A lonely darkness
Chaos swarmed all around Hiccup as the twisted, broken remains of the Titanic
dropped away into the darkness below, the ship welcomed and embraced by the vast expanse of the cold and cruel Atlantic. He could barely see, his vision filled with bubbles and his orientation spun by the maelstrom of suction. He'd lost grip and sight of Jack.
With no other option he kicked for the surface.
The cold air hit his face like needles as he scrambled, surrounded by fifteen-hundred other desperate souls treading water amongst a handful of scattered items of debris. Had he been able to concentrate on the sound of the voices, Hiccup would've been left haunted by their anguished cries, instead he pushed at the water, trying to catch any sight of his companion.
“Jack! Jack!” he called out in vain, his voice lost amongst those of the stranded. “Jaaaack!” Overland was nowhere to be seen. Freezing salt water surged into his mouth as he was pushed under, something heavy holding him down beneath the surface. “No!” he spluttered as he fought back, only to be pushed under again. “Jack!” he wriggled and bucked, trying to dislodge the passenger trying to use him as a raft.
“Hiccup?!” a familiar voice called out, and the artist swam into view. “Get off him! Get off him!” the weight on the Scotsman's back relented after a Jack delivered a quick series of blows to the man's face. The passenger shrank back into the water as Jack checked Hiccup over to make sure he was okay. “Swim Hiccup! I need you to swim!” the American grabbed the strap of his companion's life jacket and dragged them through the floating crowd of desperate people, the differences of class removed in their universal pursuit of survival. “Keep swimming!” Jack urged.
“It's so cold!” the younger man gasped as he followed.
“Swim, Hiccup!” Jack barked. The struggling passengers were beginning to thin out as the American brought his lover to a large section of ornately carved wood panelling, a fragment from one of the Titanic
's spacious First Class rooms. “Come on! Here... keep swimming!” Jack reached out and grabbed the edge of the panel to steady himself. “Get on it!”
Hiccup reached out and grasped the edge of the debris with both hands, his chilled skin barely registering the texture of the wood. He clambered up, reaching for the far edge to pull the rest of his body out of the water.
“Come on, Hiccup!”
The Scotsman grunted as he pulled, the effort was rewarded as he dragged his legs out of the ocean. Beside him, the American reached out to pull himself up, only for the piece of debris to creak loudly and buck upwards, threatening to throw them both off.
Jack reluctantly released the panel and it settled back into the water. Safely steadied, Hiccup shifted and repositioned himself so that the American could climb up next to him.
“Try again!” the Scotsman urged. Jack shook his head.
“It'll take your weight, but it can't take both of us.”
“You'll freeze!” Hiccup protested.
“I'll... I'll be fine, I'm a survivor.” he smiled shakily.
“Then I'll take my chances with you in the water.” Hiccup began to move back towards the edge.
“Don't you dare!” Jack's voice was forceful, freezing the auburn-headed lad to the spot. “I'll be fine, I can wait a little while in the water.”
Despite his assurances, he could see from Hiccup's expression that the Scotsman was riddled with guilt.
A short distance away a whistle began to shrill in the darkness, followed by a strained voice of an officer.
“Return the boats!” he pleaded, before blasting his whistle again.
“The boats are coming back for us, Hiccup.” the artist stated, his breath turning into ghost-white wisps of vapour. “Hold on just a little bit longer.” he was shivering now. “They rowed away from the suction, but... now they'll be coming back.”
“For God's sake!”
“Please! Help us!”
The voices cried out in hope to the twenty lifeboats that surrounded the site of the sinking, desperately awaiting their return. One by one, the floating survivors grew more quiet as they waited, their rescue painfully near, yet too far away.
The shouts and cries had become whimpers and disillusioned sobbing. Even the officer with the whistle had grown silent.
“It's getting quiet.” Hiccup murmured as Jack kept his vigilant watch.
“It's just gonna take a... a couple of minutes to get... the boats organised.” he stammered. Ice had formed in both their hair, and on patches of Hiccup's overcoat. “I don't know about you, but... I intend to... wru- write a strongly worded letter to the White Star Line about all this.” he smirked, issuing an exhausted chuckle.
The Scotsman gripped the American's hand, trying to fight off the shivers that rocked his body. He was colder than he could ever remember being.
“I... I love you, Jack.” he whispered.
Jack frowned and looked him dead in the eye. “Don't you do that... Don't you say your goodbyes.” he shook his head. “Not yet, do you understand me?”
“I'm so cold...”
“Listen, Hamish...” he paused. “You're gonna get out of here. You're going to go on... and hugh- you're gonna have lots of children, you're gonna watch them grow, you're gonna die an old, old man... safe and warm in his bed. Not here. Not this night. Not like this... you understand me?”
“Lots of... huh- lots of children?” Hiccup smiled unevenly as he shivered. “I uh... I thought we established tha... that...”
“You'll find a way.” Jack smiled as he fondly rubbed Hiccup's cold hand. “You'll find a way.”
The American pulled himself closer. “Winning that ticket, Hic, was the best thing that happened to me. It brought me to you.” his face broke out into the widest smile he could muster. “And I'm thankful for that. I'm thankful...” he pulled his right hand up and placed it atop his left, which still held the hand of the man he loved. “You must... You must... You must do me this honour. You must promise me, that you'll survive. That... you won't give up... no matter what happens... no matter how... hopeless... Promise me, now, Hiccup.” the auburn-headed lad's heart ached at the sight of Jack. The American's outgoing confidence was stripped back, revealing a scared young man fighting with the uncertainty of his future. “And never let go of that promise.”
“I promise.” Hiccup nodded.
“Never let go...”
“I won't let go. I'll never let go.” Jack kissed Hiccup's hand as he shook, the cold water taking its toll.
An ocean of silent stars looked down as they drifted. There were no cries now, no calls for help. The only voice in Hiccup's ears was his own, whispering a joyful melody he'd once sung in what now felt like a lifetime ago.
“...'Come Josephine in my flying... machine... and it's up she goes... up she goes. Come Josephine in... my flying'...”
Something stirred his dulled senses and he turned his head, unsure if what had happened was real or just his imagination. In the distance to his right a ghostly light drifted across the water.
“Can anyone here me?” the voice was faint and distorted, but it was real. The voice and light belonged to a man in a lifeboat which was drifting slowly across the sea of bodies.
Hiccup squeezed Jack's hand. “Jack?” the American didn't answer, causing the Scotsman to rub his other hand against Jack's freezing wrist. There was still no response from the man in the water, prompting Hiccup to turn over and face him. “Jack? Jack!” his speech was barely louder than a whisper, constrained by the cold muscles in his throat and voice box. His worry growing, he glanced over to the lifeboat, it was slipping away into the distance.
“Jack!” he was shaking the artist's arm now, trying desperately to wake him. “There's a boat! Jack!” a tear began to roll down the young man's cheek as the terrible realisation sank in. “Jack... there's a boat, Jack...”
His voice whimpered as he caressed Jack Overland's lifeless hand, a wave of emotions overwhelming him. The boat momentarily forgotten, he rested his head against Jack's frozen hand.
Jack's voice echoed in Hiccup's thoughts, reminding him of the promise he'd made. The Scotsman's eyes flashed open and focussed on the departing boat.
“Come back... Come back!” he groggily raised his head. “Come back! Come back!” it was no use, his voice was too quiet for the men in the lifeboat to hear.
“Hello! Can anyone hear me?” the voice called out loud and strong, a beacon of salvation.
The metal handcuff on the American's wrist thunked
loudly against the panel as the Scotsman pulled his right hand free from the vice-like grip of his lover's. Unsettled by the motion, Jack slid further into the water.
“I'll never let go, I promise.” Hiccup placed a sad kiss on Jack's right hand, before reluctantly letting it go.
His face serene, Jack Overland slipped beneath the surface of the Atlantic Ocean, dissolving into the black void which stretched on forever.
Hiccup fought back his raging emotions as he slid off of the panel, his body barely registering the wetness of the water or the cold of it as he abandoned his raft made of debris. He tried to swim, but his limbs were sluggish and stiff, moving awkwardly in their numbed state. He struggled to maintain a strained paddle as he approached the lifeless body of Chief Officer Wilde, still clung to the deck chair.
Hiccup's goal in sight, he gasped as the distance narrowed and reached out eagerly for the silver whistle in the dead man's mouth.
Perched on the deck chair, he pulled at the whistle and placed it to his lips. His first exhale delivered a quiet spluttered tweet
. He carefully inhaled before he blew again, which echoed around him with a loud THWEEEEEEEEEEEEET
“Come about!” the voice from the boat shouted. Hiccup continued to blow into the whistle as the light and boat grew in size. His rescue had arrived.
Hiccup took a pause in his account to steady the surge of feelings that had resurfaced. Across from him, tears dampened Lizzy's eyes as she sat, riveted to the spot.
“Fifteen-hundred people went into the sea when Titanic
sank from under us. There were twenty boats floating nearby, and only one came back... one. Six were saved from the water... myself included. Six, out of fifteen-hundred
. Afterward... the seven-hundred people in the boats had nothing to do by wait. Wait to die... Wait to live... Wait for an absolution, that would never come.”
The memories of his rescue had always been the hardest for Hiccup to recall, even after he'd boarded the R.M.S. Carpathia
. Exhausted, traumatised and numbed by the sinking... and by Jack's death, he couldn't recall much of anything that'd happened to him during the first few hours aboard the rescue ship.
The first memory that he could recall clearly was of him sat at Carpathia
's bow, amongst the other survivors ...
***April 15th, 1912
Hiccup kept the blanket close, enjoying the limited warmth it provided... a considerable improvement over what he'd experienced a handful of hours earlier. He sat there in silence as other people milled around him, sadly acknowledging the one fact he wished he could forget.
Members of the ship's crew and medical personnel tended to the stricken passengers, doing their best to assist the many who were still deeply lost in their various degrees of shock. Beside the superstructure, a pile of discarded life jackets had grown, a constant reminder of their ordeal and loss.
“Oh Sir, I don't think you'll find any of your people down here... it's all steerage.” the voice of an officer caught Hiccup's attention, and he turned to where it came from. Descending a short set of stairs and glancing around was the unmistakeable sight of Stoick. The elder Haddock's face was pale, with bags under his eyes. His normally tidy hair was dishevelled, his tie and collar were missing, and there was a large tear in the left sleeve of his dinner jacket. The normally proud-looking man appeared deflated and defeated.
His father looked lost and broken, and the younger Scotsman wondered if that's how the elder Haddock had looked when Valerie, Hiccup's mother, had passed away. The young man opened his mouth to speak, but no words passed his lips.
Stoick patrolled the deck, searching everyone to see if they were his son. As the large man approached, the younger Scotsman turned away, his mind conflicted over whether to reveal he was there.
“Hamish?” his father's voice was strained, and he looked up. “Hamish!” A note of colour returned to Stoick's face as he gave his son a bear hug, relieved that he was alive. “I thought I'd lost you.”
“Can we go somewhere less public?” Hiccup quietly asked.
“Of course.” Stoick nodded as he led his son away.
Stoick had been one of the lucky passengers to have been granted a cabin, and having unlocked the door of his new quarters he beckoned for Hiccup to enter. The room was a lot more modest in terms of opulence than their rooms on Titanic
had been, but it was warm, safe and had a bed.
“They were able to let me have one of their unoccupied staterooms.” He explained as he helped ease his son into a chair. “Now that I know you're safe, I can have a word with them so you have somewhere to stay.”
“I don't need one father, there are other people out there who need it more than me.”
“Nonsense.” the elder Scotsman rebuked. “I won't hear any more of it.” a wave of tiredness washed over Hiccup, causing him to flag where he sat. The motion caused the younger man's blanket to shift, revealing his left hand which was wrapped in bandages.
“What happened to your hand?” Stoick asked, his voice heavy with concern.
The younger Scotsman raised the appendage and looked at it, almost having forgotten about the injury. “Oh.” he noted distractedly. “It's a little swollen and bruised, but it isn't anything serious.”
His father looked concerned. “How did it happen? Were you injured getting into one of the boats?”
Hiccup shook his head. “I never made it to one of the boats, we-” he paused at his involuntary slip. “We were on the ship until the end.”
“'We'?” Stoick echoed. “You and Pitchiner?”
The younger haddock shook his head again, this time remaining silent.
“Overland.” realisation dawned on Stoick's face. “Is he on board? I didn't see him up on deck with you.”
Hiccup quickly blinked his eyes, doing his best to subdue the tears he didn't want his father to see.
“He didn't last the night.”
The elder Haddock glanced downward briefly. “I'm... I'm sorry to hear, Hamish.”
Hiccup bristled as he stood from his chair, anger flashing in his eyes. Despite the torrent of feelings that reeled inside of him he forced himself to speak calmly.
“There are a few things you should know about Jack.” the younger man began. “After the ship went down, he made sure that I was okay. He managed to find some debris that we could stay afloat on... but it couldn't take the weight of both of us. He insisted that he remain in the water so that I could survive, and he perished from the cold.” Hiccup paused. “He saved my life... that was the kind of man Jack Overland was... that was what the man I-” his voice caught for a moment. “...The man I loved.”
The younger man regained some of his composure. “That was the kind of man you conspired with Pitchiner to falsely accuse.”
Stoick was unable to look his son in the eye any more, the feelings of guilt taking their toll on him.
“I'd had plenty of time whilst sat in the boat to think about what I'd done.” he spoke in a quiet voice that was so unlike him. “I know that it won't fix what happened... or what I did... but I'm sorry, son.”
“I believe you.” Hiccup nodded. He then let out a frustrated sigh and perched himself against the cabin table. “I just don't know if I can forgive you.”
“I... I understand.” Stoick replied glumly. “What do you want to do, Hamish?”
The question caught the younger Scotsman off guard. His father had always been certain about what was best for Hiccup, and now that the elder Haddock had finally asked him what his son wanted, he was at a momentary loss for what to do.
“I'll continue the journey to New York.” Hiccup mused after some consideration. The statement made his father look at him with a degree of hope. “But from there, I think we'll be taking separate paths. I want to forge my own course, like you did when you were younger.”
Stoick nodded in understanding.
“You can tell the board whatever you feel would be appropriate under the circumstances.” The younger Haddock continued. “As for somebody to take over the company from you, I'd go with Hofferson.”
“You did get on well with his daughter when you were younger.” the elder Haddock recalled. He then looked up at his son. “This is what you want?”
“Yes.” Hiccup nodded calmly. “This is what I want.”
Hiccup hadn't realised he'd held his breath until he'd walked out on deck, and taken in a lungful of North Atlantic air. By the end of their conversation he had felt sorry for his father, but the young Scotsman knew that he couldn't follow the path his father had planned any more, not after all that he'd been through and experienced with Jack in their short time together.
The younger Haddock had resolved to stay with the other Third Class passengers until they arrived in New York. As he looked out to the horizon he slid his hands into the pockets of Pitchiner's overcoat, taking care with his injured left hand.
That was the last time I ever saw him. I learned soon after we arrived in New York that he'd booked passage back to England where he eventually returned to work at the company. Despite his best efforts, the public's confidence had been shattered... nobody wanted to buy the steel which had helped carry the Titanic to the ocean floor. The last I'd heard, he'd retired for health reasons to a quieter, simpler life... As for Pitchiner... his body was never recovered.Chapter Twelve
April 18th, 1912
Cold, fresh night air greeted the Carpathia
in New York harbour as rain descended from the clouds above. In the distance, Manhattan Island glittered, a beckoning beacon to the tired, huddled masses of the Titanic
's passengers and crew. Hiccup stood near one of the port bulwarks, ignoring the precipitation as he and his fellow passengers looked upward at the towering figure of Liberty Enlightening the World
. The torch the statue held aloft burned warmly, welcoming them to the New World.
A young officer appeared at Hiccup's side, carrying a clipboard and umbrella.
“Can I take your name please?”
The young Scotsman glanced to the officer and remained silent for a moment.
“Overland...” Hiccup responded, turning back toward the statue. “Hamish Overland.”
“Thank you.” The officer noted the name down with a nod, before moving on to the next nearest passenger on the deck.
“Even as we disembarked in New York, the temptation to return to England would come to me, every now and then... but in the end I felt that if I was to going to reach my potential, it would be better for me to stay here.” Hiccup explained as he began to wrap up his account. The windows of the apartment were now dark, night had descended.
Lizzy let the account settle in before she finally spoke. “Did you ever meet anyone after... after Jack?”
“There were a few... but I don't think I was able to love them quite as much as I had loved him.” the tears were welling up again, and Hiccup's lower lip was trembling. “I don't even have a photograph of him... I can only see him in my memory.”
Lizzy leant forward, giving her grandfather a warm, comforting hug as they both wept.Epilogue
Lizzy had helped her grandfather to bed soon after he'd finished telling his story. With him in bed she'd set to work tidying up and was now stood in the short hall to the front door, her hand poised on the light switch. With a deft movement, the living room and kitchen were darkened, with the only light creeping through the gaps in the curtains. As she gathered up her bag and coat to leave, she stood at the doorway to Hiccup's room, checking in on him before she left for home. Sat in a basket by her grandfather's bed, the German Shepherd perked up and looked at her with soulful green eyes.
“Go back to sleep, Toothless.” she whispered. The dog tilted his head for a moment, before resting it back on his paws. She quietly crept into the room and placed a kiss on her grandfather's head, before stepping back and smiling fondly. “Good night, Papa.”
Without a sound she exited the room, closing the door behind her.
Hiccup lay still and silently in his bed, his mind withdrawing from his apartment... and from New York.
He was somewhere unfamiliar, but peaceful... and he felt the sensation of flying.
Out of the darkness emerged a shape, a knife's edge... which flowed and expanded, growing into a much larger object.
It was covered in rusticles, devoid of paintwork and decking, and had most of its railings stripped away. What superstructure remained was mangled and collapsed in places, and the funnels were long gone. The bridge had been completely lost, and the foremast had smashed against the crumpled bulwark.
Despite the considerable damage and the subsequent years of decay, the deteriorated hull of the R.M.S. Titanic
was still recognisable, there were still traces of beauty in the grand ghost ship.
He was still flying, drawn towards the wreck. Hiccup homed in on the A-Deck enclosed Promenade, passing empty doorways and shattered windows. Above him, the ceiling was festooned with encrusted pipes, dangling cables and more stalactite-like rusticles.
As Hiccup drifted along the deck, he bore witness to a metamorphosis that began to occur. A brilliant warm light began to glow from the darkened windows and doorways, flooding out onto the promenade. The light appeared to transform the ship, restoring it to it's former grandeur.
The promenade was as he remembered it from 1912, and he turned as he felt the strong urge to enter the Grand Staircase.
The door was opened for him as he entered, a smiling steward on either side. Within the landing was a crowd of faces, many of them familiar.
To his left were the members of the ship's orchestra, who held their instruments proudly as they bid him welcome. Beyond them was Tommy, his face beaming in warm welcome. Behind the Irishman, Benjamin Guggenheim nodded politely, whilst Father Thomas Byles behind him offered a kind smile.
To Hiccup's right, John Jacob Astor happily bowed in recognition, whilst Cora waved as she was held by her smiling father. Beyond them were Fabrizio and Helga, her hands wrapped around his arm as the couple beamed at the new arrival.
As Hiccup approached the staircase, two more faces came into view; First Officer Murdoch and Thomas Andrews. The shipbuilder gave Hiccup a warm smile and a nod as the younger man passed.
Above him, the upper landing of the staircase was just as crowded, filled with friendly and welcoming faces. Stood on the mezzanine by the clock with his back to Hiccup was an unmistakeable figure, and in response he felt his cheeks flush and his mouth smile.
Jack Overland looked over his shoulder, casually turning as Hiccup reached his level. The American held his left hand out, which the young Scotsman took. They both stood there, taking in the moment, reunited after so many long years apart.
Above and below, the crowd watched as the two young men hovered, before they finally shared a passionate kiss.
The sound of applause reverberated all around them from the crowd. Despite the barriers of class, despite the trials of adversity... despite the separation of the years and of life and death, Jack Overland and Hamish “Hiccup” Haddock were back together, and they would never let each other go.The End