Horatio's Journal: Retribution
by Michele

Death...

I was thinking on death....

I WAS thinking on it...

And now I have had to *face* it.

Yes, I have faced bloodshed and death before -- I have survived many
battles and seen death all round me. But it is not like that this
time. This time, my dearest friend has faced death, and gone with
honour and dignity, alone as all men must, to a better place, where
his gentle soul will never again be exposed to the violence,
injustice, and corruption of this world...

I cannot bear, now, to think of the evil that had gripped my heart
when I had actually longed, those many years ago in Justinian, for
death's cold fingers to take me from the pains of this life! How
much I have since learnt from Archie -- how many times has he faced
death and pain, alone, and yet he has survived...

...until now....

Ohhhh.... Archie... my dear friend... How could this happen... How
could I LET this happen....

*******

The others have all gone, Captain Pellew having been the last to
leave, as he had for me a look of deepest sympathy and concern, but
understanding that I must have this time alone with you. Oh Archie,
even as I see your name engraved in the cold stone -- Archie, not
Archibald, as I know you would have wanted it -- I cannot believe
that your smile will never again give me hope, or your humour vex me
in my peculiar trials. Despite the pain you have endured in your
short life, you never stopped giving -- to the men, or to me....

Aye... to me... *always* to me.... It always had to be "Aye aye, Mr.
Hornblower," or "All is ready, Mr. Hornblower," or what *I* saw to be
well and fitting. Or the advancement of my career. Or the saving of
my life....

Your long, lonely years in Spain... and for you to return to the
Continent must have taken all the courage you had. And then, when
you needed me most, when you needed my support and assurance, when
you were in fear for your life, the two years of pain prior would
have amounted to little more than a waste, I abandoned you. But you
repaid me not with bitterness or resentment, but by risking your
life -- and without even THINKING about it -- to save mine. I did
not deserve that, my friend, as I do not deserve what you have now
done for me....

********

Oh Archie, there is so much more I had wanted to say to you.... They
didn't give us enough time -- I had to waste so much of what was left
of your life in that courtroom, when in truth I did not even *care*
what they did to me -- I only wanted to see you well. Having to sit
in that courtroom, trying to defend my life, which I knew I could
never do on my own, was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my
life. All I wanted to do was go to you. All I could think of was
you lying there bleeding and in terrible pain. I even envied Bush,
injured as he was, because he could be with you and I could not....
But, Archie, I know I would dishonour your final, selfless act for me
were I NOT to live my life -- the life *you* have given back to me --
in gratitude, and in your memory; for it is thus that I could do you
the most honour, and thus that you would best live on, in my actions,
and in my heart....

*********

When I saw you in that courtroom, I wanted to run to you -- I wanted
to keep you from falling, to support you as you did for me when I was
released from the hole in the earth. But I was frozen, as was that
moment in time, and as I could see you were too... Nothing needed be
said, for we each knew, as we knew each other so blessedly well, what
the other was feeling.... In that one long moment I could see you
standing proudly before Pellew, telling him you would return with me
to Spain; but this time I could not see a light at the end of the
long darkness to come. I wanted to stop you, Archie, but I knew I
could not. I wanted to tell the court it was a lie, but I knew you
would never allow it. For the briefest moment I became like Hunter,
wanting to run, and take you with me, some place we could breathe
free air....

********

I wanted to tell you, in those final moments as I sat with you upon
your death-bed, so close, as you were about to journey so far away,
what it has meant to me to have you in my life. You will never know
how you saved me, from the moment we met in Justinian: Had I not
found you when I came aboard, and during those first dark weeks, sick
as I was, and homesick as well, I do not know that I would have
survived. I saw how you coped, using your sense of humour, with even
the most dreadful and humiliating things you have had to endure.
Yes, it would have seemed to some that you were despairing, but I
knew the better of it. I KNEW that you would survive...

As proud as I was to receive my first command, my friend, I DID see
the pain, longing, and envy in your eyes as I left for Marie
Galante. Why was *I* chosen, and not you? I do not know if you
would have believed me, Archie, but it hurt me as much as it did
you.... And I was frightened -- no, I was terrified, as I went
belowdecks that day, alone for the first time, faced with the full
realisation that no matter what happened, it would be my
responsibility alone. The despair I felt at losing my first ship!
It turned out to the good, but when I returned to Indefatigable, and
saw your smile, and the pride you radiated, my victory was at last
complete....

We were free of Simpson, and life seemed full of promise. And then
he returned, once more darkening our lives, and Archie, I swear I
will never forgive his cold, dead body and his cursed soul for
throwing you into that fit the night we raided Papillon. I have lost
you twice, Archie, for after so much time had passed, I felt certain
you were gone forever. And I was certain I would never have the
chance to tell you what your friendship -- no, your brotherhood --
had meant to me....

******

And finding you again in Spain... Oh Archie, I was so weary and
defeated that long, dark day -- the pain of failure, in losing my
ship, in my arrogance in ignoring Hunter's advice, bringing
imprisonment and shame upon my men.... You will never know what
seeing your face did for me, how you brought me hope. In spite of
your own deep despair, just seeing you, knowing you were alive,
knowing that somehow we would help each other to survive the long
months or perhaps years ahead, gave me just enough hope to stand up
to Hunter, to regain even a little of my command, and to set myself
firm for what I knew I must do -- to hold myself as composed as I
could to keep the men together and bring us all through the ordeal to
come....

I know you gave up then, Archie, and perhaps you WANTED to die
then... At least, it seemed that way to Hunter. But I knew you were
just tired and had had enough, and just wanted some relief from the
pain of this world. Oh...Archie... you have it now, my dear
friend...

But you survived then, in El Ferrol. You thought *I* helped *you*
through that time, but really, Archie, it was the other way round. I
meant it when I said I would not survive if you didn't help me. I
needed something to do, some focus other than my own desperate,
miserable failure, and my growing fear that I would lose control of
the men, and of myself. You saved me then, Archie, just as surely as
you saved me on the Muzillac bridge....

And when I finally DID lose control, after they put me in that
terrible hole in the earth, you were there waiting for me once more,
catching me when I fell, caring for me, doing everything for me until
I was strong enough to stand alone....

But I never DID stand alone, my brother, because you were always
there....

*********

I could not believe it when you decided, without reservation, to
return with me to the prison. I simply could not believe it. Such a
great piece of your life had already been wasted there, and yet you
valued honour, and loyalty, and our friendship, enough to put aside
your own fears, and the resentment you must have been feeling, if
only a little, to return with me; and in so doing, you inspired the
men to assent as well. THEY knew what you had been through -- THEY
knew how painfully difficult it must have been for you to agree to
return. And because of your brave and selfless example, they all did
me the honour as well.

There it is again, Archie... they did ME the honour. Just as now,
you did all the work, you made all the sacrifice, and *I* receive all
the credit, and all the honour....

And now, my life as well....

***********

All of these things I have longed to tell you, Archie... But I had to
be strong. I had to play the Lieutenant, the superior officer, the
efficient, confident man who always takes charge and gets things
done. I know you understood that, even as the life was flowing from
your earthly body. I knew that was what you would have wanted for
your final moments on earth -- for us to maintain the roles we both
played so well in life: Me, playing the strong one, desperately
trying to conceal and control my fear and pain; you (the only one who
*knew* that about me) not holding back -- letting your bravery and
joy for life show through the terrible pain that wracked your life,
and your death....

I know that you passed from this life in peace and contentment, for
the way you died is just as the way you lived -- always giving, as in
your last breaths you accused *me* of doing. Oh Archie, did you not
know that I felt as you did -- each of us thinking the other was the
one doing all of the giving, and none of the receiving... Oh my dear
friend, my brother, I DO accept your gift, with more gratitude than I
could ever express; and I vow to you, Archie, that you will never
truly die -- as long as I have breath, and after I too have passed
from the cares and pain of this world, you will live in my heart.
All that I do, all that I ever become, I will truly owe to you. The
world views you in dishonour, but I know, as does Pellew, that you
were the bravest, most honourable man I have ever known, or ever WILL
know. You shamed me, my dear friend; for, whilst *my* life has been
about ME, your life has been about giving, to the last... In the end
you gave everything -- your life, and your honour, to save me....

*********

Oh Archie... my dear friend.... It wasn't like this when I lost
Clayton... We still had each other then... But I fear I may have
been more comfort to him in his final moments than I was to you... I
wish I would have offered you my hand, so that you could feel warmth
at that last frightening moment when the cold overtook you... That is
MY regret. But then, I know that all was as YOU would have wanted it
to be.... Just this one time, Archie, *you* were in command... I
bowed to your honour, and I accepted your gift....

********

Fare well, my dear friend, for I shall not -- I CAN not -- say good-
bye... I shall repeat the few passages the good clergyman read over
you just a short time ago, for I know they were particular favourites
of yours, since those many long days in El Ferrol, when you would
read them over and over, in Spanish... The language of those who took
you from me... I know that I must now, somehow take these words to my
own heart...

"Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious
against the workers of iniquity."

and:

"He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay,
and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings."

and:

"For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for
that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be
swallowed up of life."

and finally:

"Greater love hath no man than this: That a man lay down his life
for his friends."

*****

Oh...Archie.... I must leave you, my brother... My ship
awaits...Would that you could sail with me this day.... May the One
Who is now caring for you, give me the strength to go on without
you.... For only He knows how hard this is going to be for me.....

 

Dated this day, 25 January, 1802, and Signed, Horatio Hornblower,
Commander, HMS Retribution.