I Didn't Think I Was Worth It (2nd Reply to 'Compassion')
by Michele

 

I can feel Horatio's eyes on me, and I know that he is terribly
uncomfortable. Not only with the disgusting, filthy conditions under
which we are forced to live, but perhaps even MORE so, with his own
thoughts.

And I fear I have been much of the cause of that discomfort.

I know what he is thinking. He does not think I do, but it is so. I
have had years to contemplate how I came to be in that open boat, and
there is but one conclusion I can draw. I must have had a fit, thus
endangering the mission. SOMEONE had to save the others from discovery
by the enemy. One of the seamen could not have taken that upon himself.

It HAD to have been Horatio.

And curse me, but I DO understand why he had to do it.

The only thing I CANNOT fathom is why no-one came for me. Was the
battle lost? Was it a case of, me or the mission? Did they lose
Papillon? I have no way of knowing, and I have been afraid to ask
Horatio, for I know that were I to so inquire, he would be made
uncomfortable, and I could not bring that about.

And I would be afraid to hear the answers.

*******************************

And again it happened. To-night, I lost control and a fit overtook me.
As always, I have no memory of what happened during that pathetic time;
I only know that (again, as always) I feel extremely tired now it's
over, and extremely ashamed.

And I feel terribly alone.

I see Horatio leaning over me, and he looks concerned, as he had back
in Justinian, but there is something else in his weary features --
something it appears he is struggling to conceal. Is it disgust? No. I
am just letting Hunter's words get to me...

I know Horatio cares. I am a loathesome mess, repulsing even to my own
senses; and yet there he is, closing my sweat-soaked shirt at the neck,
lest I catch a chill, and pushing my heavy, oil-weighted hair from my
reddened eyes.

I only wish he could find some soft, soothing words to take the sting
of Hunter's words from where they continue to ring in my ears. I know..
well, I know it is hard for him. We are both grown men, but
sometimes... Sometimes I just want to feel like a child, safe in my bed
at home, before I was sent off to the Navy... I have for so long been
deprived of comfort and of human kindness that sometimes I ache for
reassurance in ways that Horatio could never understand...

At least, I don't THINK he could....

********************************

Hunter's words hurt, so much more so than I could ever quantify. I do
so long for some words of comfort, and when I let the wave of despair
wash over me like so many of my own tears, I find I cannot control the
sobbing which shakes my shivering body. Just a few feet behind me I
hear the sound of a blanket being taken from a bed; I assume it is
Horatio, as the sound comes from lower down than Hunter's upper bunk.
At first I think Horatio is going to try to sleep sitting up in the
window, as I know how badly the air in here has been affecting him. But
when I hear him lie down on his bunk, I realise what has happened.

Or what has ALMOST happened.

And I sink deeper into despair than I would ever have thought possible,
for I know now that for a moment he had taken a compassionate notion,
to give me his own clean, dry blanket, and then taken it back.

And I cannot understand why my friend -- my FRIEND -- had done that...

In my sobbing anguish I think of our dark days in Justinian, and of
Clayton -- how he had never held ANYthing back, from either Horatio OR
myself, even to the point of his own death. How I long at this moment
to feel Clayton's comforting hand upon my shoulder, and to hear his
soft, reasurring voice.

If only Horatio were able to talk to me now....

The nightmares that have plagued me all night, I do not even want to
recall....

*******************************

The dawn finally comes, blue of sky and golden of sun, what little of
both dare venture into our dark lives in this cell. And with it, a very
strange occurrence.

Scarcely am I awake, and little do I care, when I feel gentle hands
reaching to remove the foul blanket that has been clinging to my body.
In my half-asleep state, I recoil instinctively. Then, I hear a soft
ìShhh.. it's all right, Archie, it's me...î And I feel a little better.
Better, but still uncomfortable. I know Hunter is watching Horatio's
every move, and I know he is passing judgment. And I know Horatio is
afeared of losing his appearance of command before this difficult
midshipman, one around whom strength means EVERYthing, if Horatio is to
maintain his authority.

But for one wonderful moment, when I see the compassion in Horatio's
eyes, I know that he does not CARE what Hunter thinks.

And I am so very grateful.

But I am frightened -- frightened of even the most gentle touch,
frightened of being viewed as an object of pity, and frightened that I
will never be able to hold my head up with a man's pride again.

I wonder if Horatio knows how hard this is for me...

Somehow I think he DOES....

**************************************************

And now, I only wish he would not leave me alone with Hunter every day
for two very long hours... I feel so very selfish and small for feeling
this way, but I do not understand it, and it is so terribly unfair that
HE have time away from here, when I am the one who has had to endure
this place for these long years, without even the smallest taste of
freedom.

And worse than that, I am so afraid that he will forget about me... For
how can a burden of a man in my pitiful, worthless state compare with
the attentions of a beautiful lady, and the lure of windswept cliffs
and the scent of sea spray?

For a few brief moments, I felt like I was worth the trouble it took to
look after me. Perhaps I still AM worth the trouble. I don't know.

I can only hope that where duty ends, friendship may begin.....

 

*************************************
Finis