Day 1

Title: Day 9
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Horatio Hornblower
Rating: G
Disclaimer: Not my characters, not my 'verse. I don't get paid a cent to play. Please don't sue and make things worse.
Summary: Both Horatio and Archie have colds. Archie's boredom makes him a little more talkative than Horatio would like.
Note: Part of the 12 Ficlets in 12 Days project 2010-2011. Requested by Wig_Powder


Horatio Hornblower shivered in his hammock. He had two heavy wool blankets on top of him, and his peacoat on as well. His whole head felt stuffed up with something warm and heavy that was trying to escape through his nose, though he could barely feel that above the constant thumping in his forehead and ache in his bones. The only thing that made it even remotely bearable was that, when sick, the other midshipmen wouldn't come near him for fear of catching the ailment.

And the ailment was definitely catching. Most of the young powder monkeys had had it and several of the crew members had had it. He'd caught it that morning from Archie Kennedy, who was currently sleeping one hammock away from him.

ih-Ihtch!” Or, perhaps, he was no longer sleeping.

Horatio forced his eyes to open. “God bless you. Have you enough handkerchiefs, Archie?”

The pile of blankets in the hammock beside his moved as Archie rolled over in place, swinging slightly. “I reckon I could use another, but only if you have one to-to spare.” His breath caught and eyes closed. “ihChhh!” 

“Bless. Here, you had better take this,” Horatio held one up, but found that he had no strength with which to throw his body forward, sit up, and hand it over. Archie looked no better, as he reached out to accept it. He gave a bit of a whimper as he tried to reach and failed. Then Archie let out a laugh at their situation. “I'll throw it,” Hornblower announced, seeing the solution above the humor. He tossed the handkerchief, and it made it as far as Archie's throat, wrapped with a scarf.

Archie plucked it up and snuffled into it. “My father, he's a very proper man. He always said to go nowhere without a handkerchief.”

“Mine said the same,” Hornblower said, smiling. He had packed more than a dozen handkerchiefs before setting out “Of course, mine's a doctor. I'm not sure what he'd say to servings of rum to substitute for medicine. I don't suppose he has implemented that particular strategy.” Horatio coughed into one of his handkerchiefs now, his head thick and spinning. He closed his eyes, trying to relax his body. The more rest he got, the faster he would recover, he was certain.

If only, that is, his nose would allow him to rest. He swiped the handkerchief at his nose and, failing to quench the tickle in his nose, he cupped the cloth to his face. “ehhhh-ehhGHTChhfffff!” He wasn't quite done, to be sure. “ehhh… hehhh… ehhh-EHXTChuffffff!” As he blew his nose, he heard a light chuckle that turned his already slightly flushed cheeks a deeper red. “Pardon,” he said stuffily between blows. The chuckling resumed, however, attracting his interest. “Bay I—sniff, sniff—may I ask what is so funny, Mister Kennedy?”

Archie wore an expression of amusement, not malice. “Your sneezes are so incredibly bold, Horatio.”

Never in his life had Horatio considered his sneezes to be anything but regular sneezes. They were uncontrollable, like his seasickness or fatigue after a hard day's work. It was not as though he could shape them into something more presentable or sneeze in any way other than how he sneezed, with the obvious exception of perhaps not hiding them behind handkerchiefs, which was at least polite. “They are just sneezes,” Horatio replied innocently.

“Yes they are,” Archie agreed. “But…”

Horatio's hand tightened around the cloth, which he pressed to his nose and mouth again. “hehhh… ehhh… ehhhh-HIH-HIHEKtchfffff!

Archie chuckled again. “There's this soft build-up, you see. Like the sneeze is timidly feeling out the situation, biding its time, gathering strength. And then it explodes from you. It shows itself at the most unexpected moment. But you smother it at the end, covering it up, not wanting to draw any additional attention to it.”

Horatio wasn't entirely sure what to make of such an observation. “I believe I should call for the doctor again.” He coughed as politely as possible and continued. “I daresay this cold is making you see things that aren't there. Soon you will be telling me that… heh… that… pardon… ehhh-ehhh-gehhehhh-ehHIHTChffffffff! Snff! Snifff! Soon you will be telling tales of how the French now employ beautiful mermaids to lure British sailors to their deaths.”

Archie bent his arm and placed it behind his head. He sighed in an exaggerated way. “If only, Horatio. What a way to go.”

He paused, uncertain, and then he realized Archie was trying hard to hold back peels of laughter. And that made Horatio finally break down and laugh. “Perhaps you are too far beyond what ship's surgeon can do for you.”

Archie's breath caught again and he took up a handkerchief. “ihChihh! Ihtchh! Ih-Tsh! Chihh!

“God bless,” Horatio said automatically.

“And you're so proper as well, by the book, Horatio. I'd expect nothing less from you.”

“Archie, this is silly. It's just the way I sneeze, and I felt it important to be polite.”

“I feel too ill to be polite,” Archie confessed. “But a belated bless you to you as well.”

Horatio eyed his friend. “I'm still not convinced that you're not fevered and talking nonsense.”

“Nonsense only because I'm too tired of lying here with nothing to do. It's as bad as our time on the Justinian.”

Talk of the Justinian made Horatio shiver. He knew that Archie was only referring to the boredom and restlessness, but Horatio could not think of his time on that ship without thinking about one man who had made himself unforgettable. “I'd take a dozen head colds any day over serving beside Simpson.”

This statement quieted Archie and Horatio as well. Neither liked to think of those days, especially now that their fates had so improved since joining the crew of the Indefatigable. But now that it had been mentioned, Horatio could not drive the thoughts from the forefront of his mind. He was glad, therefore, when another sneeze snuck up on him. “ehhh…” Cautious at the outset. “Ehhhhh…” And slowly building. “Ehh-hehhhh…” Getting ready. “EH-HIXT—” A loud explosion, to be sure, snapping him forward slightly, his nose deep against the handkerchief's folds to quiet the end. “Chfffff!” Horatio kept his eyes closed afterward. It was silly that now Archie had him thinking about his own sneezes.

“Your sneezes are so like you, Horatio.”

Horatio raised his eyebrows. “Of course they are. They're mine.”

Shaking his head, “No, truly. Consider mine, in comparison. They're just these tiny little things, hardly worth the trouble in the end, just like me.”

“That's not you at all!” Horatio protested, realizing that Archie had somehow drawn him right into this conversation somehow. “Archie, you are loyal and true, passionate and a good sailor. You… you…”

“That's all you can come up with?” Archie asked.

“No, I… I have to… sneeze again. Ehhh-hehhh… ehhhhh… ehhh-EHFChuhfffff!

And so did Archie, for that matter. “ihChifff! IhChff!! ihChhh! Chihhh! Ugh!” He blew his nose. “And so many sneezes. Why can't I just sneeze once like you? So bothersome.”

“Archie…” Somewhat frustrated, Horatio began to tell his friend what foolishness this was. But then he decided his energy was better spent not talking Archie out of this theory of his. He sighed deeply. “God bless.” If Archie needed something to occupy his time and amuse himself, so be it. There wasn't anything else he could do while lying there anyway, waiting for his this cold to finish with him so he could get back to his duty.

A head cold, even a bad one such as this, was really no excuse to miss duty on a ship of war. But the ship's doctor had declared them both unfit for the time being and Horatio had mixed feelings about that. For one, he detested being relieved of duty. His thirst to prove himself to his new captain was intense, and Captain Pellew seemed to want to give him the chance to do so. On the other hand, Hornblower detested being around many people when he felt poorly; he greatly preferred being left alone to recover in private.

There was really no such thing as private to be had on a frigate, but it wasn't so terribly bad resting alongside a friend.