Author's Note: This one appeared almost in it's entirety a couple of days ago. It's short and sweet, and I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it. Manuxinhace, beta and muse extraordinaire, say's it's good to go - I'll take her word for it ;-)
For the loyal followers out there: yes, I'm still working on Layers, and the final chapter of the Devious series, just a bit slower... Life has gone completely bonkers, and I've had less than zero free time to stop and scratch my head, let alone write much. I hope you'll forgive the (lengthy) delay between updates. Anyhoo... let me know what you think of this fluffy one.
Lightning split the sky, a deafening rumble following hard on it's heels. The heavens opened up, sheets of rain slashing down in wave after torrential wave. The fat drops hit the broad leaves so hard a fine spray outlined the foliage, the jungle humming with life - all now sodden, and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.
Under the marginal shelter of a tree, Johnathan Roy* (JR to his squad mates) Castle waited, cursing as the icy trickle of water crept down his spine. Flexing his fingers around the grip of his rifle, he absently ran the tip of his finger across the trigger guard. Shifting, he scratched at his chin, the soft rasp of his nails against the three-day stubble inaudible over the din of the rain. His eyes probing the darkness ahead, he sighed in frustration. Flipping his NV goggles into place, he blinked twice as the world in front was revealed in shades of pale green. At least able to see further than the end of his arm, he eased forward slowly, senses on high alert.
Through the dense greenery, he saw the walls of the compound - thick, high crumbling concrete, moss and vines taking hold where the materials had begun to crumble. His intel said that the facility had been built back in the seventies, but given the state it was in, he'd have believed them if they told him it'd been there a good half-century longer. Approaching cautiously, he strained his ears, the cacophony of the storm masking not only his approach but any hint of what lay inside. The last confirmed reports had estimated between six and ten hostiles - and his target.
Wiping the back of his forearm across his brow, he shook the water from his face and sighed.
"Should've listened more carefully…" He muttered to himself. "It'll be fine, they said. No sand at all, they said…" Rolling his eyes in a move his father swore must be genetic, the young Major Castle drew a deep breath and let it out slowly. Easing himself into position, he had lifted his foot barely an inch off the jungle floor when the sky ahead of him lit up. The harsh glare of the floodlights split the darkness, the actinic brightness searing the silhouettes of the trees onto the back of his eyeballs. Blinking rapidly, he cursed as the flickering shadows indicated movement of people - lots of them.
"Oh, for cryin' out loud..." He groused, flicking the safety off. Tucking the stock in close to his shoulder, he braced himself for the inevitable storm that approached with every passing second. Eyes probing the shifting jungle, ears straining for the first hint that he'd been spotted, JR forced a slow, steadying breath as he made out the first indistinct enemy barely twenty feet away.
Sighting carefully, he eased his finger onto the trigger, the calm, methodical squeeze his sole focus. That was why, when the hand dropped onto his shoulder from behind, he nearly jumped out of his skin.
"Inside... now!" The barked order hit him like a bucket of ice-water, his spine straightening up despite the hours spent hunched over. turning to face his captor, he met the firecly flashing eyes of his mother, her lips set in a thin, disapproving line.
Busted. He thought ruefully, his attention now turned to escape - or at least a good excuse.
Her grip never wavering, Kate Castle spun him around and marched him back to the house, pausing only to turn the sprinkler system off at the tap. Letting his hands fall from the toy rifle slung with careful attention to detail over his shoulder, Johnathan flipped his brand new night-vision goggles up, the green glow fading from his eyes. No longer the steaming jungle depths of the Congo on a last-ditch rescue mission, the back garden of their Hamptons house teased him with adventures as-yet undiscovered. Frog-marched back inside by his mother, he resigned himself to putting his toys away, followed almost certainly by a scolding and hot bath.
Wordlessly pointed towards the bathroom, where he noticed, the tell-tale wisps of steam from the bath he'd been avoiding spoke of a punishment only ever delayed, he slouched down the hall, defeated. Her lips twitching into an amused grin now that her wayward offspring was not there to see it, she let out a quiet chuckle. Making her way back the lounge, she flopped onto the couch next to her husband. Already holding out a refilled glass of wine, he raised his eyebrow, enquiring:
"What was he doing this time?" Shaking her head, she took a sip of her drink and replied, amusement threading through her tone.
"He had the sprinkler on, and was creeping through the shrubs in his raincoat, carrying his rifle and his new goggles on. The jungle somewhere, I bet..." She nudged her husband playfully. "I knew he was gonna be trouble, Rick, when we let him read the Storm comics, but the goggles? Yeah..." She laughed, placing her glass back onto the coffee table. Wrapping his arm around her shoulders, Rick ran his lips lightly across hers and murmured,
"We are going to so screwed when he discovers girls, if Derrick is his role model..."
The burst of joyous laughter that spilled from her echoed through the house, filled with the flickering orange light of the fire, and the warmth that flowed between them.
"Oh, God! Don't jinx it..."
In the bathroom, the sound of his mothers' happiness meant JR relaxed a fraction, his wet, muddy clothes a discarded heap on the floor as he clambered into the bath, his mind already spinning as he plotted his next adventure.
Next time... He plotted, the maniacal laugh more suited to a cartoon villain than a hero, but hey, what more could you expect from the descendant of Martha Rogers? Good, bad, or somewhere in between - it didn't matter as long as you had flair.
* Johnathan (John being a combination of the masculine form of Johanna, and well, Nathan) Roy (for both Montgomery and Royce). I picture him as being maybe 8 years old at this point, with an unruly mop of caramel blonde hair, and an inherited mischievous twinkle in his eyes.