Chapter 30: Homecoming
"You're home! Welcome back!" Allie flew across the garage bay toward Shana, Snake Eyes, Charlie and Cam, not even pausing as she threw her arms around Shana and hugged her fervently, then without skipping a beat she turned to Cam and hugged her, just as tightly. "We missed you! Both of you! All of you!"
Clayton was a bit more decorous; he gave them a stiff-armed salute, though his broad smile said everything he wanted to say. "Good honeymoon?"
Shana snorted as she got her bags out of the back of the Hummer that had taken them from Fort Hamilton to Joe Base. "If you call starting a business, laying a ghost, solving an eight-year-old murder, assisting law enforcement with catching poachers and rescuing a baby wolf a good honeymoon."
"E-excuse me?" Allie stared at Shana. "This I gotta hear." As Shana opened her mouth, Allie placed a finger on her lips. "Over mess with Court and I and everyone else. That way we all can hear it."
Clayton, meanwhile, wandered over to where Cam and Charlie were getting their bags out of the back. "Congratulations on finally being properly married. I know that had to feel like it was never going to come, but at least it did finally happen."
"Yes, it did," Cam said warmly. "And it would have never happened without you, Clayton. I owe you, there's nothing I can say or do to repay you for that. I've…never been this happy in my life. Even with my back twisted and it hurts sometimes, I'm still happier than I've ever been before." She finished softly, "Thank you."
Clayton stepped close, so no one but she could hear him. "And I have you to thank for getting Charlie finally connected to someone here at base, not so alone. And Shana and Snake Eyes got married finally too, and if it hadn't been for you none of that would have happened, and there's nothing I can say or do to repay you for that too. All my people are finally happy."
As if on cue, the door to the garage bay flew open, and Wayne dashed in, pushed the door closed, and ran for the cargo elevator at the back of the garage bay. The door slid open obediently under his hand, he darted in, and the elevator hummed as it headed off to…wherever his destination was.
Barely two minutes later the garage bay door opened again, this time to admit Courtney—whose dripping-wet hair was a somewhat shocking, and definitely non-regulation, color of pink. "Wayne!" she screeched, even as Allie and Shana, Snake Eyes, Charlie, and Cam burst into laughter at the sight of her. "Which way did he go?"
Cam was laughing so hard she couldn't even speak; instead, she pointed one finger in the direction of the cargo elevator, and there went Courtney. Even Clayton was having a hard time keeping a straight face as their group headed for the garage bay doors. "I hope that wasn't permanent hair dye, because Courtney definitely can't walk around base with hair that color," he chuckled as he held the door for Can and Shana and Allie to pass through, the guys following. "If it was permanent she'll have to cut her hair."
"No she won't. All she has to do is bleach her hair, then re-dye it blond. It'll grow out eventually. It's not the first time Wayne's done this, and it's not the first time we found out on Courtney's hair that 'temporary hair color' isn't quite temporary. Last time it was blue."
Clayton stared at Allie. "Where was I when this happened?"
"Courtney hid from everyone until the bleach took effect and we re-dyed her hair. Why?"
"Because I would have liked to see her with blue hair. And get a picture."
Shana snickered. "I think Snake Eyes has a picture of her somewhere. Terrible picture, her eyes all red and teary and Allie and I bleaching out each side of her head. We'll take a look later and if I can find it I'll show it to you." Another grin. "So much for 'By The Book' Abernathy."
"One word out of you and you'll be on latrine duty for a week, Master Sergeant," Hawk warned.
Shana snapped a mock salute. "Won't hear it from me, no Sir. Not a word. Now, we do have to drop our things off in our quarters—"
"And you have to report to the Infirmary to get certified as physically fit for duty. Cam isn't ready to be released yet, but I think Doc will want to check on the progress of her healing, so Cam, maybe you'll want to go with her. Snake Eyes, Charlie, both of you report to Sergeant Slaughter and go through the physical fitness tests to get back on duty."
"Aye sir," Charlie said, and Snake Eyes nodded.
Allie peeled off from their group as they passed the women's wing, muttering something about checking up on Courtney, so Clayton escorted both couples to their quarters. They didn't spend much time there, just dropped their duffels in the rooms and came straight back out. Charlie and Snake Eyes saluted Clayton and hurried off in the direction of the gym, where Sergeant Slaughter's office was; Shana and Cam walked along, at a slightly more leisurely pace, telling Clayton about their honeymoon.
He shook his head when he heard about the ghost, then shook it again, harder and more grimly, when Shana revealed who the ghost was, where it had come from, and what happened to her. "I never really approved of the death penalty, but I am glad that whoever killed Kennedy did it. He should have gotten the death penalty for what he did—between you and Cam and now this little girl, I'm glad he died." Left unsaid was the mutual understanding that they all knew who exactly had killed Damien Kennedy, but no one was going to say anything. It was a secret they were all going to take to their graves, never to be spoken of even between themselves, and if it was wrong, well, Someone Else was going to sort that out, not them.
Shana and Cam proceeded now to tell him about Shana's business plans for the bed-and-breakfast, the arrangements she'd made with the caretaker, the helpful, mischievous little ghost girl who would make sure the guests got their money's worth. The cabin in the corner of the property that was going to be for Shana's use when she was in Atlanta visiting family, which Hawk knew was not going to happen frequently, given Shana's description of what had happened that first night at the O'Hara family dinner table. And he didn't blame her; after what Cam had sacrificed to bring Shana back, no one in the O'Hara family had any right whatsoever to say anything against Cam. He did smile when Shana told him that her father had taught Cam some Irish dance, and Cam's coppery blush showed she was pleased with the lesson.
Then Shana went on to describe their two weeks at the cabin, Cam's paintball tactics ('I still think she cheated,' Shana insisted stubbornly) and then the incident with the poachers and the discovery of the little wolf cub. "I still don't know what came over me, I mean, I'm trained to kill, and yet I couldn't just leave this little wolf cub to die. We named him Timber. Cam and I took turns nursing him and feeding him—fortunately by the end of the week he was eating ground-up raw meat, and that helped so we didn't have to run to town every couple of days to get formula. I swear, if I ever have kids I'll know exactly how to handle them because Timber was worse than a baby. Every couple of hours he'd be howling for food, and he didn't want it from anyone but me. He'd settle for Cam but only after howling for half an hour." She shook her head, but a small, fond smile tugged at the corner of her lips. "Anyway, we were in our last couple of days there when the wildlife rescue people came to get him, and I'll have to admit I was sort of a little sorry to see the little guy go. They said they'll rehabilitate him and let him go back to the wild, so all's well that ends well, I guess."
"And that's as it should be, wild animals belong exactly where the name says—in the wild." Doc came out of his office, his stern words softened by a smile. "Hello, Shana, Hello, Cam. It's wonderful to see both of you."
Clayton, grinning broadly, left his two girls with the doctor and returned to his office, still trying to wrap his head around the image of his stoic, tough Master Sergeant bottle-feeding an orphaned wolf cub.
Shana embraced Doc, and so did Cam. "Let me look at Shana first while you tell me what it was you were talking to Clayton about. Something about a wild animal, I believe…" and as he checked Shana's vitals, ran her through range of movement tests, and made sure her baseline readings were within norms for someone of her age, weight and height to be fit for physical activity and thus recertification for active duty, Shana and Cam took turns telling him about their honeymoon. He shook his head when he heard about Siobhan, looked grimly upset when he heard about their discovery of the body in the woods and the little girl ghost, and laughed aloud as he heard about the orphaned wolf cub who had chosen Shana as his adopted mother. "Well, when you decide to leave the Army you could always be a park ranger or a wildlife rescue expert," he chuckled as Shana gave him a dark look. "All right, go on with you. I've certified you as fit for duty; you've gained an astonishing amount of weight back for such a short time, and you're completely healthy as far as I can tell. Let me just take a blood sample—I want to see how you're doing after all the different drugs you were injected with—and once I see the levels have evened out and your hormone levels are okay, we'll put your implants back in."
Shana bounced off the exam table. "Thanks, Doc, you're the best!" She gave him a last hug, then turned to Cam. "I'm off to go meet with Sergeant Slaughter; he can administer the physical fitness tests along with Snake Eyes and Charlie. I'll catch you later in the mess, Cam—remember you have to be there to help me tell everyone about the ghost and the poachers and Timber!" and she vanished out the door.
Doc chuckled as Cam sat on the exam table where Shana had been sitting earlier. "Vitals fine…pressure normal…pretty much everything looks good. How is the pain? Are you still taking the pain medication?"
"Not really. Not on a regular basis. Just every once in a while when I overextended myself, because It doesn't even really hurt that much anymore."
"Are the muscles sore?"
She nodded, brow wrinkling as she tried to describe how she was feeling. "It is sore if I don't get up and move, but the more I use my arm, the better it feels. Keeping it still ends up aching more than getting up and moving around, so I've been using it as much as I could. And when it does ache, Charlie massages it for me, and that helps. And Shana worked suntan lotion into my back and skin while we were relaxing outside, and that made it feel better too. Charlie said if it starts hurting, let him know so he can massage it for me."
Doc walked around the table so he could look at her back. "The skin's stretched some, so that probably did help with the muscles sore from being held in the wrong position. You've actually made good progress; if you weren't military I'd recommend you skip surgery and just work on the skin until it stretches to the point where you have mobility back, but I realize you can't do that and you are anxious to get back out on duty, so while you were on your honeymoon I looked up a few doctors who are experienced with and skilled in scar reduction techniques. I realize you can't go now, with Leo Yu's trial, and the trial to the other molesters, starting in a couple of days, but I could call them and make an appointment for you afterward." She nodded quietly, and he looked up quickly at her silent response. She'd been relaxed and happy before his mention of the trial, and now she was quiet and apprehensive. "Nervous about the trial?" he asked, seemingly casual but intent on her response.
"Sort of," she said quietly, and that was that, but her body language had changed; slightly hunched shoulders, tight frown, unhappiness in her eyes even though her face had gone impassive, and that in itself was telling—she got that marble-statue look on her face when she was trying to hide what she was feeling. Which meant that this whole thing was bothering her very much indeed.
And then Alex walked in the room, and Cam went entirely tense all over. Doc could feel the muscles in her arm and back tighten under his hands—he was holding her arm out at full extension, pulling the scar tissue tight so he could test the elasticity of the scars, and he couldn't help but notice the tension.
Alex looked up, and a smile spread over her face. "Cam! I heard you and Shana were coming back today but I didn't know you were here already. Did you have a good honeymoon?" without waiting for an answer, she rushed on, "There are a few details I need in order to make my opening statements in court, so as soon as you're ready, we can go discuss them."
"Alex." Doc put a hint of sternness in his voice. "She just got in, and I'm conducting a medical exam. Could this possibly wait until after I'm done?" Cam was wearing a scoop-back tank top under her fatigue jacket, and while it covered everything but left the scars over her shoulder blades accessible, Doc still thought she might like some privacy while he was doing this. Added to that, she'd only just gotten in, and jet lag from California wasn't something to mess with when a month and a half ago you'd been at death's door. She needed time to properly settle in, in his medical opinion.
However, it didn't look like his opinion counted for much, as Alex spoke. "It won't take long, and then you can go and rest, I'm sure you're tired. I just need some details to write an opening statement for Leo Yu's trial. You can spare me half an hour, can't you? Right before dinner?" She sounded coaxing.
"I guess," Cam said, but Doc could tell her heart wasn't in it. "Doc, if you're done?" she looked at him.
It was on the tip of his tongue to tell her no, he was not done and to come up with an excuse to keep her here until dinner, then insist she rest until the next day, but Alex didn't tell him how to do his job, and it wouldn't be a good idea to try and direct how she did hers. She obviously thought it was important, and who was he to gainsay what she needed? So he reluctantly lowered Cam's arm and handed her fatigue top back, giving her all sorts of instructions as he did so. "Now, don't overdo it. You've healed a lot in the three weeks since you left, but you still have a ways to go, and if you're not careful, anything you reinjure now could be permanent." It was his warning, in a roundabout way, to Alex that Cam shouldn't be subjected to inordinate amounts of stress.
"We'll be fine," Alex waved a hand dismissively, and Doc sighed as he watched the two women walk out of the infirmary—and vowed to himself to keep a close eye on Cam during the upcoming trials.
"He didn't make bail after the second set of charges, and after what happened to the first group of 'friends' who tried to post bond for him and ended up arrested, no one else has ventured forward, so he's been stuck in jail. They've also kept him in segregation; child molesters don't do well in jail, a lot of those guys have children of their own outside or have a sister or female family member who was raped., and child sexual slavery…well, let's say he's on the hit list for about eighty percent of the prison population. Added to that, we don't have a lot of Asians in prisons for crimes of this magnitude, and he sticks out, kind of. Ordinarily I wouldn't ask that he get special treatment, but in this case I made an exception since I need him alive for the other trials."
"I see," Cam said quietly.
Alex sighed. "Cam, I know this is hard for you right now, but after years of working with victims, I can tell you that they always feel better after they testify."
"Yes, Alex. You've worked with rape victims and child victims for years. Now how many of them had to testify in more than one trial? In one trial after another after another? How many of the people who…who raped me…did you track down? How many different times am I going to have to face a room full of strangers and give them every unforgettable, disgusting detail about what this one did to me, what that one did to me, what he did, what she did?"
Alex was at a loss for words as she fumbled through her paperwork. "We have thirty people. Twenty men and ten women."
Cam's eyes got a haunted look. "The women were the worst. They know what hurts worst on a female body and they target those places. With the guys…I could tell them they were hurting me worse than they actually were and they would stop when they thought I had enough. But with the women…they knew exactly what they were doing and how much something should hurt and I couldn't manipulate them like I could the guys." She looked at Alex, and there was so much pain and despair in those eyes that Alex blinked back involuntary sympathetic tears of her own. "Thirty times, Alex. How can I face these strangers thirty times?"