A.N. - This is my first "Patriot" fan fiction, so please don't flame me! I tried to make things as accurate to the time period as possible, and I tried very hard to stay in character! Thank you!
Chapter 1 - The Letters
"Gabriel, take these," Benjamin Martin said to his son, shoving several letters into the young man's hands.
Gabriel looked down at the letters, and then looked back up towards his father in shock. They were the personal correspondence of Colonel Tavington himself. A quick glance at them told him that they were from England, most likely from family.
"Father…" He paused, unsure of how to say what was on his mind, but then forged on ahead. "Am I to open these?"
His father looked down at him, pausing in rifling through the bag in front of him, a firm look in his eyes.
With that, he turned his back on his son and began to inventory what he found in the bag, while Gabe looked down at the letters in his hands with some trepidation. He was not comfortable with what he'd been asked to do…but he would do it anyway.
He slipped his fingers underneath an as of yet unbroken seal, and began to read
3 August, 1779
I wish I could bring you better news, but I'm afraid I must be the bearer of grim tidings. Your wife, Elaine, has taken ill and we are afraid that she will not last through the year. She is asking for you nearly every waking moment, which I am afraid to say, is becoming less and less frequent. The doctor cannot do anything more than to try and lessen the pain that she is in. However, I do not feel that it is enough.
She cries out in the night in pain, your name on her lips. I have tried to console her, as well as her sister and brother, but she will not be comforted. She longs to have you near her, and I am afraid that she will only hold on for you. Should you die in this endeavor, I fear she will quickly follow, unwilling to live in a world where you are not there. Your younger brother, Erik, fears for her and does not know what to do. He constantly speaks of your guiding words in times of trial, and how he wishes you were here to guide him. I, too, miss your guidance at times, as well as your good humour, but I know that you must fight for your country.
Please come home as soon as you can. Elaine needs you here, as do we, but my thoughts are for her well-being, and her well-being alone.
Fight the good fight, show compassion where you can. They are still our brothers, William. They are just merely trying to find another place in this world, though they may be misguided in their efforts. Remember…they are still men, and no man is perfect.
All my love,
Gabriel slowly folded the letter back up, trying to process the emotions that ran through him at reading such words. It was times like these that he remembered that even though the Colonel was a brutal man, he was still a man, nonetheless.
A sudden pang gripped him as he realized that the letter hadn't been opened until he'd broken the wax seal. Tavington didn't know about his wife's illness.
Ignoring the feeling, he placed the letter to the side and opened one that had obviously already been read. As he read this one, he felt something inside of him change, and his eyes opened in shock at the words on the page.
15 February, 1777
My dearest William,
How I long to see you again, my darling husband. Your mother is staying here at our home, keeping to her promise of watching over me while you are gone, but I am afraid that her presence merely reminds me every day of the fact that you are gone. I long to be next to you, but at the same time I know that you are where you need to be.
Have you heard any news of my cousin, Charlotte Selton? I had heard that she had settled in Charlestown, South Carolina. She is very dear to me, and I do so regret that her family left. I had heard that her now deceased sister, Elizabeth, was married to a man named Benjamin Martin and that they had several children. If you meet Charlotte, or Elizabeth's children, please spare them. They have never hated the crown, nor would they turn against their beliefs.
My heart aches for you, and I count every single day as it passes by. Though there is an ocean between us, my dear William, you are still here in my heart, and there you will remain. I pray for you every night and morning, and I hope you come home safely.
All my heart,
Gabriel was grateful that he was sitting down at that particular moment. They were related to Colonel Tavington? This was almost too much to comprehend. He glanced over to where his father was now sorting through some journals, and remained silent.
No, his father did not need to know. No one needed to know.
He began to reach for another letter, one that was also open, but looked to be unfinished, but then his father called his name.
"Gabriel…look through these ones, alright? I need to go check on some of the men."
With that, his father left him with several leather bound journals, all of them Colonel Tavington's. He briefly wondered whether or not it was truly ethical to be doing what the two of them were doing, but he realized that if they wanted to win the war, they needed any information that they could get their hands on.
He looked at the three journals and decided to read a couple more letters before going through them.
He pulled out the unfinished letter…and then put it to the side and instead pulled out a letter with different handwriting than the other two and began to read.
10 May, 1777
My dearest love,
Please forgive me. I feel…so ashamed for what I have done. Regrettably, yes, I have met Benjamin Martin. And I have done something horrible. The war is damaging my soul, my beloved, and I don't know what I can do to stop it from happening any further. How I wish you were here beside me at this moment, so that I could take comfort in your warmth and steady strength. But at the same time, I want you nowhere near this hell that I have been forced to bear.
At times, I want to run from here and return home to your side, but my duty binds me to this place. However, it is one that every man is called upon to do in their life, and it is a burden that I must bear willingly if I want to see you again.
I do not want to speak of the war and the atrocities that I have witnessed and been a part of. I do not want to see you stained by what haunts my every waking moment and torments me every night in my dreams.
Elaine, I love you. I love and I pray for you as well, every morning and every night. I pray that you remain safe while I am gone, and that you will find peace in knowing that I am serving our country in the only way that I can. All the treasure in the world could never amount to what I'd give to be back with you.
At this, Gabriel found himself rather uncomfortable; realizing that the man was so similar to him in the fact that he had someone he loved that he prayed would be untouched by the war's stain was not something that he'd been expecting. They were both torn apart from their wives, and they both wanted nothing more than to protect them.
It was strange, but at the same time he felt like an idiot for forgetting that every single man fighting this war was still a man, and was merely trying to do what they believed to be right.
The journals seemed to be calling to him, and so he picked them up and thumbed through the pages, trying to decide where to start.
However, something caught his eye, something he was sure that the Colonel would only have done for his own eyes alone and no one else's. Gabriel felt almost ashamed, but at the same time was unable to tear his eyes away from it.
It was a beautifully done pencil drawing of a young woman's face. Her eyes seemed to be smiling at the person who'd drawn her and there was almost a humorous glint in them. The turn of her lips was only slightly upwards, as though she were trying not to smile at something humorous being said at her expense. He couldn't help but admire the beautiful lines and subtle shadowing that accentuated the slight curve of her neck, and then he realized. The Colonel had drawn this.
He was tempted to snap the book shut and throw it to the ground, but instead he gently opened it the rest of the way and flipped to the last entries, which were about halfway through the book. Obviously, this particular journal was his most recent.
Feeling guilty, he began to read one of the last few entries...
"I fear what I am becoming. I cannot believe what I have done by my own hand, the blood that I have shed. Taking a life was once a dreadful concept to even conceive, let alone to act upon, and now I do it without sparing a single thought; without feeling it in my soul.
What am I? What would Elaine say if she knew what I have done? I shan't dare tell her; she would never truly understand. I am afraid that she would hear the words, but be unable to process their true meaning. I am afraid that I am forgetting how to feel. I see my blade cut through countless bodies, I see myself shoot down numberless men and women, and I feel…nothing. I know I should feel at least some measure of guilt, for, I know in my heart, they are still human. They are still my brothers and sisters.
And yet, I feel nothing. I truly am losing myself…"
He flipped to the last entry, suddenly finding himself insatiably curious as to what Tavington had written.
"I feel that that I have lost myself completely. As soon as I draw on the clothes of my rank, I am suddenly someone that I hate. A man that I despise and wish did not exist, but at the same time I know that I must become this person in order to bring us to victory.
But now I find myself questioning even this war. If they want to be separated from the crown, they should be allowed to, should they not? I can barely believe that I am writing down these words, damning and treasonous ones that they are, but all I can see now is this ridiculous feud that seems to have no point.
I have found out rather recently from General Cornwallis what the people have taken to calling me. The Butcher. Dear lord, is this person I've become…no, the word person is not strong enough. Is this demon I've become now all that is left of me? How can I return home to my family knowing the pain and suffering that I've caused? How can I turn a blind eye to the horrific acts I have perpetuated and the events that I've forced to occur?
Not too long ago, I gave one of my officers an order to burn a church filled with men, women, and children, after making sure that they could not escape, and the words he spoke to me will haunt me for the rest of my waking days.
"There is no honor in this," is what he said to me.
And he was right. There was no honor in what I had ordered him to do, and I look upon that man as being twice the man I am. Captain Wilkins, the man who turned traitor to his own "countrymen", has more honor than I ever will or could ever hope to have. When I told General Cornwallis that I would take the full mantle of responsibility, rendering him blameless, it was for his sake. He did not need to bear the burden of my sins.
Knowing that I cannot return to England, that I cannot return to my wife…I feel nothing but shame. I have no honor, I have no conscience. Not anymore. I do not know how to live with myself. If I die in this war, it will only be fitting.
I feel, that this will be my last and final missive, and I can only hope and pray that when someone reads this, they will know of my failings…and that I regret every single action I ever took upon the people of this American land. May my soul burn in hell for what I have done…"
Gabriel slowly closed the journal, barely believing what he had just read. He glanced around himself, making sure that no one was paying any attention, and he slid the few letters that he'd read into the pages of the journal.
They needed to be returned.
He would have to wait until it was late enough that everyone was asleep, so he would be able to sneak away undetected.
As night fell across the encampment, he patiently waited for the right time. He glanced towards where his father usually slept, saw that he was fast asleep, and he knew that now was the time to leave. He placed the journals into his bag and headed for an old hunting path that led right to where Tavington was camped.
As he slipped through the darkness between the trees, his mind kept remembering the letter that he'd opened.
How would Tavington react knowing that he could not go home to his wife who was now desperately ill?
Gabriel shook the thought from his head and kept on moving, knowing that he had to make good time to the Colonel's camp in order for him to be back to his own encampment before morning. He planned to merely leave the journals outside one of the closest tents and then bolt. He would not accidentally lead one of their enemies back to where they were safely hidden in the Black Swamp at the remains of the old Spanish church.
It took him a little over two hours on foot, but he made it. As he approached the encampment, he was able to distinguish the Colonel's tent easily from the rest…and it also happened to be the one that was closest to the edge of the encampment, near where the trees met the field.
He stepped carefully, making sure not to make a sound that would betray his position.
As he did so, he silently prayed that the Colonel was asleep or otherwise occupied, so that he might not be discovered.
He gently placed the canvas bag on the ground next to the opening and began to slowly back away, when, suddenly, he felt a knife between his shoulder blades and an arm around his throat holding yet another knife. A low voice issued from the person holding him captive, and he immediately recognized it as the Colonel's.
"Give me one good reason not to kill you, and I might let you live."
He pressed the blade at his throat slightly into his skin, and Gabriel quickly spoke up.
"I'm only returning your journals and letters! I swear it on my mother's grave!"
At that, he felt the knife at his throat leave, but the one at his back started to dig slightly into his skin, making him wince at the sharp and unwanted pain. He could tell from the pointed prodding that Tavington wanted him to move forward, so he did so without any protest.
He watched as the Colonel, dressed only in breeches and a white, open, blood-stained shirt, reached down and moved the material of the bag enough to inspect what was inside of it. Then something strange happened.
Tavington's eyes dropped, as did his hand holding the knife to Gabriel's back, and he fell to his knees as he pulled out the letter that had obviously been opened by someone other than himself. Gabriel watched with some trepidation as the man, with no concern for his safety, stumbled into his tent and lit a candle with shaky hands and read the missive. He seemed oblivious to the young man who still stood just outside his tent, the young man who now had the advantage over his enemy…but he did not take it.
He watched as Tavington read the letter, the slit of the tent now wide open after the Colonel had thrust the material to the side and up over the top pole.
Then he saw something that he'd never seen before.
Silent tears were running down the Colonel's face, and Gabriel was at a loss. Should he leave, and risk being followed? Or should he stay?
Something in his mind was screaming at him to leave, to run, to get out of that place as fast as he could! He was behind enemy lines and he had the chance to escape with his life, and that was not a chance that he should pass up! But something in his gut was telling him to stay for a few moments longer…and he listened to it.
Tavington's eyes met his…and there was no anger in them. Nor malice. Nor anything that might be portrayed as any form of animosity.
Instead, there was something else. Something indefinable.
"Thank…thank you," were the first words out of the man's mouth, and Gabriel could barely believe what he was hearing.
He then watched in shock as the man approached him, his hands devoid of any weapons of any kind, his eyes beseeching.
"I will not follow you, and I will not try to find you. You have given me…more than I can adequately express in words. Please, go now before I change my mind…or before someone else sees you and I am forced to kill you."
With that, Gabriel bolted from his spot and quickly made his way back to his encampment, shaving off fifteen minutes from his previous journey, the adrenaline coursing through his veins pushing him further than he ever thought was possible. He could practically hear the blood rushing through him, and as he slipped back into camp, he took a moment to compose himself.
Tavington had let him go.