Chapter 43

Warm, and soft, his bottom lip molded between mine perfectly as I pressed closer to him. For a moment he was still, no doubt his addled mind working furiously to discern what was taking place. Then a noise between a growl and a moan slipped past his lips as his arms raked around me, lifting me off my feet and pressing me to him so tightly it was hard to breathe. I gasped into his lips, and he dropped me, looking horrified.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I- Hyde- I'm sorry!" He looked mortified, and backed into the shadows of his room. I watched him go, and kept myself from following. I wasn't sure if I had been rejected or not. Had Henry wanted to kiss me? Had Hyde taken over against Henry's will? Did Henry feel anything? He hadn't moved before he grabbed me, and if that had been Hyde, how could I be sure Henry wanted anything to do with it? My stomach shifted uncomfortably, and I leaned against the door, unsure of myself. Henry stayed in the shadows, I couldn't make out his expression as I heard him breathing deeply.

I let out a long breath through my nose and turned my head to look around the room. It was messy, bits of paper strewn about, his potion holder on the floor in the corner. There was an open inkwell on his nightstand and clothing on his bed. His jacket had fallen to the floor at its side. I heard him shift in the darkness, his breathing was slowing. I looked back to him dim form and gave a soft smile. I hoped he was looking my way, and not within, locked in some fight with Edward. I raised my hands and started to sign.

"Henry, I've decided to let a surgeon from the land operate on me. I'm sorry for the stress I've caused you. I wanted to let you know, to put your mind at ease."

Henry had shifted closer, I could just make out his face now. He still looked distressed, but he looked to me at least. I pushed off the door, smiled softly at him, and took a steadying breath.

"I love you, Henry Jekyll, all of you. I would hope you could love me to, but if I wake to find you already in England, I understand."

I had said my peace, and turned to leave. Opening the door, his voice stopped me in the frame.

"You don't know what you ask! I will always be a slave to his evil."

I laughed. I couldn't help myself, it seemed like such a weak excuse after everything that had happened. I turned, still chuckling soundlessly.

"All of you."

I shut the door behind me and shook my head as I headed down the hall. I ran my hand along the cold steel of my Lady, the song of my past playing in my head. My Lady was so beautiful, a lifetime within her walls would never be long enough. It was a sad thought, to not spend a proper lifetime with her. If I died, I would never get to captain her. That was depressing to think about.

I didn't want to think anymore. Henry had all but said he rejected me, my first female friend would soon be gone, and my life might be over soon. Thinking was not something that should be done right now.

I retreated to the one place I knew I could hide from it all. Down below in the twisting pipes and steam and oil. Where hard work was all that was expected or cared about. You worked and you kept the ship moving. Alway moving.

Maitreya was there, alone surprisingly. I dismissed Wajeeh and took up station beside Maitreya. He still didn't know about my illness, and as we worked I could pretend I didn't have one. We laughed at silly things, I threatened to hurt his manhood, and we laughed again. I asked about how he and Prabir were doing, and laughed some more as he became timid and blushed. If felt good to laugh once again with my best friend.

It was time to change shifts, and Maitreya and I left together. Vishal walked through the door as we were leaving, and I hugged him tight before we left. He held me longer than normal, and I knew he had been told. Perhaps by Prabir, perhaps by Captain, it did not matter. I pulled away and smiled reassuringly before following Maitreya out. He shut the door behind us a raised an eyebrow at me, "What was all that about?"

I wrapped my arm around his, "We need to talk."

"That's never a good thing..."

Prabir found us in their room (for they had chosen to give up private quarters in order to be together). Maitreya hadn't taken the news well, and had been switching between bouts of anger and depression for the last hour. Prabir looked at me and without words I understood what he was trying to say. I signaled my thanks before standing from the bed and leaving the room. Right now, I was the cause of his pain, and Prabir was ready to start helping him deal with it. This wasn't boredom because of a broken limb or fear of being in a new place. I could not be his support this time.

I was never one for baths, but decided for once to indulge. I locked the door and twisted the crystal taps. The pipes creaked from disuse before water gushed out in a steamy burst. I stripped off my garments and dipped my wash rag into the pooling water. Rubbing the soap into a foamy mess, I began to scrub at my body as hard as I could manage. The dirt and grime pooled at my feet, and I grimaced as I watched the streaks run down my body. I would die clean, if nothing else.

Turning off the taps, I dipped a bowl into the tub and rinsed myself until the streaks ran clear. Finally clean, I eased into the tub and smiled as my body loosened. I hadn't realized how tense I had been. I guess I hadn't allowed myself time to really relax since this whole mess started. I couldn't even remember the last time I trained just for the thrill of it. I let a lot of things fall to the wayside since this began.

If these were to be my last days, I wanted them to be happy ones.

We pulled in close to Hamburg a few hours later, around 5 in the morning if I had calculated the timezone correctly. I was dressed in my best Sari, the one filled with the colors of the sea, and found Elizabeth with her family preparing to leave. Her eyes widened when she saw my clothing, and was uneasy at my exposed arms. I explained that it was a traditional Indian outfit, and that there was no shame in wearing it. She was still uneasy, but as these were our last moments together, she pushed past it in order to make it a happy departure. I help Anna once more, and lavished her cheeks with butterfly kisses. Edwin found the sweets in my bag and was so distracted eating them he allowed me a long hug and a kiss on his cheek. I shook hands with Carlous, whose eyes stayed away from me before taking the children and leaving Elizabeth and I alone.

"He's such a good husband, keeping his eyes to himself," she laughed.

"I'm going to miss you, all of you. I'm happy you are going home though," I wrote.

"It's been a long time since we were home, I can't say I'm not thrilled," she looked so happy, it was hard to be sad.

"I'm glad I got to meet you, Marina. It was a pleasure."

She pulled me to her, and we hugged as equals. I handed her my note with a smile. The one with secret address, where our confidant collected letters for us. I had asked for pictures of the children, news of her life, how they were doing, and especially if they ever needed help. I had thanked her for her friendship, and for her insight, and I hoped I would hear of her safe return soon.

I watched as they piled together, and with some of the crew as escorts, made their way to the nearest railway. They were all given enough monetary value to make it to their respective homes. I had slipped a little extra into Carlous' pockets when he was so busy avoiding me. I could now only cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Captain met me as I was walking back into the Nautilus.

"I've found a surgeon willing to board the Nautilus and operate on you. From the telegraphs I have received he is a respectable and noted surgeon."

"Where is he?"

"London. When the men return, we shall head straight there. We'll be there before night fall. I've already arranged for him to be waiting."

I put my hand on his arm and smiled.

"Thank you, Captain. May I request the day off? I would like to finish a book I started before the League began in the sun light."

Captain's eyes darkened, and he nodded solemnly.

"All will be well, Captain," I told him, though I hardly believed it myself.

The day was cloudy, and I could only laugh at my bad luck. I lounged on a chair above deck anyways, a whole tin of smoked meat for myself and a large container of water beside me. 'The Castle of Ortranto' lay in my lap and I dozed between reading, and ate between dozing. After a while it was too quite though, and I bounced in my seat as I read. Once land came into view I picked up my things and headed inside. We would have to go underwater to remain undetected. I locked the door behind me, and headed to the helm, reading as I went. Captain hailed me as I walked in. I looked up from the last page of my book impatiently and nodded.

"Is the deck clear?" he asked. I nodded and sat on the window ledge. The Nautilus submerged and I finished my reading in time to watch the view outside the window change from from sky to sea. The lights flicked on to accommodate the new darkness and I stared out the window into the black. I turned back to the wheel and found some of the men staring. I glare as they quickly looked away. They weren't used to me not working. In women clothing. Clean.

My glare was sent heavenward. I couldn't blame them, but that didn't mean I was going to let them continue. I stood leaving what was left of the smoked meat and the empty canister, and waved goodbye to Captain as I headed for the library. I would put my book away and lounge on a couch until we hit land.

We were slowing. I could feel the Nautilus' subtle shift as she glided into port. I breathed deeply. I did not fear death, but I feared for those I would leave behind. No, they were strong, they were capable. I guess what I really feared was them moving on without me.

It was not something I could change though. The Nautilus had stopped, and the thought of the ones I cared for stopping because of me was unacceptable. I would want them to become as happy as they could possibly make themselves.

I had meant to go to the helm, but my thoughts kept me planted to the couch for longer than intended. Maitreya's hand on my shoulder brought me from my thoughts, I smiled at him. He looked worn, but managed a smile back.

"The doctor is here. Captain Nemo sent me for you."

I nodded and stood, and clasped my hand in his. He chuckled softly and we walked silently beside each other. I was quick to realize Captain and the doctor were in the study, and dropped Maitreya's hand after a squeeze before we entered.

Captain was in his large leather chair. I could just see the tip of the doctor's head from the back of his own. Captain looked up as we entered, "Ah, they've arrived."

"Have they?" came the doctor's voice. He stood in his chair, and I could see his well tailored clothing covering his frame. He was only a bit taller than me, built solid, like an athlete or solider. He had a small mustache covering his smiling lips. I like him.

"Well, aren't you the picture of exotic loveliness! It's a pleasure to meet you, Marina, though I wish it was under better circumstances."

He stepped forward and took my hand in his, bowing before trying to kiss it, which I wouldn't allow. I shook it to his shock and he laughed and shook back.

"You're an interesting one, ah, but I haven't introduced myself."

He smiled and took off his hat.

"Dr. Watson, at your service."

Hello everyone. So, this is it. The last leg of the journey for Marina. I think I'm gonna try and finish it off in the next chapter. Only problem is, I can't decide how to end it. I have a realistic ending in mind, and a happy ending as well. I like both of them for different reasons, and I'm really torn over what to do. If you could help me out, I have a poll on my profile asking if you'd like the realistic, happy, or both in separate chapters, and I'd really appreciate some feedback.

Thank you for reading!

~Alius