Alison sat in her car at the entrance to Arlington for what seemed like an eternity. She had been here before to visit old friends lost during the struggle with COBRA, but even so she couldn't get used to the feelings of loss and sadness that confronted her as she passed through the gates.

Maybe it is because she is...was...a soldier.

It was a beautiful place...so quiet. A fitting resting place for those who fought and died in the service of their country. The tranquility and peace of the surroundings a welcome escape for those who need the solitude to sit with friends and family gone but not forgotten.

The flag stands at half-mast, as it does for a little while every day in honor of those who lie here, and in the distance she can just make out the tomb of the unknown.

She sighed and drove forward towards the parking lot. This visit was going to be one of the most difficult she had ever made.

It had been a little over a month since Flint had dragged her out of COBRA's clutches and had her airlifted back to civilization. She had spent a bit of that time in a Montreal hospital recovering from both the ordeal and the knee surgery that she had required thanks to Ripper and her own carelessness. The doctors say the operation was a success, and that she will be as good as new as long as she follows her physiotherapist's advice and works with her regularly. So far so good. She still walks with a cane at the moment, but every day she can feel the joint growing stronger.

She was alone now. Jordan had left soon after she was discharged from the hospital. He was off to Johns Hopkins to continue his studies. He didn't even ask if she wanted to join him in Baltimore. She had hurt him, she knew. They had known each other since they were very young, and as long as she can remember he had held a torch for her. Their year together had been fun and she had been happy. He had doted on her, and she had quietly returned his affection. He told her he loved her.

But as he sat loyally by her side in the hospital as she lay weak and semi-conscious, it was not his name she cried out when the nightmares came, when the pain was unbearable.

His words came to her in a flash of memory. They were sitting at a café on St Laurent. He was telling her he was leaving.

"You were never mine to begin with, Ali-Cat. I thought I might be able to finally win you over but your heart lies elsewhere..."

So now here she was a couple of weeks later. She knew where to find him. She knew exactly where he would be on this day. It was her only chance. He had disappeared soon after the operation with GIJOE and will probably disappear again if she missed him today, as he had done so many years ago. He had moved from Boston, and was no longer with the CIA. No one knew where to find him, or if they did they were not telling her. The one person who would have had dropped of the face of the earth. Rumor had it that Duke had joined the Secret Service, but no one knew for certain.

Spirit merely smiled when she asked, saying that if he wanted to be found she would find him. She had flown all the way to New Mexico to see him, hoping to find Flint with him, and she had no patience for his enigmatic riddles.

She was about to voice her frustration when she noticed the eagle staring at her from its perch behind him. She met its eyes and started in fear, they were so human...so wise...not at all the blank animal stare that she was expecting. She held the gaze and suddenly a wave of peace washed over her as she felt herself being lifted to another plane.

She found herself in a deep misty forest. Just ahead of her a cougar sat staring at her, but she felt no fear for somehow she knew it meant her no harm. It was familiar to her, but she could not place where she had seen it before. She went to approach it but as she moved the big cat turned and ran off into the brush and out of sight. She sensed movement to her right and turned to find a deer coming out of the trees. She froze as it gracefully made its way towards her and lowered its head into her hand. Slowly, carefully, she placed her free hand on its head...

Then it was gone, the forest was no more, and she was standing in front of the Shaman again.

Oddly enough, she now knew exactly where to find Flint...and when.

Spirit looked at her and nodded.

"Deer. Carrier of Peace. I am not surprised she chose you." Lady Jaye shook her head to indicate she did not understand, not quite ready to speak after the experience with the magnificent animal.

"As my totem is the Eagle, yours is the Deer. The ancients believed that a totem animal spirit would follow you all through life as a guardian, comforter and advisor. When you follow the guidance of your animal spirits, you may even share their qualities."

"Deer gives you the power of gentleness, keen observation and sensitivity. Deer's are in tune with nature and all it holds. They are sacred carriers of peace and if you open your soul to her she will show you how to open your heart and love unconditionally."

He smiled then. "Go to him now...you saw the Cougar...he calls for you..."

She parked her car and locked it up. It would be better if she walked, she needed the fresh air to clear her head, and it would be good to give her knee some exercise after such a long car ride. The winters here in Washington were so much milder, it was almost tropical compared to Montreal and its -30 celsius average in January. She breathed in deeply and began her trek.

It wasn't long before she saw him. He was standing in front of one of the cold, grey monuments, his head bowed.

He comes here twice a year, she knew from what the vision had shown her. No matter where he was in the world he would make a point to be in Washington those days. He always came alone...

He hadn't noticed her so she decided to stop and watch for a little while, mainly to gather her courage. She wasn't sure how he would react to her being here. This was an intensely private moment for him, and although she had seen signs of how he truly felt for her when she was with him in Peru, she was still unsure.

He was wearing a dress uniform, a sign of respect for those he was visiting. He looked so handsome, his body perfect in the clean lines of the suit, his dark hair blowing gently in the breeze. His chest was lined with the numerous medals he had won for distinguished, honorable, and heroic service, his hat was held under his arm at his side.

"Now or never," she thought to herself, and began moving towards him.

He looked up as he sensed someone approaching from behind, probably expecting another mourner visiting one of the nearby sites. The surprise on his face was evident when he realized who it was.

Their eyes met. She smiled softly and came up beside him. His eyes were so soft...so sad.

"Hey..." she said, momentarily forgetting all the things she had planned to say to him. She had thought he would freeze up on her, be angry at the intrusion into his life, and had prepared herself for that eventuality. The quiet stare was not what she expected. It made her nervous. Was this the calm before the storm?

"Hey," he answered and turned back to the stone. She looked at the name engraved upon it...David F Kunitz.

Ozone.

They stood in silence for a moment, unsure of what to say. Was he ignoring her? She watched as he bowed his head and turned away. Suddenly, the words came into her mind and out of her mouth in a whisper.

"Flint. You don't need to do this alone anymore. I am here." She reached out slowly and took his hand. "I am here..."

He didn't look up. Had he heard her? She looked away from him and at her feet. Sadness was beginning to creep in around the edges of her mind at the realization that he didn't want her when she felt him squeeze her hand tightly.

She looked up to see him staring down at her, his eyes bright, watery with held back tears. He smiled as he brought his other hand up and cupped her cheek. His gentle touch sent waves of pleasure pulsing through her as her body remembered him...even after so long.

"Jaye." His deep voice resonated in her ear...he paused, obviously searching for the words, and failing. Instead, he took her cane and offered her his arm for support, which she gladly took.

"Come with me..."

************************************************************************

Flint walked the familiar path towards his final destination. He had walked this trail through the trees and crosses that marked the graves of soldiers, heroes, many times before. This was the first time he made the trip with someone else.

His shock at seeing her had quickly been replaced by raw emotion. Here he was at his most vulnerable. Here he was most open to the demons that plagued him. The guilt and despair of losing his men, his friends over his own weakness.

And there she was, standing right beside him.

She looked so beautiful there in the bright winter sun...it took his breath away.

Why was she here? He had left her so that she may continue to pursue her new life. He had left her so that she could move on and forget the things that had happened to her. To forget him. She deserved so much better than what he could offer. He was a broken man. He was not the same as she remembered.

He had left because he didn't want to feel the pain of seeing her all the time knowing she was no longer his.

He couldn't look at her.

Then he heard her voice. Felt her hand in his. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. Even after everything he had done, after everything he had put her through. After all this time, she was still willing to stand at his side, to be there for him, to help him. She still loved him.

Warmth flowed through his being. A pure, undiluted happiness he had not felt in so many years. He was at loss for words to say to her, how to tell her how much he wanted her here, how happy he was that she had come, how much he needed her. All he could do was squeeze her hand and say her name.

When he looked into her soft green eyes, though...he knew she understood.

They had reached their destination and he stood quietly and took a breath to steady his nerves. Memories came flooding back as they always did when he got to this point in the visit. Unconsciously, he reached out for her and felt her hand take his. The contact imbued him with strength. The demons were pushed away easily. His mind cleared.

It took him by surprise, and then he remembered what the his spirit guide had told him on his vision quest, what Spirit had tried to explain....and at that moment he finally understood.

"Sometimes your weakness can be your greatest strength..."

She was his weakness. His love for her had broken him. But with her here, he felt strong again. Whole. They had always worked best as a team. He had always been a better soldier, better man, better human being when he was with her. She was part of him. She gave him strength.

He turned to the grave and spoke.

"Hi Sweeps. Been a while...but you know I wouldn't miss a visit."

"Your son Daniel is doing well. I went to see him last week and he is growing into a strong, smart little boy. You would be proud of him." He bowed his head "I promise you, Dan, he will want for nothing. I have started a college fund, and will be there for him and Joyce whenever they need me. I will not let them down. I will not let you down."

"I brought someone with me, Sweeps. You remember Lady Jaye? Remember how you always wondered how an ass like me managed to snag such a great woman. I wonder that myself sometimes."

He looked at Jaye then, who was quietly standing at his side, a single tear flowing down her cheek.

"I lost her for a while there. And along with her I lost part of myself. You were right, I am an ass. I just couldn't face her after...after what happened. I was too ashamed, too angry, too...well, messed up. I hurt her. I didn't mean to but I hurt her terribly. If she only knew how sorry I was."

He brought his hand up to her face and brushed a stray hair out of her eyes.

"But even after all this time, after everything. Here she is, by my side. I don't know what I did to deserve it, Sweeps, but I think she still loves me. Maybe as much as I love her..." He smiled softly as he saw her eyes sparkle at the words

"Alison...I am not the man I used to be. You know as well as I do what happened in Borneo changed me. I want you to know that I never stopped loving you. I never stopped thinking of you. I...I hope you will find it in your heart to forgive me someday...and give me a chance to set things right..."

"Dash...dear heart...there is nothing to forgive." He pulled her closer to him and gathered her into his arms. "I love you..."

Hearing those words, he could no longer stop himself. He put his hand under her chin and tilted her head up as his lips descended to meet hers. The release of the kiss nearly caused his knees to buckle out from under him. He had to pull away...

From the look on her face she had felt the same. He offered her his arm and she entwined her arm in his as he supported her on the way down the hill.

"Where..." she whispered, "Where to now?"

He paused. Although she meant their immediate destination, he could sense a deeper question being asked. Where are WE going now? He was not sure he knew the answer, but did it matter? As long as they were together he was content.

For the first time in over three years he felt at peace. For the first time he could see the light at the end of the tunnel. His journey was coming to an end, and he no longer had to face the path alone.

He looked at her and smiled. "Home...Ali...We are going home."