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Sea Change

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That night, the sea was utter calm. It spread about them like a dark and clouded glass, reflecting nothing. The Laconia's sails hung slack as sheeting on the furnishings of an empty house. The very air felt heavy in the lungs, and Harville stifled when he tried to sleep, and sought the deck under the weighted crescent of the moon. Those men not on watch stayed below, and those on deck did not speak. Harville's gaze found Captain Wentworth where he stood alone, face lifted to some point beyond the horizon line.

When he turned, his eyes had caught the shine of the moonlight on the sea and seemed to glisten with that strange ocean-light.

"We'll have a good chase tomorrow."

By rights, the chase should have retained pride of place in Harville's memory, for it was fierce and profitable. But in thinking of it, he remembered the night before, the strangeness of his friend.

***

Time passed. Fortune followed the Laconia, and Harville was granted his own command.

Then a French ball struck the deck, breaking the rail beside him and sending the wood in broken shafts full through his leg. He was pulled from the deck near insensible, and given into the hands of Maclean, the ship's doctor, who spoke reassurance but with furrowed brows. As the poppy took effect, and Harville was pulled down into feverish dreams, the last horrifying words he heard were Maclean's.

"—have to take the leg."

What followed was agony, confusion, pain so deep he could feel nothing else, until the shifting of his bunk and the swell of the sea were one with the sweeping waves of agony.

Frederick stood beside him at the rail. The sun was high, the wind good, the horizon clear before them. The shine from the water made Harville to shield his eyes. Frederick brought forth a flask, drank from it, and passed it into Harville's hand. The taste was salt. Yet, by the reasoning of a dream, he drank deeply, and felt it refresh him in every sinew. Frederick's look was approving.

"Good man, Harry. Hold on."

The bright horizon faded, and Harville passed into a quieter dream.

When finally he woke, his limbs were still his own.

***

That year of injury, of being lamed, of Fanny's illness and her death, of Susan and Benwick's and his own grief feeding upon each other... It was a time Harville strove to put behind him.

Lyme was a good place, and it was a joy to be in Fredericks' company again, to have masculine conversation not of sorrow or poetry. Yet Harville could see that whatever in Frederick was alive to the sea was restless on land. There was something fey and reckless in his eyes, familiar and smiling though they were. A clutch in his embrace that spoke of a man too long alone, too long on watch against the world.

Harville worried for him. Wished him happy. When disaster struck, and Harville watched his once-captain give over command to Miss Anne, all he could think was 'Oh.'

While Susan and Mrs Musgrove tended Louisa, and Benwick hovered above stairs, Harville watched Frederick stare into the flames of the kitchen fire. The wind on the Cobb had blown straight from the sea, and Harville suspected that she had decided Louisa Musgrove did not suit her chosen.

A log snapped, sparked. Harville remembered Anne Elliot's face, turned to the ocean, head uplifted. With all the faith of a sailor, Harville knew the wind was telling Frederick to change his course.

***

The burn in Harville's leg was familiar now, a consequence of standing long without support. But there was triumph in that pain, and Harville was proud. Stand up with him, Frederick asked, and stand up Harville would, as Frederick's Anne came to meet him. He looked to his own wife in the pews and smiled wide at the happiness he saw reflected there.

He turned back, facing Anne. There was a sea-light in her eyes, strange and bright, that returned Harville to the deck of the Laconia, under that becalmed moon, and he watched it shine brighter still as Frederick slid the ring onto her hand.