Chapter Eleven

Jack looked up as Rose came back into the room, relieved that Cal hadn't harmed her or convinced her to go back to him. There wasn't much he could have done if Cal had tried to harm her; his fever had broken, but he was still weak from his bout with pneumonia. And if she had decided to go back to Cal, and to the wealth and status he offered her, it would have been her choice, and he would have had to accept it.

"Jack!" Rose rushed over to him, sinking down on the edge of his bed and settling into his arms as he sat up and embraced her. She leaned her head against his shoulder. "I don't think he'll be bothering us anymore."

Jack looked at her. "How can you be sure?"

"He has what he wants, what is precious to him. He has no reason to pursue me any longer."

Jack gave her a confused look, but Rose just smiled, not elaborating. She had made a promise to Cal, and as long as he kept his end of the bargain, she would keep hers.

"Rose…are you sure about this? He has so much. He can give you the life you're accustomed to, while I…I have nothing to offer you, just like I told you that day. In fact, I have less than I had then, since almost everything I had went down with the ship. All I have is the clothes on my back, and I won't be strong enough to work for a while yet…" He trailed off, wanting her to stay, but knowing that he wouldn't be able to forgive himself if she followed him false expectations. He couldn't give her what Cal could, and would probably never be able to.

Rose shook her head, refuting his words. "I don't want to live life the way I was accustomed to. I was accustomed to living in such a closed-minded, restrictive society that I had no chance to be myself, to follow my dreams or do the things that I know I can do. Had I been happy with the life I was leading, I would never have attempted to jump off the back of Titanic. I never would have met you." She reached for his hands, squeezing them gently. "You say you have nothing to offer me, but you're wrong. You have everything I want and need—love, friendship, encouragement—things that Cal could never give me, not in a million years. You may not be able to work for a while, but we'll be all right—Cal put quite a bit of money into the pockets of this coat, and he doesn't know I have it. Besides, I'm strong, and I can work, too." She smiled, kissing him softly. "Together, we'll be all right. I know we will."

"Only if you're sure, Rose. The life I lead—it isn't all drawings and parties and the like. There's hard work, too, and sometimes there isn't enough food, or a warm, safe place to sleep at night. It isn't what you're used to."

"I know, but I'm ready for this. I have been ever since that first moment when I saw you on Titanic, on the deck below me. I tried to look away, but…I couldn't. My gaze was drawn to you, no matter how improper I knew it was. I think I might have come down and tried to meet you, if Cal had not pulled me away. I think it was then that I began to separate from the world that I knew, and find my way into another one. And then, on Friday night, when you cared enough to rescue me, a stranger, from making a terrible mistake—though it could have cost you your life, and did almost get you arrested—I knew that it wasn't just the desire to be free that pulled me, the desire to choose my own life. You were there, too, and I went to find you the next day, to see if what I felt was real. And it was. It really was. From that moment I knew that it had to be you, whatever society thought, whatever Mother and Cal felt about it. I'd separated inside from the society I was raised in, and I wanted to share this new feeling of freedom with you, to stay with the one who had suddenly come to mean so much to me." She smiled. "I never believed that love could happen so quickly—but it can, if only once in a lifetime. No, I won't go back to Cal. It has to be you, Jack—or no one at all."

She looked at him, suddenly wondering if she had gone too far, if he really felt as strongly for her as she did for him. She didn't wonder for long, though, because Jack pulled her into his arms and kissed her, the two of them embracing and not letting go for a long time.

When the kiss finally ended, Jack said the words that Rose had been hoping to hear. "I love you, Rose, more than I ever dreamed possible. I was drawn to you from the start, too. The others teased me, never believing that I would get close to you, but there was something about you that drew me to you, no matter what anyone said. When I saw you climb over the railing the next night, ready to jump into the ocean, my heart skipped a beat. I didn't know why I felt so strongly towards you, but I did. I probably would have helped anyway—but the fact that it was you, even though I didn't know you, made it all the more urgent. I was so relieved to get you back over the railing that I didn't care that I was about to be arrested for a crime I didn't commit, that had never even taken place. And then you spoke up, managing to rescue both of us, and that sealed it. I knew that I had to see you again, which is why I agreed to go to dinner with the first class the next night. I didn't particularly like Cal, even then, but I wanted to see you again, and that seemed like the only way. I was surprised when you came into steerage the next day, looking for me—but I was glad, too. I'd been right about you—you are unique, and special. Very few first class girls would come down to steerage to find someone, much less return with them that night for a party that was anything but proper."

Rose kissed him then, and they stayed together that way for a long time, the same thought running through both of their minds—it has to be you.

The End.