A/N: Sorry for my procrastinating. This chapter should have been out long ago, but in the end I didn't want to let it go... That's all, there's a note at the end.
Night had just begun to fall when Jack parked his car outside the hall. He'd already booked into the motel and had left his worldly possessions there: two suitcases, his turntable and LPs. A quick refreshing shower had then eased out any driving stiffness. He couldn't see Samantha through the glass doors from this distance, but he knew she was inside as he'd phoned when he arrived at the motel. Happy to be finally at his destination, he found he couldn't get out of the car fast enough.
Samantha kept an eager eye on the hall's front door, expecting Jack any moment. She was also keeping a maternal eye on Finn dangling some 20 feet up. It had been Jack's idea to include a climbing wall in the large hall, and he'd wrangled some suppliers to donate some equipment, the rest was built by volunteers –it was a huge hit, and may have to be expanded.
It must have been the 33rd time she'd looked over when he finally appeared, his hands in his jeans' pockets, practically sauntering through the door.
As if he could fool me, looking so relaxed like that. She knew he was just as excited as she was.
The longer hair worked for him, and the gray beard he was sporting was well kept; he'd grown the beard for his first Milwaukee visit, adding a further layer to throw off any recognition from Patricia Spade. Samantha had liked it then, when she'd seen it a few months back, and she liked it now. He hadn't mentioned itching at all, brave soul. It gave him a distinguished look, and she was more than happy for him to keep it for however long he wanted.
Jack pretended a moment not to see her in the fairly empty hall. But then striding as quickly as his heart was beating, he met her halfway with a big hug.
It had been a total of ten months since Missoula, although four months prior Jack had been able to visit them for three short days, helping them move into a big house with a large yard. Patricia hadn't recognized Jack –if she had, she'd kept it to herself.
Back in Missoula, Jack's handler -and ultimately the US Marshals- had been surprisingly compliant in letting him go; he hadn't even had to show them the evidence about the drug cartel. It had only taken a few months for the red tape to be cut. Ultimately it would save the Government money having Jack gone, and he'd spent enough time as Chester Boyd as it was; if Jack wanted to leave the program and risk his life –in their eyes- then it was fine by them. Perhaps this happened more often than was generally known, Jack surmised. He had then negotiated selling his business to an eager Kelly and her husband, and even Tick and Rona had gotten into the action, asking to become partners focusing on the fishing tour business. Jack kept a small stake, partly to keep some money rolling in, but also as a way of keeping in touch with his Missoula friends. He'd missed Thanksgiving and Christmas with Samantha, and also the community house's official opening two weeks back –choosing to keep a lower profile- but he was here now, and that was the important thing.
Pulling away to look at Samantha, Jack couldn't help but grin broadly. "You are such a sight for these tired old eyes, believe me."
"You know you could have flown," she gently remonstrated him.
"Driving was nice –just longer than I thought." He'd taken his time, enjoying being a tourist in his own country. The 1,519 miles could have been completed in about 21 hours, but Jack had taken five days, much to Samantha's growing frustration. He looked around. "Where's Finn?" He'd been totally focused on Samantha.
She was about to point him out but Finn had already spotted Jack. "Hey, Chester!" he called out, waving.
Jack waved back. "Finn –look at you! How's it going up there?"
Jack gave him a thumbs up and Finn went back to concentrating on his next handhold, with words of encouragement from a fellow climber helping him from floor level.
Samantha waited proudly as Jack looked around, reacquainting himself with the hall from his first visit. It wasn't an empty shell anymore, there were activity hubs – a small library, computer stations, the climbing wall to name a few. "What do you think?
They both knew the community house could either sink or swim, but there was no going back now. Both were committed to it, as much as they were committed to each other. "Honestly Sam, it's looking great," he said truthfully, "amazing what a bit of paint can do."
"Quite a lot of paint, spackle and hard work in the end. Come on, I'll give you the tour." After telling Finn she would be showing Jack around, they set off. She'd reintroduced Finn and Jack to each other on Skype, and their first in-person meeting had gone well; Jack had won Finn over with a wicked Swiss Army knife. A blatant bribe, but it had worked. Samantha was making sure Jack was around for important life changes for Finn: the house move had been one, and tomorrow they would be picking up the chocolate brown Labrador dog Finn desperately wanted. The puppy was officially known as 'Big Sky's Fly Me to the Moon', but was called Frankie in a Sinatra kind of way. And if things continued to run smoothly with regards to Finn, Jack wouldn't have to stay in the motel for too long. "Check out our office," she invited.
Opening the door to the small space, Jack saw and approved of the two desks facing each other. Samantha shut the door as he looked around, although truth to tell, there wasn't much to see. "We won't be here much, I suppose, but when we are, we can work across from each-"
Before she knew it, he had her pressed up against a desk, his leg between her thighs, his lips claiming all her attention. "Jesus Christ, I've missed you," he murmured, running his hands up and down her arms.
"Me too…" she managed, zeroing in for more kisses, enjoying the tickle of his mustache. The last separation had been excruciating for them both. Two frantic short nights those four months ago had not been satisfying enough. It had only increased their desire to be together. "Tonight, Mom's cooking up a storm for you, and when Finn's asleep-"
"My motel room," Jack huskily finished for her, a gleam in his eye.
"Your motel room's bed," she whispered, full of promise for their later assignation. To further emphasize her point, she slid her hands down to his butt and squeezed.
Not really wanting to wait but having no choice, Jack groaned. "Okay, then we should get back, see what Finn's doing and get to your place. You can show me around more, later."
Samantha smiled as she opened the office door. The desk could be christened another day.
Back in the main hall, they stood together, watching Finn make his descent. Samantha glanced at Jack, and she smiled again.
Chester Boyd was certainly as handsome as Jack Malone, his eyes were the same hazel color, he was just as funny, and his voice had that exact velvety quality Jack's had. His hair was grayer, and while Jack never had a beard, it suited Ches.
All in all, Ches was quite perfect.
Her hand found his and she held it firmly. "So, it's a done deal, but do you think we can really make a go of this?"
Jack was surer than ever that he'd done the right thing to be with Sam. Turning to gaze at her, his love obvious in his eyes, he squeezed her hand in return. "I do."
Vivian wearily put her keys in the bowl by the door as she came in, then made her way into the kitchen. There, Marcus greeted her with a kiss and a glass of wine. "Hard day?" he asked, knowing what the reply would be.
Vivian nodded as she sat at the breakfast counter. "Not so much running around as a stack of paperwork to get through," she sipped her wine, "and by stack, I mean a mountain –so much for aiming for a paperless Bureau. How about your day?"
"Much the same, grading research essays. I'm making my version of Caesar salad, okay?"
"Perfect." She was already more relaxed. They chatted about Reggie and other things, while the meal was being made.
Then Marcus pointed to the end of the counter. "There's something there for you, in the envelope."
Intrigued at the idea getting something not electronic, as well as in a dark pink envelope, Vivian was more than interested to open it. There was no return address on the outside which added to the mystery.
"Who's it from?" Marcus was just as fascinated.
Shrugging as she opened it, Vivian pulled out a card. "Aw, it's a thank you card from Samantha." They hadn't been able to make it to the wedding, so she and Marcus had sent a gift voucher, pooling the amount with Danny and Elena, as they hadn't been able to make it either. It had been too much organisation to get there and frankly, Vivian had lost touch with Samantha over the years. They may have been working a few floors apart at Federal Plaza, but their paths had seldom crossed. When they had, there had always been promises of getting together that never eventuated. People are busy, and life gets in the way. It had been lovely to get the wedding invitation, though.
Vivian smiled as she read the hand-written note. Samantha was now married -after what must have been a whirlwind romance- to some random guy called Chester Boyd, and together they were running a community house or something virtuous in Milwaukee. Although she had no idea about this Chester guy, Vivian was pleased that Samantha had escaped the FBI to do her own thing over there. Perhaps getting hitched would have finally exorcised the ghost of Jack. They all missed him of course, but she knew Samantha had probably missed him the most, especially after she'd kicked out Brian -although Vivian had never found out what had happened there.
"And there's a photo." Vivian's smile turned into a grin. It was a charming, candid wedding photo. Samantha was laughing, looking like she had been caught unawares by her groom from behind. His arms were around her waist and he was kissing, or perhaps even nipping, her shoulder. Not a great one of the groom, as all you could see was mostly the top of his graying head, however Samantha looked radiant in her wedding gown, clutching her bouquet.
Dinner was almost ready, so Vivian showed the photo to Marcus before putting it to one side on the counter. "It's nice that Samantha's finally settled down," he commented.
Vivian nodded as she got out some cutlery. "It's about time."
She was just setting the table when she stopped.
Hold on a damn minute…
Grabbing the photo again, she looked at it more closely –this time paying particular attention to the groom.
There was no denying it. She'd seen that face from that particular angle before as much she sure as hell knew that nose; she'd seen that view hundreds of times when Jack had been head down, working at his desk. The hair may be more salt than pepper, and there looked like he may have a moustache hiding there, but there was absolutely no doubt in her mind.
Oh my God…
Samantha had done it.
She'd actually done it.
She'd tracked down Jack –somehow, somewhere.
How the hell…?
On second thought, the 'how' didn't matter, because Samantha was as good at finding people as Vivian was -although searching for anyone in witness protection was practically the holy grail of impossible.
It must have taken her goddamn years.
Danny and Elena must know, too. They would have received a card and photo as well.
Or maybe they might not have paid close attention to the groom with their busy family life.
Vivian was just reaching for her phone to call them when, again, she stopped.
What good would come of this?
Samantha and Jack were together, living a new life. Samantha had known what she was doing when she'd invited them to the wedding, knowing the secret would stay within the team if they were to come, and since they didn't, this was the most obvious way of showing them Jack without showing his face.
If Danny and Elena did know, then they would either call her or reach the same conclusion that Vivian had rapidly come to: let the happy couple be.
They'd earned it.
They deserved it.
Give it a few years, then perhaps Vivian could find her way over to Milwaukee and visit them, but not right now.
She realized Marcus was staring at her. "Are you okay?"
Tucking the photo back into the card and the card back into the envelope, she smiled. "I sure am, and you know what? I think it's time we stop talking about it, and start planning that vacation we've always dreamt about. Somewhere tropical, just the two of us."
She could see Marcus was almost lost for words. "Really? That would be great! You're way overdue for some time off."
"I'm not the only one." Vivian gave him a big bear hug, feeling full of happiness.
And she knew, as much as Jack and Samantha knew…
True love always lasts.
And that's it for me in the world of Without a Trace fanfiction, and possibly writing fanfic itself. It's been great, it's been fun, it's messed with my brain, and now I feel it's time to stop. I want to say as always, a big warm thank you to Mariel –I started as a fan of her fic, then asked her to beta to my first story and it's turned into a long distance friendship. Plus she's taught me a few grammatical things along the way, especially in my narrative. A big hug for DianeM, always my strongest and most ardent supporter, and you think you like Anthony LaPaglia? You cannot compare to her devotion, seriously. Thanks to all the fans and friends of WAT I've met along the way. This couldn't have been possible without the original tv show and my adoration of Anthony and his Jack Malone, whom I loved writing. Thank you readers, new and familiar, it's been a blast.