GOING HOME, Part Nine
by Tracy J.

CHAPTER EIGHTY ONE

 

Horatio's gaze caught on the Saint Jude medal, Saint of the impossible? Why will you not help him?

Leahy began to pray aloud and the men finished with an "Amen." Leahy looked up at Matthews, "Speak to him.

Matthews crouched down, "Mr. Kennedy, sir?"

"Call him 'Archie'." Leahy told him, "And touch him."

Matthews frowned up at the doctor, "Sir?"

"Any form of gentle touch might help." Leahy told him.

Matthews looked up at Horatio.

"Do what the doctor tells you to." Pellew said.

"Aye, sir." Matthews turned back to Archie, and put his hand on the youth's forehead, and began stroking his hair, "Archie, lad. Ye need to wake up."

Archie moaned softly.

"He's responding to you." Leahy stood, "Keeping talking to him."

"Wake up, lad." Matthews said, "The world is waitin' fer ye."

Archie stirred, trying to wake himself.

"Come on, laddie." Matthews urged, "Ye haven't seen the elephants."

Archie mumbled something.

"What was that, lad?" Matthews leaned closer.

"I want...." Archie mumbled very softly, "I to see...the....belly....belly dancers."

Matthews smiled, "I want ye to see 'em, too, lad."

"Ma...Matthews?" Archie was breathing heavily.

"Aye, lad. It's me."

"Where...where's Mr. Horn..blower?"

"I'm right here, Archie." Horatio took his friend's hand.

"He-help me." Archie begged.

"I will." Horatio became frightened at how cold Archie's hand was.

"Hora....tio," Archie was shivering, "I'm frightened. And so....cold."

Horatio pulled Archie up, into his arms, "Hold on to me, Archie. I will take care of you."

"Yes." Archie's trembling was increasing and his breathing was becoming more difficult, "I can't....I can't....breath and....it....hurts."

"I know it does, lad." Leahy moved to sit down behind Archie and lightly ran his fingers across Archie's brow, "I know. But just hold on and the pain will be over soon. Will you stay with us, Archie?"

"I'll....try." Archie's breathing was becoming more labored and he clutched his sides with a whimper, "Oh, it....hurts!"

"I know, lad." Leahy soothed, stroking Kennedy's brow and cheek. "Shhh. Here." Leahy took the medal and slipped it into Archie's hand, "Hold that medal in your hand. It was given to me by a priest when I told him I couldn't live with the pain my brother was inflicting on me, and wished I were dead. Father Joseph said that Saint Jude was the saint of the impossible and would help me if I asked him."

"Di....did he...help you?" Archie gasped.

"Yes, he did." Leahy told him, "Do you want to ask him for help now?"

Archie nodded, gulping for air.

"All right." Leahy took a deep breath, "O Holy Saint Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the name of the traitor has caused you to be forgotten by many. But the Church honors and invokes you universally as the patron of hopeless cases, of things almost despaired of. Pray for me, I am so helpless and alone."

Helpless and alone? The words filtered through Archie's hazy consciousness, I've always been helpless and alone!

Leahy went on, "Make use, I implore you, of that particular privilege given to you by God to bring visible and speedy help where ever help is almost despaired of. Come to my assistance in this great need, that I may receive the consolation and help of Heaven in all my necessities, tribulations, and sufferings, particularly; Please, Saint Jude, ease Mr. Kennedy's pain and allow him to recover soon. And that I may praise God with you and all the elect forever. I promise, O blessed Saint Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, to always honor you as my special and powerful patron, and to gratefully encourage devotion to you. Amen."

Gasping for air, Archie said nothing.

"Take deep breaths, lad." Leahy glanced at McLoud.

Archie gasped once more and cried, "Oh, Horatio, it...hurts....so much!"

McLoud got up and left the cabin.

"I know, Archie." Horatio said softly, wishing there was a way to ease his friend's suffering.

"Breathe deeply, lad." Leahy said gently, "Listen carefully now Archie. I want you to think of the darkest time in your life, when you thought you would not be able to go on." Horatio shot the doctor an angry look, but Leahy continued, "You don't have to tell me what it was, just remember what it was that helped you through it."

"Hora....Horatio." Archie said softly, breathing heavily, "Horatio....h-helped me....through it."

"Then let Horatio help you now." Leahy told him, "Let him give you the strength you need, and take deep breaths. Deep breaths will help you breathe more easily." Leahy gently patted Archie's cheek, then gave it a gentle rub and turned to look up at the other men.

Archie was quiet a moment, then gasped, "I....I....can't....bre...." and collapsed.

Leahy quickly pulled Kennedy away from Hornblower, dropping him back on the bunk. After a moment of hesitation, the doctor thumped Kennedy's chest. "No, Archie! Don't do this!"

"Saint Jude, please help!" Leahy begged as he pushed on Archie's chest again, "I know it's impossible, but please Dear God, give him back to us!"

At those words, Pellew sank to his knees, and Horatio realized that Archie was no longer breathing. 'Give him back to us?!' I've lost Archie!! Tears began to swell in Horatio eyes, Oh God, why won't you help him? Please! As he looked at his friend, pale and lifeless, Horatio fell to his knees and silently prayed in fear and desperation, If this is what you truly want, I'm on my knees, praying. Please God, don't take Archie from me!!!!

 

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CHAPTER EIGHTY TWO

 

Leahy thumped Archie's chest again and the young man took a shuddering breath, "Thank you, Saint Jude!" Archie took another deep breath and began coughing.

Leahy slipped his arm behind the acting lieutenant and eased him up, speaking soothingly, "Come on, lad. Take a few more deep breaths."

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

McLoud and Father O'Brian entered and walked into the sleeping cabin. "Mr. McLoud said Mr. Kennedy was not doing well." The priest walked over to the bunk and blessed Kennedy's forehead with holy oil, "Heavenly Father, please bless Your son, Archie. Give him rest from this fever and restore him to health. But if that is not Your will, take him to Your Heavenly Kingdom and allow him to rest in Your loving arms. He has suffered greatly in this life and is in need of Your precious love. We ask this through Your Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ."

Somehow this prayer only made Horatio feel worse, and he felt completely sick when the priest continued saying the last rites over Archie.

Leahy stood and looked at the men in the room, "You should say farewell to him now. You may not get another chance."

Archie suddenly opened his eyes, staring at nothing, his voice a soft whisper, "Mama? I want to come with you."

"He's hallucinating." Pellew said sadly.

"Is he?" Father O'Brian asked, "Sometimes, loved ones who have passed before others come to take them when it's their time. Perhaps his mother has come for him."

"No!" Horatio whimpered softly, shaking his head. "Don't leave me, Archie!" He sat down on the edge of the bunk. Trembling, he pulled Archie into his arms again, unable to stop the tears that came to his eyes, and tightly held the friend he had almost lost. Again.

" 'ratio?" Archie whispered weakly, a slight smile coming to his face, "You always save me."

"Don't leave me, Archie." Horatio was alarmed by how limp Archie was. It seemed as if he were unconscious. If not for the weak heartbeat and shallow breathing, Horatio would have believed his friend was dead. He was not moving in anyway. "I'm here, Archie. I'm holding you. Can you feel me?"

Archie tried to nod, but nothing happened.

"Can you feel me, Archie?" Horatio demanded louder.

"You don't have to shout, Horatio." Archie frowned, "I'm right here."

"I know, but you didn't answer me. Can you feel me holding you?"

"Yes." Archie whispered, "I feel safe when you hold me."

"I'll always hold you when you need it, Archie." Horatio closed his eyes.

Leahy took Archie's wrist in his hand, checking his pulse. He mouthed a silent prayer, then looked up at Pellew and whispered, "His pulse is improving."

Pellew closed his eyes and silently thanked God.

"I'm cold." Archie whispered, still only semi-conscious.

Horatio closed his eyes, resting his head on Archie's, "You're going to be all right, Archie. Just hold onto me. I'll help you through this. You know I will."

"I love you...'ratio." Archie whispered weakly. Then with tears slipping from his closed eyes, "You're all....I have."

Pellew closed his eyes against the sudden sting of tears.

"I'm so cold, Horatio." Archie's whisper was almost inaudible.

"Mr. Hornblower," Leahy said softly near his ear, "lie with him the way you did earlier."

Horatio eased Archie back on the bunk.

"No, Horatio!" Archie protested, "You said .you would. hold me."

"I will." Horatio arranged the blankets over his friend, "I just want to make you more comfortable." Then he moved the blankets to lie down next to Archie, who weakly squeezed against him.

Horatio wrapped his arms around his friend, "Go to sleep. I'll be right here."

"You'll not....leave me?"

"I will stay right here with you." Horatio promised, "You have my word on that."

Archie smiled slightly, and let himself relax.

After Archie fell asleep, Leahy felt his pulse again, then moved away from the bunk. "He's doing better. We should let him sleep. You can do no more from him tonight, gentlemen."

Pellew turned to the other men, "Gentlemen," Pellew frowned as his eyes caught on Matthews, "Belly dancers?"

Matthews suddenly looked embarrassed, "Eh, yes, sir. I told 'im 'bout them when we were in prison, sir."

"When was this, Matthews?" Horatio asked.

"The night I stayed with 'im while ye went t' dinner, sir." Matthews told him.

"Oh?" Pellew raised his brow.

Matthews took a deep breath and explained....

 

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CHAPTER EIGHTY THREE

 

Spain,
May 21, 1795

Matthews was sitting next to the bed in the prison infirmary watching young Kennedy sleeping. The young midshipman had become so deathly ill yesterday, frightening them all. Concerned for Kennedy, Hornblower had ordered Matthews to sit with Archie while Horatio had dinner with the Don.

The lad tossed and turned several times without waking. Matthews understood why when Kennedy began to mutter in his sleep. The seaman only needed to hear one word; Simpson.

Matthews closed his eyes, knowing how this boy had suffered had the hands of the monster.

Finally, Archie's eyes opened. Matthews smiled. He had feared the lad would not live. " 'ello, Mr. Kennedy." Matthews said gently, "It's good to see you awake, sir."

"Matthews?" Archie whispered, frowning in confusion, "Where's Mr. Hornblower?"

" 'e's 'avin' dinner with the Don." Matthews told him.

Dinner with the Don? Archie thought, The man who had ME locked into that damn hole in the ground as if I were an animal? Who Left me there for a month with no room to stand up or lie down? The man who did not even allow me out so that I could relieve myself? How could Horatio eat with that man after all he did to me?

Matthews poured a cup of water and slipped his hand under Kennedy's head to support it so the boy could drink. When he finished, the seaman walked over to the door and knocked on it, then returned to the chair. Archie turned his face away from the seaman and closed his eyes. After a few minutes, there are a knock at the door, making Kennedy open his eyes again. Matthews crossed to the door, a guard opened it, and handed in a tray. Archie rolled his eyes and closed them again.

"Mr. Kennedy, sir," Matthews put the tray on the table next to the bed, "Mr. 'ornblower said ye were supposed to eat."

Archie sighed heavily, but let Matthews feed him a few spoonfuls before he closed his eyes and turned his face away once more.

Matthews set the bowl of soup aside and watched the boy for several minutes. Kennedy's eyes opened and he just stared at the ceiling.

After a long silence, Matthews asked, "Would ye like som'in' t' read, sir?"

"No." Archie answered. He was quiet for a few moments more, then asked softly, "Matthews, could we talk?"

"Talk, sir?" Matthews blinked.

"It's been so long since I've had a simple conversation...." Archie's voice sounded almost pleading.

"Aye, sir." Matthews said, "What would ye like t' talk about?"

"Do you have a family?" Archie asked.

"I'm not married, sir. And me mam and da passed on years ago."

"Do you have any brothers or sisters?"

"Aye, sir." Matthews nodded, "I 'ave five brothers an' four sisters."

Archie blinked, his eyes widening, and whispered, "You have a large family!"

"Aye, sir." Matthews smiled slightly.

"Where were you in the family?" Archie asked, "Were you an elder or younger child?"

"I was sort o' in th' middle, sir." Matthews took a deep breath, then asked, "May I ask, sir - do ye 'ave brothers or sisters, sir?"

"Yes." Archie answered, "I have two elder brothers and two elder sisters."

"Ye were th' babe in th' family." Matthews tried to imagine Kennedy as a baby and smiled at the image that came to mind.

"Yes." Archie smiled, "I'm the youngest. How long have you been in the Navy?"

"Longer 'en ye been alive, sir." Matthews enjoyed the astonished look that came to Kennedy's face, "I've been in th' Navy fer twenty years now, sir."

"That's a long time!" Archie breathed in awe, "Do you like it?"

"Oh, some days 're better 'en others, sir." Matthews said, "But I've gotten t' see a lot o' th' world this way."

Kennedy's face seemed to light up at that, "You've seen a lot of the world? Where all have you been?"

"It seems like e'erywhere, sir." Matthews told him, seeing a spark of Kennedy's love of learning and adventure in the blue eyes. Maybe that's what the lad needs; to be reminded of the world that's waiting for him outside these damned walls. "I've been t' Africa."

"Africa!" Archie brightened more, "Did you see elephants? "

"Aye, sir. I've seen 'em." Matthews told him, "They are huge, sir! 'nd they'll trample ye if ye don't get out o' their way."

"What other animals have you seen?" Archie asked, and Matthews told him all about the various wildlife he had seen while in Africa. After twenty minutes, Archie licked his lips and asked, "Is there any more of that soup, Matthews?"

"Aye, sir." Matthews had the guards heat the soup again, then continued to tell Kennedy about Africa as he fed him. He was glad to the that the lad finished every drop. Matthews helped Archie drink some water, and then wet a rag and cleaned the boy's mouth.

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

"Me pleasure, sir." Matthews returned the smile, "Is there anythin' else I can do fer ye, sir?"

Archie shook his head, "Have you seen the pyramids in Egypt?"

"Aye, sir." Matthews nodded, "They're amazin'!"

"Something you'll never forget, eh?" Archie raised a slim brow, smiling.

"They weren't th' only thin's I'll not ferget seein' in th' east, sir." Matthews gave an odd smile.

"What else was there?" Archie asked curiously. He was starting to become sleepy again.

"The belly dancers, sir." Matthews said.

"Belly dancers?" Archie frowned.

"Aye, sir." Matthews explained in detail about the dancers, watching the life returning to Kennedy's eyes, a life that Matthews seen leave those eyes after Simpson began tormenting the boy. It had started to come back for a brief time while Kennedy was aboard Indefatigable, but then he was lost.

Now the young man's eyes were shining like they had been when Matthews had first seen him as a little boy, smiling at the young midshipman, who was teaching him how to use a cutlass. "There's a place in London that 'as belly dancers, Mr. Kennedy. When we get back t' th' Indy an' get leave at th' same time, sir, I can show you where it is."

"Will you, Matthews?" Archie asked, trying to stay awake.

"Aye, sir." Matthews said, "It'll be me pleasure!"

"I can't wait to see them." Smiling, Archie closed his eyes.

"Well, as soon as ye get well, we can go home, sir." The words came out before Matthews could stop them, and he pressed his lips together. He had never spoken like that to any officer and expected to be reprimanded for it.

But Kennedy only smiled and said lightly, "Then I'll just have to get well, eh?"

Kennedy was not like other officers, reflected Matthews. He was good natured, and treated the seaman better then most. "We want ye well, sir. We've missed ye."

Archie's expression suddenly changed. He looked at Matthews as if he was not sure of what he had just heard, and repeated slowly, "You've missed me?"

"Aye, sir." Matthews said, "Mr. 'ornblower, Styles, Finch, an' me, we've missed ye som'in fierce, sir."

Archie bit his lip and closed his eyes, then swallowed.

" 'ave I offended ye, sir?" Matthews leaned forward, concerned.

Archie shook his head and whispered, "No one ever came to look for me."

"We did look fer ye, sir." Matthews told him, "Cap'n Pellew 'ad us searchin' 'til we found th' jollyboat. It was raining when we found it, an' we thought ye 'ad been washed overboard by th' waves. We thought ye were dead, sir."

Archie's lip quivered and he bit it again, squeezing his eyes shut.

Moved with sympathy, and against all convention, Matthews put his left hand on Archie's arm, bringing the tear filled blue eyes to his, "Ye thought we didn' look fer ye, sir?"

Archie swallowed, "I-I....no one...."

"Ye thought no one cared." Matthews kept his hand in place. "Aw, Mr. Kennedy, ye know Styles, Finch, an' me 'ave always cared fer ye. An' Mr. 'ornblower was so dismayed at losin' ye. Most o' th' crew grieved when we found th' jollyboat, sir."

"They did?" Archie whispered hesitantly.

"Aye, sir." Matthews said, "It's 'ard t' lose someone like ye, sir. Few officers are as kind as ye. Th' crew 'urt losin' ye."

"Thank you, Matthews." Archie tried to smile, "I...I needed to hear that."

No wonder the lad had lost heart! Wanting to keep Kennedy from becoming melancholy again, Matthews said, "When I was in Egypt, we 'ad t' go inland on camels, sir."

Archie tried to blink the tears away, "You rode a camel?"

"Aye, sir." Matthews smiled back, "It's different from ridin' a 'orse. Th' camels kneel down an' ye mount 'em. Then they stand up, usin' the front legs first and then the back legs. An' they kneel down usin' their front legs first. Ye really got t' 'old on, sir, or ye'll get tossed off." Matthews laughed, "Our first lieutenant was tossed o'er 'is camel's 'ead ont' th' ground."

Archie laughed at that, and Matthews realized that this was the first time he had heard the boy laugh in years. He was grateful to God for the sound.

"Did he get hurt?" Archie asked.

"No, sir." Matthews smiled, " 'e laughed just as much as we did. It was th' first time I 'ad ever seen our cap'in laughin'." Seeing he had Archie's attention, Matthews continued to talk about the sights he had seen in his travels for thirty more minutes, before the boy's eyes fluttered closed. Kennedy forced them open several times, until he could no longer stay awake.

Matthews spoke softly, allowing his voice to lull the young officer to sleep. Then he stood and pulled the blanket up over Kennedy, tucking it in about him. Smiling, Matthews gently brushed the blond hair away from Kennedy's closed eyes and whispered, "Please get well, lad. I've missed ye so." Then the seaman settled back into the chair.

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Hornblower walked into the sickroom and said quietly, "Thank you, Matthews. Did you get him to eat a little?"

"Aye, sir." Matthews stood, " 'e ate every last bite, sir."

Horatio looked stunned, "How did you do it, Matthews?"

" 'e just ate a little at first, sir," Matthews explained, "then we started talkin' an' 'e asked fer the rest o' it."

"Oh." Horatio blinked, surprised. Then frowned and nodded, "Thank you for sitting with him, Matthews. You may go."

"It was a pleasure, sir." Matthews started for the door, then turned back, "Mr. 'ornblower, sir?"

"Yes, Matthews?"

"When 'e wakes," Matthews said, "will ye tell 'im that I enjoyed talkin' t' 'im an' 'ope we can talk again som'time, sir?"

"I will." Horatio gave him a nod, and Matthews left. Looking down at Kennedy, Horatio wondered what they had talked about that made Archie get his appetite back.

 

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CHAPTER EIGHTY FOUR

 

Indefatigable,
December 18, 1795

 

"It was clever of you to remind Mr. Kennedy of the world that awaited him." Pellew told the seaman, "You may have contributed to his recovery."

"Thank ye, sir." Matthews knuckled his forehead.

"How is he?" McLoud asked.

Leahy checked his pulse again, "He seems to be doing better."

"Good." Angus raised his brow, "Go to sleep."

Dalen did a double take, and opened his mouth.

"He's sleeping, and Mr. Hornblower will be able to tell if there is any change." Angus told him, then said, "Go. To. Sleep."

"Angus...."

"You only slept for two hours." Angus told him, "Mr. Kennedy is not in danger, and you need more sleep."

"He is right, doctor." Pellew turned to the other men, "Gentlemen, we will send for you if there is any change. Good night."

"Aye, sir." Styles knuckled his forehead and started for the door. Matthews followed suit, reluctantly.

Bracegirdle thanked the priest and led him out with Bowles quietly following.

"Good night, captain." Angus said as he started for the door, then gave his friend a glare, "You had better sleep."

"Yes, father." Dalen smiled shyly.

Angus rolled his eyes and smiled slightly, "Good night, Dalen."

Leahy grinned and picked up a blanket.

Pellew turned to the doctor, who had put the blanket on the deck, "Dr. Leahy, get up and come with me."

Dalen blinked in surprise, but obeyed.

They went into the day cabin, and the captain gestured to one of the easy chairs, "The deck is no place for officers or gentlemen."

"Yes, sir." Dalen wrapped the blanket around him and squeezed into the chair, "Good night, captain."

"Good night, doctor."

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Pellew tried for almost a half an hour, but he could not sleep. He glanced over to the other chair. Leahy was fast asleep rolled up in the blanket as if it was a cocoon. The captain stood and went to the sleeping cabin to check on his young officer. He smiled at what he saw.

Hornblower and Kennedy looked like small boys - like brothers. Kennedy was still huddled against Hornblower, wrapped, very snugly, in the blankets. Hornblower had his arms around his friend, his head leaning against the top of Kennedy's.

This is the way the relationship between these two had first seemed to the captain, as if Horatio Hornblower was Archie Kennedy's protector. Though Pellew had never understood what Kennedy needed to be protected from.

Now, it all fell into place.

How did this boy endure being brutalized almost daily for four years? Pellew wondered, How could a man gain control of a ship the size of Justinian the way Simpson had? True; Keane was dying. But what about Eccleston? Was he really that blind to what was going on right under his nose? How could he not see the terror in the midshipmen? How could he miss the pain and fear in young Kennedy's eyes? Pellew had seen it instantly the moment they met, even though he did not understand it, he had seen it in those sad blue eyes. How could Eccelston not see it?

Or was Eccleston afraid of Simpson as well? Pellew remembered the briefing for the Papillion mission, when Simpson had volunteered and Pellew turned to Eccelston, the lieutenant seemed hesitant - almost afraid - when he addressed Simpson. Did Simpson have some kind of hold over Eccleston? He certainly had control of the doctor.

Sighing deeply, Pellew shook his head, then reached down and put the back of his fingers on Kennedy's flushed cheek to check on the boy's fever.

At that touch, the young acting lieutenant flinched with a soft sound. Then, Archie moaned a bit louder and tried to pull away from the arms around him, whimpering very softly in his sleep, "No, don't! Let go! Please!"

"Shhh, Archie." Horatio whispered soothingly, "Shhh. It's all right. It's just me - Horatio."

" 'ratio?" Archie's voice was the ghost of a whisper.

"Yes, Archie." Horatio's voice sounded just as sleepy as Kennedy's, "I fell asleep holding you. Is that all right?"

"Yes. Thank you." Archie whispered sleepily, wrapping his arm around Horatio and squeezing against him, once more, "...makes me feel safe."

"You are safe, Archie." Horatio reached up and put his hand on Archie's forehead, "You still have a fever."

"I can't wake up properly." Archie whispered.

"It's all right." Horatio whispered, "Go back to sleep. You need to rest."

"You'll not let me go?" Archie asked, sounding like a child.

"Of course not." Horatio whispered, "I'll be right here watching over you. Now, sleep."

"Thank you." Archie mumbled and, within moments, both boys were slumbering again
Pellew smiled.

 

He sat down in a chair next to the bunk, still haunted by his young acting lieutenant's life. The boy had a remarkable strength to have survived such brutality!

Now Pellew pondered another problem; who tried to kill Archie Kennedy?

The man with the strongest motive was locked in the brig.

John Campbell also seems to loath Kennedy. But does he have the abilty to break into the medicine chest, and the chest it was in? Does his even know which medicines woudl be fatal?

Taylor is envious of Kennedy. But is he envious enough to try to kill him? And if so, does he have the knowledge of medicines to be able to do this?

Then there's Chiara Borgia. Pellew realized he did not know anything about this woman. Could she have the knowledge to have poisoned the boy? Or could it be someone else that they did not even think of?

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Archie brought his knee up and Horatio reached down to push it away, which only made Archie moan and bring it up further.

"Archie!" Horatio jerked and startled the sleeping youth, who tried to move away from him, whimpering. Realizing that he had frightened his friend, Horatio held him more firmly, "Archie, it's all right."

"No!" Archie suddenly screamed, trying to shrink away from him, "Don't touch me!"

"Archie!" Horatio slackened his hold and gently caressed Kennedy's shoulder, "Archie, it's Horatio."

Archie became still. He was panting and frowned in his sleep, "Hora..Horatio?"

"Yes, Archie, it's me." Horatio told him, "I did not mean to startle you. I just wanted you to move your knee."

"Oh." Archie straightened his leg out, "I-I'm sorry."

"It's all right. You were sleeping." Horatio put his hand on Archie's forehead, frowning at how hot it still felt, "How do you feel?"

"My chest hurts." Archie whispered.

"Archie," Horatio said carefully, "if my holding you makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, please tell me."

"It makes me feel safe, Horatio." Archie murmured, seeming a little more roused from his semiconscious state, and snuggled against his friend, "And loved. No one has held me like this since my father did the night before I left for the Navy - except for Matthews and Clayton."

"Matthews held you?" Horatio asked.

"Sometimes, Matthews would hold me and tried to calm me if I were still conscious." Archie whispered, "If not, Styles would carry me to Hepplewhite."

That's what it is between Matthews and Archie! Horatio realized, Matthews held him when he was in pain and frightened.

"I longed to be held the whole time I was on Justinian." Archie continued, weakly, "And even more so in prison. I was so lonely, Horatio. I thought no one cared that I was gone."

"That's not true, Archie. We care for you very much. I never let anyone know, but for weeks after we found the jollyboat - when I was alone in my cabin - I would weep until I fell asleep. I missed you so much!"

"Really, Horatio?" Archie tried to open his eyes, but they kept closing, "You wept for me?"

"My word on it, Archie." Horatio told him, "And I was not the only one grieving. Matthews, Styles, Finch, and Oldrod did as well. Even Mr. Bowles grieved. We all missed you."

"But I didn't know that." Archie whispered. He swallowed, "Could I..could I put my arm around you, Horatio?"

"You need never ask." Horatio said softly, "Anytime you need to be held you can put your arms around me and I'll hold you."

"I'm sorry to be such a child." Archie sobbed.

Horatio began to rub his friend's back, "Everyone needs love. There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel safe and loved. Please come to me when you need that. Will you, Archie?"

"Yes." Archie whispered.

"Good. Now go back to sleep. I will take care of you."

"My brother." Archie relaxed.

"Yes, I am." Horatio gave his friend a gentle squeeze as they both drifted off.

Pellew got up and quietly left the sleeping cabin. He settled down in his chair, trying to rid himself of the pain in his chest. Again, he wished there could have been some way to have spared the lad those horrible prisons.

 

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CHAPTER EIGHTY FIVE

 

Pellew put his hand on Horatio's arm and whispered, "Mr. Hornblower, you have the next watch."

Horatio opened his eyes, blinked, and looked up at the captain. Then glanced back at his friend.

Not missing Hornblower's expression, Pellew whispered, "I cannot spare you, son."

Horatio nodded and tried to carefully move his arm out from under Kennedy without disturbing him. But as he started, the acting lieutenant stirred, moaning softly and tightening his arm around Horatio.

Horatio tried to slip out from under Archie's arm again.

"H'ratio?" Archie whispered drowsily as Horatio got up, "What are you doing?"

"I have to get ready for my watch." Horatio gave Archie's shoulder a couple of soft pats, "Go back to sleep."

"No, 'ratio," Archie whispered in his sleep, "please don't leave me."

"You'll be all right, Archie." Horatio stroked his friend's shoulder, "Go back to sleep, the time will go by faster."

"Please, don't go." Archie pleaded quietly, "You're warm."

"Archie...." Horatio started.

"I need you." Archie whispered.

"I will be here until Horatio returns." Pellew sat down on the edge of the bunk and put his hand on Archie's back. Archie flinched with a shuddering gasp, and Edward immediately thought of the scars but, instead of removing his hand, he began to gently rub the boy's back.

Archie could barely stay awake, his whisper was becoming more quiet, "You'll take care of me, sir?"

"Yes, I will." Edward made his voice softer as he continued to rub Kennedy's back, "Now go to sleep. I'll watch over you."

" 'ratio?"

Archie's whisper was weak, and Pellew had to gesture for Horatio, who walked over to the bunk and leaned down, "Yes, Archie?"

"You will come back, won't you?"

Horatio put his hand on Archie's cheek, "You know I will, Archie. The captain will not leave you, and I'll be back as soon as my watch is over."

Archie tried to nod, but just did not have the energy.

"Go to sleep, son." Edward said very softly, still rubbing the boy's back, "I'll be right here."

As Horatio left the cabin, Leahy put his hand on Archie's forehead and sighed heavily. Then, while the doctor took the boy's pulse, Archie drifted off to sleep. Leahy felt Kennedy's throat. "Captain, if you are going to look after my patient for me, I should go and check on my other patient. Try and get him to drink as much water as you can.." Leahy started for the door, then stopped abruptly and turned to look at the captain, "Sir, when he wakes again, he might need to relieve himself."

"Naturally." Pellew said, and Leahy left the cabin.

Pellew thought of his letter to Lord Kennedy, and he took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. Then looked down at the sleeping boy. Several strands of blond hair were draped over the young face. The captain was amazed that this face has remained so handsome when Kennedy had been beaten regularly. But then again, Simpson would have to take care or the officers would see the bruises and become curious. He probably made certain he did not mess up the boy's face.

Pellew gently brushed the blond hair back, I'm sorry I never gave you a chance, Archie Kennedy. And I regret not taking the time to get to know you until now. Had I done so when you first came aboard, I might have noticed that you were terrified of Simpson, and could have kept you from suffering the loneliness and torment of imprisonment.

The captain pulled the rag out of the basin, sat down again, and began to wipe Kennedy's face and neck.

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

As Horatio came up on deck, someone called, "Mr. Hornblower?"

He knew by the thick accent who it was, and turned to face her, "Yes, Miss Padorin?"

"You may call me Tatiana, sir." She hesitated a moment, then asked slowly, "How is Mr. Kennedy?"

"He is....very ill." Horatio said reluctantly.

Tatiana appeared to be frightened and asked, "Vill he recover, sir?"

"Yes." Horatio wanted to believe that with all his heart.

"Vould it be possible for me to see him, sir?" She asked.

"Mr. Kennedy has been sleeping most of this time, Miss Tatiana." Horatio told her, "When he is able to stay awake for longer then a few moments, you should be able to visit with him. I'm certain sure he would enjoy your company then."

"Thank you, sir." Tatiana dropped her gaze, then raised her head with tears in her eyes, "Sir, the next time he vakes, vill you tell him I'm praying for him.....and thinking of him."

She is in love. Horatio smiled, "I will, miss."

"Thank you, sir." She smiled slightly.

"Miss Padorin," Horatio said, "would you please convey my apologies to Miss Valentina, and explain to her that I have been looking after my friend."

"She knows, sir." Tatiana gave a gentle smile, "Ve all know how dear Mr. Kennedy is to you. Ve saw your love and concern for him vhen he collapsed. I am glad Mr. Kennedy has you, Mr. Hornblower. He seems to feel that no one vill love him." She cocked her head, "Is it because of the....fits?"

Horatio suddenly could not speak.

"Vhen Mr. Kennedy told me about them," She said slowly, sadly, "I think he believed I vould not care for him any more." She appeared puzzled, "Vhy vould he think that? They do not make him any less of a man. Look vhat he did with those two enemy ships! How can anyone ever think badly of Mr. Kennedy after vhat he did that night?!"

Horatio blinked, then looked at her, "Miss Tatiana, not everyone is as sensible as you are. I wanted to thank you for telling Mr. Kennedy about Julius Caesar."

"He is ashamed of his fits." Tatiana said sadly, "He should not be. I know men who are perfectly healthy, but lack the qualities Mr. Kennedy has. He is decent, proper, conscientious....the perfect gentlemen."

Valentina smiled as she approached her suitor. Then, seeing the look on her sister's face, she asked, concerned, "Are you all right?"

Biting her lip, Tatiana shook her head and lowered it as tears slowly slid down her cheeks.

Valentina put her arm around her sister, then suddenly looked up at Horatio, frightened, "It is not Mr. Kennedy, is it?!"

"No." Horatio realized what Valentina was thinking and shook his head, "Mr. Kennedy is sleeping."

Valentina looked relieved, then leaned down, trying to see her sister's face, "Tatiana, what is it?"

Tatiana shrugged, and turning into her sister's embrace she sobbed, "I love Mr. Kennedy!"

Valentina grinned and hugged her sister, even more relieved, "Tiana, I am taking you below to bed. You need some sleep." Valentina looked at Horatio, "She has been so worried about Mr. Kennedy that she barely slept last night. Horatio, please tell Mr. Kennedy that we are praying for him. And we miss him."

"I will, Valen." Horatio smiled at her, "Pleasant dreams, Miss Tatiana."

"Thank you, Mr. Hornblower." Tatiana sobbed.

"Horatio." Smiling, Valentina kept her arm around her sister and they started below, passing Bracegirdle on their way.

The other passengers approached him, and Beverly Winston asked, "How is Mr. Kennedy?"

"He is very ill, ma'am," Horatio answered, "but he will recover." He saw relief appear in many faces.

Little Harvey tugged on Hornblower's breeches, "Horasio? I miss Mr. Kendy. When will he get better?"

Horatio crouched down to the little boy's level, "He is going to be ill for a while, Harvey. But he get better."

"I'm praying for him." Harvey asked.

"I will tell him." Horatio smiled, "I'm certain it will make him feel much better."

"Horasio?" Harvey cocked his head, "Will you give him this for me?" Harvey threw his arms around Horatio's neck and kissed his cheek.

The young lieutenant suddenly felt uncomfortable.

"Promise you will give them both to Mr. Kendy for me?" Harvey asked.

Swallowing, Horatio nodded and said, "You have my word on it." Harvey smiled and Horatio tossed the boy's hair, stood and climbed the steps to the quarter-deck. Taylor, Cleveland, and Hether were surprised to see him.

The two midshipmen quickly approached him. "How is Archie?" Cleveland asked.

"Still the same." Horatio told them, then approached Bracegirdle and saluted, "Reporting for duty, sir."

"Very good, Mr. Hornblower." Bracegirdle returned the salute, then said a bit lower, "How is Mr. Kennedy this morning?"

"His condition is still the same, sir." Horatio told him, "He went back to sleep before I left the cabin."

Bracegirdle nodded, "Sleep should do him good."

After Bracegirdle walked away, Taylor came up beside Horatio, "So, is the captain going to be spending the day with his new pet?"

"Mr. Taylor!" Horatio turned on him, then stopped, remembering what the captain had said about separating his feelings from his duty. Taking a deep breath, he forced himself to calm a bit.

But before he could say anything, Bracegirdle approached, "Mr. Taylor, is there a problem?"

Taylor straightened, "Uh....no, sir."

"Then I suggest you tend to your duties." Bracegirdle told him.

"Aye aye, sir." Taylor turned and walked away.

Cleveland appeared at Horatio's side, speaking quietly, "Horatio, I regret what Simpson did to Archie. You do understand that he would have done worse had we not obeyed him?"

"I'm trying to understand it, Lawrence." Horatio sighed, "Although, I never could understand why all of you could not have stood up to Simpson. He could not have hurt you all at the same time. All you had to do was take Archie to Eccleston after he was beaten and tell him that Simpson had done that to him. I know Eccleston would have taken the word of all three of you over Simpson's. He was only one man."

"Was he?" Cleveland asked, "I heard in church that the devil is everywhere and could be in anyone. But I never believed that until I met Jack Simpson. If there was one man in this world who could have been the devil, it was him. Part of me actually began to believe he was. That Satan had came out of hell and was aboard Justinian. It certainly felt as if we were in hell."

"Archie said it was Purgatory." Horatio smiled remembering the day Archie had greeted him. How could he smile like that when he was being tormented that way?

"Archie frightened me sometimes." Cleveland sighed, "I think he actually pretended that it was not happening. He seemed as if his body was there, but his mind was not."

Was that how Archie survived? Horatio thought, By pretended it was not happening? By putting his mind somewhere else, trying to distance himself from the pain he was suffering?

 

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

 

CHAPTER EIGHT SIX

 

Archie began to moan again and toss his head, restlessly. Quickly dropping the rag back into the basin, Pellew reached down and began to stroke youth's forehead.

When Archie began to moan more, Edward abandoned this attempt, and took his shoes off, then moved the blankets to lie down next to his officer. He put his arms around Kennedy, who immediately jerked away with a soft, shuddering whimper, "No!"

"Shhhh, Archie." Edward swallowed self consciously, "Papa is holding you."

"Papa?" Archie stopped resisting, his whisper was very quiet.

"Yes, son, I have you." Edward told him, "You are safe."

Archie snuggled against the captain and wrapped his arm around him, a slight smile on his face, "I've missed you, Papa. I love you."

"I love you, my boy." Edward kissed Archie's temple, "Go to sleep now."

"Yes, Papa." Archie mumbled, already falling asleep.

The captain pulled the blankets up over his shivering young officer, and began rubbing his back. He knew he should not allow his junior officers so close to his heart. But Hornblower had entered it years ago.

And Kennedy....

If there was one man on this ship who could easily win hearts it was Archie Kennedy. He had won the hearts of those children on the first day, and the passengers' the next. And now, he seemed to have won the hearts of most of the crew.

How could Pellew not allow this boy into his heart? Kennedy had trusted him enough to allow the captain to explain the facts of life to him, to speak to him of his father and his affliction, and to even tell him of Simpson's cruelty.

And the boy had said that he loved Pellew, even though he feared him. Edward smiled at that. How could I not have feelings for this lad? How could I not let him know how deeply I have come to care for him?

But a captain should not allow himself to become close to his officers.

Still, I cannot let him suffer, believing no one but Hornblower cares for him. And I cannot deny my own feelings. Archie Kennedy has indeed won my heart. Edward sighed heavily; Do I do what I know I should? Or do I follow my heart and conscience?

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

Leahy walked into the sleeping cabin to find his patient and captain sound asleep. He smiled and put the bowl of food down in order to feel Archie's forehead. He was still very warm, but his pulse was good, so Dalen decided to let him sleep, and quietly left the cabin.

He started for the deck and happened upon Martha Hamilton, who was leaning against the bulkhead with her hand on her belly and her eyes closed. Frowning, Leahy asked, "Are you all right, ma'am?"

Martha opened her eyes, "I don't know, sir."

He gestured to her wrist, "May I?"

She held her arm up for him to feel her pulse.

Dalen frowned, "You're in pain."

"Perhaps, it was the food?"

"Ma'am," Leahy eyed her, "when are you due?"

"Next month." Martha told him.

The young doctor's frown deepened as he shook his head very slowly, "You look as if you are due sooner than that."

"Oh, no." Martha shook her head, "Dr. Myers said I was not due until the end of January."

Leahy groaned, closing his eyes. He opened them and looked into hers, "I believe you're further along than my colleague thought."

"Oh, dear." Martha said, distressed.

"Ma'am," Dalen hesitated, not certain how to ask her. He let his breath out and asked, "Would you like me to check to make certain whether the babe is due yet?"

"Would you, doctor?"

Dalen could see fear in the woman's eyes, and smiled, "Of course, ma'am. Stay here. I'll be right back."

 

 

Leahy rushed up to the deck, and motioned for one of the officers on the quarterdeck.

Catching sight of him, Hether frowned and walked over to the first lieutenant, "Sir, I think he wants something."

Bracegirdle stopped his mouth from falling open. He could not understand why the midshipman stated the obvious instead of going down to find out what the doctor wanted. Then he thought of Kennedy, and quietly descended the steps, "What is it, doctor?"

"Sir," Leahy said slowly, "I believe Mrs. Hamilton is in pain. I want to examine her, but the midshipmen's berth is not very private. Is there somewhere I can take her?"

"Yes, doctor." Bracegirdle shouted up, "I'm going below, Mr. Taylor."

"Aye aye, sir." Taylor answered, then frowned, Has Kennedy become his pet too?

 

 

Bracegirdle led the doctor below, finding Martha, her hand still on her belly, but now her head and shoulders were bowed and she was breathing hard.

"Ma'am?" When she glanced up at him, Dalen smiled, "You'll be all right."

She reached out, and the doctor took her arm, pulling her closer so that she could support herself by putting it around him, "Thank you, doctor."

"Of course, ma'am." He put his own arm around her.

They followed the first lieutenant to the wardroom. He opened a door and said, "You may use my cabin."

"Thank you, sir." Martha said softly.

 

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

 

CHAPTER EIGHTY SEVEN

 

Horatio stood on the quarter-deck, remembering that night in prison, he had thought it odd that even after two years, Archie was still having nightmares of Simpson. Now he understood why. Archie had been hurt by Jack Simpson every day for four years. Horatio closed his eyes and sighed heavily, Archie, why didn't you tell me? I would have protected you. Why did you not trust me?

 

Spain
May 20, 1795

Horatio had tried everything he could think of and finally, Archie gave in and drank some water, but then he had turned his face away again.

"Archie..." Horatio started.

Archie interrupted him before he could hear anything else, "Why, Horatio?"

"What do you mean?" Horatio frowned.

"Why do you wish me to suffer?"

"I don't wish for you to suffer." Horatio said, "I want you to get better."

"Why?" Archie turned to look at him, "To watch you succeed? To have the captain ignore me? To be the one who is always over looked, or whispered about?! To be Simpson's....?!" Archie's voice choked off a sob, as he cried, "No! I won't go back, Horatio! I cannot endure Simpson again! I can't!"

"Oh, God." Horatio suddenly realized that he had never told him!

"Simpson's dead, Archie."

"I don't believe it!" Archie said.

"It's true." Horatio told him, "Captain Pellew shot Jack Simpson."

Archie frowned, "Why didn't you tell me this before now?"

"It was so long ago," Horatio said, "I had forgotten about Simpson."

"At least, someone can." Archie muttered softly as he turned his face away, tears sliding down his cheeks.

Horatio suddenly remembered the scars he had found only hours ago, and the day he found Archie in the hold unconscious and bloody. He could never forget how frightened Archie was of Simpson the night the man returned to Justinian. Archie had endured far worse then Horatio had.

"Archie," Horatio said softly, "I'm sorry I didn't tell you that Simpson was dead."

"He's not gone." Archie shook his head, "He'll come back." He took a deep breath, but his voice trembled as he said, "He always comes back!"

"He can't." Horatio assured him, "Captain Pellew shot him in the heart. I watched him die. He is dead." Horatio explained everything that had happened on the Papillon mission and about the duel.

Archie closed his eyes and became quiet.

"Archie?" Horatio whispered.

"And you want me to return to Indefatigable after endangering that mission?" Archie kept his eyes closed, "To face a crew that knows I have fits and that I could have gotten the men killed? To face the captain, who will probably have me flogged for not telling him of the fits and discharge me from the Navy?"

"Archie, he wouldn't...."

"I am unfit for duty!" Archie snapped, "And then what will become of me, Horatio? Tell me what I could do for living after being discharged?! I have no skills! I have no home! I have no family! I have nothing, Horatio! Absolutely nothing!!"

Horatio stood in silence, not knowing what to say, and unable to ignore the pain in his chest.

"I have no reason to return to the Indy." Archie said, "I have nothing to return to. My career - my life - is over. You are the only one who will not accept it."

"Your life is not over, Archie." Horatio insisted, "I cannot live without your friendship. I need it. I'm lost without it."

"You took command of the Papillion," Archie muttered bitterly, "and saved the Indy. You were made an acting lieutenant. You are doing fine without me."

Horatio sat down on the edge of the bed, "Archie, I am sorry I struck you that night."

"You didn't have a choice, Horatio." Archie said flatly, without looking in Horatio's direction, "I could have ruined the mission. The men could have died."

"I should have told Captain Pellew that Simpson hated us," Horatio said, "and that he could not be trusted."

"I'm sleepy, Horatio." Archie said softly.

"Go to sleep then." Horatio put his hand on Archie's arm, "I will be here all night if you need me, my friend."

"Am I really your friend?" Archie raised his brow and looked back at the acting lieutenant, "Even though I am a pathetic excuse for human being?"

"You're not...."

"Look at me!!" Archie demanded, "I'm filthy!"

"Archie," Horatio said carefully, "you've been ill, and unable to walk. It was not your fault that you could not care for youself."

"Then why did you leave me alone with Hunter?!" Archie said angrily, and Horatio could hear the hurt in his voice.

"I'm sorry, Archie." Horatio said, "I should not have. I was selfish, and I beg your pardon. Can you forgive me?"

Archie closed his eyes and sighed heavily.

"I will not leave here without you, Archie." Horatio told him, "I can't. I don't want to return to Indefatigable without the only friend I have ever had."

Archie was quiet a several long moments. "I'm sleepy, Horatio." He repeated, hoping the acting lieutenant would take the hint.

"All right." Horatio could not keep the disappointment from his voice.

Archie started to let himself drift off to sleep, then forced his eyes open, "Horatio?"

"Yes, Archie?"

"I appreciate your kindness and your belief that my life was worth saving." Archie's voice was soft, and Horatio could hear the sleep trying to claim him.

"It is worth saving." Horatio put his hand on his friend's arm, "You will see it - when you are well again."

The sleepy blue eyes finally met the brown ones, "I do accept your apology."

Moved by Archie's words, Horatio swallowed, "Thank you, Archie. Now rest. I will not leave you again."

Archie smiled slightly, and his eyes closed.

Horatio stood and pulled the blanket up over Archie's chest, "Good night, my friend. I am glad to have you back."

"Good night, 'rat'o." Archie mumbled so softly, Horatio almost did not hear it.

Horatio walked around the bed and settled into the chair. He was not going to abandon his friend again.

 

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

 

CHAPTER EIGHTY EIGHT

 

Finally, Horatio's watch was over and he was dismissed. He hurried below to his ill friend only to find him sound asleep in his captain's arms. Horatio reached down to feel Archie's forehead, frowning.

The captain opened his eyes, and noticed Horatio. "Mr. Hornblower." He said softly, "Mr. Kennedy has been sleeping since you left."

"How is he, sir?" Horatio asked.

"The same, I fear." Pellew tried to move his arm out from under Kennedy without waking him, then slipped out of the bunk, "He does sleep better when he's held, though."

"Because his father used to hold him." Horatio muttered.

"Yes." Edward frowned, "His father did not speak to him because of his fits, yet he would hold him when he was ill, and even did so the night before he left for the navy." Pellew looked up at him, "Why does this not make sense? He's ashamed of his son to point that he does not even ready him for the world, yet he embraces him before sending him away?"

"It was his grandmother who arranged for him to go into the navy." Horatio said. Then thought of something, "Sir, Mr. Kennedy's affliction does frighten people."

"Specially, him." Edward commented.

"Yes, sir." Horatio explained, "But it can be quite terrifying to those who do not understand it."

"You understand it?" Edward asked.

"I've seen people with this condition before, sir." Horatio admitted, "And I've found that holding Mr. Kennedy and soothing him during a fit sometimes brings him out of it sooner."

Edward nodded and looked at the sleeping officer.

Archie lay, curled up on his side, a slight frown on his fevered brow. A few strands of blond hair draped over his face.

Dear God, the boy is lovely! Pellew thought, Did Simpson violate him? The idea made him nauseous. Pellew had always thought that the reason Kennedy had been moved to Spain was because one of the guards had made advances on him. He was the kind of boy that type type of man preferred; lovely, gentle,.....easily intimidated.

Without a word, Pellew turned and left the sleeping cabin.

Horatio was not certain what to make of his captain's silent departure. He looked down at his friend. Sitting down on the bunk, Horatio pulled the rag out of the basin of water, and began to wipe Archie's face.

 

Justinian,
January 1793

Archie stood at the door of the sick berth, not taking his eyes from his new friend. This was his fault. Horatio's inquisition and his spell in the rigging was all Archie's fault. If only he had warned his fellow midshipman about Simpson, and what would happen if Horatio got his answer right and Simpson did not. That was somethign Archie had learned long ago.

Why did I not warn him? Archie thought, He will hate me once he finds out I could have spared him this beating. I certainly would. All I had to do was tell him. I did not even have enough courage to open my mouth. I deserve to be hated. I am worthless. Archie cocked his head, Why does he even like me? I'm useless. The only one who truly enjoys having me around is Simpson. And he only likes having someone to torment.

A hand suddenly clamped over Archie's mouth, muffling his startled gasp. Simpson's voice low, "You just can't stay away from Snotty, can you? I believe you really fancy him. Well, we shall see about that!"

Simpson dragged him to the hold and threw him to teh deck, "I don't like this relationship that's starting to grow between you and Hornblower." He pulled out a tiller.

Archie lost his breath, his eyes widened more, and his heart began to ound hard against his ribs. Backing away, he pleaded, "No, Mr. Simpson! P-please! Mr. Hornblower does not like me anyway. Please d...don't hurt me!"

"Too late." Simpson began to beat him.

Archie had learned long ago, that fighting only made the beatings last longer. If he just closed his eyes and tried not to move, it would be over in just a while. All he had to do, was put his mind on something else and concentrate on nothing but that. So that's what he did, waiting for Simpson to tire and stop.

Finally, Simpson ceased beating him and just stood there, staring down at Kennedy for several moments.

Suddenly, he grabbed Archie by the jacket and pulled him up to slam him into the bulkhead, frightening the boy into opening his eyes. Jack pressed against him. "You are so lovely." Jack said softly, caressing Archie's cheek, "It's a shame you're not a girl."

Archie flinched away from Simpson's hand, trembling. He was having difficulty staying conscious and softly begged, "No! Please, don't touch me!"

"You are as lovely as a girl." Simpson cocked his head, "Is that what Snotty sees in you?" His expression changed to one that terrified Archie. "Well, if anyone is going to enjoy you, it's me. You were mine first." Jack threw Archie to the deck, pinned him down and kissed his cheek....

 

Indefatigable,
December 19, 1795

Archie began tossing his head and softly sobbing, "No!"

Horatio put the rag back in the basin and started stroking his friend's forehead, "Shhh, Archie."

"Please, don't!" Archie pleaded.

Horatio pulled the covers down and climbed into the bunk, next to his friend. He put his arms around Archie, who tried to pull away and whimpered, "Don't hurt me!"

"Archie, it's all right." Horatio soothed, "Shhhh. It's all right. You're safe."

Archie took a shuddering breath as he stopped, " 'rat'o?"

"Yes." Horatio stroked his friend's shoulder, "I'm here. And you're safe. You're all right."

Archie relaxed a little, "Don't let him hurt me."

"I won't let him." Horatio tightened his hold, "I won't let anyone hurt you." He began gently rubbing his friend's back. Remembering a poem that Archie had taught him in prison, he started slowly reciting it, very softly, in the hope that he might lull the youth back to sleep.

"You remembered." Archie tried to raise his head.

"How could I forget?" Horatio said lightly, "You recited it every twenty minutes for a week. I'll never forget it as long as I live."

Archie made a sound that seemed very like a weak giggle, "It's always been my favorite."

"Well, I'll never forget it." Horatio said, "Or the friend who taught it to me."

"I could never forget you, Horatio." He murmured.

"You need to rest, Archie." Horatio began rubbing Archie's back once more, "Now go to sleep."

"You'll protect me?" Archie asked.

"I will always protect you." Horatio gave him a gentle squeeze, "You're my brother."

Archie smiled slightly, letting himself relax, and, as Horatio started reciting the poem again, resuming that gentle back rub, sleep claimed him once more.

 

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

 

CHAPTER EIGHTY NINE

 

Pellew had gone up on the quarterdeck for some air, but found it very hard to breathe normally. He had surveyed his officers, crew, and the passengers, and one thing kept nagging at his mind; one of these people tried to kill Archie Kennedy. Most of them seemed saddened, however. There were only a handful of people who did not. Lieutenant Taylor, John Campbell, the bosun's mate, Cobb, and Marine Lieutenant Hill.

Could one of these men have done this to Kennedy? And if so, why? Who could be threatened by an eighteen year old boy with an affliction and no self confidence? It is not as if Kennedy were brilliant like Hornblower. The boy was no threat to anyone's career. Sadly, Kennedy lacked what all these other men had in abundance; ambition. Pellew wondered if Archie Kennedy had ever had ambition. Or did he lose it as a result of the brutalizing that he endured.

That thought made Pellew's stomach turn. How was Simpson ever able to beat that boy the way he did without anyone noticing? Surely, Eccleston would have noticed that Kennedy was absent from his duties a lot. Why did he never question it? A ship the size of Justinian had plenty of officers, how could they all be so damn blind?!

Edward took a very deep breath to settle his sudden anger. He would never tolerate such a dereliction of duty by his officers, and that was exactly what this was.

A captain and his officers failing to keep order aboard their ship. A midshipman failing to treat his fellow officers with respect, and another midshipman who was absent from his duties. Although, that was not Kennedy's fault, since the beatings were not his responsibility.

Edward closed his eyes, Dear God, how did that boy survive? What kept him from trying to desert. Any man would have considered that. Or they may have just ended everything with suicide. He opened his eyes, frowning, What kept Kennedy on that ship. After a few beatings, he would have had to know that this was all he had to look forward to. Why did he stay and take it?

Now that he knew the lad a bit better, Edward was very pleased that Kennedy had not taken another path. But he did want to know why Kennedy had not tried. And how the boy endured all that pain without letting anyone know that he was hurt.

There was more to Archie Kennedy then meets the eye. Much more.

Taking another deep breath, the captain turned to look out over the sea. The sun was setting, and it was starting to get colder. As he watched the sunset, one thought stayed in his mind - a prayer actually - Don't let me lose Archie Kennedy again.

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

He remained on deck until it was time for dinner, then returned to his cabin. Once he was finished with a meal he really didn't taste, he went into his sleeping cabin, and smiled at his officers; Hornblower had his arms wrapped around his friend, who was buried against his chest, bundled under the blankets.

"Mr. Hornblower," Pellew put his hand on his lieutenant's arm, "you need to eat before your watch."

Horatio blinked himself awake, "Yes, sir."

"Go ahead, Mr. Hornblower." Pellew said, "I'll take care of our friend."

"Yes, sir." Horatio left the cabin with one thing ringing in his mind; 'I'll take care of our friend.' Our friend. The captain thinks of Archie as a friend?

Pellew walked back to the bunk and looked down at Kennedy. The boy was still shivering. He put his hand on Archie's cheek to check his fever and frowned.

" 'rat'o?" Archie whispered very softly, "I'm cold."

Pellew sighed as, once more, he moved the blankets and climbed into the bunk, putting his arms around his officer. Archie squeezed against him, "You're so warm."

The captain smiled and tightened his hold on Kennedy, "Sleep now, son."

"Um." Archie mumbled before falling asleep again.

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

The watch passed smoothly for Horatio, and as soon it was ended, he hurried back to the captain's sleeping cabin to find Pellew sleeping as soundly as Archie. His friend was wrapped snugly in their captain's arms.

He decided to let the captain sleep in his own bunk tonight, and went to the day cabin to settle into one of the easy chairs. Just as he was drifting off, Leahy came in to check on his patient. "He's sleeping." Horatio informed him.

"I don't doubt it." Leahy smiled, "But I still need to check him." He walked into the sleeping cabin and felt Archie's forehead and pulse. Then returned to the day cabin. The young doctor offered a slight smile, "Can I get you anything, lieutenant?"

"No, thank you." Despite his previous annoyance, Horatio was beginning to like Leahy. He was very kind and gentle. Just the type of doctor Archie needed tending to him. But there was something Horatio had to know, "Why did you say it was my fault we were losing him?"

Leahy blinked rapidly, frowning in confused, "I didn't say it was your fault, lieutenant."

"You said that we were losing him because I was not praying." Horatio told him.

"Oh, Mr. Hornblower!" Leahy closed his eyes and sighed heavily. Then looked at the young officer, shaking his head slowly, "I didn't meant that it was your fault."

"You said....."

Leahy interrupted him, "I was trying to find a reason for God not answering my prayers. I've been praying since Mr. Kennedy collapsed, and did not understand why God would not answer me. I did not intend to make you believe that it was because of you. I just thought that since He was not answering my prayers, that He might want to hear from someone else. I'm sorry I made you believe it was your fault."

Leahy smiled easily, suddenly reminding Horatio of Archie, "Don't fret over it, lieutenant. It was me."

"Oh." Horatio swallowed, trying to compose himself properly, and annoyed at showing his weakness to the doctor, "Thank you for the apology." Then he frowned, "You questioned my doubt in prayer. But it seems to me that you were the one who was doubting."

"Yes, I was." Leahy's expression for very serious now, "I could not understand why God would not help Mr. Kennedy. After all, the boy does not deserve to lose his life because of someone else's hatred or jealousy."

"If you are going to doubt God," Horatio could not understand, "why believe in him?"

Dalen smiled sadly, "I have to believe there's a God, lieutenant. If I knew for certain there was not, and that there was no Heaven or hell, I would not be here. I would have ended my life years ago."

Horatio stared at the doctor, stunned. God was the only reason he had not commited suicide?

Leahy sighed heavily, "No matter how you look at it, it was my fault Mr. Kennedy was poisoned. They were my medicines."

"But you didn't...."

"That may be, lieutenant." Leahy said, "But I was responsible for the medicines being about this ship in the first place."

"Whoever did this to Mr. Kennedy could have found something in the sick berth."

"He could have?" Leahy raised a brow.

"Well," Horatio mused aloud, "it would have been difficult, considering how crowded sick berth is."

"Exactly." Leahy told him "Had I not brought those medicines with me, this would not have happened. If Archie Kennedy dies it will be my fault. Even though I did not administer them to him. I feel responsible for this."

He doubts himself? Horatio stared at him, not speaking.

"I need some air."

Leahy hurried out of the cabin.

 

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CHAPTER NINTY

 

Horatio settled down and was just drifting off as the door opened and McLoud walked in. "Mr. Kennedy and the captain are sleeping." Horatio said quietly.

McLoud frowned, "Where is Dalen?"

Horatio hesitated, "He...he believes he's responsible for Mr. Kennedy being poisoned."

"Dammit!" McLoud breathed, "I knew it! Do you know where he went, Mr. Hornblower?"

"He said he needed some air." Horatio got up, "I'll come with you." Horatio almost had to trot to keep up with McLoud's quick stride.

Once on deck, McLoud looked around, then up at the rigging, "Oh, Dalen, I pray you have not decided to climb up there!"

Horatio walked toward the starboard side and saw Leahy, forward. "He's over here, Mr. McLoud." Horatio said as he started toward the doctor.

Leahy seemed to be lost in his thoughts. When Horatio cleared his throat as he approached, the doctor jumped with a startled gasped.

"Pardon me, doctor." Horatio lowered his eyes as he drew near.

Leahy almost seemed to recoil, "I need to be alone, lieutenant."

Horatio frowned, "Are you all right, sir?"

The doctor looked almost terrified, "Just....just don't....don't come any closer."

Horatio shook his head, not understanding.

"Please, lieutenant." Leahy pleaded, "I-I-I...." He took a deep breath, trying to collect himself, "I need some time alone, Mr. Hornblower."

"Dalen?"

Horatio turned to see McLoud, eyeing his friend in an odd way.

Leahy lowered his head and said a bit more steadily, "I want to be alone!"

McLoud stepped around Horatio, his voice firm as he put his arm around his friend's shoulders, "You need to get some sleep."

"Angus...."

"Hush!" McLoud retorted softly, but firmly, "You are going to sleep."

"Mr. Kennedy....."

"...is sleeping," Angus steered the doctor aft, "and I will watch over him tonight whilst you sleep. And there will be no argument from you. You have not had a complete night's sleep since before we boarded. I will watch over you and Mr. Kennedy. Or do you not trust me?"

Leahy let out a heavy sigh, "I trust you, Angus. You know I do. I just...."

"..need to sleep." He stopped, turning his friend to toward him, and catching Dalen's face in his hands, "You are exhausted."

"All right." Leahy lowered his eyes, "I'll sleep."

"Yes, you will." Angus took the doctor back to the captain's cabin and pushed him into one of the easy chairs, "Make yourself comfortable enough to sleep."

Dalen made a face, and McLoud walked into the sleeping cabin. "Captain Pellew?" He whispered.

Pellew blinked himself awake. Then frowned, "Mr. McLoud?"

"Could I have a glass of wine for Dr. Leahy, sir?" McLoud whispered, "He really needs to get some sleep."

"Of course." Pellew said, "May I suggest..." He stopped as he watched McLoud take a little bottle out of Leahy's medicine bag.

Glancing at the captain, McLoud said, "Dalen can be ever so stubborn. This will guarantee that he sleeps."

Pellew watched the lawyer slip the bottle into the pocket of his waistcoat, and leave to room. He's going to drug the doctor! The captain slowly began to slip his arm out from under Kennedy, hoping not to disturb him.

McLoud walked over to the side board, standing where his body would block Leahy's view, and poured a glass of wine. Then slipped the bottle out of his pocket and emptied it into the glass. He swirled it around and walked over to his friend, "Drink this."

"Angus...."

"Do not argue." McLoud said firmly, "You know I will win." He handed the glass to his friend, "Drink it down as fast as you can."

"Hoping to get me drunk?" Dalen raised his brow as he took the glass, "You know, if anyone else were doing this to me, I wouldn't drink it."

"I know." Angus smiled, "Now drink it."

The captain hurried into the day cabin, but was too late. Leahy was already drinking. Damn!

Leahy suddenly looked up at McLoud, "You filthy sneak!"

"You need to sleep." McLoud replied calmly.

"I hate you!" The doctor said, not sounding as furious as he should have. He merely sounded annoyed.

"I know." Angus smiled, "But you will thank me in the morning."

"Not bloody likely!" Leahy wrapped the blanket around himself.

McLoud began to stroke Leahy's forehead, "I love you, and you know it."

Leahy said rudely as he closed his eyes, "I'm not happy with you at the moment."

McLoud gave a quiet laugh, "I know. And I know you love me."

Leahy mumbled something and McLoud grinned, "Sweet dreams, Dalen." He continued to stroke Leahy's forehead until the doctor was asleep. Then leaned down and kissed the top of his head.

"What did you put in that wine." Pellew demanded.

"Laudanum." McLoud said, "He has not slept through the night since he learned we were to sail aboard this ship. Mr. Kennedy needs Dalen in complete control of his faculties, not in a daze from lack of sleep."

"Why was he so frightened on deck, sir?" Horatio asked.

McLoud took a deep breath and let it out loudly, "He has been frightened since we heard we would be sailing on a British naval ship."

"He said he... 'disliked' the navy." Pellew told him, "But I gained the strong impressionthat he really wanted to say he hates it. Why?"

Pain etched McLoud's features as he looked down at his friend, "Almost a year ago Dalen was dragged into on alleyway and beaten by two officers of the British nevy."

Horatio's mouth fell open.

Stunned, Pellew asked, "What ship were they from?"

"The port Admiral asked Dalen that same question." McLoud said, "Dalen said they did not really bother with introductions."

"Did they rob him?" Horatio asked.

McLoud lowered his head, "They took everything from him. When he was found the next morning, he was almost dead. Dr. Chapman did his best to try and keep him alive. But....." He stopped, closing his eyes, and took another deep breath, "He did not want to come aboard this ship." McLoud looked up at them, "That was why I was surprised that he agreed to come aboard as a doctor. After what happened to him, I could not believe he would ever consider such a thing. Of course, Dalen's heart would rule where Mr. Kennedy is concerned."

"He would put his fear aside for Mr. Kennedy's sake?" Pellew asked.

"Dalen would do whatever it takes to help his patients." McLoud told him, "He does not like to see anyone suffer."

Pellew found himself admiring the young doctor for his courageous decision.

"He has been having nightmares about the beating since we came aboard, sir." McLoud looked at him, "I would never normally have put laudanum in anyone's drink. But Dalen really needs to sleep." He gestured to the sleeping doctor. "I hope you will believe me, sir, when I say that I did this out of love. And desperation."

 

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