AU: Bush, and not Horatio, finds himself in the Spanish prison with Kennedy.
The candle, burning low, hardly flickered; the night was windless, the air heavy. Bush, his head resting against the high back of his chair, slept uneasily. He would sooner have been back in the cell than in this room that Masaredo had allowed them for the moment, circumstances being what they were. A sound made him start awake; a hoarse, sleep-muffled cry. He sat up straight at almost precisely the same moment that Kennedy woke, eyes snapping open, fear giving him the strength to sit almost upright. Bush, leaning forward, put a steady hand on his shoulder and helped him, panicked and disoriented as he was, to lie back.
“It’s all right, Mr Kennedy,” he said in a low voice, “It’s all right.”
The younger man looked at him fixedly, his breath emerging in shallow bursts. He appeared to try to say something; could not make the words come.
Bush repressed a sigh. A jug sat on the rickety table to his right, and he poured water from it into a dented metal cup. He leant forward again, but Kennedy pushed the cup aside weakly, turning his head away from Bush.
“Mr Kennedy,” said Bush again, a hard edge in his voice, “Stop this. You are going to drink, and you are going to eat. You do not want to die. We will get out of here.”
“No you won’t,” came the mumbled reply, “I’ll slow you down. You should have just let -”
“Would I be here if I did not think your life was worth anything?” Bush was impatient; the impatience all but masked his concern, “Would I take the trouble if I thought you would only impede our escape? I am not a soft-hearted man. And you -”
“It’s my own doing, that I’m here,” said Kennedy bleakly. There was no trace in him of the spirited young midshipman whom Bush had known aboard theIndefatigable. “If I hadn’t…I almost got you all killed. Simpson was right -”
Bush interjected again. “Simpson,” he said tightly, “Was nothing more than a common coward. Whatever he said, it was unjust and untrue.”
“No it wasn’t,” Bush had to strain to hear the words, “I don’t remember any of the rest of you being such easy targets.”
Standing, Bush paced in long strides to the door and then back again. “The rest of us,” he rapped out, “Were not subjected to the same – things that you were. You are not weak.”
There followed a long silence, thick and cloying as the humid air.
“I wish you were right,” said Kennedy.
“Look at me,” Bush ordered him, and then again, his voice grim; resolute; unbending, “Look at me. This will end soon. We’ll escape, and when we do, you will be with us. Do you know how I know this? Because you are not a selfish man, and you will not leave another with the guilt of being unable to help you. You will not do that.”
Kennedy looked at him now. There was a familiar, faint spark of indignation in his expression. “You presume -”
“Ah,” said Bush dryly, “There you are. I quite wondered where you had gone.” At this, Kennedy gave him a look that was half amusement, half irritation, entirely his. Bush knew he had almost won. “I do not expect this to be easy,” he said, sobering, “But you must try. You must.”
After Bush had helped him to drink, Kennedy fell into a restless sleep, but no more old nightmares woke him. Bush stayed awake and thought. He himself had never been so completely without hope, and he wondered; faced with a situation wherein there seemed to be nowhere to go but down; feeling useless; feeling like a burden, how would he, himself, fare? Perhaps all men had it in them to want to die, and they only needed a push in the wrong direction.