**This story immediately follows "Batter Up!"**

Chapter 1

The morning after getting to play in what he knew would be his first and only major league baseball game, along with Danny Williams of the 5-0 Task Force, Matt Houston and his wife CJ were on their way back home.

CJ watched Matt as he piloted the plane into the air. She thought that they would surely spend a few days with the Novelli family since they hadn't had much time to socialize while working on a blackmail case with the help of Steve McGarrett and Danny Williams. CJ was upset with her husband but he didn't seem to notice it. He wouldn't tell her why he needed to get back so soon, but then the thought struck her: it had to be the project that he and Uncle Roy had been working on – something to do with Iraq or Afghanistan. Any other time Matt would have wanted to stay and spend a few days surfing or fishing with the boys. That had to be what was dragging him back so soon. Something must have happened.

As they flew along in silence, CJ watched the man that she had been married to for about eight months – and known since they were both ten years old. He was tense. After completing the blackmail case and getting to pitch in a major league baseball game he should have been ecstatic – but there were lines of worry etched on his face. They had had several disagreements in the last few months over the amount of time he was spending on the project. He had finally started spending more time at home, but when he was at the office and not involved in a case, he was locked inside his office, doing what, she didn't know. Matt wouldn't give her details about what he and Roy were working on and said that it was for her own protection. If certain people found out that she knew, it could place her in danger. His main reason for the project she did know: to eliminate some of the violence in the world, so that their children would not have to live in fear. She also knew that he suffered from nightmares as a result of the time that he had spent in Iraq and Afghanistan while in the Army. Maybe if his project worked out like he was hoping he wouldn't be dealing with them anymore.

Reaching across the cockpit, CJ rubbed his shoulder. He jumped slightly, then gave her a smile. "Hon, is the project why we're going back so soon?"

Matt looked out the window and then nodded. "There's been a big development. Uncle Roy is taking care of things right now, but when we get back…" He looked back out the window again. Matt knew he needed to tell her. "When we get back I may be gone for a few days, CJ. And I won't be able to call you." He turned his head back to her. "I realize that you may be pregnant, and I don't want to leave you. But…" Why did he always have so much trouble stringing words together? Then the thought occurred to him: Because you don't want to say what you have to say right now. "I don't have a choice right now, CJ."

She was obviously upset. Matt hated to see her worried about anything, but he had spent $5 million and countless hours to find the terrorist – he couldn't just walk away from it now. He had to see this thing through, all the way to the end. If he should happen to be killed then that's how it would be. He didn't want to miss the birth of his child or the first day of school or any of the other firsts in his or her life. But if he could make the world a safer place for that child and all of the others out there, then his life would be a small price to pay. But how do you tell your wife, the woman that you love and promised to spend the rest of your life with, that it might be a shorter time than either of you planned? He reached up and flipped on the switch for the auto pilot and then turned in his seat to face his wife.

"I love you, CJ. I've gotta do this. When it's all over I hope you can understand…and forgive me." He leaned over and took her in his arms. He could feel her crying and it broke his heart that he was the reason for her tears. But he knew what he had to do.

At the same time, a meeting was taking place in Little Creek, Virginia. "He's just some rich guy-cowboy-oil millionaire who wants to pretend he's a SEAL" said Cdr. Merker. "Maybe he has some good intel, but there's no way in hell he's going in with us."

"Merker, you might want to rethink your assessment of Capt. Houston. He served in the Rangers and Army Intelligence during the war and received four Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, and the Medal of Honor. He's no light-weight-wanna-be. Plus, his uncle used to work for the agency and has all kinds of intelligence connections. Using the information they've been able to gather, we stand our best chance of locating and taking out the terrorist. We all know how important this is: he has been tied not only to all of the consulate bombings, but to the attacks on England, France, Germany, and Australia. If we take him out, the terrorists will lose the majority of their planning and financing. Houston is going and that's all there is to it. Understood?" Rear Admiral Tompkins glared at the man before him.

"Yes, sir, but I believe his role should be limited to advisement only." Merker was stubborn and would do everything he could to keep the civilian out of the operation.

"I don't believe you have the authority to insist on limiting his role in any way. Commander, get with the program: Houston is going in as a team member, just the same as any other SEAL. He doesn't want or expect any special treatment. Is that understood?" Tompkins asked.

"Yes, sir!" Merker snapped to attention. "Will that be all, sir?"

"Yes, Merker, that's all." He watched the SEAL as he headed for the door. "Merker, give the guy a chance. He just might surprise you."

"SEALs don't care much for surprises, sir." With that he stalked out of the admiral's office.