I know it's been a year since I wrote Chapter 50 of this story. In the last few months, I've been thinking of writing an epilogue. I wasn't totally satisfied with the original ending, so I decided to add to it. I also slightly altered Chapter 50 in order to make it fit better. The reason why I wrote this epilogue was I wanted to show Shipwreck struggling more with the consequences of his action (or lack of action) in chapter 50. I also wanted to show more of the rebuilding process. Hope you like it.
The wedding took place at a small Philadelphia chapel on a cool September evening. Cover Girl had chosen that location because years before, she, Snake Eyes, and Scarlett had witnessed the wedding of Flint and Lady Jaye.
Back then, the small, splintered group of Joes had held a very subdued celebration. They were all fugitives from Cobra at the time.
The moment was everything Cover Girl had dreamed of since her childhood, when she had sometimes fantasized about her future wedding. She briefly looked toward the audience as Shipwreck repeated his vows; as Shipwreck declared before all these witnesses and God above that he would honor and love her, in sickness and in health, for rich or poor, until death do us part, Cover Girl's eyes met those of Lady Jaye. In an instant, a flood of memories and emotions was exchanged between the two women. Years before, Cover Girl remembered sitting in the pew with tears in her eyes, watching Flint marry Lady Jaye, and thinking of Shipwreck and promising to herself that one day, if she had the chance, she would open her heart to this man.
After so many trials, their love had finally had a chance to blossom.
Everything had come to a head during the final battle with Cobra, and Cover Girl had never been more terrified than at the moment when she had seen Shipwreck stab Cobra Commander through the heart and then fall off the catwalk and get struck by a bolt of energy.
"What happened to you back there, Hector?"
It was one week after the final battle. They lay in bed together in a state of post coital bliss, their arms wrapped around each other.
"What did you see?"
"I saw you struck by what looked like lightning. For a second you vanished, then an instant later you came back. I don't understand what happened."
"Don't you know, Courtney. I traveled back through time."
"You traveled through time?"
Cover Girl dumbly repeated the words, as if the repetition alone would make it more real to her.
"How far back did you go?"
"You don't remember, do you?"
"No. I don't understand."
"It was five years ago, Courtney. Remember the day I came to you during lunch break and told you I had come from the future? Remember when I said that in the future, we'd have something amazing?"
In a flash, it all came back to her. Understanding filled her mind. She saw him talking to her in a way he never had in the years she had known him. She remembered the way he kissed her, and in that moment, she knew that he was a different man, a more confident, stronger man than she had ever known.
Then a strange, terrifying thought occurred to her. She remembered seeing something in him that day, something in his eyes. Something in him had touched her deeply, stirred something in her soul. Could it be that she had grown to love him from that moment? Was it possible that, only by a miracle of time travel, they had been able to fall in love? What if that moment had never happened? What if she hadn't seen something in Shipwreck that day? Would she have loved him the same? Would her life have changed in the most wonderful of ways?
The thought of a life without Shipwreck seemed too great, too terrifying, for her mind to wrap itself around.
Cover Girl turned to her lover, and father of her as yet unborn child. She lay on top of him, so that her breasts rested against his chest. Then she kissed him.
"I'm glad you came to me that day," Cover Girl said with a smile. "It may have changed our lives."
The wedding was over. Cover Girl and Shipwreck were officially a married couple. As they kissed passionately on the altar, the Joes in attendance broke out in enthusiastic applause. Flint, Lady Jaye, Mainframe, Zarana, and Daina were there. So were Steeler, Grunt, Clutch, Scarlett, and Snake Eyes, who were all Joes from alternate realities who had crossed over. There were also the Baroness and her loyal aide, Layla. In the back of the crowd, there stood Carol Demming, who held in her arms her baby. She had named the child Dusty, after the boy's father.
It was the first time Shipwreck had seen Carol since the last battle. At the time of their final victory, Carol's child was very close to term. Within a month, she had had her baby. As the Joes all stood outside of the chapel having cheerful conversations with the new bride, Shipwreck took Carol aside and asked to see the baby.
"So this is little Dusty, huh," Shipwreck whispered as he held the infant in his arms. This child was the symbol of all the suffering he had gone through. One memory in particular stood out for him. It was the memory of the night he had ambushed Dusty and Carol in their room at the Cobra base. He had wanted so badly to kill Dusty back then, make him pay for what he had done. Then he had seen Dusty's pregnant wife, and he could not bring himself to do it.
It's all your fault. All your fucking fault!
What do you mean?
You're all dead. You're dead, and you don't even know it.
Shipwreck remembered he'd had a chance to change everything. If he had killed Dusty, perhaps none of this would have ever happened. The memories of all his dead friends, guys he had fought alongside with, shared meals with, played poker and ball with, was a tremendous weight on his shoulders. It was a burden that threatened to crush the life out of him like a twenty ton block.
"So this is your boy," Shipwreck whispered, tears welling up in his eyes as he thought of his friends long gone.
"I'm sorry," Shipwreck said, addressing the baby. "I'm sorry I couldn't bring you back."
"Shipwreck, are you alright?" Carol said, getting a little alarmed.
Cover Girl broke off her conversation with Lady Jaye and rushed to Shipwreck's side. The other Joes stood around them at a small distance, listening quietly.
"I'm unsure," Shipwreck said. "I'm unsure if I've done the right thing. I could have changed the past, Courtney. I could have changed everything. No one would have had to die or suffer. Was it wrong to choose this future? Our future?"
Cover Girl knew this question had been in the back of Shipwreck's mind for weeks.
"Shipwreck," Cover Girl put her hands on each side of his face, "you did the right thing. This is our destiny. All this happened for a reason. You can't have doubts about us. We've gone through too much together. There's so much left for us to do, to discover together."
Shipwreck considered the baby boy in front of him. He handed the child back to Carol.
"It's just so hard sometimes," he said.
"I know," Cover Girl said. "We can't live in the past, Hector. It would have been wrong to change what was meant to be, no matter how painful the choice. We have to live with the choices we made. I'll always be there to share your pain, no matter how much it hurts. You'll never be alone."
She kissed him tenderly.
"I wish I could forgive him," Shipwreck said as he looked at Carol.
"It will take time," Cover Girl said. "Remember he came back to us in the end, right?"
"Yes," Shipwreck said.
"Maybe some day I'll be able to tell you about your father," he said, addressing the baby. "And I'll be able to tell you that he was a brave man. A good man."
Six Months Later
"Fire!" Daina shouted.
The order was immediately followed by a barrage of rifle fire.
Daina paced impatiently back and forth behind the new Joe recruits as they fired their rifles. They had talent, for sure, but as she watched Lieutenant Falcon, Law & Order, Psyche Out, Tunnel Rat, and Jinx take target practice from the prone position, she couldn't help but feel a tinge of disappointment.
It was clear to her that none of them was anywhere close to her level, never mind Low-Light. It was hard to imagine she'd be able to find a world class sniper among this lot.
"Cease fire," she hollered as she took out her binoculars and inspected the targets, which were wooden boards shaped like people.
"I'm sorry, but you would all make terrible snipers. Absolutely shitty," Daina said, her thick Russian accent still very distinct, even after all this time spent among Americans.
"Hey Daina, you sound really hot with that accent," Falcon called out.
Daina glared at Falcon. This recruit was nothing but a womanizing bastard.
She took the sniper rifle which had been slung around her shoulder.
"I see what we have here," she drawled, exaggerating her accent even more, "is a fundamental lack of respect. Allow me to demonstrate what will happen if you fail to know your place, Lieutenant."
She said that last word with a particular ring of scorn.
Everyone watched silently as Daina took the rifle, aimed through the telescopic sight from a standing position, and fired at Falcon's target.
The shot hit the target squarely in the groin.
"Stay out of my sights," Daina said sweetly as Falcon gulped audibly. "I never miss."
Falcon looked at Jinx, lying to his left, who simply smirked at him.
Watching the training from the roof of headquarters, Flint stood next to Mainframe and Scarlett. The other members of G.I. JOE were engaged in training activities with some of the other Joe recruits.
"There has been no sign of any kind of Cobra activity," Scarlett said, continuing the conversation the three had been having about the state of G.I. JOE.
"With the new generation of recruits, we seem to be doing very well."
"Things are changing around here," Flint said. "Faster than I ever imagined. What with Shipwreck and Cover Girl leaving the service—"
"How are they doing, anyway?" Mainframe said. "Have you spoken to them?"
"Cover Girl sent Lady Jaye a picture of their baby girl," Flint said, pulling out his wallet and showing the picture of a beautiful, brown haired baby girl.
"Baby Jessica," Scarlett said in admiration. "She's so beautiful."
"I imagine others will soon follow," Flint said. He looked at Mainframe as if to ask the question on both their minds.
"We've thought about it," Mainframe said. "Going to start a family, I mean. When G.I. JOE is rebuilt and we can pass on the torch, then I think that will be a good time to move on."
"My thoughts exactly," Flint said. "Especially with me being married and all."
"You know," Flint said, "Some people are saying I should run for President."
"Well, why not," Mainframe said. "You're a natural leader. You stepped up when Hawk and the others were killed. You saved the country. Hell, you saved the whole world."
"I was approached by some Senators," Flint said. "But I told them I'm just a soldier. I just want to serve my country. I'm not fit to be President of a country."
"I think you're going to find a lot of Americans will disagree," Scarlett said with a smile. "I know I do."
Flint knew that, in a way, Scarlett was right. It was a time of great change. G.I JOE was changing. A new generation of soldiers would come of age. Soon, Mainframe and Zarana would leave. He imagined it happening within a year. The Baroness and Steeler were also talking about leaving the service and getting married as well. And with all the talk of him running for office, perhaps Flint's days as a simple soldier were numbered. And when he left, he would take Lady Jaye with him. That would leave Scarlett as the most experienced senior member of the team. He knew that G.I. JOE would be safe in her hands.
The world around them was changing. Cobra was gone, but Flint was sure another threat would take its place. And when that happened, he could rest easy that G.I. JOE would always be there to save the day…
Just like old times.