Chapter 1

Every day it was the same routine for Shana, code name Scarlett, O'Hara. She would rise early for duty, come home, fall asleep, have the same disturbing dreams, wake up crying hysterically, and then rise for duty again. It had been this way for 365 days. It was exactly a year ago that her personal dreams and desires had been shattered.

Today was no different. Scarlett had just finished wiping away the remnant tears from her face as she freshened herself up for duty. She had her own quarters now and she was glad. No one knew of her troubled dreams. She had perfected her fake plastered on smile which she used daily. No one knew that inside she was in agony. So much pain, anguish, and depression was stored in her small frame. Once in awhile she would catch herself in fascination of the fact that no one caught on that her happiness was an act. In the back of her mind, she knew the answer why no one caught on. There was only one person who knew her so well who would be able to crack the code on her exterior and find out what was really going on inside. But, that person wasn't in her life anymore. For all she knew, he still couldn't remember who she was.

Scarlett splashed some more cold water onto her face to rid her mind of thoughts of the past. Who was she kidding? The past was all she ever thought about. Serpentor and his god damned spear. How the spear penetrated her lover's body. How she screamed when Duke fell. Serpentor would never know he did more damage than he thought. Serpentor left that battle triumphant at Duke's weakened condition. What he didn't realize is that not only did he poison Duke's body, but he poisoned Scarlett's as well. Hatred consumed her soul and her heart could love no more. Scarlett toweled off her face and got dressed before leaving.

She entered the cafeteria to get a quick bite to eat before her shift. She ran into her good friends Lady Jaye and Flint, who were newly engaged. She felt better when surrounded by friends. Her torturous thoughts seemed to stop when she was with others.

"Hey, Red, good morning." Flint smiled at her.

"You know I hate that." Scarlett scrunched her nose.

"I know, which makes it all the more fun." Flint laughed. Scarlett swatted him on the arm.

"I'm starving, let's get something to eat." Lady Jaye smiled and ushered them into the line. The three got their food and sat down. Scarlett's attention couldn't help but to wander over to the ring on Lady Jaye's left hand. It was a huge diamond. Lady Jaye noticed her friend's gaze and put her hand out in front so Scarlett could get another look at the ring.

"Your ring is so beautiful." Scarlett breathed.

"Yes, I still can't believe we're engaged." Lady Jaye sighed. Flint put his arm around Lady Jaye and the two smiled at each other. Scarlett lowered her eyes to her plate. Pancakes. They had to serve pancakes today of all days. Her false smile turned into a truthful frown. Her eyes clouded over with tears. This is exactly what she didn't want to happen. Good soldiers didn't let feelings get in the way of duty. She was failing herself. Lady Jaye saw Scarlett's bottom lip tremble. "Honey, what's wrong?" she asked concerned.

"P-P-Pancakes. Duke loved pancakes." Scarlett sobbed and dropped her head in her hands. Flint and Lady Jaye looked at each other alarmed. Scarlett had never been like this before.

"I don't know if he still likes pancakes!" Scarlett yelled. A few other joes that were in the cafeteria turned to look. Lady Jaye slid over and put her arms around her grieving friend. Scarlett took solace in her arms.

"I just don't know…how will I know?" Scarlett continued to sob.

"I think we need to go somewhere and calm down." Lady Jaye suggested. She helped raised Scarlett to her feet and the two rushed out of the cafeteria with eyes watching their every step. Flint was at their heels. He felt the eyes too and turned to stare at the curious joes.

"She was just expecting waffles." Flint smiled glumly and followed the two women.

"Duke needs pancakes. He loves them." Scarlett continued to mumble down the hallway. They got back to her quarters and Lady Jaye took Scarlett's key and opened the door. Both Lady Jaye and Flint helped her back onto her bed.

"Scarlett, honey, what's going on?" Lady Jaye asked.

"I'm feeling sick. I need more sleep. I haven't been getting enough." Scarlett sighed and pulled the covers close to her head.

"No, there's more going on. I know it…I know you." Lady Jaye shook her head.

"I'm fine, Jaye, I just got hit with a wave of exhaustion." Scarlett answered.

"No…I'm calling Doc." Lady Jaye replied and went into the other room to use the phone.

"Already done. He's on his way." Flint answered clicking the cordless phone off.

"Guys, this is ridiculous." Scarlett cried falling back onto her pillow.

"What's ridiculous was all that talk about pancakes. Something's eating away at you." Flint replied taking a seat on the side of her bed. Scarlett just laid silently in her bed. A knock was heard at the door and Lady Jaye went to let in Doc.

"How is she now?" Doc whispered to Lady Jaye.

"Well, she's stopped talking about pancakes. She claims she just needs sleep, but I think something else is going on." Lady Jaye sighed concerned.

"I have the same feeling. Scarlett's never one to complain about lack of sleep." Doc mused scribbling things down on a chart. "I want to talk to Scarlett alone. Maybe I'll get an idea of what's really going on".

"Thanks, Doc, for coming so quickly." Lady Jaye nodded. Doc moved past her into Scarlett's bedroom. Second later Flint emerged and closed the door behind him to give Doc and Scarlett some privacy.

"So how are we today, Miss Sunshine." Doc greeted the redhead.

"Doc, you didn't need to come. Lady Jaye and Flint are over exaggerating. I just need to sleep." Scarlett sighed and rolled over.

"Let me just take your temperature, blood pressure, and listen to your heart to be on the safe side." Doc smiled. Scarlett groaned and sat up. He put the thermometer in her mouth to start his mini examination. "You know Falcon came back from vacation this morning. He said Duke is feeling better, but was surprised to see him older than 15. Seems Duke's memory is still stuck at Vietnam." Doc made conversation. Scarlett turned her head away and took out the thermometer.

"Everyone says he'll get better." She replied bitterly with her eyes glaring at the floor. She put the thermometer back in her mouth. Doc knew he had just hit a nerve.

"Flint and Jaye are really concerned about you." Doc changed the subject. "It's great they're engaged."

"I guess." Scarlett shrugged moving the thermometer around. Doc took it out to find her temperature was normal.

"I would think you would be ecstatic for them?" Doc questioned.

"I am. It's just that being the maid of honor is more of a hassle than I thought it would be. There is so much I need to plan and do. Not to mention that just attending a wedding is a hassle. I have to find a gift, get my dress altered…find a date." Scarlett trailed off. Doc nodded and checked her heart with his stethoscope. Scarlett took breaths as prompted.

"Everything checks out with that…now for your blood pressure." Doc smiled and wrapped her arm up. He pumped up the bandage type cloth until it was tight and watched the digital display for her blood pressure. "Your blood pressure is a little high, but that could be from the lack of sleep you complain about. Is there anything else you want to tell me? This is strictly patient to doctor confidentiality." Doc asked seriously.

"No, I just want to rest some. I'll be better in no time." Scarlett smiled at the doctor. Her eyes were pleading another story, but Doc was not going to press anything. He had gotten Scarlett to open up to him this much. If he overstepped his boundary, she would shut him out too.

"Ok, you do that. Take care of yourself." Doc nodded and left the room. He found Lady Jaye and Flint sitting on the couch with their hands clasped onto one another. They both stood up.

"How is she?" Lady Jaye asked.

"She's fine physically, but I think she needs some time off." Doc sighed.

"I can't remember the last time Scarlett took leave." Flint replied.

"Exactly. Well, you two can go in and see her now." Doc nodded. He let himself out and made his way to Hawk's office. He only had to wait a few minutes before Hawk called him in.

"Yes, Doc? What is it?" Hawk demanded to know.

"I'm concerned about Scarlett. I think she needs some time off." Doc bluntly stated.

"Is she ok?" Hawk asked concerned. Scarlett was one of his top soldiers. He depended on her.

"Physically yes…mentally…I'm not sure." Doc replied shrugging. Hawk grunted and folded his hands on his desk.

"I had a feeling…" Hawk sighed closing his eyes. "Do you think it has to do with Duke?"

"Absolutely. I brought up his name and it was like a bomb went off in her body. She stiffened up and gave an icy stare." Doc nodded.

"I saw it too, but I ignored it. I figured she was handling it on her own. I should know better. Good soldiers don't handle things on their own. They hide until whatever demons are chasing them are worse than Cobra themselves." Hawk sighed. He took out some leave papers and signed them.

"Go get Scarlett and bring her here. We need to talk." Hawk ordered. Doc saluted and left retracing his steps back to Scarlett's room. He knocked again and was met by Scarlett.

"Hawk called saying you were coming for me. What's going on?" Scarlett asked warily.

"I think it's a matter that Hawk wants to discuss with you." Doc replied.

"I want to sleep, but as usual duty calls." Scarlett laughed falsely. She and Doc made their way to Hawk's office. They entered immediately.

"Yes, Hawk?" Scarlett asked after saluting.

"Sit down, Scarlett." Hawk made a hand gesture towards the chair. She did as she was told and looked back towards Doc. "It has come to both Doc's and my attention that you are not yourself lately." Hawk began. Scarlett's eyes became frantic.

"Look, General, all I need is some sleep and I'll be fine." Scarlett interrupted her commander.

"Well, you'll definitely have time to sleep. I am ordering you on leave for a month." Hawk declared and shoved the papers over to her.

"Sir, I can't…I don't need to do that." Scarlett shook her head.

"Doc and I both feel that it would be the best. I don't want to see one of my top soldiers not in tip top condition when it's time to go out in the field." Hawk reasoned.

"If I just could sleep I would be fine." Scarlett answered defeated.

"Somehow I don't think sleep is your answer. I, too, have been having torturing dreams since Duke's accident." Hawk replied softly.

"Duke has nothing to do with this!" Scarlett cried leaping out of the chair. Hawk leaned back in surprise of her outburst.

"I think Duke has everything to do with this. In fact I should have said something sooner, but I thought you had worked it out on your own." Hawk replied.

"Damn it, Hawk. I'm a good soldier. I don't let my emotions get the best of me. Don't you think if I was upset about Duke it would have taken its toll on me a long time ago?" Scarlett cried.

"You're good at hiding things, Scarlett. I just wish I could have helped you sooner. My orders are final. Your leave is effective immediately." Hawk declared. Scarlett stood there fuming. Her eyes were wide with anger. She turned to Doc and gave him the same angry stare before storming out of the office.

"She's fierce." Doc commented and gathered his papers together.

"Yeah, I'm glad she's on our side and not Cobra's." Hawk nodded.