Rose shivered. The wind whipped her hair back, leaving a faint sting in her cheeks. She pushed her hands into her coat pockets and hunched her shoulders. "Should have gone south for the winter," she muttered.
Suddenly, a pair of arms encircled her. "Should've told me," Jack said with a soft laugh. He pressed his lips to her earlobe. "I would've taken you."
She covered his hands with hers. "I know you would have. I wanted to come here."
"You never told me why."
"Well, there's a lake."
"Uh-huh." He laced his fingers through hers.
"And it's cold enough now for that lake to be frozen."
He tucked their clasped hands into her pockets. "I thought you never wanted to go anywhere near ice again," he said, puzzled. "Why—" He broke into a grin. "Are you saying what I think you're saying?"
She glanced at him over her shoulder. "That depends, Mr. Dawson, on what you think I'm saying." He leaned forward and claimed her lips. She giggled. "That isn't it." She moved her head back; he moved his forward. "Jack, I can do this all morning."
"So can I."
They gazed at each other for a moment. Rose's cheeks were red from the cold. Her eyes sparkled. Her hair fell in soft curls around her face. Jack couldn't believe she was in his arms.
It had been eight months since the sinking, eight months since they met, since she walked off the Carpathia and onto a crowded New York street holding his hand. He remembered the smile on her face as they hurried through the crowd. They were soaked from the rain, shivering and exhausted, but she hadn't noticed.
"I actually did it," she said, wonder in her voice. "No one stopped me."
He pulled her close. "Yes, you did."
She threw her arms around his neck, not caring who saw. "I love you, Jack." She kissed him. "You saved me," she whispered.
He pressed his forehead to hers. "You did that."
And now here we are, he thought. He slid his thumb across her left hand. The small silver band she wore on her ring finger was warm to the touch; he could just barely feel the letters in the inscription. To the Horizon. His ring was the same, except his read To the Stars.
"Shall we go?" Rose asked.
Jack nodded. "Okay." But it was a long time before they finally moved.
"Are you sure it's solid?" Rose poked the ice with the tip of her foot. Her enthusiasm for ice fishing had evaporated the moment the frozen lake came into view.
"I'm sure," Jack said. He grabbed a log and tossed it onto the ice. "See?" he said, pointing. "It's fine."
"I see." But she didn't look convinced.
He took her hand. "We won't go out on it, okay? We'll stay right here at the edge." He didn't blame her for being hesitant about walking onto a frozen lake. He was sure the ice was solid enough to hold them with no problem, but even so, a part of him didn't trust it. You're being paranoid, he told himself. He grabbed the bag of supplies they had brought with them.
"Will that work?" Rose asked as he pulled out a small axe.
"It should," he said. "It'll cut a hole in the ice, and that's what we need."
She moved to take the bag. "I'll deal with the rest of it."
She unfolded a thick flannel blanket and laid it on the ground. Its dark green and black pattern looked even darker against the snow. She sat down, drawing her legs up to her chest. She watched, entranced, as Jack swung the axe. Crack. The ice splintered. He swung again. Crack. A chunk of the ice broke off. Using the axe as a scoop, he picked up the chunk and tossed it aside.
"I think you should reconsider your career as an artist," Rose said.
He laughed. "You aren't the first person to think so." He dropped down next to her.
She laid her head on his shoulder. "Those people were wrong." He put his arm around her shoulders. "You have a gift," she added. "With everything you can see, you can't tell me you don't see that."
He kissed her temple. "I see you."
"You know that isn't what I meant."
He grinned. "Yeah, I know."
Rose stared at the fishing pole. It felt awkward in her hands; what exactly had that book said she was supposed to do with it? She tried to remember the ice fishing scene she had read, but it just wasn't coming. Do I even remember what book it was in? Anna Karenina? Was that it? It sounded right. There was a lot of ice in Russia; ice fishing was probably a common pastime. Unfortunately, Rose had grown up in a place where fishing of any sort was a decidedly uncommon pastime.
Jack watched her out of the corner of his eye. She almost had it. She moved her arm back, preparing to cast. That's it, Rosebud. She missed the hole in the ice completely. Frustrated, she said, "You were right. I am an indoor girl."
"Maybe so, but that doesn't mean you can't figure this out." He laid his hands on hers. "You put too much force behind your cast. If we were just fishing, that would've been great, but since we've only got this small hole in the ice—"
"I need a dainty cast?" she offered.
He nodded, breaking into a grin. "A downright polite cast." He stuck his nose in the air. "I dare say," he added, taking on a mock upper class accent, "the Lord and Lady Fauntleroy would know exactly what you need."
"I don't know them," Rose said, exaggerating her own aristocratic tones. "Perhaps you could introduce me?"
"But of course." His upper class accent slowly became a French accent. "Though I must admit we are not as close as we once were."
"I can't imagine anyone not wanting to be close to you." She looked deep into his eyes. "I can't even imagine not being close to you. I can't imagine my life without you. I don't want to."
"Rose…" He crushed her to him, letting the pole drop to the ground.
"Jack…" Their lips met in a soft kiss; it slowly gained intensity. Rose rubbed her fingertips across the back of his neck. He shivered. "Are you cold?" she asked.
He pressed his hands against the small of her back. "No." Now it was her turn to shiver. "Are you cold?"
She shook her head. "No."
They never did get around to ice fishing.
Jack's eyes were already closed when he finally kissed her good night. "I love you," he murmured, tightening his arms around her.
She laid her head on his chest. "I love you, too." His heartbeat echoed in her ears. She lay awake long after he fell asleep, just listening to the sound of his heart beating. She didn't know what would happen the next morning. She didn't know where they would go or how they would get there. But she did know that whatever happened, they would be together.