in a pile on the floor amongst masses of material in colors of red, green, rose, blue, white, and cream. A grin took his lips. He turned to the approaching footsteps and pulled the door to.
"What is it, Mr. Kennedy? Is she all right, sir?" asked Matthews, with Styles coming to a halt behind him, followed by Oldroyd, and Hardy.
"Yes, gentlemen, Mrs. Hornblower is fine," answered Kennedy, smiling.
"Thank the Lord! I thought one of them Dagoes had got lose!" There was a group sigh of relief as the men turned to go back to their duties.
Archie pushed the door open. Horatio was standing and pulled a length of fabric to cover her lack of clothing. She stretched it over her chest and held it behind her.
Hornblower did a double take. What had he wrapped her in? A field of blue with circling stars stretched over her ample bosom and a cascade of red and white vertical stripes reached to the floor.
Kennedy's mouth fell open and then grinned, seeing Horatio was confounded by the current attire of his American wife.
"Good morning, Mr. Kennedy," she smiled.
Horatio reached to gently close the door. "Could you excuse us a moment, Archie?"
"Certainly," he snickered.
"Pamela..." he was speechless. "I..." He pulled her up roughly, kissing her and wrapped his arms around her, then bent her backwards on his arm. At last, he stood them both erect. "There!" he said breathless but triumphant. "I am going to Gibraltar to inquire after your solicitor. Wear the rose colored dress when you see him," he said motioning towards it, "but it will probably not be today." He turned to go.
"Yes, sir," she whispered, sinking onto the bunk.
"And, don't answer the door in your undergarments.... and, and, ... that either," meaning her country's flag.
"It ... it might give the wrong impression."
He fumbled under the dresses to locate his hat, placed it firmly on his head, and gave her a final nod. "I'm going now." He paused. "I'm going..." He pulled her up from the bunk and kissed her gently. "You will be here when I return, Miss America?"
She smiled. "Yes, my love, I will. Would you prefer I dressed in the King's Colors?"
He pressed his lips together and failed to hide the smile. "Get dressed," he ordered.
Kennedy leaned against the far wall with his arms crossed. He raised an eyebrow at his friend with a crooked smile, shaking his head.
"Not a word, Mr. Kennedy. Let's go."