Part III - Flint - Christmas Future
The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia
December 25

"What's up with you, Flint?" Lady Jaye turned to face her boyfriend, who was concentrating on driving and staring straight ahead.

"Nothing," was his curt reply.

She tried again. "You've barely talked since we left base almost two hours ago. Why don't you talk to me? Is it something I said?"

Flint merely shifted the gears. "No."

"Would you rather not be doing this?" Lady Jaye thought that since they both had Christmas and the following day off duty, they could spend some quality time off-base at a cozy little cottage she rented. She thought it was a beautiful, charming place when she went to check it out earlier in the month. It was nestled in the woods in the Blue Ridge mountains, not too far of a drive from HQ, yet far enough to feel secluded from the rest of the world. The cottage belonged to a business associate of her family, a place they would escape to when matters brought them to the Washington area. It wasn't an extravagant home, but more of a modest, yet modern log cabin, suitable for a couple or a small family. Lady Jaye immediately fell in love with the stone fireplace in the living room, the whirlpool tub in the master bath, and the beautiful mountain views from every room. She thought that the two days, just Flint and herself, would be an incredibly romantic, intimate escape. But so far, the mini-vacation was leaving a lot to be desired.

Flint slowed the car as they turned off the main road onto the smaller lane, which led up the mountain and to the cabin. "Everything's fine. I told you this is a great idea. You know I've looked forward to it."

"Then why won't you talk to me?"

"I am talking!" Flint said a bit too loudly.

Lady Jaye let out an exasperated sigh and rested her elbow on the door, cradling her head in her hand. She knew Flint was generally a very private person, but sometimes she wished he would just tell her what was bothering him; then she might not feel so much like a stranger. As close as she was to him, and she was closer to him than anyone, she still felt like he didn't completely trust her with his feelings, his secrets, or his thoughts.

They drove in silence for another five minutes, until Lady Jaye pointed to a driveway on the right. "There it is, at the green mailbox." Flint steered the car up the rather steep driveway, which led past a densely wooded area to the log house up the hill. Pulling to a stop at the end of the paved area next to the house, he turned off the ignition and set the parking brake, a bit too aggressively. Lady Jaye pretended not to notice. The two climbed out of his red Porsche and met at the trunk. Their two small suitcases, and two smaller bags of food, filled the compact compartment. Each grabbed a suitcase, and Flint, being chivalrous if not chatty, also took the bags of food. Lady Jaye led the way to the front door, with Flint following closely behind. Once inside, they looked around at the place. It was rustic yet beautiful. The walls and ceiling were solid wood, punctuated with large windows to let in plenty of natural light. They were standing in the living area, a room which had 20 foot vaulted ceilings and a large stone fireplace in front of a cozy sofa and loveseat set. The adjoining kitchen was more than adequately equipped for a "vacation" home, with new appliances, granite counters, and large center island.

"Do you like it?" Lady Jaye asked, hoping to catch Flint in a better mood now.

"Yeah, it's great," he said absently, wandering down the hall into the master bedroom. Lady Jaye took that as a good sign, and followed her lover. Flint placed his suitcase on the floor next to the king size bed and peered into the luxurious master bath.

"It has a really nice whirlpool bath..." Lady Jaye suggested with a provocative glint in her eyes.

Flint turned to look at her, but he didn't appear to be in the mood for a whirlpool. "We didn't get milk, did we?"

The seductive look on Lady Jaye's face gave way to one of disbelief, and finally to anger.

"Here we are, alone in a romantic cabin, on Christmas Day, and all you can think about is milk? Milk?! If milk is so important to you, then go to the damn convenience store in town and get some."

"Fine, I will!" Flint said, heading towards the front door. "Anyway, you'd probably prefer to be here with someone else."

"And what is that supposed to mean?" Lady Jaye stared at Flint with her hands on her hips.

"Nothing," he muttered as he pulled the door shut behind him.

Flint slid into his car, slammed the door, and revved the engine. As he drove down the driveway and onto the main road, his mind was whirling with thoughts. She'd probably prefer to be with someone else, he thought. Someone younger, more exciting... like that show-off Ace. Captain Ace, the hotshot pilot. Flint's eyes narrowed at the images coming into his mind. He had caught them chatting outside the junk room earlier in the morning. The two were laughing and carrying on. The cocky bastard, thinking he can hit on her, he thought. He briefly imagined Lady Jaye and Ace in bed together, and he struck his hand against the dashboard in anger. He had seen the way all the male Joes admired Lady Jaye. Not only was she beautiful, with a figure that could stop traffic, but once they got past her physical appearance guys couldn't help but be charmed by her friendly personality, great sense of humor, and intellect. She was everything that he wanted in a woman, yet his jealousy got the better of him whenever she innocently looked at another guy, or whenever they looked at her. While Flint knew he made her happy, and she often told him that she loved him, he couldn't help but wonder if she would always want to be with him. What if she met someone better?

The surrounding landscape was a blur as Flint sped by, not even glancing at the scenery. He wondered what he would do if Lady Jaye left him for someone else. How could he stand being without her? He loved her so much…. never he could have believed that it would feel like this. "I don't want to lose her," he said aloud. "She means everything to me."

"Trust your feelings, Flint," came a voice next to him. Flint immediately slammed on the brakes and turned to face the 'person' that was sitting in the passenger seat of his car.

"What the... ? Who are you?" Flint's instincts put him on guard for the worst, but somehow he knew that the mysterious figure meant no harm.

"I am the Ghost of Christmas Future," said the spirit.

Flint half smiled. "As in the Dickens classic?" He prudently declined to mention that while he recognized merit in the tale, he considered said author's Great Expectations to be a superior work of Victorian-era literature.

"Yes, if that helps you relate. I'm here to help you trust your feelings, and those of that special person in your life."

"I don't need help 'trusting my feelings,' as you put it. Our relationship is progressing exceptionally well..."

The spirit looked into Flint's dark eyes, an act that Flint found somewhat disturbing, as if the spirit could see what he was thinking.

"Tell me, Flint. What makes you so jealous?"

"I am not jealous. It just really irritates me to see all those men drooling over my girlfriend, and she doesn't help the situation by being so flirtatious all the time."

"Is she flirtatious or merely friendly?" The spirit asked, wisely.

"She is a naturally friendly person, but it's not as if she's an ugly friendly person, she's so gorgeous," Flint tried to explain, for once having difficulty finding the right words. "Men perceive her to be flirtatious, which really pisses me off. They know she's taken. But arrogant guys like Ace think they can get anything they want."

"Do you believe she loves you?"

Flint paused a few seconds too long. "Yes, of course she does..."

"You don't sound certain, Flint. You need to trust your feelings. You need to trust hers, as well." The spirit waved its arm, and suddenly, Flint was no longer sitting in the driver's seat of his Porsche, but he and the spirit were standing at the front in an old, large, ornate church. The wooden pews were filled with smiling people wearing suits and dresses, some of whom Flint recognized as Joes. Bright red poinsettias, glowing white candles, and evergreen swags decorated the front of the church and the aisles, and a white satin aisle runner stretched to the closed rear doors. From a front corner, a string quartet played a Vivaldi concerto as the guests talked quietly and found their seats.

Flint looked around wide-eyed. He whispered to the spirit, "Hey, where are we?"

The spirit spoke in its normal tone of voice. "This is a church."

"I know it's a church. Why are we here?" Flint looked down at himself, embarrassed to be in the clothes he had been wearing all day. He felt out of place in a sweater, jeans, and hiking boots, and the spirit noticed his concern.

"They cannot see or hear us. This is the future."

Flint stared at the two rear doors as they swung open. The string quartet ended their song and then from the balcony, an organist began to play Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." The entire congregation stood up and turned expectantly towards the rear of the church.

Within moments, Lady Jaye appeared at the back entrance, one hand on her father's arm and her other clutching a bouquet of red roses sprinkled with baby's breath.

"Alison!" Flint's breath was taken away for a moment, but he steadied himself and he began to breathe again, then broke into a loving smile. "So incredibly beautiful," he whispered.

Lady Jaye was stunning. She wore a lovely, white halter-style couture gown, made of a sumptuous silk. The gown had no lace or ruffles; it was simple yet exquisitely elegant with just a bit of classy beading on the form-fitting bodice. A delicate headpiece secured a length of tulle that cascaded down her back. The gown's long train flowed behind her as she and her father, who looked debonair in a black tuxedo, walked slowly towards the front of the church. She beamed as she proceeded down the aisle, eyes darting briefly to look at the throngs of friends and family surrounding her, yet her gaze kept returning to the front of the church, and each time she looked in that direction, one could truly see the joy and happiness she felt.

Flint tried to see at whom she was looking, but his view was obstructed. "Why can't I see who the groom is? Is it me?"

By this time, Lady Jaye had nearly reached the front of the church. The spirit put a hand on Flint's shoulder. "Trust your heart, Flint. We have another stop to make now." The spirit waved its arm and they were transported to another location.

"Wait! Why did you do that?" Flint asked, agitated. "I needed to see who she was marrying!"

"And I said to trust your heart. Remember, you must learn to trust your feelings, and those of Alison, as well."

Flint, though still displeased with being so untimely whisked away from the wedding, finally looked at his current surroundings. They were in a house, obviously a living room, with comfortable furniture and a large decorated Christmas tree in the corner, surrounded by dozens of wrapped gifts neatly arranged on the floor. A cozy, crackling fire was burning in the room's fireplace and cheerful Christmas music played lightly in the background. Suddenly, Flint heard children's voices in another room, gradually getting louder. Then an adult female voice rose above the children.

"Yes, it's almost time to open your presents. Everyone into the family room." Flint knew that voice anywhere. It was Lady Jaye, though her voice sounded slightly different. The children and Lady Jaye entered the room, and Flint realized why she sounded different: she was old. She must have been at least 75 years old, with greying hair, still worn short in a stylish older woman's cut. Her face had a few wrinkles around her eyes and mouth, but he knew her in an instant, and he thought she was still beautiful.

Flint couldn't take his eyes off her, but he finally forced himself to look at the six children who surrounded Lady Jaye. They ranged in age from toddlers to young teens. The group eagerly sat on the floor in front of the Christmas tree, and Lady Jaye relaxed comfortably on the sofa.

"Can we start now, Grandma?" asked a little boy with dark hair and big brown eyes, gazing at the piles of presents.

Lady Jaye shook her head. "Not yet, Connor. We need to wait until your parents and Grandpa get back. They should be here any minute."

As if on cue, the assembled group heard a dog bark and then the home's front door opened in the hallway. "They're here!" Connor shouted, and he and two of his cousins jumped up and ran into the hall. Flint saw Connor look towards the front door, yet he couldn't make out who the little boy saw. "Grandpa! Merry Christmas!" Connor stretched out his little arms and ran to his grandfather.

Flint waited anxiously for the adults and Connor to rejoin the group in the family room. He needed to see who the grandfather was. It just HAD to be him.

But the spirit had other ideas. "We must go now, Flint. Trust your heart."

"No, I want to see..."

Then the spirit waved its arm and suddenly Flint was sitting alone, in his car. A cold carton of milk, a bottle of Dom Perignon, and a crystal vase holding a dozen red roses were on the seat next to him. He shook his head, trying to comprehend what really happened. "Unbelievable..." he whispered. But he smiled and drove quickly towards the vacation home, unable to wait any longer to get back to Lady Jaye. She was his future; he was certain of that now. He vowed that he would trust his heart and that this Christmas day would be a meaningful, blissful holiday with the woman he loved. And he looked forward to spending every Christmas, every holiday, every day, with her for the rest of his life.

A/N: I realize the comics and a lot of fanfics place Joe Headquarters (aka The Pit) in Utah or another western desert locale. My story is set in the 80's cartoon universe, and while a specific HQ location was never revealed in the series, a couple episodes hinted that it could be in the eastern US. Therefore, I liked to think it is in the Northern Virginia area, perhaps adjacent to an existing military base like Quantico or Fort Belvoir, which would give easy access to meetings at the Pentagon, in addition to an established infrastructure and proximity to the bay and ocean to make use of the water toys…. I mean vehicles. Speaking of vehicles, I recently learned that the cartoon producers intended Flint's car to be a Jaguar, but I kept it as a Porsche as I originally wrote.

Thanks to everyone who commented and sent PM's. I appreciate the feedback! Thanks to mossley for letting me borrow the Junk Room and to Hagan99 for the fun Great Expectations idea. And thanks to both for your advice on the title. Much obliged!