Eventually, they made their way back to their pallet, wrapping themselves in half of the moving blanket and both thermal ones. The cold was painful, little knives prickling their skin. The power ran out several hours later, the emergency light flickering weakly before snapping off pitching them into total darkness. The heat quickly evaporated.
Jack pulled Carter closer to him trying to give her every last ounce of body heat he had. Her teeth chattered into his chest and neither of them could stop shaking. This was so not how he imagined the end. He wasn’t sure how it was possible but he gripped her tighter, burying his face into the crook of her neck. Her breath was warm against his skin. He felt her ball her fists into his shirt and tried to ignore the slight wetness he felt that he knew were tears. She was trying to hide it but if there was ever a time to let your emotions show wasn’t this one of them: cold permeating every pore of their bodies, stomaches growling loudly, giant killer cats scratching at the door… it didn’t get any worse.
After a while, her breathing evened out and the chattering stopped. Which even Jack’s sluggish brain knew was bad. He gripped her tighter. He felt funny, being so at ease about their deaths, relaxed even. Hell, if he had to go what better way than in the arms of the woman he… And yet he still couldn’t bring himself to utter the words. That pang of regret slammed into the pit of his stomach, turning it sour. Last chances, he told himself.
Pushing down his sudden anxiety, he pulled away from Carter’s nearly still body. She instantly moved with him, trying to stay with the little warmth he provided.
“Carter,” he said softly. She fought to open her eyes. “Sam,” he murmured into her ear. She lifted her head to look at him but she looked a little dazed and Jack realized he might have missed his chance. She was already pretty far gone. He swallowed hard and reached up with his good hand to push her hair out of her face. “I need to tell you something.”
She frowned at him. “Wha, sir?” Her words were fractured and slurred and her eyes slid shut again.
Oh, god, Jack thought, this was so much harder than he imagined. He let her head fall back against his chest and pressed his lips to the top of her head. “I’m so sorry, Carter.”
“Me too,” she mumbled.
Jack wasn’t even sure she knew where she was anymore. “Don’t worry about it, Carter. I’ll tell you in the morning.” She nodded into his chest, snuggling up against him again. Jack finally felt the flush of hot tears on his face. He turned into her, letting them fall softly onto her shoulder. He guessed he’d have to live with this one regret just a little while longer. It would be his last, he thought.
He laid there for a long while, growing colder and colder, listening to Carter’s raspy breaths. Terror gripped him as he considered that he might actually have to listen to her take her last one and hoped he’d finally pass out from hypothermia before that. Slowly his mind grew foggier, sounds and feeling dulled by the cold. He tried to wet his lips but found he couldn’t get his tongue to work anymore and finally, mercifully, the world started to fade around him.
He wasn’t sure if it was his dying brain or if he imagined it or not but he was sure the last thing he heard was, “I’m here, Jack.”
(a sequel is in the works)