It's an Archie-ful Life
by Sarah B.
Author's note: This fic was written to counteract arguments made by those who are, shall we say, less than enamored of Archie Kennedy's presence in the Hornblower saga. It probably won't change any minds, but hey! It was fun to write anyway.
The Scene: A comfortable living room. On the couch sits a 'Horatio Hornblower'
fan, contentedly munching on a bowl of popcorn and watching 'The Fire Ship'.
FAN: Boy, this is great! A night at home, just me and Horatio! And best of all, I'm watching my favorite episode. The writing is great, Ioan is awesome, and it's the only one of the four movies that doesn't have that annoying little pest Archie in it.
(a few minutes of the movie go by.)
FAN: You know, all of the movies could have been this good if only they'd just gotten rid of that pasty-faced monkey boy. I just don't understand why the writers thought they needed Archie when Horatio does just fine in the books all by himself. I wish they'd never put Archie Kennedy in 'Horatio Hornblower'!
Suddenly, there's a huge FLASH of LIGHT. The fan blinks in astonishment as the dry ice clears to reveal Midshipman Clayton standing in the middle of the room.
(Clayton pauses for a moment): Wow,that's a lot of popcorn you spilled. I hope you've got a Dustbuster.
FAN: JESU -
CLAYTON: Watch it, this is a family fic!
FAN: Holy cow!! What are you doing here?!
CLAYTON: Well, I was hanging around Martyr Central playing euchre with Ben Kenobi and Sydney Carton when I heard you say you wished they'd never put Archie Kennedy in 'Horatio Hornblower'.
FAN: Oh...(becoming defensive) Well, it's true! All he did was screw up and slow Horatio down. The series would have been just fine if they'd never put him in.
CLAYTON: Oh, is THAT what you think? Well, then -
Clayton walks over to the video cabinet and waves his hand. There's another huge flash.
FAN: What was that?
CLAYTON: I just changed your copy of 'Hornblower'. Archie no longer exists. (Clayton pauses and glances at the cabinet) plus I think I accidently wiped out half of your 'Antiques Roadshow' tapes.
FAN: That's okay, they rerun it all the time. So Archie isn't in the movies anymore, huh?
CLAYTON: Not in your version! It's 100% Archie-free.
FAN: (grinning broadly) Cool! He was just a deadweight anyway.
CLAYTON: Boy, you didn't look at who wrote this, did you? You really think that Horatio was better off without Archie around?
FAN: Of course! Horatio was fine in the books. Even in the movies, he was so strong and sexy, and Archie was just such a wuss. The videos are probably a lot better without him around.
CLAYTON: Wanna bet?
Another flash of light. The Fan looks around to see that they're now standing on the deck of the Justinian, where it's raining.
FAN: Hey, we're in the video! Cool.
CLAYTON: Yeah, but watch your step. Wander too close to the edge and you'll fall right off the tape.
FAN: Where will I end up?
CLAYTON: No one knows, but it's rumored you fall into a bottomless pit of infomercials.
Suddenly we hear a voice say:
VOICE: Shore boat ahoy!
FAN: (perking up): Oh, hey, we're at the beginning! (looks toward the voice) Oh, it's Cleveland.
CLAYTON: Natch. Archie's not around, and somebody has to welcome our hero aboard.
A few moments later, HORATIO's head pops up at the railing. CLEVELAND hauls him over without a word. As soon as Horatio is over, Cleveland looks at him sullenly and says:
CLEVELAND: Come on.
Horatio and Cleveland walk away.
FAN: (noticing the lack of joviality that had been present when Archie welcomed Horatio aboard) Say, Cleveland isn't too happy, is he?
CLAYTON: Why should he be? Without Archie to pick on, Simpson had to dole his anger out to everybody else. It's not *much* worse for him, but Cleveland was never a real happy guy to begin with.
FAN: Good point.
There's another FLASH. We see Horatio huddled in a sick bay bunk, beaten black and blue and looking miserable.
FAN: Hey, this scene wasn't in the movies.
CLAYTON: Yeah, you'll be seeing a few of those. There was a lot that happened in 'Hornblower' that wasn't shown. Doesn't mean it wasn't important.
FAN: Such as Horatio lying in the sick bay alone and depressed after Simpson beats him up? Why would any HH fan want to see that?
CLAYTON: Well, you see, in the Archiefied version, Horatio isn't alone. Archie comes to see him and keep his spirits up.
FAN: Oh - well, anybody could have done that. Like you or - or -
CLAYTON: While you're thinking in vain of somebody else on the Justinian that gave a darn about Horatio, I'll point out that I had duties, and couldn't be with Horatio all the time. So he had a lot of hours where there was nobody around. Thought of anybody yet?
FAN: Give me a minute!
CLAYTON: It was like this after they cut Horatio out of the rigging too, but you probably don't want to think about that either. Archie was the only one besides me who cared more about Horatio's well-being than about Simpson's anger.
FAN: Oh, you're just making this up. Even if Archie was there to give Horatio a little support, it wasn't like he really needed it. Once he got on the Indefatigable, everything was fine!
CLAYTON: That's what YOU think.
The fan looks around and sees that they're standing in the cell that Horatio, Archie, and Hunter occupied in 'The Duchess and the Devil'.
FAN: Wow, we skipped a lot of stuff.
CLAYTON (shrugging): Most of it wouldn't surprise you. Horatio fought the duel, made it to the Indy...he was kind of lonely, of course, but he was always a solitary boy, so it wasn't anything new to him.
FAN:(nodding) That's my point! Horatio didn't need a buddy in the movies.
CLAYTON: Not then, perhaps, he didn't. He was happy to see Archie after the Marie Gallante of course, and when Simpson returned it certainly helped that there was someone there who knew what a jerk Simpson really was...
FAN: But Archie being there didn't change anything. Everything would have happened the same whether he was there or not. Horatio's strong, he doesn't need anybody.
CLAYTON: Well...right now...he does.
The cell door swings open and two guards dump Horatio inside. It's clear he's just spent a long time in the oubliette. He falls to the floor and they shut the door behind him. He just lays there.
FAN: (confused) Wait a minute, this is after the oubliette? Where's Hunter?
CLAYTON: (staring at his fingernails) Dumped in a ditch outside the prison walls. He got shot during the escape attempt, and without Archie to tend him while Horatio was in the hole, his wound became infected and he died.
FAN: So he still tried to escape?
CLAYTON: Oh yeah. But without Archie's presence, Horatio couldn't give Hunter a good reason why they should wait to escape. So Hunter tried his escape attempt a lot sooner, and well - let's just say Don Masserado isn't stupid.
FAN: Horatio still took the blame, huh?
CLAYTON: Of course! But this time there isn't anybody to help him when he comes out. I'm afraid it's gonna take him a while to make it over to the cot. And even when his body heals, Hunter's death is going to ride heavy on his shoulders.
FAN: But - but wait a minute! Kitty Cobham is still here, I'm sure after Horatio rescues her she helps him out.
FAN: Doesn't she?!
CLAYTON: Sorry, pal, but I've got some bad news for you there too. Kitty Cobham is on her way to a French prison right now, and the dispatches are on De Vergesse's desk.
FAN: Oh, come on!! How?
CLAYTON: De Vergesse knew Kitty Cobham wasn't really a Duchess, so after that dinner he went to her room and confronted her. Horatio wasn't there, because he didn't know anything was wrong. and went back to his cell right after dinner. So she was alone.
FAN: But Horatio knew she wasn't a Duchess! Archie told - (the FAN'S face falls) oh.
FAN: But - but Kitty still would have seduced De Vergesse.
CLAYTON: Not in this universe. He didn't give her the chance. He just jumped her and took the dispatches, once he found them. He's actually kind of a creep.
FAN: Kind of!! (looks at Horatio, still lying there on the floor) Wow, this really sucks.
CLAYTON: Tell me about it. Without Archie's tending and support, it's gonna be a long climb out of the hole for Horatio. And of course, since Hunter's dead that Spanish captain with the broken leg is toast.
FAN: This is getting really depressing! Can't we just skip ahead to the topmast shot at the end? That's always my favorite part.
CLAYTON: Oh, you want the ending?
We're standing in a grassy field by a large river. The FAN instantly recognizes the blasted bridge from 'The Wrong War'.
FAN: Hey! I wanted the ending!
CLAYTON: This IS the ending. Take a look.
The FAN looks around, and finally spots three haphazard mounds of dirt close to the edge of the river.
FAN: Oh @#$!!
CLAYTON: Yeah, sorry, but I'm afraid this is the end of the line for A&E's golden boy. Without Archie around, Cleveland ended up being in charge of the cannon, but he didn't have a lot of talent for it. He got killed in the sniper attack.
FAN: Geez. Well - well, there was still Edrington.
CLAYTON: Sure, but when the time came, when Horatio appeared on that bridge, Edrington couldn't run across the bridge to save him. The only one who could have done that was someone who didn't care if they got blown to pieces trying to do it. There was enough powder on that bridge to make death fast but very painful, so to outrun it you'd have to block that thought out and run like hell. Nobody could do it.
FAN: (after a long pause) well, I see three graves there. Who's the third one?
CLAYTON: Oh, um...that's Matthews. He tried.
CLAYTON: Yes, it stinks, doesn't it? You see, Fan, you really had an Archie-ful life. Horatio's strong, but even the strongest men need to be helped out sometimes. And Archie isn't the most put-together person on the planet, but when it was needed he could pull enough guts out of his bootstraps to supply the London Symphony Orchestra for life. Edrington knew it; he didn't hand the safekeeping of Horatio's busted heart to just anybody, after all.
FAN: All right, all right!! Criminy!! Can I have my videos back the way they were?
CLAYTON: You mean the pasty-faced monkey boy version?
FAN: (rolling eyes) Yes! Anything but having it end like this.
CLAYTON: Ask nice.
FAN: Okay, okay! I want Horatio to live again! Can I please have my videos back like that?
CLAYTON: You can have them JUST like that!!
Another FLASH, and the fan looks around to see they're on the deck of the Indy. It's sunny and warm, and when the fan looks up Horatio is standing on the topmast with Archie and the rest of the crew, looking happy and free.
FAN: Oh, thank God! Wow, I never realized it before, but it really is better for Horatio, having Archie around! I never thought about it until it was pointed out to me. Thanks, Clayton!
Suddenly there's a loud PING! and when the fan looks at Clayton, the midshipman has two huge white wings.
CLAYTON: (Grinning and giving the fan a 'thumbs up' sign): Anytime, Ace! Thanks for the wings!!
And POOF! Clayton disappears.
The FAN looks upward for a moment, content that everything is right in the HH universe. After a moment, though, the fan mutters:
FAN: Well, okay, this is pretty cool, but I don't care what anybody says - I'm never gonna like Mariette!
Suddenly there's another FLASH!!! and the startled fan looks over to see Montcoutant standing there.
MONTCOUTANT: Whaat's zis I hyar about hyew not laiking Marr-yette?
FAN: Oh !@#$!!!!