It was morning before she got back to Jack's bed to check on him, and it was morning before Sydney realized that Jack was

missing. His bed was carefully made, but the blankets were slightly rumpled. There was no note, but Jack's helmet still

sat on the floor next to the bed. The uniform was gone.

Sydney tried thinking back to the night before, tried to remember when she'd seen him last. She remembered tending to a

man with a frostbitten foot, and passing Jack's bed on the way. He was sleeping peacefully at that time. And he was still

sleeping peacefully when she retired for a few hours of rest right at dawn.

So where had he disappeared to? Sydney frantically searched the hospital, asked questions of the other patients and

nurses, and generally felt ill for the next two hours.

At the end of those nerve-wracking two hours, she glanced out the window and saw Jack trudging up the road that led from

Cologne, his coat bundled tightly around him, his breath pluming out and crystallizing the air. She felt weak with relief

for a moment, then felt a hot rush of anger. How dare he take off like that without telling anyone?

Sydney burst out the front door without a coat or shawl or even a hat, her face heated with anger. She marched toward

Jack, who was still lazily walking toward the hospital, now with a lopsided grin on his face.

"Where the hell did you go? I've been worried sick about you all morning!"

"Ah, so you missed me," he said in a warm voice. When he came to rest before her, he admired for a moment the heaving

bosom brought on by her fit of anger. Then he cocked his head to one side, his smile fading a little. "Syd, you should

have a coat on. It's freezing out here."

"I'm fine. I'm not the one who was just treated for hypothermia not even eight hours ago!" she retorted, pointing at the

hospital for emphasis.

Jack quickly unbuttoned his coat and pulled it around her shoulders, then silenced her protests with a kiss. He felt her

body relax, felt her anger and fear fade. He broke the kiss first, leaving her with her lips pursed and her eyes closed

and her face relaxed in an oh-so dreamy smile.

"That is the most unfair negotiation technique I've ever heard of," she whispered, still not opening her eyes.

"There's more where that came from, honey." Jack paused and ran the pad of his thumb down her sloping cheekbone.

"Listen. I have something to say to you."

Her hazel eyes flickered open in question, urging him to continue.

He complied. "Sydney, I've thought a lot about this. I think that if you were sent back here a second time, that it's for

good this time. That we're meant to be together. Now, I'm not willing to let you go."

Sydney watched in a mixture of anticipation and a blissful horror as Jack swallowed nervously and sank to the snow-covered

ground, where he took her hands in his.

"Syd, I guess I'm trying to say that I love you, that I've loved you since that first real conversation, when you denied me

a cigarette." At this, she laughed, but her eyes were filling with tears at the realization of what was happening. "Now,

this might not be the perfect time or the perfect place, and I know women like that kind of thing . . . but I'd like to ask

you to become Mrs. Jack O'Leary."

Her breath was expelled with a whoosh of frozen air and she didn't realize until then that she'd been holding it. She

watched as he dug a gold band out of his pants pocket, the diamond on it nearly matching the shining snow around them.

He looked at her hopefully, his smile faltering slightly when she burst into tears.

"Oh, Jack," she sobbed. "Oh, Jack, I love you so much."

He looked bewildered, then asked, "Is that a yes?"

"Yes, it's a yes!" Sydney cried, pulling him off the ground and into her arms. She covered his face with kisses, her tears

stinging his newly-shaven face.

"Wow . . . wow," Jack said in amazement. He pulled her away from him and shouted to no one in particular, "We're engaged!

She said yes!"

Sydney laughed, drying her tears with the grimy sleeve of Jack's coat, which was beginning to slip off her shoulders in all

the excitement.

After giving Sydney a hungry and hurried kiss, Jack looked down at her with his devilishly handsome grin. His red-brown

hair gleamed in the sunlight of midday, his dark eyes were crinkled at the corners with his elated smile.

"Now," he said, "that hike into Cologne was well worth it."

Sydney laughed again and clutched his hard body to her, feeling his heart beat against her chest, loving being alive and

loving him with all her heart and soul. She knew, somehow, that this time it was for good. She would be there when the

war ended, and he would return to her. They'd live somewhere beautiful, where he could write to his heart's desire and she

could love him and love their future children.

She sighed and looked into the face she loved so much, the face that had haunted her dreams for weeks, and said, "I love

you, Jack O'Leary."

"And I love you, Sydney St. Claire –- now, later, next year, sixty years from now. Always." He kissed her lips softly.

"And forever."

And with hands clasped tightly together, fingers entwined, Sydney and Jack trekked through the snowy path back to the

hospital, barely taking their eyes from one another. As a matter of fact, they rarely took their eyes from each other for

the next sixty years, sixty blissfully happy years full of love and laughter and many, many children.

They did everything together in those sixty years –- ate, slept, laughed, cried, remembered, learned, and most importantly,


So when they left this world, it was no surprise to their six children, fourteen grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren

that Jack and Sydney O'Leary departed in the way they had always lived –- together, with fingers entwined and smiles on

their lips.

The double funeral was not a sad affair for most –- it was a celebration of the lives of two of the most amazing people that

many attendees had ever known. The sun was bright on that mid-summer day in the cemetery in Milwaukee, but it inexplicably

began to rain with barely a cloud in the sky, causing the mourners to gasp and reach for umbrellas.

A young woman stood by herself near a towering cross statue, her eyes red and wet with tears. She looked up at the rain in

surprise, remembering what Sydney had told her about that fateful day in which Jack had to leave Cherbourg, when the rain

came down with the sun shining gaily on. She had to smile, then, because it was what Sydney would have wanted.

Audrey St. Claire felt the knot in her throat tighten as she gazed at the clustered mourners, spotting men and women who

were her nieces and nephews but who were years older than herself. Those were relatives who she could never introduce

herself to, for they would never understand the truth. She had lost a sister, her best friend, but she couldn't let on how

she hurt inside.

A slight tugging on her sleeve made Audrey look down, startled. There, a little girl smiled up at her with a mischievous

innocence. The girl had Sydney's long blonde hair, streaked with white and brown, but she had round dark eyes much like

Jack's. Audrey recognized the girl as Annie, Sydney's great-granddaughter. Audrey had seen pictures of the little girl

when she had received Sydney's frequent letters.

"Are you Audrey?" the girl asked, startling Audrey still further.

" . . . Yes, I am. How did you know?"

Annie smiled even brighter, showing that her top front teeth her missing. "Grandma Sydney told me lots of stories. She

told me about you."

Audrey blinked, surprised that Sydney had related the tales to her grandchildren. "Oh."

"You don't have to be sad, Auntie Audrey. Like Grandma said, somewhere, in another time, she's probably as alive as

ever!" Annie said brightly. She slipped her small hand into Audrey's and squeezed. "She was a wonderful lady, Grandma

Sydney was."

Audrey swallowed hard and looked at her sister's shining oak casket next to Jack's flag-draped one.

"Yes, she was quite wonderful, wasn't she?"

And with that, Audrey allowed the little girl to lead her over to the rest of the crowd, where the sun warmed their faces

and the rain splashed coldly on their skin.

It was a Sydney and Jack kind of rain, Audrey thought with a sad smile, and Sydney had been right: somewhere out there, in

another time, she probably was as alive as ever, and you could be sure that wherever she was, Jack was with her.