I woke the next morning later than usual and it was hard to rise from the bed. It seemed that the air had grown suddenly chill over the night and I found myself shivering as I prepared myself for the upcoming day. I was not at all sure that I wished to go above decks, for there was something comforting about this cabin. Running my fingers through my hair, I shook my head at myself. A wave of darkness washed over me at my sudden movement and I caught quickly at the edge of the desk as my word seemed to tilt on its edge for a moment. Was this sea sickness? I had not been sick before when I had sailed. And this did not seem to be the way Meeko felt. I drew in a deep breath, pressed my hands to my hot eyelid s for a moment. Feeling better, I walked over to the door and found my way up to the deck. Flit zipped from spot to spot, accompanying my walk with his short bursts of chatter and color. I recognized many faces as I passed around the ship's skin, exploring. There were also many faces I did not recognize. But they all treated me the same. With gentle respect. I was not used to receiving respect from the people I sailed with, much less the strange courtesy one of the men showed me, stepping aside to let me pass before returning to his work. I heard my name then, turned and saw a very familiar face. "Alan!" "Princess Pocahontas!" he swept me a courtly bow before breaking into a wide grin that must have matched mine. "Hear tell you've been to court." Alan was one of the original sailors who had come to Jamestown. He had sailed with John on board the Susan Constant when they had first come to our land. While I had known him, I had enjoyed his big hearted ways. And when he had sailed back to England to accompany John, I had found a small amount of comfort to know it was so. I smiled at him as he took my hands in one of his large paws. "Yes. So many clothes. It is a wonder your people can make it down the street, much less explore new shores with all that cloth wrapped around you." He roared his laugher at my teasing and rubbed my hands between his. "Cold hands" he commented. "Must mean you have a warm heart." He said it with such open, honest affection that my heart truly did warm and I felt my throat tighten. Had I been surrounded by suspicion for so very long that a friend in a strange place would touch me so deeply? "It is good to see you again, Alan" I told him and he rewarded me with a wide smile in his bearded face. "I missed you too, princess" he confided, giving my shoulder a soft pat before his face became animated again. "But if you'll excuse me, I've duties to perform now. I'm first mate of this wreck, you know." Though he called her a wreck, I could see his pride in his eyes, hear it in his words. "First mate? I am surprised you are not captain." He laughed again. "Just give me time, princess, just give me time." I watched him swagger away and my chest felt lighter. I was surprised by how good it felt to have him on board. "Friend of yours?" I heard the voice near my shoulder, turned to see Rolfe and smiled. "Yes" I answered. "A very old friend." "One of the Ancients?" he asked, using the name that the men who had originally sailed to Jamestown were beginning to call themselves. "Yes." "Rather large chap" he commented mildly before turning back to me. "Did you sleep well last night?" "Yes" I answered again, beginning to feel as if I knew only one word. I realized that he was trying to begin a conversation but I could think of nothing to speak to him about. At the moment, I could not think of a single conversation we had ever had. Not that did not involve the king or royalty or court and we were far from all those things now. "I must say, this ship seems smaller than ours." "That's because she's got twice as many people on board her" John stated casually, coming up behind me. "But yes, she's smaller." He ran a hand lovingly along her railing as he stood next to me. "She's no merchant ship. She's for exploration. Coihgwus." I startled at the last and looked up quickly to find him watching me with a crooked smile on his face. "Didn't think I'd forget, did you?" he asked, teasing in his voice. "Excuse me - cog - woos?" Rolfe looked puzzled. "Coihgwus" I corrected gently, raised my eyes to John's blue ones. "It means - the gull." John's smile was as bright and open as the sun breaking across the water and I found that I could not look away. "You speak Algonquian?" Rolfe was amazed. John nodded, eyes never leaving mine. It seemed to me that there were two worlds. The one that held John's eyes and the one that was much further away, much fainter, that held everything else. And they were rapidly growing further apart. "Thought it would be a good idea to know everything I could. So I read whatever I could get my hands on before I went to Virginia the first time. Thomas Harriot from Roanoke. John White." His voice softened, deepened enough to enter into my first world as he stated low: "Pocahontas, taught me the rest." John's eyes were blue. So very, very blue. As blue as the sky on the clearest day. I thought perhaps I would lose myself in the sky blue of his eyes. Lose myself and never be found again. It was not such a bad thought. "Pocahontas?" John's voice. Worried? Dizziness washed over me again and I stumbled then. Warm hands closed over my chilled skin and I swayed forward into the comfort of those arms. I felt myself lifted and my world titled wildly to the side before it slipped off the edge and into darkness. I knew no more. I do not know how long I walked in darkness. But when I woke the room was in shadows. I felt a great heaviness on my chest and found that I could not breath. Raising my head brought waves of nausea but I had to as I looked down at myself. A creature crouched on my chest, one of the Little People. She was very old and very ugly and I saw that she smiled at me with rotting teeth. Her weight rested heavy on my chest and choked the breath from my lungs. I tried to rise, to roll, to shake her off of me, but a great weight was on my body and I found that I could not move. Only enough to see her as she chuckled. I woke screaming, sitting upward in bed, brushing at the blankets. Or I would have screamed if sound would have worked past my throat. It would not and a great coughing took me as if it would tear me in two. I could not inhale, could not breath. Could only cough as if I would tear the stomach from me. If felt as if there was water in my chest and I could not draw breath through it. Hands caught me, helped me sit straighter. A hard blow landed on my back and knocked everything but my senses from me. I heard a cry of outrage and then I was inhaling air as if I were a drowning man. Never had breathing been so sweet to me. I heard words exchanged, angry and sharp. Tight with worry and tension. Arms still held me tight against the strength of a chest and I struggled to understand what was said as my body broke into great wrenching shudders. "Do and I'll throw you off this ship myself!" John's voice, bitten out through his teeth as his arms closed even more protectively around me. "You're killing her!" Rolfe's voice, raised in anger and holding the hint of panic as he stood nearer the door. "Damn you! I'm not letting a leech near her!" "John, she must be bled!" Rolfe trying for reason with a voice that only barely held it. "I said no." John's voice again, firm, solid, sure. Lower now. "I'm not going to let that happen. Bleeding her will only make her weaker. Alan will be back in a minute with what she needs." "Heathen, barbaric black magic and vile potions!?" "I told you" John's voice, warning now, "I know what I'm doing." "Because some Turkish savage taught it to you?! I won't let you risk her life - her soul! that way!" Savages, I thought, my mind blurring. White savages. Barely even human. The door opened then, I felt as much as heard Alan come in. "Got it?" John asked and I suppose that Alan nodded for Rolfe suddenly burst. "That does it! This is over! Now! I'm going to get the doctor and have her treated properly!" I think that I actually felt John chuckle then though I heard no sound. "No" he stated. "You're not." I heard sounds then, a scuffling, a noise like the shifting of bodies. Rolfe let out a sharp, short sound and then I heard Alan's voice. "Captain?" "Take him to the storeroom, Alan. Once we're all calm again, I'll apologize." The door opened then, shut, and the silence of the room was filled with the sounds of waves against the ship's hull. Soft to my ears. Soothing. Soothing as John's hand as it rubbed along my back. He sat quiet for a long time, simply letting me breath, strong hand moving rhythmically along my back. I drifted then, how long, I cannot say. His voice was what called me back. He spoke in low tones, and at first I struggled to understand him. Then I did and I realized that he did not speak to me. He spoke to his God. He spoke as I had never heard a man speak to a god before. As if they were old friends who had walked too long together to have any secrets between them. John spoke to his God as if, by the mere speaking, he could roll his weights and cares off of his own shoulders and onto the Maker's. I could not listen. What was spoken was between a man and his God, but I did hear as John asked for guidance. I wondered if his God would sit as silent as my spirits had the last time I had gone to them with the same plea. And I heard John ask for mercy. Which was a strange thing to ask of a god. I woke. Slept. Woke again. I smelled sharp smells in the air sometimes, was aware of a great warm weight on my chest at other times. Sometimes I woke struggling for breath, for there was water in my lungs. At times, I could not tell if it was the waves against the ship I heard or the sound of the liquid in my own chest as delirium burned through me. Often, I woke choking to feel John's hands on me, pulling me to sit up again. It seemed to me that I would cough for hours during those times. Cough until I was too weak to sit upright on my own, so that I would fall asleep propped up against John's chest with his strong arms warm around me. And then finally, I did not wake at all. I walked in darkness for a great time then. Finally I found myself upon a wide shore that reached on as far as I could see. A dark motionless ocean spread out on one side of me and I did not have to feel the touch of its steady waves against my ankles to know that it was cold beyond imagining. To my other side limitless pale sand stretched out into the darkness. And I walked alone. I cannot say how long it was that I walked or how long it was that I had already been walking. It was as if there had never been any moment outside of now. That there had never been any life outside of now. For a long time, I felt nothing. But then, slowly it began to grow colder. So cold that my breath smoked in front of me. So cold that my bones began to ache. But there was no snow, no wind, nothing to cause the cold. A great emptiness began to grow in my chest then and it grew until I could not even feel the cold anymore. It was much more than simple pain. It was an aching emptiness that ate away at my heart until my legs folded under me and I pitched forward onto my knees, my hands clawing in helpless pain as they spasmed in the sand. Tears streamed down my cheeks like rain, hardened as they fell in the sharp air, splashed into the liquid sand and disappeared into its depths. I found my voice finally, bent over in the sand, curled around the hollow cave of my chest. "Please" it was a whisper, a silent plea, the sharpest ears could not have heard it had they been pressed against my frozen lips. I tried again and my voice was even less then before. "Please" I begged, the words coming from somewhere deep inside that emptiness that lived in my heart. "Oh, please." The silence was a heavy weight, pressing down on me. Tears poured like rivers from my eyes. "Please. I do not wish to be alone anymore." As soon as the words left my lips it was as if the world stood suddenly still. Shocked. And then a great fierce wind howled in off the icy waters of the ocean. A hundred voices rose and a great storm sought to lift me from where I crouched. The water the wind dragged from the ocean burned my skin as it touched me, so cold that it was heat. The sand scrapped up into the air, ran its rough touch across my skin and the wind pulled at me so that my hair streamed like willow branches in the worse of storms. I pressed my eyes closed, hunched closer to the ground. And my tears continued to fall. For the great emptiness of moments ago was now a different emptiness. It was the emptiness of a clean room. Waiting to be filled. Expecting to be filled when its owner came home and stepped inside the door. "Please" I whispered again, aching with a new ache. Needing for that room's owner to come home. I felt myself lifted then and it was not as if the storm was pushed aside, it was as if the storm had never been. A great warmth and a great light wrapped snug around me. It was as if my father held me and I were a little girl again. Liquid filled my lungs again but this time it was warm and bright. Like liquid sunlight. And a great warmth like heated oil ran through my body. My relief was so great that I turned my face into the warmth that held me and I cried. When I woke, I was still crying. I found myself in John's arms and I pressed my face against his shoulder and silently sobbed. His arms were strong around me and I heard his murmured words as he smoothed a hand through my hair. I felt as if my heart had just been broken, but instead of pain it was the sweetest joy and I could not explain it. John did not ask me to. He simply held me. After a moment, he reached out, gathered both me and my blankets into his arms and pulled me into his lap where he cradled me against his chest and murmured into his hair. My body was weak in his arms and I found myself trembling as my tears faded. I felt cleansed by those strange tears and I did not regret them or that John had seen them, felt their touch as they had soaked through his shirt. I raised my face then, pressed it against his throat. He smelled so clean, like the wind just before a storm and I sighed, gently nuzzling his jaw. Here, now, it was right and I no longer needed the spirits to tell me so. His fingers touched my cheek, traced down to my chin and he lifted my face so very gently. His eyes were very blue and I saw so much in their depths that it made my heart swell. He lowered his lips and I surrendered to it, letting my eyes fall closed as I raised my face to him. His lips touched me, pressed fervent against my forehead, brushed down to the corner of my closed eye, feathered along my cheek. I let my head fall back against his shoulder and now the weakness in my body was not from the long sickness but instead from something sweeter and so tender it took my breath all over again. He pressed a kiss to the corner of my mouth, lingered for a breath and I smiled, knowing that he both teased and tested me. So I told him what he needed to know. I raised a trembling hand and cupped his face with it, opening my eyes to find the sky-fire blue of his. Smiled softly. Heard as much as felt the sound he made, low, in the back of his throat, as he wrapped me closer in his arms and lowered his lips to mine again. His lips were a breath away when there was a knocking at the door, soft but insistent. To me it was a sound that came from far away and had no place in my world. Nothing outside of this cabin had a place in my world at that moment. But I resigned myself to the interruption with a sigh. Except that John simply laughed, low and almost silent. "Not this time, Rolfe" he murmured and brought his hungry mouth down over mine. Fire burned its way into my stomach and I wound my arms tight around him. Without words, John told me much. That he had missed me, that he had been worried about me. That he had thought he had lost me. That he loved me. His lips and his touch were possessive and in that moment, my world was whole again and I felt young, felt the joy I had once known as naturally as breathing. This was what was meant to be and nothing, not time, not circumstances, not even I, could stand against it. What this was was too strong. This was right. And in all my life I had never been so certain of anything as I was in that moment. And then I heard the cabin door open and Rolfe's exclamation as he stepped inside.
To Be Continued...
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