By Mellaithwen

Rating: T

Genre: Angst

Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me andthis is writtenwith the utmost respect.

Summary: AU. Horatio is taken prisoner by thieves who attack the Indy, and time is running out for our hero. Rating for language and strong themes.

A/N; This is my first Horatio Hornblower fic, though I have loved the programme for a very long time I apologize if there's any inconsistencies in the plot, as I'm sure there are, but this idea came into my head after seeing an episode on television and it wouldn't leave me alone unless I wrote it down quickly.

Archie is alive in this, obviously, and I've forgotten quite a few things as far as the odd episode is concernde so apologies for that as well.

This is a stand alone story and an AU ending. No slash or extra pairings e.t.c.

It had been days. Horrible, pain filled days. After reaching land Horatio had been taken far into the islands centre, away from preying eyes his captors had said. They had kept him under lock and key, refusing to feed him, and only letting him have tiny sips of water after hours of torture.

They had not planned to take prisoners, nor had they wanted to, but it had been so long since they had done so, they were angry at failing to take The I

Horatio rocked back and forth, wishing the pain would go away. Grimacing at the smell of burnt flesh and blood all around him. Muttering the words that had kept him sane, kept him from dying in this wretched place. "They will come."

He wanted to die, and a part of him knew he wasn't far from doing so. They had hurt him, scarred him so deep that no other could see. They had destroyed him again and again. They had touched him. They had bled him. Pushing and pulling him like a rag doll. They had hung him from chains so much that his wrists bled freely and would not stop. They had kept him chained against the wall like an animal. They had beat him. They had defiled him.

He closed his eyes reluctantly as a wave of nausea swept through him. He hadn't eaten in days and his body was no more than skin and bones. His clothes were torn, his shirt and overcoat completely worthless, and taken from him. As he took a deep breath he found that it took his energy from him and could do nothing to stop his fatigue from winning.

Hoots of laughter filled the air as the men continued to drink their ale happily, it wouldn't be long until they were home and they had successfully finished their assignment of ensuring the safe passage of rich Italian family that were hoping to leave their country without being seen.

The only problem, that the family had failed to mention, was that their son had been with a high judge's daughter and there seemed to be a price on his head.

For weeks they had been followed by angry villagers, carrying weapons, who had assumed the crew were part of this conspiracy to defile the Judge's power through his naïve daughter.

Though the ships guns could easily blow the small boats out of the water Captain Pellew would not risk that many casualties and the prospect of more attackers in search of vengeance. Instead the crew had to keep on guard, only shooting when needs be, but it had taken a lot out of them.

The villagers themselves had come up with a plan, that instead of trying to kill the members of the crew, they would follow the ship and fire shots continuously into the air in the middle of the night ensuring they received no sleep.

And soon they would arrive at Portsmouth, their home, and the drop off for the "cargo". It was two nights ago when the shots had finally ceased and no more boats followed them across the treacherous waters.

The men continued to drink the alcohol given out and danced around the deck like idiots. The night was cool, and only a small breeze blew through the air.

Lieutenant Horatio Hornblower stood above watching the festivities. He was too keep watch, and he didn't mind. He seemed more subdued. The longer he stayed at sea, the more his manner seemed to mature. He was happy that they were nearing port but at the same time there was a part of him that loved being at sea. Despite all of this he chuckled and smiled to himself at the scene below. He couldn't help smile at the grand feeling in the pit of his stomach. Something he hadn't felt for some time.

"What are you so happy about, Mr. Hornblower?" Captain Pellew asked the young man as he stood next to him. Horatio turned and smiled a grin wider than any other.

"For a moment Sir, it felt like I was home."

"And why is that Mr. Hornblower?"

"Forgive me if this seems odd, but it felt like I was whole again, Sir."

He gulped back the lump in his throat. He would do anything to be home again, to feel that feeling once more. To not be half naked and dying.

Captain Pellew was looking up at the stars, he, like many of the crew could not sleep, but he was the only one who had ventured out onto the deck. He closed his eyes and hung his head, memories of the past days events haunting him.

"Sir there's a ship approaching!" One of the mid-shipmen had told him. "They're getting ready to attack!"

No sooner had he heard this news that the ship rocked suddenly as it was hit hard.

Thieves began boarding the ship. The crew members fought them off, cutting loose the ropes that they had used to get on, fighting every thief that came close.

"Mr. Hornblower ready the guns!"

The battle was fairly straightforward. Pistols blazed and swords were unsheathed, but the thieves were no match for the crew of the Indy. Once the remaining pillagers had gone back to their ships, the order was given, and the guns were loaded. There were great explosions in the night sky as one by one the cannons fired at the enemy ship. Cries of "Reload!" filled the air until all that was left was a burning ship. It's cinders flying high above the wreckage.

A single boat carrying no more than three remaining thieves was slowly rowing away from both their own burning ship and the Indefatigable with nothing but themselves and a large bundle in their midst.

"Stop!" Captain Pellew cried out suddenly "Stop firing!"

Every head turned to look at their Captain.

"Sir?" Mr. Kennedy asked aloud, surprised at the order. "Look!" The Captain hissed and pointed his gun toward the small boat escaping the burning ship.

The bundle as it was, had been revealed to them. A young man stood facing them. His face showing no distress. His hands were bound in front of him and a gag was tied around his mouth. The young man's hair was grabbed suddenly and his head yanked backwards leaving his neck exposed. The thief holding him up took out a knife and put it against the bare neck. He sneered evilly and grinned as the pistols aboard the ship lowered.

"Don't follow!" The thief sneered "Or I'll 'ave your man 'ere's guts for garters!" A crude voice shouted to them, followed by his fellow thieves laughter, and they could do nothing but obey. They didn't move a muscle as the boat continued to row away from the Indy. Captain Pellew clenched his fists. The enemy had taken Horatio Hornblower as their prisoner.

They were on the trail. In a few hours, just before day break they were moving onto land. Scouts had been sent and they had reported back with the co-ordinates. They had found him, now all they had to was rescue him.

Time and time again they would get drunk and summon him. He would be dragged outside of his tiny cell and thrown to the ground over and over again. They would kick him and punch him. Drunkards taking pleasure in fighting something too weak to fight back.

He had tried once, fighting back. He had paid dearly. From then on he did nothing. He flinched but no more. He had not the strength to do anything else. His eyes had lost their spark. There was no defiance in them. No confidence. He was broken and his captors relished in the fact.

He would curl into a ball in an attempt to block the blows but it would do nothing. "They will come," he muttered his mantra "They will come."

"Shut up scum." One had said to him after hearing his whispers "If they were gonna come for ya, don't ya think they would'a by now?" He laughed and they would laugh with him. Laugh at the expense of their broken prisoner. Broken in body, spirit and soul.

That was two days ago, and since then any more punishment had taken place in his cell. Too small for him to fight back in, to hide.

When a fight between his three captors had broken out, the remaining two survivors had taken their anger and grief out on him, as if it had been his fault that they had killed their third companion.

They had been angry, so much more than ever before. The few words they spoke in between hits made Horatio realize the fight had been about him. The dead man had wanted to kill him there and then, and had tried. The other two had protested strongly, and in turn had killed him. They had taken one long at Horatio's pitiful state and wondered if it was at all worth it.

They had only wanted some money, some jewels, whatever may have been on board. And all they got was a punch bag. A punch bag who had caused the death of a friend. A punch bag whose very existence was worthless. They could never hold him for ransom, he was too close to death and Her Majesty's Navy would never risk that much for a pitiful officer such as the one they had.

At least taking their anger out on the bleeding bastard had stopped them from killing each other. Their minds were fuzzy and as they continued to beat their prisoner they no longer knew if they were even hitting him. The drink was getting to them and they barely managed to drag themselves outside back to the warm fire.

They were too drunk to keep watch, and there was no need. Who would find them out here anyway?

After he was sure they had gone for the night, Horatio dragged himself to the corner. He was on fire. All he knew was pain and was more than happy when the darkness came from the corners of his eyes and beckoned him near.

Time was muddled. He had no concept of it anymore. He hardly noticed if the sun rose or set. All he knew was the pain. But he was awake. He had been asleep but now he was awake. Why? Then he remembered as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. And it was.

A sound had alerted him and he opened his eyes. He had heard gunshots. Two of them. Had the thieves killed themselves? Was he free?

He scoffed at the notion. If they were both dead, he was in trouble, even more so than he had been. He was shackled in chains, attacked to a firm solid wall. Not to mention the fact that his tiny cell was padlocked from the outside, and he had long since given up on the notion of being saved by his crew members.

His captors had taken that away from him too.

The sight in front of him was something he had wished for so many times he had lost count. The Captain of the Indefatigable held a lamp in his hand, he had his back to him and was searching for something outside of his cell.

He couldn't believe it. Was he being rescued? Now of all times, when he was so close to death? But what if it was just a mirage? Just a way of his body tormenting him before he died. He had to make sure, he gathered all of his strength to call out quietly, anything to alert them to his presence.

"S-Sir?" A weak voice from behind Pellew called. The Captain span around and gasped at the sight. Through the iron bars and the dim light he could see Horatio. In the far corner of the cell there lay the figure of a great man, now shivering, hugging his bare chest against the cold. His clothes were gone save for his trousers, the parts that were no ripped or torn.

Captain Pellew took out his pistol and shot at the lock. The door of the small cell swung open and the Captain was by his fallen comrade's side in an instant.

"Get the Doctor now!" He cried to the crew members who had followed him, "Hurry!" Though a part of him knew speed mattered not. Horatio sat in a pool of his own blood, chained, and his pale skin showed that he had lost a lot more than could be seen. His entire body hid scars that Horatio would never allow to be seen.

He put a hand against the man's forehead. He was burning with fever. His skin was hot to the touch but the man's teeth chattered as if he were frozen.

The Captain took off his over coat and threw it around the young man's shoulders. Horatio cried out as the material touched his raw skin, that still stung from his most recent punishment. "Mr Hornblower?" Pellew called him.

Horatio did not reply but looked straight into his Captains eyes.

"Brace yourself." Was all the Captain said as he positioned the manacle as far away from Horatio's skin as he could. He stood up, readied his pistol and shot once, twice. With a clang the chains fell to the ground and Horatio felt sudden relief. He didn't want to die like that, he didn't want to die at all but he knew it was inevitable.

"Mr Hornblower?" Pellew called in a softer tone. Once again Horatio did not reply, but continued to hold the man's gaze for as long as he could. His body was giving in and he knew it. He opened his mouth to speak but his throat was too dry. He didn't have the strength.

"Horatio!" A voice cried suddenly as Archie ran in to the cell and crouched down beside the Captain and Hornblower. Pellew watched as Mr. Kennedy took the battered man in his arms and rocked him gently. Horatio could only smile as he saw his best friend and felt his warm embrace around him. This was what he had been waiting for. A chance to see his greatest ally one last time.

As Archie grabbed hold of his hand and held it in his own. Captain Pellew could see the young man's eyes glazing as he continued to stare at Mr. Kennedy who kept whispering reassurances to Mr. Hornblower.

Horatio didn't care about the pain anymore, or the cold that had swept across his entire body. They had come for him. They had not abandoned him like his tormentors had told him. He couldn't be that worthless if they had come for him. He smiled. He didn't cough as the blood gathered in his throat and stopped him breathing. He didn't cry out as the pain became unbearable. He merely clutched Archie's hand and smiled.

"What are you so happy about, Mr. Hornblower?" Captain Pellew asked the young man as he stood next to him. Horatio turned and smiled a grin wider than any other.

"For a moment Sir, it felt like I was home."

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