3. Journey

Eric could only afford a small state room that he was forced to share with a young flamboyant black Frenchman traveling under the name Lafayette the Magnificent.  He was a medium, or least he claimed to be, which made him all the rage at dinner parties and salons.

As he rambled on Eric learned that until very recently Lafayette had been in the sole employ of Mrs. Maude Jefferson, a widow from the Upper East Side of Manhattan.  Her husband had made a fortune in steel before the crash and rather than investing it had apparently found some other way to keep his finances secure.  She had been left relatively unscathed by the Black Tuesday.

“She threw me out, can you believe it?  I lived with her for six months and channeled that wind bag for her each evening only to have her throw me out when he finally revealed that he did keep a lady on the side and that Madame Maude should see to her care from his remaining fortune!”  Lafayette was pacing through the cabin, waving his arms back and forth dramatically as he spoke with a thick French accent making it impossible at times for Eric to understand him clearly.

He was sitting on his bunk, eyes large and almost frightened from the impassioned display before him.  Appius never showed any emotion but anger.  Part of Eric was waiting on this tirade to turn violent and then be directed at him. It was the only thing he had ever known.  Lafayette stopped pacing and looked at him sharply.

“Darling, I am a cream puff compared to what you will face to find your woman again.  You had best learn to stand up and be the tall, strong, brave man the spirits tell me you can be, or you will never even make it off this ship, let alone to Knossos!”  Eric’s mouth fell open.  Lafayette laughed and sat down on his own bunk, crossing his legs and fanning himself with a large oriental looking fan.  “Close your mouth, man.  Someone might take it as an invitation.”  Eric closed his mouth.

“An invitation to what?” he stammered, looking at his cabin mate cautiously.

“That’s just the thing,” Lafayette said, smiling at him, “One can never tell.”  Eric ran his hand through his hair and tried to think about how to find out what Lafayette knew about ‘his woman and Knossos’ without giving too much away on his side.  Appius had taught him about grifters who trick you into saying something that they take and spin into looking like they know things about you that they couldn’t possibly know.  Before he could speak Lafayette looked up at the ceiling of the cabin and rolled his eyes dramatically.

“Hush, now!” he said as though someone were there and talking.  “If this one wants to know something he has to ask us.  Until then, quiet!” He turned back to Eric. “Is there something you want to know?”  There were a million things, but Eric remained cautious.

“You said something about Knossos?”  Lafayette resumed fanning himself.

“Yes, yes, you are headed to Greece, are you not?”

“It hardly takes a knowledge of the beyond to know that,” Eric said gesturing at the ship around them raising an eyebrow at his companion. Lafayette laughed.

“True, this is true, but this ship will not take you to the past.”

“Past what?” Eric pressed needing to know if there was really anything to know here.  Lafayette’s smile disappeared and his eyes rolled back into his head showing only white. Then he spoke with a deeper voice than he had before making the hair stand up on Eric’s neck.

“The worlds are like a spiral unending.  Something has happened that should not have been allowed.  An explosion that left the worlds unbalanced.  People who should not be here are here now.  People who should be here have been knocked from their rightful holds.  Balance must be restored!”

“I don’t understand,” Eric whispered.

“You will.  You will find your love in time and together you can restore the balance.”  Lafayette’s eyes closed and he collapsed back onto his bunk breathing heavily.  Eric moved to his side to make sure he was all right.  When his eyes opened again and he saw Eric above him he screamed and tried to get away.

“Don’t touch me!  Get away!”  Eric moved back to his bunk and waited for Lafayette to regain control of himself. Finally he looked at Eric, the fear in his eyes making Eric shiver.  “Let us make a deal, you and I, yes?”  Eric nodded.  “You will go your way on this journey and I will go mine.  Whatever it is about you that has the spirits in such an uproar you will keep to yourself and ask me no more questions.  Agreed?” Not knowing what else to do in the face of this strangeness Eric nodded.

Lafayette, left the cabin shortly after that.  Eric felt a curious sense of disappointment and relief.

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The journey from New York to Greece was billed at ten days aboard the steamer. Eric used every moment to look through his stolen library books during the day.  He found himself feeling slightly grateful to Appius for his insistence that a well-rounded education consisted of Greek and Latin as well as sums and business law.  His Greek was rusty but serviceable.  His history was spotty but it started to come back as he read more in the books.

The Bull Leapers of Knossos were believed to be an elite cult that served and worshipped the bull god and the snake goddess by putting on displays of athleticism and gymnastics around live bulls for the worship and entertainment of the Minoan court.  It was highly dangerous and glamourous work, the group being revered by all on Knossos for their bravery and their fealty to the great bull.

This is what my Sookie is doing?  Eric had paused in his reading to see her leaping through the air in in front of large and angry bull who was charging straight at her.  They were going to sell me to a brothel, but I snagged a position with the Bull Leapers.  The image triggered something in his mind from one of her letters.  He dug in his pocket where he kept them next to his heart.  When he saw which letter it was he was grateful that Lafayette was gone for the evening, with no plans to return, he had grandly announced on his way out.

Dear Eric,

There is so much I want to share that I hardly know where to start.  Most of it is completely improper and I should not even think to write it down, let alone write it to you!  But you are the heart of me, Eric Northman.  I don’t know how or what it means, only that if I were to tell anyone this I would choose to tell you above all others, impropriety be damned.  Perhaps I feel this way because Grandfather is so kind and supportive of me.  Perhaps I feel this way because I am “running amok” as some of my Grandfather’s friends like to tell him.  “Stackhouse, this is no way to raise a lady!”  I never speak, for I would not shame him knowingly before his friends but in my heart I ask, “Who said I ever wanted to be a lady?”

As far as I can tell being a lady means that you care for nothing but fashion and tea and standing around while life happens to someone else. Who would choose that?  I am almost sixteen now, or “of marrying age” my Grandfather’s friends tell him.  “Who will want a ruffian who runs and plays among the livestock for his bride?” I laugh when I am alone at their foolishness. There is only one I would think to take for husband and he is far away and has never given any indication that he feels the same for me. I hope someday he will…no, if I am to be bold then I shall be so with all my words.  I hope someday that you will Eric, for it is only you that I would ever have as husband.

Their latest tirade was sparked by my playing with the village children by swinging from the horns of the livestock as they do.  It is great fun and takes some nerve.  The cows are old and thin but when they run at you, you must stand your ground until the last possible moment and then somersault into the air, grab their horns and vault onto their backs as they gallop by. I am just as good as the strongest boy in the tribe! Oh, Eric, I wish you could see me! I wish you were here to do it, too!

He felt his hands clench again as they had the first time he had read this.  Pointlessly frustrated and worried for her safety over something that had happened almost ten years ago. Part of him admired her bravery, too.  Remembering the rest of the letter he skipped ahead to the part that left him affected in such a drastically different way.

Tonight as I returned from bathing in the river I heard sounds coming from bushes near the path.  Concerned that someone was hurt I moved closer and found, oh, I can’t believe I am going to tell you this, but how can I not? There is no one else I would even think of telling!  There was a man and woman in the bushes there and the sounds they were making were not from pain, it was something else entirely!  He kissed her, Eric!  He kissed her like I have thought of kissing…you.  Her arms were around him and his every touch made her moan with pleasure and need.  I am ashamed to say I stayed too long and saw them at their most intimate.  I saw them join together and the pleasure their bodies gave each other, the sounds they made.  I wanted that, too.  I wanted to feel that with you, Eric.

Eric gasped out into the empty cabin as he felt his body respond to her words.  At twenty-seven they laid him bare. If he had read them at eighteen he would have exploded into a thousand pieces.  Eric lay back on his bunk resting his head on his folded arm as he closed his eyes and thought of how that night might have gone if he had been there with her when she came back from the river, skin damp and body high on another couple’s passion.

Eric had never been with a woman before, despite Appius’ best efforts and plans.  Every Saturday from the time he was eighteen until the crash that had left them near destitute he had given him a fist of cash and sent him to his friend Arlene.  Unbeknownst to Appius Eric and Arlene had an arrangement of their own.  He paid her to tell Appius that the deed was done and then he spent the afternoon at the moving picture shows returning home just before dinner.

His body was anxious about those matters, true, but his heart was filled with only Sookie.  If that was to be something he experienced, he only wanted to experience that with her.  He learned to sublimate his needs through self-gratification.  His mind filled with her smile, imagining her touch on his body.  His deepest thoughts he wrote to her as well, in the letters that he had never sent.

In his mind he saw her, hair wet and down on her shoulders, droplets of water on her smooth skin.  She came to him and took him in her hand, slowly pumping up and down as she told him what she had seen in the bushes between hot breathy kisses.  He had experienced that kiss now for himself and it was so easy to imagine her touch.  She pushed him down to the floor and guided him inside her, whispering his name as she took him into her, squeezing him to tight.

His orgasm brought him back to his bunk on the ship, his body shaking from the release and the emotion reeling through him.  He turned his face into his pillow and tried to fight back his tears of remorse at how he had behaved in his office when she came to him.

I’m so sorry, Sookie, he thought before the peace of sleep eased his aching heart.

  

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