Summary: Sometimes it's delayed, but it won't be denied
Warnings: Rated PG. m/m
The violin's phrasing during the allegro was slurred in places. The cello tried to make up in boldness what it lacked in finesse. The pause before the ultimate crescendo was rather too long, melodramatic, gaudy even, but Stephen leaned forward in his chair anyway, drawing in a breath, holding it, while the players pressed on to messy, passionate finality. The last note rang in the air for what felt like an age, and then the audience broke the spell with its appreciation, and Stephen sank back against his seat. He'd heard finer performances certainly; music was not chief among the pleasures of Portsmouth. But the conviction in each note, however imperfect, left an ache in his chest that a more flawless execution could not have.
Afterwards, he walked back to the lodging house, collar turned up against the evening wind blowing in off the water. In his breast pocket was the letter, carefully folded, tenderly preserved.
My dearest heart,
The voyage continues smoothly. The Arabella rides the waves just as pretty as you please, and the winds have been with us this fortnight. I expect to see the shores of England before another month has passed. My only complaint is one you may easily guess. The decks seem strangely empty, my bunk sadly cold, and they have since we set sail all those months ago. My joy can never be complete without you, my dear Stephen. I count the moments until I have you by my side again
Jack had written that in July; the Arabella was now more than two months overdue.
At Stephen's lodgings, the landlady met him at the door.
"Will you be wanting your supper, Dr. Maturin?" she asked, her gaze sliding away from his.
"Just a bottle of port, if you please, Mrs. Hardy."
"Very good, sir."
She hurried off to the kitchen, relieved to be done with him. These days, everyone shied away from his company. Even Tom Pullings had not been able to look him in the face when he'd come down from London to talk sense into him, "You must give this up, Doctor. Go home. The Royal Navy has declared the ship missing, presumed lost "
Stephen mounted the stairs to his rooms, his tread heavy and tired. He shed his coat and hat carelessly, making Mrs. Hardy frown when she came in with the decanter.
"Will that be all, sir?"
He nodded, and when she was gone, poured himself a glass and raised it. "My dearest Jack, joy may be delayed, but it will not be denied us. And I will be here waiting when you come."