I’m back with the next part in my Horatio Hornblower story, Following Orders, finally. 🙂
Wow, only one more part left to write of this. Hard to believe.
For me at least.
I probably should have finished this months ago. *cough*
Anyway. One of the more serious parts in this serial. This is right after Horatio has gotten the news that his father has died and I’m mostly writing from his friend Archie’s POV. And this part is shorter than the others by about a page, but I’m making up for the last one, which was longer by a page.
If you want to catch up, here are the other parts in the series:
And enjoy this next part!
Any progress that had been made on pulling Horatio out of his shell was gone. His slight smile, after making progressively more appearances, hadn’t been seen at all over the last few days. He barely talked to anyone, despite all cheerful attempts, and seemed more worried than ever that he was being a bother.
Archie was nearly making himself sick with worry over how he could help his friend. There was only a week left of their leave and for Horatio to go back to the Indefatigable and the service without any lingering happiness from his time here… Archie couldn’t let that happen.
But his ideas were even shorter than his time and Horatio’s mourning was nearly breaking his heart just to watch. And so he waited, worried and fidgeting, for what looked like a good opportunity.
There were five days left of their leave when Nathaniel approached him after dinner.
“Archie, could we talk for a bit?” his face was calm for the main part, but looked a little tense. Archie sighed, nodded and stood to follow Nathaniel out the kitchen door.
The sun had just set and the sky remained a dusky, light blue above them as the land slowly faded into shadow. Both brothers walked a little down the path past their mother’s garden before stopping together by their father’s homemade wooden bench. Neither sat.
Archie waited for Nathaniel to talk, listening to the night noises begin around them, but he said nothing. His face was scrunched up painfully, like he was desperately looking for the right words but couldn’t seem to find them. Archie thought he knew what he was going to say.
“You see my problem, Nat,” he pointed out quietly.
Nathaniel shook his head, “But it has to be gotten past. We can’t just let him go back like this. He’ll take years off his life penning all his grief up inside. That sort of thing eats you from the inside out.”
“I know…” Archie pulled at one side of his hair, “but I’ve never dealt with this sort of thing. How do I know how to approach him? How do I even start a conversation on the topic with the proper respect and tone?”
“I’ll be Horatio. Try me.”
“Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs,” he gave a wide sweep of his arm, “Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes write sorrow on the bosom of the earth…”
“No Shakespeare, Archie.”
Archie sighed and sat heavily on the bench, “You know, he might just appreciate the respect of being left alone. I’d just fumble all my words and make everything come out all wrong if I tried to be eloquent.”
“Horatio won’t care a bit about eloquence, I can tell you,” Nathaniel said, sitting next to Archie, “If I were in his place, people showing their sympathy all elegantly with fancy words… it would simply make me sick listening to it.” He put his fist down hard into his palm, “He doesn’t need that. What he does need is someone else who cares. Even if all you ever say is ‘I’m sorry’, it’ll mean more to him than a whole hour long speech.”
Archie thought this over for a minute. “Do you really think so, Nat?” he sat forwards.
“I’m nearly positive.”
“Alright, then,” Archie set his shoulders as he stood, “I shall talk to him this evening.”
Nathaniel stood with him, “Good. Let me know if there’s anything I can do. And remember: No Shakespeare.”
Horatio was standing by the window when Archie came into their shared room. His hands were clasped tightly behind his back and he stared out into the night, not seeming to see any of it.
Archie quietly pulled the door shut behind him, “How are you, Horatio?”
His friend didn’t turn, “I’m alright.”
“I don’t fully believe that, sir.” Archie walked up next to him and clasped his hands behind his back in similar fashion, looking out the window as well.
Horatio didn’t say anything.
Looking over at him, Archie tipped his head with an openly sad expression, “I’m sure he was a wonderful man, Horatio. I…” he searched for something more to say and sighed, “I’m really very sorry.”
Closing his eyes, Horatio took in a shuddering breath and tightened his lips. Archie looped an arm over his friend’s tall shoulders and gave a comforting squeeze, “If you ever need to talk about it or anything, I’m here.”
Horatio let out his breath and rubbed his thumb over one eye, “Thank you, Archie.” He put one of his arms over Archie’s shoulders in like fashion. They stood there for a while, Horatio not being as stoic as usual and Archie pretending to not really notice.
Horatio gave a funny sort of chuckle and looked down at Archie, “You know, I was sort of expecting Shakespeare from you.”
“Were you?” Archie allowed his smile back, “Then, for God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings.”
“Are you doing quite well, Horatio?” asked Mrs. Kennedy at breakfast, worry lining her face.
“We’ve really been concerned,” added Charlotte as she bounced baby Beth, “but you seem to be a little better this morning.”
Horatio looked up from his oatmeal with his eyebrows raised in surprise, “I’m better than I have been…”
“Archie talked with you last night?” Nathaniel shot a glance over at his brother, who nodded reassuringly.
“Oh, dear boy, I’ve been so worried about you,” Mrs. Kennedy set down the bowls she was handing out and threw her arms around Horatio’s neck, “What a horrible thing to happen to one so young!” She pulled away and looked down sympathetically at him. “Know that you have our family’s deepest sympathies.”
Horatio looked bewilderedly thankful, “I… thank you, Mrs. Kennedy.” He nodded around the table, “Thank you to every one of you.”
Polly edged up next to him, clutching her doll tightly and looking mournful, “You do have some family left, right? Do you have a mother and a little sister at home somewhere? Someone to come home to and make gingerbread with?”
“Well, Polly… I… I don’t actually. It’s just me, now.”
“Oh!” Polly’s eyes brimmed with tears.
Archie patted her dark head, “It’s all right, Polly. He’ll manage.”
“But he has no family, Archie!” tears trickled in streams down the sides of her small nose, “He’s… he’s… an orphan… now that…” she let out a little sob and buried her head in Horatio’s shoulder, hugging him for all she was worth. Finally, she pulled back up, blinking away her tears with a determined look. “Can we adopt him, Father? Please?”
“Well, now,” Mr. Kennedy ran a hand over his chin thoughtfully, “I don’t know that we could do it quite officially…”
“Oh, please could we?” Will jiggled in his seat.
“… but unofficially,” Mr. Kennedy continued, “I don’t see any harm in it.” He stood ceremoniously and looked at Horatio with a twinkle in his eye, “Mr. Hornblower, on any future leaves or if you ever need anything, the Kennedy house will readily accept you back under our roof. You’re a fine young man and you’ll always be welcome here.” He smiled and gave the now joyful Polly a nod as he sat back down.
Archie grinned, “In that case, welcome into the Kennedy family, Horatio.”
Stay tuned for the *gasp* last part!
And, if you want to share, look! I have a button for it now! 🙂 You can find that on the “My Books” page as well.