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Played In Tune
by shalott

The members of the gunroom had gone, Killick had cleared away the remnants. Jack sat at the stern windows with his port and watched the Surprise's wake, white froth gleaming as far as the light from the ship's lanterns could reach. Dinner had been excellent: his favorite soused hog's face, all his guests in high good cheer after the success of the gunnery, that final bottle of port Killick had kept hidden somewhere going around at the end. No coffee left, but otherwise a splendid meal, and a lovely clear night with a following wind to speed them on their way.

It was simply unreasonable. Birds and beetles were all very well, but what possible sense of the world could rank them above capturing the Acheron, a twenty-thousand-pound prize at the least, and as deadly as she would be to their merchantmen in the Pacific? By God, what he wouldn't give to have her in his sights again. "Damn him anyway," he muttered; Stephen could sulk as long as he liked.

He tossed down the rest of his glass and opened the fiddle case. The violin needed a bit of tuning, he hadn't touched it in more than a week. He ran through a flourish; it reminded him of something; he swung into the piece and realized too late it was one of their usual duets, the Bach cello suite Stephen had adapted for violin and cello. By then he was five measures in, and the piece would certainly have been recognizable from the next cabin over. He kept on for a space, but it sounded sadly thin without the cello singing along in its deep voice; it gave him no pleasure, and he wound it up abruptly and let the fiddle down.

Perhaps he'd spoken intemperately, but Stephen hadn't been short of hot words. That had been a pretty thing, to accuse him of breaking his word. He sent a resentful glance at the cabin door. He'd be damned if he would apologize. This time Stephen was in the wrong, wholly so. If he liked to step forward and apologize, Jack would accept it graciously, for the sake of their friendship, but there would certainly be a coolness between them for some time. For his own part, he had no intention of saying a word; not a word.

He lifted the violin again but had not yet put bow to string when the Bach came back to him like an answer: on the other side of the bulkhead, the cello ran through the opening measures and trailed off just as he had done, falling silent. He stood a moment, bow poised, smiling without knowing it, and then he began to play again from the beginning. The cello joined in on the second measure, and they flew through the whole prelude, violin exultantly rising up above the serene glide of the cello, until they closed together on the last ringing note.

He set the violin down and raised his hand to tap on Stephen's door just as it opened. They both drew breath, both waited for the other to speak, and then somehow there was nothing that needed to be said: they were already smiling at each other.

Jack finally spoke because something had to break the silence, joyful as it was. "Shall we try the Corelli?"

"With all my heart," Stephen said, and brought the cello in.

= End =

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