Authors Notes: Hi Guys, this is Liz and Shana, now known as "Romancing the Joes!" I know, pretty cute, but that's what we are good at, romancing the Joes! hehe This is our first fic of what we hope, many. We both hope you enjoy our work, and PLEASE let us know.

Disclaimer: We own nothing but our imaginations.

 This story is set five years after the Joe team has been disbanded

After All This Time Chapter One: Help From An Unlikely Source

Conrad Hauser, once known as Duke, had just settled in for a nice quiet night. The day had been rough; he and his team had been working overtime with the Secret Service. What he had been guaranteed would be an easy job for his trainees to tackle had turned into a colossal nightmare. In the end everything had worked out and if his trainees had received a little more 'on the job training' than they had been expecting, well, so much the better. He made his way to the library, the one room in this place that he had really made his own. He had taken a hand in the design of the whole place. He was after all, going to be living in this house for quite some time. But this room he had taken as his own. It was private and everyone who came into this house to train or whatever knew that and respected the boundary. That, and they knew if they crossed it he would beat the shit out of them.  The room was his private haven. He had a couch and a small fireplace for relaxing on cold nights, books to read or look at, he was becoming more and more partial to Tony Hillerman and other books set out in this wild country. Yes, this place was a relaxing haven but it was also somewhere he could go to brood in peace. That was his purpose as he entered the room and crossed to the far wall, a solid window. He had an ancient cedar desk; so massive he had once thought of swiping the desk free of it's content and stretching out for a nap. He'd bought a couch for this room after that. He slept on the couch, did his work in an office down the hall, and brooded in a mammoth leather chair that sat behind the desk.  He opened the glass door to the liquor cabinet and took out a bottle of Scotch. It was the one solid evidence he kept of his former relationship with Shauna O'Hara. She had developed in him an undying love for Scotch. He only indulged on a particularly harsh day, such as today, for whenever he drank the stuff memories came flooding back and he got sentimental. He hated sentimental. He hated her. But still, he poured himself a glass and sat down, his chair facing the great picture window looking out on the canyon below and waited for the memories to come. "Here we go." He muttered to himself as the sunset-no correction-this was the sunrise-sneaked up over the canyon. It was every shade of red-the color of her hair in the sunlight. "Red sky at morning, sailors take warning…" He had never seen a more brilliant red sunrise in all his time out west. He was headed for trouble, and wouldn't you know, trouble knocked on his front door. Duke decided to ignore it. He pulled his hat low over his head, covering his eyes, and figured he would just sit there and take a nap until the idiot who was knocking went away. Fifteen minutes later the idiot tapped on the picture window. Duke slowly pushed his hat back into the upright position and glared at the idiot. There was exactly six inches from the window ledge to the edge of the cliff. Nobody had ever wanted to talk to Duke so badly that they had risked falling off the ledge down sixty feet to the canyon floor.

"Shit!" he cursed staring out at the idiot. Rodger Murray. His presence here could only mean one thing-she was in trouble. Not something he wanted to deal with.

"You gonna let me in, Hauser?"

"Give me one good reason."

"She's in trouble."

"Shit!" he was right-God but he did hate it when he was right about things like this. Duke jerked his head to the side indicating that Murray should meet him at the door. "Make my day a hell of a lot better if he just fell over." Not that that would happen. Murray was as agile as a jungle cat-he should be-he had trained with her father.

Duke jerked the door open, "Well. You gonna stand there all blasted day or are you going to come in so we can get this over with."

Murray walked inside and the two men stood in the hall eyeing each other for several seconds. They both nodded and Duke locked the door and gestured for Murray to follow him down the hall to his office. Duke turned on the computer and put his elbows on the desk, "What's the problem."

Murray raised his eyebrow, "You have become more forward than you used to be. Interesting to note other changes-you've been busy-and you haven't been ranching cattle. "

"The U.S. government's nice thick file says I ranch cattle. "

"I don't believe everything the government writes, especially in their 'nice thick files'."

"So you're admitting that you've hacked into the government's files."

"Would you expect anything less of me?"

"No. You always were a damned good hacker-too good for my taste."

"Yeah well, can't say I was all broke up when she decided she could do better."

Duke stared, "What do you want from me?"

Murray loosened his tie and pulled out several thick files and pushed them across the desk, "As I'm sure your government friends have told you, Shauna and I are partners in a small, elite, private security agency."

Duke grunted.

"Shauna runs the place, I train operatives-much like you do, and generally take point on the more high scale jobs when Shauna either doesn't want them or is too busy."

"She's the brain, you're the brawn. Got it. Next chapter?"

"Recently Shauna took a job that turned sour. The guy she was protecting decided to change sides at the last minute, leading her on a wild goose chase for several days until she found his hideout. She brought the guy in –turned him over to the international boys and figured everything was hunky-dory."

"Except now the other boys want a chance to play."

"They weren't exactly friendly when she crashed their hideout. The guy was friends with a bunch of radicals-you know-'we're gonna take over the world' types. Nothing she hasn't handled before."

"But for some reason this time its different and she can't shake them."

Murray scowled, "Listen-she's been under a lot of stress lately. Normally she could handle this on her own but she's in a unique position right now. Those guys don't play nice and I want her out."

"What's the unique position that makes her vulnerable?"

"I'm not a liberty to say. Just that she's involved with some big league international players and if something happened to her the whole thing would go worse than bad and we'd have World War Three going on in a big way."

"Four." Duke reminded him softly of the war against Cobra that had ended only five years before. Just before they had broken up and he had come out here to rebuild his life.

Rodger nodded solemnly. "Will you help her?"

"What do you need?"

"I need a place for her to get lost in-and someone to make sure she stays safely lost for a good little while."

"How long?"

"A month."

Duke cursed, he'd been doing a good deal of that since Murray showed up, "That long?"

"Give or take a few."

"A few what?"


"What-exactly-are you planning on doing in this time?"

"Me? I'm gonna track down and dispose of this renegade terrorist group that wants to turn my cousin into shish kebab all the while keeping the international deal she was working on a float and all cruise members happy."

Duke sat there for a few moments sifting through the files Murray had given him. He knew Murray wouldn't be here if it weren't important-and truth be told he was about the only one that she wouldn't turn to in time of need. No one would suspect. He didn't want the job-lord knew the last thing he wanted to do was pull twenty-four/seven guard duty for his ex-fiancé. But-push come to shove-there was no one else and even if he hated the woman to the depths of his soul he didn't want to see her come to harm.

"I'll do it." He said it so softly Rodger wasn't quite sure he'd heard right.  He was about to ask why but something in the man's posture warned him against it.

"When and where? I'd like to move on this as soon as we can."

Duke removed a sheet of plain white paper from the fax and drew a rough map. He wrote latitude and longitude as well. "Have a helicopter with a man you trust drop her in this canyon day after tomorrow. I'll meet the chopper with horses. We'll ride back from there-it will take half a day to get the horses there by trailer-I'll get on that when you leave. It will take us several days on horseback to get back here. That will give you plenty of time to cover her tracks. I'll pack everything she'll need. Just get her to that canyon by noon on the day after tomorrow. I'll take it from there."

Rodger took that as his cue to leave. Duke's words caught him at the office door, the men eyed each other, concern written across both their faces, "Murray-just make sure you cover your tracks well. There won't be room for mistakes on this one. Too much is at stake."

Rodger nodded and saw himself out.