Chapter 93: Epilogue

"This is a really beautiful place," Alex stretched luxuriously out on the thick towel laid out in the sand. "I don't blame Shana and Snake Eyes for falling in love with it."

"It is gorgeous," Clayton said happily, sitting on a towel beside her, smoothing sunblock on Olivia's back and shoulders. "When they said the travel arrangements stranded them here for an extra week, all I could initially think about was the inconvenience of it. I knew they enjoyed themselves, and I know they've been back here a few times since, but I'd never been here."

'Here' was a small sandy beach on the west coast of the island. Although the main road, State Highway 3, was only about half a mile from this secluded beach, the sound of traffic didn't penetrate this far, and if you ignored the well-stocked and furnished tourist cabin behind them, you could almost believe that you were stranded on a desert island.

"It's the perfect place for a couple of wounded soldiers to relax," Olivia said, taking the bottle of sunblock from Clayton and capping it. "Thank you."

"I think I'm going to go take a swim," Clayton said, standing carefully. The cast had come off his leg a couple of days before they left, and he was walking fine, though still being careful. "Ettienne might want some company out there." He headed out toward the surf, where Ettienne was swimming in and out of the waves, clearly in his element.

"If Clayton wants to buy this land and set it up as a soldiers' convalescent hospital, he couldn't pick a nicer place. The road isn't far, and Palmerston North is only three miles away, and the food is definitely good." She looked at Alex critically as the blond lawyer sat up. "You've put on some weight since you got here."

"I've gained a lot of weight since Velez died!" Alex laughed as she took the sunblock from Olivia and poured some into her hand, preparatory to putting it on her legs. "I've bought three swimsuits since we got here!"

"It's nice having an expense account, isn't it?" Olivia asked, then saw Alex's blush. "You are using the expense account for this, right?"

"Um…well…Ettienne's been pretty much paying for everything, and I don't think he's used the expense account for all of it," Alex admitted.

"Alex! I thought you hated it when the guy pays for everything!" Olivia pretended to be shocked as she took the sunblock from Alex and started applying it to her friend's legs.

"The old Alex did. The new Alex…well…" Alex shrugged. "I kind of found I like being babied." She saw Olivia's look. "Just a little!"

Olivia laughed. "Okay. I got you. Especially when you're being babied by a handsome gorgeous Cajun."

"He's no runway model, but there is a certain rugged charm about him. And he knows it too, and he can get cocky about it, but that just makes him…cute." Alex grinned. "But hey, you didn't do so bad yourself. General Hawk, of all people, Liv!"

It was Olivia's turn to shrug and grin. "He's so tough, but so gentle at the same time. I could see myself going out with him for a while."

"Maybe more than just going out now that you know you're expecting." Alex grinned as she untied the back of her bikini top. "Here, can you get my back? Just be gentle, some of the scars are still tender."

Olivia scooted over to sit behind Alex, applying sunblock to Alex's shoulders. "Jesus, Alex, I don't even want to think about what it felt like when you got these."

"Some of the ones on my upper shoulders are fading. The ones on my lower back, though…Lifeline told me to talk to a doctor about them because when I bend I can feel the skin pulling, and he says I may have to have surgery if they hamper movement." She sobered. "I will have to warn you, Liv—if we're going to be sharing an apartment—I still wake up screaming from nightmares every once in a while."

"Honestly, me too. I still see Sandra in my sleep, though I've gotten over flinching whenever you or another woman came near me." She saw Alex's look. "I tried so hard not to, but…"

"It's okay. I understand. We've always been friends, and that's not going to change, not even with a couple of guys now in the picture."

They were quiet for a moment as she worked her way down Alex's body, then she said, "Alex…can I see how the other scars are coming?"

After the way Olivia had been flinching at the presence of another woman, the fact that she could be casual about Alex's nudity now was a gesture of trust. "Of course." Alex tugged at the ties holding her bikini bottom around her hips, and she heard Olivia's soft indrawn breath as she saw the full extent of the damage done to her body for the first time.

"Alex…" Olivia's eyes were fastened to Alex's now naked body. Though her skin was browned by a week of sun and sand, some of the worst scars were still evident, red against the paler portions of her skin, the parts of her that were covered by her bikini. And Olivia knew it was a testament to how comfortable Alex felt around her, around Ettienne, and Clayton, that she could wear clothing that showed her scars.

"I know, it looks terrible." There was a faint hint of discomfort in Alex's eyes.

"No. That's not what I was going to say. You're gorgeous, Alex." Olivia, desperate to soothe that hurt, uncertain look from Alex's eyes, stood up next to her friend and hugged Alex gently. "You've been through something unimaginable and you've come out stronger for it."

"Hey, your ordeal wasn't a cakewalk either," Alex said quietly, turning to face Olivia. "Sandra did a number on you." She raised Olivia's arm, let a drop of sunblock fall on the inside of Olivia's elbow, and rubbed it in. "The drugs…" another on the circular burn on Olivia's right breast, untying the string bikini top as she did so, and then her hands climbed to the circular burn on the side of Olivia's neck. "The electricity. And what she did to you down there. Have you fully healed from that?"

Olivia nodded. "The stitches came out a week ago, right before we left." She suddenly giggled. "Alex…"

"Hmm?" Alex's hands never stopped working the sunblock into Olivia's shoulders and neck.

"We have an audience."

"Mm. I know. I can feel the heat coming out of Ettienne's eyes drilling into my back. And he's probably turned on as hell right now, he was back in Medellin at Club Mangos when I was dancing with Shana and Courtney. All three of us could feel the guys staring at us, that was one of the reasons why we put on a show. It was for them as much as it was for the mission." She looked into Olivia's brown eyes, her own blue ones sparkling with humor and happiness. "Wonder what Clayton's thinking?"

"Jeeezus Gawd!"

Clayton took a step backward into the surf, going just a step deeper so that his primal, physical reaction to the sight of Olivia and Alex standing there on the beach wasn't as evident. Beside him, Ettienne did the same. "Mon Dieu," Ettienne breathed fervently.

"Um…Ettienne. Are you sure you're ready to take that on?" Clayton gestured to Alex.

Ettienne snorted. "I already knew she liked girls, and truthfully, it doesn't bother me one bit. Watching Alex and Shana and Courtney in Medellin was a hell of a turn-on. The question is you—are you sure you're ready to take that on?" Ettienne gestured to Olivia.

Clayton had to think about that one as Olivia's bikini top and bottom joined Alex's on the sand, as Alex's hands kept working sunblock into Olivia's skin. "Um. I don't know. I can't even think right now."

"I don't want to think. Come on, let's remind them that they still need a man for something." Clayton started to say something, but Ettienne hushed him. "Don't think. Don't analyze. Let's just enjoy what we have for now and let everything else go to hell in a handbasket if it wants to. Me, I'm going to go enjoy Alex."

Clayton had his reservations as he started to head for the beach, but as he tapped Olivia's shoulder and she turned to look at him with a mischievous smile, then wrapped her sun-browned, oiled arms around him, his reservations disappeared. "Was wondering how long it would take for you two to come join us," she purred as Ettienne and Alex headed for the cabin without a backward glance.

And then there was no more room for any thought, any talk, at all, as his lips locked with Olivia's.

Author's notes: And that's it! That's all for this book! All my thanks to everyone who has stuck with me throughout this novel. Seriously, it's been a roller-coaster ride and I've enjoyed writing it hopefully as much as you enjoyed reading it (if the reviews I've been getting are any indication.)

But if you know me or have seen the other stuff I've posted, you know that I rarely ever write one-shots, and this was no exception. This is a series (I'm currently in the middle of the third novel with definite plans for a fourth book and ideas for a fifth) so we're not yet done, not by any means!

The second book in the series, G.I. Joe: SERE, covers some slightly controversial topics, namely the hotly-contested SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) courses that every Army soldier is required to take. It will also introduce a new member to the Joes, one who is going to have a very significant effect on several members of the team…but I'm not going to say anymore, or I'll ruin the surprise! The first three chapters of SERE are going up concurrently to this one, so look for it!