O's Author Notes: Due to the overwhelming demand and very much appreciated reviews, I finally came up with a continuation for this little saga. I like a challenge, and since I really didn't know how or if I was going to continue this, it took me quite a while to figure out a storyline. If you are looking for the reason of the 'paired mission', well frankly, it isn't explained in great detail, because that is not the purpose of the story. evil grin Anyway, thanks to all of the reviews the first time around and to all of you who urged me to continue this. I hope to meet your expectations with this chapter, maybe even exceed them (I can only try).

O's disclaimer: General disclaimers apply here. I don't own GI Joe, but boy, do I wish I did. Nor do I own any rights to James Bond and any references made to 007. I also make no money from this fic; please don't sue.

Huge thank you goes out to Scarlett Phoenix for beta-reading this for me and some other additions and ideas to the story that she helped me with.

Chapter 2 - The Dance

Scarlett finished packing her bag and laid the carry-on garment bag across the back of the sofa. Lady Jaye sat in the recliner, facing her friend.

"Are you sure you don't need any pointers for this upcoming assignment?" Jaye asked with a raised eyebrow and a twinkle in her eye.

Without looking at Jaye, Scarlett shook her head and brushed aside the unruly curls. Her once straight, red hair now had a deep, dark brown tint and was temporarily curled into tight, spiral swirls. This latest assignment called for a change in appearance, and since she refused to cut her hair, the change of hair color and style was the only other option. The curls would be gone after she washed it, and the coloring would eventually fade away.

Jaye laughed at her friend, who was swatting at the stray curls that refused to stay behind her ear. Cursing mildly, Scarlett huffed, "How do women stand this? At least, let me put this back into a ponytail or something." She glanced over at her friend, who was holding her sides from laughing so hard. "Go on and laugh. It's not funny. Y'all wonder how I survived boot camp and all. Well, it wasn't with this curly mess. Give me the straight and long, no fuss, no muss."

Scarlett retreated to her bedroom for a few more items. Upon her reentrance into the room, Jaye's laughs had subsided. "I think you look like the perfect southern belle with those curled locks. Now, are you sure," Jaye started to say as she got up and approached Scarlett, "That you don't need any pointers for this assignment?"

Annoyed, Scarlett replied, "Allie, you just asked me that question. I've been on plenty of undercover missions. I think I know what I'm doing." Casting a look at Jaye, she finally caught the gleam in Jaye's eye and the sly smile that was forming on her friend's lips. Scarlett began to chuckle to herself, grasping the reality of the question and its ulterior motive, "Allie, don't even start with me. I don't need your help. Why would I need your help? Duke and I are only friends."

Jaye interrupted her, "Oh yes, blah, blah, blah, the old 'We are only friends, nothing is gonna happen', story. Sister, you may be fooling yourself into believing that song and dance, but trust me, you ain't fooling me or the team. And," she added with a warning, "I can assure you that Duke has more on his mind than just this mission, so you better be prepared."

As a look of shock crept across her face, Scarlett demanded more information. "What do you mean? What do you know that I don't?"

"Nothing concrete, but our First Sergeant Hauser did have a say in who would be tackling this assignment." Meeting Scarlett's stare, Jaye placed her hands on her hips and continued, "Doesn't it seem strange that you and he are doing this mission, and not, well, shall we say, the resident, 'wanna be' actress?"

Rationalizing Jaye's revelation, Scarlett retorted, "Yes, it does seem strange that you and Flint are not handling this, but I figured Hawk was still pissed at Flint for that botched raid, and the nature of this task rules out Snake Eyes being my partner. Plus, I think Hawk is still upset at Snakes for blowing our cover on the last assignment." She hesitated as a thought crossed her mind. "Wait a minute. Are you trying to tell me that it wasn't Hawk's idea to pair Duke and I together?"

Jaye shook her head and smiled, "Now, don't be putting any words in my mouth. All I know is that Hawk is still miffed by the results of the last two missions, and I haven't really been ranking high on the General's list lately, especially after that little mishap in the training room. So, you come up with your own conclusions." The twinkle in Jaye's eye only sparkled brighter as she finished her explanation.

A rush of anxiety overcame Scarlett, and she flopped on the sofa, sighing, "Allie, this is not good."

"What are you afraid of, Shana? Duke has taken an interest in you since the first day he walked on base."

"No, he..."

"Don't interrupt me. And yes, he has. You know it's true. Plus, you definitely haven't been avoiding him lately either." Jaye loved adding fuel to the fire. It was repayment for all the times that Scarlett had made her life miserable until she either patched things up with Flint or accepted Flint's apology.

"Allie, we work together. It's our job."

"Phooey, Red. You're just not accepting the truth. You two have a connection, and since you insist on having blinders on, I'm meeting you head on and taking them off." The unbelievable chemistry between Scarlett and Duke was the one thing that the resident counterintelligence specialist neglected to notice.

A knock on the door silenced Scarlett's attempted rebuttal. Jaye opened the door to find none other than Flint and Duke on the other side of it. "Right on time, guys. I think we have our little decoy pumped and ready for action," Jaye winked as she gave Scarlett a playful smile.

Scarlett just stared at the two guys. How was she ever going to pull this assignment off when her mind was definitely not one hundred percent focused on the task at hand?

Duke's mouth gapped open as he eyed Scarlett with her new hairstyle. The curls made her almost unrecognizable. Of course, he had his own changes in his appearance, although most of them wouldn't come into play until 'showtime'.

Scarlett gawked at her new partner before saying, "How did you get that tan so quickly?"

Duke rolled his eyes and shrugged, "Cover Girl had some fake 'tan in a can' goop that she sprayed on me for this tan. I think she went overboard, but I suppose the black wig will go better with the deeper tan. I'm starting to get a complex 'cuz everyone keeps telling me that I look like a 'surfer dude'. Even Torpedo commented that I would kind of blend with the surfers in Hawaii," Duke quipped.

Scarlett bristled slightly at the mention of Cover Girl helping Duke with his tan. She then silently berated herself for the thought. Duke was unattached; no one woman had a claim to him. She sighed heavily, and then noticed Flint and Jaye laughing at Duke's comment. She quickly refocused and mentally replayed Duke's comment. She chuckled at the 'surfer' comment. He did look like the surfer type with his blond hair and tan body. Thank goodness he would have a wig to make his appearance more refined; although, his tanned skin tone would not enhance her pale complexion.

"Well, if you two are ready, Hawk wants me to escort you to the airport," Flint informed the two undercover agents.

"I've got everything that I'm going to need," Scarlett said as she stood and folded her garment bag into its neat,compact carry-on size. Duke grabbed her bag and complained about its weight. Normally, Scarlett would have retaliated with a slap to his arm or some other mischievous action; but enlightened with the information that Lady Jaye had just revealed to her, she opted to ignore his comment.

The four of them left the female quarters and headed towards Flint's Jeep, which sat at the end of the building. The Warrant Officer whispered to Jaye, "Are you sure you don't want to come with me?"

Running her fingers up his arm, Jaye leaned close to Flint's ear and replied, "No, I'm on duty in a half-hour, but I've got the place all to myself tonight. I might need a guard to chase away the big, bad snakes," she teased.

Flint gave her his lopsided smile and whispered in her ear, "Count on it."

Duke got in on the passenger side, and Scarlett climbed into the back seat. As Flint jumped in the driver's seat and put the Jeep in gear, Jaye waved good-bye to them. She mouthed to Scarlett, "You owe me." Scarlett glared at her friend as they drove away but couldn't shake the apprehensive feeling surrounding this mission.

The ride to the airport was quiet, and Flint let his passengers off at the curbside drop off. "You kids have fun. Don't forget what the nature of the assignment is," he said with a wink as he drove off.

Scarlett glanced at Duke and noticed that he was less than thrilled with Flint's comment. Through all the anxieties that Scarlett felt, a sly smile formed on her lips. Maybe she wasn't the only 'pawn' in this game. Catching a glimpse of his partner's smile, Duke grinned back at her, and they both headed inside to get their boarding passes.

The flight to Los Angeles was non-eventful, and in between pleasant conversation and various reading materials, the time passed quickly. Once they arrived in LA, they took ataxi to their hotel.

After checking into the hotel, they made their way to their rooms. Duke's room was two doors down and across the hall from Scarlett's. In front of Scarlett's hotel room, he said, "I'll be back at 1800 hours. I'll pick you up, then we can head to the ball. Will that be enough time for you to get ready?"

Glaring at him, Scarlett retorted, "Yes, that's plenty of time. It's two hours. Jeez," she exclaimed as she disappeared into her room.

Duke chortled to himself while he made his way down to his room. What was it about that woman? Why was her attitude so intriguing to him?

Inside her room, Scarlett unzipped the compact garment bag and hung it on a hook. She removed her makeup and travel bag from one of its compartments and straightened her dress. The dress had a few creases that needed to be ironed out.

As she busied herself with smoothing out her dress, she suddenly realized that the dress, mostly backless with delicate spaghetti straps, had some other straps that would need to be fastened across her shoulder blades. There was no way that she could fasten the hooks by herself; assistance would be needed. Scarlett, who was instrumental in selecting the dress, knew those cumbersome straps were not part of the requested alterations. She figured that her beloved roommate had tampered with her dress, and she would have to remember to kill Jaye for this.

----(Two hours later)----

A knock at Scarlett's door and a glance at the clock assured her that the time had come. It was now or never. She answered the door to reveal a striking Sergeant Hauser, looking mighty handsome in his tuxedo and fake mustache. The wavy black hair definitely toned down his tan body, and the green contact lenses gave his eyes that mysterious look.

Duke was surprised by the sight before him and eyed his partner with concern. "Are you okay? I thought this was a 'black-tie' affair not a 'toga'," he teased as his eyes traveled across the bathrobe that she still wore. Her hair was neatly arranged, pulled back from her face, and secured by an emerald hair clip. A few wisps of curls gracefully framed her face as the remaining soft, loose curls cascaded down her back.

Scarlett stammered her reply and gave him a half-smile. "I am ready, except for the dress. I need some help with the back. Give me two minutes." She hurried into the bathroom and shut the door, not waiting for his response nor noticing his devilish smile. Her heart was beating wildly, and she had to settle her nerves.

Taking a deep, calming breath, Scarlett slipped off her robe and pulled on the dress. She zipped the lower zipper and made sure that all vital parts of her body were covered before she exited the bathroom, holding the bodice in place until Duke could fasten the straps.

Surprised at her speed, he quipped, "That was fast. How come all women can't get dressed that quick?"

"I'm not all women, and I've had plenty of practice: One bathroom, three brothers, my father, the Army, and a roommate."

Scarlett turned her back to him as Duke chuckled at her answer. With her free hand, she pulled her hair to the side so that Duke could easily see the hook-n-eye that the straps needed to attach themselves to.

As Duke's hands brushed her silky skin, she shivered ever so slightly and caught her breath. He fumbled with the clasp. Whether his sudden growth of all thumbs was on purpose or not, no one would ever know. He finally managed to securely fasten the two straps. Scarlett released her hair and said thank you as she slipped back into the bathroom to put the final touches on her outfit and grab the matching scarf that accompanied the dress.

Once again in a short amount of time, she exited the bathroom, looking quite elegant and beautiful. The emerald green evening gown matched the jeweled clip in her hair. Her eyes, now colored with hazel contact lenses, shimmered as they reflected the color of her dress. Scarlett slipped on her matching stiletto heels.

Duke gave an appreciative whistle as he motioned her to do a little twirl. She smiled and obliged, trying to find that comfort zone that they so easily had with each other and to forget the embarrassing moment of her dress problem.

Grabbing her small handbag, Scarlett said, "I'm ready if you are?"

"Are you packing?" Duke asked as he nervously played with his tuxedo pocket.

"Always," she answered with a smile. She had a small pistol strapped to her lower left thigh, right above the knee, and a dagger strapped to her right thigh. "You?"

He nodded as he lifted his pant's leg to reveal his pistol strapped to his left ankle. "I've got one more accessory that you need for tonight before we leave," he announced, sounding slightly a bit unsure of himself.

Scarlett raised a brow while she watched him take a small box out of his tuxedo pocket and hand it to her. Opening it, she gasped with surprise. It was a beautiful locket with a tiny emerald jewel in the center on a fine gold chain. "Duke, it's beautiful, but...?"

"I wanted to give you something, just because," he interrupted her as he took the necklace and moved behind her to place it around her neck.

Scarlett once again pulled her hair up out of the way so that he could clasp the delicate closure. As Duke laid it against her neck, it slid down to its intended length. It complimented her dress nicely. "Thank you, Duke. It's beautiful," she said as she eyed herself in the mirror.

"Your welcome. You look beautiful tonight." Pulling out his fake glasses to complete his disguise, Duke asked, "Are we ready to go to the ball?"

Nodding her head, Scarlett graciously smiled at him. She grabbed her handbag and key, and they headed out the door. "Here, would you mind keeping this safe?" Scarlett asked Duke as she handed him her key.

He took it and placed it in his pocket with his key. "Don't you want to put it in your handbag?"

Scarlett shook her head and smugly explained, "Never a good idea to put your personal belongings in your handbag at one of these functions. You never know where your bag may end up." She held back a smile as Duke chuckled. The two made their way down the hall to the elevator.

----(Later)----

The banquet was a success, and even though Destro and the Baroness had shown up, no other signs of Cobra existed. Duke and Scarlett made themselves as inconspicuous as possible and made sure to avoid the two Cobras. Even though they were both in disguise, they didn't want to take any chances. Eye and hair color changes were effective, but the Baroness was enemy intelligence - clever and untrusting.

The limo ride back to the hotel went quickly as Duke and Scarlett talked about the party and the information that they were able to gather. Duke joked with Scarlett that he felt like James Bond.

"How's that?" She asked.

"Dressed up in this monkey suit, concealed weapons on my leg, a fake mustache and wig, which by the way itches like crazy, and these darn fake glasses. But, the beautiful woman on my arm all night made it all worthwhile," Duke said as he flashed her a playful smile.

Scarlett's cheeks flushed with color as she quipped, "007 always had the beautiful ladies, ingenious weapons, and inventive spy equipment."

Duke's eyes sparkled, then as an afterthought, remembering the real reason of this assignment, said, "Oh, and the two microchips of computer data, Istole from our host's computer. Mr. Bond always seemed to be swiping something from his host, you know."

Scarlett laughed. The minutes that Duke disappeared to go hack into the computer system were the longest minutes of her life. Even though he was only gone five minutes, it seemed like five hours.

The limo dropped them off at the hotel, and Duke tipped the driver and wished him goodnight. As the duo made their way to their rooms, the conversation faded into silence. Standing outside of Scarlett's room, Duke fished out her key and opened her door. "Thank you, kind sir," Scarlett said in her best southern drawl.

Duke chuckled at her dialect and said, "Anytime, Ms. Scarlett," putting the correct emphasis on the syllables to make it sound straight out of the movie, Gone With the Wind. He got a playful jab in the ribs for his mockery since it was common knowledge that she hated any reference to that movie.

"What time is our flight tomorrow?" Duke asked her.

"1100 hours," she replied with a glance as the clock. It was already midnight.

Duke glimpsed around the room and said, "Well, if my services are no longer needed here, I'll be saying goodnight so that you may get your beauty sleep."

"Thank you for a lovely evening. Even though it was business, I still had a wonderful time," she honestly revealed.

"My pleasure, Milady," he said as he gave her a deep bow and headed out the door.

He was almost to his door when he heard her door open behind him and her hasty whisper, "Duke, I need your help." In her exhaustion, she had forgotten that she needed assistance with her dress and its purposely placed, out-of-reach straps.

Duke returned with a smile; he had remembered that her dress had some hidden agendas but didn't want to say anything and come off to forward. When it came to his job, he was a gentleman, not 007.

As he reentered her hotel room and the door shut behind him, she said, "I forgot about this dress. Would you mind undoing the straps?"

Duke obliged her wishes and gently moved her hair across her back, sweeping it off to the side of her neck. His fingers were behaving themselves this time, and he expertly unfastened each tiny clasp. Scarlett had moved her hand up to the bodice to keep the dress in place. She could feel his breath on her neck as he whispered in her ear, "Do you need any more help with your dress?"

Although temptation beckoned her, Scarlett shook her head. As she slowly turned towards him, he let his hand caress her back and shoulder. Duke had no idea what possessed him to whisper his offer of additional help to her, but he gazed into her hazel eyes as she stared into his green eyes. He trailed his fingers along her collarbone, tracing a path up to her neck. Using his free hand, he brushed back some stray strands of hair, which had fallen out of the hair clip.

With an ever so gentle forward tug by his fingers on her chin, he brought her face closer to his. Months of longing and daydreams caused the two participants in this game of 'cat and mouse' to finally give into their desires. Their lips met tenderly at first, but then eagerly, their tongues began to explore each other.

The willing 'pawns' both knew that they were involved in one of the most breathtaking and passionate kisses that either one of them could remember for a long time. Pulling apart slowly, smiles were on each one of their faces. "Goodnight, sweet Shana. Pleasant dreams," Duke said as he backed away from her and exited the room. Scarlett touched her lips and smiled. They both knew that this night could have ended very differently, but they needed to take things slowly. Their jobs put them at a very large disadvantage. If not handled with extreme caution, this new relationship could prove to be very complicated.

The End

O's Ending Note: Yes, Duke and Scarlett have blue eyes, not green and hazel. The eye colors were part of the disguise. (just in case you missed that part) Secondly, a little teaser for you - a sequel titled "The Pearl", rated R (for romance & lots of it), will be coming soon.

I hope you enjoyed this. Thanks for reading and don't forget to drop me a review.