Final chapter! It's nice and long too.

Flint cursed under his breath as Hawk's shouted orders made his ear ring. "Understood sir.. we're moving in." He ducked as bullet strikes made shards of the wall flew up into his face. The Cobra troops were only falling back slowly and reluctantly. They were spending massive amounts of ammunition trying to hit the dark wraith of SnakeEyes as he appeared and sliced up another quartet of soldiers, only to leap up into the ceiling crevices and disappear.

Flint signaled Dusty and they moved out into the corridor, firing on the Cobras as they twisted to deal with the ninja that dropped onto them. A few tried to take on the two attacking Joes and were cut down easily by the katana wielded expertly in their midst. Dusty picked his shots as carefully as possible to avoid hitting his teammate. Flint fired low, dropping several enemy with leg shots, easier to avoid his ninja trooper who moved so fluidly through the paniced bodies.

He lifted his voice to carry above the mayhem. "Dusty! Hawk says Beach is down! Start checking these doors! Find him!"

"I'm on it!" Dusty wrapped his rifle strap around his arm and hefted it one handed as he darted along the wall, grabbing at the blank doorways. Popping them open with a kick or yank, he poked his head in, rifle at the ready, checking each of the seemingly endless rooms.

Hawk's voice crackled in Flint's ear. "NOW Flint! He's strangling NOW!"

"We're going, Hawk! We'll find him!" Flint gritted his teeth and took down two more Crimson Guards as they rounded the corner. "SNAKEEYES! Check those rooms!" The ninja moved to begin opening the doors further down, darting into one to dispatch several soldiers laying in wait. He emerged unscathed to check the next room.

Dusty's cry of triumph made Flint whirl and run down past the doors standing open. "Dusty! Where are you?"

"IN HERE!" The desert trooper sounded strained and Flint sped up. "Help me! I think he's dead!" He was trying to heft BeachHead's limp body up to get the chain off of his neck. "I can't get it.. I can't get the chain off.. help me!"

Flint reached to grab the lolling head by the hair and lifted it up. "Step back one step!" He jerked at the chain to loosen it and got it untangled from Beach's neck. "There.. put him down.. " Dusty laid him out and tugged at the cuffs. "Move.. " Flint took a firm grip on Beach's jaw and tilted his head back. "Come on BeachHead.. are you breathing?" A light shake got a wheezy groan. "He's breathing.. flip him over... let me get the cuffs off." A couple minutes later, Flint had picked the lock on the left cuff and wrenched it free. "Alright.. come on Beach.. hey.. come on.. "

Dusty slapped his face lightly. "Come on Beach.." When the limp body tensed and began to cough, the Joe grinned. "There you go. We got you.. come on.. " Flint and Dusty each took an arm to lift Beach to his feet. When he couldn't stand even with help, Dusty shook his head. "He's not gonna be able to walk. I got him." Bending, he slung the heavy Ranger over his shoulders. Holding one arm, he hooked his other around a knee to keep BeachHead in place across his back. "Let's go.. you'll have to cover us, Flint. Let's get out of here."

Flint nodded, trusting the slightly built infantryman to carry their teammate. He reached up to tweak his com unit. "Snakes, need you here now.. we're headed out. Kamakura, open the lane for us.. Lifeline.. stand by." He switched it to the second line. "Hawk.. we got him.. we're headed out now. Light resistance."

There was a groan from the Ranger. "Took ya'll long 'nough.."

Flint grimaced. "Shut up Beach... would you like us to take you back so you can show us how the 'best Ranger ever' gets himself free without help?"

The rough voice was hoarse and interspersed with coughing. "Naw.. wouldn't wanna show ya'll up like that.. gotta make ya feel useful.." Beach struggled to twist so he could see where they were headed and Dusty jerked his shoulders to prop him back into place.

Dusty sounded a little winded. "Beach.. stop moving around, you're heavy enough when you're still."

"Sorry.. " Beach forced his arm around Dusty's shoulder joint to hold himself in place as best he could. His hands wouldn't close and he could feel blood dripping off his fingers from his raw wrists. "Can't feel my hands.."

Dusty sucked in deep breaths. "Lifeline's on the plane.. he'll fix you up, no problem.. just try to think lighter thoughts, cause you're really heavy." Despite all the troopers training, carrying an extra two hundred plus pounds of dirty Ranger on his back was causing his legs to feel a little shakey.

"It's all muscle.." Beach let his head drop down as his bruised neck spasmed. "Ow.. "

Flint grinned. "Hang in there Beach."

The Ranger groaned loudly. "Lemme guess.. ya been waitin' to say that... ain't ya?"

"Oh yeah.. saved it just for you."

The trip back out of the compound was fairly straightforward. Kamakura and Roadblock had cleared out the exit corridors. Once Flint's team joined them, Roadblock took one look at Dusty and shook his head.

The machine gunner slung his weapon and motioned at him. "Give him here.. you're gonna fall out if you try to carry him all the way to the plane."

Their slender desert trooper twisted to let Beach down, but his legs couldn't hold him and he collapsed in a heap. He gritted his teeth in pain and snarled at Dusty. "Don't drop me!"

Dusty straightened up with an effort and cracked his back. "Sorry.. didn't mean to treat you like a old field pack, BeachHead."

Roadblock took one of his arms. "Alright.. up you go.." He easily got BeachHead arranged over his shoulders and then jerked his head at Flint. "Let's move. We need to get our Sergeant major back to base. Plus, Lifeline and Jinx might get antsy if we leave them at the plane too long."

Right on cue the communicator chimed softly. Flint clicked it on. "We're on our way Lifeline. Beach seems stable for now."

Lifeline sounded annoyed. "I should have come in, how certain are you as to his condition?"

Flint grunted and rolled his eyes at Kamakura who paced him. "He's breathing okay. He'll last until we get him to the plane."

The medic's tone rose. "Glad to hear you're able to diagnose now. Is he walking?"

"Hey.. I'm right here." Beach's voice was ignored.

Flint ducked down to look out at an intersection. "No, he's not walking. The poor guy's been standing for a week, we thought we'd give him a break and carry him a while." He waved the rest across, twisting to cover the corridor behind them.

"Ya'll could ask me how I am.." Beach's hoarse voice sounded annoyed.

Lifeline started to sound a bit peeved. "If he's not able to walk, he's not 'fine'. If he's been restrained for a week, he could have circulation issues, or blood clots breaking free."

Beach coughed. "Circulation and clots sound bad.. "

Flint just grunted. "We'll be there shortly." He clicked the com link off. "He's such a mother hen."

"Don't pick on our medic." Beach let his head hang again. "He's a danged good medic."

Dusty agreed as he was darting across a hallway and covering the lane of fire for them to cross. "Yeah.. he's the best. Watch that corner... clear... "

Flint triggered the com unit again. "Coming out.. friendly coming out.."

Jinx's voice sounded terse. "Clear.. come on out."

They emerged from the building and everyone moved quickly across open spaces, Kamakura and SnakeEyes splitting off to thread their way through the surrounding area searching for more Cobra operatives. Flint twisted to check behind them several times. "It's awfully quiet out here.. they're going to be gearing up fast to hit us. Get on the plane."

By the time they'd arrived at the plane, the engines were already warming up. Jinx was on post waiting and watching for any troops trying to sneak in. Other than a few Cobra vipers skulking behind crates, a bit reluctant to approach since several of their fellows lay dead from Jinx's rifle already, the airfield was secure. Jinx and Kamakura were all for going to take out the last vipers, but Flint pulled them in.

"Fall back to the plane.. we're booking it out of here." He watched from within feet of the transport plane, Roadblock climbing in while Lifeline assisted him.

Beach lifted his hoarse voice. "Aww.. let the ninjas go play.. danged vipers deserve some ninja stabby time."

Flint rolled his eyes and tilted his head. "Get him inside the plane Roadblock. Jinx.. Kamakura.. SnakeEyes.. fall back to the plane and board. We're rolling out in one minute."

Once they were airborne, Flint checked in with Hawk, reporting their status and transport while Lifeline tried to argue with his patient.

The medic was hovering between relieved and annoyed. He was on one knee beside the Ranger he'd gotten onto a stretcher. "Beach.. lie still and let me check you.."

"I'm tryin' to be still, dang it!" Beach writhed sideways anyway and groaned loudly. "It's cramps.. my legs and back are all spasmed."

Lifeline held his head still and checked his eyes. "Tell me what happened.. from the battlefield."

Beach groaned again. "Gawd.. I got blown up, woke up in a truck. They booted me in the head a few times I guess. One of my greenshirts was there.. dead. I couldn't see who. They knocked me out again and I woke up in the prison down there. Once they put that danged noose on me, I couldn't do nothin' but stand in one place. Ain't had nothin' but a little water since. I need some water.. and some food wouldn't hurt."

Lifeline nodded and turned to Dusty who crouched nearby. "Get some water.. and see if we have anything like bread." Turning back, he began running fingers over Beach's throat. "Looks like you're still showing some signs of concussion.. surprising since it's been almost a week. Have you been hit in the head in the last day or so?"

"Naw... it's been longer than that.. and it's been longer than a week..." Beach reached up with still numb hands to try to push the medic away. "Get offa me."

"Stop that.." When Lifeline grabbed his forearm, Beach yelped in pain. "Sorry.. I know, I know. Let me bandage up your wrists. It's been a week, Beach."

"It ain't been just a week!" The powerful Ranger was rapidly losing his battle to fend off the medic who was adroitly dodging the grasping hands to peel the grungy sweater off of him. "Ow!"

"Well, hold still. You look mostly okay.. just bruised up. The muscle spasms will ease.. if you would hold still and let me help I can make some of it stop. I'm going to give you a muscle relaxer first." Lifeline shook his head. "If you don't stop fighting with me I'm going to strap you to the stretcher. Got it?"

"I'd like to see ya try!" The dirty face tilted to look at Flint when he came back. "Flint! Tell this useless medic it's been longer than a week!"

Flint crouched down next to him and paused a moment before he spoke softly. "Beach.. it's only been a week. That window you watched wasn't to the outside. They were fooling you with it.. it was just six hours, not a full day." Beach started cursing. "Yeah.. I know. Sorry. We thought you'd been buried in the explosion.. two greenshirts saw you there just before that jet hit the ground and went up in the fireball. If we'd even suspected you'd been taken captive, we'd have been on it."

Beach suddenly stopped cursing. "Does.. does CoverGirl know I ain't dead?"

"Yeah.. we told her. The whole Pit was ready to come after you when we found out Cobra had you." Flint nodded slightly. "Can't let Cobra keep our Sergeant major.. we've invested too much time housebreaking you."

Beach's eyes narrowed. "Ya know that means I gotta pee on yer desk when I get back to the Pit, right?"

Flint made a face. "Well.. I don't think you'll be able to walk for a couple days.. I'll scotchgard it good." He gave a light pat to one newly bared shoulder as Lifeline finally managed to get the sweater peeled off. "Glad to have you back." He moved up to start debriefing the three ninja.

Beach fought to keep his eyes open, still in pain from the spasmed muscles. The sharp prick of a needle into his arm made him jerk which made Lifeline grumble softly. "What ya givin' me?"

"Muscle relaxer.. hold still." The second stick stayed in place and Lifeline added the IV line. "I'm going to give you fluids, but.. here's Dusty with some water.."

Dusty bent to hand the bottle to the medic. "No bread.. found a pack of vanilla wafers though."

Beach opened his eyes at that. "I like nilla wafers." His gaze fixed on the crumpled bag in Dusty's hand.

Lifeline raised an eyebrow. "I bet you do. Here.. drink some water.." He held Beach's head to let him gulp down a few swallows. "If you keep the water down I'll let you have a cookie. Isn't that nice of me?"

"Shut up and gimme a danged cookie!" Beach really tried to reach for one but his arm simply cramped as he tried to move it and his fingers refused to work anyway. "Dang it! I can smeeeeell them!"

Lifeline sighed at the pitiful tone. "If you throw up on me, I'll be really really peeved." Breaking one cookie in half he gave the Ranger part and watched him give a blissful sigh. "Tastes good?"

"Never hadda better half of a stale cookie. I'm starving." Beach managed to reach for the other half, hooking his fingers over Lifeline's wrist. "Come on.. I ain't gonna puke it up.. "

"Alright alright.. don't bite me!" Lifeline got his fingers out of the way in time and rolled the small pack of cookies up and tossed them aside into a seat. "Like trying to feed a crocodile! That's it.. one cookie. You can have more water." He wasn't about to feed someone who'd been starved for a week more than tiny amounts.

Beach looked over towards the seats where the package had disappeared. "Come on!" When Lifeline refused, he snorted angrily. "You just wanna torment me." Despite his attempts to stay annoyed, he was quickly fading. "My legs hurt."

"I bet they do. The muscle relaxer will make the spasms ease off." Lifeline reached to knead Beach's thigh muscles, forcing them to unknot and ignored all of the fading protests. "You're going to be sore when you wake up."

Beach snorted softly as his eyes closed. "I ain't gonna go to sleep.. not sleepy."

"Yeah I know. Just checking your eyelids for cracks." Lifeline watched him slide into something between unconsciousness and sleep. The twitching muscles eventually stopped and he covered him with a blanket. Moving back up to the front he waited for Flint to look at him. "He's resting."


"Torn muscles probably, a half-healed concussion or possibly skull fracture. With some rest and time, he'll be fine. He's exhausted, half-starved and dehydrated, all easily fixable." Lifeline rubbed his eye a little bit and then nudged his glasses back into place.

Flint nodded. "Good. He's tough, he'll be fine. No serious injuries to any of the team, we got out clean. Hawk should be pleased."

Roadblock set the butt of his heavy .50cal gun on the floor and leaned on it as the plane banked to the left. "Shoot.. everyone will be pleased.. everyone but Beach, cause he ain't pleased at nothing."

Dusty stretched his arm and shook it slightly. "Oh Beach will be pleased. He just won't admit it. That's just how he is."

Beach protested weakly as they were unloading him from the plane back at the Pit. He'd tried to argue for trying to walk out, only to be strapped onto his stretcher. Lifeline hefted one end of the litter and glared at him.

"I don't know how you managed to crawl over the seats to get that bag of cookies..."

He grinned despite his exhaustion and pain. "Don't get 'tween a Ranger and his nilla wafers..."

His medic shook his head. "I told you not to.. for a REASON! I didn't want you throwing up."

"Still tasted good goin' down. And I said fer ya to move, not like I aimed to vomit on ya.."

"You're impossible." Lifeline gave up. He didn't expect reasonable behavior from BeachHead at the best of times anyway, much less while he was half-incoherent this way. "We're in the motorpool, Beach. Almost there."

"I can see that, I ain't half blind like you are, you know." BeachHead's sniping attacks had gotten worse as time went on. Lifeline tilted his head to glare through his glasses at him. "Sorry.. don't stab me with no unnecessary needles.. 'kay?"

"I am gonna stab you with needles if you aren't nice. Can you move your hands yet?" Lifeline and Dusty moved the stretcher to the hydraulic lift and set it down on the floor.

Beach raised up both hands to hesitantly close the fingers a few times. "Yeah.. hurts, but I can move 'em." The white bandages on both wrists were already stained with seeping blood. His voice sounded strangled and Lifeline winced at the croaking noise. "Can I have more water?"

Lifeline nodded at Dusty who pulled out a partial bottle of water to offer the exhausted Ranger. Dusty held the bottle carefully. "Here you go. Don't drink too fast, I don't want you to puke on me like you did Lifeline."

Water consumed, Beach snorted softly at him. "No pukin'.. that's no fun. When do I getta sleep?"

Lifeline flicked at his nose. "Not yet. Hawk said he'd meet us in the infirmary so you want to stay awake to talk to him.. just a few minutes." Beach took a deep breath then jerked when his two teammates lifted the stretcher and surprised him. "Easy.."

"Well.. don't drop me no more!" Beach grumbled a few times and fell asleep anyway. He woke up when they arrived in the infirmary and placed him onto an exam table. "Hey.. ow.. OW!"

Doc bent over him and brushed his arm aside when he grasped at the air, a little paniced and confused. "Stop fighting us.. you're fine. Are you awake?"

"Yeah.. ya'll won't let me rest.. just danged well leave me fer Cobra next time.. they was gonna let me sleep.." Beach took a deep breath automatically when Doc put a cold stethoscope on his chest. "I'm fine.. just tired and my muscles are all crampin' and sore."

Doc nodded and gave him a thorough check up anyway, jostling him slightly every so often and waking him back up. It took only a few seconds of not requiring a response for the Ranger to fall asleep. Each time he woke up Beach complained and cursed at them all over again. When Hawk appeared, Doc gave him a quick report.

"... mostly bruises and abrasions, slight concussion. We'll get him cleaned up, let him rest for about a week and he'll be back to normal. He's not going to be able to walk for a couple days. Probably strained every muscle in his legs and back. He'll heal up quickly though. Nothing serious." Doc shook his head. "If we can keep him down long enough, he's already tried to get up in the plane."

Beach rallied slightly to open his eyes. "Ah got the nilla wafers..." His half-sleepy tone as he croaked sounded pleased.

Lifeline patted him. "Yes you did. Then you puked them up on me."

"Ah did that too..." Beach coughed slightly and suddenly focused on Hawk. "General Hawk!" He struggled to sit up. "Sorry sir!" Hawk joined Doc in pressing him flat again. "Sir.." Beach managed a salute while flat on his back and only half able to raise his arm up.

Hawk pushed his hand back down. "Stand down, Sergeant major. You're to rest and obey Doc and Lifeline."

Beach struggled to keep his eyes open and blinked at him. "I gotta do whut they say.. got it. Tell 'em to gimme something to eat though.." He paused then added. "Sir."

Hawk shook his head and smiled. "I'm sure they'll feed you as soon as they can."

"Hoo-kay, sir." Beach opened his eyes very wide, then relaxed his face again. "Ow.. my eyebrows hurt. Didja really think I was dead?"

Hawk sighed. "Yes.. we did. I'm glad we were wrong. Can you tell us anything of use about the Cobra troops? Did they interrogate you?"

A loud snort. "They asked a few questions and I cussed at them and kicked a few of them. I didn't give 'em nothin', no worries, sir." He looked away for a moment. "Mostly.. they was just waitin' fer me to hang myself. Apparently Ace has a counterpart to run bettin' pools fer Cobra."

A sympathetic hand rested on his arm briefly. "You're back with us now though. And it would take a Cobra to be dumb enough to bet against you. Now you rest, do what you're told." He turned to go and stopped briefly. "And don't throw up cookies on Lifeline. He really doesn't like that apparently."

"Ah noticed.. " Beach was losing the battle to stay conscious again and struggled to keep his eyes open.

Hawk noticed and patted him. "Alright.. I'm leaving, I'll send Duke to check on you tomorrow." He left, nodding to the newly arrived CoverGirl in a bland uninterested manner he'd been practicing ever since he put GI Joe together.

She poked her head in hesitantly. "Can I come in?" She twisted her hands anxiously as she peered at the medic working over the prone Ranger.

Beach twisted his face around to look for her. "Hey Barbie... didja bring food?"

CoverGirl walked to his side. "No, I didn't realize you'd already gone to the tribute part of your recovery."

Lifeline shushed at him. "No soliciting food behind my back. Are you ready to get moved to a bed? Then you can rest as long as you like."

BeachHead groaned and reached upwards. "Fine fine.. whatever.. help me up.."

"You're not going to be able to get up, we're going to move you." Lifeline listened to the griping and fussing and insistence that he could indeed move himself. Finally he raised his hands. "Fine.. sit up." He crossed his arms and waited while Beach grunted and struggled fruitlessly. "When you give up.. let me know."

"Rangers... ungggh... don't never.. gaaah... give up." Beach finally collapsed back, having achieved all of half a dozen inches at best. "Alright... I guess I should let ya'll do your job insteada me doin' it for you." The sheepish tone made CoverGirl exchange an amused look with Lifeline.

Lifeline shooed CoverGirl out of the way. "Okay.. out for a minute. Stretcher.. get the other side."

By the time CoverGirl was allowed to return, Lifeline was back to fussing at Beach about food. "No.. I told you that you could have broth or juice, not a burger and certainly not 'a couple MREs'."

"Yer jus' bein' cruel.." Beach protested weakly.

"Yes.. well.. look, I'm letting CoverGirl visit." Lifeline sounded like he was trying to be as reasonable as possible.

BeachHead snorted at him. "Still bein' cruel... she's gonna harass me." The Ranger twisted to see her standing with crossed arms. "Ahhh, oops.. hi Courtney."

"Hi Beach. Are you ready for me to 'harass' you?" She smiled at his discomfort.

"Umm.. yeah... harass away." He solved her anger by holding out a hand towards her. Unable to resist, she stepped up closer and twined her fingers through his. He tugged her up to the side of the bed. "Sorry."

"Oh.. I guess I'll forgive you.. as long as you promise not to pretend to be dead again." She squeezed his fingers and he winced. "Sorry.. is your hand hurt?"

"There ain't no part of me that don't hurt." Even after Lifeline had cleaned up all the scrapes and stripped him out of filthy clothing, Beach still felt confined by even the bandages around his wrists. He reached up to touch his neck gingerly, fingering the livid bruises. "Ain't got much voice right now neither."

She brushed the backs of her fingers across his cheek lightly. "I'm sorry you hurt, you should rest."

"Yeah.. I'd be able to rest if'n the sadistic medic would feed me first." Beach glared at Lifeline.

"I tooold you, broth or juice." The medic was showing no sign of giving in. "You want some broth? By the time I order you up a cup of broth and it gets here, I'll have to wake you up to let you drink it. Do you want some or do you want to wait?"

"I'unno." Beach sounded sulky.

"So, no you want to whine about it some more until you go to sleep then you'll complain that I didn't bring you any when you wake up tomorrow?"

"Yeah.. that sounds good to me." Beach smirked as Lifeline stalked out. He turned his head to gaze sleepily at CoverGirl instead. "I'm gonna go to sleep.. fer about three days. When I wake up, maybe my nose muscles won't hurt no more. I swear, I hurt in places I didn't know I had."

She let him twist his fingers around hers. "You sleep.. when you wake up you'll have plenty of time to gripe at everyone. Then I'll sneak you some cookies in so you can eat them and throw them up on Lifeline, just for fun."

He grinned as his eyes went hazy. "That's mah gal... always lookin' out fer me.." Heavy eyes closed finally and he relaxed and let himself fade into sleep, reassured that he was home safe where he belonged.

End. Hope it was entertaining, if not fun. Thank you to EVERYONE who reviewed!