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The Power of Love

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The Power of Love
by Pirate Turner

        The door swung softly open, and footsteps fell quietly against the wooden floor. There was a time when she would have been able to hear his every move, no matter how silent he attempted to be, but now she lay, unmoving, in a canopy bed whose giant size made her body seem even more small and fragile. Even now, however, he could not take his eyes away from her beauty. She had always been beautiful, even now when her skin was paled and sickly.

        Figures moved underneath the blankets, and two furry heads poked out to look directly at him. Meeko cocked his head slightly to one side as he studied the approacher, but even he had learned to be silent and still. Percy whined softly as he glanced from the approacher to his mistress and then finally looked helplessly for guidance to the raccoon who could only shrug and look worriedly back to his mistress and best friend. Flit oversaw every one from where he hovered above her head, his keen eyes peering down at her in concern that ran deeper than the deepest ocean. The man's heart broke even more at the sympathetic pain etched on each of the three animal's faces, but then his attention returned to her.

        Reaching her, he stopped and stood there in silence, his hands folded behind his back as he gazed intently down at her. He wanted to reach out to her. He ached to touch her and wished for the countless time that his love could somehow heal her. He knew that was impossible, however. He could do nothing more for her than what he was about to do. He might have been part of the reason she was dying, but he could not be the cure. No matter what he would give or how hard he wished, some things just couldn't come true.

        Her eyes fluttered slowly open, and she stared up at him for a long moment as she struggled to place his face and their surroundings. The confused, vacant look in her eyes chilled him to the bone. Her eyes had once been such a rich and deep brown that he could have fallen into them and been lost forever with merely a glance, but now the color was almost completely gone from them. He could not even remember the last time he had seen them light up. They were yet one more sign of what he had finally been forced to realize and accept as the truth.

        Her lips parted to croak his name out in a hoarse whisper, her voice no more than the slightest sound and so weak that his trained ears had to strain to hear her. "J-John?"

        He nodded and finally allowed himself to reach out to her. His hand cupped her cheek, but he was careful to put no pressure into the touch. Instead, he kept it as soft as the slight brushing of a weak breeze in early Spring. "Yes," his voice was soft and gentle, giving away no sign that he was dying inside, "it's me. Pocahontas, I need to speak with you."

        She struggled to manage a weak, brave smile, but any one could have seen past the feeble facade. "I am not going anywhere." She had to struggle to pronounce each word.

        "Actually . . . " He paused a moment as he gazed intently at her, summoning strength to do what he knew had to be done from the love he felt for her but knew she did not return. "You are. I'm sending you back home."

        Alarm instantly filled her face. Her eyes narrowed, and her mouth opened to protest. "Save your strength," he told her as he moved his hand to press one gentle finger to her lips, "and don't try to lie to me, Pocahontas. You're dying. We both know that. The doctors can say it's the fever all they want, but we both know the truth. I can see it in your eyes." As he spoke, he failed to keep his pain from his own betraying eyes.

        "Your heart's dying. It has been since the very day he left. You tried to fight it, but not even you are that strong." She again attempted to speak, but he shook his head as he looked pleadingly down at her. "Please don't -- at least . . . not to me." It was at that moment that he heard the door open behind him, and he stepped away from her and turned to face the newcomer. "But to him," he said with a nod directed at the cloaked figure, "you may. Just don't over exert yourself, please."

        Pocahontas' weary mind was still struggling to make sense of the things that John was telling her when the cloaked figure approached. He was completely covered and moved with a strange swagger to his legs, but even through the hazy cloud of her sickness, she knew immediately that he was not a stranger. "J-John?" she breathed for the second time that evening, but this time there was the tiniest glimmer of hope in her eyes.

        Both men saw that hope, but one heart warmed as the other sank even further than it had already been. John Rolfe turned and left, his departure unnoticed by the others, even as John Smith reached up two hands to remove his hood. He reached the bed then and kneeled by her side, gently gathering her fragile hands into his strong, tanned hands.

        At first, he could only stare at her in shock. Could this truly be his love? Rolfe had warned him of her condition, but he had never thought that any one as beautiful, strong, and proud as the woman who had so completely captured his heart many years ago could become so weak and fragile. Indeed, she seemed so weak that he was terrified that he might shatter her if he touched her any more than he already was.

        "John?" she breathed again, her voice already becoming stronger. "Is it really you or have I finally slipped into the beyond?"

        "It's really me," he told her, "and the only way you're going there is over my dead body." The tears that sparkled in her eyes brought unbidden tears to his own.

        "Where? Why? How?" Pocahontas tried to speak but found herself too overwhelmed to be able to form any complete sentence.

        "Sh," John quieted her gently. "Please, save your strength, my love. When he realized what was happening, Rolfe set about searching for me, and when he found me, I needed no further persuasion than to be told that you still loved me." His head lowered in shame, his blonde hair hiding his eyes from her. "I was such a fool, Pocahontas, and I'm so eternally sorry. I should never have left you. I realized that with not even a day having passed since I left England on my own boat that first time, but I was too proud . . . too stupid," he nearly spat, "than to run back to you, confess how sorry I was and am and that I still love you, and beg for a second chance and for your forgiveness. I . . . "

        "John?" Something had changed in the sound of her voice. Already, it sounded stronger, healthier, firmer . . . Looking up, he was stunned to find her leaning toward him, their faces mere inches apart. "I forgive you, and I love you too." With that said, she pressed her lips to his in a gentle kiss that would have lasted much longer than the several seconds it did had she not had to break free from his sweet lips to gasp for air, her pain-filled lungs already burning for oxygen.

        Still, though, he clung gently to her, and when the coughing fit had passed, she collapsed into the comforting embrace his strong arms offered her. Both closed her eyes as she rested her head against his muscular chest. His head lowered to brush a gentle kiss over her raven hair even as she listened to his heartbeat, drawing strength from its rhythmetic sound. Her eyes drifted shut, and his eyes closed as he breathed her scent in deeply, his nose filtering through the medicines and sickness to her own essence. They stayed like that, just holding each other and never wanting to let go, for a long time afterword.

 

        "I don't know," Pocahontas spoke hesitantly much later that same night. "I am here for a reason. My people need some one to speak for them, and who else can give them the voice that they so desperately need if our peoples are to ever live in lasting peace?"

        John Rolfe was careful to keep his amazement from showing, but he could not help secretly marveling at her words. Already, since Smith's return, she was making such remarkable improvements. She was smiling again, and the light was finally returning to her eyes. Moreover, what she had just said had been longer and more passionate than he had heard her speak in many months.

        The gentle voice that spoke quietly up from the doorway of Pocahontas' bedroom surprised them all. "I can." All three heads snapped up, startled, only to find a tall, lean Indian standing in the doorway. His shoulders were crunched and his head lowered, but he could still barely make it through the entrance.

        "You?" Pocahontas asked, clearly surprised, as she stared at the guard her father had sent with her when she had first came to England.

        "Yes," he insisted gently with a grave nod as he came to kneel beside her bed. Looking up into her eyes, his own pleaded with her to understand, believe, and -- most of all -- trust him. "I have been practicing for a long time now, and I really believe that I can handle your job while you are away. Your father and I have been corresponding ever since we left for the New World, and he grows weary of being without you, my Princess. He has said nothing of it to you, because he does not wish to worry you." He removed an envelope from the inside pocket of his jacket, brought the letter out, and then handed it to her. "He needs you now, my Princess, even more than your people need you to be here."

        Silence filled the room as Pocahontas read the letter, her eyes being the only window to the emotions that ran through her as she read her father's handwriting. Without her there, there had been no one to truly look after him, and he had grown weary, tired, and sick. He needed her now more than ever before, but still she had a duty to her people. She looked up at her friend, her eyes studying his, as she hesitated, wondering if she dared leave him to fill her place in the courts while she was away. It had been so long since she had last seen her homeland, and she ached for her home and family almost as much as she had for John Smith, whose strong arms cradled her even now.

        It was his strong voice that reassured her now. "It doesn't have to be forever, Pocahontas. We can go there, spend however much time you like, and then come back."

        When she still hesitated, John Rolfe cleared his throat and spoke up quietly. "I will be here to help him and to watch after things." His brown eyes pleaded desperately with her as he asked softly, "Surely you trust us at least that much?"

        For just a moment, she witnessed the pain that flickered in his haunted eyes, and that was what finally made her decision for her. After all, how could she not trust the man who she knew loved her with all his heart but had brought her own real love to her in order to save her very life? She knew he would do anything for her. Finally, she submitted with a sigh and a slight nod of her head. "Very well, but only for a few months. We can not stay long."

        At her announcment, her guard and John Smith smiled truly. Flit did a series of several, incredibly swift flips before buzzing Meeko who chattered excitedly. Even Percy yipped joyously. However, John Rolfe's smile could not hide his true feelings from Pocahontas, and her heart ached in sympathy for her loyal friend. She would not say anything yet, however, not while the others were still there.

 

        Much to the delight of the housekeeper, the men managed to coax Pocahontas out of bed for one last meal before heading back home. The food was delicious, and although she found herself starved, it did not take nearly as much food as it once would have to fill her. John Rolfe had eaten the least of them all and had been the first to leave the table. When Pocahontas finished, she waited for a few minutes before speaking quietly. She first thanked the housekeeper and once more congratulated her on her cooking skills, but then she dismissed herself so that she might return to her bedroom and rest for a short while before their boat would leave the harbor.

        John Smith's blue eyes watched her in concern as she left. She had offered him to return to her bedchambers once he finished eating, but he knew that she was not going directly there. She was going to Rolfe, and he knew why. He swallowed hard. He trusted her, but he still had to learn to trust Rolfe more completely. Still, though, he would grant them the time they needed.

 

        She found him standing at the end of the long hallway, looking out at the night sky. She did not know why he bothered to look upwards so often at night nor why he seemed to implore advice from the stars when they could not even be seen for London's lights, but she would never question him on that. "John."

        The sudden sound of her soft voice startled him, causing him to jump, but he was glad for it as her being able to sneak up on him without his realizing her approach was yet another sign that he had done the right thing and that she was indeed improving greatly. He turned to look at her, fighting to keep his emotions hidden securely away behind his stiff mask. "Pocahontas, why are you not with the others?"

        She did not bother to hide or try to lie to him. "I came to talk to you."

        "You did?" he asked, clearly startled. "Why?"

        "John, please don't make this any harder than it already is for the both of us." She reached out to take one of his hands in both of hers as she looked up into his eyes. "I know what you have done for me and why you have done it. I also know the pain it has caused you."

        "Pocahontas, I -- " he started to exclaim, but she shook her head.

        "Don't. Please don't even try to do something that we both know you're not capable of. Maybe you were while I was still bed-ridden, but you can't lie to me any more."

        Silence reigned for several minutes that seemed to stretch on into eternities before she again broke the silence. "John, I wish there were words to tell you what I'd like to, but there are none in either of our languages. I care for you deeply, and I do love you but not the way you do me. You are one of the best friends I have ever had, and I will be eternally grateful for everything that you have done for me. I just can't love you. I am sorry that that causes you such pain, but it is a truth that I can no longer deny."

        As she seemed to be trying desperately to piece together more words that might be able to give him a better understanding of everything she was trying so hard to tell him, Rolfe spoke. "I wouldn't want you to, Pocahontas, not any more, and I see now that it was wrong of me to ever try to stand between the two of you. I want you to be happy and healthy and to be free and in love with who you choose, even if that lucky man isn't me."

        Her shoulders rose and then dropped as she sighed heavily. "Oh, John, what can I say?" she asked him helplessly.

        "You don't have to say anything. It's my fault that you lay so close to death for so long, and seeing you now, like this -- getting better, already clearly feeling so much better -- is the only thanks I need. I love you, Pocahontas, but I understand that you don't love me. Although that's my loss and I'd give anything to be the one you chose, I don't hold it against you. Just go with John. Be happy. Be well. Be safe. That's all I ask."

        She embraced him gently, her arms wrapping around his muscular chest for one last time, as she told him, tears of gratitude brimming in her eyes, "Thank you, John. Thank you for everything." She parted from him and then, without daring to face him again, turned and walked away.

        He watched her go, the excruciating pain filling his heart until he thought he could hurt no less if his heart were to even shatter. He turned back to his window and stood, with one hand resting against the frame, strong and straight. He would not cry. He would not risk allowing either of his friends to catch him crying. He would not hinder their happiness.

        Standing unseen in the entrance to the hallway, John Smith observed the man who had once been his greatest opponent. His jealousy had gotten the better of him, but John now knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that he no longer had any reason whatsoever to be jealous. Pocahontas had made her decision. He was blessed to be her choice, and although the other John had been cursed by her decision, he would not lift a finger to intervene in their love. Instead, he had brought them together.

        John knew Rolfe's heart was breaking for he would never forget the pain that had filled his heart on the occassions when he had lost Pocahontas. For a moment, he lingered, wondering if there was anything he could say that might help. There was so much he would like to tell the other man, but he didn't dare speak a single word of it. There were just some things that men did not discuss, and one's endless gratitude for one bowing out of a triangle to allow the woman he loved to be with the man who loved her and who she loved in return was one of them. Instead, Smith turned and walked away, his boots falling silently on the floor as he made his way to Pocahontas' bed chambers where he would sit with her while she rested.

 

        The moon was just beginning to dip low in the sky when they gathered at the boat. Pocahontas struggled to hold a squirming Meeko in her arms while John Smith walked beside her, one arm wrapped protectively around her slender waist while his other held Percy, his fingers wrapped securely around the pug's mouth to keep him from yipping, growling, and quite possibly even biting. Flit zipped ahead of them to hover impatiently over the plank that led up into the ship that would take Pocahontas and her animal brethern home.

        "I can't thank you enough," Pocahontas spoke gently as she turned back to face Rolfe for one last time.

        "And as I've already told you," he reminded her with a warm smile, "just be happy and be healthy." He then turned to face the man she had chosen, his narrowed eyes intently studying Smith. "You'd best be good to her and look after her," he began to warn only to be interrupted by a kind smile but a firm voice.

        "You know I will," John Smith told John Rolfe as his arm slipped from around Pocahontas. He then extended his hand to Rolfe in the offer of a shake. "And thank you, John. I know you only set out to save Pocahontas' life, but you've saved mine, as well."

        As the white men shook, their eyes bearing into each other's, the tall, quiet Indian man stepped forward, his head bowed, to face his Princess. "Safe journey, my Princess."

        Pocahontas reached up with one finger to gently tilt his chin up so that his eyes were forced to look down into hers. "Thank you," she told him. "Thank you for being here for me when I've needed you and for filling in for me while I'm gone. I know you'll do a fine job." She hugged him then before turning toward Smith and Rolfe.

        John Smith stepped back, waiting patiently for his love, as he nodded politely to her guard. "Ready?" he asked her, his blue eyes shining with bright hope.

        She glanced to her human friends who stood loyally before them one more time before looking back at the love of her life. She nodded, her lips pulling up into a bright smile, as she accepted the hand that reached for her. Their fingers entwined, and she let him lead her up onto his boat. They hurried on board just as his men cast them off. John had hired them just for this one travel; they would return to England in another boat. Their wages were costly to his small finances, but he had been determined to spend every moment possible with his love on the journey.

        As the ship began to sail away, Meeko suddenly caught the scent of biscuits on board. He sailed unexpectedly from Pocahontas' arms, sending her twirling. Just as Meeko had leaped, Percy had followed his friend, thus freeing John's strong arms to gently catch Pocahontas as she went to fall. He steadied her and went to set her on her feet, but she stopped him with one gentle hand placed against his muscular chest. Their eyes gazed adoringly into each other's, full of all the eternal love that they felt only for one another, and then his lips slowly descended upon hers. Her lips parted under his as they drank deeply of one another, the gentle winds rippling through their hair and clothes.

        John Rolfe slowly turned away from the sight of the ship sailing away into the distance as his heart broke even more. He walked into the slowly fleeting shadows and bowed his head as he finally allowed his tears to flow. Yet even as he cried, he smiled as he thought of the one true love of his life and realized that he had done the right thing. No matter how much he loved her, she could never have been happy with him, and although that fact brought him endless misery and regret, at least she was happy now. Despite everything, he was still happy for her for he loved her, and after all, wasn't that what it was all about -- making Pocahontas happy and saving her?

        Back on the dock, the guard continued to grin as he watched them begin to sail away. He would miss Pocahontas and even her animals, but he was glad for them. When he wrote Powhatan again, he would tell his chief of the remarkable, incredible power of love -- how it had made a woman almost die and a man put aside his own love for her to selflessly bring her true love back to her and how that same miraclous power had then saved two lives.

The End