Port Captain Horatio Hornblower sat, gazing aft through his ship’s master window to the ocean beyond. His recent promotion had been overtaken in his thoughts by his wife’s subsequent confession. She’d placed his hand on her stomach and shattered his future with three words; “I’m pregnant, Horry.” His jaw tightened at the memory. The situation had become complicated enough as it was.
As if on cue, a knock came at the door and Horatio turned just his head to see Lieutenant Bush peering through.
“Come in Mr Bush,”
“Thank you Sir,” Bush doffed his cap and closed the door behind him.
“Do you have anything to report?”
“I wished to offer my congratulations to the new Port Captain, Sir.”
“Noted... At ease, Mr Bush. How are you?”
Bush stated he was well as he crossed the small room and rested his cap upon the captain’s table, among the charts and navigational instruments. Horatio turned back towards his view. A gull swept the horizon for a few seconds then slid beyond his line of sight. He felt Bush’s hands rest on his shoulders.
“How are you, Horry?”
“I... don’t call me that.”
“Why not?” Bush smiled, “I quite like it.”
“You’re not the only one.”
Bush tilted his head to one side, his grip loosening for a moment.
“Ahh! Oh, Horry!” Bush pressed his thumbs into Horatio’s shoulders again and the captain sighed at the pressure.
“Please, Mr Bush.” Horatio paused, then let his head rest backwards against Bush’s forearm. “I do not wish to think of my wife at present.”
“Why not, Sir? I think she’s quite lovely.”
“Perhaps you think I should prefer other company currently, Mr Bush?”
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Bush traced a circle with his thumb, “Horry?”
“Christ man, there’s more to it!” Horatio turned and now facing the man, Bush let his hands fall.
“She’s pregnant, William. Maria is pregnant.”
Bush let his eyes wander the captain’s face. Horatio’s irides were silky and desperate. His lips dry and his dark hair escaping its tie. Bush fancied it looked a lot like waves, paused as they broke over nothing but horizon. Finally, he smiled at his captain;
“I didn’t think you, uhh, did that. Sir. With respect.”
“Laudanam, Will. It’s not a memory I fancy keeping.”
“But pregnant, on the first try... you must be quite a man.” Bush let a smirk infect his complexion; “You’re lucky I don’t get pregnant, Sir.” Horatio returned it.
He ran his fingers up Bush’s side and drew the man closer. Bush responded, draping his arms over his captain’s back and letting his muscles relax. The day’s stress fled like Frenchmen from his mind, whenever the captain came so close. Horatio in turn rested his head against the Lieutenant’s chest and exhaled, letting his heartbeat slow to that of his partner’s. Their rhythms seemed to dance together.
“I’m glad that you’re well,” Bush’s eyes twinkled, “Horry.”
“Mr Bush, do be quiet.”
Beyond the window the sea wore the world down, but it would never touch them.