The heat of New York City in the spring was starting to take its toll on her when they finally set sail. They left London in the winter, Helen bundled in her furs and James looking dapper in his bowler and turned-up collar. After six weeks of prepping what James was calling the "New World" Sanctuary, their next stop was Rio de Janeiro. At fifteen knots, they would arrive in ten days. They would spend a week in Brazil, then north to the new canal across the isthmus of Panama, then to Australia, Japan, India, around the Cape of Good Hope... barring an emergency that forced them to cut their journey short, it would be a year before they saw home again. It seemed insufferably slow, especially considering how often she and the others had traversed the globe in a heartbeat with the touch of John's hand.
Helen watched the sea pass by her stateroom's window. If they had to travel slow, at least they could travel with class. She originally opposed James' idea of extending the reach of her Sanctuary to other continents, but his arguments had been as persuasive as always. Certain Abnormals required more temperate climes than London could offer, while others needed access to local flora and fauna to survive. Establishing overseas Sanctuaries was the only way to ensure their guests got what they needed.
As she watched the Atlantic waters carry them south, she thought back to their first trip to scout locations. John had still been with them then, and Nikola and Nigel. The Five, still fresh-faced and young and full of wild ideals. In the blink of an eye John had transported Helen and James to Sydney, Nikola to Japan, and Nigel to North America. When he rejoined them Down Under, they had sweated and struggled to find the perfect place for the Oz Sanctuary. And at night, when the temperatures only rarely became bearable, they had stripped down and shared the same bed.
She remembered the sweat binding them, the almost feverish warmth of the skin at James' hip as she guided him into her. John, kissing her collar as sweat dripped from her hair and down his cheek. Though the night had been insufferably hot, she hadn't minded their combined body heat in her bed, surrounding her. Her tongue stroked James' throat, up until she found his mouth and met his tongue waiting her. The feel of John's arm strong across her hip, fingers curling in the small of James' back to draw him closer.
She could think back on those days with a fondness, despite how they ended. It was almost magical how they could skip from one world to the next. If she became weary of the rain and fog of London, she could spend a few hours on the African savannah to work up a sweat before going home. It was as simple as going from one room of her home to the next. And wherever she went, John, and sometimes James, was at her side.
In time she had become spoiled by the ease with which they could move. She hadn't realized how reliant she was until John left and she was faced with her first trans-Atlantic journey. Arranging passage, and then the interminable wait as the ship carried her across the sea. Not to mention the dangers that had become all too clear the previous April aboard a certain "unsinkable" ocean liner.
And now here she was again. It wasn't like she didn't have the years to spare, but to spend so long simply traveling... The door opened behind her and she smiled. He had a way of knowing when her thoughts were turning maudlin and arriving with just the fix she needed. She turned and saw James in his tan shirt, unbuttoned at the collar, and light brown slacks that matched his vest. The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up nearly to the elbows as he presented her with a flat object covered by a handkerchief.
"A gift, to make the waiting more bearable."
"Oh, James. How do you always know?" She stepped closer and unveiled her gift, gasping when she read the title. "T.S. Eliot. I've heard wonderful things about this..."
"Another passenger expressed irritation with it. I could tell he was a man of less than discriminating taste, so I offered to remove it from his unappreciative company. He parted with it for less than half the cover price. It was a bargain, and far too cheap a price to pay in exchange for the expression on your face. Enjoy it, Helen."
She took the thin book from him and stepped forward, her hand on the back of his neck as she pulled him to her for a kiss. His lips parted, his head tilted to the side, but he pulled away before the kiss could become anything deeper. Helen flushed from the exuberance of her response and ran her hand over the cover of the book.
"What of you, James? What shall keep your mind occupied on this journey?"
He touched her cheek and brushed one of her curls aside with the backs of his fingers. "As long as I have you by my side, I shall never be bored, my love."
Helen lowered her gaze and his hand moved to the back of her head. She let him pull her forward again, and he lightly kissed her eyelids. The lashes fluttered against his lips like captured butterflies, and Helen lifted her head to look up at him. "You are the one who made the purchase. You should enjoy it with me." She took his hand and moved him toward the bed. "Let us read one of the poems together."
James cleared his throat as he sat on the edge of the mattress, Helen beside him with her knees turned toward his. "I'm not the best orator, Helen."
"Then you must hope your audience will be forgiving. And I happen to know she can forgive you for stumbling on your words from time to time." She winked and flipped the book open to the Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. She coughed into her hand to clear her throat and held the book so they could both see the page. "'Let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky...'"
She read the first ten lines, and James took over. "'In the room the women come and go, talking of Michelangelo...'"
As he read, carefully enunciating the words until they became almost a liturgy, Helen watched his profile. She ran her eyes down his smooth cheeks where his beard was beginning to fill out, and she brushed the back of one curled finger over the rough stubble. John's betrayal and departure had been like an explosion in their midst. She and James still stayed up well into the night talking, and had often fallen asleep in the same bed. They kissed and flirted, but intercourse hadn't been attempted since John left them for good.
She touched his earlobe and James closed his eyes. "You're not following along, are you, Helen?"
"Of course I am. Yellow fog and smoke. Licking tongues, rubbing..." She leaned in and kissed his temple, then took the shell of his ear between her teeth. James grunted and focused on the book in his hand, which was now trembling ever so slightly.
"'Time for you and time for me, and time yet for a hundred indecisions.'" Helen slipped her hand under his arm, snaking it across his torso to the topmost button of his vest. "'And for a hundred visions and revisions before the taking of a toast and tea.'" He turned the book toward her. "Helen..."
She looked at the page as she stroked the lapels of his shirt with her fingers. "'In the room the women come and go,'" she turned her head and whispered the repeated line into his ear, "'Talking of Michelangelo.'"
James said her name again, and this time Helen responded by covering his mouth with hers. She took the book from his hand and twisted to drop it on the foot of the bed, but she misjudged its length. The book hit the floor with a hollow thump, quickly forgotten as she faced him again and saw the hunger in his eyes. The stateroom swayed with the rise of waves, and Helen took advantage of its movement to guide him down onto the mattress. His lips parted under hers, and she said, "It's time, James. It's time," before sliding her tongue over his top lip and then back into his mouth.
James dropped the book he had gone to such lengths to get for her, putting both hands on her hips as he guided her onto him. She straddled his waist, her skirts rising up to expose her legs above the knee as she settled her weight against him. His body felt familiar under her, and she tightened her thighs against his hips as she sat up and stroked her palms down his chest. She settled her weight against the crotch of his trousers, felt him grow against her, and pressed down against him. He groaned and closed his eyes, moving his hands up to hold her just underneath her breasts.
"It's not about what we once had," Helen whispered. He looked at her, shocked, and she smiled. "You're not the cipher you hope to be, Mr. Holmes. This is why we've waited so long. What we shared with him is in the past. This is about us. And how much I adore you, James Watson."
"And I you, Helen Magnus. Oh, how I do."
Helen bent down and kissed him, her fingers fanned on either side of his face. James smoothed his hands down her sides, moved his hands under her skirts, and lightly touched her. Helen gasped against his mouth as he unfastened the buttons of his trousers and freed his erection. She bit her lip and turned her head, and James kissed down her neck as she felt his warm length against the inside of her thigh. It pressed against her underclothes like an insistent finger, brushing the cloth against the sensitive flesh underneath until she was breathing heavily against his collar.
"Helen... I'm sorry..."
"Don't be sorry, my darling. Please... please, yes... now, James." She reached under her skirt and pressed him against her underwear, thrusting so that she brushed against the length of him. He tightened his hands on her hips and arched his back as he climaxed, the motion of their bodies smearing his seed over the material of Helen's underwear. She gasped and held him, continuing to move her hips until his tremors passed, brushing her cloth-covered clitoris against his still-plump cock until she joined him in orgasm.
She kept her hand on him as she shook, finally pressing her lips together and lowering herself to him. James gathered her to his chest, her cheek nestled against his so that the bristles of his growing beard irritated her skin, and closed her eyes. She knew the position must have been uncomfortable for him, so she moved his cock so that it was between her thighs rather than pressed against her underclothes.
"The price of the book becomes more of a bargain the longer I have it..."
Helen laughed and lifted her head. She brushed her nose against his and slipped her tongue back across his lips. He took it into his mouth and they kissed leisurely, letting their bodies move in time with the ocean. Before long, James casually removed the clothes from the lower half of Helen's body, moved her so that she was underneath him, and easily entered her with a slow, strong thrust.
Helen clung to him, her knees bent against his waist and her hands snaked under his arms to rest on his back. They made love slowly, with none of the desperation that marked their trysts with John. It was calm, and Helen adored the slow tease of it all. Helen closed her eyes, thinking what a blissful sleep she could fall into with only the slightest provocation, and whispered his name. What dreams would she have, if she slumbered while he so lovingly thrust into her?
When he came again, inside her this time, he kissed a spot just under her right eye. His fingers moved up to her hair, gathering great handfuls and drawing them down to his face to smell. She smiled and kissed from the corner of his mouth to his neck, nibbling his ear again. There were long months at sea ahead of them, lonely months even if Nikola did join then in India as he planned. Long months of planning and arranging for supplies to be delivered at their various Sanctuaries, and political machinations to deal with involving the heads of household.
Helen lifted her head and brushed her lips lazily over James'. "I fear you may have wasted your money on the book, my dear James."
She nodded and tightened her thighs around him. "We're not going to have any time at all to read."
Of course, who cared about some poet's love songs? They could write plenty songs of their own by the time they reached port.