TITLE: Signals

AUTHOR: Phax_Halfelven

SUMMARY: A short Beach Head and Cover Girl story. Some Drama and some fluff.

DISCLAIMER: GI Joe doesn't belong to me I don't claim it does please don't sue.

DEDICATION: For Slayne who taught me appreciation for the less popular Joes.

Prologue

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Sunlight filtered through the murky windows making the rays into a dim green light in the large room full of workers. The noises of machinery ebbing and flowing like the tides of battle. Harsh voices of guards berating workers who weren't fast enough, the snap of a belt across someone's shoulders and the screaming that faded to whimpers.

She watched the woman who'd been hit continue working through the pain with tears flowing down her face. It was worse to stop. Prisoners made that mistake only once. They learned to work through no matter pain, nor fear, nor the commands of the guards. She wondered absently how long she'd been here. Days? Weeks? Long enough for the mind numbing work to do it's job and erase all but a few images from before; a pair of kind blue eyes in a stern face. She didn't recognize the face. Red hair flowing like a river in the wind, it wasn't her hair. Her hair wasn't nearly that long, nor that color. Neither was it like the next image curly and disheveled. Another image, a black beret with a Special Forces patch. A cowboy hat through the windshield of a Tomahawk lifting off the ground.

The last images, the green balaclava, golden hazel eyes the only feature visible, looking down on her into her own eyes. The fear in those striking eyes that seemed out of place and a name that went with the eyes. Wayne.

In her inattention, her hand slipped and the metal she was cutting, cut back. The skin of her palm split and bled; she ignored the pain and the blood, kept working. Auburn locks fell into her face; she pushed them back with the injured hand darkening the strands with her blood.

.....Three months earlier.

Conrad Hauser, AKA Duke, walked the perimeter of the obstacle coarse with their resident drill sergeant, Beach Head. The green uniformed man took a moment to curse a couple of Joes back into action. "COME ON, CANDY ASS, MOVE IT! 'ZOOKS, MY DEAD GRANDMOTHER CAN RUN FASTER THAN YOU CAN! LADY JAYE, GET OUTTA THAT MUD THIS AIN'T NO SPA, MOVE YOUR ASS!

Duke choked back a laugh at Jaye's acid retort. "Do the world a favor Beach, go out and get laid."

"Is that an offer, CORPORAL!" Beach spat back.

"In your dreams," Jaye's eyes rolled.

"More like nightmares if you're involved. NOW, GET IT IN GEAR, OR I'LL HAVE YOU RUNNING LAPS 'TIL YOU DROP." They kept walking, around to the scaling wall, "CINDERELLA GET OVER THAT WALL NOW! THIS AIN'T NO FASHION RUNWAY IT'S A TRAININ' COURSE." Cover Girl shot Beach the finger, but tackled the wall in record time, for her, and moved on to the next obstacle. Beach hardly took a breath before moving on to the next Joe in line. "HIT THE DIRT, PRETTY BOY, GET UNDER THOSE WIRES!" Flint shot a look that promised a report for insubordination, but passed under the wires moving ahead of Shipwreck and Stalker who were in front of him.

Duke nodded his satisfaction and watched the group finish the course. "Good work people, hit the showers and grab some lunch. Most of you have a session with Scarlett at 14:00 hours. I will be there so don't be late."

Beach Head followed them off the course but went to his office instead of the showers. He hadn't been the one over heating in the muck and mud, and he had work to do. Ten minutes or so later a knock on the door brought his paperwork to a halt. "What in the hell do you want, Gung Ho," Beach was not amused at the big marine's interruption.

"Nuthin' much, Sarg, just wonderin' if you'd like to tag along with some of us off base tonight. We're tired of the rec room, so we're headin' to the usual spot."

"No, good buddy I'm on duty tonight, late watch." He glanced at the clock. "In fact I need to get this finished, so I can grab a bite and get back to my quarters by 18:30." He grinned behind the green balaclava, "Thanks for the offer though."

"No problem, maybe next time."

"Count on it." Gung Ho wandered away. Beach returned to work it was 12:45 hours. By 16:50 hours Beach was done, had squared away his desk, it was immaculate anyway, and had a meal. Walking down to his quarters he paused when he noticed the television on in the rec room, the lights were out and he couldn't see anyone on the couch. Beach Head entered muttering harshly about careless idiots wasting energy by leaving the TV going. He reached over the back of the sofa feeling for the remote in the dark, but his hand landed on something other than couch cushion. It was a body, soft and warm, and relaxed. A feminine voice cut through the low volume of the television.

"If you wanted to cop a feel, Beach, all you had to do was ask." Cover Girl's voice held her amusement in check, but only just barely.

"Sorry, Krieger, didn't think anyone was in here watchin'. Pretty much everyone is still on duty for another couple hours."

"Everyone but the night shift." She stretched like a cat and sat up, the light from the TV shadowing her face and hair. "So, how's my PT score look."

"Damn high, looks like those extra sessions are payin' off. Jaye and Flint were the only ones out there today with higher." His thick southern accent was pleased with her improvement.

"About time, I thought I'd be gray before it started to show. Where you headed?" She leaned back on the arm of the couch to look up at him. He'd be lying if he said he didn't notice the way her tank top clung to and pulled at her curves nicely, but then he wouldn't say anything about it in the first place.

"Headin' to my billet to get some sleep before I go on duty in a little over four hours. I've got rounds tonight, officer in charge and all."

"I'm in control tonight. I know, I know, you already knew that. I'll see ya in there." He nodded and let her get back to the show. On his way back to his quarters he let his mind wander over the team members and he realized that of all the other Joes, Cover Girl was both the easiest and hardest to get along with. Beach head admired her sense of humor, and enjoyed the fact that she gave as good as she got.

Not that Jaye and Scarlett didn't, but they didn't do it with him. Jaye, he figured, had to much at stake to risk pissing him off, and Scarlett just plain didn't get along with him most of the time. On the job they made a hell of a team, when paired, but she was usually partnered with Duke. He suspected that Scarlett's only real problem with him was his often chauvinistic sense of humor. He didn't really have a problem with the women on the team, as long as they worked as hard as the men did. He didn't expect more from them either, like some of the truly sexist members of the team. Beach Head was fair if demanding. He wanted everyone to pull his, her or it's own weight equal to what they were capable of; be they man, woman, dog, wolf or bird. To tell the truth, the girls did better than most guys on the team anyway, but he wouldn't say that to anyone of them.

Cover Girl had surprised him most. He'd thought Jaye would be the joke on the team coming, as she did, from Martha's Vineyard and a luxurious childhood. She'd met him insult for insult though, and passed all his challenges with a determination that he grew to respect. When she'd proven impervious to his training technique he'd zeroed in on Cover Girl, the former model. Not a physically demanding profession, so he'd started in on her, and in the end she'd been more of a surprise than Jaye. Instead of sucking it up and going on, like Jaye had, Cover Girl had come to him for extra help when she'd had trouble, not many people had done that with him before, he was good at scaring the daylights out of trainees. He always respected those who came to him more in the end, and he'd come to admire her for it. They'd even built an odd friendship in it. She was a tank jock and grease monkey who tinkered with engines and he was an army ranger, a damned meticulous one. They had almost nothing in common, but still enjoyed each other's company.

He had reached his quarters and stripped to his boxers and gotten into bed by the end of his musings and now drifted off wondering what the night shift would bring. They had a running battle of practical jokes among the night shift crews and he wanted to retain the upper hand. 'In fact,' came his last thought, 'I'll sacrifice an hours sleep to set up something for Junkyard and Mutt out on perimeter.'

Beach Head ended up spending most of his shift in the control room watching things over the monitors with Cover Girl, if only to get away from Mutt's grumbling about the mud and caramel all over him and his dog. Apparently Cover Girl had gotten up early as well.

"Nice work on Mutt's uniform change guys." Bazooka complimented as they entered the morning briefing at 0600 the next morning. "How'd you do it?"

"I strung up some saran wrap over his normal watch position. One sheet on the tree he leans against and one above them on a branch. On the second I poured enough caramel that it would drip slowly over them while they sat there. I think Beach's idea was the best though. Junk pulling Mutt into the mud pit on the obstacle course." Cover Girl fell into a fit of giggles at the shock on Mutt's face when he'd surfaced from the mud on the monitors in the control room.

"It was a bit of genius." Beach stated; he wasn't one to really boast too much. "I" his accent made it 'ah,' "sprinkled some gunpowder out so that Junkyard would be sure to catch a scent then drug the raw steak along the ground to the pit. I hung it on the bar in the middle, and damn if it didn't work like a charm."

Mutt was sitting nearby, still in the soiled uniform with the grungy Rottweiler at his feet. "It sure as hell did, Junk pulled me right in and then used my back as a springboard to get his steak." They all laughed at that, Mutt included. "I owe you both and I will collect." About that time Duke and Hawk entered the room and called attention. They briefed the team on a mission in South America that would stop a gun running operation, proven to be selling to Cobra.

Duke and Scarlett would be going in as buyers, while Flint and Lady Jaye would take over a supply company to get in. Beach Head was surprised to learn that he was to be partnered with Cover Girl for recon on the workshop where they'd set up some major players in the business to get caught red handed. They'd all train separately for the next three weeks, away from base and the others. Then be inserted into a local village for their op.

Chapter 2

Beach Head shouldered his bags while Cover Girl paid the cabbie. He looked around the area feeling naked, both because he was standing in a wide-open square and because his ever-present balaclava was tucked safely away in his duffle. Cover Girl had finished and had her own bags on her shoulder now. He watched her slip into character and waited, eagerly, for the performance to come. She was good at this and a lot of fun to watch.

"Oh Hon, it's so beautiful here." She looked around the jungle encompassing the village they now stood in.

"Not as beautiful as you, Court." He slid his own character on like a second skin. She smiled and kissed his cheek. He pulled her back to him and his lips. They were posing as a honeymooning couple touring this region of Brazil. That gave them freedom to move around the area and search for the weapons factory. They'd talked about how far they would take their act during training, and decided they'd do anything but consummate a relationship that didn't exist. They'd worked out a system of signal kisses to be able to stay in character and still communicate in a non-verbal way.

The kiss on the cheek, like she'd given him, was an all clear. His return kiss was reserved as a warning, in this case that she'd missed something and they were being watched. It was a movie kiss, open mouthed, but their tongues never strayed beyond their own teeth. She broke it off, and nuzzled her head against his chest. "Let's go check in, love." She stepped away and pulled him gently along by the hand into the registration office of the rundown little motel they'd use for a base of operations.

A well dressed Brazilian man sat behind the counter watching a local news broadcast. He was clean-shaven except for a neat moustache, and his dark hair was impeccably styled. He flipped off the TV, and turned to them. "Welcome to the Amazon. I am Louis, the owner and manager of this, the Cayman motel. Do you have reservations?"

"Yeah," Courtney stated, "under Krieg." She gave Beach a loving look, painting the picture that she was enjoying using her 'new' name. In actuality it was just a shortening of her own last name to use as a cover identity. They were both using their real given names as well; after all it was better to hide in a half-truth than a full lie. Lies were too easy to poke holes into. Beach pulled his hand free of hers and pulled out a few bills of the Brazilian currency to pay the deposit on the room.

"Oh, and we'll need a do not disturb sign for the door. We are on our honeymoon after all." He leaned in then and kissed her cheek, having noticed that the eyes on them had moved on.

"Of course sir. There you go." The little man gave them a key and the plastic sign, then led them to their room. Beach made a show of lifting his new bride off her feet to carry her through the door. He made sure to plant a luscious kiss on her while he kicked the door closed; just to be sure that if anyone was watching they got the message that these two were harmless newlyweds. He set her on her feet as soon as the door was closed and whispered so softly she had to strain to hear even though he was speaking directly into her ear.

"There's probably bugs in here, make noise while I check." Make noise she did too, starting to moan and bounce on the bed.

"So, Mr. Krieg wants a quickie before our first tour." He looked at her from half-way across the room. She shot him a sly grin, and giggled saucily. A corner of his mouth turned up and he shook his head while watching the equipment for spikes that indicated listening devices. He found five in all. One in a plant, two in strategic places on the bed, another in the bathroom, and the last in the closet of all places.

Courtney, still putting on her show, made a crushing motion. He shook his head no and motioned her to finish up. She lifted her voice towards a crescendo, and Wayne threw in a "god, Court!" for good measure and grunted in satisfaction and amusement at her polite little bow.

"We should go soon. We still have to meet the guide." She said with mock breathlessness.

"Aw, can't we just stay here and do that the rest of the afternoon?" There was a mock pout in his own.

"We could, but we already paid him, love. We don't want to waste the money. Come on get up." She raised herself off the bed, and they waited a few minutes making noise to simulate dressing. Then Wayne led her out the door, taking her hand after locking up. In the other he still held the bugs, and tossed them in an open room as casually as possible. Hoping he hadn't alerted anyone.

"Why not smash them?" Courtney asked after they'd walked a minute, while they looked for the place where they were to meet their contact.

" 'Cause as long as they keep broadcasting no one suspects anything and we won't have to put on another performance like that one."

"Gotcha." The streets were dingy and hot with so many bodies crowding the place. They weren't really unkempt, but with all the rain from the forest the mostly unpaved roads were slush. Beach Head lifted Cover Girl off her feet to cross them.

"Can't have my new wife gettin' all soggy, can I?" He replied to her look, and she rested her head on his shoulder. When he set her down on her feet she kissed his lips tenderly. It was within character, but there was a genuine thanks behind it. They walked another block and came to the cafe where they were to meet their 'guide'. After finding an empty table they ordered soft drinks without ice. Both knew better than to drink the water or eat the ice here, unless it had been boiled first. They didn't wait long.

A man dressed in the local style greeted them using a code phrase. Wayne returned the confirmation phrase, and they put on a show for the patrons talking about what they'd be seeing on the tour of the rainforest. The trio finished their drinks and the 'guide' gave them a short tour of town. He pointed out this or that building of importance, and noted one off in the distance partially hidden by jungle. He told them it had been abandoned some time ago, but gave an aside that it was where most of the activity they wanted to check into took place. He pointed out that they should wait a few days before checking it over to let the locals get used to them wandering around. One thing they didn't have to worry about was blending in. There were plenty of other tourists for that.

For the next two weeks, wander around is all they did. The guide showed them a way through the forest to the building they would be looking into upon Duke's signal. They walked around the village holding hands, or with arms around each other to keep up appearances. They fed each other on occasion and even let themselves be caught necking by local patrols on a couple occasions. Once they'd ducked into an alley so that the person tailing them would catch them in a "heated" moment. After the weeks of setting the stage they got the word from Duke. It was tonight.

Beach Head pulled out the gear bag stowed under the bed, and Cover Girl grabbed the sleeping bag out of the closet. They'd made a point of asking Louis about secluded spots in the jungle for a little romantic getaway. He'd noted several that allowed privacy, but were close enough to the village for safety's sake. They'd scouted the places out on their wanderings and found one about a quarter mile trek from where they needed to be. The two of them walked passed the lobby and waved at Louis, as always sitting behind the counter. "See ya in the mornin' Louis." Beach called with a wink at the man.

Their host waved with a knowing smile. If no one else was convinced at least the motel proprietor had bought the cover story hook, line and sinker. They made their way quickly but not so fast that they'd draw attention to themselves, holding hands all the way. Beach spotted the local patrol man and his partner before they'd seen him and pulled his own partner into a doorway for a quick performance. The gear bag settled gently to the ground while he ran his hands over her and kissed her in warning. She got his message and returned his attentions.

The policemen walked passed, one muttering the word 'amour,' in a wistful way. After they were passed and out of sight Beach Head retrieved the gear and led Cover Girl into the trees. The two soldiers reached their "spot" quickly after that and he began pulling weapons out of the bag. Beach Head handed Cover Girl two M-9 laser pistols to compliment the standard issue 9mm Beretta they each carried, strategically hidden, when they went out.

He pulled out another for himself and one of the bigger laser rifles that he preferred. Courtney, meanwhile, unrolled the sleeping bag and pulled out their uniforms. She turned away to shrug off the clothes she'd been wearing and don her regular uniform. Wayne Sneeden found himself unable to do anything but watch as the dress came up and over to reveal her slender curves. He watched her pull up the khakis, 'why haven't I noticed how tight they fit before?' covering the muscled legs and the dimples in her lower back where muscle met and turned into a smoothly rounded behind. She was all sinew and muscle, probably from the extra PT sessions with him, he realized. He'd noticed, of course, they'd been sharing the bed to keep up the illusion on the off chance anyone walked in while they slept, but he hadn't really seen it until now. When he snapped out of it the battered bomber jacket was being pulled up over her shoulders.

Beach Head went back to his duty before she could turn, and had all the gear ready when she brought over his own uniform, including the beloved balaclava. "Thanks, here's a head set, get your gear together while I change. We move when I'm done." He too, turned for modesty and stripped off the civilian clothing. It was Courtney's turn to stare. His back was lined with hard muscle, not to mention the legs that were just hairy enough to emphasize his maleness. He had runners legs, and the power in his back and shoulders, tightly controlled nearly made her swoon with desire. 'I guess the playacting got to me after all,' she thought still watching him. He was a compact killing machine, like any of the jungle cats that even now could be watching from above. She pulled her eyes away with effort and finished stowing her gear pulling a baldric of grenades across her body. She then tossed her previous attire around the clearing, including the spare underwear she'd brought along. When she turned back she noted he was pulling the balaclava over his head.

"Wayne," she called softly, and he turned before pulling it down. Courtney walked up to him and pressed her lips to his using the signal for caution and something a bit more. Then pulled the garment down for him. "Be careful."

He was surprised. She didn't need to see his face to know that, after so long seeing him in that mask. All she needed to see were his eyes. He pulled her into a tight embrace after the surprise passed. "You too, Courtney." The tender moment was gone, Duke's voice came over her earpiece with a time table checking that they were all in position. The professional facades slipped over both soldiers. Cover Girl relayed that they' been delayed by the local patrol, but were enroute to their position.

Beach Head tossed his former clothing around the area as she had and settled his own headset over his ears. They reached their positions and radioed in to Duke. Then settled down to wait for Lady Jaye's signal to move in. It was silent for a long time before the triple click finally came over the radios. They double clicked the acknowledge and moved forward. Two heavy military trucks rolled out of the old hangar, to their right, and the all clear clicked over the earpiece.

They were out of the brush by now, in the clean land between the building and the forest. Cover Girl spotted Duke and Scarlett to her left, and farther along a group of the Brazilians they were working with. Cover Girl jerked a Flash Grenade from its holder and pulled the pin with her teeth. In an almost simultaneous motion with Scarlett she let it fly. It broke a window as it sailed into the room beyond and three other similar objects followed behind it. Everyone in their party hit the dirt as first the flash grenade went followed by the three concussion grenades. The screams set off by the blinding flasher were silent after the concussions went off. The teams regained their feet and started forward again toward the building.

Duke and Scarlett went first, followed closely by the ranking Brazilians. Cover Girl and Beach Head had just entered when the shooting started. Beach spun around as the Brazilian behind him was hit and killed, falling where he stood like a marionette with its strings cut. Beach swore violently and started firing into the night dark jungle at black in black figures there. Where before there had been silent stillness, the night deteriorated into the confused chaos of battle. Dying and injured men's screams, gunfire, the high pitch of Beach's laser rifle as he methodically cut down attackers, commanding officers shouting orders trying to regain control of ambushed troops, and finally Duke's steady voice calling for extraction. An endless eternity of minutes later, they heard the welcome deep chop of the Tomahawks rotors. They touched down in front of the hangar's open door.

"Somebody call for a cab?" Wild Bill's Texas Twang came over the headsets they all wore, "Climb on."

Duke and Scarlett carried an unconscious arms dealer out to the choppers and tossed him aboard. Cover Girl laid down suppression fire and followed Beach Head who had another of the criminals in a fireman's carry. He dumped the man on the floor and climbed in after Duke and Scarlett. Cover Girl secured herself on the landing skid until they got the unconscious men out of the way. She was still there as they lifted off.

About five feet off the ground they began taking machine gun fire. 'It didn't do any severe damage to the chopper so it must not be the heavy duty stuff,' Cover Girl thought. What it did do was give the chopper a vicious quake as the bullets hit the rotor. Cover Girl lost her footing on the skid and began to fall. Beach Head saw her slip and was close enough to grab for her. He over shot her hand and missed, but Cover Girl latched onto his wrist as the chopper steadied. "I've got ya, Cinderella." She dangled below and Bill held them really steady so Beach could pull her in. Another Spray of bullets hit and one grazed Cover Girl's forearm. The only physical damage it did was cut her enough to make her hand spasm loosening her grip on Beach Head's arm. She slipped free and watched his eyes fill with fear. "Wayne!" Was that her voice filled with terror? 'His name, why did I scream his real name?' she wondered as she fell. Then she landed flat on her back, on the muddy ground. The impact drove the air from her lungs and she gasped it back before passing out.

"Courtney! Shit! Bill put us down Courtney's on the ground!" For the first time since he'd entered the military, Wayne Sneeden was panicked.

"Can't do it pard, anymore bullets hit the rotors and we'll crash on top of her." Wild Bill raised them above the trees. The second chopper was ahead of them in the distance.

"Damn you! put us down! I ain't leavin' her behind..." Beach was out of control, so Duke did the only thing he could and punched him dead in the face knocking him cold.

Chapter 3

Courtney woke seated, and tied in a chair in a very dark room except for the single blindingly bright light shining in her face. There was a presence just behind it. She could make out an outline, but no details that might reveal the identity. She quickly slipped into her Cover Girl persona.

"Who are you?" A voice from the dark. The voice was smooth, no accent she could detect, nor was it familiar to her in any way. Cover Girl held her tongue. "Who are you!?" The voice was more forceful, anger edging in. Still, she didn't answer clenching her jaw tight. "You should really answer." that voice slipped into an oh so smooth tone. "It will go bad for you if you don't." Stony silence from her. "I had hoped you would co-operate."

Cover Girl looked down at her left leg as the muscles in her calf started to contract and relax rhythmically. It was a slow tighten and release, nothing she couldn't handle. Again the question followed by her silence. "You noticed the muscles in your leg by now I presume. Let me show you what happens when we add more power." Her calf was now twitching, and the slower contraction and release had moved to her thigh. "What if both legs were involved?" The other leg started twitching as well. It still wasn't something she couldn't handle. The question came once more. When she still refused to answer the figure outline made a gesture and every muscle in her body began a violent twitching. Even her eyelids and tongue betrayed her. Very suddenly it stopped.

She sat breathing hard, gulping air as though she'd just gone through a particularly rigorous PT session with Beach Head. "You see, I have found that for one like yourself, a physical threat is a waste of effort, and a waste of prisoner. After all there is only so much pain one can take before succumbing to it. However, with this method it gets under your skin, to no longer have control of your own body, and the exertion tires you but does no harm unless I have the current raised drastically high too quickly. In addition, I can control which muscles I want to stimulate. What if your eyes were to twitch for hours endlessly with out relief?"

Cover Girl made a point to keep her face impassive, so she didn't show how much it really did bother her. The muscle spasms started in her legs once again. It went on for hours like that, some times the muscles of her legs more often her eyes or tongue, or her hands, arms, shoulders, forearms, feet, neck, back, even her butt spasmed at some point. Nothing mattered any longer to Cover Girl, only surviving, only answering with silence or her codename rank and serial number mattered. Hours meshed together and time lost its meaning until she had no idea she'd been in that room for three weeks without relief. Only the darkness interrupted by questions answered with silence. Eventually even the satisfaction, that they'd resorted to physical violence after all, mattered little.

'Finally,' she thought 'light, real sunlight.' One eye opened slowly, squeezing shut against the pain. 'Now I know what rode hard and put up wet means.' A cool, damp cloth came onto her forehead. Gentle hands ran it over her face wetting cracked dry lips. She suddenly realized the only moisture they'd known in a long time was the blood that seeped over them when they split, and she was thirsty.

Voices came to her speaking in a language she should know. She become conscious of that fact and suddenly, slowly, it came to her. Feminine voices, speaking Spanish, asking if she was all right. She tried to get her mouth around the words and winced again. Even her blasted tongue ached. She felt the urge to stretch, tried to, and screamed in agony. She couldn't tell between the ache of bruising and the ache of muscles constantly flexing. All she knew was the pain. A voice again, the first that had spoken, telling her to lie still, the pain would be over soon. Hands again, turning her over onto her stomach, on whatever softness she lay, and massaging the muscle aches away. In her legs, arms, back, and shoulders, even her neck and hands and feet began to feel relief spread through her and with it came tears of release, cleansing, healing.

As the muscle aches subsided, she began to discern which bruise was where. Her mouth got around the language this time. [Thank you,] Cover Girl opened her eyes again and looked around the room at the faces watching her. The woman closest to her held out a cup of water. [You must drink, as much as possible. They come soon to take us to the factory where we will work.]

[Thank you. I'm Cover Girl, do you know where we are?]

The woman shrugged. [Magda, and no only that it is a work camp. We will soon know only the work.] There was a sadness in her voice, but Cover Girl noticed all the women eying her warily. [Did you refuse to work is that why you are treated this way?]

[No, I refused to talk. They wanted to know who I was and who I work for. We attacked their operation trying to end it.]

[You are here to make them stop.] Many of the faces were smiling now, in relief.

[I was, now, I'm a prisoner, a worker, like all of you.] Some of the smiles faded, and a large door opened. The women pressed away from it in fear and loathing. A group of eight men came into the room. They broke into pairs and began raping some of the women. Two of them came at Cover Girl and she could see in their eyes they intended the same with her. One grabbed her roughly and her defense training kicked in. She flipped him over her shoulder and broke his neck in a single smooth move. The second rushed her and she landed the heel of her palm on his nose shoving it in his brain and killing him instantly.

The others now realized what was happening, and all six came at her. She landed a right hook on the first, and her knee connected with a groin. A third came in and she grabbed his wrist using his own momentum to twist the arm behind him; then jerked it up past the hammer lock until the sickeningly wet pop indicated his arm and shoulder were no longer joined. The rest of the group came in together and took her down. The beating started, continuing for long minutes until that voice stopped it. "I did warn all of you about your behavior. Maybe now you've learned your lesson and this conduct will cease. As for you, little minx, they won't touch you again, so no more killing." With that, he was gone, and after a few minutes and much pain for Cover Girl, they were loaded onto a cargo truck. They were driven to a factory and off loaded. After, there was nothing but the work.

Chapter 4

Beach Head roused before they reached home base. He sat away from the others, elbows on knees and his face hidden in his hands. Scarlett and Duke watched him with concern. Both wondered less about what was going through his mind and more what had happened while he and Cover Girl were alone for two weeks on the mission. Duke had already given orders that Beach's conduct was not to be reported in either verbal or written form. He knew Hawk didn't care what the troops did in their off time, as far as personal relationships went, as long as it stayed off the battle field, and out of reports. There were plenty of people over his head that didn't feel the same.

Duke, personally, was grateful for Hawk's disinterest. He and Scarlett both would be out of a job if not for Hawk. For that matter, so would Flint and Lady Jaye, and unless he missed his guess something had happened to change Beach Head's views on interpersonal relationships within the team.

The chopper touched down and the whine of the rotors died before Beach Head forced himself to move. Their prisoners were secured in the brig, and the officers involved were called for debriefing. Flint and Lady Jaye gave account of themselves as did Duke and Scarlett and finally Beach Head. Everyone was demoralized by the loss of Cover Girl. They filed out silent and upset by the rebuff Beach had received after his request to lead a rescue mission to get her out.

The four others were shocked when Beach maliciously pummeled the wall with all his strength, leaving a large dent in it's surface. "Hey, cut the crap, Sergeant!" Duke ordered.

"Why? I didn't use your hand, did I? Let me serve my penance in peace." The accent, usually so controlled as to almost disappear, was thick and heavy with emotion.

"What's with you, Beach?" Scarlett asked putting a hand on his shoulder. He shrugged her off, not ready for comfort.

"It's my fault. I lost my grip. Dropped her. I let down a damn good soldier, and a good friend. But you, you left her there, I'da gone back, not left her behind!" The glare he shot at Duke could have melted plate metal.

"Do you think I wanted to leave her there! I'm her commanding officer. I'm responsible for her."

"No! not when I was the one lookin' in her eyes while she fell. Not when I was the one partnered with her an' watchin' her back the last two weeks. Not when it was my damned idea to come up with that system of signals to fit our cover. I outsmarted myself with that, damn it! Most especially not when it was my name that came from her mouth as she slid outta my hand." His voice lowered here, deepened further, the memory of her scream tormenting him. "She was scared, Duke. I've never seen her like that. Do you know what they're probably doin' to her right now?"

"Yes," Duke's voice was grim, and he set a hand on Beach Head's shoulder "probably better than you do, Beach."

"Then why ain't we goin' after her?"

"Because this mission isn't over. We have prisoners to interrogate, and maybe, just maybe we'll find her." Duke's hand was reassuring, and his voice held hope. Beach nodded and left them to return to his quarters. Duke and Flint worked the prisoners over for the next two weeks, without much success, before giving them to Beach Head. Not only was he the scariest member of the Joe team, when he wanted to be, he had a knack for finding a weakness in the psyche of a prisoner and exploiting it successfully. He did it in a relatively short amount of time, and without damaging the prisoners too badly, if you count giving them nightmares for months undamaged.

After four days with Beach Head they had all the information they could get from the men they'd captured, and it was all they needed for the op. This included locations of factories, safe houses, the names of the ones really in charge, an how many civilians they had pressed into working in the factories, mostly all were women. They worked out the mission parameters in six days, and four days after that they were back in Brazil.

Beach had wanted to head up the team that was responsible for cracking the Safe Houses, but Duke needed his expertise taking down the factories, and freeing the workers. They'd been at it for damn near three weeks now, and were hoping this would be the last. They had to be careful, so none of the guards panicked. It wouldn't do to have any of the workers killed in the confusion. They had yet to find Cover Girl, nor had they gotten word from the other teams. They were all starting to lose hope.

On this particular op, Beach was crouched with Snake Eyes and Scarlett on the rooftop in the light of the sunset. They were waiting to drop through the skylight in the center of the building's roof. Duke's people on the ground were surrounding the building as Beach Head watched the workers through the dingy panes of glass. Something happened out of his view inside, and he radioed Duke on it.

"That's a go, people, use the distraction and take out the guards." Duke's order came back to them. The three roof bound Joes checked the hand brakes and the rest of their gear a final time before dropping down through the glass. Beach Head finally got a look at the commotion. One of the women was being beaten, at least he thought it was a woman, he couldn't really see the victim for all the guards in the way. He took aim with his M-9 laser pistol and cut through the guards not in among the civilians. He'd leave that for Duke's people, who had a better chance of getting them with out harming the workers.

Some of the guards figured out they were under attack and used the workers as shields. One man, well dressed and fitting the description of the man in charge of the whole thing, held a disheveled worker, with long auburn hair, at gun point. Beach caught a glimpse of the face behind the hair and sucked in a breath at the damage he saw there. She was almost unrecognizable with yellow-brown faded bruising, but only almost. He'd know those eyes, that nose, the brow, the cheekbones, the chin and the lips anywhere. He eased his grip on the brake and started slowly down the line behind them. Duke stood in front of them trying to negotiate her release.

Before he'd even reached the ground, Cover Girl's arm came up between her and the gun arm. She knocked it away savagely. The gun discharged harmlessly into the ceiling. The bullet lodged in a heavy wooden beam above them. Cover Girl was all over the guy like a wild animal doing as much damage as possible. Finally, she broke his neck, with a satisfied growl. Beach was, by this time, standing close enough to hear her when she said, "you should have picked a hostage that hated your voice a little bit less, bastard." She turned away then looking around the room.

There she stood watching the clean up go on around them, and Beach Head could only stare at her. Her hair had grown longer, it'd been short when they started this three months ago, not quite as short as Lady Jaye's hair, but short all the same. It was now down between her shoulder blades. Even grimy and bruised, she was the most beautiful thing he'd seen in a long time. Duke walked away from them, knowing she was in good hands now.

His CO's movement snapped Beach out of it, and he walked to her, still from behind her. "Courtney," he knew enough to get her attention before touching her after a situation like she'd just been in. She turned to him. There was a blank look in her eyes that worried him. Then her eyes met his, held, and she came back into them. He sighed relief.

Someone spoke behind her after the blonde walked off. 'Who's Courtney?' she wondered, and turned to find a man in green fatigues and a climber's harness with a green hood covering his face. Then her eyes found his in the mask, golden hazel eyes, from her snippets of memory. All at once those memories flooded through her, and she remembered that she was Courtney. "Wayne," she took a step forward and collapsed in exhaustion. Beach Head saw it coming and was there to catch her as she fell. He stowed his weapon and scooped her into his arms, then carried her out to the medical tent and Doc. Lifeline and Doc both rushed forward with a stretcher. Beach lay her reverently upon it as though she would break if he were less careful.

"We've got her now, Beach Head, Duke needs you to finish the cleanup in there." Doc stated as Beach Head started to follow them.

"I'll be back, but keep us posted on her status." Beach did a good job of hiding the swell of emotion that urged him to stay with her.

"Not to fear, fair warrior, I'll let you know after I examine her." Beach nodded and strode away. The after battle duties dragged on all the Joes waiting for word on Cover Girl and other injured friends. The freed workers were sent with the Brazilian government officials to find their homes, bodies cleared away, and charges were set in the building. Beach Head took no small amount of pleasure watching that particular factory blown to hell. Doc called in finally, while Beach was trying to clean up as best he could.

"Good news, Joes, Cover Girl is going to be just fine with a little rest and lots of fluids. Come by and visit if you want more details." Beach sighed his relief, feeling his muscles un-bunch, and finished his duties more easily knowing she was okay.

"You'd better get over there and see Cover Girl before they take off, Beach." A voice came from behind where he sat eating. He turned to see Scarlett standing in the middle of the mess tent, with her hands on her hips. "She's awake, and even though she hasn't said anything or asked, she's looking for you."

"Don't know what you mean, Red, we found her and she's safe now. My duty is finished." Why had he said that, he wanted to talk to her, didn't he?

"Cut the crap, Sneeden! Do yourself and her a favor, don't ignore what the rest of us saw in those eyes of yours when you saw her in that factory." Her gesture encompassed the rubble out the entrance flap of the tent. "At least go see her and ease her worry." Beach Head was just too spent to come up with a deservingly snide remark to throw back at her. He just stood and walked out of the tent, abandoning his meal. He was still in ear shot when Scarlett started grumbling and caught Lady Jaye's comment. "I swear, why is it that military men, all men for that matter, refuse to see what's right in front of them."

'Oh, I see it,' he thought in response, 'and it scares the hell outta me.' He kept walking though, knowing he owed her the visit. Soon he'd entered the tent housing the wounded. Doc waved him over. "She's out in Duke's tent. We figured she'd appreciate the privacy until we have to leave. Go on through this and its just behind." Beach just nodded and walked on.

Cover Girl was alone in the tent, lying on a cot with a couple pillows propping her up in a sitting position. Her eyes were closed and there was a cup of water in the hand resting on her lap. The cup was half full and luckily sat perfectly so that it didn't spill on her thigh. Beach moved silently forward to take it so she wouldn't spill it in her sleep. He'd barely laid a hand on it when her soft voice stated, "I'm not done with that yet."

He met her blue gaze, "sorry, thought you were asleep, and I didn't want you spillin' it all over my...friend." He chickened out. He'd started to say my Cinderella to try and be romantic, or my wife referring to their cover story to be funny, but he'd chickened out. He ran from the intimacy with his tail between his legs like he always had.

"No, I wasn't asleep, just thinking, resting, letting my mind wander." She shifted on the cot and winced as she did.

"You okay?" Concern for her hit him hard. He noticed that she looked smaller somehow, more vulnerable here in the get up of a patient. She'd had a bath, her hair was clean and flowing down her back, the bruising was still there, but he could see past it. She was thinner than she had been on their mission, he didn't like that, but there was nothing he could do about it here.

"Yeah fine, just sore all over, bruises and hard labor." The hand around the cup was bandaged, and there was a small gash above one eye, closed with a butterfly stitch. His eyes hardened at what had been done to her, whether it was real or his imagination. "Hey, what's up?" Her eyes were still beautiful. Crystal blue eyes, that right now, were concerned for him. He took a deep breath and looked away.

"I'm sorry." He looked down at his hands in shame at the weakness he heard in his own voice.

"For what?" She watched him more worried now that she couldn't read his eyes.

"I dropped you. I just didn't have a good grip when you slipped." His voice sounded odd, full, strained.

'Translation,' she thought, 'I'm kicking myself every time I see bruises I should have prevented because I'm a big strong man and I should have protected you.'

"Wayne, you didn't do this, my grip wasn't so great either." She barely caught the outline of the sardonic half-smile behind the balaclava, before he buried his head in his hands. He was starting to scare her. This behavior was very unlike the man she'd come to know and rely on to be a rock. "Damn it, Beach! You're not making sense, and would you look at me already, I can't see your eyes." That last shocked him, she could tell by the way he stiffened on the edge of the cot where he'd taken a seat.

He reached up to remove the balaclava, and she put a restraining hand on his arm. "I don't need to see your face, Ranger Man, just your eyes." Her voice was full now too, of an emotion he'd never heard there before.

"I know you don't, but I'd rather not have the barrier there, between us." He finished pulling it off. Then his eyes met hers. She held her breath at what she saw there. Her translation was wrong, while he was sorry that he'd dropped her, he wasn't needlessly apologizing for the things he couldn't help. There was something else, something she couldn't define. A tenderness that was out of place on him, but he was looking at her, and it was there. "I wish I were better at this, Courtney, for your sake, but I'm not. Never have been. Everybody else in camp sees it and they think I don't. I do though, and I'm runnin' from it. Runnin' like the hounds of hell are after me. 'Cause I don't know the right thing, how to say..." He trailed off frustrated.

"Try Wayne, please," tears were forming in her eyes and she cursed them silently. She didn't want him to see her as weak, helpless. She reached up to brush them away with the hand that wasn't on his arm still.

"Don't damn it! You think I mind if you cry? I don't. Yes I'm a hard ass, and a bastard sometimes, but I am not a prick. You know what I'm tryin' to tell you, I know you do. This feelin' the one I can't explain the way I want to, it hit me when I watched you fall. And if you think I didn't cry, you'd be dead wrong. I waited 'til I was alone in my quarters, of course, but I cried like a baby." He sounded like he might cry now.

"Why?" Her whisper was broken by the lump in her throat.

"Because, I'd just watched the best part of my life slip through my fingers, quite literally, and I didn't know if I'd ever get her back." The tears finally won and spilled down her cheeks. He turned more fully toward her on the cot and caressed them away. "I'm not good with emotion, and I'm damn terrible at lettin' people know how I feel about them. Unless I hate their guts, it comes of being raised almost entirely by a former US Army Drill Instructor. He didn't know how to show it either. I want you to know how I feel about you, but I'm, I don't know how to say it." The smile that brightened his night was filled with mischief, and more than a little sexy.

"Then give me a signal." The tone in her voice made him ache.

He dropped the balaclava on the blankets and framed her face with his hands. Slowly, he moved into her space until their breath mingled and her eyes closed. He smiled just before his lips touched hers tenderly. They'd shared a lot of kisses on their mission; this was different.

His lips hovered on hers, learning their outline, feeling the chapped places still healing from her dehydration. He traced the line of her mouth with his lower lip and she sucked it in. Then he took her mouth, possessive, but loving. His tongue tickled hers, an invitation to play, and she pulled him tightly to her taking control of the kiss from him; exploring his mouth inside and out. He pulled out slowly and returned for more, letting her touch, her smell, her taste envelop him. Finally, his lungs burning for air, he left her mouth with a series of small kisses on the lips, and a final peck to the end of her nose.

"What was that signal for?" The breathy quality was not fake this time, and it did wonderful things to his mind and body both.

"That," his voice was pretty breathy in its own right, and she shivered against him, "that was the signal that you're back safe and sound where you belong, in my arms." He didn't run this time, and when her response was to pull him into another kiss, he never ran from her again.