GOING HOME, Part Ten
by Tracy J.

CHAPTER NINTY ONE

 

Suddenly, they heard Kennedy coughing. The three men hurried into the sleeping cabin. Horatio immediately scooped his friend up in his arms, holding him upright until the coughing ceased.

McLoud poured some water in a cup and handed it to Horatio, "He needs to drink plenty of water."

Pellew took the cup and put it to Archie's lips. Even though he was not really conscious, at the feel of cool water, Archie opened his mouth and drank it, greedily. When the cup was empty, the captain handed it back to McLoud and Archie snuggled against Horatio.

Pellew put his hand on Horatio's arm, "Lie down and hold him."

"Yes, sir." Horatio eased his friend back onto the bed, noting that Archie was clutching his jacket and mumbling something.

"Shhh, Archie." Horatio stroked his friend's hair with one hand while trying to release himself from Archie's anxious grip with the other, "Shhhh. I'm right here. I won't leave you."

"He seems to really fear being left alone." McLoud observed, "Why?"

Horatio swallowed, not wanting to answer that question. Instead, he tried to soothe his friend.

McLoud looked at the captain, "Was he ever abandoned, sir?"

Pellew closed his eyes.

"He was." McLoud realized, glancing back at the sleeping officer, "It must have been quite an ordeal if it has left him so terrified of being left alone."

"He had a fit during a night raid," Pellew said, "and had to be silenced. While he was....unconscious in the boat...."

And helpless. Horatio thought, pulling his friend against him more tightly.

"...Jack Simpson cut the rope," Pellew continued, "setting the boat free. It drifted away, and we never found Mr. Kennedy."

"Well, how....?"

"Mr. Hornblower was captured by the Spanish," Pellew told him, "and taken to a prison, where he was put in the same cell with Mr. Kennedy."

"Oh, dear God!" Angus breathed, "No wonder he is so fearful of being alone. To be with people you trust one moment, then wake up in the hands of the enemy the next...." He shook his head sadly, then let out a deep breath, "You should get some sleep yourself, Captain. I will watch over these two."

"What of yourself, sir? I believe you are in need of sleep, as well." Pellew said.

"Oh, do not worry about me, sir." McLoud settled into a chair near the bunk, "I have to keep my word to him, or he will never forgive me."

"He may not forgive you for the laudanum." Pellew pointed out.

"He will." Angus smiled, "As soon as he realizes I was right."

Pellew raised his chin, eyeing the young lawyer.

"I would never have done that in any other circumstances, sir." Angus assured him, "But Dalen needed sleep very badly."

"Good night, Mr. McLoud."

Pellew walked into his day cabin, stopping next to Leahy's chair. The doctor seemed so fragile while asleep. And so young. How old is he? Pellew wondered, then moved to settle into the chair Horatio had vacated, covering himself with the blanket, and closing his eyes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

December 19, 1795

Pellew awoke as Angus walked into the day cabin and looked out the window, stretching. But the captain remained quiet and started to drift off again.

"I hate you." Dalen said very softly, not wishing to wake the captain. However, Pellew heard him.

Angus turned and smiled, "Good morning, Dalen."

"How could you do that to me?" Dalen said softly as he stood.

"You needed to sleep." Angus stated simply.

"And you slipped that into my wine in front of the captain?" Dalen hissed, keeping his voice low, "How can he have any respect for me, if my own friend treats me like a.....a child!"

"Dalen...."

"No!" Leahy shook his head, "You have been treating me so since we came aboard. And now you have done it in front of the captain! What must he think of me now?"

"I am sorry, Dalen." Angus shook his head, "I was concerned for you. And he will not think badly of you. I." He took a deep breath, "I told him that you were beaten..and by whom."

"How could you!" Leahy was taken aback.

"I did not tell him everything." Angus said defensively, "I just told him that you were beaten by two navel officers, that you were almost dead when you were found in the morning, and that you have been unable to sleep since you came aboard. I did not tell him anything else." He took his friend by the shoulders, "I did not betray you, Dalen."

"Would it not have been more humane to shoot me?!" Leahy spread his arms.

"Do not be so dramatic, Dalen." Angus smiled.

Leahy let his breath out in a huff, "Captain Pellew would not want me aboard if he knew the truth."

Angus looked at the captain, "From what I have observed of Captain Pellew, I think he would hunt those men down and punish them for what they did to you."

"I don't think there is any punishment that would make amends for what they did to me." Tears came to the doctor's eyes and angrily wipe them away.

Pellew felt his stomach turn, Dear Lord, did they violate him?

"I am sorry, Dalen." Angus wrapped his arms around the young doctor, "I am so sorry."

"Angus, " Dalen sobbed, burying himself in his friend protective embrace, "I'm so frightened!"

"I know." Angus said softly, "Why did you agree to come aboard?"

"Because Mr. Kennedy needs me." Dalen raised his head to look at his friend, "You've heard him. His pleas. You know what causes that type of nightmare."

Angus swallowed, "You believe Simpson....violated him?"

"He made Mr. Kennedy sit next to him so he could feel Archie's hair and caress his face." Dalen made a sweeping gesture with his arm his arm, "How long do you think it would have been before Simpson went from that to....*other*...means of torment."

"Perverse pleasures." Angus muttered.

"Pleasures!" Dalen move away from his friand a bit, almost forgetting to keep his voice down, "There's nothing pleasurable about that. It's nothing but cruel torment!"

"Hush," Angus told him, "or you will wake the captain."

Leahy took a deep breath to calm himself, then sniffed, "I should check on my patients."

"Patients?" McLoud loosened his hold on his friend and frowned, confused.

Leahy let out a loud breath, "Archie, Elaina, Mrs. Hamilton. I thought I was supposed to be just a passenger on this ship."

Angus gave a quiet laugh, "Well, such is life."

"My life, anyway." Dalen pulled away and started for the sleeping cabin. Stopping in the doorway, he glanced back at his friend, "Thank you for being my friend, Angus."

Angus smiled warmly at him, "You know I love you."

"I know." Dalen swallowed, blinking rapidly, "And you know I love you."

"Yes, I do." McLoud nodded, as the doctor disappeared through the doorway.

 

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CHAPTER NINTY TWO

 

Pellew opened his eyes and sat up.

"Good morning, captain." Angus gave him a nod.

"Good morning, Mr. McLoud." Pellew raised his brow, "Have you been forgiven, sir?"

"Yes, sir." Angus smiled and started for the door, "I should go and be with my wife now. Would you tell Dalen where I went, sir."

"Of course, sir." Pellew stood.

"I am sure we will speak again later." Angus opened the door, "Enjoy your morning, sir."

"You do the same, Mr. McLoud." Pellew smiled, then want into the sleeping cabin to find Leahy checking Kennedy's pulse. "How is he, doctor?"

"The same, sir." Leahy swallowed and took a deep breath, then said slowly, "A...about what....happened last night...."

"You need not explain, doctor." Pellew looked at him, "I am appalled and ashamed of the men who.....assaulted you."

"That makes two of us, sir." Leahy said lightly, forcing a smile. Then it faded, "I know that teh Almighty will punish them for what they did, but I cannot seem find it in my heart to forgive them." The tears returned to his eyes as he said, "God forgive me; I am not that strong."

"It's quite all right, doctor." Pellew said gently, "I understand how that kind of violence can affect those upon whom it is inflicted. And if you come aboard this ship, I assure you, if any man even attempts to harm you, I will punish him accordingly."

Leahy squeezed his eyes shut to stop the tears, pushing some out onto his lashes. Then, taking a deep breath he finally looked at the captain, "Thank you, sir. And for what it is worth, I do trust you."

"You are a remarkable young man, Dr. Leahy." Pellew said sincerely.

Blushing, Leahy offered an awkward smile, "Please, captain. It is difficult for me to accept compliments."

"It is a statement of fact, sir." Pellew told him, "Not a compliment."

Leahy's smile faded and he lowered his eyes, swallowing. He cleared his throat, "Thank you, sir. If you'll excuse me, sir, I must see to my other patients."

"Of course, doctor." Pellew watched him hurry out of the sleeping cabin, wondering what really had happened to the young man that night.

 

Archie slept through the rest of the day and into the next evening. Horatio and the captain took turns holding him, which seemed to make him sleep very soundly. They had to keep waking him every now and then, just to be certain they could.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

December 20, 1795

Hornblower had left for the afternoon watch a couple of hours ago. Kennedy had not awoken at all today. Pellew had fallen asleep shortly after his worried young lieutenant had left. But it was not a peaceful sleep. Horrible images of Archie Kennedy and Jack Simpson haunted his dreams.

When the first cannon went off, Archie jerked awake with a shuddering gasp, and whispered breathlessly, "Cannon fire! I must...."

"No, lad!" Pellew stroked his hair, trying to calm him, "It's all right. It just exercises."

"Exercises?" Archie's voice was soft and raspy, "Not a battle, sir?"

"It's not a battle." Pellew said softly, then noticed Kennedy's eyes were open.

Archie looked around the room.

"Do you know where you are, lad?" Edward asked.

Frowning, Archie licked his lips and surveyed the cabin again, "I must be in your cabin, sir."

"Oh?" Edward raised an amused eyebrow, "And why is that?"

"Because I do not recognize it, sir." The blue eyes came back to the dark ones, " I know the rest of the ship."

Edward could not stop the smile that came to his face, "A very a logical conclusion."

Archie licked his lips again and swallowed.

"Would you like some water?" Pellew asked, then realized he was still stroking Kennedy's hair.

"Please, sir?" Archie rubbed his lips together, then flinched as the guns went off again.

Edward carefully slipped out of the bunk, and poured a cup of water. Supporting Archie's head, he helped the youth drink.

Once he was finished, Archie asked, "Could I have some more, sir?"

"Of course, lad." Edward filled the cup again and helped him once more.

Archie drained this cup as well, then smiled at his captain, "Thank you, sir."

Edward returned the gesture with a gentle smile of his own, "My pleasure, son."

"Sir?" Archie's voice was still raspy, "Why am I in your cabin?"

"You do not remember?" Pellew raised his eyebrow. When Archie shook his head, he asked, "What do you remember?"

"I...." Archie frowned and swallowed, "I remember telling the children of the first Christmas, sir." He jerked as the guns fired again, then blinked and gazed up at his captain, "Did something happen, sir?"

"You collapsed, lad." Pellew decided not to tell him everything, "You are very ill."

"I collapsed on deck, sir?" Archie frowned, then muttered to himself, "In front of the crew."

However, the captain had heard it, and tried to assure his young officer, "The crew is concerned for you, Mr. Kennedy. They have been praying for you since you collapsed."

Archie appeared to be surprised by that.

"You are very much loved aboard this ship, sir." Pellew commented matter-of factly.

Archie gave the captain a slight smile, then closed his eyes and tried to fall asleep again.

 

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CHAPTER NINTY THREE

 

The cannons fired once more, the sound jerking Kennedy awake again.

"It's all right, lad." Pulling the rag out of the basin, Edward began to wipe the sweat soaked face.

"Sir?" Archie swallowed and licked his lips, "Why am I in your cabin?"

"Because you're ill." Pellew told him.

"But why am I here, sir?" Archie frowned, "Why am I not my own cabin? Or in the sick berth."

"We were not sure if you illness was contagious, and did not want to risk an epidemic." Pellew smiled at him, "Besides, I could not tend you if you were in your own cabin."

You have been taking care of me, sir?"

"Yes." The captain put the rag in the basin, then put his hand on Archie's cheek and, hearing the small gasp, realized that Kennedy was more coherent today then he had been since his collapse. "How do you feel, son?"

"I feel very sleepy, sir." Archie told him, "My throat hurts, I can't breath through my nose, and I'm so cold."

Pellew nodded and moved the blankets back to crawl into the bunk, slipping his arms around his officer.

Archie stiffened, "What are you doing, sir?"

"Mr. Hornblower and I have been keeping you warm this way." The captain explained.

"You have been....?" Archie stopped, trying to find the right word.

"Yes." Pellew said, "I have been holding you."

"Why, sir?" Archie asked softly.

"To keep you warm." Pellew frowned, Is the boy becoming incoherent again?

"No, sir." Archie licked his lips, "I mean....why are you holding me, sir? Someone else could have kept me warm."

"True." Edward smiled, "However, it was my own choice. I cannot ease your pain, but I can comfort you."

Archie's lip moved, but he seemed to be speechless.

"I do care about you, Mr. Kennedy."

"I know, sir. You care for all your men."

The captain frowned, He doesn't understand. Normally, he would never tell one of his men he was fond of them. But in Kennedy's case, he feared that if he didn't say it outright, the boy would not believe it. "Mr. Kennedy, I do not believe that you took my meaning. When I said that care for you, I meant that I am fond of you, lad."

The look that came to Kennedy's face frightened the captain. Good Lord, does the boy think I like him in....that way?! "Please let me explain, sir." Edward swallowed, "What I feel for you is the same fondness I have for Mr. Hornblower. It is the affection one feels for his sons."

"Oh." Archie lowered his eyes, but the captain saw the hurt in them just before he did.

"Have I offended you, Mr. Kennedy?"

Archie opened his mouth, and hesitated. He blinked, and took a deep breath, then began coughing.

Pellew rubbed his back, waiting for the coughing fit to end.

Finally, Archie cleared his throat, but his voice was more hoarse then before, "You di....you did not offend me, sir. I...." Archie's eyelids began to flutter nervously, "I just never thought that you....that you would....I....."

Edward brought his hand from Archie's back to brush the blond hair out of the lad's face, "Did you believe I would not like you? Or is it that you believe that no one would love you?"

The last question brought tears to Archie's eyes, "You do not understand, sir."

"Understand what? That you have lived with nothing but cruelty for almost six years? That it has caused you to believe that you are not worthy of love?" Archie squeezed his eyes shut, and the captain gently asked, "Or do you believe that I would not care for you?"

"I...I can never be as good as Mr. Hornblower, sir."

"You are as good as Mr. Hornblower, son." Edward told him, "Please do not compare yourself to him. I am fond of you just as you are."

Unable to keep the tears from coming, Archie turned his head to half bury his face in the pillow, not wanting the captain to see.

Edward watched him, hurting. He laid his hand on Archie's hair, his tone more fatherly, "My dear boy. I know it is hard for you to accept the love of others after years of not having it. But you are loved aboard this ship."

Archie took a sobbing breath and sniffed, "Please forgive me, sir."

Edward gently stroked the blonde head. "No more weeping. You are safe and loved here. Do you hear me?"

"Yes, sir." Archie whispered.

"Good. Go to sleep, my boy. You need to rest."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Horatio glanced down at the deck, a smile coming to his face as his eyes came to rest on Valentina. She was standing by the rail with Tatiana, who appeared to be very worried. How could she fall so deeply in love with someone she has only known for a few days? Horatio wondered. Then remembered Marriette, How did I come to love her so quickly?

He thought of Archie's words the day they received their orders to sail, *I know how painful it is to lose someone you care about, Horatio. And I know it hurts even more when you are the one responsible for their death.*

Robert Wallace! Horatio realized, *There are things in your life, Horatio, that you cannot change no matter how much you wished to. You just have to accept your mistake and go on.* Oh, Archie! He closed his eyes, How could you have suffered so much and not let it show?

Horatio's eyes caught on Leahy. He found himself wondering who the officers were who assaulted the doctor. He also thought it amazing that Leahy would agree to come aboard Indefatigable. Surely, the man fears being assaulted again. Why would he come aboard for someone he hardly knows?

Then Horatio had a horrible thought: Does he fancy Archie?

He decided he would have to keep a very close eye on Dr. Leahy. Specially around Archie.

 

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CHAPTER NINTY FOUR

 

France,
January 1, 1795

Archie was lying on the bunk, crying. Christmas had been so painful. The utter loneliness had hurt him so terribly that he had tried, again, to escape from this damn prison. But he was caught and flogged for it. Two dozen lashes. His back still hurt, and he was now wishing that they had just shot him instead.

The sound of the keys unlocking the cell door made Archie jump. He knew he had not done anything wrong, though. Since the flogging, Archie had been a model prisoner.

The captain came in, flanked by five guards. "On your feet, Monsieur Kennedy." The French captain ordered.

"Yes, sir." Archie rose, feeling very uneasy.

"Strip." Captain Morneau ordered.

Archie blinked, frowning in confusion.

"Remove your clothes, sir." Morneau demanded, "The colonel has ordered you be strip searched. Now strip."

Swallowing, Archie began to take his clothes off, trying to ignore the 'whoops' and 'Oohs' from the guards. He dropped his clothes on the bunk and moved away for the guards to search them.

Morneau moved to stand in front of him, looking him up and down.

Embarrassed, Archie slipped his hands in front of him, covering himself, and lowered his head.

Morneau smiled at that and walked around behind the boy, looking him over, "Never have I seen such a superb body! You could put Apollo to shame." He took a deep breath, still looking Kennedy up and down.

Archie squeezed his eyes shut, wishing more then ever, that he had died in the jollyboat.

Stopping in front of the young midshipman, Morneau smiled, "You are absolutely magnificent, Monsieur! Will you pose for me?"

Archie frowned up at the man, appalled, "No!"

"I have painted many men and women," Morneau said, "but I have never seen such a perfect subject in my life!"

Archie lowered his head and stared at the floor.

"You need not be ashamed, Monsieur Kennedy." Morneau told him, "You have the perfect body." He caught Archie's chin and raised his head, "And the most handsome face. I would love to paint your portrait."

Archie jerked his head away from the man and growled, "Don't touch me!"

"You fear I am making advances on you?" Morneau cocked his head, then smiled, "I am an artist, Monsieur Kennedy. I am only interested in your body for painting. I will not touch you that way." Morneau shook his head, "I just want to do your portrait."

One of the guards said something in French, and Morneau gave a nod.

"I will not try to escape again." Archie stated.

"I am going to ask the colonel to let you pose for me." Morneau smiled as he looked over Archie once more, then said, "You may dress now, Monsieur Kennedy." He left the cell with the guards following, each touching Archie's face or hair as they passed him. Archie squeezed his eyes shut until they had left and closed the door behind them, then he dressed quickly and hurried to the bucket in the corner.

After several minutes, Archie realized nothing was going to come up and he walked back to his bunk to drop down on it, How could a man look at another man like that? Why would he even want to? Archie just could not understand it . He had found girls very pleasing to look at, and could not understand any man not wanting a woman. He closed his eyes, but all he could see was Captain Morneau looking at him, so he quickly opened them again.

At the sound of the keys in the door, Archie sat up.

One of the guards who had been eyeing him when he had stripped came through the door with a tray of food and sat it down, saying something in French. He reached out and touched Archie's hair. Archie jumped up and moved away from him. He could not understand the man's words, but Archie had heard that tone before. He knew what the man wanted.

The guard backed Archie into the corner and started caressing his face. "No!" Archie whimpered, trembling, "Don't touch me!"

The guard pulled the ribbon out of Archie's hair and pulled the blond hair forward, running his fingers through it. Archie tried to move away, but the guard was much bigger and blocked his way.

Terrified, Archie began to weep as the man continued to caress his face and feel his hair. "No! Oh God, please don't let this happen to me!"

The guard leaned forward to kiss Archie, and he panicked. He brought his knee up as quickly as he could between the guards legs. When the man doubled over, Archie pushed him and ran out the door, which had been left standing open.

He ran to the guards at the entrance door, "Please, help me!"

The guard staggered out of the cell, holding himself, and shouting something in French.

The other guards grabbed Archie by the arms and took him to the colonel.

The first guard 'explained' to the colonel what had happened.

Colonel La Bauve glared at Kennedy, "You assaulted one of my men!"

"He tried to kiss me, sir!" Archie charged.

La Bauve frowned and looked at the guard, then back at Kennedy, "Tell me what you believe happened, Midshipman Kennedy."

Archie swallowed and told the colonel everything that had happened, starting with the guard eyeing him during the strip search.

The guard quickly said something in rapid French, gesturing to Kennedy.

La Bauve got up, walked around his desk, and looked the young midshipman over, then reached up to take Archie's hair and pulled it back as if it were in a queue. "You are very lovely, Midshipman Kennedy." La Bauve frowned, "Even with your hair back."

Archie pressed his lips together, lowering his eyes.

"I cannot have a boy as lovely as you around my men." La Bauve said, "I shall make the arrangements for you to be taken to Spain."

Archie felt relieved at that.

"Captain Morneau," La Bauve turned to him, "Have Midshipman Kennedy flogged for assaulting one of my men. Four dozen. Then put him in the north cell."

Morneau looked as stricken as Kennedy, "Yes, sir." He turned to two of the guards, "Bring him."

Archie was shaking his head, "No! Please! I was trying to keep him from kissing me!" he protested as they dragged him from the colonel's office.

 

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CHAPTER NINTY FIVE

 

December 20, 1795

"NO!" Archie started up from the bed, breathing hard and sweating, then slowly realized with relief that he was safe aboard the Indy, not in a Frog prison and about to be flogged.

Pellew woke from his own doze, assessed the situation at a glance, and decided to take a light approach in the hope that it might more successfully calm his jittery young officer. "Well, sir, you did not sleep very long." He said, with a humorous quirk of one eyebrow.

"I had a...." Archie stopped, not wanting the captain to know that nightmares frightened him as if he were a child, "I...."

"I understand." Pellew gently brushed the tangled blond hair back, "I can only imagine the nightmares you must have after all you've been through."

Archie closed his eyes, "Forgive me, sir."

"There is nothing to forgive." Pellew told him, "Every man has nightmares, but I believe my own would pale in comparison with yours."

Archie opened his eyes, blinking in surprise, "You have nightmares, sir?"

Edward gave him a fatherly smile, "Unfortunately, it is a part of life. I'm sure you will have nightmares about prison for quite some time."

Archie stared at his captain, How does he always know what you're thinking!

"Sometimes," Edward said, choosing his words carefully, "talking about the suffering you have been through helps ease the pain. Have you ever talked to Mr. Hornblower about what you suffered in prison?"

"Oh, no, sir!" Archie's eyes widened, "I could never...." He shook his head, "No. Mr. Hornblower blamed himself for my being in prison, sir. I could not tell him how it had truly been. He would never forgive himself, sir."

"True." Pellew thought for a moment, then decided to make the offer, "Perhaps you would care to confide in me, Mr. Kennedy?"

At first, Kennedy looked surprised, then the captain saw shame come to his face before he lowered his head.

"You know, Mr. Kennedy. Archie," "Pellew said, "I had a friend who was imprisoned for a while in France. He would not tell me anything about it for months. When he finally did talk to me, he told me that some of the guards had made advances upon his person."

Archie looked up at him sharply, surprised by Edward's use of his Christian name.

"My friend believed that if I knew that men had been attracted to him," Pellew explained, "that I would not care for him. Or that I would believe he was like they were, or did something to make those men think he was interested. I told him I knew that he was not that way, and that nothing he told me would ever change how I felt about him."

"Was he....?" Archie stopped. Then licked his lips and asked, "Did they....did...?"

"He said they did not." Pellew told him, "But it did not change anything. Nothing changed my affection for my friend." He looked into the blue eyes sincerely, "Just as nothing will ever change how I feel about you."

Archie swallowed, staring into the dark eyes.

"I do not know if I have mentioned this, sir," Pellew continued, "but I was astonished by your persistence. My friend stopped trying to escape after his second punishment. You continued to try until you were physically unable. I have never known anyone with your determination. I have not been this much impressed by any man!"

"Even Mr. Hornblower, sir?" Archie asked.

"Mr. Hornblower is very courageous." Pellew said, "But you have a strength that even he does not posses. I am honored to have you among my crew, sir."

"But I was...." Archie took a deep breath and forced himself to say it, not meeting his captain's eyes, "I was weak, sir."

"You were weary, Mr. Kennedy." Edward told him, "And ill. You are not weak in spirit, lad. You are one of the strongest men I know."

Archie squeezed his eyes shut, "Please, sir, do not flatter me."

"It is not flattery, my boy, it is truth." Edward began to stroke the youth's hair, "One day you will see your strength for yourself."

Archie sniffed, then closed his eyes and relaxed as Pellew coaxed him into lying down once more. Edward smiled and continued to stroke the blond hair as Archie fell into healing slumber.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When Hornblower came in, Pellew slipped his arm out from under his acting lieutenant and got up.

"How is he, sir?" Horatio sat down on the edge of the bunk, gazing down at his friend.

"He was more alert when he woke up earlier." Pellew gave him a reassuring smile, "He's going to be all right, lad."

"Yes, sir." Horatio nodded.

There was a knock at the door. "Come." Pellew called.

Bowles and Bracegirdle walked in. "How is Mr. Kennedy, sir?" The latter asked.

"More alert then he has been." Pellew told them.

 

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CHAPTER NINETY SIX

 

Pellew, Hornblower, Bracegirdle, Bowles, and Leahy talked over dinner. The captain and officers found themselves beginning to like the young doctor, with his easy wit so similar to Kennedy's.

Archie began to stir and Horatio hurried to his side. He put his hand on Archie's shoulder, and Archie cringed, pulling his arms up in front of him and lowering his head to his chest, whimpering, "No! Don't!" Horatio pulled his hand back as Archie continued to moan , "No! This can't be happening!"

"Archie?" Horaito shook his friend.

"Stop, please!" Archie cried, hysteria creeping into his voice, "Please, don't do this to me! Dear God, please don't let this happen to me!"

Becoming frightened by Archie's almost hysterical state, Horatio shouted, "Archie! Archie, please, can you hear me?"

Archie took a shuddering gasp, " 'ratio?"

"Yes, Archie." Horatio said softly, "I'm here."

Archie relaxed, still breathing heavily. He was shaking so hard that it pained Horatio. Horatio lay down beside his friend as he had done before, but Archie pulled away when Horatio put his arms around him. "It's all right, Archie." Horatio said softly.

"No." Archie shook his head, putting his hand on Horatio's chest and trying to keep him away, "Don't, Horatio. Some will think...."

"I don't care what others think, Archie." Horatio told him.

"Horatio," Archie whispered, "you shouldn't hold me this way."

"Archie," Horatio interrupted softly, "I know why you were moved from France." He swallowed but his throat was dry with apprehension as to how his friend would react to this revelation. "I I know the guards fancied you."

Archie took in a sharp breath, "I....I did not seek their attention, Horatio."

"I know that." Horatio said softly, "Archie, it was not your fault.

"What if they did more than just look at me, Horatio?" Archie asked in a trembling whisper.

"You mean, if . if they made.. advances on you?"

"Wha-what if....they did more then that?" Archie asked hesitantly, "What if you knew a man had....had...."

"Violated you?" Horatio was horrified at the thought. Not wanting to believe it, Horatio shook his head and pulled his friend into an embrace, "Oh, Archie, no!"

"It doesn't matter to you that I might have been treated like a....a woman?" Archie sobbed.

"Yes, it does!" Horatio fought to keep his voice soft, "It hurts me that you had to suffer that! You must have been terrified!"

There was a long pause, then Archie drew in a shuddering breath and his shoulders began to shake, "Oh my God! What have I done? I'm sorry, Horatio!"

"It's all right, Archie." Horatio held him tightly, "It was not your fault."

"I....I lied to you!" Archie was sobbing now.

"I understand, Archie."

"No, . No you don't!" Archie insisted. Seeming to pull himself together, he said in a firmer voice, "The guard did not assault me the way you think. Well, he tried to, but...."

"He did not assault you?"

"He....he did pull me into an embrace and...and he tried to kiss me," Archie's voice trembled, but he recovered it and pressed on. "I wouldn't let him. I lowered my head. And I stopped him before he could do....do want he wanted to do. I brought my knee up between his legs as hard as I could."

Horatio stifled a smile at the image.

"I'm sorry that I made you think he did." Archie's voice was ragged, "But I....wanted to know if you would still care for me if....if that had really happened. I'm sorry, Horatio! I'm so sorry!"

"It's all right, Archie." Horatio held him, "It's all right. I understand."

"You're not angry with me for misleading you?" Archie whispered.

"No, Archie." Horatio assured him firmly, "I hope you know now that nothing will ever change how I feel about you. You are my friend and brother, and I will always care for - and comfort - you."

"But...." Archie sniffed, "what if I told you that....men have....always been attra-attracted to me."

"That's not your fault." Horatio tried to reassure him. He hesitated, "Did something else happen to you, Archie?"

"A pressed man on Justinian," Archie whispered, "told me an officer needed to look at one of the ropes in the cable tier. Once we were there, he grabbed me by the throat and slammed me into the bulkhead. He told me I was a very lovely boy and was touching my face."

"How old were you?" Horatio asked.

"I was thirteen." Archie whispered, "I was so frightened, Horatio!"

"What did you do?" Horatio frowned.

Archie gave an odd smile with a slight lift of his brows as he whispered, "I panicked. I started screaming."

"Good for you." Horatio gave Archie a slight squeeze.

"The man put his hand over my mouth, so I bit him.He put both hands around my throat and squeezed it tightly, then threw me to the deck." Archie's voice was trembling again and he was breathing heavily and shaking, "I cou-I couldn't breath. I thought I was going to die. I was...so terrified, I could not move. He kept one hand on my throat, squeezing it and he....he.....I-I started...weeping."

Horatio closed his eyes and gently rubbed Archie's back to calm him, "Shhhhh. It's all right."

"No." Archie sobbed, "He started to undo his clothes...."

Stifling a groan, Horatio closed his eyes, not wanting to hear the rest of this.

"...and the marines came in." Archie continued, "They had heard me scream."

Thank God! Horatio thought, relieved.

"When they pulled him off me," Archie said softly, his voice still trembling, "I quickly crawled behind the ropes, where no one could reach me, and squeezed as far as I could against the bulkhead. I remember Lieutenant Chadd speaking to me and offering his hand, but....I-I....I was....too frightened to let anyone near me."

"How long did you stay there?" Horatio asked.

"I don't know." Archie frowned, "It seemed like forever."

"When did you finally moved from there?"

"I didn't." Archie sniffed, "I just sat there, weeping."

"So, what happened?" Horatio asked.

"Several men tried to get me to come out," Archie said, "but I would not move. I did not even hear what they were saying. Then Matthews began to speak to me....I didn't hear what he was saying, either. But he reached back where I was and grabbed me and pulled me out. I was so frightened. I didn't trust anyone. I started screaming and weeping harder and I tried to pull away from him, but he wouldn't let me go."

"What did he do?" Horatio could not believe Matthews would hurt any child, least of all, Archie.

"He sat down and pulled me onto his lap and...and he put his arms around me." Archie whispered, "He just held me. And he spoke softly. Matthews had always reminded me of my father's gilly, Arthur. He and Styles were always there after Simpson...." He stopped, then sighed, "Matthews was always very gentle with me and tried not to touch me were Simpson had hurt me."

Thank God for that. Horatio thought. "Matthews and Styles helped you?" He asked.

"Simpson always ordered them to....clean up after he was finished." Archie swallowed, "That way, no one would not know what happened."

That's how he kept it hidden from the officers! "I'm sorry that happened to you, Archie." Horatio said, "I'm glad Matthews and Styles helped you."

"They had no choice." Archie whispered, and Horatio sighed heavily, so tired of hearing those words. "Simpson would have killed them if they did not obey him."

"I know that now." Horatio told him, "I understand why you were so frightened of him. Had I known what he had done to you and your friend, I would never have challenged him to that duel. I got Clayton killed."

"Clayton liked you, Horatio." Archie whispered, "You were worth dying for."

"So are you." The words came without Horatio giving them thought.

"Not to Clayton." Archie whispered, "Not to anyone, but you. I could not live without your friendship, Horatio!"

"Nor I, without yours." Horatio embraced his friend more tightly, "And nothing will ever change my feelings for you. You will always have my friendship, Archie. Always. You are the only family I have aside from my father. And you are as dear to me as he is."

"You really do love me?" Archie whispered.

"Yes." Horatio gently rubbed Archie's back, "You are my brother."

"Thank you, Horatio." Archie sighed sleepily, "I always wanted a brother like you."

"And now you have one." Horatio smiled and squeezed his friend affectionately, "My little brother."

"Your little brother." Archie echoed in a very soft whisper, "I like that."

"So do I." Horatio whispered, "Now go to sleep, my dear brother. I will protect you."

"Yes, Horatio." Archie snuggled against his friend.

"I'll stay right here while you sleep." Horatio assured him.

"Thank you, 'ratio." Archie was already half way there.

"Pleasant dreams, Archie." Horatio whispered, closing his eyes on the pain he felt for his friend.

Within ten short minutes, both young officers were breathing quietly, asleep in each other's arms.

 

 

Leahy noticed the absence of sound coming from the sleeping cabin and looked in apprehensively, but was reassured by the peaceful sight. He walked softly over and checked Archie's temperature and pulse, letting his breath out in satisfaction at his findings. The latter did not stir. Horatio's arms tightened a little around his friend's body and he muttered something in his sleep.

Returning to the other officers, Leahy smiled wryly and said "Well, Captain Pellew, it seems you've been deprived of your bet, yet again!"

"Indeed, doctor," Said Pellew, his lips twitching. "I do not, however, intend to sleep in a chair again. I have ordered two cots to be slung in the coach. From there, we will easily be able to hear if we are needed in the sick room. I hope that arrangement is satisfactory to you."

"To me?" Dalen frowned slightly, despite the mischief palying open his face, "You are the one who lost his bed, sir! But I do thank you for your consideration." He bowed hie head to the captain.

Pellew nodded, then turned to Bracegirdle and Bowles, "We all should follow the example of Mr. Hornblower and Mr. Kennedy."

"Aye, sir." Both men turned to leave, then Bowles turned back, "Sir, if Mr. Kennedy becomes worse...."

"I will send for all of you, Mr. Bowles." Pellew said gently, "Good night, gentlemen."

"Good night, sir."

It had been a long time since Edward had spent the night in a hammock, but his sailor's skill of falling asleep quickly so as to take full advantage of the time allowed, came to the fore, and he was snoring gently by the time Dalen settled into his own cot. The young doctor himself soon succumbed to the gentle motion of the Indy as she lay hove to for the night.

 

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CHAPTER NINTY SEVEN

 

Horatio woke in time to take the morning watch, and eased out of the bunk just as Leahy walked in to check on his patient. Pellew followed and stood waiting for the doctor's report.

"Sir?" Leahy looked up at him, "Do you have any rice aboard ship?"

"Do I have rice?" Pellew frowned, "Or does the ship have rice?"

"Mr. Kennedy needs food." Leahy pointed out, "He will be able to swallow rice more easily."

"Ah." Pellew realized.

"He is very weak, sir. He's not eaten in four days."

Pellew turned and walked out of the sleeping cabin.

Dalen turned a confused frown to Horatio, "Is he angry with me?"

Horatio looked puzzled, not sure what to say.

Pellew walked back into the cabin followed by his servant. "Tibbs, please see to it that Dr. Leahy has anything he needs."

"Aye aye, sir." Tibbs bowed his head.

"Thank you, captain." Leahy said sincerely, then followed the servant out.

"Mr. Hornblower," Pellew raised a single brow, "you are going to be late for your watch."

"Uh...yes, sir." Horatio glanced at his friend.

"I will take care of him." Pellew told his worried young lieutenant.

"Yes, sir." Horatio left, and the captain began to wash and shave.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hornblower had been gone three hours and Pellew had spent the last two, sitting with Kennedy. He put his hand on Archie's forehead and frowned, then plucked a clean wet cloth from the basin of water.

When the cloth touched his skin, the youth jerked with a soft gasp and awoke. Pellew smiled down at him as the blue eyes tried to focus on him, "Good morning."

"Sir?" Archie coughed a few times, then tried to clear his throat, but his voice still came out a raspy whisper, "What time is it, sir?"

"It's almost seven o'clock." Pellew poured some water and, assuming the boy was wondering when Hornblower would return, kept his voice soft as he supported Kennedy's head and helped him to drink, "Horatio has one more hour before his watch ends."

Archie winced with every swallow, then licked his lips, and asked in a whisper, "What day is it, sir?"

Kennedy had lost track of time.

"It's Tuesday, December 21." Pellew reached down and gently stroked the boy's hair, "How do you feel, lad?"

"Terrible." Archie whispered before he could stop himself, and Edward smiled. The young acting lieutenant's bluntness was something Pellew had previously found irritating, but now he was beginning to see it differently. Kennedy has the courage to say what others would think, but would never dare voice aloud, and he is willing to accept the consequences of his comments. Archie Kennedy is a very remarkable lad indeed. Edward Pellew could not help his growing affection for the boy.

"I'm sorry, sir." Archie whispered, "I..."

"I know you feel terrible, Archie." Edward smiled, still stroking the boy's hair, "You do not have to apologize for stating the facts. Dr. Leahy has some food prepared for you." Pellew was using the same tone of voice he that he would have with his own children when they were ill, "You should try to eat some of it."

"Yes, sir." As the captain walked away, Archie tried to stifle a groan. He was suffering enough already. He didn't want to have to choke down the stuff they claimed was food. Especially since Archie had never been given any proof that it really was food. Somehow, Archie just didn't believe anything that tasted that bad could be good for anyone - least of all the sick! But the captain was here, and he couldn't let Captain Sir Edward Pellew see what a babe he was when it came to that slop.

"Here, Archie." Pellew walked back to the bunk.

Oh God, please help me to stay a man in front of my captain. Archie silently prayed.

"It smells good." Pellew sat down with a bowl in his hands and scooped up a spoonful. Archie opened his mouth, praying he could choke down the mess and not vomit on the captain.

Archie closed his mouth over the spoon, "Mmmm!" He swallowed the mouthful with relish, surprised at how good it actually tasted.

"Is it that good?" Pellew smiled at the boy's reaction to the food.

"It's delicious, sir!" Archie whispered fervently.

"Delicious because you have not eaten in four days?" Pellew scooped up another spoonful, "Or is it really delicious?"

"It's really delicious, sir!" Archie insisted.

Pellew smiled even more, "It smells like it." He managed to get eight spoonfuls into the lad before Archie's eyes closed.

Kennedy tried to force his eyes open a few times, but they kept closing, "I'm sorry, sir. I cannot eat any more."

Handing the bowl to the servant, Pellew gave the boy an encouraging smile, "You did very well, Archie. You'll eat more later."

Archie closed his eyes and relaxed, "I hope it's as good as this was, sir."

"I'm sure Dr. Leahy will make it taste good." Pellew smiled, then asked conversationally, "What do you think of him, lad?"

"Dr. Leahy, sir?" Archie frowned, then at the captain's nod, said softly, "He seems very kind, sir. And gentle."

"He is." Pellew poured a glass of water, "I've offered him a job as surgeon's mate."

"You did, sir?" Archie blinked as the captain slipped his hand behind the youth's head and put the cup to his lips.

"Yes." Pellew supported Archie's head while he drank the water, then put the cup down and picked up a clean towel to wipe Archie's mouth. "I believe I would like to have him aboard."

Archie said nothing and closed his eyes, then shivered.

"Are you still cold?" Pellew asked.

"Yes, sir." Archie answered in a shuddering whisper.

Pellew pulled the blankets down and climbed into the bunk, tucking the blankets in about the lad, then put his arms around his acting lieutenant.

Archie shook his head, "You don't have to do this, sir! All I need is another blanket."

"This is the best way to keep you warm, son." Pellew told him, "It is also how I comfort my children when they are ill."

"You're my captain, sir." Archie whispered, trying to pull away from Pellew, "You're not my father."

"Archie...."

"You're my captain, sir!" Archie's whisper was weak, but insistent.

"Listen to me." Pellew said gently, "I am Mr. Hornblower's captain, but was also a father to him when he needed it. I am always your captain, but I can be a father to you as well. I know when it's appropriate to be a father to you, and when it is not. And now is one of those times when you need the comfort of a father. Trust me, Archie, I will never let our relationship be inappropriate. Will you trust me?"

"Yes, sir." Kennedy whispered, and Pellew wrapped his arms around the youth in protectively. Once again, the captain made Archie feel as safe as he used to feel with his father, and Archie closed his eyes, relaxing against the man he wished was his father.

Suddenly, Kennedy grunted and clutched his stomach, "I'm going to..."

"Tibbs, bring the bucket!" The captain quickly pulled Kennedy over his lap as the servant got the bucket under him just in time. So much for the food helping him. Pellew thought.

Leahy walked into the day cabin, then rushed into the sleeping cabin when he heard Kennedy.

Pellew had his right arm under his young officer, around his chest, and gently stroked the boy's hair with his left hand, while Archie lay over the captain's legs, quietly moaning - or maybe sobbing - Edward was not certain which. Kennedy tried to vomit again, but nothing came up. Pellew glanced up at the doctor, "Well, he had eaten eight spoonfuls of the food you left for him...."

Leahy shook his head and, crouching down, he put his hand on Kennedy's shoulder, his voice gentle, "There's nothing left in you, lad. There was very little in there to begin with." The young doctor helped Pellew ease Kennedy back on the bunk. "I'm going to make you something for your stomach." He turned and hurried out the door.

Archie clutched his stomach and tried to stifle his whimper.

Pellew brushed the blond hair out of the lad's face, noticing the tears. Edward lay down again and held Archie against him, "Shhhhhh. Hush, my boy. I will take care of you."

 

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

 

CHAPTER NINTY EIGHT

 

When Leahy returned, he coaxed Archie into drinking the tea with ginger and cinnamon in it, then soothed him back to sleep. Archie settled this time without distress. Edward walked quietly into the day cabin motioning for the doctor to follow. Leahy stood, looking down at the young officer for several minutes, then joined the captain, leaving the connecting door open.

"A word if you please, doctor." Said Pellew, "Pull that chair over here and sit down, sir."

Dalen blinked, reminding the captain of Kennedy, then sat down, "Is there something you wish to speak to me about, sir?"

"Those men who attacked you." Pellew watched the young man's face.

Leahy lowered his eyes and blankly stared at nothing, "I don't know who they were, sir." He gave a quiet laugh, "They were not very forthcoming with personal information."

The captain never took his eyes from Leahy's face, "They did more than just beat you..did they not?

Dalen Leahy squeezed his eyes shut, his face contorting with pain. Then he swallowed, lifted his chin as if steeling himself for rejection, and said, "I understand, captain. I know of a few doctors in London who are very good, and could help Mr. Kennedy. And they're married, so you would not need to be concerned for his virtue."

"No, doctor." Pellew shook his head, "I believe you misunderstand me. I do not mistrust you, nor am I concerned for the crew. I simply want to know what charges to bring against those men if you ever see them again."

"I never want to see them again!" Leahy whispered, the pain in his voice was deep. He took a deep breath and, without looking at Pellew, asked, "Would you like the whole story, captain?"

"You do not have to." Edward said.

"Yes, I do." Dalen took a very deep breath and opened his eyes, "I had been at a patient's house, tending a very difficult birth. When I was certain mother and child were out of danger, I began to walk home. It was some time after two o'clock in the morning, most of the taverns were closed. Two officers...." He stopped, obviously dealing with painful emotions that came with the memory.

Pellew reached over and put his hand on the young man's arm, hearing a slight intake of breath, and bringing the light brown eyes to his, "It's all right, doctor."

Dalen swallowed, "The two officers asked where the ladies were." He gave a laugh, "Apparently, I did not understand the type of 'ladies' they were looking for, and I said they were probably sleeping. The younger man asked what they were supposed to do for fun now. I told them I was sorry I couldn't help them and started down the street again. They caught up to me an asked what I was doing out at this time of night. I told them. The older one said that they really needed some entertainment. I apologized again, and said I needed to go home and go to sleep. But the older one grabbed my arm and dragged me toward an alley." He stopped again.

"Doctor..." Pellew started softly.

"He said that in the absence of willing ladies, I would have to do." Leahy continued, still not meeting the captain's gaze, "I tried to get away from them, but they......." He took a deep breath, "...they began to beat me. The pain was so...." He closed his eyes, "I lost consciousness. When I awoke, I was tied to a bed and the older officer was.........he was....."

Pellew gently squeezed the young man's arm, "You don't have to say it."

"He was violating me." Leahy spat the words, "I tried to shout for help, but the other man put his hand over my mouth."

Pellew closed his eyes, whishing the young man would stop.

"When the first one was finished, they switched places. And then, they switched again. And then again. And again." He closed his eyes on his anguish, "I was wishing the whole time that they had killed me in the alleyway!" He reached up and wiped at the tears with his sleeve. He sniffed, took a deep breath, and composed himself, despite the tear the slid down his cheek, "I don't know how many times they......they had broken seven of my ribs, and I had a concussion, so I eventually lost consciousness again."

Pellew watched him, wishing he knew who these bastards were. He would hang them from the yardarm himself!

"The next time I awoke," Dalen let out a deep breath, "it was in my own bed, in Dr. Chapman's house. I had been unconscious for a week. Unfortunately, I remembered everything. I wanted to die."

"It was not your fault, doctor."

Leahy gave a little laugh, "I discovered that, while I was unconscious, rumors had started to spread about that incident. Some actually believed I enjoyed it."

"But you did not?"

The light brown eyes finally met the dark ones, "I would rather have been thrown in the lions' den."

Pellew had guessed that, but had wanted to see Leahy's reaction.

"My father had been trying to find a worthy man for my sister." Dalen said, "When the rumors started, he feared they would ruin her chances, so he took Rachel and returned to England."

"Before you recovered?" Pellew frowned.

"He couldn't have her reputation ruined by my disgrace." Dalen told him, "I understood that. No one would want to marry her if they thought I might have enjoyed what had happened to me. Just as no one wanted to see a physician, who's assistant was raped." Leahy laughed, "Almost as if it could happen to them if they got too close."

His family abandoned him. Pellew thought, No wonder he knows Kennedy so well!

"I fell into despair." Dalen said softly, almost as if he were talking to himself, "I couldn't eat. I felt I had nothing to live for. I truly wanted to die."

Dear God, Pellew chest hurt, exactly like Kennedy. Then I thought came to him, "So what kept you alive?"

A gentle smile crossed the young face, "Angus McLoud."

"Oh?" Edward raised a brow.

"Dr. Chapman did everything he could to ease the pain." Leahy explained, "The laudanum helped with the physical pain, but it could not ease the pain in my heart or soul. I awoke one day, when I felt a hand stroking my hair. When I opened my eyes, I saw Angus, sitting on the bed beside me, and Elaina standing behind him." Tears threatened again, and Dalen said, "He is always there when I need him. Angus has always been my anchor. Always keeping me from drifting away."

That's why they are so close. Pellew understood now. McLoud had been there for Leahy, the way Hornblower had been for Kennedy. "How old are you, Dr. Leahy?"

Dalen sniffed, "Twenty four."

Twenty four! Pellew shook his head, "You look much younger."

Dalen laughed, "That's why I was working as Dr. Chapman's assistant. No one believed I was old enough to be a doctor. I almost didn't get into school because they didn't believe I was 18. They said I looked more like I was fifteen."

"And Mr. McLoud?"

"He'll be twenty six in August." Dalen smiled and sniffed again.

A knock came at the door. "Come. Pellew called.

McLoud walked into the day cabin and Leahy's smile grew, "I told you he's always there when I need him."

Angus frowned. Then he saw the red rimmed eyes and hurried to his friend, "Dalen?"

"I told the captain everything."

Pellew noticed that Leahy would not even meet his friend's eyes.

McLoud said nothing. He simply pulled Leahy into an embrace.

Pellew decided to let McLoud time to calm his friend, and went to the acting lieutenant's bedside. When he put his hand on the youth's forehead to check on his fever, Archie opened his eyes, and looked at his captain with such complete trust. The look in those eyes reminded Edward of his children when they were infants, and could look up at him with that same trust. A child's trust. Edward smiled at his sleepy young officer, and stroked Archie's cheek.

"That's making me sleepy, Sir."

"Then go back to sleep, lad." Pellew told him.

Archie's drowsy eyes closed, but he forced them open, "You'll stay with me 'til 'ratio comes back?"

"Yes, I will, son." Pellew made certain the blankets where tucked around Kennedy, and stretched out beside him once more. "You need to rest now."

The blue eyes closed and Archie nodded slightly.

"Pleasant dreams." Pellew gave him a gentle squeeze.

"Hmmm." Archie whispered sleepily, and then a barely audible "I love you."

Edward smiled, knowing the youth was already in his own dreams. He brushed the blond hair back and kissed his officer's forehead. I love you, my boy. Pellew thought.

Archie snuggled against his captain with a content smile, and drifted off.

 

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

 

CHAPTER NINTY NINE

 

When Hornblower returned from his watch, Leahy looked into the cabin. "I have to check on my other patients, sir. I'll bring some food back for all of us. Don't wake Mr. Kennedy until I return."

"Tibbs will make us something to eat." Pellew said, "You will eat with Mr. Hornblower and myself." He gave the young man a sincere smile, "Just take care of Mr. Kennedy, doctor. I will take care of you."

Leahy seemed choked up by the captain's words. He cleared his throat, took a deep breath, and smiled gently, "Thank you, sir."

After he left the room, Horatio raised his eyebrow, "Would you like to get up and move about, sir?"

Pellew looked down at Kennedy and smiled, "I do not want to wake him yet."

"Yes, sir." Horatio nodded.

Pellew felt Archie's forehead, "He still has a fever."

"Is it as bad as it was, sir?" Horatio asked.

"No." Edward said softly, "But he feels a little warmer then he was this morning."

Horatio sighed.

"He is strong, Mr. Hornblower." Edward looked down at the sleeping youth against his chest, "He will survive."

Horatio wanted to believe that. He could not let go of Archie. Not now that he knew Archie was suffering, and how he had suffered in the past.

Pellew watched the boy gazing at his sleeping friend for a moment, then said, "You are his anchor, Mr. Hornblower."

"You were right, sir." Horatio said, "Mr. Kennedy does look to me for guidance."

"You were his friend when no one else cared for him." Pellew told him, "You saved his life, when he did not want to live. And you believed in him when he believed himself to be worthless."

"He's my friend, sir." Horatio said softly.

Pellew looked down at the youth snuggled against him, "Yes, he is."

"Thank you for taking care of Mr. Kennedy, sir." Horatio said.

"Mr. Hornblower," Pellew said sternly, "if you do not stop thanking me for what I do for Mr. Kennedy, I will have to consider having you court martialled for insubordination, sir!"

Startled, Horatio blinked with a gasp.

Pellew took a deep breath, then said more calmly, but no less sternly, "Since, I have taken the time to get to know Archie Kennedy, I have become very fond of him. He is a unique boy. He seems to have a heart that has no limits on the amount of love and kindness in it. Specially, considering what he has been through. How could his father not want this lad in his life?"

"Because of his fits, sir." Horatio said.

"Damn vain!" Pellew muttered, "To stop loving your child because of an affliction! Mr. Kennedy has no control over those fits! He did not deserved to be treated so coldly. There is no excuse for it."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A knock came at the door of the day cabin. At the captain's nod, Horatio went and opened it. "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts, Mr. Hornblower." Leahy said with a grin, handing him a tray, "I have something for Archie."

Horatio followed him into the sleeping cabin and put the tray down.

Leahy walked over to the bunk, cocking his head as he leaned down to put his fingers on Archie's cheek, "How is he?"

"He has been sleeping peacefully for over an hour." Pellew said.

Leahy gave a sweet smile, feeling Archie's forehead, "You never realize the power of touch until it's taken away from you. I can tell you from experience, that when you're being abused - and between the beatings - you long to feel safe. For strong arms that you know will protect and comfort you. You have the strength that makes Archie feel safe, captain. Mr. Hornblower has the affection that makes him feel loved. And he needs both."

"I would give him affection, if he would allow it." Pellew said.

"You have to give him time, sir." Leahy told him, "Until now, you have always been *the captain*. The man who has the power of life or death over Archie. Those powers are far more frightening to him then they are to other men because of Simpson. And Archie believed that you didn't give him any thought at all. Suddenly having your attention is something that he will have to get used to."

"That's what he was telling me the day he collapsed." Horatio said softly, "He said he was not used to having anyone's full attention. That he was used to being alone because of prison, where he did not matter to anyone." Horatio closed his eyes on the pain he felt for his friend, "And he said he was not used to having anyone care about him."

Leahy was nodding, "That's true. Granted, I've never been in a real prison - but my brother certainly made me feel like a prisoner. But when you have no one for months - or years - it can be very hard to have one man's complete attention. Give him time, captain. He does have a deep affection you."

The boy loves me, even though he fears me. Pellew smiled at that.

"You're a good man, captain." Leahy took the sleeping young officer's wrist in his hand and pulled his watch out. After a few moments, his brow shot up, "I like this pulse. It's stronger."

"Good." Pellew said softly.

"He needs to eat." Leahy walked over to the tray, "Wake him if you please, Mr. Hornblower."

Horatio gently shook his friend, "Archie? Wake up. It's time to eat."

"Could I not sleep a little longer?" Archie's eyes remained closed.

"First," Leahy reached for the bowl, "you're going to eat."

"I'm going to drink," Archie muttered, "and I'm going to get better."

Horatio smiled, "That's right, Archie."

Archie finally forced his eyes open and smiled at his friend, then allowed Horatio and the captain to prop him up, so that the doctor could feed him.

After six spoonfuls, Leahy scooped up another, and turned back to find his patient asleep, "Wake him again, Mr. Hornblower. It is crucial that he takes more food.."

"He cannot stay awake." Pellew said.

"He's has not eaten in four days, captain." Leahy told him, "He's weak from illness and lack of food. He'll die if we don't get some nourishment into him."

"God, no!" Horatio whispered breathlessly, "Not again!" He shook his friend and called, "Archie! Archie, wake up!"

With a shuddering gasp, Archie jerked awake, his heart pounding, "What is it?! Are we under attack?!"

"No." Horatio stroked Archie's hair to calm him, "You need to eat more."

Frowning, Archie whispered slowly, "I thought I just ate."

"You fell asleep before you finished." Leahy said, "Just finish this and I'll let you sleep."

Archie groaned softly.

"Please just finish this," Dalen said gently, "and I will let you sleep for the next four hours. Do it for the children, Archie. They miss you so."

Archie licked his lips and opened his mouth.

"Good lad." Leahy smiled and put the spoonful in.

Horatio spent the next ten minutes waking Archie several times so Leahy could feed him.

Finally, the bowl was empty. Leahy wiped Archie's mouth with a napkin, "Now you can sleep, Archie."

"Thank you." Archie whispered, already drifting off. He snuggled against the captain, who pulled the blankets up over Archie's shoulders.

After he was certain Kennedy was asleep, Edward looked up at Leahy, "Be honest, doctor. There is still a grave risk of him dying, is there not?"

Leahy shook his head, "I won't let him, sir. He doesn't deserve to lose his life this young. And I don't think I could bear to face the children if he did die."

"He could still die, doctor?" Horatio asked in alarm.

Leahy sighed heavily, saying nothing at first. Then took a deep breath and said carefully, "He could, lieutenant. But I'm not going to let him."

"Please, don't." Horatio whispered softly.

"I know how much you love him, Mr. Hornblower." Leahy nodded.

"He is as a brother to me, doctor." Horatio said quickly.

Leahy smiled, "You do not have to defend your love for your friend, lieutenant. Do you know there are three different words in Latin," He frowned, "Or is it Greek?" He shrugged, "Anyway, one of those languages has three words for love. They have a word for the love between lovers, and a word that means the love between friends. I don't remember what the other one was." Leahy gave a laugh, "I don't even remember the words now! All I know is; there is no sin in loving a friend, or showing that friend affection."

Horatio nodded slowly.

"You have no idea what a simple touch can mean to someone who has suffered years of abuse." Leahy turned to them, "And an embrace is monumental! As I said, abuse makes one see oneself as worthless. An embrace makes one feel as if one might be worthwhile. Never underestimate the power of an affectionate touch."

"So Mr. Kennedy needs comforting touches." Pellew stated.

"And to be embraced." Leahy said, "A lot. They help dispel that feeling that he's a leper."

"He feels that way because of his fits." Horatio closed his eyes, "As soon as others know of them, they don't want to be around him. Or they start watching him, waiting for him to have a fit, but not because they care about him. They just watch in disgust. Some pity him."

"Archie's either pitied or despised." Leahy said, "Contributing to the destruction of his self esteem."

"He does have a very low opinion of himself." Edward said softly.

Leahy nodded, "Mr. Hornblower is the only one who has treated him, not as a leper or someone to be pitied, but as a friend. The lieutenant accepts him." He looked at Horatio, "You treat him with respect. That is just as important as affection. He needs both."

"Archie is very dear to me." Horatio said, "And I know what a good officer he is."

Leahy smiled sadly, "You are to Mr. Kennedy what Angus is to me."

"An anchor." Pellew said softly.

"Everyone needs one, captain." Leahy said lightly, "We all need something to keep us tethered to this world. Else, some of us would not want to be in it."

Pellew gently pulled Archie closer.

"Well, lieutenant," Leahy raised his brow, "care for a game of cards to pass the time?"

Horatio glanced at the captain.

"Go ahead lieutenant." said Pellew, "There is a deck of cards in my desk drawer."

"Aye, sir." Horatio gave a quick nod and went to the other cabin. A few moments later, Leahy followed, and they settled to their game.

 

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CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED

 

Leahy stood and stretched, "I should check Mr. Kennedy." He walked over to the bunk and, smiling down at the captain, asked, "Could you please unwrap Mr. Kennedy for me to check him, sir?"

"Yes." Pellew pulled the blankets down, trying to find Archie. The young acting lieutenant was sleeping with his face buried in his captain's chest and his arm wrapped around him.

Leahy pulled the blankets away from Archie and put his hand on Archie's forehead, then took in a sharp breath, "Praise the Lord! And thank you, St. Jude!" Leahy smiled at the captain, "His fever his down, sir." Turning back to Horatio, he said, "We need to get him out of these damp blankets and get some clean ones. He also needs to be bathed. He's been sweating for four days."

"I'll bathe him, doctor." Horatio said quickly.

"I've no doubt he'd prefer you bathing him." Dalen smiled, "We need to get him a clean, comfortable night shirt, as well."

Pellew climbed out of the bunk, careful not to wake his young officer, "Tibbs."

When Pellew's servant walked in, the captain said, "Tibbs, pass the word for seaman Matthews, then bring Mr. Hornblower a basin of warm water, cloths, and towels."

"Aye aye, sir." Tibbs bowed his head and hurried off.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When the rating arrived, Pellew gave him orders to retrieve a clean nightshirt from Kennedy's sea chest.

Tibbs brought the basin, cloths, and towels in and put them down on the chair, and left the sleeping cabin.

Horatio wet one of the cloths, but when he started to wash Archie's face, Archie jerked away as he awoke.

Horatio pulled the cloth away, "It's all right, Archie."

"What ar what are you doing...Horatio?" Archie's voice was a weak whisper.

"Your fever has gone down," Horatio said, "and Dr. Leahy said that I should bathe you."

Archie moaned, but Horatio washed his face and neck anyway. "It's not as if I have not done this before." Horatio smiled.

"Don't remind me." Archie whispered.

 

Spain,
May 21, 1795

Archie awoke to the touch of something wet on his face. Suddenly, he was fourteen and Jack Simpson was holding him under the water. Archie let out a scream, trying to get away.

"Archie!" Horatio threw the rag into the basin of water and grabbed his friend to keep him from falling off the bed, "Archie! It's all right!"

"No!" Archie cried, "Let me go!"

"Archie!" Horatio shouted, pulling him away from the edge of the bed, "It's me! Horatio!"

"Horatio?" Archie stopped struggling, but still sounded frightened, "What are you trying to do to me?"

"I'm trying to keep you from falling out of bed!"

"He was....was trying to...drown me!" Archie was panting.

"You were dreaming, Archie." Horatio said, "I'm sorry I frightened you. I was trying to bathe you. Not drown you."

"Bathe me?" Archie forced his eyes open to frowned at him.

"You need it, Archie." Horatio pulled the rag out of the basin and began to wash his face with it.

Archie smelled soap on the rag and immediately thought of the last time he had taken a bath at home. This was the same soap that had been put in his bath. It was also a soap that the common man could not afford. Archie had tried to buy some after he had been transferred to Indefatigable, but found he did not have enough money for it. "Where did you get the soap?" Archie asked.

"Don Massaredo sent it," Horatio washed Archie's throat and shoulders while he explained, "with the warm water, towels, a clean night shirt, and clean linen."

Archie gave a snort, "Now, that the smell is contaminating his air, he allows me a bath."

Horatio dipped the rag again and began to wash Archie's arms, "Don Massaredo is not as bad as you think."

Archie frowned at him in hurt confusion, "How can you say that, Horatio? He locked up in that hole. I no longer walk! I may never walk again! I was not able to relieve myself like a human being! I was treated like an animal!!! How can you be friendly with him after what he has done to me?!!"

Horatio stopped moving and stared at Archie, beginning to consider what had actually happened to him. Archie's bitterness and anger is justified. Horatio took a deep breath and continued his task, washing Archie's sides.

Archie closed his eyes, desperately trying not to let his tears start again, I will never forgive Massaredo! Never! Massaredo and Simpson have destroyed me! I will never be a man!

Horatio pulled Archie up against himself to wash his friend's back and felt him trembling. He could also feel Archie's body heaving with his silent sobs. "I'm sorry you were treated so cruelly, Archie." Horatio said softly as he washed Archie's back.

With that, Archie turned his face away, but said nothing.

Horatio tossed the rag into the basin and, holding Archie against himself, he tossed Archie's pillow aside, then pulled the sheets down. With one hand, he pulled the clean sheet off the headboard and awkwardly put it on the bed. Taking the towel from his shoulder, he dried Archie's back and eased him down on the bed, pulling the sheets the rest of the way off the bed and throwing them onto the floor.

He picked up the rag and began to wash Archie's chest, then his belly. Seeing the scars there, he could not stop the anger that began to boil within him that Simpson had done this to Archie.

As Horatio's rag moved further down, Archie snapped, "I can do that myself, Horatio."

"Oh." Horatio blinked, embarrassed, "Of course, Archie." He put the rag in Archie's hand and turned to get the clean night shirt.

Archie struggled to wash himself and finally, fell back on the bed with his eyes closed and panting.

Horatio walked back to the bed and, without a word, took the rag from Archie's hand to finish bathing him.

Archie kept his eyes closed throughout the rest of the procedure, quietly weeping.

Once Horatio finished bathing his friend, he pulled the sheets down under Archie and tucked them under the mattress. Then he pulled Archie against him once more to put the clean night shirt on him. He lay Archie back down and put a clean blanket over him.

Finally finished, Horatio walked over to the door and knocked twice. As he walked away from the door, two guards came in. One gathered the linen off the floor, while the other collected the wash basin and cloths.

"Here." Horatio changed the pillow cases and tossed the dirty one to the guard with the linen. Then called, "Thank you." As they left the room.

"I'm sure the Don will be happy," Archie muttered, "now that he doesn't have to put up with my stench anymore."

Horatio felt horrible. How could Massaredo have done that to Archie? Was it not bad enough to leave him in that hole for a month? Why had the man not allowed Archie to bathe?

Then Horatio realized, Archie could not bathe himself, and the guards certainly would not have wanted to wash him. He frowned, No wonder that cell smelled so bad!

That was why Archie had lost heart. He had been treated like an animal instead of a man. Horatio could not think of anything to say to his friend that could ease the pain of the indignities Archie had suffered.

Taking a deep breath, Horatio said gently, "You should sleep, Archie. I need to check on the men." With that, he knocked on the door and had a guard take him out to the courtyard.

 

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