April 10, 1912
Fabrizio hauls off and punches him when the big Swede turns out to have a royal flush, and even though Jack complains that a full house (aces over fives, too!) is a perfectly respectable hand, he can't entirely blame him.
They watch the Titanic leave the dock anyway, just for the sheer masochistic pleasure of it.
Fabrizio makes Jack buy sausage-rolls and a bottle of cheap wine, which they share underneath the bridge with rain dripping down the backs of their coats. Fabrizio spends the whole night muttering truly blasphemous curses in Italian and shooting him venomous looks from under his brows. Jack smokes three cigarettes and falls asleep with one foot out in the rain. He isn't worried; Jack Dawson tries not to worry about tomorrow until it shows up. Things will work themselves out.
April 15, 1912
Jack is smoking behind the bar and avoiding the owner's wife when the drunk Oxford student accosts him.
"Can you believe it? The Titanic! Unsinkable, they said. Can you believe it?"
Jack catches the man's shoulder before he can stumble away. He will say later that he could already feel the chill of premonition, but he is probably making it up.
"What are you talking about?"
The drunk stares blearily at him with round blue eyes. "The Titanic! Sunk!" He shoves a tattered paper into Jack's hands and wanders off in the direction he came from.
Jack skims the headline, then abruptly sits down as his knees turn to jelly.
It could have been us, he thinks dazedly. Me and Fabrizio, it could have been us.
It is a long time before he can stand up again.
July 3, 1930
Jack rubs his left temple distractedly before remembering that his fingers are still covered in charcoal dust. Not that it matters; even the rich socialites frequenting the Asbury Park boardwalk on a muggy Thursday afternoon aren't so loose with their change as to drop even fifty cents on a quick charcoal sketch. He's done three portraits all day, and he suspects even that was only because people felt sorry for him.
He doesn't want their pity; doesn't need it, either. He has a loft back in the city and enough money stashed in his pack to take him a few states up the coast any time he wants. He isn't like those poor bastards begging under the boardwalk, the ones who'll probably be sleeping there when night comes. Not too bad this time of the year, he's done it more than a few times himself, but it'll be hell when winter comes.
He'll be moving on be then, back to California if he has to work his way across the Dust Bowl state by state.
"Mummy, Mummy, can we get a portrait done? Please?"
Jack looks up to see a dark-haired boy of about ten standing a few yards away from him. The cut of his clothing is good, but there is a tear in the knee of his trousers and his hat is on crooked. A little girl, maybe five years younger with flyaway red hair, clutches the hem of his shirt.
"Darling, if we're going to go to the movies, I haven't the spare change just now…"
Jack blinks as the mother strides up to take the boy's hand. She is a tall, shapely woman with red hair like the little girl's and the kind of impeccable posture that only comes from centuries of good breeding.
"Portraits are fifty cents apiece, ma'am," Jack says quietly, and she looks up at him with a start.
"I really haven't the change," she says apologetically. "Come along, Andrew, Isabel."
"Mummy, we don't need to see a show, really," the little boy--Andrew--says. "We'd rather have portraits."
The woman raises her eyebrows at him. "Oh, you would, would you? Perhaps I'd like to see a show, did you think of that?"
Andrew rolls his eyes. "No, you don't," he says, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. The woman laughs, throwing her head back to expose the clean line of her jaw, and Jack is surprised to find himself staring as he hasn't stared at a woman in years. He spent his teens and early twenties working his way through the most disreputable bars on two sides of the Atlantic, spent a good year and a half in Paris earning his keep sketching nude portraits of the neighborhood prostitutes (most of whom regarded him as a particularly aggravating younger brother, anyway), but there is something about this pale redhead with the fragile, too-tired look about her that captivates him. Her chin comes down and she meets his gaze before he can look away. Her eyes are very blue.
Jack blinks, and tries to look as though he doesn't care much one way or another if they stay.
"Isabel, would you like your portrait done as well?" she asks, without taking her eyes off of him. It is only when the little girl murmurs a shy assent that she looks away.
"Just for the children, then," she mutters, rifling through her purse.
Jack hides a smile as he reaches for his sketchpad and charcoals.
He's always had the gift of capturing the likeness of a person with a few quick strokes, a smudge here, a line there. He does Isabel's picture first, and finishes before she really starts to fidget. Andrew is old enough to sit still, and Jack allows himself to linger a little over it, catching the dimple in the boy's cheek and the way his black hair is flattened where his cap was.
The sun is low and golden in the sky when he blows the excess charcoal dust from the pages and sandwiches them between onion paper for safe transportation.
"That'll be one dollar, ma'am," he says, meeting her eyes directly. Their fingers meet for a moment when she hands him the money and maybe she flushes a little, or maybe it's just the light. "Unless you want me to do one of you too."
She smiles at him, distractedly. "No…no, we'd better be getting home. Come along, children."
Isabel holds up one hand to her mother, her other thumb in her mouth. Andrew skips out of reach, agreeably. He is examining the image of his own face on the paper with round eyes, and it makes Jack smile as he slides his leather drawing case into his kit bag. The woman glances back as she steps away, and Jack grins at her.
"I'll be here tomorrow, if you change your mind," he calls, and for the first time, a real smile finds its way onto her face. It makes her look ten years younger.
"Maybe I will, at that."
And then she is gone.
July 4, 1930
Jack is sitting in front of the bakery, watching the sun rise over the ocean and listening to the ruckus of the shopkeepers preparing for the Independence Day rush, when she finds him. She is alone this time, dressed in a neat gray suit with her hair tucked into a prim French braid.
"My children love their portraits," she says quietly. "I'm sorry I didn't think to thank you yesterday."
Jack smiles and pushes himself to his feet, his knees cracking. He slept under the boardwalk himself last night, not wanting to spend his cash on a 'bus back to the city, and he's being painfully reminded that this sort of life was a great deal easier on the joints at twenty.
"I'm glad to hear it," he says. "Can I buy you some breakfast, or will your husband shoot me?"
He's fishing, and from the dry look she shoots him, he isn't being terribly subtle.
"My husband is dead," she says calmly. "He shot himself last year."
She stares at him levelly as she speaks, gauging his reaction. Jack inclines his head. "I'm sorry to hear that."
A bitter smile quirks her lips. "Don't be."
He nods again and offers his arm. "Does that mean you'll have breakfast with me?"
She stares at him for a long moment, then chuckles, placing her hand in the crook of his elbow. "I'm dreadfully sorry. My manners are usually better, even at this time of the morning. My name is Rose Hockley."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Dawson."
"Please," he says. "Jack. I haven't managed respectability yet."
"All right." Her smile is dazzling. "Jack. I'd love to have breakfast with you, if you'd be so kind as to pardon my rudeness."
He grins back at her. "Consider it pardoned."
They buy rolls from a vendor, and eat them with their legs dangling off the edge of the boardwalk, watching the ocean.
"It's amazing," Rose says, tearing of bits of pastry neatly with manicured fingers. "It looks so calm…" She shakes her head and pops a morsel into her mouth.
"Always did love the ocean," Jack says around a mouthful of roll. "Lived by the docks in Southampton for a couple of months in 1912...let me tell you, it gets damn cold there in April."
Rose raises her eyebrows. "You've been to Europe."
"Indeed I have, ma'am." He lies back against the sun-warmed wood, watching a puff of white cloud flit across an impossibly blue sky. "Worked my way from Ireland to France and all the way back again. Almost won a ticket back home on the Titanic--tell you what, that was the luckiest hand of poker I ever lost."
It takes him a few moments to realize that she is staring at him with her mouth half-open. "What?"
"I was on the Titanic," she whispers. "Cal--my husband--and I…we came back from Europe on it."
"Huh." Jack meets her eyes, but she looks more shaken than anything else. "I guess it's just a matter of luck that we didn't meet back then."
It isn't really likely, he knows. Her clothes are worn and a few months out of fashion, but they were good quality when they were new, and those are diamonds in her earlobes. She would have ridden in the first class, and Jack's worked on enough steamers to know how astronomically unlikely it would have been for a scruffy bohemian artist like him to cross paths with the rich young debutante she must have been.
She blinks. "I'm glad you weren't," she says. "It was awful. Just…" her hand moves involuntarily, trying to sketch the shape of something words can't quite encompass, "…awful. Cal and my mother, and I, we were lucky to survive."
Jack nods. He read the papers on the wreck, he knows the numbers. Her hand is trembling, the remains of her breakfast pastry crushed between her fingers. He reaches over and takes it out of her hand, cocking his head at her. "I still have my charcoals," he says, instead of responding. "I can do a portrait, if you want."
Rose nods, shakily, then pulls herself up, back straight and proud. "I'd like that," she says, and smiles.