A Life of Duty - Return to Portsmouth
by Dutch


Edrington entered the breakfast room to find Archie already there. The
two nodded "Good Morning" to each other, as Edrington ordered his tea.
He straightened his already impeccable uniform jacket before he seated
himself. Archie, unaware Edrington knew Josephine had been with him in
his room the night before, affected an air of nonchalance, but his
suppressed excitement over the events of his last conversation with
Josephine betrayed itself.

"Where is Viscountess Silverthorne this morning, Mr. Kennedy?"
Edrington asked as he glanced towards the kitchen, and a glimpse of his
tea and breakfast.

"I believe she is packing, my lord." Archie replied.

Edrington pinned him with a glance, but hesitated in his response
because of the arrival of his food.

"I need to return to Portsmouth today, my lord. If I don't return soon,
Captain Pellew will wonder if I've deserted." Archie continued.

"I see." Edrington absently stirred his tea. "I shall also return to
Portsmouth, Mr. Kennedy."

Archie nodded. Both men jumped to their feet as Josephine entered the
room. With a smile, and a wave of her hand, she tried to stop the
formality.

"Good morning, my lord, Mr. Kennedy." she greeted them.

Archie rose to assist her with her chair. Before he sat back down, his
fingertips lightly brushed her neck. She looked up at him, and noted the
circles under his eyes.

"Mr. Kennedy tells me you will be leaving today, Viscountess."
Edrington said.

"Yes, my lord," she began.

"Has Edwards finished the preparations?" Archie interrupted.

Josephine looked at him suspiciously. As the pause grew longer,
Edrington silently glanced from one to the other.

"My things are being taken care of as we speak." she finally answered.

"Lord Edrington is leaving today, as well."

Josephine looked up at Edrington, and he nodded stiffly. The three sat
in uncomfortable silence, before Edrington abruptly rose to his feet.

"Viscountess, Mr. Kennedy, if you will excuse me, I must see to the
preparations for departure." He bowed slightly. As he walked away, he
glanced back over his shoulder to see Archie and Josephine join hands as
their heads moved together in a quiet conversation. I wonder when, or
IF, she left his room last night, Edrington thought as he turned.

"Archie, why didn't you tell Lord Edrington I will be going to
Portsmouth with you?" Josephine asked.

Archie blushed as he looked at their entwined hands. His hair fell over
his eyes as he looked down. Gently, she tucked it back, so she could
capture his gaze.

"He will disapprove." he answered softly.

Josephine, hearing the underlying stress of all the disapproval Archie
had suffered, merely pressed his hand in response. At the gentle
pressure, Archie looked up, his face pale.

"Did you sleep at all, my love?" Josephine asked with concern.

"I did, but...." his voice trailed off.

Josephine waited to see if Archie would continue his thought, but after
a long pause, she spoke. "But last night so many things happened which
made sleep difficult?"

Archie grinned as he caught the vaguely wry tone to her voice, but also
heard the sincerity. He looked at Josephine, and saw she too didn't
appear to have slept much or well. His expression changed to concern.

"Josephine?" he tried to catch her eye, but she reached for her tea.

As she drank, Josephine mentally berated herself. You weren't going to
let him see your fatigue! In her mind's eye, she saw Archie flinching
away from her during the conversation when Simpson's name was mentioned.
You weren't going to let him know that pain haunted your dreams. Slowly
she set the cup down, and, after taking as deep a breath as was possible,
raised her eyes to meet his.

"I am fine," she answered, schooling her expression into a smile, "Your
proposal...." her voice faded as she saw the radiance take over his
expression.

"I know, my love." Archie smiled. With matching expressions, the two
finished their breakfast, and left to attend the final preparations for
departure.

With Josephine's trunks packed, and the carriages readied, Lord
Edrington, Archie, and Josephine exited the Lion's Heart. Anna and
Edwards finalized the last details for the journey. Lord Edrington
looked at the couple, arm in arm, and cleared his throat. Archie looked
up, and saw Edrington nod towards his carriage. Josephine also saw the
exchange, and with a slight blush extracted her arm.

"Perhaps you should ride with Lord Edrington." she said, looking down at
her hands.

Archie looked back and forth between the two before responding, "It
might be more proper..."

Josephine turned to enter her carriage. Gallantly, both officers moved
to assist her. Smiling slightly at Archie, Josephine accepted Lord
Edrington's offer to hand her into the carriage. Edwards gently closed
the door after her.

"We will soon be there," her tone and words soothed him.

Archie followed Edrington to his carriage, but his eyes remained on
Josephine. He hesitated a moment before following Edrington in.


The Carriage Ride - Josephine and Anna

Josephine sat twisting her handkerchief in her hands. Distractedly, she
listened to the crack of the whip, the crunching of the carriage wheels,
and the voices of the drivers. Anna quietly watched her mistress.

"Is anything wrong, mum?" Anna asked tentatively.

Startled from her thoughts, Josephine jerked. "No, Anna, there's
nothing wrong." but her voice was sad.

"Why are we going down to Portsmouth?" Anna couldn't help inquiring.

"I am going to Portsmouth to protect my reputation." Josephine's voice
still held the melancholy note. "I am going to marry Mr. Kennedy before
he sails again." her whole countenance brightened as she relayed this
information.

Anna didn't respond, but she smiled as she looked out the window. After
seeing Anna had turned away, Josephine let her mind drift. 'What
happened to Archie? He's so adamant about protecting me from these
unmentionable things in his past, but I think he's really protecting
himself from the memories.'

Restlessly, she shifted in her seat. Without thinking, she pulled his
letters out again. She searched the early notes for any indication of
those early days aboard the "Justinian" but Archie hadn't written
anything solid for her to glean. 'He's endured so much pain.' her eyes
filled with tears as the memory of Archie's expression and demeanor
asserted itself. 'How can I make it easier if he won't let me?'

"Mum," Anna started before she turned back from the window and saw
Josephine's expression.

"Yes, Anna." Josephine pulled herself out of her thoughts.

"Your wedding..." Anna's voice trailed off as Josephine's whole demeanor
brightened, "Mr. Kennedy makes you happy."

Tears welled in Josephine's eyes as she answered, "Yes, Anna. Mr.
Kennedy makes me happy." Mentally she added, 'He completes me, as I
complete him.'


The Carriage Ride - Archie and Edrington

For miles the two men sat without speaking, lost in their thoughts about
the carriage following and the implications their time in Haselmere.
Edrington finally broke the silence.

"Mr. Kennedy," he began.

"Yes, my lord?" Archie answered, looking up with his steady blue-eyed
gaze.

Edrington cleared his throat hoping for some inspiration, "Viscountess
Silverthorne is following us to Portsmouth, why?"

"She and I are to be married before the Indy leaves on our next mission,
sir." Archie couldn't keep the smile from his voice, though he did
manage to stop it from crossing his face.

Edrington sighed as he thought, I knew this was going to happen! He's
still so wounded by Horatio's death, so he's racing into this marriage as
a refuge from that pain.

"I know this seems indecently hasty..." Archie's voice cut through
Edrington's thoughts. "But we have been promised to each other for
years, and after having her join us in Haselmere, we need to marry to
preserve her reputation."

Edrington didn't say anything, but, when he looked up, Archie could see
the disapproval etched into his features. Absently, Edrington smoothed
his queue. The look began to fade as he watched the changing expressions
cross Archie's face, first genuine concern, then a brief glimpse of
complete joy, followed by sorrow mixed with regret.

"I have no rank over you, Mr. Kennedy, other than birth," Edrington
started, "so I cannot recommend, or order, you to do anything. However,
may I urge you to consider what you are doing? You have just lost a
friend, perhaps..."

Archie interrupted, "My lord, I am not trying to replace Horatio with
Josephine, if that is your concern. My only regret is that Horatio isn't
here to share this joy." he stopped as his voice caught. After clearing
his throat, Archie continued, "I never even told him about her."

At the pain in Archie's voice, Edrington's throat closed with unshed
tears. The carriage was silent except for the road sounds. Edrington
gazed out the window trying to collect himself.

"Why introduce her to your shipmates now?" he asked quietly.

There was a long pause before Archie spoke. "My lord, I don't want to
leave again without letting her be there to see me off. She has been a
source of constant support, or as constant as she could be considering
our distance and difficulty communicating. I want all the men to know
there is someone elsewhere who cares about me, and whether I am alive or
dead." his tone grew defiant as he completed this thought.

Edrington didn't respond, but Archie's words echoed in his mind. Other
than Mamma, can I say that about ANYone? he thought. With an almost
painful stab of realization, he realized, no, there isn't.

Uncomfortably, Edrington shifted in his seat. He kept his eyes focused
on the window, hoping Archie was too caught up in his own thoughts and
feelings to notice his reaction. Archie watched him from the corner of
his eye.

"My lord, you do understand my reasons, don't you?" Archie asked,
guilelessly.

"Preservation of a lady's reputation is of great importance, Mr.
Kennedy." Edrington pompously replied. "Of course, none of this would
have been necessary if you hadn't requested her to join you."

Archie wrinkled his nose. Just as that expression crossed his face,
Edrington looked directly at him, and had a sudden coughing fit.

He tries so hard to be fierce, Edrington thought, as he collected
himself. For a moment that expression had juxtaposed with their first
encounters - buffered by Horatio. Even though he's physically broader
than Horatio, there's still the aura of delicacy about him, Edrington
thought as he studied Archie covertly. He looks so forlorn until he sees
Josephine - she seems to bring out a part of him that no one ever sees.
Edrington felt another stab of jealousy for the relationship - not
because of Josephine, but because of the caring of another person.

Archie pulled out his copy of "Henry V" and leafed through the pages.
His throat caught as his eye found the passages Horatio had copied out
for him, and his hand touched his pocket to feel the slight crunch of
the paper. His eyes closed as his expression turned bleak.

"Do you still disapprove of my decision, my lord?" Archie's voice broke
the stillness.

Startled, Edrington looked at him before turning to the window. "No,
Mr. Kennedy, it is not for me to approve or disapprove. Would Horatio
disapprove?"

As soon as the question was out of his mouth, Edrington regretted it.
Archie looked down at the book held tightly in his hands, and took a deep
breath before replying.

"I hope he would approve. Maybe not the timing, but I know he would
approve of how she makes me happy. That's all he really wanted for me,
and himself, for that matter."

Edrington shifted as he looked back out the window. The tang of salt in
the air had intensified, and soon the masts and spars of ships came into
view. Archie's demeanor of certainty seemed to disappear as the yellow
and black hull of the Indefatigable appeared. The two carriages rocked
to a halt.

"It would seem we have arrived, my lord."