My Fear and Shame (reply to 'Compassion')
by Michele

I am afraid.

I lie on my side, facing the same wall I have faced for years now,
because I dare not turn and look my heartless accuser in the eye. I
dare not look at him, for two reasons: My fear, and my shame.

This Midshipman Hunter reminds me of Simpson, but Hunter is much
bigger. How I wish I could lose the horrible memories from those dark
days in Justinian, and the pain... But I cannot, and most especially
now, here, where there is nothing to distract me from the memories of
the life I once knew. There is no light to dispel the darkness.

And yet, for a moment -- a moment of tenderness, and caring, gentle
hands tending my broken body, and my broken spirit -- I did feel the
warmth of a light I've not known SINCE Justinian. Clayton. He used to
look after me, when the pain and nightmares got so bad I feared I might
not last the night. And then, when Horatio came... He seemed to care
too, but he had so much of his OWN pain at first.. And then...
Ambition? No. I mustn't think that. He is in the Navy to make his
living and his career, and there is no personal reflection upon ME in
that fact. He is a friend. I KNOW he is.

But at this moment, I am alone in here with Hunter. And I am
frightened. But more than that, there is my shame, which knows no
limits. And yet part of me does not even care, because there is no-one
to notice, and no-one to care. No Captain, no Admirals, no crew --
nothing. No life that I can think of returning to. Still... I cannot
meet his eyes, which are filled with contempt. I can feel them boring
into my aching, weary back, and were I to turn, they would burn into my
soul. The one thing I want right now, more than anything in the world,
is to become so small that he cannot see me.

Or perhaps even so that Horatio cannot even see me.

I am a disgrace to him as well. And I am ashamed that he has seen me
like this, unable and unwilling to even clean myself or look after
myself. I fear I will never be able to meet his eyes again. And how
will he ever be able to look at me in the same way again? Or will he
even CARE? It is no wonder that he has taken the first opportunity to
leave me here in this hole, and take the fresh air (I have forgotten
what that is) with a lovely woman who does not belong here, for all
beauty and good have long ago abandoned this place.

There is only room here for despair.

I hurt so badly it is as though there is a hole inside of me, a very
deep and dark one, and there are large, heavy stones inside of it,
weighing down my very soul. I feel abandoned and alone, now even more
so than I did before Horatio came here.

And yet....

I am NOT alone. There WAS his earlier act of kindness, an act by which
he had naught to gain for himself, and an act by which he risked
Hunter's disapproval and possible reprisal. It is true that Horatio is
the ranking officer here. But I fear that in such quarters and
circumstance there may be little respect given to rank, by one who is
obviously so filled with anger and frustration.

So why did Horatio do it?

Why did he put aside his own comfort for me? I speak not only of his
warm, dry blanket, but of his PERSONAL comfort, which I know is so
precious to him. Horatio has always been such a solitary individual,
but even through it, I could see the conflict, and yes, the pain, that
lay just beneath his well-guarded surface. I wonder how it would upset
him to learn that I can see it all.

And that I understand it.

Yes, I DO understand what he is about at the moment. And I cannot deny
it to him, nor begrudge it. But I have been here so long, alone, and
convinced there was not a soul in the world who cared whether I lived
or died, that it is difficult to put my own feelings aside, for there
has BEEN no-one else for all of that time. And my feelings are, I am
tired of being here, I am tired of existing in this foul hole, I am
tired of forcing rancid broth and pest-infested, mouldy bread into my
worn-out body just to keep it alive, so that I can exist another day
here.

Perhaps Horatio wants me to live. Perhaps not. I may be merely a
worthless reminder of his own frustration and helplessness, or I may be
his closest friend in a place where there are otherwise NO friends, and
no hope. At the moment I don't know if it matters.

But I do know one thing: I am tired. So very tired. And right now I
know of no way I can go on.

Unless....

No... No, it won't matter to him either.

Will it?