Leaving the Past Behind
A missing scene from "Duchess and the Devil"
by Natalie

Horatio Hornblower walked into the room and grinned. Archie Kennedy was
finally sitting up after who knew how long.
"How are you feeling?" Hornblower asked. Kennedy returned his grin.
"Just about as good as you," he returned with something of the old mischief.
"In fact, I think I could race you up the riggings right now."
Hornblower laughed. "I don't know about that..."
"No, but in any case I would like to start walking." Kennedy sobered. "You
don't have to lie to me, Horatio. I know I'm the one keeping you all here
stuck in prison.You'd be long gone if I were healthy enough to leave with
you." He added softly, "Or if I were dead."
"Belay that," Hornblower commanded sharply. "You know that's not true. I
haven't even figured out an escape plan yet."
"Because if you wait for me you won't need one for awhile."
"I said to belay that, Archie. It will not do any good to brood on such
things."
There it was again. The tension. Kennedy could feel it as they locked eyes
and had a silent battle of wills; he knew he was creating most of tension
but he couldn't help it. Horatio's unweary optimism grew aggravating
sometimes. But things always went right for Horatio. It was no surprise
that he should always view the world so cheerfully. Kennedy sighed. He had
no desire to make his friend unhappy, so he tried to smile again.
"I say, Horatio, are you going to help me or watch me make a fool of myself
as I crawl out of the room on all fours?" The taller officer shook himself.
"Of course. I beg your pardon." Always the gentleman, Kennedy thought
wryly.
"Now Archie, careful there. Now we'll stand up together on the count of
three. One, two, three, and UP! There, now, easy...easy..."
Kennedy collapsed on the bed again, gasping for breath. "I...cannot
Horatio. Why are...we even....trying?"
"Mr. Kennedy, we did not come all this way just for you to sit down and give
up. You are going to get down to the courtyard no matter how long it
takes."
Kennedy braced himself and nodded. "Aye aye, sir."
***************************************************************
The Spanish innkeeper was enjoying himself immensely. The two young English
officers were trying to make their way out of his inn in a most comical
manner. The shorter, fairer one, the one who had been using one of his best
rooms and eating his best roast beef and trout for the past few weeks,
didn't look like he could stand, much less make his way into the prison
courtyard nearby. Yet, the taller, darker officer was trying to get him
there, and the two went staggering out of the inn while gasping in their
unintelligible English. Very amusing, he thought. Why hurry? They
wouldn't get out until peace came and that would be a very long time based
on what he'd heard about the French. But one never understood these English
officers. They were unfailingly, foolishly optimistic. Why, he'd heard
that the fair one had tried to escape fifty times, so the gossip went. Or
was it five? In any case, they were all ridiculous. Now, that beautiful
English lady that had come in sometimes. She was different; quite a
charming lady. But she was gone now, so he'd heard from some Spanish guards
over dinner. He shrugged and continued cleaning.
********************************************************
It was much later in the morning by the time Hornblower and Kennedy made
their way into the courtyard and collapsed on a bench, panting from the
exertion.
"I...am now...sure I will...never walk again," Kennedy panted. "Not...after
that."
Hornblower frowned. He had been worrying the whole way, worrying that
Archie was not yet ready for such an exertion after such a long illness. I
shouldn't have forced him, he thought worridly, as he glanced at his friend.
Archie was leaning back against the wall, his eyes closed, his face
completely drained of color, and his breath coming in raggedly.
Neverthless, Hornblower forced a smile.
"I'm sure you could do it again. Next time, you'll be doing it yourself."
Archie was shaking his head. Say something! Hornblower thought furiously.
"Why...I hardly helped you at all the whole way," he found himself saying.
"Horatio, being an honorable English gentleman, you are one of the worst
liars in the world."
Hornblower was opening his mouth to protest when they found a Spanish guard
in front of them. "Senor Hornblower?" Hornblower sat up and nodded. Then
the Spaniard said something else in Spanish. Hornblower looked flustered,
then turned unconsciously to Archie in confusion.
"He says the commandant would like to see you," Kennedy translated.
The dark eyes widened. "You speak Spanish, Archie? You never told me
that."
"There may be many things you don't know about me." Dark brown eyes met
wide blue ones searchingly, but there was no bitterness in those blue
depths, just a tinge of regret. Hornblower did not have time to say
anything else, for the Spanish guard was already leading him away.
***************************************************************
Kennedy sighed. Horatio was gone, and he was alone with his thoughts for a
few precious moments. Those words came back. You never told me that. But
what would have been the use? Back in those days, those days so long ago on
the Indy, the captain had had no use for Spanish-speaking officers. As for
French, the captain had no problem with Eccleston and Hornblower as
translators. But Kennedy's thoughts did not want to dwell on the days of
the Indy. Instead, they went farther back, when he was still a carefree
adolescent with....
The murmur of men's voices interrupted his thoughts. Kennedy looked up. A
group of sailors were gathering around a post, and that man that so
frightened him, what was his name? Yes, Hunter. Hunter was speaking to them
in a low tone a voice. That expression...Kennedy recognized it; it was the
same sneer Hunter had on when he reached out a hand for Kennedy's rations,
the same leering grin. The same leering grin as someone else, also so long
ago...No, don't think of that. Think of...think of those men around the
post right now. Looks like a mutinous gathering if ever I saw one, mused
Kennedy. Once in awhile, he could see some men glancing suspiciously in his
direction. Kennedy shuddered. Oh, Horatio, they look so hostile. They'll
be hostile toward you too. And it will be my fault.
"Are you feeling all right now, Archie?" The calm voice broke into his
thoughts.
"Hm? Oh yes, fine."
"Good," Hornblower said as he sat down, "good." He seemed a little
preoccupied so Kennedy said no more. Instead, he contented himself with
observing. Horatio had two heavy books with him that he seemed to be
studying intently. A closer look showed Kennedy that one was a Spanish
dictionary while the other was a copy of Don Quixote. Kennedy glanced at
his friend's wrinkled brow and preoccupied look and turned his attention
back to the whispering group of men. They're plotting something, Kennedy
thought, and it could not bode any good for Horatio. The thought bothered
him into speaking.
"Something's going on, Horatio."
"I know." You know Horatio? Then why are you sitting here calmly studying
Spanish?
"What are you going to do?"
"You speak Spanish, don't you Archie?"
"Hm?" Startled, Kennedy turned around at the unexpected question. "I do a
little, yes."
Horatio's gaze fixed on Hunter. Without a word, he handed Don Quixote to
his friend, stood up, and strode over to the whispering group of men.
Kennedy saw some sharp words exchanged, a few nods in his direction, some
nervous shifting of eyes, that permanent sneer of Hunter, and some angry
gestures by Horatio. They must be arguing over me. Horatio, why can't you
understand? I'm the only reason Hunter and the rest are so insubordinate.
I'm so sorry, Horatio.
Suddenly, Hornblower barked out something like an order, turned on his heel,
and stomped off. I'm so sorry, Horatio. Hornblower, fuming in a quiet
rage, did not notice the deeply sympathetic, understanding look on Kennedy's
pale face.
A few minutes later, Hornblower had calmed himself down and returned to his
seat and his books. The men had dispersed around the courtyard and were
wandering aimlessly, skylarking, and playing silly games as their commanding
officer wished. Sympathetic blue eyes watched concernedly as long, slender
fingers worked their way through curly dark hair.
"Horatio?" The word was hardly more than a whisper. "What's wrong?"
"I'm just figuring out our escape, Archie."
"You've tried that before. It won't work, Horatio. They want to leave
without me, is that it?" I'm so sorry, Horatio.
The head of curly dark hair came up sharply as the slender fingers slid
down. "Archie! You know-"
"I know that is what's making mutineers out of your crew. I told you
before. And you know it too."
Don't. Please don't do this to yourself Archie. "Archie, please stop this.
I told you not to dwell on what they think. They don't know much; that's
why they're still sailors, not officers. Now, please, stop."
"All right. I'm sorry, Horatio." Kennedy closed his eyes and mumured more
softly. "I'm sorry everything's such a mess."
"Nothing is a mess. You...You've been away from the war too long."
"Aye, perhaps." One blue eye opened to look at Hornblower curiously.
Kennedy tried to joke. "Well, it's been a lovely place to stay."
"Well, since this is such a lovely place to talk, tell me more about
yourself, Archie." That forced, light-hearted tone. Horatio was
desperately trying to change the subject. Well, it would do no good to
resist it. Kennedy watched as his friend sought for something different to
say.
"Archie?"
"Hm?"
"Do you have a sweetheart in England? I don't believe you ever told me."
Kennedy was silent so long that Hornblower feared something was wrong.
"Archie? Are you all right?"
"Yes, Horatio, I heard you." Kennedy leaned back and closed his eyes. "If
you mean did I ever fall in love with someone, then no. But, when I turned
sixteen, my father betrothed me to another lady of high enough titles to
suit his taste. We didn't love each other, but we went along with our
parents' wishes until..." his voice choked for a second "...until she and
her parents found out about... about...the fits." The last word was
wrenched and spit out in disgust. "They broke off the engagement
immediately. Left in a huff. My father...was so ashamed - no, I was
ashamed. My father was simply embarrassed. Embarrassed and insulted that
someone had dared ruin the plans of the Right Sir Honorable Kennedy..."
"Archie-"
"You don't know, Horatio. You don't know how it is to grow up in a family
where you are only derided, scorned, shunned and abandoned as only an object
of shame. A father who didn't want his fellow noblemen to know who was his
youngest son. Two brothers who outshone you in everything, and showed they
knew it too. Avoided by the servants. Blamed that your afflictions had
driven your mother, the only person who ever cared about you, to an early
death."
Horatio was staring, eyes wide open, speechless with something that looked
like a mixture of shock, sypmpathy, and horror. He could only drop his
eyes and whisper, "I...I'm sorry."
Sad blue eyes turned to him. "Why? None of this is your fault."
"Do you...do you often think of this - what you're telling me?"
Those pain-filled blue eyes that turned towards him looked so helpless, so
lost and lonely. "More than often."
"You must not dwell on it!" Horatio's voice held a warning tone. He tried
not to sound panicky. "Do not think of...of Hunter, of your months of
imprisonment, of your illness, of Sim - " he could not bring himself to say
the name "- of the past!"
Archie looked so forsaken, so helpless. "I've had nothing else to think
about. Nothing for months, years of endless imprisonment..." he whispered,
his eyes terrified. "Nothing, absolutely nothing at all but more and more
nightmares."
"Archie, you - I - "
Horatio had to cheer his friend up. This was not the right direction to
head on the road of recovery. "Archie, have you heard tell of the old
Persian myth?"
"No. Pray enlighten me."
"Well, they say that when the world was first created, there was one
creature. That creature did something bad so it was cut in half and the
pieces scattered across the earth." Kennedy raised his eyebrows. "Don't
give me that look, Archie. As you probably guessed, the pieces represent
man and woman, and, in order to be happy, they are destined to search for
each other until they find their other half, the perfect match."
A smile broke onto Kennedy's face. "That sounds like something I'd tell
you."
Hornblower smiled too. "My mother told it to me. Very long ago."
Kennedy shook his head in mock seriousness. "So, of the two of us, the
great heroic Horatio Hornblower turns out to be the hopeless romantic."
"Alas, Mr. Kennedy, heaven forbid that should be the case. I, for one, do
not have the faintest idea what Drury Lane looks like."
"Then your friend, the Duchess, and I will take you there someday. Whether
you will or not. Speaking of the Duchess, why have you not gone on your
daily walk today?"
"She has left. So I fear you will have to tolerate my irritable presence
all day long now." The two laughed and settled into a comfortable silence.
Kennedy broke it first.
"Thank you, Horatio." A hint of the wicked old grin that Horatio had not
seen for ages appeared. "Thank you for your...Persian myth."
Hornblower patted Kennedy's shoulder affectionately as he stood up. "You
know I'm always right, Archie. Now, I think you've been out here long
enough. Shall we promenade back to your lovely room?"
Archie looked up, his face reflecting amusement, admiration, and a slight
hint of regret. "There was only one man in the world who could have stopped
my determination to self-destruct, and Fate puts that one man in my way."
Horatio contemplated him. "I'm glad she did," he said soberly. A slight
pause, then a more light-hearted tone. "You look exhausted, Archie. Time
to be getting back. We'll get back on our feet one day at a time."
"Aye aye, Admiral Hornblower, Oh Lord of all adept nurses" Kennedy answered
cheerfully as he struggled to get up with Horatio's help.
"Belay that nonsense."
"Yes, captain."
"Archie...."
"Very well, Lieutenant Hornblower."
"Not even Lieutenant and you know that."
"What?" Kennedy teased in a droll tone of voice. "That is unbelievable! I
wait for you in endless months of imprisonment, and you dare to return still
a midshipman?"
Hornblower shook his head. His friend always had that irrepressible
mischievious wit and humor even when he was struggling to walk a few feet,
even when his face was turning paler at every step.
"Unfortunately, I have not fared better. Now let us get to your sickroom,
Invalid Kennedy, before we both collapse."
*******************************************************************************************
These English were really, very quaint fellows. Here were the two
imprisoned officers again, laughing and joking despite gasping for breath as
they painfully returned to the room. Always so foolishly happy and
cheerful. And aloof and proud. Yet, the Spanish innkeeper did have to
admit his surprise that England could turn out such two fine young men as
the officers he just saw. He had always had the notion that all Englishmen
were loud, boisterous, big, and drunk and red-faced Not these polished,
refined, handsome gentlemen with unfailing optimism. He would never
understand them, these English. He would rather not, too.

EPILOGUE: As we all know, Archie does find the perfect match, but it's up
to you if you decide he gets Trudy, Lucy, Amy, or etc. =)