By Sue N.

RATING: PG (There's nothing explicit, but there are STRONG hints about
Simpson's abuse of Archie)
DISCLAIMER: These are not my characters. I did not create them, I do
not own them, and do not intend to make any profit from stories
involving them

NOTE: This is the tale of how Horatio finally tells Kennedy that Jack
Simpson is dead. For whatever reason, the writers of the movies elected
NOT to tell us how this went, so I have corrected their oversight. But
we must all get serious, for we are in a dark and painful time. Our
sweet Archie's despair has grown to the point he can no longer stand
it, and he has tried to starve himself to death. Why? What cruel burden
weighs him down, what dark shadow preys upon his mind? What is it that
he cannot face, that makes death preferable to life? We shall see...

Our setting: the makeshift hospital room where Horatio has brought
Archie. A storm rages outside, while, inside, Horatio continues his
struggle to force Archie to live. He sits on the bed, at Archie's side,
having uttered the words,
"You can't let us down. You must get strong!" At long last, clearly
still struggling with himself, Archie relents and drinks from the cup
his friend is holding at his mouth. Yet even as he does, it is clear
that peace has not been restored, that the healing is far from done.

Let us go now to that room...

Horatio set the cup aside and bowed his head, rubbing his eyes tiredly,
feeling the weariness seeping into every part of him. This small
battle, at least, had been won -- Archie had permitted himself a long
drink -- but a much larger fight was still to be waged. Pushing the
weariness away, he raised his head and turned back to Kennedy, trying
to reconcile the frail, forlorn figure on the bed with the young man he
remembered from their days together -- God, so long ago! -- aboard
Justinian and Indefatigable.

What had happened? The Archie Kennedy of those days had been a lively,
vivacious lad, with wit and warmth and humour, his blue eyes alight,
his mouth ever ready to break into a broad, bright smile. How his face
had shone when they had stepped aboard the Indy for the first time!
"Out of Purgatory and into Paradise!" he had laughed, his excitement
obvious and contagious. And with the shadow of Simpson's presence
lifted from him, he had seemed to grow daily in confidence and
self-assurance, blossoming into an officer of true promise. He had
also, to the delight of those around him, proved himself a boon
companion. Revealing a true talent for mimicry, he had kept them all
endlessly entertained in the midshipmen's mess with his hilariously
spot-on impersonations of the gruff Captain Pellew and the
stiffly-formal Lieutenant Eccleston. Even the fits had stopped...

He leaned closer and searched Archie's pale face intently, desperately
seeking some remaining trace of that remembered spirit, but finding
instead utter desolation. The closed eyes were sunken and ringed by
circles dark as bruises, and his face was drawn and lined with sickness
and suffering. His flesh was the colour of cold ashes. As his eyes
slowly opened, Horatio saw that they were dull, their former light not
only dimmed, but extinguished entirely. And heaven knew when last his
long, lank hair had been combed.

"My God, Archie," he breathed sadly, hardly aware he did so, "what
happened? What have you done to yourself?"

Kennedy fixed his dull gaze upon Hornblower's face and tried to focus
on it, his mind, grown sluggish from starvation and exhaustion, only
slowly understanding the question. Sunk in a deep lethargy, drowning in
weariness, it was all he could do to frame an answer.

"I made-- one last try to escape," he murmured at last, his voice as
tired and lifeless as his soul.

Hornblower frowned and leaned closer still, not at all certain he had
heard right. "Escape? From what? Archie, I don't understand."

"No," Archie sighed, turning his face away, "I don't expect you would."

Kennedy's subtle emphasis on "you" only deepened Hornblower's
confusion. "Archie, please, no riddles," he entreated softly, clasping
his hands tightly together and trying to hold his anxiety in check.
Kennedy appeared so frightfully fragile just now, as if at the wrong
word, any violent gesture, he might shatter into a thousand pieces.
"What were you trying to escape?"

Archie gave a soft, almost soundless sigh, his eyes closing, his face a
grey mask of torment. "Horatio-- "

"Tell me, Archie!" Hornblower insisted firmly, determined to fight this
battle to the end. He had abandoned his friend once, had left him alone
and helplessly adrift. He would not do so again. "I am not leaving this
room until you tell me," he declared, his face set. "I must know why
you would do this to yourself. I must -- I will! -- know why you are
determined to die!"

Kennedy groaned softly and tried to turn further away, his misery the
only part of him that lived. He was so tired, too tired to fight. And
he had already lost the battle by allowing himself that drink. He knew
he could not possibly resist Hornblower's strong will now.

"Why?" he asked softly, bitterly, hating himself for his weakness, for
yet another failure. "Why should it matter to you? Why can't you simply
let me die?"

Stunned by the question, Hornblower sat up straight, blinking and
frowning in deepest bewilderment. "Archie, you-- We are friends! I
can't just sit here-- "

"You cannot save me!" Kennedy cried in despair. Forcing his eyes open,
he turned them once more upon Horatio, their blue depths flooded by
unspeakable anguish. "There is nothing left to save, Horatio! Why can
you not understand that?"

Hornblower suddenly grew angry. "Because it is not true!" he answered
hotly. Impatiently he shot to his feet and began pacing about the small
room in agitation, infuriated by Kennedy's stubborn refusal to accept
help. "How can
death be better than life, Archie?" he asked harshly. "What can be so
terrible that you would rather die than face it?"

Kennedy's eyes were bottomless pools of agony, his expression that of a
man staring into the blackest heart of hell. "You know as well as I,"
he whispered in torment, seeing another's face where Horatio's should
have been and drowning in the horror of it. "You should not even have
to ask."

Kennedy's face, his voice, answered Hornblower's question as no words
could. Understanding hit him with a sudden force, driving the air from
his lungs and draining the strength from his legs, leaving him stunned
and weak. With shaking knees and thudding heart he made his way back to
the bed and sank onto it at his friend's side.

"Simpson," he murmured, his eyes wide and dark in his suddenly pale

"You always were quick," Kennedy rasped bitterly, again turning his
face away.

To his horror -- and his shame -- Hornblower realized he had not yet
told Archie of Simpson's death, had failed to lift from his friend the
one burden it lay in his power to remove. He cursed himself silently,
bitterly, wondering how he
could have been so stupid, so thoughtless. But in his preoccupation
with the Duchess, with thoughts of escape, with anxiety at what Hunter
might do, Simpson had never once crossed his mind. Though the man had
clearly never left Kennedy's...

"My God," he groaned, appalled by his own thoughtlessness. "Archie--"

"You will never know," Kennedy said in a soft, strained voice, too lost
in his own torment to have heard Hornblower, "how relieved I was that
he hated you as he did. I thought -- I hoped -- that hatred would cause
him to forget about me--" He uttered a small, stricken cry and turned
abruptly onto his side, away from Hornblower, and closed his eyes
tightly against the sudden rush of excruciating memories. "But he did
not!" he whispered harshly.

Horatio bowed his head and covered his eyes with a hand, wishing that
ragged voice would stop. He had always suspected what unspeakable
torments Archie had endured at Jack Simpson's vile hands, but he had no
desire to hear it spoken aloud, to have such foul thoughts confirmed.
It had always remained unspoken aboard Justinian, and he now knew why.

But Archie did not stop. He no longer had the strength to hold such
pain inside. "Before you came, I was his favourite victim." God, how
the memory of it burned in his mind and soul! "I suppose I offered him
the greatest entertainment. Clayton learned to lose himself in drink,
while the others simply went along with whatever he wanted. But he
never wanted from them-- what he did from me," he whispered brokenly.

"Archie," Hornblower said gently, wanting to reach out to his friend
but not daring to, knowing a touch at this moment would do far more
harm than good. "Archie, please, do not do this to yourself! He cannot
hurt you any more--"

"Oh, God, how I prayed that he would die, that I would die, anything to
end it!" he whispered, curling tightly against himself beneath the
bedcovers as the soul-searing shame engulfed him. As it had on so many
nights before, it all came vividly back to him now, the terror and
helplessness at a sudden, savage grip, the desperate but futile
fighting, the awful pain of a vicious beating and far, far worse, and,
afterward, the sick horror and self-loathing. But, though
tortured cruelly, he could not cry; his tears had long ago run dry.
"And when the fits started again," he rasped, "it only seemed to amuse
him more."

Horatio buried his face in his hands, silently cursing himself for
having started this. Yet some instinct warned him that he could not
stop it now, that such a wound, once opened, must be allowed to drain
of its poison, lest it fester even further. Archie's soul had to be
purged, or he would surely die.

And Kennedy, who had been so reluctant to talk, was now unable to halt
the flow of his words. The carefully constructed dam had been
shattered, and now nothing could stem the bitter tide.

"I've had them all my life," he said softly, tiredly. "The fits, I
mean. No one knows why. My father must have consulted every doctor in
England, but no one could explain it. In the end, I believe he simply
wanted someone to assure him it wasn't his fault, that the stalwart and
honourable Lord Andrew Kennedy had not disgraced his family by
producing a son who had fits."

Hornblower winced and bit his lip at the detached tone of Kennedy's
voice. He might have been speaking of a complete stranger, rather than

"It must have been difficult, growing up like that--" He broke off
suddenly, horrified by his own words, knowing how they must have
sounded. Exhaling sharply, frustrated by his own clumsiness, he raised
his head and started to apologize, but was startled to see that Archie
had turned once more onto his back and was now staring at him. God, he
looked exhausted! The circles under his eyes were darker than ever, his
face so pale that the fine blue veins beneath his skin were clearly
visible. His blue eyes were dull and empty of expression, the tiredness
in them unbearable. "We can continue this later. You should rest--"

"You started this," Kennedy said in a flat, lifeless voice. "You cannot
leave it half done. You cannot drag a man's soul out into the open and
then walk away simply because the mess is unpleasant to behold. You
asked me why I wanted to die. The very least you could do is allow me
to answer."

Kennedy sighed and let his gaze drift away, his mind beginning to
wander. "You have no idea," he murmured, "what it is like to have such
an affliction. I know when a fit is coming. There are-- signs-- But I
can do nothing to stop it. And the way people look at me, once they
know-- " He closed his eyes, but was confronted by Hunter's withering,
contemptuous stare, and had to open them again. "Even those who do not
scorn me look upon me differently, always watching, waiting for it to
happen-- " He stared up at the ceiling and swallowed hard against
painful memories. "Clayton and the others pitied me, while Jack-- " His
voice faltered, and he had to force himself to go on. "Once Jack--
found out about the fits, he-- he did everything he could to make me
have one. He delighted in tormenting me-- Oh, God, how I hated him!"

Horatio wanted to speak, to offer comfort or consolation, but knew he
had none to give. And he realized he, too, had been guilty of regarding
Archie differently once he had learned of the fits.

"I want no more of it," Kennedy said softly. "There are-- too many Jack
Simpsons in the world, too many of your Mr. Hunters, and I can no
longer bear them. I will not subject myself to that again. The pain
is-- unbearable."

"It will be different once we are back on the Indy-- "

"I will not go back to your precious Indy!" Archie cried harshly. "My
God, why can you not understand that? Simply because you have found a
bright and perfect world there does not mean it will be so for me! I
will not leave here only to exist in your shadow, Horatio! I will not
exchange one prison for another!"

The words struck Hornblower with a painful force, confusing him,
accusing him. His mouth opened, but no words would come. His mind could
form no answer.

At Horatio's stunned expression, Kennedy felt an immediate twinge of
guilt. "I'm sorry," he breathed, raising a white and shaking hand to
his head and closing his eyes, wishing he could think more clearly. "I
do not know why-- I say these things-- " He let his hand fall to the
bed and opened his eyes, frowning and shaking his head slowly. "None of
this is your fault-- "

"But it is," Hornblower interrupted quietly. "You are here because of
me." He stared down at his clasped hands, remembering that night almost
three years ago when Simpson's malevolence had again ensnared them. "If
I hadn't left you alone in that boat-- "

"What choice did you have?" Kennedy asked wearily, his eyes bleak. "You
had to take the Papillon. You had no time to play nursemaid to me-- "

"I should have done something, made some provision-- "

"For what?" Kennedy asked bitterly. "For a midshipman who cannot even
be trusted to complete a simple cutting-out? I had a fit, Horatio!" he
cried harshly, despising himself and his affliction. "On a mission, in
front of the men, I had a fit! And look where it has landed me!" He
turned his face away and stared in anguish at the far wall, consumed in
shame and self-loathing. "I do not expect you to understand!" he
whispered miserably, painfully aware of his countless deficiencies, and
of Hornblower's innumerable virtues. "You are-- the perfect officer,
you excel at all you do- "

"Oh? Then why am I here, in prison?" Hornblower asked sharply,
impatiently. "This does not look at all like excellence to me!"

Kennedy grimaced and rolled his eyes. "But I have no doubt that you
will manage to turn it into yet another triumph, as you do with every

"Not every one," he said quietly, sadly. "When you had that fit, I hit
you to silence you. I could have killed you!" He winced and shook his
head slowly, even now regretting his actions, certain he should have
found another solution. "It was my fault you were in that boat,
unconscious, helpless, when Simpson cut it loose-- "

Too late he saw the fresh horror flooding Kennedy's being, saw the blue
eyes grow impossibly wide and a violent tremor shake him, and knew he
had committed an unpardonable error. But the words could not be
recalled, or amended. The terrible damage was done.

"Simpson?" Archie gasped in a harsh, choked whisper, his soul -- or
what remained of it -- going cold and dark. The familiar, leering face
suddenly appeared before him, blue eyes hard and cold, thin mouth
curving into a cruel smile, hard hands reaching for him. He cried out
and tried to escape, but could not, tried to fight, but had no
strength. He heard the voice now, low and menacing, speaking words that
sent a black chill through him. Eyes, hands and voice ensnared him,
held him fast, and all about him floated the menacing words, "Jack's
missed you, boy!"

"Archie?" Fear knifed through Hornblower as his friend suddenly
appeared to go mad. Kennedy cried out hoarsely and sat up abruptly,
huddling as close to the wall as he could manage, shaking violently,
his eyes wide and wild in his white face. Horatio feared he was going
into another fit and reached for him, only to have his hand knocked
savagely away. "Archie!"

"No!" Kennedy shouted in a ragged voice, lost in his deepening terror.
"Do not touch me! Do not-- Please, no more! Oh, God, go away!"

"Archie, it's me, Horatio," Hornblower said quietly, gently, moving
slowly closer, careful to make no sudden gestures. Kennedy cried out
again and drew his knees tightly against his chest, wrapping his arms
about them and averting his face. "Archie, look at me. Look at me!"
Horatio commanded, only barely able to conceal his shock at what his
laughing, high-spirited friend had become. "Please, Archie, look at
me!" Slowly, slowly, Kennedy's eyes met his and, after long, painful
moments, a gleam of recognition dawned in them. "Aye, Archie, that's
it. Look at me. See? You know me. It's Horatio. You know I will not
harm you."

The calm and gentle voice touched soothingly against his battered mind,
his raw nerves and fell like a balm upon his soul. Beneath the spell of
that voice, his madness, at last, began to subside, and with it his
frantic terror. He stared at Hornblower for endless moments, his reason
only slowly breaking through the black mists that shrouded his mind.
"H-- Horatio?" he whispered faintly, hesitantly.

Hornblower smiled with relief and willed himself to relax, feigning a
calm he did not truly feel. Never had he seen anyone appear more
appallingly fragile, more thoroughly broken than Kennedy did just now.
He hated Simpson for reducing Archie to this wreckage, and grimly
prayed the man was in hell where he belonged.

"Horatio, I-- Oh, God, he did this to me! He put me here!" Kennedy said
in a low, wrenching groan of anguish. He bowed his head and thrust
shaking hands through his long, unkempt hair, as if trying to hold his
burning mind together. "He knew-- he had to know-- I would be taken or
killed-- After everything else he has done to me-- Three years!" he
cried in a ragged voice, raising his head and fixing his anguished gaze
upon Horatio. "Three years I've spent in hell, locked in reeking cells
and shunted from one prison to another, kept in a hole for a month, and
all because of him! He put me here-- And you!" he shouted in a sudden
rage, his blue eyes glittering in his ashen face. "You want me to go
back? To him? To more of his abuse?"

"Archie-- "

"No! No, damn you!" he cried hysterically, the black terror rising
again. "I will die before going back to that-- "

"Archie, listen to me!" Abandoning all caution, all gentleness,
Hornblower lunged forward and grabbed Kennedy's arms, holding him
ruthlessly despite his wild struggles. "Listen to me!" Archie swore and
struck out at him, but Horatio only tightened his grip, his long
fingers digging mercilessly into Archie's flesh, his own gaze boring
into blue eyes that were twin pools of madness. Kennedy fought him
desperately, cursing and struggling to break free. Certain his friend
would do himself harm if let go, Hornblower gripped him all the harder,
determined to see this through. "Listen to me!" he shouted, shaking
Kennedy violently. "He cannot hurt you! He is dead! Damn it, Archie, do
you hear me? Jack Simpson is dead!"

All the strength, the fight, went out of him at that, leaving him dazed
and more confused than ever. Weak and trembling and breathing heavily,
he now required Hornblower's grip upon him to keep from slumping
forward. "Dead?" he whispered in bewilderment, his numbed mind slow to
comprehend. "But-- " He winced and pressed a hand to one temple as his
head began to ache fiercely. "No, he-- he cannot be." Jack Simpson had
returned to torment him too many times for him to believe he would ever
be free. "You are wrong," he rasped dejectedly, his blue eyes bleak.
"You are mistaken-- "

"No, I am not," Hornblower assured him firmly. "I-- Archie?"

Kennedy groaned softly and slumped heavily against Horatio, unable any
longer to sit up. He was more tired than he had ever been in his life,
and his head ached miserably. He had no strength left and was trembling
uncontrollably. He simply wanted an end to it all.

Hornblower sighed and laid him carefully back against the bed, frowning
worriedly. "You cannot give up now, Archie!" he pleaded urgently,
leaning close above his friend and willing him to keep fighting. "You
are free! Jack Simpson is dead, I swear it. I saw him fall and die with
my own eyes."

Slowly, slowly, Kennedy's eyes fluttered open and sought Hornblower's,
and he frowned in sick confusion as his exhausted mind grappled with
understanding. The headache was pounding furiously, and his entire body
seemed made of lead. Still, he wanted -- needed -- to be certain that
Horatio spoke the truth. "How?"

Hornblower clasped his long-fingered hands together and forced himself
to speak quietly, evenly, hoping his calm would spread to Kennedy. "It
was another duel. After-- after he set you adrift, he tried to kill
me." He winced and flinched at the painful memory. "I was on Papillon,
on the yardarm, trying to loose the mainsail, when I saw him aiming up
at me. He fired, and I fell-- The ball grazed me deeply, here," he
pointed to his head, just above his left temple, where the scar showed
plainly, "and I fell into the river. If Finch -- do you remember Finch?
-- had not dived in and pulled me up, I would have died."

Kennedy struggled to follow Hornblower's words, to hold his eyes open,
to keep himself from sinking into the dark tide rising about him. He
would not let himself rest until he was convinced of Simpson's death.

Horatio reached out and gently pushed the matted hair back from
Archie's face. As he watched his friend relaxing, he intentionally
pitched his voice low, hoping to lull him to sleep. "When I charged
Simpson before Captain Pellew with trying to kill me, he denied
everything, called me a liar and a coward and challenged me to a duel.
The captain removed the restriction he had laid upon me, and gave me
leave to accept. We faced each other on one of the small, deserted
islands off the coast."

A faint smile curved about Kennedy's wan mouth. "And so you killed
him," he breathed, his slurred words barely audible.

"No, I didn't," Hornblower confessed, his honesty overcoming his common
sense. "I had the chance, but didn't take it. He fired before it was
time and wounded me, but when my turn came, I could not kill him. He
was such a pitiful sight, on his knees in the sand, begging for his
life, showing himself for the coward he truly was. It seemed a waste of
effort to shoot him, so I fired my pistol into the air."

The words roused Kennedy from his lethargy and awakened fresh panic
within him. He groaned harshly and clutched weakly at Horatio's arm,
desperately confused. "But you said-- You told me-- You swore he is

"He is, Archie, he is!" Hornblower said quickly, holding his hands to
Kennedy's shoulders to quiet his struggles. "But I didn't kill him.
Captain Pellew did. I swear to you, Jack Simpson is dead! When I turned
my back on him, he rushed me and tried to kill me. He would have, if
Captain Pellew had not shot him." He could see Archie trying to
understand, trying to believe, and tenderly stroked his shoulder,
hoping to ease him. "He is dead, Archie," he said quietly, calmly. "I
watched him die, I watched them weight and sew his body in sailcloth,
and I watched him fall into the sea. He is dead, and will never torment
you again. You are free."

"Free," Kennedy whispered faintly, his eyes closing. He could not yet
comprehend the word, could not remember life without the dark shadow of
Jack Simpson haunting him. For the moment, though, that shadow was far
away, and, at least for now, he could rest.

Hornblower watched Archie slipping into sleep, spoke softly, soothingly
to him and stroked his hair, relieved to hear his ragged breath slowing
and to feel the remaining tension draining from his body. He remained
at Archie's side even after deep sleep had claimed him, fearful any
movement might shatter such a desperately needed rest.

When at last he cast a quick glance at the window, he saw the darkness
was waning, and realized with a surge of relief that, though he would
not have thought it possible, Kennedy had made it through the night.
Only then did he allow himself to relax, and to rise carefully from the bed and move to
his chair.

Archie was alive, and more nearly at peace than Hornblower had ever
seen him. For now, it was enough.


Free Web Hosting