A Change of Fate

Copyright 2000 by Kari

Kari-the-Goddess@excite.com

Rated PG-13

Category: Short story

In her dream, Rose DeWitt Bukater relived that dreadful moment again and again. Jack's
sturdy arms were locked around her desperately. He seemed so calm and self-assured, but
when she glanced at him, the fear in his eyes was unmistakable.

The great hull of the 'Titanic' was disappearing fast beneath them, and would soon pull
them down on top of it into the blackness of the water. But Jack was there, and for a
moment, he met her eyes. "We're going to make it, Rose!" he told her with all the
conviction of his being. "Trust me."

"I trust you!" she yelled above the noise of the swiftly submerging ship. And there was no
doubt in her heart. She trusted him.

The water was now mere feet below them, and Rose could feel the stinging spray on her
face. Beneath the surface of the blackness, she could hear the massive 'Titanic' groaning
with a last effort as the sea swallowed it.

Almost there . . . the dread filled her heart, but Jack was there. She felt him squeeze her
hand harder. And on Jack's mark, she sucked in a large gulp of air.

And suddenly, the iciness enveloped her whole, shocking her body, and the 'Titanic' was no
longer supporting her. She felt Jack's strong grip on her hand in the dark coldness--her only
source of comfort--and she concentrated on that. She held on tightly as she flailed her legs,
kicking for the surface as Jack had told her to do . . . but the problem was, she didn't know
which way the surface was!

She felt Jack pull her closer to him as he latched onto her lifebelt.

But suddenly, he was gone! She couldn't feel him! She groped desperately in the darkness
for him, but the ocean had swallowed him. Unexpectedly, her head broke free of the
darkness. Instinctively, she gasped for air, all the time searching the surface desperately for
her lost love.

"Jack!" she screamed again and again, but her voice was lost in a sea of thousands upon
thousands of voices. So many people. So many like herself . . . but she did not see Jack's
face among any of them.

She didn't know how much time had passed when she came across a drifting wardrobe door.
Exhausted and numbed from the cold and grief, she climbed on top.

After all that had happened, Jack had been ripped from her arms and sucked into the
darkness forever.

* * * * *

Rose awoke with a start, but the coldness of the dream followed her, leaving her chilled to
the bone. She shivered, pulling her sweat-soaked sheets tightly around her body.

"There, there," the nurse soothed her gently, handing her a cool glass of water. Like a
lightning bolt, reality hit her. She was in the makeshift infirmary aboard the Cunard Liner
'Carpathia,' mere days after the sinking.

She had suffered severe hypothermia while in the water, and when they brought her aboard
'Carpathia' she had been disoriented and delirious. She had not even been able to give them
her name. In fact, she had not even been able to speak in intelligible words or phrases.

The nurses had determined that she was suffering from shock as well as hypothermia, and
maybe even amnesia. But Rose remembered everything. The memories came back to her in
a rush-- 'Titanic,' her suicide attempt, meeting Jack, falling in love with Jack, the iceberg,
losing Jack . . .

She forced that thought away as the nurse took the glass out of her trembling hands.
"You're going to be fine, Miss DeWitt Bukater, you'll see."

Rose stopped dead, staring at the nurse in horror. "What did you just call me?"

The nurse looked at her, a confused expression plastering on her kindly face. "Miss DeWitt
Bukater. That is your name, isn't it?"

Rose could do nothing but stare at this woman as she tried to remember the confusion of the
past couple of days, but it was all such a blur. Had she revealed her own identity in her
delirium?

"A rich gentleman named Caledon Hockley identified you. He said that you're his fiancé,
and your mother--"

"No!" Rose exclaimed, sitting up as dread filled the pit of her stomach. Jack was dead . . .
and Cal had found her. "No, he's not my fiancée. The man that I was to marry is dead."

Rose ignored the woman's confused expression as she bolted from bed--

And nearly collapsed at the door. Someone was there to break her fall. Someone was
holding her, bringing her back to bed, and for a moment Rose thought that it was Jack.
"Jack!" she exclaimed, opening her eyes, only to find herself looking into the conflicted eyes
of Cal Hockley.

She recoiled in horror, clinging to the bedrail.

"Hello, sweetpea," he said tiredly. And the tone of his voice--was it possible to be angry,
relieved, and irritated all at once? But that's how Cal seemed.

"Jack is dead, sweetpea," Cal said gently, but Rose could hear the faint trace of triumph in
his voice.

"Well isn't that convenient for you," she snapped irritably.

Cal actually looked stung by the comment, but he recovered almost immediately. He
reached out in an attempt to smooth her hair, but she instinctively pulled away from him.
Rose glanced desperately at the nurse who stood silently nearby, unsure of what to make of
their exchange.

Around her, the sick and dying filled other beds lined up randomly along the walls. There
were even some on cots and pallets on the floor. By the way Cal glanced around
uncomfortably, Rose knew that he felt out of place here among the sick and the poor.
"Please, Rose, let us care for you in our suite. Your mother has been so worried--"

"I'm not going anywhere with you," she told him forcefully; confidently. "Ever!"

Cal glanced around, clearly embarrassed that she had raised her voice to him in public, and
angry that he could not take her forcefully without causing a scene. "Rose," he said in an
obvious effort to keep his voice down, "You know you're in no position to argue. You can
barely stand."

Rose took a deep breath, standing up carefully. There. She just had to make slow
movements. Reaching down, she grabbed the blanket, wrapping it around her shoulders.
"Cal, can we please go somewhere to talk quietly?"

He hesitantly complied, leading her out of the infirmary section of the ship and out onto the
nearest deck. She stumbled several times and Cal tried to help her walk, but she refused to
let him touch her. Outside, they leaned against the railing. It was past sunset, and the stars
were just visible in the late afternoon sky, and the early moon reflected its light beautifully
off the surface of the water.

On any other night, Rose would have found the sight beautiful. But how could she now?
The water was a great black beast, and it had swallowed Jack into its depths. And it had
tried to take her, too.

A chilling breeze swept across the waters, sending chills up her spine as she was suddenly
reminded of the bitter cold that those waters possessed. She pulled the blanket tighter around
her shoulders.

"Doesn't this remind you of our time in Venice the night I asked you to marry me?" Cal
commented, breaking the silence.

She looked at him strangely, not sure whether she should be angry that he should mention
something like that after all he had done to her and Jack, or whether she should feel sorry for
him for hanging on to his illusions. "Cal," she said gently, "things are different now. I don't
love you anymore."

These last words stunned him into silence--something that didn't happen to Cal Hockley
very often. "Rose, I do love you--"

"Cal, our marriage was arranged for financial purposes, nothing more. To become richer.
Before we became engaged, I was enamored of you. I thought you rich, powerful, handsome
. . . and we had some good times. I thought I was happy. I thought it was what I wanted."

He opened up his mouth as if to say something, but she continued before he could get a word
out.

"But soon after the engagement, I realized that it wasn't what I wanted. It's what everyone
else wanted of me--you, my mother, your father--everyone. Everyone but me. But I had
somehow convinced myself that it was for my own good.

"Cal, after the engagement, you changed. During our courtship you were polite and
courteous, but when we became engaged you became protective and smothering and
dominant. I slowly realized that all you cared about was owning me."

"Rose, that's not true. I told you I love you." His voice was so desperate, almost pleading.
It had been a long time since she had heard him sound so sincere.

"Maybe you somehow convinced yourself that you love me, Cal. But dominance is not love.
Owning me is not loving me. Maybe you sincerely believe that you love me, but I don't
think you could ever understand the nature of love."

"And I suppose you do?" he asked, his voice becoming angry. "You have a fling with some
filthy gutter rat"--he practically spat the word out-- "and suddenly, you understand the
nature of love? He had nothing to offer you, Rose. I have everything."

Rose shook her head sadly. He still didn't get it. "Not everything," she said softly, her eyes
once again focusing on the water ahead of her. "There are some things that all the money in
the world could never buy. Jack showed me this. He came along in my darkest hour and he
showed me how to love, and how to live . . ." Rose's face became dark as the next thought
occurred to her. "And you tried to have him killed."

The words hung in the air, the silence between them palpable.

Cal's face became dark. "You were the one who betrayed me, Rose. And yet, here I am,
willing to take you back, and Jack is dead, no matter that it was not my doing."

This time Rose was the one to become angry. "You're such a pompous ass, Cal. You think
you know everything about life, but you can't comprehend a thing. You're so focused on
your world and your money that you're too blind to notice anything else. That night that I
slipped and nearly fell over the ship--I didn't slip. I tried to jump. But Jack convinced me
that living would be worth it.

"He understood things that you never could, Cal. That is why he was a better man than
you'll ever be. That's why I fell in love with him."

She took a deep breath, noticing the tears in the corners of his eyes. Caledon Hockley,
crying! Rose would never have thought it possible.

Yet she could have no sympathy for him. Not after what he'd done to Jack, and done to her.
He hadn't tears enough. "Goodbye, Cal," she said softly. "I hope that you find the right
woman to marry. In this society, I'm sure it won't be too difficult. Tell Mother . . . tell her I
love her. Tell her I'm sorry that I can't be there to tell her that myself. We're just too
different. She would never understand Rose Dawson."

Without another word, Rose Dawson was gone, leaving Caledon with his form silhouetted
against the moonlight. He did not follow her.

The 'Carpathia' docked the next day, and as it did so, she made sure that her name in the
survival list read 'Rose Dawson.'

Rose DeWitt Bukater died on the 'Titanic.'

In New York City, Rose found a home in a strict boarding house near Central Park, where
she went walking daily to watch the young families. For months, Rose cried herself to sleep
every night. She desperately avoided any and all male attention. One particular night while
going through her only belongings, Rose was surprised to find The Heart of the Ocean in the
pocket of the coat Cal had given her. She had cried that night, thinking that she finally had a
real link to Jack.

In the first week after docking, Rose had pawned her engagement ring. She had considered
tossing it over the railing of the 'Carpathia,' but thought better of it.

After moving into the boarding house, Rose had found work as a waitress to pay her rent.
She had never actually done any sort of real work in her life, but Rose discovered that she
rather enjoyed it. Some of the waitresses even talked to her about the new playhouses
needing actors and actresses. This intrigued Rose--she'd always secretly wanted to be an
actress. She remembered telling that to Jack on the 'Titanic.'

And so after being introduced to the owner of one particular playhouse, it wasn't long before
Rose had her first supporting role.

So this is how it came to be that, five months after the sinking, Rose Dawson sat in the
dressing room after her first performance in the opening play. She was absolutely
exhilarated. She had given her best performance, and how the audience had cheered! It had
been a success! She had not felt this alive since . . . well, since Jack.

Jack. Not a day went by that she did not think about her doomed lover. "Like the tragic
lovers in a play," she whispered to her image in the mirror as she pulled the pins out of her
red curls, letting her hair bounce free.

"Nice performance, kiddo," Emily--the actual star of the play--told her as she patted her on
the shoulder. "Before you know it, you'll have all my parts."

Emily smiled good-naturedly as she left the small dressing room, leaving Rose alone with
her thoughts. She liked Emily. In many ways, she reminded Rose of Molly Brown.

She sighed. There it was. Something was constantly reminding her of 'Titanic.' And
'Titanic' reminded her of Jack.

"These are for the star, miss."

Startled by the broken silence, Rose looked up into the mirror to see a man behind her, his
face partially hidden by an armful of red roses.

"Emily just left," she snapped, surprised by the man's rude and inappropriate entrance.

"Actually, these are for Miss Rose Dawson."

Rose froze in place, her shoulders becoming abruptly rigid. His voice . . . so much like . . .
no, it couldn't be. He was dead.

Slowly the man came forward and laid the roses down next to her on the dresser, but Rose
didn't dare look up out of fear that it wouldn't be so; fear that she'd wake up and realize that
this was a dream and that--

"Rose." His voice was so tender, so loving. And his hand was on her shoulder now.
Slowly, she looked up.

And the tear-filled blue eyes that gazed down at her with so much affection were
unmistakable. She thought her heart was going to explode. Suddenly, his hand was on her
cheek, and she was standing up, her own eyes filling with tears as she saw nothing but him.
She could speak no words because her vocal cords would not respond.

Before she even realized what had happened, she was in Jack's arms, and he was holding her
tighter than he'd ever held her before, and he was saying her name over and over, and it was
the sweetest sound she'd ever heard in her life. She was dimly aware of the sobbing that
escaped her chest, but she hardly noticed. Jack was in her arms. Her Jack. Safe and alive.

They stood together like that, holding one another and crying, for what seemed like a sweet
eternity. Finally, Jack pulled back, and when he did, she realized he was now grinning ear to
ear.

At the sight--the beautiful sight--Rose burst into laughter--that pure, heartfelt sort of
laughter. She thought her heart would explode from the feeling of bliss that poured through
her heart at that moment. They hugged again tightly, but they were laughing this time.

Rose pulled back slightly to run her hands through his blond hair, before resting them on his
cheeks. She gazed hard into his eyes as if still trying to decided if he was real. He did the
same, kissing her red tresses softly and breathing in the scent of her hair; her skin. He kissed
her soft lips tenderly, loving the taste of her.

His Rose. His beautiful Rose.

"Jack," Rose finally said. The name felt so good on her tongue. "Jack, I thought you were
dead--"

"I thought you were dead, too," he told her. "I couldn't find you on the 'Carpathia' and
your name wasn't on the survivor list."

"I was sick in the infirmary almost until we arrived in New York, and there was no record of
you listed anywhere. I searched the ship when I could finally walk without falling over. No
one I talked to had seen you. Jack, I'm so sorry. I should have looked harder. But after we
were pulled apart under the water, I was sure that you were . . ."

"Shhh," he assured her, holding her trembling body in his arms once again. He never
wanted to let her go. "It's not your fault, Rose. It doesn't matter now. We're together
now."

"So how did you know I was here?" she asked, curiosity getting the better of her.

He shrugged, a sly grin playing on his lips. "I heard of this play and was interested in seeing
it. Then I heard of an actress named Rose Dawson. My logical mind told me it was a
coincidence. I mean, there have to be hundreds of Rose Dawsons in New York alone, right?
Well, I followed a hunch and cross-referenced it with the 'Titanic' survivor list. And sure
enough--there was a single Rose Dawson listed. And incidentally, there was no Rose
Dawson listed on the original passenger list."

Rose smiled, shaking her head. "Why, Mr. Dawson, aren't you the clever one?"

He smiled back at her. "Not too clever. Don't know why I didn't think of it before. I must
say, though, Miss Dawson, that I'm very flattered. And touched."

Rose blushed visibly. "Jack, let's get out of here. We'll stay up all night talking at my
place."

Jack looked at her with a mock-pout. "After five months of not seeing each other? That's
what you want to do all night? Talk?"

This time Rose turned beet red as she remembered what they had done in the back of the
Renault on the 'Titanic.' "Well, we might be able to find the time for other . . .mmhmm . . .
activities," she told him teasingly as she took his hand, leading him out of the theater.

By the time they left, it was pitch black outside, with only a few street lamps to guide their
way. But Jack was with her. She felt safe with him by her side.

"Jack, when we get inside, you're going to have to be very quiet. My landlady is very strict,
and if she finds you here we'll both be out on the street."

Jack shrugged nonchalantly. "Makes it more exciting, don't you think?"

Rose punched him in the shoulder, laughing at him at the same time. She shook her head as
she wrapped her arm around his waist, his solid form and warmth once again reminding her
that he was real. "What am I going to do with you, Jack Dawson?"

He grinned down at her, rubbing her shoulders at the same time. "I can think of a few
things, Rose Dawson," he teased, once again making her blush.

As a moment of silence passed, they found themselves enamored of each other, unable to
keep their eyes off one another. They traded smiles that dazzled their hearts, and they did
not want to stop touching each other.

"Jack, tomorrow let's go to Central Park. That's where I go sometimes, and I want to share
it with you."

"But of course," he said, flashing one of his dazzling smiles as his blue eyes reflected the
moonlight. "I wish to draw you in a sea of flowers, ma belle mademoiselle."

"We're here," Rose whispered as they stopped by the door of an ancient brick building that
had the look of an old orphanage about it. Together, they stepped up the concrete stairs, and
Rose pulled open the double doors, peering in cautiously. Ahead, across a long room, she
could see the stairs that led to the second floor. But no one was in the long living room.
Rose strained her ears, but she could hear no movement or voices--not even from the kitchen.

"All clear," she whispered, taking his hand and pulling him in behind her. Together, they
made their way quietly towards the staircase, Jack's gaze bouncing around the room in
curiosity. The room held practical furniture and a single fireplace--nothing too
extraordinary.

Finally they were at the base of the stairs and climbing steadily up. Several times, the boards
creaked nosily in the old house, and Rose would stop dead in her tracks, fearful that
someone would emerge at the top or the foot of the stairs. But they arrived at the top without
incident, and they made it safely down the hall and into Rose's room.

"Shhew," Jack whispered when they made it inside safely. Looking around, Jack wanted to
study her room, but all he could do when she stepped to him and into his arms was collapse
on her narrow bed. It was suddenly a heart-wrenching feeling, to hold Rose again. He felt
the tears coming, but he pushed them back. He was with Rose now--there was no need to
cry anymore.

"Ya know," he whispered, pulling back to trace her jaw and lips with his finger, "I hadn't
cried since my parents died in the fire. But after I lost you . . . a day didn't go by that I
didn't cry for you."

Rose's heart was broken. She couldn't bear the thought of him being in so much pain over
her. "Oh, Jack," she whispered, pulling him into her arms, holding him so tight she thought
they might meld into one. "I cried for you, too. I missed you so much."

"Rose, I love you," he said, pulling back to look into her eyes. "I love you so much. I
wanted to tell you that every day the past five months. I hated myself for not telling you
while I had the chance."

"And I love you, Jack," she whispered, letting the honesty of the moment ring in the air as
she studied his eyes. "I never want you out of my sight again. Let's get married tomorrow.
In the park. I know a priest who would gladly do it."

And there it was--the moment of truth. She could see the pure joy and love in his eyes. But
there was hesitation--concern for her. "Rose, are you sure that's what you want so soon after
. . ?"

"Shhh," she said, holding a finger up to his lips. "That's taken care of. I don't think we'll
have to worry about Cal bothering us. And yes, it's what I want. I want you, Jack Dawson.
Forever."

And when their lips met in a passionate, longing kiss, there was no more need for words.
Their bodies and hearts spoke for them. As their clothing disappeared and skin mingled with
skin, they knew that there would be hard times. But they realized that they could get
through anything.

Because fate had brought them together for the second time.