"Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the Titanic, the first unsinkable ship!" Polite applause filled the large room where complimentary refreshments were set up. "My name is Captain Edward Smith, and I will be guiding you to America on this voyage. Please enjoy the refreshments with musical accompaniment. We will be off momentarily." The man in the white uniform disappeared with his co-captain, leaving the well-dressed passengers to float towards the food.
The few who were paying attention to the front of the room saw a door open behind the stage and five people file onto it. Each wore a dark suit and a bow tie, provided by the Titanic.
The one carrying the violin moved to the side of the stage, ruffling his auburn hair with his other hand. He was slim and slight, and looked younger than he probably was. He seemed to be the kind of person who would smile easily, though right now, his lips were set in a hard line.
The tallest one sat at one of the pianos, adjusting his jacket as he did. He had longer-than-average dark hair and dark eyes. One look into those eyes showed a whirlwind of emotion, anger and resentment being the strongest. But compassion showed through as well.
On the other side of the stage, the violist lifted his instrument, inspecting the strings with one green eye closed. His black hair fell into his face and he brushed it away impatiently. His expression was one of compassion and he had laugh wrinkles around his eyes.
The cellist sat on the stool provided for him, resting his instrument on the floor and plucking the strings. His blonde hair hid his handsome face and the irritation in his blue eyes.
The final musician sat at the second piano, brushing his long fingers over the keys gently. He blew his light brown bangs from his forehead, his hazel eyes gleaming with excitement.
The low sound of the cello began the soft mood music of the room. Both pianos joined in, followed by the high tones of the violin, and finally the viola. The five instruments blended together as the talent of each musician overcame their differences.
Abigail Pierce sat rigidly upright at her table beside her parents, a small plate of fruit on her lap, which she ignored. Her gaze wandered around the room, taking in the luxury and wealth surrounding her, although she was no stranger to the finer things in life. Her family was one of the wealthiest in London, and she had been sheltered all her life from anything outside. To most who met her, they found her as they would expect: a close-minded individual who knew nothing but what she saw in her own home. Though rather pretty, she'd refused the advances of all the smitten men around her, claiming no interest in getting married, even at the age of 23.
Now though, as she looked disinterestedly around her, she felt the eyes of someone on her. Her own eyes narrowed as she searched for the offending gazer.
Her eyes met those of the cellist, up on the stage. Her mouth fell open in a very unladylike way. The nerve of him! And to make things worse, he suddenly, inexplicably, grinned at her.
Deciding not to dignify the impertinent musician with attention for a single second longer, she looked away, nose in the air. Fortunately, her parents missed the exchange.
On stage, James' grin grew wider. He hadn't really meant to offend the young lady; he'd just seen her in the crowd and wanted to see what would happen. He'd seen her type before, the arrogant, more-wealth-than-they-know-what-to-do-with girls who wouldn't know something amusing if it danced in front of them wearing a tea-cozy. His mother was one of those.
He hadn't expected her to actually look back at him. Her reaction was exactly as he would have expected from a girl of her class. The grin turned into a grimace. Nothing but wealth gave these people the right to act superior. And sometimes, not even that.
He played on, still keeping in time with the others, who hadn't noticed anything.
The morning wore on, the room steadily growing emptier as people decided to unpack in their various compartments, until there were only a few stragglers left. They began winding down; first Matthew and Key slowed and stopped, then Jimmy, then James, until only Thomas was left, playing the haunting conclusion.
The room was silent now, and the musicians lowered their instruments, feeling a sense of satisfaction at their first performance of sorts.
The people left in the room glanced up at the sudden silence, then down again, disregarding it, going back to their various conversations.
The five of them began packing up, ready to relax before lunch.
"Are you coming, Mr. Wilson?" Thomas called over his shoulder.
"I'll be there soon." Key called back, not turning around, looking to the entrance of the room.
Thomas shrugged and followed Matthew through their little door.
Key gathered his music slowly, lingering for as long as possible. He was the last one in the room, and it felt wrong, like this room was meant to be filled with people; and if there was going to be only one person in it, it wasn't going to be him.
He wasn't alone for long. Key glanced to the doorway and his face broke into a beaming smile. He stepped down from the stage and met Annabel at the foot of the stairs. She jumped into his arms as if they hadn't seen each other for days.
"You were wonderful." She murmured in his ear.
"Thank you. Were you listening at the door?"
"I'll never reveal my secrets." Annabel said playfully and smirked.
The two sat on the last stair, Annabel leaning her head on Key's shoulder.
"Key?" She asked after a minute.
"What's your name?"
Key smiled. "I'm sorry Annabel. You know I'm not going to tell you." This was ongoing. Annabel figured if she caught Key at unawares, he'd tell her his name eventually.
Annabel sighed. "Will you ever tell me?"
Key laughed. "Maybe when we die." He said easily. Annabel slapped him lightly.
"Don't speak like that."
The two sat together in a companionable silence for a while, enjoying each other's company.
"Excuse me!" They started in surprise as a worker wearing an impeccable black and white suit and an apron came in. "What are you doing here? We must set up for lunch! Please leave now."
Key and Annabel looked at each other and stood. They embraced and separated, Annabel to her tiny cabin at the bottom of the boat, and Key to the small room he shared behind the stage.
He opened the door and walked into the small hallway. He immediately heard the sounds of yelling coming from Thomas and James' room, the door of which was open. He peeked in, unable to restrain his curiosity, and blinked in disbelief.
Thomas was in the process of removing James' clothing from his bureau, where apparently James had put them. He was yelling at James to the effect that he had better not start expecting things unless he wants to sleep in the hall. James just stood at the side, arms crossed, with something that looked remarkably like a smirk on his face.
Key shook his head. James seemed to consider it his life's duty to rile up everyone he came in contact with. Thomas suddenly looked at the door and Key ducked his head around the corner.
Thomas' eyes narrowed at the flash of Key's face in the doorway. Deciding to ignore that for the moment. He turned back to the bureau, which was now empty of James' belongings. He turned back to James, who still stood with that self-satisfied smile on his face.
Thomas gritted his teeth and closed the remaining drawer of his bureau firmly. He glanced at his watch and figured he had about three hours until they had to be in the dining room for lunch. He decided to get away from James for a while and explore a little.
He walked out into the dining room, skirting the waiters who were setting up the tables and ignoring the reproving looks.
He went up the stairs and back into the carpeted hallway there were richly dressed people walking around, exploring as he was. He touched his hat at the ladies he passed and inclined his head at the gentlemen.
He reached the end of the corridor and entered a large room that could only be what the captain had called the lounge. He was a large room with couches and chairs, and even a fireplace with a merry, crackling fire. In the very back of the room was a white piano set up inconspicuously where he presumed they would be playing at some point. He saw ladies and gentlemen chatting quietly among the couches. He could feel a breeze tickling his face, meaning the lounge was near the deck outside.
Thomas suddenly felt someone watching him and he turned to his left. His face drained of color at the person he saw, who gave him a cold smile and got to his feet.
Thomas couldn't make his feet obey him as the man came closer.
"Good morning, Mr. Brown." The man said smoothly, not seeming to notice Thomas' tension. "Fancy seeing you on this boat."
Thomas didn't miss the connotations of that sentence. He forced himself to answer. "G-good morning." He stammered, hating how shrill his voice got. "How nice to see you here." He forced a smile, which the man returned.
"I expect we'll be seeing much of each other then, in the next few weeks." The man said, eyebrows raised.
"I-I'm sure there are too many passengers on this boat to truly see each other often." Thomas invented. "Excuse me, please." He walked away as quickly as possible, still feeling the man's steely eyes on him. Once Thomas was out of sight of the lounge, he broke into a quick jog, not slowing until he reached the small door behind the stage after colliding into several waiters. He shot through the door, breathing hard, sweat beading on his temples.
Why here? Why on a boat where he couldn't avoid him? He went to his room, ignoring James' pointed remark that he should be getting ready, and sat on his bed.
He reached for his violin, which had had placed on the night table beside his bed. He didn't play it, he just held it in his lap, staring at it.
He didn't know what he would do without his precious violin. He'd gotten it six years ago, at age fourteen, after his mother had refused to buy him one. He'd had to borrow quite a bit of money, but it had been worth it. He knew his acquaintance in the lounge would be only too happy to remove the violin from his possession if he didn't get what he wanted.
Thomas watched James moving around the room, putting his things away, finally seeming to have ended his sport of goading Thomas. He seemed happy enough, unworried about his cello being taken from him. And he bet James was just as protective of his cello as Thomas was of his violin.
"Would you please stop staring at me? It's unnerving."
Thomas blinked and dropped his gaze to the instrument on his lap. He stayed like that until Jimmy knocked on their door and poked his head in.
"Time for lunch." His head disappeared, clearly unwilling to spend more time than necessary in their room.
James and Thomas gathered their things without looking at each other or talking. James seemed to have realized that Thomas really wasn't in the mood. They walked into the hall, meeting the other three by the door.
"Are you okay, Mr. Brown?" Matthew asked over his shoulder at Thomas as they walked into the almost empty dining room. Thomas shrugged and took his place. Matthew sat at the piano and began the new song.
The five had 352 songs at their disposal in their heads, to be able to play any request anyone might have. Judging from the smiles around them, they were able to tell which songs were enjoyed.
But though they were ready for any request, the one they got after the dining room filled was extremely unexpected.
Matthew was absorbed in his music when he felt a tugging on his arm. Concentration broken, he blinked and turned to the small boy standing next to him.
He motioned for the others to keep playing and bend down to face-level with the boy, looking into his earnest eyes.
"Excuse me, Mister," The boy began. Matthew nodded him on. "Do you know Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?"
Matthew smiled gently. "Of course I do." He straightened up and signaled to the others, who paused, curious. The silence lasted only a second as Matthew began the opening lines of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Key picked it up, followed by Jimmy, Thomas, and finally James.
The five of them went through the variations of the children's song, rewarded by the beaming smile on the little boys face.
When they finished, the boys mother came running up, apologizing for her sons intrusion.
"That's quite all right, Ma'am." Matthew said politely as they began the next song.
She nodded and tugged on her sons arm to bring him back to his table. The boy slipped out of his mothers grasp and ran forward into the arms of a large, well-dressed man who lifted him into the air. Matthew couldn't tear his eyes away. He couldn't hear what was being said, but he felt a pang of sadness that he would never do that with his son.
As they played, Matthew's gaze wandered around the room, flicking back to his fingers at the necessary times to be sure as to make no mistakes.
He glanced into a nearby corner and did a double take. There was another small boy sitting cross-legged on the floor, staring avidly at Matthews fingers as they played. He didn't seem to have an adult nearby, though there had to be one, as he was extremely well-dressed.
The boy didn't move throughout the meal, only seeming to pay attention to the musicians on the stage.
At the end of the meal, four of the musicians were finished and more than ready to eat their own humble meal. They slowed and stopped, putting away their instruments.
The fifth didn't move away as the others. He beckoned to the little boy, who hadn't moved, closer to the stage. He came forward shyly, eyes on the ground.
Matthew got to his feet and bent down once again to the little boys level.
"What is your name?" He asked.
"And how old are you, Daniel?" Daniel held out five fingers. "Well, you're quite a bit boy, aren't you?" Daniel smiled. "And you know what? I think you're even big enough to try playing the piano with me. What do you say?"
Daniel's face broke into a huge grin. Taking that as an answer, Matthew lifted him up and sat down again, placing the boy in his lap.
Matthew took Daniel's hand and put it on the keys. "Do you see this key?" Daniel nodded. "Press it." He did, softly so the sound was quiet. "That is called the middle C." Daniel's eyes were already wide with fascination. "Now press the key above that one. That is called a D." He did. "The one above that is called an E. You see?" The boy nodded seriously. "Now press, C,D,E…"
The mock lesson continued for almost twenty minutes, in which Daniel learned the note names and how to play Mary Had a Little Lamb using the first three notes he'd played.
Matthew took note of the fact that the boy seemed to have some talent and felt he could teach him more. Daniel slid off his lap and was about to scamper away when Matthew called after him,
"Come back tomorrow, okay? If you want to keep learning."
"Thank you Mister!" Daniel called back, then scurried out of the dining room.
Matthew looked after him, feeling a sense of calm for the first time in a long while.