by Clio

Withstanding The Gale

That evening as the sun set black storm clouds gathered in the east. With
a seaman's eye Kennedy noted the shift in the wind, as well as its
increased force. The smell of rain was in the air. It looked like it
would be a rough night. The approaching storm certainly paralleled what
was about to happen in his family, and for a moment Kennedy let his mind
dwell on the philosophical implications of that.

But practicality eventually won out, and his mind turned to the question
of Annie's marriage. Emma Chamberlain's surprise and confusion had
certainly been genuine. It was possible that Edward Kennedy had every
intention of marrying his daughter to Chamberlain. But even if that was
so, it seemed the question had never been raised. Which made the
certainty of everyone at Rosefield all the more puzzling.

The evening meal had passed uneventfully, and Kennedy was resting in his
bedroom when a knock sounded at the door. He opened it and his friend
quickly brushed past him and sat in the chair by the fireplace.

Hornblower seemed disconcerted; nervously fidgeting in his chair and
clasping and unclasping his hands together. Kennedy studied him closely,
wondering what was bothering his friend. One minute stretched into two,
but still neither spoke. Kennedy felt his thoughts begin to drift more
pleasantly toward Emma when Hornblower finally spoke. His words were so
sudden and vehement that it almost seemed as if someone else had spoken

"Archie, what the devil is wrong with me?"

For a moment Kennedy was too stunned to reply. His eyebrows went up, and
he looked at his friend as if seeking to know exactly what was in his
mind. He opened his mouth to respond, but no words came to mind.

"Well?" Hornblower practically shouted the word.

Kennedy jumped as if jabbed in the ribs. To buy himself a little more
time he bent to stoke the fire. His mind was frantically trying to come
up with a reason why Hornblower would ask such a question. Especially
now, of all times.

"Why...." he cleared his throat. "Why do you ask, Horatio?"

Hornblower sighed and leaned back in the chair. His head fell back and he
stared at the ceiling as he spoke. "I was just thinking that there must
be something wrong with me. How else can you explain what happened with
your sister?"

"My sister?" There was a slight hint of menace in Kennedy's voice.

Hornblower had the grace to blush at his friend's tone. "Yes, Archie.
Your sister. I..." He brought his head back down to meet Kennedy's eyes.
"I am very attracted to her, Archie. And I kissed her this afternoon."

"So that's why she was blushing when I rode up." Kennedy commented under
his breath.


Kennedy shook his head. "Nothing, Horatio. I was just wondering why being
attracted to, and kissing, my sister bothers you so much."

"You know why! After what happened in Muziallc..."

"You mean Mar..." Kennedy snapped his mouth shut. He couldn't hurt his
friend by mentioning her name. But at least now he understood what was
bothering Hornblower. He sat on the bed, resting his hands on his knees.

"So, you've decided there must be something wrong with you because of how
you react to beautiful women?" Kennedy laughed outright. "Horatio, I
would think there was something wrong with you if you didn't react!"

Hornblower looked scathingly at his friend. "I hardly think this is a
laughing matter." He stood and moved closer to the window, where he could
stare out at the gathering stormclouds.

Kennedy tried to stifle his laughter, but he was only moderately
successful. The whole situation had struck him as enormously funny, but
he could see that Hornblower was completely serious. He honestly thought
that he had some sort of problem, simply because a pretty face could make
him forget his ordinarily prudent manner.

"Horatio, do you believe in love at first sight?"

"What?!" Hornblower turned his back to the window. "What does that have
to do with anything?"

Kennedy was suddenly serious, his mind focused on his encounter with Emma
Chamberlain earlier in the day. "I think it has everything to do with
what we're talking about. That is what's bothering you, isn't it? Your
eminently logical mind recoils from the idea of so much emotion, so you
have to invent excuses for it. You perceive it as a weakness."

Hornblower took a moment to absorb his friend's words. He was
dumbfounded, and somewhat offended, by Kennedy's frank assessment of his
character. "Is that truly what you think of me? That I am incapable of
loving anyone?"

Kennedy sighed deeply and struggled to put his thoughts into words.
Heaven knew, Hornblower was not always the easiest man to get along with,
but he trusted his friend implicitly. And, indeed, he loved Hornblower as
he had never loved either of his brothers. But such an honest discussion
about matters of the heart was a first for them, and Kennedy was wary of
exposing too much of himself, while at the same time he was determined
not to let his friend hide behind his mask of indifference.

"No, Horatio. That is not what I think. I know that you are capable of
loving someone. God knows it was a tremendous act of love when you
dragged me back from the edge while we were in prison. But loving a
woman? That is an entirely different thing, and I don't think you truly
understand that." Kennedy thought for a moment before continuing. "Its
not surprising. I don't believe that any man can truly understand a
woman. How can we?"

"Do you understand women, Archie?"

"Me? Good God, no!" He laughed at the thought. "I understand Annie, yes.
But beyond that..... I am as lost as every other man on this earth!"

Hornblower looked carefully at his friend and suddenly realized that
there was more to the conversation than he had originally thought.
Unbidden into his mind came the memory of Kennedy telling him that there
was a daughter in the Chamberlain family, and he spoke before he had time
to think about his words.

"Archie, what happened when you went to Marsden Hall this afternoon?"

Kennedy blushed bright red. Inwardly he damned his friend's perception.
Outwardly, his hand strayed to the ribbon that bound his queue and he
began to play with one of the loose ends. It was a sure sign of
nervousness, and Hornblower did not fail to notice it.

"Well? I'm waiting for an answer, Mr. Kennedy!"

Kennedy started at the sound of his friend's voice, and the ribbon in his
hand snapped. "Damn!" he said. He pulled what was left of it free from
his hair, and the blonde waves fell over his shoulders. He looked at
Hornblower with his familiar cheeky grin.

"I'm sorry, what was the question?"

Hornblower grabbed one of the pillows from the bed and hurled it across
the room at Kennedy. When he had stooped to pick it up and was preparing
to throw it back, Kennedy saw that Hornblower had fortified himself with
another missile. For a few minutes the battle waged fast and furious. By
the time they wound down, the two young men were all but helpless and
gasping for breath. Their faces were flushed with exertion and laughter.
Kennedy's hair was completely disheveled, and Hornblower's was coming
loose from its tight binding.

"I wonder...." Hornblower was struggling for breath; laughter still
threatening to bubble over. "I wonder what Captain Pellew would think if
he saw us right now!"

Kennedy laughed all the harder at the thought of Captain Pellew at his
sternest coming upon his two junior officers having a pillow fight.
"He'd probably think we were both mentally unhinged, and have us confined
to our quarters!" The laughter had died down, but they both still had
silly grins on their faces as they sat opposite each other by the fire.

"You still haven't answered my question, Archie."

"What? Oh, this afternoon at Marsden Hall!" Kennedy thought for a moment,
and the expression on his face became wistful. "I met the woman that I'm
going to marry!"

"You met the...." A knock at the door interrupted what Hornblower was

Kennedy stood and walked to the door. "I met the woman I am going to
marry!" He grinned and rested his hand on the doorknob. "It was love at
first sight, Horatio! Love at first sight!" He swung the door open.

Annie was standing there, her hand raised to knock again. Kennedy grasped
her hand and pulled her into the room, caught her up in his arms and
swung her around once. "It was love at first sight!" he shouted again.

Annie beat against her brother's back. "Put me down, you big oaf!" She
was smiling when he did. "What was ëlove at first sight'? And what the
devil is going on in here? I heard a commotion, and then the two of you
laughing like maniacs!" She looked from her brother to Hornblower.

Kennedy resumed his seat, and sat his sister on his lap. "Nothing is
going on."

Annie's gaze took in the pillows scattered about the room and the
physical disarray of both young men. She twisted on his lap to look
Kennedy squarely in the eye. "Nothing?" Her disbelief was as obvious as
her sarcasm.

Hornblower laughed. "We may as well admit it, Archie. We've been caught

Kennedy's smile widened and he pressed a quick kiss to Annie's cheek.
"All right!" he admitted. "You caught us. You caught two officer's in His
Majesty's Navy behaving like a couple of infants and having a pillow
fight! Satisfied?"

"Not quite." Annie's grin was mischievous as she bent and picked two
pillows off of the floor. She threw one at Hornblower and hit her brother
squarely in the chest with the other. "Now I'm satisfied!"

Later that night the storm struck. The wind howled and the rain lashed at
the windows. Kennedy lay in his bed, listening to nature's fury, and
feeling immensely thankful he was not at sea during such a gale. In his
mind's eye he saw the Indefatigable, riding at anchor outside Portsmouth,
and no doubt tossing in the violent water and struggling against her
anchor cables. I've always had a blessedly strong stomach, he thought,
but even I might feel a little seasick in these conditions.

It was just after 3 in the morning when the sound of shattering glass
jolted Kennedy out of the half-sleep he had fallen into. For a moment he
was confused and unsure of where he was. Then reason returned in a rush.
He threw back the covers and quickly made his way to the hallway.

Lights were visible on the lower floor, and voices could be heard. The
loudest among them was Edward Kennedy. He was shouting incoherently at
the servants.

Kennedy went to the end of the hallway and picked up one of the candles
kept there. As he came back to the stairway two other doors opened up.
Hornblower and Annie both came out of their rooms. Annie looked worried;
Hornblower as calm as he always did in a crisis. They both recognized the
voice that was shouting down below, and Annie went pale.

Kennedy could not spare a moment for his sister. He needed to get
downstairs and defuse the situation before his father lost control. He
instinctively turned to his friend. "Keep an eye on her, would you,
Horatio?" He indicated Annie with a nod.

"Of course. Do you have any idea what happened?"

"No." Kennedy's face was grimly determined. He had not failed to notice
his brother's absence. "But I have every intention of finding out!"

Annie watched her brother descend the stairs, visibly nervous. Her face
looked even paler in the half-light of the hallway. Lightning crashed
somewhere close by, and she jumped, startled. Hornblower moved closer and
put an arm around her shoulders.

"It'll be all right. Whatever happened, I'm sure Archie can take care of
it." He gave her a gentle smile. "Remember, he's proved your father wrong
about everything else!"

Annie smiled weakly in return. She too was abundantly aware of Reg's
absence. She stood quietly in the circle of Hornblower's arm until the
shouting had died away. Then she stepped forward and peered over the edge
of the banister.

Hornblower reached out and took her hand. "Come on. I think its safe for
us to go down now."

Edward Kennedy's study was the center of the turmoil. When the pair
walked through the door they stopped in shock. There was broken glass and
part of a large tree limb on the floor. The window behind the desk was
completely destroyed. Even as Hornblower watched one of the last bits of
glass in the frame quivered and fell to the floor with a soft clink.

Amidst the chaos Kennedy and his father stood face to face, surrounded by
most of the indoor staff. Edward Kennedy was still fully dressed, his
face was flushed bright red, and he swayed on his feet. His eyes blazed
with rage, however, and his fists were clenched at his sides. Jenkins
stood off to one side, his eyes never leaving Archie's face. Hornblower
sensed that the storm raging outside was nothing compared to the one
about to break in the study. He gently tugged on Annie's hand to take her
from the room, but she resisted the pull and stepped closer to her

Finally Edward spoke and all his anger was directed at Archie. "Just who
the hell do you think you are, you ineffectual pissant?! You're not on
board that pathetic frigate you're so damned proud of! I give the orders
in this house! ME! No one else! Certainly not a lowly acting-lieutenant
in the Royal Navy!" He laughed derisively. "You've gotten quite an
inflated view of yourself since they hung that fancy title on your
worthless hide!"

Archie remained calm in the face of both his father's rage and his venom.
When Edward had run out of words to hurl at his younger son, Archie
directed his attention to the staff.

"Jenkins." He spoke quietly. "Gather together the men and find something
to put over that hole. We'll worry about disposing of that limb in the
morning. Mrs. Keller, please have two of the maids clean up the glass as
best they can. Everyone will just have to stay out of this room until
repairs can be made."

The staff departed with alacrity. Archie turned back to face his father.
"Is there anything else you would like done, Father? Or can we all get
back to our beds and try to sleep for what's left of the night?"

In the face of his son's composure Edward lost all control. "How dare
you?!" he shouted. "How dare you think you can come into this house and
install yourself as the master? That is my place, and my right!" He was
fairly shaking with rage.

Annie couldn't stop herself; she took a pace forward and reached out to
her father. "Please, Father. Archie just wants to help."

Edward rounded on his daughter so suddenly that she took a shocked step
back. "Did I give you permission to speak, girl?! My God, I'll show all
of you who is the master of this house!" And he slapped Annie across the
face so hard that she staggered. Her bare foot came down on a shard of
glass, and she cried out.

Her anguished cry galvanized Hornblower into action. He rushed forward,
scooped Annie up in his arms and held her against his chest. He turned
back to where the others stood in time to see Kennedy lay his father out
with one punch.

There was a gasp from one of the maids, then stunned silence. Kennedy
stood over his father's crumpled form for a moment, his chest heaving.
Then he stepped over his legs and made his way to where Hornblower stood
with Annie held close. She had her face turned into his chest and her
shoulders heaved with her sobs. Blood was visible on the sole of her
foot. Kennedy gently touched her hair before meeting his friend's eyes.

"Take her back to her room. Can you take care of her foot?"

Hornblower was still in a state of shock, but he was able to answer.
"Yes, Archie. Of course I'll take care of her." And with a last measuring
glance at his friend he left the room, still cradling Annie in his arms.

Jenkins came forward and coughed softly. "What should I do about......"
He gestured to where Edward lay unconscious on the floor.

Kennedy sighed and rubbed his hands across his face. "Take him to his
room and put him to bed. With luck he won't remember anything of what
happened tonight." He looked at Jenkins with a face twisted by doubt.
"But luck hasn't been kind to the Kennedys lately, has it?"

Upstairs Hornblower gently laid Annie on her bed. She was still crying,
but quietly now, not the great wracking sobs of a few minutes before. A
red welt the size of a man's hand had appeared on her left cheek.
Hornblower felt a boiling rage whenever he looked at it. He knew that
some men considered it perfectly acceptable to beat their wives or their
daughters, but such an attitude was anathema to him.

"Annie?" His voice was soft and gentle.

Annie hiccuped once. "Yes, Horatio?"

He smiled slightly and brushed a strand of hair out of her eyes. "I have
to see if there is any glass in your wound. It might hurt some. Do you
trust me?"

Mesmerized by his quiet voice and the gentleness in his eyes, Annie had
stopped crying. "Yes. I trust you."

Hornblower moved the candle closer and peered at Annie's foot. He could
clearly see the glass poking out of the wound, and as gently as he could
he extracted it. Annie inhaled sharply at the pain but otherwise showed
no reaction. He quickly tore a strip of cloth from the hem of his
nightshirt and used it to bind the wound. He remembered his father once
saying that sometimes brandy or whiskey could be poured on such an
injury, but he decided to do that tomorrow.

When he was finished he looked up and met Annie's eyes. She looked so
stricken, with the welt rising on her cheek that he felt his anger
approaching the boiling point. She must have seen it because she quickly
reached out and grabbed his hand.

"Stay." she pleaded. "Stay with me tonight. I don't want to be alone!"


She shook her head. "Not like that. Just hold me." She started to cry
again. "Please, Horatio. Just hold me."

Without another thought he moved to sit beside her on the bed and wrapped
his arms around her. He gently kissed her temple and then leaned back
against the headboard. Annie moved closer and placed one arm across his
chest. Her tears subsided and they slept like that until dawn.

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