"Claire, these people don't have time to be left alone!"
"That's exactly my point, Trevor. We don't know what's going to happen to them. But you still set them up without caring what knocks them down. This may be hard for you to understand, since you've never been in love. But for us mortals, losing someone you love... hurts. And that's something you've never experienced, Trevor. So maybe you shouldn't be so half-assed with your little plans when people's feelings are involved, alright?"
Trevor felt angered by her accusations. He gave her a hard look. "We're still talking about Eileen, right?"
Claire said nothing. She fixed him with a cold stare but kept her silence. Slowly she turned away, the conversation over as far as she was concerned. Trevor regretted saying it already, but it was too late to take it back. As she angrily walked off he called out to her
"Wait, Claire. I'm sorry. Don't leave. I shouldn't have said-" She disappeared into the crowd, ignoring him. Trevor sighed in defeat, softly berating himself.
"Great. Just great. Way to make her feel better..."
Looking up, he glanced over at William and Eileen. William still seemed unable to find something to say. The unease in his stance emanated clearly for anyone to see. Eileen would have looked more comfortable having a tooth pulled. Without a word William nodded and began to back away... before turning and stalking off at a speed just short of a full fledged sprint.
Trevor couldn't believe it. "Must be contagious."
He darted over to intercept William, but was suddenly blocked by a drunken man who stumbled into him and spilled his drink. Trevor called out.
"William! Wait, hold up! Where are you going?"
William ignored Trevor completely before he too was gone, like Claire. Shaking his head, Trevor made his way over to where Eileen was still seated, her eyes on the floor in thought.
"Hey, Eileen. What's up with the tag-team tandem retreats? First you last night, now him. Little clue, if you're tagged as 'it' you're actually supposed to go chasing after him..."
Eileen looked up at him, her eyes on the verge of tears. "Thanks again for introducing me to William, Trevor. To think I could have sailed all the way to New York without all of... this." Eileen wiped at her eyes and got up, starting to walk away.
"Wait. Talk to me, Eileen. What did he say wrong?"
She stopped in the crowd and turned to him. "He didn't say anything, Trevor. Just silence. But that said it all..."
As Eileen turned and left, Trevor threw his hands up in disgust. This just wasn't his night. He paused, placing his fists on his hips as he tried to make sense of it, his head low with disappointment. Around him, the boisterous room still hummed unabated, filled with music and laughing, drinking people. Trevor didn't really notice, lost in his thoughts. Until he felt a woman's hand on his shoulder and looked up.
It was Nurse Jessop. Enjoying the party she looked over at him, the smile she had slowly dissipating as she read the expression on his face. "Mr. Collins? I came... looking to see if you were feeling better. Where's Mrs. Collins?"
"She decided to call it a night early..."
"I see. But you're both still feeling well? No relapses or fainting spells?"
"No, none. And we are feeling better," he looked the way Claire had gone, "more or less."
As Trevor turned back to Nurse Jessop, he saw the look in her eye and realized she had also come for other reasons. Trevor wasn't going to let the rest of the night go to waste. "Thank you again, Ms. Jessop. While I'm sure you're a very dedicated nurse, I doubt you came all the way down here just to check on me and Mrs. Collins." Trevor smiled as he took her by the shoulders, leading her into the crowd. "Who did you really come to see?"
Nurse Jessop blushed. "Well... I suppose if I'm completely honest I might have hoped to run in to... well, John Priest."
"See, I knew you had other motives. So. How do you know Mr. Priest?"
She smiled. "We served on the Olympic together. He's a fireman, stokes the boilers with coal and such."
"Hmm. You like the strong, burly working man types huh?"
"No, where just friends. And since I know his shift ended hours ago, I thought he might be-"
"Right down here." Trevor began to search the room. "Well. I'll see if I can track him down. No reason this night should be a total failure."
"I don't understand."
"Oh. Don't worry about it. Look, I'll go hunt down John-boy and bring him to you. He's probably here somewhere."
"Why thank you Mr. Collins."
Trevor moved off, stopping as he glanced at the stairwell Claire left on. Somehow the room seemed emptier with her gone. Several people bumped into him as they tried to squeeze by but his mind was elsewhere, thinking of Claire. Shaking it off, he began to search the room, looking over all the laughing faces. It didn't bother him that he didn't even know what John Priest looked like. It was only a minor detail, since he had a job to do.
The next day, William looked ready to bolt the instant he saw Trevor. As Trevor approached, William's eyes widened and without a word he turned and walked back the way he had come, disappearing around a corner. Trevor walked faster to try and catch up to him. In spite of William's obvious reluctance, he called out.
"Hey Willie! Willie boy! Where are you going?"
Trevor turned the same corner but William was gone. He must have run the entire way to get out of sight so fast. Trevor couldn't believe it.
"Mortals!" he muttered as he looked around, trying to decide which way to go. "Why do all you finite beings waste the most time?!"
Nearby, Trevor saw the light dim across the passageway that led up on deck, as if someone out of view had just passed. He followed it up and outside into the crisp ocean air. He had reached the forward well deck. Climbing a stepladder up, he found himself near the front of the ship, on the raised forecastle just below the bridge. Looking forward he could see the Atlantic stretching to the horizon in the mid-day sun, a field of blue just beyond the bow. But no one was in sight.
The deck was cluttered with obstructions. Massive chains for the anchors stretched between the metal nobs of capstans. Machinery for a pair of steam winches bracketed the ship's foremast, which rose into the air beside him. Trevor quietly walked past it, searching. As he looked around, the crow's nest hovered far above his head. Trevor didn't look up to see the lookouts moving up there. His only concern for the moment was William.
Centered on the wooden deck was a large closed hatchway which rose a couple of feet off the planks, used to load the forward cargo bays. As Trevor stood there silently, he caught William looking around from behind it before ducking back. Trevor sighed. Why were humans so stubborn?
Without a word, Trevor walked over to the hatch and seated himself around the corner from William. Leaning his back against its side, he rested his arms on his knees. Knowing he had been found, William didn't try to move away. He seated himself the same as Trevor on the adjacent side. They sat in silence as they listened to the sound of the wind and the hush of water breaking on the prow of the ship. Overhead the sun blazed brightly in a clear blue sky.
Finally Trevor spoke. "So let's hear it, William. You're holding out on me. Holding back with Eileen. Why are you fighting this? And don't try to tell me she doesn't do it for you because we both know better. I've seen converging lava flows with less heat between them than you two. There's something else going on and I want to know what it is. Or... we could go ahead and run a few more laps around the ship."
William looked over at Trevor, who's eyes were on the horizon. "Trevor, I don't see why it is any of your business. Why can't you just leave me alone."
"Because you've been alone long enough. I see it when you look at her. Besides it's what I do. It's who I am...'
"Really? You go through life trying to match up people with their true loves?"
Trevor smiled. "Exactly. Pet peeve of mine. And... if the true love thing doesn't work out, I'll settle on getting you laid."
Amused, William smiled back. "I'm honored you would call a woman spending the night with me, settling."
"Sure. Settles people down all the time."
"Regardless if that is or isn't true, why should I listen to you advice? What gives you such insight, Mr. Collins?" He corrected himself. "Excuse me, Mr. Hale."
Trevor nodded silently. He could see William needed more convincing, and he knew what he had to do. "Actually, my name's not really Trevor, either."
"Another alias? You're quite the man of mystery, Mr. Hale. Then what is your true name, if I may ask?"
Taking a breath, Trevor stood. William looked up from where he sat as Trevor stepped in front of him, blocking out the sun. Trevor extended his hand, the sun's bright haze shining around his head.
"Hi, I'm Cupid. Immortal god of love. Nice to meet ya."
William laughed, shaking his head. He had to hand it to Trevor. It seemed he would try anything. Taking Trevor's hand, William pulled himself up. "Now I see," he said as he stood, "You're the Olympian god of love, travelling third class. Nice theatrics, by the way. Stepping into the sun's aura and all that."
"Glad you liked it. As for third class, I go where I'm needed."
"Oh of course. And why is it that you haven't mentioned this before?"
"I wasn't really here before, I was... somewhere else. It's sort of complicated. Mr. Collins isn't really me... maybe." Tired of thinking about it, Trevor rubbed his forehead. "At least I think he's not. But he could be. I suppose. Actually, I'm not really... sure."
William pursed his lips and nodded as if it were all completely reasonable. He didn't believe any of it for a second. "And where were you, if you weren't here?"
Trevor sighed. "Banished to Chicago as a bartender, some eighty odd years from now. My own personal Hades. Both me and Claire. She's just a normal human being, though. More or less." Trevor chuckled, knowing how strange it sounded.
William played along. "So I should listen to your advice because you're not only the god of love, but you're also from the future."
"Right. And because... if you ever expect a future with Eileen it's got to be now. Or never."
"Why is that?"
Trevor could almost hear Claire's voice chastising him, but he continued. "Because in two days this ship will hit an iceberg and sink. I'm not saying I have a list of who lives or dies, I wasn't really paying all that much attention the first time it happened. But my point is, don't put this thing with Eileen off."
"Hmm. Your latest tactic. I think I understand."
"To get me and Eileen together. Placed in mortal danger, the two lovers must grab whatever small amount of happiness they can before the tragic end..."
"Hate to break it to you, William but... like every other mortal I know, that statement's true every second of every day of your life."
"Well, its quite a story-"
Trevor interrupted him. "It's not a story. Sunday night, an iceberg will appear in front of the ship." Trevor turned and started to walk to the ship's railing, nodding the direction the ship was travelling. "The lookouts won't see it in time." He glanced up at the crows nest, calling out, annoyed.
"Nice work, you pinheads!"
One of the lookouts glared down at him, but said nothing. Trevor waved it off, turning back to William.
"Anyway. The ship will try to turn, but not fast enough. Not before the iceberg scrapes along the starboard side," Trevor leaned out over the railing and pointed down, " Just beneath us. The forward compartments will flood and the ship will start to go down by the bow. A whole lot of people won't make it into the lifeboats. It all takes about three hours. And eighty years from now, it also takes about seven dollars and twenty five cents a ticket."
William was silent. What a strange story to make up. "While I may not believe you, I appreciate the effort, Mr. Hale. Trying to create a scenario that will encourage me. I'm just... not ready."
Trevor moaned. "You have to be. You don't have time not to. Why aren't you ready? What's stopping you?"
William looked out over the ocean, speaking in a somber voice. "Do you know what the worst part of falling in love is?"
"Losing that love. That's the worst part."
"Now you're starting to sound like Claire." Trevor waited to see where William was going with this.
"I don't mean losing love because of some argument or infidelity, but because of fate. Blind chance, I suppose. I hadn't told you, but I was married once, Mr. Hale. And madly in love. We had many happy years together."
Trevor felt what was coming, seeing it on William's face.
"You think a love like that will last forever, transcend time itself, unstoppable. Until something does stop it. A sudden illness. My wife... died, Trevor. The first love of my life."
Trevor swallowed. He didn't know what to say, his usual bravado gone. "William, I'm... I'm sorry, man."
William nodded. "I would have done anything to keep her with me. Given anything. Anything to save her. But she was gone. You're married Mr. Hale. Surely you understand."
Trevor considered it, thinking of Claire. "I suppose I do."
"It's been six years and I've felt nothing like that again. Until Eileen. Until I came on this ship. I can't explain why, but when I see Eileen, my heart... shines. And breathes again. Fills with feelings I haven't had since my wife died six years ago. You may live in the future, Mr. Hale, but I'm afraid I'm... still living in the past."
"I understand." Trevor placed a hand on his shoulder. "You're hiding."
"What?" William couldn't believe what Trevor had just said.
"You're hiding William. Look, I'm sure you loved your wife. But now she's become your excuse. Your excuse to yourself. Your justification against falling in love again because it might hurt all over. Let me tell you something. Love hurts. Love scars. Love wounds and mars. And a bunch of other lyrics I don't really remember right now. But that's love. You have to make it worth it despite the pain..."
William looked at him. "You say this ship will sink. That we all may die. I suppose the god of love has never lost someone he loves, but I have. It's a lesson I would rather not learn again."
Trevor was silent for several seconds. "There's always risks to everything, William. Even if losing the love of your life is a harsh lesson, you can't let that rob you of the rest of your life. It doesn't matter if it's chance, the gods, the fates... whatever. You go on. Not in spite of the people you've lost, but because of them. Because of the strength they've given you. I don't know, maybe now's your time. Time for both of you to move on and love again."
"I don't know, Mr. Hale." William still seemed uncertain.
Trevor turned to leave. "Well, no on will for you. Go to her. Find Eileen and treasure every moment. Because one thing that I do know is that love is worth it." Trevor nodded silently, knowing he could push no further. He walked away, leaving William alone at the railing to consider it.
Trevor burst into his cabin, but Claire wasn't there. He began to pace nervously back and forth in the small space, suddenly upset. Some of the things William had said were still playing in his thoughts, and he began to whisper to himself.
"That can't be it. That can't be the lesson for me here."
Trevor thought about it. He didn't know why he and Claire were there, if they really even were. Didn't know what the gods had in mind. But what had happened to William had given him some ideas he didn't like.
"No," Trevor muttered. "Not Claire! Losing her can't be the lesson the gods want to teach me! I won't let it be." Trevor looked defiantly up at the ceiling. "Do you hear me?" His shout echoed off the metal bulkheads, getting no answer in response.
"I don't care what else happens, but Claire's going to make it." His voice wavered and his eyes began to moisten. He sat down on the edge of his bunk, considering. Interlacing his fingers, he pressed his hands against his mouth. A tear fell down his cheek.
"You can have the entire ship. No one believes us when we warn them anyway." Trevor whispered to no one in particular. "But I'll get Claire into a lifeboat. You can't have her. The three fates be damned." As he began to calm down again, Trevor wiped away the tear. He could taste it on his lips, salty like sea water. Trevor nodded to himself, his face resolved.
There was a knock on the door. Trevor got up and opened it, only to find to his suprise that William was standing calmly in the hallway. His eyes glowed with determination. His face had gained an air of certainty.
"Trevor, you were right. I was hiding. I don't want to hide anymore."
Trevor smiled, glad to see the change in him. "OK," he said simply.
William nodded. "I just hope it's not too late, Trevor. Hopefully she'll give me another chance after how rude I've acted. Either way, I've got to tell Eileen how I feel. Will you help me?"
Trevor laughed. "Yes I will. No time like the present. I should know."
William smiled. "I trust you, Trevor. God of love from the future or not. We can't let ourselves live in fear."
Trevor looked over at Claire's empty bunk, worried about her. "No, we can't," he said quietly before turning back to William. "Come on. Let's see what we can come up with to sweep Eileen off her feet."
Trevor patted William's shoulder, and they left the cabin doorway. Trevor closed the door, leaving behind an empty room.