Day 7

Title: Day 7
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Horatio Hornblower
Pairing: None
Disclaimer: Not my characters. I wish they were mine. I definitely don’t get paid for this.
Summary: Horatio has a cold and everyone notices.
Notes: Written during my 12 Ficlets in 12 Days in 2015 project for wig_powder

“Of all the presents you could have given me for Christmas, and you give me your cold. You won’t think less of me if I’m less than grateful, Archie?” Horatio said all of this from behind a massive white handkerchief. The symptoms of his cold dictated that he keep the handkerchief close at hand at all times. And now that he was off duty, it was preferable to curl up in his hammock with it pressed to his nose constantly. His sneezes came on quickly, and it was all he could do to contain them when on deck, though he was certain every one of the ship’s officers had noticed already.

hah-hah-Kttshhhoo!” He would have thought less of the officers if they hadn’t noticed. But he wished that there were nothing for them to notice, nothing to set himself as different from the other midshipmen, at least, good or bad. Anything different just made him a target.

“Oh, Horatio. I’m so sorry.” Archie climbed into his hammock, which swayed back and forth a little before coming to a stop. “I didn’t mean for you to catch my cold. I did all I could to keep it to myself.” He looked over at his friend. “Are you quite miserable then?”

Horatio nodded but smiled behind the handkerchief. “It’s making me feel homesick in a way. Every year around Christmastime, my father’s practice would fill with red-nosed, sniffling patients. It was almost impossible to avoid falling ill during this time of year.” He gave a weak laugh and cleared his throat. “I thought for certain this year would be diff… dif… dihhh… diiihhhhh-hihKTgshhhoo! Oh… uh…” Horatio took a deep breath and blew his nose into the handkerchief to clear it as best he could. He crumpled up the handkerchief when done to contain the soiled portion. “Sorry, Archie.”

“No need to apologize to me. I should be apologizing to you.” Archie frowned. “Oh, Horatio. Your nose is so very red.”

“It’s no surprise. I have been blowing and rubbing at it all day. I can’t stop sneezing for the life of me.” He laughed again. “Perhaps one would call it festive. Sniff!” He wiped at his nose. “At least, with all this sneezing, no one will suspect it’s because I’ve been drinking too much.”

Archie nodded, though he still wore an expression that was partly guilt and partly sympathy. “Do you think you will be able to sleep tonight?”

Horatio nodded. “I hope so. With any luck, I’ll be asleep before the others are off duty and a good sleep will help this cuh… cold-huh-HUHKttchoo!” Horatio refolded his handkerchief and gave another blow. If there really were miracles of the season, he wanted a short-lived cold to be one of them.


ehhh…” Though he tried to muffle the sound in his handkerchief, he could still hear it. Which meant others surely must be able to as well, even over the roar of the ocean waves around them and the strong wind filling the ship’s sails. “hehh!” He looked around, trying to see if anyone else was watching him fight off this sneeze, before his eyes closed. He didn’t see anybody. “hehh-ihktshhh!” Quickly, he gave a blow of his nose into his handkerchief before tucking it back into his pocket.

When he opened his eyes, his stomach lurched to find three midshipmen staring at him, including Midshipman Jack Simpson. Simpson was smirking. “All right there, snotty?”

Horatio bristled. Unlike when he started on the ship and didn’t know the procedures, this wasn’t his fault. He couldn’t help feeling ill. He couldn’t help sneezing. He tried to do so as politely and quietly as possible. To be teased for not knowing his way around the ship, he understood. To be teased for not knowing his job right away, he could also understand. But to be teased for something so entirely out of his control did not seem at all fair.

“I’m fine, thank you.” He shivered inside his peacoat, cupping the ends of his sleeves against his palms. He had never felt less fine in all his life.

But he turned his attention back toward his current task with the ropes. A light mist rose up from the side of the ship as she turned on the captain’s orders. Already miserable from his cold, now he was damp and chilled as well. Already he was thinking fondly of his hammock down in the midshipmen’s berth, of the blankets and stuffy warmth of being below deck. Until he could retreat there, he was determined to do his job as best he could.

hehh-Ihh…” He grabbed for his handkerchief, getting it to his nose and mouth just in time. “ehhh-Hihttchhh!” He could hear someone—or several someones—laughing at his expense. But he paid them no mind. It was important to maintain as much dignity as possible… as he blew his stuffy, runny nose into one of a half dozen handkerchiefs he had secured on his person. He wasn’t sure that number would be enough to last the rest of his shift. Perhaps Archie might have one with him he could borrow if six turned out to not be sufficient. But the idea of sneezing into someone else’s handkerchief made him shudder. He would have to wash it out as soon as possible.

“You call that a knot?”

Horatio looked up to see Clayton smiling down at him from his position on the forecastle. He glanced at the knot that, truthfully, was substandard. He smiled and fumbled with the ropes as Clayton came down and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with him.

“You know, Hornblower, this might be a small ship, but we do have a doctor on board. If you’re feeling ill, the responsible thing to do would be to go to see the ship physician.”

The flush in Horatio’s cheeks showed that of course he knew this, but he had no intention of doing the responsible thing. The last thing he needed was Simpson teasing him about using his illness as an excuse to get out of working. Simpson would only take it out on him later in a way that would be much more torturous than sneezing a few sneezes. Better to do his job while sneezing than get the doctor to remove him from active duty.

“No thah… thahh… thank you ehh… hihIHhptshhhhh! Heh-Keh… hehtschuhhh!

“You call those sneezes?”

Though slightly embarrassed, Horatio knew Clayton was saying it as a friend. And he smiled even as he blew his nose and rubbed it through the handkerchief’s folds. Then, proving what a good friend Clayton was, he helped Horatio finish tying off all of the ropes.


Horatio wished he could find a better place for this than in steerage. Hiding among the cattle to cough and sneeze and blow his nose was certainly undignified. But there was nothing good about this illness, certainly nothing he wanted to show off if it were possible to hide himself away. One benefit was that the beasts made so much noise, his sneezes couldn’t be heard. But because his nose was so stuffed, he was ignorant of how terrible they smelled.

ehhh… eh Hihtschhhhh! hehChuhhhh!” He blew his nose into one of his handkerchiefs, so glad to have brought so many in his trunk. His colds were never small; his nose was rarely quiet when ill. “heh-Chishhhh!” But at least there was one place he could sneeze and not be judged by the men or his fellow officers. As long as he did not eat their feed, the cattle did not care what he did there. Not one was even startled by the sound of his sneezing or blowing. “ehh… HehhhKTchuhhh!

But he could not hide here all day and night, he knew. Hiding away would draw too much attention. And, besides, half the ship knew about his cold by now. He would have to arm himself well with handkerchiefs and hope that the worst would be some embarrassment from sneezing at the wrong time or some such thing. What was the worst that could happen?


Horatio blamed his lack of appetite on his rather terrible cold. He could barely taste the stale bread as he forced himself to chew and swallow it; he knew he needed it, whether he was hungry or not. Horatio left the table as soon as he had choked it down, chair scraping back. And he had his handkerchief pressed to his nose the very moment it was not impolite to do so.

Archie’s eyes followed Horatio with concern, but he knew better than to call out to him in front of any other the other midshipmen. Archie, too, knew well the trick of not distinguishing yourself in any way among them. Horatio tried to give him a reassuring look, not wanting his friend to worry about him.

He didn’t feel much like eating any more, though. He choked down the last bite and got up to head to the midshipman’s berth. He gave his fellow midshipmen a respectful nod but only made it just past the table before needing to sneeze. He huddled in on himself just past the divider wall and buried his nose in a handkerchief. He supposed he should be grateful that an attack of sneezes had not plagued him during the meal itself, but this was not that much better. “eh-heh-Hihhpshhh! Hehtschhhhh!”  The sneezes were full and strong, and the moment he was done with them, he blew his nose to keep it neat. The last thing he wanted was for someone to see it wet or running.

“Oh there goes that Hornblower again.”

Horatio froze, recognizing the voice of one of his fellow midshipmen.

“Hornblower? Don’t you mean Horatio Noseblower?” said another, who then cawed with laughter. Several sets of hands pounded the table to indicate their approval. There were howls and snorts of laughter.

Feeling his cheeks burn, Horatio wished someone would speak up for him, but if he didn’t have the strength to go back and confront them, he didn’t think less of anyone who didn’t do it on his behalf. But he was glad to not recognize Archie’s laugh among the others. Horatio made a quick retreat before anything more could be said.

The taunt echoed through his head as he changed for sleep. The nickname circled around him as he tucked five handkerchiefs under what passed for a pillow in his hammock. He clutched another in his hand as he climbed in and got settled. He hoped that a half dozen would be enough, though he was skeptical, considering his nose already tickled badly with the need to sneeze. Pressing a handkerchief to his nose to muffle the sound, he gave in.


“Bless you, Horatio.”

Horatio lifted his head and dropped his handkerchief long enough to give his friend a half-hearted smile. “How long have they had that nickname for me?” he asked, blurting it out before he realized what was happening.

Archie flushed nearly as badly as Horatio had a few minutes before. “Not long.”

“Just tell me, did Simpson think of it?”

Archie glanced over his shoulder and lowered his voice to the softest of whispers. “He could never come up with something so clever on his own.”

This at least made Horatio smile properly. Archie was a good friend. He pulled back into his hammock, breath hitching. “eh… heh-ihh… hehhh eh eh ehhh-IHtchhhhh! ehhhChishhhh!” Though he hated to do it, he knew he had to. After a deep breath, he blew his nose. Repeatedly. Perhaps the name was more obvious than clever, actually. “Just when I thought my… sniff! My reputation could get no worse, I get saddled with that name?”

Archie pulled his dressing gown over his head and climbed into the next hammock over. “You will be over this cold in no time. The name won’t have time to stick.”

“I desperately hope you’re…  you’re right. Ehh-Ihhktchooo! Ih-hehschhhhhh!


Archie was right. Before he knew it, his cold had passed. Sure, a sneeze snuck through from time to time, but he felt worlds better.


That was more than could be said for Midshipman Simpson. Simpson refused to leave his berth, having gone straight to the ship’s doctor to get himself relieved from duty. Then he’d ordered his fellow midshipmen around, demanding a glass of water or an extra blanket or another glass of water because he was ill. Hornblower felt terrible for it, but he couldn’t help but smile into his pillow at the thought of Simpson’s misery as he fell asleep. This morning, it appeared, Simpson was just as badly off.

Horatio hurried to dress so he would not be left alone with the man. But he paused to pat his hat one too many times.

“Hornblower!” Simpson called to him. “Give me one of your handkerchiefs.”

“Mr. Simpson, I don’t have—“

He snorted and coughed and rubbed his hand at his nose. Horatio saw the tattoo rub back and forth under the man’s nose. “When you were ill, you went around blowing your nose all the time. I know you’ve got a stash.”

“I haven’t had a chance to wash them. So unless you want one that’s…” he smiled to himself for this next bit “…snotty, then you’ll have to find your own.”

“Well, just wash—“

He was cut off by one of only two sounds that could possibly save Hornblower at that moment. “Sorry, that’s seven bells. I’m needed on the deck. ”

“Hornblow… hahh-Shooo!

“Feel better, Mr. Simpson. Don’t forget to blow your nose.” Horatio headed to the stairs, knowing it would not be sporting to laugh but not being able to keep from grinning once his back was turned.