Free Hosting

Free Web Hosting with PHP, MySQL, Apache, FTP and more.
Get your Free SubDOMAIN you.6te.net or you.eu5.org or...
Create your account NOW at http://www.freewebhostingarea.com.

Cheap Domains

Cheap Domains
starting at $2.99/year

check

Into the Game
by Pam and Del

PART SEVEN

 

"Up and out!"

Carmichael swung into the breakfast room with one pack slung over his
shoulders and another dangling from his hands. He tossed it to Rory, who
hefted it, made a face, and began to strap it on. Archie looked at
Carmichael quizzically, but the division commander shook his head.

"Latour said not yet."

They had moved Archie out of the infirmary ten days ago, but Latour was still
coming by to check his progress in the evenings, and not even Carmichael, it
seemed, argued with Latour.

"Where are we going?" Archie asked, as they left the lodge. Carmichael
pointed vaguely over the hill ahead of them.

"North. There's a river up that way. It's a distance, but we'll take it
slowly. Bit of a holiday," he explained cheerfully. "Old Nick left for
London just this morning."

"Clearly cause for celebration," Archie remarked dryly.

It was Carmichael's turn to look briefly quizzical, and for a moment Archie
wondered if *he* was going to be swung at, but the older agent only grinned
finally, and let it pass.

"Think of this, if it makes you happy: there's folk down in London who'll
chew Old Nick's arse to bloody rags if he doesn't give them results."

Archie found the thought a little surprising, but diverting in its way.
Carmichael pressed on uphill with Rory on his heels; Archie strained a little
to keep pace with them. Together they crested the ridge and started down the
other side.

No rain today--and for once, the sky was not overcast. Glancing up, Archie
found that the sun had indeed come out, though its beams were neither bright
nor strong. Still, the sight was oddly cheering after so many weeks of damp,
mist, and gloom. So was the prospect of being outside for some other reason
than weapons practice.

Like a day's liberty. Where were they going--and, for that matter, where
*were* they, in the first place? Archie thought back to his arrival in
Scotland. They'd docked at Leith, entered a closed carriage . . . by then he
had felt too unwell even to be curious about their destination. He frowned,
trying to draw the route in his head the way he would on a map. South . . .
he did remember thinking they were traveling south, maybe southwesterly.
Away from Leith and Edinburgh, towards less populous regions. Yet they had
not traveled so very far. This was nowhere near the Kennedys' Scottish
holdings; he need not fear that he would encounter his father or brothers,
and the knowledge filled him with a curious mingling of relief and pain.

So--where then? *First lesson. You've got eyes. Use them.* There were
ridges and hills here, but no mountains. Carmichael had mentioned a river.
Somewhere in the Lothians? Many Lowland aristocrats had favored that fertile
region as the site for their great estates. Yes, Archie thought, very likely
it was the Lothians. And not too far from the cities, the ports, or the
information that was vital to Kilcarron and his agents. The voice of one of
those agents recalled him to the present.

". . . We're at peace for now," Carmichael was explaining to Rory. "It means
things may be slow here for a week or two, and then we'll all be back to
working double-time."

"But why?"

"Boney," Carmichael said succinctly. Archie had rarely heard the appellation
but he understood it immediately. "Old Nick figures he'll keep the peace
only as long as it serves his purpose and then," he shrugged, "it's back to
the wars. So we'll spend the rest of this peace getting ready for the day
it's over."

Carmichael seemed inclined to talk that morning, and he had a great deal of
news to talk about. Rory listened with mild curiosity; Archie discovered
himself listening with a silent, avid hunger. Getting recent news while at
sea was difficult at best, and as for getting news while on the Renown . . .

Even now he felt it as a surprise--just how unhappy they had all been. Not
being told any information the captain did not condescend to share, not
daring to say anything on one's own initiative for fear of drawing fire
(Horatio, he remembered, had been drawing fire by the end of the first week,
before they had fully realized the nature of their circumstances).
Justinian--with the scourge of Simpson present--had undeniably been hell, but
Renown had run a close second in wretchedness, especially after the sanctuary
of Indefatigable, where you were expected to learn things on your own, and
were even reproved for lack of effort if you did not . . .

Carmichael was calling a halt. Archie came out of his own thoughts,
surprised.

"Halfway point," the division commander was explaining. "Or close enough."
He unslung his pack and dropped easily to the grass; Rory followed suit.
Archie joined them more slowly, feeling the strain and shakiness in
convalescent muscles.

Carmichael opened his pack, brought out a flask which he passed to Rory. The
young housebreaker sampled it, pulled a disappointed face, and passed it over
to Archie. Carmichael laughed.

"That's all *you* get, at this hour of the morning!"

"You take the fun out of things," Rory grumbled.

Archie sampled the flask--it was water--then looked up at Rory's loud,
exaggerated groan. Carmichael had produced a long, capped cylinder that Rory
was regarding with the reluctance of any schoolboy seeing the books brought
out on holiday.

"Never mind that," Carmichael uncapped one end of the cylinder and shook the
maps out of it. "Let's see what you've been doing the last two weeks." He
spread the maps out into a pile on the grass. "Now this one's England,
Rory--so find Dover."

The boy shot Archie a quick up-from-under glance with a small spark of
mischief in it. Archie slid closer to see the map himself; it contained not
only England but the French coast, and a slight portion of the Low Countries.

"Dover's here," Rory said, pointing it out correctly. "And here's Calais,"
he added, with the air of someone displaying newly-acquired knowledge in
front of the teacher. "It used to be ours."

"Mmm." Carmichael was following Rory's finger to Calais. "They picked me up
from there end of last month when Old Nick was calling everybody back in."

"And the Channel fleet patrols here and here." The map drew Archie like a
magnet; he reached out to trace the route along the coast. Carmichael only
nodded and slid over to give him space.

"Go along this way--a bit north--and here's Amsterdam. That's where--"

"Where they sent Jamieson."

Carmichael looked up. "How did you know?"

Rory grinned. "He told me before he left. I don't wait for you to tell me
*everything*."

"Don't get above yourself, boy," Carmichael growled. He returned to the map.
"Jamieson's due back in a week or so, probably coming by this route." He
pulled away the top map and shuffled it to the bottom of the pile.
"Now--Spanish peninsula and territories. Find Lisbon."

"That's not Spain, that's Portugal," Rory corrected. His eyes flicked
briefly to Archie, who was glad that he'd insisted that Rory learn that,
despite the boy's resistance. Capitals, he'd insisted, were like the most
important rooms in a house, where the most valuable possessions were kept.
Once the subject was put in those terms, Rory had proved an apt pupil.

Carmichael grinned. "You're right. Now find it for me."

"Who do we have over there?" Rory asked, tracing his finger over the map.

"Grant and Ferguson."

"And they're coming back when?"

There was a pause. Archie glanced at Carmichael curiously; Rory looked up
from the map.

"When Old Nick sends for them," Carmichael said at last. He glared at Rory.
"*Lisbon.*"

Rory found it promptly, with another eye-flick in Archie's direction. Archie
wasn't sure he completely understood the game, but was glad his erstwhile
pupil was proving successful. Carmichael was staring absently into space,
frowning slightly..

"Lisbon," Rory repeated, and his superior officer started a little, and
pulled his attention back.

"Right. That's enough for now, we'll go on later." He rolled the maps up
and put them away; Archie's eyes met Rory's curiously, but the other shook
his head, appearing equally confused.

Carmichael stood, resumed his pack, and walked for ten minutes in
uncharacteristic silence. Whatever thoughts could be guessed at from his
expression were not happy ones, and they quickened his stride until Archie
felt a stitch in his side and even Rory was out of breath.

Abruptly, Carmichael stopped walking, the intense frown fading into a
sardonic half-smile. "Sorry," he said briefly, as his subordinates recovered
themselves. "Just a bit carried away."

"Lisbon?" Rory asked, with the air of someone fully expecting to be swung at.

"Never you mind." Carmichael frowned fiercely again, shrugged his shoulders
against the pack, and resumed walking.

"Oh, slow down!" Rory exclaimed as he and Archie both scrambled to follow.
His superior laughed reluctantly but complied.

The silence continued to stretch out. Archie considered the news he had
heard. While still aboard ship, Latour had told him peace had been declared.

*A navy in peacetime.* He frowned, not liking what his memories were telling
him. A navy in peacetime meant nine out of ten warships paid off, to lie
idle in harbors all over England. And countless naval officers likewise set
ashore on half-pay. All but the most fortunate who could rely on money and
influence to secure them places aboard the few ships still afloat.

Horatio. Ater the cloud had been lifted from him in Kingston, Horatio *must*
have received the commendation he so richly deserved for his actions at Santo
Domingo. Dare one hope that he had even been promoted? If anyone merited such
good fortune, it was Horatio Hornblower! And if not, perhaps Commodore
Pellew could do something to advance the career of his favorite protege.
Unless . . . the unwelcome thought struck Archie that perhaps the commodore
too had found himself unexpectedly stranded by the peace.

Well . . . if all else failed, there was still his officer's half-pay.
Horatio had been short of money nearly all his life--he would know how to
make economies if circumstances required it. *And surely, he would not
hesitate to apply to my family for aid if it were needed, that damned
Hornblower pride notwithstanding! I know my sisters would help, if only for
my sake . . . *

*Or rather, for my memory's sake.* Suddenly he could bear his own thoughts no
longer.

"What were the peace terms?" he inquired, breaking the silence. "I did not
hear them all."

"Of Amiens?"

Archie nodded.

"They started planning it out last October, Old Nick heard, and were signing
it all by the end of March." Carmichael's pace began to slacken as he warmed
to his subject.

They were still talking about the peace treaty when the river came in sight.
Archie stared at the long, flowing expanse. Suddenly it seemed far too long
since he'd seen moving water.

"Over this way," Carmichael guided them to the left. "Good stretch of
river-bank, on this side."

They dropped the packs and sat on the grassy expanse, Rory staring out at the
river no less eagerly than Archie.

"*Maps,*" Carmichael said firmly, and they both turned back.

*****

*****

". . .And that's Egypt." Carmichael had reached the last map in the pile.
"Boney left an army there in '99."

"Left it?" Rory repeated, staring.

"Handed off his command cool as you please and went back to France to be made
First Consul. We swept up what was left of them two years later. He's a
lucky bugger--anyone else would've paid with his head--but he got out of it.
And into power."

"But that's back in France," Rory pulled the map away and tucked it in the
bottom of the pile again. "And I know where that is."

It was such an obvious hint that Archie found himself trying to hide a smile.
"Isn't it still cold for swimming?"

Carmichael grinned. "It's not swimming he wants. There's a fishing line in
your pack -- try not to fall in!"

Rory grabbed the pack and was off towards the water's edge on flying feet
before either of his elders could recall another necessary lesson.
Carmichael reshuffled the maps but sat for such a long time scrutinizing the
top one that Archie grew curious again and edged closer.

It was the Spain-Portugal map that Rory had used to find Lisbon. Carmichael
stared down at it abstractedly, drumming his fingers.

"That's where--" Archie began, then stopped; he wasn't sure he remembered the
agents' names.

"Grant and Ferguson," Carmichael supplied, still abstracted. "I had a cross
word or two with Old Nick about them before he left. They've been out there
for more than six months--I thought it was time they came home."

"And he didn't?" Archie ventured.

"Said they were in no immediate danger and at least they were together. And
told me to remember they both spoke Portuguese. Which is all true, but
didn't make me like it, so I thought of heading that way myself. Then he
finished me off."

Archie blinked, realizing that Carmichael had been prepared to depart for
Lisbon that morning with no more ado. "What did he do?"

"Said as long as he was in London, I had his direct order to stay here."
Carmichael's expression was sour. "Caught in the mousetrap, that was me. On
the wrong end of chain of command." He frowned down at the map again, clearly
still dissatisfied.

"They're safer in Portugal than Spain," Archie offered.

"That could change as well, any day. Just like the Peace--Old Nick reckons
that Boney'll break the Spanish alliance too, as soon as there's no more
advantage left in it for him. One twisty mind knows another." He exhaled
slowly. "And every time I think I've outplayed that bastard he gets a new
game."

He rolled up the maps, put them away, got to his feet, and set off with the
air of someone walking off ill-temper. Archie scrambled to follow.

This time Carmichael stopped at the top of the nearest ridge, after scowling
and muttering to himself for two minutes.

"You're still thinking about them," Archie guessed.

"I'm still thinking it's time they came home."

The words sounded like those of any other commanding officer, biting his
nails over overdue subordinates. "You don't sound like--" Archie began
unguardedly, then stopped himself as he realized what he had been about to
say.

"Sound like?" Carmichael prompted, awaiting enlightenment.

Archie looked down, but felt his face burning, giving him away. Sometimes
the only course of action was to brazen it out. "Like a spy."

The resulting silence made his flush deepen. "I'm sorry, sir, I spoke out of
turn."

"Interesting way with words you have." Carmichael's voice was unruffled,
even amused. "Let's hear what you think, then. What's your objection to
spying?"

Archie bit his lip, unable to think of a tactful way to begin.

"It doesn't seem honorable, perhaps?" Carmichael ventured. He noted his
subordinate's faint start, the determined, downward glance. "Is it
dishonorable to scout out the enemy's position and observe his movements?"

"Well, no," Archie admitted in a very small voice to his shirt buttons.

"Then it's not the idea of reconnaisance that troubles you. Which leaves the
question of--deception?"

"Deception. It doesn't seem-- " the right word eluded him.

"Gentlemanly?" Carmichael asked.

Archie felt himself flushing again.

"A serviceman," Carmichael observed thoughtfully, "might prefer a stand-up,
open fight. I did myself, for a long time. But is it dishonorable or even
ungentlemanly to deceive the enemy?" He paused, constructing the situation
before resuming. "If you were in a stand-up fight and the enemy took
you--you know they'd get around to asking you questions. Would you feel you
had to tell them what they asked, or would you mislead them if you could?"

Archie winced inwardly. There had been some painful, early days as a
prisoner until his captors had decided that as a young and lowly midshipman
he was genuinely useless as a source of information. "But--that would only be
my duty, wouldn't it? Like escaping?"

"Yes," Carmichael said appreciatively. It wasn't the first time he'd had
this argument. "Although if what you told them cost them enough, they might
shoot you out of hand, afterward."

"But that's not the same as--" Archie frowned, trying to puzzle it into
words. "Initiating the deception?"

"Going straight to them and lying, you mean?"

"Well--"

"Then let's change the story," Carmichael invited. "If you knew you could
save a battalion by lying, would you do it? Or half a battalion? Or even
just one man?"

Archie winced again. In the eyes of the world, the last public act of Fourth
Lieutenant Kennedy had been confessing to the assault of a superior
officer--in the far from public eyes of Fourth Lieutenant Kennedy's
conscience, it had been committing unmitigated perjury. And for the
*express* purpose of saving one man . . .

He was spared from responding by a nearby yelp and the sound of a splash.
Carmichael heard it too, and grinned. "We'd better go see that he's not
drowned.".

After some few minutes Carmichael stopped, his hand held up for silence.
Archie saw Rory's shirt draped over a bush, and Rory himself lying face down
on the bank, one arm dangling into the water.

"He actually caught a trout that way once." Despite his earlier grimness,
Carmichael sounded amused. "He's been trying to catch another one ever
since. It must have been the single stupidest fish in all of Scotland."

The contrast between Rory's youthful absorption and Carmichael's exasperated
words was suddenly, irresistibly humorous. Archie heard himself chuckle and
almost didn't recognize the sound. He blinked--very little, if anything, had
seemed amusing in the last ten weeks. He looked around self-consciously but
Rory was too far away to have heard and Carmichael seemed unaware.

Ahead of them, Rory stirred, rolled over, and sat up.

"Well?" Archie asked, with interest.

"Not a thing."

"They *are* Old Nick's fish," Carmichael volunteered. "You might not catch
another one with the same trick."

It was Rory's turn to roll exasperated eyes.

"Try your fishing line," Archie suggested, and they retrieved it from the
pack. After twenty-five minutes of total inaction, however, even Rory
concluded that the fish were not biting--or even interested.

Leaving the line tied to a branch in a last, forlorn hope, they ventured
further along the riverbank, then away from the shore and found a grassy spot
where they shared out provisions from the packs and rested more than an hour;
Carmichael's insistence, on what he said were Latour's orders. Conversation
meandered away from current events to less serious matters. Rory, when asked
by Archie, was more than eager to discuss his passion for fishing. He'd met
an old man here, once, who had taught him how to tickle trout. "And when I
caught one, I brought it home for supper!" he added triumphantly.

"A useful talent," Archie remarked, smiling. "And one certain to come in
handy once you're a married man with a family."

To his astonishment, Rory pulled a face and shook his head vigorously. "Not
me! Not ever!"

Raising his brows, Archie glanced over at Carmichael, who grinned. "Oh, Rory
has no use for women."

A boy of seventeen, not interested in women? Well, well, well.

"They're just a bother!" Rory dismissed the entire breed with a disgusted
wave of his hand. "They want your *money*! They get you *caught*! They
interfere with everything. And if you swear at them, Carmichael--" He
stopped abruptly, reddening, and began to examine the grass.

"Carmichael what?" Archie asked, with a sideways look at the aforenamed
party, who continued to grin but did not elaborate.

Rory was subjecting the grass to a very thorough examination indeed. "He
treats you like you were nine," he finished, still without looking up.

"You were acting like you were nine," Carmichael retorted, in what sounded
like a habitual response.

"I couldn't sit down for two days!" Rory looked up again, glaring but the
complaint itself seemed to lack some conviction.

"You *could*," Carmichael corrected, with an apparent lack of concern. "You
just didn't *want* to." He surged to his feet. "And you've been sitting
down now for quite long enough. Time to start back."

Rory had been . . . beaten? Archie wasn't sure whether to seem disapproving
or not. He had seen a great deal more of the youngster's personality in the
last ten days. Rory was neither as shy as Wellard, nor as slow as
Oldroyd--which meant that if he were determined about it, he could get
himself into trouble faster than either of them. But it didn't appear to be
upsetting him greatly, if he had been punished in some way. Carmichael swung
at Rory from time to time, when the boy was being particularly obstreperous,
but as far as Archie could tell, the commander always--deliberately--missed.

With one thing and another, the hour had passed, and they were ready to
travel again. The journey back--starting after they collected the fishing
line, which had remained obstinately empty--was more slowly paced than the
morning's excursion had been. Conversation resumed at a more gradual rate as
well, but Carmichael still had news to discuss and Archie continued to listen
intently. He didn't notice the calculating look in the tawny eyes that
occasionally turned his way--a look that Kilcarron would have recognized
immediately, and that had, in fact, first drawn him to Carmichael. It was
the look of a very canny sergeant who understood the true depth of his job
was to know the men under him in a way the commander officially did not
(although the best officers always did): which man was the best shot, had
the poorest night vision or the best ears; which were too fond of liquor or
dice; which usually reliable man was being distracted by news of a new baby,
an unfaithful wife, or a sick and aging parent.

Archie missed the quick, probing glances that studied him all during their
return, but someone else did not; young, curious green eyes watched the
watcher.

*****

"Rory," Carmichael paused as they came in the side door, "you've been
fishing, so go and wash."

Rory grimaced but obeyed. The tawny eyes went to Archie next.

"You too, or you'll be sore as hell tomorrow." Carmichael grinned at the
faintly affronted protest in the blue eyes, and answered the unspoken
objection.

"You're not *that* much older, from where I'm standing."

Indignation aside, Archie could not find a counterresponse to that argument
and complied with his orders.

*****

One very small benefit of being restricted to living ashore, Archie thought
later, lying back as best he could in the bath brought by the lodge servants
and feeling hot water against tired muscles. It was at least that much
easier to wash properly.

He would still have traded all the hot baths in Scotland for the deck of the
Indy in a storm. Even if he had a night watch. In the cold and the dark and
the damp . . . with Horatio, probably heaving to leeward. Poor Horatio--he
had a terrible time during storms. Archie felt himself almost smile at the
memory . . . then the ache of loss made his eyes sting.

Archie hastily splashed water over his face, then got out of the bath and
dressed himself before the ache could return or the warmth could make him
fall asleep. The sudden fatigue was blurring his vision around the edges as
he then went down to dinner.

*****

"Mind the soup--you'll drown!"

Rory's voice startled Archie awake; he sat up with a start, blinking groggily
at his bowl of broth.

"Oh. Sorry . . . I . . ." The weariness that had overtaken him just after
the bath was now sweeping over him in waves.

"Do you hurt anywhere?" Carmichael's eyes were probing him.

"No, I . . ." Archie pushed his bowl away. "I'm not that hungry. I think I
should just--" But he needed the support of both hands on the table to stand
up. For a moment the weakness was frightening, then someone was holding him
lightly by the shoulders.

"We'll get you up to bed." Carmichael's amusement was palpable. "Rory, take
the other side."

He protested, trying to salvage a little pride. "I can manage--"

"And fall asleep on the way, tumble down the stairs, and break half your
bones? Latour would be polite to me for months. Stop arguing or I'll make
it an order."

Archie heard himself gasp, briefly, as he was guided up the stairs; he wasn't
sure if it was a laugh or a sob. "Someone else used to tell me that--I
always thought it was an unfair way to win an argument."

"Well, orders *are* serious matters around here," Carmichael observed.
"That's why I try not to give any."

"Oh, pull the other one!" Rory exclaimed. The sound of the door opening
covered any response from Carmichael. Archie discovered he was sitting on
the side of his bed, trying to unbutton his jacket. A wave of drowsiness
swept over him again. The world faded away briefly, came back . . . someone
else had taken over the buttons.

"Get the shoes." Carmichael's voice, somewhere over his head, then his
jacket being pulled off. He felt his shoes removed, and himself simply
pushed sideways until he was lying down. When the darkness closed in on him
again, he surrendered to it.

*****

Carmichael pulled the blankets up over the limp form, and regarded it with
some satisfaction. It was far from the first time he'd put any subordinate
to bed--even sober--but he'd rarely worked so hard for it. Turning away, he
was impaled by a young, suspicious green glare.

"You did that on purpose," Rory accused. "Why?"

"I just got him tired, Rory--"

"More than tired. I was watching. You wanted him like this: falling-down
and gone-away. Why?"

"Why do you care?" Carmichael asked shrewdly, and saw the boy flush.
"Well?" he prompted again into the silence.

Rory squirmed slightly, with the embarrassed reluctance of any street-raised
child to admit an attachment to any adult. "Well . . . he's a good 'un.
And he's teaching me those maps you lot are always on about. And he doesn't
have to swing at me to do it."

Carmichael ignored this provocation, watching with amusement as Rory returned
to the attack.

"So why did you want him this tired?"

"Another lesson in this business, boy--keep your mouth away from what doesn't
concern you." Rory simply looked stubborn; Carmichael sighed.

"Not to do him any harm, if you're still worrying." Quicker than Rory could
expect or dodge, Carmichael caught him by the ear.

"I *do* want him sleeping, though. Go back downstairs and be about your
business--I won't have you waking him with your noise."

Rory rubbed his ear after Carmichael released it, scowled, but obeyed.
Carmichael quietly pulled a chair into the doorway, straddled it, and waited
for Latour.

*****

*****

"And what have *you* been doing with my patient?" Latour asked, glancing at
the still-motionless form under the blankets.

"Nothing much. We took Rory and walked up to the river."

"The river?" Latour repeated, looking from Carmichael to the bed and
frowning in disapproval. "It's two hours' walk, there and back!"

"Don't upset yourself. I think we did it in seven."

"Ah." Latour's eyes came back to Carmichael's face, scrutinized it keenly.
"And your reasons?"

Carmichael shrugged. "To see if he was well enough for it. See if he'd try
it even if he *wasn't* up to it. And it gave me a chance to look things over
a bit."

"What did you see?" Latour asked with interest.

"Rory's almost ready to take orders." Carmichael laughed silently at his
colleague's exasperated expression.

"You know perfectly well that's not what I was referring to," Latour
commented sourly; Carmichael stopped laughing.

"Something to be said for the Service, now and then," he observed.

"Indeed?" Latour regarded him in surprise; it was a rare admission coming
from that quarter.

Carmichael nodded. "Someone taught him how to *think*--and that's half the
job done for me. A little high-strung, though. He'll still take some
looking-after. Mostly . . . he needs time."

"For training or for healing?" Latour asked.

"Bit of both. And time to work -- let him get some calluses again. Time to
get bone-tired, if that's what he needs, to fall asleep without that stuff of
yours." Carmichael nodded at the phial in Latour's hand.

"Mm. I see your point. If he's sound asleep on his own, that's best; he
certainly doesn't need this now." Latour glanced down at the phial, then
handed it to Carmichael. "Keep it, though, in case he needs it later. And
watch out for the nightmares."

"I'll make rounds," Carmichael promised, standing up and tucking the small
bottle away in his jacket.

*****

*Morning.* Archie blinked awake. He couldn't tell how long he'd slept, but
it *was* morning, and late rather than early, to judge by the brightness of
his room.

He pushed the blankets away, pulled himself into a sitting position, and
winced, slightly abashed at discovering he was still in shirtsleeves and
breeches. *I was that tired.* In fact--his memory stirred. He'd been too
weary to undress himself, someone had had to help him. But he also didn't
remember any dreams, or seeing Latour, or taking sedatives. Maybe he *had*
slept without nightmares or drugs. Holding onto the bedstead for balance, he
got slowly to his feet. As Carmichael had warned, he found he ached slightly
all over from the previous day. But not his wound; that pain seemed to be
fading.

He washed briefly, shaved, found fresh clothes and went down to breakfast,
where he was surprised again to discover he had something resembling an
appetite. Thankfully, he shunned the oatmeal and sat down with cautious
portions of eggs, bacon, and fresh bread.

Halfway through, Carmichael slid into the chair opposite, mug in hand.
"So--what else do you want to know?"

Archie looked up, surprised. "What?"

"I watched you yesterday. You were starving for news. What else do you want
to hear about?"

"Oh!" Archie blinked, startled twice over--at learning he had been so easily
read by Carmichael, and at being *asked* what he wanted about anything. His
thoughts strayed, speculated . . .

"Well?" Carmichael prompted. Archie collected himself quickly.

"I think--I'd better know what all the rest of you know--" *that* was hard to
articulate, he couldn't even begin to guess how much a house full of spies
might know that he didn't. One idea did come to mind, revealingly. "Where I
was . . . we didn't always hear news very quickly. I think I don't know as
much as I need to about Bonaparte. Especially in this last year."

"Old Boney?" Carmichael rubbed the back of his hand against his jaw. "What
do you want to know?"

"Everything."

"Everything?" Carmichael's eyes narrowed, studying Archie.

"Everything," Archie repeated steadily.

Carmichael looked thoughtful, then stood up, went to the sideboard,
commandeered the entire coffeepot, and set it within easy reach on the table.

"If you want to hear everything we know about Boney, we're *both* going to
need this."

 

END PART SEVEN