A week after leaving port, Stephen always sits Jack down and examines him for signs of pox.

He never asks about the probability of Jack being poxed. Jack never ventures an opinion, or tells Stephen that his assumption hurts, even though they both know it's a good assumption.

Stephen never chides Jack, not then. He speaks professionally; they interact professionally. Jack dislikes this, dislikes the way they seem breached from each other. Not uncommon is the thought that Stephen is punishing him.

But Jack cannot ask Stephen to change his behavior, when he cannot change his own.



"Why are they called the colours?" Stephen asked one night, when they had put their instruments away, and were sitting on the locker, sipping the last of the wine.

"What?" asked Jack.

"The colours. It's an odd name for them. After all, blue, red, and white are the colours for British, French, and American ships alike, and yet their colours are supposedly different. Why not the patterns? Or the flag?"

"Stephen, it's what they've always been called! I'm certain there was a reason back when term was first invented it was 'colours.'"

"You always are certain of that, my dear."

Alternate Timeline

"What news, brother?" Jack asked on Stephen's return. Their latest stay in port had swamped him with paperwork; Stephen did not think he knew even the biggest piece of news.

"The colonists have revolted again. They have formed another Continental Congress which has officially declared war."

Jack didn't look surprised, but he said, "I thought they'd never do it. It's been twenty years since we crushed the first revolt."

"Well, England has treated them worse and worse since they lost." And though he did not say it out loud, Stephen also thought, No people can be kept in servitude forever.



I cannot bear that one. He is so arrogant.

He brags about how he is bigger then me, how his voice is deeper. I don't give a fig for his deeper voice. Higher is better, I say. And bigger than me he may be, but mine is bigger than his. And he knows very well mine plays better on me than his does on him, even if mine doesn't often show it out of some strange idiocy.

If I were mine, I would waste no time helping me put that one in his place. Truly, I serve mine so faithfully. Why is mine so ungrateful?