Pass The Pen
Chapter Eighteen - Expect the Unexpected
by Yuriko

"My god, Archie, you didn't!" hissed Horatio. He had nearly dropped
his oar when Archie explained just how he had come to rescue Horatio
on his own.

"Obviously I did," returned Archie tiredly.

Rowing the jollyboat with only two men was extremely awkward,
although a much easier task than going it alone had been on the way
to shore. Ouimette's unconscious form had been bundled forward and
now rested propped up by an oar on one of the benches. Had anyone
been there to see, he'd appear a very tired oarsman. Archie steeled
himself to bear the rest of his friend's tirade.

"Disobeying a direct order from the captain is mutiny," Horatio
continued. "You've committed mutiny, Archie, just to save me." He
shook his head in the darkness.

Rowing and clenching his eyes tight to prevent tears, Archie searched
Horatio's voice and words, trying to determine whether they were said
in wonder or disgust. "I know what I have done."

In another situation, Archie could have smiled because Hornblower had
no response for his words. They continued to the Indefatigable in
silence.

 

The jollyboat bumped against the starboard hull, the impact jarring
Ouimette's body loose. It fell backward with a small <thunk> and
splayed awkwardly"the legs still over the bench and the upper body
lying in the dirty water in the bottom of the jollyboat.

"Wonderful," Archie said.

"It doesn't matter," Horatio replied, "it's not as though you'll be
able to sneak aboard and pretend my return was due to escape. Someone"
whoever was on watch, most likely"was bound to notice the missing
boat."

"I know, but I was hoping to put off the inevitable, if only for a
moment." He sighed sadly. "If nothing else, at least we'll get some
help hauling your friend aboard."

"He is <not> my friend, Archie, he's" he was cut off by the
appearance of two sailors looking over the side.

"Mr. Kennedy? Izzat you?" This voice belonged to Oldroyd. "AndMr.
Hornblower, sir! I don't b'lieve it."

"Keep yer voice down, lad," an older voice said wearily. Finch rubbed
his eyes and took a closer look at the occupants of the
jollyboat. "It <is> you, sir, I mean, sirs. T'ank god fer that!"

"No, Finch, you may thank Mr. Kennedy for that," Horatio
responded. "You'll need to get some help"we have a French prisoner
with us."

"Right, sir. Oldroyd, go fetch the rest of the lads ta get things
settled." From the sound of his reply, the young rating must have
been halfway across the deck before he replied.

Once Horatio's men arrived, it didn't take long to secure the boat
and get the officers and prisoner aboard. Two bells"one o'clock.

"We'll take this `un below, sirs," Matthews told the pair of
officers. "Why don't the two of you go get some rest while ye can.
I'm sure Cap'n Pellew will want his explanation as soon as possible,
and ye may as well get in some sleep afore that `appens."

"Thank you, Matthews," Archie said, knowing that he would not be able
to fall asleep.

"Thank you, sir," the old seaman saluted, "fer bringin' Mr.
Hornblower back."

Archie looked up at the dark, cloudy sky. "I had to do it, Matthews,"
his eyes met those of the older man, "no matter what the cost."

"Understood, Mr. Kennedy," came the quiet answer.

Horatio watched the exchange, unable to hear the words. It didn't
matter"he knew that he was the object of conversation. Damn. Archie
was his best friend. Really, he was the only friend Horatio ever had.
Now that friend faced court-martial and death because of him. Because
that friend felt that saving <him> was more important than his own
life. Even the horrible encounter with Ouimette earlier in the
evening faded when he contemplated this fact"someone was willing to
die for him.

**Damn all storms to hell,** he thought. No storm, and he'd not have
washed overboard and been captured. Then again, no storm and perhaps
there would have been no midshipman come to welcome him to Justinian.
No `Jump! You'll be all right!' Archie had helped him out his first
weeks at sea, for which he was profoundly grateful. Could he stand by
his friend now, even though that friend had directly disobeyed his
captain?

Horatio admired Captain Pellew greatly, and was certain that Archie
did also. There must have been some plan that Archie didn't agree
with. **No, it is not our place to disagree with the captain, whether
it is Captain Pellew or even Captain Keene.**

Horatio walked slowly to the cabin he had earned being an acting
lieutenant. **Archie, why have you done this, and how can I help you
now?**

***

A loud knocking on the cabin door caused Archie to break from his
unpleasant daydreaming.

"Open the door, Mr. Kennedy," came a stern voice"loud enough to be
heard, but not a shout. Archie recognized it as belonging to one of
the marines and rose wearily; he had been expecting this.

"I know why you are here, sergeant," Archie said quietly. He had been
surprised to find only two men outside waiting for him"both marines.
That meant he was not going to be seeing Captain Pellew right away.
**I'm not sure if I should be grateful for that or not.**

"I'm sure that you do, sir. Please, you can put your jacket on before
we take you to the brig."

Archie looked startled at the courtesy. "Um, yes, of course. Thank
you."

The three men began moving through the ship's corridors, Archie in
between. Behind him, the sergeant began to explain the situation.

"We all know why you've done what you've done, Mr. Kennedy, and we're
glad that Mr. Hornblower is back"thank you for that, sir." The man
paused uncomfortably before continuing, "But you have disobeyed a
direct order from the captain, and you will be punished for it."

"I know," replied the acting lieutenant. **It's worth everything I
must pay because Horatio is safe,** he thought fiercely.

"We knew you'd come with us quietly, Mr. Kennedy, and that's why
we're only two men. You're going to the brig now because Captain
Pellew wanted to talk to Acting Lieutenant Hornblower before dealing
with you."

"The captain will see Mr. Hornblower before he sees me?"

"Aye, sir," the sergeant nodded, "he's in the captain's cabin right
now."

***

Horatio Hornblower stood at attention in front of the desk belonging
to Captain Sir Edward Pellew. He had been standing there for nearly
an hour now, explaining the details of his confinement and rescue to
the fuming man before him.

"New France?" Captain Pellew's face turned a deeper red as he
repeated the words. "Did he truly expect you, an officer of His
Majesty's Navy, to help him achieve this?"

"I have to believe that he did, sir. He seemed most insistent in the
matter." Horatio winced, remembering the beating, glad that the
captain's current round of pacing had him looking away for the moment.

"Hm."

Not knowing how to respond, Horatio held his tongue. He wanted to
argue on Archie's behalf, to remind Captain Pellew that without Mr.
Kennedy, he would not have escaped and thus been able to provide
information about Jourquin's plans, nor about the hidden shore
batteries that could have destroyed the Indy had the Frenchman
ordered it done. **Please, I have to help Archie somehow. He most
likely saved my life.**

The captain paced endlessly across the cabin, back and forth behind
the desk. Finally, he stopped and looked directly in Hornblower's
eyes.

"I assume, Mr. Hornblower, that you are aware that Mr. Kennedy
disobeyed a <direct order> when he went ashore?"

Horatio nodded briefly, and opened his mouth to explain.

"Silence!" The quarterdeck voice sounded even louder in the confines
of the cabin. Hornblower's mouth snapped shut and his eyes widened"
could things get any worse?

"The information you have provided me with is invaluable"we had no
knowledge that this fortress could be a threat. I have also regained
a valued officer. But," he moved two paced forward and, although he
was the taller of the two, Horatio suddenly felt very small, "but
these things DO NOT <excuse> Mr. Kennedy's behaviour. He will suffer
the consequences of his actions."

"I understand, sir," Horatio responded, surprised at the steadiness
of his voice. **Please, don't let Archie hang for mutiny"not for my
sake,** his thoughts came unbidden, but he dared not voice them.
Captain Pellew would not listen.

"Mr. Kennedy has been placed in the brig for the time being," the
captain said, walking back behind his desk.

"For the time being, sir?"

The captain frowned at the words. He sat down, ready to dismiss Mr.
Hornblower and consider the other young officer's fate.

"Yes. The crime committed is mutiny, and, despite the extenuating
circumstances, Mr. Kennedy will be punished. Do not worry, Mr.
Hornblower, the information provided by you due to his
insubordination will keep him from the noose."

"Sir?" Horatio barely dared to hope. Punishment for mutiny was death.

"He will not hang. He will have to suffer a beating in front of the
ship's company, but until I determine the severity of that beating,
Mr. Kennedy will remain locked up with the French prisoner."

"The Frenchman, sir?" Horatio's mouth went dry.

"Yes. There are only two cells, and he cannot stay in with Mr.
Simpson. Mad or not, Mr. Kennedy did put the man in the sick berth,
and not so many days ago."

Horatio's mind raced. How long had Archie been in the brig with that
man? Not all night? No"he had heard Archie enter his cabin shortly
after he had gone to his own, and he was still there when Horatio was
summoned by the captain. Maybe two hours?

"Hornblower! Dammit, Mr. Hornblower, what is wrong with you?" The
captain's bellow reverberated about the cabin while Horatio's lips
opened and closed silently as he tried to find the words to describe
Ouimette and hissickness.

"The Frenchman, Monsieur Ouimette, he isthat is, he tried toI
mean" Horatio was desperate"how could he tell the captain that his
best friend, imprisoned for mutiny, was locked up with a sodomite?

Captain Pellew watched the flickering panic in the young officer's
dark eyes. What could be so awkward as to tongue-tie a young man who
had so recently described his own trials"including capture and being
beaten by the enemy"without flinching? What was it? Waithe had been
aboard ships for a long time. Oh god, the Frenchman was one of those
deranged

"I believe I understand, Mr. Hornblower. Sergeant!" He bellowed.

"Sir?"

"Get to the brig immediately, and escort Mr. Kennedy to my cabin."

"Yes, sir!"

"You may follow him, Mr. Hornblower, and return immediately."

"Yes, sir, thank you, sir." And he was gone.

***

Archie Kennedy sat dejectedly on the floor of his cell. There was a
small cot, but it was occupied by the Frenchman he had captured. The
man dozed, snoring lightly. Archie didn't care. What relieved him was
that the man in the other cell, Jack Simpson, also dozed. Still, dawn
was breaking and soon both men would wake up. He planned on sitting
as far from Simpson as the cell would allow.

**At least Horatio is safe,** he thought, **I succeeded in that.**

"Nnngh," came a muffled noise from the cot. A few mutterings in
French followed as Ouimette rose from the cot, groggy, and made his
way to the waste bucket.

Archie kept his eyes on Simpson's cell, hoping that the noise would
not wake him. It didn't seem to, which was odd"Simpson was never a
sound sleeper. He had woken Archie enough times, to amuse himself
with through bouts of wakefulness.

"Ah, so you have joined me, young man," Ouimette spoke in mildly
accented English. "Now we are not so brave with no knife at my
throat?"

"You'd have done the same to rescue one of your own companions, I'm
sure," Archie returned.

"And you know so very much about me? Do you, Archie?" The man's smile
was genuine, but odd.

For a moment, Archie wondered how the man knew his name, but
remembered that Horatio had said it any number of times during the
escape. It didn't really matter that the man knew his name, but it
annoyed him for some reason.

"I know all I need to know," Archie sighed, "now, if you please, I
don't feel like talking."

"But I do." Ouimette looked at the young man sitting on the floor in
front of him. "Why is it that you are in with me instead of with your
own countryman?"

He should have known that the French bastard would ask the most
annoying questions possible. He wrinkled his nose in disgust. "Mr.
Simpson isnotquite right." What else did he need to say?

"Ah," the smile in Ouimette's voice came through in the short
exclamation. Archie stared at the wall, hoping the man would shut up
and leave him alone. He did, for a few minutes. Then Archie heard
Ouimette stand and stretch, and felt a presence behind him in the
small cell.

"You know, Archie," Ouimette said intimately, "it is a most small
space for two men to be in. You shall not be able to avoid me for
long."

Archie whipped his head around, a bit surprised that the Frenchman
had gotten so close to him without his realizing it. **I must be very
tired,** Archie thought.

"I don't want to talk now," Archie said clearly, "do you understand?"

"I understand that you do not wish to talk, but that is not what I
had in mind." Ouimette's right arm braced against the wall by
Archie's shoulder. His left slid languidly up the outside of Archie's
leg.

Now he understood why he had that awful feeling when he heard the
voices in Horatio's cell in the tower. Ouimette was just like Jack
Simpson. Oh godHe shut his eyes.

"I see," he said quietly, buying some time. He turned to Ouimette and
opened his eyes, smiling a little. "I wonder"

Ouimette smiled in triumph. <This> one knew his place. Perhaps he
wasn't so tall as the other, but still finely formed and"WHOOF!"

The air rushed from Ouimette's lungs as Archie's punch hit him square
in the gut. He fell backwards, ignoring the blue blur that leaped
over him. The pain faded slowly, and he sat up.

Archie stood ready at the front of the cell, glancing every so often
at the stirring form of Jack Simpson, but mostly waiting for Ouimette.

"Iwas not expecting that," Ouimette said at last.

"Don't touch me," Archie replied.

There were a few minutes of silence while the two men looked at each
other, one waiting and one thinking.

"I think that I should have asked permission before touching you,
young sir," Ouimette acquiesced. He looked up at Archie as though
asking permission to stand, and pulled himself up stiffly. He noticed
that the fellow in the other cell was now fully awake and looking at
him. Ouimette ignored him.

"Yes, I should not have behaved as I did. I should have asked, and
I'm sorry."

Archie looked warily across the cell. The man was well-dressed, even
foppish. Obviously, he was used to getting what he wanted; why was he
backing down so easily? His eyes flicked briefly, catching the
movement of Simpson sitting up.

Instantly, Ouimette flew across the room. Archie's fist hit shoulder,
but Ouimette had been anticipating resistance and the blow didn't hit
solidly. Ouimette did. This time it was Archie left breathless,
pinned to the wall and staring into demented eyes.

"Do I have permission now, my darling Archie?" He hit with a
surprisingly strong blow to Archie's abdomen and another to the ribs.
Then, Ouimette pressed obscenely against him while he tried to curl
up in pain.

"Mine," said a familiar voice.

Ouimette stared angrily into the other cell, still crushing his
prisoner to the wall.

"Archie Kennedy is Jack Simpson's," the voice said, and
repeated, "Archie Kennedy is Jack Simpson's."

"Not right now, he isn't, you idiot," growled Ouimette.

Trying desperately to breathe, Archie turned his head toward
Simpson's voice. He couldn't even catch his breath enough to yell,
and even if he did, would anyone bother to come? **I thought I was
safe with Simpson in the other cellplease, just let me die now.**

Simpson stood and walked to the bars between the cells. "Archie
Kennedy is Jack Simpson's" he began again, reaching through to grab
at Ouimette's coat.

The Frenchman threw Archie roughly into the corner, "I'll be with
<you> in a moment," he promised. Then, he grabbed at Simpson's arm
and pulled the taller man into the bars so hard that his teeth
rattled.

"Ouch!" yelled Simpson.

Ouimette turned toward Archie. "Are we ready now?" He smiled, seeing
the tears shining in the beautiful, beautiful blue eyes.

"MINE!" Simpson shouted, moving lightning-quick.

His arm snaked through the bars and grabbed Ouimette. One of
Ouimette's hands tried to pry the arm off, but it was captured and
pinned by the steely arm around his neck.

Archie watched the man's back as he flailed against the bars. The
second arm somehow got pinned between the two bodies and the metal
bars, and Simpson's free hand pulled up Ouimette's head by the hair.
Archie gasped again, seeing the look on Simpson's face as he spoke to
Ouimette in a strangely childlike voice.

"Archie Kennedy is Jack Simpson's <friend>."