A/N: I would have updated sooner, but with a major power outage in my house, I probably won't be able to get anything else up except for this until Thursday, which also happens to be the start of NaNoWriMo. I hope you savor this for now; I didn't have time to read through it, so errors and cliches may be there. Also, this will be a two-shot. I'm starting off with if Jack and Rose both could have fit on that board.
Disclaimer: I do not own Titanic (1997).
You Jump, I Jump
By Lady Elena Dawson
Chapter 1: Clinging to Life
The last time Jack had been in water this freezing, he had fallen into a frozen lake when the ice had given out from under him. The last time Rose had been in water this numbing—actually, she had never been in a situation like this before. Her sheltered life flashed before her eyes as she resurfaced from the frigid North Atlantic Ocean, moments after the Titanic had disappeared from under her and her lover's feet.
Of course, the first thing she did when she was able to breathe was scream. Jack was nowhere to be seen; she had felt his firm fingers let go of her hand when the suction of the sinking ship pulled them apart. So what she had cried, out of obvious discretion, was his name.
"Jack!" All around her people were sobbing and yelling for help. It was the first time she could relate to anyone else's misery without any growing guilt; she felt like a frightened horse. However, her fear multiplied when he was nowhere in sight—if only the screams and splashing would stop. "Jack!"
Out of the bottomless ocean came a hand, entwining with hers and instantaneously making Rose feel protected. "Jack," she sighed in relief, more for reassurance than anything as he appeared from a group of thrashing bodies. "Come on, Rose," he said firmly, trying to hold back his stutter. "I need you to swim."
Pushing through the salty water, Rose clumsily paddled her arms and legs. She wished her hand would hold onto Jack's instead of slipping out of every few seconds, their fingers too numb to grasp the other.
Surprisingly they managed to swim away from the chaos and float on their own. To Rose, it was a sigh of relief to finally be able to see only his stricken face and nobody else's. "I-I thought I l-lost you," she spluttered, her teeth chattering against each other as they came to a halt. Their clasped hands moved back and forth in unison to help keep them afloat. "When you w-weren't with m-me, I t-thought—"
"Shh, Rose," Jack shushed her in the calmest whisper he could muster. Squeezing her hand tighter, they started to move away from the pursuing fear again. "Once we f-find something to hold on to, you c-can talk as much as you w-want."
With a weak, numb smile Rose managed to still cling on until they finally came upon a large piece of scattered debris. It was a wooden board, possibly a bedframe or part of a wall, engraved with beautiful angels and delicate flowers. "G-get on, Rose," Jack ordered. Rose obediently obeyed his command and grasped the nearest bulge of wood with her frozen fingers. Her nails, which held a bluish white tint from the starry sky, barely supported her as she crawled on, her arms shaking from the effort.
"T-that's it," Jack murmured in encouragement when her struggle successfully ended. "Now l-let me t-try."
The first attempted concluded with failure: The whole board they considered their only raft for survival flipped over from the weight. Rose squeaked in shock. As they floated there staring at each other, the light bulb flipped on above her head. "Here," she suggested, "let's t-try something else."
Following Rose's basic instructions and using both their heads to brainstorm a way to survive, they both were eventually able to crawl on by balancing their weight. With a final heave, Jack pulled himself up and out of the water, soaked numb to the bone, and scrambled to make the floating device uniform before it could capsize again. The moment he was facing Rose, their bodies unexposed to the fatal waves, he let himself breathe.
Rose's hand crept through the starry night shadows, her porcelain skin glowing in the light, and gripped his clamped hand tightly, her fingers skimming his pale knuckles. "Thank God for you, Jack," she said, pecking the back of his hand with her blue lips. The silence that followed was perpetuated by the distant cries and their stuttering breaths that froze in the air.
"W-we're going to m-make it, Rose," he assured her. "T-trust me." He knew that for one thing, he would not let the lapping sea take her away from him—not in a thousand lifetimes. In truth, he was making a promise he couldn't commit to, for it was out of his jurisdiction. She had a sheltered life, but does that necessarily make him a stronger person than her? No, she was so strong: a burning fire that was almost blown out by the wealthy people around her, locking her away from—
Rose's stammers knocked him out of his racing thoughts. "W-when have I n-not?" She laughed weakly. "I t-think I've always h-have."
"T-thank God for you, Rose," Jack repeated her words, allowing himself to smile.
Impulsively, he untangled his shivering fingers and grazed her knuckles with his lips. When he noticed how cold they were, he encased her clasped hands with his palms and exhaled warm air on them, rubbing the translucent skin. All the while he didn't take his eyes off hers, the slightest twist of a grin on both their faces. For just a moment, they could be the only two people in the world before the horrors of their ordeal daunted their faces.
"When w-will the b-boats come back?" Rose stuttered as he blew on her numb fingers again.
"I d-don't know," he admitted honestly. "S-soon, I h-hope."
"What do we d-do until t-then?" There was the tiniest hint of a terrified child in her voice. It was one of the few times Jack would ever reflect on the fact that she was only seventeen, three years younger than he was and yet more vulnerable and more worthy of living another day.
"Wait," he sighed, using his bony elbows to crawl closer to her so their foreheads were touching.
Eventually waiting became an impatient, menacing task, and the two young lovers who had tangled themselves up in a forbidden romance found comfort by telling stories to frighten away their dreaded fears of death.
"My m-mother caught me c-climbing a t-tree once," Rose recalled, adding a croaky laugh. "She was s-so horrified, she m-made me climb back d-down at once, t-then locked me in m-my room for a w-week."
The more tales they exchanged, the more the realization dawned on Jack: He loved her. God, he loved her so much. Yet, he couldn't strike up the courage to tell her, even under the influence of possible death. As the desperate pleads died down, he promised he would tell her one day when the time was right, but for now he swore that he could hear a man's voice instructing orders in the direction of the lifeboats. They would have time to fall in love again and again when they make it out of this mess.
"Jack?" Rose murmured, her eyes drooping from fatigue after all the stories they had shared.
"Will we still go to Santa Monica?"
The corner of Jack's lips turned up the slightest bit into a grin. "Of course," he promised, caressing the skin of her hand. "And you'll ride a horse like a man."
Rose snorted, even though her throat burned. "And chew tobacco like a man."
"And spit like a man." She precariously scooted closer to him, snuggling against his shoulder. "We'll ride the horses right into the surf."
"And into the sunset."
As recounting the time they would have in Santa Monica together came to an end, Rose had fallen into a peaceful sleep. The only thing left for Jack to do was pray that she would wake up to see the sun rise in the horizon.
Minutes ticked by, and the lethargy weighing down Jack's body soon became overwhelming. The effort to stay awake and alive seemed fruitless now, and the rising hope he had felt in the pit of his stomach was crushed miserably into the sands of the bottomless ocean.
Then, a light, like a bright star ready to take them away in the distance. As he shook Rose awake, the words consciously came to his tongue without another single thought: "We made it, Rose," he said. "We're going home."
Jack didn't remember much of the rescue besides wrapping the wool blanket around his shoulders and pulling Rose's shivering body to his, encasing his arms around her as she lost consciousness again.
Though he himself didn't manage to stay awake all night, he had opened his eyes in time to witness the ship that had come to their rescue, the Carpathia. Rose was still soundly asleep as the lifeboat, only holding seven survivors, two who had perished from hypothermia in the middle of the night, paddled towards the side.
Somehow he found himself climbing up the rope ladder in a warped, dizzy state, reaching out his hand to help Rose over the side. She fell on to his shoulder like she had passed out cold, but the firm grip she kept on him—and the warm tears soaking through his thin cotton shirt—convinced him that she was still awake.
"Rose?" he whispered into her ear as they slowly walked away and to the infirmary—just in case they had caught hypothermia in the night—wrapping his arm tighter around her shoulder.
"Yes, Jack?" she sighed, digging her mourning face into his warm, beating chest. She could hear his heartbeat underneath his thin shirt.
This time, the promise he couldn't fully make was in their reach. "We're going home."