(Hornblower/Pellew, NC-17, m/m, romance)


The heat awakened him at some indeterminate time between midnight and dawn, though to say that he was awakened by it would be to imply that he had slept, and that was not strictly the case. Rested, perhaps, his mind drifting on a sea of fractured thought, pausing occasionally to slip into a light doze, but actual sleep had evaded him this night, as it had every night of the previous week. As it had evaded all of them - except, perhaps, Mr Bracegirdle, who of course could sleep through anything, such being his nature.

There was a flask of laudanum in his sea chest, a delicate silver phial no thicker than a man's thumb and he knew that a single drop would be enough to tip him over into the abyss of slumber. Then again, he knew from past experience that laudanum also brought him violent nightmares and he was not prepared to shame himself before the crew with any loss of control, however accidental. No, he must find another way.

Sans coat, he left his cabin and went up on deck, hoping for some air to cool him, but the sails were as empty now as they had been for the past three days, not the slightest breath to bring respite from the insufferable climate. Despondent, he leaned against the rail. The sea, black as the night sky above, was mirrored glass as far as the horizon, the full moon reflected there with such clarity that he could mark each shadow on her incandescent face and could almost believe that he saw a smile there, mocking his restless state.

A slippered footstep rasped the boards and he half-turned his head to see what poor unfortunate shared his affliction, only to find the breath forestalled in his throat at the sight. Quickly he resumed his vigil, aware of the sudden trembling which beset his limbs and caused him to clutch at the rail in the vain hope of concealing it.

"Mr Hornblower," he acknowledged, the sound of his voice, loud as a pebble falling into a deep pool, intruding on the silence. "I see sleep evades you also."

"That it does, sir. I thought I might find some relief up here, but alas..."

"Alas indeed," agreed Pellew. "In my experience there is nothing worse than finding ones ship becalmed, especially when one may encounter the enemy at any moment."

"Is that likely, sir?" The young man turned away, peering into the darkness. "Surely the French will find themselves in the same predicament."

The captain made to reply, but the words were stillborn on his lips as he fell victim to one of Hornblower's most guileless smiles and he felt his heart begin to race as he wondered again how this delightful being had ever come into his service. Inexperienced, of course and, by the very nature of his upbringing, naive, but such minor irritations paled beside his enthusiasm and his joy of life, and his intense love of the sea. He was also, Pellew admitted silently, quite, quite beautiful - not as a woman was beautiful, not soft and decorous, but rather in the manner of a young hero from the classics, strong and masculine, his courage proven a dozen times over.

Like Pellew, he had forsaken his coat and his dark hair curling around his neck was black as ebony against the pristine whiteness of his shirt. That shirt lay fully open to his waist, the smoothness of the moon-silvered skin beneath inviting the pleasure of touch. From there, Pellew's descent into hell was as easy as the downward glide of his gaze to where the gentle swelling of Hornblower's manhood was sharply defined by the cream fabric of his breeches. Oh if only... if only... his heart cried out, beating hard against his ribs. If only he had the courage to turn dream into action. He could take him by force, as others of his rank were wont to do, using boys for their pleasure and then discarding them, but that had never been Pellew's way. Any man who shared his bed must do so by his own free will, Hornblower most of all. If only he knew, beyond doubt, that he would not be rejected...

"Captain? Sir, are you unwell?"

He heard the concern in the young voice and seized upon it, as a drowning man clings to driftwood. "Ah - Yes, Mr Hornblower, I do find myself somewhat - indisposed."

"Then perhaps you would permit me to escort you to your quarters."

"My quarters?" No! cried his conscience, but his treacherous tongue betrayed him. "Yes, that would be... Yes. Thank you."

He was aware of Hornblower close behind him as they moved through the darkened ship and although he felt uneasy and shamed by his weakness, he was grateful for that reassuring presence when his foot struck against a poorly stowed rope and he stumbled to his knees. The strong arms were there to catch him, setting him on his feet once more and, despite his good intentions, he clung to them far longer than was either seemly or necessary. In the darkness below decks, Hornblower's face was unreadable, yet Pellew was certain that he sensed acceptance in the way the young man made no attempt to disengage himself until the captain himself drew away.

"My... My thanks again, Hornblower," he stammered, and a velvet voice from the shadows answered softly "My pleasure, sir."


A single lamp burned in Pellew's cabin, it's meagre light pooling in the centre of the room. To augment it, he lit a brace of candles and motioned Hornblower to a chair.

"Thank you, sir, but I feel I should return to my own quarters."

"For what reason? We, neither of us, can sleep therefore why should we not keep each other company?" For a man beset by such dark desires as he felt towards Hornblower, Pellew thought the argument quite reasonable.

Hornblower stood watching him, his height enhanced by the low ceiling to the degree that Pellew discovered in himself an unsettling feeling of inadequacy in the young man's presence along with a premonition of all that Horatio could - and would - become. The mature Hornblower would be formidable indeed!

"Very well, sir, if you insist," was the eventual response as the empty seat was filled.

Pellew sighed. "I do not insist, my dear Horatio, I merely ask you - as one friend to another - to permit me the pleasure of your company. Or do you deny that there is friendship between us?" he challenged.

The lieutenant's answer was immediate and indignant - "No, sir!" - and then he smiled a slow, generous smile and ducked his head shyly. "No, Captain, I do not deny it," he said, more gently this time. "I have come to value your friendship as much as your guidance."

A sweet feeling of light-headedness stole over the captain at those words and while he would, if questioned, attribute it to the heat, privately he acknowledged his companion as the sole cause. He had always in his life striven to be worthy of the respect of his crew, but never had it been as important to him as it was at that moment.

"Will you take a drink with me, Mr. Hornblower?" he asked. "There is a bottle in the cupboard."

"French brandy, sir?" the dark eyes sparkled with amusement. "I doubt His Majesty would approve."

"I don't give a fig for His Majesty's approval, at least not tonight, and I am sure that there is brandy enough to be found at court." The bottle and glasses were brought and he motioned for Hornblower to pour. "Your health, Horatio," he saluted, touching the spirit to his lips and allowing a drop or two to glide over his tongue. Twice! he thought, excitement stirring the blood in his veins still further. Twice you've called him 'Horatio' and he has raised no objection.

"And yours, sir," Hornblower responded, raising both his glass and his eyes to his captain.

An unnatural silence blossomed between them and threatened to become strained, until Pellew said, quite conversationally, "Your exploits with the fire ships are the talk of the Admiralty, you know. Sir Arthur Mayhew was enquiring about you just before we sailed. I believe he was hoping to lure you away from the Indefatigable."

"Then he is to be disappointed, sir - unless you want rid of me?"

It was said lightly, yet Pellew heard the unspoken question, the need for reassurance. Or - could it be more? He took a mouthful of brandy and swallowed it in one gulp, feeling it burn it's way to his stomach, reminding him that he must tread most carefully here, for this was no dream. "On the contrary, I would count it a great loss, both to the ship and to me - personally."

The glass was set aside and Hornblower closed his eyes, his chest heaving as he struggled to retain his composure. Pellew marvelled that his simple statement of fact could have such an effect, but then he had never, not for one moment, harboured even the slightest belief that Hornblower might feel anything more than loyalty towards him. Hope, yes, but not belief, until now.

"Captain -" Hornblower opened his eyes and they were bright and filled with longing.

In that moment, Pellew made the decision for them both. Leaning closer, he covered the trembling hand with his own and quietly corrected him: "Edward... at least for tonight."

"Edward..." A frown creased the young brow as he tested the word. "It feels - strange."

Strange, perhaps, but not so alien that you find it unacceptable I think he mused. His confidence growing with each passing minute, he said aloud: "I promise you, my dear, that by morning the name will seem as natural on your lips as your own."

Caught off-guard by his own swirling emotions, Hornblower shook his head. "I don't understand. I've longed for this, dreamed of belonging to you, but you never gave me any sign that you might share those feelings. Why now?"

"Because you have changed. Your stay in prison has - matured you, something you proved by your insistence on returning there to fulfil your debt of honour. If we allow the feelings that have grown between us to reach their inevitable conclusion, it will be necessary for us to conceal our relationship from the crew. I believe that you now have the strength to do so." Lifting Hornblower's hand from the table, he held it tightly between his own. "But you should also know that of late my feelings towards you have become - almost uncontainable and I fear that - if I delay in declaring them I might well - lose you forever."

"Oh God... Sir... Edward, I - " Coherent speech failing him when most he needed it, Hornblower shook his head again and, with a tiny cry of surrender, brought Pellew's hands to his lips, kissing each finger as it curled around his own and the captain, himself overcome, lay his head against the dark curls, his lips pressed close to a hidden ear.

"Do you trust me, Horatio?" he asked, and felt his love nod. "Then will you stay with me for what's left of the night? I would like, very much, to make love to you."

Horatio raised his head slightly, turning to whisper "Sir, I have never...", letting the rest trail away into an embarrassed silence.

"Then you have my word that I shall be gentle. Do you trust me? "he asked again, and this time Horatio looked deep into his eyes as he vowed "Yes. In this - as in all things."

"Then come..." Lifting Horatio to his feet, Edward turned down the lamp and led his tremulous lover to the narrow bunk, setting one of the candles on the chest beside it. "Believe me, my dear Horatio, I would do nothing to hurt you," he murmured. "May I kiss you?"

Taking the shy smile and the slight movement towards him as consent, he released the hand he still held and lifted his own to Horatio's flushed cheek, guiding their mouths together. Their first kiss was no more than a hesitant brushing of lips, but Edward felt his world tilt and spin, and his heart begin to race. So close now... So close... He brought their mouths together again, and this time he dared to stroke the tip of his tongue across the closed line of Horatio's lips. When they opened to emit a tiny moan of pleasure he took his opportunity and slipped his tongue inside, tasting the softness of the inner lip, feeling the hard barrier of teeth part further to admit him. The taste of Horatio's mouth was exquisite, the hesitant glide of his tongue a delight of which Edward knew he would never tire.

Growing bolder, Horatio lifted his hands, framing Edward's face between them as he began to deepen the kiss, robbing the captain of both breath and will. It was a kiss that bored through every part of him, seeking out his soul and turning it to flame, filling his head and heart and loins with such desire that he found himself no longer master of the moment but instead slave to his lover.

Breaking the kiss at last, Horatio stepped back, still holding his gaze. The shirt was lifted over his head in one fluid movement and dropped carelessly on the floor, the slippers were kicked aside to land where they would. Mesmerised by the unashamed, yet somehow innocent, display, Edward held his breath, watching as the long fingers moved to unfasten the breeches and push them down the impossibly long legs. The linen drawers quickly followed, and suddenly Horatio was standing before him, naked. He stood very still, allowing Edward to look at him, displaying himself for his lover's approval, and although he could no longer conceal the colour rising in his face, he kept his head high, a glimmer of pride deep in his brown eyes.

Slowly, Edward allowed his gaze to move, charting every detail and storing it away: the curls, black as a raven's wing in the half light, riding unbound over the ridges of his shoulders; the smooth sweep of his chest, the firm stomach; the long, clean limbs corded with strong young muscle; the shadowed forest between his thighs and the sleek, alabaster column rising from it, so proud and eager for his touch. A thousand words tumbled through his mind, but none seemed adequate to describe his feelings at that moment, or to do justice to the charms of the man standing before him, and so he kept silent, wary of breaking the mood between them with some trite comment.

"Captain - ? " A note of panic in Horatio's voice - perhaps he had gone too far, presumed too much - and a sudden, compulsive movement of his hands to cover himself.

"Forgive me, Horatio, I did not expect..." He shook his head to clear it and then glanced up at the lieutenant, and just as suddenly he found the words he had been seeking. "Oh Horatio... Do you really not know how beautiful you are to me?"


Pellew ignored the protest and stepped closer. "Uncover yourself, please... Let me look at you." And Horatio obeyed, dropping his hands to his sides, once more meeting his captain's scrutiny with proudly lifted chin. And so you should be proud, my love. Never have I seen a man as well made as you.

Edward dared to touch him then, marking a southern route with the tips of his fingers, from the pale column of the throat, across the silken curve of his chest, brushing lightly the tiny buds that swelled to meet his caress. "So young..." he whispered. "Why could we not have met twenty years ago?"

He felt the vibration as Horatio laughed, not unkindly. "Because then, my dear Edward," he said boldly "I should have been little more than a babe in arms - and not fit to fulfil your intentions for me... As I shall not be if you insist I remain here, like this, for much longer."

Without warning, Edward found his questing hand captured, kissed, and brought to rest against the sleek shaft. "Touch me, Edward, and let us put an end to this prevarication. There is little enough left of the night and God knows when we shall be blessed with another such as this."

Edward took him at his word and without further delay, curled his fingers around the staff of iron and velvet. It was warm in his hand, pulsing with life and as he stroked his hand along its formidable length he felt it nudge against his palm like a living creature independent of its owner, leaving a wet kiss against his skin. Already so close? he wondered, and with the thought found himself fighting the urge to throw himself on his knees before his beloved and take that beautiful object into his mouth, drinking him dry. Instead he stepped back and pulled off his own shirt, but when he reached for the buttons on his breeches he found his hands brushed aside.

"Let me..." murmured Horatio, pausing only to lean in and steal a kiss from Edward's startled lips. By the time he was released, the breeches were unfastened and Pellew watched in fascination as his companion sank gracefully to his knees, divesting him of both layers of cloth in one easy movement. Freed from its confinement, his own burgeoning erection lifted towards Hornblower's face and Pellew drew back sharply, lest he cause offence. Hornblower shook his head and smiled, rubbing his cheek against the heated flesh, much as a cat will, purring, rub against its master's hand.

"Horatio, I don't expect you...." Edward began, only to be silenced by the first swift stroke of a hot tongue against the crown of his cock.

"Do I surprise you?" The teasing note in his voice sent a shiver down Edward's spine. The boy was a virgin and yet - he knew exactly what he was doing and, more importantly, what he wanted. "I may be inexperienced, Captain, but I have lived below deck long enough to know how men do with men. Have I learned well, do you think?" he asked, but before Pellew could answer, slid his lips fully over the crown and down the long, darkening shaft until they brushed the wiry thicket from which it grew.

Breath hissed sharply from between the captain's lips and of it's own volition his hand wound itself in the dark curls, cradling Hornblower's head with a tenderness of which he had hitherto believed himself incapable. This was far beyond anything he might have imagined and he marvelled at the stranger wearing his lieutenant's face, for this could surly not be the Horatio Hornblower who had always appeared so reserved, so - awkward in his company. Yet here he was, taking command of the situation as calmly as any veteran of this ancient game.

His teeth ground together as he tried in desperation to hold back, to resist the urge to thrust himself deeper into that accommodating throat, but it seemed that he was to be thwarted at every turn, for no sooner had the thought formed in his mind than Hornblower shifted, and Pellew found himself held fast by those strong, broad hands bracketing his hips, the fingers digging deep into the soft flesh of his arse.

" 'Ratio, wait!" he gasped, the first rolling wave of ecstasy building within him. "Wait!" Dark brown eyes looked up at him and he smoothed the unruly hair aside to see them more clearly. "If you continue I shall not be able to contain myself."

"That was my intention," was the candid response. "I'm not afraid of this, Edward, not with you."

"I know, and I swear you shall have all that you want of me but... may we not also be comfortable? Or as comfortable as a captain's berth on one of His Majesty's ships will allow. Come..." and taking Hornblower's hand he drew him back to the bunk, guiding him down to the mattress. "Look at you..." he whispered, awed at the sight of his beloved Horatio, at last where he had for so long wanted him. The young man's cock was so ripe it looked fit to burst, the shaft engorged with blood, the head glistening in the light of the candle's flame. He swirled his fingers across it and brought them to his mouth, licking away the sticky fluid gathered there, seeing the desire in Horatio's eyes turn in an instant to burning need.

"Please..." The word was no more than a sigh as Horatio held out his arms in entreaty.

"One moment more," Edward promised. Moving quickly to the washstand he returned with a small linen towel and a stone jar, which he set on the chest, beside the candlestick. Satisfied that all was ready, he climbed into the bunk and, gathering Horatio into his arms, took his mouth in a long, passionate kiss, leaving his lover in no doubt as to his desire.

Soon they moved as one, coiled around each other, arms and legs entwined. Words became redundant as they communicated with touch and taste, fractured murmurings echoing from mouth to mouth, lost in their kisses. Time ceased within the cabin as Edward reclined against the goose-feather pillows, encouraging Horatio to explore him in his most secret places, refusing him nothing. The avid mouth claimed him at once, swallowing him whole, and this time Edward made no attempt to deter him but instead began to lift his hips in counter thrust, finding and matching Horatio's rhythm with ease. He would have been content to spill himself into that welcoming throat, had Horatio so desired, but again the mouth left him, bidding farewell with a kiss against the tender crown.

"Tell me what you want," he said as Horatio lay back, and the reply left him speechless with its honesty.

"You... All of you... "

"I have no wish to hurt you, Horatio. There will be other nights - "

"Not like this. I know it will hurt, Edward, but it is pain that I would gladly bear because I know you will do all that you can to make it easy for me. You would never use me cruelly, not like - " He stopped suddenly, fear flashing deep in his eyes, and in that instant Pellew understood how his love had come to learn so much about the ways of men, not by observation but by example. {I have lived below deck long enough to know how men do with men} Oh my dear Horatio, how blind I have been all these months

"Forgive me," he said, leaning down to steady the trembling lips with a kiss, "I did not know. I fear I have been above decks too long. Were they - Did it happen often?"

"Once only, but it is of no importance. He's dead now and forgotten" Reaching up, he curved his hand against Edward's face. "You will be the first I have come to willingly, that much I can give you."

"Then I shall not refuse you."

Moving closer within the confines of the bunk, he began a slow yet intense worship of the young body, beginning with his mouth, which he did not quit until it had been thoroughly ravished and both he and Horatio were gasping like beached fish. Drifting lower, he touched his tongue to one of the tiny amber buds, hearing the startled gasp break from Horatio's throat. These were the things he had not learned in the cruel darkness, that men could be gentle and loving with each other, and find pleasure in the simple act of touching one another. Things that Pellew would be more than happy to teach him. He raised his eyes, looking up the length of Horatio's chest to meet a smile bred of joy and amazement as he shifted his attention to the other pap, swirling his tongue around it until it grew hard. As if sensing his captain's need for reassurance, Horatio's brought his hand to rest atop Edward's head, the lightest pressure detaining him a moment more at his task before urging him downwards.

No stranger to this act, Edward found himself hesitating, unaccountably afraid of failure this time. Of all the men he had ever pleasured, Horatio was the most important because he brought nothing more than himself to the encounter, no promise of riches or advancement, just his body, open and willing, Edward's for the taking. Only when he heard Horatio whisper "You don't have to..." did all come right again and with a sigh of utter contentment, he bowed his head and took the lovely thing into his mouth.

The taste and feel of the sleek shaft was exquisite, the salt sea-air scent of him a comforting familiarity. He drew on him delicately at first, allowing Horatio to become accustomed to the sensation, swabbing the sensitive head with his tongue until the body beneath his hands began to writhe and a tremulous voice called his name. Then, sensing the change in mood, he sat up and reached for the stone jar.

"What's that?" Hornblower asked, curiosity aroused.

Dipping his fingers into the contents, Pellew waved them beneath his lovers nose, the warmth of his hand releasing the fragrance of camomile and sandalwood and the faintest trace of lavender. "It's a salve, made for me by an apothecary in London to soothe the ravages of wind and salt water. However, I have also learnt that it serves well to - ease the way into a man's body." He waited, allowing Horatio a moment to assimilate this information, reading the dichotomy of fear and need in his eyes.

At last Horatio nodded. "Show me..."

Mouth sealed to mouth, bodies pressed close, Pellew 's oiled fingers parted his lover's thighs. Gentle probing found the secret place and he felt a shudder pass through the slender frame as he circled it with his fingertip, Hornblower's gasp of surprise vibrating through their kiss. But he made no move to stop it and instead spread his legs wider and Edward, encouraged by his response, took it as a signal to proceed. Dipping his fingers deeper into the salve until they were thickly coated, he returned to his task, diverting Horatio's attention by probing his mouth and sucking on his tongue as he slid the first finger into the tight opening.

The sharply in-drawn breath was this time accompanied by a soft cry - not protest, not really pain, more a coming to terms with the unfamiliar sensation. Before, that other time, when the inexperienced Midshipman had been taken against his will, there would have been no tenderness, no chance to examine the feelings and adjust to them. This was all new to him, and with Pellew, it seemed, he was a willing student.

The ring of muscle slowly gave way under his ministrations, relaxing its grip on his finger and he smiled as he felt the first tentative clenching draw him further inside. Horatio's head was thrown back against his captain's shoulder, mouth open, gulping each steadying breath as he rode the invasion of his most private place.

"This pleases you?" Pellew smiled, burrowing his finger as far as it would go.

"Yes," Hornblower confirmed.

Pellew dipped his head and placed a moist kiss on the long, pale throat. "The next may not be so pleasant," he warned.

"I don't care..." The words came out in a rush of desire tempered with apprehension. "Please..."

He tried so hard not to hurt him, knowing from his own past experience that it could not be avoided. This time there was pain in the cry that burst from the young throat and when he looked down he saw a tear slide from beneath the sable lashes. Instinctively, he pulled Horatio close and buried his face in the thick, dark curls.

"Forgive me, my sweet -" he pleaded. "If there was another way..."

"But... there isn't... " He forced his eyes open and looked up into Pellew's tentative gaze. "I trust you, Edward - Oh God! - " his face twisted and he swallowed hard before continuing: "I want to ... to feel you... inside me... If I must en-endure this first then.. so be it..."

Overwhelmed, Pellew pressed his lips to the damp forehead. "I don't deserve you," he whispered. "You are so beautiful... and so trusting... and I do not deserve this gift... " As the words flowed, sweeter because for the first time in his life he truly meant them, Pellew slipped a third finger into the slick opening, reaching towards that tiny place that, he knew, would in an instant change pain into pleasure and in so doing, open Horatio's body to him fully.

And then he found it! One moment his love was writhing in his arms, trying with all his might not to pull away when everything in him cried for escape from the burning, tearing agony searing his loins. The next he was clutching at Edward's shoulders, his open mouth blowing hot, brandied air across the captain's skin, joy and astonishment gurgling in his throat. His manhood, which had withered with the growing discomfort, blossomed once more, lifting to press against Pellew's belly, dotting it with wet kisses.

Pellew withdrew his hand, satisfied that Horatio was as ready as he would ever be, and wiped his fingers on the towel before running them into the sweat-dampened hair, turning Horatio's head until he could look into his eyes and see, beyond doubt, the truth they held.

"Tell me again that you want me to do this," he insisted.

Horatio laughed softly and touched his lips to the inside of his captain's wrist. "Are you still so unsure of me, Captain?"

"Not of you... Of me. If I do this, and tomorrow see regret in your eyes, I should never forgive myself."

But Hornblower shook his head. "Dearest Edward... How can I possibly regret what I have wanted for so long?"

"How long?"

"Since you gave me charge of The Caroline. I saw your face when the plague forced me to leave... I saw how much it hurt you to think that you might never see me again. To know that you shared my feelings..." He sighed and lifted his hand to Pellew's cheek. "The hope that I might one day be here, in your arms, gave me the strength to get through those dreadful weeks of isolation."

Edward sighed. "And now you are here..."

"Yes." He moved then, guiding Pellew above him, parting his legs so that his lover might kneel between them. "Please don't make me wait any longer..."

How could he resist such an entreaty, and from such a sweet suppliant? Scooping more of the salve from the jar, he began to stroke his own thick shaft, determined that he would not cause this beautiful being one moment more of discomfort than was absolutely necessary. With his free hand he lifted Hornblower's left leg, placing a row of kisses along the soft flesh of his thigh from knee to groin, darting a look at the rapt expression growing on the fine features before once more taking Horatio's manhood into his mouth and driving him almost to the edge of the abyss.

When all the little sounds and movements told him that there was no more that he could do, he sat back and slid his arms beneath Horatio's legs, lifting them to his own shoulders. He knew that it would be better, kinder, to take him from behind this first time, but there were ghosts lingering around them, the shades of men who had used them both, and Edward found, in those last moments of conscious thought, that he needed as much to see his love's face as Horatio would need to see his.

There was pain as he eased his flesh into its slippery berth, a flicker of it across eyes and mouth, but it was as quickly dissipated by the greater pleasure of having what was so fervently desired, and then Horatio was moving with him, lifting his hips to meet the downward thrust, catching and matching Edward's rhythm so suddenly and so very perfectly that the captain almost reached the moment of climax in a few rapid strokes.

"Slowly, my love..." he encouraged, and for a moment the pace dropped a little, allowing him to regain some measure of control. But it did not last, could not this first time, their need for each other being so strong. They would each give and take, and it would be glorious, and there would still be time to savour their coupling the next time - for he was certain now that Horatio would come to him again, as he would come to Horatio.

Hands twisting in the tangled sheets, Horatio dropped his legs to Pellew's waist, locking his ankles in the small of his lover's back and pulling him in sharply, taking and giving... taking and giving... Edward wrapped his hand around the steeply angled phallus and took up the same rhythm, the residue of grease on his fingers causing a delightful friction that skimmed upwards, through his hands and into his arms, making them tingle. Blood sang in his ears and his vision slipped out of focus as he neared the moment of completion, making it impossible for him to see his lover's face, to read the adoration there, but he heard it in the soft, wounded cry that burst from those sensual lips and he felt it in the pulsing ripples of Horatio's muscles that clutched at him each time he withdrew.

There, on the periphery of awareness, he felt movement near his face and realised that Horatio was reaching out to him, his hand seeking contact. He met it with his own, lacing their fingers together as he brought it to his lips, suckling on the bony knuckles. The action was enough to make Horatio clench around him, pitching him over the precipice and into oblivion as, with one last surge of his hips, he spilled his seed into the waiting body, wave after blissful wave, until he was empty. Vaguely, he heard Hornblower call his name, a loud sharp cry that must surely have been heard in every darkened corner of the ship, and then the scalding lava erupted over his hands, splattering his chest and face as his love shuddered with his own release...


"Edward...?" He distantly heard the familiar voice call his name, but the effort to move was too great, his limbs too heavy and uncoordinated to move, and so he answered with a murmur and a soft kiss against the tender bud beneath his lips.

He lay as he had fallen, his body draped across that of his lover, his head resting above the heart which had once more resumed it's steady beat. Horatio's arms were about his shoulders, their weight a blessed burden that told him all was well, as did the hand that carded lightly through his loosened hair. Contentment, utter peace and unimaginable joy, flowed through him. Never had he experienced anything like this, this incredible sense of belonging, of being wanted for himself.

"I should go..." the voice continued "before I'm missed."

They were the most miserable words Pellew had ever heard, and yet he knew it must be so. Scandal such as this would spread like wildfire through the crew and although he had little care for himself, he would not bring shame on his beloved.

"Wait until the watch changes," he advised, keeping him there as long as possible. "You will not be noticed in the confusion." Sitting up reluctantly, he swung his legs over the side of the bed and reached for his dressing gown.

Hornblower remained where he lay, watching him, an odd look playing about his swollen lips. "I - should wash..." he observed meekly, brushing a hand across his belly where his own seed had dried to an uncomfortable stiffness.

"Then do so here." Fastening the robe, he turned back to his lover and for the first time noticed the bleak look. "Horatio? What's wrong?"

"Nothing... " came the lie, the pinkness of embarrassment making his face glow against the whiteness of the bed linen. "If you will permit me to get up, Sir, I shall be on my way."

"Permit you -- ? Horatio, look at me," he demanded, for the troubled eyes had dropped, avoiding his gaze. He saw it then, the longing for something more, the need for reassurance, the fragile uncertainty that was telling Hornblower this was all there could ever be, this one night. Pellew knew that he could probably, given time, reason with him, but time was a luxury neither had, for already the ship was awakening, the sounds of urgent movement coming from without. If he was to salvage this then he must do something, and do it now. Very well... Needs must he thought bitterly.

"D'you think I take you for a whore, sir?" he asked, and the shocking words filled Hornblower's eyes with horror.

"No, Sir!"

"Then why d'you act like one?"

"Sir, I do not..." he protested, indignant at such an unwarranted suggestion. "I have never... I --"

"Yet you seem eager enough to quit my bed, now the deed is done. Am I to pay you for your services?"

Tears welled in Hornblower's eyes and one slipped free as he shook his head. "I want no payment, Sir," he whispered. "I came to you because I - I - "

"Say it man," urged Pellew, "Or must I say it for you?"

At last the dark head lifted once again in defiance. This was his Horatio, strong, courageous, determined - wonderful. "I came here, Sir, because I-I care for you..."

"Only care?" teased Pellew, allowing his hand to trail upward from a bony ankle to a pale thigh.

"N-no..." The breath hissed from Hornblower's lips as sharp nails raked his flank and he arched back against the pillows.

"Say it and I shall stop..." Pellew coaxed.

Triumphant laughter burst at once from Hornblower's throat. "That, Captain, is no incentive, for I wish you never to stop."

Pellew's hand paused and he frowned in mock severity. "Ah -. I think you have the better of me, sir."

Horatio's eyes flashed unholy fire. "Not yet, Sir, but I fully intend to... at our next encounter."

The words spawned such an image in Pellew's mind that he was glad of the thick folds of the dressing gown to hide his sudden discomfort. "I shall look forward to it," he murmured and, leaning towards Horatio, covered the waiting lips with his own.

How long the kiss lasted neither knew, nor were either aware of the soft rapping at the door, or of the opening and closing of it, until Mr Bracegirdle gave a discreet cough.

Pellew felt the shock of discovery through his lover's body, but he himself gave no outward sign of perturbation. <Stay here> his eyes told Horatio, and the barely imperceptible movement of Horatio's head marked his assent. Rising from the bed, Pellew snagged the sheet and dropped it casually over Hornblower's nakedness.

"What is it, Mr Bracegirdle?"

"Begging your pardon, Captain, but the wind is rising."

"The wind?" He glanced towards the ceiling, listening and - yes! - by gad, he could hear the sound of wind in the rigging. "At last!" he cried. "Now p'haps we can get under way. Mr Hornblower - " He spun round, to find Hornblower grinning at him from above the bedding. "Well for God's sake get dressed man! We have a ship to sail... Mr Bracegirdle -"

The older man was hovering close to the door, his gaze shifting from his captain to the young and clearly naked man in his bed, taking in the scenes of obvious debauchery scattered around the room. Pellew crossed the room and stood before him, blocking his view, his manner and tone at their most commanding.

"Not one word of this, Mr Bracegirdle. D'you hear me, sir? If I hear the slightest allusion to what passes between myself and Lieutenant Hornblower in private, then I shall know from whom it has come and I shall deal with that person accordingly. Is that understood?"

"Aye sir..."

"What's that, man? Speak up!"

"Aye, aye, Captain." Bracegirdle's face flamed, but he stood his ground. He could do no less, Pellew mused, being himself similarly engaged in other quarters - not that the poor man was aware that Pellew knew of it.

"Good. Now get about your duties, sir. Mr Hornblower and I shall be there directly. And send us some hot water!" he added to the retreating back.

Alone, he returned to the bed. Hornblower knelt up, the sheet slipping aside to leave him gloriously naked once more, and the captain could not resist the urge to take him once again into his arms. With the wind rising, lord knew when they would get another chance.

"I'm sorry," he breathed against a hidden ear.

"You've done nothing -"

"No... But I wish we had more time." Easing a little from the confines of Horatio's arms, he stroked the unruly curls aside. "I do love you, you know."

"Oh Edward..." Hornblower protested, only to fall once more into silence at a shake of his lover's head.

"No, let me speak. We must be very careful if we are to continue this. The crew must never know."

"What of Mr Bracegirdle?"

A smile warmed the stern look away. "Oh, I do not think we shall have any problems with him. Shall we say he is - of like mind."

"Good lord!" exclaimed Hornblower. "I should never have guessed."

"No... And they must never guess about us. If you would..." The words stopped in his throat. Not a man usually given to self sacrifice, he knew the magnitude of what he was asking and that, ultimately, the choice must be Horatio's. "If you would prefer to let this end here, to remember it fondly as - as a pleasant interlude, then I will understand. I would never ask you to put yourself at risk."

"Nor I you," pledged Hornblower, resting his head in the angle of Pellew's shoulder. "But we both know that we cannot turn away from this. I love you, Edward, and I shall go on loving you, whatever fate might befall us."

Pellew absorbed the words in silence. All he had ever wanted... "Come to me when you can - I dare not send to you too openly or the men will think I favour you too well."

"Of course. I understand... I shall be the epitome of discretion." He began to climb from the bunk, but at that moment the ship bucked on a mounting sea and he stumbled, falling against the captain.

Pellew, his arms suddenly full of warm, naked Lieutenant Horatio Hornblower, shook his head. "Discretion?" he queried, arching a brow at the innocent grin on his lover's face as he set him on his feet.

"The epitome, Sir," was the sweet response. All trace of embarrassment or self-consciousness had left him and he seemed content to simply stand there as nature intended, without a stitch of clothing, his manhood already showing signs of reawakening. Pellew raked him from head to foot adoringly, wondering how on earth he was ever to find the strength of will to leave his cabin, particularly when Horatio's hand began to wander towards that alabaster column. Damn the man, didn't he know what he was doing!

Of course he does Pellew's mind replied. He knows precisely what he's doing...

"Discretion," he repeated, nodding to himself. Catching the look of mischief in the dazzling eyes he sighed. "Oh for God's sakes, Mr Hornblower, put some clothes on!"

The End