An Aristocratic Turn
By Kelly G (Lady Catherine Dunbar)

Note: I don't own any of these character's except Lady Catherine.
She is my own creation and she first appears in my story Lady
Dunbar. If you would like to use her just ask me first, so know
where she is. Hope you like her.

Horatio stepped nervously down the hall towards Captain Pellew's
cabin. No matter how much he respected Captain Pellew being called
to his cabin always caused him to sweat and clasp his hands behind
his back repeatedly.

Taking a deep breath he knocked on the door, praying that the meeting
would be short and painless.

"Come in," came the brief command from within. Taking one more deep
breath Horatio gathered together all his courage and pushed open the
door.

Pellew was sitting at his desk going over numerous bits of paperwork
when Horatio entered. Not looking up the captain said, "Yes, what is
it?" Horatio stood with his hands behind his back, beginning to
doubt himself.

"You wished to see me Sir?" At the sound of his voice Pellew looked
up at the young man and nodded, remembering the appointment.

"Ah, yes I did Mr. Hornblower. It seems Sir that we have been
ordered to perform merchant duty."

"Sir?"

"As you know the vessel which we captured in yesterday's fray was
escorting a supply ship to the Spanish fleet. Fortunately however
the supplies now belong to his majesty's empire and need to be
transported to Gibraltar and the task has thus fallen to us. I am
putting you in charge of the supply ship, you may pick out a small
crew to accompany you. You will report at Gibraltar and wait there
for a ship to return you to the Indefatigable." He paused to look
down at his notes. "Also Mr. Kennedy will accompany." Horatio could
not help but do a double take.

"Sir?"

"Do you find that disagreeable Mr. Hornblower?"

"Of course not Sir. I would be honored to have Mr. Kennedy as part
of my crew, it is simply that it does not seem necessary to deprive
the ship of his service on such a simple mission."

"There is no such thing as a simple mission Hornblower, you will do
well to remember that. But you are correct in your assumption, and
as much as I dislike sending away two of my more capable officers it
seems I have no choice."

"Sir?"

"I received a dispatch today that the Lady Dunbar will by joining us
tomorrow morning. It seems the lady wishes to be transported to
Gibraltar, and since passenger vessels are having difficulty getting
through the Spanish and since she did not want to inconvenience
anyone she requested to be allowed to be a passenger on your captured
supply ship." Horatio smiled inwardly at seeing the Lady again and
he knew Archie would love to be allowed to be with her, but he still
did not see why Pellew had to allow Archie to sail with him.

"Trust," Pellew continued, "the Lady is quite capable of protecting
herself I do not want to take a chance and thus want her accompanied
by two officers. As to the my decision to choose Mr. Kennedy, I
consider it only fare to allow him to escort his own fiancé."
Horatio fought the urge to smile at the usually stern captain's
openness about doing one of his lieutenants such a favor.

"You will leave directly after breakfast in the morning," Pellew was
saying. "Alert your men as to their new mission. That will be all
Mr. Hornblower."

"Yes Sir," Horatio said with a slight bow as he left the Captain's
cabin to go tell his friend the good news.

Horatio found Archie on the second deck running the canons for
practice. He was in his vest and shirt sleeves, his jacket tossed
over a nearby barrel, his eyes completely engrossed in the task at
hand. It never ceased to amaze Horatio how at home Archie seemed
around the canons, working them to his will so easily. He did not
simply order the men to adjust and load the canon but he helped them
to do it.

Horatio watched for a moment as the canons were loaded, pulled into
place and then pulled back again. Archie sighed and wiped his brow
tiredly.

"Just one more time men."

"Aye Sir," Mathews said as he went to work once more. It was in his
moment of rest that Archie caught sight of Horatio waiting near the
stairs.

"Hello there Horatio, come to watch the dirty work aye?" Horatio
chuckled softly, his smile of achievement crossing over his face.

"Actually I have a bit of good news for you." Archie raised an
eyebrow at his friend, Horatio and he seemed to always have different
ideas of what could be considered good news.

"You and I are to transport a supply ship to Gibraltar," he paused,
trying to portray some of the drama he had often seen Archie
use, "and Cat is to join." A huge grin spread over Archie face as
his blue eyes lit up.

"Now that is good news. When does she arrive?"

"Tomorrow morning." The grin widened, as he slapped his friend on
the shoulder.

"That is the best news I have heard in a long while." Still smiling
he turned back to his cannons, a new vigor in his actions at the
thought of traveling on a ship with his two best friends.

 

Catherine Dunbar skillfully climbed over the side of the
Indefatigable, easily stepping over the railing, accepting the hand
offered to her by Mathews. Usually she would protest such help, but
Mathews was a man who knew she could take care of herself, simply
wanted to be kind.

"There yeah are Miss," he said as helped her onto the deck. He knew
she was a lady of high standing and thus should call her ma'am, but
he had hard time calling a woman Mr. Hornblower's age Ma'am. Yes, he
called him Sir but that was something he had to do out of propriety,
and now respect. He just could not call this beautiful fiery
unmarried woman Ma'am, he'd think about calling her that after she
married Mr. Kennedy.

"Thank you Mathews," she responded in her Scottish brogue as she
stepped confidently on the deck. Looking about her she saw Captain
Pellew stepping down the top deck stairs towards her, Bowles and
Bracegirdle behind him.

"Welcome aboard my ship once again Lady Dunbar, a pleasure as always
my Lady," he said as he bowed and kissed her hand. They were not
simply words of propriety but were spoken with sincerity, Pellew
truly enjoyed her visits, thought her one of the finest women he had
ever met.

"The pleasure is returned Sir Edward. Thank you for having me once
again."

"It is always a pleasure to have you aboard my ship my Lady. Before
you board the supply ship will you do me the honor of joining me for
breakfast?"

"I would be honored to join you Sir Edward."

"Very good. I will have your baggage loaded onto the supply ship.
Now I am sure you will want to greet the ship's officers before we
dine, so I will give you the chance." Cat instantly caught his
meaning and smiled thankfully.

"That is very kind of you Sir Edward. I will be there within the
hour."

"I look forward to it." Bowing slightly he touched his hat and moved
back to his cabin, leaving Cat with Lieutenant Bracegirdle and Mr.
Bowles.

"Good morning Mr. Bracegirdle, Mr. Bowles. How are you fine
gentlemen this morning?"

"Very well my lady," Mr. Bowles answered.

"And you my Lady?" She grinned mischievously.

"I am very well my dear Mr. Bracegirdle. Will you gentlemen care to
join me below as I search out certain officers of the watch?"

"As much as I would love the pleasure of your company my Lady I am
afraid that we both have duties," Bracegirdle said politely.

"Completely understood Mr. Bracegirdle." Both men bowed and turned
back to their work, leaving Cat alone, Mathews standing nearby.

"I'll take you down below to see Mr. `ornblower and Mr. Kennedy, if
yeah wish Miss."

"That is not necessary Mathews, I am completely capable of finding my
own way. Besides, I do not want to take you away from your work."

"Don't worry Miss, I'll be back for anyone knows I'm gone." Sighing
in defeat Cat nodded, knew that it made men feel useful to help her
find her way.

"Very well Mathews, lead on." Nodding Mathews led the woman down
below, leading her towards the officer's wardroom. The two found the
two lieutenants in question eating breakfast at the wardroom table.

"There yeah are Miss," the older seaman said to her. Cat smiled at
him as he went off to continue his duties.

"You two better have a good reason for not being on deck to greet
me," she said in mock seriousness. At the sound of her voice Horatio
and Archie looked up sharply from their food, smiling when they saw
her standing a few feet away.

"I am afraid I have no excuse my dear, except for my breakfast,"
Archie said as he stood up and walked towards her.

"I suppose I will have to settle for that," she responded playfully
as she held out her hands to him. Taking her hands he stepped close
to her and the two shared a sweet kiss. Pulling back they gazed into
each other's eyes for a moment, before turning to Horatio, who had
gotten up and stood waiting.

"Hello Cat," he greeted, not being able to hide his grin. He loved
Lady Catherine as a sister and her visits always brightened his
world. She flashed her golden smile and held out her hands to warmly
grasp his.

"Hello my dear Horatio. How are you?"

"Well, and you?" Cat flashed that mischievous smile and curled her
fingers around Archie's.

"I am well, especially since my two favorite lieutenants are
transporting me to Gibraltar." At the mention of the trip Archie's
brow crinkled in thought.

"Exactly why are you traveling to Gibraltar Cat?" Archie had thought
it strange that she had made no mention of the trip in her letters.
She knew immediately as to what he was insinuating and shrugged.

"My father had some unexpected business come up and I volunteered to
complete it for him, knowing that I would have to travel on a ship of
the line," she added mischievously. Archie and Horatio could not
help but chuckle at the glint in her eyes. However, Archie quickly
pretended to be abashed by her actions.

"Your father is allowing you to travel alone to Gibraltar? As your
fiancé I do not approve at all." She smiled slyly, joining the game.

"Well, there are these two Naval Lieutenants who will be
transporting me, is that sufficient enough."

"They sound suitable enough." Cat flashed a wink at Horatio.

"Aye, they are."

"Then I approve." She rolled her eyes.

"I am so glad." Horatio chuckled at his friends' antics. "Now," she
said, picking up her skirts, "I must join Sir Edward for breakfast.
I will see you both soon enough." Smiling at Horatio and receiving a
kiss on the cheek from Archie Cat slipped away to have a quick
breakfast before sailing for Gibraltar.

Horatio stood over the map table in the captain's cabin of the supply
ship, mapping out his course to Gibraltar carefully. He was
determined that he would actually deliver this prize ship to its
destination, unlike his two earlier attempts, for which he was still
slightly ashamed of.

Hearing a knock at the door he looked up, hoping he did not look
frustrated or worried.

"Please come in." The door opened and Archie entered the room,
closing the door and saluting his friend.

"Lieutenant Kennedy reporting for duty Sir." Horatio visibly relaxed
when he saw that it was only Archie.

"At your ease MR. Kennedy," Horatio said with an annoyed smile at
seeing Archie's perfect attention. Archie shot him a grin and stood
at ease.

"What is the plan Horatio?"

"I was just planning our route Archie, what do you think?" he asked,
gesturing to the map. Archie stepped forward and eyed the route. By
nature Archie was a gunner not a navigator and the route looked as
good as any to him.

"I think it will serve well," he said, not wanting to discourage
Horatio by admitting that almost any route would have looked fine to
him.

"Hopefully it keeps us out of the way of Spanish and French."

"Let us hope so, we do not have the guns to protect our selves."
Horatio nodded, knew Archie was right.

"Is Cat settled in her cabin?" Horatio asked, trying to take his mind
off of the present situation.

Archie grinned. "Very well, though she refuses to stay there, not
like I even tried to keep her there though. Trying to keep Cat out
of the thick of things is a lost cause I am afraid." Horatio shot
his friend a mischievous glance.

"You know you would not have her any other way Archie." Archie
grinned, nodding, knew his friend spoke the truth. He loved Cat just
the way she was, though sometimes he did wish she was not quite so
spirited so that he would not worry so much about her safety.

"What are my orders Commander?" he asked with a grin.

"Simply keep her on a straight course for right now Lieutenant
Kennedy." Archie saluted smartly.

"Yes Sir." Grinning once more Archie ducked out of the cabin to go
about his duties.

When he reached the deck he spotted Cat standing near the railing
looking out across the water. He quickly told Mathews to stay his
course and slipped over to where his lady stood.

"Enjoying the scenery my Lady?" At the sound of his voice she turned
and flashed him one of her famous smiles.

"Why yes I am Mr. Kennedy." He smiled at her. They often played
such games, pretending to be proper aristocrats. Sighing contently
Archie folded his arms and leaned on the rail, his Cat following
suite.

"It is beautiful isn't Cat?"

"Aye that is." Cat loved the ocean, always had. The ocean had a
beauty, a scent, a wildness much like her highlands that she adored.
She took a deep breath of salt air and curled her arms tighter around
her.

"Are you cold?" She shook her head, she was simply taking it all in.

"So do you want to hear any of the news of home?" He made a face.

"Only if it has nothing to do with my family." Cat laughed at this,
a rich full laugh that filled the air. Archie joined her laughter
and the two bunt shoulders playfully, their heads down as they
laughed. When they looked up their young eyes caught something on
the horizon that both of them look again.

"Archie, is that what I think it is?" she asked, worry sliding into
her usually cherry voice. Archie's brows came together in
concentration.

"I hope to God it isn't Cat," he said as he turned and ran up to the
upper deck and pulled out his telescope, taking in the scenery. His
eyes opened wide as he located a fully equipped Spanish gunner heading
directly in their direction. "Damn." Archie pocketed his telescope
and hurried down the ladder to go alert his commander.

Archie ran towards Horatio's cabin and pushed open the door, not even
bothering to knock on the door. Horatio looked up sharply from his
maps, could see the agitated state Archie was in and instantly sat up
sharply.

"Archie what is it?"

"We have company."

Horatio followed Archie up to the deck and they quickly made their
way to the upper deck where Mathews and Cat stood waiting. Cat
handed Horatio the telescope she had been holding.

"Over there Horatio," she said pointing. He quickly raised it to his
eyes and took in the sight of a Spanish gunner in the distance. He
swore under his breath. Why couldn't he have any easy mission just
once?

"Do we try to out run her Sir?" Mathews asked. Horatio shook her
head.

"She's too close already and it would only insight suspicion. Keep
her on course for right now Mathews. Archie, Cat may I see you in my
cabin?" The two aristocrats nodded and followed him down below.

"What do you think?" Archie asked when the three reached the cabin.
Horatio began to pace back and forth with his hands clap behind his
back.

"Well we can't outrun her, that's for certain and if we tried that
would only mean being fired on for certain. We don't have the guns
to defend ourselves, they'd have us in a few moments." We could
always surrender, he thought, but he quickly dismissed the idea. He
had already given up one ship and the fleet needed the supplies. He
had to keep it. As the three stood there trying to come up with a
way out of their predicament Horatio caught sight of the ring Cat
wore on her right hand, the seal of the Dunbar clan worn by
aristocracy. An idea suddenly caught fire in Horatio's mind. He had
no idea where it came from and it was crazy but at this point he
would do anything to save his ship.

"Can you two pretend to be aristocracy?" The two in question looked
at him sharply, having no idea where such a question came from.

"Why?" Archie ventured. Horatio stopped pacing and rubbed his chin.

"I think I have a plan."

 

Horatio paced the deck nervously as he waited for Styles to finish
painting over the name on the side of the ship, hoping to God that
the Spanish were not close enough to notice the change taking place.
He pulled nervously at his costume, running the plan through his mind
for the hundredth time.

The plan was fairly simply, it simply involved a little acting.
Horatio would pretend to be the captain of a British merchant ship
carrying two British Aristocrats to Gibraltar. He knew it might be
wiser to play Spaniards, but Horatio decided against it for several
reasons. First, since they would have to play the ruse at close
range for an extended period Horatio did not want to be caught off
guard and hung for being a spy. Second the ship was gunner and not a
frigate and thus the captain would earn nothing from carting home
another liability. Thirdly he was counting on the persuasions of
aristocracy to keep the Spaniard hospitable. Hopefully a nobleman
would not rush to imprison another nobleman.

Archie and Cat were to play a young British Aristocrat and his
fiancé. Horatio had urged them to be as obnoxious, flamboyant,
opulent, likeable and aristocratic as possible. Hopefully the other
nobleman would like them, but would also want to get rid of them as
soon as possible. The two had assured Horatio that they were the
perfect ones to play the roles and Cat had had assured him that her
accent would became distinctly British. They had told him to go off
and prepare everything while they went in search of clothes to make
themselves up as pompous rich youths.

After telling the crew to fix the name on the side and change into
some of the merchant clothes they had found below he had retreated
below to change his own clothes. In a stroke of luck they had
discovered two chests full of clothes below, both simple and ornate.
Horatio changed into a pair of dark brown breeches, a simple shirt,
gray vest and tweed jacket. Putting on a pair of simply black shoes
with pewter buckles and a simple brown crowned hat finished his
costume. Heading up to the deck he waited to receive his guests.

He continued to pace as he ran the order of things in his head. He
was to wait on deck for the Spanish and then Archie would blow onto
the deck, followed by Cat. They would engage the Spaniard in excited
conversation, totally bowl him over, and beg to be allowed to
continue on their way. Hopefully he would abide and leave them the
hell alone.

He saw the gunner raise a flag telling them they were coming aboard
but not in occupation, simply just to look around as well as a flag
of truce. Horatio raised a welcoming flag and waited for them to
arrive.

The captain stepped aboard and was greeted by a polite Horatio who
bowed properly, Mathew and Styles behind him.

"Good day Captain. I am Captain Henry Richardson and may I welcome
you to my ship the Catherine, a free independent merchant ship on its
way to Gibraltar." The Spanish captain bowed stiffly.

"Thank you for your conceding to allow me to board Captain
Richardson. I was afraid you would run." Horatio forced a smile
that he hope did not seem as awkward as he thought it was.

"Why would we run? We are a free merchant ship not a supply ship.
We have not reason to run." The Spaniard smiled and made another
slight bow.

"In that case let me introduce myself. I am Captain Louis Masserado
of the gunner the Caballo Rojo." He paused and casually scanned the
deck. "May I ask what you are carrying?"

"Wheat and barley for market, along with my two passengers." The
captain turned sharply to him.

"Passengers?"

"Why yes. A nobleman and his fiancé."

"I would very much like to meet this nobleman and his lady." Horatio
bit down his nervousness. God I hope this works.

"I am sure they would enjoy the introduction Captain." Right on cue
foot steps emerged on the deck and everyone turned to see who had
bounded onto the deck. Horatio nearly fell to the floor when he
caught sight of the man.

Archie stood jauntily, one gloved hand on the sword he'd found in the
captain's cabin and the other on the railing. He was from head to
foot the model aristocrat. He wore fine black boots with silver
buckles, whit hose, navy breeches and frilly white shirt. Over the
white shirt he wore a silver, golden and green vest over which was a
scarlet jacket with golden buttons. His scarlet cravat was tied
neatly, a pin in place. His hair was tied back in a neat queue, a
fine black crowned hat on his head. He stood with dignity and a
sense of aristocratic vanity that Horatio had never seen about him
before.

Horatio stared in awe, not believing what he was seeing. "Archie?"
he asked under his breath.

"What is all this ruckus? I man can not even think with all this
hubbub going on up here." Horatio knew it was his line, but he
simply could not stop staring at this man who he had known for nearly
six years and was like a complete stranger. However, Archie swiftly
came to his friend's aid.

"Captain, are you not going to tell me who this fellow nobleman is?"
he asked sharply. Horatio quickly snapped awake and straightened.

"My Lord, may I introduce you to Captain Louis Masserado of the
gunner the Caballo Rojo. Senior may I introduce you to. . . ." He
did not know what to call Archie, but again his friend came to his
aide.

"Earl of Edrington, at your service Senior." Horatio could not help
but smile inwardly at Archie's choice of alias.

"A pleasure Senior," he greeted as the two shook hands.

"May I be so bold as to ask why who have detained our ship?" A look
of horror crossed his face. "We are not a prize of war are we?"

"Oh no my Lord," the captain rushed to reassure him. "I simply
wanted to inspect your ship to make sure there was nothing illegal
occurring. I am not the captain of a frigate and since you are a
free merchant ship I see no reason that we can not be civil towards
each other." Archie grinned.

"Of course not. In fact I am glad you came aboard. I have had no
one besides my fiancé to have a decent conversation with. This
captain tries but what can we expect from a lowborn?" Instead of
looking aghast at his statement the Spanish captain chuckled.

"Quite true Senior, quite true. I also grow tired of peasant
drivel. At least you have your senorita to keep you company."

"Why yes I do, but one does like a variety in one's conversation,
true?"

"Si Senior. That is very true."

"Richard! Did you discover what all the noise is about?" came a
female voice coming up the stairs. Horatio knew it was Cat, but her
brogue was gone and replaced by a proper British accent.

"Yes my dear," Archie called back. "A fellow lord my dear."

"Oh how lovely," came the voice. In a moment Cat herself appeared on
the deck, in all her aristocratic glory. Gone was the simple fine
dress of plaid, replaced with a rich even gaudy gown. The gown was
a rich scarlet that matched Archie's jacket. It was a fine brocade
fabric that sported full skirts and a tight bodice. Her white
chemise peeked out from her bodice, her frilled sleeves hanging from
her brocade arms. On her feet were a pair of fine embroidered heeled
shoes. Her hair was done up in ribbons like the duchess had often
done and covered by a lovely summer bonnet. She wore the rich cross
Dr. Sebastian had given her and several rings she had found in the
chests. Gone as well were her seal ring and her sweet, fiery, humble
manner. It was replaced by a haughty shallow demeanor that somewhat
frightened Horatio. The things that Horatio loved about Archie and
Cat were gone, replaced by a cold shallow mirth that made them appear
to him as complete strangers.

"Aw, there you are my dearest. Senior, may I introduce you to my
fiancé the Lady Elizabeth Beckwell. My lady this is Captain Louis
Masserado of the Caballo Rojo," Archie said as Cat made her way over
to the three waiting men.

"A pleasure to meet you Senior," she said, her voice dancing like a
fragile vain aristocratic woman's.

"The pleasure is mutual Dona," he said as he kissed her extended.
His voice and the way he eyed her made Horatio's protective blood
boil. The man eyed her like she was a chicken to be snatched from a
barn, and Horatio wanted to club him about the ears.

Archie, however, kept a smile on his face and did not seem to take
notice of the way the man was eyeing his lady.

"Captain Masserado is inspecting our ship to make sure that there is
no illegal merchandise aboard. Nothing to worry my dear."

"Oh good," she said as she fanned herself lazily. "I would hate to
miss the banquets in Gibraltar because I made the mistake of boarding
a ship not captained by a fellow lord. We would have been safer on a
ship of the line."

"I do agree with that my dear. I did not know that this chap would
sail us directly in the path of a Spanish gunner."

"On the contrary Senior, you and the lady are very safe on any ship
on which you travel. Being simple passengers even on a captured
British frigate you would be transported to a neutral port. Yet due
to battle you are probably safer on this merchant ship."

"I do hope you let us continue on this ship." Cat said with a smile.

"Yes, you see I have a small investment in this ship and would hate
to have to leave it," Archie pressed. The captain seemed to think a
moment before answering.

"It would be too much trouble to drag this tub home and since you are
not a supply ship I see no reason to keep you, or to explore your
goods for that matter." Instantly Archie and Cat's mood lightened,
their faces breaking into wide grins. Cat grasped her hands in
happiness.

"Oh delightful. Thank you ever so much Senior." He bowed.

"Think nothing of it Dona. I ask only one thing in return."

Horatio's breath caught in his voice and for a horrible moment the
world stood still.

"And what is that Senior?"

"That you and the Senior would join me for dinner on my ship."
Horatio stared in horror at Archie and Cat. Damn. He knew that
would have to go, but God how he just wanted to leave.

Though Horatio nearly fainted Cat and Archie did not miss a beat.

"It would be our pleasure Senior," Archie answered.

"Wonderful. I will send over a boat at the correct hour. Till then,
Senior, Dona." He glanced at Horatio. "Captain," he said
disdainfully as an after thought. With that he slipped over the deck
and went back to his ship. Archie and Cat kept their positions until
he was out of side and together they visibly relaxed and Horatio
could see their facades fall away and reveal the two friends he
loved.

Before they could say anything the three heard clapping and turned
around to see the small crew clapping their approval of the act. The
three smiled awkwardly and Cat and Archie each made a little bow.

"That was quite a show Sir, Miss," Mathews remarked. Archie could
not help but chuckle.

"Thank you Mathews."

"Everyone back to their posts," Horatio ordered.

"Yes Sir," they chorused as they scramble off to their duties,
leaving the three alone.

"Well, Horatio. How was that?" Archie asked.

"You had me fooled, I'll tell you that. I've never seen better
acting even on the stage." Archie smiled wickedly.

"I told you I knew Drury Lane like it was my home."

"Apparently we did too well," Cat mentioned in her normal brogue,
alluding to the meal invitation. "Now I have to use that southern
lowlander brogue. No offense my dear Horatio. I am proud to be an
Englishwoman, but I do not want to sound like one."

"None taken Cat," he said, allowing himself a smile.

"What now Horatio?" Archie asked.

"Well you have to go, you already accepted the invitation." Archie
made a face.

"I know it is a risk but he would have suspected something if we had
declined." Horatio nodded, knew he was right.

"You two think you can keep it up a little longer?" Cat and Archie
nodded, though Horatio could tell that neither was looking forward to
resuming their characters again.

"I think we are up to I," Archie said. "What do you say Cat?" She
smiled mischievously, sighing dramatically.

"I think I'm game." Horatio nodded, knew his friends could handle
it. Though how he wished he could go with them, but he had not been
invited. And besides it was probably for the best. Cat and Archie
could handle the social aspect of it while he prepared the crew in
case the damn captain changed his mind.

"Well then we have just to wait until he sends boats over. By the
by, I think it best if you two stayed in costume. Our luck he has
someone eyeing us who would think it weird to see another lieutenant
and lady simply appear out of no where." He instantly saw Archie's
face drop.

"Damn," he cursed under his breath. He looked at Horatio
sheepishly. "You are right of course Horatio, but I was not looking
forward to looking like my father for several more hours." Horatio
stared at Archie in confusion while Cat attempted to hide her
laughter with one lace gloved hand.

"Nonsense Archie," she assured him, "you are much more handsome than
Lord Kennedy." He graced her with a thankful smile and she winked at
him. She then turned to Horatio. "If you do not mind I am going to
my cabin to brush up on my Spanish literature so I have something to
talk about."

Captain Masserado sent a small boat to fetch The Earl and his lady at
about seven in the evening. As Horatio watched them load the
aristocrats into the boat he struggled not to chuckle. Cat and
Archie were lowered via swing down to the boat, a sight which in
itself nearly caused Horatio to fall into the water. The sight of
the nimble Scots sitting stiffly on the swings awkwardly was almost
too much. The two made quite a fuss the whole time, as most
aristocrats did in such a situation. Soon they were safely in place
and Archie gave Horatio an encouraging wink before the sailors began
rowing for the Caballo Rojo. Horatio watched anxiously as they
boarded the gunner and greeted the Captain. He sighed when they
disappeared into his cabin. There was nothing left for him to do but
wait and worry.

The Captain greeted his guests cordially and led them to his very
fine cabin, where the three were seated at the large carved mahogany
table. Masserado sat at the head with an aristocrat on either side
of them. In a moment servants arrived with platters of fine cuisine
and the three aristocrats wasted no time in partaking in the fine
food and wine.

"So, what business do two such fine fellow nobles as yourselves have
in Gibraltar?" Masserado asked as he sipped his red wine.

"Elizabeth's father had business in the city and as his future son-in-
law I saw it as my duty to see to it myself."

"And what of you Lady Beckwell? Why are you here?" he asked as he
eyed with the same look that had made Horatio's skin crawl the day
before. But Cat was used to being looked at in such a way and paid
it little mind.

"I do not often get to travel with Richard and was not about to turn
down such an opportunity. Besides I have heard that the balls in
Gibraltar are not to be missed."

"She never misses a chance to show off her latest gowns," Archie
added, hoping to draw the captain's attention away from Cat. Though
he did not show it, Archie's blood boiled when he saw Masserado eye
Cat like she was a piece of candy.

"A woman of her beauty should take any opportunity to show herself
off," he said with a smile. Cat exchanged the smile and batted her
eyelashes.

"I am not worthy of such a compliment Senior."

"I beg to differ Dona," he said, eyeing her again. It took all of
Archie's self control not to pounce onto the man and claw his eyes
out.

"The Captain is right my dear, you should show off you loveliness at
every opportunity." She smiled at Archie, a genuine smile in
response to a genuine compliment.

"You are too kind my Lord." Archie inclined his head and tipped his
glass to her.

"I simply speak the truth my dear lady." She smiled sweetly and
turned back to the Captain.

"So tell us Senior, what is it like being Captain of a great
gunboat?"

"Yes, do tell us of your great adventures," Archie added with as much
honest curiosity as he could muster.

The Captain thus went into an hour long tale about his various sea
adventurous, obviously trying to impress the Lady Elizabeth
Beckwell. He used his hands widely, speaking openly about his
heroism, looking at Cat the entire time; doing all the things men do
when they try to impress a lady. Cat smiled like a sweet lady,
pretending to hang on his every word. She gasped when he spoke of
being shot, giggled at all his jokes, and clapped at the end of each
story. Archie had never seen his Cat act like a silly aristocratic
lady and was highly impressed with her acting ability. Any other man
would have been nervous at her behavior, thinking she was actually
taken with the man, but Archie knew better. He could see the true
Cat in her eyes. Her eyes rang true with disgust at acting like the
girls she hated and at the drooling man in front of her. When she
would turn to Archie to try to include him in the conversation he
could see love in her eyes and hope, that the night would come to a
close. He had no doubt as to her true heart and knew it was all an
act, just as his flamboyant shallow act was.

Finally Masserado caught sight of the clock and raised his hands in
surprise. "My, my look at the time. I have talked far too long."
That's one thing we agree on, Archie thought to himself. "You must
be anxious to get back to your ship and your beds."

"I must agree with you there Senior. I am quite exhausted from all
this day's excitement, and that peasant of a captain will probably
want to keep me up late for details."

"Ahhh yes, the burdens of being an aristocrat. I do not wish to keep
you from your beds any longer than necessary. But before I let you
go I raise a toast to your safe journey." He raised a glass of red
wine to the two, which they returned, tipped it to them and the drank
down the wine, which his guests did as well. "Well then, I have kept
you long enough. Come, I will see you out." The three stood up and
the Captain led them up the stairs, onto the main deck and towards
the edge of the rail where the boat waited below.

"You first, my dear," Archie said as he gestured to Cat, hoping to
get her away from this man as soon as possible.

"If the lady does not mind, would you go first my lord, so that I may
have a few more moments to admire your lovely lady?" Archie stared
at him a moment. It was a slightly odd request that sent alarm bells
off in his head, but it was not completely unreasonable and if he
refused it may have arisen suspicion as to his gentlemanly behavior.
A true carefree lord would not hesitate to allow another noble to
admire his beautiful bride to be and he would not question the other
man's honor.

He nodded and smiled. "I do not see what not. Would you mind my
dear?" Cat shook her and smiled sweetly.

"You go ahead Darling. I will be perfectly fine here with the noble
Senior." Archie nodded and turned to the Captain.

"It has truly been a pleasure Senior Masserado," he said, shaking the
man's hand.

"The pleasure was all mine my lord." The two men bowed and Archie
went about putting himself into the swing and over the side. While
he was going about the act Cat watch him intently, trying to ignore
the gaze Masserado was giving her. When Archie was out of sight she
felt a hand grace its way down her neck. It took all of her control
not to shiver under the disgusting touch. Instead she pretended to
jump in innocent surprise and turned towards the Captain, who had an
honorable smile on his face which made her heart almost stop.

"Beg my pardon Dona, but my eyes do not often get the chance to grace
such a beauty as yourself."

"I am deeply touched by your compliment Senior," she said as sweetly
as she could, her eyes cast upon the deck in mock maiden
embarrassment.

"A woman like yourself should be sitting in a grand hacienda in my
country not flouncing around a dirty ship with that fop."

"Senior, I believe you over step your boundaries."

"Then I wish to continue to do so," he said as he stepped closer to
her and gently gripped her wrist.
Still trying to keep up the ruse, she pulled away shyly from his ever
enclosing form.

"Please Senior," she pleaded sweetly. He wound his hand around her
waist and kissed her neck. That was it. Ruse be damned.

Like lightening Cat punched the man in the gut, knocking the wind out
of him. His hand fell away from her waist and she pushed the
disgusting form from her, allowing him to fall upon the deck. The
crew members stared at her in wonder, not sure what to make of the
feisty Lady who stood over the gasping Don, staring in distaste at
the man. Blowing a piece of hair out of her face she looked up at
the crewmen staring at her. Quickly becoming Elizabeth Beckwell she
blushed and looked bashfully at the ground.

"The Senior was much too forward for my liking," she said sweetly,
slipping over the edge of the ship and scampering down the ropes.
She knew she should have waited to be swung down but she could not
stand to be near that man another moment, and when he regained
himself he would be quite upset to say the least.

Archie heard the commotion above and was not very surprised to see
her climbing down the rope. As she landed on the little boat she
shot him a quick glance and Archie took the hint.

"Row, you bloody braggarts. I want to go to bed," he called as he
made his way over to her. Cat was slightly flushed from scampering
down the rope ladder and her eyes radiated worry and also a bit of
excitement, for her Scottish blood was running fast.

"Cat," he whispered low enough so only she could hear.

"He decided to kiss my neck so I decided to hit him." At hearing
that Archie wanted to scramble back up the rope and shoot the snake,
but he knew they had to get away and quickly. The captain would not
be happy about being disgraced by a woman in front of nearly his
whole crew.

Archie sat down beside her and wrapped his arm around her shoulders.
He knew she was as tough as nails but his protective nature could not
be helped.

"Row you bloody peasants," he ordered. "Are you all right Cat," he
whispered in her ear. She squeezed his left hand which was on his
knee.

"I am fine Archie," she said with a comforting smile.

Suddenly they heard a shout from the gunner and the two Scots turned
around, their hearts stopping. There at the top deck near the rail
stood the captain, his face burgundy with anger.

Oh God, Archie and Cat thought simultaneously before all hell broke
loose.
After the Captain regained his composure, and finding the Lady gone,
he began to shout orders to his crew. They were not orders to the
boatmen to row back but to his men on the ship to fire on the little
boat. A split second after the two aristocrats turned around the
sound of canon fire sliced through the growing evening and the spark
of the powder lit up the darkening sky.

Acting purely on instinct Archie grabbed Cat around the waist and
jumped as far from the boat as possible. Cat knew instantly what he
was doing and added her own leg power to the jump, sending the two
about seven good feet from the boat. The water, grown cold due to
the month and the growing evening, bit into the skin and their rich
heavy garments were instantly soaked, dragging the poor friends
down. After plunging several feet the two fought their way to the
top, taking great gasps of air when they reached they reached the
surface. The world above the water was noisy, chaotic and
confusing. The canon ball had caught the boat near the front,
causing the front to splinter and the rear to float on one of its
sides. Three of the crew where dead and the rest where either
struggling to swim to the gunner or the supply ship or simply hanging
onto shards of the boat for dear life. Men all about were shouting
and screaming and the increasing darkness was not helping matters.
To make it all worse the Spanish pain in the ass was still firing on
them.

Archie, while furiously treading water, looked around him trying to
tell where he was in vicinity to the supply ship and to his Cat, all
the while praying that Horatio was awake. He almost smiled at the
thought. If he wasn't awake earlier, he was definitely awake now.

 

Horatio had not been sleeping. He had been pacing his cabin in worry
when the sound of canon fire reached his ear. His heart leapt into
his mouth as he ran up the stairs and onto the deck, which was in an
all out tizzy. The men were staring in horror at what to them was
slaughter. Several of the men, at Mathews ordering, had broken out
of their shock enough to load one of the few canons they had.
Horatio stared wild eyed at the splintered boat, his dark eyes
searching frantically for the bright clothing that would indicate his
two companions. One hand tugging at his brown curls in anxiousness
he called out to Mathews, who was still near the small cannon.

"Mathews! What's happening!" Mathews was at his side in an
instant.

"The lad and lady were on their way over from the ship and that damn
dago started firing on them and his own men Sir! Do yeah want us to
fire?" Horatio took several deep breaths, trying to calm himself
down and think clearly. Hysteria would not save Archie, Cat, his men
or the supplies. He quickly went through his options. If they fired
on the ship their fire would be returned and they would probably be
sunk or captured. But if they ran the supplies would be saved and
his two best friends would be dead. It was in that moment the
Horatio had to make a choice between his duty and his friends. Four
years earlier it would have been an easy choice, and it was then as
well, though the choice was much different.

Without another thought, his mind made up, Horatio turned to
Mathews. "Fire at will Mathews." The older seaman could not help
but smile.

"Aye Sir!" he said enthusiastically. The idea that anyone would try
to hurt the lady Dunbar or Mr. Kennedy in such a cowardly way made
him want to claw out Masserado's eyes. He ran back to the gun and
screamed fire, the air exploding with the noise and the flash of
light. Meanwhile Horatio ordered Styles to lower a boat. At first
Styles thought he was crazy but one more look into his stern eyes
anxiously searching the water told him that it was no time to argue.
Hopefully Mr. Hornblower knew what he was doing.

 

Cat struggled to keep her head above water. Normally she was a
magnificent swimmer, but with all the extra weight of her garments,
which were quite heavier than her normal clothing, she found it
difficult to tread water and thus not to drown. Cat was not one
prone to panic but as her petticoats grew heavy with water and the
world grew faded and distant beneath a screen of water, her heart
began to beat furiously and she struggled harder. All she could see
under the water were spontaneous bursts of light and she could hear
nothing but the garbled sound of water rushing into her ears. Her
lungs were about to burst when she felt an arm wined its self around
her waist and pull her up through the veil of water. Upon reaching
the surface she gulped in as much air as she could possibly take into
her tired lungs. When she had regained her breath she took in the
scene around her as best she could. The world was darkening and
ablaze with lights all at the same time. Guns were going off all
around her while men struggled to reach one of the ships as they hung
on for dear life on pieces of splintered boat. In all the chaos Cat
knew that the saving arm belonged to Archie and she wrapped her left
arm around his shoulders in order t take some of her weight off of
him.

"Over there Cat!" he shouted in her ear, pointing to a large piece of
wood several feat from them. She nodded and the two began their
struggle towards the floating wood. Though the wood was in fact only
several feat away, it might as well have been a hundred feat away due
to the strong currents the two had to fight their way through. They
were already exhausted and their wet clothes, the cold water and the
strong waves were not helping any.

Just as Archie thought he was going to pass out, he felt the harsh
surface of the wood under the fingers on his outstretched left hand.
With the last bit of his strength he pulled Cat in front of him,
where she leaned on the wood, and pulled himself up behind her
protectively.

Cat felt herself being pushed towards the wood and clutched it with
all her being. She then felt Archie come up behind her, putting his
arms over her and clutching the wood, shielding her with his own
body. She leaned her head on his right arm, trying to catch her
breath. She felt him sag against the wood and gripped his wrists
with her hands to make sure that he did not go anywhere.

Archie felt Cat lean her head on his arm and, knowing she was safe,
he unconsciously relaxed, feeling his grip on the wood relax. The
next thing he felt were two hands gripping his wrists, cementing them
to the wood. Cat. He smiled weakly as he leaned his head against
the back of her neck, hoping that Horatio would hurry the hell up.
Horatio pulled a Spanish sailor into his boat and shoved him to the
side, his eyes searching raveniously for two of the people that meant
the most to him. A shell exploded near his boat, showering him with
a wall of water. When the wall cleared two prone forms bearly
hanging onto a piece of wood cme into view. Horatio's heart nearly
froze. They did not seem to be moving.

"Styles! Over there!" he directed. Styles turned, saw the two young
aristocrats in their perilious situation.

"Aye Sir!" The boat made its way over to the two, not nearly fast
enough for Horatio, who was fairly close to jumping out of the boat
and going after them himself. Everything disappeared for him,
nothing exsisted except the two forms clutching onto the piece of
wood. Horatio was no longer aware of the canons or the shouting or
the night or the waves. All he was aware of was his two friends who
he had placed in such danger. That's enough, he shouted to himself.
Don't think on that now. Save Archie and Cat first. There will be
plenty of time for guilt later.

After nearly a century they came up beside the two Scots. Horatio
reached down and grabbed Archie under the arm, trying to pull him
into the boat, but he would not budge. Horatio crinkled his brow in
confusion and saw that Cat had his wrists in her fierce grasp.
Horatio almost smiled at that. Fierce old Cat. Quickly he called to
Styles for help, who was at his side in a moment. Together they
pulled the two into the boat, the two lifeless forms falling against
Horatio as thy fell back into the boat.

"Row for the ship Styles!" Horatio called.

"Aye Sir!" he called, leaving him for the rudder. Horatio propped
himself up and felt for a pulse on both forms, relieved when he found
them. He gently pushed the two up so that he could help man the boat
when he felt something sticky on Archie's back. In panic he turned
his friend over, revealing a splinter, two inchs in width, sticking
three inches out of his shoulder blade at angle. Instantly he
realized what had happened. Archie had been shielding Cat and in
doing so had been in the path of the large splinter. When he had
lost his strength Cat had gripped his wrists to keep him from
slipping, which had been why it had been difficult to get him into
the boat. Fear stole into Horatio's heart. The wound could be very
severe, depending on how deep it went in, at what angle and what it
had hit. Then of course there was the chance of infection. Horatio
took a deep breath, horror and guilt taking a back seat to pure
hatred for the Spanish devil who had harmed his dearest friends.
The boat came along side the ship as Horatio's blood began to boil.

"Styles!" The man was there in a moment. "You take the Lady."

"Aye Sir!" Styles picked up the Lady and carried her to the ladder,
wondering how the hell he was going to get her up the ladder.

"Hand her here Styles!" He looked up to see Matty reaching down from
the deck. Stepping up the first few steps, almost falling into the
water, he reached up and handed the exhausted lady to Matty. Taking
her up carefully Matty placed her under the rail, leaning her up
against the wood. He quickly took off his jacket and laid it across
her. Fairly sure she would be all right he left her to go help
Mr. `ornblower.

 

"Oldroyd!" Horatio called as Styles took Cat on board. The man was
quickly by his side.

"Sir?"

"Help me get him on board. The rest of you get those prisoners on
board and then help with the canons." The men immediately did as
they were told as Horatio and Oldroyd picked up Archie as gently as
possible, Horatio trying not to touch the giant splinter jutting out
of his friend's back. With the help of several members of his small
crew Horatio managed somehow to get Archie on board. He laid him
gently on his side next to Cat, placing his jacket over him. As much
as he hated to, he had to leave his friends where they were. He
still had a ship to command. He ran up to the upper deck and, taking
out his telescope, he examined the deck of the opposite ship, which
was still firing on them. Masserado's men seemed to be half
heartedly work the cannons. They were moving slowly and Masserado
seemed to be the only brutal force behind them. Horatio suddenly had
a hunch.

"Mathews!" The old seaman looked up from his cannon.

"Sir?"

"Try and fire directly at Masserado!" Mathews could not help but
grin.

"Aye Sir!" he cried enthusiastically. "You `eard him boys! Aim for
the commander!"

In a moment the deck beneath Masserado exploded , doing only god
knows what to the captain himself. Almost immediately the canon fire
ceased from that corner and Horatio ordered his men to do the same.
They then waited. Slowly, without raising a flag of surrender, the
ship came about and headed west, leaving its crewmen with the
English. Horatio had to remind himself that the crew thought they
were a merchant ship, that's why they were leaving and not
surrendering.

"Do we go over them Sir?" Mathews asked. Horatio shook his head.

"No Mathews. Our job is to get these supplies to Gibraltar, not go
chasing after a Spanish gunner. Mathews, get those prisoners down
below, than get everyone out of these costumes and get that sign off
the side the ship."

"Aye Sir," he said as he went off to do his duty. The firing
completed and all the business seen to Horatio's mind traveled back
to Archie and Cat. He sprinted down the steps and hurried over to
where he had left them. Cat, though shivering and quite tired, was
awake and leaning over Archie, examining his wound. The resourceful
Scot had torn away the bottom part of her gown and wrapped it around
the base of the wood to keep it stable until it could be removed. As
Horatio kneeled beside her she looked up at him with worry and
command in her eyes. She was not about to faint like many ladies
would have done in the situation, but was instead ready to take
command. Yet she was still his sweetheart and Horatio could tell her
hands were shaking.

"Cat?" he asked hesitantly.

"We need to get him down to the sick berth. Carry him down Horatio,
I will go prepare things." With that she gave Archie a quick kiss on
the cheek and hurried down to the sick berth, partly because she was
anxious to get that piece of wood out of his back and partly because
she did not want anyone to see the tears that were welling up in her
eyes.
Horatio bent down and gently picked up his unconscious friend,
careful not to touch the wound in his back. He ignored the looks a
few of the men shot him. Propriety be damned. All he cared about
was Archie being all right. He looked down at Archie's face, much
too pale. How much blood had he lost? Certainly when the wood was
removed it would start to bleed freely. Horatio pushed the worries
from his mind and concentrated on carrying his friend down to the
sick berth without hurting him more than necessary.

When he reached the small sick berth Cat already had everything
ready. She pointed to a wooden table in the middle of the room, over
which she had placed a clean cloth. Horatio placed Archie on the
table on his stomach and turned to Cat.

"Have you ever pulled a piece of wood that large before Cat?" The
Scot shook her head as she pulled out the knife she had hidden under
he skirts in case there had been trouble on the gunner.

"I have pulled out several in the Clan wars, but nothing this large.
You?" Horatio shook his head.

"Not personally, but my father told me about such a case once."

"Than perhaps together we can figure this out. I will ct off his
clothes and. . ."

"I will go boil water." She smiled at him. She was glad that she
had an experienced friend as an assistant. Cat enjoyed being in
control of things and it made her angry that her hands were shaking
and tears were collecting in her eyes. She hated the idea of
behaving like a weak silly aristocratic woman, especially when Archie
needed her. Though she relished her independency she was relieved
that Horatio was there to help her.

Using the knife she carefully cut Archie's jacket, vest and shirt off
of him, working skillfully around the piece of wood. The wound was
already swelling and the bleeding had slowed, but it would start
again when they pulled it out.

As she was examining the wound Horatio returned with bandages,
boiling water and Styles.

"Styles, you hold him down when Lady Dunbar and I remove the
splinter."

"Aye Sir," he said as he moved over to hold Kennedy by the
shoulders. Horatio placed the water and bandages nearby and looked
at Cat.

"I'll pull it out and hold bandages over it to control bleeding?"

"Sounds like a decent plan," she said, glad she did not have to pull
that thing out. She pulled splinters out before of men and she hated
the sensation of the wood pulling against flesh. Picking out a few
strips of bandages she held them in place around the wood. She
looked up at Horatio who had one hand on Archie's back and one on the
piece of wood.

"Go to it."


Horatio took a deep breath and pulled the piece of wood slowly out of
his friend, careful not to pull too fast in case a sliver got caught
in the muscle. Horatio's brow crinkled in concentration, his mind
calculating how far the wood went in. As he pulled it Archie moved
slightly and whimpered softly, but other than that he was quiet.
After an eternity the wood finally revealed itself in its entirety.
As soon as the thing was out the wound started to bleed profusely.

"Here Horatio, hold this," Cat ordered as she hurried over to the
heated water and soaked several pieces of linen. Horatio took the
linen she gave him and held pressure on the wound, trying to stop the
bleeding. The wood had penetrated about four inches into Archie's
back, hitting God's knew what on the way. The wood could have
completely severed Archie's shoulder muscles, torn his lung or
injured his spinal cord. Well, so far his breathing came easily so
his lungs were probably fine, but as to the other injuries they could
only speculate for now.

For over a half an hour Cay and Horatio worked at stopping the
bleeding in the wound so that Cat could sew up the injury. When it
finally stopped Cat sewed it closed and then Horatio wrapped it the
whole shoulder to keep out infection and keep motion down to a
minimal.

When they were done the two leaned tiredly against the nearby
cabinet, sighing heavily, wiping their bloody hands on towels Mathews
had brought them when he had come to see how Kennedy was doing.

"How is he Sir?" Mathews was asking.

"The wound is bandaged, but we will have to wait and see if there is
any extensive damage." Or internal bleeding, he thought heavily.
Mathews rubbed his chin and nodded, saw the tiredness in
Mr. `ornblower and Lady Dunbar's eyes.

"Come on Styles. We got things to see to." Styles glanced over at
Horatio, who nodded his agreement. Mathews and Styled nodded to the
two friends and left the sick berth.

Horatio caught sight of Cat shivering as she absent mindedly wrapped
her arms around herself as she eyed Archie. Horatio picked up his
jacket, which had been dropped on the floor and wrapped it around
Cat's shoulders. As the jacket fell on her shoulders she looked up
at Horatio with vacant worried eyes.

"Why don't you go get some sleep Cat? Archie would kill me if you
caught pneumonia." Cat looked over at Archie, unsure of leaving
him. Cat was allot like Horatio and Archie in the fact that she
hated asking for help, but Horatio knew that sometimes even the
strongest of characters needed a break sometimes.

"I'll call you if he wakes." Cat thought for a moment more and then
caught herself yawning. She smiled guiltily.

"I suppose I am no use to anyone in my present state. Call me if
there is any change." He nodded.

"I will." She glanced once more at Archie, kissed his cheek and left
for her room, but not before reassuring Horatio by giving him a
friendly squeeze on the shoulder.

Cat awoke several hours later, feeling warm and rested. She had
changed into her nightgown before going to bed and now changed into
her normal clothes, glad to be Catherine Dunbar again. Picking out
several blankets and a candle she made her way down to the sick
berth.

The berth was lit by dimming lantern and was silent except for the
sound of two young men breathing softly. Archie was sleeping on the
table, they had been afraid to move him, with several blankets on top
of him. In a chair near him sat Horatio asleep, his arms lying
across his knees, his fingers intertwined. Smiling Cat placed the
candle on the counter and laid a blanket over the sleeping Horatio.
Making sure he was tucked in properly she turned to the sleeping
Kennedy. Carefully she pulled back the blankets and changed the
dressing on his wound. There did not seem to be any sign of
infection, that was a good sign. Of course there was still the
possibility of permanent nerve damage and only time would tell how
well he would recover, if he would recover at all.

Cat shook her head at that thought. She must not think that way. He
would be fine. Archie was much too stubborn to allow a sliver of
wood to end his life, a life he had fought to regain control of, a
life that had just begun. Archie had only just found his niche in
the world, had only just come into his own. He could not die now.
Cat, though not the most religious woman in the world, refused to
believe that after all Archie had lived through God would allow him
to be killed by a piece of wood. No, he would be fine. As long as
the internal damage was not severe, as long as infection did not set
in, as long as. . .well he would make it.

Cat sat down in a nearby chair and held his hand. It was not nearly
as cold as it had been and that reassured her. If only he would give
her some sign that he was alive, other than his steady breathing. If
in answer to her wish she felt the hand weakly squeeze her own. She
smiled as she squeezed it in return and brushed the hair out of his
face. He would be fine. Something in her Scottish blood reassured
her, and it had never let her down before.
Horatio stood on the deck of the supply ship, dressed once again in
his uniform, watching as the city of Gibraltar grew larger by the
moment. Horatio had never been so glad to see a port in his life.
This was one mission he thanked whatever powers that ruled his life
was over.

It had been four days since their little run in with the Spanish and
since than they had quite an easy path of travel, not running into
another ship. Horatio did not know about the rest of his crew but he
had had quite enough excitement for one mission.

He had not lost a single crewman during the little spat with
Masserado and the most serious injury had of course befallen Archie.
Much to Horatio's relief Archie had woken the day after the night
battle quite coherent and breathing easily. After some inspection
Cat and he had discovered that Archie's spine was untouched and the
wound seemed to be out of danger from infection. Only time would
tell if he had permanent damage to the muscles in his shoulder, but
he could move the fingers in his left hand, so they both took that as
a good sign.

Horatio heard someone coming up behind him and turned to find Archie
mounting the steps to the upper deck to join him. He was once again
dressed in his uniform with his left arm in a sling strapped to his
chest so that he did not irritate his wound or open his stitches. He
was still a bit pale from the ordeal but he was well on his way to
recovery.

"Good morning Archie. How are you doing?" Archie smiled, knew how
concerned Horatio had been the last few days.

"Good morning Horatio. I am doing quite well. I mean I had the two
finest nurses available to me," he added with a wink. Horatio could
not help but turn red at being referred to as a nurse.

"It's the least I could do for almost getting you and Cat killed."
Archie's face became dark as he studied his constantly guilt ridden
friend. He had known that this would come up, had been waiting for
it in fact. Horatio had kept himself from discussing it with Archie
when he had been in the sick berth because he had known that his
friend would try to insist it was not his fault and he did not want
to work his weak friend into a state. But know with Archie on the
road to health he could not help but allow the guilt to seep out.

"Nonsense Horatio," he said as he joined him by the
railing. "Masserado almost got us killed. Your plan kept us from
being dragged into an even large scuffle or being taken as
prisoners. All in all it was most successful." Horatio eyed
Archie's wound, not quite convinced. He still had the picture of the
huddled forms of Cat and Archie clutching to a piece of drift wood
drifting through his mind.

"But if you two had died. . ." he began.

"But we did not. And if we had I would hope that you would have
personally shot Masserado through the heart." And then myself
Horatio thought.

Archie could see the guilt that still resided in Horatio's eyes and
sighed. His friend had a damnable habit of blaming himself for
everything, even for things that had not even happened. Oh well, no
use in embarrassing by trying to cure him of his habit, at least not
there above deck. He just hoped that if anything ever did happen to
Cat or him that Horatio would not kill himself with guilt.

"Well, none the less Cat and I are still here, none the worse for
wear. But I may never forgive you for it." Horatio looked at him in
surprise for a moment, had not thought Archie would blame him, but he
understood why. Archie saw his horror stricken gaze fall on his
wound and had to bite his lip from laughing.

"Oh, not for that. For making me dress like a damn fop of an
aristocrat." Horatio just stared at him for a moment, not sure if he
had heard him correctly. Then, as the smart-ass grin spread over
Archie's face, he began to laugh and then shook his head at his
friend's antics.

"You laugh, but Cat and I will have our revenge, I guarantee it," he
said with a wicked grin.

The End