Give the Devil His Due
by PJ

Author's Note: I've gotten started on thinking about William Bush's
Journal ~ Retribution. I kept thinking that these "missing scenes"
were the most important part. But the more I thought about it the
more I realized they deserved a story all their own. I hope its not
too depressing! :)

 

Lieutenant William Bush lay passively on his cot in the prison
hospital, feeling the stitches pull across his stomach with each
intake of breath. Simply being passive was an odd enough occurrence
for him, without thinking about all the other events that had landed
him behind bars.

Behind bars and waiting to see if they would hang the name
of "mutineer" around his neck along with a noose.

Although his body was quiet, his mind was as active as ever. He lay
still, listening to the laboured breathing of Lieutenant Archie
Kennedy in the cot alongside his. He could tell by the sound that
his friend was awake, but he was not inclined to conversation.
Especially now that he knew he would live. Kennedy was already a
dead man, one who just happened to still be breathing. Gut shot as
he was his chances of survival were minimal, if not non-existent.

Bush's heart ached at the thought of such a young life
unceremoniously snuffed out. He had not know Kennedy long, but had
come to appreciate him as a fellow officer and as a fellow man. He
had a sense of humour that appealed to Bush; a little quirky, wryly
sarcastic, and not always appropriate. In fact, Kennedy had a habit
of not being appropriate at certain times. It came from the strength
of his heart, which had always dominated his head.

And now it was just a matter of time before he was gone. The only
question remaining was would the rest of Renown's lieutenants follow
him.

He and Kennedy knew from Hornblower's almost daily visits that the
trial was not going all that well. It was difficult to avoid the
subject all together, although each of them did his best not to dwell
on it. The marine guards also discussed it, snatches of their
conversations drifting in through the door's barred window.

Not very encouraging.

He had missed Hornblower's visit earlier this evening. At Doctor
Clive's insistence he had risen from his bed and gone outside for
some fresh air. Despite the ever-present pain it had felt wonderful
to get up and walk about. But whatever was said had obviously given
Kennedy food for thought. He was still awake when Bush drifted into
an uneasy sleep.

He woke up minutes, or hours, later; he wasn't sure which it was.
Neither was he sure what had pulled him from sleep until the voice
sounded again.

"Mister Bush?"

He turned his head slightly and could just make out Kennedy's form in
the darkness. "Mister Kennedy?"

"Do you have any idea what time it is?" Kennedy asked, his voice
husky from pain and lack of sleep.

Bush thought a moment, trying to remember what the last bells were he
had heard from the harbour. It was no good, however; his brain was
fuzzy from his fitful sleep and he felt as exhausted as if he had
never slept at all. The darkness was still complete, however, which
provided at least a partial clue.

"Its either very late at night or very early in the morning,
depending on your point of view." he answered

"Either way time is running out." Kennedy mused, half to himself.

"Time is running out?" Bush asked, trying to quell the sudden chill
he had felt at those words.

"Time is running out in the trial. Running out for you, and for
Horatio."

Bush wryly noted that Kennedy made no mention of Buckland. He could
scarcely blame him; it was all too easy to believe that Buckland had
purposely endangered Hornblower, and by extension he and Kennedy,
when he ordered the fort destroyed. He knew it was dishonourable,
but he couldn't help feeling that Buckland would be justly hanged for
what he had done to his juniors.

"There isn't much that you or I can do in regards to the trial,
Mister Kennedy. I'm concerned as well, but we are not a factor."

Kennedy laughed, a harsh, self-deprecating sound. "Ever practical,
Mister Bush. But you're wrong. There is something I can do."

Again Bush felt that horrible chill. He forced himself to a sitting
position, groaning slightly in pain as he turned to face
Kennedy. "What can you do, Archie?" He purposely used Kennedy's
first name as a spoken gesture of confidence.

"I think you know, William." was Kennedy's response. "And I'm going
to need your help."

"You're out of your mind!" Bush exclaimed.

Again the laugh. "You've mentioned that once before, remember? It
turned out all right then."

"This is completely different!" Bush insisted. "What makes you think
you can possibly do any good?"

"Look at me, for God's sake!!" Kennedy all but shouted. He sucked in
a breath against the pain before continuing. "No executioner can get
anywhere near me. His work is already more than half done! But if I
can save you, and Horatio, before its finished it will have been
worth it."

"You can't sacrifice yourself like that!" Bush pleaded. "You'll be
condemned; painted as black as any villain! Can you do that to your
family?"

Kennedy sighed. "I can and I will. But I would ask one favour of
you, William..."

"Ask."

"When you get back to England make sure my sister knows the truth.
Don't be afraid of hurting her with it; she may look delicate but
she's tough as nails. I know you're an honest, and honourable, man.
Treat her as such."

"I will, Archie."

***********************

Hours passed, and Bush felt as if he had aged a decade. It was a
struggle just to get Kennedy to his feet, let alone fully dressed.
He had finger combed his friend's hair and re-tied his queue as best
he could. By the time Doctor Clive arrived in the morning Kennedy
was neat and presentable, sitting upright on his bunk in full uniform.

Bush was exhausted, both physically and emotionally.

Clive took one look at the pair of them, at Bush's haggard and drawn
face and Kennedy's determined one, and didn't ask any questions. The
ship's surgeon was capable of amazing sensitivity and perception at
times. This was one such moment. He helped Kennedy to his feet and
supported him as he walked unsteadily out the door.

Leaving Bush alone with just his thoughts for company and no outlet
for his growing physical discomfort.. He was too tired and in too
much pain to pace the length of the cell. All he could do was sit on
his cot, agitatedly running his hands over and across the cover a
small book that Kennedy had given him shortly before Clive's arrival.

"I know my penchant for quoting made you crazy at times." Kennedy had
said with a small smile. "Perhaps if you improved you knowledge..."
And he had pressed the book into Bush's hands.

It was a volume of Shakespeare's sonnets.

"Even if you never read it, take good care of it, William. Its a
piece of myself."

Bush had felt his throat close at those words. Soon, perhaps in just
a few short hours, this book would be all he had left of a friend he
had known for all too short a time.

"I will Archie. I promise."

He was so engrossed in his thoughts that he didn't even hear
Hornblower come in shortly thereafter.

"Where is he?" Hornblower asked, nodding toward Kennedy's empty cot.

Bush started and stumbled over the lie he had to tell. "Oh, he...
He's up and about." It sounded false even to his ears.

Hornblower sighed and leaned his head against the bars. "I was
hoping to see him before I was recalled." he said.

The almost wistful tone of his voice was more than Bush could take.
HE had agreed to keep what Kennedy was doing a secret, but did he
have to do it at the expense of hurting another friend? The best he
could do was give a clue as to where Kennedy was.

"And see him you shall." he said, laying the book on the cot beside
him before getting painfully to his feet

He watched the thoughts chase across Hornblower's face and saw the
exact moment when realization hit.

"Where is he??" Hornblower asked, more forcefully this time.

"Wait, man. Wait, wait... It must be done!"

"No." Hornblower breathed. He shot Bush hateful glance but didn't
say another word to him. HE banged on the door and called for the
marine guard. As soon as the door opened he disappeared through it,
not looking back.

********************

When Kennedy returned to the cell with Doctor Clive Bush was pacing,
breath grating and arms wrapped protectively about his waist, as if
to hold in the pain. He looked up when the door swung open.

One of the marines was helping Clive to support Kennedy, who could
barely walk on his own. His face was pale and a fine sheen of sweat
covered his skin. His eyes were blank and hollow, as if having done
what he set out to do he had now truly given himself over to his
death.

"Sir?"

It took Bush a moment to realize the marine was addressing him.

"You're to be moved to the regular hospital, sir." the marine said
with a quick sidelong glance at Kennedy.

So he had done it, Bush thought to himself. Made the ultimate
sacrifice to save his friend. I've been included more or less by
default.

"Give me a few moments, will you?" he requested. The guard nodded
and retreated from the room.

With efficient and practiced hands Clive had gotten Kennedy out of
his uniform and back to his cot. The bandage wrapped tight about his
torso was freshly stained with blood. Clive straightened up and
turned to Bush.

"Say what you have to say now." the doctor said quietly. "You won't
have another chance." And with that he left the room.

Bush knelt beside Kennedy's bed and waited until the younger man's
listless blue eyes focused on his face. "I'm sorry." he said, not
knowing what else to say.

"I'm not." Kennedy replied, his voice firm and determined. "I did
this freely, of my own free will. `As full of valour as of royal
blood.'* That's me." he quipped.

"But why me?" Bush asked, the question springing from his tormented
soul.

Kennedy smiled. "For the same reason as Horatio. Friendship does
not have to be of long duration to be strong and true, William.
Remember that."

"I will. I'll always remember."

"You owe me a life well lived." Kennedy said. "I've given the Devil
his due to purchase that for you. Don't let me down."

"I won't." Bush vowed. He smiled slightly. "And I'll make sure that
Hornblower pays that debt as well." He stood and collected his
meager possessions, placing the book of sonnets on the top of the
bag. He turned back to his friend. Unbidden into his mind came
something Kennedy had once quoted to him when worrying over the
justness of their acts in relation to Captain Sawyer. Before he
could stop it the words came from his mouth.

"'God keep all vows unbroke are made to thee!'+" He slung the bag
over his shoulder. "Good-bye, Archie." And he left the cell they
had shared before the tears had a chance to fall.

 

 

*Richard II Act V, Scene v
+Richard II Act IV, Scene i