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Sorrows End

From sandman@bitsmart.com Sat Jan 10 18:46:35 1998
Newsgroups: alt.sex.stories
Subject: {ASS} STORY: Sorrows End (M/F) (Romantic)
From: sandman@bitsmart.com (SandMan)
Date: Sun, 11 Jan 1998 00:46:35 GMT
Content Warning: The following work of fiction contains detailed
descriptions of sex between a consenting man and woman. If this
bothers you or it is illegal to possess such material in your locality
please hit the delete button now. This is a work of fiction and any
similarities between any person(s) living or dead is pure coincidence.
Under no circumstances should this material be deemed suitable for
minors.

Subject: A plane crash forces a hermit to share his cabin for a long
arctic winter with two women.

Authorís Note: I kind of figured Stranded would be my last work for a
while, but found I was having so much fun I decided to sit down and
write a fourth. The fourth story has decided to spiral completely out
of my control and stands at 150 pages. I still donít really see the
end in sight. Needing a break from this monster, I opened up a blank
page and pulled a subject out of a mental hat and began to pound away
(on the keyboard! Geez!). Considering that I had the chance to
explore incest, pregnant sex, and an interesting threesome, the story and characters evolved in a very tame manner. I think I am probably as
surprised as anyone that what sprang forth was a rather quaint love
story with nothing even remotely approaching taboo. This is a story yes, thereís sex in it yes, but sex isnít the end all and be all of
this tale. You have been warned.

Subject Matter: (M/F) (Romantic)
Rating: (R) Not suitable for minors. May be illegal in some areas.

Author: The SandMan
Copyright: 1998 sandman@bitsmart.com

Distribution Rights: May be distributed freely WITHOUT MODIFICATION on
USENET, USENET II, not-for profit web sites, not-for profit ftp sites,
and news archival services which offer free public access to archived
articles. All other rights are specifically reserved by the author.

Creation Date: 1/7/98
Distribution Date:

Sorrows End - By Sandman

It was snowing outside, hard. Not that it was all that unusual, not
this time of year anyway. Jack scratched his beard thoughtfully as he
leafed through the latest book he was reading. After the first snow
fell, he was trapped in this tiny two room cabin until the middle of
Spring with only his books and the fire to keep him company. That
didnít bother the large powerfully built man in the slightest. He had
more than his fill of people in his other life. The life that had
heaped material comfort upon him until he found he could no longer
bear the weight.

When he was thirty he liquidated his assets, said goodbye to his
confused friends and family and set off to Alaska, the last frontier
in the Americas. Luck brought him to his second life when spring had
just melted the snows, giving him enough time to build this cabin
about a hundred miles north of Fairbanks. He felled the trees
himself, and taught himself the fine art of carpentry along the way.
Over the spring and summer months, his city born flabbiness turned
into rock hard muscles. As his sweat carried away the caffeine,
nicotine, alcohol, and other drugs of civilization he found himself
thinking more clearly and feeling better than he ever had in his life.
By the time the first snow of winter had fallen he knew he had found
his second life.

Despite his new found happiness, he nearly went stir crazy that first
winter as he found little to do. His supplies were adequate for he
had hunted well over the summer and learned how to smoke and preserve
what he caught. He also had a large supply of soups and other such
foods to add diversity. What he did not have was enough books. The
twenty he had brought with him lasted only a month, he had re-read
them all ten times over before the winter was through, and the snow
melted enough to make the long trip into Fairbanks and back.

The second winter he was better prepared, and dropped over two
thousand dollars at the book store, more than double what he had spent
at the grocery. And the second winter he read books he never thought
heíd be interested in and discovered in himself a deep passion for
learning new things.

There was a scratching at the door. Jack sighed and put down his
book. He opened the door a few inches and a lean gray wolf sauntered
in and moved over to the fire. Jack frowned at the sight of the great
beast, the hunting must not have gone well. While the wolf settled in
to the bear skin rug near the fire, Jack slipped off to the kitchen
and prepared a meal of smoked moose. When he set the plate down near
the wolf, the wolf sniffed at it and gave him an accusing look. Jack
shrugged and sat back down to resume his reading.

The wolf had appeared in the second year of his new life. It was
spring and the land was rich and warm. The wolf would sit at the edge
of the forest, watching him. Not as a hunter watches prey, but
curious to see this strange creature. The wolf would follow him on
his hunts, but never tried to interfere once Jack began to dress his
kills and prepare it to be hauled back to the cabin. The wolf would
disappear for weeks at a time, but always returned sooner or later.
Near the end of that first summer together, Jack would be out hunting
and found animals being driven towards him by the wolf. When he
killed a driven animal, any meat he offered the wolf was always
accepted, but the wolf only accepted if he had helped in the kill. It
was an odd sort of honor, but Jack accepted it as he accepted the
independent friend he had made.

That winter the wolf would come to the door on occasion and sleep by
the fire, but when Jack let him leave the next morning he never knew
if the Wolf would return that night or next month. He only knew the
wolf would return. Over the years, when the hunting went bad for the
wolf during the harsh winters, Jack would offer to share food as he
had done this night, sometimes the wolf would accept the gift,
sometimes it wouldnít. After five years now, Jack knew the wolf would
eat tonight. It was to hungry.

From his reading Jack knew that for a wolf to go so long without a
pack was unusual. They were highly social animals, leaving the pack
only to seek a new one or form one of their own.. So the wolf was an
enigma, but in the dead endless night of the Alaskan winter, the
company did not go unappreciated.

The sound of a small plane roared overhead, so loud even the wolf
looked up as it tried to puzzle out the strange sound. If would be a
small single or twin engine prop, the town hopper type that kept all
the small town communities tied together up here where roads were only
good in the spring and summer months. It was very rare though for one
to fly so close or so low. And Jack found himself looking up at the
ceiling as he mentally tried to get a fix on the planeís location.

Suddenly there was a loud crash and the sounds of engines disappeared.
Jackís face grew worried as he sprang up and hurriedly prepared to go
outside. Despite his haste it took a good five minutes to round up
his boots, sweaters, scarf, cap, gloves and coat. And despite all the
clothing, the bitter cold of the Alaskan winter hit him like a slap in
the face. It was a good -40 at least, so cold the water vapor in his
breath turned to ice as he breathed out, falling onto his beard and
turning the black hairs white.

The snow was falling so heavily he could barely see his fingers if he
held out his hands. There was simply no way to mount a rescue, not in
these conditions. Then he heard the wolf bark ahead of him and hope
surged. The wolf could find the plane by scent alone, snow or no
snow, and a barking, howling wolf could guide him where he needed to
go. And so he followed where the wolf led. It took a good fifteen
minutes of slow walking to reach the tree line of the forest, and then
to follow that north about another five minutes when he finally found
the smoldering wreckage.

As he suspected it was a small town hopper, though the plane had
disintegrated on impact. The plane would have held six people at
most and some cargo. The cockpit was totally destroyed, and the
broken twisted bodies of two men were plainly evident. In the
relatively intact fuselage he found two women, both unconscious and
bleeding, one with an obviously well advanced pregnancy maybe her
eighth or even ninth month. While the fuselage was relatively intact,
the great gaping hole left by the cockpit area which had been torn
aside left the women exposed to the biter cold and wind. Even though
they were well clothed, their faces were both blue.

Jack tore through the luggage and cargo area until he found a few
blankets. He wrapped one around the girl who was not pregnant, making
her as warm and comfortable as he could. That done he unbuckled the
pregnant woman from her seat and carried her outside. Even for his
great strength, a woman with child was to heavy to carry all the way
back to the cabin, not in this cold, so he laid her on the blanket,
and lifted the end. He turned to the wolf who sat nearby, watching
with dispassionate blue eyes and said gruffly "Home."

The wolf stood up and began leading him, barking now and again until
after a long walk Jack finally reached the cabin door. He carried the
woman to his bed and made her as comfortable as he could, making sure
the bedroom fireplace had fresh logs. Then he set out again for the
other woman. The wolf was smart, it knew what Jack was doing the
moment he stepped outside, and within the hour Jack had both women
safe and sound in the cabin. Outside the snow began to taper off a
bit, but if anything it only got colder.

After applying anesthetic and bandages to the bleeding areas, none of
which were nothing more than scratches, Jack studied his charges.
They could have been twin sisters for both had long shoulder length
brown hair and pretty oval faces. They were perhaps 30, though
sometimes it was hard to tell with women. Their other features could
not be discerned for all their clothing but Jack did not think they
would be displeasing to the eye. There was little else to do now, and
with the girls in his bed and tired from the effort of the night, he
went back into the main room, sat down in his chair and promptly fell
asleep.

He woke in the night as was his custom and put a few more logs on both
fires. Both girls were sleeping soundly, and their color had improved
dramatically. They were still pale, but not the deathly blue tinged
pale they had earlier. Just before morning, which was really just a
concept in a land where the sun just caused a small glow on the
horizon around noon for a few minutes before it turned around and
started to set, he was wakened by a scream.

He rushed into his bedroom and found the girl who was not pregnant
sitting up on the bed and shaking the other. "Youíd better let her
sleep it off." Jack cautioned. "I donít know how badly sheís hurt."

She looked up sharply, and a twinge of fear ran through her face.
"What happened?"

"There was a crash.", Jack said. "Youíre lucky I was nearby."

"David and the pilot?" She asked.

Jack shook his head. "Only you two survived."

She lowered her head into her hands and started to sob. Jack shifted
uncomfortably not knowing what to do.. After a while she had cried
herself out. She looked up and said in a sorrowful voice. "David was
my brother in law. This is my sister Alice. Thereís no doctor in
town so we were flying in to Fairbanks for the last month of
pregnancy. Then the storm hit and the pilot started fighting the
winds and dove lower and lower until things smoothed out. I thought
everything was going to be OK then there was the crash." She started
to cry again.

"Itíll be all right." Jack said comfortingly as he could. "Alice just
has a nasty bump on the head. I felt her baby kicking up a storm when
I dressed your wounds, so at least a part of David will live on I
guess. Iím Jack by the way, Jack Storm."

She smiled weakly. "Linda Carter. When will help arrive?"

Jack shrugged. "Unless their radar is a lot better than I give them
credit for, I really donít expect any. I live alone out here, thereís
no telephone or radio. After the snows come, even my ATV canít get me
into Fairbanks until the next thaw."

A touch of panic crossed Lindaís face. "You mean weíre trapped here
until Spring?" with a little more than a demanding tone.

Jackís brows furrowed. "One could take the point of view that Iím
trapped here until Spring. Thereís a reason I live like this you
know. But yes, unless they send out a search party and the search
party happens to come near this cabin weíre trapped."

Linda was a little taken aback by the large, gruff manís words, but
they did make her realize the man was going to be as inconvenienced as
they were, though she really didnít understand why this was so.
"Food?"

Jack shrugged. "Iíve got enough I suppose. Up here it pays to be
cautious in that area."

Linda rubbed her head, "I donít suppose you have an aspirin. I have
one hell of a headache."

Jack smiled and when he did Linda decided he didnít look half as scary
as she had first imagined. "Will Tylenol do? Aspirin always gave me
ulcers."

When she had taken the pills he retrieved from the first aid cabinet,
she settled back on the bed and drifted off to sleep. Jack returned
to the chair and snoozed until his mental alarm clock told him it was
time to get up. In the city he had always needed an alarm clock to
get up, and when he did wake it was like rising from the dead. Once
he had moved here though, he found he always woke at the same time
each morning ready to tackle the day ahead.

Over the cast iron stove he put in the dough he had prepared the
previous day to bake while he cooked up some ham, hash browns, and
coffee. Halfway through he found Linda standing at the doorway
looking on. When she noticed him looking at her she smiled and said,
"Is that coffee?"

He smiled in return and said. "Yup, should be ready in a few minutes.
The bread will take about twenty minutes though."

"Fresh baked bread?" She asked incredulously.

He made a dismissive nod. "Only way to have it out here. Without
eggs, itís hard to get really creative with the cooking, but youíd be
surprised what you can get away with using dried and evaporated milk."

"You wouldnít happen to have a bathroom in this place would you?" She
asked.

"Iím afraid not. Thereís a roll of toilet paper hanging by the door.
I usually walk out back a ways to the woods and pick a nice spot."

She sighed. "Is it snowing?"

"Not to badly. I think youíll be able to see the house from the
woods. If not, just follow your tracks back.. Iíll give you ten
minutes, after that I come looking for you." He replied as he turned
over a small hourglass timer.

"Then modesty, if not the weather suggests I hurry." She said arching
an eyebrow and made for the door. As she neared it though she came to
a panicked halt when she saw the large blue eyed wolf stand up move to
intercept her at the door.

"Is he friendly?" She asked, never taking her eyes off the creature
for a second.

Jack turned to see the confrontation and said. "He hasnít eaten me
yet. Heís wild so maybe heís saving me for times get hard, but right
now Iíd say he just wants to go out for the day." He opened the door
and the wolf gave him an amused look before trotting out. "You can
thank him for your lives as much as luck." Jack said. "I never would
have found the plane without him. He led me twice, once for your
sister and once for you. Led me home too. I donít understand him,
but heís the closest thing I have to a friend out here."

Linda watched the wolf disappear over a hill before she turned her
attention back to Jack and as she stepped outside, bracing herself
against the bitter wind said, "Youíd better reset that timer or
things might get awkward."

Jack laughed as she made her way towards the woods. Linda returned
well before the ten minutes and groused about the lousy accommodations
though in a tone that suggested she was being humorous. While
breakfast was still being prepared she sipped her warm mug of coffee
as she browsed the bookshelves that made up all of one wall of the
large comfortable room. "Impressive." She said as she studied the
titles of the diverse library.

Jack blushed. "Not much to do up here in the winter. Thatís this
years collection. By spring Iíll have read every last one of them,
maybe even re-reading a few. But when the thaw comes, Iíll cart them
into Fairbanks, donate them to the library and buy a whole new batch
for next year."

"No tv or Radio?" she asked idly.

"No electricity." Jack winked. "The books are better by far anyway."

"And when spring comes? What then?", Linda asked.

Jack shrugged. "Not much time for reading then. Thereís wood to chop
for next winter, food to hunt, repairs to make. Iíve pretty much
decided this year to add a new room and make a real kitchen and dining
room even though Iíll need to chop more wood to keep the bigger house
warm. Then thereís the trips to Fairbanks for supplies and whatnot."

"Surely you donít walk?" Linda said.

Jack shook his head. "Iíve got one of them 4 wheel ATVís with a wagon
out back. It gets me into town all right, though it takes almost a
whole day to do it."

"How do you make your living? Selling furs?"

Jack laughed. "7.5% after tax interest on the assets I liquidated
before I moved up here. I make about seven grand a year in interest
and use up four grand a year thereabouts on books and supplies. I
hadnít considered selling fur, I wouldnít even know where to start or
even that I would want to do it. Iím pretty modest in my needs, I
hunt only what I need."

Finally breakfast was ready and they sat down and dug in. The bread
was fresh out of the oven and was a delicious sourdough, the ham and
hash browns made a perfect breakfast. "This is quite good, really!"
Linda said as she just finished a piece of bread with a generous
spread of butter.

"Well itís a special occasion so I broke out the rations. Normally
itíd just be moose, elk, or deer but theyíre an acquired taste. I
bake bread almost daily though, and Iíve got a good supply of frozen
vegetables and potatoes. Actually the storehouse out back is probably
better stocked than some supermarkets hereabouts."

After breakfast Linda decided sheíd better sit by Aliceís side to be
there when she woke up. Jack didnít argue and moved a chair in by the
bedside. After putting on a few more logs he retired to clean up the
kitchen. With well practiced efficiency he made short work of the job
and took the bucket of dirty water outside to be pitched. He filled
another bucket with snow, packing it down hard and set it inside to
melt before visiting the woods himself. When he returned he dragged
another chair into the bedroom and made himself comfortable by the
fire.

They sat in a long comfortable silence before Linda finally asked.
"Why do you live out here alone like this?"

Jack smiled. "I knew youíd ask that soon enough. Iím actually
surprised you didnít ask it earlier over breakfast. Everybody does.
The short answer is, I do it because I like it."

When he threatened to leave it like that Linda pressed. "And the long
answer?"

Jack sighed. "The long answer is, I just got tired of civilization.
I had a great job, a house, a car, friends, family, the whole ball of
wax. But no one to share it all with, though not for lack of trying.
I went to the clubs, the bars, even the churches, at the end I was
even going out on blind dates. Sometimes Iíd find someone interesting
enough but sooner or later weíd just drift apart. Eventually
everything just got to be hollow, I know thatís not the right word to
use, but thatís the way I felt, hollow, like everything was just a
little unreal."

"Then one night I found myself alone in the house for what seemed the
millionth time and I figured Iíd had enough. The next day I quite my
job, sold my house for less than it was probably worth, sold my car,
said goodbye to everyone and flew up here. It was pretty hard the
first winter, but Iíve never regretted the decision."

"So you never found love." Linda said thoughtfully.

"No. Or rather yes." Jack replied slowly. "I married my high school
sweetheart. Jill and I were an item since our freshman year. We had
our share of teasing, Jack and Jill you know, but I think it mostly
sprang from envy. She was my one true, and only love. She died in a
car crash when I was still in college. I was twenty two at the time,
finishing up my senior year. Weíd been married since we were
eighteen. Nobody else could hold a candle to her."

"How sad!" Linda exclaimed as she brushed away a tear from her eye.
"That is so, completely, hopelessly romantic."

Jack coughed uncomfortably and his cheeks flushed. "If you say so."
He said finally.

"I say so." She said firmly.

Shifting the subject Jack asked, "So why arenít you wearing a wedding
band?"

Linda laughed. "Now you sound like my father. When are you going to
find a good husband and settle down Linda? It got even worse when
Alice got pregnant. Theyíre so overjoyed at the thought of
grandchildren that I dreaded visiting the house."

Jack laughed, but when she fell silent prodded her by saying. "You
still havenít answered my question, though you dodge nicely."

Lindaís cheeks flushed. "Like you I guess. I never found the right
person. I dated enough men, but never found anyone Iíd really care to
spend the rest of my life with."

"You must have had a good selection." Jack said thoughtfully, "Men
outnumber women almost two to one in Alaska."

Linda laughed. "Try three to one in Canute. Itís a logging and oil
town mostly. But the men there always seemed a bit to dull for my
tastes. A few were to violent for my tastes as well. Alice was the
lucky one, David was a manager for the company. Well educated, well
dressed. Civilized is the best word. I envied her."

Alice moaned and Linda shifted herself to give a concerned look to her
sister. As she squeezed Aliceís hand, Alice opened her eyes. "Itís
OK honey." Linda said softy. "Thereís been a crash but weíre all
right. And most important weíre safe."

"David?", Alice croaked.

"He didnít make it." Linda said with a quiver in her voice. "Iím so
sorry Alice, but he didnít make it."

Alice squeezed her eyes shut, her face wracked with pain until the
features calmed and she drifted back into darkness. After long
minutes Linda turned and said, "That was the hardest thing Iíve ever
had to do in my life."

Jack nodded his head sympathetically. He rose and placed a hand on
her shoulder, squeezing compassionately. "I know. Believe me I know.
You stay with her in case she wakes up again, I need to make a trip
out to the plane. Your luggage is still pretty much intact, and
youíll be needing your stuff."

She nodded and returned her attentions to Alice as David left the
room. The wolf was sitting on top of the hill when Jack left the
cabin. They stared at each other for a moment, each recognizing the
otherís existence. Then the wolf trotted lazily over and stood beside
Jack. Jack turned his head down to look at his companion. "Think you
can lead me back to the plane?" He asked.

The wolf cocked his head slightly, then sniffed and began trotting
forward. Jack followed with a slightly amused expression on his face.
It was nearly noon when they reached the plane and only a dim glow on
the southern horizon gave any hint that the sun even existed. By the
time he returned even the glow would be gone, itís unwelcome intrusion
into the endless arctic night a dim memory. Jack rounded up all the
luggage, placed it on a blanket and drug it back much as he had drug
the two girls back the night before.

As he had grown used to, he began talking to the wolf as the walked.
The wolf sensing he no longer needed to give direction walked quietly
at Jackís side with just a hint of impatience at his friendís slow
pace. "I think itís going to be a long winter." Jack said. "Oh itís
pleasant enough now while weíre all strangers to each other, but after
a week, maybe two when we start repeating stories or tales, I think it
will start to get to them. Not everyoneís cut out to live like this
you know."

"I guess I could set out on foot for help. The ATV would never make
it, but I suppose I could make it on foot. The girls would be safe
enough here I guess, but it would be a very dangerous journey." He
looked down at his traveling companion and eyed him speculatively.
"You do all right though. You could probably manage the journey
without breaking a wind."

The wolf returned the gaze with an expression which seemed to say "Why
are you babbling at me?" before trotting up to the hill in front of
the cabin. Jack sighed and moved the luggage inside.

When he returned he found Linda sitting in his chair leafing through a
book. She brightened when she saw him and even more when she saw the
luggage. "Alice is awake again. She woke up a few minutes after you
left. I hope you donít mind, I gave her some of the ham and bread for
breakfast."

Jack shook his head. "Whatever I have is yours for the taking. Is
she up and about."

"No, not yet. She tried, but got dizzy when she stood up. She told
me she wanted to be alone for a bit. Sheís still trying to come to
grips with Davidís death."

Jack nodded. "I donít envy her that. It will probably take a long
time. And the scar can be worse than the wound."

Linda frowned then changed the subject. "I donít suppose you have a
bathtub around here?"

Jack laughed. "Nope. Running a bath is a major bother. In spring
and summer I jump into the lake nearby, in winter I just use a wash
rag."

"A pity." Linda sighed. "You seemed to have such a civilized life
here despite everything I had hoped you had managed to work that part
out as well."

Jack sighed. "Well like I say itís a major bother, but Iíll see what
I can arrange."

"No. Really. I didnít mean to impose. A wash rag will do nicely.",
Linda said quickly.

Jack smiled and bowed gallantly. "Youíre my guest, and your slightest
wish is my command."

Linda gave a quirky, puzzled smile as Jack headed back outside. The
storage shed was as large and well built as the house itself, at
ground level it housed mostly tools, the ATV and wagon, and shelf
after shelf of supplies. There was a basement here as well that was
dug down to the permafrost below that served as his year round
freezer. In winter the entire shed was a freezer, but in spring and
summer the basement kept his perishables frozen. He rummaged around
until he found the tub he was looking for in the back corner.

He had bought it his first year before he discovered how hard it was
to fill and more important how much water he had to boil to make it
comfortable. He was by no means a lazy man, but neither did he have
patience for hard work where it wasnít needed. In his opinion, a wash
rag and maybe a shampoo now and again in a bucket of warm water was
all he really needed. But no doubt the women would feel differently.

The tub was as heavy as it was awkward, and despite the biter cold he
was sweating as he finally drug it to the front door. He retrieved a
snow shovel and packed the tub as tightly as he could with the snow.
The added weight nearly made the tub impossible to move but he finally
managed to move it into the cabin and placed it beside the fireplace.
It would take hours for the snow to melt naturally though. Filling
every large pot he had with water he set it on the stove to boil, and
finally filled the great cast iron cook pot over the fireplace with
snow as well.

The first pots of boiling water melted the snow in the tub, though the
water was still to cold to be used for a bath. He filed the pots with
snow, adding more as it melted down until all the pots came to a boil
again. After an hour, he finally had a hot bath ready.

"I see what you mean about the bother." Linda said appreciatively.

Jack shrugged. "Thereís few enough pleasures in winter that it
sometimes isnít worth a little effort to make them now and again." he
said dismisively.

"Well I do appreciate the Ďlittle effortí. You are the perfect host."
She walked over and standing on her toes gave him a quick kiss on the
cheek. Jack reddened and shifted awkwardly.

"I better retire to the bedroom so you can have some privacy. If
Alice is feeling better we can make the bath ready for her after
you.", Jack said.

"Do you have soap and towels?", Linda asked.

Jack smiled sheepishly and retrieved a bar of soap and a few towels
from the kitchen cupboards. Then he slipped into the bedroom and
leaned against the door as he closed it. His thoughts were
interrupted when he heard "You must be Jack." He turned to see Alice
sitting up in bed. Her eyes were puffy and red. But though she was
in obvious emotional pain and had recently been crying, she was still
suffused in what could only be described as the glow of motherhood.

"I drew a bath for Linda. Itís a small cabin, this is the only place
I can give her any privacy.", Jack said. "I hope you donít mind."

"No. Not at all." Alice said quickly. There was a short silence then
she asked. "Are we really trapped here until Spring?"

Jack shrugged and moved over to take one of the chairs they had drug
in from the kitchen. "Probably. Iíve considered going to Fairbanks
on foot, but it will be dangerous. Iíd rather not do it if I didnít
absolutely have to."

Alice sighed. "Flying to Fairbanks was supposed to be the safest way
to have my baby. If we had stayed, at least one of the older women
could have acted as midwives. Are you positive thereís no way?"

Jack looked trapped. This woman was desperate and he was beginning to
get trapped up in that desperation. "Iíll try tomorrow." He said
finally. "Itís to late to start out today, and the sky is still
overcast. You get a feel for the weather living out here, the
stormís not over yet. But Iíll try tomorrow."

Alice smiled, hope filling her face. "Linda said you were a good man and sheís a good judge of character." Jack blushed. After a minute
of awkward silence Alice said softly, "Is David still out there?"

Jack nodded sadly. "Thereís no way to bury him until the ground
thaws. If I cover him in snow the animals will get him. In the
cockpit at least heíll be OK until proper arrangements can be made."

"Damn it!" She cried, pounding her fists into the mattress. "Just
when you think youíve got life all figured out something comes along
and proves you donít know squat." She began to sob again, but without
tears, those had all been shed at least for a while.

Jack moved over to the chair beside her bed and took her hand. "I
know exactly what youíre going through. I know thereís not a single
thing I can say to make you feel any better or to take away the pain
of your loss. But it helps to know I think that you will survive this
and one day youíll be happy again. And I think your child will help
too." He said as he placed his other hand on her swollen belly. "Jill
and I never had children. Nothing of her lives on today save her
memory. At least in your child youíll have a piece of David. Hold on
to that."

Alice nodded her head and swallowed hard, squeezing Jackís hand even
harder. "I know. Thank you, really." She laughed with a weak smile.
"I thought I had cried myself out."

"That never happens." Jack said sadly.

Alice shifted the subject. "So youíve really given up on
civilization? You donít get lonely out here?"

Jack shrugged. "I was alone in the heart of one of the biggest cities
in the world. There really isnít all that much difference save that
here Iím more at peace, more content than I was back there. I really
donít dwell on the differences all that much."

"Iíd go stir crazy in a week. Itís hard enough with the TV." She
didnít mention it was hard enough with tv and her husband.

"If you can sit through a good book, it isnít that bad." Jack assured
her. "And the wolf keeps me company now and again."

"Linda told me about the wolf, I didnít believe her." Alice said with
a note of marvel in her voice.

"Well, like I told her, heís a puzzle but he seems to like hanging
around and I donít mind having him."

"Whatís his name?" She asked.

"He hasnít told me and I wonít give him one. It wouldnít seem right
somehow. You know, it would be like I owned him, and I definitely
donít own him.", Jack said.

"No I guess it wouldnít be right." Alice admitted.

The door opened and Linda paused at the doorway looking at her sister and Jack still sitting by her side holding her hand. "Iím done. It
was a wonderful bath. Thank you again Jack."

Jack smiled, bowing his head slightly at her. "Your thanks are
appreciated. Iíll put some more water on to boil for Alice if sheís
up to it, but it will have to be short since Iíll have to start making
dinner soon."

"No, thank you but no." Alice said. "I really donít feel well enough
to get up right now."

Jack nodded. "Then Iíll empty the tub and start dinner. It will
probably be an hour and a half, so yaíll make yourselves comfortable."

The girls smiled at him as he excused himself and left the room.
"Youíre right Linda, heís a good man. Eccentric maybe but he has a
good heart."

Linda sat down by the bed. "I donít even think heís eccentric. Just
terribly alone, and he still grieves for his wife. Oh, Iím sorry."
She said biting her lip.

"Itís OK Linda." Alice said. "It hurts, I think it will hurt for a
very long time. Youíre right though. I think he must have loved her
very, very much to give up everything and move here. Ow!" She winced
in pain and grabbed her belly.

Lindaís face turned to worry as she said. "Itís not time yet is it?"

"No, just a strong kick thank goodness. Jack said heíll try for
Fairbanks tomorrow. With luck Iíll have a skilled doctor ready to
catch the little kickboxer." She laughed but Linda frowned.

"Alice, Iíve been outside. You donít know what itís like. Itís a
hundred miles to Fairbanks, it must be at least minus thirty out there
now. It will be dangerous beyond reason for him to go."

"Ohhh." Alice said as she mulled that over. "I didnít know. But
Linda, nobody here knows anything about childbirth! Weíve got to do
something!"

Linda thought a while then said, "Jack sponges himself down for a
bath and thatís fine by him. I just casually mentioned it and he
broke his back and worked for a good hour to draw a bath for me. It
will probably take another half hour to clear out the old water and
haul it to were it can turn into ice safely. I think he will try to
go to Fairbanks because you asked him, even though it is dangerous. I
think he will try very hard. I also think that his life will be in
very great danger if he goes."

Alice frowned deeply. "What do you suggest?" She asked.

Linda bowed her head. "I donít know. I really donít. But I think
you have a better chance to give birth to a healthy child with us
fumbling along trying to figure out what to do than Jack has trying to
make it to Fairbanks cross country.."

And with that said they sat in silence as they found themselves
trapped in thought. For his part Jack was carting buckets of water
out to the ice patch where he dumped his used water, his spirits
equally low. As his legs sunk a foot deep in the snow with each step,
he mentally shuddered as he imagined the journey to Fairbanks. After
dumping the last of the water he headed back to the cabin and was
quickly joined by the wolf who lopped along beside him. There was the
hint of blood on his muzzle and a swollen appearance to his belly. He
had hunted and eaten well today.

"Glad someone had a good day today." Jack said letting his hand fall
on the wolfís head and lightly scratched behind the ears. The wolf
was not overly fond of being petted, although he endured it on
occasion, but he never objected to a good ear scratching. As if in
answer the wolf licked his lips. Jack laughed and the wolf followed
him in as he stepped inside.

The wolf looked up with a note of curiosity in his eyes when he spied
Linda helping Alice walk across the room toward the door, and the
girls stopped dead in their tracks eyes locked on the beast. They
stared at each other a moment before the wolf lost interest and
scouted out a nice cozy spot by the fire.

"Heís big!" Alice said, a touch of awe in her voice.

"That he is. What are you doing out of bed?" He said to Alice with a
hint of scolding in his voice, "And what are you doing aiding and
abetting?" He said to Linda in the same tone before he could get an
answer.

Alice smiled weakly. "Nature calls. I didnít want to make a mess in
your bed."

"I can get a bucket." Jack said quickly.

"No." Alice said quickly. "I need to get up and move a little. To
remind myself Iím still alive. I can manage with Lindaís help."

"Ten minutes." Jack said firmly. "And I donít like this idea one
bit."

"Ten minutes." Linda agreed. "I donít like it either, but I think
itís good sheís up and about."

As the girls left to answer natureís call Jack began to prepare
dinner. He had pulled a turkey and chicken out to thaw earlier, but
only the chicken was ready to prepare. It would eventually become a
fairly well cooked meal of chicken, rice and gravy, corn and green
beans. A feast compared to what he was used to, a drain on his
civilized rations to be sure, but he doubted the girls would find a
meal of roast moose half as palatable. And the longer he gave them to
get used to roughing it, the better off they would all be.

But then it wouldnít be to long at that. Heíd set off tomorrow and by
the end of the week, maybe two, a helicopter would whisk them off to
safety. For a moment he felt a little disturbed at that. After two
months since seeing his last human, he found the unexpected company a
little more than welcome. But he was disturbed only for a moment.
Alice obviously needed professional help. Up until this afternoon he
had been able to overlook her condition, but as he had talked with her
while Linda bathed, he realized she needed help as surely as if she
were seriously injured.

Soon he found himself dragging himself out of his thoughts and found
much to his surprise the hourglass had counted more than ten minutes
and was approaching 14. He frowned and threw on his coat. As he
opened the door the wolf looked up but Jack closed the door rapidly
behind him and the wolf gave a small snort and resumed his nap. It
had started to snow again, lightly though and Jack had little trouble
finding their trail. He called to them every few steps as he ran the
best that he could through the snow. Running in deep snow is little
more than jumping at a very slow pace.

Finally his call was answered, and he saw the beam of a flashlight
dead ahead. When they were close enough to talk Linda said, "Sorry,
it took longer than I expected to get all the way out there."

"Iím just glad thereís nothing wrong." Jack said as he quickly
stepped beside Alice, freeing Linda from her burden. They walked in
silence back to the cabin. Finally when Alice was seated in the big
easy chair before the fire and Linda was removing her coat and gloves
Alice said, "Lindaís right Jack, we canít ask you to go out in that.
I had no idea how bad it was."

Jack grunted and turned his attention back to preparing dinner. "I
think it needs to be done. Itíll probably be all right if itís a
normal birth, after all women gave birth all the time before there
were any doctors around. But if anything goes wrong, well a lot of
women died giving birth before there were any doctors around as well.
Donít worry, I can make it, and you two can carry on just fine without
me for a while."

"Jack." Linda started, but was unable to complete the thought.

"I said donít worry." Jack said. "The wolf will probably follow me,
heíll keep me out of mischief." He winked at her with a smile on his
face, though it was mostly for show and he hoped that his worry didnít
come through.

Linda drug the chairs out of the bedroom and placed them at the table
and then sat down as she watched Jack cook. After a while she asked,
"Why two chairs?"

Jack laughed. "In case one broke! But you never know when youíll
have company. In the thaw I see a few men pass through now and again.
Prospectors, hunters, or whatever. One or twoís sociable enough to
see who lives in the house smack dab in the middle of nowhere. So it
has itís uses."

Linda smiled then got up to check on Alice. When she returned she
said in a low voice. "Sheís asleep again."

"She really didnít need to be out in all that. A bucket would have
served.", Jack said.

"Probably, but I think she wanted to see what youíd have to set out
in. Iím serious Jack, donít go. Everything will be all right and
weíll muddle through somehow."

Jack signed. "Iím playing the odds. Odds are Iíll make it just fine.
But if I stay here I wonít be any help during or after the birth, in
the way would be a better way to describe it. If I go, and make it,
then everybody wins. If I go and fail, then thereís still good odds
it will be an uncomplicated birth and you two will be able to hole up
just fine until spring.. After that you can get on the ATV and head
due south until you Fairbanks, you really canít miss it. Even if you
drift a little youíll cross a road that leads there."

Linda sighed. She walked over and stood behind him as he stood at the
stove and hugged him, resting her head on his back. "Youíre a good
man Jack. Iíve never met a man like you, and Iíve looked a long
time." She said in a voice so low it was almost a sigh. Jack tensed
as he felt her hug, but he relaxed and just let himself enjoy it as he
stirred the vegetables.

Finally with the chicken roasting, the rice cooking, the vegetables
simmering, and the bread baking he found himself with little to do for
the next half hour but found himself still entwined in Lindaís
pleasant hug. She loosened her hold as he turned, but only guided his
feeble attempts to disengage until they stood face to face. She
looked up into his deep blue eyes and he returned the gaze into her
enchanted, emerald green eyes.

"How long?" She asked in a hushed voice that hinted of need mixed
with desire. "Ten years? More?"

Jack, terrified and incredibly electrified could only nod. As he
nodded she pulled herself even closer and stood on her toes, brushing
her lips softly against his. When she pulled back Jack found his head
following hers, pursuing the sweet touch.. When he pressed his lips
to hers, they parted slowly and the kiss turned passionate. His arms
enfolded her, caressing her back as he pulled her closer. It had been
so long, his pent up need so great he began to involuntarily grind
his hips against her, but she didnít pull back at this, if anything
she replied in kind. With a gasp and a sigh she pulled away, and
staring at him, pulled him by his hands into the bedroom.

Jack did not consider himself a creature of needs, that part of him
seemed to have died with his beloved Jill. He had had sex with other
women since her death, but it was only sex, nothing more. It was such
a pale imitation of what he had known that he had given up in disgust,
it had been eleven years since he had been this close to a woman. And
eleven years of need and desire filled his face as he tore off his
clothing.

Lindaís need was not as tangible but it was there. She had spent the
better part of her life futiley looking for a good, decent, and brave
man and such a man stood before her now and tomorrow there was a good
chance she would never see him again. The pain and fear of just
surviving a life threatening crash also burned in her. The need to be
held, to be touched, and to know she was alive coursed through her
veins as she disrobed as quickly as Jack.

They slipped under the covers quickly, in part for the need to
consummate what they had begun, in part because despite the warm fire,
there was still a bitter chill in the air. Linda noted with approval
that despite the beard and shaggy appearance of his face, his body was
fairly smooth with just a trace of chest hair. She also noted with
approval his well sized organ as he slid into bed next to her. They
kissed again his hands roaming across her ample breasts, cupping them,
feeling their fleshy softness, rediscovering the singular joys of a
woman. Feeling bold, and remembering past experiences, his hand
drifted down as he fingered her wet folds. As his hand approached,
Linda spread her legs to offer him a better feel.

He plunged two fingers into her, feeling the smooth wet lining press
against his skin, feeling it contract against his fingers. With his
thumb he lightly massaged her clit. Jill had always loved that, she
had taught him many things but especially how to do that right, how to
do it with style. For a brief uncomfortable moment the image of his
long deceased wife came alive for him, but as quickly as the image
came it faded as Lindaís own unique physique reminded him of who he
was with.

Lindaís hips started bucking as she sought the most possible contact
with his dancing fingers. She finally pulled him onto her, wanting
and needing more than even this most personal of contact. She guided
him into her, sighing as she felt him slide inside of her, and gasped
with pleasure when he pulled out and she realized she hit him just
right, or he was positioned just right for the swollen shaft to brush
along her clit as he moved.

Jack started slowly, but his need was a savage beast in his mind, and
thrust by thrust he yielded to that need, embraced it. Moving
furiously he thrust into her hard, retreated quickly, and thrust
again. Linda had begun by moving with him, against him but as he
became more savage she could only lean back and let the waves of
pleasure born from the furious contact wash over her. Her orgasm when
it came was as intense as anything she had ever known and made more
intense from Jack still filling her, still moving inside her. Her
hands folded into fists as she rode the surging waves of pleasure, her
breath pants and silent grunts as her body timed her breathing to the
waves of her pleasure. And when she came down, she came down in the
embrace of a lover whoís face looked down on her with savage
fulfillment. And she came down in the pleasure of being loved as
Jack reached his own climax.

His face contorted with an expression that was strangely reminiscent
of pain, he fell onto her as his moment arrived, burying his face next
to hers in the pillow, wrapping his arms under hers to grab her
shoulders, so that only when he raised his hips to prepare for
another impossibly deep thrust were they separated and even then by
only a few inches. Sensing his need she wrapped her hands around his
buttocks and with each thrust, pulled him into her, as he filled her
with the seeds of their lust.

When he was done he remained like that, holding fast to her, still
filling her. "Thank you." She whispered, running a finger down his
back. But in answer she heard a choked sob. Her arms wrapped around
him, holding him as he held her, trying to give him comfort in the
only way she could as it passed.

Finally he lifted his head from the pillow and rolled aside. "Iím
sorry." He said as he sat up on the bed. "I never expected to feel
like that again. Never to feel needed or loved like that."

In answer she squeezed his hand and smiled. "Youíre a great man Jack,
in every single way."

Jack smiled and said. "Iíd better see to dinner, itís probably
starting to char about now."

Linda laughed. "If I wasnít so hungry Iíd say let it burn to cinders,
but somehow we missed lunch today and Iím famished!"

Jack smiled as he put on his clothes. The bread crust was a little
crispy, but other than that dinner was perfect.. Alice ate in the big
easy chair while Jack and Linda smiled at each other sheepishly
between bites.

"You two are quiet." Alice called. "Is something wrong?"

"Just thinking." Linda replied with a wink.

"Is that what they call it now?" Alice laughed. Jack and Linda
turned beat red.

"Itís what polite, un-nosy, un-gossipy people call it, yes." Linda
answered.

"Ohhh." Alice said. "I was just wondering if I should sleep out here
tonight. The chair really is quite comfortable."

"That canít be good for the baby." Jack said quickly. "Youíd better
take the bedroom."

"Youíre probably right." Alice sighed. "Itís just nice to see Linda
happy for a change and with you leaving tomorrow, or has she managed
to change your mind?"

"Iím leaving." Jack replied, shifting uncomfortably at the womanís
frank discussion of what had always been an intensely private part of
his life.

"Ah well then." Alice said in a resigned tone. "After this wonderful
meal, and I do mean wonderful, I think it would be nice to cuddle up
next to the fire while I read a good book. No doubt the sheets need
to be changed, itís a big bed, it can be fitted better if the two of
you help each other out."

Jack and Linda looked at each other and broke into boisterous laugher
at the completely transparent innuendo.

"Yes." Linda said as she cast a considering gaze at Jack.. "I think
changing the sheets would be quite appropriate."

"Try not to be to quiet for my sake." Alice said. "This place is so
small you could hear a pin drop, and really David and I had quite a
good time being vocal."

Jack flushed as innuendo turned into a lecture. "Any other pieces of
advice?" Linda asked as exasperated as Jack.

Alice, relishing the joke, replied, "Why as a matter of fact I do.
David and I were quite adventurous we tried many different positions.
The best thoughÖ"

"Enough!" Linda cried, throwing up her hands. "Bad enough Iím going
to be with him and you listening to every grunt and moan, but the
thought of my sister having sex with anybody makes me want to throw
up!"

Alice quieted, admonished. "All right, perhaps I did go to far in the
joke. Itís just that after youíve been married a while, it doesnít
seem like such a big deal any longer. Itís easy to forget how
personal it can be. Iím sorry."

"Itís all right." Linda replied. "Iím sorry I got angry and spoiled
your joke. And I guess I havenít been around so many men that I
couldnít stand a pointer or two from someone so visibly experienced in
the matter."

Everyone laughed at that, and as Jack cleaned up the dishes he heard
their low whispers by the fire, broken by a few giggles. When he
turned to see if he could catch the source of their amusement he could
only see the wolf, who was sitting up, stare back at him with a
profound look of amused pity in his expression.

After a while, Linda came over and helped him finish up, giving him a
knowing wink as she approached. With Lindaís help the kitchen was soon
spotless and she joined him as he walked outside to dispose of the
trash, carrying the flashlight for him. After he had pitched the
water and the scraps they walked slowly back towards the cabin,
despite the inclination to hurry from the bitterly cold air. At first
they walked in a comfortable silence, just taking joy in being in the
otherís company. Yet a discomfort built as they neared the house.
The first time had been unplanned, natural, somehow right. This time
it would be different and Jack was keenly aware of that fact.

They hesitated at the door for a brief moment until Linda gave an
amused laugh and went inside. Jack lingered a brief second before
refilling the buckets with snow, dropping them by the door inside.
Alice was asleep or pretending to be in the big easy chair before the
fire. The wolf had curled up on the bear skin rug and was oblivious
to the world. Linda though stood by the bedroom door and smiled at
him as he started to walk over.

"Maybe we shouldnít do this." He said softly when he stood before
her. Her face fell, devastated and he wished he could take it back.

"Iím sorry." She stuttered. "I didnít mean to intrude into your life
like this."

"No." He said taking her hands in his. "You didnít intrude. The
first was but passion, the second though, that will mean something at
least to me. Iím not sure I could deal with what it would mean."

She smiled softly. "Then donít let it mean anything to you. Just an
evening of uncomplicated fun between two adults who need a bit of
uncomplicated fun at the moment." She stretched up and kissed him
lightly on the cheek.

Jack smiled warmly and returned the kiss as they stepped together.
The doubts and uncertainties were brushed aside as they walked into
the small bedroom and the door closed behind them. Though Alice had
provided several novel ideas, and there were certainly quite a few
things Linda would have liked to try, she, like Jack, played it by
ear, letting things happen naturally as unforced as they could manage.
The long lingering kiss at the bedside, turned to a long passionate
kiss in the bed, Jackís hands exploring her ample breasts, brushing
her erect nipples, Linda feeling the raw power of his strong back and
shoulders. When he was ready he moved on top of her and she guided
him in. As before he fit her in all the right places. Unlike before
the furious passion was no longer there, and it was replaced with a
gentle caring and simple enjoyment that was just as satisfying though
in perhaps a different way. They moved together, kissing now and
again, letting their hands roam when they felt the need, until
tenderness fell away to growing desire and slow gentle movements were
no longer possible. Jack reached climax first, as powerful and
evocative as his last, though Linda was right on his heels with her
own and when his movements slowed, her own picked up enough to reach
her own very pleasurable conclusion.

They held each other afterwards, basking in the glow of satisfaction.
And as the day had been long and the activities strenuous they drifted
off to sleep. After a few hours, Jack woke to feel himself warmly
enfolded within Linda who slept soundly beside him with a satisfied
smile on her face. Though comfortable like this beyond words, he
pulled away and Linda groaned in her sleep and thrashed a bit as he
got up. The cold air was a biter slap that quickly damped his
excitement and any thoughts of getting back into bed as he got
dressed.

He paused to place a few more logs on the fire before walking out to
where Alice still slept in the big easy chair. He shook her awake
slowly.

"Hmmm." Alice sighed as she stretched out a bit. Seeing Jack she
said softly. "Did you two have fun?"

"We did." Jack admitted. "You had better get to bed now. Youíve
been sleeping like this longer than is probably good for you."

"Having second thoughts about living like a hermit?" She pressed with
a twinkle in her eyes.

Jack sighed. "Yes and no. If I ever gave this up it would be for
her. But the thought of returning to that rat race is as bad as the
thought of this cabin without her." Alice put her hand on his
shoulder as he knelt beside her and gave him a sympathetic look.
"Damn it." Jack swore. "It was a mistake. I knew the second time
would be a mistake. The second time changes everything, always, even
when you try not to let it."

"You love her." Alice said softly, the note of loss just hidden behind the whisper.

"I need her." Jack said. "I like her. I lust for her. I never
thought it was possible to fall in love after only a day, but this is
the closest thing Iíve felt to love since Jill died."

"And when you bring help and Linda and I go back to Fairbanks, what
then?", Alice asked.

"Thatís the question then isnít it?" Jack asked. "I donít know."

"Youíd be good for her Jack." Alice said as she stood. "And I think
sheíd be good for you. However happy you may think you are here,
youíre not complete. But itís something you have to decide for
yourself in the end and Linda as well."

Jack helped her into the bedroom and into bed then returned to the
fire and settled into a dark and troubled sleep. He woke early and
set out a few things for breakfast, and prepared his pack with what he
felt he needed to make the journey. The wolf stepped outside with him
and they were both greeted with a heavy snowfall and biter cold air
that hovered at around minus fifty. The wolf looked up at Jack
doubtfully, but Jack gritted his teeth and checked his compass and
began to walk due south.

The wolf soon noticed that Jack was doing something unusual and walked
beside him. By the time Jack reached the tree line he was tired even
though he wore snow shoes. The cold and effort of moving in the feet
deep snow was no small thing. The trees offered some small comfort
from the wind but only added obstacles to his path, so that any
advantage gained was quickly lost. Partly to keep his mind off the
hard journey and how very long he had to go, he began to talk to the
wolf who listened patiently.

"A fine mess Iíve gotten myself into Iíll tell you that." Jack said
as they walked. "I should have bought a snowmobile years ago, and I
assure you itís going to be the first thing I do when I see the girls back to Fairbanks not that anything like this is bound to happen again
in the foreseeable future. I donít even know if Iíll have a future,
at least out here anyway. I thought I was happy here but suddenly I
find that the thought of not being around Linda is very disturbing.
But to go back out into the world again, to the nine to five job, to
not feel the sweat of my labors, to sleep in a house I didnít build, I
donít know. I really donít. The best of both worlds would be if
Linda would stay out here with me, but Iím not so far gone that I know
she couldnít bear the solitude and even if she did sooner or later
there would be children and this is no way to bring up kids."

He talked almost non-stop until the glow on the horizon indicated it
was noon, giving voice to any thought that went through is head. When
the distant glow retreated he fell silent for it had started to snow
heavily and it had grown noticeably colder. Even the wolf had started
running ahead making slow loping circles around Jack as it ran to
generate heat. For Jack, just walking was enough to keep the cold at
bay, though despite his mask and gloves he was always aware of the
cold in his extremities. When he had walked a full day he made camp.
A fire was completely out of the question. The snow was a good six
feet deep, any fire would sink and be extinguished. To dig down to
the ground would have consumed a full day. Those who had dubbed a
camp without a fire a cold camp, could never have imagined just how
cold a camp could be. Tired and exhausted Jack rolled out his
sleeping bag and munched on some granola bars he had brought. They
had frozen in his pack and a great deal of effort was required to eat
them. The wolf slipped away, either to hunt or to find a better place
to sleep Jack couldnít say.

While he had moved the cold had been kept at bay, but as he settled
into his sleeping bag the cold hit him with unrelenting fierceness.
It was a long night and when Jack woke shivering he found he had
overslept far past his usual waking time. He shivered and groaned for
he did not feel rested in the slightest. When he broke camp and
resumed his journey the Wolf was nowhere in sight.

It was noon when he spotted his companion again. The forest had given
way to a large pasture and the wolf stood still as a statue then he
pounced and dove his snout into the snow. He lifted his head and
stood still for a minute then pounced again. This time he held between
his powerful jaws a field mouse. With a few quick bites, the wolf
swallowed it whole. Then trotted up beside Jack.

"That actually looks a lot more appetizing than these granola bars my
friend." Jack said as he resumed walking.. The snow had relented but
replacing it was a harsh north wind. The temperature had fallen to
minus sixty. If the temperature fell only another fifty degrees the
very carbon dioxide in his breath would freeze. Each intake of breath
was a stab of exquisite pain, each exhale a precious loss of heat his
body would have to work hard to recover.

As evening arrived and he began to scout out another likely place to
camp, Jack was worried. He was now more than tired and cold, each
step had become an effort each breath a labor of will. The wind had
died down and the last of the clouds had fled leaving a beautiful star
filled view of the heavens. The aurora borealis began to play across
the endless night sky. Under other circumstances Jack would have
enjoyed the view, but he knew far to well that with no wind and no
clouds the temperature would only plummet further. Even the wolf felt
uncomfortable in these temperatures and he crawled into the sleeping
bag with Jack. They shared their warmth as they slept, as outside the
temperature dropped to minus eighty.

Jack woke to the dark cold of the arctic dawn. His watch said seven
AM, his eyes said midnight. From the rocky snow covered hill nearby
he knew exactly where he was. In two days of walking he had traveled
twenty miles. As he stared at the hill he considered hard his
options. He was in bad shape this morning. Despite the wolfís
company, the cold was finally beginning to get to him. At this rate
he would have another seven days of walking in the same weather. Ten
miles a day, even he had not dreamed of how hard the journey would be.
"Common boy." Jack said. "Weíre going home." The wolf perked up his
ears and there was a happy bounce in his trot as they headed north..

As Jack slept after a long third day of walking, Alice woke in the
early and shook Linda awake. "I had a contraction." She said
worriedly.

"Not now!" Linda exclaimed coming sharply awake.

"It canít be helped Iím afraid." Alice said. "It will probably be a
long time before anything really starts happening but I think we
should be ready."

Linda nodded agreement and together they waited.

The third day had been a bit easier as the temperature had risen
though to the naked skin there was little difference between minus
fifty and minus thirty, to a well dressed man on a long journey it was
a huge difference and he began to feel some of his energy return. The
cabin appeared in the evening of the forth day and the wolf beat him
to the door but just barely. Panting and exhausted he opened the door
and basked in the sudden warmth. Linda looked up sharply at the sound
of the door opening and relief was obvious on her face as she found
Jack standing there, then concern as she saw how pale and blue he was
as he removed his mask and gloves.

"I couldnít make it." Jack said, his voice filled with bitterness and
defeat. "It was harder than I even dared imagine."

"Come sit by the fire." Linda coaxed as she helped him remove his
coat. "You look awful it must have been terrible." A cry sounded from
the bedroom and Jack looked over startled then back to Linda. She
answered the unasked question. "A little after noon today. A boy,
and healthy as can be. Theyíre both doing just fine."

Jack smiled and rushed into the bedroom. Alice was sitting up in bed,
breast feeding a small child that was barely the length of her
forearm.

"Thatís the calvery for you always a day late." She said with a wink
as Jack walked in awed silence over to the bed never taking his eyes
of the small miracle.

"No calvery, just me." he said. "Iím sorry I just couldnít make it."

"Well no harm done. Iím just glad you made it back. We were very,
very worried for you." Alice beamed then said "Jack meet Jack. We
named him after you."

Jack fell into the chair stunned. "Iím honored." He said when words
returned. "He sure is active."

"Well all he seems to do is eat and sleep. But heís active enough
when heís eating. And speaking of eating and sleeping, I think you
need a bit of both."

"Sheís right." Linda said from the doorway. "You really are a mess.
Come on Iíll whip something up and you can tell me about your trip."

Jack got up and followed her, watching her speculatively as she began
to heat up some of the leftovers. "Not much to say really. It was
cold and miserable. When I figured I had only managed ten miles a day
there wasnít much hope of me reaching Fairbanks. I canít begin to
tell you what it was like."

"I can imagine. I was so worried for you when I saw how cold it got.
Iím glad you came back. I was afraid youíd be so bull headed that
youíd press on and get yourself killed." She choked at the last.

"Well Iím not highly regarded for my sanity." Jack said lightly,
feeling better as the warm room began to soothe his cold ravaged body.
"But I never had a particularly strong death wish. Mmmmm that smells
good."

"It was." Linda replied. "Youíve a veritable grocery out there and I
have a certain flair when it comes to cooking."

Soon enough she set a big heaping plate of mixed vegetables, turkey,
stuffing, and gravy before him as well as a large mug of coffee. He
wolfed it all down pausing only now and again to savor how great the
meal was when compared to the last four days of frozen granola bars.
Linda mixed up a bowel for the wolf and Jack was startled when the
wolf forwent his usual theatrics and wolfed down the meal. After he
was done the wolf walked over to Linda and rubbed up along side her
leg before turning to scratch out a place by the fire.

"Heís just a big overgrown puppy!" Linda laughed as Jack finished
what was on his plate.

"In some ways I guess." Jack replied, leaning back in his chair and
patting his swollen stomach. "That was a great meal. Thank you."

Linda smiled as she took the plate from the table and began to clean
it. Jack got up and went over to the big easy chair and settled down,
falling asleep almost as quickly as the weight left his feet. He was
momentarily disturbed a short while later when Linda crawled onto his
lap and snuggled next to him. He sighed, wrapped his arms around her
and returned to his dreams.

The next day Jack fashioned a crib for the baby for sleeping
accommodations would be scarce until that was done, and Jack certainly
didnít look forward to sleeping on the floor sleeping bag or not, and
while sleeping with Linda in his arms had been pleasant beyond words,
he work to stiff muscles and an aching back. Though it was rough and
would need more work over the following days, the crib served itís
purpose enough so that Linda and he would sleep in his bed that
evening while Alice and her child took the living room. Several
articles of clothing were sacrificed to make diapers and baby clothes,
fortunately Linda had a flair for sewing and Jack had a sewing kit in
his stores, though rarely used.

Life settled into a nice routine. Though it was the busiest winter
Jack had ever spent it was also his happiest and most rewarding. As
the sun finally began to appear if briefly in the sky, Jackís namesake
gained weight nicely and began to take an active interest in his
surroundings and most especially the wolf. They had all been hesitant
at how the wolf would react to the baby, and were relieved to find the
great beast walked on eggshells around the infant always keeping a
watchful eye open. When the day came that Jack crawled over to the
resting wolf, the wolf endured the weight as the child played with the
long shaggy hair. When Alice hurried over and separated the two the
wolf gave her a look that could only be interpreted as scolding.

The day was bright and pleasantly warm when Linda joined Jack as he
stared off over the field where the first green of spring was
beginning to push up through the melting snow. He shifted and put his
arm around her.

"Thinking?" She asked.

He nodded. "I could probably make it to Fairbanks in the ATV now."

"I know." She answered and they stood in the quiet.

"Itís been a good second life." Jack said. "Iíll miss it I think."

"You donít have to come back." Linda said with a note of sadness in
her voice.

"I could leave my first life because there was nothing there I wanted
or needed. Thatís not true any longer. I thought that I would never
find love again. I lost it once, I wonít loose it again." Jack said.
Then he turned to face her, staring into her eyes. "Linda Carter,
will you marry me?"

Tears sprang to her eyes and she hugged him. "Yes!" She cried. "Yes
I will!" There were tears in Jackís eyes as he hugged her back.

That afternoon he packed up his books, many of them unread this winter
and bound the boxes to the ATVís wagon. The wolf had been gone for
two weeks now and wasnít there the next morning to see him off. The
trip to Fairbanks this time was far easier and he made the journey in
two days, a little longer than the one day it normally took, but then
there was still snow on the ground and it was still deep in places.

"Morning Mrs. Jenkins." Jack said to the librarian as he hauled the
first of the boxes inside.

"Jack!" She cried rushing from behind the counter to give him a hug
after he had sat down the first box. "Youíre early this year."

"Been an eventful winter." Jack explained. "There probably wonít be
any more book drops." He spent the next hour explaining why over
coffee.

"Iím so happy for you I could bust!" Mrs. Jenkinís exclaimed when he
was finished. "Iíll miss your donations of course. But Iím so very
happy for you!"

They made their farewells and Jack drove over to the sheriffs office
and arrangements for an airlift were made. It took two trips, one for
the girls and supplies, one for the bodies of the two who had died in
the crash. Jack met his future in-laws after the chopper set down and
the girls stepped once more into civilization and the waiting arms of
parents who had all but given up hope that their children were still
alive. Jack talked with the sheriff while the family reunited and the
new grandparents fawned over their new grandchild.

"They really got lucky." The rotund sheriff said. "By rights they
should be dead."

"Two of them are." Jack said somberly. "But yes. If it had to
happen then how it did and how it all turned out is lucky for all of
us I guess."

"Congratulations by the way. Mrs. Jenkins sayís youíre getting
married."

"Thank you." Jack replied.

Finally Lindaís parents walked over to them. Her father stuck out his
hand and shook it furiously then her mother with tears still in her
eyes pulled him in to a hug. Linda stood just off to the side
watching with a smile on her face. As they waked away Jack cast one
last longing gaze northward as the sound of a lone wolfís distant howl
penetrated the sounds of people and machines, then put his arm around
Lindaís waist and whispered a sweet nothing in her ear.

-Sandman

Change is the heartbeat
the breath
the blood coursing
the body moving.

All life is change
without change there is no life
no emotion
no feeling
no movement
no experience

Why then do men fear change?
For it brings good with the bad
pleasure with pain
safety with fear
love with anger.
Also by Sandman:
The Choice (1/1/98) (bi) (M/F) (MM) (FF) (MM/FF)
The Case (1/2/98) (sci-fi) (M/F) (MM) (V-violence)
Stranded (1/3/98) (bi) (M/F) (MM) (FF) (MM/F)
Sorrows End (1/7/98) (M/F) (Romantic)
*Steve Whiley#1-Double Blind (M/2xHermphrodite)

* Being Edited - unpublished.

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