Title: Passing Honors
Fandom: Horatio Hornblower
Disclaimer: They belong to C.S. Forester and A&E, not to me. I get nothing for this.
Summary: A ficlet/drabble wherein Horatio is ill one morning and William is attentive
Notes: Dedicated to girlwithtulips. As I'm struggling to finish up her now quite late holiday giftfic I thought this might help tide her over a little at least. I don't think this fits properly anywhere in canon, so I apologize. It just stuck in my head and, as GWT's giftfic is set before Bush comes onto the scene, I thought it might be nice to get this out of my head.
Horatio was unsure he wanted to open his eyes. If he did, he risked coming awake fully and not being able to fall back to sleep. He was certain it could not possibly be morning yet, perhaps not even . But he heard something moving about the berth and was sure it wasn't just a rat. So he pried his eyes open and saw William Bush a few feet away.
The man was already up and halfway through changing into his full uniform for the day. "Good morning," Bush said gently. "I hope I did not wake you."
This made Horatio smile. The ship was always loud, even at night, and one of the first things Horatio had learned as a Midshipman was how to sleep through just about anything. Sleep was far too precious a commodity to lose because someone was moving around one hammock over. Now it was only the hammock in-between them as Bush pulled off one shirt and pulled on another, buttoning up the top few buttons and the cuffs.
"Water or rum?"
Horatio blinked with confusion. "I'm sorry?"
"I am going to get you one or the other, so which do you fancy? Water or rum?"
Horatio scrubbed his palm over his face a few times. "What is the hour, Mister Bush?"
"Eight bells of the mid-watch and All Is Well, Mister Hornblower," Bush replied, noticing Horatio's surprise at the time. He also noticed Horatio struggling to free himself from the blankets and extricate himself from the hammock. "Oh no you don't," he said, placing a hand on Horatio's chest and easing him back down. "You forget: I was here when the doctor declared that you are to stay in bed today. You may have performed honorably and saved our necks yesterday, but you are ill now."
"I only have a cough and a bit of a temperature," Horatio objected a bit too strenuously to be believed. He coughed deeply a few times but continued quickly. "I am not made of glass. It will not kill me to work today."
"No, but I might," Bush said.
With another cough, "I don't quite see the logic in that."
"Naturally. Your mind is off because you are feverish," Bush explained with a kind smile. "There is already tension and unruliness amongst the men. The last thing we need is for one of the ship's upstanding lieutenants to pass out on deck... again."
Horatio sighed, knowing Bush was right. But that sent him off coughing, which shook him and his hammock. He fumbled about in his pockets to find a handkerchief and cover his mouth with it. He barely had the energy to hold it in place, and knew he would be lucky to make it up to the deck feeling like this.
Bush adjusted his scarf around his neck and grabbed his hat, patting it into place on his head. "So, I ask you again. What'll it be: water or rum? And do not avoid the question further."
"I did not avoid last time--"
"Horatio!" Bush laughed, the question still largely unanswered.
"Water!" burst Horatio quickly, coughing again. He waited for the coughs to pass. "However, there is no need for you to--"
Shaking his head, he promised, "I will be back within a minute and no longer." He started away and paused, smiling back at Horatio in the hammock. "If you have need of anything more before I need to go on duty, I would gladly be your legs. I expect to find you as I leave you."
Horatio nodded back, though rubbing at his neck. "Both left and found, I am once again honored to share a berth with you, William."