Title: Just the facts
Word Count 490
Disclaimer Only John Hornblower is mine
By the time Horatio was able to take his shoes off, he was dizzy with exhaustion. His head ached, and the muscles in his shoulders sang. He had four hours to rest, if nothing went wrong. Likely nothing would. The men on deck were competent as any could wish. La Reve was lively and weatherly. She rode the water like a duck. No, all should be well.
But somehow, when he had achieved his hammock, and composed his limbs to rest, sleep did not come. Usually at such times, he thought of Archie. Tonight, however, his mind went restlessly skipping, much further back.
He did not know how other boys found out. From the snickers and misinformation of older brothers perhaps. From companions at school. They, he remembered seemed to want to talk of nothing else.
But Horatio had had no siblings. He had had only his father.
On this day, they had been headed off somewhere together. He could not now remember where. They may have been delivering medicines, or going swimming, or doing marketing. He remembered that he had been holding his fathers hand. His father was carrying a basket in his other hand. It had been summer, and Horatio's bare feet had skipped under his skirts. He had not been breeched yet.
The sound had startled him. He had stopped in the dust of the road, to watch the horses.
“Stop him, Father! He's hurting the other horse!”
The stallion shrieked again, a high and pained sound. He was trying to climb onto the other smaller horse. His neck was arched and slick with sweat. The other horse screamed too, and Horatio looked up at his father in confusion. His mouth was open in a soft oh, of shock.
But his father smiled down at him, and shook his head.
“Its all right, son.” And John Hornblower had explained. He always explained things.
Horatio had looked up at his father. His small brows were knit.
“It is the same with—with persons?”
“And girls? They permit this? It doesn't hurt them?”
“No, Horatio. Not at all.”
“Must I, must I do this when I am grown?”
“No. Not if you don't want to do so. “
“I do not think I will wish to do it. It sounds rude and messy.”
“Well,” John Hornblower said “You don't need to decide now.”
Horatio skipped along for some time, but he was still thinking.
“There is no other way to make babies?”
“Are you glad you did it?”
His father smiled, more widely. The sun was making him blink.
“Very, very glad, Horatio.”
Adult Horatio shifted in the hammock. Strange to think of that long ago day, now. He should write his father. Tomorrow. He would do it tomorrow. He slept.