It was hot. It was hot, and his head hurt. He moved, just a little, and he felt heavy. He twitched, and that was heavy too. He blinked, and his lashes felt sticky. It was hot. It was too hot. He must take his coat off. He struggled to sit up, and to shade his eyes against the sun at the same time, and he barely could. Wriggling out of the coat took him several long moments, and then he gazed out about him. He was in the boat. He was in the little ship's boat they'd used to go out in the night attack... Horatio and he and the marines and Horatio's division... and he'd had another fit. Oh God, another fit. And Horatio... Horatio'd knocked him down with something. With something hard and heavy, and that was why his head hurt so terribly.
But then why, why was he floating in the little boat in the middle of the sea with no one near him at all? Why was he alone?
He was alone. There was no Jack Simpson on the little boat. There was only him, surrounded by the sky and the water on all sides, in all directions. He swallowed, shaking a bit. It was hot. It was just too hot. He tugged off his waistcoat and neckerchief as well, getting his fingers caught and fumbling, and huddled in the stern of the boat in his shirtsleeves.
He fell asleep, feeling too heavy and too hot to move.
He woke again much later. The sky was dark, but the stars were covered with clouds, and it was raining. The rain dripped down along his nose, and into his shirt, and soaked his hair. He sniffled, and pulled his coat over, wrapping himself in it. It was as wet as anything else he wore, but he was cold now, and it was warm. He was hungry, and the hunger bit at his stomach.
He quivered. The rain tumbled down on his head, and it hurt where Horatio had hit him. Of course, Horatio had to. He quivered again. He might have gotten Horatio killed. It was a good thing that Horatio had hit him. But still it hurt.
"It's cold," he told nothing. His voice was ragged because he hadn't spoken in so long. He cleared his throat half-heartedly and said again, "It's cold. I'm cold."
"So it is," nothing said back. "Disgusting, don't you think?"
He almost was frightened, but he realised that nothing had a nice voice, a kind voice, and he said, "Yes. And I'm hungry, too."
"Catch a fish. You're in the middle of the sea."
"You're mad. It's not half simple. I've nothing to fish with."
Nothing didn't answer, and he squashed himself back in the stern of the boat, pulling the coat closer about him and trying to drink some of the rain.
The sea sang, quietly, rocking him back and forth. It wrapped its arms of cold mist around him in the rain, and it sang. It sang of sea creatures and of golden sands far beneath the waves. It sang ballads of tall ships lost in storms with legends to weight them down, and it sang love songs, one of a rainbow's violet stripe who fell in love with a whitecap. It sang canticles and sonnets and melodies. It sang a few sailors' songs, just to keep in style with what the boy it sang to was, but for the most part it sang its own songs. After all, with forever at its fingertips, the ocean has a lot of time to spend writing verse.
He fell asleep again, letting the rain kiss him, and smiling a little bit because the sea sang so sweetly.
It was day again when he awoke, and it was hot. He cast away the coat, and pulled himself up on his knees, feeling dizzy. He stared out over the ocean and the blue that went on and on and on.
"Cheer up," nothing murmured in his ear. "It can't be as hellish as what I'm going through."
"I shan't ever see Horatio again. I shall die."
"Perish the thought. See if I let you die. What's your name?"
"Archibald Kennedy. Horatio calls me Archie. Everyone does, I suppose."
"I shall call you Archie, then. That's a sweet name. What do you fancy, Archie?"
"Plays." He sank back into the boat, lying down so he couldn't see above the sides.
"Shakespeare, but anything that plays. I love watching them. The actors. Can you imagine how skilled they are? I can't do anything like that. I'm only a m'man."
"Only a midshipman? Gracious, how can you say such a thing?"
"I liked Twelfth Night..."
The next day it rained again. He was so thirsty. He tried cupping his hands and gathering water in them, but it slipped through his fingers. He turned his face up to the sky and drank it instead. He was shivering so much, and the coat wasn't helping at all any more. He lay on his back in the boat at last and drank the rain that way because it was easier. His forehead burned and he kept thinking Horatio was there and disapproved of him in this state. He knew it wasn't true, and Horatio wouldn't be there, but he kept thinking it anyway.
He shook terribly, and the only thing that made him at all happy was that the shaking wasn't from fits. There was no Jack Simpson here. Jack Simpson would never be near him again. There was no way. And at night, the sea sang beautifully to him, and he quoted his favourite plays to return the kindness.
Nothing spoke with him often, joking and laughing as it always did. He thought, though, that it disliked Horatio and disliked when he spoke of Horatio.
On the sixth day, he told nothing, "I'm tired. I'm hungry, I'm cold. It's cold. I think I'm sick."
"Someone should look after you."
"You're looking after me." He smiled. Nothing was.
"I'm just a dream. You're only dreaming me, my dear Mistah Kennedy."
"You're looking after me. But I'm hot now. My head burns. My head hurts. Horatio hit me. I would've gotten him killed if he hadn't. Can you imagine?" He trembled. That would've been awful. It would have been the most horrible thing.
"I can just imagine."
"I hope a ship picks me up soon. The boat's open air. It's rained on me twice."
"No wonder you're ill, sailor boy. A sorry sight."
"'A foolish thought, to say a sorry sight'. See? I remember. But I don't like Macbeth. I like Twelfth Night."
"Back to sleep, Archie," said nothing gently.
He sighed and turned over. He was tired, and that wasn't sleepy. He was tired and he ached all over and his head still hurt and he was still hungry and he wanted someone to fondle him, but that wasn't sleepy. He couldn't sleep.
Why wasn't Horatio here, he thought sadly. Horatio was brave and good and everyone picked him out for things because he was brave and good. Horatio ought to come now and save him. That was the sort of thing Horatio did. Horatio always came at the right moment. Horatio saved him from Jack when Jack came to the Indy. Horatio should be here now.
His hands shook, but he held himself because no one else would.
On the seventh day, he heard voices. They weren't the voices of the ocean or of nothing. They were accented and strange and smooth. The voices captured his little boat and pulled him out of it, leaving behind his coat and the singing sea. He couldn't stand. They held him up and carried him to a room. It was cool, but it wasn't cold, and he heard creaking all about him. They put him in a bed. It was beautiful. It was soft. There were blankets.
One voice had cold hands to go with it, and touched his forehead and murmured things he didn't really understand. The voice gave him things to eat; not much, and not good, but he could eat, and that was almost as nice as the bed.
When he woke up again, his head didn't burn any longer, and he could see things right, and he wasn't too hot or too cold, and he had soft blankets wrapped around him. He felt so good.
The men were Spanish and they took him to a Spanish prison. They locked him away from England and from the Indy, and Horatio didn't come for him. He looked at the walls and the bars, and wished he'd never left his little boat and nothing and the singing sea. He tried to run away, and they caught him and put him back. He tried to run away over and over again, and at last they put him in a hole in the earth. He stayed there for too long, shaking worse than ever, and when they let him out at last, he hated Horatio. Horatio never came for him, to take him away, and he had believed Horatio would so much.
The dust on the prison floor never even began to sing. The dust on the prison floor just laughed.
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