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When the Past and Present Collide

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It was dark and rainy as Charlotte was walking through the park on her way home from a particularly late night at work. A dark figure caught her eye set back from the path. He was huddled on a bench, wet from the rain, shivering from the cold, and looking quite overwhelmed. He was a little younger than she was, and dressed in a manner completely foreign to her. It seemed to be some sort of a military uniform but unlike any she'd ever seen before. He did not appear homeless, nor dangerous, just…lost. None of that mattered when his eyes met hers in the moonlight. No, not lost…he seemed frightened--she knew she had to help. He looked as though he was about to bolt, so she spoke gently and approached him slowly. "Hello." She started. " You look as though you could use some help." She held out her hand "My name is Charlotte James, by the way." He stood and took her hand, but not in a traditional hand shake. More like a quick press and release. Huh. She thought. "My name is Hornblower." He said. "Lieutenant Horatio Hornblower." Interesting name, she mused. "Well Mr. Hornblower, you are soaked to the skin and clearly weary. Why don't you come to my home with me to warm up and rest a bit?" He looked both incredibly surprised and equally grateful. He must have been out here quite some time. "I do not wish to trouble you." "It's no trouble, I promise, I live quite close by." He thought about it a moment, then he seemed to have come to a decision and nodded once. "Thank you, that is very kind of you."

The walk back to her home was short, as she lived just across the road from the park, but even then, it seemed terribly difficult for him. His eyes darted around looking quite scared of everything, and he gasped a few times in surprise. Whatever traumatic experience he'd been through was clearly affecting him deeply. She stayed quiet, but right near his side, and when he stopped completely in the middle of the road watching a car go by, she took his arm gently, but firmly and led him to her home and into her foyer. He gasped again when she turned on the entry light, so she turned it off again and led him to her sitting room. She encouraged him to sit in a chair by her fireplace while she grabbed the remote to turn on the gas. He looked terrified when the flames appeared, but was too tired to move. She soothed him with her voice. "It's alright. It's just a fire to warm you. Please try to relax, all is well. I won't hurt you, I promise you." He closed his eyes and leaned into the chair, taking a few deep breaths.

She decided to give him a minute and stepped into the kitchen to fetch him a glass of water. She placed the glass near him on a table, sat on the couch nearest him, and asked quietly. "Where are you from?" He opened his eyes and stated, "The Indefatigable, frigate class, his majesty's navy." That's curious, she thought. He should have said Her majesty's navy and she was certain ships were no longer called frigates in regular conversation. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and asked. "Maybe this is a better question. When are you from?" His eyes fixed on hers. "It is the year of our Lord, 1795." She was surprisingly calm at his reply. It would surely explain a lot of things. "How did you get here?" she pressed. "We were in French waters and we had just taken a French sloop and secured her. I had gone to my quarters to rest a bit. I must have slept a turn, when I felt a strange shuddering of the ship. When I opened my eyes, I was there, in that small forest where you found me. I saw many people pass through, but no one spoke to me. I saw a great many things I could not explain. I was there for several hours before you came upon me." Okay, she thought, this was going to be tough to explain. "Mr. Hornblower, I am going to tell you a few things that might upset you. I don't know how you got here, but the year is now 2019. You've somehow traveled around 240 years into the future. We are on the farthest West Coast of America…the colonies." she corrected herself. She stopped and let that sink in. At first he looked downtrodden, but then he sighed and nodded his head. "How do I return?" "I don't know" she responded honestly, "but I will help you find a way." He closed his eyes again, deep in thought. She gave him time.

A few moments later, he looked up again, resolute, jaw set. "I have an idea, why don't you get cleaned up and I'll prepare something light to eat, if you are hungry?" she asked. He nodded again, gratefully. "Okay, so let me get you set up and then I will give you your privacy." He got up and followed her to her bathroom. It was all so new to him, but he recognized the large clawfoot tub. Tubs were ubiquitous it would seem. She stepped out to a closet and grabbed some pajama pants, a clean t-shirt and a robe. "These were my brother-in-law's. He left them here on a recent trip. They should fit you and will be dry when you are finished bathing." Then she started the tub. He was amazed at the warm water coming directly from the taps. Remarkable. Then she added some bath oil to help him relax, grabbed a warm fluffy towel and set it on the counter and a wash cloth and fresh bar of soap which she placed on the edge of the tub. Then she grabbed a new toothbrush from a drawer and set it near the towel. "In case you wish to clean your teeth", she explained. Finally, she gestured to the toilet. "If you use the privy, when you are done, you can just push down on this handle." He watched her demonstrate. Fascinating! He thought. Then she turned off the faucet, tested the water and turned to go. "Please take your time. When you are finished in here, come join me in the sitting room again and have something to eat. We will talk more then." Then she pulled the door closed behind her and left him alone. Horatio undressed, laid his clothes on the counter, used the privy (much to his relief!) and climbed into the warm fragrant water. Oh, this is heavenly, he thought. He sunk down against the back of the tub and his eyes drifted closed. Horatio let the water warm and soothe him. He hadn't had a real bath in quite some time and he planned to enjoy this one.

Charlotte puttered around the kitchen for a few minutes deciding what to make. First she poured two glasses of red wine and allowed them to breathe on the coffee table. Then she set out some crusty French bread, slices of cheese and sausage, some slices of cold chicken a bowl of strawberries, some grapes, some olives, a small bowl of nuts, a simple green salad, and some small squares of chocolate. Finally, she grabbed her wine and laptop and started to research time travel while he was bathed. She found a couple of web pages of interest and bookmarked them for later. She knew she should not believe this was real, but somehow she was certain it was.

When he stepped from the tub, it took a few minutes to figure out how to clothe himself. These clothes were foreign to him. He finally stepped from the bathroom. There was soft music emanating from somewhere, and he was quite confused. How is that possible? But his hunger overpowered his curiosity and he joined her. He looked around for the source of the music, but his eyes landed on the table laden with food in front of him. Strawberries? How? It was November, there are no strawberries. And grapes? He was mesmerized. She encouraged him to sit on the couch and handed him a small plate. "I wanted to prepare something light in case your stomach was bothered from your day." "Light?" He queried, looking at all the food before him. "This looks wonderful, thank you." Then he watched as she filled her own plate before following her lead. He was ravenous, but there was plenty of food here and he ate with enthusiasm. Only after he had finished his food, did he take a sip of the wine and sigh appreciatively. "This is wonderful." He told her and she smiled. He turned to look at her and realized she was dressed very similarly to him. Pajama pants and a robe as well. "Miss James?" he started, "Why are you dressed as a man?" She laughed. "First, please call me Charlotte. Secondly, in this time, everyone dresses in any manner they wish to. These night clothes are comfortable which is what I am looking for when I am sleeping. But it is not uncommon for a woman to wear trousers during the day, as a man would. We do wear gowns or dresses still, but usually for more formal occasions. Today it's all about comfort and practicality." He nodded. This was all so new to him. "You said we were on the West side of America, correct? Does that mean we are close to the sea?" "Yes, we are quite close. We can get there in about 45 minutes from here. Perhaps tomorrow I can take you to the Pacific Ocean?" "I would like that very much." He said sincerely. Then he yawned. "I am so sorry, that was rude of me." "Not at all, I am sure you are tired." She told him. "Let me get you set up in the guest room for the night and then tomorrow we can figure out how to get you home. He smiled genuinely at her. "You have been so kind, and I thank you for it." She smiled back and then led him down the hall to a comfortable guest room. She turned down the bed for him, as he watched then she stepped to the door. "I am just down the hall if you need me for any reason. Would you like me to turn this light off?" He nodded. She wished him a good night and stepped back out into the hall.

He climbed into this bed and settled in. If he thought the bath was heavenly, this was even better. The bed was soft and warm and the pillows were cool against his cheek. The linens smelled faintly of flowers. He rolled onto his side, and despite all the confusing thoughts speeding through his mind, sleep overtook him in mere moments.

After he retired, she tidied up the kitchen, and then collected his garments from the bathroom. She cleaned them gently and then hung them to dry by the heater vents. She took her phone and laptop and retired to her room. While she sat up in bed, she continued her research and took some notes. She thought she was onto something, but still had much to explore. It had turned out to be an interesting but exhausting day and sleep caught up with her quickly.

Chapter Text

The next morning Horatio woke late after a restful night of sleep. It took a moment to remember where he was and why everything was so unfamiliar. He took a couple deep calming breaths and went to use the privy, then he went to the sitting room. He found Charlotte sitting on the couch concentrating on a strange thing on her lap, a cup of something warm by her hand and wearing a long dress and button up sweater. He thought briefly that she looked quite pretty. Then she looked up and smiled. Oh yes, definitely pretty. "First, I have taken the liberty to clean and dry your clothes. They are there folded on the couch. He was astounded. They hadn't looked this clean since they were new! "Thank you." He said sincerely. "Would you like a cup of coffee or tea this morning while I prepare some breakfast?" "Tea would be lovely, thank you." She set aside the strange thing on her lap and went to the kitchen.

After a moment she came out with another mug for him, but he followed her back to the kitchen to watch her as she went about making breakfast. As she moved efficiently around the kitchen he asked "Do you not have help?" "Why would I need help? I am more than capable of making breakfast." Then he asked her "Do you live here alone?" "Yes, I am lucky enough to live alone." He persisted. "A woman, all alone?" "Yes, Horatio. Things are different now. Men and women are equals. They can choose to live alone, to marry, to work, to travel. Women of age do not need to be taken care of. They can take care of themselves." He was mildly shocked, but had no response. She ladled eggs, bacon, potatoes and fruit onto his plate and set some toast, butter and jam nearby. Then she sat at the table and gestured for him to sit. The food was hot, delicious and quite hearty. He often got not much more than bread and a small amount of porridge in the morning, so this was a unexpected treat.

When they finished their meal she tidied up and then returned to the couch to the strange thing she had been looking at before. "I am just checking in at work as today is Friday and thus not technically a day off. I have told everyone I will not be in, but I will need to take a few calls from the car." He had no idea what she was saying, but nodded anyway. "You work?" he asked incredulously. "Yes, I do. That is how I can live independently. I need to pay for my home, my food, and necessities." "No one takes care of you?" "No, once again, I am capable of taking care of myself. I am quite proud of it actually. I worked hard to get where I am in life today on my own." She was starting to get a little exasperated. "What do you do for work?" he asked, changing gear. Working in Silicon Valley never seemed harder to explain as it was just now. She decided to put it into terms he might understand. "My company is a factory that makes something. There are people that build it, there are people who sell it, there are people who write about it and teach others how to use it. My team teaches." "Your…team?" "Yes, um…you are a lieutenant, correct?" He nodded. "So you have a captain from whom you take your orders. But you also have a group of people who take orders from you, true?" He nodded again. "My crew, yes." "So, I am like you. I am a lieutenant at work--there are people who take orders from me, but I, too, have to take orders from a captain." "A female lieutenant! Remarkable!" He seemed truly surprised. She smiled at that. Then she closed the thing on her lap like a book, picked up a small bag and a small rectangle from the table and led him outside to her car.

He stopped at the side of the car and froze, totally unable to figure out what to do. She walked to his side, opened the door and told him to sit down and face forward. Then she reached over him, quite close to his hip and pulled a rope like thing across him. He held his breath. Then she fixed it into place and closed his door. She made her way around the other side and got in as he had, except in front of her was many things he didn't understand. He saw the wheel, which was about the only thing somewhat familiar and he just watched her. "This is a car" she explained. "It's like a carriage only it does not need horses to run. There is a machine inside the car that makes it move. This wheel steers the car. We are going to the Sea, but it is 35 miles away. In this car, we will be there in about 45 minutes." Now this was impossible, he was certain. But he nodded and waited. She turned the car around and headed towards the sea. Although they were only traveling about 30 miles an hour at this point, he was shocked. "How is it we move so fast?" He asked breathlessly. "This is not as fast as we will be going, but you will get used to it, I am sure."

They drove in silence for a few minutes, and then she turned onto a much bigger road where the cars were speeding by. She joined in with them and they were on their way towards some mountains. This was incredible! Everything was moving so fast around them, he felt as though he were flying. Then suddenly the car made a sound. She pushed a button and said "Hey there John, it's Charlotte, how are you today?" Suddenly a voice filled the car and said "Hey! I'm good. Had a good weekend, played some soccer with the kids and went for a hike. You?" "I'm good as well. I have a friend visiting from the UK for a few days and we are heading to the beach. I just wanted to check in on your projects." While he sat in silent shock, the conversation turned to a subject he did not understand and then they were saying their goodbyes. He loved hearing her speak as she sounded so confident and intelligent despite comprehending very little. "That was one of my crew. I have one more call like this and then I will be done." He nodded and listened as once again there was a strange exchange like the last happened, this time with a woman. When she finished, he said "You have women who take orders from you?" "Why sure. I have both men and women who do. Remember, women have the rights to earn their keep just as men do." "Fascinating." He murmured.

By now they had reached the mountains and he was suddenly completely taken by the beautiful scenery around him. These trees were so tall and different! He couldn't help but smile and point things out to her. She thought this was truly adorable and indulged the many questions he had. Soon they had left the mountains and were nearing the seaside. She parked, found a private beach, and took a bag and a box from her car. "It's a picnic for later, should we get hungry. And a blanket we can sit on." Then he took the box from her and they made their way onto the warm sand. He stopped and just listened to the waves. This was home. He was truly at ease for the first time in the past 24 hours. She set up the blanket and sat down, so he joined her and just sat quietly watching the waves break.

They were nearly completely alone, but there was a small family nearby with a young boy kicking a ball around. The mother of the boy had her hands full with a baby, so Charlotte stood, kicked off her shoes, and started to kick the ball around with the boy, who giggled in glee. Horatio watched them for a while smiling. Suddenly the boy kicked the ball into the surf. Charlotte didn't hesitate and she clearly wasn't afraid. She ran to the water and rescued the ball from the waves. In the process, she wet the bottom of her dress to the knees. Instead of being upset, she plopped back down onto the blanket laughing. She was delightful, he thought to himself. Then suddenly she stood and held her hand out to him. "Let's go for a walk!" and he took her hand while he stood, but dropped it immediately after standing. It wasn't proper to keep her hand in his, no matter how soft it was or how nice it felt. Then she laughed and ran to the edge of the water. "I love the sea!" she said and he could tell it was true. She seemed so very alive here.

They walked along the shore all the way to a cliff and then turned around and walked back. He regaled her with stories about his ship, his captain and his crew. She asked him many questions, quite engrossed in everything he had to say. He enjoyed sharing this with her. Then she told him a little bit more about herself, about her job, her friends and family. By the time they returned to the blanket, they were hungry so she unpacked some apples, some cold meats, some cheese, some bread and some carrots. Then she took out a large container of some sort filled with ice cold water. What a wonderful picnic, he thought. They ate and talked some more. Then after they cleaned up from lunch, she took a couple of books from her bag. "Would you like to read a bit? I chose some books from an author of your time. She wrote some of the most beloved novels of our time." "She?" "Oh yes, she was a visionary and quite forward thinking for your time." Then she handed him Persuasion and then started to read her own book.

For the next two hours, they simply sat side by side, reading their books, listening to the waves break on the beach. But to him, these were two of the nicest hours he had ever spent. He would steal glances at her occasionally, and found himself mesmerized. Her golden hair was pulled back in a ribbon at her neck, and her blue eyes were shining in the sun. She would bite her bottom lip while she read, and he found that entrancing. She would occasionally smile or laugh at a passage she read. He would remember this always. When the afternoon sun was getting low in the sky, she suggested they grab their things and head back. She, once again, helped him into the car and into his seatbelt and then she started towards the mountain.

Suddenly she turned off the road to a small shop. "It's a tradition to stop for ice cream on the way home from the beach!" then she led him inside to a small table and went to the counter to order a scoop of vanilla, a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of strawberry in cups and brought them back to the table. He'd never seen anything like this, but she encouraged him to take a spoonful and try. "Be careful! It's cold!" As he took a small bite of the vanilla, he closed his eyes and sighed. "This is marvelous." he told her sincerely while sampling the other cups. They shared the ice cream on the table between them, between bites sharing lively conversation.

It was then he noticed several other couples come in and take the tables around them. She saw him looking around and said "Oh this is a very popular place to bring a lover or a date. After a day at the beach, you stop for a sweet treat and then proceed home to seduce one another." She laughed and winked. He was completely taken aback and said nothing. They finished their ice cream and got back into the car. He had figured out how to buckle himself in by now, but he missed her reaching over him to help. Then they got back onto the road over the mountains.

"May I ask you something, Charlotte?" "Of course." She replied. "Always." Then he asked a little more formally, "Are you trying to seduce me like those lovers in the shop?" She turned to him, scanning his face. She could make nothing out. Then she sighed. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. I was having a little too much fun, it would seem. If I were trying to seduce you, I promise you would know. I will be more…guarded…in the future." He had a strange feeling after that declaration, which he soon realized was disappointment. "How would I know?" he asked quietly. "Hmmm?" she asked. "That you were seducing me?" "Well," she started, "women today are decidedly bolder than they were in your time. Remember, we are equals to men. If we wanted to be with a man intimately we might be so bold as to come out and say so. For example, I might say 'Horatio, please take me to bed and love me.'" His body tightened unexpectedly at such a frank statement. Then she continued. "Or, I would not say anything at all. I would just appear in your room dressed in a way that leaves little to the imagination. Or the man could do either of those things as well. It really doesn't matter who initiates. If a couple wants to be together, then they get together. But I would never do this, so you are safe from me." He was unnaturally quiet. "It is mostly because someone like you would never be attracted to someone like me, thus I guess it's a moot point in this case. I would not want to humiliate myself." She smiled at him softly. He had no reply so just nodded and looked back at the road ahead.

The rest of the ride was quiet, but then they pulled into her driveway and got out and went inside. The house was cold from the fall chill. She lit a fire again and he took his book and sat down. She grabbed her…machine… and started rapidly writing with her fingers. "this is my laptop computer" she explained. "I am using it to find an answer to how to get you home." It was too bright and things were flying about. It gave him a headache to look at, so he turned back to his reading. Then she picked up the small rectangle she had by her side and began talking into it. "Hello? Is this the society?" She asked. "Ah, I assume you found our sailor, that's a relief! I trust he's in good health?" She confirmed that he was. "We were expecting a call like this and we have much to discuss. Please bring him to this address tomorrow at 11 and we will explain everything." She confirmed the address and time, then set her phone aside. Then she told him "I think I have found something. We will go visit someone tomorrow who may be able to help us." He nodded again and smiled. "Thank you again Charlotte, you have been so very kind to me."

As the evening progressed, she asked if he was hungry. He said he was, so she excused herself, went to a nearby store for some chicken, potatoes and vegetables, and made up a roast for dinner. He was delighted. After dinner, they sat and read and talked, then she excused herself to ready for bed. She dressed as she had the night before. She took a few moments to clean up after dinner. He was once again surprised she was able to do so much without any help. It was unheard of for ladies of his time to manage a home, cook, clean, and work as well. "Are you not tired?" he asked "Yes, I am tired, but I have things that must be done. I will head to bed soon." "Then I will do the same" and he retired to his room to dress in the nightclothes she had provided him and then cleaned his teeth and washed his face. It had been a wonderful day. He climbed into the cozy bed and just listened to her as she puttered about before retiring to her own room. For a brief moment he wondered if she would join him. Then he laughed at his own absurdity. He heard soft music again and found himself drifting off to the beautiful melody. It had been a good day he decided before sleep took him.

Chapter Text

He woke early the next morning, having enjoyed another deep and restful night. He was less disoriented and took a few moments to relish in the comforts of this room. He took care of his morning ablutions and then headed to the sitting room. This morning he found her wearing black clothing so fitted he could make our every beautiful curve and line of her figure as she moved her body as a dancer might. Her moves fluid, her muscles taut, firm and defined and her skin shone with a fine sheen of perspiration making her seem to glow. She twisted and stretched and moved as easily as a cat. It was both beautiful and sensual and he could not tear his eyes away although he knew he should. Suddenly she caught his eye and smiled again. "I'm sorry, just stretching a bit this morning. It's an exercise called 'yoga' and is meant to keep you strong and healthy." He wanted to assure her it was working in the most marvelous of ways, but he could not find the words.

After she made herself ready for the day, she returned to the sitting room to find him once again engrossed in Jane Austen. She smiled inwardly. Ah, if there was a perfect man he would surely appreciate Jane Austen, she mused. Would you like some breakfast?" She asked. He said yes and they went back to the kitchen. This time she prepared some sweet pastries and fruit, with a cup of tea. He enjoyed this cozy domesticity with her, but he knew he shouldn't. He would likely be returning to his time soon. She told him they should prepare to meet with the society who might be able to help him then asked if he would like a shower first. He brow crinkled in confusion. "A what, pray tell?" she giggled. "Let me show you. It is a quick and easy way to get cleaned up." She led him back to the bathroom and showed him how the water could come from the wall into the tub from long hose overhead, like rain. She turned the shower to warm and instructed him on turning it off when he was finished. Then she left him alone again.

Horatio undressed and stepped under the warm water. Oh, did this feel wonderful. He started to think about her and the things she had told him in the car on the drive back from the beach and then his mind wandered to the curves of her body from her morning exercise. He felt his length start to stiffen. He cursed under his breath and quickly took up the soap and wash cloth to distract himself. When his hand ran down the front of his torso to clean himself, he once again was tempted to take himself in hand. He was usually able to will away this physical response, but this morning, it was persistent. He sighed, fought the urge to take care of himself and finished washing. When he emerged dressed 20 minutes later, she was none the wiser about his internal struggle and he was…slightly frustrated. Today she wore fitted black trousers and a pretty floral blouse and he thought she looked quite fetching, despite being dressed in what he still considered men's clothing. He was wearing just his trousers from his uniform and a dark shirt she had found for him. They left the house in her car, heading to an address in the middle of town.

When they arrived, they were shown into a quiet and modern office. They were greeted by a man with very kind eyes. After exchanging some customary pleasantries and hearing how Horatio came to be here, he turned to Horatio and addressed him directly. "Well Mr. Hornblower. We've been watching you. We were observing your ship from here and somehow inadvertently created a portal…a doorway between our worlds. We are terribly sorry for this and we have the means to get you back. However, it will take another day or two. We want to make sure the portal is stable, lest you get lost somewhere along the way. Would you mind staying with Miss James for a little bit longer? She appears to be quite comfortable with this situation and has taken good care of you, I presume?" "Yes, sir, she has. She had been exceedingly good to me." "Good good! Well then, why don't you take your leave and we will contact Miss James when we are ready." Then he shook both of their hands and showed them out.

They were quiet back in the car, both realizing they would be sad when Horatio returned. Then then she turned to him and smiled. "Maybe you would enjoy a tour of my town?" He thought this sounded like a lovely idea, there was still so much to see. First they found themselves at a museum where he spent a few carefree hours looking at the paintings from his time, as well as before and after his time. It was completely fascinating. She then took him for a late lunch at a pub, where they enjoyed a few pints of beer (tasted strange, but good!) and a hearty meal. He was relaxed and once again, completely engrossed in the stories she told of life here. Two men walked by holding hands and Horatio stared openly. "They are men, why do they hold hands?" She looked up to see the couple and then turned back to Horatio. "In this time, people are free to marry whomever they wish. Men and women still marry, but now a man can marry a man, or a woman can marry a woman. Love is just love and no one really cares anymore who you love." He was frankly astonished. Then he saw a black man holding the hand of a women who appeared to be from the orient. He asked many more questions and she answered each one openly and honestly.

After a walk through town where she pointed out the architecture, the scenery and sights, they returned to her home. He was quite comfortable there now and felt quite at home. "I have an idea! Why don't we change into our night clothes and watch a film?" He looked at her with much confusion. She gestured to the black window-looking device above the fireplace. "This is a television. We can watch a film on it. Something acted out by actors like in a theater. The author you were enjoying had some films adapted from her works. Would you care to see?" He nodded enthusiastically. He had no idea what she meant with all of this, but she seemed to want to share. They left to their respective rooms and changed into their customary night clothes and returned to the sitting room. She had poured some wine and was now seated on one end of the couch. He took the other end and she started the film. He could not be more astonished! These people looked real, everything looked so real. But her calm nature reassured him and he sat back to enjoy.

Partway through the film she lifted her legs onto the center cushion of the couch, something she often did when she was watching a film at home alone. Her feet were bare and the pajama pants had risen to mid-calf. She leaned back and pulled her hair out of its ribbon and it cascaded over her shoulder. Her face was ½ turned to the film and he took the liberty of looking down at her ankles and calves. He was mesmerized--he could not look away. She must have noticed because she said "Hey there, what are you doing?" Without looking up, he said "Admiring your beautiful ankles." She chuckled and stretched her leg so her foot rested on his thigh. "What makes an ankle beautiful?" "Yours is slender, and has a beautiful curve down to your foot. It looks delicate, but I know that it is not. I have seen how much you move, how much you do, how hard you work. I saw you taking exercise this morning. Your ankle is so strong, just like the rest of you, even if it doesn't look it as is the rest of you. It is something I greatly admire." Then he reached out and ran his hand from mid-calf down over her ankle and grasped her foot. He closed his eyes and a sound very much like a quiet moan filled her ears. She gasped. His eyes flew open and he stood so quickly her foot fell back to the cushion with a thump. "I am very sorry, please forgive me Charlotte. I should not have taken such liberties." Then he turned and retreated quickly to his room. He was clearly mortified, and she could not help but notice, a little aroused by the state of his pajama pants. She stood up to follow him, but decided to leave him be. She, herself, had much to think about. She cleaned up a bit, grabbed her laptop and went to her own room to work. Her room was warm this evening, so she removed her robe and wore only her pale pink tank top and pale pink and black stripped pajama pants.

An hour passed quickly while she worked when suddenly she heard a cry from his room. Worried he was in distress, she ran to his bedside. He was sweating a bit and thrashing a little on the bed. She knew he was still asleep and having what appeared to be a bad dream so she reached out to him to shake his shoulder gently. Without warning, he grabbed her wrist and flipped her onto her back next to him on the bed. Then he moved his body to between her thighs and pinned her hands near her head. His eyes were open, but unseeing and she knew he still dreamt. Her self-preservation instinct kicked in she tried to buck him off. Big mistake. Huge. As her hips pushed up into him, he pressed down against her. She felt his stiff length against her core and she groaned. He must not have been having a nightmare afterall, but a delicious dream. He ground his hips into her again. Oh goodness, did that feel good. But this was so very wrong. She knew she had to wake him. "Horatio" she called. When that did nothing, she tried again, but louder. His eyes cleared and he found himself staring down at her.

As he came to himself, he felt himself pressed tightly against her, the evidence of his arousal only separated from her warm center by their respective pajama pants. God, she felt so good, warm and soft and lovely. Her hair was around her like a halo and her eyes shone in the moonlight through the window. Oh how he wanted. He tore himself away from her and sat up quickly on the edge of the bed facing away from her with his head buried in his hands. "Once again, I beg your forgiveness. I cannot possibly explain my actions just now. Please believe me, I had no intention of taking advantage of you thus." She knelt behind him and put her hands gently on his shoulders. "It's okay Horatio. I am perfectly fine. It was only a dream. No need to ask forgiveness, it's already forgotten. I will admit to being flattered you seemed to want me for the briefest of moments there."

To soothe him, she ran her hands up his neck to his hair in a caress. She felt him shudder beneath her hand. Maybe she had gone too far, so she went to slide past him off the bed. He caught her wrist, more gently this time and asked. "The other day, you said that someone like me would not be attracted to someone like you. What did you mean by that?" She peered into his eyes before looking down. "Well, look at you! You are intelligent, clever, kind and good." Then she blushed. "And you are probably the most handsome man I have ever seen in my life." He was shocked and delighted by her admission. "Now look at me" she continued, "I am just…me. I am nothing special." Then she tried to pull away, but he held fast. He spoke in earnest. "You are the most special person I have ever met. I will never again meet your equal. You are lovely in every possible way." Then he kissed the back of the hand he held. She gasped quietly. He caught her eye again. "I should very much like to kiss you." He whispered and she froze. Then a mere moment later she nodded her assent, as eager to feel this as he.

He let go of her wrist and took her face gently in his hands, her skin was warm and soft. He stroked her cheek with his fingertips. He leaned into her ever so slowly. She was still kneeling next to his legs. Their lips met in the briefest of kisses. More like a whisper. He leaned in again and brushed his lips over hers a second time. And then once more. This was the sweetest torture she ever experienced, she thought. It seemed natural to deepen this kiss, so she leaned more into him, and sucked gently on his bottom lip. This elicited a groan from him. She smiled against his lips and did it again, then she pulled back and ran the tip of her tongue against his top lip. He was lost. He let his hands slide down her arms to her waist and she wrapped her arms around his neck. She ran her fingers into his hair and tugged. He groaned again. He pulled her against him tightly and leaned back against the headboard. Now his tongue was sliding between her soft, wet lips and swiping her tongue. Oh what a wonderful feeling this was. He had felt nothing like this in his lifetime. Quick, clumsy fumbling with himself or with the very occasional woman on shore leave felt nothing like this. He simply could not get enough.

Their position was a bit awkward, so to stabilize herself, charlotte straddled his thighs, trying not to get too close to his most intimate part. She certainly did not want to scare him off now. He gasped into her mouth when he felt her thighs on his. She pulled away from his mouth and started to kiss behind his ear, down his neck and to his shoulder. She lightly bit the junction between his neck and shoulder and he shuddered underneath her. She reached for the hem of his shirt and pulled back to look at him. He nodded once and she pulled it over his head. Oh was he nice to look at! He was slender but well formed. Muscles lined his chest and stomach, his skin golden and shiny. She kissed his neck again and then ran her hands over down his chest. Her finger brushed his nipples and he gasped then moaned low in his throat. She smiled and did it again, seeing if she could make him utter that delicious sound again. Oh, she definitely could. She ran her hands lower to feel the muscles of his stomach under her finger tips. They rippled and contracted from her touch. Only then did she notice how close her hands were to his hard length. She caught his eye again. "May I?" she asked softly. He wasn't exactly sure what she was asking permission to do, but nodded vigorously. He did not want this to end and wished to see where she would take this.

Charlotte moved over to kneel at his side again. Then she slowly untied the drawstring at his waist and pushed his pajama pants over his hips and down his thighs, watching his face for signs of discomfort. No one had ever seen him like this, so naked, so vulnerable, so very aroused, but he cared not. She looked down at his beautiful length. He was long and thick and very, very hard. She ran her fingertips from the base to tip. He shuddered. Then she took him in hand and stroked him. His hips pushed into her hand. She used her thumb to collect the moisture at his tip and spread it over him. He moaned and threw his head back. Then she stroked him several more times more firmly, changing up the tightness of her grip, learning him. His hips were moving of their own volition, and she thought he may already be close. She wanted so much to taste him, so she leaned over and took just the tip into her mouth, ran her tongue around his crown then sucked gently. This was too much for him as his body jackknifed off the bed and he starting to crest. She pulled off him and stroked him through his climax. He was moaning continuously and panting, eyes tightly shut. When he was finished, she released him gently and stood up. "don't go anywhere, I will be right back." As if he could move, even if he wanted to. Then she returned with a warm damp cloth and cleaned him. He felt extremely cared for in those moments. She nestled next to him while his body calmed and drew lazy circles on his stomach with her fingers.

After a few moments, he spoke, his voice raspy and delicious. "That was the single most incredible thing I have ever felt. I should very much like to show you the same pleasure you have shown me, but I am afraid I do not know how." She leaned up over him and said "would you like me to show you? Show you what I will do when you are gone and I am thinking of you?" His eyes grew wide and he whispered, "Dear God yes. Yes, darling, please show me." Then she stretched on the bed next to him, one leg bent and the other extended. She closed her eyes and started speaking softly. First, I would run my fingers over my lips imaging your lips caressing mine." He sat up and watched her as she ran her fingers over her own lips. Then she slid her finger tips down her throat to her collar bones. "Then I would imagine your lips kissing down my throat to my neck and shoulders." Oh, nothing had ever been so sensual as listening to her tell him what she wanted him to do. "Then I would imagine you pulling my top over my head and admiring me." This time, he did not hesitate. He grasped the edge of her tank top and pulled it up over her head. When she laid back against the pillow, he admired her. She was a vision. Her skin was soft and smooth, her breasts firm, moving up and down with every breath. Her stomach taut and waist small before gently flaring in luscious hips and thighs. He would never forget this. His eyes roamed back up to her breasts and he took his time drinking his fill. The peaks of her breasts were hard and pink, and he desperately wanted to feel them, to touch them. She kept talking "Then I would run my hands down from my shoulders to my breasts, imagining it was your hands caressing my skin…or your mouth." He gently pushed her hands aside and took over. He cupped her breasts first to feel their weight, then he caressed her nipples with his thumbs. She writhed on the bed next to me. He took this as encouragement and leaned down to place a kiss on one nipple. When she moaned, he closed his mouth gently around her and sucked lightly. "Oh, oh god!" she moaned. He sucked, nibbled and licked her nipples until her hips began to writhe on the bed.

After a few moments, Horatio pulled back and asked "Then what?" "Hmmmmm?" she queried quietly, too caught up in the pleasure coursing through her veins. "What do you imagine me doing next?" She blushed prettily. "I imagine you would slide your hand down the front of me to my center." He took a moment to slide her pajama pants down her legs and look at her. Her body flushed with pleasure, her hips still moving a bit, her legs spread slightly. Her skin was creamy white and flawless. The juncture between her thighs was covered in soft golden curls. My god, she was beautiful. She continued, "then you would dip two fingers into me slightly to moisten them and then caress my most sensitive spot." Here he was lost. He didn't quite know what she meant but he surely wanted to understand. She sensed his hesitation, and took his hand under hers. She slid it down over her taut stomach to her wet core. Then she pushed the tips of his fingers into her a little before pulling them back out and up a little bit. She rested their fingers lightly against a swollen nub nestled in her curls and slowly drew a circle. Oh, this was new and so very wonderful. He learned quickly what to do and took over. He watched his hands move on her, her hips pushing against him. She moaned softly and gasped when he did something she particularly liked. Then her body started moving a little more erratically and he realized she was nearing her peak. He rubbed a little harder and spoke to her. "Darling, let go. Let me see you. Let me watch you take your pleasure." Then she planted her feet, her hips coming off the bed into his hand and she moaned his name loudly. He watched in fascination as her release washed over her. It was such an incredibly thing to witness and he wanted to commit the sight to memory. Then she relaxed and let her hips fall back to the bed, pulling his hand away from her and allowing her body to recover.

When she came back to herself, she found him turned to face her. Only then did she feel his hard length against her thigh. He was ready again. It sent desire up her spine when she realized she could arouse him so. She turned to face him. "What do you want, my Horatio?" He smiled softly at the endearment. He hesitated briefly and then decided to speak his heart. "I want to be as close as two people can be. I want to feel you around me. I want to love you. I want to feel you loving me." She kissed him gently, then rolled onto her back pulling him over her. He was nestled between her legs, rubbing against her slick core. She kissed him deeply again allowing him time to adjust to this new and wonderful position. He seemed a little lost, so she reached between their bodies, took him in hand and placed his tip at her opening. He pushed gently into her, just a few inches and they both gasped. She was wet, hot and so very tight. Nothing in his life could compare to this feeling. He pulled back and thrust again gently, pushing in about ½ way. He did this 2-3 more times, until he met some resistance. His body stilled. "Are you…" he started "Have you…" then she cut him off. "Perhaps I should have mentioned I have never done this before." His eyes flew to hers. "I have never wanted to be this close to anyone in my life. Not until I met you." She said quietly. He held her close and kissed her deeply. Then he buried his face in her neck and said "I do not wish to stop but I also do not wish to hurt you. Say the word and I will cease." She spoke quietly into his hair. "I have never wanted something as much as I want you to love me right now my Horatio. Please don't stop." That was all it took. He pulled back and thrust into her a few more times before he claimed her lips in a searing kiss, surged forward and buried himself completely in her body. He swallowed her cry with his mouth and stopped again. He pulled back to look at her and a single tear fell from the corner of her eye. He kissed it away. "I am so sorry Darling. The pain will ease soon, I promise you." After a moment, the pain subsided and she nodded up at him. Then he set a steady rhythm. They kissed, and moaned and gasped together as their pleasure built. His rhythm faltered and she knew he was close, so she reached between their bodies to press her own fingers to the very spot she had shown him. As soon as he felt her hand between them, he sped up. Pleasure overwhelmed her as she started to climax. He could feel her body tighten around him and he was done for. That was all it took before he groaned, his body stilled and he emptied himself into her. He lowered himself gently down onto her and she held him close, softly playing with his hair. He murmured words of affection into her neck. It was then that she realized she was weeping.

Chapter Text

When she woke, she found herself wrapped in a pair of strong, warm arms. Oh she could get used to this. But she can't, can she? He was behind her, one arm above his head, the other wrapped tightly around her torso. She snuggled back into him fully and felt his thick length pressed to her back side. It felt delicious. He must have woken because he was now rocking gently against her while she rocked back. He started kissing her bare shoulder and neck and reached up to caress her breasts. To be able to stay like this forever, he thought. She turned in his arms and then with a wicked little grin she climbed over him and sat astride. This was bold of her, and a wee bit scandalous in his mind, but did it feel right. She was a little sore, yet quite ready for him as she raised her hips and slid down his length until she was fully seated. There she paused and leaned in for a kiss. She planted her hands on his chest, tilted her head back and began to ride him slowly. He looked up her body and thought he had never seen anything as sensual or as beautiful in his life. He doubted he ever would. He placed his hands on her warm thighs and felt the muscles contract. She was so strong, so independent, so admirable. He doubted she would ever leave his heart. She wanted more friction for herself, so she found herself moving in a circle, completely changing the feeling for them both. He gasped. He grasped her hips and pulled her down fully onto him as she rolled her hips. A fire started burning in his stomach and he realized he was quickly reaching release. He wanted her to share it so he reached down her torso and caressed her in the way she had shown him. She groaned and sped up. Soon their bodies were moving together hard and fast, both chasing release for themselves and for each other. Time seemed to stop as they crested. Bodies tight, muscles clamped, cries of each other's name filling each other's mouths. They collapsed back to the bed, him beneath her, she sprawled over his chest as they recovered.

When she gained control of her muscles again, she gave him a kiss, slid off him and headed for the bathroom. He heard the shower turn on, but noticed she left the door open. Curious. He climbed off the bed and headed that direction, where he stood in the doorway watching the warm water cascade over her lovely figure. She opened her eyes, smiled, and held her hand out. He gladly accepted it and stepped in under the water with her. They stood there embracing for countless minutes knowing their time together was running short. She washed his body gently and then lathered shampoo in his hair. It was sensual and sweet in equal measure and he cherished it. The water cooled and they helped one another step over the tub wall. They dried off quickly before they were once again in each other's arms. It was as if they knew they must take their fill.

After they dressed, they walked towards downtown, hand in hand, talking about everything and nothing. They told each other of their homes, their childhoods, their families, their friends. He regaled her with tales of the navy and told her of his many adventures with his crew. They found themselves at a café where they had an early lunch. After their meal, they shared a piece of chocolate cake and his eyes closed in pleasure at the taste. She smiled at this, seeing his joy at something so simple as chocolate cake. Afterwards, they walked past a small novelty shop with a photo booth outside and she insisted they stop. He was, once again, amazed by this but could not have been more pleased when she tore off one of the small pictures and handed it to him. He stood for a long time holding it in his hands admiring the tiny image it held. He tucked the picture into his shirt for safe keeping. They walked some more in the California sun until their feet were tired. Finally, they returned to her home and sat together on the couch wrapped in one another's arms.

She was about to suggest dinner when her cell phone rang. She looked down and knew immediately who it was and what the news would be. It took all of her will to pick up. It was Mr. Parker from the society and he advised them to come this evening. "The portal is up again, and stable, but we cannot guarantee that it will stay that way. Please come soon." She watched as he dressed in his uniform one final time, tears falling onto her cheeks. He looked so handsome, so regal. This could not be it! She can't possible say goodbye so soon! She resigned herself as they got in her car and headed downtown again. They barely spoke, but never let go of one another's hand.

When they arrived, Mr. Parker explained that they were able to open a portal to his bunk again to just seconds from when he left. No one would know he had even gone. Then Horatio cleared his throat and spoke to him in earnest. "I do not wish to go. I wish to stay here, with Charlotte. I have decided my life is here, by her side always." She gasped at his confession. Before she could speak, however, Mr. Parker responded. "I am so sorry, Mr. Hornblower, but we cannot allow that at this time. The portal is sensitive and we've already caused a ripple in time. The effects could be catastrophic for everyone involved. You must return. I will give you a few moments to say your farewells." Then he stepped from the room. As the door shut behind him, Horatio pulled Charlotte into his arms. "My Charlotte, I cannot bear this. I cannot leave you. The gift you have given me these past daysI shall never forget." She pressed her cheek to his coat weeping. "Horatio, I will find you again. I promise you that I will. I will make the society help us. I swear it." Horatio tilted her face up gently with his finger and kissed her so very softly, so very sweetly, she thought she would shatter. They were interrupted by Mr. Parker mere seconds later. "Mr. Hornblower, it's time." They stepped back from one another, and he nodded once. "I am ready." Mr. Parker led him across the room to a doorway. It appeared normal and innocuous, but Charlotte could see a dark room behind the door with a hammock, a small desk, and some books. He peered inside and was about to step through when he stopped. She ran to him a final time and he held her tight. "Charlotte. I love you with all my soul. My heart is yours and ever shall be. Please come to me as soon as you can. I will be waiting." She kissed him gently, then responded. "My Horatio. I never thought I would find a love like ours. I will be strong and find a way back to you for both of us." She stepped from him arms, he turned towards the doorway, took a deep shuddering breath and stepped through. The door closed behind him and then faded away.

He was gone.

Chapter Text

Charlotte stood on the sea wall above the dock watching the long boats come in from the Indefatigable. She wore a gown provided by the society for this very occasion and they helped her secure lodgings in town. She had waited so long for this moment and she was both excited and terrified. What if he had forgotten her? She wrung her hands nervously. Based on his many stories of his crew, she had a pretty good idea of what they might look like. Matthews walked up from the dock to the sea wall. He nodded and was about to pass her when she stopped him politely.

"Excuse me? I am sorry to bother you. Are you Mr. Matthews?" He removed his hat and said "I am ma'am. Can I help?" "I am here to see someone, but I am not entirely sure he will be happy to see me. I haven't seen him in over a year. Can you tell me when Mr. Hornblower will come ashore?" Matthews looked up in surprise. This was the first time a lady was waiting for Hornblower in all the years they had worked alongside one another. "He is on the next longboat, expected presently." He responded. She turned quickly and scanned the water before turning back to speak to him again.

"My name is Charlotte James." She said. His eyes grew wide with incredulity. "Miss James? You are Charlotte? This is impossible! We all figured you was a ghost or a mermaid! You are actually a real lady?" She smiled a little. "I am neither a ghost nor a mermaid, just a friend of Mr. Hornblower's from…" Just then she saw him and the rest of her words died in her mouth. His boat came alongside the dock and he disembarked. He was speaking with some fellow officers and had not seen her above him on the sea wall.

"If he is not happy to see me, Mr. Matthews, could I trouble you to walk with me back to my lodgings? I am not sure I will be fit to walk alone." She asked him. He nodded. "It would be my pleasure ma'am."

From her side, Matthews called out. "Mr. Hornblower, Sir?" His looked up first at Matthews, and then his eyes fixed on her. His body went completely still for a moment. Then he was walking towards her, quickly and with purpose. This is it, she thought. She could not read his face at all and worried this had all been a terrible mistake.

"Hello Mr. Hornblower." She said quietly. He stopped just in front of her. "Hello Miss James. I trust you are well?" What was the meaning of this? He was so formal, so cold. "I am well, thank you. Are you well?" "I am." Then he just stood looking at her. Matthews had backed away from them to give them privacy. Her heart broke in her chest. "Well, I see that you are busy with your duties. This was clearly unexpected and not a good time. I will leave you. Goodbye Mr. Hornblower." She quickly wiped her eyes and turned toward town. Mr. Matthews stepped up alongside her. "Are you alright miss? I don't know what is happening, he speaks of you all the time." All she wanted to do was to go home. "Well, there was no indication he wanted to see me. I am heading to my lodgings to pack my things. I will be gone this afternoon. Once again, thank you for seeing me safely to town." Then she stopped speaking altogether and wept quietly by his side. He could do nothing but walk with her.

While Matthews made his way back to the dock, he was intercepted by Mr. Kennedy. "Is everything alright, Mr. Matthews? Lieutenant Hornblower is acting in a peculiar manner." Mr. Matthews stopped to give a whole accounting of what had transpired. Kennedy was both shocked and angry. He thanked Matthews and quickly turned back to the docks to find his friend.

"Horatio, would you care to explain what that was about?" Archie asked in a clipped tone. "I am afraid I misunderstand you Archie." He responded before turning back to his work. "Horatio. For over a year you have spoken of this woman. You have spoken joyfully and longingly of the time you and she shared. And then she appears here today, as if by magic, and you treat her thus. From what I hear, your entire attitude spoke of cold indifference. I simply cannot comprehend this." Horatio sighed and turned back to his friend. "My friend, it will be fine. She was not here. I have had this dream so many times I can tell you already how it will end. My heart will fill with joy at seeing her, and then I will wake and my heart will shatter to pieces once again. It is better to continue my day as it was and when I wake, I will not ache for her." He knew that was untrue as he would always ache for her.

Kennedy was astounded. He grabbed his friend by the shoulders and shook him hard. Hard enough to surprise even Horatio. "Good God man! Have you gone mad? This is not a dream and you. Are. Not. Asleep. She was here as real as can be and you let her walk away. Matthews says she has gone back to her lodgings to collect her things and leave for good. He says you've left her in a state of grief. "

Horatio's eyes grew wide with understanding. First his face turned to joy and then suddenly to despair. What have I done! he thought in horror. "What am I to do Archie? I cannot lose her again!" "Go after her man! Try to catch her before she walks from your life forever. Matthews says she is staying on the square. The blue house next to the inn. Run my friend!" Horatio grasped his friends hand and nodded before he turned to run up the dock to the sea wall and straight into town. He thought only of her as he ran hoping he was not too late.

When he arrived at the house with the blue door, he stopped. What if she did not want to see him? That thought was banished as soon as it had come. He would not waste another second. He knocked and was answered by a young woman. She looked him up and down and shook her head in exasperation. "You must be Mr. Hornblower. She is upstairs packing her things. Please go up. When you are finished, you will see yourself out. I am heading to the shops." He nodded and thanked her, then he took the stairs two at a time and burst into her room.

Charlotte stood in the middle of the room holding some articles of clothing to pack in her bags. She had removed her beautiful gown and now stood before him in just a corset, shift and stockings. He immediately averted his eyes and apologized. "Forgive me miss James, you are not dressed." She rolled her eyes and stated simply, "Mr Hornblower, you have seen me in a great deal less as I recall. I am not uncomfortable. I am sorry that you are." Then she turned back to her bags on the bed.

He took a deep breath and started speaking. "Charlotte. Please allow me to explain my behavior at the docks just now. It was unforgiveable. I will understand if you do not want to see me again. Allow me this chance to tell you why I acted thus." She sighed and turned back to face him. She was so lovely, all he wanted to do was go to her and pull her into his arms, but that would be unwelcome, he was certain. "I know this may be hard for you to believe, but I didn't think you were real." He paused and took a breath. "What?" She asked. "At least a hundred times since I last held you, I have had this dream. You have appeared to me and my happiness was unfathomable. Then just as I took you in my arms and leaned down to claim your lips in a kiss, you were gone. I would wake and my heart would break. This time, thinking it was another dream, I tried to protect my heart. I thought that if I acted as though I did not care, eventually I would start to believe it."

"And what makes you think I am real this time, Horatio?" She asked. "Because I am a fool. My friends saw me make an ass of myself and shook some sense into me." She nodded and walked towards him. "Horatio. I am not a dream. I am real. What happened on the dock wounded me very deeply. I worked tirelessly with the society for these past 15 months. We tried everything. I let them send me all over time and space in our attempts to stabilize the portal. We finally found success. The portal is stable and I can open and close it at will." Then she looked down at the floor and sighed again. "I made you a promise that I would find you. I waited for you Horatio. It is clear by your demeanor that you did not wait for me. I am nearly done packing my things and then I will return home. Please go."

His heart nearly broke. "Charlotte, my darling. I have loved no one but you and will continue to love you until the end of my days. I am humbled by your efforts to find me, and so very grateful. Please say you can forgive me? I would be lost without you." She took a moment to collect her feelings and then said simply "Then come hold me, my Horatio and all will be forgotten." She had barely a second to take a breath before she was being crushed against him in a fierce embrace. The rough fabric of his coat rubbed her cheek and she relished in it. His arms were around her waist and she wrapped her arms around his neck. He was whispering into her hair "Oh Charlotte. My dear Charlotte. You are here. You are really here. My darling, my darling…" His voice was choked with emotion and she felt her own tears slip down her cheeks. Then he pulled back just far enough to claim her lips in a bruising kiss. She tasted of mint and home, he tasted of the sea. Months and months of longing poured out of him into her mouth. She returned his kiss in equal measure, expressing her love.

Their kiss was long and passionate and lasted what felt like hours. They only separated long enough to take a breath before their lips once again found one another. She started to walk backwards and he followed her to edge of the bed, where he lowered her gently onto her back and laid alongside her. She hastily unfastened the buttons of his coat and pushed it off his shoulders. He started unlacing her corset. They both knew this was moving quickly, but neither of them could stop. They had missed one another so very much, they could hardly get close enough. She helped him pull his shirt over his head, then started to work on the lacing of his breeches. She fumbled for a few moments before he stilled her hands, chuckling quietly.

"Patience, my love." He teased before finishing the task himself.

She was suddenly quite overdressed next to his glorious nakedness. He slid his hands from her ankles, up her legs to the tops of her stockings. She was a vision looking up at him as he caressed the skin just above her stocking. She gasped at the feeling of his warm, strong hands on her skin after all this time. He slid her stockings down her legs to her feet and as he pulled each one off in turn, he kissed the arch of her foot. She shivered. Then he slid the hem of her shift up her thighs to her waist. She wore lacy white panties not of this time and he moaned quietly. It was beyond erotic. He leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on the crease of her thigh. He pulled the shift over her head and sat back on his knees to drink his fill. She wore just the white panties and she was glorious. Her skin golden and glowing, her chest rising and falling, her eyes bright.

He was desperate to feel her again, to love her again, to just know that they were together once more. He grasped the edge of her panties and slid them off her legs and then he knelt between them. There was so much more they could do, so many other expressions of love, but they both knew that this need had to be satisfied. They had to be as close to one another as two people could get, wrapped in each other's love. She wrapped her legs around his hips and he closed his eyes and groaned. Even with so little preparation, they were both so ready it ached. She pulled him towards her and he sank into her, slowly but steadily. Once he was fully seated, he pulled her to him in a tight embrace. They just stayed like that for minutes, sharing their breaths and the beats of their hearts. This was a feeling he never wanted to end. Soon though, she began to squirm beneath him, and he smiled against her mouth.

"Again, with the lack of patience, my love?" and she rocked her hips up into his.

"I've been patient long enough, now I need you to show me just how very much you love me."

He moaned and ground his hips into hers. Oh what delicious friction. They started ever so slowly, rocking together, kissing, and whispering such loving caresses. Soon though, their bodies took over. He was pulling out farther and sliding back in faster. She was rocking against him with every thrust moaning and gasping. He wanted this to last, but it had been so long. His thrusts got harder and a little more erratic. They were rapidly approaching climax so she slid her hand between their bodies to ensure she would be with him when he crested. Time stopped as they felt the first wave of pleasure before they were both crying out each other's names. She was so tight around him, contracting through her climax. This was heaven, he was certain of that. Then they collapsed together and held each other as they drifted into sleep.

When they awoke an hour later, they were sticky and a little sore, but so, so very happy. They stood and cleaned themselves quickly from the basin of water near the bed. He could not keep the smile from his lips. She pulled her shift back over her head and he pulled on his breeches. Then they sat together on the edge of the bed to talk. "How long can you stay?" he asked, both dreading and excited for her response. "As I told you, we were able to create a portal between our times that I can open at any time I choose. I know you love the sea and the navy and I wouldn't change a thing about your current situation. I am happy to just come to you at every shore leave." She looked shyly down at her hands. "And then maybe, if you still love me and want me in your life, in the future you can retire from the navy and we will build a home somewhere to live the rest of our days together." His happiness at that moment could not be measured. "Meeting a man at the dock for every shore leave is often the duty or privilege of a wife." She nodded in understanding. Then he dropped to his knee in front of her and took her hand in his. "If you were to agree to give me your hand, I would be the happiest man alive, my dearest Charlotte." She was astonished. "Mr. Hornblower, it would be my greatest honor to meet your ship from here on as your wife." He kissed her softly and whispered "Then you shall."

The end.