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GOING HOME, Part One
by Tracy J.

Author's Note;

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

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PROLOGUE

Gibraltar,
December 6, 1795

 

The rain lightly fell on the harbor as Captain Edward Pellew's jollyboat was brought to a stop next to the Indefatigable. Once he was piped aboard, the captain ordered his first lieutenant to assemble the crew. He caught sight of his fourth Lieutenant, Horatio Hornblower, standing by the stern rail, looking out to sea. Still grieving. Pellew thought. They had just arrived in Gibraltar four nights ago from that horrible disaster at Quiberon, and he had just received orders to sail in two days. The captain sighed, Pray this voyage be uneventful and give young Hornblower the time he needs to heal.

Bracegirdle turned to the captain, "The men are assembled, sir."

Pellew moved to the rail and looked at the men below, "The passenger ship, Cassandra has been damaged. It was fired upon by the Spanish and suffered damage to her masts. She only has the foremast and part of the mizzenmast working, so we have been ordered to ensure her safety by sailing with her to England in two days."

"Yes, sir." The officers answered.

"Two masts?" Lieutenant Young frowned, "It will take us longer to get to England, sir."

Pellew turned to him and raised his brow, "Are you in a hurry, Mr. Young?"

"Uhh...no, sir." Young shook his head.

"Good." Pellew looked back down at the men, "Due to certain circumstances, twenty-eight passengers will be sailing on Indefatigable. Most of them are families, so I expect every man on this ship to treat these passengers with respect. There will be no strong language whilst they are aboard, and no improper behavior towards them. And I will have no staring at the women. Every man will conduct himself as a proper English gentleman in the presence of these passengers. Any man - ANY MAN - who fails to treat these women and children with respect will be flogged. Do I make myself clear?"

"Aye aye, sir." The men answered in unison.

"Dismissed." Pellew turned to look over his officers, his eyes catching on Hornblower again, with Acting Lieutenant Archie Kennedy standing at his side. The captain had found himself thanking God several times on the voyage to Gibraltar for Hornblower's friendship with young Kennedy, and Kennedy's determination not to let the young lieutenant despair. Pellew cleared his throat, "Gentlemen, I want these passengers treated properly. I know it will not be easy having women and children aboard, but we will do our best to make them as comfortable as possible."

"Yes, sir." The officers said in unison.

"Very good. Mr. Bracegirdle, I will be in my cabin." Pellew turned and left the quarter-deck.

Hornblower went to the stern rail again and stared out to sea, his mind on Mariette. Even though Kennedy had told him that he did all he could, Hornblower still knew that he had failed her. And he was only alive because Kennedy risked his life to bring him across that bridge before it blew.

When Kennedy had starved himself in prison, Horatio was so desperate to make Kennedy want to live that he told Archie that he himself would not survive without the midshipman. And it turned out to be true. Had Kennedy died in prison, Hornblower would have died at Muzillac, of that there was no doubt.

Someone cleared his throat behind Horatio interrupting his thoughts. Immediately, he knew who it was, and turned to see Archie Kennedy smiling at him, "Horatio?"

"I'm fine, Archie." Hornblower gave a nod and turned back to the water, "Thank you."

With a sigh, Kennedy nodded, knowing Hornblower preferred not to talk. But he remained at his side, just to be there for him.

Horatio took a deep breath, then said, "Thank you, Archie....for everything you have done for me since we returned from....Muzillac." Oh, how he hated that place now! So much, that even saying the name hurt him.

"You helped me when I needed it." Archie looked out over the sea with an expression Horatio had never seen on his face before.

Horatio could not help wondering what his friend was thinking. When Archie continued to stare over the water in silence, Horatio decided to ask him what his thoughts were. But just as he opened his mouth, Bracegirdle called, "Mr. Kennedy."

Kennedy turned and walked across the quarter-deck, snapping to attention in front of the first lieutenant, "Yes, sir."

"This just came for the captain." Bracegirdle handed him a document. "Take it to him."

Archie blinked, How did I not notice someone coming aboard to give this to the lieutenant? Slightly frowning at himself, Kennedy took the document, "Aye aye, sir."

As Kennedy went below, Hornblower turned and looked out over the sea again, but this time his mind was wondering about his friend's odd expression.

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

Pellew was at his desk when the knock came to the door, "Come." He called, turning to face the visitor. Kennedy walked into the cabin, immediately snapping to attention and Pellew could see the lad's usual nervousness. When facing the captain, Kennedy always appeared as if he were facing his executioner. But the captain also saw something else on the boy's face that he could not read, "Yes, Mr. Kennedy?"

The acting lieutenant cleared his throat, but his nervousness could still be heard in his voice, "Mr. Bracegirdle told me to give this to you, sir." He held out the document.

Pellew gestured for Kennedy to bring it to him. The youth approached and handed him the document. As Pellew glanced up at him, he saw how pale the boy was and frowned, "Are you all right, Mr. Kennedy?"

The acting lieutenant blinked, surprised by the question, and had to order his mind to answer, "Uh....I-I'm fine, sir."

His tone was almost as unconvincing as his appearance. Since Quiberon, Pellew's attention had been on his grieving lieutenant. But the truth was, Kennedy had not had much time to recover from his years of imprisonment before they were sent to Quiberon, and he had declined the offer of leave to return home. He has also spent every moment he can at Hornblower's side since leaving Muzillac. Even on the nights when Hornblower had the late watch or could not sleep, Kennedy would be right there beside him.

Raising one slim blond brow, Kennedy cocked his head and asked, "Is something wrong, sir?"

Between his limited height, soft voice and boyish face, Kennedy appeared as if he were sixteen instead of eighteen. And standing there with his head cocked and that puzzled look on his young face only enforced that illusion. "I'm fine, Mr. Kennedy." Pellew raised his brow, "I am, however, concerned about you."

A look of panic flashed across Kennedy's face and was gone in an instant, replaced by confusion.

But Pellew had seen the panic and, standing, fixed his gaze upon the blue eyes. He could see the same fear, pain, sadness and shame he has always seen in them, "What is wrong, Mr. Kennedy?"

Blinking nervously, Kennedy shook his head slowly, looking apprehensive, and licked his lips, "N-nothing is wrong, sir."

Pellew was still not convinced and raised his chin, eyeing the boy, "Are you certain?"

Taking a deep breath, Kennedy stood stiffly at attention and locked his eyes on the wall behind the captain, "Yes, sir."

Pellew studied the boy; Kennedy's stance proved he was determined not to say anything beyond what he has already said. Pellew truly had to admire the boy's determination. It was a quality the captain had never seen in Kennedy before, but one he has seen in abundance since Quiberon in Kennedy's unrelenting attention to Hornblower.

Could that be the cause of his appearance? Pellew wondered, Kennedy has constantly been at Hornblower's side since leaving France, except for when Kennedy himself was on watch and Hornblower was somewhere else. Could it be the lad has just exhausted himself? Pellew sighed deeply, "Mr. Kennedy, you should get some rest."

The acting lieutenant frowned even more, looking confused again.

"I know you are concerned for Mr. Hornblower," Pellew told him, "but you will be of no use to him if you completely exhaust yourself. Your watch ends within the hour, so I want you to go to the midshipman's berth and sleep. That is an order, Mr. Kennedy."

Kennedy swallowed, "Yes, sir."

"Dismissed."

"Aye aye, sir." Kennedy turned and left the cabin.

Pellew watched him go, wishing the lad trusted him enough to be honest with him. Why is there such a distance between him and his acting lieutenant?

Because Kennedy was set adrift only months after his transfer to Indefatigable. Edward sighed heavily and sat down at his desk to open the sealed document. It was a list of the passengers who would be sailing on Indefatigable. Three families:

Malcolm and Martha Hamilton and their children; Ten year old Anna, eight year old Jacob, six year old Davey, five year old Betsy, four year old Harvey, and Mrs. Hamilton was with child.

Ivan and Annika Padorin and their children; Twenty year old Yuri, eighteen year old Valentina, sixteen year old twins, Ilya and Tatiana, thirteen year old Sasha, eleven year old Milena, nine year old Christoff, seven year old Fyedka, and five year old Dimitri.

Henry and Beverly Winslow and their children; Nine year old Alec, eight year old George, seven year old Sarah, and six year old Robin.

And their were other passengers; John Campbell, Chiara Borgia, Dr. Dalen Leahy, Father Douglas O'Brian, Angus and Elaina McCloud.

Eighteen children!

This is going to be a very long voyage. Sir Edward Pellew thought wearily.