The fic is set after the episode "The Frogs and the Lobsters" of the first series. Everyone's favourite Navy boys return to England after the miserable mission in Muzillac. Archie and Horatio are granted 50 hours of shore leave and they intend to spend the time together. Archie's excessive devotion to Shakespeare leads annoyed Horatio to propose a bet, but the stakes are higher than either of them realize...
Lots of puns, lots of quotes (at times very lengthy), lots of love for the Bard. It's a shipping fic that pairs the most shipped slash pairing Horatio Hornblower and Archie Kennedy. Some parts are written as a theatre script. It has 7 chapters.
Can be read here.
Much Ado about Tropes:
- Alliterative Title: Some chapters are titled with this appealing sound pattern of Added Alliterative Appeal: "Somber Soliloquy", "Panic in Portsmouth", "Regret and Resolutions", "Tossed Upon the Tides" and "Research and Revelations".
- Anguished Declaration of Love:
- Declaration of love through Shakespeare's sonnets with much anguish and gayngst. Archie gets too enthusiastic and recites Horatio poetry. And part of the bet is that all his quotes must be relevant to the situation... He actually checks himself and does not finish the revealing final couplet. Horrified, he runs away. In the streets, he suffers a panic attack. Archie also thinks he's not good enough for his grand friend and thinks that Horatio still mourns somebody he loved and lost recently. The anguish continues even when Archie starts to believe that Horatio loves him back because of his troubled past.
- When Horatio finds the sonnet in a book and realizes how it ends [If this be error and upon me proved,/I never writ, nor no man ever loved] and what it means, he wants to confess his love to Archie also. His feelings are anguished as well, mostly because he does not know how to do it properly and how to convince Archie he truly means it. There's also the Navy thing: They will both be court martialed and hanged if they are ever found out.
- Apology Gift: Horatio buys a copy of Shakespeare's sonnets as an apology gift for Archie. They've had an argument, or more like a misunderstanding.
- Bad Dreams: Archie keeps having nightmares about Simpson, a sadist who was abusing him aboard the Justinian. In the dream he has in this fic, he's trapped somewhere from where he can't escape and he is sure that Simpson will find him.
- The Bet: The plot is kicked off when Horatio complains that Archie is annoying when he speaks "mostly in Shakespeare these days" and that it's excessive. Archie is amused and disagrees. The wager is on: Archie must speak only in Shakespeare's quotes for 6 straight hours and it must be relevant to the situation. Who loses pays for drinks and dinner the next day.Archie: Come now, Horatio. If I truly spoke in nothing but Shakespeare quotations, you would know.
Horatio: It couldn't possibly be any worse than this.
Archie: Is that a challenge?
Horatio: Do you know what? It is. I will bet you drinks at the Elephant Inn tomorrow night that you cannot speak in exclusively Shakespeare quotations, relevant to the discussion at hand and never repeating a line, for the next four hours.
Archie: Six hours, and you'll buy my dinner as well.
Horatio: If you wish to part with your money, who am I to deny you? But I doubt you can last even two.
- Cry into Chest: Horatio sobs into Archie's shoulder the night after Mariette's death and apparently, they spend the night close to each other like that. Only in the early morning hours Horatio falls asleep exhausted.
- Deer in the Headlights: Archie freezes in shock when he understands that Horatio realized what had been happening on the Justinian, i.e. that Simpson had been molesting Archie."[Archie] became motionless as a statue, still leaning forward, his expressive face frozen with his wide eyes staring uncomprehendingly at Horatio."
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: Archie remembers how Mariette senselessly died in Horatio's arms and the image of Horatio cradling Mariette's corpse keeps haunting Archie every night.
- Disapproving Look: At one point Horatio gets really annoyed at Archie for one particular quote that he has no other answer but to "fix Archie with a flat stare" (the line is "Did'st ever hear a man so penitent?" ).
- Drowning My Sorrows: Archie drinks after his panic attack fades away and he's anxious having confessed his love to his friend inadvertently. He's not sure how his friend will react, and kind of hopes he didn't realise (which he did, though only after a while).
- Face Palm: So much shame, so much face-palming!
- Archie scrubs his hand over his face when he realizes he and Horatio will spend 50 hours together on shore leave and he needs to hide his feelings for his best friend.
- Horatio sighs and runs a hand over his face when Archie yet again quotes Shakespeare and he's most definitely not in the mood because he barely slept and is tired.
- Archie drops his head into his hands and bites back on the urge to scream. One of his post-panic attack's face-palms.
- As Archie's recovering from his panic attack, he sighs and runs a hand over his face.
- Archie runs his hands through his hair, then rubs them roughly over his face "as though to scrub the last half hour out of existence" — also after his panic attack.
- Horatio wants to check a quote from King John. He sighs and "runs a hand slowly over his face" when he realizes he unfairly accused Archie of cheating and not valuing their friendship.
- Archie flops down upon his bed, lies on his back and his hands cover his face. It happens as Archie is shamed when he remembers he was drunk and flirted with Horatio in public.
- Archie buries his face in his pillow as he remembers his self-pitying recitation of Sonnet 25.
- Archie jerks slightly and "rubs at his eyes" when Horatio comes to their room they are sharing at the inn.
- Facial Dialogue: At the hat shop scene, it's Archie's way of communicating. He tries to tell Horatio what he thinks of various hats that he's trying on in case he doesn't get the meaning from the quotes. This part of the fic is written like a script and these are some of the notes: [Archie stares at him meaningfully], [Archie raises an eyebrow] or [looks skeptical].
- Fandom-Specific Plot: This fic hits three sweet spots.
- A shore leave fic with the traditional setting of Portsmouth. It has several common sub-plots: a shopping spree, drinking together, sharing one room and one bed at the inn, and of course the "friends-to-lovers" part. Appreciation of theatre is here, too, but in this fic they don't go to see a play, but Archie acts and recites Shakespeare himself. A very good rendition as far as shore leave fics go.
- "Archie quotes Shakespeare a lot" plot. Up to Eleven with this one. Up to One Hundred. Archie has some mad Shakespeare quoting skills, extraordinary memory and excellent acting skills to boot. It would appear he knows Shakespeare's whole damn work by heart. Sonnets, major plays, lesser plays... He even remembers that he used "My humble thanks" and "Thank you, Madam" when he was a bit off his game, and these are quotes from Shakespeare as well! The author of the fic, bbcphile, has some mad Shakespeare quote researching skills, because it seriously must have been lots of work.
- The Archie/Simpson backstory plot. As usual in fanon, it is sexual abuse. Hornblower realizes that Archie was the most abused midshipman aboard HMS Justinian. It hits him pretty hard. Archie hoped Horatio would not figure it out. He thinks he's tainted and that it's so much baggage that he would only be a burden on Horatio. Archie also frets that he doesn't want to be a charity case for Horatio's misplaced sense of duty and his developing Guilt Complex. (Of course he's wrong. They are each other's one true love.)
- Fascinating Eyebrow: Archie often acts with his eyebrows, according to the script and the narrator. Archie raises an eyebrow at the hat shop when he wants to signal that one hat is a strong pass, he "waggles" his eyebrows when he's drunk but reconciled with Horatio at the inn, and when they really talk in their shared room, he raises his eyebrow inquisitively at his friend, then skeptically raises an eyebrow and even cocks an eyebrow at Horatio.
- First Kiss: Archie and Horatio have their first kiss. It's described from Archie's point of view and he thinks it's glorious and the most perfect thing ever. It's a rather cautious kiss at first, but Archie loves that Horatio "lets out a soft, involuntarily moan of pleasure" and he takes it as evidence that Horatio is truly into it. They soon start making out passionately.
- Fist of Rage: Hornblower almost clenches his fists. It's his reaction to remembering Simpson and realizing he had been molesting Archie."The truth hit Horatio like a musket ball as he jerked upright with horror. He barely restrained himself from clenching his fists as he realized what must have been happening on the Justinian, all the while he had thought himself the most mistreated midshipman there."
- Gayngst: Era-specific. They don't hate themselves for being gay or for loving each other, but they are reluctant to act on their love and desire because it's illegal and they serve on a ship, which means they can die for it. They confess their love, have some anguish and then decide it's all worth it.
- Hurt/Comfort Fic: Archie's trauma and panic attacks appear in full force. Horatio is only happy to assure him that he's his best-est, closest friend and most competent-est officer.
- Liquid Courage: Horatio drinks ale before he goes to talk to Archie about them and their forbidden love."Well, it was time to show Archie that he, too, could woo with words. Hardly believing what he had talked himself into, Horatio ordered another pint of ale (well, technically his first), and then opened the little book again. He would need some liquid courage to come up with a strategy."
- Literary Allusion Title: The fic has twofold: Love's Labour's Won is a lost play attributed by contemporaries to William Shakespeare. Scholars dispute whether it is a true lost work, possibly a sequel to Love's Labour's Lost, or an alternative title to a known Shakespeare play. Much Ado about Shakespeare is of course a play on Much Ado About Nothing.
- Meaningful Look: After they reconcile their argument at the inn over a mug of ale, Archie and Horatio stare intensely at each other for a long, loaded moment.
- Oh, Crap!: Archie freezes and his eyes widen as he realizes that he practically confessed his love to his friend and fellow officer Horatio. That was not his intention and he thinks Horatio will be disgusted.
- Pretty Boy: In one of the quotes, Archie compares Horatio to Adonis. Horatio thinks he's being mocked, but Archie actually means it. They have an argument soon after because Horatio is really angered and Archie is embarrassed. When Hornblower muses over it later, he's actually flattered — being called as beautiful as Adonis is not too shabby. In this fandom, the title of resident Pretty Boy is usually awarded to Archie, but youthful Hornblower sure fits the bill with his slender body, handsome face, high cheekbones and the man has a profile of a Greek god. Archie also longs to touch Hornblower's curly hair and admires his brown eyes. You can probably sense where this in 'verse gushing goes to...
- Rape as Backstory: Jack Simpson's abuse of Archie is explicitly sexual in this story. Archie refers to himself as Simpson's molly.
- Relationship Upgrade: Horatio and Archie go from friends to boyfriends.
- Secret Relationship: Horatio and Archie go "from friends to lovers". They must keep it hidden from everybody. If anybody finds out and reports them, they will be court martialed and could be hanged.
- Shout-Out to Shakespeare: This fic has bucketloads and bucketloads of Shakespeare's quotes, puns and allusions. The title itself refers to two Shakespeare's plays and Archie quotes so many of Shakespeare's plays and poems which he knows by heart. Several sonnets appear in full. Horatio and Archie go to a bookseller's and read lines. Horatio buys a copy of sonnets as an apology gift for Archie. Basically this fic is one large appreciation of the Bard's genius and especially Archie's love for his work. And also the fandom's appreciation of this character trait of Archie's. He paraphrases Shakespeare in canon, too, but in fandom he's a major bookworm, major theatre geek and Shakespeare's most devoted admirer. This fic takes it Up to Eleven.
- Slash Fic: Pre-slash fic. Archie and Horatio get together romantically and they kiss, but no sexy times ensue as the guys are too exhausted from all the emotional anguish and decide to take it slow.
- Sleep Deprivation: Horatio is disgruntled at the beginning of the fic because he barely slept "thanks to that blasted storm".
- Stress Vomit: Archie throws up during his panic attack, but we only read that he did, making it a Vomit Discretion Shot. He also mentions in his inner dialogue that he sometimes wakes up in "a pile of his own sick" after a seizure or a panic attack.
- Suicide Is Shameful: Archie thinks of his past suicide attempt with shame and feels guilty. He thinks an officer shouldn't have been that weak in the first place.
- Time for Plan B: Horatio's first attempt to talk to Archie and confess his love fails because Archie doesn't react the way Horatio supposed he would. Hornblower, being the overthink-everything-and-plan-for-every-alternative guy that he is, has plan B — he admits that Archie has won the wager and that sure should cheer him up. Archie however wants to go to sleep and doesn't want to talk at all. So plan B fails also and it ruins plans C through E, too (those are not mentioned specifically). Plan F involves baiting Archie with a book of sonnets Horatio bought earlier. And as Archie is a major bookworm, any new book is like catnip to him, so he falls for it.
- Trauma Button: Hit and pressed when Archie tells Horatio they will only do what is comfortable for him and go as slowly as he will want. When Horatio answers that the same applies to Archie, Archie freezes, remembering Simpson's abuse and rape. He doesn't tell anything directly, but Hornblower figures out from the context what actually happened to poor Archiekins."As if this werent humiliating enough, apparently Horatio was going to make him spell it out. Really? he retorted, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Youre still interested in Simpsons molly? Damaged goods?" He swallowed and shook his head."
- Troubled Fetal Position: Archie is curled up when he wakes up exhausted from his panic attack. "He was huddled in a ball, his knees to the ground in a puddle, leaving tell-tale muddied patches on his uniform where it was serving as a towel."