A Life of Duty - Portsmouth
by Dutch

Captain Pellew must have ordered he was to be notified as soon as Archie
returned because as soon as Archie alighted from the carriage, a flurry
of activity could be seen on the deck of the Indefatigable, and soon a
shore boat was headed towards them. Archie turned to help Josephine from
her carriage as Edrington straightened his coat and smoothed his hair in
preparation of seeing the Captain.

Josephine, extending a hand for Archie's help, looked towards the water.
She took his arm, and felt his tension.

"My love, is that your ship?" She nodded towards the Indy.

"Aye, it is." Archie replied. Josephine smothered a smile at his sudden
return to naval terminology. "It appears you will get to meet some of
the crew members rather quickly, since that boat set off as soon as we
were spotted."

Before Josephine could reply, Edrington walked up. Josephine and Archie
turned towards him.

"Congratulations, Viscountess." Edrington bowed slightly.

Josephine looked quickly at Archie before nodding her head and saying,
"Thank you, my lord. From that comment, I assume Archie told you of our
engagement..."

"And your plans for your stay here in Portsmouth." Edrington's
stiffness increased as the shore boat reached the dock, and he saw
Captain Pellew.

Archie straightened his uniform, squared his shoulders, and gazed
straight ahead as the captain approached them. Josephine, standing with
one hand on Archie's arm, watched the tall man in the captain's uniform
approach. Feeling how tense Archie had become, she momentarily squeezed
his arm before removing her hand, and edging a few steps away. As she
did so, she could see more of the boat's crew, and to keep herself
distracted, she observed them wondering who they were and what they knew
of Archie and the history he wanted to keep secret.

Captain Pellew stopped abruptly before Archie, who immediately saluted.
Edrington had also squared his shoulders at Pellew's approach, and the
two nodded at each other in greeting. As suddenly as Pellew had stopped
before Archie, he turned to Josephine. She discreetly dropped her eyes,
and gracefully curtseyed.

"T..this is Viscountess Silverthorne, Captain." Archie stuttered, as he
observed the social niceties. "Viscountess, Captain Sir Edward Pellew."

"It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Sir Edward." Josephine
said demurely. "Mr. Kennedy has spoken highly of you."

Pellew cleared his throat, as he shot a look first at Archie and then at
Edrington. "It is my pleasure, Viscountess." He gallantly replied.

Pellew was rescued from the situation by Edwards discreetly attracting
Josephine's attention. She caught his eye, and nodded her attendance.

"Sir Edward, Lord Edrington, Mr. Kennedy, if you will excuse me a
moment, I must speak with my servants." She smiled winningly at them
before turning away.

"Mr. Kennedy, it is good to have you back." Pellew said, rather
gruffly, before turning to Edrington. "Major, how pleasing to see you
again. How did you and Mr. Kennedy come to travel together?"

"Sheer happenstance, Sir Edward." Edrington answered. "I saw Mr.
Kennedy and thought perhaps I could re-make his acquaintance...and Mr.
Hornblower's. However, before I had a chance to speak with him, I saw
the article in the Gazette, and I offered the use of my carriage for
any...." his voice trailed off.

"I...humph...understand, Lord Edrington." Pellew said, a fresh wave of
grief washing over him as the fact of Horatio's death seemed more
apparent.

Archie had turned away during Pellew's conversation with Edrington, and
he focused on Josephine to distract himself from the topic under
discussion. Pellew turned back to him, and saw the undisguised
expression of love and trust on his face. For a long moment, all was
silence as Pellew looked from Archie to Josephine and back again. Little
snippets of her conversation with Edwards drifted back to them.

"You have talked to the tavern owner?"

"Yes, my lady, but the rooms will not be ready until later today."
Edwards sounded and looked a bit exasperated.

Josephine's shoulders sagged for a moment. Sighing deeply, she turned
towards Archie, caught his eye, and both of them smiled brilliantly
before she returned her attention back to Edwards.

"Well, I suppose if that is the best he can do, we must adjust."

"Yes, my lady. I will see to the stabling of the horses, and any other
things you require."

"Yes, Edwards, that will be all for the moment. I must return to Mr.
Kennedy now." She turned to retrace her steps, but first smiled
reassuringly at Anna who had been hovering close by.

"Is there anything wrong?" Archie asked after she'd walked back to the
three men.

"No, just a small problem that is being capably handled by Edwards."
She shared a smile with him as they remembered how capably Edwards
handled so many things during their childhood. Pellew cleared his throat
pointedly. Josephine turned to him with the traces of her smile still
lingering. "My apologies, Sir Edward, that was rude of us."

"Not at all, Viscountess, but..." his voice trailed off, but the
question remained on his face.

Archie looked frantically at Josephine for a moment, she smiled softly
at him, and he turned back to Pellew. "Captain, I believe I may have
forgotten to mention..." He stopped as Styles approached them.

"Sorry t'interrupt, sir." He looked awkwardly at Josephine.

"Yes, we should be headed back to the ship." Pellew gestured for Archie
to precede him. With a rueful look towards Josephine, Archie started to
move to the gig.

"It has been a pleasure to meet you, Viscountess." Edrington said as he
bowed over her hand. "I must excuse myself as well."

"Goodbye, my lord, I hope I shall see more of you." Josephine inclined
her head graciously. Archie hesitated. "Mr. Kennedy, I shall see you
soon. I must see to the final details of my lodging and other matters."

"Where will you be?" His blue eyes were a bit frantic.

"I'll send confirming word, but I am planning on the Boar's Head
tavern." He caught her hand for a moment before turning away. She
followed for a few steps to maintain their contact before sighing and
letting go. Her gaze followed him. As she watched, she saw the boat's
crew watching them curiously, but they immediately averted their eyes and
hid their expressions as soon as the captain and Archie climbed into the
gig.

A heavy silence pervaded the gig on the return trip. Archie shifted
uncomfortably and kept casting covered glances towards Pellew who sat
unmoving next to him. The crew shot looks towards each other, as each
wondered the same thing, "Who was that woman, and why does this seem to
have caused even more tension?" The bosun's whistle announced to the
crew the captain had returned, and he pulled himself on board. Archie
followed with his head bowed.

"Mr. Kennedy, I will require your report in my cabin in ten minutes."
Pellew said as he walked away.

"Aye sir." Archie answered in a small voice. He shouldered his bag,
and headed belowdecks to his cabin. Along the passageway, Archie bumped
into Cleveland.

"Welcome back, sir." Cleveland said as he quickly moved out of Archie's
way. He dropped him eyes, and flattened himself against the wall.
Archie paused, and looked at Cleveland full in the face before proceeding
past him.

"Thank you, Mr. Cleveland." Archie's voice was level. Cleveland looked
after him, and realized he had not seen the hatred and loathing from
Archie he'd been expecting.

Archie dumped his bag in his quarters, straightened his uniform jacket,
smoothed his neckerchief, and ran a quick hand over his hair before
turning to leave the small room. How do I tell Captain Pellew about
Josephine? He wondered as he headed for the captain's quarters. How will
he react? He'll disapprove, I know he will. But, I cannot go back on my
word, not to Josephine and not to myself! Would Horatio approve? I
don't know, but I hope so. I think he would understand.... Archie's
thoughts trailed off as he faced Captain Pellew's door. Taking a deep
breath, he raised his hand to knock.

"Come in," Pellew's voice sounded from the room. Archie opened the door
to find the captain pacing before the windows at the back of the room.
"Mr. Kennedy, please report on your activities since leaving the
Indefatigable yesterday."

"Aye, sir." Archie paled before the captain, but his voice remained as
firm as he could make it. "I took Hor...Mr. Hornblower's chest, and was
in the process of finding transportation to Dr. Hornblower's when I
encountered Lord Edrington."

Pellew didn't say anything, but turned away to look out the windows.
The pause grew longer.

"So I assumed, Mr. Kennedy. Pray continue." Pellew clasped his hands
behind his back, and closed his eyes.

"Lord Edrington offered his sympathies on the loss of Mr. Hornblower,
and when I told him what my plans were, he offered the use of his
carriage. He accompanied me to Dr. Hornblower's, and we stayed there for
a time." He remembered vividly staring at the black neckerchief before
his realization it was Horatio's. His throat closed, but he managed to
continue, "We started back for Portsmouth, but as it grew late, we
decided to stop for the night in Haselmere."

Pellew's thoughts strayed during Archie's recitation. Whenever
Horatio's name was mentioned, in his mind's eye he saw Horatio up on the
top mast, covered in someone else's blood after a battle, crying in this
very room after the mission at Muzillac. After a few long moments of
silence, Pellew realized Archie had hesitated again. He looked at him
over his shoulder, and Archie gulped (a very Horatio-like mannerism which
made Pellew's breath catch in his throat) before he continued.

"After dinner, I sent a note to Viscountess Silverthorne." Archie
stopped, and looked down at his hands.

Pellew turned completely towards him. "You sent for the viscountess?"

"Aye, sir." Archie's voice was faint, but steady. After taking another
breath, he looked directly at Pellew. Deep in his blue-eyed gaze, Pellew
saw the pain not even vaguely hidden, the expectation of disapproval,
embarrassment, and pleading along with another emotion he couldn't quite
place. Pellew let the silence linger.

"Why did you do that, Mr. Kennedy?" there was no expression in his voice
or on his face.

Archie flushed, but squared his shoulders. "Viscountess Silverthorne is
my betrothed, sir." he tried to keep the pride and love out of his voice,
but hints of it showed through. Pellew's eyebrows raised as this tidbit
of information penetrated his thoughts, and unbidden thoughts of his
feelings for Sophie demanded his attention. Images of their last meeting
flashed through his mind, passion mixed with pain, and how she'd
comforted him in ways he'd never before realized he needed. Before his
expression could completely soften, he turned his back to Archie.

"I see." Pellew gazed out the stern windows, his voice became more
gentle. "She has obviously accompanied you here, Mr. Kennedy. What are
your intentions?"

Archie flushed bright red as Pellew turned back to him. "I have nothing
but honorable intentions towards Jo...Viscountess Silverthorne, sir."
Archie's voice was defensive. "She is making arrangements for our
marriage ceremony, and we plan to be married as quickly as possible..."

Pellew tightened his shoulders, and his expression became stern. "Thank
you, Mr. Kennedy. She is arranging for this precipitous ceremony?"

Archie tried not to fidget, but he was starting to panic in the face of
all the expected disapproval. He knew it was too much to hope for that
the captain understand and support his decision, but he had briefly
considered the possibility. He convulsively swallowed, envisioned
Josephine standing before him, instead of Pellew, and continued, "Sir,
Viscountess Silverthorne has been my betrothed since we were children.
Therefore, this is hardly precipitous." He blanched at his own
presumption, notwithstanding its being the truth.

"Humph...." Pellew replied. However, he, despite all attempts, did
sympathize with Archie's need for support, and recognized the veracity of
Archie's reasoning, in spite of the fact he still could not reconcile the
joy of Archie's prospective marriage with the grief of Horatio's
senseless end.

Archie began to mentally retreat - from Pellew and the conversation. He
had expected opposition, but had not prepared himself for his emotional
response. All he wanted to do was go back ashore, find Josephine, and
hide within the security of her love and support.

Pellew looked back at him, and read the thoughts so clearly written on
his face and in his demeanor. He remembered walking towards Archie such
a short time ago, taking in the sight of the auburn-haired woman holding
his arm, and the way Archie had held himself in her presence. For a few
brief moments, Pellew had almost been reminded of Horatio's
self-assurance, tinged with flashes of uncertainty, in Archie's stance so
long as the woman was within earshot. He'd seen the flash of panic in
Archie's eyes when he realized he didn't know where the woman would be
lodging, and slowly he began to soften.

"Mr. Kennedy, you have duties to attend to aboard ship, but you will be
granted enough leave to attend your own wedding. I imagine you will also
need a night or two ashore before we again set sail." Pellew sat down at
his writing desk, and picked up a small black and gold filigree cup
filled with tea. Therefore, he didn't see the expression of complete
panic cross Archie's face as he realized what Pellew's words meant. "You
are dismissed."

Archie saluted, and turned for the door. "Aye aye, sir." He got out
into the hallway, and paused, leaning up against the wall, fighting for
breath. Oh God, the wedding night, what do I do?

Pellew listened for Archie's footsteps, but realized he'd barely gotten
the door closed before stopping. Pellew looked at the closed door,
considered opening it, but knew Archie would be reluctant to accept
comfort from him. As he listened, he finally heard Archie creep away.
He's so transparent in his feelings for her, the men are likely to resent
him, and her sudden appearance. I'm sure he never even considered that.

Archie, completely unaware of the captain's thoughts and concern,
blindly made his way on deck. Absently, he noted what the men were
doing, and saw the look Matthews and Styles exchanged. He ascended to
the quarterdeck, acknowledged Bracegirdle as he walked past him to gaze
longingly towards shore. Bracegirdle watched him. He looked ashore to
see if anyone was there who could cause such rapt interest, when he
didn't see anyone, he moved to stand next to Archie.

"Mr. Kennedy," he began. Archie jumped at the voice so close to him.
He looked at Bracegirdle with fear, grief, and pleading. "Your
errand...you delivered..." Bracegirdle stopped.

Archie tried to hide the tears welling in his eyes by looking back
towards shore, but Bracegirdle saw them anyway. "Yes, sir. I delivered
Mr. Hornblower's sea chest to his father." his voice sounded dead.

Bracegirdle raised his hand to give Archie what little comfort he could,
but stopped mid-motion. The men paused in their work to see this
tableau. Suddenly, Archie's whole demeanor changed. He pulled himself
straighter, his breath was let out in a sigh, and the grief seemed to
lift somewhat. Bracegirdle followed his gaze to see an auburn-haired
woman, skirts and hair whipping in the stiff sea breeze, slowly walking
along shore. For a moment she hesitated, raised her hand to shield her
eyes, looked out at the ships assembled in the harbor, and then turned
away.

"Josephine," Archie breathed. He seemed unable to tear his gaze from
her until shouts of "Shore boat, ahoy!" broke his concentration.

With a spurt of energy, he flew down the ladder to the main deck. The
boat pulled along side, and packets of papers were handed up. Instantly,
he sobered.

"Take these to Captain Pellew." he ordered, holding out the packet to
Cleveland.

"Aye, sir." Cleveland answered. He kept his eyes on the packet, and
refused to meet Archie's gaze.

Bracegirdle watched the two young men, and their nearly silent
interaction. He could see Archie was merely distracted, but wasn't
showing any animosity towards Cleveland. In fact, Archie acted as though
Cleveland was of no consequence. He decided he needed to speak with
Archie about this treatment.

With much slower steps, Archie ascended to the quarter-deck. Just as
Bracegirdle was about to speak, Cleveland reappeared, and joined them.

"Mr. Kennedy," Cleveland started, "Captain Pellew requires your presence
in his cabin."

"Thank you, Mr. Cleveland." Archie said as he moved swiftly to the
ladder. His stomach tightened at the thought the captain might have more
to say to him. On the other hand, he hoped Josephine had been able to
send confirmation of her lodgings, and the first plans for their wedding.
He realized he was standing before the captain's cabin, and, after
taking a deep breath, raised his hand to knock.

"Come." the captain's voice sounded from within. Archie pushed the door
open, and stepped in.

"You sent for me, sir?" He tried to keep both his anxiety and
excitement out of his voice, but Pellew heard them anyway.

"Yes, Mr. Kennedy." Pellew looked at the papers in his hand. After
slowly shuffling though the pile, he extracted two letters for Archie,
and extended them to him.

Archie didn't reply as he took the letters. He glanced at the
handwriting on the address, and, recognizing it to be Josephine's, sighed
as he gently fingered them. Pellew watched him surreptitiously, and
turned away to give Archie a moment to compose himself. As soon as
Pellew moved, Archie broke from his reverie, and placed the letters in
his inner breast pocket. His breath caught as his fingers brushed the
notes from Horatio.

Pellew whirled back at the sound. He looked penetratingly at Archie,
but with no comments forthcoming, he did not pursue it. "You are
dismissed, Mr. Kennedy." his voice was quiet.

"Aye aye, sir." Archie tried to hide his excitement from his voice, but
not all of it was suppressed. Pellew kept his head down to conceal his
smile.

With quick steps, Archie left the cabin. He again hesitated just beyond
the door. His hand trembled as he pulled the two letters from his
pocket. He took a deep breath as he broke the seal and opened the
thinner one of the two notes.

My love,

I am staying at the Boar's Head Tavern. You can reach me there. I'm
working on contacting a clergyman. I'll send word when I have some
arrangements made.

Ever yours,
Josephine

Deep in thought, Archie emerged back on deck. He again looked towards
shore, but Josephine was nowhere to be seen. Absently, he touched the
growing pile of papers in his breast pocket and took a deep breath. With
slow steps, he ascended to the quarterdeck where Bracegirdle awaited him.

"Any news, Mr. Kennedy?" Bracegrirdle's voice held a studied
indifference.

"As pertains to the ship? I don't know, sir. There were some items of
personal correspondence Captain Pellew relayed to me...." Unaccountably,
Archie flushed.

"Important personal correspondence?" Bracegirdle appeared to be
watching the men, but his attention was really on the younger man.

Archie again touched his pocket, looked towards shore, and then squared
his shoulders after taking a deep breath. He focused his eyes on
Bracegirdle's right ear, and said, "Very important, sir. The letters
outline the details of my upcoming..." he faltered.

"Your upcoming..." Bracegirdle prompted. Archie seemed frozen. A
couple of times he opened his mouth, but no words came out. He was saved
from finishing by another shoreboat approaching.

The word was quickly passed through the men that Dr. Sebastian was fast
arriving, and the officers watched his progress. As Sebastian climbed
over the side, he noted Archie's pallor, the general listlessness of the
crew, Cleveland's ill-disguised cowering, and Bracegirdle's attempt to
smooth over all.

The officers descended from the quarterdeck to greet Dr. Sebastian. He
looked around at the crew again before returning his gaze to the
officers. Archie caught his eye as he and Bracegirdle approached.

"Welcome back, Doctor." Bracegirdle said as he came to a stop. "I
believe Captain Pellew will require your presence in his cabin..." his
words trailed off as a young midshipman appeared.

"Captain's compliments, sir." the boy said in a high pitched piping
voice, "He'll be requiring you in his cabin in ten minutes." the youth
doffed his hat to the doctor and Bracegirdle before sidling away.
Bracegirdle and Sebastian shared a discreet smile at the boy.
Sebastian's smile faded as again he locked eyes with Archie.

Dr. Sebastian's face darkened a bit as he read into those blue eyes, the
expected pain and grief were there, guilt, and a barely concealed terror
were also present. He nodded slightly to Archie as he moved past him.
"Come see me when you can." he murmured as he passed. He hesitated for a
moment as Archie caught his sleeve.