Title: Three drabbles|
Author: Juxian Tang
Fandom: Hornblower, movies, Loyalty & Duty
Pairings: Cotard/Horatio, Horatio/Bush
A/N: These drabbles were originally written for a
Russian naval drabble community, the *patriotism* challenge. The words in
italic are quotes from the movie.
Summary: There are different things people do for
Everything here even smelled as before: the sea
breaking into small splashes on the sharp rocks; sand licked to velvety
smoothness and wet leaves of the willows, branches leaning almost to the
ground. Everything was as he remembered it - as it had been when he was a
Ten years. Sometimes he thought he'd never come back
here. Douce France. His country. His memory. Defiled by the Corsican bastard.
"Do you find it strange that I should love my
country and still fight against it?" he asked.
The brown eyes, usually so warm, turned icy.
"As long as you fight against it, Major, it's
all that concerns me."
Following the familiar way to the Duke's mansion,
Cotard smiled, looking askance at the young, very serious face of his
companion. You don't trust me, Monsieur Hornblower. You think I might betray
And I would like to throw you down on this wet grass
- so that you lost your silly hat that makes you look like a fisher boy. So
that your hair slipped out of the ribbon - and I could twine my fingers through
it. And kiss your big, stubbornly compressed mouth until your lips became soft
and open for me, until your gaze lost its focus, dazed and soft.
That's how I would like to celebrate my homecoming.
That is what I would like to remember of this day, and not how many of my
compatriots - my enemies - I would have to kill.
* * *
The drops were heavy and oily and fell to the glass
slowly, as if reluctantly. Horatio watched them - simply because he didn't have
strength for anything else. Even blinking seemed to be an insurmountable task.
Then, on the beach, he'd managed to forget the
pounding pain in his head. Then there had been more important things, and he
fought and attacked and parried. And now he paid for it with a fit of appalling
"What is it?" His own voice seemed strange
and sounded as if from afar. Bush looked up, his expression so determined as if
the number of those drops was a life-and-death matter.
"It's for your headache, sir. Matthews gave me
"So... Matthews is the ship doctor now?"
A smile flickered on Bush's lips even though his
voice stayed completely serious.
"But we don't have another, do we, sir?"
The glass smelled with lavender, mint and alcohol.
"Come on, sir."
Don't 'come on' me, I'm not a child, Horatio thought
peevishly. Bush looked at him with endless patience - and also as if he
couldn't completely believe Horatio was here, alive and relatively all right.
For some reason Horatio felt awkward under this gaze.
The liquid in the glass was cold on his teeth.
Horatio wanted to close his eyes but he was afraid he would see the yellow sand
again, and the lazy waves licking away Hammond's blood and brain.
"I need to write a report." He tried to
get up and felt as if something exploded in his head.
"Steady, sir." Bush caught him, lowering
him back into the cot.
"I need to write a report," he repeated
"All right, sir."
And a moment later a big folder lay down on his lap,
with a few sheets of paper on it. The inkpot Bush put onto the chair nearby.
It really was a way out. Horatio neatly wrote the
date on the top of the page - and stopped still. He never enjoyed writing
reports - and this one was particularly difficult to compose.
"I don't know what to write," he said. It
was not an invitation for a conversation, and he was sure Bush understood it.
He really didn't know. Was he to write that Captain
Hammond, a hero, one of the most prominent figures of English fleet,
distinguished with all possible awards, turned out to be a traitor?
"What's a better way to serve my country?" he remembered. Hammond's
country was not England.
Horatio would like to hate him. But he couldn't. And
even Wolfe - despite the disgust Horatio felt to him, he also felt something
like respect. Colonel Wolfe who'd signed in as a simple sailor to the ship and
played his role as long as it was necessary...
Would Horatio be able to do for England what they
had done for Ireland?
He'd pray he would never have to do anything like
that, he thought.
For some reason the quill became so heavy that it
slipped out, leaving a trace, sharp like a sword cut, on the paper. Bush
touched his hand with rough fingertips, taking the quill and the paper.
"You'll have time to write the report while
we're going home, sir."
This time Horatio didn't argue. He closed his eyes,
and in the coming darkness even the blaze of explosions and blood on the sand
didn't seem so bright any more.
A few moments later he heard Bush walk out - but
before that warm fingers touched his cheek - so briefly that Horatio almost
could think he just imagined it. Yet the touch was there - careful, like an
attempt to make sure he was here and real - and both awkward and gentle. And
Horatio for some reason wanted to make it last, wanted to turn and press his
cheek to these fingers.
But Bush must have thought he was asleep, so he
didn't move. Then Bush left and Horatio really fell asleep.
* * *
"I only hope that one day, Hornblower, you'll
fight for more than England,"
Pellew said, and Horatio answered:
"What's there more than England?"
And Pellew looked at him with a sad half-smile, like
at a silly boy who would grow up and understand.
Horatio was neither a child, nor a fool. He knew
what Pellew meant. He just... didn't want to know.
Because then he would have to admit that loving the
whole England was easier than loving just one woman, the woman who trusted him.
It wasn't Maria's fault, the blame was his - that he couldn't, didn't know how
to be what she needed.
And sometimes, being in bed with her, he suddenly
felt a strange wish to be somewhere else, anywhere but there. But even
subjecting himself to a merciless self-analysis Horatio refused to admit what
he really wanted.
Because there were things he could imagine so
clearly that it seemed he *knew* them. For example, how William's narrow mouth
would feel under his lips, how William's hard hand would feel on his chest.
Horatio *knew* it - and between this knowledge and
the chance to feel it was a chasm. He would never do it. Never would disgrace
himself. Wouldn't put his First Lieutenant before a choice. He wouldn't see
disgust in William's eyes.
He knew what he had to do. He had his duty.