The blank sheet of paper seemed to be taunting him; daring him to move the pencil across it and create a drawing.
Rubbing the heel of his palm across his forehead, Jack let out a sigh as he looked back down at the paper that had been blank for the last twenty minutes. This used to be so easy. He used to be able to just sit down with a fresh sheet of paper and draw anything. Whatever was in front of him, whatever was in his memory, even whatever was in his imagination. But that had been nearly a decade ago. Nine and a half years since he had last picked up a utensil with the intention of drawing.
Jack knew as soon as he was back on dry land that his last drawing would be of her. Before he met her his drawing had been his livelihood. She was going to be his life. It almost seemed appropriate that she and the picture were together—at the bottom of the ocean.
But now Jack once again had a pencil in his hand and a pad of paper in his lap. He hadn't even considered drawing since the sinking. But recently, he had done a lot of things he hadn't done since those horrible days years ago.
A week earlier, Jack's job as a farmhand in North Carolina had ended. Winter was coming once again. After winter came spring. Jack hated spring. But he also loved spring. It was in spring that he had known her. That he had known love. And he would not regret that.
So, ready to move on, Jack slowly made his way to Raleigh. The first train out would take him to Maine. Jack had plenty of experience in harvesting. How different could collecting maple syrup be? He didn't like the idea that he would need to stop in New York City overnight. He had avoided the place just like he had avoided the ocean since he had left Carpathia. But the next morning's train to Maine was all Jack could afford with his somewhat depleted earnings from the farm job. Eight hours. That was all the time he was going to spend in New York. Maybe it would be good for him to face his demons.
When Jack stepped off the train into the large waiting room of Grand Central Station, he could feel the pain hit him. Even just a few hours was too long in this wretched city. He pulled his thin coat tighter around his shoulders and his hat over his eyes, but Jack could tell that they did nothing to shield him from the pain that being this close to his memories of the sinking inflicted. He wandered over to the nearest subway map, looking for the fastest way to Hoboken. That's where he would spend his night in the city. Among the tramps and scoundrels, but most importantly—away from the city, and even the entire state of New York.
He descended the dirty stairs onto the subway platform, trying and failing miserably to be unaware of his surroundings. But that's when Jack heard the scream. Near the base of the stairs in the uncrowded tunnel, there was a struggle going on. A tall man with dark hair and anger in his eyes had the obvious advantage. Both men looked to be better off than Jack, but neither belonged to the fabulously wealthy class that Jack had met aboard the—no, he couldn't think the name of the ship. Not in New York. Jack watched in horror as, ties and glasses askew, the men continued to fight. Just as he was about to step in, Jack could see the larger of the men lean over the other, who was lying on the cold concrete, and pull out a gun. He heard the shot as he was already running for the police.
Severely shaken, Jack ran through the doors of the New York Police Department. As it was after dark, there was a slightly reduced number of men in the office.
"I—I think someone was just killed in the subway terminal. The station at 42nd and 4th on the East Branch. There was a struggle. Then someone pulled out a gun," Jack practically yelled. Damn New York.
Jack waited in the waiting room, very nervous. It didn't take long for the detectives to confirm his story.
"What can you tell us about the man you saw, son?"
Jack now had two horrible memories of the only two times he had ever been in New York. He took a deep breath. "He was tall—really tall. Probably over six feet. He had dark hair and maybe a bit of a beard."
"How old was he?" asked one of the policemen.
"I didn't really notice. Probably a little older than me. But his eyes. That's what made him memorable. They were filled with such—hatred. Scared me shitless."
In fact, as Jack said the last words, he realized just whom the man in the subway had reminded him of—Cal. He hadn't thought of that name in years. But the only time he had been even more scared of a person than he had been of this man was when he and Rose—he sighed even thinking the name—had been running from Cal's gun in the depths of Titanic. Jack winced at the pain even the memories caused. It would take days to work his way back to contentment. In fact, that was all Jack could ever feel, content.
"Are you all right, Sir? I know witnessing a crime can be a harrowing experience."
Jack nodded. What the cop didn't know is that Jack had seen enough harrowing images to last him a lifetime. He tried unsuccessfully to stop the flow as they ran through his mind. The iceberg itself. The wild people scurrying for lifeboats. The crew that did not have the skill to properly load the lifeboats. Later the locked iron gates. The children that were trapped. The people who, seeing no other option, jumped off the ship in favor of the freezing water. All of the people in the water, their faces frosted over in their final expressions. Jack couldn't help but let out a shudder.
"It'll be fine. We'll put you up in the hotel across the way. You'll feel better in the morning and we can introduce you to our sketch artist. We are sincerely thankful for all your help Mr—"
"Dawson," Jack said curtly. He didn't belong in the nice hotel. He didn't want to stay there, even for free. Jack just wanted to move on to his next job. Forget about New York and all of his experiences there.
But Jack really didn't want to have to describe the man to a police sketch artist. It physically pained him to be around art. But he knew that it would be just as hard to watch someone draw a picture as it would be to draw it himself. It would probably be a better representation in first person anyways. Jack had already experienced enough pain today, so he did what he never thought he would do again. On the way to the hotel where he was staying on NYPD's dime, he stopped in a corner art store.
At first, Jack was excited to once again see the supplies for his favorite pastime. Some things had changed in the last ten years and the artist in Jack was itching to see the novelty. But as he picked up a portfolio that was markedly similar to the one that he had lost, the one that contained what he was sure would be his last drawing, Jack felt as the constant pain pulsed once again. He pulled a wrinkled bill out of his pocket and hurriedly paid for his large pad of paper and a limited amount of supplies. Without returning the clerk's tip of his hat, Jack shuffled out of the store.
That was how Jack found himself sitting against the headboard of a soft bed in a well-furnished hotel room with a blank sheet of paper in his lap. He could see through the window that the sky was beginning to grow lighter, signaling the coming dawn. He knew that if he made even a single mark on that page he would have to continue drawing. His final picture could not be of a common criminal.
Jack took a couple of shallow breaths, closed his eyes, and drew. He didn't stop drawing. not to check his work, not to make himself comfortable, not even to breathe. The result surprised him. He had never drawn an entire picture with his eyes closed before. But because he was trying with all his might to block out the images of the last picture he had drawn, he couldn't bear to see what he was drawing.
The man on the page before him was Cal Hockley. As soon as Jack saw the man looking back at him, he tore the page out of the portfolio violently, crumpled it, and threw it against the armoire. As much as the man in the subway startled him though, Jack was absolutely certain it was not Cal.
He looked at the second sheet of paper. He would have to try again to draw the killer. He was afraid to try another picture—afraid that another memory would inadvertently show up on the page. But he clenched his teeth and urged his hand to guide the pencil across the paper.
What he finally saw was not a bad representation of the man on the subway platform. Jack knew he couldn't sleep, so he simply waited for the police station to open. He would take the drawing in and he would be on his way to a new job.
The police building was busier that morning. Jack slowly walked to where he was scheduled to meet with the sketch artist and saw one of the two men he had spoken to the previous night. When he noticed that Jack was standing there, he opened his mouth to speak, but Jack spoke first.
"I—um—drew the killer myself. I thought it would be easier to draw him myself than to describe him to someone else," Jack muttered. He handed over the drawing, more than ready to leave.
"That's very interesting," said the cop in a voice that indicated it was more than interesting as he looked at the drawing. "Will you follow me sir?"
"What the hell is this?"
"Don't lose your ass, son. You're not in trouble."
Jack reluctantly followed the policeman to a quiet corner of the building. "The man in this picture was apprehended last night. It seems that after he killed your friend in the subway terminal he got scared. Turns out he was a personal acquaintance of our sketch artist. He didn't want to be recognized, you see. Our men caught him leaving the artist's residence. Unfortunately it was too late to save him. From the look of this drawing you seem like you would make a decent replacement. You got a job, son?"
Without thinking, Jack spoke. "Well, no, not at the moment."
"How about you join the force? If you stay long enough you could even earn a badge."
"No!" Jack practically shouted. "There's no way in hell. I'm getting on the next train north and I'm getting as far away from this city as possible."
The policeman chuckled back and waved him out. Jack had already descended the stairs when he turned around.
He needed to keep drawing. But if he didn't have real people to draw he would draw his memories. Nothing scared him more than his memories. Jack knew that he would have to become the NYPD sketch artist to give him something to draw other than her.
"I—um—" God, he had almost said that he changed his mind. How painful were those words? "I decided I want the job. I'd like to continue working on my art."
"Great. I'll set you up an interview with the city. I think you may need to pass a test or something. It'll take a few days I think, but you should be alright."
Jack sighed. He didn't really know why he'd agreed to it. He feared his memories, he loathed this city.
"Welcome, Mr. Dawson."
And he was tired of using his last name. He hated the fact that she didn't share it. That there was no Rose Dawson.
A/N: OK, so I had about three ideas for multi-chapter stories in the last week. It was simply a battle of which one got written down first to be the one that gets published. I guess this one won. The next chapter is coming ASAP. Hope you enjoyed.