Chapter 85: Family

Shana woke up first, smiling at the gentle buzz saw of Snake Eyes snoring next to her. It's so wonderful to be able to wake up next to him. I want to wake up next to him every morning for the rest of my life. The thought gave her a warm, fuzzy feeling. I love this man so much…I do want to marry him.

She rolled over, looked at him. I don't really want to wait. I'd love to do it now, but I haven't even told my family that we're engaged yet. Mom and Siobhan won't care, but Dad and my brothers will. They like Snake Eyes. You know, they'd probably like Cam and Charlie too, I'm going to invite Charlie and Cam to the wedding. And Allie and Dash and Courtney and Wayne and Clayton and Liv. And Ettienne and Alex. And Conrad. Poor Conrad. He'll come if I ask him, but he'll spend the whole time hiding from Siobhan. She really made an impression on him…and not a nice one. Although, in point of fact, none of my friends like my sister. Al least, though, she'll be civil to Clayton, Allie, and Dash. Just because they come from old money. Well, I could say Cam comes from an old family, too, since she's Native American and they've been here longer than even the O'Haras.

She smiled as she thought of the dress in the closet. She'd forbidden Snake Eyes from seeing it until the day of Cam's wedding; as Joe base was right under the Fort Wadsworth Chaplain's school, they didn't have far to go, and they had found procedures online for a non-denominational wedding. Not that either Charlie or Cam really cared; in their eyes, they were already married, heart and soul, so all of this was just a formality, a nod to the legal ramifications.

Apparently Allie felt the same way since she pushed through getting these quarters through for us, Shana thought, then yawned. When she opened her eyes, she saw Snake Eyes' amused blue ones looking back at her. And she grinned. "Like what you see?"

Absolutely. That mouth was doing some incredible things last night.

She gasped in a breath and then broke into helpless laughter, even as she marveled at it. She'd been so sure, while it was happening, that after Kennedy she would never want to make love again ever, but somehow it was different with Snake Eyes. She couldn't imagine any other man ever touching her again, but she loved the sounds he made when she used her mouth and hands on him, loved seeing him writhe with pleasure, hungered for the feel of his strong hands sliding against her skin, craved the feel of him inside her, and while she knew some of that craving was because of the Oxytocin still in her system (Doc had said it would take a few months to level off) most of it was because she really did want him. And he was more than willing to satisfy that particular hunger. 'Screwing like rabbits,' Courtney had called it once, and while Shana deplored the crudity of the term, she'd seen rabbits in spring up at their cabin in the Sierra Nevadas and had to admit that when she and Snake Eyes got really into what they were doing, they could look just as single-minded.

But they had a lot more fun than the rabbits did.

"Well, this mouth would like to get some food in it." She'd recovered her appetite and it seemed lately that all she did was eat. But she was gaining the body fat back, which was good; you had to have the fat before it could turn into muscle.

He opened his mouth to answer, but his stomach beat him to it, growling so loud that even Shana heard it. She chuckled as she got out of bed and reached for her clothes, draped carelessly over a nearby chair. "All right. Let's go."

Normally there was a lot of chatter coming from the mess hall; Shana knew something was wrong this time when they got close to the mess hall door and there was silence coming from inside. And when she appeared in the door, every eye turned to her, nervously, furtively.

She never even noticed.

Her attention was riveted by the large TV screens in the corners of the hall. Clayton had had them installed there a long time ago, partly just to provide background while his soldiers ate, but also to keep the informed of news. Those televisions were set to news channels right now, and one each of the two screens a broad red ribbon of color streamed by across the bottom of the screen with the Headlines 'Breaking News—Identity of Two Soldiers in Kennedy Human Trafficking Case Leaked'.

Cam was sitting in her wheelchair at the edge of one table. And she turned a stricken face to her friend. "Shana…who would do this?"

Shana didn't have to ask; she knew. "That bitch," she swore, her green eyes hard and cold, her voice angry as she looked at the red-haired, all-too-familiar woman on the TV screen talking to a reporter. "That absolute stone-cold hard-hearted bitch!"

"Who is it?" Cam asked.

Shana's fist clenched. "It's my sister Siobhan."

Alex stood from the table she was sitting at. "Shana?" it was an unspoken request for a private conversation, and Shana followed Alex out into the hall.

"What happened? How did your sister find out about all of this?"

Shana forced herself to breathe deeply, throttling down the impulsive anger that made her want to go find her sister and strangle her, fought down the shame and guilt that now the case could be compromised because of this. "Snake Eyes and I kept thinking we'd seen Kennedy before, but couldn't remember where. It wasn't until he was going through some old photographs yesterday and found a photo from years back when I went to the Governor's Ball with Conrad back when we were both stationed at Fort Benning. Kennedy and I met there and I didn't remember. And neither did he, because on the island he told me I wasn't one of those 'Atlanta society girls'. After I saw the picture I called home, intending to talk to my Mom and get some information from her as to how we knew Kennedy and what she knew about him, but my sister Siobhan answered the phone. She said that all Kennedy would have to do was snap his fingers and women would jump into his bed willingly so he didn't need to have sex slaves, and the soldiers who were bringing the accusations should be jailed 'when it was proved that the soldiers were lying.' And I lost my temper—I know I shouldn't have but my sister and I have a…prickly relationship…and somehow she can get me to lose my temper like few other people can."

"What exactly did you tell her?"

Shana had to close her eyes and think hard about the conversation of the day before. "I told her I was on a humanitarian mission in the Congo when I was captured by members of one of the rogue militia factions. I told her…I told her they drugged me and sold me to human traffickers, who took me to Amsterdam. I told her that Cam—I gave Siobhan her name, damn it—had previous experience with human trafficking and she volunteered to go deep cover with an implanted tracer chip to find me, and that the Army sent out a team of Navy troopers, FBI and Homeland security personnel to bring us home." She looked anxiously at Alex. "Have I damaged the case?"

"I'll have to talk to Abbie later, but I don't think you damaged the case. The case against Kennedy is practically airtight; between your medical reports, testimony from the naval troopers who were there rescuing you, and Conrad's testimony—yes, he submitted one too, as the leader of the field operation that went out to bring the two of you back, Allie's testimony as to what she and Conrad saw at the slave markets, the audio from Cam's tracer, and footage from the security cameras all over the mansion and the island that show you and Cam being tortured and raped—yes, the sick bastard had a lot of it taped—I really don't see that he'll be able to skate on the charges. What I am worried about now is what they'll be able to dig upon you and Cam before the trial, what kind of contamination of the jury pool will be happening, how the defense is going to use Cam's prior history to muddy the waters."

"What do you mean, prior history?" Shana felt anger rise again, this time on Cam's behalf. "She's done absolutely nothing wrong!"

"Shana look at this from the viewpoint of someone who is looking for excuses, okay? Cam was abandoned as an infant, her father had to adopt her because there was no evidence to prove she was his. He died while she was still very young and she was sent to live with her aunt and uncle in New York She says herself she was shy and a bit of a loner. A teacher had to take a lunch separately to make sure she was supervised during the school lunch."

"But that was so that Cam could dance in the gym, it wasn't because she was doing anything wrong!"

"The defense isn't going to look at it like that, Shana. They're going to do whatever they can to smear her name and reputation, pick out negative points while ignoring the reasons for them. They may also dig up the allegations the school made on her behalf about the child abuse John investigated, that CPS ruled unfounded because Cam was too afraid to talk, then the accident that broke both her legs. During the course of this the fire at the cabin is going to come out, and the fact that she never reported it or said anything will be ammunition, as will her later record of imprisonment at Sealview and her assaulting a guard there, her tangle with Immigration at the Otero County deportation camp, and Miramar—the fact that she was undergoing PTSD counseling at Miramar while she was incarcerated is also going to be a sticking point, with all the attention being given lately to soldiers who have 'gone postal' with PTSD symptoms, either treated or untreated. Then you take into account that she was previously a victim of sex trafficking, and that she volunteered to get you out…the defense will argue that she might somewhere subconsciously enjoy being told what to do—she's chosen a military career, after all…and will imply that she 'asked for it' especially in light of the military courts-martial records where Walker and Broadview and Hilton were accused of assault and battery and maltreatment."

"That's ridiculous."

"Shana, I know that and you know that but what matters is what a jury thinks, and there's enough in Cam's prior history to cast reasonable doubt on her mental state and her motives. I'm just glad I have you as a witness along with her, because to the public you're a much more believable witness. Secure loving upper-class family, natural-born American, smart, good school records, studied law and passed bar but decided to give it all up and put your life on the line for your country, is very good at what you do, decorated fifteen-year veteran of the Army, simultaneous clearance with the FBI, classified training record but no disciplinary issues, no courts-martial, numerous commendations for valor, bravery, heroism and self-sacrifice. No arrests, no time behind bars. You can see how you look next to Cam."

Shana could, and it made sense even if the unfairness of it all infuriated her. "But none of this was ever Cam's fault. She's acted throughout her life with honor and courage. Her Aunt and Uncle dying in the cabin fire was because she was desperate and thought death was the only way out."

"We're just going to have to see how this plays out," came a voice from behind them, and Alex and Shana both turned, to see Clayton standing there with Liv beside him and Auggie sleeping quietly in her arms. "But know this; we are going to stand behind her and defend her, as one of our own, throughout this fiasco, and I for one, an honored to have her in my unit." Despite the warmth in his voice, there was a spark of steel in the back of his eyes, and Shana understood that both Clayton Abernathy and General Hawk were going to fight for Cam.

And so, she suspected, was everyone else on base.

"I told her not to say anything. She PROMISED!" Shana knew she sounded whining and petulant, but she was so angry at Siobhan for what she'd done that she didn't care.

Abbie sighed, resting her chin on her cupped fist. "I knew this was going to come out sooner or later, but I was hoping it would come out during the trial, and not before. Now the defense has a chance to dig up anyone and everyone who ever knew the two of you to find dirt. Anything sensational, anything to sell papers and make headlines. Unfortunately for Cam, they're going to find plenty."

"But none of this was her fault!" Shana got up and paced, indignation overcoming her dignity; her boots thumped hollowly on Abbie's office floor. "Surely people can see that once they hear what her Aunt and Uncle did to her, what she was forced to do, everything she went through. She was a child, she had no choices in what was done to her, and those who should have been looking out for her welfare, those she most needed to be able to trust, were the once who betrayed her the worst and sold her without a second thought!"

"You're not going to hear any arguments from me there," Abbie sighed, looking sympathetically at Cam sitting in her wheelchair on the opposite side of the desk. "I think the entire situation has been deplorable and Cam should start suing a lot of people, starting with the US Military who didn't bother to check that the people they were sending a young girl to actually were related to her."

"I'm not suing the military. I'm not suing anyone. I just want to leave everyone alone and be left alone!" Cam exclaimed, and there was an edge of desperation in her voice. "I just want to live a quiet, ordinary life, why is that too much to ask?"

"It's not too much, and I agree, what's happened so far has been despicable. However, that does change a few things I was going to do."

"What?" Shana finally sat down; pacing was getting her nowhere.

"The bulk of my testimony is going to be on you, Shana, and not Cam. At first I thought I'd pull her to the forefront as my star witness; if the first thing the jury saw was the scars and they learned about the fire that killed her Aunt and Uncle later, their first impression would have been the lasting one, that Kennedy caused most of it. But with this now, the defense ids going to hammer in the fact that some of the scars were inflicted well before the trafficking and it won't have as much shock value. And you don't have much in the way of scars, so the case is going to rely pretty heavily on your testimony. Are you up to it?"

Shana stared at Abbie. "You're asking me that? Why didn't you ask Cam?"

"Because she promised Alex she would. But I haven't heard how committed you are in getting this guy. If you'd really rather not testify, I can't force you to."

"So because Cam promised she doesn't get a choice?" Shana's temper was already close to the surface after what Siobhan had done, and the continuing injustice of what was being done to her friend was just pushing her closer to the edge.

"I promised, Shana." Cam's soft words threatened to shatter Shana's anger. "I promised Alex I would testify. It's not just for me, Shana, or you, it's for everyone. It's for all of his victims, and it's for everyone like us who have been caught in the crime of human trafficking. I promised and I'll stick to it because it's the right thing to do."

"This is going to be hard on you."

"Like it hasn't already?" Cam drew in a deep but slightly shaky breath. "When I first came up with this idea and told everyone back at base that I wanted to go deepcover to find you, Clayton told me it was going to be hard, and he believed even I didn't know just how hard this was going to be. And he was right…it was so much harder this time than it was when I was fifteen. And there's a part of me right now that doesn't want to do this, Shana; it's not just Kennedy, it's Hans, and it's Rosa. I look at Hans on TV and all I can see is him on top of me while I was fighting off the anaphylaxis from the barbitol they gave me—the truth serum they used on you. And Rosa…" her eyes filled with tears, and she clenched her fists to stop her hands from shaking. "I see her on top of me taking the scar tissue off my chest, I want to throw her off, to push her off me and run away, but she injected me with something that paralyzed my muscles, and then my vocal cords, and I couldn't even scream…I'm going to have nightmares about that for the rest of my life. But I have to testify, Shana, for you, for the other girls I met when I was fifteen, and for every person whose body Kennedy threw in the ocean under the fishing platform. This isn't just justice for me, or for you, Shana. It's for all of us."

Author's note:

And that's it for this book. Next week the first three chapters of the fourth book in this series, 'G.I. Joe: Sacrifice' will start going up, so look for it! Kennedy's prosecution, Kennedy's death (yes, he is going to die and we all know who's going to do it) and Shana and Snake Eyes' honeymoon are all coming up, so hang in there, we've still got a long way to go!