The SS man slowly turned his head away from the now-empty space and glared at General Schultz. His sub-zero fury should have turned the entire island of Britain to ice.
"You idiot!" he hissed in German, not caring that the men could also hear. "If you hadn't delayed us, we would have captured them all, and taken their transport device for the glory of the Reich!"
Schultz said nothing, staring stonily ahead like a good soldier. The SS man whirled on his heel, ordered the men to search the surrounding hillside, and marched back out behind them without a backward glance at the disgraced General.
When the last sound of their departing feet had died away, a tiny, triumphant smile teased the corners of Schultz's lips, even as his eyelids sank closed, hiding the pain stabbing deep within. A few deep breaths and he opened them again, taking a long, slow, last look around the chamber (and giving the soldiers time to move off in the search). A tiny, dark object in the corner caught his eye, and he moved stiffly over to reach for it, hesitating with a gasp when he realized what it was: the ring box he'd so recently given his Liebchen, both with and against his will. He'd desperately wanted her to have the ring, but despised himself for acquiescing to the SS man's command to include the tracking device in its box.
He made himself pick it up and open it, pausing again at the shaft of ice lancing through his heart at the sight of the ring still within. She hadn't taken it.
Stuffing the box into his pocket again, where he'd carried it for days, he turned at last and marched slowly out the door into the late afternoon sun.
(Karl Schultz never married. But for the remainder of his life, he kept Rose's picture on his dresser, flanked by two white candles, with the ring box open before it like an offering.)
Jared, Rose, and Jackie staggered a bit as the transport beam released them. I'm getting better at keeping my feet, Rose thought ironically, now that I'm swearing this off for good.
As their eyes adjusted, a so-familiar voice came from behind Rose. "Oh, that's nice!" All three turned to look: it was Pete, his sarcastic tone matching his wry expression as he grimaced at Rose – whose finger, she only then realized, was still up. Giddy with relief at the so-familiar sight of her stepfather standing just outside the massive mechanical apparatus holding the containment field of the reality cannon, she simply laughed.
"Pete!" Jackie cried, pushing past her daughter to rush to her husband's arms. Little Tony was there, too, clutching his father's knees and trying manfully not to cry, as only a toddler could. She scooped him up, as well, and the three of them huddled close together. Pete began scolding her for following Rose across the worlds. "I know, darling, I know! I promise – I swear, I will never, EVER do that again! I swear!" was her earnest, heartfelt, tearful reply.
Rose simply stood watching. Tock began whimpering and squirming to get down, so Jared let him go, and the pup gave himself a mighty shake and began happily exploring his new domain.
When they'd turned towards Pete, Jared found himself a pace behind Rose. He stepped up to stand beside her, and reached down to pick up her hand, which turned in his immediately, their fingers twining in their new clasp automatically.
Rose turned her head, facing him squarely, and he gazed solemnly back into her eyes. Deja-vu from the beach at Bad Wolf Bay echoed faintly through both their minds, and each wondered fleetingly at the miles and changes wrought since that moment.
A soft, sun-warm smile crept across Rose's face and echoed in her eyes.
"Welcome home, Blue Wolf," she whispered.