An American Encounter
By Skihee :)
Chapter 19 Revelations
The grain of the planking reminded him of a rolling meadow and that knot there had the look of a monkey. Hornblower lay on his bunk staring at the ceiling above him. He had stared at these figures many times and he was doing so again. Hands clasped behind his head, he lay thinking about the time alone with his wife, arranged by Pellew. Guilt over his thoughts toward the doctor and the captain were fleeting with her so near. She was in his arms and happy to be so, he knew. He sighed remembering her closeness. But, why would she not talk to him? Why ...why ...was she so quiet? She did not pull away, but there was a sadness there, a deep sadness. She would not tell him. The silent tears streamed down her cheeks. He was at a loss to speculate what notions were distressing her. A few guesses on his part were met with shakes of her head. She had clutched his topcoat turning her tear streaked face into his shoulder. *Just hold me, Horatio.* That was all she spoke. That was all they did. It was enough, but what was troubling her? Exhaling heavily, he reached over to rub his side.
He bolted upright in bed. "Ahhrg!" Yanking off his shirt, he proceeded to strip his bandage from his side and begin some serious scratching around his wound.
Kennedy sat up, reached over and held Hornblower's hand. "Stop!"
"This itching is driving me mad!"
Archie sighed. "Lay down."
"Do as I say." Kennedy sloshed a cloth in a bucket of water, then, squeezed out the excess as best he could single-handed. He winced with each muscle contraction of his wounded hand. Leaning over his friend, he applied the cool compress. He pulled the stool next to Hornblower's bed, dragged the bucket of water over, and began the sloshing, squeezing routine with another cloth. He proceeded to alternate the two to cool Horatio's side.
"Yes, Archie. You are a good friend."
"I dare say Pamela would do this for you if it were not for ...our situation."
Archie continued his protocol. "Dr. Sebastian suggested doing this if the itching became overwhelming."
"What's going on, Horatio?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you have been laying over here for hours sighing. What is preying on your mind?"
He half turned to look at his old friend in the low light of the burning taper. Kennedy fanned the cloth in the air then placed it on Hornblower's side. It cooled his skin, alleviated the itching. Kennedy raised an eyebrow silently asking for an answer.
Drawing a breath, he let it go with one word, "Pamela."
"Captain Pellew arranged for us to be together." He looked back up at the monkey on his ceiling. "After an initial greeting..." Horatio frowned, "She... she was...well...sad....about something. She would not tell me what." He stared into Archie's face, studying it to see if he had a clue. "Has she said anything to you?"
Archie placed a newly cooled cloth to his side. He shook his head. "No."
"When...when we were on Dolphin, we talked about things. She would ask me incredible things." He chuckled recalling the conversation about whether his father had ever told him he loved him. Thought about his promise to her about their child, if they ever had one. Thought about what they did next. And, sighed. He reached over to the ship's wall by his bunk, running his finger over the grain. He shook his head, "But, tonight, I held her and the tears.... I don't understand. It was like...when ...right after her father died."
Archie sighed as he removed one cloth and placed the new one. "I could hazard a guess if you'd like."
Hornblower turned his head to Archie, "Yes?" He wanted to understand what was happening, what she was thinking. Any light on the subject was welcome.
"You are well. She does not have to worry about you so much anymore. With you taking up less of her thoughts ...other things ... press in."
Archie stared vacantly into the darkened corner of their cabin. "The gundeck." It was something that had been plaguing his own mind since the return to his cabin. No one to occupy his time and thoughts, being alone, his mind drifted to that fateful afternoon on Dolphin.
"No matter what a brave front she puts on for us, she is still a female. So much...so much ... death... must leave wounds, scars. Emotional ones, but wounds just the same. She knew those five men, Horatio. You know how it is with us here on the Indy. When we lose someone we console each other in one way or another. We each understand the loss. I am sure it was the same for her on Dolphin. But, she's not on Dolphin now. She has lost the closeness she had there. It was her home...your home." Archie looked pensively at Horatio. "Even so, she is strong. Most women would not do so well. Losing her father, and then the others." Kennedy looked down at the floor remembering the first body, its top half a bloody mass. "Kramer, it was Kramer. His upper body blown to smithereens, trimming the gundeck walls." Archie's eyes sadly looking into Horatio's, he shook his head. "Such sights are not meant for women's eyes. It is difficult enough for us." He dropped the cloth into the bucket, placing his elbow on the table to hold his head with his loose hand.
Horatio sat up and placed a hand on Archie's shoulder. "Archie," he said softly. He squeezed his shoulder.
"I'm all right, Horatio," mustering a smile for his friend, "But that might be what's ailing Pamela."
"But, why wouldn't she tell me?"
"Could you speak to her of what you have seen in battle?"
Horatio sat with lips apart, brow creased. Looking at Archie and then away, he shook his head.
"Could you bring up people you both knew and cared for and talk about their mangled bodies?"
Horatio swallowed seeing the shimmer in Archie's eyes, feeling it in his own.
"She has no companion. No female with which to confide. You are just regaining your health. Dr. Sebastian has been busy with the wounded. I doubt she has spoken to anyone about what it is that weighs on her mind. She has been too busy caring for others to see to herself."
Horatio pulled his shirt back over his head. "Will you come with me?"
"To Pamela, where else?"
"Yes." Hornblower was already moving out the door. The two padded quietly down the hallway to Bracegirdle's cabin. Horatio stopped suddenly, Archie brushing into him. There was an armed guard in front of her cabin.
Archie peered around Horatio's broad shoulders. "I say, Captain Pellew is a bit overprotective of our lady, is he not?"
This was very curious to Hornblower. It had been a while since the crew had been in port, but he found it hard to believe any man of Indefatigable's crew would dare to approach his wife in an unseemly manner. Pellew would snatch him up quicker than you could say government house!
"She may be asleep, Horatio." Archie yawned. His friend had already kept him awake most of the evening.
Hornblower advanced toward the marine, taut at attention at their approach. The man looked them over out the side of his eye, knowing who they were. Horatio nodded his head. Moving near the door, he listened. They could hear sniffles.
"She's been like that fer days, sir," whispered the marine.
Hornblower knocked lightly.
"What if I'm wrong?" whispered Archie.
A rustling could be heard on the other side of the door. "Who is it?" she asked.
The door opened quickly to reveal a concerned countenance. "Horatio? Archie? What is it?"
"May we come in?" In the dim light he could see the dampness on her cheeks.
"Of course." She open wide the door. "What is it? What's happened?"
Horatio stood for a moment at a loss for words. How could he broach this diplomatically?
Pamela looked at Archie. Archie looked at Horatio.
"What's wrong with Archie?"
"Well, nothing physically, I mean, nothing new anyway," stumbling his explanation. He searched Archie desperately for help.
"I was feeling a bit low tonight and I think it might be the ... the remembrance of what ... of what we went through on...on Dolphin," offered Archie.
"Yes. Yes," said Hornblower. "I thought it might help if he could speak to someone that was there...and, and, you, dear, came to mind. Was I wrong to disturb you?" he asked wondering if his decision to come had been too rash, but then he noted the fresh moisture forming in her eyes. "Was I wrong to come?"
She swallowed looking at Archie. Shaking her head no, she felt a need to sit down. Archie took her elbow and sat down with her on her bunk. She turned her face to Archie and smiled sadly, a fresh tear running down her cheek. She wiped it away.
Archie returned her gaze. "Mr. Kramer was the first to go."
She nodded her head, recalling his remains on the gundeck floor.
"It ...it was a terrible thing to behold," he added.
"Horrible!" She threw her hands over her face as if she could block the view that came from within. "He...he was on watch the day of our wedding," she looked at Hornblower, "Remember, darling? And, the night you took me to look at the stars!" She reached out her hand. Taking it, Hornblower pulled a chair over with the other.
"Yes. Yes, dear, I remember." He sat across from them.
"And, Mr. Andrews. He was such a nice man. He has five children. Did you know that, Horatio?" she asked.
"Yes. I believe he told me once." Releasing her hand, he watched her begin to pour out the despair over the loss of his men.
"Mr. Bradley. So young! Just a boy, really. How can you bear this... this loss?" She glanced quickly from Archie to Horatio to the floor remembering the next man. "Mr. Greely, Tom Greely." She placed her hand on Horatio's knee. "He was so sweet the day of our wedding, dear. So helpful and kind."
"Yes, and Mr. Carden," added Hornblower. "He guarded me from trying to see you before we said our vows. I know he has been missed by his brother. He spoke of him occassionally in sick berth."
"And made a toast to us at dinner...repeatedly, so you would have to kiss me. They so enjoyed embarrassing you! Your men love you, Horatio." Pausing, she turned to Archie, searching his eyes. "When I was making my way topside...I ...," she inhaled quickly, "I fell over someone. The body was still warm...the blood... I touched.... God knows what!" She buried her face on Archie's shoulder.
He held her with the one good arm. "Pamela." Allowing her some minutes and looking over at his friend, he said, "You were a fine powder monkey for us that day."
She laughed into his chest.
"We couldn't have done it without you."
The silent racking sobs ceased. He leaned away, taking her chin in his hand. "Will you be all right?"
She smiled and nodded.
"They were good men. Stout hearted men. We shall never forget them. Thank you for letting me talk about it with you." And, he meant those words more than he knew.
"And, I with you. Thank you, Archie."
"Then, I am going to turn this seat over to its rightful owner." He stood, grabbed Horatio's arm and pulled him over to the bunk. "Sit, sir," he ordered. "And, I am going to bed," he yawned. "I suggest you both do the same, BUT separately, separately, now!" He smiled at the two of them. "I will see you in a few moments, yes, Mr. Hornblower? I will wait outside."
"Yes, Mr. Kennedy."
"All's well, that ends well," stated Kennedy.
"Shakespeare?" they entoned together.
He chuckled at the two of them. "But, of course, as Dr. Sebastian likes to say!" carefully closing the door.
"I love you, you obstinate thing." Horatio hugged her tightly and rocked. "I tried to get you to go to the orlop."
"I know, dear. You have every right to say I told you so. But, even though the memories are dreadful, I would not change my choice. In all conscience, I could not sit safely below decks while all of you were in harms way. Living with that decision would be far worse. I would have always wondered if I could have helped. And, I guess I did help, since I shot that man."
Horatio stopped abruptly, looked at her gravely. "Shot what man?"
She looked into his intense features, pushing away from him. "Are you angry?"
"No," he sputtered, "What, what man did you shoot? How? Why?"
She gulped, wondering how he would receive the information, realizing there was no way he could know, realizing it had not been spoken of since that night.
He stood, opened her door. "Archie, come back in here. Archie!" he whispered impatiently.
"How, now, Horatio? Aren't we going to get some sleep this night?"
"Be serious, man! Did you know Pamela shot someone?"
"As long as it was the enemy does it matter?" he yawned again.
"Yes, it damn well matters! Especially if it was the enemy!" His analytical mind was off like a Chinese rocket at new year's, exploding with a variety of thoughts and fears. He stared at her seriously. "You shot one of the pirates?"
"Yes," she looked fearfully at the anxiety over her actions, then glanced at Archie who seemed decidedly more awake and alert as he focused on the conversation.
"Do they know?"
"Who? The pirates?" she asked. The look he gave her made her answer quickly. "Well, the one Captain Pellew stopped from killing me knew. He was there."
"What!" Horatio was pacing fiercely, holding his forehead. "Did Pellew kill him?"
"No, he let him go! I think Captain Pellew was afraid if he lost the fight with the man he would kill us all! You, me, him. It was the logical choice. He could have and would have if he had defeated the Captain. The Indef, Indefa, Indy! Was coming! He...he talked the man into running! Horatio!" He grabbed her shoulders, lifting her from the bunk.
"Is that man still alive? Did he survive the battle with Kaliakra?" he asked anxiously.
"I don't know!"
Horatio bit his bottom lip as he dealt with the tumult of emotions careening through his thoughts. He gazed up to the ceiling trying desperately to control his emotions. He looked at Pamela visibly trembling.
"You're... you're angry with-" she tried to say, but he cut her off.
"I am not angry with you!" He was frightened for her, but he dare not say it. Over fifty of Kaliakra's men were housed on Indefatigable! If the escaping man reported what he knew to his fellows, they would no doubt want to harm Pamela. Indeed, they might want to take her life!
He backed her to the bunk, sitting her, kneeling low before her. He stroked her cheek, looking from eye to eye with concern. She shook her head, not wanting to see the worry mirrored in his features.
Licking his lips he spoke calmly and softly to her. "Tell me what happened, my love. How did you come to shoot the man? Who was he?"
She turned her gaze.
Pulling her chin back to face him, he spoke barely audible, "It's all right. Tell me."
Tears rolled. "He was going to kill Captain Pellew! It was just like..." she sucked a breath.
He smoothed her cheek, nodded to encourage the story, "Go on, Pamela," his voice silky with concern.
"My father! Horatio, he was going to kill him just like my father! So I shot him!" She fell into sobs on his shoulder, and he rose to comfort her.
"Good on you!" said Archie.
She laughed through her tears, looking up at Archie, perceiving his approving face. She backed up from Hornblower's shoulder looking for confirmation.
Smiling gently, he wiped her face with his hands, then said, "You...you saved Captain Pellew's life."
"I did....but he saved mine as well,...and yours, my darling."
*Logical, my bride is logical.* He felt his heart near bursting with love. Holding her tightly, he stated, "That's why there's a guard at your door."
"The marine? I asked why he was there. He said it was the Captain's orders. What do you mean that's why?" She tried to back out of his embrace wanting to see what was written in his features. He held her in place. "Horatio?" He relaxed his grip letting her move to look at him. He did not meet her gaze. She looked over at Archie.
Hornblower stood and turned his back to both of them. The conflict within him constricted his vitals. God! He wanted her off this ship! He wanted to know she was safe! Was there a place of safety in this world? Helplessness gripped his very soul! The world felt unhinged. He wanted to talk to Pellew, to know what he knew. Why did he not tell him? How could he leave her alone with only a marine to guard her? He ran his hand through his hair, turning to look at his wife and his friend.
"Do not worry yourself about me, darling." She limped over to him putting her arms around his middle, resting her head on his chest. "You and Archie must go now."
"She's right, Horatio. I will be outside."
Pamela lifted her eyes to his. A smile crept over her lips. "You really do love me, don't you? Maybe even as much as the sea, this ship, and the navy."
He studied her face searching every inch with concern. *Does she doubt my love for her?* Resting his gaze upon her lips he lowered his own to meet them. Pressing hard against them he let his hands roam her body, soft and unfettered. She tried to pull back, but he held her tighter. Giving in to his advance, she let her lips part, let her hands fall low upon him, let her passion rise to meet his.
Archie stood outside waiting for Horatio to emerge. He looked at the marine. "Do you like being a marine?"
The man was startled at the question, startled that a naval acting leftenant would seek to converse with him while he was on duty. "Aye, sir."
"Hmm," said Archie looking at the cabin door. He sighed and was about to whisper to Horatio when he heard the bolt on the door slide over. He cleared his throat. "Would you like to go get a drink?"
"I would, sir, but I can't leave me post. I shouldn't even be talkin' to ye, sir," he whispered.
"You are aware that Leftenant Hornblower and the lady are married?"
He grinned at Archie. "Aye, sir."
"You must not speak of this to anyone. Do you understand?"
He sighed. "I'm grateful she's stopped that whimperin'. It was nigh unbearable listenin' ta her cry herself to sleep every night. If this is what it takes, my lips are sealed. You won't tell no one I spoke to ye, sir?"
Archie made a locking motion over his lips. With a bow and a salute he left the man to his duty, wondering what it would be like to stand outside that cabin this night. He blew through his lips and made his way back to his room, wondering if he would be able to get to sleep.
Archie woke with a start. Something was different. He looked over at Horatio's bunk. Still empty! "Oh, no!" He sat upright it dawning on him what was different. The ship was listing! They were under weigh! On a port tack from the feel of her. "Damn it, Horatio!" He dressed as best he could with only one arm free. "Damn it, Sebastian! When are you going to untruss me?" He threw his topcoat over his shoulder. Gathering up Hornblower's vest, topcoat, neckerchief, and hat he bounded out the door.
Approaching her cabin, he realized there was a different marine on duty. "Oh great!" he muttered. He clutched Hornblower's clothing under his coat. The marine let his eyes glance at Kennedy. At that moment, Archie pitched forward landing on his bad shoulder. "Aargh!"
The marine bent to help him.
"No, no. Don't touch me! Get Dr. Sebastian! Aargh! My shoulder!"
"But I'm on duty, sir!"
"I'm hurt, damn it! Get Dr. Sebastian!"
The marine was flustered at what to do.
The marine trundled off quickly.
Archie reached to knock on Pamela's door when it opened causing him to lose his balance and fall inside with a moan. He looked up to see Horatio staring down at him.
"What on earth are you doing, Archie?"
He lay flat on the floor and shook his head with a sigh. "Rescuing you, I thought. What the hell do you think you are doing?" He lifted the bundle of clothes up to him, all of them falling from his hand except the neckerchief. He bent his head back to look at Pamela raised up on her elbow smiling at him. "God, you're beautiful. Even upside down."
Horatio tossed his clothes on the chair, then, helped Archie back to his feet.
"Sorry, Horatio. I couldn't resist. I've sent the guard off for Dr. Sebastian. You had better hurry."
He pulled on his vest, buttoning it quickly, then the topcoat, and tied on his neckerchief. Running his fingers through his hair. "Hair tie?"
Archie shrugged. "Sorry."
"I've only got one hand!"
Pamela was giggling behind the covers.
"I'm glad we amuse you, Mrs. Hornblower," said Archie. He heard footsteps. "Uh oh!"
The two quickly closed her door standing in the hallway. Archie returned to the deck and began to moan. Horatio pretended to have come upon him and was trying to help him.
"What has occurred, Mr. Hornblower?" asked Sebastian anxiously.
"Mr. Kennedy lost his balance and fell, sir. He may have hurt his shoulder." He helped Archie up from the floor.
Archie winced saying, "I think I will be all right, doctor."
Sebastian was staring at Hornblower's stocking feet. He and Archie followed his gaze. The doctor let his eyes move slowly up Hornblower's figure. Reaching his face, he moved his head to see his hair loose under his hat. He cleared his throat reaching to Hornblower's vest. He had misbuttoned it. Sebastian proceeded to undo them and button them correctly. Archie and Horatio glanced at each other.
"You seem to have dressed rather rapidly this morning, Mr. Hornblower." After correcting his buttons he looked at the closed door of Bracegirdle's cabin. "You forgot to put on your shoes as well." He shook his head. "And, you, Mr. Kennedy. I think I should have you return to sick berth."
Archie opened his mouth to speak, but decided what's the use?
"Tsk, tsk. Mr. Hornblower. How could you leave your cabin in such a sorry state? Did you forget to shave this morning as well? I want both of you in the sick berth by two bells."
"Yes, sir." They both answered.
Sebastian left shaking his head at the thought of the two young officers. Who did they think they were fooling anyway?
Staring into space, Hornblower let himself feel the ship. "Archie, we're under weigh!" He ran to his cabin, slipped on his shoes, tied his hair, and was on his way out again when Archie arrived.
"Where are you off to now?" asked Archie barely moving out of his way.
"But you haven't shaved!" he called after him, then said quietly to himself, "You'd better hope Pellew isn't up there. But, I'd be willing to bet he is." He rubbed his chin. "Damn! I hate shaving left handed."
The sun was already fifteen degrees off the horizon. Horatio walked to starboard. Dolphin ran nobley beside Indefatigable. He caught his breath at the sight, still proud to have called her his. Walking quickly to larboard, there was Kaliakra. Dark, forbiding, her sleek shape seemed effortless cutting through the water. Looking aft, Pellew was on the quarterdeck. He made his way to join his fellow officers, all eyes trained on the new aquisition.
"By God! Look at her! With only half her sail set!" exclaimed McMasters.
"Aye, she's already leaving us!" added Bowles.
"Her previous owners will be sad at her loss, no doubt,
sir!" said Cutter.
The other officers looked at him. Quelling under their gaze, "What did I say?" he asked defensively.
Pellew sighed squinting at the slender, black form slicing the water like a hot knife through butter. "Indeed, Mr. Cutter. Give Mr. Bracegirdle the go ahead."
"Aye, aye, sir." Cutter, the junior midshipman, ran up the flags. They watched Bracegirdle acknowledge the order. Topmen in Kaliakra unfurled the remaining sail, deck men tightened the halyards to the wind. She lept like a racehorse at the starting shot!
Hornblower blinked as he watched the spectacle before him. "She's as fast a ship as I've ever seen. For her size," he qualified.
Pellew felt himself startle at the familiar voice. "Mr. Hornblower. You are up early." He looked in his direction. His mouth fell open seeing him unshaven. About to comment, Pellew stopped as Brandon exclaimed.
"She's a full length ahead of us already!"
Pellew grabbed the railing, leaning out to watch her.
"To be that fast, she can't be well protected. I'd wager her hull's not built to take a pounding," commented McMasters.
"Three lengths, now!" panted Brandon as if he were running to keep up with her.
"Watch her! Bracegirdle's started her turn," said Pellew trying to maintain the awe rising in his chest.
Hornblower moved next to Pellew. Lips parted as he saw her streamlined figure seemingly pivot where she stood, the bow coming round like a rapier in skilled hands. "Good Lord!" His exhileration was shared by every man there.
"Her owners won't be sad at her loss, they will be absolutely furious! As I would be, if she were mine!" said Cutter.
"She is ours, Mr. Cutter," said Pellew pointedly. At that statement, the vessel seemed to change personality before them.
The ship was bearing down upon them on the reverse tack. Spray lept up and over her bow, a glittery sprinkling like stardust on a dark night.
"Look at her run!" shouted Bowles.
The ship was nearly abeam once more. They could see the topmen in her yards, wind whipping their shirts and trousers. Bracegirdle stood firmly on the quarterdeck, coat tails flapping, saluting as she passed the awestruck group on Indefatigable's quarterdeck. Perhaps it was the counter directions of the two ships that made her passing seem so swift. Nonetheless, she was indeed a sight to behold. Hornblower found himself walking aft to watch her as she passed and left them. Bracegirdle began his turn once more on prearranged orders from Pellew. "God!" escaped from Hornblower's lips, awestruck. "What kind of rudder can she have to do that!"
Pellew moved near to where he was standing. "What I want to know is who built her and how did she come to be in the hands of pirates."
"She looks French made in some of her lines. Whoever drew up her plans, if she's solid to take a pounding, could be in great demand back home in the shipyards," stated Bowles.
"Indeed, Mr. Bowles," said Captain Pellew.
She was approaching alongside the Indy. The topmen were reefing in the sail to match the speed of the *flagship* of their little band.
Pellew made a fist tapping the railing. "Impressive, most impressive." He clasped his hands behind his back, walking starboard gazing at Dolphin. Hornblower and the other officers exchanged glances.
Bowles cocked his head at Hornblower. "Forget something this morning, Mr. Hornblower?" he asked taping his own jaw.
His hand flew to his stubbled chin. "Thank you for reminding me, Mr. Bowles."
"Mr. Hornblower!" Pellew called him as he was about to step down the ladder. He froze midstep.
"A moment if you please."
Hornblower took a breath stepping towards his captain. He kept his chin down hoping against hope he would not see. Pellew stared at him. Glancing into his captain's eyes he knew he had noticed. His shoulders sagged. "I am on my way to take care of it, sir. Sorry, sir."
"How are you, Mr. Hornblower?"
"Never better, sir!" He tilted his head curious at the question.
"What does Dr. Sebastian say?"
Hornblower looked away from him. "I...I am to report to him by two bells, sir."
"I hope to have these stitches out and get a clean bill of health, sir. Why do you ask?"
"How is Mrs. Hornblower?"
He felt his cheeks pink. "She is fine, sir. We both wish to convey our thanks for...for the time alone last night, sir."
Pellew cleared his throat. "I am not insensitive to your situation, Mr. Hornblower. I am glad you understand the...er... necessity for the sleeping arrangements."
"Understood completely, sir," he answered feeling his cheeks brighten further.
"When Sebastian is finished with you, report to my cabin, Mr. Hornblower."
"Aye, aye, sir."
"And, bring the good doctor with you," he added, "if nothing important detains him."
"Aye, aye, sir."
Curses met his ears as he entered the cabin. Archie sat bare chested, right arm still cinched to his torso, shirt hanging from the waist of his trousers, cheeks covered with shaving soap, one side blending with a red tinge.
"Archie! Let me do that! For heavens sake man, haven't you lost enough blood? Let me look at you." Wiping the dual colored section, he took Archie's index finger of his good hand and placed it on the cut. "Hold that whilst I find a staunch." Ripping a piece from a gauzey cloth he lifted Archie's finger placing it underneath. "Hold that. Stand up so I can finish you off."
"Finish me off? I'm not sure I like the sound of that!"
"What do expect when you tell a man's wife she's beautiful right, literally, under his nose."
Archie snorted and chuckled. "Has that only now sunk into that mathematical brain of yours?"
"Stop talking before I do more damage."
"I did apologize. I couldn't help meself."
Horatio stopped in mid swipe. "Stop talking, I say!" There was a rap at the door. "Come."
Brandon opened the door and went to sniggering. "Beg your pardon, sirs!" he managed to say chuckling in his chest. The two were a comic sight. Hornblower still wearing his hat, holding Archie's nose up as he shaved above his lip, Archie pressing on the cut on his cheek.
"Ah, Mr. Brandon..." said Archie nasally.
"Are you determined to be scarred for life! All right, all right, say it and get it over with!" Hornblower released his nose, standing with the razor to hand.
"Look at this, Drew," commanded Archie lifting the compress and his finger from his face, "Will I need a stitch?"
Hornblower rolled his eyes.
Drew leaned in to examine the wound. "That's quite a cut you've got there. No, I don't think so. You should be more careful, Mr. Hornblower."
Archie chortled at the look on his friend's face.
"I am not responsible for that!"
"Let me do this, sirs, I have had more practice at it." He scrunched his brow looking at Hornblower. "You don't look as if you shaved this morning, Mr. Hornblower." Drew removed his hat and topcoat and pushed his sleeves up.
"Fine!" Hornblower put the razor down, threw his hat on his bunk, pulled off his topcoat and began unbuttoning his vest. He shook his head remembering Dr. Sebastian doing his buttons.
"Don't take this wrong, Drew, but why are you here?" asked Archie.
"Oh, uh, the cook wanted to know if you two were coming for breakfast. I told him I would ask. Are you going for breakfast?" Brandon stretched his own upper lip down shaving there for Archie, then stretched his bottom lip over his teeth.
"I'm hungry enough to eat a horse!" said Archie.
"Don't talk, sir, when I'm doing this, please."
Hornblower naked to the waist lathering his own face, glanced at Archie, shaking his head.
"What did you think of Kaliakra, Mr. Hornblower?"
"Kaliakra? What did I miss?" asked Archie.
"Mr. Kennedy! If you don't want another cut on your face you must stop talking!"
"She's fast, very manueverable, impressive, just as Captain Pellew said, Mr. Brandon."
Another knock on their door.
"My we're popular this morning, Mr. Hornblower. Sorry, Drew."
"Come," called Hornblower.
The door opened. Pamela stood framed before them, leaning on a cane supplied by Dr. Sebastian. She wore a pale teal blue dress with a sweetheart neckline, three-quarter sleeves, the waist gathered, the skirt flowing to the floor. Her hair was pinned up revealing a slender neck.
Horatio had half his face shaved.
Drew moved to stand in front of Archie spreading his arms to hide his naked torso.
Archie chuckled at the motion. "I think she has seen bare chested men before, Mr. Brandon."
Horatio rose to greet her. "What is it, my dear?"
"The cook wanted to know if you two were breakfasting. I see now why Mr. Brandon did not return to inform him."
"Yes, we will be there shortly. That is if Mr. Kennedy will ever cease talking so Mr. Brandon can finish his shave."
"Hmm. Well, it smells wonderful in here, sir," she said smiling at her husband. "There is nothing like the smell of a clean shaven cheek. I will let the cook know you are coming."
"Thank you, dear," said Horatio. She winked as she closed the door.
Hornblower sighed. Brandon and Archie looked at him. "What?" he asked.
Archie opened his mouth to speak.
"No talking!" commanded Brandon, "Sir!"
At last the shaving was finished. Brandon helped Archie with his shirt. "When is Dr. Sebastian going to remove your binding, Mr. Kennedy?"
"Today!" he answered.
Hornblower inclined his head to Kennedy at his wishful thinking, pulling on his topcoat. "Yes, and he is going to remove my stitches, as well," adding his own self-fulfilling prophecy.
"Well, that's good news!" said Brandon cheerily, "I thought you were to be strapped up for at least another week, Mr. Kennedy."
Kennedy's face looked pained. "Ooo! Don't say that, Mr. Brandon!"
Hornblower smiled wryly at his friend as he opened the door for them to exit first.
Breakfast passed quickly. Pamela joined them, listening to the buzz about Kaliakra. McMasters, on his way to take the forenoon watch, stuck his head in the officer's mess to say hello and put in his thoughts on the black ship. Brandon, though a midshipman, remained to converse speaking excitedly of her capabilities asking for confirmation from Hornblower. He gave it with a nod and an *indeed* to emphasize Brandon's delivery. Horatio and Pamela thought they were stealing glances with one another, but they were not lost on Archie or Drew, who found himself clearing his throat each time he caught one.
Kennedy was anxious to see Kaliakra under sail. Hornblower pressed him back into his seat reminding him they had an appointment with Sebastian. Pamela commented she had no such appointment so she was going to go see Kaliakra for herself. They stood as she left them.
"Ready, Archie? Dr. Sebastian is expecting us."
"Yes, I suppose," he sighed. "Do you think he will undo me, Horatio?" The two rose making their way forward to the sick berth.
"You've been undone for years, Archie."
"That was a joke, right?"grimaced Archie.
"I am not a doctor!"
"But your father is. Did he ever have a patient with a dislocated shoulder?"
"Can't say as I recall. You'll know soon enough whether you are to be set free or not."
Entering the sick berth, Sebastian was not immediately seen. Hornblower walked over to Stephens. "How are your hands?"
"Better, sir. Thank ye."
"That is good news, Stephens," he smiled.
"What about you, sir?" Stephens querried.
"Yes. What about you, Mr. Hornblower?" stated Sebastian, dressed in his shirt sleeves once again. "Remove your clothing, sir, and lets have a look."
He did so quickly. How many times this morning had he done this?
"Hmm. When did you discard your bandage?"
"Last night. It's been itching. Archie put some cool cloths on for me."
"Hmm." He went to the dispensary. Archie looked at Horatio and shrugged. "Lay on the bunk, Mr. Hornblower," he called from dispensary. Sebastian returned with scissors and tweezers.
Seeing the instruments, Horatio knew what was coming. He turned on his right side, moving his left arm forward out of the doctor's way.
"Hmmph. You understand what is about to take place, Mr. Hornblower?"
"Yes, sir. I have seen my father remove stitches before."
"There will be some pinching sensations."
The stitches were cut in the middle loop, then each end was removed. Pricks of blood spotted at each site. Finishing, he wiped the skin of its blood. "I am going to put a bandage over this. You do not want blood on your clean shirt! It should scab over quickly. Come back this evening and I will have a look at it."
"All right, Mr. Hornblower. Sit up. I want to check your head." Sebastian put his fingers into Hornblower's wavy hair feeling the remaining lump on the back of his head. "Hmm. Had anymore headaches?"
"This lump on you skull may never go away, Mr. Hornblower. Does it hurt when I touch it?"
"Just a little. Like a bruise."
"May I return to full duty, sir?"
Sebastian sighed. "You must be very careful, Mr. Hornblower, not to hit your head again."
"I would prefer you do nothing for a month."
"But, I know, under the circumstances, this is not possible. I will let you return to duty, but I am going to keep an eye on you. I want you to check in with me on a daily basis for the next week. If you have any recurring symptoms, you must tell me. Do you understand? Do not be a martyr, sir!"
"I understand, Doctor." He was ready to do anything as long as he could get back to work. The feeling of uselessness was worse than feeling useless. At least when feeling useless it was because he was trying to accomplish something.
"Get dressed, Mr. Hornblower."
He turned his attention to Archie and sighed. "Mr. Kennedy. Sit down." He sat on the bunk Horatio had vacated. Sebastian pulled a chair to sit opposite him. "Give me your hand." He turned it over to look at the wound on each side. "You have been using this quite a lot." He gently pressed the top of his hand near the entry point watching Archie's face. Moving his little and fore finger, he glanced from them to Archie's countenance. "Hurt much?"
"I imagine the use you have put it under is aiding its return to mobility." He sighed, pulling the sleeve of Kennedy's topcoat away, the shirt, then undoing the bandage pinning his right arm. "It will be stiff from being immobilized." He watch Archie wincing under the pain of moving his right arm out of its bent position. "Hmm. Lay down." The doctor supported his shoulders as he obeyed his orders. Archie sighed at the release he could allow his right arm. Removing the bandage over Kennedy's right side, Sebastian peered at the healing wound. "Roll to the left, Archie." He helped him again. Looking at the exit wound on his back, his only comment was, "Hmm."
Horatio bent over his friend. This was the first he had seen of this wound. "Well, Archie, you certainly come up with novel injuries."
"Indeed, Mr. Hornblower. I could not believe it when I realized he had a stake running through his hand, into his middle, out his back, and into the deck!" Sebastian shook his head. "It is one for the books!"
"So when you pulled the stake that was when he screamed."
"No, that scream to wake the dead was when I reset his shoulder."
Archie looked at the two them discussing him as if he were a freak in a traveling show. "Excuse me? I am here, you know. Do I get my stitches out, too?"
Sighing, "Yes, Mr. Kennedy, you do."
"And my arm?"
Sebastian studied him. "I can give you two choices. I will let you return to your cabin, but your arm will be straped to your side, extended this time, and you will return here every day for therapy. Or, I will put your arm in a sling, but you must remain here. And again, the therapy."
Archie let himself roll over onto his back, wincing at the free movement of his right arm. He put his left arm over his eyes and frowned. "Will I be able to return to duty if I choose the first?"
"No, you will not."
Archie sighed, moving his arm to peer up at Horatio looking duly concilliatory. "First option."
"Very well. Roll back this way so I can get to those stitches on your back." Helping him to move into position, Sebastian had all his stitches out quickly them being few, including the two in his hand. Bandaged and retrussed, the two men helped him with his shirt and coat.
Archie's quiet attitude betrayed his melancholia.
"Sorry, Archie," consoled Hornblower. "Dr. Sebastian, Captain Pellew wishes to see you and I in his cabin when we are finished. Are you free to do so?"
"Yes, yes. Let me get my coat." Rolling his sleeves to his wrists as he walked he returned dressed in the bottle green coat. "Cheer up, Mr. Kennedy. At least you still have your arm."
Archie emerged on deck. Somehow the doctor's final comment to him had not had the spirit lifting effect that was intended. The stiff wind lifted his hat. Grabbing it he pushed it more firmly onto his head. He breathed deeply the sea air. The decks were busy with movement. The men making minute adjustments to the lines when needed, men aloft doing the same with canvas. Archie frowned moving larboard to see Kaliakra. Leaning against the rail, he sighed. Making his way up the ladder to the quarterdeck, he nodded at McMasters. He watched him eye his strapped arm and strangley arranged uniform.
"Mr. Kennedy. Good morning to you, sir."
"Good morning, Mr. McMasters."
"How's the arm?"
"Trussed another week I'm afraid, sir."
McMasters managed a smile for him even though he was doing a watch and a half due to their short handedness. "Bad luck."
Archie gave a single nod. Looking aft he saw Pamela comfortably seated in a make shift chair, reading. He brightened at seeing her. Noting the impression she had on him, he cautioned himself under his breath. "Archie, watch yourself now." He moved to stand over her. "Hullo."
She raised her hand to block the sun streams making their way through the canvas overhead, it providing the majority of shade she lounged in. "Archie? Oh, you poor thing! I'm sorry. I know how much you wanted out of those bindings."
He smiled abjectly. "Such is my life." He shrugged.
"May you join me?" she motioned to the deck beside her.
Archie was feeling rebellious. Glancing around the quarterdeck, he sat down on the deck beside her.
"You won't get in trouble will you?"
"What can they do to me?"
"Do not concern yourself. What are you reading?"
"It's a story about unrequitted love," she smiled.
"Tell me," he commanded looking up to her peaceful features.
Sebastian and Hornblower stood outside Pellew's door. "Come," came the answer from within. "Ah, Dr. Sebastian, Mr. Hornblower." He rose to meet them. "Thank you for coming. What's the word on my officer, doctor?"
"He may return to full duty, Captain. However, I want him to report to me daily for the next week. In truth, sir, I would have him resting for at least a month, if not two."
Hornblower blinked at this additional time coming to light.
"Indeed," commented Pellew looking at Hornblower.
"I assure you, sir, despite what Dr. Sebatian says, I feel fine!" spoke Hornblower incredulous at what the doctor informed.
Pellew turned his gaze on Sebastian waiting for what he had to add to Hornblower's statement.
"He is fine as long as no further injury befalls him. That is the danger, sir. He must be careful. He should not become overly tired."
Hornblower shifted his weight in agitation at what the doctor was telling his Captain.
"I see." Pellew turned his back on the two men. He had not expected this. Contemplating his reasons for having them there, he clasped his hands behind him, staring at the blue ocean outside the windows. "There is something I feel you should know, Mr. Hornblower. I have hesitated to tell you until you were well enough. At this stage, I perceive it should no longer wait. Indeed, with the wind with us, it cannot wait." He turned to see the puzzled looks on his men. "Mr. Hornblower, has your wife shared what occurred on Dolphin that afternoon after you were knocked unconscious?"
"Yes, sir, she has."
"I am sorry I did not ...that I did not kill that man," he looked down at the deck. "The man she shot, sir, has a brother. A very angry brother." He met Hornblower's gaze seeing the anxiety the knowledge brought.
"That is why you placed a marine outside her door, sir."
"Yes," he said curiously, surprised the officer knew. "There's more." He studied his anxious look. "I believe we have not seen the last of these enemy. I fear we may encounter them sooner than we wish, now that there is a wind."
Sebastian's hand went to his forehead. "Am I to understand, Captain, that Mrs. Hornblower killed a brother of one of the men we have confined below? And, he has a vendetta against her?"
"How on earth did she come to have a gun? How was she put into such a position?" He watched Pellew's face redden. Realizing his words, he added, "I am sorry, Captain, I mis-spoke myself."
Pellew waved him down, "No, no, you are right, Doctor." Pellew breathed in slowly and then out. "It is my fault we are in such jeopardy. Totally mine. I ...I am sorry your wife is in danger, Mr. Hornblower. I shall do my utmost to see her protected."
Hornblower, eyes downcast, slowly looked at Sebastian. "She shot the pirate captain who was about to kill Captain Pellew, Doctor."
The scene on Dolphin's quarter-deck sprang to Sebastian's mind. He recollected Pamela and Hornblower slumped near the stairs, the pierced pirate at their feet. The other man some small distance from them, where a ship's captain would stand, a bullet in his chest. His brow knit in realization. "Thank God. Thank God she was there. Thank God she had the courage to fire your pistol, Mr. Hornblower."
The three men stood enveloped in silence.
Hornblower broke the hush. "What have you learned, sir, about ...this enemy?"
Sighing, Pellew answered, "They have banded together. Indeed, from what we have gleaned, there are more vessels in their employ. They may attempt a rescue and a recapture. The reason they came for Dolphin the same. There is loyalty in their ranks. They thought to release Downs, his men, and retake the ship."
"All we can do, sir, is be ready," said Hornblower.
"Indeed, Mr. Hornblower, indeed,... and my crew is spread over three vessels." Pellew rubbed his brow deeply. "Vigilance is needed. I have signaled the other two ships for a meeting this afternoon when we heave to. I will inform Bracegirdle and Rampling of our situation. We will not sail at night. I do not want us to become separated. There you have it, sirs. Mr. Hornblower, in light of Dr. Sebastian's assessment, we will leave you on the second dog watch assignment."
"But, Captain, I..."
"No arguement, Mr. Hornblower," he said with finality.
"Aye, aye, sir."
Pamela sat reading, with Archie sitting cross-legged on the deck beside her. She had given him a synopsis of the book and after some clarifying of character motives between the two of them, he persuaded her to read aloud the next chapter. If anyone took the time to examine McMasters and the helmsman, a perceptible lean aft could have been detected, as well as heads and ears canted that direction.
Rotation of the earth provided the sun with targets for its heating rays, causing Archie to remove his hat. Pamela, though reading, was aware of his bare head. In between paragraphs, noting his damp hair from sweating under his bicorn, she reached over absently to tousle his hair, letting the air evaporate the moisture cooling his brow. The quake in his body under her touch went unnoticed by her as she continued to read, twisting his locks around her fingers repeatedly. He gulped, closing his eyes, enjoying the caresses, like the family cat, only he wasn't a cat. He moved his head slowly closer to her lap. She began to stroke his hair, smooth it, find a bit to twist, still reading and then the chapter ended.
"There! I told you she would figure out where they had taken him." She brought her hand back to the book and closed it with a finger marking the place. He was looking up into her eyes, waiting for them to focus on him. "Oh, it's hot in this sun! Our shade has shifted, Ar...Mr. Kennedy." She stood. "Can I give you a hand up?"
He looked at her outstretched fingers. Sighing, licking his dry lips, he took them. The cool softness registered on his healing hand. He gulped as he rose to stand next to her.
Her sun warmed hair released its perfume. Breathing deeply, he felt his heart quicken. He stared at her lips. They were lovely. A pleasing shape. The lower lip medium full, the upper a compliment in a subtle bow. His eyes lowered to her bosom, pink from the sun.
"Mr. Kennedy. Are you all right? You aren't going to faint, are you?"
His mouth was dry. He felt himself waiver towards her. She put her arms around him to steady him. Faint? Was he...
Consciousness returned in his cabin. Pamela was there exchanging cool compresses on his forehead. She was not looking at him when he opened his eyes. Her profile was evident as she bent to adjust her shoe. He examined the Patrician nose, the curve of her cheek, the dark lashes, the porcelain clarity of her olive toned skin, the cleavage revealed. It startled him and he looked away. Catching the movement, she spoke.
"Archie! You're awake! You scared me half to death! Why didn't you stop me from droning on with that silly romance and say you wanted to get out of the heat? I would not have been offended. Are you all right?"
"You poor dear! All bound up! You must have been dying in that sun!" She held a cup of water with him, supporting his head as he drank.
"Thank you..." he sucked in his breath from calling her Pamela, "Mrs. Hornblower."
She looked at him curiously. Horatio entered the cabin. She smiled at her husband.
"You're awake! Dr. Sebastian will be here shortly. He is changing Stephens' bandages."
Archie felt his cheeks redden at the presence of his friend. How could he be feeling what he was towards Horatio's wife? And, what? Sebastian? That was all he needed! He moved to sit up, flinching at the stomach muscles tensing to raise him. Maybe it was good he was immobilized. What might he do if he were not? He let his eyes rake her profile quickly. "Could I have that cup?" He reached for the water taking it from her hand, feeling his fingertips slide over hers. He glanced at her. Had she felt it? "You...you need not stay. I am fine now."
"Let me be the judge of that," said Sebastian standing in the doorway. "You two out of here. Let me at my patient."
"See you later, Archie," smiled Hornblower, clutching his wife's hand.
Pamela and Horatio evacuated the small room, leaving Archie in Sebastian's capable hands.
Archie glanced up to see the exchange of personnel, returning to stare into the cup in his hand.
Sebastian adjusted the chair to sit in front of Archie. He canted his head and pondered the young man. Archie let his eyes move to look at Sebastian keeping his head in the same downcast position.
"Did I have a fit?" he asked dejectedly.
"No! You, you fainted, Archie!" Sebastian put his hand on Kennedy's forehead, the heat still present. "What do you expect sitting in the sun in these latitudes?"
Archie maintained his downcast position.
Sebastian wondered what was on his mind. Was it merely concern for a fit? He unbuttoned Archie's shirt and removed it. Taking one of the wet compresses Pamela had been using, he rewet it, wrung it, lifted Archie's chin and gently wiped his face. He held it on the back of his neck for a moment, turned it and wiped it over his shoulder down to his elbow. The cup in his hand caught his attention. Reaching to the table behind him, he took the pitcher and refilled the mug.
"Drink." Refreshing the cloth, he placed it on the back of Archie's neck again, watching him shiver. Kennedy emptied the mug. Sebastian freshened the cloth, wiped his face again, holding his chin for a moment longer, waiting for his eyes to meet his. They did not. He ran the cloth over Archie's head, dampening his blonde hair. "You did not have a fit." He watched Archie press his lips together avoiding his gaze. "What's wrong, Archie?" His tone soft and gentle.
Kennedy shook his head, still downcast.
Sebastian sighed. "Will you not tell me what is preying on your mind?" No answer. "You are depressed over your injuries? Is that it? That you cannot go back to your duty?"
Archie shook his head no. How could he tell anyone what his thoughts had been these last few hours. He thought back to the night he had absently held her hand, offering to go talk to Horatio. Remembered her standing with the wind blowing all about her, and everything about her, on the taff of Dolphin. Remembered talking with her the night Horatio left them together to go pace the deck. He knitted his brow at these memories. Thought of her just last night, in his arms, no arm, crying on his shoulder. His cheek pressed against her hair. Saw her with him, at risk, on the gun deck. His brow creased further. He shook his head, caught his breath. Saw her smile at him and ...Horatio. He dropped his cup putting his hand over his eyes.
"Would it be easier for you to confide in Mr. Hornblower?"
"No! No...no." He met Sebastian's gaze. "No." Archie took a breath of air, frowning at what he had to say. Say it or let it build within him, till he could not contain it. Could Sebastian help him? Was there a potion for what ailed him? "Dr. Sebastian, I... I think," he closed his eyes summoning his courage to put in words what was in his heart, "I think.... I," he took a deep breath, "I ... I am ... in love with Pamela."
Sebastian nearly laughed out loud, but caught himself by bending to pick up the mug. He turned his body from Archie to refill the cup, thinking over Archie's state of mind. As he swiveled to return the cup to him, he said, "Mrs. Hornblower is a very engaging woman. Quite dynamic in her own way. Especially to have captivated Mr. Hornblower."
*And me,* he thought. Archie took the cup and drained it. He shook his head, looking into his own thoughts. "I am a terrible person. How can I...how can I...."
"Want you're best friend's wife?"
"Oh, don't put it that way!" he moaned, hitting his head with the cup as he sought to hold it with his only hand. He let the cup drop in his anguish and pulled his hair shaking his head.
Sebastian thought a prayer. *What can I tell him to help him,
without making him feel a fool?* A story from the Old Testemant
sprang to his mind. He began softlly.
"Now it came to pass in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem," said Sebastian.
Archie looked at him as if he had suddenly gone mad.
He continued. "Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king's house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold."
Archie licked his lips, shaking his head, squinting at the doctor.
Sebastian paused to pick up the cup from the floor. "So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, *Is this not Bathsheba, the daugther of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?*" Sebastian looked at Archie as if he were asking *him* this question.
"What...what's your point, Dr. Sebastian? I don't feel like a king. I know that Pamela is Horatio's wife."
"You are idle as he was. He should have been out with Joab and all Israel in the siege of Rabbah."
"Then, return me to duty, sir."
Sebastian smiled and shook his head. "I cannot do that, Archie."
"What is the rest of the story? What did David do when he knew she belonged... to someone else?"
"David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her."
Archie blinked at what he was saying. "Is that all? Is that supposed to help me?" He stood turning his back to Sebastian running his hand over his hair. "Are you saying.... are you suggesting..."
"No! Archie, no. I am merely telling you the story of a man in a similar situation. Do you want to know the rest?"
Archie looked at him, studying his Spanish features. "What? What happened?" He sat slowly back down onto his bunk, fixed on Sebastian's words.
"The lady ...became pregnant. David tried to arrange it so it looked that Uriah was the father, but he would not sleep with his wife as long as his own men were at the front lines. So, David arranged for Uriah to be at the front and told Joab to pull back. Leaving Uriah to be slain by the enemy."
Archie's eyes dropped to the deck. He could not do this to Horatio. His gaze returned to Sebastian.
"David and Bathsheba married, but the baby died in childbirth. His sin affected a nation ...until he confessed and repented."
Sebastian tilted his head studying his young friend. He reached over to place his hand on his shoulder. "It might be well to avoid Mrs. Hornblower for a few days if that is possible. She has not done anything to lead you on has she?"
He shook his head. "Not concsiously. You know how she is."
Sebastian smiled, "Yes, Mrs. Hornblower is a very...tactile woman. I do not quite understand how she came to be this way. English women will fix you a cup of tea, but to touch you, other than to take your hand..." Sebastian let his thoughts run about Hornblower. How was it to have her as a wife? What would it be like to be alone with her and she completely unfettered with conventions? His brow knitted at where his thoughts had traveled. Clearing his throat he added, "It probably has something to do with her father raising her. They were very close, I believe, from the little she told me." He patted Archie on the knee. "I am glad you shared this with me, Archie. You will handle it. I have every confidence in you."
Archie did not share the good doctor's optimism. Avoid seeing her? *Very well, but that is most what I want to do,* he thought. Sebastian was cooling his body once again, leaving him to his musings. Why did he have to follow Horatio to her cabin last night? Why did Horatio allow him...allow him to hold his wife? He closed his eyes tightly, answering his own question. Horatio trusted him. He wanted him there to help her. Help her deal with what he and she had experienced. Should he have denied her that? He sighed. No. She was a fellow soldier that day. He could not leave her to the agony oppressing her soul. He knew the weight all too well himself.
"Hmm? Yes, doctor?"
"Remember this. Pamela has already made her choice. Would you have her abandon Mr. Hornblower?"
That stabbed him to the quick. He loved Horatio like a brother, more than a brother. He had brought him back from the dead in Spain. Put a new heart in him to live, a hope in him to be what Horatio saw him capable, expressed a confidence in him that he did not have in himself. Horatio had much to do with what made him the man that he was today. A sting pricked the back of his eyes. Sebastian was jostling, putting his shirt back on him, putting another cup of water in his hand. He stared into it. Horatio had forced just such a cup of water on him in Spain. He downed the contents.
"A final word, Mr. Kennedy."
"Every man on board this ship would like to claim Mrs. Hornblower."
"Including you?" smiled Archie.
Sebastian returned the grin, putting his hand on Archie's good shoulder. "Most definitely, sir! My age, however, would prevent me from ever being considered."
Archie chortled. "Do not sell yourself short, Dr. Sebastian. I am sure you would prove to be a most charming suitor!"
Sebastian laughed. "I think it is time to cease this line of speculation, Mr. Kennedy. We might find ourselves all in need of a cold shower from the wash deck pumps!"
Archie smiled to himself. The thought had not occured to him that she might be affecting every man on board similarly. Maybe it was ...just ... proximity.
Sebastian was standing, lifting Archie's chin up to him, "Stay out of the heat! Or, you may find yourself in that most favorite location of yours."
Archie smiled. "The sick berth? Feels almost like home!"