The final chapter!

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Duke steamed as he walked down the corridor. He'd been awakened at an ungodly hour by Flint, who had seemed entirely too amused at his duty to inform the sleeping officer that there had been an 'incident' in town. The sketchy details they'd gleaned from the police radio chatter made Duke's head begin to throb. Breaker managed to get the full story once they knew there'd been an incident. Duke had warned BeachHead if he caused any trouble in town, there'd be consequences. Now he was in the little dinky police headquarters, seeing more coffeecups than weapons, with a handful of paperwork, going to retrieve two of his soldiers.

Law paced just behind him, accompanied as always by his energetic shepard. "Order! Settle down. Duke.. calm down, I'm sure Beach'll have some explanation."

Duke scowled. "Oh, I am CERTAIN he'll have an explanation. Whether I let him live long enough to tell it to me is another matter." He turned the corner and headed directly through the open office scattered with desks and filing cabinets to the police chief's office. "I understand you're holding two of my soldiers, and I'm here to collect them."

"Well... we'll just see about that. Your soldiers have some serious charges against them. I'm pretty certain that they'll be staying right here in holding until the judge can see them monday morning." The police chief was exceptionally smug for an overweight, underpaid public servant and Duke smiled in a reasonable manner at him. "Don't even bother fussing at me, don't give me that whole 'just blowing off some steam' or that I should let it slide just because they are military."

Duke's smile went a little smug. "It's four in the morning. I don't have the patience for the reasonable arguments." He held up the page in his hand. "This says you'll release them into my custody.. unless you'd like to see the inside view from a federal prison for interfering in a secure military operation?"

The man's pudgy face went pale. "But.. but... they.. they assaulted..."

Duke tucked the papers away in the folder and handed them back to the MP standing behind him patiently. "I don't care really. If you just must have justification, check on the security camera in the front lobby of the Terry's Florist shop. You'll see the initial assault was a unprovoked attack on my female soldier. The arresting assault charges are from your men not correctly identifying themselves when they jumped a pair of combat soldiers without warning. Since the initial assault charges are bogus, the arrest is unwarranted, and your cops failed to correctly identify themselves as officers of the law, the secondary charges are also bogus. And even if all the charges were legitimate, I can still demand they be released into military custody for us to punish them properly. So either release my men immediately, or I'm going to become mildly annoyed and crush this whole station to dust under my heel. Got me?"

The police chief swallowed hard. "I'll call down to holding."

"You do that." Duke turned on his heel to head down to the holding cells, followed by a slightly amused looking Law and a still enthusiastic Order who kept trying to lick Duke's hand as he stomped down the hallway. "I swear.. both of them are toast as soon as I get them back onto base."

Law kept his voice low. "You know you told the truth.. none of this was entirely their fault. You can't fault her for fighting back to get a.."

"Law... shut up."

"Yes sir."

As they pushed open a door leading to the holding cells, Duke winced. The very distinct strains of BeachHead's voice drifted up to them as he was singing exceptionally loudly for him.

"Ah fell fer you like a child, ooh but the fire went wild! Ah fell innnto a burnin' ring a fire! Ah went down down doooown an' the flames went higher! An' it burns burns burns..."

Law raised his eyebrows. "You know.. he's not bad.. I'd never think a guy that screams all day would have any voice at all."

Duke turned to glare at him. "Law..."

"Shut up, yes sir. Shutting up, sir." Order barked twice and Law reached down to clamp a hand around the shepard's mouth. "Order is shutting up too, sir."

"Good." Duke turned back to head down the stairs.

The singing had abruptly stopped. "HEY! HEY! IS THAT ORDER! COME ON, ORDER! COME!"

The shepard went bounding past Duke and down the hall. By the time the two reached the guards, Order had managed to squeeze past to rush up to the bars of the cells and get petted by CoverGirl who was kneeling to give him scratches behind his ears.

"Hi Order! Good boy! Who's the good boy!"

Duke cleared his throat and both Beach and CoverGirl lept to their feet at attention.

"Sir!" "Sir!"

Duke ignored the two guards and walked up to the doors to stare at them with his hands on his hips. "I know you want to explain.. and I know I don't want to hear it. You're going back to base.. and then you're both going to be very quiet until I get up in the morning to decide how long you'll be on punishment duty and whether both of you should be busted down to Private." He saw Beach twitch, watched CoverGirl's mouth open, then shut again. "So you understand?"


He scowled and motioned curtly at the guards. "Let them out. Lord help me, I should leave them in here to rot. I don't know what the blazes I ever did to deserve two hooligans under my command.. I should bust both of you anyway and let you scrub floors for the rest of time."

They stepped out and stood still waiting for him to finish. Even Order sat beside Beach and wagged his tail, looking from Duke's face up to the Ranger and back.

Duke jerked his head. "Come on then." He walked out without a backwards glance and was followed by his two errant soldiers and the MP in the rear.

Once Duke was several steps ahead, Law spoke quietly. "How'd the date go?"

Courtney smiled and tossed her hair back, ignoring her scuffed face, bare feet and tattered stockings. "It went great. You should totally give that restaurant a try." She turned to smile at the MP. "And Beach asked me to go on a trip with him."

Beach grunted. "I got tased twice and I think I got an concussion."

Law grinned happily. "Sounds like a great time was had by all."

Duke's voice cut through all of it. "SHUT UP BACK THERE!"


CoverGirl leaned back to whisper. "I love romance on the Beach." Law snickered and BeachHead rolled his eyes.

"Yes gonna get us both busted." The Ranger sighed and reached up to rub at his head. "I gotta knot on my danged head."

She reached to put her arm through his. "Well.. you should have two knots.. did the big mean policey-mens hit you in the same spot twice?"

"You chap mah ass Kreiger."

"I do try. It's such a nice ass.. especially in those pants. You should wear them as your uniform."

"Gawd.. shut up. If'n we could point yer danged mouth at the enemy, we'd never hafta buy ammo again."

Duke was on top of them suddenly. "I SAID SHUT IT! WHAT PART OF SHUT UP DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND!"

Beach snapped to attention. CoverGirl did so more nonchalantly. "The 'shut' part, Sir."

Beach turned on her unexpectedly. "Disrespectin' an officer! Drop and gimme fifty! RIGHT DANGED NOW!"

She was so startled that she was on the floor halfway through the punishment before she realized it. Beach returned to attention and stood while Duke yelled at him some more, even though it was CoverGirl that had snarked off. Finally they were allowed to get into the backseat of a jeep to be hauled back to the Pit. Law drove and Duke sat shotgun, fuming the entire way.

The two solders in the back sat quietly. Beach snuck his hand over to take hers. His whisper was so quiet she had to strain to hear it. "Thanks fer goin' out with me, Courtney."

She squeezed his hand back and smiled. Her whisper was just as quiet. "It was the best date ever, Wayne."

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When they arrived back at base, they climbed out of the vehicle and Beach was rubbing his tired eyes. The looks from the handful of Joes who 'happened' to be waiting around in the motorpool made CoverGirl glare. Her disheveled state, dress torn in spots, stockings ruined, shoes missing and hair tangled up in a rat's nest, all combined to stun the guys.

There was silence for several seconds. Beach walked around and stopped as he spotted Clutch, Shipwreck and three of his greenshirts.

Clutch suddenly grinned at him. "Whoooooa! Beach! Dude.. you're an ANIMAL!" All of the guys started hooting with laughter and mock-cheering Beach, who looked puzzled.

"Whut? I dunno..." He looked at Courtney who was looking madder every nanosecond, over to the guys continued to laugh and make suggestive comments, back to Courtney who was obviously testing her ability to incinerate humans with only her angry glare. "Oh.. OH! Jebus Crissy! No! NO! Ah didn't do none of that to her!" Courtney turned on him, seething and he held up his hands. "Ah'm denyin' it! Not mah fault! Don't use the wrench!"

The first yelp of pain was from Beach, but the last strains of pain-filled cries from the rest of the retreating males took several minutes to die away.

Duke stood with Law and Order and glared. "Dammit.. you'd think that I'd just request a transfer."

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Several very long hours later, both 'guilty' parties stood at attention in front of Duke's desk in his office. All three had gotten some measure of sleep, eventually. Duke had spent the past hour filling out paperwork regarding the whole thing, talking to various officials who needed egos soothed and thinking over exactly how much of the whole situation was which person's fault.

"All right... now.. don't think I don't understand that CoverGirl was attacked, and she didn't 'start' the fight." CoverGirl smiled slightly. Duke frowned at her. "But... you did fight back, and you did continue the fight to the point that BeachHead had to physically restrain you from continuing the fight." She stopped smiling. "So I'm putting you on two weeks of KP duty for that. The fact that you cracked a rib on a cop, who on the other hand, didn't identify himself exactly.. but you had to know it was the local police... so I'm doubling your KP duty to four weeks. In addition, no leave to go into town for at least the whole month as well."

She looked crestfallen. "Yes sir, Duke."

He turned his attention to Beach who stood completely still. "Now, I'd give you the same punishment for fighting with the cops.. especially since you managed to give one a concussion, and traumatized two others by not falling over when tasered. But it appears the kitchen crew has prohibited you from entering any food prep area on pain of peanut butter sandwiches for the foreseeable future. Seeing as I hate peanut butter for dinner..."

Inside his head, Beach began to silently chant 'not guard duty, not guard duty, not guard duty..'

Duke continued. "Two weeks of guard duty."

"Crap." Beach sighed. "Roving patrols?"

"Standing guard duty." Duke absolutely didn't show his extreme pleasure in handing out that particular punishment to the Sergeant major.

"Crap." Beach tried one last attempt. "Standing at the gates?"

"Computer server room door downstairs."


The Ranger looked so crestfallen that Duke almost felt bad for him. "At least it will be quiet down there. And I'll turn a blind eye to any minor injuries that happen to occur to anyone taunting you while on guard duty."

Beach thought it over. "Minor according to Lifeline, minor according to you, or minor according to ME?"

Duke's eyes narrowed. "Don't push your luck, Beach."


Duke stacked his papers carefully then looked at them both. "Well.. was the night actually worth all this trouble?"

CoverGirl and Beach looked at each other and suddenly sported nearly identical grins. Their unanimous answer chorused at their commanding officer. "Yes SIR!"

"God help me.. dismissed." Duke watched them both leave and thought over the monster this situation had become. He wanted all his people to be happy, he knew the two of them would completely implode if he forbid them to see each other or worse, transferred one of them out. But he'd never ever foreseen how many complete disasters would occur regarding the two most unlikely partners pairing up.

"Where the blue blazes is my aspirin?"