Aubrey's Encounter
A super short Aubrey-Hornblower crossover
by Lady Atropos

Mahon again. Jack let his gaze wander over the fine Chinese paper on the
walls, over the mahogany English-made sideboard furnished with cold
sweetmeats and fruits, over the dark stained high backed red velvet padded
chairs, until his eyes fell upon a singular fellow hovering by the back of
the drawing room. Lord Keith certainly knew how to throw a cocktail, as Jack
could distinguish from the great variety of the party gathered there; he had
no doubt that his own presence was only due to Queeny's good wishes, for all
the rest of company was blue blood or very nearly close to it. Lords and
Ladies, knights of long honored orders and Admirals of the Red, carting with
them their prized (and generously provided for) midshipmen and lieutenants.
The only other member who seemed to share in Jack's poverty was that dark
haired young man back there, and he didn't seem the sociable type at all. So,
logically, Jack sidled up to him.

"I heard old Admiral Pellew brought you along. I've heard many things about
that manquite the warrior, and apparently proving quite the sire!" Perhaps
Jack had misjudged the effect of his opening-the nervous young fellow
(nervous because he wouldn't stop twisting his long, pale fingers behind his
back) blushed like a lady and stammered like a child.

"I am sure, sir, that he has indeed a repu-a reputation, Now, if you will
excuse me, sir, I mustha-h'm, I must report" Jack gave a hearty chuckle at
what he supposed was a glimmer of humor, and slapped the skinny lad amiably
on the back-the boy didn't seem to appreciate the gesture; in fact, he almost
landed with his long nose buried in the thick Oriental carpet because of it.
Recovering, and shaking his tousled head several times, he opened his mouth
speechless for a moment, and then expostulated suddenly:

"What is the meaning of your conduct, respectfully, sir?"

Jack may have had a little more than his fair share of liquor that
evening, but he still had enough sense to tell it was neither the time nor
the place for an inferior to quarrel with a superior, and he wasted no time
in telling the young middie straight into his dark eyes. "This is neither the
time nor the place, young fellow, for an inferior to quarrel with a
superior," finished off with a profound hiccup.

The tall skinny gentleman didn't take to this statement in the same
lively manner that Jack had almost hoped without knowing he would. "Aye, aye,
sir" was his only response, very nearly sounding grateful at that, and then
Horatio Hornblower faded into the crush.