When I started this back in July on an irresistible prompt, I had no idea that it would turn into a 44 page thing.
But… I’m glad it did. Because this really has been one of my favorite recurring things to write. ❤
If you haven’t guessed by the sentimental beginning, this is the last part in my Horatio Hornblower fanfiction, Following Orders.
Plot summary for those of you who’ve missed it!
Horatio Hornblower, our serious hero, has been given orders to enjoy himself on his month of leave. And his friend Archie Kennedy decides to ensure that by bringing him back to his family for the month. Card games, bed-head and gingerbread ensue, along with lots of laughs and some heartache near the end.
And the other parts are linked below. I highly recommend you read them because they’re ten times more fun than my silly old summary.
Thanks to Erin for giving me the idea for this! It’s really been awesome coming up with everything in this story and playing with the characters and… *sigh* yeah. I’m sort of sad it’s over.
Maybe I should write more Horatio Hornblower stories…
Anyway, here are the parts:
And the story!
Part 8: Leaving
Mr. Kennedy’s worker, George, gave each of the two trunks loaded on the carriage a hollow sounding thump, “Well, we’re ready to go here whenever you two lads are.”
Horatio nodded his thanks and straightened the collar of his coat. “We’ll be with you shortly. Just going to say our farewells before we go.” He and Archie walked back down the now familiar old dirt path to the cottage.
Waiting by the open door was the rest of Archie’s family in a rather sad clump, the littlest ones sniffling. Polly had her face buried in her mother’s apron.
Archie and Horatio came to a stop by the door and stood quietly for a few seconds. Sighing, Archie took off his hat.
“Well, all good things come to an end,” he went down on his heels by Polly and patted his hand on her small shoulder, “We’ll be back soon, button. I promise.”
Polly looked up, tears still in her eyes and re-latched herself onto Archie, “I don’t like it when you leave!” she whimpered.
“I don’t either,” Archie consoled, “Hey, now…” he pulled her chin up and looked at her with a smile, “We’ll have more fun next time, alright? Maybe we can plan another birthday surprise. It’s always someone’s birthday around here.”
He winked at her and stood, redirecting his gaze to Charlie and Will, who stood somberly with their hands behind their backs. Imitating their pose, Archie looked seriously down on them, “Now don’t torture the life out of the girls while I’m gone, you hear? I don’t want to miss out on the fun.”
Despite themselves, his brothers grinned back and Archie’s legs were soon trapped in hugs. Archie managed to gently peel them off and moved on to Nathaniel and Charlotte. Not much was spoken between them. He hugged them both individually and gave them both big smiles.
Horatio hung back as his friend moved on to the Kennedy parents, feeling a little out of place and looking like he was very interested in the dirt by his boots. Mr. Kennedy tipped his head and looked over at him alerting Mrs. Kennedy to the fact that someone was feeling left out.
“We can’t have that, Archie,” she reprimanded playfully, “Horatio’s a Kennedy now. Pull him in here.” Mrs. Kennedy peered over at Horatio and motioned for him to come over. Grinning, Archie grabbed his friend’s arm and pulled him closer to the rest of the Kennedys.
Mr. Kennedy put his hand on Horatio’s shoulder and smiled at him with the wide smile that looked so much like Archie’s, “We’ve really enjoyed having you, Mr. Hornblower. I can with all honesty say that we feel like we’ve found another family member.” Taking his hand down and extending it to shake Horatio’s, he nodded, “The name of Horatio Hornblower will always bring a smile to out faces. You’re welcome back here any day of the year.”
Horatio nodded back and shook the offered hand, any eloquent thanks he had previously thought of fleeing his mind. “Thank you… sir.”
“No goodbye would be complete without the use of your favorite word, would it? Sir.” Charlotte grinned mischievously up at Horatio and gave a bob of a curtsy. “Once again, I thank both of you fine gentlemen for my birthday surprise.”
“You’re most welcome, Charlotte,” Horatio gave a short bow and smiled in spite of himself.
“Thank you for coming in and saving us from burning the house down in the attempt,” added Archie with his own, more dramatic bow and getting a laugh out of Charlotte.
Nathaniel stepped forward next with a reluctant smile similar to Horatio’s and held out his hand. He and Horatio shook and Nathaniel gave a nod, “It was nice to have someone else in the house who was fully sane. While it lasted, at least.”
Archie drew himself up, “I beg your pardon?”
“Likewise,” laughed Horatio. “It was a pleasure meeting you, Nathaniel.”
A shrill whistle split the air and George gave a wave from his perch on the carriage. Archie gave a wave back and sighed, “We need to get going.”
Polly gave another sob and launched into a hug at Horatio this time. Horatio was bumped over a step with the force of it and held up his hand over Polly, unsure of what to do.
Just when Mrs. Kennedy had begun her approach to pull her away, she poked up from his coat with a teary smile. “I’ll miss you two.”
Horatio patted her mussed up, brown hair, “And I’ll miss you, Polly.”
“Think of us when you make gingerbread,” advised Archie, “I promise, we’ll do the same.”
The two friends headed back down the path to the carriage, waving behind them as they climbed in. And off they rattled over the bumpy road, choruses of goodbyes following them and Archie craning out the window to keep waving for as long as he could see the house.
It was quiet in the carriage for a few minutes after Archie had pulled himself in. Only the clip-clop of the horses’ hooves and the occasional snap of the reins filled the air. Horatio went to stick his hands in his pockets and his fingers rubbed up against the damp wool where Polly had buried her face in his coat.
Archie turned his head and raised his eyebrows at Horatio. “So, Mr. Hornblower,” his voice held an amused twist Horatio had heard often, “The good Captain Pellew gave you explicit orders to enjoy yourself on this leave. Do you believe you’ve followed them?”
Horatio smiled slowly and nodded over at Archie, “I believe I have, Mr. Kennedy.”
“Gentlemen,” Captain Pellew’s clear voice rang out over the deck filled with his newly returned crew, “It’s good to have you back on board. I hope you find yourselves well rested from your month’s leave and ready to fight for your country once again?”
A cheer rose from the deck and various scarves and hats went spiraling into the air. Captain Pellew gave a slightly unintentional smile and nodded as the noise dissipated.
“Well, men,” he continued, “We set sail tomorrow. That is all.” The captain turned to leave and the men began to talk among themselves, but suddenly, Captain Pellew stopped and turned again.
“Oh, yes. There was one more thing,” he said it like the announcement was perplexing to him. “Two of our Lieutenants have volunteered to make us a welcome-back treat this evening.” Pellew tipped his head, “Are any of you fond of gingerbread?”
Well, as always, please comment! I’d love to know what you thought!
Especially this being the end of the story… any favorite parts, lines or characters? Please tell me! 🙂