by Lady Laura
Quick recap: Mary has been put in a coma from her injuries she sustained since she was accidentally washed overboard in Dreams. Edrington and Captain Foster have checked in on Horatio and Bush periodically.
Horatio sighed, and adjusted himself in his chair so he could sit more comfortably. Bush was off in the next room, trying to get some sleep, but so far it had failed. He came in every hour or so to check on Mary's condition. Horatio had reported no changes, which meant none for the worse-or good.
Edrington and Captain Foster were over at a inn named The Lucky Sailor, since Plymouth was a seafaring town. They had tried to sleep, and had not slept well, waking from dreams of horrific battles. Captain Foster had the most frightening dreams, which he confided to Edrington, who was somewhat surprised. Captain Foster had been the most reckless captain in the entire navy. Now, that past courage was coming back to haunt him.
Bush was also tossing and turning. The hospital in Plymouth had no other patient besides Mary, so the staff lent out a room next to Mary's so that Horatio or Bush could get some decent sleep.
Horatio remembered he had recieved a letter from Commodore Pellew. He opened it up and read:
I recieved your letter, and I have just heard from a supply ship that Mary is comatose. She is unresponsive to anything, but that is to be expected. I am shocked to hear the news. Mary is so tough, I never expected to hear that she is in such a state.
I will be there as soon as I can. The Indefatigable has orders to remain at Plymouth station for a few months. Of course, Admiral McCrae has no idea how grateful I am that he ordered us to remain at Plymouth! A stroke of good luck, I dare say. McCrae is much better than Admiral Hood, or Admiral Hale.
I shall be at Plymouth within the week, Commander. Until then, I will pray that Mary recovers consciousness before I arrive. The Elite Fleet is not the same without Retribution, but I understand she had a skirmish with a Spanish frigate, and repairs will take a few months at least.
Commodore Sir Edward Pellew, HMS Indefatigable.
Horatio tucked the letter inside a book, and continued his vigil at Mary's side.
" If only I knew what you were thinking of, Mary."
Meanwhile, Bush had managed to accomplish his goal of going to sleep.
He was in dark woods at midnight, in a cemetary. Bush looked around, but no one was there.
" Just great." he said aloud.
" I guess I'll have to feel my way out of here since there's no light." he tripped a bit a few times, but eventually he came to the end of a deserted road.
Hearing something like a horse coming up the road, he waited and listened.
A person was riding a horse, going along casually when Bush stepped out of the shadows.
" Pardon me." he said politely. The stranger's face was masked, so Bush couldn't see it.
" How far are you going?"
" Six leagues to the nearest town." the stranger rasped.
" Six leagues? That's far. Would you be as kind as to allow me to share your horse?" the stranger slipped off, and let Bush onto the horse.
" Aren't you coming?"
" No. I'm at my destination."
" The cemetary?"
" Yes. Take the horse and put it in the public barn. Tell them Loud Lou sent ya." the stranger walked off, laughing. Bush sat, stunned for a moment before he remembered he was on a horse. He gave it a nudge with his feet, and it started off.
Bush was getting sleepy. He barely remembered the journey.
The last thing he knew was of someone prying off his uniform,
and feeling his nightshirt slide over him.
When he came to himself, he found a doctor looking him over. Bush tried to thank him for administering to him, but he was very weak.
" Sir?" he asked weakly. The doctor jumped.
" Mr. Bush, sir. You're suffering from a fever, probably brought on from exhaustion. You have been sick for a few days."
" What happened?"
" Apparently, the innkeeper saw you on a horse. You were incoherent and very weak. He brought you in here, and called me when he discovered you were feverish. Someone else is here that he says you know him."
" Who is that?"
" A Mr. Hobbs." If Bush had the strength, he would have recoiled in shock, but he slumped against the pillow, the news a bit much for him.
" Yes. Mr. Hobbs has been at your side also."
" A stranger offered me his horse before I came here. He said his name was Loud Lou."
" Loud Lou? Oh, someone will have to tell you that story." the doctor left, inwardly dismissing any questions Bush had to ask.
Bush looked at the patch of moonlight on the floor, and guessed it was about 2 A.M. He lay awake for awhile, pondering his situation before sleep claimed him..
When he next came to his senses, Hobbs was beside him. He dabbed a wet rag at Bush's forehead, and made him drink some water.
" You have a experience with doctors, Mr. Hobbs." Bush remarked, inwardly touched by Hobbs's devotion to him.
" Aye sir. The doctor wanted me to tell you about Loud Lou."
" Yes. But first, I want to know where I am."
" Rockland, sir."
" I've never heard of this place."
" This town is so small, nobody really knows about it. It's a tiny speck on a map most people wouldn't notice."
" You know this place, Mr. Hobbs?"
" I grew up here, sir."
" We are far from the ships, Mr. Hobbs. I think we can leave off the sir for now."
" Aye aye, Mr. Bush."
" About this Loud Lou?" Bush asked, wanting to get back on subject.
" Oh. It's a legend up here in Rockland. Someone named Lou was loud and mouthy, and people dubbed him Loud Lou."
" I figured. What happened to him?"
" The people here got tired of his bad-mouthing everyone. They tied him up, forced him to walk the street, allowing the townspeople to flog him with ropes."
" Like running the gauntlet."
" Exactly. So he got so angry, he started committing murders at night. The people couldn't figure out how he got in and out of jail every night to commit murders. They blamed him, and he ran off into the woods, swearing revenge on anyone who was out of a house every night."
" Whoa. But why did he not kill me?"
" Because you are not from around here, Mr. Bush. He likes for people to know his legend, scare them, and then murder him."
" I don't suppose he's why I am sick." Bush reclined against the pillows.
" Actually, yes."
" Whenever someone new comes into our town, they suffer fatal fevers, and die."
" But mine wasn't even remotely fatal."
" Not yet."
" What do you mean 'not yet?' What's going on?" Bush snapped.
" Mr. Bush." Hobbs leaned closer.
" He likes you. That's why you got off so easy." Bush felt a chill go down his spine.
" Why is that?"
" I already told you." Hobbs guessed that Bush's brain was clouding up, willing him back into sleep.
" Drink this." Hobbs offered. Bush sniffed. Laudanum. He had no other choice, he was too weak to fight.
He took the sedative, wanting nothing more than to sleep for awhile.
Hobbs stayed with Bush for a little while, then went to get some sleep himself. Bush would not survive his sickness, he knew. Nobody had ever survived the mysterious ailment that Loud Lou managed to somehow afflict on his victims.
After a night of feverish dreams, Bush woke up at noon the
next day, feeling worse. He could barely breathe. Hobbs was gone,
his chair was vacant. Bush wondered where Hobbs had gone to.
Hobbs was aimlessly writing in his journal. He paused, and chewed on his pencil tip for a moment. Bush was getting sicker, and it wouldn't be long before he died.
Sitting back, he thought about Loud Lou, and his mystery.
Lou had been mouthy and rebellious, nothing could tame him, and he often disappeared in the woods for long periods of time. Nobody knew where he was, or what he was doing, but he was up to no good, people were certain.
" Suppose I meet this Loud Lou tonight." Hobbs mused out loud. He formulated a plan. He would go and meet Lou, then ask him what exactly he was aiming for. Then, he would ask Lou if he could cure Bush.
He had no other recourse. Hobbs had to go. Bush's life depended on it.
Getting together his supplies, Hobbs checked on Bush before he left, tentatively checking his temperature, reeling back at how hot it felt, like Bush's head was on fire.
" Rest well, Mr. Bush." Hobbs whispered.
" I will cure you." and he left, to go and pursue a mouthy maniac.
Bush woke up a hour later. He felt like he was on fire. The doctor that had tended to him last night was there.
" It is good to see if you are still with us, Mr. Bush." the doctor smiled.
" He left. He didn't say where he was going."
" Oh." Bush was too weak to even talk. He lay back, and watched the doctor administer to him.
" Rest now, Mr. Bush. It is sleep that can be the most healing." the doctor left.
" What a odd country doctor." Bush muttered before he fell asleep.
Hobbs was trampling through the woods, looking for Lou. He got to the small country graveyard in back of the church, and hollered for Lou.
" Lou! Come out!" he yelled. He waited a few more minutes, and heard sticks cracking, closer and closer. Hobbs heard a odd sound, felt himself falling, and knew only blackness.
When he came to himself, Hobbs realized he was lying on a soft mat of animal fur, and he was in a cave near the stream.
" What do you want, eh?" a sinister voice echoed from the walls of the cavern. Hobbs picked himself up, seeing a mask clad figure standing at the entrance.
" My friend is sick unto death. I need to cure him."
" Is it your duty, or do you care about him?" Lou teased.
" I care about my former superior officer! It's unfortunate that the navy might never see him again if you continue to prevaricate with me!" Hobbs thundered.
" All right, all right." Lou knew he had overstepped his boundaries with this temperamental gunner. He bustled over to the shelf by his mahogany wood chair. Lou poked through his stash of stuff, poking and prodding.
At the same time, Bush was deathly sick. He had grown much worse since Hobbs had left him. The doctor let in a visitor.
The person sat down, and waited until Bush came out of his dreams. He finally did, and recognized the person.
" Mary?" Mary smiled, and tucked her skirts in a bit. She sat on the head of Bush's bed, cradling his upper body with her strong arms. Bush felt safe in her embrace.
" Where is Horatio?" he was scarcely able to talk.
" He will be here soon." Mary put a wet rag on Bush's forehead, which helped him, but not enough.
" I'm dying, Mary." he whispered.
" I know. I'm hoping that you don't until Horatio comes." she answered, letting Bush fade into sleep as she prayed that Horatio and Hobbs would come soon. She wanted Bush's friends with him as he died, to offer comfort.
" Here it is!" Lou cried, holding up a small vial. Hobbs's eyes noticed the color of the liquid inside. It was bright green.
" Now you must rush back and give this to him!" Lou thrust the bottle at him. Hobbs knew he had to hurry, but he couldn't resist asking Lou one final question.
" Why did you help us?" Lou looked taken aback, and answered,
" When I saw how ill Bush was, I knew my revenge on the townspeople had gone too far. He's a fine man."
" Yes he is. Now he lies at death's doorstop." Hobbs bitterly said.
" I will get you home faster. Close your eyes." Hobbs did so. He heard Lou's fingers snap, and felt a strange sensation.
When he opened his eyes, he was in his room at the inn. He quickly went to the room next door, seeing Mary cradling Bush's limp form.
" Is he still alive, Ms. Driskell?" Mary checked Bush's pulse.
" Yes. barely. what have you got there?"
" You'll see." Hobbs asked Mary to get Bush to take the medicine Lou had given him.
" Will, take this." she said gently. Bush did so, and fell back asleep.
After a few minutes, Bush showed no signs of change. Hobbs waited anxiously, but nothing happened. Mary looked considerably less bewildered, but she applied her two fingers to Bush's neck, then to his wrist.
" He's dead." she said.
" No, Mary! I'm not dead!" Bush was saying in his sleep. He came awake fully, and got up, bleary-eyed.
" Horatio, how is she?" Horatio was sound asleep by Mary's weak comatose form. Bush knew Mary was still alive, but still unresponsive to anybody trying to wake her up.
Bush went to her side, and took her limp hand in his.
" Please come back to us. That's all I ask." he whispered to her. As he studied her young face, he wondered when she would wake up fully. Mary had faced down lots of disasters in her short lifetime, and he wondered if she could face this one down too.
" She will live this down, William." Horatio said as if he had heard Bush's thoughts.
" I know she will. And yet I wonder." Bush trailed off as he gazed into Mary's seemingly lifeless face. She had lost all color, and was stiff and rigid as a plank board. Horatio and Bush wondered where Mary's mind was. They both longed to see her open her eyes and let loose a laugh.
Horatio realized that he had gotten used to the idea that Mary'd always be there, just like he had mistaken that conception of Archie. Yet, Archie was dead, laid to rest in a grave at Kingston. But Mary wasn't dead, she was just. . . resting. Horatio assured himself. He couldn't bring himself to think she might die in the near future.
Bush had also longed to see Mary's dark brown eyes that shone with laughter, grew almost black when angry, and had compassion in them whenever she spoke of her friends.
Commodore Sir Edward Pellew entered Mary's hospital room, where Bush and Horatio were asleep by the young lady's side. He turned bloodless-white when he saw the look on Mary's face. Her face was devoid of all color, she was hardly breathing.
" No news, Mr. Hornblower?"
" No sir." Horatio jumped. He'd been sitting half-asleep.
" At least there is no change for the worse."
" But none for the better."
" I have written leftenant Eccleston, he is to arrive soon."
" That's good, sir."
" I have just been at Madeira, and they're in the grip of the black death, and I managed to get my ship out safe and sound." Pellew tried to engage Horatio in conversation, but Horatio would only grunt out short answers.
Pellew grew slightly alarmed at the look on Horatio's face. He put a hand up to Horatio's forehead, and was appalled by the heat he felt from it.
" To bed with you, Mr. Hornblower." he directed. Horatio was practically dead from the lack of sleep he had deprived himself of, so he obeyed Pellew meekly.
Horatio flung himself on the bed that was opposite Bush, who
was asleep again, and let his tiredness overtake him.
He was in a prison cell. Someone was moaning in his sleep. Horatio looked over from the top bunk, and saw Archie.
Immediately, he vaulted down, and rushed to comfort Archie. He was making frightened noises, and shivering uncontrollably.
" Archie, it's all right, I'm here for you." he soothed, laying his left hand on Archie's forehead, checking for any sign of a fever, relieved when he found there was none.
Archie turned his head towards Horatio, and muttered something in his sleep which Horatio didn't catch.
" Archie." Horatio admonished. He stayed until Archie was deeply asleep again, and returned to his bunk.
A few days later, Archie and Horatio were sitting at a table, plotting out their escape. Hunter was dead, Matthews and Styles were there, along with Oldroyd.
" Well, tonight, let's put this into action." Horatio said, low. Everyone agreed. Horatio had drilled them on the plan, they knew it by heart.
At around midnight that night, the guards were getting drowsy, Horatio and Archie began putting their plan in action.
" Begin, Archie." Archie lay on his bunk, and faked a seizure. Horatio rapped on the door.
" Signor, open door." he gestured. The guard did, followed by another guard, and the duo sprang into action.
Archie and Horatio clubbed the guards, dressed in their uniforms, and released the other shipmates.
Horatio and everyone went into the courtyard, unlocked the door, and stopped short by the clifftops. Don Massaredo's men followed them, shooting at the little clan.
Everyone started climbing down the cliffs, Horatio went down with difficulty. He had twisted his ankle while running. Archie was right beside him, helping. Horatio inwardly thanked God for a friend like Archie.
About five feet from the bottom, Horatio lost his grip, and slipped down, crashing into the rocky outcrops.
" HORATIO!" Archie screamed, followed by a shout of, " MR. HORNBLOWER!" from Matthews, Styles, and Oldroyd.
They found Horatio bleeding profusely, and semiconscious on the beach. His eyes were open, tears of pain rolling down his cheeks.
" Horatio." Archie propped up Horatio's weakened form.
" Get us a boat! Quickly!" he barked out.
A boat was brought, and the unwounded crewmen and officer helped the seriously injured officer on board, then shoved out to sea.
" Horatio." Archie never let his guard down. Matthews persuaded him to take some rest, and he did, only for a little while.
The next day, a cry pierced Archie out of his introspections.
" It's the Indy!" Oldroyd pointed out.
" My Lord, it is!" Archie exclaimed. They boarded her, and Archie was about to talk to the captain, when Horatio was brought on board. Pellew went gray faced as he saw his favorite officer brought up, covered with blood, and senseless.
" Mr. Kennedy, report in my cabin."
" Aye aye, sir."
Once in the cabin, Archie was pleased to find out that he was not nervous, he usually was when he was in the captain's cabin, but not this time.
" Sir, Mr. Hornblower, his division and I were climbing down the cliffs, when five feet from the bottom, Mr. Hornblower lost his grip and fell. I kept a careful watch over him until we came here."
Pellew jumped up, and looked out the bay window in his cabin. He knew that there was a almost certain possibility that Horatio might not survive.
" Very well. Mr. Kennedy, you are to remain at Mr. Hornblower's side. I wish to be informed the second he wakes up."
" Aye aye, sir." Archie was now positive Pellew thought of Horatio like a son. He had teased Horatio about that in prison, but Horatio had turned red, and insisted he was not the captain's favorite.
" But try to get some rest yourself. You look very pale, sir." Pellew was naturally concerned for all his officers, but especially for Archie, who was pale-faced with exhaustion. Archie was bewildered to find out that his hands were trembling.
" Aye aye, sir." Archie went down to the sick berth.
Horatio had been settled in. Archie took up his watch at his friend's bedside, not wanting Horatio to wake up alone.
It wasn't long before sleep claimed him. When he awakened, he saw Horatio was muttering in his sleep.
" It's all right, Horatio." Archie stroked his friend's hair, startled to see Horatio look younger than his years dictated.
Horatio whimpered in his sleep, and clutched at anything that was near, which happened to be Archie's hand.
Archie winced at Horatio's grip, but he would not release himself. The grip grew even tighter, Archie tried his hardest not to cry out. The pain began to ease, and Horatio relaxed. His eyelids flickered, then closed.
" You there." he said to a nearby loblolly boy.
" Tell Captain Pellew Mr. Hornblower is awakening."
Five minutes later, Captain Pellew was by Horatio's side, not disturbing a drowsy Archie.
"Mr. Hornblower." he said. Horaito opened his eyes, and bit back a cry of pain.
" Captain Pellew." he could barely say. Pellew nudged Archie awake.
" Horatio! How do you feel?"
" Horrible. I'm not going to live." Pellew and Archie clutched at Horatio's hand they each had held.
" You are indeed. The very best friends. . . I . . . could hope. . for." he said between gasps of pain.
Pellew and Archie watched Horatio die.
" Mr. Hornblower!" Horatio jerked awake. Pellew was looking at him strangely.
" What is it, sir?"
" You were talking in your sleep." Pellew sat by Mary's side, and fell asleep.
He found himself in a dark room. Pellew walked forward, finding a familiar figure ahead of him.
It was Mary. She was holding up a vial of something that she was preparing to drink.
" Mary! What are you doing?" he demanded. Mary turned to face him.
" There's nothing left on this world for me, Sir Edward." she stared at him, daring him to contradict her.
He did not.
" Let's talk about this." he took her arm. Mary wrenched out of his grip.
" Puh-leeeeze. There's nothing a commodore can do with a suicidal person." she sneered.
" No, but as a friend." Pellew retorted. Mary looked very defiant, her arms crossed in front of her.
" Do you really believe there's nothing left for you in life? How will you know unless you live it?"
Mary's eyes grew bigger. She considered what he said.
" I've lived enough already. It's time for me to die." she declared, holding up the vial. Pellew's eyes widened in terror as he saw the label on the green glass. Poison.
" Mary! Stop this right now!" he barked in his best commodore-of-the-Elite-Fleet voice.
" Stop what? Living for nothing? Life's pointless, and besides, we all die sometime anyway. I'd rather die now than go through life knowing I could die any time, any place!" she shot back.
" Why do you feel this way? What secret are you keeping from me?" Pellew asked quietly, embracing Mary.
" Horatio will want to get married and have kids. I'm fine with that, except one thing."
" I can't have children. I've wanted kids. but I can't have them. Horatio will be very sad, and I can't see him go through any more sadness, especially after Archie died. Do you understand, Sir Edward?"
" I do understand." Pellew said slowly.
" You are risking your life rather than talking out your traumatized past with the man you love."
" Sir Edward! you don't understand at all!" Mary drew back, clutching the vial of poison.
" From what I understand, you are taking the easy way out."
" Sir Edward, this is not a easy way out. It's just that I've led a semi-long tortured life, and I can't fight anymore. My spirit is tired from the long fight, and I'm giving up."
Pellew straightened up. He had never heard Mary talk so negatively and bluntly before.
" How is it that you can't have children?"
" My sisters beat me so bad I had a severe abscess that inflamed my reproductive organ, so the doctor was forced to take it out." Mary answered.
He was puzzling out the conversation that he just had, not noticing Mary had uncorked the poison vial.
" Mary, no!" he cried out as Mary took the poison. Almost immediately, she turned bloodless white, her lips and fingernails were turning blue. She would have fallen, if not for Pellew. He cradled her close to him, numb from shock that she would actually do such a thing.
" Why, Mary?" he whispered, unable to speak.
" Why not? Nobody'd miss me anyway. I've had no life to speak of, only memories of torture and absolute agony. No one wants to live a life with that on their mind."
" Oh, Mary. You will never understand." Pellew held her tightly as the pain grew worse.
" Sir Edward. . you are the best friend . . that I . . could ever. . hope for. . thank you, my friend. . . and . . good bye." Mary closed her languid eyes forever as she stopped breathing.
Pellew picked Mary's body up, and put it on a long wooden table painted white. He stayed by the corpse, and cried quietly.
" Commodore!" a voice said. Pellew awakened.
" Lieutenant Eccleston!"
" How is she?"
" Not good. The doctors do not hold out much hope." he said truthfully.
Eccleston paled slightly.
" My God!" he said. He took in Mary's limp and weak
form lying on the bed.
" Tell me about it. I got here yesterday. Horatio says that's how she looked when they got her out of the water."
" They were having a fight, weren't they?"
" Yes. Horatio will not stop berating himself."
" Interesting. How long has she been like this?"
" About two weeks."
Eccleston stationed himself at Mary's side, giving Pellew a turn to rest.
" I wonder at how long she will be like this." Eccleston said aloud. Pellew sighed.
" Yes. We can only pray that one day in the mere future she will remember, and yet return to us." both gazed into Mary's white face.
Eccleston settled in, and closed his eyes. It was his turn to dream.
He was on the Indefatigable with Mary. She was helping to man the guns, he was following Pellew's order to fire as she bears the best he could.
Eccleston did not give up the fight. He saw their adversary sink into the water, and maintained his composure not to cheer with the ratings. Such behavior of officers was severly frowned upon. Instead he gave the damage report to Pellew, and went to find Mary.
He found her lying in a big ocean of blood from the poor ratings who never saw it coming, some were cleaved viciously, some torn apart by cannonballs, their human appendages were everywhere.
" My god, what happened to you?" he said to her. She was senseless and unresponsive. Then Eccleston saw just what had happened to her. There was a cutlass sticking out of her chest. Mary was impaled to the ship through it. She was still alive, remarkably so. Even so, Eccleston fought the urge to retch as he saw how she had been wounded.
" Matthews! Pass the word for the surgeon!" he barked, breaking off the end of the cutlass so Mary was no longer impaled. He took her down to the sick berth, and left her there, his duties calling to him.
Four hours later, Eccleston returned to the sick berth, satisfied that she ship had been scrubbed, the dead were taken care of. He had to go and visit his wounded comrades, especially Mary.
" Dr. Heppelwhite, how is she?" he asked, ignoring the fact that Heppelwhite had managed to drink himself silly.
" She's dead, sir." Heppelwhite belched then, a sound that shook the ship to its keel.
" Then prepare to have yourself keel-hauled, sir!" Eccleston barked. He saw it was true. Mary was dead, not yet sewn up into canvas to be buried at sea.
" She could have been saved!" he cried out, and dashed to tell Pellew.
Heppelwhite grinned stupidly, and got himself another drink.
" So Heppelwhite's drinking has cost us a life." Pellew paced in his cabin like a angry tiger in its cage.
" Aye, sir." Eccleston maintained his composure impressively. He knew Pellew wound have been angry, but not to this extent had it been a rating. Mary had died, and he was very fond of her. Pellew had helped Mary's mother raise her after her father had been lost at sea.
And now she was no longer with them.
" There is only 2 things to be done, lieutenant." Pellew had reached a descision he'd been wrestling with for some time, Mary's untimely death had determined it had to be done.
" The gauntlet. Who would lead him through it?"
" I believe Mr. Hornblower and Mr. Kennedy would, sir. Once they get back."
" True. They will be back tonight, will they not?"
" Yes sir."
" And then a court martial. For negligence of his duties. We shall not bury Mary just yet, at the court martial, we will have a competent doctor examine her body, and see if he thinks it was worth saving."
" Aye aye, sir."
" In the meantime, lock up Heppelwhite until tomorrow. I wish to tell Mr. Hornblower and Mr. Kennedy in front of Heppelwhite."
" Aye aye, sir." Eccleston knew why. He never questioned a order.
" Sir, my condolences. I know you and Mary were very close."
" Thank you, lieutenant Eccleston." Pellew sat at his desk and put his head into his hands. Eccleston blinked in surprise, he'd never seen his captain look defeated before.
" You are dismissed, sir." Pellew said evenly. Eccleston took the hint, and left.
The next day, Horatio and Archie returned. They were summoned to the captain's cabin immediately. Eccleston brought in their drunken doctor.
" Mr. Hornblower, Mr. Kennedy." Pellew stated.
" It is my sad duty to inform you that Ms. Marion Driskell is dead."
Horatio and Kennedy both practically jumped in surprise.
" Our useless drunken sot doctor here was too intent on drinking than operating on her. I want both of you to lead him through the gauntlet." Pellew believed giving them the shock all at once, rather than stalling would work.
It did. Both recovered their professional stances, looking every inch the professional officers they were.
" Sir, how did she die?"
" Lieutenant Eccleston will tell you."
" Aye aye, sir. Cutlass got her all the way through, and impaled her to the deck. It was not fatal."
" That will be all, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Hornblower." Pellew said. Horatio and Archie got his meaning, and left. Eccleston stood by, watching Pellew tear into Heppelwhite.
" What kind of man are you that you would drink rather then PERFORMING YOUR DUTY?!"
Heppelwhite did not even quiver.
" I did what I wanted to captain."
" EVERYONE ABOARD THIS SHIP DOES WHAT THEY WANT IN THEIR LEISURE TIME! NOT IN THE MIDDLE OF A BATTLE!"
" And I thought Captain Keane was a old fool! You hardly ever use the cat in taking care of these ratings properly."
" So you think I am a old fool! I do not enjoy using the cat to punish the ratings. There has not been a instance in when I have had to punish anyone for a few months. You call that NOT TAKING CARE OF THE RATINGS PROPERLY? IN MY EYES, IT'S A DAMNED GOOD SHIP, HARDLY ANYONE MISBEHAVES ON MY SHIP!"
" Whatever, captain."
Pellew swore. Damnit! He was just not getting through to Heppelwhite.
" WHAT BUSINESS HAVE YOU, THAT YOU WOULD GET YOURSELF DRUNK WHEN MS. DRISKELL WAS BLEEDING UNDER YOUR HANDS?!"
" She was too far gone, captain. She could have died when I was done with her."
" And yet she DID DIE WHEN YOU DIDN'T TAKE CARE OF HER!"
" A woman has no place on a ship!"
Pellew moved over to Heppelwhite, and slapped him.
" I believe women have rights, they can enlist on a ship whenever they damn well please! YOU WOULD DO BEST TO REMEMBER THAT!" Pellew shouted.
" You sir, are the most worthless person on the ship! I plan to take care of you by the way you yourself suggested!"
" I suggested?" Hepplewhite asked timidly.
" Yes! By drinking, you are no more a doctor than a rating! Thus, I am treating you like a rating! YOU ARE TO WALK THE GAUNTLET TOMORROW, MR. HORNBLOWER AND MR. KENNEDY GUIDING YOU. THEN, THERE WILL BE A COURT MARTIAL. A DOCTOR WILL EXAMINE MS. DRISKELL'S BODY, AND IF HE SAYS SHE COULD HAVE BEEN SAVED, YOU SIR, WILL HANG!"
Hepplewhite finally lost his cool. He started shaking.
" Keep him under locked guard until the flogging." Pellew ordered Eccleston.
" Aye aye, sir." Eccleston left, dragging Hepplewhite
Later that day, the entire ship of 200 men assembled.
" This doctor made himself so drunk during the battle yesterday, he let young Marion Driskell bleed to death beneath his hands! Most of us were fond of Ms. Driskell, and I give you the opportunity to lash at him with a piece of rope! He is a worthless drunk! Let the flogging begin!"
Horatio and Archie led Hepplewhite through the gauntlet. At the end, they put him in front of the bo'sun, whose name was Thomas. Thomas brought out a freshly braided cat he had made last night, 10 thin pieces of rope braided together. He brought it up, and whipped Hepplewhite twice.
Hepplewhite was put down below under locked guard, and Pellew sent off a dispatch to the admirality, telling them what happened. They organized a court martial, set for the next day.
" It's a injustice, Horatio." Archie said from his bunk. Horatio barely looked up from the book he had his nose in.
" It's the life of a ship, Archie. People die." he muttered. Archie suspected he was saying the words for his own comfort rather than Archie's.
" Still, you loved her."
" Aye, I did. She was great."
" I never thought her life would end this way."
" Nor I." Horatio snapped off a quick answer, and continued to read his book. Archie sighed, and gave up.
The next day, at the ending of the first day of the court martial, Pellew's personal physician, Dr. Lawrence, took a look at Mary's corpse.
Horatio and Archie had not seen Mary's body since they were told of her death, and they recoiled in shock.
Mary was bloodless white, blood still drenching her dress, dried trails of it were in her hair, little trails were literally all over her, even on her lips and ears. She looked like she had died while fighting against something nasty, and she still had bloodied hands, nobody had taken the time to clean her up so it wouldn't be such a shock.
Archie looked down at her as if she was sound asleep, and would wake up at any minute, but she would never wake up again. Horatio stoically contained his shock at seeing his lady's bloodied remains. Dr. Lawrence gave no surprise at seeing Mary's body-he was a doctor, he was used to it-and began his examination.
" Well, Doctor?" Pellew asked. The panel of captains at the court martial were with him, as well as Hepplewhite, who was actually sober at the moment.
Dr. Lawrence cleaned off the blood from her, carefully checking her out. A few minutes later, he asked Horatio to turn Mary over so he could examine where the cutlass had torn through her back. Horatio did so, maintaining his composure so well, Pellew was impressed. Archie did a good job of it as well.
After his professional examination, Dr. Lawrence straightened up, asked the two young lieutenants to put Mary on her back, and to clean her up.
" Gentlemen, it is my professional opinion that Ms. Driskell could have survived the injury if she was properly taken care of." he stated.
" Then you, sir, are in to swing!" Pellew barked. Hepplewhite actually paled to the lips.
Horatio sponged off the dried trails of blood from Mary's limp hands while Archie quietly washed Mary's hair, getting rid of any blood.
" I thought this wouldn't happen for another 40 more years." Archie sighed, another young promising life cut short. Horatio agreed, taking the blood off where the cutlass had first pierced Mary's flesh. He thought of what a shock Eccleston must have had, seeing Mary barely alive with a cutlass sticking out of her abdomen.
" She's gone to a better place, she won't suffer anymore." Horatio repeated what his father had said to him when he was first told his mother had died.
Archie gave him a look. Why? Why was Horatio so stubborn to show some emotion as to the death of his beloved Mary? He was so stoic, Archie wanted to slap him silly until he showed SOME emotion at least.
Horatio finished washing the blood off Mary's chest and abdomen, and tucked a blanket around her, so the torn part of her shirt where the cutlass entered did not show.
" Well, good bye, Mary." Archie kissed her on the cheek, and left so Horatio could be alone with the dead body of the person that he loved dearly.
He dumped out the red water, and took a careful look at Mary's face, her skin appearing to be almost translucent. Horatio tucked the blanket in securely around her. Mary looked so young, even in death, he was amazed. She had been the same age as he was, Horatio believed she was meant for him. Mary had believed it too.
" I truly believed you were meant for me. I still do." Horatio took a ring out of his jacket pocket, and put it on Mary's left ring finger. The ruby sparkled in the low light.
" You were born in the same month I was. Ruby is July's birthstone. As far as I'm concerned, we were married when you died." Horatio fell to his knees beside the bed Mary's body was lying on.
" I still love you. I always will." he put his head into his hands.
" I do not want to say farewell, but I have to. Farewell, Mary." he gave her a long smooch on her lips.
" I will never forget you." he left.
Hepplewhite was sent to the town square in front of the courthouse before dawn, marched to the hanging platform, and put into the noose.
" This man is a drunk, and a fool!" Pellew bellowed to the crowd watching.
" We were fighting for Britan when this so called 'doctor' managed to get himself drunk so he could barely do his duty! He let a young lady die, bleeding to death under his own hands! His negligence and dereliction of duty must be rectified! A competent doctor has proclaimed that the young lady could have survived, if our doctor had not been drunk! That is a big 'if' in His Majesty's Navy! And so we hang him for being so drunk and stupid!"
So Hepplewhite was hanged as a example to just what course of disciplinary action the navy could take.
Then, Mary was buried in her family vault, among generations of her relatives.
" It is time, Horatio." Archie said, straightening up his dress uniform.
Horatio sighed. Today was the day they would offically lay Mary to rest. He and Archie went to the Driskell vault, awaiting Pellew to read the service over her. Eccleston could not be there, he had been transferred to the Neptune.
Mary was put in a wooden casket, and the lid was off temporarily. Her coffin was put next to her mother's, and her father's empty one. Mr. Driskell had died at sea, his body was never recovered.
" What a shame it is that the people who do good die before the ones that do bad." Archie lamented. Horatio agreed.
Pellew walked down the spiral wooden steps, and read the service over their young friend. Horatio blinked back tears, trying to remember the way she had been when she was living. Mary had a smile like the blinding sun, she could match Archie joke for joke, and was the woman for Horatio, he'd always known it. And the first time he told her that he loved her-Mary had told him that she loved him too. When Horatio was down after so many misadventures and senseless deaths, Mary was right there beside him.
Suddenly, Horatio found himself alone in the vault. He took Mary's hands, and put them over her chest so that it looked like she was holding a book, except for the fact Horatio had interlaced her fingers.
" Until the day when my soul is set free to go with you, my love." he whispered, and fled the chamber.
Later that year, Horatio couldn't take it anymore. He missed Mary badly, and wanted to be with her.
Horatio wanted a pain free way to die-he wasn't a coward to pain. He'd been shot twice, concussed, fractured his collarbone, and hell, when they took him out of the oubilette in Spain, he'd been in constant pain for a few weeks afterwards.
He took the deadliest Italian poison, but then Archie walked in as Horatio was dying.
" Horatio!'' Horatio dimly heard Archie calling for him as he collapsed on the floor.
" Goodbye, Archie." he said, and died.
Eccleston stirred in his chair, and woke up fully. That was the oddest dream he had since-well, ever.
" How is Mary?" he asked. Pellew had been looking at Mary in disbelief.
" I do believe she may be close to waking up." he said.
" That's great news, sir." Mary had been comatose for about three months now. They almost couldn't remember what color her beautiful eyes were anymore.
Horatio and Bush were attempting to sleep when it happened. Pellew ran in, startling both of them out of their half awake states.
" What happened, sir?" Horatio asked.
" Mary is coming awake now." Pellew dashed off to be at Mary's side.
Horatio and Bush looked at Mary when they arrived at her room. She didn't seem to be any different from when they first left her, but then they saw what the commodore was talking about.
Mary's eyelids fluttered, opened, and closed. She sighed.
" Mary." said Eccleston tentatively. Mary came fully awake then, taking in who was at her bedside.
" My god." Pellew said.
" What are you all looking at? I trust you gentlemen never heard of privacy?" Mary smiled. Everyone broke into shaky grins, immensely comforted that Mary had not died during her misadventure.
" Do you remember what happened?" Horatio asked her.
" All I remember is clinging to a gun mount until I washed up on a small island. I was badly wounded, and I must have washed out to sea again. Something managed to whack me on the back of the head, and that's all I remember."
Horatio sighed in relief. Perhaps she would not remember the fight that they both had just before the gale sprang up.
Mary shifted uncomfortably in her bed.
" This bed must have been made out of marble or something." she commented.
" Can I have a moment alone with her?" Horatio asked. The commodore and two lieutenants left. Horatio told her about their argument.
" That doesn't matter anymore. What matters is that you're alive."
" Thank you, Horatio." Mary smiled again. Horatio was glad to see her smiling again, after weeks of a deathly pale face that never changed.
" I want you to have this, Mary." he slid a ring on her left ring finger. Mary looked at it. There was a sparkling red stone with a few pearls on each side.
" Ruby. My birthstone. You want to marry me, eh Horatio?"
" Yes! Will you?"
" Of course!" they smooched.
" Everyone come back in!" Horatio declared. Eccleston, Pellew, and Bush filed back in.
" We are going to be married!" Mary announced.
" Congragulations!" Pellew grinned.
" When do I get out of this place?"
" Tonight." Bush hugged her.
Horatio went upstairs after talking to Edrington and Captain Foster, telling them what had happened that afternoon.
" Good luck to you, sir." Foster had sounded genuine in his praise.
" Thank you, sir." he headed up to bed, exhausted. Mary was already in bed, for once sleeping without haunting dreams that had plagued her during her unresponsive months as a unfortunate coma patient.
Horatio leaned over and kissed Mary on the lips. She stirred a little, but did not wake up.
" It is good to have you back. I've missed you greatly." he said, then got into bed beside her, embracing her, suddenly feeling very protective.
Captain Foster and Edrington had secretly watched them, and marveled at how these two had seemed to belong to each other. They were so alike.
" Come, Captain Foster, let us retire to the bar." Edrington said, wanting to leave them alone. Foster oblidged, and both left the two to sleep peacefully for once.
The End. 1/1/2002 by Laura J Dyer