GOING HOME, Part Five
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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CHAPTER FIFTY ONE

 

Pellew walked toward Kennedy, clearing his throat as he approached so as not to startle him.

Kennedy turned, then snapped to attention when he saw the captain.

Pellew stopped at an arm's length from him, "Mr. Kennedy, I would like to apologize for not answering your question at the hearing today. You did not make the wrong decision by assuming command. It was your duty to take command when Young refused to do his duty, and this ship would have been distroyed had you not. Thank you, Archie Kennedy, for saving our lives, and His Majesty's ship, Indefatigable."

Blushing, Archie's eyelids fluttered nervously and he hesitated, not certain what to say. Finally, he licked his lips and said, "You are welcome, sir."

Pellew had to press his lips together to keep from laughing, but couldn't stop his smile. He cleared his throat once more, "I am grateful to have such officer in my crew. Your stretegy and execution were excellent, sir."

"I-I wanted to have guns firing constantly, sir." Archie shrugged, "That seemed to be the only way to accomplish it."

"Well, I am very impressed at your decision." Pellew reached out his hand to the boy, "Thank you, Mr. Kennedy."

Swallowing, Archie shook the captain's hand and said fervently, "I just thank God it worked, sir."

Pellew raised his chin, "I thank God for you, Mr. Kennedy."

Archie's throat tightened and he had difficulty swallowing.

Pellew watched him, realizing that his words had affected the boy.

"Deck there!" Called the lookout, "Ship fine on the starboard bow, hull up and heading for the Cassandra. Her guns are run our, sir."

"Damn!" Pellew muttered, then shouted, "Beat to quarters!" And hurried for the quarter-deck as Archie ran below to the gun deck. "Mr. Bracegirdle, alter course!"

"Aye aye, sir!"

Horatio turned Valentina toward the companion way, and gave her a push, "Go below, Valen! You'll be safe there!" As she obeyed, Horatio hurried to his station, suddenly remembering that Archie was the gunnery officer. Horatio muttered a quick prayer for his friend.

 

As he ran to the gun deck, Archie was shaking and nauseous. And so frightened! <<Please God, don't let me have a fit!>> He silently prayed, <<Don't let me fail.>> Then ordered, "Run out your guns! Let's fire on them before they can fire on The Cassandra!"

"Aye aye, Mr. Kennedy!" The men shouted. They quickly ran the guns out and began firing at
his command as the Spanish ship ran between Indefatigable and Cassandra returning fire.

Cassandra's foremast was hit and cracked into, the top crashing to the deck. They could see the Spanish colors. Indefatigable's guns managed several hits to the side of the Spanish ship. The Cassandra slowly made her way away from the battling ships.

The Spanish ship ignored the Cassandra and continued to firing on the Indfatigable. Suddenly, one of it's shots hit the Indy's gun deck.

Pellew immediately felt his heart skip beat and briefly closed his eyes, <<Kennedy.>>

The Indy fired two more braodsides, one of which hit the Spanish ships hull below the water line, and the Spanish ship fired again, hitting the gun deck once more.

Indefatigable's guns fired yet again, this time hitting the Spanish ship's powder supply. As the the other ship exploded, the crew of the Indy erupted in cheers.

"Silence!" Pellew shouted, "Get us away from that ship! Now!"

The Indefatigable steered clear of the now burning Spanish ship.

"Mr. Hornblower!" Pellew called, then hesitated. Indefatigable had taken several hits. One of the shots, he was certain, had hit the gun deck. "Mr. Hornblower, take your men below and see if any of the passengers have been injured, then help with any injuries on the gun deck. Mr. Clevaland, launch boats to pick up survivors."

"Aye aye, sir." The men answered, and hurried to do their duties.

Horatio and his men went below. The passengers who were injured, had only suffered cuts and bruises, and Dr. Leahy was tending to them. So, Horatio went to the gun deck. He could not relax until he knew Archie was safe.

 

The gun deck was a mess! Several men lay dead or injured. Hornblower glanced around, but could not see Kennedy anywhere. He felt his gut wrench. Had Archie been hurt? He ordered his men to start taking the injured to the sick berth.

After several long, and agonizing minutes, Oldroyd approached Horatio, "Sir, I foun' Mr. Kennedy."

Horatio turned to him, "Where, Oldroyd?"

"O'er 'ere, sir." The rating led Horatio to where Kennedy was sitting on the floor, holding a bleeding boy in his arms. Styles was crouched down in front of the two.

"His name is Phillip, sir." Murphy told Hornblower, "He's ten. He was injured when we lost th' cannon. He's lost too much blood."

Horatio slowly moved toward Kennedy. Archie was covered with as much blood as the boy was. So much, that Horatio was not entirely certain that Archie had not been injured.

The boy looked up at Archie, "It's been an....honor serving with....you, Mr. Kennedy."

"What do you mean been?" Archie voice cracked, "You're not going anywhere."

"It's all right, sir." The boy said softly, clutching Archie's jacket, "My mother says I am not to be afraid, but I have to go with her now."

Archie swallowed hard, "Phillip...."

The boy closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Then his hand dropped from Archie's jacket.

"No!" Archie whimpered, pulling the boy against his chest and holding him tighter, "No."

"Mr. Kennedy, sir." Styles said, " 'e's with 'is mum now."

Archie didn't release the boy.

"Sir," Styles' voice was surprisingly gentle as he tenderly put his hand on the boy's shoulder, "Th' boy missed 'is mum some'in fierce. Now 'e's with 'er, an' 'e ain't 'urtin' no more. 'e'll never 'urt again."

Archie sniffed and raised his head to look at the seaman.

"Let me take th' boy, sir." Styles extended his arms, "I'll tend 'im."

Archie looked down at the boy in his arms, who's face was very peaceful, "Goodbye, Phillip. You were a good shipmate." His voice choked as he spoke and carefully brushed the boy's hair back away from his face. Then he gently lifted the boy toward Styles.

The seaman took the child in his arms, stood and carried him away.

Archie buried his face in his hands and took several deep breaths. Then he wiped his face, slowly climbed to his feet, and wiped his eyes again. As Archie straightened he saw Hornblower and closed his eyes, lowering his head.

Horatio stepped closer, "I know how you feel, Archie."

When Kennedy looked up, his expression was almost one of anger, startling Horatio. Then the lieutenant watched Archie's anger change to realization. <<Mariette.>> Archie lowered his head.

Kennedy's men were very efficient. They had the gun deck cleared in record time.

"Mr. Kennedy," Midshipman Jones shouted, "Mr. Hornblower, the captain wants a report from both of you in his cabin."

Archie closed his eyes, and Horatio tried to reassure him, "It will be all right, Archie. You did a good job."

"Four men and one boy are dead, Horatio," Archie's tone was bitter, "and seven are injured. Where do you see good in that?"

"The ship is safe." Horatio told him as they started for the captain's cabin.

 

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CHAPTER FIFTY TWO

 

Hornblower knocked at the door to the captain's cabin. "Come." Came the stern voice. Hornblower and Kennedy walked in, and snapped to attention.

Pellew immediately noticed Kennedy's glassy eyes.

"Report, Mr. Hornblower?" Pellew ordered.

"The passengers are safe, sir." Horatio answered, "Only minor cuts and bruises. Dr. Leahy was tending to them, so I took my men to the gun deck to help with the injured."

"Very good." Pellew took a deep breath, knowing this report was not going to be as good, "Mr. Kennedy?"

"Sir," Archie's voice was very unsteady, "I regret to report the loss of one cannon, four men and...." He cleared his throat, "and one boy dead. Seven men and boys injured."

The captain nodded slowly.

"That brings the total to five dead, sir." Bracegirdle informed him, "And eleven injured."

"Yes. Regrettable." Pellew said softly. Turning back to his two young officers, the captain realized that Kennedy was fighting to keep his composure. He stepped closer, "In the Navy, men - and sadly boys - die. It...."

Archie quickly closed his eyes, fearing he might cry.

<<He has too good a heart for the service.>> The captain thought to himself, <<Sending him into the Navy was one of the many mistakes his father made. He is not cut out for this life.>> Pellew said softly, "Death is the hardest part of this life."

Archie only whispered, "Yes, sir."

"I wish I could tell you that it gets easier." Edward told him gently, "But the truth is, it does not." He cleared his throat, "Is the gun deck cleared?"

"Yes, sir." Kennedy's voice was very soft.
"You should go to bed, then." Pellew wished he could think of something to ease this hard lesson, but nothing was coming to mind, "You need your rest, Mr. Kennedy. Your watch comes very early. Dismissed."

"Aye aye, sir." Archie said in what he hoped was an officer like tone, suppressing his churning emotions, turned, and left the cabin.

Pellew turned to Hornblower and raised his eyebrow.

"One of the boys died in Mr. Kennedy's arms, sir." Horatio offered quietly.

The captain closed his eyes for a moment. Then opened them and focused on his young lieutenant, "Mr. Hornblower, I know I need not tell you this, but....please look after him."

"Yes, sir." Horatio gave a slight nod.

"Make sure he sleeps." Pellew told him, "Dismissed."

"Sir." Horatio saluted the captain, then gave the first lieutenant a nod, "Sir."

"Good night, Mr. Hornblower." Bracegirdle returned the nod, and Horatio left the cabin.

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Horatio opened the door to their cabin to find it empty. Then he remembered that since their release from prison, Archie had spent every moment he could on deck, even climbing to the fighting top. Horatio assumed it was because of being locked in small cells for two years, and standing on the deck and, especially the fighting top, gave one the feeling of total freedom.

"Are you looking for Archie?" Hether asked.

"Yes." Horatio turned to face him, "Do you know where he is?"

Hether pointed up the mainmast.

Horatio saw Archie sitting on the grating, and sighed heavily, "Thank you."

Hether nodded and returned to the quarter-deck as Horatio began to climb the rigging. <<Why did he have to climb up there?>>

Since their release from prison, Archie spent all his free time on the deck, in the fighting top, or standing on the yardarm. Horatio couldn't understand why, until the captain made him go to the top of the foremast. It was the most amazing feeling he had every experienced. He had felt so free. Now it made sense, after two years in prison cells and yards, Archie was trying to feel as free as he could.

As he neared his friend, he heard Archie take a sobbing breath. He continued to climb, but stopped before reaching the metal grating. Matthews had climbed onto the grating from the opposite side, and was now sitting next to Archie. Horatio could hear them, but they seemed to be unaware of him.

"Mr. Kennedy, is som'in' wrong? Should I get Mr. 'ornblower, sir?"

"No!" Archie shook his head, "No, Matthews....I don't want....not him."

"What's troublin' ye, sir?" Matthews said gently, "I told ye, ye can always come t' me if ye need someone. I'll do anythin' fer ye, sir."

"Matthews," Archie took a shuddering breath, "I felt Phillip...." He stopped, unable to say the word.

"Styles told me, sir." Matthews kept his voice as gentle as he could, "Ye never felt anyone die before, 'ave ye, sir?"

"Yes, I have." Archie whispered.

"Ye 'ad someone die in ye're arms before, sir?" Matthews was going over the years they had served together, but never remembered hearing of Kennedy holding anyone when they died.

"No." Archie's voice trembled as he said, "Someone died while holding me."

Matthews put his hand on Kennedy's shoulder, "Who, sir?"

Unable to stop the tears, Archie lowered his head and whimpered, "My mother!"

As Horatio listened, Archie explained to Matthews through tears and sobs, "When my mother was ill....she had me sit with her on the bed and she....held me the way she always did, holding me close, my head on her chest...." He paused to take a sobbing breath, "..and she was talking to me...." Archie sniffed, "..then she became quiet and her arms fell....away from me, and I...heard her heart stop beating, and she stopped breathing." He took another sobbing breath, "I heard and felt her die!"

"Oh, lad." Matthews cocked his head, "I'm so sorry."

Archie drew his knees up and wrapped his arms around his legs, burying his face to cry.
Horatio was stunned. <<Archie's mother had died while holding him! No wonder he was so shaken by that boy's death!>> Horatio's heart was breaking for his friend.

However, Horatio also felt another hurt. Why would Archie choose to tell Matthews about his mother instead of Horatio? He and Archie were supposed to be friends. <<Why didn't he want to tell me? He did not even want to talk to me.>> When Matthews had offered to get Horatio, Archie had said, 'No. Not him'. <<Why?>>

Horatio climbed down the rigging. His best friend would rather confide in the seaman than in him? Was it because Matthews was older? Or was it because Matthews and Kennedy had served together longer than Horatio and Archie? Horatio went to his cabin, unable to rid himself of the pain in his chest.

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December 14, 1795

Horatio awoke to find that Archie had manage to quietly leave for his watch. Or had he even come to the cabin last night? Horatio hadn't heard Archie come in. Dressing quickly, he hurried on deck.

 

He climbed the steps to the quarter-deck and saw Kennedy and Bracegirdle standing close, quietly speaking. As he drew near, Horatio heard Kennedy, "..her now, and he closed his eyes and died. He had a peaceful look on his face, as if he had just fallen asleep."

"He was with his mother." Bracegirdle said.

"You mean....in Heaven?" Archie asked hesitantly.

"Don't you believe in Heaven, Archie?" Bracegirdle cocked his head as he turned to face Kennedy, and noticed Hornblower standing behind the acting lieutenant.

Archie sighed, and spoke hesitantly, "I....I want to believe there is. I want to believe that dying is not the end. That there's something more then just this life. And that I'll get to see...." He stopped, blinking away the tears that were starting to come, "I'm sorry, sir. I've just been thinking of when my mother...."

"It's all right, Archie." Bracegirdle put his hand on Kennedy's shoulder. Then, saw the captain coming up behind Hornblower and removed his hand, but said gently, "There is a Heaven, Archie. And you will see you mother again." He looked past the acting lieutenant, "I believe your watch has come to an end. Good morning, Captain Pellew. Mr. Hornblower."

Archie closed his eyes and quickly composed himself.

Horatio felt even more hurt now than he had the previous night. Why was his friend talking to everyone but him? "Good morning, Mr. Bracegirdle." Horatio turned to Pellew, "Good morning, sir."

Raising his head, Archie turned to face them, surprising Bracegirdle with a brilliant smile, and said cheerfully, "Good morning, Captain! Good morning, Mr. Hornblower! She's steady at three knots, sir."

"Yes, Mr. Kennedy." Horatio said formally, "You are relieved."

Not understanding Horatio's manner, Archie blinked and glanced at Bracegirdle, then back at his friend and asked, "Is something wrong, Mr. Hornblower?"

"You are dismissed, sir." Horatio said, then clasped his hands behind his back and looked over the deck.

The hurt expression on Kennedy's face was not missed by the captain and first lieutenant as Kennedy snapped to attention and saluted, then turned and hurried for the steps.

 

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CHAPTER FIFTY THREE

 

"Mr. Hornblower," Pellew motioned for Horatio to follow him to the stern rail, then asked, "are you angry with Mr. Kennedy?"

"Sir?" Horatio turned, frowning.

"Mr. Kennedy seemed like his usual cheerful self until you spoke so coldly to him." Pellew informed him, "What could possibly have happened between the time you left my cabin last night and this morning?"

Horatio stiffened. He could not tell the captain what was wrong. Straightening to his full height, Horatio said truthfully, "Mr. Kennedy was not in our cabin when I went in, sir, and I did not hear him come in last night, nor leave this morning."

"I thought I asked you to make certain he slept last night?" Pellew asked.

"Yes, sir, you did. But he was not there when I went in." Horatio didn't dare say more then that.

Bracegirdle came up behind them, "Sir, I believe that boy's death reminded Mr. Kennedy of his mother's death."

"That was why you were discussing Heaven and his mother." Pellew realized.

"Yes, sir."

"How did you do it, Mr. Bracegirdle?" Pellew asked, "I thought only Mr. Hornblower could get Mr. Kennedy to confide in him."

<<Not lately.>> Horatio thought bitterly.

"He seemed so sad when I came up here." Bracegirdle explained, "I wanted to let him know that I understood how he felt about the boy dying in his arms, so I told him of the first man I felt die. And he told me about the boy's death, then we started talking about Heaven, and he told me he had been thinking of his mother's death." The lieutenant shrugged, "I believe he just needed someone to talk to at that moment and I was the only one available."

"Mr. Hornblower," Pellew said, "I believe one of your men wishes to speak with you."

"Sir?" Horatio blinked.

Pellew gestured to the deck, and Horatio turned to see Matthews standing there. "You best find out what he needs, Mr. Hornblower."

Horatio approached the older seaman, "What is it, Matthews?"

"Sir," Matthews said hesitantly, "I thought ye should know....Mr. Kennedy told me some'in' last night. 'e said 'e couldn't tell ye, sir. 'e didn't want to cause ye pain."

"Didn't want to cause me pain?" Horatio echoed, his frowned deepening.

"Aye, sir." Matthews said slowly, " 'cause o' ye're loss at Muzillac, sir. Said 'e didn't want t' make ye remember that. But, sir, 'e told me 'is mum died while 'oldin' 'im. 'e actually 'eard an' felt 'is mum's 'eart stop. Mr. Kennedy....'e's got a gentle 'eart, sir. I know that 'ad t' 'ave broken it." Matthews sighed, "Ye're 'is friend, sir, an' I know 'e's been there fer ye, an' that ye ain't quite o'er ye're grievin' yet. But, Mr. Kennedy....'e's 'urtin' too, sir. An' 'e don't 'ave no one."

Horatio closed his eyes, "Thank you, Matthews. You should return to your work."

"Aye aye, sir." Matthews knuckled his forehead and went back to his work, feeling a deep sorrow for these two young officers he has become so fond of.

<<Archie tried to keep me from being hurt and I childishly hurt him by being so cold to him.>> Horatio returned to the quarter-deck furious with himself. <<Gee, Horatio, you couldn't be a bit more cruel to your friend, could you? After all, he's still breathing!>> Hornblower climbed the steps, wishing more then ever that he could kick his own arse and trying to figure out a way to actually do it. He would have to apologize to Archie at the first opportunity.

"Is everything all right, Mr. Hornblower?" Pellew asked.

Horatio was saved from having to answer that question by Hepplewhite's sudden appearence on the quarter-deck, "Captain Pellew."

The captain turned to frown at the surgeon, "What are you doing on the quater-deck, doctor?"

"I have observered Mr. Young long enough, sir." Hepplewhite announced, "There is nothing wrong with the man. You want know why he panicked, you'll have to ask him. But as far as I can tell, he's as sane as the rest of us."

"Thank you, doctor." Pellew turned to his first lieutenant, "Mr. Bracegirdle, let's get this over with. The hearing will convene this afternoon at two o'clock. Mr. Hornblower, inform Mr. Kennedy, and tell him there will be no gunnery practice today because of the hearing."

"Aye aye, sir." Horatio hurried down the steps. <<And I will apologize to Archie.>>

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Hoping that Archie would be eating, Horatio went to the wardroom first, and was grateful to find him there. He sat down across from his friend, "Archie..."

Kennedy stopped toying with his food and, sitting at attention, said formally, "Yes, Mr. Hornblower?"

"Archie, I'm sorry." Horatio said, "I treated you very rudely this morning."

"Why, sir?" Archie asked, the hurt evident in his voice.

Horatio took a deep breath, "I knew you were in pain last night and saw you on the fighting top. I climbed up the rigging to talk to you, but I heard you talking to Matthews....and it hurt me that you told Matthews not to get me. That you would rather talk to him then to me. We're friends, Archie, and I wanted to be there for you, the way you have been for me since leaving Muzillac. Then when I walked onto the quarter-deck while you were talking to Mr. Bracegirdle, I felt even more hurt that you would talk to everyone but me, so I treated you coldly. It was wrong of me. I should not have been so childish. If you do not wish to confide in me, I should respect your wishes."

"Mr. Bracegirdle started talking to me this morning." Archie took a deep breath, "And I....could not talk to you."

"Matthews told me about your mother," Horatio said, "and why you didn't want to talk to me."

Closing his eyes, Archie sighed heavily, "I didn't want you to remember the pain of losing...."

"We are freinds, Archie." Horatio told him, "You should have come to me. Why do act as if you are not important? Your feelings matter just as much as mine do. What makes you believe they don't?"

"Horatio," Archie appeared uncomfortable and, looking at the table top, said very slowly, "I was alone for a year, with no one to talk to. No one to listen to. No one who cared when I was not feeling well. No one to care when I...when I wept." The last word was whispered, "The point is; no one cared for me. Horatio...." Archie licked his lips, then swallowed and glanced up. "Look at you!" He suddenly said and gestured with both hands at Horatio.

Horatio jerked and frowned at him, "What?"

"You are sitting here, looking at me." Archie said, "Listening to me. I have your complete attention, and I'm not used to that."

Horatio leaned forward on the table, but before he could speak, Archie said, "I have not mattered to anyone for so long...." He quickly stopped speaking when his voice started to tremble and closed his eyes, trying to get control of his emotions.

Horatio stood and walked around the table to sit next to his friend and put his arm over Archie's shoulders, "You do matter, Archie. And you are cared for on Indefatigable."

"Mr. Hornblower, the ca...." Hether stopped in mid-sentence, his expression turning to one of concern, "Archie, are you all right?"

Archie nodded and forced a smile, "I'm fine, Kevin. Thank you."

"What did that captain want, Mr. Hether?" Horatio asked.

"Oh." Hether suddenly remembered, "He wanted to know if you found Mr. Kennedy and informed him of what you were supposed to inform him of?"

"Yes, Mr. Hether. Thank you." Horatio nodded at the midshipman, who gave an understanding nod and left.

Archie looked up at Horatio, "Inform me....?"

"The hearing will convene at two o'clcok." Horatio told him, "And because of the hearing, there will be no gunnery practice today."

Archie nodded, lowering his eyes.

"Archie," Horato said softly, "Please forgive me for being childish and treating you so cruelly. I do care about you. You are my only friend."

Archie had always wished his brothers would have been as kind to him as Horatio had been. Horatio cared for him when he needed it. He gave Archie courage, or guidence, even comfort, whenever he needed it. Archie's brother would never have apologized for hurting him. And Stepphen hurt him more then Horatio had. Archie would have given anything to have had Horatio as his brother.

"Can you forgive me, Archie?" Horatio asked.

Archie closed his eyes, then sniffed, and said very softly, "Of course, I can, Horatio. I could never stay angry with you."

Horatio squeezed Archie affectionately, "I could never stay angry with you, either. You mean too much to me."

That did it! Archie lowered his head, squeezing his eyes shut as tightly as he could to stop the tears that were threatening to come.

"Please talk with me after the hearing, Archie." Horatio asked gently, "Will you?"

Archie only nodded, not trusting his voice, and Horatio cleared his throat, "I have to...."

Horatio was cut off by a joyful cry, "Mr. Kendy!"

 

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CHAPTER FIFTY FOUR

 

Little Harvey ran into the wardroom, climbed up on the bench next to Archie, and threw his arms around the youth's neck, "I missed you!"

Archie turned and pulled the child into an embrace, "I've missed you too, Harvey."

"You didn't tell us a story yesterday." Harvey frowned at Archie.

Archie pushed his plate away and sat Harvey on the table in front of him, looking into the dark eyes, "I wanted to, Harvey. I really did! But when I was not working, I was resting. I was very tired yesterday. Can you understand that?"

The little boy nodded his head, "You have to work, and it makes you tired."

Archie smiled at thatm "Yes. Exactly."

"I have to go, Archie." Horatio took his arm from his friend's shoulders and rose.

"Are you Mr. Kendy's friend?" Harvey asked.

"Yes, I am." Horatio smiled, glancing at Archie.

"What's your name?" Harvey cocked his head.

"Horatio."

"Does Mr. Kendy tell you stories too, Horasio?"

Horatio tried not to smile at the child's pronuniation of his name, "Not as good as the stories he tells you."

The child frowned at Archie, "Don't you love, Horasio?"

Archie took the little boy's hands in his, "Very much, Harvey."

Horatio suddenly felt a lump in his throat at Archie's answer.

Harvey cocked his head again, "Then why don't you tell him good stories?"

"I do tell him good stories, Harvey." Archie told him, smiling, "He just doesn't like the ones I tell him."

The boy turned a confused frown on Horatio, "You don't? Why?"

Horatio shrugged, "The ones he tells me are about people, not animals."

Harvey sighed and looked back at Archie, "You need to tell him stories with animals in them."

Archie laughed, "All right, Harvey. I'll tell him stories with animals in them."

Harvey looked back up at Horatio, "Will that make you happy, Horasio?"

"Yes, Harvey." Horatio smiled.

"Good." Harvey said satisfied, "I want everybody to be happy!"

"Thank you, Harvey." Horatio put his hand on the boy's head and tossed his hair, "Now, I have to get back on watch."

"Goodbye, Horasio." Harvey said, then turned his attention back to Archie.

In only a few moments, little Harvey had lifted Archie's spirits. Horatio frowned, <<But how did the child know where to look for him?>> As Horatio walked out of the wardroom the wya Harvey ha come, he saw Malcolm Hamilton standing there. When he stopped in front of the man, Malcolm smiled sadly, "I was hoping Harvey could cheer Mr. Kennedy bit. He looked sad when he left the quarter-deck."

Horatio closed his eyes, feeling his breakfast turning in his stomach, <<How could I have been so childish?>> Opening his eyes, Horatio said, "It worked, sir. Mr. Kennedy's spirits seemed to have risen. Thank you."

Horatio started for the quarter-deck, and Hamilton was walking with him, which made the lieutenant frown, "Most people would not let their child with someone they barely know, sir."

"I know Archie loves Harvey, and would never let anything happen to him." Malcolm commented.

"What makes you so certain, sir?" Horatio couldn't understand how this man, who has only known Archie a few days, could know him so well, and Horatio, who has known Archie for three years, barely seems to know him.

Malcolm smiled sympathetically, "Archie is so easy to read. One look at him, and you can instantly see the pure goodness in him, and his sensitive heart. A heart that is easily broken. His father made a very bad choice when he sent Archie into the Navy. It goes against his nature."

"Archie Kennedy is a fine officer, sir." Horatio felt insulted by Hamilton's remarks.

"Oh, I'm not saying he can't have a career in the Navy, Mr. Hornblower." Malcolm corrected, "He is very good at it for someone who is not naturally suited for it. What I am saying, Mr. Hornblower, is that Archie feels things very deeply, even though he tries to hide it. And I would have to say that he has become an expert at hiding his feelings, if his own friend can't see them."

<<How many times was Archie hurting and I was not even aware of it?>> Horatio stopped at the steps to the quarter-deck, "I would like to thank you, sir, for taking your son to lift Mr. Kennedy's spirits."

"Mr. Hornblower," Malcolm said, "I love Archie. I look at him and my heart goes out to him. As a father, I cannot ignore a child in such desperate need of love."

"Sir." Horatio gave the man a nod, and turned to climb to the quarter-deck.

"Mr. Hornblower," Pellew motioned him over to the rail, then turned to face him, raising his brow, "I trust you have made amends with Mr. Kennedy?"

"Sir," Horatio took a deep breath, "I must apologize for my earlier conduct. It was very childish of me to treat Mr. Kennedy in that manner."

"Indeed, it was." Pellew clasped his hands behind his back and looked out over the water, "A captain should be stern, Mr. Hornblower, but should also treat his men with respect. Men will work better for officers, when the officers treat them with dignity and respect." He turned back to Hornblower, "Do I ever greet anyone coldly?"

Horatio lowered his head, "No, sir."

"Mr. Hornblower," Pellew raised his chin, eyeing the boy, "Mr. Kennedy is your friend, but he is also you subordinate. If you have a problem with him, even if it is a personal matter, it should be handled properly, not childishly. You should never allow your personal feelings to effect the way you treat your subordinates. They look to you for guidence and leadership, even Mr. Kennedy. But men will not want to follow you, if they do not trust you. The men see the way you treat others, including your friend. And if you have no respect for your own friend, why should they believe that you would have respect for them? Humm?"

"I did not think of that, sir." Horatio answered honestly.

"I want you to start seperating your personal feelings from your duty." Pellew ordered, "Which means, I do nt care how angry you are with anyone, even if it is your best friend, you are not to let it effect your duties, or how you treat anyone, even the one you are angry with. Is that understood?"

"Yes, sir." Horatio stood stiffly.

"You may return to you duties, Mr. Hornblower." Pellew turned and walked away form him.

Horatio spent the rest of his watch pondering what the captain had said, <<How did he become so wise? Will I ever be that wise?>>

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

As the men assembled for the service, the passengers assembled with them. The officers stood at attention in front of the assembly and Bracegirdle began the service. As Phillip's name was announced, Kennedy closed his eyes, but maintained his composure. Horatio watched him with Hamilton's words in mind, <<'Archie feels things very deeply, even though he tries to hide it.' >>

When the service ended, and everyone walked away, Kennedy moved to stand next to the rail and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

Horatio started toward his friend, but Pellew reached him first, "Mr. Kennedy, are you all right?"

"Yes, sir." Archie came to attention and cleared his throat, "Sir, I apologize for allowing my emotions to...."

"It's all right, Mr. Kennedy." Pellew waved off the apology, "Death is the hardest part of life."

"But," Archie slightly shook his head, "an officer in His Majesty's Navy...."

"..is still human, Mr. Kennedy." Pellew told him gently, "And prone to the same emotions as every human is. It is very hard to watch others die. Even more so, when it brings with it memories of someone you loved and lost."

Archie closed his eyes and sighed, "Mr. Bracegirdle told you, sir."

"Yes." Pellew kept his voice gentle, "I lost my mother, and I know the pain. I take it, you were not prepared for her death?"

"I was told that she was very ill, sir." Archie's voice was soft, "But they never said there was a chance she could die." He hesitated a few moments, then said softly, "I could not believe it when I heard her heart stop beating and felt her stop breathing, sir."

"You felt your mother die?" Pellew moved closer to him.

"Yes, sir." Archie's quivering voice betrayed him, allowing his pain to be heard plainly, "She died while....while she was holding me."

Pellew closed his eyes, <<This lad has had such a sad life! And he's still so young! How much more is the poor boy going to have to suffer in his life?>> And yet, Kennedy almost always had a smile on his face. <<How does he do that?>> Opening his eyes, Pellew put his hand on Archie's shoulder, "I am so sorry, Mr. Kennedy."

"I am sorry, sir." Archie never raised his head, "Feeling Phillip die....brought back....my mother's death." He looked up at Pellew, struggling to keep his composure, "I was not prepared for that, sir."

"I understand, lad." Pellew gently squeezed the boy's shoulder, his voice quiet, "It's all right."

"Sir," Archie couldn't keep the tears from his eyes, "Thank you....for your kindness and understanding."

That struck Pellew's heart. <<Oh, how this poor lad has suffered!>> He gave Kennedy a sad smile, "You are very welcome, Mr. Kennedy. Go below and compose yourself, now." The captain patted Kennedy's shoulder.

"Aye aye, sir." Archie put his head down, then turned and walked away. Edward sadly watched him go, as did Horatio.

 

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

 

CHAPTER FIFTY FIVE

 

The officers sat at the table waiting in the great cabin for the hearing to begin. Kennedy and Pendleton walked in, and stood at attention. Pellew motioned for both of them to move to two chairs that had been set against the wall to the left of the table.

A marine escorted Young into the room. The lieutenant glared at Kennedy, then snapped to attention before the captain.

"Mr. Young," Pellew announced, "can you tell me why abandoned your post?"

"Sir," Young said irritably, "Kennedy tried to take command of the gun deck the moment he came there!"

Archie's mouth opened and he frowned at the lieutenant, confused.

"That does not excuse what you did, Mr. Young." Pellew said sternly.

"But this wasn't my fault, sir!" Young protested.

"Pray tell, Mr. Young," Pellew raised his brow, "who's fault was it that you hid in the corner and refused to do your duty?"

"Kennedy...."

Pellew leaned forward as if completely interested, "Mr. Kennedy made you hide in the corner?"

Pendleton tried to stifle his snicker, without succeeding.

Young shot an angry glance at Kennedy, who lowered his gaze. Then, the blue eyes sought the brown ones. Horatio shook his head slightly to let his friend know that it was not his fault, and realized that Archie did look to him for guidance just like the captain said.

"Do tell, Mr. Young?" Pellew spread his arms wide, his palms turned up, "How did Mr. Kennedy come to make you hide in a corner?"

"I told you, sir." Young huffed, "He was trying to assume command from the moment he came to the gun deck."

Pellew nodded slowly as if he understood, "And so you let him have command and went to the corner. Tell me, Mr. Young, if the enemy was trying to take command of England, would you hide in a corner and let them?"

Pendleton chuckled at that and Pellew shot him a glare.

"You think this is a jest, sir?" Young frowned angrily.

<<You are the jest!>> Pendleton shook his head, but kept silent.

"No, sir, I do not think this is a jest." Pellew told him, "I think it is sad that you cannot even be man enough to accept responsibility for, and the consequences of, your own actions." Pellew stood and walked around the table to stare directly unto Young's eyes, "YOU abandoned your men and your post to hide in a corner. YOU forced a junior officer to assume command of the gun deck to keep the Indefatigable, and the Cassandra, from being destroyed. YOU have brought this upon yourself, Mr. Young, and yet, you still act the coward, and try to blame others for YOUR mistake. Have you no decency at all, man?!"

"Uh....I...." Young stuttered.

"Mr. Young, PLEASE!" Pellew shook his head, "Have the courage to accept your punishment like the man you are supposed to be!"

Young closed his mouth as Pellew walked back around the table and took his seat. Edward sat quietly for several minutes. The captain took a deep breath, "Lieutenant Harold Young, it is the judgement of this hearing that you did abandon your post, endangering this ship and the lives aboard her, and shall be court martialled in England."

Kennedy was just as stricken as Young was. Both officers shuddered and turned pale, the fear evident on their faces.

Pellew noted both reactions. <<How could anyone who has been through the hell that Kennedy has been through, still have such compassion? And for someone who has done him an injustice?>>

"Sir," Young stepped forward, "I beg....!"

"SILENCE!" Take him to the brig." Pellew ordered, staring at the lieutenant.

As the marine took Young by the arm and led him from the cabin, Pellew announced, "This hearing is closed. Dismissed."

Bracegirdle and Hornblower stood, while Pellew finished writing in his journal.

Bracegirdle walked over to Archie, who had stood, but seemed as if he was not sure what to do next. "Mr. Kennedy, are you all right?"

Archie blinked and said softly, "Yes, sir."

"Mr. Kennedy," The acting lieutenant snapped to attention the moment Pellew spoke, "discipline must be maintained in the Navy, otherwise there would be no order."

Archie swallowed, "I understand, sir." <<I just wonder how long it's going to be before I'm court martialled?>> He thought despairingly, <<Considering my luck, it will be before I reach thirty.>>

A knock came to the door and the captain growled, "Enter."

Taylor came into the cabin, walked smartly up to the captain and saluted, "LIeutenant Taylor reporting for duty, sir."

"Indeed, Mr. Taylor?" Sir Edward raised one eyebrow, "This is somewhat unexpected, sir."

"Yes, sir." Taylor asnwered, "But I assure you, sir, that Dr. Hepplewhite has declared me fit to resume normal duties."

Pellew took a deep breath, glanced briefly at Kennedy, then said, "I believe we need to talk."

"I heard about Mr. Young, sir." Taylor said.

Pellew sighed heavily and lowered his head. <<Taylor has nine years experience at commanding the guns, but Kennedy has a natural ability with them. The men worked better for Kennedy - even before the incident with the Spanish frigates - then they did for Taylor or Young. However, Kennedy was just a boy. An inexperienced, eighteen year old boy, who is struggling with his emotions and only God knows what nightmares from his imprisonment and abuse. Taylor IS a very stable, experienced officer who does not have as many burdens as Kennedy.>> Pellew wanted the best man for chief gunnery officer.

After a several moments more in thought, Edward Pellew made his decision. Raising his head, he said, "Mr. Taylor, I am going to assign you new duties."

"With resepct, sir, may I ask why?" Taylor asked, "I am fit to resume my usual position."

"I am well aware of that, Mr. Taylor." Pellew told the lieutenant, "But I have made Mr. Kennedy chief gunnery officer, and I want to keep him in that position."

Stunned, Archie blinked at the captain, his mouth agape, <<I was supposed to fill in as chief gunnery officer, not become chief gunnery officer!>>

Horatio walked around the table, as stunned as Archie, and joined the other officers.

"Again, with respect, sir" Taylor said, "I like being chief gunnery officer."

"Mr. Taylor," Pellew said impatiently, "I am growing tired of saying this - in His Majesty's Navy personal feelings are of no consequence - all that matters is duty. On Indefatigable, I choose the best officer for each position. And in the matter of chief gunnery officer, Mr. Kennedy is the best for that position."

Archie was having trouble breathing.

"Sir!" Taylor protested, "Mr. Kennedy is a boy!"

"Yes, he is." Pellew admitted, and Archie's heart sank.

Horatio saw Archie's face before he lowered his head.

Pellew went on, "But Mr. Kennedy has demonstrated an excellent ability with the guns, and the men work well for him. Perhaps I'm still in awe over how well he commanded the guns, defending this ship and Cassandra against those two Spanish frigates, but I believe his actions that night have proven that he works well under pressure. He was suddenly thrown into a position in which he had had no previous experience, and for which he did not at the time feel ready, and Mr. Kennedy handled it perfectly."

Archie's head came up with a look of surprise on his face and his mouth open. He felt very light headed and thought he might faint. He had never dreamed he would hear his name and the word perfect in the same sentence!

"No matter what you, or Mr. Kennedy, think of him or his abilities," Pellew continued, "I have to face facts. And the fact is; Acting Lieutenant Kennedy is the perfect candidate for the position of chief gunnery officer despite his age."

Horatio felt so proud of Archie he couldn't keep from smiling. The captain did not give compliments easily. What he was saying he had to truly believe, and Horatio was glad that Archie was there to hear it.

"Mr. Kennedy has proven himself - in two battles - to be capable in that position." Pellew said, "And I'm not moving him because you happened to like being chief gunnery officer, sir. I'm not even certain of Mr. Kennedy's feelings about the position. Not that it really matters. The only thing that does matter, sir, is the fact that he is the best officer for that position and hence will remain Indefatigable's chief gunnery officer."

"Then may I ask what my position will be, sir?" Taylor asked, giving Kennedy an annoyed look.

"Mr. Taylor," Pellew said testily, "my mind has been occupied with other matters today. Mr. Bracegirdle can work you into the watch this evening, and as soon as I have time to consider it, I will have an answer for that question. Until then...." Pellew turned to Bracegirdle, "Mr. Bracegirdle, please take Mr. Taylor and work him into the watch."

"Yes, sir." Bracegirdle put his left hand on Kennedy's upper arm and offered his right hand, "Congratulations on your new position, Mr. Kennedy."

Blinking, it took a few moments for Archie to react. He shook the lieutenant's hand, "Thank you, sir."

Bracegirdle smiled at Archie, then released his hand, turned and gestured toward the door, "Mr. Taylor?" Taylor turned on his heel and stalked out of the cabin.

Pellew closed his eyes.

 

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

 

CHAPTER FIFTY SIX

 

"Captain Pellew, sir?"

At the sound of Kennedy's soft voice, Pellew opened his eyes and turned to him, "Yes, Mr. Kennedy?"

"Thank you, sir." Archie said sincerely.

"You are the best choice for that position, sir." Pellew said honestly.

Archie licked his lips, "Thank you for....what you said....about me, sir. I appreciate it. And...." He took a deep breath, "I shall do my best, sir."

"I know you will, Mr. Kennedy." Pellew smiled at him, <<No one tries harder than Archie Kennedy.>>

"I thank you for your faith in me, sir." Kennedy looked at him with those blue eyes still so uncertain, but now, they were also hopeful.

<<Hope?>> Pellew thought, <<There has never been hope in his eyes before. This is good.>> Pellew felt a bit relieved. "I told you, Mr. Kennedy," He said firmly, "I intend to utilize your abilities, sir. You have an excellent ability with the guns and the gun crews, and I'm not going to waste it. I know you are the best officer for that position. If I believed otherwise I would never have asked you to fill if, sir." Pellew went to the table and gathered his papers into a pile. He raised his head to fix Horatio and Archie with a stern expression, but twinkle in his eyes, and said, "Very well, gentlemen. Once again, you are dismissed."

Horatio straightened to attention and saluted, "Yes, sir."

Still caught up in his thoughts, it took a moment for Archie to realize then, he too, snapped to attention and saluted, "Aye aye, sir."

Pellew returned the salute, and allowed himself a smile after the door was shut behind the two youths.

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

Hornblower and Kennedy went to the wardroom and, finding it empty, Horatio smiled and offered his hand to his friend, "Congratulations, Mr. Kennedy."

Archie shook his hand, "Thank you, Mr. Hornblower."

"Well, you said we could talk after the hearing." Horatio said as he released Kennedy's hand, "Can we do so now?"

"We can talk about anything you want to, Horatio." Archie looked away and said softly, "But I would prefer not to talk about....about my mother....or Phillip."

"All right." Horatio stood quietly a few minutes. He wanted to lift Archie's spirits as Archie had done for him so many times. He thought for a moment, then smiled, "Why don't we talk about the Padorin girls?" At that, Archie's expression went from sad to astonished and Horatio frowned at the sudden change.

"I have to find out if it's true!" Archie whispered to himself, breathlessly.

"What, Archie?" Horatio caught him by the upper arms.

Archie grasped Horatio in the same was and grinned excitedly, "Horatio, I told Miss Tatiana about my fits, and...."

"You told her?!" Horatio didn't release Archie's arms.

"Yes." Archie didn't seem ashamed at all. He actually seemed happy, "And she told me that Julius Caesar would fall to the ground, writhing and moaning uncontrollably!"

"Your fits." Horatio suddenly realized.

"Yes!" Archie smiled broadly, "Horatio, the emperor of Rome had fits like me!"

Horatio had never been so glad to hear of someone having an affliction in his life!

"Julius Caesar had fits!" Archie giggled with delight, "And his men still followed him! Horatio, he had fits just like me!"

Horatio opened his mouth, but couldn't bring himself to ask if this meant that Archie was no longer going to be ashamed of his fits.

"Don't you see, Horatio?" Archie didn't lose any of his excitement, "Julius Caesar conquered most of Europe and his men followed him despite his fits!"

Horatio thought quickly, "And you're not going to let your fits stop you from being chief gunnery officer and becoming lieutenant."

"Lieutenant Archie Kennedy." Archie smiled proudly. He straightened, and held his head up, "Commander Archie Kennedy." His smile broadened, "Captain Archie Kennedy." Archie's smile absolutely glowed, "Admiral Archie Kennedy." Suddenly, Archie threw his arms around his friend and spun Horatio around, "We can be admirals together, Horatio! You and me!"

Horatio embraced his joyful friend, grateful to see him so happy. He would have to thank Miss Tatiana for telling Archie about Caesar. Though he wished he had known about the man before now. Archie could have been spared a lot of humiliation had they known. "You do know, you still have to study for the lieutenant's examination."

"Yes!" Archie stopped to look up at his friend, "You will help me, won't you, Horatio?"

"Of course."

"Then let's get started!" Archie grabbed Horatio's wrist and started pulling him toward the door, "There might be an examination board convening when we get home and I've not even started studying yet!"

Horatio let himself be pulled to their cabin, finding it hard to believe this was the same Archie Kennedy who, only a few minutes earlier, did not want to talk about his mother or Phillip.

Who would have thought that all it would take was a girl?

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

The rest of the day, all through dinner, and into the evening, Horatio helped Archie with his studies - even though it soon became evident that he really didn't need much assistance. Finally, it was time for Horatio's watch, "You should sleep now, Archie." Horatio told him, "It's almost ten and you have the morning watch."

"I know." Archie didn't look up from the book he was holding, "I just...."

"Listen to me." Horatio pulled the book out of his friend's hands, dropped it on the bunk and took Archie's face in his hands, "You can study tomorrow. You need to sleep, now."

Archie smiled slightly, his voice soft, "I just want to pass, Horatio. I want to be a lieutenant."

"That's what I want, Archie." Horatio told him sincerely, "But you need your sleep. You don't want to fall asleep on your watch, do you?"

Suddenly remembering the punishment for that, Archie stiffened and his eyes widened, "No, I don't."

"Then, go to sleep." Horatio let go of Archie's face.

Archie nodded, climbed to his feet, and changed into his nightshirt.

Horatio put his book on the desk while Archie climbed into bed, then Horatio lowered the lamp, "Good night, Archie."

"Horatio," Archie said softly, "thank you for helping me."

"Is that not what friends are for?" Horatio smiled.

"I truly don't deserve a friend like you." Archie said seriously.

Those words made Horatio's chest hurt, <<Why can't he see his worth?>> Horatio sighed loudly, "Interesting, you saying that, because since Muzillac, I've been thinking of how little I deserve a friend like you."

"You're just saying that." Archie said softly.

"No, Archie." Horatio walked over to the bunk, "I know how much you do for me, how much I've leaned on you. What have I given you in return?"

"How can you ask that?" Archie sat up quickly, "I would not be here if you had not kept me alive in prison! Horatio, you have done more for me then I can ever thank you for."

Horatio took a deep breath and let it out slowly, "I suppose neither of us really sees what we do for the other."

"How could you pull me from that horrible nightmare, from death itself, and not see what you have done for me, Horatio?" Archie reached up and wiped his eyes.

Horatio put his hand on Archie's shoulder, but the sound of the bell on deck stopped any further conversation, "I have to go. We can talk tomorrow. Get some sleep." He gave Archie's shoulder a couple of gentle pats and smiled, "Pleasant dreams, Archie."

"Thank you, Horatio." Archie said drowsily.

As Horatio left the cabin, Archie curled up under his blanket and in a few moments was fast asleep.

 

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

 

CHAPTER FIFTY SEVEN

 

Horatio climbed the steps to the quarter-deck and saluted Lieutenant Taylor. As the lieutenant returned the salute, Horatio asked, "Anything to report, Mr. Taylor?"

"Here you have her, Mr. Hornblower." Taylor said stiffly, "Courses and t'gallents. Wind south sou' east, keep her at 3 knots, heading nor' nor' west a halft west. No sail in sight. May you ahve a quiet watch, sir." Then added in a bitter voice as he headed towards the quarterdeck ladder, "It seems that you have been replaced as the captain's favorite, Mr. Hornblower."

"I beg your pardon, sir?" Horatio frowned.

Taylor stopped and turned back, "Mr. Kennedy is clearly now the captain's pet."

"Explain yourself, sir!" Exclaimed Horatio.

Taylor folded his arms across his chest, "It seems that Mr. Kennedy gets the same hours of watch everyday."

"Take care, sir." Horatio warned.

Taylor changed his tone from bitterness to confusion, "I just cannot understand why the captain would put Kennedy in change of anything. As if his fits are not bad enough, he's spent two years imprisoned - isolated. I cannot understand Captain Pellew putting the lives of this crew in the hands of a boy whose fits and imprisonment could very well destroy us all."

"The captain would not have made him chief gunnery officer, if he did not think Mr. Kennedy was capable, sir." Horatio was trying desperately to keep the anger from his voice, "Julius Caesar suffered from the same affliction Mr. Kennedy does, and he conquered most of Europe."

"Perhaps." Taylor leaned back against the rail, "But Julius Caesar was much older than Kennedy, and had not been isolated in prison for two years."

Horatio was trying, as the captain said, to keep his personal feelings out of it, "He was alone in prison for only one year before I was imprisoned with him."

Taylor sighed heavily, "I know you're Kennedy's friend, but the truth is - you have no idea what his captors might have done to him. They may have tortured him. Or worse! He was captured by the French, you know."

"What is that supposed to mean, sir?" Horatio frowned.

"The Marquis de Sade was French," Taylor told him, "and we know what he was. And Kennedy has a very lovely face, which was probably ever more lovely two years ago."

That was something Horatio had never thought of. Archie did have a pretty face. And he was just a boy when he was captured. Hamilton's words suddenly came to his mind, <<'Still a child, suffering in the hands of the enemy, who was doing God only knows what to the boy for two years.'>> Archie would not have told Horatio if men had made advances on him. He certainly would never had told anyone if they had violated him. He would be too ashamed. Horatio closed his eyes, suddenly feeling nauseous.

"Besides," Taylor went on, "most men who are kept in isolation are usually unable to function as they had before. Kennedy was a boy when he was captured. And we don't even know how long he was adrift. I'm telling you, Kennedy may be a pleasant lad, but there is a chance he might end up doing the same thing Young did."

<<Even if he did panic, Archie would never desert his post!>> Horatio wanted to believe that, <<No! Archie's stronger then that. Taylor is jealous because he didn't get what he wanted.>> "Good night, Mr. Taylor." Horatio turned away from the lieutenant and walked to the other side of the quarter-deck.

Taylor took the hint and went below.

Horatio didn't know weather he should bring this conversation to the captain's attention or not. He could just let the man hang himself.

Then Horatio remembered not reporting Bunting and how that ended, <<I'll tell the captain in the morning.>>

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

December 16, 1795

The rain was falling heavily and Archie was wishing he had his cloak. His throat had been hurting since he woke up, especially when he swallowed, and his head felt like it was going to explode. He had remembered this morning where the cloak was, but he didn't want to wake the Padorins to ask Tatiana for it. He would just have to endure the weather without it. He rubbed his arms to keep warm.

The morning passed very slowly, and he found unwelcome memories coming into his mind. He shook his head, and briskly paced the quarter-deck, trying to push them away. He tried to think about what he had learned last night, going over everything Horatio had helped him with, but he just could not push one particular memory from his mind.

 

London,
March 11, 1789

"Lady Elizabeth wishes to see you, Master Archie." The doctor opened the door to his mother's bed chamber and Archie walked in.

His mother was propped up on several pillows, almost sitting. She opened her eyes at the sound of the door and smiled when she saw him, "Come here, precious."

He walked to the bed, "Are you feeling better now, Mama?"

"I am now that you are here, my angel." She reached out to take his hand, "Come sit beside me."

Archie climbed onto the bed to sit beside her, and Elizabeth kissed his cheek and pulled him against her, "Oh, my precious, I love you so much!"

"I love you too, Mama."

"Sing something for me, Archie." Elizabeth asked. Archie cleared his throat and sang *Green Sleeves*. His nurse had always sung it to him when he was ill.

When Archie finished superfluous, his mother said, "Do not ever let that voice go to waste. I want you to continue singing, especially at Christmas time." She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, then said softly, "I want to tell you a story."

Archie smiled, closing his eyes so he could picture the story as she told it.

"Once upon a time, there was a queen, who had everything she could possibly want in this world. She had a husband who adored her, five lovely children, and she was very happy."

"Just like our family." Archie smiled.

"Yes." She smiled slightly, "But one day the queen was visited by an angel, who told her that she was going to have to leave it all to go with him. She was sad, because she did not want to leave her family. The angel told her that she had been given her a certain amount of time for her life, and that her time in the world was over, and she had to return to Heaven."

"Mama, this story is making me sad." Archie said softly, "Why are you telling me this? Where is the good in this story?"

"My precious," She said weakly, "the good is that, even though her body was gone, the queen never left her family. She was always with them, watching over them, and she helped them through the darkest times of their lives by asking God to give them the strength to survive. She was always with them. Archie, I love you. I will never leave you. Even if I die, I will always be with you."

"I..I...." Archie took a deep breath, "I don't want you to die." Laying his head on her chest, Archie wrapped his arms around his mother, holding her as tightly as he could, and listened to the gentle beating of her heart, the way he had since he was small. But today it did not sound as it usually did. <<Because she's ill.>> Archie realized.

"I do not want to leave you, Archie." Elizabeth whispered, holding him tighter, "But, I will have to go when God calls me. Everyone has to....someday. But always....remember, my precious angel, that....I will always....watch....over you. I love....you, my....precious....little Archie. I....will always...."

Then she stopped speaking and her arms fell away. Archie thought she had fallen asleep, until he realized that her heart had stopped beating and that she had stopped breathing. He sat up quickly and looked at her, "Mama?" Archie shook his head, tears coming to his eyes. He sobbed, "Mama, don't leave me!"

The doctor walked over to the bed and pulled Archie off of it and bent to check Elizabeth's pulse.

Archie's nanny came forward and took him by the shoulders, but he pulled away from her, "No!"

"Archie," She said very carefully, "ye're mother was very ill."

Archie shook his head and whimpered, "No!"

"I am so sorry, my dear." She said softly, caressing his cheek.

"I didn't....get to say goodbye!" Archie sobbed.

"Dorothy," Catherine Kennedy snapped, "take him to his chambers!"

"Yes, ma'am." Dorothy led Archie from the room.

"I didn't even get to give her a kiss!" Archie cried.

"After they move her," Dorothy said, "an' put her in her coffin, I'll take ye t' see her. Ye can kiss her, an' tell her goodbye."

"But she won't hear me now!" Archie insisted, taking a shuddering breath, "She won't feel me kiss her!"

"Oh, my little lamb!" She sat down on his bed, pulled him onto her lap and put her arms around him, "She will know ye have kissed her and said goodbye."

"But....she's dead." Archie sobbed, "I don't....want to....I don't think....I can kiss....a dead...."

"Lamb, listen t' me." Putting her hand on Archie's face, Dorothy tenderly stroked his cheek, "The soul goes t' Heaven, the body is buried until God makes it rise on judgement day, and unites everyone's souls with their bodies. Death is not the end, my sweet lamb. Ye will see yer Mother again, someday. I can promise ye that. Until then, her spirit will always be with ye."

Archie wrapped his arms around his nanny and buried his face in her shoulder to cry.

 

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

 

CHAPTER FIFTY EIGHT

 

Indefatigable,
December 16, 1795

 

Archie walked to the traffrail and whispered slowly, "Are you with me now, Mama? Were you there all those times Simpson hurt me?" Tears came to his eyes as he spoke, "Did you ask God to help me? And why did it take so long for the prayer to be answered? Why did I have to suffer for four years?"

"Can you even hear me?" Archie looked out over the water, "If you can, Mama, I need your help. I can't....I can't do this alone. I'm frightened. I know I shouldn't be. But because of Simpson.....and prison.....it's so hard not to be. If you are with me, you know what I've been through. Please help me, Mama. I'm an officer and I need to be a man. I would give anything to be half the man Horatio is."

"If you can help me, Mama, please ask God to give me strength, and courage, and to help me to become a man, as I should be. I don't expect I'll ever be the the man I could have become if Simspon had not been in my life." Archie's tears were steadily sliding down his face, "Why did he have to do this to me?! He ruined my life! I can't even be man enough not to weep!!" Archie squeezed his eyes shut and sturggled to stop the tears that were steadly streaming down his cheeks.

 

After several long moments, Archie Kennedy took a deep breath, sniffed, and wiped his face. He had to stop crying before anyone saw him. <<Horatio would not cry. Least of all, on deck!>> He thought bitterly, <<But crying seems to be all I do now. Why? I used to have better control of myself. No one ever knew when I was hurting. What happened to me? Why can't I do that now?>>

"Good morning, Mr. Kennedy." Seeing Kennedy start at the sound of his voice, the captain decided to give the boy a few moments and turned to look at the men on the deck.

Archie tried harder to pull himself together. As discreetly as he possibly could, he wiped his eyes. But there was no way to be discreet when it came to the sniff.

"Are you ill, Mr. Kennedy?" Pellew walked over to him, "Where is your cloak?"

Archie straightened himself and hoped his eyes were not red as he turned to his captain, "Miss Tatiana Padorin has my cloak, sir."

"Standing in the cold morning rain without a cloak." Pellew shook his head slowly, noticing the lad's red puffy eyes. <<He has been crying. He's still thinking of his mother.>>

"Go below, change out of those wet clothes, and do not come back without your cloak. I'll stand your watch until you return."

"Sir, that's not nec...."

"That is an order, Mr. Kennedy." Pellew said sternly, "Unless you want to be charged with rendering yourself unfit for service?"

Archie swallowed, looking frightened, and shook his head, "No, sir."

"Then, go." Pellew told him.

"Aye aye, sir." Archie hurried down the steps and collided with Bowles on the deck.

"I'm terribly sorry, sir!" Archie blinked nervously, as he regained his stance.

"Are you not supposed to be on watch?" Bowles asked, brushing himself off.

"Yes, sir." Archie bent down and picked up his hat, "But the captain has ordered me to collect soemthing from below decks.

"Oh?" Bowles stepped aside, "Then I will not keep you."

"Yes, sir."

As Archie hurried below, Bowles smiled, <<Still so much like the boy he was on Justinian.>> The sailing master climbed the steps to the quarter-deck, "Good morning, captain."

"Good morning, Mr. Bowles." Pellew gave him an amused smile, "I trust Mr. Kennedy did not damage you too badly?"

Bowles gave a quiet laugh, "He was in a hurry to do your bidding, sir."

"Yes." Pellew clasped his hand behind his back, "Hopefully, the next time Mr. Kennedy gallantly offers his cloak, he will remember to get it back."

"Ah!" Bowles smiled even more, "I have no doubt that Mr. Kennedy has a hard time thinking in those particular situations." Then he sighed, "Oh, the effects young ladies have on young men!"

"They would forget their own heads were they not attached." Pellew smiled.

"Indeed, sir." Bowles agreed, "I seem to remember my father once accusing me of that."

"As did my father." Pellew admitted, and the two men laughed.

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

Archie hurried into the cabin and desperately began gathering dry clothes.

Horatio abruptly sat up at the sound of the door, "Archie, is everything all right?"

"No." Archie was digging through his belongings, "It's raining, and I'm supposed to be on watch, but the captain told me to come change my clothes and get my cloak."

"You never found your cloak?" Horatio got up.

"I remembered where it is." Archie stripped off his jacket, "The other night on deck, Miss Tatiana was cold, so I put it on her."

"She still has it?"

Archie gave a nod, dropping his wet jacket on the floor, and Horatio sighed.

Archie started unbuttoning his waistcoat, "The captain threatened to charge me with rendering myself unfit for service if I became ill."

"Archie, take my cloak," Horatio told him, "and I'll get yours from Miss Tatiana before I come up on deck."

Archie looked up as he stripped off his waistcoat, "I truly don't deserve a friend like you, Horatio."

"Yes, you do." Horatio moved to stand in front of his friend as Archie dropped the waistcoat on the wet jacket. HE began to undo Archie's neckerchief. "And I deserve a friend like you. Now let's get you dressed and back on your watch."

"Yes, sir." Archie answered.

Horatio dropped the neckerchief atop the growing pile of sodden things and gathered the dry uniform, while Archie finished removing his wet clothes. Then, he quickly helped Archie dress, handing his friend each garment in turn, the same way Archie had done for him just a few days ago.

Horatio smiled as he tied Archie's neckerchief, and Archie gave him an odd, but gentle smile in return. "There!" Horatio announced as grabbed his cloak and put it on his friend, "You are ready for duty!"

Archie remained serious, "Thank you, Horatio." He opened his mouth as if he were going to say more, then hesitated, turned and grabbed his hat, "I had better get back on watch."

"You're welcome, Archie." Horatio watched him hurry down the corridor, wondering what it was that Archie didn't say.

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

Archie rushed onto the quarter-deck, coming to attention in front of the captain, and announced breathlessly, "Reporting for duty, sir."

"And dry, too." Pellew raised his brow in amusement, "In the future, Mr. Kennedy, when the need for gallantry is over, remember to retrieve what is yours."

"Yes, sir." Archie blushed and swallowed, closing his eyes at the pain in his throat.

"You may resume your duties, sir." Pellew said.

"Aye aye, sir." Archie returned to his watch.

"Good morning, captain." Bracegirdle said cheerfully as he came up on the quarter-deck, "Good morning, Mr. Bowles." Both returned the greeting.

"Captain Pellew." Pendleton came to the quarter-deck, "Dr. Leahy, has just informed me that his medicine chest has been broken into and some bottles of medication are missing."

"Broken into?" Pellew raised a brow.

"Yes, sir." Pendleton answered, "It was under lock and key. Someone did break into it. The young doctor is very upset. He claims the medicines can be lethal if mixed together."

<<And I was hoping for an uneventful voyage.>> Pellew sighed inwardly.

 

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CHAPTER FIFTY NINE

 

"Captain Pendleton," Pellew said, "I want you to conduct a ship wide search. Search the property of everyone. I want those bottles found."

"Yes, sir." Pendleton hurried off the quarter-deck, calling for his men.

"Why would anyone steal medicine?" Bowles asked.

"Perhaps," Bracegirdle suggested, "they did not want to go the ship's surgeon for it?"

"They could have asked Leahy for it." Bowles corrected.

"But if the medications are mixed," Bracegirdle pointed out, "they would be lethal. Why would anyone want lethal medicines?"

"Perhaps, that's why they wanted them, sir." Kennedy said. When the men turned to the young officer, Archie added, "Drinking poison is not as messy as shooting oneself."

"Suicide?" Pellew began trying to think of who on this ship would possibly want to kill himself. Only one man came to mind; Lieutenant Harold Young.

"Well, what other possible reason could anyone have in stealing medications that would be lethal, sir?" Kennedy asked innocently.

A horrible thought struck Bracegirdle, "To use on someone else."

<<That's a distressing thought!>> Pellew suppressed a shudder.

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

The rain was now lightly falling as Horatio came up onto the quarter-deck, and Archie smiled as he caught sight of Horatio wearing his cloak.

Horatio came to attention in front of the captain, "Good morning, sir."

"Good morning, Mr. Hornblower." Pellew saluted the boy, "You will be a welcome relief for Mr. Kennedy."

"Sir, if I may?" Horatio hesitated, "There is something I would speak with you about."

"Yes?" Pellew raised his brow.

"Not on deck, sir." Horatio said, "This should be private."

Pellew's brow went up, "Indeed. Mr. Bracegirdle, I will be in my cabin. Come, Mr. Hornblower."

Horatio followed the captain to his cabin. Once inside, Pellew turned to him, "Yes, Mr. Hornblower?"

"Sir," Horatio took a deep breath, "last night when I reported for my watch, Mr. Taylor informed me that I had been replaced as the captain's favorite and said, 'Mr. Kennedy is clearly now the captain's pet.'." Horatio quickly added, "Not that I ever believed I was favorite, sir. But Mr. Taylor seems to think I was. And he was....bitter that Mr. Kennedy gets the same hours of watch everyday."

"Is that all, Mr. Hornblower?"

Horatio told the captain everything that was said.

Pellew rubbed his face with a groan, feeling nauseous at Taylor's suggestion about Kennedy's French captors.

"Sir?" Horatio hated to ask this question, especially about Archie, but he had to, "What if....what if Mr. Kennedy does have a fit during battle?"

<<That took courage! How many men would question their best friend's abilities?>> Pellew thought, but said, "He has not had one so far."

"He did during the Papillion mis...."

"The Papillion mission was almost three years ago, Mr. Hornblower." Pellew interrupted, "Mr. Kennedy has proven himself in battle since then. Do you and Mr. Taylor believe that I did not consider all those possibilities, and some that the two of you have not thought of, before making him chief gunnery officer? I have faith in Mr. Kennedy."

"Mr. Hornblower, how do you thinkg Mr. kennedy can ever believe in himself if those around him do not believe in him? He already doubts himself, and will become even more doubtful if we, his superiors, doubt him. If we truly want him to believe in himself, we have to believe in him. I know he is capable of commanding the guns. He is a good officer, even if he can't see it. We have to help him regain his confidence, Mr. Hornblower. If we do not...." He took a deep breath, "If we do not, I fear we may lose Mr. Kennedy."

"Lose him, sir?" Horatio suddenly became frightened by that thought, "How?"

"If he is always doubting himself, Mr. Hornblower," Pellew told him, "his doubt could get him killed. Doubt makes one hesitate. Hesitation gets men killed. You know that."

Horatio closed his eyes and whispered, "I don't want to lose him again, sir."

"Nor do I." Pellew said sincerely, "That is why we have...." A knock at the door interrupted him, "Come."

The door opened and Pendleton walked in, "Sir, we have a problem. Miss Borgia is refusing to allow us to search her belongings."

Pellew rolled his eyes, <<God help the man foolish enough to marry this woman!>> "Yes, Captain Pendleton, I'm coming. Mr. Hornblower, thank you for bringing this matter to my attention. Please assume your watch now."

"Aye aye, sir."

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

Horatio hurried to the quarter-deck, while the captain followed Pendleton to the midshipmen's berth. He was in no mood for games, "Miss Borgia, everyone is being searched."

The voluptuous Italian put her hands on her hips, "And I am just supposed to let these men go through my belongings? Through my undergarments?!"

"Unlock your trunk," Pellew warned, "or the marines will confiscate it for the rest of this voyage."

She let out her breath in a huff and slapped the key down in Pendleton's hand. Pendleton gave it to one of his men, who unlocked the trunk and began searching it. Satisfied that this problem had been settled, Pellew started for the quarter-deck, thinking of what Hornblower had told him. Which brought to mind that rainy day, not so long ago.

 

 

Indefatigable,
September 8, 1795

Pellew stood looking out the stern windows. He had sent word for Hornblower to join him in his cabin. One of the men who climbed over that rail only thirty minutes ago had borne such a striking resemblance to Midshipman Kennedy it had made the captain shiver. But he did not dare to hope.

A knock came to the door. "Come." Pellew called and turned to see his guests.

Horatio Hornblower walked into the captain's cabin, followed by a familiar and, seemingly frightened, young midshipman. Horatio smiled, "We found Mr. Kennedy in the prison we were sent to, sir."

For several moments, Pellew could not utter a word. Then he took a deep breath, and walked toward the two, watching Kennedy, who looked as frightened as a trapped rabbit. "I never thought to see you again, sir!"

Archie wanted to speak, but could not find his voice.

"Welcome back, Mr. Kennedy!" Pellew took Archie's hand in both of his and felt the boy shaking, "Your absence has been strongly felt aboard Indefatigable."

Squeezing his eyes shut tightly, Archie swallowed. Then he took a deep breath and, opening his eyes, said softly, "Thank you, sir."

Pellew took several minutes to look the boy over. Kennedy was pale. In fact, he looked ill! He seemed to have lost some weight since the captain had last seen him. The blue eyes, once so full of joy and mischief, were now dulled with a deeper sadness and pain than before. The fear and shame in them was more intense, as well. <<This boy has suffered greatly.>> The captain thought, <<A suffering that was more then just physical.>>

Clearing his throat, Pellew smiled, "Mr. Kennedy," With a nod in Bracegirdle's direction, the captain said, "This is our first lieutenant, Mr. Bracegirdle. We lost both Lieutenant Eccleston and Mr. Chadd during the Papillion mission."

A look of shame came to Kennedy's face.

Pellew took note of it, then turned to his first lieutenant, "Mr. Bracegirdle, this is Mr. Kennedy. One of my midshipmen who was lost during a night raid."

"I am pleased to meet you, Mr. Kennedy." Bracegirdle smiled.

"And I you, sir." Archie answered.

Pellew gestured to the chairs, "Please sit, gentlemen. I am most interested in hearing what happened to you after you were set adrift, Mr. Kennedy."

Horatio and Archie took their seats, as did Pellew and Bracegirdle.

"So, Mr. Kennedy," Pellew asked lightly, "tell us how you ended up in Spain."

An odd look came to Kennedy's face and he lowered his eyes.

 

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CHAPTER SIXTY

 

This was the moment Archie had been dreading. He swallowed, then cleared his throat, and stammered softly, "I-I....I was taken from the jollyboat by a French ship. I was....ill from the heat of the sun, the cold nights, and rain, and the lack of water and food. They took me to France. A captain came and demanded to know how I had come to be adrift alone. I had told them that I could not remember, but he did not believe...."

When Archie closed his eyes and stopped speaking, Horatio reached over to put his hand on his friend's arm.

Archie took strength from that touch, took a deep breath and, not raising his head, continued softly, "They did not believe me. I was....beaten - flogged. They refused to believe that I could not remember how I came to be adrift. I-I....was beaten until...." He swallowed and took another deep breath, "until I lost consciousness, sir."

"Dear God!" Bracegirdle breathed.

Closing his eyes, Pellew took a deep breath, then stood and walked over to his sideboard to pour a small glass of brandy. Walking back to the young officer, Pellew handed Kennedy the glass, "I believe you could use this, Mr. Kennedy."

Opening his eyes, Archie's voice trembled as much as the hand that reached up for the glass, "Uh..th-thank you, sir." Archie took a sip of the brandy.

"So how did you come to be in Spain?" Pellew asked as he took his seat.

Archie took another deep breath and, not meeting anyone's eyes, said quietly, "I had tried to escape from prison, twice. Colonel Bissett said he....could not have a boy as....lovely....as...I am...around his men." He swallowed again and took another deep breath and finished quickly, "So he arranged for me to be sent to Spain."

Horatio stared at his friend, stunned. Archie had never said a word about that to him.

<<Kennedy was moved from France because the colonel feared he could not trust his men around the boy.>> Pellew thought, <<Lord, how humiliating that must have been for the young officer! No wonder the lad had that odd look on his face when I asked him to explain how he came to be in Spain!>> Pellew suddenly realized the courage it took for Kennedy to tell them that he was moved because guards might fancy him.

<<Or was it because the guards did fancy him?>> Pellew suddenly felt nauseous, <<Did one - or more of the guards actually make advances to young Kennedy?>>

 

Indefatigable,
December 16, 1795

Pellew heaved a sigh at that thought. Kennedy was the kind of boy those kind of men would prey upon. Innocent. Sensitive. And very attractive.

Pellew found it remarkable that Kennedy made it as long as he had without encountering that.

Or did he?

The captain stopped, suddenly stunned by that thought. Kennedy had been on Justinian was four years. Edward knew that those kind of men existed in the navy. How did Kennedy manage to stay clear of them?

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

By the time Horatio came back to the quarter-deck the rain had ended. He came to attention in front of Bracegirdle, "Reporting for duty, sir."

"Well it's about time!" Bracegirdle teased, "You may finally relieve Mr. Kennedy."

"Yes, sir." Horatio walked over to Archie, "Anything to report, Mr. Kennedy?"

"Steady at four knots, sir." Archie smiled.

"Good." Horatio sighed, "You want to switch cloaks?"

"We can switch them in our cabin." Archie shrugged, then grinned, "Where it's warm." Archie walked around Horatio, looking him up and down, smiling, "It looks good on you!"

"Thank you." Horatio smiled warmly, "Now you should go below and warm yourself before you do become ill."

"Yes, sir." Archie snapped to attention, saluted and left the quarter-deck.

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

Archie came up on deck for gunnery practice, and the officers watched the men working for him. He was indeed the best officer for that position. The men worked well, and they were very efficient.

After lunch, the passengers came up on deck. Horatio saw Malcolm Hamilton hand Archie a steaming cup. He took the cup and sipped it. When the children gathered around him, Archie sat his cup down on one of the barrels and sat down on another. Harvey and Betsy climbed up on his lap and he began a story.

The officers were standing at the rail, watching. "I wish I could hear this one." Bracegirdle commented.

"Then let's listen." Pellew headed for the steps with his officers following.

The story he was telling was the story of the first Christmas. He started with the angel that appeared to Mary and ended with their flight into Egypt. As many times as Pellew had heard these stories when he attended church with his family, they never seemed to come as alive as Kennedy made them.

When Archie finished the story he reached for his cup and slowly drank, wincing with each swallow. His throat was hurting more now then it had before.

When the children begged for a song, Archie asked, "Will you all sing with me?"

The passengers, as well as the children, all agreed. Archie took a deep breath and began to sing. The officers returned to the quarter-deck and listened to Kennedy and the passengers singing.

Bracegirdle smiled, "I wonder if the blush on Mr. Kennedy's face is caused my Miss Tatiana?"

"Probably." Pellew smiled as well.

After a few moments, Bowles frowned, "I don't think he's blushing. He looks more flushed, as if he might have a fever."

<<Ill?>> Pellew raised his brow, <<Well, he had been on the quarter-deck in the rain for two hours without his cloak. But surely, he could not have become ill this quickly.>>

Archie stopped singing and said something to Harvey and Betsy, then stood both of them on the deck. When he stood, he put his hand on his chest.

"He most certainly is not well!" Bowles exclaimed.

Pellew quickly descended the steps with Hornblower closely behind and caught Kennedy before he could go below. "Mr. Kennedy," The captain asked gently, "are you all right?"

"No, sir." Archie was starting to feel weak, his hand still on his chest, "Som....something's wrong. My heart is beating too hard."

Moving next to him, Pellew put a fatherly hand to Archie's forehead, but the boy flinched away from him with a shuddering gasp, "You're very warm."

Archie grabbed his middle and doubled over with a loud moan.

"Archie?!" Horatio quickly reached out and caught his friend's right arm, putting his own arm around Archie's back. Pellew took Kennedy's left arm.

"Is Mr. Kennedy all right?" Martha asked as the passengers gathered around.

"Everyone stay back." Pellew ordered, making everyone stop where they where.

Archie took a few deep breaths, then slowly stood upright, still holding his belly and panting.

"You should go...." Pellew's sentence was cut short when Kennedy suddenly gasped loudly and clutched the front of the captain's cloak, looking very frightened. Pellew managed to catch Archie as he collapsed, keeping him from falling. He eased Archie to the deck, keeping his arm behind the boy's shoulders for support.

As Hornblower quickly knelt beside Archie, Pellew looked at him, "We need to get him to the sick berth."

"Sir," Bracegirdle suddenly said from behind him, "if what he has is contagious, the injured could come down with it as well. They may not survive the illness as well as their injuries."

"Damn." Pellew had to get him off the deck. The last thing this ship needed was an epidemic! And if it was contagious, he and Hornblower had already been in harm's way.

"Horatio...." Frightened, Archie reached for his friend, breathing heavily, and whimpered softly, "..help me!"

"I will, Archie." Horatio took Archie's hand and brushed the blond hair out of his eyes, "You know I will."

<<I don't want anyone else near him until we find out what's ailing him.>> Pellew thought, then ordered, "Clear the way to my cabin and send for Dr. Hepplewhite! Mr. Hornblower, let's get Mr. Kennedy to my sleeping cabin."

"Yes, sir." As Horatio lifted Archie into him arms, he could feel him trembling. Archie clung to Horatio, resting his head on the lieutenant's shoulder, and whispered, "Please, help me!"

"We'll take care of you, Mr. Kennedy." Pellew assured him.

 

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