Chapter 1: Ship of Dreams
The journey begins with a car ride for Christen, and a lucky poker hand for Tobin.
As you can see, I'm trying to keep everyone as close to the nationalities of the characters they represent, which is why we have four members of the SWNT popping up briefly. I googled the last name Morgan and found that it is frequently Welsh, and so I made Alex Welsh. If anyone can correct me, don't hesitate.
The car rolled to a stop. It had been moving so slowly that Christen wondered why her party hadn't just abandoned the vehicle entirely and walked the rest of the way. It certainly would have been faster than this crawl, involving far less motion sickness.
But, James couldn't allow his fiancee to be seen walking, especially among the dirty Southampton children who had been drawn to the docks by the curiosity over the ship in their harbor. Pickpockets, germs... She was sure that he would have been able to list hundreds of problems with getting out of the car early.
The car door opened, and Christen took the offered hand and stepped out into the open air. It wasn't fresh, by any means. In fact, it was absolutely filthy, what with the exhaust from all the vehicles crowding around, but to Christen it felt like freedom.
James hopped out behind her, then turned back to help her mother out of the car behind him. When Stacy had gotten her feet firmly on the ground, he wrapped an arm around Christen's waist.
"Isn't she beautiful, Christen?"
Christen whipped her head around, looking all around her.
"Who? Where? You know, Mr. Cabot, it is generally considered impolite to admire other women next to your fiancee!"
"I was talking about Titanic, Christen."
The impish grin fell from Christen's face when her fiance failed to laugh at her joke. For at least the hundredth time.
"I know, James."
She turned to look at the ship. It didn't seem as big as James had made it out to be. Certainly not big enough to warrant the name Titanic. But, after all the voyages that Christen had been on in the past few months, she had lost her ability to be impressed by ships.
Her mother's eyes bored into the back of her head, clearly unimpressed by her tone.
"Be pleasant, Christen."
James laughed, turning to offer his arm to her mother.
"Don't worry about it, Stacy. Let the girl be sullen, she'll find a smile once she sees the inside of the ship."
"Well, I certainly hope so. Too much frowning gives you premature wrinkles, Christen."
Christen had to physically stop herself from rolling her eyes as her fiance directed the porters where to bring their luggage, then turned back to his conversation with her mother.
"So, this is the unsinkable ship, is it Mr. Cabot?"
As the man with one woman on each of his arms, followed by the various members of their household, made his way towards the gangplank, he responded to her question.
"Yes indeed it is, Mrs. Press. They say that God himself couldn't sink this ship!"
They had to file up the gangplank one by one, which allowed Christen to fall back behind her mother and fiance, still carrying on about the magnificence of Titanic. Turning back to face her maid, Christen pulled the wide brim of her hat- the height of fashion, her mother had claimed when they bought it in Paris- off her head and sighed.
"Will you just listen to them, Becky? I'm not sure God would like what he's hearing."
Becky shrugged, reaching out to take Christen's hat from her.
"I don't know, Miss Press. I'm sure Mr. Cabot knows what he's talking about."
The conspiratorial glint in Becky's eyes showed Christen that her maid unequivocally agreed with her, just didn't want to be overheard having opinions, an unsuitable practice for a woman, especially one of her station.
As they reached the top of the gangplank, Christen turned around to catch her last glimpse of Southampton. A not so small part of her wished she could run back down, far away from James, far away from her mother. Far away from this ship that would take her back to the future that she dreaded.
Just a block away from where Christen Press was making her way up the gangplank, then down the hallway to her first class suite, Tobin Heath was examining her cards. Next to her sat her best friend, Alex Morgan, and across from them sat two tall and imposing women, arguing in a language that Tobin was trying to translate using all her rudimentary skills. Hanna Glas was glaring daggers at Fridolina Rolfö, gesturing towards the two pieces of paper sitting amongst the coins in the center of the table.
"Idiot! You complete idiot, why would you bet our tickets? Sofia and Magdalena are expecting us!"
Fridolina glared back at Hanna, and Tobin had to suppress a smile at her opponents' argument.
"YOU lost our money, stupid! Shut up and take a card."
Hanna did, placing it into her hand with a perfect poker face, and Tobin gestured for Fridolina to deal her another card. Her poker face was just as good as Hanna's, and the two women's eyes bored into each other as Alex and Fridolina folded, leaving the game down to just the two of them.
A whistle blowed, the final warning to board the ship to which the tickets in the center of the table granted passage.
"Well, moment of truth. Hanna, what have you got?"
Allowing her poker face to melt into a smirk, Hanna laid out two pairs- eights and queens. Tobin bit her lip, then turned to her friend.
"Alex, I'm sorry."
Alex threw the cards in front of her at Tobin and began screaming in a strong Welsh accent.
"Are you fucking kidding me, Tobin? You lost all my goddamn money, damn you!"
Tobin slapped her cards down onto the table, savoring the way Fridolina and Hanna's eyes narrowed in anger, while Alex's face lit up with happiness.
"Sorry, you won't be seeing the Welsh hills for a long time, because we're going to America! Full house, bitches!"
The whistle sounded again, and Tobin's eyes widened. She grabbed the tickets from the table, and Alex swept their money into her bag as they began their sprint towards the gangplank. All Fridolina and Hanna could do was watch them go, silently apologizing to Magdalena Eriksson and Sofia Jakobsson for the pair of tornadoes they had just inadvertently unleashed upon them.
Tobin dragged Alex behind her as they shoved through the crowd, at this point comprised mainly of family members hoping to catch a final glimpse of their loved ones before they disappeared into the ocean on a luxury liner. A ship's officer was just about to pull in the gangplank when Alex and Tobin threw themselves onto it, racing full speed towards the third class quarters. Tobin shoved their tickets at the man, who gave them an annoyed look, clearly peeved that he had to deal with two more passengers before pulling the entrance to the ship out of the water.
"Have you been through the health check?"
"Of course! Don't worry!"
The officer must have been too exhausted to question them further, instead simply gesturing the two women on board with a shake of his head.
Alex and Tobin grinned at each other, making their way down the crowded third class hallway in search of the room indicated on the tickets that had once belonged to Hanna and Fridolina. It was a nice cabin, for third class, already occupied by two Swedish women who looked at each other in confusion when, instead of their friends, two dark haired strangers came prancing in with hands outstretched and dumped their belongings on the other bunk bed.
"Well," said Magdalena to Sofia as Alex and Tobin raced back out of their cabin to explore the ship. "This should be interesting."
Chapter 2: Takes One To Know One
Watching the first class passengers has become a habit for Tobin, but there is one that catches her eye beyond all the rest.
Alex raced to keep up with Tobin as her friend raced up the corridor, towards the open air. Most other people had disappeared to settle into their cabins, leaving only a few to raise their eyebrows at the two women. When they reached the bow of the ship, Tobin was thrilled to find it deserted, save herself and Alex.
Whipping her newsboy cap off her head and letting her chestnut waves loose to meet the wind, flapping around her face in a way she hadn't felt since the top of the Eiffel Tower. It flew into her eyes, blocking her vision of the endless water before her until she tore a strip off the bottom of her shirt to tie back her mane into a ponytail. Alex did the same, following her friend to the very front of the ship. Her eyes widened as Tobin climbed up onto the rail, hoping that she wasn't about to witness their party of two become a party of one thanks to an unlucky gust of wind.
But, that was just Tobin. Alex knew that, no matter what she said about danger, her friend would still do exactly as she pleased.
Hoisting herself up and waiting a moment until she was steady, Tobin flung her arms wide and raised her face up into the air, screaming wordlessly, joyfully, into the wind.
Alex laughed with delight, eyes darting between Tobin and a pod of dolphins who seemed to be waving to them as their dorsal fins breached the water over and over again. Tobin closed her eyes, letting the sea spray and sunlight coat her face in a moment of pure bliss, pure freedom.
Thank you, God, she said silently. Thank you for taking me home.
The first day of the voyage passed without incident, new passengers boarding at Queenstown in Ireland. Alex and Tobin barely noticed, since there was so much for them to explore. The money won from Fridolina and Hanna in Southampton, what felt like a lifetime ago, was drying up, spent on whiskies, gins, ales, and any other institution of fun that the women happened to come across.
And it was the best day of their lives.
But, they really needed to find something to do which didn't involve spending money, if they wanted to have anything left when the ship chugged into New York harbor. So, on the second day aboard the ship, Tobin found herself sprawled out on a chair on the third class deck, laughing to herself (and Alex, whenever the Welsh girl chose to open her eyes) as she watched the rich and affluent of the ship come and go.
Men in suits that cost more money than Tobin would ever see in her life accompanied by women whose waists were tucked in so tightly that Tobin was surprised they didn't fall over on the deck. Little boys and girls, pushing and shoving each other for the best views before being calmed by weary nursemaids- Tobin swore that little Mal, a charming girl in the cabin next to hers was better behaved than the children of the supposed upper crust. Occasionally, someone in a servant's uniform, taking in a quick breath of air, raising their face to the sky as if praying for patience, and then dashing back inside before anyone could notice they were gone.
Then, the first one to really catch Tobin's eyes. A woman who was clearly upper class, if her meticulous hair and elegant dress were any indicators, but unaccompanied. She leaned one elbow against the railing, gazing out at the waves as if she longed to jump into them and frolic with the dolphins that had stopped following the ship the previous evening (Tobin and Alex had waved them goodbye, sad to see the creatures go). A beam of light shone down, catching the woman and lighting her up in a way that Tobin could describe in no other way except heavenly.
She hadn't realized how long she'd been staring until a lilting voice interrupted her reverie.
"Enjoyin' the view, eh?"
Tobin whipped her head around, ready to deny everything, to swear on her dead parents' graves that she hadn't been admiring the woman. The cheeky smile on the face of the freckled woman who had plopped down to occupy the deck chair beside her and Alex made that lie unnecessary.
"Nah, luv. You ain't gotta worry. Takes one to know one. Besides, it's not like I blame ya."
The freckled woman gave her a wide grin, and Tobin let her shoulders relax. The stranger took a final drag off her cigarette, then tossed it to the deck, stamping it out with the heel of her shoe and letting the ashes blow away in the wind.
"If I was a first class lady, you bet I'd've found a way to get that beaut away from that man 'o hers."
Tobin looked back up at the angel, and indeed saw that she had taken the arm of a man and was being pulled back inside, though her face screamed that she longed to stay. The Irishwoman wiggled her tongue suggestively, and Tobin let out a bark of laughter, reaching out a hand to shake.
"I'm Kelley O'Hara, by the way."
"Tobin Heath. And this is Alex Morgan."
Tobin shook her friend awake and introduced her to Kelley, the freckled Irishwoman's hand lingering longer in the Welsh girl's than it had in Tobin's.
"Well, hey there, pretty girl."
A fierce blush rose to Alex's cheeks, and she didn't seem to be quite sure how to respond. Kelley's grin only widened, until the Welsh girl was saved by another voice arriving and offering her hand to the two.
"Ah, can it, O'Hara. You know very well you couldn't get under a gal's skirt even if you was a fancy lady who wasn't as flat as my nephew back home." Kelley glared at the newcomer, letting go of Alex's hand. Tobin couldn't tell if the latter was relieved or disappointed.
"I'm Heather O'Reilly, but you ladies can call me HAO, and you can feel free to shove my amadán of a cousin off the side of this ship at any time."
The four women arranged their deck chairs into a circle, Tobin and Alex's former conversations expanding effortlessly to include Kelley and Heather. But, even as they chattered about their pasts, and why they were on this ship in the first place, Tobin's mind kept flickering back to the beautiful girl from the first class deck. There was just something about her that was going to drive her crazy.
Christen felt as if there was glue holding her lips shut. She longed to open it, to scream at someone, anyone, to listen to her, or even speak like she was present. It was Christen this, wedding that, and no one seemed to remember that she was there.
Her red dress had a flat neck, not even that high, but it felt like it was choking her. Her voice had been ripped out of her throat by rough fingernails, and James's hand over hers as she sipped her wine felt like one of those finger traps that she had heard about, the ones that held you tighter and tighter the more you tried to pull away.
Summoning all the strength in her, which wasn't much, Christen pulled herself to her feet and forced a smile for James.
"I'll be back in a moment, darling. Please do excuse me."
No one must have noticed the panic in her eyes as she turned from the table, because they let her flee, high heels clacking on the floor as she wound her way through the tables. When she reached the hallway, she permitted herself to break into a run, flying down the passage and letting the tears that had been brimming under the surface of her eyelids begin to spill.
She shoved past a couple of middle aged women on their way back to the dining room from somewhere, not even bothering to apologize. She didn't even care that they might recognize her and tell her mother. At least she would get some attention.
She ran until she reached the open air, past vacant benches and the refuse of the day that hadn't yet been cleaned up, tears streaming down her cheeks, harder and wetter.
As Christen stood at the rail, looking over the back of the ship at the pitch black water, she tried to stop the flow of her tears, tried to stop the thoughts racing a mile a minute through her brain. Weddings, social pressures, James, her mother, the aristocrats, money, James- it was too much. Her head was pounding, and she just wanted to make the thoughts stop. In any way possible.
Carefully, carefully, Christen climbed onto the rail. Using one hand, she held the hem of her dress in her hands as she used the other one to swing herself over to the other side. Pieces of the bun that Becky had carefully plaited into her hair came free, whipping in the wind as she held onto the railing, trying to park up the courage to jump, to end her hopeless future before it began.
She didn't see the figure on the bench, the figure that had clambered over the chain dividing the second and third class decks from that of the first class passengers and was holding a lit cigarette in her right hand as she made her way slowly closer, heart pounding as she watched, praying that Christen wouldn't let go.
"Don't. Please, don't do that."
Christen whipped her head around to take in the sight of a girl wearing boys' clothes, a girl who clearly didn't belong on the first class decks. The girl's eyes were wide, as if she was trying to appear calmer than she really felt. Something about the girl intrigued Christen, but as she took another step closer she closed back in on herself.
"Don't come any closer! Stay away from me!"
Tobin raised her hands in a gesture of acknowledgement, hedging her bets as well as her potential speed as she took another miniscule step forward to flick her cigarette over the side of the ship.
"Please. Miss, take my hand. I'll pull you back over."
Christen shook her head wildly, turning her head back away from Tobin and towards the water.
"No! I'll let go!"
Tobin inched closer, so slowly that Christen didn't notice her movement.
Christen stuck out her lip, glaring weakly at Tobin.
"You don't know me."
"No, I don't. But I still don't want to see you go over the side of this ship, and I don't think you want that either."
Christen whipped her head back and forth, shaking loose even more strands of hair.
Tobin could tell that she was trying to put steel in her voice, to be commanding in a way that the older woman was sure she was used to. But, the remaining shudder of tears in her voice minimized the desired effect. Pulling her thin jacket off and pulling her hair back into a ponytail, Tobin moved imperceptibly closer to the girl on the railing.
"I won't. I'm involved now, and if you let go, I'll just go in after you."
Christen didn't know how to respond to this, looking back and forth between Tobin and the water.
"You'd get killed."
"Well, at least I can swim. You can't in that dress."
Tobin reached down and unlaced her left shoe, tossing it carelessly to the deck. She knew that Christen must be able to tell that she had moved closer, but until the younger girl told her not to move again, Tobin was going to pretend she hadn't heard.
"The fall alone would kill you!"
"And if it didn't, the water's cold enough to as well."
Christen bit her lip, staring at the water with a new sense of apprehension in her eyes. An instant death hitting the water like cement... that didn't sound so bad. Freezing to death, or drowning? That did.
"I'd be shocked if it wasn't freezing. And that cold of water? Believe me, a few seconds in there and you'd wish you were dead."
"How do you know?"
"When I lived in New Jersey, my daddy took me ice fishing. I was just a little girl, and that hole swallowed me right up. If my daddy hadn't pulled me out right away, I'd've died. So yeah, I know how that water feels, so I'm not looking forward to jumping in after you. So please, let me help you back over."
Tobin had made her way all the way up to the railing and was reaching out a rough hand, an offering. Christen met her eyes and saw the care in them. All in a second, she took in the way the stars shining above them lit up the woman's face.
Then, she took her hand, turning her body away from the water and towards the beautiful stranger. The woman's shoulders collapsed in relief at the pressure of Christen's hand in hers and she gave her an elated smile.
"Thank you. By the way, I'm Tobin. Tobin Heath."
"Thank you, Miss Heath. I'm Christen Press."
They smiled at each other, and Christen raised her foot to start the climb back over the rail. But, instead of metal, her heel met silk, and suddenly the only thing keeping her from the water was Tobin's hand.
amadán means idiot in Irish, at least according to Google Translate. If anyone speaks irish, feel free to correct me.
Chapter 3: Propellers
Tobin winds her way into Christen's life, and it may already be too late to turn back when she saves her life.
This chapter is a bit shorter, sorry!
Another scream ripped from Christen's mouth as her heart raced, faster than it ever had before. She gripped onto Tobin's hand with all the strength she had, blanching at the sickening feeling of nothing beneath her than open air. One of her high heels slipped from her foot and plummeted into the waves.
"Hold on, Christen! Don't look down!"
Christen tore her eyes away from the endless black beneath her, redirected them to Tobin. The other woman's hair was flapping in the wind, her ponytail having come loose, and her eyes were locked with Christen's.
"I've got you, Christen! I won't let go!"
Tobin wrapped her other hand around Christen's wrist and pulled with all her strength. It wasn't quite enough to get the younger woman over the railing, and Christen screamed again.
Tobin pulled again, face twisted in concentration and red with exertion.
"Almost there! You've gotta help me here, Christen! Pull up your foot, you can do it!"
Christen waved her foot around, searching for the rail that she had slipped off of- Tobin had gotten her up that far. The metal beneath her bare foot was cold, but it was the most welcome burst of cold she had ever felt.
Tobin pulled one more time, and this time Christen came back over the railing, tumbling over Tobin in a heap and sobbing in relief. Somehow, Tobin ended up on top of her, gazing down at her with a smile on her face.
"See, I told you. We did it, Christen."
"Hey! Get off of her!"
Suddenly, Tobin found herself being yanked off of Christen as a man in a uniform landed a fist to her face. A second man was pulling Christen to her feet and wrapping a blanket around her shivering shoulders. Two other men, both dressed in expensive suits, raced onto the deck. The first raced straight for Christen, pulling her to his chest, while the second wrenched Tobin's arms roughly behind her back as the man who had punched her wrapped cold metal handcuffs around her wrists.
"How dare you?"
The man holding Christen glared daggers at Tobin.
"How dare you put your filthy hands on my fiancee, you... you..."
He was too furious to finish his sentence, but Tobin got the drift. It wasn't like this was something she hadn't heard before.
"Just, take that-that woman away. Before she can come after my fiancee again."
Christen shook the blanket off her shoulders and shoved away from her fiance's chest towards the two men holding Tobin.
"Stop! She didn't do anything!"
Four pairs of eyes looked at her in shock.
"Christen, darling, we all saw. None of us blame you. Don't worry."
Christen glared, stomping her way towards the men holding Tobin, steps unequal because she was only wearing one heel.
"Tobin- Miss Heath, that is- saved my life!"
None of the four men could find the words to respond to that, but Tobin could feel one of the men's hands on her wrists loosen just a tad. Christen continued.
"I was leaning over to see those... those spinning things, what are they called?"
"Propellers," one of the men provided, and Christen nodded in recognition.
"Yes, those! I was leaning over to see the propellers, and I slipped, and I was about to go overboard when Miss Heath grabbed my wrist and saved my life!"
The first man released Tobin's wrists and unlatched the handcuffs. The second let go as well, a bit more reluctantly. The man who had first responded to Christen's cries turned to Tobin with a smile.
"Well, the girl's a hero! Well done! Miss Heath, was it?"
Tobin rubbed her wrists and nodded.
"Yes, sir. I hope you're alright, Chris- Miss Press."
"All thanks to you!"
Christen's fiance extended a hand to Tobin, who shook it firmly, already disliking the man by the clammy feel of his hand in hers.
"Well, Miss, I suppose I must thank you. And, as a gesture of my gratitude, I hope I may count on your presence at dinner tomorrow night?"
Although Tobin didn't miss the glint in his cold eyes, she nodded in acceptance.
"Of course, Sir."
The two officers and Christen's fiance made to return to their previous activities, with the latter pulling Christen with a hand on her waist, and not catching the tiny wave that the dark haired woman sent back to Tobin as she departed. The fourth man, possibly a servant of Christen's fiance, fixed Tobin with a steely gaze.
"Miss Heath," he said, tone far less friendly than that of any of the other men. "I'd suggest you redress yourself before returning to your proper place on this ship."
Tobin nodded and he watched her go. It was only when she was back in her cabin that Tobin allowed the night's events to sink in.
She had a name. Christen Press. And an invitation to dinner, where she could see her again.
When Alex, Sofia and Magdalena were snoring, Tobin allowed a rough hand, still aching from the handcuffs, to slip between her legs as she thought about the feeling of being so close to Christen Press.
Chapter 4: Heavy and Cold
Christen is given a gift, and goes in search of Tobin.
Christen couldn't seem to sit down. Becky had offered to brush her hair out, as she did every night, but Christen had taken the brush from her maid and began working it through herself, throwing her dress into the corner. She never planned to wear it again, if she could help it.
The bristles hit on a tangle, and Christen grumbled as she tried to work it loose.
"Where's your maid, what's her name? Shouldn't she be doing this?"
A cold hand fell onto her shoulder, rubbing back and forth.
"Becky. My maid's name is Becky. And I wanted to do it myself tonight."
She could feel James shaking his head in confusion as well as she could see it in the mirror. It was inconceivable to him, doing a task yourself that you could leave to a maid. But Christen was too wound up to sit still for the ten minutes it would take Becky to properly brush through her hair.
"I can tell that you're sad, my love. I don't pretend to know why."
Christen shrugged, still working at the tangle, and ignored his comment. If only he knew that sad didn't begin to cover it.
"Why did you invite Miss Heath to dinner? Why not just give her money? That's what I was expecting, a nice little reward for saving the woman you love."
James took the hairbrush from her, and they stared at each other through the mirror on the vanity.
"Well," he said. "I thought about it. Some money to help her along her way. But then I realized, there's bound to be thieves in third class, and that money would be gone by morning. Besides, the chance to mingle with their betters is more valuable to those people than money ever could be."
Christen tried to keep the incredulous anger from her voice as she responded.
James laughed lightly.
"Oh, don't be like that, darling. You know that people like them... they're not like us. Anyway, I didn't come in here to talk about that third class girl."
"Nevermind what her name is. I have something for you."
Normally, Christen would have lit up with interest, but she was still bristling with indignity at how quickly James had dismissed the woman who had saved her life. Twice, in fact.
"Is it a new pair of shoes? I lost one of mine over the side."
"Unfortunately, no. But, I think you'll like this even more."
From his jacket pocket, James pulled out a black velvet box. It was like the one that had carried her engagement ring, except bigger. When he flicked it open, Christen's eyes couldn't help but widen in shock.
It was the biggest diamond she had ever seen. Bright blue, sparkling almost like a sapphire.
"I meant to give you this at our engagement gala back in New York, but then I almost lost you. And I... I just couldn't wait."
Christen was speechless- she didn't know what to think.
"It's really something, isn't it?"
She nodded numbly, and James fastened the necklace around her neck. The enormous jewel rested just beneath the hollow of her throat, and the tiny links on the chain pinched her flyaway hairs. It was heavy, definitely the heaviest piece of jewelry she had ever worn.
"This used to belong to Louis XVI of France. It's a jewel meant for royalty, Christen. Which is what we are."
He unclasped the necklace, and Christen gave a relieved sigh as the weight left her chest.
"I'll put this in the safe for now. But I hope... I hope that you understand what this gift means to me to give, Christen. I can give you anything you could ever want. If you... If you would only give me one thing. Goodnight, love."
Christen accepted the kiss he planted on her hand, but let it fall to her side as soon as James left the room. His lips were just as cold as the diamond, and a shiver ran through Christen's body that didn't abate until she was under her covers, curled up in an extra blanket with thoughts racing through her head.
Unsurprisingly, the foremost face in her head before she fell asleep was that of a chestnut haired third class passenger, smiling at her.
"It's fine, Christen," she whispered to herself. "She saved your life, it's only natural to think about her."
But the images that danced through her dreams that night were ones that she knew James had planned for them, and when she woke up she was covered in sweat, panting. It was still dark, the only light coming from the lamp that Becky had lit.
"Miss, are you alright? Did you have a nightmare?"
"Y-Yes. I mean, I did almost die tonight. It's alright, Becky. Get some sleep."
Her maid nodded, already closing her eyes, and disappeared back into the chamber which adjoined her own.
The dreams should have felt like nightmares, but Christen couldn't stop herself from smiling as she drifted back off.
She didn't know what possessed her to do it. If anyone saw her, she was sunk. Or at least forced into her second bath of the day to wash off the germs. But, after whipping her head back and forth and pulling her hat down as far as it would go in an attempt to conceal her face, she slipped the key into the lock of the door separating the first class deck from the only one that Tobin was allowed to occupy.
Five minutes. She would give herself five minutes, and if she didn't find her then she would go, before anyone noticed her absence.
When she took a deep breath and stepped down onto the third class deck, she was shocked by the scene which greeted her there.
It looked almost like a painting- there was so much to catch her eyes.
People were shouting in at least a dozen different languages, and Christen could only pick up a few words. Children, clad in clothes of conditions varying from almost new to barely rags were chasing each other all across the deck, watched out of the corner of their parents' eyes. A beautiful girl, long dark hair pulled up in a ponytail by a scrap of her shirt, was attempting to make conversation with a blonde, the latter possessing the longest hair that Christen had ever seen, both under the watchful eye of a woman who could have been the latter's older sister or mother, from the warning glance she was sending at the dark haired beauty. All three were oblivious to the glare of a freckled woman, absently drumming on a deck chair as she watched them. A slightly older woman had her hand on the shoulder of the younger Irishwoman, trying to divert her attention away from the blonde and brunette.
Christen's eyes passed over all this, taking in the details as she searched for the one face she really wanted to see.
Ah, there she was.
Tobin had her feet up on a deck chair, clad in the same ratty trousers and blouse from the previous night. Beside her sat a little girl, messy pigtails shaking as she nodded at whatever Tobin was showing her.
As Christen neared the little corner of the deck, a hush fell over the gathering. The women at the table stop trying to converse in their different languages. The younger Irishwoman stopped tapping her fingers on the metal of the chair. Even the little girl clamped her mouth shut, eyes wide as she took in Christen in her new dress and spotless shoes, not a hair out of place.
Said woman had been purposely refusing to look up, even as her company fell silent around her. Her pointer finger was frozen, indicating something on the page of her notebook to the little girl who was no longer paying any attention to her. Then, the notebook was shut in Tobin's hand, and the woman had raised her eyes up to meet Christen's.
"Hello again, Miss Press."
If anyone would like a list of who the characters represent from the Titanic movie, please let me know! I'd be happy to provide.
Chapter 5: Presumptions (Of Beauty and Other Things)
Christen wasn't prepared to thank Tobin, nor for the contents of her sketchbook.
Even though Tobin was clearly out of place on the first class deck, and was on the receiving end of plenty of blistering looks from the wealthy elite, who gave her a wide berth, no one said anything. The only thing staving off her immediate ejection, and a possible stint in the brig, was Christen's presence by her side. Still, Tobin couldn't help but shrink in on herself.
"Miss Heath," said the first class woman, stopping next to a pair of deck chairs, far more luxurious than those that Tobin had just been sitting on.
"Tobin," said the chestnut haired woman. "Please, Miss, call me Tobin."
"Tobin, then." Even though Christen had called her Tobin last night, in the fervor of the moment, hearing it in the bright light of day sent a shiver up the elder's spine, and she couldn't keep the smile off her face.
"Tobin," Christen continued. "I... I want, no, I need to thank you. For last night. Not only for pulling me up, but for... for not telling them why I was really hanging over the rail." Christen lowered her voice as an older couple passed by, giving her a strange look as they noticed with whom she was keeping company.
"You're welcome, Miss Press."
"Christen. I call you Tobin, you have to call me Christen. In daylight this time."
Tobin's eyes widened, and she hoped her mouth wasn't hanging ajar. She wasn't expecting that, and if anyone heard it, she was certainly in trouble.
"Alright then, you're welcome Christen."
Christen whipped her hat off her head, and Tobin figured that her eyes must resemble dinner plates when they widened further at the realization that Christen was wearing her hair down. It dangled around her shoulders, small curls on the ends brushing across the fabric of her dress. Tobin had been staring for too long.
"Look," said Christen, voice flustered, mistaking Tobin's admiring gaze for judgement. "I know what it looks like! A poor little rich girl, she couldn't possibly know anything about hardship! And I know, I know, I was overreacting, I just... I just..."
"Hey. Christen. Look at me."
Christen snapped her jaw shut, audibly, and met Tobin's eyes.
"That's not what I was thinking at all, Christen. Not one bit. I was wondering, what on Earth could have happened to this girl to make her think that jumping was the only option?"
Christen deflated, wrapping her arms around her torso. Hesitantly, after looking around to make sure that no one's attention was directly focused on them, Tobin rested a calloused hand on the fabric of the dress covering Christen's smooth shoulder.
"It... It was everything, I just... I was invisible! I was sitting right there, and they were talking about me, but they wouldn't listen, and I... I saw my future among them, and it was... I just, I didn't want to do it anymore. I mean," she tried for humor. "They could at least let me help plan my own wedding. I don't even know who my bridesmaids are!"
It was meant as a joke, but Tobin's heart clenched with sadness for this girl, so trapped. Poor as she may be, at least Tobin could go where she pleased, do what she would. If she were to ever get married- not that that would ever happen- she would be able to make Alex her bridesmaid, along with her sister- if she could find her once she got home.
"Shit, Christen. That's awful. Do you at least want to marry the man?"
Christen's eyes widened, shocked at the question- one that, for that matter, no one had ever asked her before- before they narrowed in an impression of anger and indignity.
"Of... Of course! He's my fiance, of course I want to marry him!"
Tobin didn't know what possessed her to continue, when Christen was clearly unappreciative of her question. But there was just something about this girl... Tobin would never forgive herself if she didn't at least ask.
"Are you sure? Because you... you don't look sure."
Christen stood up and stomped her foot, drawing the eyes of everyone within twenty feet of them. All of whom, presumably, were taking mental notes on Tobin's appearance in case they needed to report anything later.
"Of course I'm sure! And you have no right to ask that question! We don't know each other, and so I will take my leave of you, Miss Heath. See you at dinner."
Christen turned her head and made for the corridor, hair whipping behind her and blowing into Tobin's face. Then, she turned back and growled in annoyance, but didn't take any more steps.
Tobin hadn't realized she was absently stroking the spine of her sketchbook until Christen charged back towards her. Instead of giving her a shove to the deck, the first class woman yanked the papers out of her hand.
"What is this anyway? These ratty pieces of paper, why would you-"
Christen went abruptly silent as she flipped it open to a random page. Then turned to another, and another, falling back onto the deck chair.
"These... These are amazing. Tobin, oh my goodness."
Tobin's shoulders relaxed in relief that Christen didn't appear to be ready to call security and have her escorted back to third class, and she cautiously leaned over Christen's shoulder to see which piece she was admiring.
"Oh, that one's new!"
It was the sketch she had been opened to before Christen had come down to fetch her, one that she had been showing to its admiring subject.
"When did you draw it?"
"Just this morning- it's of the little girl in the cabin next to mine and Alex's. Mallory."
Christen traced a thumb over the charcoal that had been used to fill in Mallory's hair, and her finger came away with a light coating the color of Tobin's pencil.
"Oh, no! I'm so sorry, Tobin! I've ruined it!"
"It's nothing that I can't fix easily."
Tobin did what came naturally, no thought at all for who might be watching. She caught Christen's thumb in her hand, hyperaware of the warmth of the other woman's skin on a day where a chilly breeze permeated the otherwise perfect spring air. She wiped the charcoal off of Christen's thumb onto the bottom of her own, already stained, blouse.
"Th-Thank you, Tobin."
Before her eyes could linger too long on Christen's full lips, Tobin forced herself to turn to another page- any other page, just so that her own mouth would have something to do, namely explain a drawing instead of press her own chapped lips to Christen's perfect ones.
Tobin didn't know what page she'd turned to until a soft "oh!" fell from Christen's lips, and her skin lit up in a violent blush.
The drawing on the page was, of course, just as magnificent as the other ones in Tobin's sketchbook. Perfectly weighted, not quite as lifelike as a photo but somehow infinitely more beautiful.
It was the subject matter that had made Christen gasp quietly, and turn around to make sure that no one she knew had snuck up to peer over her shoulder. As she felt her skin light up, and a slightly embarrassed grin find its way onto Tobin's face, Christen unconsciously pressed her thighs together.
The twinge in her core that had accompanied the sweat upon her waking the previous night had returned, and Christen had to bite her lip as hard as she could to stop herself from sliding a lithe hand underneath her skirts at the sight of the woman on the paper.
She was naked as the day she was born, a thin arm aligned perfectly with a creamy thigh. Her hair was shaded, but more lightly than little Mal's, and it was draped over one shoulder to cover one of her breasts. The other, however, was a prominent mound on her chest, nipple peak drawn so well that Christen could almost drop her face down to the paper and take it into her mouth. Her pussy was neatly trimmed, legs spread just wide enough that her hard nub was a shadow, only just visible.
When Christen didn't speak, Tobin did.
"That's my friend Alex. She let me draw her, just for practice, to make sure that I was good enough to sell pictures for money."
"Well, you... you certainly are. I would buy these if I saw you selling on the walk!"
Christen wanted to slap herself as she realized what she had just said, and she hurried to backtrack.
"I mean, not... not this one! I meant one of... one of the other ones. Not of Alex. She is beautiful, though."
Tobin laughed. Although, in her mind, Alex didn't compare to Christen, it wasn't like she could argue with the other woman's assessment of her friend's appearance.
"Yes, she is."
"Did... Did you two ever...?"
Christen slapped a hand over her own mouth, clearly shocked at her own boldness. It was an implication that her fiance had made the previous night, a shocking one that couls ruin Tobin's life forever, and so Tobin was unsurprised that Christen had remembered it, even among everything else that had happened to her on the deck. But, unlike the man, Christen didn't seem horrified, repulsed, or anything else. Simply curious.
And Tobin was nothing if she wasn't a sucker for Christen's curiosity. About anything at all. So, in a second, Tobin's most closely guarded secret, known to no one but Alex (and now HAO and Kelley), came spilling out for the ears of a woman that she had only met the night before.
"Have sex? No, we didn't. Can't say that neither of us were ever tempted, but after all this time she's like my sister. If we were going to sleep together, it would have had to be long before we trusted each other enough to create this drawing."
Tobin couldn't tell what emotion appeared on Christen's face. Probably not disgust, or else she would have gone running by now. Maybe disappointment that there was no gossip to share. Or maybe, dared Tobin, relief. Though, why there would be relief, she had no idea.
She was so absorbed in examining Christen's expressions that she failed to notice when the other closed the sketchbook.
"Why are you staring at me?"
"I guess... I guess I'm just trying to figure you out."
Christen handed the book back to her, and Tobin tucked it into the pocket of her trousers, only big enough to hold it because they were several sizes large on her.
"Have you found anything out yet? Anything about me?"
"Only one thing."
"And what's that?"
"You wouldn't have jumped."
With that, Tobin offered Christen her arm, and the other took it without hesitation.
Chapter 6: Ultimatum
In this interlude, White Star president Sepp Blatter issues an ultimatum to Titanic captain Jill Ellis.
"Why haven't the last boilers been lit?"
Jill looked up from her desk, Blatter's voice already giving her the beginnings of a headache. It wasn't like she didn't like the man- well, more like tolerate him- but she still wished he'd have the common decency to at least knock before barging into her office without so much as a "good morning."
"Hello, Sir. Good morning."
Her pleasantries went unreturned.
"Answer my damn question, Ellis."
Jill prayed for patience, and Dawn's curled fist on the desk next to her told her that the chief engineer was doing the same.
"We don't need them lit to reach New York on schedule, Sir. I saw no reason to work the men in the boiler room harder without a reason."
Blatter let out an exasperated sigh, one that Jill had heard before. Most recently earlier this morning, when Dawn had dared to help him with a simple equation that had stumped him.
The tone of his voice was at the same time annoyed and patronizing, as if he was thinking to himself for what must have been the millionth time that hiring her was the worst decision he had ever made.
"Why on Earth would we just want to reach New York on time when we could show the whole world what Titanic can do by reaching New York early? Women, I swear," he continued to no one. "This is why they can't do anything. No vision whatsoever."
Jill and Dawn looked at each other, each silently willing the other not to crack the White Star Line's president over the back of the head with the miniature model of the ship that rested on Jill's desk.
"Still, Sir," said Jill through clenched teeth. "I see no reason to work the crew harder than they are already working."
Blatter jerked his neck towards the door, a clear symbol for Dawn to vacate the office. She gave Jill an apologetic look, but obeyed.
"Ellis," he said once the door had closed behind the engineer. "Do you know what the rest of the boys said when I hired you to captain this ship?"
Jill didn't answer. She had heard this speech before, and knew that he would continue like a bulldozer no matter what she said.
"They said," he continued. "They said that I must be crazy to hire a woman. That there's no way you wouldn't wreck everything. I hope you'll prove them wrong, Ellis. Prove to me that I didn't make the worst mistake of my life by hiring you."
He shoved a sausage-like finger into her face, a clear indication that, no matter what she had thought, he was in charge. Then he turned his back to her and made to follow Dawn out the door.
"What do you mean by that, Sir?"
Jill spoke though tight lips, every molecule in her body fighting to hold in her fury.
"I mean," he said, turning back to face her with a mean glint in his eye. "That if we don't reach New York early, you will never sail again. Is that understood?"
Jill nodded tersely, and when Blatter had disappeared down the hallway she picked up the phone and called the boiler room.
Chapter 7: Coney Island Fairytale
Christen and Tobin go for a stroll and get to know each other a bit better.
I only made Corinne the Countess of Rothes because she never smiles... Sorry, ma'am.
In the first class lounge, Stacy Press was enjoying a good cup of tea in good company. Corinne Diacre, the Countess of Rothes, was exactly the type of sophisticated company to which she was used. Sipping tea, making polite conversation... she had truly missed this. No matter how much she loved Christen, her daughter was not quite the type that would willingly sit through a calm tea with her mother. At least not without getting on her mother's nerves quite severely.
The tea was still steaming when Stacy noticed something that made her lip curl in disgust and annoyance.
Not now, she moaned to herself. Oh please, not right now.
"Corinne," she whispered, trying to keep her voice down. No matter her feelings, she was still a proper lady, and it wouldn't do for those at other tables to hear her. "Don't look behind you, but that vulgar Rapinoe woman is coming our way."
Corinne's haughty face fell with disgust.
"Oh, no! I simply cannot stand her."
"Me neither, hurry! Let's get up before she sits with us!"
Corinne and Stacy both cast a longing glance at their still-hot teacups as they left their seats.
Megan Rapinoe's voice was pleasant as always, and if she noticed the unwelcoming looks the two women were sending her way, she didn't acknowledge them.
"I was hoping to join you for tea."
Stacy forced her lips into a thin smile, and a pleasant tone into her voice.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, but you've missed it. The Countess and I were just about to head onto the boat deck for some air."
Instead of the desired effect- namely, the woman leaving them alone- Megan Rapinoe returned Stacy's smile.
"Oh, lovely. I could use a walk as well."
There was really nothing Corinne and Stacy could do except let Megan follow them, smiling to herself the whole time.
Meanwhile, on the boat deck, Christen was still gripping onto Tobin's arm as they strolled, chattering about any and everything that came to mind.
"So," asked Christen. "How did an American girl like you end up in Europe?"
Tobin looked out the window as she answered, taking in the way the sunlight glinted off the water.
"Well, my ma and pa died around five years back, and I... Well, my aunt and uncle took in my siblings, but I was too old. They didn't want to feed someone who they thought was old enough to make her own way in the world."
Christen's thumb stroked across Tobin's wrist in a small gesture of comfort.
"Tobin, that... that's terrible."
"Wasn't all that much fun. I miss my family, but at least I'm free. So, once they kicked me out, I hopped a train out to California and sold portraits on the boardwalk until I had enough money for a ticket back to New York, and a ship to England. I just kind of... went from there, I guess."
Christen didn't finish her sentence, choked up as she stopped walking and stared out the window at the waves.
"Horrible? It wasn't all that bad. I didn't get to stay in the fancy hotels that you did, but I met some wonderful people."
"I was actually going to say wonderful. To be free, with no rules or expectations..."
They were silent for a moment, both thinking their own thoughts. Christen broke the silence, voice lighting up as she posed another question.
"I've never been to California! What was the boardwalk like?"
Tobin's eyes went misty, imagining a faraway place and wondering how to spin her words as well as she spun her pencil in order to paint a beautiful picture for the beautiful girl who wanted to hear her story.
"Well, it was... Have you ever been to Coney Island?"
Christen shook her head sadly.
"Mother and James thought it was unbefitting for me to mingle with the people who go to Coney Island. I always wanted to, though. Becky- that's my maid- went there on one of her days off, and she told me that it was a wonderful time."
"Well, the California boardwalk was even better. It didn't just have rides and games and food. There was a place where you could rent horses to go for a sunset ride on the beach, and when the temperature was just right, you could bury yourself in the sand and nap all day. Plenty of handsome boys and beautiful girls, and people willing to pay a nickel for a portrait."
Christen sighed wistfully.
"I wish I could go."
Tobin looked into Christen's eyes to find them misty, and she could almost see the shadow of California and Coney Island in her pupils.
"You know what, Christen?"
"When we get off this boat, we'll go to Coney Island. Just you and me. We'll ride the Ferris Wheel until we puke up our funnel cakes, and then I'll win you somethin' at one of those carnival games. Afterwards, we'll walk along the beach at sunset and... am I being too forward? I'm sorry."
"Oh, no! Don't apologize, Tobin! That's such a nice idea, but mother and James would never allow it."
"Then don't tell them! Pretend you're sick, then sneak out and meet me!"
Tobin paused, examining Christen's face for any sign that she was mocking her. Not that she thought Christen would, but that answer was too perfect to be anything but a joke.
"I said, okay! Becky will cover for me- let's do it! Really!"
Tobin's face lit up in an ear-to-ear smile. This was why she had saved some of the money from Fridolina and Hanna, even though she hadn't known it at the time. She was going to take Christen Press to Coney Island, and it was going to be the best day of her life. Christen was going to insist on paying for the both of them, but Tobin wasn't going to let her- after all, she was the one who had asked.
"You're really something, Christen Press."
"So are you, Tobin Heath."
There was no reason to continue their walk, and so instead they stared out of the window at the sea. Tobin pulled a packet of chewing tobacco from her pocket and opened it, popping some into her mouth. Normally, she wouldn't have done that in front of a lady (not that she had met many in her life), but something about Christen told her that she wouldn't mind.
"Can I have some of that?"
Tobin couldn't deny being slightly surprised- even if Christen didn't mind her chewing tobacco, she hadn't expected her to want any. Nevertheless, Tobin handed the rest of hers to the other woman, making a mental note to get more later.
Christen popped the tobacco into her mouth and made a slight face, but chewed it nonetheless. Her hand found it's way back to Tobin's arm and she cautiously leaned closer to her, so imperceptibly that any passerby wouldn't notice, but Tobin did.
The moment was perfect, but unfortunately perfect moments could never last.
"Christen Annemarie Press!"
Christen whipped her head around, and her face went pale. She quickly spit out the tobacco, but not before the three women gathered got a good glimpse of it.
"Hello, mother. May... May I present Miss Tobin Heath?"
Tobin spit out her own tobacco and tossed it to the floor, quickly stepping on it. The short-haired woman lingering behind Christen's mother grinned at her, but Stacy Press had an icy look on her face.
"Charmed, I'm sure. Christen, come along. We have to get ready for dinner. You'll see Miss Heath there, as I recall."
Christen's shoulders deflated and she followed her mother obediently, giving Tobin a small wave behind her back. It was only once Christen and her mother had disappeared from sight that Tobin realized that the woman who'd smiled was still there, and staring at her with a combination of concern and amusement.
"So," she said, raking her eyes across Tobin's shoddy outfit. "You're the one that Mr. Cabot invited to dinner."
"Ma'am makes me feel old. Call me Megan. But darlin' do you have the slightest idea what you're getting yourself into?"
Tobin shrugged. She hadn't really thought about it, so excited was she at the thought of a meal with Christen that she had completely neglected to consider the fact that there would be others there.
Megan shook her head in concern.
"Well, honey, you're about to go into the snakepit. What are you planning to wear?"
Tobin gestured lamely at her clothes, stained with tobacco juice and with the strips that she'd torn out for her hair notably missing. Megan put a hand to her forehead and grabbed Tobin's arm.
"Oh, dear. I think you'd better come with me."
Chapter 8: Emerald
Megan takes Tobin to her room, where the younger woman discovers a secret about the aristocrat.
I wrote this chapter after going to bed at about one (because I am on the east coast, but had to watch the USA/Ireland game, after coming home from a wedding where I probably had slightly too much to drink) and waking up at six. So I am a tired bean, feel free to point out any horrible grammar mistakes that I was just too exhausted to notice.
Tobin was shocked at the pure opulence of the first class suites. The bathroom in Megan's cabin was bigger than the room that Tobin shared with Sofia, Magdalena and Alex, and she couldn't keep her jaw from dropping as the first class woman led her through to her room.
"Alright, Tobin. Stand in front of that mirror for me."
Tobin obeyed, slightly uncomfortable as Megan sized her up, taking mental measurements before walking over to an out-of-the-way closet and yanking out a trunk, which she popped open to reveal a plethora of beautiful fabrics.
Tobin couldn't stop herself from letting out a soft gasp. Megan dug through it, once in a while looking back at Tobin, judging what would look best on her. Finally, she pulled out a long, sleeveless, green dress with a lacy overskirt and a silky bodice.
"Okay, Tobin. You go try this on while I get dressed."
Megan gestured Tobin towards the bathroom, and the younger woman shut the door behind her. She felt out of place as she looked around and, as she shucked off her clothes, she was careful to fold them so that the dirtiest parts of the fabric weren't touching the porcelain counter.
Tobin didn't normally worry too much about how she looked, but this dress was something else. As she slid it on over her head, she closed her eyes, refusing to look at herself. She didn't know what she would see- she would either completely ruin the dress, or she would look like a first class lady, and she didn't know which prospect scared her more.
"Honey? You need help?"
Tobin seemed to have forgotten how to speak, and so Megan pulled open the door to reveal Tobin. She gasped quietly.
"Oh, goodness. Tobin... open your eyes."
Tobin shook her head, and Megan gripped onto her waist, pulling her out of the room and standing her before the full length mirror.
"Tobin. Open your eyes."
This time, Tobin did.
While her face was still dirty, hair still tangled, the dress fell around Tobin's chest and hips like a waterfall. The fabric, smooth and clean, was more comfortable than it had any right to be, and Tobin couldn't think of any word to describe it except beautiful.
Megan smiled at Tobin's reaction, lacing up the back of the gown for the third class woman.
"You look beautiful, Tobin. They aren't going to know what hit them."
"I... I get to wear this?"
"I bought this for my girl in Paris, but I think you look better in it than she would. I love the woman to death, but she doesn't look as good in green as you do."
Megan guided Tobin to sit on a chair in front of the mirror as she fetched a brush from the counter and began the laborious process of combing through the knots in Tobin's mane. Tobin didn't know if she was allowed to ask, but she couldn't stop herself. Megan mentioned it so casually, as if she didn't know what the world would think.
"Your... your girl?"
Megan gave a soft smile, thinking about the woman waiting for her back in America. Sue was really something, and it had been some time before she could talk about her.
"Yeah. We've been together for a while, and people still somehow think that she's just a friend who lives with me so that I don't get lonely. They can be so stupid sometimes," she laughed.
"You live together?"
Thoughts were whirling through Tobin's head at a million miles an hour as visions of a future that she never imagined was possible made her a tad dizzy. Living with a woman she loved, waking up to her every morning, spending their lives together. The woman in that fantasy looked frighteningly like a certain first class girl who would be at dinner tonight.
"Yes. It's... it's wonderful. And it's difficult, Tobin, but it's not impossible."
Tobin tensed up, jerked back to reality as Megan's brush hit a particularly rough knot in her hair. Even though Megan was clearly like her, her fear was a response that had been conditioned over time whenever anyone got anywhere close to the truth about her.
"You... You know? A-About me?"
"It's not too difficult to guess, if you know what you're doing. Which, luckily for us, almost no one does. Takes one to know one, after all. I saw how you watched Christen Press. And I don't blame you, she's a sweet girl. Beautiful, too. And if I was a betting woman..."
Megan trailed off, and the unfinished sentence rattled around in Tobin's head, bouncing off either side of her skull. If I was a betting woman, what? What would Megan bet on about Christen?
"There we go."
With a final tug, Tobin's hair was finished, gleaming and loose around her shoulders. A quick splash of water on her face removed the dirt, and Tobin could barely recognize herself in the mirror.
"Megan... How... How can I ever thank you for this?"
Megan grinned, adjusting her own dress, far less feminine than Tobin's.
"The look on the faces of those people when they see you will be more than enough. Now, shall we go meet your girl?"
Megan dropped Tobin off at the bottom of the Grand Staircase with a smile, then walked across the floor to speak to another woman, sending Tobin a grin. Tobin watched all the women who came down the stairs, waiting to spot Christen. Unfortunately, before the young woman appeared, Tobin grimaced, forcing her face into a polite smile at the sight of Christen's mother, descending the stairs on the arm of her fiance.
Both of their eyes widened at the sight, as if they couldn't believe what they were seeing. Because there was no way, absolutely none, in their mind that this could be the same Tobin Heath. She was clean, hair glistening and clad in a dress that cost more money than she had ever had in her life. While Stacy Press's face remained shocked, James Cabot's darkened, a dangerous look in his eyes as he took her in. As quickly as the look had appeared, it faded, but left Tobin feeling slightly unsettled.
"Well, Miss Heath. What a... pleasant surprise. You could almost pass for a real lady."
The insult wasn't missed, but Megan was right. The look on his face was more than enough to give her the strength to ignore it.
"Thank you, Sir. And I thank you again for this invitation."
James nodded, turning away from her and guiding Stacy towards the door of the dining room.
"Well," said a soft voice from behind Tobin. "Look at you, Tobin Heath."
Tobin whipped her head around to see Christen on the bottom step, having snuck up on her more quietly than should have been possible in her high heels.
"Christen! You scared me!"
Christen laughed gently.
"I'm sorry. I hope you recover enough to take me to dinner."
Tobin's eyes raked across Christen's body. Her blue dress hugged her curves perfectly, and her hair was in a low bun at the nape of her neck, though a few strands lingered free by design. She had colored her lips, and they were dark red now instead of her natural pink.
She was a goddess, and Tobin a mere mortal at her feet.
"I... I think I can manage that. You look beautiful."
Christen grabbed onto Tobin's arm and they started walking towards the door of the dining room, as slowly as they could manage.
"You ought to look at yourself. If you don't mind me asking, where... where did that dress come from?"
As if on cue, Megan appeared on Tobin's other side, grabbing onto her other arm jokingly. Neither needed to speak for Christen to understand.
"Well, Ms. Rapinoe. It seems that, if that whole philanthropy thing doesn't work out, you have a promising future as a personal stylist."
Megan laughed, reaching over to greet Christen.
"Well, Miss Press. Our friend Tobin here was quite a good model."
The two women on either side of Tobin grinned conspiratorially, and Megan fell back as they entered the dining room.
"Now," whispered Christen as they made their way towards a table in the center of the chamber. "Let me point out who's who. I don't expect you to remember. Goodness, I can barely remember myself, but you can have some nice names to toss out once we get into New York."
Tobin nodded in agreement, silently thinking to herself that, even if she managed to remember one name, no one in New York would believe that she, Tobin Heath, filthy sketch artist, had ever rubbed shoulders with these people.
First, Tobin pointed towards a young couple near the table where they were to sit.
"Over there, that's Mr. Fabrice Gautrat. He may seem young, but he's the richest man on this boat. No joke."
Christen returned the man's wave, and gave a friendly smile to the woman holding his arm.
"That's Morgan, his wife. She was involved in quite the scandal a while back. They say that she slept with one of her servants, a girl called Meghan Klingenberg. It would have ruined her, if Mr. Gautrat hadn't paid the papers quite a lot of money not to run the story. That's why they were in Europe, you know. Giving everyone in the States a chance to forget all about it."
Ah, what money could do.
"Over next to them, that's Lord Brian and Lady Carli Hollins. She's actually the reason they're rich, her line of naughty lingerie was... quite the hit, to say the least."
Christen blushed lightly, and Tobin wondered if whether digging in her drawers would reveal a pleasant surprise.
As they walked towards the table, Christen pointed out several more people, all of whom waved to her. The table was crowded when they reached it, but Christen put her hand on the back of two chairs. Tobin pulled Christen's out for her, then settled in herself.
While the table didn't exactly go silent, all eyes turned towards the newcomer.
Tobin gulped, and only the pressure of Christen's hand on hers stopped her from bolting. Megan was right. This was the snakepit, and Tobin was a particularly juicy rat.
Chapter 9: Caviar and Making It Count
Tobin attends a first class dinner, and must navigate concealed hostilities with the help of her beautiful friend- and several new friends.
POV switches around so much during this chapter that I didn't bother to add the horizontal lines.
Christen simply couldn't stop staring at Tobin.
The other woman was absolutely stunning. The dress was the perfect color on her, and the way the bodice framed her breasts made Christen's eyes widen in admiration. But more than that, Christen couldn't help but be awed by Tobin's bravery, coming among these people who would judge everything she said.
The rest of the table was staring at her as well, but their gazes were far less admiring.
Some, like Morgan Gautrat, seemed to be simply curious at this woman she had never seen before. Megan's was encouraging. But the rest of the table's gazes were guarded. This was a woman that they had never seen before, a mere guest who had Christen Press, an engaged woman, clinging to her arm like she was her fiance. Only two gazes held worse- Stacy Press was glaring daggers at Tobin, eyes filled with hate. James Cabot's were, if anything, worse. There was no clear hate in them, unlike Stacy's, but there was a false friendliness within that frightened Tobin, as much as anything had ever frightened her.
Christen, hand on Tobin's wrist, could feel the other woman's pulse rise, and so she rose from her chair and gestured towards her guest.
"Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Miss Tobin Heath. She's my guest tonight."
Fabrize Gautrat's face joined his wife's in a curious smile.
"Heath, was it? Are you of the Boston Heaths, or the Edinburgh Heaths? Fine families, fine families..."
The rest of the table stared at Tobin, awaiting her response. Rather than cowing her, the gazes awoke something in Tobin.
When she admitted who she was, these people would think that they were better than her. And goddamn it, she was going to prove them wrong.
"The New Jersey Heaths, actually."
Mr. Gautrat raised his eyebrows.
"Never heard of them."
The server poured their drinks, and Tobin took a sip of the fine wine, finer than anything she'd ever tasted. She had to stop herself from draining the glass in one gulp, instead watching Christen, who took small sips.
"So," said Stacy across the table, voice lingering on the edge of poorly disguised fury. "Tell us of the accommodations in steerage, Miss Heath?"
Christen clenched her fists in anger, wishing she could just reach across the table and shake her mother. Because of course, of course Stacy couldn't possibly just let it be. She had to humiliate Tobin. Christen braced herself for the horrified gasps from the table when they realized that a third class girl was among them, sitting beside Christen like a lady. But Tobin didn't rise to the offered bait.
"The best I've ever seen, ma'am. I've seen no rats so far."
Watching Christen for all her cues, Tobin picked up her napkin and placed it on her lap, guarding the precious dress from any potential spills.
"Miss Heath is here tonight," said James, addressing the rest of the table. "As a reward. She was of some assistance to our darling Christen last night."
James's words did nothing to stop the whispers spreading around the table. Mr. Gautrat's smile had slid from his face, and Lord Hollins had a hand on Lady Carli's arm, as if Tobin was going to spring across the table at any second and attack her. The only faces which still held friendliness were those of Mrs. Gautrat and Megan, if one didn't count the falsehood on James's face.
The arrival of a waiter broke the awkward silence.
"How do you take your caviar, Miss?"
It took Tobin a moment to realize that the man was addressing her. Christen opened her mouth to answer for her, but Tobin put a hand on her knee, letting her know that she was alright. Christen tensed, but didn't pull away from the hand.
"No caviar for me, thank you, sir."
The waiter nodded, then walked around the table to serve the others. Neither Christen or Lady Hollins took any either, emboldened by Tobin's refusal, and all Morgan Gautrat did was pick at hers.
Stacy, of course, couldn't leave well enough alone.
"So, Miss Heath," she said, lips tight over her teeth. "Where exactly do you live?"
Christen clenched her fist again, and then realized that she had clenched her fist around Tobin's hand, still on her thigh. The other woman squeezed back, again letting her know that it was alright.
"Well, right now? I live on the R.M.S. Titanic, and after that, I'm on God's graces."
A horrified look sprang to Stacy's face.
"And you... enjoy that kind of... existence?"
Tobin shrugged, pushing the envelope by rubbing a finger over the back of Christen's hand.
"Well, I've never really thought about it, but I suppose I do. There's so much beauty in this big world, and I'd like to see as much of it as I can before I go. My parents always wanted to travel, but they died in the town they lived all their lives. I hope I can find Perry and Jeff some day- they're my brother and sister- and show them all the things I've seen. When my parents died, it sorta made me realize that you have to live every day as if it were your last. Make 'em count."
Megan raised her glass, toasting Tobin's words.
"Never have I heard wiser words from someone so young. Well said, Tobin."
The Gautrats raised their glasses as well, and the rest of the table followed their lead.
"To making it count."
The voice was quiet, but strong, and the others around the table echoed it. Christen lowered her glass and gave Tobin a warm smile, holding her hand under the table.
Stacy and James looked at each other, horrified by the fact that Tobin seemed to be gaining acceptance at the table.
As the meal continued, Tobin chattered to Morgan Gautrat while Christen turned her attention to the woman sitting on the other side of her, an older woman writing furiously in a book.
"Ms. Scott, what's that?"
Dawn Scott closed the book and gave Christen a smile.
"Nothing that need worry you, Miss Press. It's only notes for ship improvements."
The conversation had caught James's attention, and he laughed.
"Leave it to a woman engineer to never be satisfied. There's not a thing on this ship that could be improved, Ms. Scott."
Dawn and Christen gave each other annoyed looks, but Dawn was the only one who spoke.
"That's where you're wrong, Mr. Cabot. There is always room for improvement."
As the group finished their dessert, James turned his attention back to Tobin.
"Well, Miss Heath. Thank you for the... pleasure... of your company, but you must be tired. Perhaps you should return to your level of the ship."
Christen gave him a shocked look.
"James! That's very rude!"
"No," said Tobin, blood internally boiling. "It's alright, Miss Press. He's right, I am rather tired."
As she stood, Tobin pressed a note into Christen's hand and nodded to her. Morgan Gautrat and Megan gave her a wave, and Tobin disappeared from view.
"I'm rather tired as well," said Christen. "So I think I shall retire. Goodnight, good people."
She waited until she had exited the dining room to open the note, and it made a bright smile climb onto her face.
If you want to go to a real party, meet me downstairs in 20 minutes. -TH
Chapter 10: Fiddler
Christen attends a third class party, and meets Tobin's friends.
After she left the dining room, Tobin took off running. If Christen was indeed to meet her in a few minutes, then she had some serious work to do to get ready. Beginning with her clothing.
Thankfully, Megan had left her room unlocked, and her servants simply nodded to Tobin as she raced through her suite to the bathroom. When she arrived, she found her clothes just where she had left them, but folded. And washed.
They smelt like soap, and almost every stain was gone. The list of favors Tobin owed Megan was growing longer and longer in her head.
She was sad to remove the green dress, sad to lose the most beautiful thing that had ever graced her body. The way Christen's eyes had lingered on her when she was wearing the thing was a look she would never forget. Taking one last longing glance at herself in the mirror, Tobin pulled the dress off and hung it on the door, switching back into her regular clothes.
Her hair was still silky and soft, and Tobin really did enjoy having it down, but for the party she was going to, it was better to have it up in a ponytail.
Then, with nods to all Megan's servants, she raced back out and down the hallway to find her own staircase. Thankfully, she met no one who would have the authority to punish her for being in a place where she so clearly did not belong, and hopped the gate to the third class decks.
The party was being held in the great common room, and was already in full swing when Tobin arrived. People patted her on the back, asking what had taken her so long. Alex had succeeded in getting the Norwegian, Lisa-Marie, to dance with her, under the watchful eye of the girl's sister Isabell. Kelley was sitting in a corner, pouting as she gazed at the couple. Heather was playing a jig on the fiddle, occasionally casting a glance over at Kelley.
Tobin sighed in relief. She had made it. Now, all there was left to do was wait for Christen to show up or not show up.
Christen wasn't entirely sure what Tobin's note meant by downstairs.
There were a lot of passageways in the third class area of the ship, and there was no way of knowing which one to take to find the other woman. The corridors seemed to be largely deserted, and Christen was absolutely lost.
Then, she heard the music.
It sounded as if someone was playing a fiddle, sawing out a lively jig. Christen made her way towards the noise until she found another set of stairs. Holding up her dress so that she didn't trip over it as she made her way down, she realized that this was definitely the right party. As well as that she was horribly out of place.
Everyone was dressed in their everyday clothes, sweating and tapping away as the older Irishwoman that she had seen earlier that morning on the deck with Tobin played the fiddle. Those who had noticed her entrance were not bothering to hide their stares.
Tobin was at her side in a second, wrapping an arm around her waist and helping her down the rest of the stairs. Those who had wondered how a first class girl had somehow wandered into their neck of the woods relaxed and went back to dancing when they saw that she had been invited by one of their own.
Christen felt stuffy as she made her way through the crowd, guided by Tobin. Her dress was getting caught on everything, and it was extraordinarily difficult to walk in her heels. Tobin had changed back into her regular clothes, and Christen envied her.
Someone stepped on the back of her dress, and Christen was only just caught by Tobin.
"I- I can't walk in this thing!"
Tobin pulled out an empty chair and Christen collapsed into it. She looked up to find that she was seated across from the other Irishwoman that she had seen earlier, who mustered a smile for her.
"Well, hey there. I never thought that Heath would get a piece 'o you."
Christen laughed, reaching out her hand to shake the other's.
"Ah, shut up, O'Hara. Christen, this is Kelley."
A passing person stepped on Christen's dress again, and the woman growled.
"Damn it! I want this thing off!"
From her pocket, Kelley O'Hara produced a simple pocketknife and opened it.
"As much as I'd like to see you naked-" That earned her a slap on the head from Tobin, who stood protectively in front of Christen. "-that wouldn't be a good idea. But, I think I know a way that we can fix that dress for you."
Christen nodded, and Kelley tossed the knife to Tobin. The American blushed fiercely, but sank down to her knees in front of Christen and began to cut away the bottom of her dress with choppy strokes. She freed it up to just below Christen's knees, a shockingly short length for the first class girl, who gasped as her calves were exposed to the entire room.
No one noticed- they were all too busy dancing, drinking and playing little games.
Slowly, a smile crept back onto her face as Tobin rose back to her feet, finding it physically difficult not to take a peek between Christen's legs and tossed the knife back to Kelley.
"Ay, there! That's better!"
"Thank you, Miss O'Hara."
That drew a full laugh from Kelley, who reached over to put an arm around Christen's shoulders, taking another swig of the ale in front of her.
"I like this one, Tobin. Keep her around. And as for you, I ain't been called Miss anything in years. There's no need to start now- call me Kelley."
"Alright then, Kelley."
A small hand tugged on Tobin's shirt, and she looked down to see Mal.
"Dance with me, Tobin?"
Tobin grinned and scooped Mal up into her arms, joining the rest of the couples, singles and groups at the center of the room, the designated dance floor. Christen remained with Kelley, who slid a mug of beer to her across the table. Christen took a long drink, sighing in pleasure.
Kelley had returned her gaze to the dance floor, watching Alex Morgan- who Christen recognized from the sketch shown to her by Tobin earlier- dance with a blonde girl. Her forlorn expression did not go unnoticed.
"You like her," said Christen, and Kelley jolted, tearing her eyes away from Alex.
"I... Ah, I suppose I do. Look at 'er, how could you not? Well, unless you're Tobin, I guess. Everyone with eyes knows that she's got it bad for you."
Christen's eyes widened and she scanned the floor for Tobin, who gave her a wave. Her hand tingled at the memory of the other girl's inside her own at dinner, far longer than needed for pure reassurance. Tobin's cheeks had reddened with the exertion of spinning Mal around, and Christen couldn't tear her eyes away.
"And, if I was to guess, I'd say that you've got it almost as bad, if you don't mind me saying so."
Christen opened her mouth, ready to deny it. She couldn't be one of those girls- no way. She was engaged, for God's sake. She was marrying James, not a girl, and certainly not Tobin. But, as she tried to get the words out to tell Kelley that she was certainly mistaken, she found that they were stuck in her throat.
So, she took another swig of her beer, a pleasant buzz beginning to fill her head.
Across the floor, the blonde Norwegian's sister had pulled her away from Alex, who must have gotten too close for comfort. Kelley's mood lightened noticeably, and she hopped up, waving to Christen as she made her way towards the fiddler.
As Tobin was swinging Mal around, enjoying the way the little girl giggled in delight, she was also keeping one eye on Christen. She seemed to be getting on well with Kelley, and had almost finished one mug of beer. When Isabell pulled Lisa-Marie away from Alex, Kelley hopped up and made her way over towards Heather, snatching the fiddle away from her cousin and beginning a new tune, upbeat and lively that dragged anyone who had been sitting still to start tapping their feet. Heather rejoined her with the lyrics to an Irish song, barely audible over the noise of the crowd.
Magdalena was dancing with a Danish girl, Pernille. Sofia was on the arm of a Swedish man. Lisa-Marie was arguing with Isabell. Alex had sat down, and her eyes flickered towards Kelley, who was enchanting as she played.
And Christen was sitting alone.
Tobin set Mal down.
"I'm going to go dance with her now, okay?"
She gestured towards Christen, and Mal's lower lip pushed out into a pout.
"Don't worry, Mally. You're still my favorite girl."
This cheered Mal up considerably and she pulled Tobin down to whisper in her ear.
"She's real pretty, Toby."
Tobin nodded, grinning conspiratorially at Mal, who dashed off to join her father at the other side of the room. Taking a deep breath, the woman made her way through the bodies towards Christen.
She offered a hand to the other woman, who whipped her head around to face her. When she realized who was speaking, she grinned, extending her own hand to take Tobin's.
It didn't take Christen long to realize that this was not the kind of dancing she was used to. It was fast and jaunty, following the pace that Kelley set on her fiddle. She did her best to follow Tobin's lead, but the other didn't seem to know much about what she was doing either. She was just moving, pulling Christen along with her and spinning her around.
Christen didn't realize that she was laughing in joy, clinging onto Tobin's shoulders for dear life as they whirled in circles, trying not to crash into the other dancers.
"Tobin!" She screamed through her laughs. "We- We're going to crash!"
"No we won't! I won't let us!"
Tobin lifted Christen off the ground and spun her around, and Christen wrapped her arms around her neck, her head raised above the crowd. She could see everyone- Kelley and her cousin keeping the crowd alight with their lively music. Alex was definitely watching Kelley, the way the other woman's hair fell into her eyes in light curls, the way her freckles highlighted her face. Mal, starting to nod off against her father's shoulder.
She wrapped her legs around Tobin's waist, starting to get dizzy.
And she didn't see James's valet, lingering on the stairs, his eyes locked on her, before walking back upstairs to report to her fiance.
Chapter 11: On Her Shoulders
Christen thinks that she has managed to sneak back into her room without being found out, but wakes the next morning to find herself horribly, dangerously mistaken.
Warning: There is a moment in this chapter where James is very violent towards Christen- if that is something that will trigger you, maybe skip the middle of this chapter
Tobin walked Christen back to the first class entrance. They were both tipsy, but Christen was clinging to Tobin's arm, her nails digging slightly into the skin. She had taken off her shoes, and was just sober enough to pray that everyone had gone to sleep, that no one had missed her. And that she could get out of her ruined dress before anyone saw it.
They had reached the entrance, but Christen stopped, and when Tobin stopped moving as well, the deck falling silent, she realized that Christen was singing quietly.
"Oh you take the high road and I'll take the low road and I'll be in Scotland afore you, but me and my true love will never meet again..."
Her voice was shaky, but somehow it was the most beautiful sound that Tobin had ever heard. She joined her for the last words.
"...on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond."
Their voices mingled together, Christen's high and Tobin's low. They faced each other, breath visible in the cold night air, eyes locked.
Tobin had never wanted anything more in her life than to kiss her.
"I... I have to go."
Christen's voice was barely the shadow of a whisper, but to Tobin it was loud as a gunshot, one that pierced her with disappointment.
"Good night, Christen."
The first class woman raised a hand and brushed a lock of hair behind Tobin's ear.
"Good night, Tobin."
Then, she disappeared through the door to first class, and Tobin was left alone on the deck, lilting folk song still playing in her head.
When she returned to her room, it was to find Sofia and Magdalena fast asleep, snoring on their bunk. However, on Alex's bunk, there was a sight that made Tobin's face light up in a gentle smile. Alex was fast asleep, but she wasn't alone. Her head rested on Kelley's shoulder, the Irishwoman's calloused hand stroking gently through her hair. Kelley was just barely awake, and she gave Tobin a sleepy smile.
No one was waiting for Christen when she opened the door to her suite. All the lights were out, and she let a soft sigh of relief fall from her lips. Still holding her heels, she tiptoed down the hallway to her room and inched the door open.
Christen jolted, briefly terrified at the unexpected sound. Until she realized that it was just Becky, not yet changed into her nightgown, waiting for her.
"Oh, thank God. It's you."
Becky laughed quietly, already undoing Christen's ruined dress.
"Who were you expecting, Miss?"
Becky tossed Christen her nightgown and pulled back the covers on her bed. Then, she held up the destroyed dress.
"What... what shall I do with this?"
Christen knew that she should have Becky throw away the dress, bury it somewhere where her mother and James would never find it. Maybe toss it over the side of the ship, let it sink down into the ocean. But, for some reason, she couldn't quite do it.
"Just leave it for me. I... It's..."
Becky smiled knowingly.
"All right, Miss. Good night."
The maid disappeared into the smaller room which adjoined Christen's, and Christen, brain still buzzing a tad with the effects of the beer, slid under her covers. It was past one in the morning, but she couldn't find sleep. Her mind kept flashing back to the sound of the party, Kelley O'Hara playing the fiddle, trying to understand the jokes made in other languages, watching the joyous dancing. And most of all, the feeling of Tobin's arms wrapped around her as they twirled together. In Tobin's arms, Christen couldn't deny it anymore, she felt safer than she ever had before.
Christen woke the next morning with a light headache, the beer so enjoyed the previous night coming back to bite her. But, the sun streaming through the window told her that it was time for breakfast, where her absence would certainly be noted. Becky helped her lace up a simple dress, and Christen hurried out to the suite's dining room.
There, she found only James.
Her heart beat a little bit faster. The look in his eyes was cold, and Christen calculated each step carefully, praying that he didn't know what she had a horrifying thought he did.
He pulled out her chair for her, and she sat on the edge of it as he stood behind her, hand on the back of her neck.
"I'd hoped to have you in my bed last night."
Christen had to put a hand to her mouth to contain her gasp of shock. She knew, in the back of her mind, that this was what he wanted from her, but he had never been so bold to say it directly to her. At least, not until now.
"I... I was tired."
He let out an incredulous bark of laughter.
"Yes, I suppose you were. Your time below deck must have been truly exhausting."
She opened her mouth, then closed it again, shivers running through her body. How...?
"Did... Did you have me followed?"
His lack of denial was as good as a confirmation, and Christen felt the beginnings of anger rising in her chest. How dare he have her followed, as if she was no more than a rebellious child? As if she were not a grown woman?
"You will never behave like that again. Do you understand me, Christen?"
His voice was dangerous, but Christen ignored the warning, fear giving way fully to anger.
"I'm not some servant that you can just order around! I'm your fiancee-"
A monstrous clattering and crashing and shattering of fine china came, and it took Christen a horrifying moment before she realized that James had swiped the table settings from the table, leaving them to be destroyed by the unforgiving floor. James's hand on the back of her neck squeezed tighter, and his other hand pulled her head back by the hair until she was looking up into his eyes.
"Yes, you are! And soon you will be my wife! And when you are, you will honor me! In fact, you'd better start now, because I will not be made a fool of!"
Then, abruptly, he let go of her and stalked from the room, leaving his fiancee to collapse from her chair next to the pile of ruined dishes.
Christen was too shocked to cry. She was trembling, heart pounding with leftover terror. Then, a gentle hand was on her shoulder, giving it a reassuring squeeze before bending down to begin cleaning up the mess.
Christen reached down to help Becky pick up the shattered dishes, voice shaky and almost incomprehensible.
"Oh, Becky! I'm- I'm s-so sorry!"
Becky let the china fall from her hands, wrapping Christen in her arms and rocking her back and forth gently.
"No, Miss. It's not your fault. Now, it's all right. Let me clean this, your mother wants to see you."
Christen's heart dropped to her feet with dread- there was no way that Stacy hadn't been informed of her previous night's activities. She was in for another lecture, but at least she knew that this one wouldn't involve pulling of her hair.
So, she rose to her feet and started with shaky steps towards her mother's room.
"May I speak freely, Miss?"
Becky's hands were clenched in furious fists, face twisted up into an expression that was half pity for Christen and half righteous anger. Christen nodded.
"He's a monster, Miss. You can't marry him."
Christen's heart clenched painfully.
"I... I don't think I have a choice."
Stacy had already chosen Christen's day dress. It was a light blue, just as long as her evening gown from the previous night, now tucked under her pillow, smelling of beer and smoke and sweat. Her mother's face was unreadable as Christen entered her chambers, surprised when Stacy dismissed her own maid and turned to ready her daughter herself.
Christen slipped the dress over her head, then stood in front of the mirror so that Stacy could tighten her corset. Her mother's hands were rough, yanking at the laces to pull them as tightly as they would go. Whenever Christen let out a breath, Stacy pulled the corset tighter, until it hurt.
Then, abruptly, the older woman spoke.
"You are never to see that girl again, Christen Annemarie. Do you understand me? Never."
The words didn't cow Christen like they might have on any other day, a day where she had already been warned against the same thing- far more violently.
"Oh, stop it mother, before you hurt yourself."
The hands at her back were gone, and Stacy was crossing the room, looking up and down the hallway to make sure there were no prying ears, before shutting the door to seal herself and her daughter into the chamber.
"This is not a game! You know that the money is gone!"
Christen bit her lip. This was what she hadn't want to think about. The reason she was so stuck.
"I know," she whispered, and Stacy continued.
"Your father left us nothing but a legacy of debt and a good name. That name is all we have, Christen."
She pulled at the corset again, tightening it impossibly further.
"It is a fine match with Cabot. It will give us a future, survival. We can keep our things, our house. No one need ever know."
Stacy tied off the corset and, through the mirror, Christen could see the primal fear in her mother's eyes. It was the same look she had worn just a minute ago, wondering for a minute what was going to happen to her at James's hands.
Everything rested on her.
"It's so unfair."
Christen knew she sounded like a petulant child, but she couldn't quite bring herself to care. Normally, her mother would scold her, but today Stacy just ran an uncharacteristically gentle hand across Christen's cheek.
"I know, my girl. I know."
Chapter 12: Heartbeat
Tobin goes to find Christen on a Sunday morning, but Christen has a tough choice to make... her family's future or her happiness.
This shit gets sad... don't worry, I'll fix it!
Tobin had gotten used to hopping the gate which separated the first class and second class decks from the third class one. On this bright Sunday morning, there was no one to see her- they were all at church. Which was, really, exactly where she should be. But this might be one of her only chances to find Christen- she couldn't waste it. So, she sent up a quick prayer of apology, then hurried down the Grand Staircase towards the first class dining room, which doubled as a makeshift church.
The doors were guarded- two stewards stood sentry, probably to make sure that no riffraff like her who had somehow managed to find their way into an area of the ship which wasn't their own would interrupt the wealthy devout in their prayers.
"You're not supposed to be here!"
One of them grabbed onto Tobin's arm, trying to pull her back towards the staircase. But, the third class woman had spotted Christen, singing in the third row of chairs that served as pews, sandwiched in by her mother and fiance.
"I was here last night! Don't you remember?"
The sentries looked at each other and shook their heads, clearly dismissing her as delusional.
"No, Miss, I do not. Now, you must return to your part of the ship-"
The door that they had been guarding opened, and out emerged Christen's fiance's manservant.
"Miss Heath," he said, voice just edging on a growl. "While Mrs. Press and Mr. Cabot continue to be appreciative of your assistance to the future Mrs. Cabot, your continued presence here is no longer appropriate. Gentlemen," he said, turning towards the men holding Tobin's arms. "Please escort this woman back to the third class decks, and ensure that she stays there."
"Please!" Tobin strained harder, eyes never for one second leaving Christen. "Please, I just need a moment! Just a minute with her!"
The manservant scoffed.
"I have been ordered to keep Miss Press and her party safe, and that is what I intend to do. Safe from you."
He jerked his head towards the staircase, and the men dragged Tobin away, the sound of hymns fading until she was tossed back over the gate, tumbling down the stairs and onto the third class deck.
Two pairs of hands pulled her to her feet, dusting off her clothes and checking her over quickly to make sure that there were no scrapes that needed tending to. Alex and Kelley led her to a deck chair and pushed her to sit down, even as the sentries gazed over the gate to ensure that she didn't try to make a return trip.
"What was that all about, Tobin? Why were you on the first class decks?"
"I... I needed to see her."
The two women gave each other a knowing look, full of sadness for their friend.
"Your first class girl?"
Tobin nodded, wrapping her arms around her knees. Alex's hand rubbed down her back, trying to comfort her best friend as Kelley tossed Tobin a cigarette.
That was all they could say as Tobin lit up the smoke, tears glimmering in her eyes as she looked up at the unreachable sphere where dwelt Christen Press.
They had been at sea for several days, and still had not managed to visit many of the attractions that made First Class on the Titanic special. So, rather kindly, Dawn Scott had offered to give them a tour of the upper decks. One of the attractions was the gym, to which James had insisted that Christen accompany him and her mother. The touch of his arm made her nervous, but she couldn't let go. Not in front of the people who expected to see them as a happy couple. His skin was cold, and hers was shaking.
The instructor was happily showing the party around the gym. A mechanical horse, a rowing machine, stationary bicycles- it had everything that a person who cared to keep up their exercise routine while on vacation could possibly want. Both Christen and Stacy were offered tries on the rowing machine, and while James's hand on her arm prevented Christen from taking the man up on his offer, Stacy flat out refused.
"I can't imagine ever needing to know that."
Ms. Scott gestured the tour onward, and James let go of his fiancee's arm long enough for her to speed up her walk so that she was beside the older woman, who was pointing out the rows of lifeboats, twenty boats in all.
"Yes, Miss Press? Do you have a question?"
Christen could feel James's eyes boring holes in the back of her head, but he wouldn't dare try to stop her from speaking in the presence of so many individuals.
"Yes, actually. Well, more of a... concern."
"Don't insult the woman, Christen. What could you possibly have to be concerned about on her ship?"
"No, Mr. Cabot. I'd like to hear Miss Press's concern. What is it, dear?"
Christen scanned the lifeboats again, redoing the sum in her head.
"Pardon me, but... I did the math, and with the amount of boats times the capacity you mentioned, it cannot escape my notice that there does not... does not seem to be enough space for everyone, in the event of an emergency."
Ms. Scott did not deny it, pausing to stare at the small boats.
"No, there isn't. Not by half. I tried to add a second row, but I was overruled by those who thought the deck would be too... crowded."
It was clear exactly what she thought of this decision.
"But you needn't worry, Miss. I've built you a good ship- hell," she laughed. "It would have had to be good for them to let it on the ocean- no one trusts a woman's work."
Christen nodded and lagged behind as Ms. Scott continued the tour, worry nagging in the back of her mind.
Tobin hadn't cried. Alex and Kelley had seen to that, dragging her straight to the card table in the third class lounge, which still smelled of beer from the previous night's activities, and the four of them plus Heather and Sofia had played several hands of poker, gambling for stale potato chips. It had been a welcome distraction, but Tobin couldn't help her mind from wandering back to Christen.
She hadn't been able to see much of the other woman, but she had seen how Christen had flinched away from her fiance, standing next to her with his hand on her arm. That simple movement from her, the simple sign of fear, had made Tobin want to punch out the stewards and run to her, pull her away from him.
And so, she excused herself from the card table- the majority of the chips were sitting in front of Sofia, and Kelley was eagerly trying to win them back- with a brief lie, saying that she was tired and going to lay down.
Instead, she ran straight back up to the entrance that she had gotten thrown out of, finding that, thankfully, there was no one there who would have the authority to stop her. Still, she didn't want to take the risk.
On a deck chair, there lay a long day coat, long enough to cover everything except Tobin's scuffed shoes. Sending up a quick prayer, begging for forgiveness and understanding, Tobin slid the coat on over her clothes. Keeping her head down, Tobin wandered around the decks. She had no idea where to find Christen, and so she just had to hope that Christen would somehow find her.
She didn't have to wait long.
"...does not seem to be enough space for everyone, in the event of an emergency."
She didn't hear the words of response, her ears laser focused on Christen's voice coming closer and closer to her. She ducked behind a pile of deck chairs, and hoped that she would get an opportunity to catch Christen's attention without catching anyone else's. God must have been listening to her, even though she hadn't gone to church that morning.
Christen had fallen all the way back to the queue of people, giving Tobin the chance to grab her arm. She whipped around, ready to scream, but the panic faded when she saw who it was. Tobin pulled her into the gym, where the instructor had disappeared.
"Oh, God, Christen! I tried to come and see you earlier, but they wouldn't let me!"
Tobin wrapped her arms around the other woman, running a hand through her hair. Christen stiffened, tossing her head back and forth to make sure that no one had seen her be pulled away from the group and into the gym.
The lack of reciprocation didn't go unnoticed by Tobin, who let go reluctantly, but left a hand on the first class woman's arm.
"Christen, what's wrong?"
"I... I'm sorry Tobin. I can't see you anymore."
"Who told you that? You're not their slave, you can... you can be your own woman! Please, be your own woman!"
Christen was shaking like a leaf, pressed up against the windows. She opened her mouth to speak, but Tobin wasn't done.
"You... You're just amazing. You're the most amazing woman I've ever met, and I've met a lot of women in my time. I... I know I can't offer you what they can, I can't give you that glamorous life, but I promise, I swear, that I can give you myself. Fully, completely. We haven't known each other long, it's true, but I feel something for you that I've never felt before, for anyone."
She took Christen's hand in her own, moving it towards her chest and placing it above her heart.
"Do you feel that? That's my heart beating. It beats for you, and it will until it stops beating forever. I am in love with you, Christen Annemarie Press."
Tobin had swore to herself that she would never admit feelings for another woman- it could lead to more trouble than she was prepared to deal with, enough trouble to get her killed. But there was something about Christen that had made all of that go out the window.
Christen pulled her hand from Tobin's grip, cradling it against her chest, refusing to meet the other woman's eyes.
"Please, Christen. Please, say something."
Tobin's voice was shuddering- she had laid everything on the line, and the other woman's silence was terrifying. Maybe she had misread the signs, misread Christen's failure to take her hand out of hers last night, their arms around each other... the look in her eyes as they stared at each other on the deck.
"I can't, Tobin. I have things I need to... I... I don't need you to save me."
"I know," said Tobin, swallowing around the lump in her throat. "You're the only one who can save yourself."
Christen nodded, still refusing to look at Tobin.
"What I mean is... I... I don't want you the way you want me."
In that moment, Tobin could feel her heart break.
"If you... if you ever change your mind, y-you know where to find me. G-Goodbye, Miss Press."
Tobin gave Christen a wet kiss on the cheek, before running faster than she'd ever run before, still wearing a first class woman's day coat, back towards safety, down the stairs to the third class cabins.
She didn't know how she could face her friends again. She didn't know how she could ever look in a mirror again, or hear a song on the fiddle, without thinking of Christen.
So, Tobin cried like she'd never cried before, letting her heartbreak pour out onto a deck chair, as far away from anyone else as she could be.
As she fled the gym, she didn't see Christen collapse to the floor, burying her head into her arm in sorrow and guilt over the biggest lie she'd ever told.
Chapter 13: Telegraph Interlude
Junior Wireless Operator Tierna Davidson delivers a message to Captain Ellis.
Junior Wireless Operator Tierna Davidson bit her lip, staring down in concern at the message that her office had just received. Her partner was tapping away at her telegraph machine, headphones on and hair pulled up into a messy bun. She waited until the woman had finished with her message before tapping her on the shoulder.
"Hey, Dahl. It's another telegraph about icebergs. What... What should I do?"
Senior Wireless Operator Abby Dahlkemper pulled her earpiece out, turning to face her younger counterpart.
"Go tell Ellis. I've got another one coming in- there's too many of these not to let her know."
They had told her yesterday about the iceberg telegrams, but before she could even speak, White Star owner Sep Blatter had scoffed.
"Don't worry your pretty little head about it, Davidson. Ellis and I have it all under control, don't we?"
Jill Ellis's eyes were wide, not reassuring at all, but didn't speak. And so Tierna had left, trying her hardest not to worry.
She raced down the hallway, message in hand, leaving Abby behind to monitor the machines. Ellis was alone in her office, thankfully, and Tierna didn't bother to knock, bursting in through the door and wasting no time with formalities.
"Another iceberg warning, Ma'am. Second one today, and Dahlkemper was getting another just as I left. This one's from the Baltic."
Jill nodded, eyes solemn.
"Thank you, Davidson."
The Captain turned back to her desk, but Tierna couldn't bring herself to leave. There was a fear nagging at her, worsening as the afternoon turned into early evening.
Ellis turned back around to face the young woman.
"Was there something else, Davidson?"
"Do you think we're going to hit?"
Ellis shook her head, smiling at Tierna, but the smile failed to reach her eyes.
"No, Davidson. We have lookouts in the crow's nest, they should spot anything dangerous in time for us to turn. Please, don't worry."
Tierna nodded, retreating back to her station as Jill Ellis stared at the telegram left behind.
Chapter 14: Fly Together
At a simple afternoon tea, Christen realizes that she made a huge mistake.
Tobin spent a long time crying. She got strange and pitying looks as she lay on a deck chair, sobbing. Her cheeks were red with tears, and every time they almost tapered off, something would bring Christen back into her mind and it would start off again.
She didn't see it when Mal, walking on the deck with her father, passed her chair, then ran back into the lounge and came back out with Alex Morgan's hand in her small one. Alex didn't need to ask what had happened, simply wrapped Tobin up in her arms and rocked her back and forth. Tobin turned into her shoulder, sobbing renewed. Alex held Tobin until the tears finally stopped, leaving her numb.
"Oh, Toby," whispered Alex. "It's okay, everything will be okay."
Tobin didn't bother to correct her- her heart wasn't sure that it would ever be okay again. But, she let Alex hold her until the other woman went to get an early dinner, promising that she would be right back.
Tobin nodded numbly, but after Alex's back had retreated inside, she found herself wandering until she ended up at the very front of the ship, where she and Alex had watched the dolphins jumping what seemed like a lifetime ago. She sat there, back against the side of the ship, looking up at the sky as the afternoon wound onward.
A late tea wasn't quite the exact last thing that Christen wanted to with her mother and Countess Corinne Diacre, especially when Morgan Gautrat had to cancel at the last moment because of a bout of seasickness. But, it was fairly high up on the list, following any time whatsoever with James.
She wanted to be in her bed, letting herself cry into her pillow at the memory of the broken look in Tobin's eyes that she had tried so hard not to see. But instead, she was sipping at Earl Gray, listening to her mother blabber on to the Countess about the planning of Christen's wedding.
"Now, just let me tell you about the bridesmaid dresses- it would be so much easier if Christen wasn't so picky, and if Henrietta Rockefeller could appear before society in any color besides blue. And the invitations, what a saga that has been..."
Suddenly, Christen just couldn't listen anymore. She couldn't listen to talk about the hideous bridesmaid dresses that none of the women she had been forced to accept into her wedding party would be caught dead in. She couldn't listen to talk about Henrietta Rockefeller, a distant niece of the tycoon and by far the most insufferable of the lot. And she definitely didn't want to hear about those wretched invitations- they were more like invitations to her funeral than her wedding.
The rest of her life would be spent like this, listening to talk about pointless things among pointless and insipid people. And never seeing Tobin again.
Her mother had made her decision for her, just like she always had, but this time she didn't even know it.
"Mother," she said, standing up. "I need to go."
Stacy looked at her daughter, shocked, with the beginnings of anger brewing in her eyes. Once upon a time, not so long ago, Stacy's anger would have made Christen shake with fear and obey without question. But now, she didn't care.
She didn't wait for Stacy's response before running from the room and towards the stairs to the third class deck. There was someone she had to find, and she prayed that she would forgive her.
Christen started on the deck, where she had found Tobin the first time, but there was no sign of the other woman. She ran all around the outside, then started combing the inside. The third class decks were smaller than those of first class, but far more confusing for her. Then, panting heavily, she raced into the lounge where the party had been held the previous night.
There was no Tobin there, but there was someone that she recognized. From a drawing, and from the night before.
"Are you Alex Morgan?"
The other woman whipped her head around and, when she saw who it was, her eyes narrowed furiously. Christen took a step backwards as Alex rose from her chair, and soon the first class woman found herself backed into a corner with a very angry woman screaming at her loudly, Welsh accent prominent.
"What the hell do you think you're doing here, you bitch? How dare you come here, after what you've done? You broke her, and she... I..."
Alex sobbed dryly, and Christen ignored the eyes that had fallen onto them.
"I made a mistake," she said, and Alex gave her a watery glare.
"Hell yes you did."
"And now I need to fix it. I realized that the future they imagine for me... I just can't do it! I can't spend another minute pretending I'm one of them, I can't spend another minute pretending that I love my fiance when I really love her. I can't imagine my future without her, and I need your help. Please, Miss Morgan, do you know where she went?"
Alex's eyes softened and she put a light hand on Christen's shoulder. Both of them were shaking.
"I'm glad you came around so quickly, Christen Press. When I left the deck, I turned around and saw her heading to the front of the ship. I'd check the very front- we watched dolphins there on the first day aboard."
"Thank you," said Christen, shoulders sagging relief as she pulled a surprised Alex in for a hug, which the other woman returned after a moment. "Thank you so much."
"Anything for Tobin," said Alex, rubbing her shuddering hand down Christen's back. The other woman went to make her way to the place that Alex had suggested, but before she could leave the room, the Welsh woman spoke again.
"And Christen? I've known Tobin for a long time, and I've never seen her happier than when she's with you. Go get her."
Christen nodded back at Alex, who took the hand of Kelley, who had just appeared behind her.
"What was that?" Kelley asked as Christen ran.
"Press came to her senses," said Alex happily. "She's going to her."
"HAO owes me a dollar," she said, and Alex smacked her on the arm.
As Christen approached the place where Alex had recommended she seek out Tobin, she slowed her pace to something that was barely a snail's crawl. She could see that the other woman was standing at the very front of the ship. Her hair was down around her shoulders, blowing gently with the breeze. She looked like a goddess.
And Christen didn't know if Tobin would want to see her.
She had broken both their hearts that morning, and now she hoped that she could fix them. So, she took a step forward, then another.
Tobin didn't turn around, but her shoulders stiffened, so Christen knew that she had heard her. Christen felt panic start to rise in her chest at the thought, the fear, that Tobin might not forgive her, that her stupidity might have ruined this forever. But, she shoved the feeling down and continued forward.
"Tobin, I... I have to admit something."
Tobin still didn't turn around, but she cocked her head slightly- she was listening.
"I lied to you earlier, when I said I didn't... didn't feel the same for you. I do, I do."
This was the first time she had admitted it out loud- she loved Tobin Heath, and hearing the words come from her own mouth made her almost delirious with emotion.
"I love you, Tobin Heath. And I'm so sorry. Please, please forgive me."
Now, Tobin turned around. Her face was red- she had obviously spent a large part of the day crying, and there were new tears running down her cheeks as she stared at Christen, who stood in front of her, hoping. Watching. Waiting for Tobin to make the first move.
Then, suddenly, Tobin had thrown herself forward into Christen's arms, and was planting desperate kisses all over Christen's face. Her cheeks, her forehead, her nose, the corners of her eyes. Tobin's tears mingled with the ones that Christen hadn't realized were dripping down her own cheeks. Christen wrapped her arms around Tobin's neck, returning the flurry of kisses.
"I forgive you," said Tobin, taking Christen's hand in her own and squeezing it tightly, as if reassuring herself that the other woman was really there, that this wasn't some sort of dream. "I will always forgive you."
She pulled Christen towards the very front of the ship, wrapping her arms around her.
"Look," she said, gesturing towards the sunset, red and pink of the sky mingling with the ocean waves which seemed to spread out infinitely before them. "Isn't it beautiful?"
Christen nodded, but she wasn't looking at the sky so much as she was looking at Tobin.
"Yes," she replied. "You are."
Tobin carefully pressed her lips to Christen's. The other woman wasted no time in reciprocating the kiss, wrapping her hand in Tobin's hair and holding her close as their lips danced, finally. Finally.
"You know what?" Christen asked when they reluctantly broke apart.
"I feel like I'm flying, and I never want to come down."
"Then let's fly together."
Chapter 15: Diamond on Paper
Christen has a request for Tobin, one which requires her art skills.
SO sorry that I didn't post a chapter yesterday- mia familia had plans.
Christen fumbled for her key, sliding it into the lock and listening for the click which admitted herself and Tobin into the stateroom. Everyone else was at dinner, even the servants, and so Tobin and Christen were completely alone in the suite.
"Wow," said Tobin between passionate kisses. "This is fancy as hell."
Christen laughed lightly, running her hands over Tobin's shoulders, feeling the muscles there.
"Yeah, I guess it is. Oh," she said, reluctantly letting go of Tobin and walking towards the safe on the other side of the room. She twirled the combination lock and pulled out a black velvet case, like the one that would be used to hold a ring, except far bigger and, when Christen handed it to Tobin, she found that it was far heavier than a ring box as well. Christen flipped the lid open, and Tobin's eyes widened in shock at what was contained within.
"You want to see fancy, though? I have to show you this piece of work. Just look at it!"
Tobin ran a cautious finger across the velvet interior, still unwilling to touch the actual diamond itself for fear of dirtying, of sullying the opulent thing with her presence.
"That's one big rock."
Christen laughed. "That's an understatement. James gave it to me as an engagement present."
Tobin stiffened, reaching to close the lid and push the thing away from her. She didn't want it near her, she didn't want to look at a piece of jewelry that someone else had given Christen- that she could never give Christen.
"Oh, Tobin," said Christen, immediately noticing her distress and guessing the reason for it. "Oh, sweetheart, no. I have a plan for this. I was going to say that I want you to draw me, like you drew Alex. Wearing this necklace- and only this necklace."
Tobin's eyes widened as she tried to process the words that had just come out of Christen's mouth. She... she wanted her to what? The artist bit her lip, staring at Christen, who was smiling teasingly.
"So, what do you say, Tobin?"
Tobin nodded frantically, already digging into her pockets for her sketchbook and pencil. Christen leaned down and kissed her, then waved over her shoulder as she disappeared into her room to get ready.
In the absence of Christen, Tobin tried to slow her heart rate. So, she was going to draw the woman she was in love with. Naked. Wearing a necklace that her fiance had given her. No big deal.
No big deal at all.
Or no big deal until Christen came back in the room wearing a thin robe, hair loose and necklace falling into the crevice between her full breasts.
"O-Okay," she said. "Okay, um... Just lie on the couch."
Christen dropped her robe, and Tobin nearly had a heart attack. Because Christen was facing her, completely naked, and giving her a shy smile. Her nipples were already hard, and her belly curved gently, soft but strong. Her thighs rose up, culminating in the valley of her core, hair trimmed neatly back, and Tobin wished she could just jump forward and bury her face there. She was a Goddess.
"Are you okay, Tobs?"
Christen's voice was gently teasing, and Tobin felt an even deeper blush rise to her cheeks as she rubbed her thighs together, more aroused than she'd ever been in her life as Christen draped herself over the couch, body facing Tobin, with one hand on her hip and the other supporting her neck, wrapped in her own hair.
"Ah, that's... that's perfect. Now stay still, just like that."
Then, still blushing furiously as Christen obeyed, Tobin put pencil to paper and began the drawing.
Christen was hiding it better than Tobin was, but her heart was also pounding a mile a minute as she watched Tobin draw her. The artist's eyes raked over her body, then returned to mark the detail on the paper. Her wrist was starting to get tired of holding her head up, and the necklace was heavy above her breasts, but Tobin was still working. The only noises in the room were the scratch of Tobin's pencil as it captured Christen's figure, as well as the model's soft sighs of arousal.
"Good," said Tobin. "Can you brush that curl out of your eyes. I want to see your whole face."
Christen obeyed, squeezing her legs together to try and shove down the arousal, which was urging her every second to jump out of her position and throw herself on Tobin. After what could have been anywhere between fifteen minutes and an hour- neither Christen or Tobin could tell, so lost in each other that time had lost all meaning- Tobin raised her head up and gave Christen a shy smile.
"Okay," she said. "You can go get dressed while I put the finishing touches on."
The ache between Christen's legs yelled in disappointment- when Tobin had finished the drawing, she hoped that the woman would press her gently to the couch cushions and collide their lips again, preferably while removing her own clothes. But, if Tobin wanted to show her the finished product first, Christen certainly wasn't going to protest.
When Christen disappeared back into her room, shutting the door behind her, she collapsed against the back of it and dipped her right hand between her legs, feeling the dampness there. But, after a few strokes of her fingers, she forced herself to leave it alone. Then, she opened her drawers and pulled a garment that was halfway between an incredibly casual day dress and a nightgown over her head. It didn't require a corset- which was one of the reasons why she was wearing it. If the night went according to plan, then a corset would be an incredible pain to remove.
Then, taking a piece from the stationary set beside her bed and digging in the table for a pen, Christen scribbled a note.
When Christen emerged from her room, Tobin had finished. Her fingers were stained with charcoal, and so she was holding the drawing in her opposite hand, careful not to smudge it. It was the best piece she had ever created, in her own opinion, and she only hoped that Christen would share that assessment. The other woman came around behind her, staring over her shoulder at the representation of herself, a diamond around her neck.
"My God, Tobin," she sighed. "It's... It's beautiful."
Tobin smiled, relieved, turning her head around to kiss Christen.
"Well," she said. "An artist is only as good as her subject."
"You flatter me, my darling."
Tobin grinned against Christen's lips, dating and signing the drawing before passing it off to Christen.
"So," said the other woman, examining the details of herself- the curve of her thighs, the valley between her legs, the mound of her breasts... the glitter of the diamond around her neck, on the drawing that she would leave for her mother and fiance, along with the goodbye note written on Titanic stationary.
"So," she repeated. "How do you feel about posting this in the hallway for all the first class people to see?"
Tobin paled, before quickly joining Christen in laughter.
"Hmm, I think I should be the only one to see that."
"I agree," whispered Christen, voice a fluttering tickle on Tobin's ear. "It's just for you."
Then, there was a click at the door. It was a quiet noise, but to them it was louder than the bang of a pistol, and possibly even more concerning.
Someone was turning a key to return to the room, and they had only seconds before their eyes locked onto the couple.
"Fuck," whispered Christen, having not expected anyone back for at least another half-hour. She quickly pulled off the necklace and shoved it, with the drawing and the piece of stationary, into the safe and shoving the door shut.
The door slid open just as Christen grabbed onto Tobin's hand and pulled her into her own room, then through the adjoining chambers.
"Miss Christen," came the voice of James's valet. "Your fiance noted your absence at dinner and sent me to search for you. Are you in here?"
Christen didn't answer, instead pulling Tobin faster until she reached the other exit. There was no way that he hadn't heard. And, indeed, when they emerged, they were greeted by a scowling face and a hand reaching forward to grab onto Christen.
While Tobin froze in her tracks, Christen did not, instead pulling Tobin's hand harder and taking off down the hallway. She didn't care who they ran into- it didn't matter!
"Come on, Tobs!"
Tobin awoke and quickly joined Christen in a full fledged sprint, towards the elevator, as the man chased after them. They threw themselves into the elevator and had already started downward before the valet had reached them. He growled in anger and made for the stairs, but by the time he got down, they were already running down another hallway, every which way.
The two women laughed, running through the hallways of the Titanic until they were confident that they had lost him in the maze. Tobin swung the door open, and a blast of cold hit her. Christen shivered, but pulled them forward and towards the cars that covered the room completely.
Chapter 16: Wherever You Want To Take Me
A car provides the backdrop for Christen and Tobin to promise their futures to each other.
AAAAANNDDD the rating goes up. This chapter is just soft, gentle porn.
"Shit," said Christen. "How far did we run?"
Tobin, hand still clasped inside of Christen's own smaller one, laughed breathlessly.
"A long way, I guess."
The cars in the dark seemed to stare at them, a hundred pairs of eyes, dark and large. But these eyes weren't judging eyes, not like the other pairs that could have seen them. Christen pulled Tobin gently through the rows, pulling at the doors of the cars until she found one that was unlocked. As she made to jump in, Tobin got down on her knee, creating a step and helping Christen up and onto the leather seats.
Then, once Christen was inside, laughing, Tobin hopped up into the driver's seat with a goofy smile.
"Where to, Miss?"
"Wherever you want to take me."
Then, Christen's hand was on her shoulder, pulling her into the backseat to join her and planting a gentle kiss on her lips.
"Tobin," she whispered. "I want you."
Tobin kissed Christen again, deepening it this time and wrapping her arms around the other woman, pulling her closer. As their tongues danced, Tobin carefully guided Christen so that she was lying on her back against the leather seats. Her hand traced along her collarbone, occasionally dipping lower.
When Tobin broke the kiss, she was breathless, staring into Christen's eyes. She swore, if she looked hard enough, she could see heaven in them.
"Christen," she whispered. "Are you sure?"
Christen nodded fiercely, curling a hand into Tobin's hair and pressing their mouths back together.
"I've never been more sure of anything."
That was all the confirmation Tobin needed to slide her hands lower, tracing across Christen's sides over her dress. Christen returned the gesture, sliding her hands up under Tobin's shirt to stroke across the skin of her stomach.
"You want to take that off?"
Tobin nodded at Christen's question, pulling off her coat and quickly following it with her shirt and bra, revealing her chest to the woman beneath her.
Christen reached up and cupped her breasts, weighing them in her palms.
"God, Tobin," she whispered. "You're so beautiful."
Tobin blushed. Other girls had said that to her before, but never had it felt as true as when it came from Christen's lips.
"So are you, baby girl."
Christen pulled her dress off over her head, quickly followed by her undergarments, revealing her form to Tobin for the second time that night. It was just as shocking and amazing as it had been earlier, if not more so. Because this time, she could put her hands on her, touch her until she fell apart.
Tobin followed Christen's lead, removing the rest of her clothes, and Christen gasped at the sight.
It was the first time she'd ever seen all of a woman, and the only word she could think of to describe the sight of Tobin above her, body shivering with excitement and arousal- the same arousal that was rapidly pooling between Christen's own thighs- was incredible.
"My God," she whispered. "Tobin, I... Please touch me."
Tobin obeyed, pressing her lips back to Christen's to swallow the moans that fell from her lips as she slid a hand between her legs. It was the first time Christen had ever felt a touch that wasn't her own, and she arched into Tobin's fingers as the other woman dipped a finger inside of her.
Tobin certainly hadn't been capable of rational thought or movement during her first time with a woman, and so she was shocked when Christen managed to pull one of her hands from her hair to rub at Tobin's nipples, hardened into peaks in arousal. She rolled them, one at a time, between her fingers, and Tobin couldn't stop herself from biting down onto Christen's lip, still attached to her own.
Christen moaned into Tobin's mouth as the other woman curled her finger, feeling at her walls and bringing down another finger to rub softly at her clit, ignoring the slick that was beginning to coat her thighs at Christen's gentle touch, at the feeling of the other woman's walls squeezing around her finger.
"More," gasped Christen. "Please, I need more."
Tobin was thrilled to comply, adding another finger into Christen, thrusting them shallowly and eating up her gasps of pleasure.
"So beautiful, Chris," sighed Tobin. "So perfect."
Christen slid her hand down to rest between Tobin's legs, feeling around for her wetness.
"God," whimpered Christen. "You're so wet."
"All for you, baby girl. It's all for you."
Tobin gasped and curled her fingers inside of Christen as the other woman's fingers found her clit, swollen and begging for touch. Christen started to rub small circles around the nub as Tobin fucked her with her fingers.
"Christen," moaned Tobin. "Please, put your fingers in me."
Christen's eyes widened at the request, and she hurried to obey. She dipped a finger inside of Tobin, and both women gasped at the feeling. Normally, Tobin needed more stimulation than just a single finger to start grinding up and down, but the touch of this woman was a hundred times more powerful than that of any woman she'd ever been with before. Christen couldn't believe that this was happening- her finger was inside Tobin, thrusting in and out gently and feeling the heat while the other woman clenched around her.
Tobin pulled her fingers out of Christen, and the younger woman gasped in disappointment, whimpering with need.
"Don't worry, princess," said Tobin, reluctantly raising herself off of Christen's fingers. "I'm going to take care of you."
Tobin sank down to her knees in front of Tobin and whispered into her pussy.
"I've got you, Christen."
Christen whimpered in anticipation, spreading her thighs wider and clenching her pussy around nothing. Tobin dipped her head down, starting slowly.
She pressed a kiss to Christen's mound, then a line of kisses down her lips. Christen's hands were scrabbling at the leather seats, unable to get purchase as Tobin's tongue darted out to taste her, thrusting her tongue into Christen.
Tobin had never tasted anything better in her life- not even the first class food could hold a candle to the taste that was Christen, who was moaning and curling her hands in Tobin's hair as the other woman gave her feelings she had never felt before. The sensations increased tenfold when Tobin pulled her tongue out of her soaked pussy and pressed it to her clit. Her fingers returned to fucking Christen's pussy.
Christen was practically crying with the pleasure, wrapping her thighs around Tobin's head and grinding down into her lover's fingers and mouth.
"Tobin," she whimpered. "Tobin, I'm gonna..."
Pulling her mouth briefly away from Christen's clit, Tobin whispered into her pussy.
"Come for me, Christen. It's okay, fall apart. I've gotcha."
Christen did, squeezing Tobin's head between her thighs as the hand that wasn't fingering her pussy came up to squeeze her hand. The first class woman moaned loudly, practically screaming with the pleasure.
"That's it," whispered Tobin as Christen came down from her aftershocks. "That's it, sweet girl."
As she held Christen's hand, Tobin extricated herself from between her lover's thighs and pulled her head against her shoulder, dipping her other hand between her own thighs.
"L-Let me," said Christen, returning her hand to rub at Tobin's clit. It didn't take much stimulation for Tobin to come- the taste, smell, feel of Christen with her had made her more aroused than she'd ever been in her life. She clenched her pussy around Christen's fingers, moaning out her pleasure along with the other woman's name.
As they lay together, sticky with sweat but unwilling to let go of each other, Christen's voice came from Tobin's shoulder, where her head had come to rest.
"Tobin," she whispered. "Once the ship docks, I'm getting off with you."
Tobin pulled Christen closer, stroking a hand through the other woman's hair.
"Are you sure? Because you know... You know I can't give you the life you're used to. It's a hard life, that I live, and it's no place for someone as perfect as you."
Christen pressed a kiss to Tobin's lips, tasting herself there.
"I think I can decide my own place, Tobin."
Tobin laughed gently, nodding.
"You sure as hell can, Christen Press. And if you want me, I'll stay with you until we die."
Christen nodded resolutely.
"I love you, Tobin Heath, and I'm willing to deal with any kind of hard life to be with you."
Tobin sniffled. She hadn't realized that tears were dripping down her cheeks until Christen wiped one away, kissing her cheeks softly.
"Why are you crying, baby?"
Tobin pulled Christen closer.
"I love you too, Christen Press."
As Christen rested against her shoulder, Tobin found herself lost in thought, thanking God for this moment. Although there were those who would say that this moment alone was enough to send her to hell, Tobin didn't know how that could possibly be true when she had already found heaven in Christen's arms.
Chapter 17: Iceberg Interruption
A violent shiver ran through the lookout's body from the crow's nest. It was freezing up here, and no matter how many times he rubbed his hands together, he couldn't get them warm. His partner breathed on his own hands, shivering as well.
The water was calm, calmer than it had been in days. There were no waves, nothing except the blackness of the ocean out ahead of them, and the light of the stars shining down. Not that they made much of a difference when one was trying to see in the dark without binoculars.
"Hell," said his partner. "Wish we were down there, like them."
He pointed down towards two women, walking arm in arm along the deck. The lookout had to agree- it was warmer down there than it was up here, that was for certain. But, that wasn't their job.
"Water's calm," he said. "Too calm."
His partner agreed with a nod, returning his eyes to the ocean out ahead of them. The lookout shivered again, shutting his eyes for a moment to bring them a small sense of warmth.
Then, something appeared out of the darkness. The lookout thought that it must be a hallucination brought on by the cold, or even just an eyelash that had fallen into the wrong place. Until his partner gasped in horror, reaching for the alarm bell, and the phone down to the bridge, where a tired and cold man stood beside the wheel.
"Iceberg! Iceberg, right ahead!"
Down on the bridge, the Titanic's second officer picked up the phone to the last words that he wanted to hear. The last words that anyone wanted to hear.
"Hard to port!"
The scream came from the crow's nest, and the man turned the wheel with all his might, yelling for his partner to call down to the engine room and get the ship put into full reverse as quickly as possible. The man's face turned white and he obeyed the order, screaming into the phone and staying on the line as he listened to the sound of the firemen pulling the levers that would hopefully alter their course just enough to avoid the towering pile of ice that was looming ever closer.
Then, all they could do was wait.
On the deck, Tobin saw the iceberg before Christen did. Her eyes widened, and seven souls were absolutely silent as they watched the frozen water come closer and closer, the ship in a frantic race with time and physics to avoid a collision.
The nose turned. The ship cleared. Fourteen shoulders lowered in relief.
Then came the sound. The screech of the metal as it scraped against the ice.
The second officer clasped his hands in prayer, and picked up the phone to the captains office.
"We've hit a berg."
Chapter 18: When Everything Shook
Pieces of ice broke from the berg and landed on the deck, shattering. Tobin, without thinking, put her body between Christen and the shards of frozen water that were crashing towards them. They slid across the deck, but past the women.
It took a moment for them to stop staring at the iceberg as they passed it.
"Fuck," whispered Christen.
Tobin repeated the sentiment, body still poised protectively in front of Christen, though there was no immediate danger. She realized when Christen put a hand on her shoulder that she was shaking.
"We... we should go tell Mother."
Tobin nodded in agreement, taking Christen's hand in her own as they made their way back towards the young woman's suite.
Alex Morgan's arms were wrapped around Kelley, just drifting on the edge of slumber with her naked body pressed against her lover's, when she felt the jolt.
It wasn't a large one, but it was enough to bring her back from near sleep to wide awake.
She shook Kelley's shoulder gently, upset at having to wake her from slumber, but something inside her told her that she should.
"Kell, baby, did you feel that?"
"Did'n feel anythin' 'cept you shakin' me."
Kelley's voice was groggy, and she turned over to bury her face in the pillow, but Alex didn't let her go back to sleep.
"There was a bump. I haven't felt any bumps before."
Kelley sat up, rubbing her eyes.
"I'm sure it's okay, baby. But if you want, we can get dressed and check it out."
Alex nodded, feeling around the floor for their clothes.
Heather O'Reilly was tapping her foot anxiously as she watched the crowds gather in one of the third class common rooms.
They too must have felt the jolt, and were worried enough about it to get up out of bed to wait for someone to come around who could give them information. As she scanned the faces, she noted that one was conspicuously absent.
Kelley had not yet appeared in the common room, and Heather swore that if her cousin didn't arrive in the next five minutes, she was going to go looking for her.
"Hey there, HAO."
Kelley's voice came from behind her, and Heather's shoulders collapsed in relief- her cousin was standing there with her hand in Alex Morgan's, and she wrapped her arms around both of the younger women.
"Do you know what's happening?"
Heather shook her head at Alex's question, just hoping that someone would be able to answer it soon.
Sofia Jaksobsson gasped in horror when her feet met the floor. Because the floor was wet.
Not very wet, but wet nonetheless.
She, like everyone else, had felt the jolt, but had decided to try and go back to sleep. The Welsh girl who shared her room had been having sex, and so Sofia had needed to clap her hands over her ears to ignore it, and had just managed to fall asleep when Kelley and Alex went quiet.
Then, she had heard the panicked noises in the hallway, and decided that something was wrong.
Grabbing her bag, Sofia raced down the hallway towards the common room with the rest of the crowd.
This was bad, they just needed to figure out how bad.
When the phone in her office rang, Jill knew what the voice was going to say. She had felt it.
She gave the orders to close the watertight doors, then buried her head in her hands.
This was her fault. All her fault.
But, she choked back the panic and answered the door for Dawn Scott.
Dawn, Jill, Sepp Blatter and as many officers as could be spared from their positions, were gathered in the Captain's office. Jill's head was buried in her hands, Sepp Blatter was pacing back and forth, and the First Officer was on the phone.
"We can't contact the boiler room."
Dawn had to swallow the lump in her throat, pouring over the plans of the ship.
"What's the damage, Sir?"
The First Officer put down the phone, crossing himself quickly.
"The first four watertight compartments are flooded, ma'am, and the fifth is filling rapidly. What... What does that mean to you?"
Dawn closed her eyes, trying to ignore the icy hand gripping her heart.
"My... My ship can stay afloat with the first four watertight compartments flooded, but not five. Not five."
Sepp Blatter sputtered.
"This ship can't sink!"
Dawn whipped her head around, giving the man a steely glare.
"She's made of metal, Mr. Blatter! She absolutely can. And she will."
It was the first time any of them had said it aloud, and a silence fell over the room.
Jill's voice was quiet, but strong. Dawn took the Captain's hand in her own, giving it a squeeze.
The First Officer crossed himself again.
"C-Captain? What do we do?"
Jill stood up, already reaching for the phone on her desk.
"You. Tell the stewards to start getting people on deck, with their lifebelts. Get the others to help as well- nothing matters anymore except getting them. Dawn, explain to anyone who asks what's happening, but don't let them panic- tell them only as much as you have to. I'll call the wireless room and get them to send out distress signals. Hopefully, there's a ship close enough to help us."
"What do I do?"
Sepp Blatter's voice was frightened, and astounded. Jill gave him an icy stare.
"I don't care what you do. You're useless. Get out of my office."
The man spluttered again, then glared back.
"You're fired, Ellis."
"Fire me again if we live through the night."
Abby Dahlkemper had to ask Captain Ellis to repeat herself when the woman's voice came over her earpiece. She couldn't believe what she was hearing, and she wanted nothing more than to run to the deck in fear, wait for a boat, save herself.
But, she had a job to do.
"Davidson," she said. "Send out an SOS to anyone nearby."
Tierna looked at Abby, eyes wide and terrified.
"An SOS? W-What?"
"Just do it, Davidson! We've hit a berg, and we're going down."
Tierna shook herself, turning to her machine and tapping out the Morse Code, praying that someone was close.
"It might be your last chance to send one," whispered Abby as she tapped at her own machine.
Chapter 19: Innocence
When Tobin and Christen try to tell Christen's family about the iceberg, they are interrupted by James's plan to get rid of Tobin once and for all.
Once again, this chapter has domestic violence in it, as well as non-consensual touching. The touching is asexual, but it does leave one party feeling violated. Remember to practice self-care.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Tobin's hand was steadying for Christen as the two walked down the hallway towards the first class suite. Her heart was still pounding a mile a minute, gripped with the chill of the night air and the proximity of the ice.
The ice that they had hit.
"It'll be okay," said Tobin, but her voice was shaking. She took a deep breath, then ran her thumb across the back of Christen's hand and repeated the sentiment, this time more convincingly. Christen returned the squeeze, taking comfort in her love beside her.
As they rounded the corner, her pounding heart nearly stopped. Because there stood James's valet, a suspicious smile on his face.
"Miss Christen," he said politely. "Thank goodness you're back. We've all been so worried."
His arm was firm as he slid between her and Tobin, prying their fingers apart with his body. As soon as Tobin's warm hand left hers, Christen immediately felt the panic rising back into her chest.
"Come along, Miss. Your mother and James have been frantic. You'd better come along as well, Miss Heath."
Neither Tobin nor Christen saw the diamond necklace that he slid into the other woman's coat pocket.
When Christen and Tobin entered the sitting room of the suite, Tobin shuddered internally. James and Stacy were glaring at her, and she wished she could turn around and run, dragging Christen with her, and never come back.
But, they had a job to do. And Christen was going to do it, no matter what.
"Mother, James," she said, and Tobin was astounded at how steady her voice was. Her own would likely have come out as nothing more than a squeak of fright. But Christen kept her cool. This was her mother, after all.
"Something very serious has happened," she continued. "We've-"
"Yes," said James, interrupting her before she could finish, making Tobin clench her fists in annoyance. "Something serious has indeed happened."
"You felt it too? We need to-"
It was as if she wasn't speaking. Tobin took a step forward, not knowing what her plan was other than to somehow force this man to let Christen finish her sentences, but was prevented from doing so by a hand that snaked out to grip her shoulder. The valet squeezed her skin, forcing her to stand still.
"Two things dear to me went missing tonight. Now that one is back, I have little doubt where to find the other."
Then, there were more sets of hands on her.
"What are you doing?"
Her question went unanswered, and then the hands were moving, pulling her coat from her shoulders. A steward was searching through it as Mr. Cabot's valet ran his hands along her body, searching.
"What the hell? Leave her alone!"
Christen's protests went just as ignored as her words had been, and Tobin bit her lip, trying to tolerate it, not to let Christen see her afraid. The touch was asexual, but it still felt like a violation. Thankfully, it was cut off early when the steward spoke.
"Is this it, Sir?"
Every single eye in the room turned towards him, and Tobin's mouth dropped open in shock at what he was holding.
It was the beautiful diamond that she had seen Christen leave in the safe... without shutting it. But, how it had ended up in her pocket, she couldn't guess. Except...
"I didn't steal that!"
They ignored her, just like they had ignored Christen.
"Yes, it is. Thank you, Sir."
Then, the hands were back, wrenching Tobin's arms behind her back and locking handcuffs around her wrists. The metal was cold, but not as cold as the looks she was being given.
"Come on, you."
The man who had handcuffed her began to drag her from the room, and Tobin met Christen's eyes, pleading silently for help.
"Stop! What are you doing? She can't have stolen it, I've been with her all night!"
James glared at Christen with such ire in his eyes that it frightened Tobin.
"Perhaps, she stole it while you were putting your clothes back on, darling."
Then, the door slammed between Christen and Tobin, and Tobin was fighting fruitlessly as she was dragged down the hallway and towards the brig.
After Tobin had been pulled from the room, cuffed at the wrists, James just glared at Christen. Then Stacy, giving her daughter a look that was both disappointed and furious at the same time, returned to her chamber.
A slap echoed through the room, and Christen's cheek was on fire, reddening and stinging. Stunned, she raised a hand to her face, only to collapse to the ground as his two arms pushed at her shoulders, throwing her to the floor.
Her mouth was agape, entire body shuddering in fear as he approached her. She raised her arms to block her face, and he used them to pull her back to her feet. His face was less than an inch from hers as he screamed in fury.
"You little whore!"
He raised his hands to hit her again, but before the fist could fly, she was saved by a tap on the door. James made no move to answer it, but it opened anyway to reveal a steward, eyes wide but trying to remain calm. James let go of Christen so quickly that it made her almost dizzy.
"Sir, I've been told to tell you to put on your lifebelt and proceed to the boat deck."
"Get out. I'm busy."
The steward didn't obey, and Christen's heart filled with gratitude for the man who had almost certainly just saved her from the full force of her fiance's fists. Instead, he made his way into the room and reached up to pull down the lifebelts.
"I'm sorry for the inconvenience, Mr. Cabot, but it's Captain's orders."
He handed the lifebelts to James, and then returned to the hallway to wake up the rest of the first class passengers.
Christen was surprised that she was able to speak at all.
"This is w-what I was trying to t-tell you."
Alex's hand was still clutched in Kelley's as they milled around, trying to find out what was going on. But no one seemed to know. The common room was rapidly filling, and the crowd was pressing towards the stairs.
"Miss Kelley, what's happening?"
A small voice came from Kelley and Alex's left, and they looked down to see Mal, wearing a child's lifebelt and clutching her father's hand.
"I don't think she knows, sweetheart," he said. "Do you?"
Kelley and Alex both shook their heads.
"The stewards told us to come out and put our lifebelts on," said Mal's father. "But don't worry, darling, I'm sure everything's all right."
Mal didn't look convinced, and Kelley turned to meet Alex's eyes. In them was the same fear she knew was contained in her own.
"There's water on the floor," came a voice at Kelley's ear.
Sofia stood on the other side of her, whispering only to the Irishwoman and her companion in shaky English. When Kelley looked down, she saw that the other woman's boots were wet.
"Shit," whispered Kelley, squeezing Alex's hand more tightly and grabbing HAO's shoulder. They joined the front of the crowd, pressing towards the locked gates.
When the Master-at-Arms had dragged Tobin through three locked doors, all the way down to near the bottom of the ship, and cuffed her to a pole that stood near the side of the room, he raced out.
Although Tobin didn't like the man, she wished that he had stayed. Because, his exit meant that she was left alone with James's valet, who was twirling a gun in his hands. She couldn't take her eyes off the weapon, even when he opened the chamber and removed the bullet, placing it on the table and letting it roll down with the slant of the ship, which was starting to become noticeable.
"It was you, wasn't it?"
Tobin's suspicions were confirmed when the man nodded simply.
"You needed to be kept away from her. This was the way to do it. Really, Mr. Cabot couldn't have scripted this out any better."
He nodded towards the bullet, sliding down the table again. Tobin's eyes followed it, chewing on her lip.
"You know," he continued. "I do believe that this ship may sink."
He jerked his head towards the circular window, halfway covered with water.
"And I think that you may as well sink with it. She won't, of course. She'll live, and soon she'll forget all about you and her little adventure with her. She'll forget all about you, once she's married. And why shouldn't she? You'll be all alone, at the bottom of the sea. I have one more gift for you."
Tobin doubled over as his boot made contacted with her stomach, releasing a wave of pain. She was only held up by her handcuffs, but she managed to glare through the tears as the man left the room with a wave over his shoulder.
"Compliments of Mr. Cabot. Have a good death, Miss Heath."
And then there was no one except Tobin in the room, trying not to cry at the pain in her body and her heart, at the pure fear that was gripping her soul.
"Please," she prayed. "Help me."
The tears fell, the first droplets of water that would soak the floor that night.
I'm not super satisfied with this chapter, but heck...
Updates might be slower this upcoming week and next week, maybe the week after that. They will happen, but I am making the transition to college and moving into my dorm, so that's going to take up a lot of my time. I promise I will get on here as often as I can!
Chapter 20: Filling the Parting Glass
Nerves give way to worries, which give way to fears.
Another relatively short chapter
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The outer decks were completely empty. Not a soul had begun to gather. The first lifeboats were ready for passengers, but no passengers had boarded- the place was deserted, all except for Jill Ellis and her First Officer, tapping his foot nervously.
"Where the bloody hell is everyone?"
Ellis stared around herself in disbelief- her orders had been very explicit: get people up, get them outside, get them ready. And this? This was the opposite of ready.
"They've all gone back inside," said her officer from beside her. "It's too bloody cold out here for the likes of them."
"It's going to get a hell of a lot colder before all is said and done," she growled. "Get them out here! Now!"
Christen wasn't wearing her life belt yet. Only very few of the women were, and none of the men. James had plucked hers right out of her hand as he dragged her towards the door, slipping the diamond necklace into the pocket of his coat. Everything else remained locked in the safe- she supposed that the necklace which was supposed to be hers was the one thing that he couldn't stand to leave behind.
She was standing in a small circle with her mother, James, his valet and Becky, and every minute it was getting harder and harder to breathe. Not just because of the amount of people gathered in the small salon, but because of the worry making itself known in her pounding heart. She knew what had happened, but she had no idea what would happen next- and she was the only one who seemed to think that anything could truly be wrong.
"Go get my coat," said James ordered Becky, pointing absently down the hallway as if dismissing a dog. "The large wool one, not this piece of junk I have on now."
The maid nodded obediently, clenching her teeth and scampering back towards the suite. As Christen watched her go, the sick feeling in her stomach deepened.
Spotting Dawn Scott across the room, Christen broke free from the circle and raced over to her, followed by James, trying to get a hold on her shoulder. If anyone knew what was happening next, it would be the engineer.
It took Christen several tries to get the woman's attention, so fixated was her gaze on the people streaming into the room. She finally looked up, as if awakening from a dream, when Christen pulled at her sleeve, repeating her name.
"Miss Press," she said, and Christen couldn't decipher the tone in her voice. "May I help you?"
"I saw the berg," whispered Christen, trying to keep the conversation between the two of them- one hint of the word berg and half the people in this salon would be trampling each other to get to the lifeboats, cold or not. "I saw us hit. Please, tell me the truth. How bad is it? I need to know."
The woman stared at her, frightened and heartbroken eyes wide and glistening, before putting a strong hand on Christen's shoulder, steadying herself as much as readying the girl for what she was about to hear.
"We have an hour. Just one. Then Titanic will be at the bottom of the sea."
Christen gave an unsurprised nod, swallowing the lump in her throat. James, on the other hand, gasped sharply.
"We can't be sinking!"
"We are. Please, tell only who you must. It'll be clear soon enough, and I don't want to start the panic any sooner."
James raced back towards their circle, forcing a look of calm onto his face- they mustn't know, not yet- but Christen stood an extra moment at Dawn Scott's side.
"Thank you, Ms. Scott."
The older woman turned her attention back to the crowd of people, as if counting them all.
"You remember... you remember the conversation we had about the lifeboats? Please, don't wait. Nothing and no one is worth waiting for. Your things can be replaced- you cannot. So please, get to a boat. And Christen?"
"Godspeed to you."
The first cautious passengers were making their way out of the doors and onto the deck, responding to the barked orders from all the crewmen who could be spared. Only the bravest of them were daring to leave the seeming safety of the warm interior for the unknown that surely awaited them in the lifeboats. None of them seemed in a true hurry, none of them knew.
But Tierna Davidson knew, and so she blew by them all without so much as a nod, racing to find Captain Ellis.
The woman was standing, surveying her slowly filling decks, when the junior wireless operator found her. She didn't bother with the pleasantries- there was no time.
"Carpathia's making 17 knots, ma'am. Full steam for them."
Jill turned around to face the young woman.
"And she's the only one responding?"
"The only one close. It says they can get here in four hours."
The pit that had opened in Jill's stomach the moment she had heard the word iceberg deepened further still.
"Four hours! My God."
She looked up, noticing Tierna's wide and terrified eyes.
"Thank you, Davidson."
The girl ran off to return to the wireless room, and watching her go, Jill felt as if a boulder was resting on her chest. Such a young woman, such a bright future.
Another innocent soul who might never live to see the sun rise.
"And all I've done for want of wit, to memory now I can't recall..."
Heather's clear voice filled the crowded common area, and the people quieted further and further the more she sang. A few children were still chittering nervously, asking their parents why they had been roused from their dreams, but the rest of those within earshot of Heather had stopped to listen. Nearly everyone from third class had gathered- save those who had decided that it was nothing except a drill and returned to bed.
Sofia had been quick to reassure those who saw her and the rest in their hallway with their wet feet that it was certainly nothing more than a pipe leak, but nerves were still running high, and Heather's singing could only calm the masses for so long. They needed to know what was happening.
"But since it fell into my lot, that I should rise and you should not."
Kelley's head was resting against Alex's strong shoulder, the Welsh woman running her hand absently through the Irishwoman's tangles, counting the freckles on her face. As for Kelley, she was staring intently at the one of Alex's hands that rested in hers, trying to memorize every line. They were trying their best to believe that Sofia's story about a water pipe wasn't just that- a story, told to keep the rest from panicking.
"I'm sure it's nothing, Kel," soothed Alex, running her thumb across the back of her lover's hand. "If the water on Sofia's floor was really anything worse than a pipe leak, I'm sure they'd've let us out by now. They wouldn't just keep us down here to die. They couldn't."
"I'll gently rise and softly call,"
Heather's voice floated above the noise, calming and beautiful as she finished the song to a gentle round of applause.
"Goodnight and joy be with you all."
The song that Heather is singing is called The Parting Glass, and I got the idea from a documentary called "Waking the Titanic," which can be found here
It had taken far too long for the first boat to be lowered towards the water, and it was far too empty. The capacity was 65, but Christen had counted less than 30 aboard the first boat headed for safety. Her mother was shuddering with the cold, wrapping her coat more tightly around herself. Even Christen, now with the support of James, hadn't been able to coax Stacy into the tottering vessel.
"Come on, Stacy," said Megan Rapinoe as both she and Corinne Diacre reached out their hands to Christen's frightened mother. "Into the boat."
Still, Stacy didn't move.
"Please, mama," whispered Christen. "You have to get in. There isn't enough space for everyone. Half the people on this ship are going to die, and you have a chance to not be one of them!"
This seemed to jolt Stacy out of her stupor, and she put a tentative foot in the boat. The officer overseeing the boarding sighed in relief- now he could start with other passengers. When her mother had finally taken a seat, she turned back to Christen.
"H-Half? That can't be..."
"Not the better half," came James's voice, and any gratitude Christen might have felt towards him for helping her get her mother into the boat vanished quicker than it had appeared.
Then, lightning flashed in Christen's brain.
The man was gesturing for her to follow her mother into the boat. The boat that would assure her life. The boat that would doom her love.
"Come on, Christen darling," encouraged Megan as Christen stared, trying to memorize her mother's face. Because she knew what she had to do- what she was willing to die doing.
"I love you, mother. Lower the boat."
Although the officer didn't seem to have any clue as to why someone would turn down a spot in the boat, he gave the order to lower the almost full vessel, ignoring Stacy Press's screams of her daughter's name, her pleas to wait, for someone to go get Christen.
Christen tried to ignore them as well as she ran away from safety.
They all knew. Even if they hadn't said it, there wasn't a gathered third class passenger who hadn't figured out that the ship was going down. And down was where they remained.
Even Heather's singing couldn't calm the passengers now as they pressed towards the still-locked gate.
"Stay with me," whispered Alex to Kelley. "No matter what happens, stay with me."
There was water on the floor now, and all Tobin could do was shout for help, knowing full well that no one could hear her. Still, she had to try. She couldn't just give up.
The tears would do her no good, but still she had let them fall. Now, they were dried on her cheeks as she tried to work her wrists free from the cuffs that bound her to the ship. It had worked in Paris, once.
But it wasn't working here, even with her thumb tucked back as far as it would go. Her only consolation was that Christen was safe- the first class women would be the first ones to board the lifeboats.
A steady stream of prayers passing through her head- she wouldn't say them aloud yet, that would be like giving up- as she pulled desperately, the bottoms of her shoes beginning to dampen.
It didn't take James long to catch Christen, but by the time he did, the boat was already almost to the water. Too late.
His hand wrapped around her upper arm as she pushed through the crowd, a fish swimming against the tide- towards the place that everyone was trying to escape. She was whipped around to look in his eyes, full of fury. Unhinged, at the thought of losing his prize.
But her voice, when it came out, was calm.
"Let me go, James."
Instead of listening, he squeezed her arm tighter- the bruise it was sure to leave was the least of her worries.
"Where are you going? To her?"
His voice was the opposite of hers- screaming for all the world to hear. It was as if they could finally see the James that only she had seen.
"That's it, isn't it? You're running from me to be the whore to another woman- and a gutter rat no less! You'll die, you stupid bitch!"
"I'd rather die a thousand deaths with her than live one life with you."
With that, she shoved him as hard as she could, releasing his grip on her, and flew towards Tobin.
Dawn Scott hated having nothing to do. So, really, the only thing she could do while waiting for death was make something to do. In this case, that something was checking every room that she could to ensure that no one was inside. The only person she had seen was a maid, who refused to leave before finding the object that she'd been sent for- no matter how much Dawn had told her that it wasn't worth her life, she had said that she was as good as dead if she got fired.
But then, footsteps. Dawn prayed for a minute that it was the third class passengers, freed to take their places in the boats, but then she realized that it was one set of footsteps, very much coming from the wrong way.
Her heartbeat paused for a moment when the figure rounded the corner.
It was Christen Press, running like a woman possessed.
She didn't even take a second to catch her breath before continuing.
"Where would the master-at-arms take someone under arrest?"
Dawn wrapped her arm around Christen's shoulders, trying to walk her back the way she had come.
"That doesn't matter! What matters is you getting on a boat!"
Christen broke free of her grip.
"Please! I'm doing this, with or without your help. But without will take longer."
There was nothing in Christen's voice but steely, desperate determination. And so, Dawn told her, and said a quick prayer for the girl as she raced down towards the brig.
The lift operator wouldn't take Christen down, so she took herself down. But, before she reached the end of the journey, there was water pouring into the cage, freezing and wet.
She screamed in shock as it coated her legs, but forced the doors open and ran out into it. It only reached to just below her knee, but she knew that she must be deep. Even deeper than the third class quarters. Her legs would be numb soon enough- she just had to go.
If Tobin had been willing to jump into this water for her, she could certainly run through it for Tobin.
Dawn's instructions weren't hard to follow... until she tripped, sending her upper body into the water, freezing all the information that had been in her brain.
So, she picked herself up and picked a direction, praying that it was the right one.
A small sound got her attention, over the roar of the water. It sounded almost like a shout. She shook her head, sending the water that had lodged in her ear flying to join the rest of the droplets.
The sound came again, a desperate shout for help. And Christen was off again, towards what she could only hope was her lover's voice.
Congratulations to all of us on kind of winning a Hugo. Yay us! We're so cool!
Chapter 22: Ax to the Heart
Christen finds Tobin locked beneath the ship, but even if she finds away to get the other woman loose, can they escape the bowels of the vessel before it's too late?
HOOOOOO BOY I'm so sorry I've been MIA on this story for a little while- I just moved into Uni, and there's a week of basically nothing but parties which is starting to wind down. This chapter isn't my best one, but I had to keep the story moving along. I might edit it later, but for now I hope you enjoy!
Tobin was certain that she must be dreaming. That was the only way to explain this. Because there was no way that the voice which had started calling back to her could be the voice that it sounded like. It couldn't be- that voice was gone, off on a lifeboat, off to safety.
The voice yelled again, and there was no mistaking it.
"Christen!" She shouted back, banging her handcuffs on the metal to create extra noise. "Christen, I'm over here!"
Footsteps swished through the water that had grown knee deep on the floor, and then she rounded the corner.
And it wasn't a dream.
Christen was sweating with the effort of trudging through the water, and her hair was loose around her shoulders, getting into her eyes. The hem of her dress was soaked, and the combination of heat and freezing cold was making shivers run through her body.
She had never looked more beautiful, especially when her face lit up in a relieved, elated smile upon spotting Tobin.
She threw herself forward, wrapping her arms around her love and kissing her messily on the lips, again and again. Tobin was kissing her back, tears flowing again and mingling with Christen's own.
"Christen," she sobbed in between kisses. "Why, why are you here?"
Christen wished that Tobin could wrap her arms around her as well, that she could feel her lover's comforting embrace holding her close.
"I..." she cried. "I j-just couldn't leave y-you! Never, never!"
"My perfect girl," she cried. "My Christen."
Their utter joy at seeing each other, even after such a short separation, overwhelmed everything, even the fact that there was water on the floor.
Their feet were coated with icy water, and Tobin was still strapped to a pole in one of the deepest parts of a rapidly sinking ship. And Christen didn't have a key. Or any idea where to find one.
"Sweetheart," whimpered Tobin. "Do you have... how can... you need to leave."
Christen's eyes opened wide, horrified. The simple thought of leaving Tobin behind was more than she could bear.
Her voice was panicked, and as the water crept into the room, she looked around the room desperately, searching for anything she could possibly use to free her lover.
But there was nothing.
"Christen," said Tobin, wiggling her hand as if trying to free it to stroke across Christen's face. "Baby girl, you have to go. I'm stuck here, but you can live. You can live, you can go home. You can... you can do everything you've ever wanted."
Christen shook her head wildly, pulling Tobin's head to her chest.
"You're everything I ever wanted, Tobin. And I'm not letting you die. I'll find something, I promise."
With a stroke of Tobin's hair, Christen raced back from the room, in search of anything at all.
When Christen raced from the room, splashing through the icy water, Tobin rested her forehead against the metal. As much as she couldn't help but be grateful that she'd had the chance to feel Christen's arms around her once more, it would be all her fault if this beautiful woman died.
Now that she was alone again, she prayed that Christen wouldn't come back. She loved her too much.
She didn't have to wait long before she realized that this particular prayer was not going to be granted.
"Will this work?"
Christen's race back into the room was far slower than that of her exit- the water was deepening quickly. But neither was focused on that- instead, their focus was on the sharpened ax clutched in the first class girl's hands. It looked brutal, and if Christen missed her swing...
"I think so," she said. "But how about you practice first?"
Christen nodded, and Tobin was mildly surprised that the other woman could swing it at all, delicate as her arms were. But somehow, Christen managed to heft the ax above her head and bring it down on the wood of the desk, which was rapidly disappearing under the water. It made a significant dent, and Tobin just hoped that it was strong enough to break through the metal around her wrists.
"Okay, sweetheart," she said. "Okay. I trust you."
Christen raised the tool above her head, and Tobin noticed that her hands were both gripped around the base.
Christen stilled her stroke.
"Move your hands apart a bit, okay?"
Christen nodded, eyes wide and terrified. She moved her hands apart, sliding the left one up until Tobin told her to stop.
"It's okay, baby. I trust you."
Christen couldn't stop herself from shutting her eyes as she brought down the ax.
Tobin screamed, and Christen's heart dropped to her stomach, fearing that she had chopped off the other woman's hand.
But then, those hands wrapped around her, pulling her close and planting a joyful kiss to lips.
Christen's stroke had severed the handcuff chain right in half.
"You did it!"
Tobin kissed Christen again, and all thoughts of the rising water faded away as she held her baby.
"I'm so proud of you, so proud."
As much as the two women would have been content to stay in each other's arms for the rest of time, there was a pressing matter that was becoming harder and harder to ignore with every passing second.
The damn ship was sinking. And they were at the bottom of it, with a long way to go if they wanted any chance at escaping on a lifeboat.
"Shit," winced Tobin as Christen grabbed her hand to pull her towards the door. The water was above their knees, and would only get deeper before they made it out.
With every new part of their bodies that entered the water, Christen and Tobin winced, crying out as if they were being stabbed. The only warmth to be found was that of the other woman's hand, which was clasped tightly with no plans of ever being separated again.
"I think it's this way," said Christen, pulling Tobin down a familiar looking hallway. The water had risen to their waists, but still they gripped hands. The electricity was sparking dangerously, in a way that might have been beautiful if it wasn't so terrifying.
The sparks weren't, however, anywhere near as terrifying as what greeted Tobin and Christen around the next bend.
The gate that Christen had come through had been pushed shut by the pressure of the water rushing in, and was now locked tightly. The slits were too thin for either to swim through, and the top was too close to the ceiling for them to clamber over.
Christen had to let go of Tobin's hand in order to shake the gate, desperately wishing that it would open.
They hoped their voices would carry far enough to be heard, and it seemed that their prayers had been answered when there was a pattering of footsteps.
The middle and top of the stairs directly following the gate were still dry, and when the steward appeared with the keys, Tobin wished she could fall on her knees and thank God. But, there would be time for that later.
"Please," they yelled to the man as he hesitated, looking back and forth between the sure safety of his position on the stairs and the extra time it would take to rescue the two trapped women.
"Please, help us!"
Shaking his head, as if he couldn't believe what he was doing, the man raced down into the water and reached for his keys, trying to find the right one.
The water kept rising, and the man's hands were shaking as he fitted key after key, none of them the right one, into the lock that was just moments away from disappearing underneath the tide of freezing liquid.
Then, his hands shook too much, and they key fell into the water with a horrifying splash. The man's eyes filled with regret, and the women knew what he would do before he did it.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I'm so sorry."
Then, he was gone, racing back up towards relative safety.
Tobin was frozen in fear, gripping onto the gate and praying for a miracle. The water had risen to their chests, and any tears shed would be indistinguishable from it.
But Christen had come too far to give up now. Steeling herself for the wave of horrible cold that was about to coat her entire body, she dove underneath the water and began to feel around the floor for the keys.
At first, there was nothing. Then, there was metal beneath her fingertips, and she was rising back to the surface.
She gasped in a breath, then started trying keys again, Tobin's frightened whimpers spurring her onwards.
"Tobin," she gasped. "Baby, you're gonna have to help me push the gate. It's gonna be okay, as long as you help me push."
Christen's words struck a match in Tobin's freezing heart, and she nodded in agreement.
"You can-" she gasped as some water fell down her throat. "You can d-do this, love."
The best feeling in the world was that of the key turning. Christen and Tobin pushed with all their might on the now unlocked gate, freeing themselves in the nick of time and swimming towards the stairs, sobbing in relief.
They didn't know how long they ran, clothes dripping along the floor, trying to outpace the furious water. Eventually, though, it tapered away and they were once again fleeing on the dry floor.
There was noise up ahead- what sounded like many, many people, all clamouring and shouting.
And it was. Too many people, with nowhere to go.
Chapter 23: Crush
They need to break the gate down, or else all is lost.
This chapter is short as fuck, and I'm sorry.
The bodies were packed as thick as sardines in a can, but even they took some notice when two sopping wet people started to push their way through the crowd, holding tightly to each other's hands so that, wherever one went, the other had to go as well.
Tobin and Christen murmured apologies as they pushed and shoved, scanning the sea of faces for several in particular, but manners weren't exactly the foremost things on their mind at the moment. Tobin, in the lead, pulled Christen behind her, all the way towards the front of the crowd, where she could hear shouting and arguing. As they got closer and closer, it became an easy task to pick out the familiar voices, prominent even above the nervous- and growing more and more frightened- chattering of the crowd. Some of the young children had begun to cry, and their parents were doing their best to comfort them, to shield their ears from the ferocious clamor in front of the locked gates.
Alex Morgan, near the front of the queue, and one of the voices that Tobin was sure she had heard arguing with the man on the other side, whipped her head around, and when she caught sight of Tobin, she threw herself into her friend's arms.
"Tobin! Thank God!"
They hugged for a moment, and when they pulled apart, Alex gave Christen a quick hug as well, before panic again filled her eyes.
"The boats are all going!"
"Aren't... Aren't they letting us up? The children, at least?"
Alex shook her head.
"You know better than that, Christen. They say they won't let any of us out until they're sure all the first class women and children are gone."
That question was answered by a scream from the very front of the line, coming from the mouth of a very angry Irishwoman, standing toe to toe on opposite sides of a gate with a steward.
"Let us out! There's children down here!"
The man rolled his eyes as the three other women made their way up to join Kelley and Heather.
"I told you, Miss. None of you go until the ladies are all aboard the boat."
"Let us out! At least give us a bloody chance!"
The man hesitated, but stuck to his guns. He had been given orders, and he wasn't going to break them.
Kelley screamed wordlessly, shaking the gate and causing the man to jump backwards.
Now Kelley spotted Tobin and Christen, and wrapped both of them in her arms at once.
"What... What are we going to do?"
Christen's voice was shaking slightly, whether from nerves or chill no one could tell, as she looked from Tobin to Kelley to Alex, all of whom seemed as lost as she was.
"Well," said a voice from behind them. "Whatever we do, we better do it quickly."
Heather touched each of their faces gently and quickly, before tossing her head around, looking for anything at all that they could use. Spurred into action by the oldest woman, the other four did the same, racing back up and down the stairs and corridor until they heard Alex shout over the noise of the crowd, all of whom were praying to be let out so that they might have even the slightest chance to board a boat.
"Here! I found something!"
She gestured to a bench, bolted into the wall. It was a long shot, but it was their only shot.
James had his valet search the other side of the ship, while he searched as well. For Christen, yes, but also for their way out of this whole mess.
Now, it was time to see if the man had had any luck.
"She's not on that side either, Sir," he said, and James cursed. That stupid girl, she was probably dead already. But that didn't mean he was going to stop looking for her, at least not until he himself got a chance to board a boat. Which, if he had his way, would be sooner rather than later.
"And the boats?"
His valet tossed his head back and forth, checking to make sure that there was no one listening to their conversation. As if the two gentlemen were still the center of the universe, while trying to save their own lives.
"There's one on that side that's considering letting men on. But, sir. Miss Press."
James swore- his valet was right. How would it look if he left the ship without his fiancee? If he lived, and she didn't.
No one would ever respect him again.
That stupid, stupid girl.
The distress rockets were lighting up the sky, small bursts of hope in the overwhelming darkness. Every once in a while, Jill would let her eyes flicker to them, hoping beyond hope that someone who hadn't responded to Davidson and Dahlkemper's distress calls would somehow see them.
But, the time for fruitless wishing was long over. This was reality. And reality included the fact that one of her officers was about to launch a lifeboat that contained no more than twenty people.
"Hold that boat!"
Her bark gave the man pause, just long enough for Jill to storm over.
"Why are the boats being launched half full? For God's sake, man! Fill them!"
He nodded, gesturing more women and children forward. Even some young first class men. But no one in rags, no one without a silk tie, or a nice coat.
No one from third class.
It took the combined effort of Kelley, Heather, Sofia, Tobin and Alex, as well as a few men, to tear the bench from the wall. It had really been bolted in, but even it was no match for the pure adrenaline coursing through the veins of the poor souls who just wanted to live.
Christen ushered people backwards, giving her lover and her friends a path with which to run up to the gate with their newfound battering ram. On the first run, the steward on the other side of the barrier jumped.
"Don't you dare! That's White Star Line property! You'll have to pay for that! Now put it down!"
His voice was just a buzz in the backround as Tobin dug her fingers deeper into the wood, preparing herself for another run. Sofia, at the back, nodded, and their crew raced again towards the gate. The crowd was cheering for them, praying that the gate would buckle sooner rather than later.
It took three more tries before the metal finally buckled. As the gate collapsed, and the steward ran for the stairs, a wave of relief swept through Tobin's chest. The crowd surged forwards, but somehow she managed to find Christen's hand in hers again. Warming. Comforting. They ran together, towards the upper decks. Towards the boats, that they could only pray were still there.
When the gate went down, Heather wanted to sing in joy. But, they weren't out of the woods yet. She made sure that she never lost sight of Kelley's ponytail, clinging to Alex's hand, as they raced up the slanted stairs, towards a deck that was getting lower and lower by the minute.
Chapter 24: Not Without Her
It becomes crystal clear that there is no way out.
WOAH I'm so sorry that it's been so long since I updated. This chapter is where things start to get bad. Someone dies in this chapter. You have been warned.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was absolute chaos up on the deck.
By this point, it had become crystal clear to everyone still remaining on the ship what was happening. Christen clung tight to Tobin's hand as they tried to find a lifeboat which wasn't being crowded by throngs of desperate people. The officers were shouting, trying to keep some sort of order.
Finally, on the far side of the boat deck, they found a boat surrounded by fewer people than the others. They didn't need to do much jostling before it became obvious that almost no one surrounding the vessel had the slightest chance of actually boarding it. The few children were already seated, most of them wailing for their mothers of their fathers, who were sobbing on the deck, trying to comfort their babies, knowing that they would most likely never see them again.
The officer in charge of the boat shoved a man backwards when he tried to jump in.
"Why... why aren't they letting them in? At least the mothers," whispered Christen as Tobin guided her forwards. The third class woman's face had hardened, and she glared at the officer.
"As long as there are first and second class women and children on the ship, they're... we're worth nothing."
Suddenly, there was more to chill Christen than the cold, and she clung tightly to Tobin's hand. If the officer wouldn't let Tobin onto the boat...
"Christen! Thank God!"
Tobin's hand was yanked from Christen as a large body pushed its way in between them, wrapping an overcoat around her shaking shoulders.
"I was so worried," James said, rubbing her arms in an attempt to warm her. She stiffened, but before she could make a move to free herself, he had pulled her hand up into the air.
"Sir! I have a first class woman here!"
Holding tightly to Christen's wrist, he pulled her through the crowd, presenting her to the officer. Soaked as she might have been, it was still not difficult to recognize her clothes as those of a first class woman. But, as he gestured for her to step into the boat, Christen finally managed to pull her wrist free from his grip.
"Not without Tobin!"
A brief look of fury flashed across James's face, which quickly smoothed over into a reassuring expression.
"Love," he said. "Don't worry. I have an arrangement with an officer on the other side of the ship. Tobin and I can get off safely, but you need to get into this boat."
To anyone else, his words may have sounded sincere. But, for Christen, the smile on his lips resembled a snake, disguising itself just before the strike.
He grabbed for her, but Christen was faster, dashing back to Tobin's side.
"Christen," said Tobin. "You need to get on that boat. Even if I can't go with you, you need to."
Christen's eyes were sparkling with tears as she pulled Tobin closer to her.
"Not a chance. Where you go, I go."
James was clearly trying to keep his fury under a lid, but if he were a kettle he would have been steaming.
"Christen," he growled. "Hear this now: either you get on that boat, or I will ensure you are ruined. Even if you manage to survive, you will have nothing. Ever again."
Once upon a time, this threat might have scared her. But now, now that everything was open, now that all the cards had been played, it made her want to burst into laughter.
"I'll have everything. Because I'll have her."
Then, without a care for who might see them, without a care for the horrified looks being thrown their way, Christen wrapped her arms around Tobin's neck. Just for a moment, they were lost in each other, lost in the knowledge that nothing mattered. Nothing except the two of them, kissing in front of everyone and no one.
When they separated, it was to find the boat full- mothers and fathers having taken the opportunity of the distraction to join their children in the boat.
The boat dropped towards the water, and James shook with fury. But Christen and Tobin had raced away before he could come to his senses. They would find something else. Somehow.
"You idiot," whispered Tobin. "You could... you might've..."
"Lived? If you haven't figured it out by now, then you're the idiot. I don't think I can live without you."
There was a semi-circle, pressing forward slowly, taking their opportunity to inch a bit closer every time the man with the gun pointed it in a different direction.
"I said get back! "
The boat was nearly full, nowhere near enough space to hold all the desperate men and women. They were moving forward slowly, but Alex knew that eventually someone would break. Hell, maybe it would be her who leaped forward.
"We're not animals, " screamed Kelley, and suddenly the gun was pointed towards them. Alex froze, and someone broke.
It was no one she knew, but before the man could reach the safety of the lifeboat, there was a noise like thunder and a splatter of blood. A little girl in the boat screamed as the man fell to the deck, dead.
Maybe it was the sudden movement, or maybe when he had already shot one person, it had become easier for him to shoot another, but with a second boom, Alex was sure her life was ending.
Because Kelley, who had only been trying to push Alex behind her, collapsed to the deck.
Alex and Heather's twin screams seemed to close a door in the man's mind. He gazed at the dying woman on the deck in shock, and then a third bullet sent him falling backwards into the water.
While everyone else rushed the lifeboat, Alex fell to her knees beside Kelley.
The Irishwoman was still alive, but barely. She clutched weakly at Alex's hand, and her eyes had gone wide with terror.
"Kell," whispered Alex, trying to comfort her in the only way she possibly could. "Kelley, baby, it's okay."
Kelley's voice was weaker than her grip, choked up with blood.
"I'm here, shh."
"Live," whispered Kelley, and then her grip went slack.
All the noise of the deck faded away. Heather screamed again, her cousin's name over and over. Alex heard the whisper again, as if Kelley was still saying it. As if the most wonderful woman she had ever met wasn't dead on the deck of a sinking ship.
Slowly, she rose to her feet, trying not to see the blood pool underneath Kelley.
Heather, on the other hand, was still clutching onto Kelley desperately, seemingly unaware of the blood that was soaking her.
"No," she whispered. "Kelley, Kelley, I'm sorry. I promised, I'm so sorry."
Alex grabbed Heather's shoulder.
"HAO," she choked. "Heather, Heather we have to go. We have to go."
Heather shook her head.
"You go, Alex. You go, I can't leave her. I can't leave her. I promised I'd take care of her."
Both women were sobbing as Alex tried to pull Heather to her feet.
"Please, HAO. Please, Kelley would want you to live. She would want you to live."
In the end, Alex had to try to see through her tears in order to pull Heather away from Kelley's body. Neither of them felt alive anymore, and both of them wished that it was them, lying on the deck, instead of Kelley.
They were too far away by the time Alex remembered that she hadn't kissed Kelley goodbye.
Chapter 25: Cracks
"No matter what happens, it'll all be okay in the end."
This chapter is a bit fragmented, sorry!
The wireless machine was starting to spark, but Tierna couldn't manage to drag herself away. Maybe, just maybe, there was a ship that had missed all their cries for help up until now, who could come and save them in time.
"Come on," said Abby, shoving her chair out and jumping to her feet. She hadn't noticed exactly how tilted the ship was until the chair fell over. She stared at it for a second, and then the sound of beeping snapped her out of the stupor, back to her original purpose.
"Come on, Davidson," she said. "We've done all we can. If we want a shot, we have to go, now."
Tierna shook her head, then jerked her hand back as the electricity went on the fritz, sending a jolt through her.
"Please," said Abby. "Kid, we've got to go. You've done your best to save everyone else, but now it's time to save yourself."
Tierna didn't get up on her own, but she also didn't protest as Abby pulled her to her feet and dragged her towards the chaotic deck, leaving the wireless room behind them. Tears were running down the junior operator's cheeks as she let Abby pull her along, hopefully to safety.
The tilt of the ship was making it hard to walk. Or, well, run. But there was nothing for it. If they wanted to live, they had to get away from the cracks beginning to appear in the ship, away from the end that was going straight into the icy water first.
"Come on," gasped Tobin. "We have to stay on the ship as long as we can. That water's damn cold, we can't survive in it for too long."
Christen wasn't even that cold anymore- James's jacket wrapped around her actually helped. But, she was still shivering, in fear she supposed. She clung tight to Tobin's hand as her far more physically fit love pulled her along.
They had to get to the top of the ship before it was too late.
When it was clear that there was nothing else she could do, Jill Ellis had retreated to the wheel room. She had only been there for a few minutes before the door swung open for the last time. Dawn shut it behind her, locking it. As if that would help keep out the water which was building around the windows, preparing to crash in on them.
"I thought I'd find you here," said the shipbuilder. Dawn sank down to sit against the wall, in the water that had already started to coat the floor. "Not quite the way I was expecting the night to go."
Jill sat down beside her.
"Not at all. But, I suppose, it's not so bad."
Dawn shook her head.
"Well, we'll definitely be remembered, Captain."
The two women couldn't really have been described as good friends before this moment- allies, maybe, against the men who never believed in them. But, as Jill took Dawn's hand in their own, and the windows began to crack under the pressure of the water surrounding the cabin as it sank underwater, they supposed it was nice not to face this alone.
The windows broke, and water and glass descended on them.
The ship was cracking in half, but the crack in the wood couldn't compete with the crack in Alex's heart. Even as she searched around for something that could save her and Heather, the sight of Kelley's terrified expression before she had sighed her last choked, bloody words in Alex's arms wouldn't leave her alone.
But, neither would the words themselves.
"HAO," she said. "Come on, the ship's breaking! We have to get off it!"
Heather didn't speak. The Irishwoman was almost dead weight, being pulled along by nothing but Alex's desire to obey Kelley's last wishes for them. Alex pulled her towards the side of the ship, where men and women were tossing the pieces of deck furniture that hadn't yet slid away into the waves, so they'd have something to cling onto when they hit the water.
"Come on," begged Alex. "Let's go!"
Heather stared blankly down at the dark water, where people were beginning to swim away from the ship and towards their makeshift lifeboats.
"Alright," she finally said. "For Kelley."
The two women only jumped seconds apart. Alex went first and when she hit the water, pulled to the surface by her life jacket, she felt like she was being pricked by a thousand needles, stabbing into her skin and tearing her apart. Bizzarely, this made her smile. Not only was the pain in her heart finally felt everywhere else on her body, but the pain reminded her of one particular night she had spent in bed with Kelley, the Irishwoman laughing jovially as she nibbled a path up and down Alex's arms and breasts.
Oh, Kell, she thought to herself. Maybe you were lucky, my love. At least you died quickly.
With a snap, one of the smokestacks broke loose, and Alex didn't even have time to scream.
Heather's heart was pounding as she stared down after Alex. The Welsh woman was in the water, and Heather knew that she had to jump as well, if she wanted to live. But, she wasn't quite sure that she did.
When she and Kelley had left Ireland, she had promised their Gran that she wouldn't let anything happen to Kelley, that she would protect the goofy woman throughout the journey, especially since Erin O'Hara was waiting for them in America, waiting to make a new life with her sister and cousin. But now her younger cousin was gone, shot like a dog by a man who thought her life was worth nothing.
But, her last words had been a request for Alex and Heather to live.
I'll try, Kell.
So, she heaved herself over the railing, only a few seconds after Alex did the same.
The propellers had changed position between Alex's jump and her own, and Heather broke one more promise.
She was dead before she hit the water.
As much as she wanted to, Megan couldn't tear her eyes away from the wreck of humanity before her.
All the women in the boat were as silent as she, except for one.
"No," whimpered Stacy. "No, Christen, baby, no."
Without looking away from the sinking ship, Megan reached down to take the woman's hand. She felt Stacy Press's silk gloves against her own bare fingers, shaking with horror.
She broke the silence again.
"She got another boat, Stacy. You'll see her soon."
Please, let it be true.
Magda had lost sight of Sofia.
She was at the top of the ship, the furthest away from the water, with Pernille clinging onto the railing next to her. It wasn't steep yet, not so much that they would fall if they let go. But still, both of their grips were white-knuckled, one hand on the metal and the other hand closed around the other woman's.
God, Magda hoped that Sofia was alright, that she had somehow gotten onto a boat.
But, there was nothing she could do for her best friend except pray for her. Nothing she could do for the woman who had been with her throughout everything.
"It's alright," said Pernille next to her. "No matter what happens, it'll all be okay in the end."
Chapter 26: Waves
As the Titanic disappears forever, it becomes a race for survival against a horrifying enemy: time.
Christen and Tobin had managed to reach the very top of the ship, gripping onto railings and burning up every bit of energy they had to get there. They had seen others lose their balance, sliding down to the void below, but the two of them had been lucky, and now they were gripping onto the railing for their lives, bars pressing into their stomachs as they wrapped their hands together, needing to hold to each other as much as they needed to hold to the railing.
"Okay," panted Tobin. "We need to jump off before the ship gets too low. Else it'll suck us right under."
"When is that?"
Christen's teeth chattered, and she was so numb that she almost couldn't feel Tobin's hand in hers.
Tobin could barely think- she had no idea! She was making this up as she went along, locked in a game where the slightest error in timing was deadly. But she wasn't playing alone.
Christen's eyes squinted, measuring their distance from the water. Any jump from this height would surely kill them- she had a few minutes at least to figure it out. Watching the water draw closer and closer, she felt her heart pound faster and faster. At this height, they were still likely to die on impact. Just a few more second- now, they probably wouldn't die right away, but there would be no guarantees of them being able to swim away.
Then, somehow, she knew.
Tobin whipped her head towards her.
"Are you insane? It's too far!"
Christen did her best to let her face portray the certainty she felt. If they didn't go now, they might still be too close. The fall would hurt like a bitch, but drowning would be worse.
"I need you to trust me, Tobin. Do you trust me?"
Tobin swallowed, then nodded and, still gripping hands, they tossed themselves over the railing and towards the abyss below.
As she hit the water, Tobin felt Christen's hand yanked from hers by the force of the impact. Although the panic gripping her chest doubled when she could no longer feel the other woman beside her, she forced herself to kick for the surface as hard as she could. The pain in every part of her body screamed, stabbing her as her head broke the surface and her lungs took in desperate breaths of freezing cold night air.
She yelled her lover's name, tossing her head back and forth to try and catch a glimpse of the other woman. She knew, really, that she needed to start swimming, but God could strike her dead right here before she went anywhere without knowing Christen was right with her.
Her voice had become just one of many, screaming hopelessly in the dark, for help, for absolution, for their loved ones.
A blur was paddling towards her, both supported and slowed by her life belt. She couldn't be sure if it was Christen or not until the blob crashed into her, feeling around in the water for her hand. Tobin started kicking and Christen followed her lead, both trying to avoid the other desperate souls in the water as they paddled as quickly as they could away from the horrifying ending to the ship's first and last dance. Those in the boats were transfixed, and they certainly would have been too, had they been watching instead of swimming for their lives.
Then, plain and simply, the Titanic was gone, sucked beneath the waves. With her went those who didn't jump on time, or hadn't had the strength to swim away. And now, it was a waiting game.
Who would be faster: the ships coming to save them, or the ruthless justice of the frigid sea?
No one was rowing anymore.
They hadn't been able to tear their eyes away from the wreck of humanity as the ship disappeared. It was as if the moment happened in a vacuum for Megan- she couldn't feel or see or hear anything except the end of the luxury liner.
When it was gone, though, her senses slowly began to return to her. First, the cold breeze, pounding her cheeks and turning them a bright red. Next, the surprisingly gentle rocking of the lifeboat, failing to be warmed by the bodies of her fellow passengers filling it. Finally, slowly, the screams.
She couldn't make out individual voices- it was just a mass of fear, horror, desperation, hopelessness, all mingled together in a single sound.
"We have to go back."
Her voice sounded strange to her own ears. She hadn't been sure she still had it. She could feel the other women's eyes on her, along with those of the man who had been charged with their boat.
"You've got to be bloomin' mad!"
She narrowed her eyes, grabbing an oar with her numb hand.
"They're dying, and look at this boat! We have space!"
The man glared back at her, leaning closer, so close that the visible steams of his breath hit her face- they did nothing to warm her.
"Do you want to die, bitch? They'll swamp us for sure!"
Megan looked down at the other women in the boat, and a few young children. None of them stood up to join her, insisted that they return and try to save as many people as they could fit. Rather, they avoided her eyes, looking down at their laps.
"May God have mercy on our souls," she whispered, lowering her own head.
Although, she wasn't sure she believed in God anymore.
The crowd had thinned in the water. Those who had managed to find wreckage to cling to were trying to keep it, kicking out at the little groups that gathered to try and steal their safe haven. Every once in a while, they would hear a triumphant noise as someone managed to clamber aboard, only to begin the battle all over again.
As for Tobin and Christen, they had both tried to climb on top of a thin door, but all they had managed was Christen's entire body aboard it, and Tobin clinging to the side. Christen had tried to move around, to make nonexistent room appear for her lover to climb aboard beside her. But not only had she been shaking too hard, there was no room to be had.
She had tried to untie her life belt, but her hands wouldn't work. God, they were so cold- she couldn't find the knots to undo, and she wanted to sob. Here she was, on top of the door with the belt, and all her Tobin could do was cling to the side.
"L-Let m-m-me," she stammered as she tried to reverse their positions.
Tobin shook her head violently.
"N-No! Yours! If y-you come into the w-wat-t-ter, I'll s-stay! Won't float w'out you!"
Christen was too weak to fight her. So, she took Tobin's hand in hers- she wouldn't let go of it.