by Clio

Father & Son

When they arrived back at Rosefield Jenkins was waiting with the
afternoon post. One letter in particular immediately grabbed Kennedy's
attention. It was addressed in Captain Pellew's distinctive, sprawling
hand. He held the letter carefully, as if afraid that it would scorch his
fingers. His reluctance to open it was not lost on Annie; she announced
that she was tired and wanted to rest before dinner. Kennedy was grateful
to her for devising a way to give him the privacy he craved, but as he
watched Hornblower carry her up the stairs Jenkins approached him, a look
of trepidation on his face.

"Mr. Kennedy" he cleared his throat before going on. "Mr. Edward Kennedy
would like to see you. ëAs soon as he returns', he said."

Kennedy felt his heart plummet to his toes with those words. All day he
had managed to convince himself that his father wasn't a problem. Even
his conversation with Emma Chamberlain hadn't put a dent in his optimism.
But know here he was, confronted by his worst fears. He tucked Captain
Pellew's letter carefully in his waistcoat pocket and turned to the

"Thank you, Jenkins. He's not in the study, is he?"

"No, sir. I believe he's waiting in the gun room"

Great, Kennedy thought to himself, that's just perfect. Having a delicate
conversation with a drunk in a room full of weapons. He rolled his eyes
heavenward. Why do I always have all the luck?

He was halfway down the hall to the gun room when he suddenly turned
back. "Jenkins, is he...?"

"Sober, sir?"

Kennedy nodded.

Jenkins looked thoughtful for a moment. "Not precisely, sir. But he's
more aware than I've seen him in a long time." The butler coughed
quietly, a rather embarrassed expression on his face. "He does have quite
a swollen jaw, however. And he does appear to remember how he got it.

"Wonderful." Kennedy muttered under his breath. He turned his back on the
butler and made his way to the gun room. He knocked on the door and in
response to his father's acknowledgment he opened the door and entered.

"You wanted to speak to me, Father?"

Edward Kennedy was seated behind the small desk that was kept in the room
for use during a hunt. He looked up at his youngest son. His face was
pale, but without the rosy alcoholic tinge. His eyes were red-rimmed,
with dark circles underneath. He looked like he hadn't slept in a week.
And, as Jenkins had mentioned, there was perceptible swelling along the
left side of his jaw.

He held up a hand and beckoned his son into the room, and Kennedy noticed
that the hand shook as it hung in the air. He had come into the gun room
anticipating a battle, but now his instincts were telling him that it was
something vastly different. He had a sudden feeling that his father was
awakening again to the world around him.

Edward Kennedy sat and watched his son approach, marveling at how
different he seemed. The difference was not physical; in that regard he
was almost identical to the fourteen year old boy that had been pushed
into the navy. The difference was in the way he carried himself, with a
confidence he had never possessed before. It was also in his eyes, which
were full of a calmness and a wisdom beyond his years. He scarcely
recognized the young man before him as his son.

He struggled to find the words to express what he was feeling. After so
many months of drowning himself in misery he had finally broken the
surface. Something had snapped the previous night, and despite the fact
that he had been drunk at the time, he remembered it vividly. For the
first time in her life he had struck his daughter. That was the image
that kept running through his mind. He had a vague memory of Archie's
fist cracking into his jaw, and the swollen cheek to prove that it had
happened. But when he had awoken that morning all he could remember was
the sting in his hand as it made contact with Annie's cheek. He had cried
for the first time in months, and then taken the three bottles of brandy
he kept in the wardrobe and thrown them out the window. Now he sat,
confronted by his younger son, and he was shaking.

Archie sat across the desk from his father and waited. The silence
between them was tense, but neither made a move to break it. Archie was
reluctant to speak; partly because he was nervous that any wrong word
could set his father off. But he was also aware of the fact that his own
anger was very close to the surface. The previous nights incident was
fresh in his mind, and he unconsciously clenched his fist.

Edward saw the clenched fist and felt a small stab of fear. Archie had
already proven that he would do almost anything to defend his sister, and
Edward did not doubt his son's resolve. He felt his own hands shaking,
and stole a quick glance at a bottle of whiskey that stood on one of the

Archie did not miss that quick glance at the bottle. Anger boiled over,
and he stood up, leaned across the desk and stared his father down,
blocking his view of the shelf. "Don't look at the bottle, damnit, look
at me!" he growled. "You wanted to talk to me, so talk!"

"Archie, I..." Edward cowered against the chair back, trying to distance
himself from his son's anger. Archie's fiery blue eyes filled his vision,
leaving him with no where to go. Almost involuntarily his eyes flickered
to one side, seeking reassurance.

Archie caught the slight movement and spun away from the desk. He grabbed
the whiskey off of the shelf and slammed it down on the desk immediately
in front of his father.

"Is this what you wanted, Father? Will this make it easier to talk to me?
Will this make it easier to remember that you struck your daughter?"

Edward shut his eyes and turned his head away. It did him no good,
however. Archie was finally giving his anger full rein, and he
relentlessly badgered his father.

"No? Well, if its not the whiskey, Father, than what do you want?" He
moved and jerked open one of the gun cabinets. He laid his hand on a
beautiful silver-chased dueling pistol, part of a set that had been a
gift for Edward's fiftieth birthday. He pointed it directly at his
father's chest. "Is this what you want?" He threw the pistol down on the
desk and then leaned closer to Edward.

"The way I see things, Father, you have two choices." He pushed the
whiskey bottle closer. "You can kill yourself slowly," He nudged the
pistol nearer. "Or you can end it quickly. Its up to you, but I won't do
a bloody thing to stop you." And he stood back and waited to see how his
father reacted.

Edward had flinched away from his son's anger, but when faced with
Archie's contempt his own temper surged. With one explosive gesture he
swept the top of the desk clean. The whiskey bottle shattered against a
bookshelf, and the liquor soaked into the pages of the books. The dueling
pistol crashed into the wall, leaving a pale scar in the dark paneling.
The stench of the whiskey was almost overpowering in the small room, and
it took tremendous effort for Edward not to turn his head and look at the
puddle of liquid that was growing progressively larger.

Archie had been shocked by his father's sudden violence, and every muscle
in his body clenched, waiting for Edward to strike out. The only sounds
in the room were the ticking of the case clock, the steady drip of
whiskey on to the floor, and Edward's strained breathing. The moments
ticked by, the tension grew, and still Archie waited.

Edward's outburst seemed to drain him and he collapsed back in his chair.
He shut his eyes in an effort to block the tempting sight of liquor.
Against his will the tears started to flow, slipping underneath his
closed eyelids to slide down his cheeks.

At the sight of his father's tears Archie was completely dumbfounded. He
felt himself relax slightly, and he slowly sat back down. He wanted to
speak, but the words caught in his throat. He sensed that Edward was
fighting inside himself, and he feared putting himself in the midst of
that battle. Still, he made an effort.


Edward held up one hand to stop his son's words. That hand was trembling
perceptibly, but Edward seemed unaware of it. He opened his eyes and
stared at his son. When his words finally came, they came in a rush.

"I'm sorry." he said. His breath caught on a sob before he continued. "I
don't know what else I can say. I hardly even know..."

"Father, please!"

"No, Archie! Let me finish!" Edward took a deep breath and lowered his
eyes. "I hardly even know what I'm apologizing for! These last few months
are nothing but a blur. But I do remember what happened last night." He
touch a finger to the swelling on his jaw. "You pack quite a punch, son."
He smiled wanly. "I'm not sure what can be done to make up for all the
months I've been hiding, but I'd like to try. Starting now."

Archie was unsure how to react to his father's words. A part of him
desperately wanted to believe what Edward was saying, but he still held

"You should be apologizing to Annie, not to me." He deliberately made his
voice harsh. "Do you have any idea what she's been through recently?"

Edward closed his eyes as a pained expression crossed his face. His voice
was soft as he spoke. "She must hate me. My finest treasure, and I've
destroyed her."

Archie felt his anger fade away at his father's words. He could remember
his father referring to Annie as his "finest treasure" when they were
young. For Edward to recall those words now seemed to indicate that he
was sincere in all that he said.

"She doesn't hate you, Father. But she doesn't understand why all of this
is happening! How can she?" Archie decided to take an enormous risk. "She
misses Mother just as much as you do."

Edward smiled, a watery grin that matched the new tears that caused his
eyes to glimmer in the half-light. "She's so like her mother." He shook
his head in bemusement before again meeting his son's eyes. "It hurts
sometimes to look at her."

Archie felt his own throat clog with unshed tears. It was an awkward
moment to realize that he had not cried for his mother since hearing of
her death, but he fought against giving in to the impulse. Even so, the
tears came. Not in great gulping sobs, but gently and slowly, like a
spring rain shower. He wiped his face once, and noticed his father
watching him.

"Your homecoming should have been happier than this." Edward said

Archie laughed in rueful acknowledgment of the truth of that statement.
"Its all right, Father. Its a lot happier than it was just an hour ago!"
His expression became serious again. "I am very happy to see you back to
yourself, sir."

Edward grunted, and wiped the last vestiges of tears from his cheeks.
"I'm happy to be back to myself. I only hope I can stay." He looked out
the window. "It won't be easy, I know that. But I have to, especially for
Annie's sake."

Archie nodded agreement, then froze. Edward noticed his unnatural
stillness, and felt a brief jolt of fear chase down his backbone. Before
he could say a word, however, Archie had jumped up from his chair and was
pacing the tight confines of the room.

"Father, I have to ask you something." He stopped in front of the desk.
"Please don't get upset, but can you remember anytime in the last few
months that you may have discussed a marriage for Annie?"

"Marriage? No, I can't recall..." He thought for a moment. "Well, perhaps
in a general way I may have mentioned it, but certainly nothing specific.
With most of the young men in the district off fighting in the war
there's hardly a likely candidate, is there?"

"No, there isn't." Archie agreed. "And you never considered Robert

"Who?" Edward asked. "Oh, yes, the new owner of Marsden Hall. No, I never
thought of him. He's more than twice her age!" Edward looked at his son
with a trace of his old shrewdness in his eyes. "Why all the questions,
Archie? Is there something I should know about?"

"Yes, there is something you should know. But I'm not yet ready to tell
you." He looked at his father. "Do you trust me to handle the matter?"

In reply Edward stood up and moved around his desk to stand in front of
his son. The two men stood eye to eye, then Edward reached out and placed
his hands on Archie's shoulders.

"Of course I trust you." His voice was thick with emotion when he
continued. "I was wrong about you, Archie. I was always wrong, and I'm
glad that you proved it." He again touched a finger to his swollen jaw
and laughed. "But I do wish you hadn't been quite so forceful in doing

Archie had no words to offer in return. He simply reached out and
embraced his father as more tears gathered at the corners of his eyes.
Edward returned the embrace with a tight throat and a light heart. He
sent a short prayer heavenward, giving thanks that he had been given this
chance to be a father again.

The crackling of a piece of paper caught both men's attention. Edward
pulled away from his son first.

"What the devil is that?" he asked, gesturing to Archie's waistcoat

Archie pulled Captain Pellew's letter out and held it up. "Its a letter
from my captain. I didn't have a chance to open it before." He put one
finger under the flap and broke the seal. As he read the letter his jaw
slackened and his eyes widened. When he was finished he looked up at his
father with a stunned expression.

"The Indy has to stay in port for a least a month while she's being
re-fit." he told Edward. "My leave has been extended for the duration.

"But what? Is something the matter?"

Archie grinned then, a wonderfully impish grin that reminded Edward of
the irrepressible boy he had once been. "I'm to take my examination for
lieutenant before we put to sea again! I could be a commissioned
lieutenant by Christmas! I could be earning more pay and getting more
prize money! I could be..." His enthusiasm suddenly evaporated, to be
replaced by youthful anxiety. "I could be dumped back in the midshipman's
mess if I fail!" He met his father's eyes, a look almost of panic on his
face. "What if I fail? I'd let everybody down; you, Captain Pellew,
Horatio. Even Annie!"

Edward took hold of Archie's shoulders and gave him a shake. "You won't
fail! You're a Kennedy, and Kennedys are made of sterner stuff than
that!" He couldn't resist a small jest at his son's expense. "Still, it
would do no harm if you studied!" He voice turned serious again. "I'm
proud of you, Acting Lieutenant Kennedy." And he embraced his son once
more. When he stepped back both men were smiling.

"Now," Edward said. "Lets go find your sister, shall we?"

Annie was sitting in the drawing room when they caught up with her. She
had her injured foot propped up on a chair and was staring out the window
at the remnants of the rose garden. Edward's face blanched at the sight
of her bandaged foot, but Archie nudged him forward. Annie turned to face
them as they came into the room, a look of wariness replacing her smile
when she saw her father.

With slow and measured steps Edward approached his daughter and very
carefully sat beside her on the sofa. She lowered her eyes to her lap and
studied her clasped hands. He glanced up at the portrait of his late
wife, and seemed to draw strength from it. His voice was firm when he
finally spoke.

"We need to plant some new roses, don't you think Annie?"

Annie looked up at those words and met her father's eyes. She tentatively
smiled and slowly nodded her head. "Yes, I think we should."

Her soft voice seemed to open the floodgates. With tears in his eyes and
a shaking hand Edward reached out and touched the bruise on her cheek. He
opened his mouth to speak, but no words came. Instead he simple gathered
his daughter into his arms and held her as the tears streamed down his
face. Annie too was crying, but with an angelic smile on her face.

Hornblower entered the room at that moment and stopped, stunned and
amazed to see an apparently sober Edward Kennedy embracing his daughter;
the pair of them in tears. He turned to his friend.

"Archie, what is going on?"

Kennedy's smile, while not as angelic as his twin's, nevertheless lit his
entire face. He put one hand on his friend's shoulder as he spoke.
"Nothing is going on, Horatio. Nothing and everything!" He laughed
joyously. "Everything is going to be fine!"

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