GOING HOME, Part Two
by Tracy J.

Author's Note;

There are elements in this story that might make more sense if you read Life's Lessons first.

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PART TWO

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CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

 

As Kennedy and the children came up on deck, Pellew and Bracegirdle turned their attention to them, and the first lieutenant shook his head, "They are going to wear that boy out!"

"Indeed." Pellew watched Kennedy take his usual seat on the barrel, the children sitting on the deck in front of him, and Harvey and Demitri climbing onto his lap. He also saw Hornblower with Valentina on his right arm and Tatiana on his left, standing behind the children to listen. "He is quite a storyteller, though." Turning to Bowles and Bracegirdle, the captain instructed, "Go forward past them, then come up behind Mr. Kennedy and listen."

The two men did as they were told and found themselves absorbed in the story. When Kennedy finished, the children applauded, and Bracegirdle and Bowles stopped themselves from joining them. The two older men wondered where Kennedy had heard these stories, for neither of them had ever heard them before.

At Sarah's request, Archie cleared his throat and began to sing a Christmas carol with the children joining in. The passengers joined in on the second verse and the crew joined in on the chorus.

The captain never dreamed the boy could sing. Archie Kennedy was, without a doubt, a man of hidden talents! Again, Pellew felt remorse for not taking the time to get to know this very gifted young officer.

When he had finished the song, Archie excused himself, as he had a duty to supervise gunnery practice, after which he went below to wash and change. When he returned to the deck, he found the children waiting for him expectantly, and so he held them spellbound with stories once more, passing the afternoon hours until it was time for his next watch.

Once they were finished with dinner, the children insisted on coming back up on deck for yet another story, so Archie sat down on the barrel and told them a tale, keeing it short this time. When the story ended, the parents started collecting their children, who all had to embrace Kennedy before leaving. As always, Harvey refused to leave, "I stay with Mr. Kendy."

Martha crouched down to explain to the little boy, "Honey, you cannot stay with Mr. Kennedy. He has duties he has to tend to. Now, tell Mr. Kennedy good night."

"Good night, Mr. Kendy." Harvey said sadly, "I see you t'morrow and you tell me another story?"

Feeling bad for the child, Archie said in an unsteady voice, "Yes, I will, Harvey." The little boy hugged Archie, who embraced him in return.

"I love you, Mr. Kendy." Harvey squeezed Archie tightly.

Closing his eyes again, Archie swallowed and whispered, "I love you too, Harvey."

Harvey kissed Archie's cheek and went to his mother.

"Uh, oh." Martha frowned, then laughed, "I cannot get up!" Looking at Archie, she smiled, "Could you help me up, please?"

"Yes, ma'am." Archie hesitated, not sure how to proceed.

Seeing his uncertainty, Martha put Harvey down, "Just get me around the waist, dear, and haul me up."

Archie slowly reached out, still uncertain where to touch her.

Smiling quietly, Martha took his hands and pulled them around her, placing them on her back, "Now, just stand and haul me up with you."

As he stood, Archie pulled her a bit closer and up with him. "Well," She said lightly, "There is something I will not be doing until after the babe comes."

Tatiana's face lit up, "When will that be, ma'am?"

"I'm supposed to have this child next month, dear." She gave him a sweet smile.

The ladies began to talk about infants and Archie swallowed, his face turning darker.

Seeing how uncomfortable Archie had become, Horatio reached out and caught his friend's arm, pulling him away from the ladies.

"Thank you, Horatio." Archie smiled at him.

Harvey hurried over and squeezed Archie's leg lovingly, "I love you, Mr. Kendy." Reaching down, Archie picked the child up and tossed Harvey's hair, then kissed his forehead.

Horatio, Bracegirdle, and Bowles watched Archie with the boy, realizing that they had never seen such love on Kennedy's face before.

"All right, Harvey." Martha came over to them, "You have to go to sleep now."

Harvey gave Archie another kiss on the cheek and one last squeezed before going to his mother.

Smiling, Martha reached up and slipped her hand behind Archie's neck, gently pulling him to her to kiss his cheek, "Good night, dear."

Memories of his mother came to him in a rush caused by Martha's touch and Archie had to choke back a sob. Archie closed his eyes, but could not speak.

Martha released him to go below with her son.

Valentina took Horatio's arm and nudged him. When he frowned down at her, she cocked her head, "Will you not introduce us to your friend, Mr. Horatio?"

"Oh." Horatio cleared his throat, "Mr. Kennedy," He waited until Archie turned his attention back to them, then gestured to each of the girls as he introduced them, "allow me to introduce Miss Valentina Padorin and her sister, Miss Tatiana Padorin." He turned to the girls, "Ladies, it is my great honor to present Acting Lieutenant Archie Kennedy."

Blushing at Horatio's introduction of him, Archie smiled and, taking Valentina's hand, gallantly bowed and kissed it. Valentina shot a glance at her sister, who smiled excitedly.

Straightening, Archie released her hand and turned his attention to her sister. Repeating the gesture a bit more gallantly, he lightly took Tatiana's hand in his and bowed gracefully to gently kiss it. As his lips touched her hand, Archie felt a strange sensation surge through him and his heart began to beat faster. Chills ran through Tatiana and she blushed, suddenly feeling excited by the touch of his hand and lips. Archie straightened and looked into her eyes, still holding her hand. She was so beautiful that Archie could not stop the smile that came to his face.

The others watched, knowing what was happening between these two. Bowles and Bracegirdle exchanged amused glances, trying not to snicker.

Valentina smiled, understanding what her sister was feeling, having felt the same thing when she had looked into Horatio's eyes and he kissed her hand. These two young officers were unbelievably handsome, and Valentina found herself becoming more and more attracted to Horatio Hornblower.

Suddenly remembering himself, Archie released Tatiana's hand, feeling his blush deepening, and turned his face away from everyone.

Bracegirdle looked at the sun, which was just setting, "Well, Mr. Kennedy, you got to enjoy the lovely sunrise, why not compare it to the sunset? Let me know which one was more lovely, hmm?"

Archie looked at Bracegirdle, "Yes, sir."

Bowles tried not to chuckle as understanding of what Bracegirdle had just done sank in.

Bracegirdle and Bowles said good evening and left the youngsters to themselves.

"Oh, may I vatch the sunset vith you, Mr. Kennedy!" Tatiana said.

"Of course, ma'am." Archie smiled and offered her his arm, "You have such a lovely accent. Where are you from?"

"Russia." Tatiana smiled as she took his arm and the two walked to the rail to watch the sunset. Archie leaned against the rail and Tatiana stood next to him watching the sun go down.

The sunset was magnificent! It painted the clouds various shades of pink, purple, and gold, while painting the water darker hues of red, blue and orenge.

Valentina took Horatio by the arm, leading him away from Archie and Tatiana. She stood next to Horatio and took his hand looking out over the water. The two interlaced their fingers and gazed at the sunset.

 

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CHAPTER TWENTY TWO

 

After the sun went down, Valentina turned to Horatio, "Thank you."

"For what?" He raised his brow, "I didn't make the sun go down."

"No." She said softly, "You shared it with me. You are the first gentleman I have ever watched a sunset with." She cocked her head, "I am very fond of you, Horatio."

"Miss Valentina...."

"Please call me Valen." She told him, "Just Valen."

"Yes, miss." Looking into her eyes, Horatio suddenly forgot how to speak. For the longest time he just stared into those beautiful green eyes, forgetting time, forgetting everything. They both stood gazing into each other's eyes for what seemed like an eternity.

"Valentina!" Ivan Padorin shouted.

"Oh, papa." She turned to see her father approaching them, and he appeared to be angry.

"Where's your sister?!" He demanded.

"She's...." Valentina started to gesture to where Archie and Tatiana had been, but they were gone.

She quickly looked at Horatio, "Where did they go?"

Horatio looked around, frowning.

"Where is Tatiana?" Ivan growled in a low voice, "Is she with that....officer?"

Horatio felt his anger stirring at the way this man talked about Archie, "Mr. Padorin, Archie Kennedy is the most trustworthy man on this ship, quite possibly on the face of the earth! I can assure you, sir, your daughter is perfectly safe with him."

"Then where is she?!" He demanded.

"Mr. Padorin," Pellew said from behind the man, unable to keep the irritation from his voice, "your daughter is perfectly safe. If you had taken the toruble to look around before you accused my officer of anything, you would have seen that she and Mr. Kennedy were standing by the bow cannon, in view of everyone on this deck."

Ivan looked forward to see Tatiana intently listening to whatever Kennedy was telling her, and looking at him adoringly. "Come, Valentina." Ivan started forward and Valentina followed.

Horatio hastened after the Russian, knowing that, because of Simpson, Archie retreated when pushed, and Horatio did not want this man to push Archie into withdrawing.

Considering the anger on Padorin's face, the captain also followed, not wanting Padorin to turn on
Kennedy, when it was obvious the lad was not doing anything wrong.

As they came upon the two, Pellew had to keep from laughing. Ivan had stormed up here believing the youngsters were engaging in lover's talk, and Padorin's face showed his surprise when they found Kennedy talking about boarding an enemy frigate.

Tatiana turned around and saw Valentina and Ivan. Her eyes wide, she exclaimed, "Valentina! You should hear about this battle! It is much more exciting then his stories!"

Archie turned and saw the captain and the look on Ivan's face, and suddenly became apprehensive.

Walking toward Kennedy, Ivan stopped in front of the youth, glaring down at him and growled between clenched teeth, "What do you think you are doing?!"

"I-I...." Archie stammered in a shaking voice, his eyes darting form Padorin's to the captain's, then to Horatio's, and back to Padorin's, "Uh..I....was....telling Mi-Miss Padorin a-about....the first....battle I w-was in."

When Padorin took a step forward, Kennedy went pale and took a step back.

Seeing the fear on the youth's face, Pellew quickly stepped between the two, and said sternly, "Mr. Kennedy has done nothing wrong, Mr. Padorin. He was simply conversing with your daughter. If you do not trust your daughter with him, then you should keep her with you."

"Are you implying that my daughter is untrustworthy?!" Ivan's brows moved closer.

"No, sir." Pellew told him plainly, "However, I will not have you making accusations about my officers. If you do not trust them, keep your daughters away from them."

"Papa," Tatiana tugged her father's arm, "Mr. Kennedy has been a perfect gentlemen. He has not e'en brushed against me! He is wery kind, Papa."

"Ivan." Annika joined them and began to speak in Russian. Tatiana and Valentina occasionally replied, also in Russian. Ivan began to raise his voice, but Annika simply shook her head, gesturing first to the girls, then to Hornblower and Kennedy.

Horatio made his way around the family to stand next to Pellew and glanced back at Kennedy, who looked like he had just been given a death sentence.

After several minutes of discussion, Annika turned to the officers, "Mr. Hornblower, Mr. Kennedy, I must apologize for my husband's....over reaction in his concern for our daughters. There are men....that cannot be trusted with young girls, and he feared that, because most men are at sea for months and not around woman much, well....we fear for our daughters. You understand, do you not?"

"Yes, ma'am." Hornblower answered, and Kennedy nodded.

"We would like to know what your intentions are concerning our daughters?" Annika asked.

"I enjoy talking to Miss Valentina, ma'am." Horatio answered, then had to elbow Kennedy to make him answer.

Blinking nervously, Archie answered honestly, "I....I really....have no intentions concerning your daughter, ma'am." He shook his head slightly, "We were only talking."

"We will allow you both to talk with our daughters," Annika told them, "provided, that you do not bring shame to our family."

"Ma'am," Kennedy's soft voice cracked as said sincerely, slowly "I would never want to bring shame to anyone."

Horatio closed his eyes, knowing the shame Archie has always felt because of the embarrassment his fits had caused his family.

Stepping forward, Annika reached between Pellew and Hornblower to slip her fingers under Kennedy's chin. At her slight touch, Archie flinched and, blinked nervously, biting his lip. She cocked her head, "Did I hurt you?"

"N-no, ma'am." Archie breathed.

She had seen the panic come to his face at her touch, and had heard his voice crack when he spoke. She studied him for several moments. Finally, she said, "I believe you, young sir. You would not hurt or bring shame to anyone."

I brought shame on my own family! Archie closed his eyes.

Cocking her head, Annika smiled at him, "How old are you, young sir?"

Archie opened his eyes and cleared his throat, "Eighteen, ma'am."

Her smile grew, "Then you may speak with our Tatiana, sir."

Archie swallowed and licked his lips, "Thank you, ma'am."

She removed her hand and turned to Horatio, "And you, young sir. Are you as conscientious as this boy?"

"I would never disgrace any woman, ma'am." Horatio assured her.

"How old are you?" Annika asked.

"Twenty, ma'am."

"Then, you too, may talk with Valentina." Annika said, "Tomorrow. For now, we must prepare for dinner. Say good evening, girls."

Pellew and Hornblower moved out of the way as Tatiana stepped towards Kennedy and smiled up at him, "Good evening, Mr. Kennedy."

"Good evening, Miss Padorin." Blushing, Archie took her hand and, with all the elegance and grace his mother had taught him, bowed and gently kissed it.

After he straightened, she smiled at him, "You may call me Tatiana."

"Then please call me Archie." Smiling back, he released her hand.

"Good evening," Her smile broadened, "Archie."

"Miss Tatiana." He bowed his head to her, his blush deepening.

Her face lit up as she back away from him and she giggled, not taking her eyes from his face.

Something about her giggle made him feel very strange.

Valentina watched her sister, enjoying the thrill Tatiana was experiencing, then stepped up to Hornblower, "Good evening, Horatio."

He bowed his head accepting her hand, "Good evening, . Valen." He too, leaned down and kissed her hand. After he straightened, she held his hand for several moments, then winked at him and turned. The Padorin girls walked away with their parents leaving the young officers speechless.

Pellew watched his young officers, smiling at the expressions on their faces. Ah, young love!

 

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CHAPTER TWENTY THREE

 

With some effort, Pellew straightened his face and said, "Well, Mr. Kennedy, are we still having dinner? Or did you forget about it?"

"Sir?" Archie frowned, momentarily confused, then realized, "Oh! Dinner....with you, sir!" He shook his head, "No, sir. I-I did not forget. N-not really, sir."

"That is quite all right, Mr. Kennedy." Pellew had to fight hard to keep from laughing, but could not keep from teasing the youth, "I understand. She is lovely."

The humiliation that came to Kennedy's handsome face made the captain wish he had not mentioned the girl at all. He cleared his throat, "I shall see you in half an hour, then?" Seeing the apprehension returning to Kennedy's face, the captain hoped he could alleviate some of the tension, "Mr. Hornblower, will you join Mr. Kennedy and I for dinner?"

"I would be honored, sir." Horatio said with his usual formality.

"Good." Pellew took a deep breath, "I shall see you both at dinner, then. In half an hour, gentlemen."

"Yes, sir." They both answered, one voice clear and firm, the other soft and unsure.

Pellew gave them a nod and started to his cabin pondering his problem; Acting Lieutenant Kennedy, and how to reach him. The lad's like a turtle, afraid to come out of his shell. There's no way to force a turtle out. Not without hurting it. And God knows, Edward had no desire to add anymore hurts to that wounded youth than he those had already endured. He sighed, How do I coax this turtle out of his shell?

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Horatio washed his face and changed into his best uniform, then left the cabin to allow Archie privacy. While he was waiting, Valentina walked into the wardroom. Horatio quickly stood, "Miss Valen? What are you doing here?"

"I just had to see you before dinner." She said, "We were interrupted earlier."

"Yes, we were."

"I told you that I am very fond of you, Horatio." She took a deep breath and let it out, "And I would like to know how you feel about me?"

Horatio swallowed. He was not really certain how he felt about her.

She stepped closer to him, searching his eyes, then cocked her head and asked, "Should I give you time to think about it, Horatio?"

"I am preparing to have dinner with the captain." Horatio told her, "Perhaps...."

"You do not have to answer now." She interrupted, "Give me an answer tomorrow."

"Yes." Horatio nodded, "I really do have my mind on this dinner."

"Well, I would not want you to be nervous at your captain's dinner." She smiled, "I will see you tomorrow. Good night, Horatio."

"Good night, Valen." He smiled at her.

Standing on tiptoes, she kissed his cheek, and he felt himself starting to blush. As she walked away, Horatio watched her, thinking, How do I feel about her? She is intelligent. She is interesting. And she is so lovely! How do I feel about her? "I could fall in love with her!" He whispered to himself.

After a few more moments, he walked into their cabin to find Archie sitting with his face buried in his hands. Suddenly alarmed, Horatio asked, "Archie, what's wrong?!" He became more worried, when Archie didn't answer, and knelt down in front of him, "Archie? Talk to me."

"This morning....on my watch...." Archie kept his face in his hands, muffling his voice, "I....well....a very bad memory came into my mind before I could stop it, and it was as if I were there again. I had forgotten where I was. I did not even know the captain had come up on the quarter-deck. When he said good morning....I....I...." He shook his head and shrugged, "I really....don't know what I did. I was still in that memory until he ordered me to open my eyes, but I....must have reacted very badly for him to have been that concerned. He was holding my arms, very tightly and would not let go. Horatio," Archie looked up at his friend, "I don't know what I did."

"What was the memory, Archie?" Horatio asked.

Archie lowered his head and took a deep breath, then forced himself to say the name aloud, "Simpson."

Horatio closed his eyes.

"I....I could...." Archie took another deep breath, this one was shaky, "I could hear Simpson's voice, felt him grab m...." Archie's head came up suddenly, his eyes wide in horror, "Horatio! I thought Simpson grabbed me! I cried out and jerked away from him! But it was the captain that grabbed me!" He closed his eyes and Horatio saw the humiliation on his face before he buried it in his hands again with a loud groan, "Oh, what have I done?!"

Horatio put his hand on the back of Archie's head. "Archie...." Horatio was not really sure of what to say. He sighed.

"I cannot face him, Horatio!" Archie looked up, horrified, "Not after this morning!"

"Archie, you've been facing him all day." Horatio told him, "And he has not treated you any differently. So I doubt that he is as put off by that incident as you are."

"But why does the captain want me to join him for dinner?" Archie frowned up at his friend, "It's not as if I'm a commissioned officer. I..I'm just an acting lieutenant. Did I do something wrong?" Archie shook his head, "No. He would not invite me to dinner if I did something wrong."

"Archie!" Horatio caught his shoulders, "Why must you always think the worst? Perhaps the captain just wants to talk to you." The bell on deck rang, "Damn! We'd best go, Archie."

"I can't, Horatio." Archie shook his head more quickly, "What must he think of me?"

"It's all right, Archie. I'll be with you. Now," Horatio stood and, reaching down, took Archie's arm, "let's not keep him waiting or you will make him cross."

Archie reluctantly let Horatio pulled him to his feet, then finished getting dressed, and followed Horatio to the captain's cabin.

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Pellew stood at the stern windows, watching the moon. Hornblower and Kennedy were now five minutes late. Normally, he would reprimand them for being late, but tonight he was trying to reach Kennedy, and would never be able to do so if he scolded the boy. So, he would let their tardiness pass.

Then came the knock. Looking up at the heavens, Pellew silently prayed, Please Lord, let me reach this lad! Then said, "Come." He watched their reflections in the stern windows as the door opened and Hornblower came in, followed by Kennedy, who appeared to be withdrawn. Damn! He thought. With the warmest smile he could manage, he turned to face them, "Good evening, gentlemen."

Both young men snapped to attention, and Horatio quickly said, "We're sorry for being late, sir. It...."

Pellew waving off the apology, still smiling, "This is not formal. Have a seat, gentlemen." As they started for the table, Pellew caught Kennedy's arm and felt the lad tense. He led the youth to the seat to the right of the captain's chair. "Please sit here, Mr. Kennedy. Mr. Hornblower, will you sit there please?" He gestured to the place to the left of the captain's chair, took his own place at the head of the table, and gave the signal for dinner to be served.

As the servant poured the wine, Pellew told them, "This was the finest wine they had in Gibraltar."

Horatio smiled, "We are honored, sir."

Pellew took his glass to raise it and both young officers followed suit. "To fair ladies and a following sea." Sir Edward said with a twinkle in his eye as his young officers blushed becomingly. The three took a sip of the wine, and Edward kept his eyes on Kennedy while they drank. A slight smile came to Archie's face as he tasted it. "Do you like the wine, Mr. Kennedy?"

Archie blinked nervously, "Yes, sir. It's a very good wine."

"Oh?" Pellew raised his brow, "You know wine?"

"Um..." Archie swallowed, "This tastes like the wine my family always had for Christmas and Easter, sir. My grandmother would only have the very best." This wine was not only the very best, but it was expensive. Archie understood the honor the captain was bestowing on them with such a wine.

"Do you like to drink, Mr. Kennedy?" The captain asked.

"I do not over indulge, sir." Archie answered, "But I do enjoy spirits from time to time."

"Humm." Pellew picked up his fork, "Tell me, Mr. Hornblower, do you know what power it is that Mr. Kennedy holds those children with?"

As Archie glanced between the captain and his friend, Horatio smiled at Pellew and said, "I think it's love, sir."

"That is exactly what I was thinking." Pellew smiled at his nervous acting lieutenant, "Please relax, Mr. Kennedy."

Archie forced a smiled and tried to relax, but did not succeed. He just could not get this morning out of his mind.

"Mr. Kennedy, I am so impressed by you, I do not know where to begin." Pellew shook his head, "I cannot believe the singing voice you have! And why have we never heard it before?"

Archie dropped his gaze to his plate and stammered softly, "I-I've...not been here, sir."

Damn it, Edward, choose your words more carefully! Pellew thought, then watched the young officer take a bite of the roasted chicken and close his eyes.

Archie did not swallow the meat at first, but held it in his mouth, savoring the taste with a slight smile on his face. He had not had roasted chicken since the last shore leave he took with Horatio before he was set adrift. Archie swallowed, sadly. So much of his life was wasted in those prisons.

 

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CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR

 

"So, Mr. Kennedy," Pellew gave the Kennedy a kind smile, "What do you like to do, sir?"

"Uh...." Archie glanced at Horatio, who gave him a reassuring smile and a nod. Turning back to the captain, Archie licked his lips and said, "I like to read, sir."

"Indeed? Who is your favorite author?" Pellew took a bite of his food and listened.

"Shakespeare, sir." Archie answered.

Pellew swallowed his food, "Have you seen his plays?"

Archie took a quick sip of his wine, "Yes, sir. I enjoy them very much. I almost lived at the theater when I was on....when I was small."

"Is that so?" Pellew smiled and took sip of wine, then said, "No wonder you tell such good stories!"

When Archie frowned, Horatio explained, "I told him about the story you told yesterday. You certaintly held my attention." Horatio smiled and his brown eyes met Archie's nervous blue ones, reassuringly.

Archie took a deep breath and began to relax a bit, taking a bite of his chicken.

"You held my interest as well." Pellew took a bite of his own chicken, enjoying the surprised expression that came to Kennedy's face as the boy swallowed.

"Y-you heard me, sir?" Archie frowned and bit his lip.

Pellew swallowed his meat and gave Archie an apologetic smile, "I am sorry, Mr. Kennedy, but after Mr. Hornblower told me you were such a good storyteller, I just had to hear one for myself. This morning when I walked forward, I had to come back to stand behind you and listen."

Archie had not even seen the captain go forward. He frowned, wondering which story the captain had heard.

Pellew took a sip of wine, "You read. You almost lived at the theater. I suppose you got your stories from those, hmm?"

"Well....um....not really, sir." Archie said hesitantly, lowering his eyes to the table, "I..ah....I made up the stories I've been telling the children."

"You did?!" Horatio abruptly straightened in his seat, "You jest!"

Archie blushed, a broad smile on his face at his friend's astonished look, "No, sir. I really did make up those stories I've been telling."

Looking as astonished as his young lieutenant, Pellew stared at Kennedy for several moments before he was able to say, "Mr. Kennedy," He paused and shook his head, "I am very impressed!"

Archie was not used to this much attention and could not keep from blushing more. He smiled very shyly and ducked his head, looking so young. Just like a boy.

A very bashful boy! Pellew thought to himself and found it hard to keep from laughing. He took another sip of wine, then asked, "Is reading how you spent your time between duties and studying on Justinian?"

Archie shuddered, a look of horror coming to his face as his head quickly came up.

Pellew had seen the shudder and the pulse in Kennedy's throat quickening. And the look on the boy's face was the same look of horror the captain had seen this morning when he had startled him. "Mr. Kennedy?" He asked gently, "Are you all right?"

Archie swiftly lowered his head, staring at the table top, and trying to compose himself.

Pellew saw the boy starting to withdraw from them. No! I cannot let the turtle close himself in his shell! Edward thought desperately, But I cannot force him out without hurting him. "It's all right, lad." Pellew told him gently. "As I told you this morning, Mr. Kennedy," Pellew smiled, "we will not talk about anything that makes you feel uncomfortable." Oh, Dear Lord, please don't let him withdraw from me.

Pellew cleared his throat and changed the subject, "I am impressed with your talent for gunnery, Mr. Kennedy."

The young acting lieutenant seemed surprised by the captain's words and Pellew smiled at him, "I would like you to continue leading gunnery practice. You are very good at it, and I have noticed a change in the gun crews since you began. They seem eager to work for you." Pellew saw the pulse in the boy's throat beginning to return to normal.

Archie glanced at Horatio, who smiled at him with a quick lift of his brows, and took a bite of chicken. Turning back to the captain, Archie smiled and swallowed, "Thank you, sir." Archie licked his lips and said softly, "And thank you for being so kind to me, sir."

Was Kennedy really in those prisons so long that he has forgot what simple kindness is? The answer to that question made Edward's heart ache, Yes, he was. There was no kindness in prison. No compassion. Only cruelty, loneliness, and pain. No wonder the lad wanted to die. How could anyone not despair when faced with constant misery? He closed his eyes as tears threatened to come.

"Sir," Horatio asked carefully, "are you all right?"

Pellew opened his eyes to see the concern on Horatio's face, "I am fine, Mr. Hornblower.

The captain glanced at Kennedy, who's expression was the same as Hornblower's. Smiling warmly, Pellew cleared his throat and asked lightly, "So what is your favorite play, Mr. Kennedy?"

Archie thought for a moment, "Um....I think Romeo and Juliet is my favorite, sir. It's a wonderful love story. And I think everyone who has children should see that play, sir."

"Because?" Edward asked carefully.

"Parents influence their children more then realize, sir." Archie answered, "And they can destroy a child without even realizing that they have done so."

Horatio's throat tightened; Archie was thinking of his own father.

"You are right, Mr. Kennedy." Pellew cut a piece of meat, "Parents should make certain their influence strengthens their children and brings no harm to them."

Archie lowered his gaze and said very softly, "Your children are very fortunate to have you as a father, sir."

"Thank you." Pellew smiled at the that, then thought of the boy's imprisonment, and the fact that his father had never tried to get Kennedy released, and he realized what the lad was thinking of. Not wishing to cause more pain, Pellew said, "I think my favorite play by Shakespeare is Hamlet." Pellew laughed, "It always made me feel better about members of my family."

Horatio laughed, and Archie raised his head, smiling slightly, surprised that the captain was joking with him.

Edward shrugged, "Well, at least my family was not trying to kill each other."

This time Archie laughed along with Horatio, and started to relax.

"You and I need to see a play together sometime, Mr. Kennedy." Pellew smiled as picked up his glass.

"I would like that, sir." Archie smiled and took a bite of food.

"Do you have any works by Shakespeare?" Pellew cut another piece of meat.

"Mr. Kennedy has too many works by Shakespeare, sir." Horatio grinned at Archie, making him blush.

"Indeed?" Pellew smiled.

The rest of the meal proceeded smoothly, with each excellent dish delighting the young officers, and the captain amused by their reactions. These two had been through so much and it warmed Pellew's heart to see them enjoying what must seem like a feast to them. With his experience and diplomacy, Edward was able to keep the conversation flowing without too many awkward moments.

By the end of the meal, the captain could see that the wine had done it's job very well. Kennedy had relaxed considerably. Edward wiped his mouth with his napkin and looked at Kennedy.

Archie smiled slightly, then realized what the captain was waiting for. Picking up his glass, he cleared his throat and stood. Pellew and Hornblower did the same. "To the king." Archie said softly.

"To the king." They echoed.

After they finished their wine, Pellew said, "Mr. Hornblower, I have some further matters to discuss with Mr. Kennedy. If you would be so good as to excuse us."

"Yes, sir." Horatio stood, not missing the fear that came to his friend's face. He smiled reassuringly at Archie, "Good night, Mr. Kennedy."

"Good night, Mr. Hornblower." Archie said softly, trying to calm his suddenly nervous stomach.

"Good night, sir." Horatio bowed his head to the captain.

"Good night, Mr. Hornblower." Pellew smiled.

Horatio smiled at his friend once more, then turned and left the cabin.

 

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

CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE

 

"Come, Mr. Kennedy." Pellew gestured for him to follow. He led Archie out of the dining room and gestured to an easy chair, "Have a seat, sir."

"Yes, sir." Archie sat down.

Pellew poured two glasses of his finest port and returned to Kennedy's side, "You should enjoy this." He handed the glass to Archie and sat down directly in front of him.

Archie waited until the captain began to raise the glass to his lips, then took a sip himself.

Pellew raised his brow, "Good?"

Archie licked his lips and smiled slightly, "It's very good, sir. Thank you."

"I'm glad you like it." Edward smiled, "Thank you for coming to dinner this evening."

"Thank you for inviting me, sir." Archie said honestly, "I enjoyed it very much."

"I am glad to hear it." Edward relaxed into the chair, "You and I have had so little time to talk since you've returned to Indefatigable." Pellew saw Kennedy's face fall and reached over to put his hand on Archie's, "Mr. Kennedy?"

Archie took in a sharp breath, bring startled blue eyes to the captain's dark ones.

"Are you all right?" Pellew asked.

"Uh-um...." Archie stammered, then swallowed, "Yes. I'm fine, sir."

Pellew removed his hand and the two for a few moments, drinking in silence.

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

As Horatio approached his cabin he saw Valentina standing next to the door and smiled, "Valentina! I thought you would be sleeping."

"So did I." She smiled, "I cannot seem to go to sleep tonight. Would you walk up on deck with me?"

"Certainly." Horatio said as he offered his arm.

Smiling, she took it and they went up on deck. Once they reached the starboard rail, she turned to him, "Have you thought about my question, Horatio?"

"Yes, I have." Horatio told her, "I am fond of you, Valen."

"I am very fond of you, Horatio." Valentina said, "And I am considering you as a suitor. But I need to know how you feel about that."

"I...." He swallowed and started hesitantly, "I....would be honored to be considered worthy of being your suitor."

She looked into his eyes as he gazed at hers. Slowly they began to move toward each other. He slipped his arm around her waist, pulling her closer to him, and she put her arms around his neck. Slowly, he leaned down until their lips met, then both surrendered to the kiss.

After several wonderful moments, Valentina broke off the kiss and whispered, "I will ask my mother to let you be my suitor."

"Please do." He kissed her again, more passionately. Then she gently pushed him away and, in a trembling voice, said softly, "I....I....should talk to my mother. Good night, Horatio."

"I will walk you to your quarters." He said.

"No." She shook her head, breathing heavily, "No. I need to go alone."

She quickly turned and hurried below, leaving Horatio to himself and confused. How could I feel this way about her only weeks after losing Mariette?

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

Pellew could see the youth's fear returning and decided to tell the truth, "Mr. Kennedy, there was a reason for my asking you to dinner tonight."

Archie froze.

"I have been wishing for a chance to...." Pellew cleared his throat, then continued, "...apologize to you, sir."

Archie blinked and cocked his head, frowning in confusion, "Sir?"

"I have failed you, Mr. Kennedy." Pellew informed him remorsefully.

Failed me? Archie thought, his frown deepening, How could the captain have failed me? I'm the one who always fails. Still frowning, Archie shook his head, slightly, "Sir, I...I...don't understand."

Again, the captain was struck by how young Kennedy seemed. He took a deep breath, "It is the duty of a captain to know his officers. To learn of their abilities, their talents, and their weaknesses." On the last word, Archie lowered his head, but Pellew continued as if Kennedy were still looking at him, "A captain is to encourage and guide his officers in the use of their talents and abilities, and help them to overcome their weaknesses. It is in this that I have failed you, Mr. Kennedy."

He failed to help with my weaknesses. Archie thought dismally.

Pellew remained quiet until Archie finally glanced up at him, then caught and held Kennedy's gaze, "I have never made an attempt to know you. To learn of your talents and abilities. I have never given you guidance or encouraged you in the use of those talents and abilities. I have not helped you in any way, Mr. Kennedy. That is how I have failed you, and I would like the chance to change that. I would like to get to know you better." Pellew stared into those apprehensive blue eyes, "You said this morning that you trust me. If you do, Mr. Kennedy, please allow me to train you the way I should have when you first came aboard Indefatigable. The way I have trained Mr. Hornblower and many other officers."

Archie wished Horatio were there to turn to. He desperately wanted to look away, but Pellew's gaze held him captive. He needed to push his fear away. All of his fears. But when you have spent your entire life being hurt, and afraid of being hurt, it's just so hard not to be frightened. How does one overcome all that I have been through? I would give anything to be as brave as Horatio. As confident as Horatio. But Horatio didn't have a brother and his friends treating him cruelly when he was small. Archie thought sadly, He didn't even have to suffer Simpson as long as I had to. Could I have become brave and brilliant if I had not known Jack Simpson? Or will I never be half the man Horatio is?

Pellew watched Kennedy's eyes, seeing the same fear, pain, shame, and sadness in them he had always seen. And tears. Hornblower was so self assured, but Kennedy.... What has caused this boy to become so fearful and uncertain? Edward thought, Was it a result of his imprisonment? Or did it happen on Justinian? No. It was not imprisonment. Pellew had seen this in Kennedy before he was set adrift - though his imprisonment has made it worse.

Horatio let the captain train him. Archie thought, He would not be afraid. Archie swallowed, licked his lips, and said in a soft tone, "I do trust you, sir. And if it is your desire to train me, then I shall endeavor to learn."

Pellew's gaze was firm, but kind, "It is my desire, Mr. Kennedy, that you stop doubting yourself. You are a good officer. Why do you refuse to believe that?"

At that, Archie tore his gaze from the captain's and lowering his head, closing his eyes.

Reaching forward, Pellew put his hand on Archie's once more. The boy looked up at the captain with panic on his face, but it vanished in an instant. What is he so afraid of? Pellew sighed, "Why did you not accept my offer of leave and return home, Mr. Kennedy?"

"I am home, sir." Archie stated softly.

"I mean," Pellew said carefully, "why did you not return to your home, to your family?"

Archie lowered his head, "I am....not wanted at Kennedy manor, sir."

"What?" Pellew set his glass aside and leaned forward.

Archie licked his lips, his voice soft and hurt, "My grandmother made it very clear the day I left for Ju....for the navy, that I was never to return to Kennedy manor, sir."

Edward noted that Kennedy would not even say the name of his former ship. He decided not to comment on that, and asked, "Why are you never to return home?"

Archie voice trembled as his said softly, "I shamed my family, sir. They sent me away." Lowering his head more, Archie pulled his hand away from the captain's to clutch the half empty glass of port to his chest, desperately trying to stop the tears.

 

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

CHAPTER TWENTY SIX

 

Edward watched the boy for a few moments, Kennedy went aboard Justinian before his twelfth birthday. What could he have done at that young age that would bring enough shame to his family that they sent him away? Seeing the depth of sadness in Kennedy's eyes before he lowered his head, and hearing the pain so evident in his voice, Pellew decided not to push for an answer. Do not try to force the turtle out of his shell. The captain reminded himself, You've made progress already. A few days ago, he would not have given a direct answer to that question. Just don't push him too hard, lest he retreat.

At the sound of the bell on deck, Pellew sighed, "Well, Mr. Kennedy, as much as I am enjoying your company, I fear I have kept you up far too long."

Blinking, Archie glanced up at the captain.

"You have been up since four o'clock this morning, lad." Pellew told him as he took the glass from his hands and set it aside, "You need your rest. You will have the morning watch for the rest of this voyage, gunnery practice in the afternoon, and the first dog watch. That will give you some free time to entertain the children." The captain looked into the blue eyes, amused, "I am certain this will make the children very happy. Although, I am concerned that you may run out of stories before Christmas."

Archie's blush deepened and he smiled, "If I do run out of ideas, sir, I'll go through my books and see if I can come up with some suitable versions of those stories."

Pellew grinned, "Mr. Kennedy, you are an imaginative young man!" Suddenly assaulted with guilt, the captain's expression fell and he looked at Kennedy apologetically, "I deeply regret not getting to know you until now, lad. You are, without a doubt, a very remarkable young man, and I thank God for returning you to me."

Archie's throat tightened as tears returned to his eyes and he lowered his head, biting his lip trying to keep it from quivering.

"Mr. Kennedy," Pellew waited until the boy raised his head, then looked deeply into the blue eyes and said sincerely, "will you forgive me?"

"Forgi..." Blinking, Archie swallowed and said softly, "Uh...of course, sir."

"Thank you, Mr. Kennedy." Pellew stood and offered Archie his hand, "I am proud to have you among my crew."

Archie stood and shook the captain's hand, but was so overwhelmed he had to struggle just to whisper, "Thank you, sir."

"Get some rest, lad." Pellew told him gently.

"Yes, sir." Archie took a deep breath and raised his head, "Thank you for dinner, sir. It was excellent. And...for the wine. I know how expensive it is. Thank you for believing us worthy of such fine spirits."

"Mr. Kennedy," Edward said gently, "I fear that your time in prison has made you think less of yourself then others do. You are worthy of the best, sir."

Archie closed his eyes and swallowed, struggling to keep his composure.

Rome was not built in a day, Edward. Pellew watched the young officer before him, It will take time to make him see himself as he is and not as he believes he is. Patience. "You are tired, lad." Edward said gently, "Go to your cabin and rest."

"Yes, sir." Archie looked directly into the captain's eyes, his voice sincere, "I really enjoyed this evening, sir."

"As did I, Mr. Kennedy." Pellew smiled warmly, "We must do this again."

Archie's face almost lit up at that, "Yes, sir. I would like that very much, sir."

God bless the boy, he truly means that! Edward smiled at him, "I would enjoy it as well. But for tonight," He put his hand on Archie's shoulder and was surprised when the boy did not flinch at the touch. "you should go and sleep, Mr. Kennedy." Edward said gently, "Good night, lad. Rest well."

"Good night, sir." Archie gave a slight nod, turned, and left.

Still troubled by the horror he had seen on Kennedy's face, Pellew decided to go up on deck for some air. But mostly to think. Why is the boy so frightened? Why is he not allowed home? And what happened to aboard Justinian? Hornblower said Simpson tormented him and the other midshipmen. However Hornblower, Hether, and Cleveland do not react like Kennedy does when that ship is mentioned. What did Simpson do to him that he did not do to the others? As he walked up on deck, he noticed Hornblower standing by the starboard rail.

Pellew approached him and said, "Thank you for coming to dinner, Mr. Hornblower. Please accept my apologies for giving Mr. Kennedy all of my attention. In truth, I asked you to join us in the hope that your presence might help him to relax."

"I understand, sir." Horatio said, "I knew you invited me for Mr. Kennedy's sake."

Pellew stood in silence for a few moments, then murmured, as if talking to himself, "Why does he fear me? Every time I touch him he acts as if it hurts. And why does he flinch at the mention of Justinian? I suspect Simpson's beatings were not confined to just one victim."

Pellew eyed Hornblower, looking for some clue. Horatio stiffened, swallowing hard, and chose his words carefully, "Sir, Mr. Kennedy never speaks of Justinian, or of Mr. Simpson."

Very good, Mr. Hornblower. Edward thought, Evasive, without being obvious about it. Very good indeed!

"I was informed by the admiralty that Mr. Kennedy's French captors had sent word to Lord Kennedy that they had his son."

"Don Massaredo told me he had sent a letter also, sir." Horatio felt his heart aching, "Two, in fact."

"And no one ever answered?" Edward asked, sadly.

Horatio shook his head slowly and the captain could see the depth of sorrow in the brown eyes.

"Why would his family not want to help him?" Pellew asked himself in disbelief.

The captain watched Hornblower, assuming the latter either knew the reason, or had some idea of it. His silence was clear evidence of his respect - and love - for Kennedy, and of course, no officer would dream of revealing anything of his fellow officer's personal affairs.

He knew that his lieutenant was not going to say any more on the matter.

The captain bowed his head, "Good night, Mr. Hornblower. And again, thank you for coming to dinner."

"It was an honor, sir. Good night." Horatio gave him a slight bow, turned and started to leave.

"One more thing, Mr. Hornblower." Pellew said before Horatio could walk away, "Have you had a chance to ask Mr. Kennedy if he will allow you to help him study?"

"Yes, sir." Horatio answered him, "He said he would appreciate my help, but...." He hesitated.

"But what, man?" Pellew asked.

"Sir," Horatio started carefully, "do you doubt that Mr. Kennedy....well....that he could learn on his own, sir?"

"No, Mr. Hornblower," Pellew said sternly, "I never once thought that. Mr. Kennedy is intelligent, and I have no doubt that he could learn on his own. I merely hoped that by having you help him study, you might be able to encourage him to believe in himself. You may be able to reach him in ways no one else can because of his affection for you. This is not just about the lieutenant's examination, Mr. Hornblower, it is about Mr. Kennedy regaining the confidence that was stripped from him by two years of imprisonment."

"God has returned Mr. Kennedy to this ship, Mr. Hornblower." Pellew said remorsefully, "I do not want his life wasted. He has such promise. All he has to do is overcome his doubts and fear and believe in himself

"Yes, sir." Horatio nodded, understanding, "I am sorry for....misunderstanding your intentions, sir."

"We cannot change the past, lad." Edward said softly, "God knows if I could, I would. However, we can help those who have sustained wounds in that past to heal, and to overcome the disabilities those wounds have left."

"Yes, sir." Horatio said softly and closed his eyes, Is Archie's pain really that easy for everyone to see?

Pellew cocked his head, "You are exhausted, lad. Get some sleep."

"Yes, sir." Horatio straightened, "Good night, sir."

"Good night, Mr. Hornblower." Horatio retreated below.

Pellew walked over to the rail and looked out at the water, Kennedy served with Simpson for close to four years. If Kennedy had been beaten by Simpson, it may have been done to him while he was just a child. Would that explain why he shudders at the very mention of Justinian? He sighed and closed his eyes, seeing the smiling young face of Archie Kennedy.

Suddenly, Edward's heart skipped a beat. Kennedy had always had a lovely face, that must have been much more lovely - almost like a girl's face - when he was a child. Did Simpson actually abuse the boy in a much worse manner then he had the others? That would explain why Kennedy would not speak of Justinian or Simpson. Pellew moaned, Oh, Dear God, not Kennedy!

 

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

CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN

 

Horatio walked to his cabin and lit one of the lamps. Archie was sound asleep and, for the first time since before he was set adrift, there was an almost peaceful look on Archie's face. Perhaps, he is finally starting to heal. Horatio thought hopefully. He changed into his nightshirt, put out the light and whispered, "Pleasant dreams, Archie." Then climbed into his bunk.

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

December 12, 1795

Archie climbed the steps to the quarter-deck. It was cold and raining. He folded his arms and watched the rain falling, remembering Christmas' of the past. Christmas with his family before the fits started. His grandmother trying to talk his parents into sending him away. His father avoiding him after he had a fit. His mother, sisters, uncle, and nanny had tried to make up for the love his father denied him, but they never quite succeeded. He loved them even more for their efforts, but nothing could make up for the pain of a father who once loved him more then anything in the world, suddenly taking his love away. Tears came to Archie's eyes and his swallowed. Then he quickly blinked the tears away and walked across the quarter-deck.

Archie suddenly remembered that this was going to be his first Christmas aboard Indefatigable. He had been set adrift before he could celebrate Christmas on the Indy. Christmas in prison was so painful - hearing the gaurds singing and enjoying themselves, while Archie sat in a dark, cold, and very lonely cell and cried. Tears came to Archie's eyes again, he shook his head and walked across the quarter-deck once more, trying to shake the memories.

He looked out over the water toward the Cassandra. She was a lovely ship. Not as lovely as the Indy! Archie smiled at the thought. The memory of his first Christmas on Justinian came to mind.

 

 

Justinian
December 24, 1789

 

Little Kennedy was helping mend a sail that had been torn during a storm. As Keane walked around the deck watching the men, he heard Archie softly singing while he worked. The captain stopped next to him, "Mr. Kennedy, you have a lovely voice. Would you please be kind enough to sing for us tomorrow afternoon?"

With his eyes wide, Archie licked his lips, and swallowed, "I....if you want me to, sir."

"I do want you to, Mr. Kennedy." Keane said, "Tomorrow afternoon at three o'clock."

"Aye aye, sir." Archie answered and found himself a bit excited about it. He had not sung for anyone since before his mother died, and one of the last things she told him was never to let his lovely singing voice go to waste.

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

Christmas day at three o'clock, a very nervous twelve year old Archie Kennedy stood on the quarter-deck and sang several Christmas carols with the men joining in on the chorus of each song. Bowles and Chadd smiled, both trying not to snicker. This little boy looked so adorable with his cherub face and brilliant smile! And his soft voice was beautiful.

After half an hour, the captain dismissed the crew and Kennedy, who quickly left the quarter-deck. The first lieutenant followed, and caught the boy before he could go below. "Mr. Kennedy," Eccleston smiled, "the captain wishes for you to join us in his cabin for dinner."

"Me, sir?" Archie blinked, looking up at the lieutenant in disbelief.

"Yes, Mr. Kennedy." Eccleston tried hard not to smile at the child's reaction.

"Aye aye, sir." Little Kennedy was so nervous about having dinner with the captain and officers, he never noticed the jealous midshipman glaring at him.

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

Archie enjoyed the roast that the captain had served for Christmas, and the captain had even allowe him to drink wine with dinner, but he kept quiet except for when asked a question as he parents had taught him to when in the company of adults. After dinner, the captain had his officers join him for a glass of brandy, and they gave Kennedy a small glass.

While the captain and officers exchanged gifts, Archie closed his eyes feeling very sleepy. It had to be the brandy and wine. Archie looked out the window, watching the rain fall, and wondered if his family was missing him today. Without realizing it, he folded his arms on the table and lay his head down on them. He didn't even know he had fallen asleep until Eccleston gently shook him awake, "Mr. Kennedy, you should go to the midshipmen's berth and sleep."

"Sir?" Archie raised his head, rubbing his eyes. Then blinked, wide eyed, and stammered softly, "Oh....uh....yes, sir." He stood up and suddenly felt dizzy. "Captain, sir," Archie bowed to Keane and almost fell forward, catching himself on the table. The officers exchanged glances as Archie swayed, "Thank you for dinner, sir. It was excellent."

"Thank you for entertaining the men today, Mr. Kennedy." Keane said, "Happy Christmas."

"Happy Christmas to you, sir." Kennedy saluted, then gave the officers a bow of his head, "Happy Christmas, sirs."

After they all wished him a happy Christmas, Eccleston whispered, "Mr. Bowles, take Mr. Kennedy to the midshipmen's berth."

"Yes, sir." Bowles walked over to slip his arm around the little boy and started for the door. At the doorway, Archie's legs gave out and he fell. The sailing master leaned down and lifted the child into his arms.

He carried Archie to the midshipmen's berth, helped him take his jacket and waistcoat off and put him in his hammock, "Happy Christmas, Mr. Kennedy."

"Happy Christmas, Mr. Bowles." Archie whispered sleepily and yawned, "Thank you for helping me, sir."

"My pleasure, lad." Smiling at him, Bowles put a blanket over Archie, who's eyes were already closed, and gave his cheek a gentle pat, "Sleep well, Mr. Kennedy."

Archie smiled, but was too sleepy to answer.

Bowles quietly left the midshipmen's berth and the boy quickly fell asleep.

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

Archie awoke suddenly when a hand clamped over his mouth. He opened his eyes to see Simpson glaring at him, and his heart pounded in fear. "Did the captain serve you roast or goose?" But Simpson never removed his hand to let Kennedy answer. Instead, he pulled the boy out of the hammock, not taking his hand from Archie's mouth, and carried him below. "So you're now the captain's favorite, huh? Well, that doesn't help you down here!"

Simpson dragged Archie to the hold where Matthews, Styles, and Finch had been celebrating with some rum that Simpson had given them. He threw Kennedy to the deck and ordered, "Hold him!"

While the seamen stared at Simpson, Archie jumped up and ran for the doorway, but Simpson caught him around the waist, tackling him before he reached it. Archie squirmed, trying to get out from under Jack, but to no avail. Simpson got to his feet, pulling Kennedy up with him, and carried him to one of the stalls. He tied Archie's hands to a rope atteched to the bulkhead.

Archie could not fight now, not with his hands tied. Breathing heavily, Archie pleaded in sobs, "Please don't....hurt me Mr.....Simpson! Please?!"

As Simpson took the cane in his hand, Archie dropped to his knees, his arms stratched above his head, and he leaned his head against the bulkhead. It's Christmas! Archie thought sadly, closing his eyes, and began to weep, Why? What did I do to make him hate me so?

Simpson began beating Kennedy with the cane and Archie could do nothing, but cry. The more Simpson struck Kennedy, the more angry he grew, and the harder the blows became.

Matthews, Finch, and Styles had been watching, in stunned silence, but not they were becoming concerned. The boy's shirt had been ripped, his back was bleeding, and the little officer was crying out with each strike. Matthews stepped forward, "Mr. Simpson, sir, th' lad's 'ad enough."

"Are you giving me orders?" Simpson turned to Matthews, ignoring Kennedy's moaning sobs.

" 'e's learned 'is lesson, sir." Matthews urged.

Styles pushed past Matthews, "Leave th' boy be, sir!"

"I'm the officer, Styles!" Simpson growled.

" 'e's just a boy, sir." Finch pleaded.

"You think he's hurt now," Simpson warned, "just try to come between me and him again. I'll hurt him in ways you could not even imagine!"

"What could be worse then that?" Styles gestured to little Kennedy's bleeding back.

With a wicked smile, Simpson said evilly, "I can do worse." There was something in Simpson's words and tone that made the seamens' blood freeze. Several horrible tortures came to their minds as Simpson turned back to the sobbing little midshipman and started beating him again.

Unable to bear the agonizing cries coming from little Kennedy any longer, Styles lunged forward and grabbed the Jack's wrist as he brought his arm back.

Simpson turned on him, "Would you like to see him die, Styles?"

Shocked, Styles released Simpson's wrist, shaking his head.

"NEVER come between me and Kennedy again!" Simpson shouted, "Or I'll do things to him that will distroy him and disgrace his family!"

Uncertain of what he meant by that, and not really wanting to know, the seamen stood helplessly as Simpson turned back to Kennedy and began striking him again, the child crying out with every blow.

Styles clenched his jaw and fists wishing he could rip Simpson's head off his shoulders right this moment, while Finch turned away, trying not to cry. If he cried in front of Simpson, that would only make things worse.

Matthews' throat tightened and tears came to his eyes. He was just a child. A little boy who had sounded and looked so much like an angel this afternoon while entertaining the crew. But the sounds of his sobs - and the sight of this innocent boy tied to a wall, bleeding - Matthews knew that this was making the angels weep.

Archie felt that familiar pain, the bitter taste in his mouth, saw the white light that always came just before a fit. And the worse past was, he was tied. And Simpson was there.

When the fit started, Simpson stepped back and waited. When it became obvious the fit was not going to subside right away, Simpson walked away from Kennedy, leaving the boy tied to the wall and convulsing. Just before walking out of the hold, Simpson ordered, "Make sure no one, other then Hepplewhite, knows about this."

Matthews and Styles hurried to Kennedy. While Matthews gently slipped his arm around Kennedy's small chest to keep him from falling, Styles pulled out his knife and cut the rope. Finch closed his eyes and turned away, weeping. Matthews started to lay Kennedy on the deck, then realized the boy could injure his head with his threashing, so he kept the child in his arms and held him while the fit continued.

Finally, the fit subsided and Kennedy went limp in Matthews arms, unconscious. Matthews looked up at Styles, "We should get 'im t' th' sick berth."

"Aye." Styles reached down and took the boy by the arms, pulling him up. Then, crouching down, he slipped little Kennedy over his shoulder, careful not to touch his bleeding back, and stood. The boy was so small, it was no effort for Styles to carry him to the sick berth.

 

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

CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT

 

Archie awoke face down in a sick berth hammock and found one of the seamen from the hold standing beside him. He vaguely remembered this man and the other seamen trying to stop Simpson.

" 'ow ye feeling, sir?" Matthews asked.

"My back hurts, sir." Archie whispered hoarsely.

"Ye'll be all right, sir." Styles said easily.

"You brought me here, sir?" Archie asked weakly.

"Aye, sir." Styles gave a nod, "Ye'll be fine now, sir."

"Thank you, sir." Archie whispered, grateful that someone cared enough not to let him tied to the wall. Although he knew these two men would probably regret helping him. "You should leave now." Archie winced, "I don't want Mr. Simpson to hurt you because you helped me."

Both men were suddenly moved by this child's concern for them.

" 'e won't, sir." Matthews said, "Don't fret 'bout it."

"Thank you, sir." Archie whispered.

Matthews laughed, "I'm not a sir, Mr. Kennedy. I'm Seaman Matthews." He gestured toward his friend, "And this is Seaman Styles."

"I'm pleased to meet you both, sir." Archie could not get his voice above a whisper.

"Uh, sir," Matthews informed the boy kindly, "ye're not supposed t' call us sir."

"But," Archie protested softly, "my mother said I was to address everyone older then myself as sir or ma'am."

Matthews smiled at the boy. Such a well mannered child. Then he felt tears sting his eyes as they went from the child's angelic face to his battered back. "Ye should sleep, sir. Rest'll make ye feel better."

"You've made me feel a little better already, Mr. Matthews." Archie smiled, and Matthews found himself in awe that this boy could smile when the pain he was in was so evident in his voice.

"Thank ye, sir." Matthews told him.

"Thank you both for not letting me stay tied to the bulkhead." Archie winced again, "You're good men."

Those words so seriously spoken by a child in such severe pain, broke Matthews' heart. It just wasn't right for a child to be treated like this! But if they tried to help him, Simpson would kill the boy. Simpson had arranged for Wallace to be *accidentally* killed. He would kill this boy and not let the fact that he is a child stop him. Or he would *hurt him in ways you can't even imagine,* and Matthews did not want to imagine what Simpson meant by that, though he had his suspicions. Matthews hated the thoughts of this boy being tortured by Simpson and not being able to stop it.

Archie was glad to know that there was someone on this ship who cared, even though he knew they could not help him. He had heard Simpson's threat, and knew there was nothing these two seamen could do to help him, other than bringing him to the sick berth after Simpson was finished. But somehow, that thought gave him a little comfort. Not everyone on this ship was indifferent to his suffering.

Archie made a silent vow that he would never sing in front of the crew again. I'm sorry, Mother. He thought, But singing here will only bring me pain. Closing his eyes, a tear slipped down Archie's cheek as he silently prayed, Dear God, please let someone stop Jack Simpson before he kills me!

 

 

Indefatigable
December 12, 1795

Archie silently thanked God for answering that prayer by sending Horatio Hornblower to Justinian. Then, he suddenly felt bad about the way he had talked to Horatio the night before last, when he had run out of the wardroom. Horatio had helped him in prison, had kept him alive, and nursed him back to health. Archie owed Horatio his life. He just had to apologize to Horatio when they were alone.

The rain was falling a bit harder then it had been and Archie shivered.

"Lost in deep thought, Mr. Kennedy?" Bracegirdle asked lightly.

Archie jumped before he could stop himself, and turned to the lieutenant, "Uh....yes, sir."

Something good, I hope." Bracegirdle smiled warmly. When Archie dropped his gaze to the deck, Bracegirdle moved closer and put his hand on Archie's shoulder, making him flinch, "Please talk to me, Mr. Kennedy. I truly want to help you."

"Yes, sir." Archie closed his eyes, "I....know you do."

"I know it's hard." Bracegirdle told him gently, "But it will become easier with time. Just give yourself time, lad."

"Uh? Oh no, sir." Archie opened his eyes, shaking his head, "It's not that. I just...." Archie stopped.

Bracegirdle watched Kennedy a moment, wondering if he could get the boy to confide in him. "What is bothering you, lad. You can tell me. I will never think badly of you, Archie, I assure you."

Archie looked into Bracegirdle's eyes. This man was so kind. And he seemed to have a sense of humor, as well, not unlike myself. Maybe....he might understand. Archie thought. He licked his lips, swallowed, and started hesitantly, his voice soft, "Mr. Bracegirdle, I...."

"Reporting for duty, Mr. Bracegirdle."

At Hornblower's announcement, Archie closed his mouth and quickly lowered his head.

 

Damn! Bracegirdle thought, irritated by Hornblower's timing, He was so close to talking! "Good morning, Mr. Hornblower."

Horatio took in Bracegirdle with his hand on Kennedy's shoulder and Archie with his head down and realized he had interrupted something.

Archie raised his head and gave Horatio a bright smile, "Good morning, Mr. Hornblower!"

"Good morning, Mr. Kennedy." Horatio smiled back, "Anything to report?"

Snapping to attention, Archie formally and, very seriously, announced, "The ship is yours, sir, course northeast by north, reefed foretops'l and forecourse, making 3 knots. Keep her steady, notify the captain of any change, and it's raining."

Bracegirdle laughed. That was one of Kennedy's jokes; to state the obvious in a serious manner.

Horatio allow himself a snicker at that one, "Then you are relieved, sir."

"Thank you, sir." Archie turned to the first lieutenant, "Thank you, Mr. Bracegirdle. I will....follow your advice, sir."

Bracegirdle smiled and gave him a nod. Archie smiled back, turned and hurried down the steps, suddenly stunned that he had almost let his guard down and talked to Bracegirdle.

"I'm sorry I interrupted your conversation with Mr. Kennedy, sir." Horatio said.

"So am I, Mr. Hornblower." Bracegirdle sighed, "It is not easy to get Mr. Kennedy to open up."

"He opened up to you, sir?" Horatio asked skeptically.

"I thought he was going to, but now....." Bracegirdle sighed and shook his head, "we'll never know."

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

Archie hurried down the companionway, desperate to get warm, but was stopped when a soft, but lovely accented voice cried happily, "Archie!"

He turned toward the voice to find Tatiana smiling at him. "Miss Tatiana!" Archie smiled, and for some strange reason had a sudden urge to giggle, "Good morning."

"Good morning, sir." Tatiana's smiled grew, "Are you on duty?"

"Uh...no...Miss...Tatiana." Archie answered, "I-I...I'm not. I was just...on...on my way...to um...to get...some...something...to...to eat." Why am I having so much trouble speaking? He wondered.

"Oh?!" Her face lit up, "May I join you?"

"If...if you wish." Her smile made Archie feel giddy and he offered her his arm. As she took it and smiled up at him, and he had to fight to keep from giggling. What is wrong with me?! He thought as he led her to the mess.

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

Archie had spent most of the noon hours talking to Tatiana until he realized that it was time for quarters and gunnery practice. Clearing his throat, he smiled at her, "Miss Tatiana, I have duties to attend to. Will you excuse me?"

"Oh." She moaned softly, "I vas enjoying your company."

"As I was yours." He stood, "But must go now."

"Could ve talk later?" She asked.

"I would like that, miss." He gave her a bow, "Excuse me."

She smiled as he left the mess, then got up to follow.

Kennedy came up on deck to find his men waiting.

Horatio saw Tatiana, and wondered if Archie was aware that she had followed him. Seeing Tatiana made him think of Valentina, and his mind began to wonder where she was and what she was doing. He could not get their kiss, or the feeling of her against him, out of his mind.

As Kennedy and the gun crews tended to practice, the rain began to let up. When the rain stopped the children came up on deck and ran toward the cannon.

"They should not be near the cannon." Bowles hurried to the steps and down them to cross the deck.

 

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CHAPTER TWENTY NINE

 

One of the men said something to Kennedy, who turned and shouted, "Stop!"

The children stopped where they were, and Archie hurried to them. He dropped to his knees in front of the children, just as Bowles came up behind them, followed by the captain and the lieutenants. "You cannot come any closer." Archie warned.

Harvey began to cry and Archie took the little boy into his arms, "Listen to me, Harvey. Too many things can happen to make a cannon blow up, and if you are too close, you could get hurt." He looked at the other children, "I don't want any of you to be hurt. So please stay back here, where I told you to stand the last time."

Harvey had his arms around Kennedy's neck, holding on tightly with his little head laying on Archie's shoulder, and he sniffed, "You frightened me, Mr. Kendy."

"I'm sorry, Harvey." Archie embraced him lovingly, "I didn't mean to frighten you. I feared you might be hurt."

Five year old Dimitri frowned and said in a very thick Russian accent, "If the cannon blows up, you vould be hurt."

Archie smiled at the little boy, "Do not worry about me, Dimitri. I know when to move away from the cannon. Now stay right here, and I'll come back with you as soon as we finish." Archie took Harvey's little face in his hand and looked into Harvey's eyes, "Please stay here for me, Harvey?"

Harvey sniffed and nodded, "I will, Mr. Kendy."

"Good boy." Archie kissed boy's cheek. He stood and handed Harvey back to his mother. "I'll be back." He smiled at the children, tossed Dimitri's blond hair, then turned and walked to the cannon.

Pellew and his officers exchanged glances. Kennedy was very good with children!

Horatio realized that he was seeing a side to Archie he had never see before. He had never seen Archie this affectionate and loving. Then again, he had never seen Archie with children this young before. Archie would be a good father. Horatio wondered if Archie had even been aware of this side of himself.

Pellew stood with the children, while they waited for Kennedy to finish. The captain watched his acting lieutenant, smiling as always, and the men smiling along with him. The men seemed too enjoy working for Kennedy, as if they were playing instead of working.

When the practice was over, Kennedy dismissed the men. Every man knuckled him a salute, and some gave him a pat on the back or shoulder as they past him.

Archie walked across the deck to the children and, seeing the captain, straightening as he approached. He snapped to attention in front of Pellew, "Sir."

"Good practice today, Mr. Kennedy." Pellew gave him an expression of approval.

"Thank you, sir." Archie seemed surprised.

Harvey ran to him and reached up for him, "Pick me up, Mr. Kendy! Pick me up!"

Smiling, Pellew gestured toward the little boy, and Archie reached down to pick him up, "Now you tell me a good story?"

"And sing too!" Betsy added.

"If you give me ten minutes to wash and change." Archie said, "I will tell you a good story. I smell like smoke."

Harvey smelled Kennedy's shoulder, "Yes, you do."

Archie laughed and put Harvey down, "I'll be back as soon as I can."

Pellew smiled, This boy is going to make a good father some day.

Pellew stayed with the children until Kennedy returned. "I believe these children have waited for you long enough." The captain smiled at his young officer, "I shall let you tend to your other duties now, sir."

"Yes, sir." Archie smiled broadly, and headed for the barrel with the children following.

"Let's sing first!" Sarah suggested.

Archie cleared his throat and began to sing, with the children joining in. Not even half way through the song, the crew joined in on the chorus. After a few songs, Archie began to sing *Adeste fideles*. Valentina, Ilya, Tatiana, Sasha, and Milina joined in with him, while the other children became quiet and listened. Kennedy and the Padorin's voices blended together so beautifully. The officers joined the captain to listen, and Horatio became entranced watching Valentina singing.

The six were a very attractive lot. Valentina and Sasha had dark amber hair, while Tatiana, Ilya and Milina's hair was the same color as Kennedy's. The captain wondered if this was what the *Heavenly host of angels* must have looked and sounded like. He could actually picture Kennedy and the Padorin children in robes with halos, and could not stop the smile that came to his face at the image.

"Maybe we should have them sing for us on Christmas." Bowles suggested.

Laughing, Bracegirdle commented, "If we put them in robes, they will look like angels!"

"Mr. Kennedy did look like an angel when he sang for the crew on Justinian." Bowles laughed.

Pellew turned to the two, raising his brow, "Did he?"

"Yes, sir." Bowles said, "His first Christmas on board, Captain Keane asked Mr. Kennedy to sing for the crew on Christmas day." A broad smile lit the sailing master's face, "He was only twelve years old, sir, and very small. And with that little cherub face, smiling the way he does, he did look just like a little angel!"

I'll bet! Horatio glanced at Archie and smiled at the thought.

When Kennedy and the Padorin children finished singing, everyone on the deck applauded. The six singers blushed, and Harvey looked up at Archie, "And now you will tell us a story?"

"Yes, sir, I will." Archie took a deep breath, "Once there was a young shepherd named Michael. He was the youngest son of Edmond, the sheep owner. Edmond owned two sheep dogs named Ginger and Spice, who helped the young shepherd with the sheep. Now one afternoon, while the sheep were grazing in the field, two wolves came. Michael called for the dogs to chase the sheep to the safety of the fence. One of the sheep fell and hurt his leg. The dogs left the lamb behind, looking after the other sheep as they were trained to. Michael saw that the lamb was hurt and hurried back for him. He picked the lamb up just before the wolves could get it. Michael quickly slung the lamb over his shoulders, but was now facing a serious problem; he had just taken dinner away from two very hungry wolves and Michael couldn't out run them. He knew the dogs had to be almost to the fence by now, and it was a good distance away, so they would not be any help to Michael.

Pellew and his officers, who had started to leave, but stopped to listen to how this story was going to turn out.

Archie didn't notice the captain and officers, and went on with his story, "Michael didn't like either choice. As the wolves slowly moved forward, growling, Michael began to swing his staff at them to keep them back. Michael didn't know what he should do. Should he drop the lamb and hope the wolves didn't come after him? Or should he try to fight and end up being killed by the wolves?"

The children shouted for Michael to protect the lamb.

"Michael could feel the lamb shaking with fear," Archie told them, "and just couldn't let the lamb be torn to shreds by these wolves."

The children cheered.

Archie took a deep breath, "As he began trying to think of a way to save himself and the lamb, Ginger and Spice came up beside him, growling. Seeing that they were out numbered, the wolves turned and ran away."

When the children applauded, Archie said, "That's not the end of the story."

The children brought their attention back to Kennedy, as did the officers, adults, and the men who were listening. Matthews, Styles, and Oldroyd had moved to the front of the crew surrounding Kennedy to listen.

Archie swallowed and licked his lips, then continued, "You see, Michael saved the lamb from the wolves, but the lamb had hurt his leg and could not stand up on his own. If a sheep was hurt and couldn't walk on it's own, Edmond had his eldest son, Henry, take the lamb to the shed and kill it, and the owner's family had the lamb for dinner. Michael carried the lamb back to the herd and put it down, but the lamb couldn't stand up. Michael took off his scarf and wrapped it around the lamb's hurt leg, then carried the lamb over to the barn and put it down next to the wall so it could rest. The next morning, Michael told his father what had happened. The lamb was still laying next to the barn and had not moved. Edmond turned to his eldest son and told him to take the lamb to the shed."

The children started shouting out against that.

Archie took a deep breath, "As John licked his lips and said he couldn't wait for dinner. Michael begged his father to give him one month to help the lamb heal. Edmond did not think it was a good idea, but Michael had risked his life to save this lamb, so he would allow his son one month to tend the lamb. But if the lamb became worse before the month was up, it would be killed. Michael was determined to keep this lamb alive, so he wrapped the lamb's leg again, and helped him to eat and drink."

Why does this sounds familiar? Horatio frowned.

"What was the lamb's name?" Mark asked.

"Michael named the lamb Peter. Finally the day came when Peter had to walk on his own. Michael unwrapped Peter's leg and carried him out to put him near the other sheep. As Michael and Edmond watched, Peter started to walk to the other sheep on very unsteady legs, but fell on his first step. John clapped his hands together and announced, *Lamb for dinner tonight!*"

The children started protesting.

Archie smiled at the children, "Michael begged his father to give Peter a little more time, explaining that the lamb had not walked for three weeks, and was going to have to learn how to walk again. Peter struggled to stand. Once up, he tried to walk again. He fell down several times, but slowly got back up every time, and kept trying until he made his way to the other sheep."

The children clapped, while Horatio thought about the Spanish prison.

"Edmond agreed to give his son and the lamb, one more month, but like before, if the lamb became worse he would be killed. As the days went by, Peter became better at walking, but he couldn't run and fell every time he tried. You see, his leg never completely healed, so he always had a problem with it."

"Poor Peter!" Harvey commented.

Archie gave him a sympathetic smile and kissed the top if his head, "Peter was finally allowed out to the field. As the dogs began to round up the sheep, they barked to chase the sheep toward the fence. But Peter couldn't run, so he was unable to keep up with the other sheep. Because he was not running, Spice came up behind him and growled. Peter tried to run, but fell and Spice barked at the lamb to make him move, but poor Peter became so frightened, he couldn't even get up. Michael saw Spice and Peter, and hurried over to help the lamb. Michael shooed the dog away and helped Peter up, then led the lamb into the fence, closing the gate behind him. The other sheep and the dogs were watching, and wondering why the owner's son would waste his time with a crippled sheep. Peter began to wonder that himself. The other sheep, and even the dogs, could see how worthless he was, why didn't Michael see it? Peter walked to the barn, laying down next to it, and didn't bother eating that day."

While the children made comments of sympathy for Peter, Malcolm Hamilton handed Archie a cup of water.

Smiling, Archie took the cup, thanked him and drank it, then picked up the story again, "A few days later while the sheep were in the field, the wolves returned. As the dogs started chasing the sheep toward the fence, Peter started to run and fell. But he didn't try to get up. He could see no reason to. The dogs and sheep see him as a worthless sheep. Because he was a worthless, crippled sheep, that can't even keep up with the flock! So why run to the safety of the fence? Peter thought to himself. There was nothing for him there. Only sheep and dogs who despise him. He couldn't keep up with the sheep and the owner would find that out sooner or later. Being eaten by the wolves or eaten by the owner's family. As far as Peter could see there was no difference. Peter laid his head down and closed his eyes."

The children started shouting their protests again, and Matthews glanced at Styles, who was sadly watching young Kennedy. Horatio felt his throat tightening as he listened to his friend.

"He's not worthless!" Harvey looked up at Archie, "He's hurt!"

Closing his eyes, Archie leaned down to embrace the child, "I know, Harvey. Do you want me to continue?"

Harvey nodded and Archie smiled, "Michael had seen Peter fall and started running to him. By now the wolves where almost to Peter. Michael reached Peter just as one of the wolves clamped down on Peter's back leg."

The children gasped and Archie cleared his throat, "Michael hit the wolf with his staff and the wolf let go, and backed away. Michael kept swinging his staff to keep the wolves back, but could not reach down to pick up Peter, or the wolves will attack. But Peter appeared to be hurt and was not moving. Michael began to realize that he couldn't save Peter and himself. But he didn't want to abandon poor Peter to the wolves. Now, the wolves knew that Michael could not defend the lamb if they came from opposite sides, and one of them would be able to reach it. Once they killed the lamb, the shepherd would give up and let them have their dinner. They split up, going to opposite sides of Peter, and Michael knew he could not stop both them if they attacked at the same time."

Everyone was now so interested in the story, even the men who had finished their duties, stayed there to listen.

Archie paid very little attention to anyone other then the children as he continued, "The wolves started forward at the same time, and Michael moved to stand over Peter, with one leg on each side of the lamb, hoping to save him. As one wolf rushed forward, Michael swung his staff at it, and the other wolf lunged for Peter."

"No!" The children screamed.

A mischievous smile came to Kennedy's face, "Right before the wolf landed on Peter it was hit in the side and knocked to the ground in a furry blur."

The children cheered, and Pellew saw most of the adults exhaling in relief.

Archie was still smiling, "When the blur came to a stop, the wolf got on it's paws as quickly as it could, and so did Spice.

The children cheered again, and Archie's smile grew bigger, "Spice growled at the wolves, and was joined by Ginger. Out numbered again, the wolves turned and ran away."

Again, the children cheered, and Archie waited until he had their attention, "Michael knelt next to Peter, who's leg was hurt, but not too badly. But Peter just lay there. He didn't want to go back to the farm, to where the other sheep and the dogs, and even Michael's family see him as worthless and crippled. He wished they had just let the wolves kill him. Michael picked Peter up and carried him back to the farm. As he lay Peter down next to the barn, the lamb opened his eyes to watch Michael run to get some water and a cloth to clean Peter's wound. Peter saw the other sheep looking at him, and the dogs moving closer for a better look. He didn't want to see them anymore, so he closed his eyes. He heard the dogs sniffing at him, but he didn't care. He just wanted them to go away and let him die."

Horatio closed his eyes, remembering the prison, and his heart felt as if it would break. This story is about Archie.

 

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

CHAPTER THIRTY

 

The sun had gone down during the story, and it was now getting dark and cold on deck, "You should go below now." Archie told the children, "I don't want any of you to become ill."

"I want to finish the story first." Ten year old Alec Winston protested.

"I'll finish it tomorrow." Archie told him.

"Yes, he can." Beverly Winston told her son, "Besides, it's time for dinner. Come."

The parents started gathering their children, each child having to embrace Kennedy before leaving him. As they did so, Bracegirdle said quietly, "Why did that lamb remind me of Mr. Kennedy?"

The captain frowned at his lieutenant, "Mr. Kennedy? Surely, you do not believe he sees himself as a crippled lamb? Mr. Hornblo...." Pellew stopped upon seeing the expression on the young lieutenant's face. Although Horatio stood stiffly at attention, his expression was one of great sadness, and Pellew was close enough to see the tears in the boy's eyes, despite the darkness.

The captain closed his eyes for a moment. Then opened them and, turning to Bracegirdle, said quietly, "If Mr. Kennedy is the lamb, then I take it that Mr. Hornblower is Michael?"

Bracegirdle nodded sadly, "I believe so, sir. And the sheep are the crew."

The captain was beginning to feel sick, "So who are the dogs?"

Bowles watched Kennedy a moment, "Us?"

"Us?" Pellew lifted his chin slightly, "As in you and....?"

"If the sheep are the crew," Bracegirdle suggested, "then the dogs must be the officers."

"I see." Pellew raised his eyebrow, "Am I one of the dogs or the owner?"

As the men who were off duty went below, Bracegirdle frowned, trying to recall all of the story to see where the captain fitted into it.

"Finally, you admit to being a worthless sheep!"

Horatio grew angry as Campbell appeared behind Archie, "I've always known you were." Squeezing his eyes shut, Archie bit his lip and cringed as Campbell leaned over his shoulder, "You do not have what it takes to be an officer, *Peter*. You do not even have what it takes to be in the Navy."

His fear growing, Archie suddenly jumped off the barrel and turned to face Campbell, "You do not have what it takes to be a gentleman!"

As Archie turned to walk away, Campbell grabbed his arm, turned him around, and back handed Archie's face as hard as he could, knocking him to the deck with such force the boy landed hard, almost a few feet away from Campbell. Valentina and Tatiana screamed, and Annika pulled the girls to herself.

Styles hurried to Kennedy as Campbell barked, "I know you for what you are, you little imp! So do not even try to play tough with me!"

"MR. CAMPBELL!" Pellew roared.

Campbell was between the officers and Kennedy. As the officers started forward, Ivan Padorin stepped in front of them and, glaring at Campbell, said in a low voice, "How dare you!"

Campbell acted as if Ivan wasn't even there. The Russian was the same size as Campbell, but very muscular. Ivan stepped closer to Campbell and grabbed his collar with his left hand, raising his right fist.

Pellew felt he should intervene before this could come to blows, even though he would have enjoyed seeing Campbell get what he deserved. He also found it interesting that Padorin would take up for Kennedy the day after he had tried to intimidate the boy. The weeping Tatiana was probably the reason for Ivan's anger.

"Gentlemen!" Pellew slipped between the two, "I will not tolerate such behavior on my ship!"

"I will not tolerate him treating Mr. Kennedy so!" Padorin foamed.

"Nor will I." Pellew turned a glare on Campbell, "Or Mr. Campbell will spend the rest of this voyage in the brig! Is that understood, Mr. Campbell?"

Campbell glared defiantly at the captain.

"I want an answer, Mr. Campbell!" Pellew demanded, "Is that understood?"

"Yes, sir!" Campbell growled.

While the exchange was going on between Pellew, Campbell, and Padorin, Archie slowly shifted into a sitting position and carefully moved his jaw.

Styles had crouched down next to Archie, "Are ye all right, Mr. Kennedy?"

"I don't think it's broken." Archie whispered.

"Good." Styles slipped his hands under Archie's arms and around his chest, then pulled the boy to his feet.

Archie let out a quiet laugh and looked up at Styles with a smile, "Some things never change, huh?"

Knowing the boy was thinking of events on Justinian, Styles smiled as he steadied the acting lieutenant. He quickly released Kennedy when he saw the captain and officers approaching.

"Thank you, Styles." Archie smiled up at him.

"Anytime, sir." The big man smiled back.

"Are you all right, Mr. Kennedy?" Pellew asked.

Archie snapped to attention, his voice very unsteady, "Captain, sir, I apologize for this.....disgraceful display. I was not conducting myself as a proper officer, sir."

"From what I witnessed, Mr. Kennedy," Pellew's eyes went to the bruise forming on the lad's cheek, "you did not start this altercation."

"I should not have provoked him, sir." Archie tried to make his voice firm, but did not succeed, "And for that, I do apologize. I also apologize for Mr. Campbell's conduct, sir."

His mouth falling open in disbelief, Horatio blinked and said angrily, "After what he's done to you, Archie, why are you defending him?!"

Licking his lips, Archie shrugged and lowered his gaze, "John Campbell thinks he's above everyone else, sir."

"Yes." Pellew raised his brow, "But why are you apologizing for him?"

"He's my brother's best friend, sir." Archie answered, hoping to end this conversation quickly.

Pellew opened his mouth to object to Kennedy's defence of Campbell, but was interrupted by Father Douglas O'Brian, who asked in his thick Irish accent, "Mr. Kennedy, might I ask ye fer a favor, lad?"

Archie looked up, puzzled, "Sir?"

O'Brian cocked his head and, reaching out, caught Kennedy's chin.

Archie tensed, but tried not to flinch away from the touch.

O'Brian looked at the bruise on Archie's cheek and shook his head, "It's plain that Mr. Campbell is no gentleman." The priest smiled at the boy, "Would ye be so kind as to sing at the mass on Christmas eve? I mean to asked the Padorin children to sing as well, but I would like ye to lead the singin'. God has given ye children the voices of angels, lad. Will ye not use that lovely voice he has given ye to welcome him on his birthday?"

Archie dropped his eyes to the deck, ashamed, "I've not been to a mass in years, Father."

"Well, God would love to hear from ye, lad." O'Brian told him, "He does love ye."

On those last words, Archie squeezed his eyes shut, Then why did He let me suffer Simpson and prison for so long? He swallowed and thought of his mother, and how happy she would have been to have him sing at a Catholic mass on Christmas eve. Swallowing again, he raised his head and stood proudly, "It would be an honor, sir."

"Aye, for those of us attending, it will be!" O'Brian winked at Kennedy, turned, made his way over to the Padorins.

Just when Pellew opened his mouth to finish the conversation the priest had interrupted, a shout came from the fighting top, "Deck there! Ship abaft the beam. She's flying Spanish colours, sir!"

"Beat to quarters!" Pellew ordered, "Mr. Hornblower, go aloft and see what you can make of her!"

"Aye aye, sir." Horatio hurried toward the ratlines and stopped, looking up at the rigging. Trying to still himself for the climb, he took a deep breath, he forced himself not to think about anything except identifying the ship.

Pellew started towards the quarterdeck, then realized that Lieutenant Taylor was still in the sick berth. Damn! The captain turned and called, "Mr. Kennedy, go to the gun deck and assist Mr. Young!"

"Aye aye, sir." Kennedy hurried below.

"Sir!" Horatio shouted from the masthead, "Two Spanish frigates, forty two guns each, cleared for action."

"Damn!" Pellew muttered as he and Bracegirdle hurried to the quarter-deck, "We have to protect Cassandra as well as Indefatigable."

"Could we out sail them?" Bracegirdle asked.

Instead of answering his first lieutenant's question, Pellew turned to his fourth lieutenant, who had returned to the deck by way of a backstay. "Mr. Hornblower, signal the Cassandra that we are going to engage the frigates. She is to keep clear and keep her heading."

"Aye aye, sir."

Pellew clenched his jaw. The Cassandra had eighty four passengers and a crew of three hundred and fifty. Indefatigable had a crew of three hundred, with twenty six passengers - twelve of whom are children. His gunnery officer was incapacitated, and the acting gunnery officer was being assisted by an acting lieutenant with no confidence. The captain briefly closed his eyes to silently pray, God help us!