GOING HOME, Part Eight
by Tracy J.
CHAPTER SEVENTY ONE
"Captain, the fever will not go away unless he is bled." Hepplewhite told Pellew.
"Bleeding him in his weakened condition will only finish what the man who poisoned him started." Leahy continued to stare at the older doctor, "Though I doubt that he would care."
Before Hepplewhite could reply, someone knocked on the door.
"Come." Pellew called.
McLoud came in, "I thought some coff...." McLoud stopped when he saw Leahy's stance though the doorway and put the wooden tray down.
"And just what do you plan to do for Kennedy's fever, *doctor*?" Hepplewhite almost spat the last word out.
Leahy gave Hepplewhite a look that made Pellew's blood freeze. The captain cleared his throat and asked, "Dr. Leahy, I would like to know what you plan to do for Mr. Kennedy's fever?"
Leahy took a deep breath, "I'm going to treat him the same way Dr. Chapman treated me when I had a fever two years ago."
"Oh?" Pellew raised his brow.
"With blankets." Leahy said, "And if that doesn't work, I have another way."
"I remember that." McLoud brought a steaming cup to his friend, "I thought you were going to die."
"I would have," Leahy stated, "if Dr. Chapman hadn't been there."
"Thank God he was." McLoud said softly as handed Leahy a cup of coffee, "Here. This is going to be a long night."
"Such is the life of a doctor." Leahy smiled at his friend as he took the cup and drank.
"He needs to be bled, captain." Hepplewhite insisted.
"Mr. Kennedy will die if he's bled, sir." Leahy told him.
"Dr. Hepplewhite," Pellew said firmly, "we are not going to resort to bleeding until we have absolutely no choice."
Dr. Leahy drained the coffee and handed the empty cup to McLoud, then sat back down on the bunk, feeling Kennedy's forehead.
"Anyway, can I talk you into eating?" McLoud asked.
"No." Leahy pulled the rag out of the basin of water and putting it on Kennedy's forehead. McLoud rolled his eyes as if he knew that was the answer he was going to get.
"Kennedy's fever is not going to go away." Hepplewhite told the captain.
McLoud frowned, "How is the captain supposed to take your word for anything when you lied to your lieutenant about how Mr. Kennedy was hurt?"
"A good question, doctor." Pellew turned to the doctor, "Do you have an answer?"
"Sir," Hepplewhite said, "everyone who knew Simpson was afraid of him."
"So," McLoud commented, "instead of putting an end to his reign of terror, you lied so he could continue it. Brave man. I would not take your word that the sun comes up in the east. Nor would I ever entrust my life to your care."
Taking Hepplewhite by the arm, Pellew took him to the day cbain, "Gentlemen, you are dismissed."
"Sir," said Cleveland, "I would like to apologize to Mr. Kennedy."
"You can do so after he recovers." Pellew told him.
"IF Mr. Kennedy recovers." Leahy corrected, havign overheard the remakrd from Kennedy's bedside.
Everyone was shocked by the young doctor's words.
Bowles looked at the doctor, "If he recovers?"
"You said you could save him!" Hepplewhite charged.
"I said I was the only chance he had." Leahy dipped the rag into the water again, "Unfortunately, some of the poison made it's way into his blood."
"Because of the delay, when the good doctor refused to let you near Mr. Kennedy?" McLoud asked.
"Well, that didn't help." Leahy said, "As I said, if he makes it through the night, he should recover."
Horatio closed his eyes in dread. Then felt a presence behind him and looked to see Matthews, appearing to be as distressed as he was.
Pellew pulled himself out of his stupor of fear, "Gentlemen...." He looked at Bracegirdle and Bowles, "Mr. Cleveland, Dr. Hepplewhite, you are dismissed."
"Aye aye, sir." Hepplewhite was the only one who spoke loudly. The other man answered as if half asleep. Then the two of them left.
"Dalen," McLoud asked, "I cannot persuade you to eat just a little?"
"Angus...." Leahy sighed as he wiped Kennedy's face, "it won't stay down."
McLoud turned and spoke to the men in the other room, "I brought enough for everyone. Help yourselves, gentlemen."
When the seamen looked at Hornblower, Pellew said, "You heard the man, gentlemen. Eat."
As the seamen joined Bowles and McLoud at the desk, Leahy looked up, "Captain, Mr. Hornblower, you should eat too."
"You're not going to eat," Horatio said, "but you're insisting that we do?"
"I can't eat." Leahy said softly.
"Why don't you tell him why?" McLoud asked.
Leahy frowned over his shoulder, "I thought you were going to spend time with you wife."
"I was." McLoud sighed, "But she's not feeling well and went to bed early."
"Angus," Leahy turned to face him, "this might not be seasickness."
"I do not believe it is." McLoud agreed, "She has been sick almost every day since before we left Gibraltar."
Leahy dropped the rag into the water again, "Since before we left?"
McLoud frowned and nodded, "She has been sick for the past two weeks."
"Every day for two weeks?" Leahy looked irritated, "And neither of you thought this was important? What are her symptoms?"
"She is nauseous every day, and cannot eat." McLoud said, "Sometimes just in the morning, and sometimes it lasts all day. And she is always so tired."
Leahy's face broke into a smile.
"What?" McLoud didn't understand the sudden change in his friend's expression.
"She's sick every morning?" Leahy's smile grew bigger as McLoud nodded. Then the young doctor stood, "I will have to examine her first, but...." He moved to stand in front of his friend, taking him by the shoulders, "Angus, I think you should sit."
"Why, Dalen?" McLoud was becoming alarmed.
"Because," Leahy did not losing his smile, "if she's sick every morning, and feeling very tired, she could be with child."
McLoud nodded. Then his eyes widened and his mouth fell open.
Moving quickly, Leahy had the chair behind McLoud just as the taller man fell into it. Then the doctor burst into laugher.
McLoud blinked, looking up at his friend, "You think this is funny?"
"Actually, yes!" Leahy kept laughing, "I think it's very funny! That's one look I have never seen on your face before! I wish I could have captured that in a portrait!"
"Dalen!" McLoud frowned.
"Well," Leahy shrugged, not losing any of his amusement, "I've never seen a look of complete fear on your face before! I will remember this forever!"
"I am glad this is so amusing for you!" McLoud leaned forward and buried his face in his hands, "I am not ready for this."
"You should have thought of that before you got married!" Leahy laughed.
Then seeing his friend's distress, the young doctor turned serious, and knelt down on front of McLoud, putting his hands on his friend's arms, "Angus, you have never failed in anything you do. You'll be a great father. You're already a great brother."
McLoud raised his head to meet his friend's gaze. Seeing the faith in those light brown eyes made Angus smile slightly, "Perhaps if I have some help. Like having you as the child's god-father."
"Oooh." Dalen made a face as he stood, "I'm not certain I would be a good influence."
McLoud stood as well and swatted his friend's arm, "I am not going to listen to that! You would make an excellent god-father."
"I don't think Elaina would agree." Leahy walked back to the bunk and said with a smirk, "She said I was incorrigible."
CHAPTER SEVENTY TWO
Leahy picked the rag up again and put it on Kennedy's forehead. Satisfied tat his patient would do well enough for the moment, he moved into the day cabin to strech his legs and McLoud followed. Blinking, Leahy turned to his friend, "Who's going to be the god-mother?"
When Leahy groaned, McLoud raised his brow, "Why do you believe she hates you?"
"Oh," Leahy said very slowly, "I have my reasons, and I'm not mistaken."
McLoud put his hands on his hips and heaved a sigh. He had been having this argument with Leahy for years and was tired of it. "Why does she hate you? And I want an answer this time."
Leahy turned away from him and swallowed, "All right, I'll tell you. But I want you to understand that what I did, I did for Elaina, not for you."
McLoud eyed his friend, suspisiously, "You did this for your friend's wife, not for your friend?"
"Yes." Leahy took a deep breath, and glanced into the sleeping cabin to check on Kennedy, "You remember when she was going to marry Bertram?"
McLoud stepped toward the bunk, shaking his head, "Please do not tell me you were responsible for her calling off the wedding?"
"When everyone was looking for Bertram," Leahy said very softly, "I looked in the last place anyone would think to look for the groom-to-be. The cemetery."
"What would he be doing in a cemetery?" Bowles asked.
"Something he didn't want anyone to see him doing." Leahy seemed as if he were afraid to say his next words aloud, but forced them out hesitantly, "He was....kissing Claudia."
"WHAT?!" McLoud stepped closer to his friend and grabbed him by the arms, looking deeply into his eyes as if attempting to see if the young doctor was telling the truth.
"I couldn't let Elaina marry him, Angus." Leahy lowered his gaze, and said softly, "He didn't love her."
"You told her?" McLoud couldn't believe Leahy had never told him about this!
"Sort of." Leahy shrugged, lowering his eyes a bit, "I went to the room where she was waiting, and she asked me if I knew where Bertram was. I walked to the window, which had a view of the cemetery to see if they were still there....and if she would be able to see them....then I took Elaina to the window and turned her toward the view."
"And she saw them." Pellew stated.
Leahy nodded, "She told me to tell her father she needed to speak with him immediately." He finally looked up at McLoud apologetically, "You know the rest."
"They called the wedding off." McLoud said softly, "No wonder Lord Alastair was so furious!"
A knock came AT the door. "Come." Pellew called.
Bracegirdle walked in, "Father Douglas O'Brian is holding a Mass for Mr. Kennedy's recovery, sir."
Pellew was surprised, but nodded to the first lieutenant.
"Dalen, why did you not tell me?" McLoud asked.
Leahy said softly, slowly, "I knew how much you loved her, Angus. And I feared that you might believe that I did it so she would marry you instead of him." He hesitated before saying, "I didn't want you to hate me."
McLoud shook him slightly and asked sternly, "How could you think that?"
"You have to remember how I was at that time." Leahy looked up, "Angus, I truly believed I would lose your friendship. I could not have lived with that."
"Oh, Dalen...." McLoud pulled Leahy into an embrace, "I could never hate you." He became quiet a few moments, just holding his friend. Then took a deep breath, "You're right. You would have believed that then." He released Leahy and took hold of his chin, raising his head, "But you know now, that I will always care for you."
With a slight smile, Leahy nodded.
Pellew frowned, "Why would Claudia hate you if you kept the man she loved from marrying another?"
"And why did this Bertram ask Elaina to marry him if he loved Claudia?" Bowles asked.
Bracegirdle looked from man to man, completely confused.
"Elaina was first born." Leahy shrugged, "And Lord Alastair McFee had no sons."
"He only wanted to marry her for what she could inherit." Horatio realized.
Leahy nodded, "And could have had Claudia as his mistress, no doubt."
"That does not explain why Claudia would hate you, doctor." Pellew said, "You freed the man she loved for her."
Leahy sat back down on the bunk, "Her father threatened to have Bertram arrested if he ever came near any of the McFee family again. She lost the man she loved."
McLoud nodded, "Well, that does explain why she would hate you." McLoud shrugged, "So, we will make Julia god-mother."
"Julia!" Leahy looked up and frowned, "Don't you think she's a little too young?"
"She's twenty one now." McLoud stated.
"She...." Leahy suddenly realized, "She is, isn't she?"
"It has been four years." McLoud reminded him.
Leahy shrugged and walked in to check on his patient, renewing the cool wet cloth, then returned and continued the conversation, "Well, maybe she won't laugh at me now."
"She was not laughing at you, Dalen." McLoud told him, "She was giggling."
"It's the same thing!" Leahy sighed.
"Girls giggle when they fancy a young man." Bracegirdle smiled.
"Fancy!" Leahy's frowned deepened, "Me?"
"You find that unbelievable?" Pellew asked.
"Well........yes." Leahy shrugged.
"Why?" Pellew asked, "You are a very handsome young man."
Leahy left out a snort, giving the captain a skeptical look.
Pellew assumed the young man was fishing for compliments and decided not to play along.
"You need to do for Mr. Kennedy what Dr. Rainquest did for you, Dalen." McLoud suggested.
"Well," Leahy sighed, "I have reasons for not attempting that. One; Mr. Kennedy does not really know me. He would never trust me."
"You did not trust Dr. Rainquest." McLoud pointed out.
Leahy made a face, "But I knew Dr. Rainquest. Mr. Kennedy doesn't really know me. And two; I wouldn't want him to open up to me when I'll be leaving the ship once we reach England. He would feel that I had abandoned him, and it would only add another wound to his broken heart. I can't do that to him."
"Should Mr. Hornblower do it then?" McLoud asked.
"Like you did for me?" Leahy sighed.
"You would not trust me!" McLoud said.
"I didn't trust anyone back then!" Leahy said breathlessly.
"What are you talking about?" Horatio didn't like these two men discussing Archie this way.
"Someone needs to get Mr. Kennedy to talk about what happened to him."
"He won't." Horatio did not want these men prying into Archie's past.
"Neither would Dalen." McLoud folded his arms over his chest, "Until Dr. Rainquest made him talk about it."
"You mean force him into talking?" Pellew did not like the thought of that. Archie Kennedy had suffered enough.
Leahy returned to Kennedy's bedside and gently wiped the strained face of his sleeping patient.
CHAPTER SEVENTY THREE
"It isn't as bad as it sounds, captain." Leahy put the rag on his patient's forehead, then took Kennedy's wrist in his hand and pulled out his timepiece.
"Forcing someone to do anything is bad." Horatio, who had moved into the doorway, charged.
"Relax, Mr. Hornblower." Leahy said softly, keeping his eyes on his timepiece, "I would never allow anyone to hurt Mr. Kennedy."
"But you said...."
Leahy cut Horatio off, his voice gentle, "Dr. Rainquest knew I had been brutalized. He could see it in me, the same way I was able to see it in Mr. Kennedy." Leahy looked up at Horatio, "The main reason for my loss of appetite, lieutenant."
The Indefatigable men, who had gathered about the entrance to the sleeping cabin, stared at the young doctor in silence for several moments.
Leahy frowned at his timepiece, then gently lay Archie's arm across his chest and pulled the blankets up over him. Walking over to the chair, he retrieved one of the blankets and returned to spread it over the top of Kennedy.
Matthews finally broke the stunned silence, "You were beaten like Mr. Kennedy?"
"Most of the time." Leahy sat back down on the edge of the bunk and took the rag from Kennedy's forehead. He dipped it in the water again and quietly laughed, "Sometimes my brother was creative about it." He pulled his sleeve up to reveal scars on his arm and gave a slight lift of his brows, "He set the hounds on me once. This is only few of the many bites I received that day. I have them all over me."
The Indefatigable's men were stunned that he would talk about this as if it were nothing.
Leahy pushed the sleeve back down and began wiping Kennedy's face, "Oh, the worst was when I was eight, and he threw me out of my bedroom window. When I hit the ground, I broke my collarbone and passed out from the pain. My mother had put me to bed a half hour before, so everyone assumed I was in bed sleeping. I lay there all night. One of the servants found me in the morning. As well as having a broken collarbone, I also came down with pneumonia. I spent over three months in bed."
"And no one stopped him from doing this to you?" Bowles asked.
"My father punished him." Leahy dipped the rag in the water again, "But it never did any good. He'd just wait until my father left and come after me again."
"How did you get away from the abuse?" Pellew was starting to feel as bad for this lad as he did for Kennedy.
Leahy looked very remorseful as he placed the rag on Kennedy's forehead, "The day I was accepted to school, my father was with me. He was so proud. I wanted to hurry home and tell mother and my sister, Rachel. I was eighteen and going to become a doctor!" Tears had come to his eyes and his voice trembled as he whispered, "It should have been the happiest day of my life."
Taking a deep breath, Leahy blinked quickly and turned back to wipe Kennedy's face, "My brother didn't know Father had come home with me. Rachel met me at the door and I told her I was accepted." He gave a quiet laugh, "She was so happy for me. Then she screamed, and as she was screaming, I was struck on the back and neck with something made of steel. I knew the moment I was struck who it was, and ran out the door. I made my mistake when I ran into the barn. I ended up being cornered."
"My brother beat me with the poker he had apparently taken from the hearth in the sitting room," Leahy stared at nothing, "and I found out later that he had even stabbed me in the shoulder with it. I don't even know when. I heard my father shout at him to stop beating me, but I was starting to lose consciousness. The last thing I heard was my mother and sister screaming at the same time." Leahy's voice had become very soft, "They were the most blood curdling screams I had ever heard! I can still hear them."
"When I awoke," Leahy dipped the rag into the water, "it was actually three days after the incident and everyone was dress in black. I finally persuaded my sister to tell me why everyone was dressed that way. She said my brother had drawn the poker back and was going to plunge it into me, aiming for my chest, but my father stopped him." Leahy drew a shuddering breath and, with tears sliding down his cheeks, said in a quivering voice, "My father killed my brother."
Everyone let out a gasp of some sort, and Pellew guessed, "He shot him?"
"No, sir." Leahy put the rag on Kennedy's forehead with shaking hands. He swallowed and his voice cracked as he said, "My father ran him threw with the pitchfork."
Leahy dropped his head into his hands, sobbing.
McLoud walked over to him. Putting his hand on Leahy's shoulder, he crouched down beside him, and said softly, "It was not your fault, Dalen."
Leahy sniffed and raised his head, "I know that. But you're going to be a father. Have you any idea how hard that was for my father to have to run his first born threw with a pitchfork? Losing a child is a parent's worse nightmare. Can you imagine the nightmare my father must endure at having killed his own child so brutally? I never wanted it to end that way." Leahy sobbed, "When I prayed for an end to my brother's cruelty, I never wanted my brother to die."
"I know you did not want that." McLoud put his left hand on Leahy's arm, moving the other hand from his shoulder to rub his back and said quietly, "But your father was left with no choice. It was you, or your brother. Herold had already stabbed you with the poker once that night, Dalen, so it was not as if he would not have done it again. And I know there are several people in Gibraltar who are glad that you were the one that lived."
Leahy smiled, but his lip trembled as he whispered, "Thank you."
McLoud put his arm around his friend, squeezing him affectionately, "Elaina and I included. And I am certain that after Mr. Kennedy recovers, he and his friend and shipmates will join us in that opinion. Logically speaking...."
"As if you would speak any other way." Leahy raised a single brow.
"Naturally." The lawyer smiled, "Logically speaking, it is better for the world that you lived to become a doctor, then your brother living to do...." McLoud frowned, "..whatever it was he did."
Turning back to Kennedy, Leahy shrugged and shook his head, "Aside from hurting me, I was not aware that he did anything."
McLoud nodded slowly, "So he was cruel and worthless."
Leahy gave a quiet laugh, "I never gave what he did any thought. I was too preoccupied with trying to avoid him."
"I cannot say that I blame you." McLoud stood, "Your brother was not worth thinking about."
Leahy looked up at McLoud, folding his arms across his chest, "I know what I get out of our friendship, Angus. Your constant help and support. Your affection. What do I ever do for you?"
"You make me laugh." McLoud shrugged, "You keep me from being too serious."
"That's not easy, you know." Leahy smiled mischievously, then both of them laughed.
"You kept the woman I loved from marrying another man." McLoud added.
"I did that for her." Leahy dipped the rag into the water again.
"So." McLoud shrugged, "It still worked out well for me!"
Leahy laughed, "Shouldn't you go and check on your wife?"
"You are going to sit up all night with Mr. Kennedy," McLoud said, "if I am not here to make certain you get a few hours of sleep."
"So," Leahy said slowly as if speaking to a small child, "you go to sleep now, and you can relieve me around three."
"One." McLoud said firmly.
"Three." Leahy insisted.
McLoud put his hands on his hips and said more forcefully, "One."
Knowing how stubborn Angus could be, Leahy sighed, "Two."
"Two." McLoud agreed, then pointed a finger at the young doctor, "And no arguments."
"Yes, master." Leahy bowed with a sly grin. He quietly laughed as McLoud shot him a glare, and said cheerfully, "Good night, Angus. Tell Elaina good night for me."
"I am coming back." McLoud warned, then started for the door.
"I know." Leahy started wiping Kennedy's face again, "I'll be right here."
"I know." McLoud turned to the others in the room, "Good night, gentlemen." Then left.
CHAPTER SEVENTY FOUR
"So," Horatio asked the young doctor when McLoud had gone, "how did this doctor force you into talking?"
Leahy smiled, "He had tried to get me to talk to him several times, but I wouldn't. It was my last class that week, and he'd asked me to stay - nothing unusual in that." Leahy shrugged, "He had always had me stay and would try to get me to talk. He closed the door, like he always did, and tried to persuade me to tell him who had hurt me and how. But I refused to. Eventually, I got tired of sitting there and started for the door, but Dr. Rainquest grabbed me and pulled me into an embrace and wouldn't let me go. He said he would not release me until I told him who had hurt me."
Leahy dipped the rag into the water again, "I tried to pull away, but he would not release me. And he just kept speaking so softly, and soothingly. I don't know how long we stood there. He kept trying to coax me into talking."
"Did you?" Horatio asked.
The young doctor shook his head, and shrugged again, "I just started weeping," Leahy began wiping Kennedy's face, "and I couldn't stop. He continued to hold me, speaking compassionately to me. Sometime during my weeping I finally told him that my brother had brutalized me. I wept for the longest time. When I was finally able to stop, he said he wanted me to meet him once a week to talk. We met on Sunday afternoons for three hours, and I told him everything my brother did to me. I didn't think talking about it would ever change anything. But three months after I had started talking to Dr. Rainquest, I was told by all my teachers that they had seen an improvement in my work. By the next year, I had gone from just barely passing to being one of the best in my classes."
Leahy sighed, "I never realized that what my brother did to me affected everything in my life. Even three years after his death." He shook his head, "I had no self esteem. No confidence. I felt like a failure. But as soon as I started releasing the pain that I'd been holding in, I began to feel better about myself. Dr. Rainquest helped me to see the good things about myself."
Leahy had tears in his eyes as he looked up at Hornblower and Pellew, and said softly, "I never realized there were so many good things about me until then." He shrugged and shook his head, "I just couldn't see them."
Pellew watched the young man, knowing he was still in pain.
"Abuse does that to you." Leahy tried to explain, quietly, "You see, when you're constantly being hurt and praying for an end to it, as it continues....and it seems your prayers are not heard, you begin to believe that you are worthless. It doesn't seem as if God is answering your prayers." The tears slowly slid down Leahy's cheeks, and his voice trembled, "As if He doesn't care. And if He doesn't care, why should you believe that anyone else would care for you?"
Archie. Horatio closed his eyes.
Leahy pulled the rag from the basin water and wiped Archie's face. Archie moaned softly and began to toss his head.
Leahy dropped the rag back in the basin and put his hand on Kennedy's shoulder.
"Papa." Archie mumbled softly, "Papa!"
Leahy moved out of the way let Horatio comfort is friend. He put his hand on Archie's shoulder and gently stroked it, "Shhhh, Archie."
" 'rat'o?" Archie whispered.
"Yes, Archie." Horatio said softly, "I'm here."
"I wish Papa were here." Archie's voice came more strongly. He sounded disappointed, "He would hold me and make me feel better."
"Your father would hold you when you were ill?" Horatio frowned.
"My father would let me sleep with him and my mother when I was ill or frightened." Archie said sadly, "He would lie next to me, and hold me in his arms and I would put my head on his chest and hear his heart beating and I would know that I was safe and loved. He held me the night before I left for the navy."
"Even though he was sending you away?" Horatio couldn't understand that.
"When I begged him not to send me," Archie said softly, "he pulled me off my knees and told me, 'Get off of your knees, son. A Kennedy never grovels.'" The sad longing returned to his voice, "He kissed my forehead and said, 'Stop weeping and go change for bed.' And then he came in my room after I got in bed and lay down next to me, and held me the way he used to."
"Then why did he send you away?" Horatio frowned.
"I think my grandmother made him send me away." Archie muttered, "She woke me and had the servants pack my clothes, and took me to the dock. She told me never to return to Kennedy manor." Archie began to cry, "But he never said goodbye!"
Horatio closed his eyes.
"I wish he were here!" Archie sobbed, "It hurts!"
"Mr. Hornblower," Leahy whispered, "hold him. It may bring back the comfort he felt when his father used to hold him. You can also keep him warm that way."
Horatio gave a nod, and Leahy said, "Take off your jacket, waistcoat, and shoes."
Horatio obeyed, and moved the blankets back to lay down. Archie gasped and shook, "That's too cold."
Horatio slipped one arm under his friend, putting the other over him, and was alarmed at how cold Archie felt, even though he was under three blankets.
"What are you doing?" Archie asked softly.
"I'm going to hold you the same way your father held you." Horatio told him.
Archie snuggled against him and whispered, "Oh, Horatio! You are so warm!"
Horatio started rubbing his friend's back. He wanted to try to keep Archie's mind off of how bad he was feeling, "Do you remember when we first transferred to Indefatigable and had that day of liberty? I have never had so much fun in my life! Even though you did hit me with that huge snowball."
"It was a snow *cannon* ball, Horatio." Archie whispered.
Horatio smiled, "It felt like it when it hit me."
Archie quietly giggled and whispered, "It knocked you flat on your face!"
"Yes, it did." Horatio laughed at that memory, "I had so much fun that day! As long as I live, that will be one of my fondest memories." He gently squeezed Archie, "I'll never have another friend in this world like you."
Archie weakly squeezed Horatio's hands, moving his head closer to Horatio's, "You love me."
"Yes." Horatio laid his head against Archie's, "My brother."
"No one has loved me for years." Archie whispered softly, "I've had no one." Then he sobbed, "I've been so lonely!"
"I know you have."
"Not just in prison." Archie whispered, "I've been lonely since I returned to the Indy."
The officers remembered Malcolm Hamilton's words, *He could be surrounded by a million people and still be lonely. If someone doesn't feel loved, they can feel very lonely.*
"You're afraid to accept the love that others are trying to give you." Horatio said.
"I don't want to be hurt." Archie whispered very quietly.
"Archie," Horatio said gently, "The captain, Mr. Bracegirdle, Mr. Bowles, Matthews, Styles, Oldroyd, and I would never hurt you."
Archie sobbed, "I know."
"Then let us be the family you need." Horatio told him, "You said Indefatigable is your home. So, let us be your family. You'll have plenty of uncles."
"I thought you were my brother?" Archie asked.
"I am." Horatio told him, "But the others will be your uncles."
Archie chuckled weakly, "Oldroyd is more like a cousin."
"Yes, he is." Horatio laughed.
"And the captain?" Archie whispered.
"Captain Pellew is fond of you, Archie. He's a good man."
"The night we had dinner with him," Archie said softly, "remember I told you he had startled me that morning?"
"He was trying to calm me, and had...." Archie's voice was soft and longing, "..he had slipped his arm behind me....he was almost embracing me. It was so hard! I had to fight to keep from laying my head on his shoulder." Tears slipped from his closed eyes, "I wanted so much for him to hold me!"
Pellew felt his chest tighten and he could not stop the tears from coming to his eyes.
CHAPTER SEVENTY FIVE
"Captain Pellew was so kind to me." Archie whispered, "The way a father should be."
"Archie," Horatio said softly, "the captain is fond of you. He would be like a father to you if you would let him."
Archie choked back a sob. "I wish, with all my heart, that he was my father."
Edward raised his brow slightly, then frowned sadly, How could his father not care for him?
Archie's voice was bitter as he whispered, "Horatio, you don't know how much it hurts....to watch you receive letters from your own father....to see those children with their fathers....and to know that my father....doesn't give a damn if I live or die." He buried his face in Horatio's chest.
Horatio felt a deep pain in his heart, knowing that every letter he had received had hurt his best friend, who never once let his pain show, "I'm sorry, Archie. I never realized you were hurting."
"I didn't want you to know." Archie murmured.
"Why?" Horatio couldn't understand.
"I.. I didn't want to make you feel bad."
This poor boy has been so cruelly neglected and dismissed by his father! Pellew thought angrily, regreting tearing at his heart once again, And God forgive me, how many times have I dismissed him? I certainly have neglected him! The captain decided he would never dismiss or neglect Archie Kennedy again.
"When we get to Portsmouth," Horatio said lightly, "maybe the captain will give us a day of liberty. There will be snow on the ground. We can have another battle. "
"Only if I can find a bigger icicle." Archie whispered with a trace of a smile, then his face contorted in pain. "Oh Horatio, it hurts!"
"I know." Horatio wiped away the sweat which beaded Archie's brow. "Just try not to think about it."
"Hmmmm .Like I did when Simpson was hurting me." Archie whispered. The way he just seemed to accept Simpson's abuse was very unsettling. Archie moaned and held his stomach, "It hurts!"
"I'm sorry, Archie." Horatio wished there was an easier way to do this. He hated seeing his friend suffering so.
Suddenly, Archie let out a cry and began convulsing. Horatio held him tighter, his voice a soft and soothing whisper, "Shhh, Archie. It's all right. It's all right, Archie."
Leahy quickly moved to lean over the bunk, watching the thrashing young officer.
After several long, agonizing minutes, the fit ended and Archie slipped into unconsciousness. Horatio let out his breath and brushed the hair out of his friend's face
Leahy raised his brow, "Has he always had these?"
"Since he was a child." Horatio said, "Hepplewhite said he does not know what causes them."
"That doesn't surprise me." Leahy made a face.
"Will this fit make his condition worse, doctor?" Pellew asked.
"It could be a blessing in disguise, captain." Leahy commented, "He'll be unconscious for a while, so he'll not be suffering."
A knock came at the door of the day cabin. Pellew frowned and called, "Come." As he rose and exited his sleeping quarters.
The door opened and a young woman with brown hair walked in carrying a tray with several cups of something hot, "Good evening, captain."
"He sent you to make me eat, didn't he?" Leahy said from the next room.
Elaina McLoud quietly laughed, "I told him I was going to bring you cup of coffee to help you stay awake."
Leahy hurried into the day cabin and took a cup, "God bless you!"
Elaina walked into the sleeping cabin, over to the bunk and cocked her head, looking down at the unconscious young officer, "Can you help him, Dalen? I mean, the way Dr. Rainquest helped you?"
Pellew caught her words from where he stood in the doorway. He had ordered that no one speak of what happened to Kennedy. Anger threatened to erupt as he said sternly "You know about Mr. Kennedy being brutalized?"
"Since the day we sailed, Captain." Elaina turned to face Pellew, " Angus, Dalen, and I could see it in Mr. Kennedy's eyes. They are so much like Dalen's."
Leahy sighed, "I wish I could help him, Elaina. You have no idea how much I wish I could! But it took Dr. Rainquest over two years to help me. I don't have that much time here."
Elaina bit her lip and appeared to be pondering this. Then, she brightened, "Well, maybe the captain can give you a job aboard ship?"
Leahy laughed, "And you say I'm funny?!"
"I'm serious, Dalen." Elaina asked, "You are a good doctor, and I am certain the captain could always use another doctor. And you could help Mr. Kennedy!"
Leahy stared at her with an odd expression. Pellew was not certain if it was fear or betrayal. The young doctor shook his head slowly, "Elaina...."
"Well, you do not have a job in England." Elaina made a face. "And Mr. Kennedy needs your help."
Leahy gave her a look as if he could not believe she had made the suggestion, "Elaina, this is a navy ship. How can you ask me to..."
"Mr. Kennedy needs you, Dalen." Elaina pleaded, "And you can help him."
Leahy shook his head and murmured, "I cannot come aboard this ship." He pulled the rag out of the basin of water, sat down on the edge of the bunk and began wiping Kennedy's sweat soaked face and neck.
Elaina put her hand on Leahy's shoulder lightly and, leaning close to him, looked down at Kennedy, her voice soft, "He is just a boy, Dalen. And you are stronger then you think you are. You can help him, I know you can."
Leahy put his hand on her her's, "You just don't give up, do you?"
"When it is something this important - no." She removed her hand, stepped around him and reached down to take the rag out of his hand, "I will do this. You go and eat."
"Something else you won't give up on, eh?" Dalen raised his brow.
"That is right." She pulled him from the bunk and pushed him toward the door to the day cabin, "Now, eat."
"What if I'm not hungry?" He asked as she took his place on the bunk.
She gave him a stern look and said firmly, "Eat something."
"Oh, all right." Leahy sighed, and walked into the other cabin, saying half under his breath " I'd just like to know when you and Angus became my parents?"
Elaina's sharp hearing caught the muttered statement. She laughed as she dipped the rag into the basin of water, "Someone has to look after you!"
Dalen looking over the food. He picked up a piece of cheese and wandered back to the doorway of the cabin where Kennedy lay, "And you want to send me off on a navy ship?!"
Elaina squeezed the excess water out of the rag, and began gently wiping Kennedy's face, "Mr. Kennedy needs you, Dalen. And you are a survivor. You endured your brother for six years and you are still in one piece. Besides, I trust the captain. He would look after you for us."
Leahy made a face. "If I eat this piece of cheese, will you stop badgering me?"
Elaina dipped rag back into the water, "Only if you promise to eat breakfast."
"Yes 'mother'." Leahy picked up a piece of cheese.
Elaina laughed at that, "Thank you, my son."
Leahy grinned. She had always played along with his jokes. He walked over to the bunk, and looked at Kennedy, "Bring back memories?"
"Yes." She wiped Kennedy's face again as she said in a somewhat shaky voice "I have never been so frightened in my life! I thought we were going to lose you."
"I wasn't exactly holding out much hope." Leahy commented and bit into the cheese.
Elaina looked up at the young doctor as he was eating and whispered desperately, "Dalen, please help him! He is still just a boy! He needs help!" She turned back to Kennedy and became quiet for a moment.
Before Leahy could swallow his cheese, she abruptly stood and dropped the rag into the basin. "You help him, Dalen Sean Leahy, or I will never speak to you again!" She stalked out of the sleeping cabin and through the day cabin, closing the door behind her, and leaving everyone stunned.
CHAPTER SEVENTY SIX
Leahy almost choked on his food and rushed to the door, but she was already out of sight. "Damn!" He muttered breathlessly, leaning his arm on the door jamb and resting his head on it.
"Dr. Leahy," Pellew asked, "if you had the opportunity, would you help Mr. Kennedy?"
"Absolutely." Leahy answered without hesitation, still looking down the corridor.
"I can appoint you surgeon's mate temporarily." Pellew raised his chin. "I am unable to make any long term promises, but I will talk to Admiral Lord Hood when we get to England regarding the possibility of granting you a warrant as assistant surgeon on this ship."
Leahy slowly closed the door and took a deep breath, not looking at anyone in the cabin. "Captain," Leahy sounded a bit odd, and kept his head down, "I ha.....I do not care for the navy, and I'm not exactly Navy material. I say exactly what I think. I always have."
"I will...." Pellew looked at Kennedy, "...keep that in mind. For Mr. Kennedy's sake."
Leahy nodded, "And I shall....endeavor to behave myself appropriately whilst aboard."
"Very good." Pellew nodded, "I do not want Hepplewhite tending Mr. Kennedy any longer."
"I understand, sir." Leahy said.
Horatio suddenly felt relieved. He knew Archie had never trusted Hepplewhite, but now....
McLoud was right; how could anyone trust Hepplewhite knowing that he lied about Archie?
"As I said earlier, Captain Pellew." Leahy addressed his now commanding officer, "It should be someone Mr. Kennedy knows, someone he respects, to hold him and force him into talking. You should be the one to do it, sir."
"Why, then, he will hate the captain!" said Bracegirdle.
Leahy gave a quiet laugh, "I never once hated Dr. Rainquest. Even when he would not let me go....I....it...only made me feel more loved." Leahy turned serious, "I could never thank him enough for what he did for me. He freed me. My only regret is that I was unable to attend his funeral. He died while I was in Gibraltar." The gleam of tears came to Dalen's eyes, "I never got to tell him how much I loved him.." The doctor wiped his eyes and composed himself.
He took a deep breath and let it out, "I had better go and make sure 'Mother' is all right. Angus would never forgive me if anything happened to her." Leahy opened the door and walked out, colliding with Elaina. He steadied her and regained his own balance. Then gave her a penitent look, "I'm sorry, Elaina!"
"No, Dalen." Elaina shook her head and spoke quickly, "I am sorry. I should not have threatened you. Specially, knowing how you feel about the navy. I know you would help Mr. Kennedy if you could.
Leahy took her arm. "I'll walk you to the midshipmen's berth." He turned to Horatio, "Mr. Hornblower, just keep wiping Mr. Kennedy's face with the wet rag until I come back. I'll be quick."
Elaina and Dalen remained silent as they made their way to the midshipmens' berth. As they reached their destination, the young women turned to the doctor, speaking as if their previous conversation had never been interrupted.
"Dalen, It was wrong of me to make you feel as if I do not love you, or do not care what happens to you. I do. It is...."
"Elaina!" Leahy exclaimed, shaking his head from side to side as if to clear it, "That's enough! My head can only take so much! I know what you were trying to do and why. And I'm not offended. Really."
She stepped forward and embraced him, "I love you, Dalen. I really do. And I am so sorry for what I said."
"Fine." Dalen returned the embrace, then kissed her forehead, "Apology accepted. Now let's never mention it again. All right?"
"All right." She released him, but looked strained and somewhat downcast.
"Elaina. Is there something else troubling you?"
She sighed and avoided his gaze.
Leahy watched her a moment, "You know why you have been indisposed each day, don't you?"
Elaina nodded, "Dr. Chapman told me the last time he saw me."
"And you've kept this a secret for a month?!" Leahy asked, "Elaina, why?"
"I'm frightened." She said softly, "We lost mother during childbirth."
Dr. Leahy took her face in his hand, "Elaina, listen to me. Women have babes everyday without dying. You'll be all right. I wouldn't lie to you, Elaina."
She smiled slightly, putting her hands on his, and said softly, "No. You would not. Angus said you had assumed that was the reason I was ill." She frowned, "I cannot tell if he is happy about it or not."
"He will be." Leahy had a slight, amused smile, "Once the shock wears off."
She smiled more at that, "I suppose I have had more time to get used to the idea."
"I don't know why people are so surprised when this happens." Leahy said standing, "After all, once you're married - children are inevitable."
Elaina gave a quiet laugh, "I know. One always expects that. But for some reason, one is never quite ready for it when it actually happens."
Leahy turned serious again, "Elaina, you are being given God's greatest gift; a child. Someone to love and take care of. And that child is going to look at you as it's heroine."
"Me?" Elaina said doubtfully, raising a brow, "A heroine?"
"To a child," Leahy told her softly, "parents are heroes and heroines. Children want to be just like them, if the parents love and care for their child as they should. If not....the child becomes lost, with no one to try to model themselves after. Children need guidance. But more than that, they need to feel loved. Nothing destroys a human being faster than an absence of love."
Elaina put her fingers under Leahy's chin, raising his head slightly, "When did you become so wise?" Smiling affectionately, Elaina cocked her head, "When did you grow up, Dalen?"
Leahy shrugged, his usual humor return, "It had to happen someday."
She laughed at that, "I should go to bed now. I will see you in the morning." She kissed his cheek, "Do try to get some sleep. If not for yourself, for Mr. Kennedy."
Dalen grinned mischievously, and bowed to her, "Yes, 'mother'."
Elaina grinned back at him, "Good night."
"Good night." He said, then turned playful once more, "Parting is such sweet sorrow, and if God wills it, I'll see you tomorrow."
Elaina started laughing and went into the midshipman's berth.
Smiling, Dalen took a deep breath, Well, if I never accomplish anything else in this life, I can honestly say that I made people laugh while I was in this world.
CHAPTER SEVENTY SEVEN
Horatio sat down on the edge of the bunk and plucked the rag from the basin of water. Squeezing the extra water out of it, he began to wipe Archie's face and neck.
When the bell on deck sounded, Horatio got up and walked into the day cabin. He addressed his men, "Matthews, Styles, you must get some sleep."
"Sir," Styles said, "Mr. Kennedy...."
"I will look after Mr. Kennedy." Horatio told them.
"Yes, sir." Matthews said gravely, "But if 'e....if 'e don'....make it, sir...."
Horatio gave him an understanding look, "If he becomes worse, Matthews, I will send for you. I will send for both of you. Now go and get some sleep, or do I have to make it an order?"
"No sir, aye aye, sir." The two of them knuckled their foreheads, gave Kennedy one last look, then headed for the door.
"Gentlemen," Pellew said before they could leave, "thank you for telling me what happened to Mr. Kennedy."
"Aye, sir." Matthews hesitated, "Captain, sir. Please don' think badly o' Mr. Kennedy. What 'appened t' 'im, sir, wasn' 'is fault. Please don' think 'im a coward, sir."
"After hearing the truth, Matthews," Pellew told him sincerely, "I see the true strength in Mr. Kennedy - his ability to endure and survive it. Rest assured, I could never think badly of him."
"Thank ye, sir." Matthews followed Styles from the cabin.
"Gentlemen," Pellew turned to Bracegirdle and Bowles, "you should sleep as well."
"Of course," The captain answered Bracegirdle's question before he could finish it, "We are all fond of Mr. Kennedy. And if he should...." He really didn't want to say it, but forced himself to finish, "..if he should die, those who care for him should be near."
Bracegirdle nodded and opened the door, then glanced at the sailing master. Bowles stood, moved over to the door of the sleeping cabin, and paused, quietly watching the unconscious boy. When Pellew walked over to him, he said in a low voice, "I should have seen what was happening to him. I could have stopped it."
"Keane and Eccleston failed that crew in so many ways." Pellew told him. " I doubt that Mr. Kennedy holds what happened to him against you."
"I want him to know," Bowles said sadly, "that I was not insensitive to what was happening to him. He hid it so well, I truly had no idea that he was in pain. Had I known, I would have protected him."
"Get some sleep, Mr. Bowles." Pellew nodded, "You can talk to him when feels a little better."
"Yes, sir." Bowles left the cabin.
Horatio dipped the rag back into the water, then began to wipe Archie's face again.
"Wipe his neck and chest as well, Mr. Hornblower." Pellew instructed.
"Yes, sir." Horatio wiped Archie's neck, thinking over this entire day. So much had happen since his friend had hurried into the cabin to change into dry clothes. Horatio thought of the way Archie had looked at him, What was it that Archie was going to say and then didn't?
Horatio started to feel a tightness in his chest; everyone now knew what happened to Archie Kennedy aboard Justinian. His friend was going to be so humiliated when he found out they knew. Horatio pulled the blankets down to find that one closest to Archie was damp.
"We must remove that one." Pellew said as he walked over to the bunk.
"Yes, sir." As Horatio turned back the blankets the captain pulled the lowermost one off, dropped it on the floor at the bottom of the bunk, then retrieved a dry one from the chair. "You should wipe his chest off before we replace these." Pellew told him.
"Yes, sir." Horatio dipped the rag into the water again, then gently bathed Archie's chest, sides and belly, feeling nauseous at the sight of Archie's scars. The captain handed him a clean towel with which to dry Kennedy.
When Horatio was finished, Pellew spread the clean, dry blankets over Archie. All the pain, the fear, the sadness, and shame the captain had always seen in Kennedy's eyes now made sense. The boy had been neglected, brutalized, and dismissed most of his life without having anyone to turn to until he met Horatio. Lord, no wonder the lad acts as if he could not live without Hornblower! Horatio Hornblower has been all Archie Kennedy has had since the boy was sent into the service! Pellew turned away.
Horatio resumed wiping Archie's face and neck, hoping his friend would not die.
December 17, 1795
After several long and quiet minutes, a knock came at the door. Pellew opened it to find Leahy standing there with a wooden tray in his hands. "I brought some food. You and lieutenant Hornblower have not eaten a thing since this afternoon. And I brought coffee." Leahy shrugged, "I assumed you would be staying awake with me." He set the tray on the captain's desk and walked into the sleeping cabin, "I need to check him."
Standing, Horatio put the rag in the basin of water.
Leahy sat down on the edge of the bunk, pulled the blankets down and gently took Kennedy's wrist into his hand, watching his timepiece. After a few moments, he lay the wrist over Kennedy's middle and put his ear to the young man's chest. He felt Kennedy's forehead. Making a face, Leahy reached for the rag in the basin.
"How is he, doctor?" Pellew asked.
"No change." Seeing Horatio's expression, Leahy added, "At least, he's not getting worse, Mr. Hornblower. Both of you should eat. It will not do him any good if either of you become ill, as well."
Pellew nodded, and led Hornblower to the desk to eat. Horatio did not even taste the food for worrying about Archie.
Pellew felt he should say something, "Horatio, he has survived worse then this."
"I know, sir." Horatio whispered.
"He's strong." Pellew told him, "Stronger then I thought." The captain glanced at the sleeping young officer, "Stronger then he knows. He will survive." He cannot be taken from me when I've just started to get to know him! Pellew thought.
The two became quiet and finished their meals.
After finishing their meal, Hornblower and Pellew sat for the longest time in silence, slowly drinking their coffee.
Archie began to whimper softly, tossing his head on the pillow. Horatio hurried to the bunk.
"A nightmare, I'd say." Leahy said, "But, I cannot imagine any nightmare worse then what had been done to him by that Simpson."
"No!" Archie whimpered softly and started to tremble, "Horatio....no!"
Hornblower frowned, 'Horatio...no?'
"Wake him, Mr. Hornblower." Leahy moved out of the way.
"Archie?" Horatio gently shook him, "Archie, wake up."
"No!" Archie whimpered, "Horatio, don't leave me!"
"Archie!" Horatio shook him a little harder, "Wake up!"
"Horatio?!" Archie whispered frowning, but did not open his eyes.
"Yes, I'm here." Horatio brushed the blond hair from his friend's face.
"You didn...." His voice failed and Archie took a deep breath, sounding relieved as he whimpered, "You didn't leave me!"
"No." Horatio stroked his friend's brow, "You were having a nightmare."
"I had been shot." Archie was panting, and still trembling, "Everyone thought I was dead and buried me."
"Hell of a dream!" Leahy muttered under his breath.
CHAPTER SEVENTY EIGHT
"No one cared." Archie whispered, "They only cared that you were alive and safe. They didn't care about me. Even the doctor didn't care, or he would have known that I was still alive."
"You wouldn't believe how many people are mistaken for dead," Leahy whispered to Pellew, "and are buried alive?"
Pellew's eyes widened, "Does that really happen?"
"More often then you think." Leahy replied.
"Captain Pellew didn't care that I had died. He only cared about you." Archie's lip quivered and his soft voice trembled, "I was buried alive and no one cared!" Tears slid down his cheeks and he clutched his stomach.
Horatio slipped his arm behind Archie and pulled him up to cradle him. Archie was shaking, and Horatio realized how badly that dream had frightened him. "It was just a dream, Archie. Besides, I would care. I would not be happy without you."
"You wouldn't?" Archie whispered, once again not completely conscious, "Even if you had been made captain?"
"In my dream," Archie whipsered, "I was a lieutenant, and you were made a captain. I was shot during a battle, but no one cared because they were all happy for you. And when I couldn't wake up, everyone thought I was dead. You helped put me in the coffin, Horatio. And I....I kept trying to wake, to scream that I was still alive, but I....couldn't." He took a breath, clutching his stomach, and cried, "And you buried me!"
"It was just a dream, Archie." Horatio closed his eyes, pulling Archie to his chest and embraced him tightly, "I would never let anyone bury you until I was certain you were dead."
"It was so real, Horatio." Archie was still trembling and his eyes were still closed, "I was shot in the belly and it hurt....hurt so badly."
"His stomach is still hurting him." Pellew whispered.
"That would explain why he dreamed he was shot there." Leahy queitly commented.
"Shhh, Archie." Horatio hugged his friend to him and gently rubbed his back as he softly soothed, "It was just a dream. It's all right now. It's over."
"I don't want to die, Horatio." Archie whispered, "I want to become a lieutenant someday."
"You will, Archie." Horatio eased him back down to cradle him in one arm. Tears were sliding down Archie's cheeks. He brushed Archie's hair out of his wet face again, then wiped the tears away, "We're going to be admirals together, remember?"
"Admiral Hornblower," Archie whispered, "and Admiral Kennedy."
Edward smiled, then silently prayed that Archie Kennedy would live to have his dream of being admiral fulfilled.
Archie tried to sit up, but Horatio held on to him, "Archie, what are you trying to do?"
"I have to go." Archie tried to pull away.
"Go where?" Horatio didn't released him.
"I need...." Archie insisted, "I need the head, Horatio. I can't wait anymore."
"Oh! All right." Horatio eased Archie down on the bunk, "You lie still and I'll find something you can use." Archie made a face.
Horatio turned around be confronted by Leahy with a chamber pot in his hand.
"Thank you." Horatio whispered, then turned back to Archie, suddenly feeling very uncomfortable. He had done this for Archie in prison, but they had been alone. He took a deep breath and pulled the blankets down, then helped Archie roll onto his side.
"This is embarrassing." Archie groaned, trying to turn his face away.
"I know." Horatio sighed, "I felt the same way when you helped me in prison."
"Why am I always sick?" Archie asked.
"Maybe colds just prefer you over everyone else." Horatio suggested.
Archie quietly laughed, "You need to learn how to jest."
"I made you laugh, didn't I?"
"I was not laughing at your jest, Horatio." Archie muttered, weakly, "I was laughing at you trying to jest."
"Well, since making you laugh is the reason for a jest, then I would have to say I have succeeded."
Archie smiled without making a comment. Then he turned serious, "Horatio....if I'm ever shot....you won't let anyone bury me without making certain I'm really dead, will you?"
"Of course not." Horatio frowned.
Horatio smiled, "I will never let anyone bury you until I am certain sure you are dead, Archie. You have my word on it."
Archie appeared to relax, "Thank you."
"Now forget that dream." Horatio told him, "I will come right back."
"I'm not going anywhere." Archie whispered sleepily, making Hornblower, Pellew, and Leahy smile.
As Horatio hurried out of the room, Pellew walked over to the bunk and pulled the blankets up over Archie's chest and shoulders, "Rest now, lad."
Archie had closed his eyes again and seemed to retreat into his dream world. "Papa? I'm sorry about my fits." he whispered, sounding like a child, "I try not to have them! I didn't mean to frighten the lords. Please forgive me, Papa! I am really sorry!"
Leahy whispered, "He's delirious."
Coming to a rapid decision, Edward replied softly, "It's all right, son."
"Will you forgive me, Papa?" Archie took a shuddering breath.
"Yes, Archie." The captain answered.
"Do you...do you still love me?" Archie asked hesitantly.
Feeling more than a bit self conscious, Edward cleared his throat, " Yes, son. I do love you."
"Will you hold me, Papa?" Archie's lip quivered, "Please?"
Pellew glanced at Leahy, who gave him an encouraging nod. "Of course, I'll hold you, my boy." He took his jacket and shoes off, then moved the covers and lay down next to Archie, slipping one arm underneath him, and the other over him.
Archie snuggled against him, "Hold me tight, Papa."
Edward held him a bit more tightly, glancing again at Leahy as he said, "I have you, son. You may sleep safely."
Archie raised his head and kissed the captain's cheek, surprising the captain. "I love you, Papa." Archie whispered softly.
"I love you, Archie." Edward said, "Now go to sleep."
"You are not going to kiss me good night, Papa?" Archie sounded hurt.
Edward cleared his throat, "Yes, son." He hesitated, then leaned over and kissed Archie's cheek, bringing a smile to the fevered young face.
Archie snuggled against his captain's chest once more, moving his head until he found a comfortable spot, where he could here a heart beat. Then he relaxed and began to drift off.
CHAPTER SEVENTY NINE
Horatio walked into the cabin and stopped, blinking in surprise at seeing the captain lying next to Archie and holding him.
Archie suddenly began to toss and turn. He gasped and jerked away from Pellew with a whimper, "No! Simpson, don't!"
"Shhh, Archie." Edward said gently, not releasing his young officer, "You are safe."
Archie froze. "Captain Pellew! What....are you doing, sir?"
Edward felt his stomach lurch. "I'm holding onto you, lad."
"You are...." Archie frowned in his delirium, not understanding, "Why?"
"You are very ill." Pellew told him, "I want to comfort you."
"You..you do, sir?" Archie asked.
"Yes, Mr. Kennedy."
Archie was quiet a moment, then said hesitantly, "I knowyou will never love meas you do Horatio. But...some daymight you....love me just a little?"
In answer, Edward brushed Archie's hair back and kissed his forehead.
Archie's expression became more confused, "Why did you do that, sir?"
"That is what I do to my children to let them know I love them."
Archie frowned, "I am not your child, sir."
"I care for you, as if you were my own." Edward said softly.
"You..care for me, sir?" Archie was trying to stay awake.
"Would I have kissed you if I did not?"
Archie moved his head closer to Pellew's then kissed his cheek, "Thank youfor caring for me, sir. I've not had..anyone..only Horatio..for such a long time."
"I know, lad." Edward said softly, "But, Horatio is not the only one who loves you."
Archie smiled drowsily, "You love me?"
Edward tightened his hold. "I would not be holding you like this if I did not."
Archie squeezed against him, slipping his left arm around the captain, "Thank you.sir."
Pellew noticed that Kennedy was shaking, "Archie, you are trembling."
"I'm very cold, sir." Archie whispered.
"Ah." Pellew turned to ask the doctor to bring another blanket, but didn't have to. Leahy appeared next to the bunk and spread the blanket over them. The captain smiled at him and mouthed the words 'Thank you.'
Leahy returned the smile with a wink and moved away.
"Go to sleep now, son." Pellew told him, "You are not alone."
Archie finally let himself relax, enjoying both the physical and emotional warmth his captain offered.
After a few minutes, Archie's arm went limp, relaxing at the captain's side.
Pellew slipped his arm out from under his sleeping officer, and Archie moaned softly. "Shhh laddie." Edward soothed and stroked the youth's hair, "Papa is watching over you."
When Archie sank back into deep slumber, Edward climbed out of the bunk, trying not to be sick at the sight of the scars, and pulled the blankets up over the boy's chest and shoulders, gently tucking them in around him.
Leahy walked over to the bunk, reached down, and put his hand on Archie's forehead.
"Is his fever worse?" Horatio asked anxiously.
"No." Leahy sighed, "It is about the same. I was hoping it would have improved by now." He glanced up Pellew, "I admire you for what you did, captain."
"Pretending to be his father?" Pellew asked.
"And kissing him." Leahy smiled, "He looked so content."
"I did not like deceiving him." Pellew said, "But I just could not let him believe he is not loved."
"Oh, you handled it perfectly, captain." Leahy told him, "He may not even remember this. And if he does, well...." The young doctor shrugged, "I would be touched that you cared about me enough to do that for me."
Pellew gave a nod.
Leahy sat down on the edge of the bunk and took Kennedy's wrist in his hand, pulling out his time piece.
Pellew walked into the day cabin, over to his desk, and sat down to drink coffee in silence. But he could not rid himself of the thoughts of Kennedy and his father. What the boy had said to Hornblower, and the words he had just said to him echoed through Edward's mind until he reached for a sheet of paper, picked up his pen and dipped it into the ink.
The captain glanced into the other cabin at his sleeping officer, and the words just seem to write themselves;
HMS Indefatigable at sea
December 17, 1795
Lord Richard Kennedy,
As I write this, your son, Archie, lies seriously ill and possibly on his death bed. He has been poisoned. We are uncertain who has done this to him or why. He is being treated by a very kind young doctor by the name of Dalen Leahy, who has been a passenger aboard Indefatigable since we left Gibraltar eleven days ago.
It has been brought to my attention this evening, that your son had been cruelly treated almost every day whilst serving aboardJustinian. I have seen the countless scars upon Archie's body from the abuse to which he had been subjected. This abuse has resulted in a lasting effect on the heart and soul of this young man, who was, at the time of its perpetration, too young and too small to defend himself.
Archie spent over two years in foreign prisons. He was isolated, almost from moment of capture, and fell into the deep despair that comes from months of loneliness. Your son almost died in prison, and it was only by the Grace of God that he survived and has been returned to this ship.
Archie has suffered greatly, Lord Kennedy, and he has had to endure all of his pain, without the comfort of having loved ones to turn to.
You may think me intruding in matters that do not concern me, sir, but as a captain in His Majesty's Navy, I believe I have a right to speak my mind when I have serious misgivings about one of my men.
As I write this letter, I am deeply distressed at all the cruelty that Archie has had to endure in his young life.
In the short time your son has been back aboard Indefatigable, I have begun to get to know him more fully, to see his many qualities. He has admirable qualities, sir! He has proven himself to be loyal, courageous, honest, hard working, honorable, dependable, and an inspiration to the men.
He has endured much, and has had to suffer alone without the support or encouragement of loved ones. He has a rare strength, but he cannot see it.
Your son, Lord Kennedy, is completely heartbroken at the thought of having no family to whom he can confidently turn. I bring this to your attention, sir, for Archie's sake. I sincerely hope that you will find it in your heart to look past any embarrassment, and truly see that lad and all of his splendid qualities.
If you were to write to your son, sir, I believe that the result would be beneficial to his recovery from this most distressing illness, and help to ensure future success in his naval career.
Your Obedient Servant
Sir Edward Pellew
Pellew folded the paper, sealed it, and addressed it. He picked up his cup of coffee and stared at the letter. How could a man deny love to the child who needed it the most? How can a man deny any of his children of love?
A knock came at the door. "Come." Pellew called.
McLoud walked in. "Two o'clock."
"Oh, Angus." Leahy smiled sheepishly.
"I will not tolerate any arguments." McLoud warned.
"I thought he would be doing better by now." Leahy said.
"I am not going to fight with you, Dalen." McLoud told him, "You will not do Mr. Kennedy any good if you are not awake enough."
"Throwing my own words back in my face, eh?" Dalen took a deep breath and put the rag in the water, "Come here." The young doctor took Kennedy's wrist and put it in McLoud's hand, "Find his pulse."
McLoud frowned a moment, then said, "Found."
Leahy handed him the timepiece, "Count the beats when the minute starts." Leahy waited a moment, then said, "Start counting."
After one minute, Dalen said, "Stop counting. Now feel the strength of the pulse."
"Yes." Angus raised his brow.
"Check the rhythm and quality every ten minutes." Leahy said, "If it changes in anyway, the feel of the beat, or the number of beats, wake me."
"I will." Angus sighed and put Kennedy's arm back under the blanket.
"Feel his forehead." Leahy said, "If there's any change there, I want you to wake me."
"Understood." McLoud gave a single nod.
"And if his breathing changes in anyway...." Leahy started.
"I will wake you." McLoud assured him.
"He's been having some really horrible nightmares." Leahy added, "If he should start moaning, or anything wake Mr. Hornblower and I."
"All right." McLoud told him, "Now go to sleep."
Leahy walked over to the blankets on the chair, took one, and spread it out on the floor. Laying down on one side of it, he pulled the other side over himself.
"What are you doing?" McLoud asked.
"I said I would sleep." The young doctor stated, "I never said I would leave the room." Rolling his eyes, McLoud groaned, and Dalen smiled, "Good night, Angus."
McLoud shook his head and sighed, "Good night."
Leahy looked up at Pellew and Hornblower, "You two should sleep, as well."
"Yes." Pellew nodded, "Bring two blankets into the day cabin, Mr. Hornblower."
"Aye, sir." Said Horatio reluctantly, picking up the blankets and following.
The captain motioned for Hornblower to settle into one of the available easy chairs and took the other himself. "Try to rest, Horatio. I will do the same. Mr. McLoud will wake us if necessary."
"Yes, sir." Horatio settled into the chair.
McLoud picked up the rag from the water and began to wipe Kennedy's face and neck, while the captain, lieutenant, and doctor fell into restless sleep.
"Dalen, wake up!" McLoud shook the young doctor.
Leahy swiftly got to his feet and hurried to Kennedy, checking his pulse.
Hearing the urgency in McLoud's voice, Hornblower and Pellew jumped up and followed him as quickly as the could. The doctor looked up at McLoud, "When did it change?"
"The moment I felt the change, I woke you."
"Mr. Kennedy, wake up." Leahy lightly rubbed Kennedy's cheek, "Come on, lad. Mr. Hornblower, try to wake him."
"Archie, wake up." Horatio gave Archie's cheek a gentle pat, "Archie. Archie!" Memories of that horrible rainy day in Spain came to mind and Horatio slapped his friend's face harder, shouting, "Archie! Wake up!"
A hand sunddely caught his wrist before he could slap Archie again. "He is going to hurt enough when he wakes up, Mr. Hornblower." Pellew said gently, "Don't add to that pain."
"I-I-I didn't mean to hurt him." Horatio stammered, his voice trembling.
"I know." Edward said softly, "But your fear has made you thoughtless."
Leahy pulled a chain with a medal on it over his head and made the sign of the cross with the medal, then kissed it. Kneeling, he said a prayer, then stood and made the sign of the cross on Archie's forehead with the medal. He carefully looped the chain around Archie's left wrist.
"What is that?" Horatio asked.
"It's saint Jude." Leahy said, "The saint of the impossible."
"Doctor, the men wanted...."
"You'd better send for them now, captain." Leahy cut Pellew off, quietly, "He may not have long."
Oh God, no! Horatio dropped to his knees next to the bunk, Please don't leave me, Archie!
Bracegirdle, Bowles, Matthews, and Styles came in the captain's cabin to find Hornblower on his knees next to Kennedy's head, softly speaking to him, Leahy sitting on the edge of the bunk, monitoring Kennedy's pulse, McLoud on his knees in fervent prayer, and Pellew looking very worried.
"Sir," Bracegirdle asked quietly, "What happened?"
"He has become worse." Pellew said.
The men looked at Kennedy, saddened by the news.
Horatio couldn't really understand McLoud's praying. The priest had held a service for him, and Archie only became worse.
"Ain't there som'in we can do fer 'im?" Styles asked.
"Besides praying?" Leahy didn't take his eyes from the timepiece.
"I really don't see what good the prayers are doing." Horatio had said it before he could stop himself.
"You doubt God, lieutenant?" Leahy quickly glanced at him and, after a moment of searching Hornblower's eyes, he turned back to the timepiece, "Perhaps, that is the reason the prayers do not seem to be working."
"What are you saying, sir?" Horatio asked.
"Sometimes," Leahy sighed, "when God wants your attention, and you refuse to give it to Him, He will find reason to compel you to come to Him. Perhaps, God wants you to ask for His help." Leahy looked up at the men, "Try talking to Mr. Kennedy. Perhaps it will bring him around."
Bracegirdle walked over to the bunk, "Archie? It's Mr. Bracegirdle. Can you hear me? You need to wake up, lad. Stay with us, Archie." After a few more moments, the first lieutenant sighed and moved away.
Styles moved to the bunk. He wanted to offer the young officer some sort of affection, but with the captain and officers in the room, he decided against it. He crouched down next to the bunk, "Mr. Kennedy, sir? It's Styles. Wake up, sir. I know ye can. Come on, sir. This ship ain't right without ye, sir."
Leahy slipped off the edge of the bunk onto his knees, still holding Kennedy's wrist, and made the sigh of the cross.
"What's wrong, doctor?" Pellew asked.
"We're losing him." Leahy said sadly, and closed his eyes to pray.
No, Archie! Horatio thought, I just got you back!
Archie's dream was inspired by a documentary I watched. In the eighteenth century there were a lot of people who were mistaken for dead and were buried alive. When any unexplained illness happened, the grave of the last person buried was dug up, and those who were found alive in their grave, were believed to be vampires and killed. The historian said it happened quite regularly.