A/N - I had never planned for this story to have more than three chapters, but I was pleasantly surprised to get so many requests for a follow-up to Chapter 3. So, here it is. This part takes place during and after the events in Chapter 3 (Christmas Future). For everyone who requested an epilogue, this is for you.
The usual disclaimer applies: I don't own the characters, I make no money from this, just doing it for fun.
Part IV - Epilogue
The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia
Lady Jaye stood with her hands on her hips, staring at the front door. She heard Flint slam his car door and drive away. "What the hell, Flint," she muttered to herself. After a long wait, she took a deep breath and looked around the cabin, which was eerily quiet now that she was alone. "Some Christmas," she said, narrowing her eyes in frustration. She walked into the adjacent kitchen and put the cold groceries into the refrigerator, angrily kicking the corner of the center island as she walked by. She left the bag of non-perishable food on the counter; if they ended up leaving tonight it would be less to pack back up.
Leave tonight. She let out a heavy sigh at that thought. She had rented the cabin through the 27th, but if Flint remained in that foul mood, she would rather just go back to Joe Headquarters and spend the rest of the holiday with her friends who had stayed on base. She looked down the hall toward the bedrooms. Or, she mused, she could suggest they sleep in separate bedrooms tonight, do their own thing while they were here and try to make the best of the situation like grown adults, then deal with Flint's apparent attitude problem after the holiday.
Could she continue to put up with this? Most of the time he was fine, perfectly wonderful even. But on rare occasions he would get so moody that it made it so difficult to be around him. She understood he was under a lot of stress due to his job. Well, they both were. The average couple didn't have to worry about saving the world from Cobra, and his leadership position within the team created additional stress that she and most of the Joes didn't have to deal with. But no, it wasn't just stress, there had to be something else. Lady Jaye thought for a moment. Could it be his jealousy emerging again? Flint had a history of getting bent out of shape whenever other men flirted with her, even when they were joking. His usual response was to make it clear that she was taken, and that subtle intimidation usually persuaded the other guy back off. It somewhat annoyed her, because she enjoyed kidding around with her male friends and she never let the joking progress to anything more than friendly banter.
Ace. All of a sudden, she remembered that she and Ace were laughing this morning outside of the Junk Room, where she had been looking for some old Christmas CD's and Ace was going to set up for a poker game. Could Flint have seen them together and got the wrong impression? Is that what set him off? Lady Jaye frowned at the thought and tried to remember if there was anything Ace did or said that might have been misconstrued. She had absolutely no romantic interest in Ace. Flint knew that there was no one else on the Joe team she would even consider dating, so why would he have been upset about this? Perhaps it was something else entirely. Was he unhappy with their relationship? Was he thinking about ending it? She didn't know what was going on with Flint but as angry as she was with his behavior today, she felt a touch of sadness that this could be the end of their relationship.
Lady Jaye dismissed that thought from her mind and decided to take advantage of the solitude in the cabin. Who knew how long Flint would need to drive around to cool off? She walked across the living room to the large stone fireplace and knelt in front of it. The owners had provided an ample supply of kindling, firewood, and matches, which she used to start a fire. She watched it burn for a few minutes, mesmerized by the glow, and enjoyed the warmth it produced. She turned to look out the front window. The driveway remained empty with no sight of Flint's car.
She grabbed the remote off the TV stand and pulled a few magazines off the end table as she settled on the sofa. She unzipped her boots, letting them drop with two satisfying thunks to the hardwood floor. She stretched out on the sofa, facing the TV with her back to the door and adjusted the pillow behind her. Flipping through the channels, she was disappointed with the lack of interesting programming, but realized Christmas day was not a prime TV viewing time because most people were out celebrating the holiday with loved ones, not sitting alone watching TV. That she had become one of those people made her kick the pillow at the other end of the sofa.
She finally came across It's a Wonderful Life, and the irony of it was not lost. She had seen the movie many times, of course, and wasn't really interested in watching TV anyway, so she turned the volume down a few notches and then decided to peruse the magazines, though her mind was still not focused. She glanced at her watch, a little surprised that Flint had not returned yet. The little convenience store was only about 10 minutes away, and he had been gone nearly an hour. Although he was certainly upset about something, Lady Jaye knew that he would not have driven back to Headquarters; he had more decency than to abandon her here. No, he would come back to the cabin, so she figured she'd better decide how to handle him.
Lady Jaye was so lost in her thoughts that she almost didn't hear Flint's car come up the driveway and park next to the cabin. She startled when she heard the car door, and slightly rose up from her position to see the familiar red Porsche through the large front window. She snuggled back down and quickly grabbed the remote, turning the volume back up to normal level, and picked up the magazine again, pretending to read.
Flint opened the front door, his arms loaded with the large vase of roses, the champagne, and of course, the milk. "Hey, I'm back," he said softly as he walked into the cabin, gently closing the door behind him with his foot. He carefully wiped his boots on the doormat and saw the back of Lady Jaye's head over the corner of the sofa. He recognized the movie playing on the TV and smiled.
"Okay," was all that Lady Jaye said, without looking up.
Oh boy, this is going to be tough, he thought. Well, I deserved it.
Flint placed the roses on the table between the kitchen and living room, then he headed into the kitchen. He put the milk in the refrigerator, noticing with appreciation that Lady Jaye had already unpacked some of the groceries while he was gone. He pressed his fingers against the glass bottle of the champagne. No, not cold enough. He considered putting it in the fridge to chill but decided that presenting the bubbly in a wine bucket would be a more elegant and romantic gesture. He began to open up each cabinet one by one, trying to find a wine bucket in this unfamiliar kitchen. No such luck. Flint hesitated and decided that the stainless stockpot might just work. So what if it was meant for soup or pasta? The ability to improvise was always one of his many strengths. He pulled the stockpot from the cabinet above the stove, clanging the pans and lids as he jostled the pot from its awkward storage space.
What on earth is he doing? Lady Jaye wondered as she listened to first the many cabinets being opened and closed, and then the noise from pots and pans. As curious as she was, she reminded herself that she was still angry, so she would continue to stew on the sofa until she was good and ready to face him. Even then, she was still unsure of what she would say. Should she suggest they cancel the vacation and go back to base today? Or should she ask him if he preferred the master bedroom or the smaller one if they decided to stay? Neither option gave her satisfaction, only an uncomfortable ache inside.
With the stockpot finally in hand, Flint proceeded to fill it with ice from the icemaker on the front of the refrigerator. He hadn't expected the ice to make such a loud racket as it dropped into the metal pot, nor did he know the grinding of the icemaker would be so loud as it churned the ice through the door. He grimaced when he realized this was not going as well as he had hoped. Once the pot was about half full, he pulled it from the lever on the fridge, but several lagging ice cubes continued to drop and they crashed onto the floor. Flint cursed and Lady Jaye rolled her eyes. He looked over at the sofa and saw that she had not moved, so he picked up the errant ice cubes, tossed them into the sink, and filled the stockpot with some cold water. He then put the stockpot on the table next to the roses, and plunged the champagne into the icy water. Next, he tried to remember which cabinet held the drinkware. He opened three different cabinets until he found the right one, though the stemware selection was limited. Although he would have preferred to use champagne flutes, he did spot some simple wine glasses in the back of one cabinet and gently pulled two out and put them on the table next to the chilling bottle. Flint stood there, feeling proud of himself for creating yet another romantic scene, but at the same time feeling guilty that the love of his life was pissed at him due to his unacceptable behavior earlier in the day. He waited for Lady Jaye to turn around to acknowledge him so that he could begin his apology and sweep her off her feet as usual.
He waited. And waited some more.
Lady Jaye, meanwhile, continued to lounge on the sofa, pretending to watch TV and read the magazine. After initially creating so much noise in the kitchen, she noticed he was now oddly quiet, though she knew he was still there and had not walked to another part of the cabin. She wanted to turn around to see what he was doing, but resisted. She was not ready to give in, yet. And still, she was unsure what she would say.
After a long minute that felt much longer, Flint realized that she was still angry so he decided to take matters into his own hands. He carefully picked up the vase and walked around to the front of the sofa. He set the roses on the coffee table in front of Lady Jaye, and picked up the remote. "Sorry, George," he said as pointed the remote to mute the TV.
When Flint set the roses on the coffee table, Lady Jaye sat upright and looked from the roses to Flint. He often bought her flowers, and it didn't surprise her that he did so after what had happened today. These were especially beautiful: a dozen red roses, accented with several sprigs of baby's breath, and tucked into what appeared to her on a quick glance to be a Waterford crystal vase. She waited for him to speak.
"Alison, sweetie, I'm sorry." He felt awkward standing so he lowered himself onto the sofa next to her. He tried again. "My behavior today was unacceptable. I was a jerk, plain and simple. I shouldn't have acted that way, and I'm sorry that it happened, especially on Christmas." He paused, looked down at his hands, and when he looked back up at Lady Jaye, she could see the remorse in his serious dark brown eyes.
His eyes. In the past, Lady Jaye had normally been attracted to men with blue eyes, but from the moment she first met him, there was something about his dark eyes that made her heart flutter. It was the same with his voice. Again, in the past, she had always been attracted to men with foreign accents - French, Irish, Aussie, especially Aussie - and yet she could listen blissfully for hours to Flint's typical midwestern American accent, that sexy baritone, whether he was in front of the entire Joe team outlining tactical maneuvers for the next assault on Cobra operatives, or tenderly reciting sonnets as she drifted off to sleep with his arms around her. His dark eyes. His deep voice. And now his dark eyes were on hers and his deep voice was silent as he waited for her response to his apology.
Lady Jaye refocused her thoughts. "Well, what was the problem?"
"I was in a bad mood before we left base …" Flint began.
"No kidding. What set it off?"
Flint took a breath, and thought about how his jealousy had been a sore subject on more than one occasion, so he decided to keep it simple. "It was something really silly, stupid even. I'd rather not go into it today because you'll think I'm an idiot, or get mad at me, or actually, probably both."
"Yeah, probably both." Lady Jaye muttered.
Flint twitched nervously and reached up to tug on his trusty beret, but quickly remembered he hadn't worn it today. His beret was like a security blanket; whenever he wore it he felt in control and in charge, and oddly exposed and vulnerable without it. "I swear it was just a misunderstanding and I handled it poorly. I apologize that you had to endure my sullen attitude when we should've been enjoying the day off. And I apologize, as well, for getting your Christmas off to a bad start. I was quite the Grinch…. or I suppose Scrooge is more fitting. Definitely Scrooge," Flint ended with a bit of a smile.
Lady Jaye shifted on the sofa, tucking her legs under her and turning sideways to look at Flint more directly. The light from the crackling fire cast a beautiful glow on her face, reminding Flint how lucky he was, and also reminding him that he needed to trust his heart. After having seen his dream future, he was afraid that if he screwed this up, he would lose her forever. He took both of her hands in his.
"Alison, I had some time to think today. You're the best thing that has ever happened to me, and my heart tells me that you are my future. I want to be with you for the rest of my life. Perhaps this Christmas didn't start off as well as it should have, but I will do all I can to make it up to you so that it ends on a much better note."
As Flint spoke, as he looked at her with those sexy dark eyes, she could feel the tension in her neck begin to ease, and the anger and irritation she had felt earlier melted away. She had dreamed about their future together many times, but this was the first that Flint had spoken so openly about it as well. She thought for a moment and said, "I won't lie; this morning was difficult, and it hurt that you shut me out without explanation."
"I know, and I'm sorry. I should have said something, or talked it through with you."
"Look, I understand that you're a private person, but next time, at least tell me what you're upset about. I had no way of knowing if you were mad at something I did or said, or upset about what someone else did, or if you just had a headache. I'm not a mind-reader, you know."
"No, sweetie, no, it wasn't anything you did or said. I told you, it was just a misunderstanding on my part. I just felt, uh, cross and irritable..." Flint trailed off, with a sigh.
"You may not be able to change how you feel, but you can change what you share with me."
Flint looked down, sorrowfully. "I know that, and I promise I'll try harder. I never want you to be this upset with me again."
Lady Jaye wasn't finished yet. "And this isn't the first time you've shut me out. What will change so that you don't do this again?"
Flint paused for a moment, then brought his eyes to hers. "A great author once wrote, 'It's in vain to recall the past, unless it works some influence upon the present.' And future, I might add."
Lady Jaye searched her mind for the source of the quote. "Eliot?"
"Dickens." Flint said with a smile. "I know my past behavior has been challenging for you. Like I said, I will do my best to prevent it from happening again, and also to talk to you when I feel that way. And I need to learn to trust my heart, and yours, as well. Before today, I wasn't sure what the future held for me, for us. But now, it's crystal clear."
From his expression, she thought he just might understand. Lady Jaye felt her heart flutter. That feeling, that electrifying feeling she had only ever experienced with him, was still there, as powerful as ever. "While you were out, I had time to think, too, and well, I'm really glad you came to your senses," she added, smiling for the first time in hours.
Flint looked visibly relieved. He brought her hand to his lips and tenderly kissed her fingers. He didn't know if it was the warmth from the fire or just the heat burning inside of him which caused his pulse to quicken. The sultry look from Lady Jaye confirmed it was the latter.
Flint briefly paused from kissing her fingers. "This is a beautiful cabin, by the way. Thanks for suggesting we come up here. Maybe we can book it again for Valentine's Day, if Hawk will give us more time off."
"Yeah, that would be nice. Although by Valentine's Day, I might be ready for warmer weather. I'd love to go back to that villa in St. Barts. And, um, what did you say about making it up to me?" Lady Jaye leaned closer to Flint, intending to slide into his lap. But before she knew it, he stood up, then easily swept her up off of the sofa and into his arms.
"Whoa!" Lady Jaye laughed and playfully kicked her legs as they dangled in the air and wrapped one arm around the back of his neck. She then reached up to caress Flint's cheek with her other hand. Since it was his day off, Flint had decided to go crazy and not shave that morning. As she felt his day-old stubble against her hand, she allowed herself to imagine how the stubble would feel against her thighs. Excited at the thought, she leaned into him and they kissed. Softly at first, and then more deeply. "Mmmmm…. By the way, where did you ever find an open florist today? The roses are beautiful. I'm sure they didn't come from the little country convenience store."
Flint turned and began to carry Lady Jaye out of the living room and toward the bedroom. "Let's just say I have my connections," he said with a smile.
They passed the dining area table and for the first time Lady Jaye noticed the wine glasses next to the stockpot full of icy water and the champagne. "Is that Dom Perignon?" Flint nodded as he kept walking, kissing her cheek when she turned to look at the table. "Let me guess - you had a connection for that too? Because I know the little country convenience store wouldn't carry that, either."
"You're pretty smart. That's just one of the many reasons I love you. And I do. I love you, Alison, more than anything. Merry Christmas, sweetie."
Lady Jaye felt it in her heart. He was her future, as well. "I love you, too. Merry Christmas." She kissed him deeply again as they made their way into the master bedroom. "And to think I was going to suggest separate bedrooms tonight."
Flint stopped in his tracks. "What? Really?" He thought for a moment, then kissed her forehead and continued into the bedroom. "Well, we can hit all the rooms tonight if you want."
"All of them? Is that a promise?"
"Absolutely. Although there's no hurry. We have the rest of our lives." Flint kissed Lady Jaye as he laid her gently on the bed, in no hurry, savoring the moment, and trusting his heart.
A/N - A very special thanks to mossley who provided many ideas and expert advice for this epilogue. Thanks, also, to Hagan99 for the ongoing support, and thanks to everyone who wrote reviews or sent PMs. I hope this brought some closure to the story, along with a sweet little ending just in time for Valentine's Day.