THE DOOR

Rose stepped into the boat anxiously, her heart pounding with dread. Cal had said that he had an arrangement with an officer on the other side of the ship, but even if he did, why would he help Jack? Why would he help someone he had tried to frame?

She froze, wanting to step back out of the boat, but Jack pushed her forward. He knew that this was probably the last time he would see her, but he had to get her into the boat. Rose couldn't die in the bitterly cold water, as so many of the passengers on the doomed ship would.

Rose turned around, clutching Jack's hand as though she would never let go. They held on as long as they could, until Rose was pushed into a seat on the far side of the boat and their grip was broken. Jack stepped back, watching as Rose huddled miserably in her seat, her body engulfed in Cal's oversize coat.

There was a jolt as the boat began to be lowered, and some of the women in the boat cried out in fear and surprise. Rose clutched the seat, frozen in place. She looked up at Jack and Cal standing at the railing. Jack's face was sorrowful, while Cal looked down at her with a smirk.

"You're a good liar," Cal whispered to Jack as soon as Rose was out of earshot.

"Almost as good as you," Jack returned. "There's...uh...there's no arrangement, is there?"

"Oh, there is. Not that you'll benefit much from it." He gave Jack a triumphant look. "I always win, Jack. One way or another."

Jack turned back to watching the boat being lowered. He hadn't believed Cal from the start, but he pitied Rose. If Cal really did have an arrangement, he would survive, and Rose would be back in his grasp.

Jack knew better than anyone how acutely Rose longed to escape from her world. It hadn't just been the suicide attempt two nights earlier. Her whole outlook on life was different from those around her. She was fiery, spirited, and was struggling desperately to get away from the life that had been chosen for her from the day she was born before it smothered her. She had tried to fit in, to be a member of high society, but she didn't fit into the staid, self-satisfied world she had been born to. She wanted more from life than money and status; she wanted to be free and to live life on her own terms. She had only begun to do so when they had struck the iceberg, and now her new-found independence would be nipped in the bud by her overbearing mother and fiancé.

Rose stared up at the ship as the lifeboat descended, her tear-filled eyes fixed on Jack. Would she ever see him again? she wondered. She felt as though she couldn't bear to leave, and looked anxiously at the passing decks. If only she could get out of the boat...but she felt as though she couldn't move. She sat, frozen in place, as the boat passed the last of the decks and landed on the water. She looked up one more time as the boat began to float away, then buried her face in her hands, unable to bear the sight of the dying ship.

XXXXX

As soon as the boat had begun to float away, Jack turned from the railing, hoping against hope that he could find a way off the ship. Cal strolled confidently down the deck, looking for the officer he'd made an arrangement with, while Jack looked around, hoping that there were still some lifeboats left.

Only the collapsibles were still with the ship. All of the other lifeboats had been launched, most only partly filled. The death toll from Titanic would be high.

Heading in the direction of the collapsibles, he saw one of the officers aiming his gun at the group of men surrounding it. The jostling crowd was trying desperately to find a way into the lifeboat, and the officer was just as determined to only allow women and children on.

Jack saw a few familiar faces in the crowd—Fabrizio, Tommy...and Cal. As the officer, Murdoch, pointed the gun at the increasingly frantic crowd, he shouted, "Back! Get back!"

Cal pushed forward. "We had a deal, damn you!"

Murdoch pulled the stack of bills from his pocket and threw them in Cal's face. "Your money can't save you anymore than it can save me! Get back!"

So that was Cal's deal, Jack thought. He'd bribed an officer to let him into a boat, and the officer had chosen not to accept the bribe.

One man rushed forward, trying to get into the boat. Murdoch turned and fired, narrowly missing the man. The frightened crowd pushed forward, shoving Tommy directly into Murdoch's sights. He fired, and Tommy fell back, mortally wounded. Jack tried to push through the crowd, but it was too dense, and he could barely hear Fabrizio shouting over the noise.

"Tommy! Oh, no!" Looking at Murdoch, he shouted, "Bastardo!"

Murdoch looked at the scene in shock, realizing the magnitude of what had just happened. Stepping back, he saluted, then put the gun to his head. Another officer shouted in alarm, but it was too late. He pulled the trigger and tumbled into the water, now only a few feet below.

Pandemonium ensued, the crowd rushing about in a panic. Jack was swept along, upward toward the stern, as members of the crowd who had given up hope of getting into a boat rushed higher, away from the ever-rising water. He looked for Fabrizio, but did not see him.

XXXXX

Rose huddled deeper into Cal's coat, trying to ignore the groans of the dying ship and the terrified cries of those left aboard. Pushing her hands into her pockets, she felt something hard and cold.

Pulling it out, she recognized the Heart of the Ocean. Cal had put it in his pocket before putting the coat on her.

That was why he'd put it on her, she thought sadly. It wasn't to warm her, or even to cover up her sodden dress, but to protect his fortune. He knew that she could get into a lifeboat, and that his investment would be safe. For a moment, she considered tossing the coat overboard, but practicality won out. She had no other clothing but her soaked dress, and the air was bitterly cold. She was still cold, but the coat kept her from freezing.

Putting the diamond back into the pocket, she felt the other pockets in the coat, wondering if Cal had stashed any more treasures in it. Reaching into the inner pockets, she felt the bundles of cash that he had placed there.

Putting her hand back in the outer pocket, Rose discreetly removed the diamond. Feeling behind herself, she tied it securely into the sash of her dress, winding the silk around it. Cal could have his money back, she thought, but the diamond was hers. He had given it to her two nights before as a gift, and after she had been drawn wearing it, she felt that it was more her possession than before. If Jack lived, she thought, they would decide together what to do with the gaudy jewel. If not, she would keep it as a memento. But whatever happened, Cal wasn't getting it back. He would be furious, of course, but pickpockets abounded, even on the Titanic, and it would be easy enough to pretend surprise at the knowledge that he had placed the diamond in his coat pocket. After all, how could she be responsible for losing an item that she didn't know was there?

XXXXX

Jack clung to the railing as the stern rose higher into the air. Around him, people clung to anything they could hold onto, or fell, screaming, as the ship's angle grew ever sharper.

Wrapping his arms more securely around the rail, he looked at the people around him. A mother was holding her crying son, whispering that it would soon be over. One of the Titanic's employees, a very drunk Baker Joughin, was standing near him, holding onto the railing. Farther down, a priest was praying and quoting the Bible. All around him, people cried, or prayed, or just stared in shock.

There was a cracking noise from deep within the ship, and the ocean liner began to split in two. People who been near the water level on the ship were flung into the water, some sucked into the ship, others tumbling into it or falling around the outside and swimming away.

The ship fell back level, crushing those who had been unlucky enough to be in its path. There were cries of "We're saved!" But even as people rejoiced, the ship began to rise again, pulled by the weight of the broken half. Higher and higher it went, while people lost their grip and fell screaming into the sea below.

Jack pulled himself over the railing, clinging to the outside of it as the ship went vertical. It bobbed that way for a couple of minutes, and then began to flood. As it filled with water, it sank faster and faster.

Jack gripped the railing, staring down in terror as the water rushed up. At the last minute, he took a deep breath and let go, struggling against the suction and the bitter chill of the water as he tried to make his way to the surface.

XXXXX

Rose looked up as a cracking noise sounded across the water, staring as the ship fell back level. Hope grew within her until the ship began to rise again. Even when it had become vertical in the water, some people pointed and declared that the ship couldn't sink.

Rose watched, hoping that they were right as the ship bobbed in the water, silhouetted against the stars. Then, with a series of exploding sounds, it began to sink.

She couldn't look away as the ship disappeared beneath the sea, moving faster and faster. Time seemed to stand still as the leviathan disappeared into the ocean depths. It seemed hours until the ship disappeared under the water.

Rose continued to stare, shocked, almost believing that she could hear Jack calling out to her. After a moment of silence, the water was filled with screaming, struggling people, begging for the boats to come back.

XXXXX

Jack found his way to the surface and drew in a deep breath, filling his lungs with air. He had no idea how long he'd struggled beneath the surface, but the water around him was filled with screaming, thrashing people, clawing and struggling with each other, fighting over pieces of debris, trying desperately to get out of the water.

As someone knocked against him, Jack knew that he had to get out of the crowd. Swimming away from them, he looked for something—anything—to get himself out of the water.

At last, he saw something ahead of him—a piece of wood floating in the darkness. Swimming toward it, he pulled himself onto it. It was a door, torn loose from its hinges by the force of the water, that had resurfaced after the ship went down.

Shivering, he held onto the door, praying that the boats would return to search for survivors.

XXXXX

It had been about fifteen minutes since the ship had gone down, and the screams and cries from the water had begun to grow fainter. As several of the boats were brought closer together, Molly Brown demanded that they go back to search for survivors.

Hitchens, the seaman in charge of the boat, would have none of it. "They'll pull us right down, I'm tellin' you!" he snarled at her.

"Knock it off. You're scarin' me." She turned to the others in the boats. "Grab an oar, girls."

No one moved. She looked around in disbelief.

"I don't understand a one of you! It's your men out there!" Still, no one moved. "There's plenty of room for more!"

"And there'll be one less if you don't shut that hole in your face!"

She sat back, about to admit defeat, when a voice sounded from a nearby boat.

"Yes! We need to go back!"

Everyone turned to see who was shouting. Rose stood in a boat only a few feet away, while others in the boat tugged at her, trying to get her to sit down. Shaking them off, Rose lunged out of the boat and into her mother's boat, almost overturning it.

A few women shrieked as the boat tilted precariously. Rose stumbled, nearly falling from the boat. Hitchens tried to regain order, giving his unwanted stowaway a shove.

It was the worst mistake of his career. Ruth, Molly, and one of the other women grabbed Rose before she could topple overboard, pulling her into the boat. Ruth turned a scathing look upon the man who had nearly harmed her daughter.

He shrank under Ruth's accusing look. When he tried to grab the oar from Rose's hands, Ruth grabbed it. Her eyes were as cold as ice as she told him, "We are going back to look for survivors."

"We aren't going anywhere," he shot back. "I am in charge of this boat—"

"Shut up!" Rose and Ruth told him in unison. Each of them grabbed an oar, as did Molly. As they began to row, a few other women took their lead, taking oars and propelling the boat through the water. Hitchens grumbled and cursed at them, but was met only with more scathing looks and a few threats to report him once they were rescued.

XXXXX

Jack lay on the door, staring up at the sky. The stars were bright overhead, and seemed so close that he thought he could touch them. A shooting star streaked overhead, and he wondered, vaguely, whose soul it was. The screams from the water had long since died away, except for a few shouts from those who were still alive.

He had hoped, at first, that the people in the boats would respond to the cries for help from the water, to the sound of the whistle that an officer carried. Now, the officer lay against a floating piece of debris, dead from hypothermia. The cries from the water had grown fainter and fainter. It was almost silent, except for the lapping of the water around him.

Was Rose all right? he wondered deliriously. Had Cal found her? Had Cal even survived? He hadn't seen him in the water, so he had no idea what had happened. Cal might well have found his way into a boat, and if he had, Rose would never be able to break free. He turned his attention back to the sky, wishing that he'd told her he loved her when he had the chance. Now she would never know.

He lay quietly for several minutes, feeling the life drain out of him, until a strange sound reached his ears—the sound of voices, and of oars slapping against the water. Turning his head, breaking the ice that had frozen his hair to the door, he looked toward the sound.

A half-full lifeboat moved in the direction of the crowd, the voices of several women calling out, searching for survivors. Suddenly alert, he watched the boat move away from him, heading toward the bulk of the crowd.

Pushing himself off the door, Jack swam in the direction of the dead officer. Grabbing the whistle, he put it to his mouth, blowing as hard as he could. The sound was faint at first, almost inaudible even to himself. Then, as he drew more air into his lungs and tried again, someone from the boat heard him.

"There's someone there!"

A few minutes later, the boat made its way toward him. Those rowing it were inexperienced, and couldn't move it quickly, but they made it.

Several pairs of hands reached for him, dragging him into the boat and taking the whistle from him. He knelt in the bottom of the boat, shivering violently, until the most welcome sound he had ever heard reached his ears.

"Jack!"

Rose climbed over the seats and threw her arms around him, ignoring the shocked stares of the other women in the boat. Quickly, she shrugged out of Cal's coat and wrapped it around Jack, taking a couple of blankets offered to her by one of the other women and wrapping them around both of them, holding him close.

XXXXX

The Carpathia arrived a few hours later to pick up the survivors of the Titanic. Only six people had been saved from the water after the ship had gone down—five rescued by Officer Lowe when he went back to search for survivors, and Jack, rescued by a boatful of determined women.

Jack awoke from a sound sleep as the lifeboat made its way toward the Carpathia. He was lying in the bottom of the boat, wrapped in blankets. He glanced around, suddenly alarmed, wondering if Rose was really there, or if the whole thing had been a dream.

It hadn't been a dream. Rose lay beside him, swaddled in the blankets, her arms wrapped securely around him. She was sleeping, a slight smile on her face.

He woke her as they neared the ship. She sat up, rubbing her eyes and wrapping her arms around herself against the cold. Jack wondered where the coat had gone, and then realized that he was wearing it. In the confusion, he hadn't even noticed that Rose had put it on him.

He wrapped one of the blankets around her, helping her up onto a seat as they waited to be brought on board. When it was their turn, he followed her up the ladder, trying to steady her as she attempted to climb in her long dress.

Once on board, he looked around at his rescuers, and was surprised to see Ruth DeWitt Bukater among them. She looked at Jack and Rose, her expression unreadable, before she walked away.

XXXXX

Later that day, Jack and Rose were sitting together on the third class deck of the Carpathia, sipping cups of tea. They looked up as they heard a commotion from the stairwell.

"You won't find any of your people down here, sir. It's all steerage."

They looked toward the disturbance, watching as Cal walked past the steward, looking at the faces of the survivors. Within a few minutes, he had found them.

"Rose!" he called, striding toward her. "Sweetpea, I've been looking all over for you—" He saw Jack sitting beside her—wearing his coat. "Well. You survived." He looked from Jack to Rose, seeing the stubborn expressions on their faces. This wouldn't be easy.

"What do you want, Cal?" Rose asked him, her voice cold.

Cal straightened, trying to look dignified in his ripped tuxedo. "I've been looking for you, sweetpea—"

"Don't call me sweetpea. You know I don't like that."

"Rose, it's time to stop playing this game and come back where you belong. You've had your fun." He looked at Jack. "I recognize that coat. I want it back."

Jack shrugged, pulling off the coat and handing it to Cal. Cal quickly went through the pockets, discovering immediately that the diamond was missing.

"All right, Dawson, where is it?"

"What?"

"The diamond."

"I assume that it's at the bottom of the sea, with the Titanic."

Cal shook his head, a look of fury crossing his features. "I put it in the coat pocket. Since you somehow wound up with the coat, I can only assume that you have it." He looked at the severed handcuffs still on Jack's wrists. "Either you give it to me, now, or I can assure you that you will suffer the same consequences as last night, but my fiancée will not rescue you this time. Empty your pockets."

"Cal, stop!" Rose exclaimed, tugging on his arm. "Jack doesn't have the diamond." She untied her sash, removing the necklace. "I have it."

Cal reached for the diamond, but Rose put it behind her back, out of his reach. "You gave this to me three nights ago, as a reminder of your feelings for me. You can't have it back."

"Rose, give me the diamond." He gave her the menacing look that had so often made her back down before, but Rose wouldn't have it.

"Is that what your feelings for me mean, then? Are they something you can take back when it's convenient?"

"I never gave you that necklace."

She stared back at him, refusing to give in. "You did."

Cal lost his temper. Grabbing her arm, he tore the diamond from her grasp. "You worthless little slut," he hissed, slapping her across the face.

Jack had just grabbed Cal's arm, pulling him away from Rose, when a sharp voice rang out behind them.

"Mr. Hockley!" Ruth DeWitt Bukater came across the deck toward them, her eyes blazing. She stopped before them, looking at Cal with contempt. "Rose told me, more than once, that she had no desire to marry you." She looked at the struggling trio. "Now I understand why. If you should ever lay a hand on my daughter again, I will have you prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Is this in any way unclear?"

Cal stared at her, too stunned to speak. Ruth snatched the diamond from his hand.

"You did indeed give this to Rose. She showed it to me the next morning. Legally, it belongs to her. If you were so worried about your investment, you should have waited until after the wedding to present it to her." She gave the diamond to a stunned Rose. "Now, Mr. Hockley, you will go back to first class. You will not come near any member of the DeWitt Bukater family again—or the Dawson family, for that matter. Yes," she said, looking at Cal's shocked face, "I am well aware of how the diamond came to be in Mr. Dawson's pocket last night. It was placed there at your request, by your faithful valet, who, incidentally, did not survive." When Cal started to speak, she put her hand up, stopping him. "The engagement is off, Mr. Hockley. I will not see my daughter married to a man capable of such things. You care for no one but yourself."

Cal stared at her, his face twisted with fury. "We had a deal!"

"Just the like that deal you had with that officer who shot himself last night?" Jack interjected, looking at Cal with contempt.

"I have no idea what you're referring to."

"He threw your money back in your face. I watched from the back of the crowd."

"Well, Mr. Hockley, it looks like we are learning more and more about you. I never would have thought you capable of bribery, or of hitting my daughter, but it seems that you are guilty of both." Ruth's voice was full of contempt.

"I had reasons—"

"Yes. You always have an excuse," Rose interrupted. "Whatever you did, there was always an excuse, a reason, as you say. You no doubt have reasons for hitting me, for framing Jack, for bribing an officer. But I don't want to hear them." She took a deep breath. "From this moment on, I do not exist for you, or you for me. You shall not see me, and you will not attempt to find me. In return, I will keep my silence, and you will get to keep the honor you have so carefully purchased." The last word came out in a sneer. "Is this in any way unclear?"

He hesitated. "Rose...you are precious to me."

"Jewels are precious." She walked to the railing, turning her back on him. Jack and Ruth followed her. "Good-bye, Mr. Hockley."

He stood for a moment, unable to believe that things had ended that way. After a moment, he turned and walked away. Rose looked back once, watching as he disappeared up the stairwell. It was the last time she ever saw him.

Jack and Rose looked at Ruth, half-expecting her to follow Cal back to first class. Instead, she sat down calmly on a bench, refusing even to look after him.

"Mother?" Rose asked, uncertain of what had just happened.

"You're free now, Rose. Just as you always wanted to be. You can go where you please, do what you please. I won't stop you."

Rose's mouth snapped open and closed a couple of time as she struggled to find words. "Thank you, Mother."

As Rose and Jack walked to the railing, Rose was silent, not quite believing what had just happened. Was she truly free? For the first time in her life, everything was entirely up to her.

Jack stood beside her, looking out at the sea. Before the confrontation with Cal, everything had been clear to him, but now...

"You're really free now, Rose," he told her. "Free to go where you want...be whatever you choose to be..."

"Be with whoever I want." She smiled. "Freedom isn't much good if you don't have someone to share it with." She paused. "I said I was getting off the ship with you, and I am—just a different ship. That is, if that's what you want."

"It is. I love you, Rose. I'm sorry I didn't tell you before."

She put her arms around him. "You didn't need to. I knew."

He kissed her. When they had broken apart, Rose whispered, "I love you, too. I don't think I could have gone on and enjoyed the freedom I have found without you. You opened a door in my heart that had never been opened before, and there's no closing it."

She rested her head against his shoulder, content to just be with him. After a moment, she looked back at her mother. Ruth was looking away, but she would occasionally glance back at them, a hint of fear in her eyes.

Rose understood. Ruth feared that Rose would abandon her, leaving her alone in the world. She looked from her mother to Jack, then spoke quietly. "There's one more person I need, in order to be truly free."

Taking Jack's hand, they walked back to her mother.

The End.