Early Winter - Chapter 2.2 Alternate Ending (shippy) Prequel to Rendezvous

She came to a stop, somewhat awkwardly, only inches away from him and started to raise her hand in salute, but paused looking at the pilot standing close beside him. Jack looked at her for a moment and then turned to the other man. "Go ahead, Captain. I'm right behind you." As the Captain climbed into the plane, Jack turned back to face her. "What are you doing here, Carter?"

"I…" She cursed herself silently for not planning the words she needed to say. She wasn't prepared and she stammered like an idiot as she stared up at him. "I had something to say."

"I'm listening." Man, he wasn't going to cut her any slack, all business all the time.

"Sir…" She paused again, cursing inside her head as words again failed her.

"I don't really have time to chat, Carter, I have to go." He pointed to the plane coming to life loudly behind him. "I'm sure General Landry can handle whatever problems might you have."

And then he turned away quickly and panic welled up inside her. 'Dammit!' she thought. 'What can I say to stop him?' and suddenly realized it would only take one word. She took a few steps forward closing the distance between them and yelled, "Jack!"

She didn't know if it was the urgency in her voice or simply his name but he stopped and turned, staring, eyes still hidden behind his glasses. Then slowly he moved towards her. He didn't stop until he was very close, until he was invading her personal space.

"What?"

"What happened to 'no one gets left behind'?"

He cocked his head to one side and lifted a hand to remove his glasses.

"What are you talking about?"

"Don't leave me behind, Jack."

"Carter, you said no."

"You set me up, Jack. What else could I say?" She starred into his eyes, waiting for him to sort through it all.

He waved his arm in the air indicating the area around them. "This isn't the time or the place, Sam." He dropped his head slightly as he spoke, knowing that she was right.

"Then when? You know as well as I do that this is it. This is the only chance we have, Jack. I'm not letting you get on that plane until this is settled."

He was still looking down, avoiding her eyes.

"And how do you intend to stop me, Colonel?"

"Ask me another question."

His head popped up and his face wore a puzzled expression.

"What?"

"Ask me another question." She spoke each word slowly and distinctly while holding him locked in her gaze.

For a long moment he stared at her, thinking, doubting, fighting off the fear of another rejection and she could see it all in his eyes. His body twisted and then straightened as a sort of tremor passed through him and his eyes questioned her silently. She nodded her head as he continued to hesitate.

When he finally spoke his voice was low and uncertain, risking everything in those few words, skeptical of her answer.

"Wait for me?"

"Yes." She stated emphatically and smiled broadly. "God! Yes!"

She waited just long enough to see the brilliant smile play across his lips and then she was wrapping her arms around him, hugging him tightly, oblivious to anything or anyone else.

He crushed her in his embrace for a long moment and then maneuvered her into a sensual kiss, expressing all the things he couldn't say. When they broke apart, tears were glistening in her eyes, but she was smiling. He brushed a thumb across her cheek, wiping away the moisture as his eyes squinted slightly trying to return her smile.

"We can't seem to get this right, can we?"

"We will."

"Yeah?"

She nodded her head and reached for his hand that still rested against her face, squeezing his fingers tightly.

"I…gotta go, but I'll call you when I get to Washington."

"I'll be waiting."

He smiled and leaned in to brush her lips quickly in a sweet, quick kiss.

"Talk to you soon then."

He started to back away but held onto her hand until he was out of reach, their fingers finally slipping apart as the distance separated them. He gave her one, final smile and boarded the plane.

Jack stowed his gear and squeezed into the left seat. He was putting on his headset as the Captain looked over at him.

"Ready, Sir?"

"Almost, Captain."

He snugged his harness down tightly and checked the instrument panel, preparing for takeoff. Then he glanced out his window to make sure Sam was safely out of the way. His eyes locked on her and he whispered her name without even realizing it. He watched her intently, his smile growing warmer, as she ran towards the fence and stopped, arms outstretched to the sky, head tilted upwards towards the falling snow…spinning. Spinning…around and around, eyes closed and that magnificent smile that he loved adorning her face.

The Captain leaned toward the window and smiled as he saw what Jack was watching.

"Your wife, Sir?"

"Not yet, Captain, but someday, if I'm lucky."

Jack kept his eyes on her until she was safely behind the fence and he saw her wave to him, then he pushed the controls forward and in seconds was gone…the picture of her spinning carelessly, happily with the soft snow falling all around her emblazoned on his memory forever. He was already counting the hours until he could return to her.

The End

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