This is part 3 of my Horatio Hornblower story, Following Orders, and officially the most awkward morning wakeup I’ve written.
Past episodes are here, in case you’re new. Part 1 includes an introduction to the show of which this is a fanfiction, as well as the characters. So, I’d recommend that if you’re new to Hornblower.
And, on to part 3…
We join our hero at the Kennedy home, where he was dragged by his friend, Archie, to meet his family. This is the morning following their arrival and Horatio has determined to leave a totally spotless and shining impression on everyone.
Let’s see how he does.
A bird that wasn’t a seagull chirped outside the window. Sunshine shone in, casting bright rays over both beds in the room. Horatio squinted his eyes more shut at the sudden brightness on his eyelids, then took a deep breath and sat up, stretching.
The house was still and quiet, except for a few sounds coming from the kitchen. Mumbles of conversation, a few laughs and clanks of pots were barely audible.
Horatio looked over at the other bed. Archie’s coat hung on the corner and the sheets were thrown back and rumpled. He was already up.
I must have slept in.
Horatio slapped his forehead and jumped out of bed, making a desperate snatch for his coat. He stuck his long arms through the sleeves of his coat and pushed his feet into his shoes. The covers were smoothed over the bed as best he could and any rumples from him having slept there were pushed flat.
His clothes were in decent condition, considering they were slept in, but he ran his hands over to make sure, then walked quickly out the door, buttoning his coat as he went. Horatio was just fasting the last button as he came into the kitchen.
Archie sat on the edge of a wooden chair with a girl of about thirteen as she stirred a pot over the fire. Nathaniel was leaning against the wall and listening, but turned his head as Horatio came in and smiled.
“Good morning, Mr. Hornblower.”
Horatio detected a spark of amusement in his eyes, but couldn’t imagine why. Archie and the girl looked up at Nathaniel’s words.
“Hello, Horatio. Sleep well?” Archie smiled. The amused look appeared on his face as well.
“Very well, thank you.” Horatio gave a nod.
“Any nightmares?” Archie’s eyes flicked upwards to Horatio’s hair. The girl at the pot stifled a giggle.
Horatio’s hands flew to his hair. Uncombed curls stuck almost straight up from the side he was sleeping on. His face reddened and he ran his fingers through his hair in an attempt to push it down.
“I… I’m sorry. I didn’t notice…”
“Never mind, Horatio,” interjected Nathaniel, “Archie’s had worse.”
“He’s had much worse,” confirmed his sister. “And so have you, Nat.”
Archie laughed, “Horatio, I don’t believe you’ve met Charlotte yet.” He stood, walked over and put an arm around his sister’s shoulders.
“Anyway, this is Charlotte. She’s thirteen and has taken on most of the cooking herself already. And that would be the reason I find the ship’s rations so unsatisfactory. Charlotte’s spoiled me.”
Charlotte grinned up at Archie, then bobbed a curtsy to Horatio.
“And it will be an honor to cook for you too, sir.”
“A pleasure to meet you, Miss Kennedy.” Horatio bowed, amazed at the likeness between Charlotte and Archie. The hair color and wispy straightness was the same and both faces held wide smiles, small noses, dimples in the cheeks and bright blue eyes.
“I hope she doesn’t spoil you too,” said Nathaniel, “You’ll find it hard to adjust back in his majesty’s navy if what Archie has told me about the rations is true.”
“I’m sure he won’t mind being spoiled, will you Horatio?” Charlotte raised her eyebrows. Horatio opened his mouth, then closed it again, unsure of what to say that wouldn’t irreparably insult Charlotte or Nathaniel.
“No,” Archie coughed, “I’m sure he won’t.”
Horatio looked over at Nathaniel, and to his surprise, he was smiling. He mentally made a note that people weren’t as easily offended as he previously thought.
Suddenly, a wail sounded from the other room. Horatio jumped and turned towards the noise.
“What… who is that?”
“That would be Beth,” said Charlotte, starting at a brisk walk towards the crying. “Archie, stir the oatmeal. It might burn.” She added over her shoulder.
Archie gave his best salute and took up the post by the large pot, pushing the thick oatmeal back and forth. Clouds of steam billowed up and there were hissing pop noises as bubbles burst on the surface. Archie waved the steam away from his face and squinted at the heat.
“That’s done, I say. Nathaniel?”
Nathaniel sauntered over next to Archie and peered into the pot.
“Yes, it looks good. Should I call everyone for breakfast?”
Nathaniel put his hands to his mouth and called: “Breakfast, everyone!”
Noises came from rooms down the hall as the children who were still sleeping got up to dress themselves. Charlotte came around the corner holding Beth and followed by her mother. Beth had quieted down a bit, but still squirmed in her sister’s arms and made unhappy sounding noises.
“Good morning, Mr. Hornblower,” said Mrs. Kennedy, smiling at him, “I trust you slept well?”
Horatio smiled back and bowed slightly,
“Yes, thank you, Mrs. Kennedy. Yourself?”
“I slept well, though Beth did fuss a little in the night. Not all babies like the crib at first, you know…” She winked.
“Of course… yes.” Another mental note.
“She didn’t wake either of you, I hope?” Mrs. Kennedy looked from Horatio to Archie, who was still wrestling the pot off the fire.
“No, not at all, Mother.” Archie looked up as he pulled the pot off the hook, “We’re used to much louder noises at night than that. Aren’t we, Horatio?”
Horatio smiled, “I have to agree. The only thing that was strange was how quiet everything was.”
“A bit of noise to shake things up probably helped us sleep better,” agreed Archie.
Mrs. Kennedy laughed,
“Well, too little of noise isn’t usually a complaint here. I told the children to try and be as quiet as they could last night. Shall I tell them to throw the bedding at each other tonight?”
“We can?” a sleepy voice from the hall asked. Turning, Horatio saw two little boys and the girl Archie had called Polly standing there.
“If Mother allows it,” answered Archie, “Maybe she’ll let us teach you some shanties to sing as well, if Horatio and I are to get to sleep even easier.”
Polly smiled and ran up to hug Archie, her doll clutched in one hand. Archie went down low enough to receive the hug and almost staggered backwards into the pot as her body hit him.
“I’m so glad you’re back,” Polly said softly into Archie’s shoulder.
“It’s good to be back, button.” Archie tickled her stomach and she backed away with a squeal. “Ready for breakfast?” He nodded to the bowls on the bench.
“Our guest should go first,” said Mrs. Kennedy, looking over at Horatio and waving him towards the bowls.
Going first drew undue attention and he didn’t feel comfortable being watched by everyone as he scooped the oatmeal into his dish. But he went quickly and the rest of the family descended to fill their own bowls and empty the pot.
Everyone took seats at the wooden table across from the fireplace and began to eat. Horatio scanned the faces there. He knew almost everyone’s names now, there were still two young boys he didn’t connect names with, but they had their mouths full. He would ask in a bit.
“Will Mr. Kennedy be joining us?” Horatio asked, noting the absence of the father.
“No, not now. He’s out in his workshop finishing up a bench he was making. Polly?” Mrs. Kennedy pushed the extra bowl and spoon over to her daughter, “Can you take this out to him?”
Polly nodded her dark haired head, scooped up the things and dashed out the door.
The two boys now seemed to be occupied in poking each other with spoons. At least their mouths weren’t full. Now might be a good time.
“So,” began Horatio. The boys stopped poking and looked up at him. “What are your names?”
“Will,” said the darker haired one, “and that’s Charlie.” He waved his spoon at his lighter haired brother. “I’m seven, he’s four.”
“And you’d best watch that Will doesn’t put any frogs in your bed.” Nathaniel warned. A smirk spread across Will’s face for a second, but he quickly dropped it.
“Are you really a Lieutenant on Archie’s ship?” asked Charlie, setting his spoon on the table and leaning his small body forward.
Horatio couldn’t help but smile a little at the phrase “Archie’s ship”.
“Yes, I am.”
“Do you two ever do anything fun on the ship?” asked Will. “Sounds a little boring if all you ever do is just work.”
Horatio stared at Will, marveling at his concept of “fun” versus “work”.
“Well… no. Not really.”
“You don’t know any games?” Will looked just as perplexed as Horatio.
“The work itself on the ship is all I need. Games aren’t part of my duty.”
“Though he can hold his own in whist.” Archie pointed out, “He’s impressed everyone he’s played with.”
Will looked interested, “Can you play whist too, Archie?”
“No, though it would be nice to learn.” Archie raised his eyebrows at Horatio, “Maybe a certain Mr. Hornblower could teach us?”
“I’d like to learn,” Charlotte perked up in her seat.
“The game does look interesting,” admitted Nathaniel, “If Horatio would be willing to teach, I’d join.”
“I…” Horatio swallowed as he looked around at all the expectant faces turned to him. He took a deep breath.
“I’ll be glad to. Where are the cards?”
Stay tuned for Part 4: Whist!
Enjoying the story so far? What’s your favorite part, character or line?
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