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"A Life of Duty" Archie and Edrington - Part 3
by Dutch




After spending the remainder of the carriage ride in silence, Archie and Edrington reached Portsmouth. By tacit agreement, they remained together and entered the tavern.

"My lord," Archie began.

"Mr. Kennedy, why don't we make arrangements for lodgings for this evening?" Edrington suggested.

Archie was momentarily struck speechless while swift visions of his succumbing to a fit raced through his mind. Reluctantly, he nodded his agreement.

"Perhaps we would both be more comfortable in our own, separate, rooms, my lord." Archie began tentatively.

"Yes, Mr. Kennedy, you might be right...." Edrington abruptly moved away to make the necessary arrangements. Archie looked around with a bit of a lost expression on his face. When he thought no one was looking, he reached into his pocket and took out a scrap of paper. With trembling fingers, he smoothed the creases in the paper before suddenly returning it to his pocket at Edrington's return. Edrington saw the quick motion, but decided not to comment. Instead he handed Archie a key.

"Thank you, my lord." Archie said as he ducked his head. "With your permission I would like to get settled."

"Of course, Mr. Kennedy." Edrington sounded as awkward as Archie was acting. "Why don't we meet back here in an hour or so for a quick meal." Edrington sensed Archie needed some time alone, but while he too needed time to collect himself, a need for company seemed greater. With a quick nod, Archie excused himself.

Once in his room, Archie sat on his bed, his mind swirling. Unseeingly, he unpacked the small bag of things. His eyes filled with tears as he saw the books Horatio had meant to give him. Archie frowned, felt the ache all over again, the new companion of loss. No, the books were not Shakespeare, or poetry, or plays he could escape into. They were only hard facts and cold words, a life of duty, but little more. With a twinge of regret Archie wondered what Horatio would have thought of the tales he loved so much, if the words would have meant anything to him, if he ever even cracked open the Shakespeare. Perhaps not; now he would never know. In a desperate attempt to distract himself, he picked up the small volume of Shakespeare he'd given Horatio.

"I thought you would be able to relate to him." He said aloud as he idly leafed through the pages of Henry the Fifth . A small piece of paper floated to the floor. Archie picked it up, and nearly dropped the book. A short unfinished note had marked a page. With unseeing eyes, Archie looked blankly at the paper, soon his vision cleared enough for him to read the words.

"Archie,

I'm sure you thought I would never even look at this play, but I have. Unfortunately, I have not had time to complete it, and soon will be leaving on our mission, so I will finish it later.

As I read, there were some remarkable similarities you seemed to intend me to find. You knew my feelings after Muzillac. Did you mean for me to identify with Bourbon? 'Shame and eternal shame, nothing but shame! Let us die in honour...' (Henry the Fifth, Act IV: SC V) I saw myself in that speech.

I also saw myself in King Henry. You are more clever than you are given credit for, but even I didn't completely see it until now. You know how uncomfortable I am around women, as is Henry it seems. '...Will you vouchsafe to teach a soldier terms such as will enter at a lady's ear and plead his love-suit to her gentle heart?' (Henry the Fifth, Act V: SC II)"


Archie's breath caught in his throat as he read and re-read the unfinished note. With frantic hands, he pulled out the note from Horatio giving him the naval books. With his whole body trembling, he smoothed the paper, and re-read the contents.

--No, this is not a revenge for the Shakespeare. Neither is it poetry or plays, but I must insist you study these books and commit them to heart, for I refuse to rise in the ranks without you. H.--

Unable to look at Horatio's handwriting any longer, and with tears sliding down his cheeks, he turned both notes face down. However, then he saw his name, and something else he hadn't seen before. Quickly brushing the tears from his eyes, he picked up the first note again - written on the back was yet another quote. '...From this day to the ending of the world, But we in it shall be remembered; We few, we happy few, we band of brothers...' (Henry the Fifth, Act IV: SC III)

His own words came back to him from those last days on the Justinian , "We few, we fortunate few, Keene has recommended our transfer to... Indefatigable!"

"Oh, Horatio!" he gasped. For a few moments, he sobbed uncontrollably and inconsolably. After he'd regained a modicum of control, he reached for a blank sheet of paper and a pen.

Lord Edrington had been on his way to his room, but had stopped after hearing Archie's sobs. He hesitated outside Archie's door with his hand raised to knock. He wanted to offer comfort, but didn't know how, or how Archie would react to his offer. After about ten minutes of indecision, which felt like ten hours, he finally knocked.

"Come in." Archie called.

Edrington entered, saw Archie seated with his back to the door writing frantically. He turned to see Lord Edrington, and Edrington observed his red-rimmed eyes. Before either said anything, Archie turned away, signed the paper he was writing upon, folded and sealed it. With a flourish, he addressed the note and rang for a servant.

"Send this by express." he sternly instructed the boy who appeared. As the note was passed, Edrington saw it was addressed to a "Lady Josephine Silverthorne".