By Kathy Kirchner
or, deciders of men's destinies
The spinner, who spins the thread of life
The measurer, who chooses the lot one will have in life and
measures how long it shall be
She who cannot be turned, who at death with her shears cuts
the thread of life
...Just take what I offer - take it and say goodbye...
I cannot, Archie. Do not ask me to.
...See? Better already...
No, Archie. It will never be better. How can a world possibly
better, if you are not in it?
I want to scream, to rail against the fates, or the gods, or
is responsible for this, but I cannot. To do so would negate the
unselfish gift you have offered, and I will not do that, Archie, I
will not do that to you - I will not dishonor you by acting as a
child. But dear god, how I need to.
I hold my breath as a spasm of pain rips through you. I want
you, I want to hold you again as I did aboard Renown, but protocol
and decorum and my own rigid pride demand that I not do so. Why is
that? I could hold Mariette as she lay dead in my arms and I wept
like a child, could grasp tightly to Clayton's hand as he passed, but
I cannot even touch the man who meant more to me than they ever
could, the man who awoke my heart to the joys of friendship, even,
yes, of love.
Oh, I never spoke it, nor did you for that matter, but it was
there between us. Not the love spoken of in romance, but the love
borne of adversity and adventure, of two souls forever intertwined as
brothers. There will never be another you, Archie. There will
always be an empty space, a hole where you resided, by my side and in
I feel that heart break as I watch the light fade from your
Those eyes, that always sparkled with mirth, or sparked with anger at
any injustice - oh, god, Archie, that cannot be you lying there, no
glow behind those eyes, no ready smile or quick quip upon those lips -
it cannot be the same man of tremendous courage and compassion that
I have known all these long years. How is that possible?
My dear friend.
Oh, how inadequate those words are. I never had your gift
eloquence, Archie, your talent for oratory. Yes, I can give a speech
about duty and honor, and inspire the men, but it's only surface
rhetoric. You always spoke from your heart and damn the
consequences. Did you know, my friend, how much I admired that
aspect of your character? Did you know that I envied you, being so
sure of your emotions and never afraid to let them show? How I wish
I could do that, how I wish that, just once, I could have told you
what you meant to me, how much you have enriched my life, how proud I
was of you, of everything you have overcome, all that you have
accomplished. But now it's too late. You've left me, Archie, left
me behind as I did to you when boarding the Papillion. But this
time, there will be no miraculous reunion in a prison cell in Spain,
no turning around to find you lying under that moldy blanket. Oh,
Archie, I would give my own life, if only you would wake and look at
me, just one more time, to be able to hear me say what it is in my
I'm angry, Archie. I'm so damn angry. This should never have
happened. Not to Renown, not to us, not to you. Where is the
justice in war, when good men like you die, and weak men like
Buckland live to command. Oh, I know what you would say. War makes
no discrimination between bad and good. You were always so pragmatic
about death - Clayton, Eccleston, Chadd, Wellard, and all the
others. You accepted it as a part of life. The only time I saw
death affect you was when I told you Simpson was dead. If only that
had happened years before, I wonder how your life would have been, I
wonder how far you would have gone in your career. I wonder if we
would still have served together. I wonder if maybe, just maybe, you
would never have been aboard Renown. Oh, Archie, I'm so sorry. This
is my fault entirely.
I will never forgive myself, Archie, for not killing him earlier
what he had done to you. I will never forget the fear in your eyes
when you finally told me what happened in those dark holds aboard
Justinian, the horrors he subjected you to. That fear was not only
of Jack Simpson, but of how I would view you for what happened.
Archie, the trust you showed in me by telling me of those things,
shook me to my very soul, a soul I never even knew I possessed until
I met you. How could you think that I would turn from you?
And now, instead, you have turned from me. Forever. My dear
friend. How unselfish was your act, how generous and loving was your
gift. As with everything in your life, Archie, you gave it from the
heart. The purest, brightest light that ever shone on this earth has
been forever extinguished, and I know that I shall reside in shadow
for the rest of my days. My soul has been silenced, my heart closed
To say that I will miss you does not even begin to encompass
grief I feel right now, the emptiness that presses upon my chest. I
cannot do this without you, Archie, and yet I know I must. You
wanted me to go on, you wanted me to live, but I do not think it will
be living that I do. Rather, it will merely be existing, until we
are reunited. I have never been a believer in the afterlife, but now
I must be, for I cannot endure the thought of eternity stretching out
before me, without you to guide me. What will your welcoming words
be this time, Archie? Surely not "welcome to purgatory." Perhaps
that is where I will spend my time, but not you. Certain sure, you
are already among the angels where you belong.
Goodbye, my dear friend - my brother. I shall see you again.
you wait for me? I will do as you wished, and I will live my life as
you would want me to, striving to be the best that I can be, to honor
your memory, so that we may someday be together again. And as I
live, I will carry you in my heart - your wit, your honor, your
compassion, your strength, but most of all, your love. Thank you,
Archie, for showing me what that word truly means, and know that I
will honor your sacrifice for the rest of my life. It is the least I
can do for the man who meant the world to me.
Fear not, Archie, your name is not tarnished in the eyes of
knew you well. Your sacrifice will not be in vain, and between us,
we will remember you and what you stood for, the pride we all have in
you. Someday, my friend, I promise - the world *will* know the truth
of who you were. Your innocence will be revealed, and your good name
restored. I swear it.
Until then, we must be parted. Your physical body has been
away, yet strangely, I find myself unable to leave. I still feel you
here, my friend - still feel your light and warmth, as if you were
standing beside me once again. Perhaps you are. I like to think
that you will always be at my side, even if I can't actually see you
there. It helps. Only a little, but it helps. I still feel the
band around my chest as I think of you, the pain that squeezes my
heart until it is shriveled and dead, and I know that life itself has
irrevocably changed. No one will ever touch me as you did.
Godspeed, Archie. Know always that, in my own way, I loved
Your memory will be protected deep within my heart, and not a day
will pass that I do not think of you, and miss you. My dearest
friend. Wait for me. I'll be there soon.
There is no better word for what has befallen you, Mr. Kennedy.
has dealt us all a cruel blow, and I do not know how Mr. Hornblower
will recover from this. Nor, for that matter, how I myself will.
Never in my life have I witnessed such an act of honor, of
of friendship. When I looked up in that courtroom, to see you
walking down that aisle, barely able to keep your feet, held up only
by your own determination and raw courage, my heart fell into my
stomach. I knew immediately what you were doing, and the reason you
were doing it, and it took all my restraint not to halt the
proceedings immediately, before you had a chance to speak. I curse
myself now for my weakness. Hammond and Collins wanted a scapegoat,
but it should not have been you, it should not have been an innocent
man of such honor.
Yes, Mr. Kennedy, I know that is what you are. I know that
not push your captain into the hold, that you only confessed so that
a good man would be spared. Another innocent man. Damn the
Admiralty for wanting to protect the reputation of one man, while
being perfectly happy to blacken the name of another. The absolute
injustice of it infuriates me. After all you have done to build up
your good name, everything you overcame to become the man you are,
they wanted to tear it from you, to destroy your reputation in favor
of a mad captain.
I *do* know what you had to overcome, Mr. Kennedy, and it breaks
heart to know it. There were whispers aboard Indefatigable, of your
fits, and especially the cause of them, and though I tried mightily
to ignore them, it became impossible. I did hear the truth, finally,
from the one man you had confided in. Do not fear, Mr. Kennedy, he
did not tell me directly, but it was enough for me to realize that
the rumors did, indeed, have basis in fact. It is beyond appalling
what was done to you. Had I known, I never would have allowed that
blackguard Simpson to draw a single breath upon my deck, much less
allowed him along on the Papillion mission. Your being lost during
that mission was my responsibility. It is a guilt I have carried all
these years. I feared that the repercussions of that mission would
be the end of you, but thankfully, you proved me wrong. For I did
not know you then as I know you now, did not know the incredible
reserves of strength you possessed, the will to live.
I do not know all of what occurred in Spain, but I do know
came back a better man, albeit a slightly paler, thinner version of
the man we lost, with new scars both external and internal. I know
of your month-long ordeal in the oubliette, and your care of the man
Hunter when he was injured, a man who had thought nothing of leaving
you behind to die, in order to secure his own freedom. It was very
telling, that a midshipman lost to us for two years, was more
representative of the kind of officer we want in His Majesty's Navy
than one who had been serving aboard ship for years. But, that was
so typical of the man you are. Were. Will always be, in my memory.
Your conduct after that episode was commendable. You took
have beaten down a lesser man, and turned it around, into something
that made you better and stronger. I confess, that until the moment
you volunteered to return to El Ferrol, I had not taken much notice
of you, other than as Hornblower's friend, and one of many midshipmen
I have known through the years. I think that you, with that self-
deprecating wit you possessed, would agree that until then, you had
done nothing to distinguish yourself from the other young officers
aboard. But something happened when you spoke up that day on deck,
volunteering to return to the hell you had finally been able to
leave, simply because your friend and superior officer had given his
word that you would. You stepped forward and presented yourself as
someone worthy of notice and respect. Not every man would have
followed Hornblower then. I was very proud of him at that moment,
yes, but no more so than I was of you, and every other man who
returned with you. It was that day, Mr. Kennedy, that I decided to
promote you to acting-lieutenant, even though you had been removed
from active duty for so long, because a man who would follow like
that, shows the men that he will not ask them to do something he
would not do himself. It is the mark of a true leader.
I find myself wishing that you would have had a chance to demonstrate
that leadership, that you would have someday had a command of your
own. I think that your ship would have been the envy of many. Times
are changing, Mr. Kennedy, and I think you would have been at the
forefront of that change - a new breed of leader who does not
distance himself from his men, but instead rolls up his shirtsleeves
and joins in the work. It truly saddens me that that will never
I will miss you. I find myself surprised by that thought.
someone I had barely taken notice of, to a man committing the truest,
most unselfish act of friendship and loyalty, you have become a part
of my world and everything in it. You truly have a way of imprinting
yourself on someone, without their even being aware. I know it is
true of me. And I can see that it is true of Mr. Hornblower, who
sits at your bed, his shoulders bowed with his grief. I pray that
this will not be his downfall, yet I fear his heart has now closed
itself off. I wonder if he ever really knew how much he needed you.
I fear I will never be able to forget what has happened here,
role in this whole fiasco. It was I, after all, who pushed to have
you transferred along with Mr. Hornblower, so that the two of you
would not be separated when he went to Renown. If only I had kept
you aboard Indefatigable, you would not now be lying dead, your
reputation in tatters, your name vilified, and Mr. Hornblower would
not be sitting beside your empty deathbed, his heart torn from his
body. I wonder if he shall ever forgive me. I do know that I shall
never forgive myself. If only I had not allowed you to speak
Rest easy, Mr. Kennedy, for your sacrifice shall not be in
will, I promise you, become the man you knew he would, and I shall do
everything in my power to see that he is well, and safe, and
successful. Not that he needs my help. Still, he shall have it
nonetheless. I shall also make it my sacred duty to see that those
who know the truth of your actions, keep it within their hearts, and
remember you fondly, as an officer and a man of honor.
I swear this to your memory, Mr. Kennedy. I will take care
His will be a long and successful life, though it will be one much
poorer for having lost you. And yet, I truly believe that the lives
of all who knew you are richer for the experience, and we will all
hold you up as the epitome of honor, someone we shall strive to
emulate in our own fashion. I suspect, however, that we shall all
fall short in that endeavour.
Godspeed, Archie. I think you would not mind me using your Christian
name after all of this. It will, I think, be the way I will always
think of you - fondly, as a brave and honorable man, and, if I may be
so bold, a friend. I am honored to have had the pleasure of your
acquaintance. Be free now, and with God's good grace, we shall meet
once more. I look forward to seeing you again.
You mustn't blame yourself for this. I made this decision
eyes and my heart open. I would have liked to live to see you
Admiral of the Fleet, but fate had other ideas for the two of us.
It's done. You saw the wound, Horatio, and you know I would never
have survived, no matter how much you may have wanted it. It's my
time to go, my friend, and this time you cannot go with me. You MUST
not go with me.
Ah, Horatio. So stoic, so reserved. If anyone were watching
they would think you were merely paying a courtesy call on a dying
shipmate, that it didn't matter to you that I was gone. But I know
you. I see the pain in those dark eyes, the grief you will let no
other man see, the barely suppressed tears you struggle to hide. And
I remember the times when you let me inside, when you put down your
barriers and let me see the vulnerable, scared man behind the
facade. The trust you showed in me then, Horatio, shook me to my
core. Your friendship was the greatest gift I ever received, which
is why I have no regrets about giving you this meager gift of my own.
I know you don't understand that my good name means nothing
After all, `a rose by any other name....' I lived without the merit
of that `good name' for so long, aboard Justinian, that I never
thought it would matter to me. Certainly, in those dark days as Jack
Simpson's boy, I never dreamed that I would someday escape from the
leers and taunts of the crew, the ostracizing by the other
midshipmen. I do not blame them, for they were only protecting
themselves. If Jack turned from me, he would have found someone else
for his foul games, and I would not have wished that on any of them.
Not even Hether. (!) Does that surprise you, Horatio? You of all men
knew the depths that Simpson pushed me into, you alone knew the
despair that drove me to try to end my life in Spain. You knew how
badly I wanted it to end with Simpson. But never, Horatio, *never*
at the cost of anyone else having to endure what I did, not even one
time. Had he done more than beaten you, my friend, I would have
killed him, somehow. Even if it had been a knife in the back as he
slept, or slitting his throat in the dark, I would never let him do
that to you. Thank god he never did.
I know that trust has never come easily to you, but you must
let others get close to you. I know what my passing has done to you,
Horatio, and I know that you will lock this pain away inside of you,
where no one can see it. Don't, Horatio. If you learned one thing
from me, let it be that it is not a sign of weakness to allow others
to help you, especially in times like this. You shouldn't be alone.
William Bush is a good man, even if he and I did get off to
uncomfortable start. He is not looking to take my place, Horatio. I
think he knows that the bond we shared was much too strong and ran
too deep for it to ever be replaced, but if you will let him in, he
will be a good friend. Your friendship will be different than ours
was. Ours was born of mutual suffering and adversity, and was formed
when we were but children - not even yet young men - and strengthened
through our ordeals in Spain, Muzillac, and finally aboard Renown.
(And let us not forget those times in Portsmouth!) You are a grown
man now, and I think you will come to lean on Bush and his
experience. Let him be your friend, Horatio. It will not be a
betrayal of our friendship. Instead, I think it will be a testament
Bush is not your only friend, either. I suspect Commodore
will always be there to lend you a helping hand, and you must
remember to swallow that stubborn pride of yours, and accept his help
when it is offered. We were very fortunate, you and I, when we left
the rotting corpse of Justinian, and transferred to the Indy, with
the finest captain in the fleet at her helm. I know that he held you
in special regard, but I never held that against you, for I believe
that he and I also reached a place of mutual understanding and
respect. I know that he moved heaven and earth to keep us together
when we left the Indy. We both owe him a great deal for that, and
for so much more. He knows, Horatio. He knows that I did what I did
in order that you might live, free of this shadow that hung over us
all. Do not hold him to any blame for letting me speak my piece in
court. He knew, as did I, that my fate was already sealed, but yours
It's all right, Horatio. This is what I chose to do, the only
could ever repay you for all you have done for me; for not abandoning
me aboard Justinian; for not hating me for what I was and who I
belonged to; for teaching me to have faith in myself and my
abilities; for helping me to find those abilities; for caring for me
during my fits and never looking away in embarrassment, as so many
others did; for seeing something in me that was worth saving; for
forcing me to take that first drink in El Ferrol; for trusting me to
lead the men when you served your time in the oubliette; for making
me face my fears at the bridge. For so many things, I owe you my
life. And so, I give it back to you, freely and without reservation.
I'm not afraid anymore, Horatio. I'm free - for the first
time in my
life, I'm free from all the demons and the nightmares. No longer
will shadows frighten me, or evil men tear my soul, and I have you to
thank for that. You always believed in me, especially when I could
not believe in myself, and our strength together was something that
was truly phenomenal. I think we were a good balance - you helped me
to become a better, stronger man, and I like to think that I helped
you to become a more compassionate one. It's just too bad that, no
matter how many attempts I made, I could never teach you how to tell
a joke properly. Still, I suppose even the almighty Horatio
Hornblower must have *some* faults. Well, one, certainly.
Time I was away, Horatio. I will not say goodbye, but only
for I know now that we will one day be reunited. I've seen it, just
as I have seen the glorious life you have ahead of you. You will
have trials, yes, but you will always triumph in the end, and you
will have the life you deserve, the life you came so close to
losing. I'm already so proud of you. My one true friend. Know that
always, I will be beside you, and I will live inside your heart. You
have so much to look forward to, Horatio, and I myself am looking
forward to watching you live your life to the fullest, and achieving
the greatness that I know awaits you.
Do not grieve long for me, Horatio. Instead, rejoice in the
lived together, and the friendship that bound us together for
eternity. Know always that I loved you, as a friend and as a
brother. My life is yours, my friend. Live it well. And when your
time has come to join me, we will sail again together, our ship
forever pointed toward the sun, our souls high and free atop the
A new voyage awaits me, my friend. For now I sail alone, but
will not be forever. Godspeed to you, my brother. I will watch over
you as best I can, and I will weep with both joy and sorrow when it
is our time to be reunited. I will wait for you, Horatio. I will
wait for the man who is the other half of my soul, the man who is and
will always be my best friend.
I have but one final request of you. Live, Horatio. Grasp
with both hands, and *live*. If you truly wish to honor me, that is
the only way to do it. Live for the two of us. And for god's sake,
Horatio, please, at least try to be happy. Can you do that for me?
I am who I am because of you, because you looked beyond the surface
and found something worthwhile, buried deep inside. Keep me beside
you, but do not wear my death as a millstone - instead, live and be
happy. That is what I wish for you.
Farewell, my friend. We'll see each other again soon.