Day 7

Title: Day 7
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Horatio Hornblower
Rating: PG, if that
Pairing: Horatio/Archie
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: Horatio is in command of everything but himself.
Note: Part of the 12 Ficlets in 12 Days project 2011-2012. Requested by myownprivatesfc.


Day 7


The rain pelted down upon Horatio Hornblower, striking his shoulders and chest at an angle and meeting the thick navy wool there. The rain struck the legs of his trousers, slowly dampening them. And the rain struck his head. The curl had left his hair; it hung, dripping, down his back. His face was so bombarded, he could barely see for all the water in his eyes and the darkness of the stormy night surrounding him.


This was not Horatio’s first command. True, it was just a small frigate carrying a meager amount of cattle and grain. She had a full complement of only four 8-pounders and sixteen long guns, but six of them had either perished in the ocean during the battle or been damaged in the exchange of canon fire.  What remained of the French crew was being held in the Indy’s brig. But the prize money they would earn for it when they brought her into an English port would be as much as Horatio would earn in a year. It would, of course, be split amongst the skeleton crew he had taken aboard, but he was in for a larger helping than others because of his position.


The prize money would be enough to allow him to acquire a new hat, and that was much-needed. He couldn’t actually remember the last time he had been this wet, and that included multiple swims in the ocean for whatever reason. He wagered that it was actually the cold in his head that was making the rain feel so much worse as it washed over him. He had been fighting it off for hours with sniffles and jabbing rubs at his nose. He had even blown his nose several times with a handkerchief before the cloth had become so soaked that there was absolutely no point in dragging it out of his sopping wet pocket to mop at his lightly chapped nose.


Horatio suddenly heard the voice and turned. He was startled to find Archie standing so close.

“I’ve been here for some time. Didn’t you hear me calling you?”

He smiled sheepishly. “Berhabs by ears are as stuffed as by dose is.”

Archie looked amused. “Or perhaps you aren’t used to being called a captain yet. You’ve only been in this command a day.”

Nodding, Horatio turned away and rubbed his knuckles harshly against the bottom of his nose. The tickle was powerful. At first, he was able to stop the sneezes from coming, each time they came at him, but now they were stronger and came whether he wanted them to or not. Neither rubbing nor holding his breath did anything to alleviate the problem. The least he could do was to turn away to spare Archie the discomfort of watching such a revolting display.

The tickle, which started deep in the back, worked its way to the bridge of his nose and then into the very edges of his nostrils. His breath hitched. His eyes closed. His mouth dropped wide open. And his body rocked. “Hertchhhhhh! Hetschhhhhh!” Blindly, his hand searched for the railing and grabbed hold of a bit of rigging. That would suffice to steady him. “heh…. Het-Chuffffff! Ertchhhh! Ertchiffffff!” There was still a bit of a tickle there, and he had a terrible feeling that it wouldn’t go away until his cold was gone. He sniffed hard and his head throbbed at the change of pressure in his nose. “Egscuse be.”

“I don’t mean to offend you, Horatio, but you sound positively dreadful.” He placed a hand on his new captain’s shoulder in sympathy.

Horatio began to protest, to perhaps explain that he had a cold but would get over it and feel better again soon, but then thought better of it. This was a miserable cold and there was no guarantee as to how long it would go on. He had had colds that lasted a week or more. By then, they would either be back at port or swallowed up by the sea. “Thadg you, Archie,” he said, accepting the observation as if it had been meant as the warmest of compliments. “I… I-hah… ahhhf-TIHSHHH!” The sneeze had come upon him as fast and sudden as a French vessel through the thickest of fogs. The only thing for it was an apology and quite a lot of ungentlemanly sniffling. He sounded as if he were eight instead of eighteen.

Archie’s hand on his shoulder tightened in sympathy, and Horatio had almost forgotten it was there. “Your apology is needless if you continue to sneeze like that. Here, take my hanky.” Archie thrust a hand into a pocket and felt around. He did the same for his other pocket. “If only I could find it. Where is the blasted thing?”

Horatio couldn’t wait. He attempted to call off the search. “Archie, It’s fiiii… ah… ih-heh-ERTschhhh! Hehshoo!” A small wave of dizziness crept into his head, making him sway even more than the sneezes did.

The ship was tossed about on the angry water as rain poured down from every direction, caught in wind gusts. In this maelstrom, there was no steady place for him to orient himself, so he shut his eyes tight and threw his arm out, attempting to at least take hold of something to anchor himself. But the railing wasn’t where it was before. And the rigging wasn’t where it was supposed to be. He hated to go for the wheel in case he dislodged the ropes and threw it off the course he had charted, but at least that was close-by and would reorient him. Except that, startlingly, it wasn’t near him at all.

ahhh-Ehshhoo! Heh-heptchishhh!” He doubled over, stumbled, couldn’t breathe for all the stuffiness in his nose. He coughed and cupped a hand over his nose and mouth. With all the rain, no one would be able to see that his nose was running, but he knew. With his free hand, he reached around again, desperate for something to hold onto. And what he finally found was an arm.

Or, to be more precise, an arm found him. Archie offered over one arm and slid his other one around his captain’s back, pulling him close. “I remembered where my hanky went,” Archie said, having to speak loudly above the roar of the wind and waves. “I gave it to you hours ago.”

Horatio barely remembered. He recalled sneezing his way through a meager celebratory dinner with Archie in their cabin, feasting on hard biscuits and mushy potatoes. He remembered Archie joking that if they didn’t get to England soon, they would run out of not food or water but handkerchiefs. And he remembered thinking at the time that there weren’t enough handkerchiefs in the world to handle the raging cold in his nose. He’d even been trying hard to hold back while they ate, for the sake of formality and ensuring that his first lieutenant have an appetite. He had proceeded to choke down his meal with water and series of hard swallows.

Rubbing at his nose with his hand, Horatio nodded and opened his eyes. They were a good three feet from where he had thought they were standing. Confused and getting dizzy again on his feet, he held fast to Archie. Was it the chaos of the storm or the sneezes that shook him? Or was he perhaps running a fever now? He did feel both hot and cold. He clung tightly to Archie.

The desperation did not go unnoticed. “If you aren’t feeling well, perhaps you should go belowdecks?”

Given the way he felt, it wasn’t altogether a bad suggestion. His crew was working hard to secure the ship. The hatches were secure, the sails brought down, the mast ropes loosened just enough to keep the tension from snapping the timbers. With any luck, they would weather the storm with no loss of crew or ship components. However, he was the captain and no matter what he would have preferred, his place was on the deck in a moment like this. Anything could happen at any moment and they would need his quick reasoning and commands. It would take far too long for someone to be sent down to get him and for him to go back up, evaluate the system, and give orders.

Besides, storms this close to shore were tricky. Even anchored to ride it out, providing a little assurance that they wouldn’t crash against rocks or come aground, there was still the risk of running into another ship—quite literally. They needed every pair of eyes they could get to keep watch for any light that might indicate another ship.

“I shall stay.” In a perfect world, he would be down in the captain’s quarters, enjoying that one luxury that came from command. On this tiny ship, the captain shared his bunk with the second in command, presumably making briefings much easier. Still, a dry berth and a helping of rum to warm him sounded heavenly compared to the combination of the weather and his head cold.

“If that is the case, I hope you will at least take my hat.” Before Horatio could say anything, Archie’s own hat was pushed down upon his head.

Immediately, it was like the rain had ceased. The steady beat of it against his face ended. He found it easier to both breathe and see. More importantly, he could feel the warmth from Archie’s head, not realizing how chilled he felt until there was something to compare it to. All his thoughts were beginning to jumble up inside his head—when he’d come down with this cold, the battle against the French frigate, taking command, plotting a course, scrambling to weather the storm. How he was to last through this night, he did not know. “I could’t bossibly… your hat…”

Even though he had a miserable cold, good fortune had been with him during the battle. A bullet had come his way and he had doubled-over at just the right moment with a monstrous sneeze. The end result had been a bullet hole clean through his hat and not the side of his head. By the time the fight had ended, his hat had been lost to the drink, one of the few British casualties of the day.

“What I have is yours,” Archie said, wearing that bright smile of his that had almost immediately won Horatio’s heart. Only a complete cad would find it possible to not love Archie Kennedy. And Horatio was beyond grateful that Captain Pellew had seen fit to assign this mission to the two of them. Perhaps Pellew had known Hornblower was ill and needed another officer to watch his back; the man claimed to know everything that transpired aboard his ship, after all.

Horatio pulled away from Archie, the tickle in his nose back again with vengeance. “hihh…” He pressed his thumb against the bridge of his nose, but his breath still caught. “ihh-k’tchooo! Eptchoo! Hep… heffshhuhh!” He snuffled, wincing as he rubbed the cuff of his pea coat against his sore nose. “Forgive be, Archie, but id this case I hobe what I have will dot be yours.”

Archie laughed as a gust of wind with sea water struck him in the face, lifting what hair was free of its ponytail. Horatio shivered in sympathy.


Horatio felt sick. It could have been the mild fever he just couldn’t seem to shake off. It could have been the fact that he hadn’t had anything to eat in two days. But it was most likely the fact that he was on land. During his first few days at sea, a queasy stomach was the norm. But once he got used to the movement of the ship on open water, he felt right at home. Now that the motion was gone, he felt sick again. Leave it to him to be landsick on top of the last vestiges of a cold.

The door to his room opened and closed just as quickly. He pried his eyes open and grimaced. Food was the very last thing he wanted to see at the moment, but with the food came Archie Kennedy. And a small stack of laundered handkerchiefs.

He brightened and threw back the covers of the bed, causing a violent shiver to run from the base of his spine to the base of his neck; he had forgotten he had gone to bed without putting on a dressing gown… or anything else for that matter.

“Oh, dod’t.” Archie set the tray down and crawled right under the covers with him, tucking the blankets around the two of them.

“Are you telling me what to do, Mister Kennedy?”

“You dod’t outradk be… here… ihtch!” Rather than sneeze in Horatio’s face, he had brought a hanky in with him and made a deft catch.

Horatio sniffed a little, sympathetically, but didn’t need a handkerchief of his own. “We have days until the ship leaves to rendezvous with the Indy. Days here, if we want, to spend in bed getting better.” He might still be running a bit of a fever, but everything was clear to him now.

Archie nodded. “Best thidg for colds, rest.” Lighting flashed outside their window.

“And at least it’s warm and dry here.”

A thunder clap had its say in that, and Archie snuggled deeper into the covers, closer to Horatio. One of them coughed and the other sniffed. But the tiny drip-drip-drip sound was what caught their attention. The room at the inn had been cheep for a reason, it seemed. Archie pulled a blanket over their heads as Horatio snapped forward with a sneeze. “hershchhh!

A smile played on Archie’s face; he looked like he was trying not to laugh. “Still dry edough.”