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Horatio & Archie: Conversations - Mothers Remembered
by Michele

Horatio and Archie had been back in Spain for about three months.
Archie had known, from his years there, that it never got terribly
cold in Ferrol, but when winter began its approach he always felt an
especial chill. He never had quite figured out whether it was more
physical or emotional.

What he DID know was that he was getting very tired of occupying this
particular piece of real estate, but that there was no help for it.
A promise had been made that they would return, and so they had
done. Now they must live with their present situation, remember the
past fondly, and hope for a better future.

It wasn't easy for Archie, but he tried his best to appear brave.
He thought Horatio expected it of him.

"Archie.. you're very quiet tonight," Horatio said one
cool evening, after the guard had taken away their empty wooden
dinner bowls. Now that they had returned on their own, they were
looked after quite well, considering the fact that they were enemy
prisoners. The senior officer sat on his bunk so that he could see
out the barred window; the sun had already made the better part of
its nightly journey to oblivion, and he watched its remnants put up
one last valiant fight before succumbing to the inevitable night.

Kennedy was a moment in replying, and when he spoke, he did not sound
quite like himself. "I suppose so..." came his dreamlike
whisper.

Hornblower became concerned. "Are you all right??" He leant
forward a little so that he could see his friend's face in what
little light remained, and noted that those blue eyes seemed somewhat
blank, almost as though he were in another place, or another time.

"This time of year is always difficult for me, Horatio..."

Horatio thought for a few moments, and then a light dawned in his
brown eyes. "I remember now..." his voice was soft and
careful.

"It was at this time of the year that my mother passed on to a
better life..." Kennedy was almost afraid to say the words, as if
saying them might bring back all of the pain he had fought so hard to
put behind him... or at least, to live with.

"Yes... I remember... Mine as well...." Hornblower was
surprised at how embarrassed he sounded. He nearly recoiled for a
moment, and then realised that no one else was there to hear. His
cautious heart relaxed, but he was silent.

"How old were you, Horatio...?" Archie sat up on his bunk
and looked up at his friend. "You know.. when yours...." he
didn't need to finish the sentence. This was a pain he knew they
shared.

"Scarcely five."

"Do you remember her?" Kennedy asked gently.

"Not very well, I fear...." Horatio was glad the darkness
was closing on their cell, so the distant pain and longing in his
eyes could not be seen.

Archie sighed. "Would that it were so for myself... I remember
mine all too well."

"Yes... I know...." Hornblower said gently.

"She was my only encouragement," Archie volunteered, suddenly
needing to speak of it. "She is the only reason I ever thought
anything of myself. I only wish that I could have stayed at home --
that Father had not sent me into the Navy, so that I could have been
there to... to spend more time with her...."

"I know... it must have been very hard for you, hearing about it
by the post."

"It was..." Kennedy glanced out the window, but by now there
were only vague indigo streaks spreading across the blue-black sky.
A bit of silver shone through breaks in the deep purple clouds now
and then, but the sparse, token moonlight was nothing to speak of.
"I was just 13. I hurried home, but she was gone, of course, and
the family trying to put itself back together. It never did quite
come together again." *And it never was home again...* he added,
in his thoughts.

Horatio was silent for a time. He didn't want Archie to know
that he understood, as best he could considering the different
circumstances. "For me, there was very little family," he
finally said, somewhat tentatively. "Just Father and myself."

Archie thought of something he wanted to say, hesitated, but finally
said it anyway. "You were lonely...." It was a half-question.

Hornblower might have been horrified at being so exposed, but he
realised that his friend already knew his heart anyway, and in this
situation there would be no purpose served in trying to hide. His
only chosen defence was a soft, almost faraway answer. "We
managed...."

"I well understand..." Kennedy's answer was equally
faraway. He resettled himself on his bunk, lying on his back, and
staring into the nothingness over his head -- a nothingness he
thought strangely symbolic of the memories he had
stirred. "Horatio... I wish...." He didn't finish his
sentence.

"What?"

Archie sighed. "I don't know... no point in thinking of it
now..."

"No, Archie... what were you thinking?" Horatio gently
prompted, always curious.

"Well, I wish we had known one another then...."

This was a possibility that even Hornblower's analytical mind had
not pondered. How indeed would their lives have been, had they met
as near-grown boys -- both lonely, both struggling to grow up without
the loving guidance of a feminine hand?

While Horatio thought on it, it hurt Archie's heart to think of
it. Perhaps things would have been easier on them both. Perhaps it
might never have happened that Simpson --

*Well,* thought Kennedy, catching himself, *I cannot think of that
now...*

But to his surprise, his friend spoke. Hornblower's voice was
plain and subtle, but strong and sincere. "I should very much
have liked that, Mr Kennedy."

Another connection. Another pain shared. Another understanding, and
another comfort. All at once Archie re-lived his first thoughts and
feelings upon his mother's passing -- disbelief, horror,
emptiness, anger, fear, loneliness, weakness, reluctant
resignation... and the horrible feeling that his boyhood was forever
gone -- that his sense of safety and his memories of home were just
that - memories only. He had known that he would never again feel
that he could come home and FEEL like he was home, because the estate
had never truly been his home: No, it had been his mother's love
that had both nurtured and sheltered his sensitive heart.

But now, in the warmth of the connection he had just felt with his
friend -- yet another in a long series of connections by which he
felt infinitely blessed -- Archie suddenly felt warm, even content
under his rough woolen blanket. And strangely, he felt that this
forsaken old prison cell was a home of infinite space, for he shared
it with a true friend.

"And I, Mr Hornblower."