Title: Downpour

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Horatio Hornblower

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: They belong to C.S. Forester and A&E, not to me. I get nothing for this.

Summary: The Renoun is caught in a downpour (set during Mutiny)




For close to three hours, rain pounded the deck of the Renown. It brought with it winds that kicked the waves into furious action, tossing the ship about. The pounding rain also drowned out the sound of the captain barking orders. Hornblower did his best to comply anyway, using the stray word or two he could make out to guide him. Making a ship of this size capable of weathering a terrible storm was no easy feat, and this downpour had come almost out of nowhere. Hornblower was fairly certain the captain would find a way to blame it all on him somehow, as if Hornblower could have predicted the weather. On a good day, Captain Sawyer would have been angry, but on a day when his ship was at risk and when he was clearly nursing a horrid head cold, his usual short temper was especially dangerous.

Equally eager to please and do his duty regardless of his captain’s personal vendetta and mistrust, Hornblower did not stop moving until the storm had died down. He pulled in sails, tied down items, helped stabilize the wheel. His hands were like ice, fingertips wrinkled from the water, and every inch of him was soaked right through. He shook, teeth chattering, and thought of nothing more fondly than being able to strip off his dripping clothes, wrapping in a dry woolen blanket, and climbing into his hammock. But he dared not leave the deck, not while Captain Sawyer stood upon it. No matter that Hornblower was not supposed to be on duty now. No matter than Hornblower could barely grip a rope with his hands at the moment, let alone help clear the deck of debris.

The captain gave no approval of the hard work his crew had done during the storm. On the contrary, he gave his officers all a stern, suspicious look then disappeared below decks in a fit of coughing.

The tense mood instantly shifted to one of relief, though no one would call attention to that fact. Though still miserable and physically limited, working under First Lieutenant Buckland was much more agreeable. "Lieutenant Bush, I want a damage assessment within the hour.”

“Aye-aye, Sir.” He tipped his hat and began inspection.

Horatio could not help but note the rough and deep nature of the man’s voice as he made that reply. As Lieutenant Kennedy assisted Buckland in charting their present position and determining just how off course the storm had forced them, Hornblower headed over to Bush.

“Could you use an extra hand, such as mine are?” Hornblower blew warm breath upon his hands, cupped to his face, trying to restore them to some level of usefulness.

Bush looked up from a saturated barrel of gunpowder that was done for. Even if the powder within was fine, any compromising of the barrel meant the powder could not be trusted to function during a battle. It would have to go overboard.  “That won’t be necessary.” Bush attempted to tip the barrel and use leverage to flip it over the rail, but it was far too heavy for him to manage alone. He coughed and cursed under his breath as the barrel would not more than budge for him.

“It’s no trouble,” Horatio said. They could just as easily ask the men to do this job, but Hornblower felt—and presumed Bush felt the same—the need to do something, not just make lists. Together they hauled the barrel over the side of the ship. It splashed into the water, bobbed for a moment, and then sank below the surface.

As soon as it was overboard, Bush’s countenance adopted a strange expression. He withdrew a soggy handkerchief from his sleeve and turned his back on Hornblower to sneeze into it.

Hornblower closed his eyes momentarily as he sighed at their luck. “God bless. You should see Dr. Cli—”

“No,” sniffed Bush, turning back around as he tucked the useless handkerchief back out of sight. “I appreciate your concern, but we are already short on midshipmen. And the captain…” He trailed off, unable to speak of that where he might be overheard. “It’s not so bad. I will be fine for a time.”

Bush looked as Hornblower felt—wet and miserable. Hornblower hesitated, wanting to protest, wanting to insist that Bush’s health was more important than his duty. But they both knew he would never say such a thing. If anything, Hornblower admired him more for this stand. “At least permit me to keep you company for the rest of your shift? If we should meet a French frigate in this condition…”

Bush opened his mouth to protest, but then he understood what Hornblower had already grasped. If Bush could put the safety of the ship above his health, then Hornblower was well within his rights to do likewise. If they ran into the enemy on open water just now, they would need someone who could think fast and act quickly; even waterlogged, that would always be Hornblower. And so Bush gave a nod. “I would be grateful, Sir. But if we should come across an enemy, I can only hope they were caught in this downpour as well and are just as ill-prepared for a fight.”