CIA: AirWing HQ
"He tell you what's up?" Harmon Rabb, Jr. asked Beth O'Neil as they entered the hangar.
"Not a word. Just the usual 'We have a situation, get your ass down here ASAP'," she said, and they both laughed at her impression of their boss, Allen Blaisdell, and his gruff style.
"You too, huh?" another voice questioned, and Harm stopped in surprise as he recognized it.
Turning, he dropped his sea bag and yelped, "Keeter!"
Jack Keeter, one of Harm's oldest friends, returned his quick hug. "I heard you were hanging around out here, buddy. Never thought I'd see the day that you'd be flying for these guys."
"Long story, Keeter."
"I heard about that stunt you two pulled with the C-130," Keeter said, giving Beth a wicked grin. "Watch this guy. He likes to do things the hard way."
"So I've noticed," Beth commented, ignoring Harm's pretended air of outrage. "I guess you two know each other?" she questioned, eyeing them with an amused air.
"Harm and I went to the Academy together," Keeter explained.
"Ah," Beth said, nodding her head as if that explained everything. "What are you doing here, Jack? Why do we need three pilots?"
"Because either Keeter or Rabb is going to have to fly a separate aircraft back from your destination," Allen Blaisdell informed them as he entered the large room. "Now that old home week's finished, are you two boys ready to go to work?" he wanted to know.
"Just tell us when and where, Boss," Keeter answered, giving Harm a grin and a wink when Blaisdell shot him an angry glare.
Blaisdell opened the roll of paper in his hand onto a wooden desk that sat nearby. Turning on a light, he began to explain what they were going to do. "We have some agents stranded in a remote area of eastern Columbia." He pointed to the location on the map. "There's a strip there with enough room to land and take off. You'll be picking up five agents who have been trying to infiltrate a local drug lord's organization and get proof that he's working with Al Quaeda. Keeter knows where you need to go, since he's the one who dropped them off."
"That group?" Keeter questioned. "I took seven in."
"They had some losses," Blaisdell informed them. "That's why the remaining agents are being extracted as soon as we can get there. You'll be flying the Citation down there," he told Harm and Beth. "Think you two can handle that without landing it on a carrier this time?"
"Don't talk to me about it," Beth said, lifting her hands up in a defensive gesture. "Talk to the jet-jock."
"I should be able to handle it this time," Harm agreed, knowing that Blaisdell's gruff exterior was hiding his admiration for him and Beth being only the second crew to accomplish that particular feat. "Shouldn't be too difficult to find land if we get shot up."
"Don't even think it. You're both damned lucky that the Seahawk Captain had the foresight to keep that news crew away from the flight deck that night or both of you would be out of a job."
Deciding that a change of topic would be a good idea about now, Harm asked, "What about this other airplane that you want flown out?"
"It's an F-14 that the warlord somehow got his hands on through the black market. We'd just as soon he *not* have access to it. The agents were supposed to try and destroy it, but things got too hot for them before they were able to accomplish that mission. So we've decided to fly it out instead. You'll be cleared directly here once whichever one of you decides to fly it out gets into the air. We'd like to track down where it came from if we can. I don't care which one of you does it, but get the damn thing back in one piece. Along with the five surviving agents. The plane's fueled and ready for you on the ramp. O'Neil, you take lead on this one, since you'll be on the same aircraft in and out." He looked at the two men. "That all right with you two?"
"No problems here," Harm said easily.
"None from me," Keeter agreed.
"Then get going." The three pilots picked up their cases. "Good luck," he added.
"So which of you is going to fly that plane out?" Beth asked as they walked toward the door.
Harm and Keeter exchanged grins as they spoke at the same time, "I am."
Hearing them, Blaisdell shook his head, wondering what had possessed him to stick those two overgrown delinquents on the same mission. At least they had O'Neil around to keep them from getting into too much trouble, he decided.
Remote Landing Strip
Somewhere in Colombia
Beth and Harm brought the Citation to a smooth stop on the tarmac, and a moment later they were all standing beside it, waiting for their passengers - one of which would take Keeter to the Tomcat and fly back with him. "Where the hell are they?" Harm asked after ten minutes. "The longer we stay here, the more chance we have of being caught ourselves."
"We're a little early," Beth pointed out. "They weren't expecting us for another half hour."
Keeter pointed to an approaching light. "This might be them now," he suggested.
Harm reached down and unfastened his weapon from the holster just in case, resting his palm against the cool metal as a Land Rover that had seen better days slid to a stop nearby and five people got out. When he saw who one of them was, Harm barely repressed a groan of frustration.
"Webb," he muttered under his breath, and saw both Beth and Keeter glance his way. Beth knew the story. Keeter didn't.
"Rabb," Clayton Webb said, nodding before turning to address Beth and Keeter, dismissing Harm as if he weren't there. "There's been a slight change of plans."
"Why does that not surprise me," Harm sighed, crossing his arms across his chest. "SOP when you're concerned, isn't it, Webb?"
Beth shot him a look, silently warning him to behave. "What's up, Webb?" she asked as the other four people with him approached the aircraft.
"Marcus and Davis are wounded," he explained. "If we can get them into the airplane, I'll fill you in."
Harm moved to help one of the men into the plane while Webb and the others followed. Keeter grabbed the first aid kit from the back and went to work on the bullet wound in Davis' leg. "What the hell happened, Webb?" he asked. "When I left you down here, you said it was 'routine'."
"You know that's spy-speak for 'could go to hell in a hand basket at any minute', Keeter," Harm said, glancing at Webb as he worked on Marcus' shoulder. "These men need medical attention ASAP," he declared.
"The sooner we get this taken care of, the better, then," Webb responded. "We came down here to get intel on a local drug lord with ties to Al Quaeda," he continued. "About two days ago, someone in his organization agreed to help us, but someone *else* found out about it and took two of us out. We were going to take Riana with us, but they ambushed us this morning. Wounded these two and captured her. One of us stayed behind to keep an eye on the compound in case they move her."
"Why is she so important?" Beth asked.
"She's Rafael Escobar's daughter," Webb answered.
"The drug lord you came down here to investigate," Keeter recalled after Webb made his announcement.
"She's agreed to go back with us and tell us what she knows if we can keep her safe. The problem is, we have to get her away from her father so that we can *do* that."
"And you need our help to save your mission," was Harm's comment. "We're not field agents, Webb."
"Gunny's the one keeping an eye on Escobar's hacienda, Harm," Webb told him.
Harm shook his head in disgust, wondering how on earth he'd convinced Gunny to help him on another mission. "I suppose you have a plan to get Gunny and the girl out?"
Webb moved over to the small conference area in the rear of the aircraft. Pulling a paper from his pocket, he opened it out to reveal a roughly drawn plan. "Escobar's hacienda. This is the main house, where they're keeping Riana. Last time I saw Gunny, he was here -" he indicated a spot on the map. "There's a stand of trees and bushes there that he's using for cover. This -" he pointed to a building, "is where they keep the items that they're planning on selling to their friends. Shoulder fired rocket launchers, explosives, all kinds of weapons. I figure we can get in there, find what we need and take the house to rescue Riana."
"Where is Escobar during all of this?"
"He's in the capital on business. Due back early tomorrow morning unless they've notified him about Riana's having betrayed him. Then he could return sooner."
"Where is he keeping the Tomcat we're supposed to fly out of here?" Keeter wanted to know.
"Here," the other man with Webb answered. Except for a few softly spoken words with the other members of his team, he'd been silent up until then. "There's a landing strip here. The plane's protected by three armed guards. Galindez was going to fly rear seat for you -"
"Gunny?" Harm questioned.
"He took a turn at co-pilot on the way down here," Keeter told him. "Wasn't bad. I'd trust him."
"So would I," Harm agreed. He'd trust Victor Galindez with his life. It was trusting Webb that he had a problem with.
"If we're going to do this, we'd better do it now," Beth said. "I'll stay here and keep the plane ready for take off in case you have friends on your tail when you come back this way," she decided. "I'll also keep an eye on Davis and Marcus."
"Sure you don't want in on the fun, Beth?" Keeter questioned.
"No, thank you. I've had my quota of excitement already for the day. Just get there and get back in one piece, guys."
Near Rafael Escobar's Hacienda
Harm and Keeter approached Gunny's last known position with Webb and Carson. Quietly, so that they wouldn't be overheard, Harm told his friend, "I'll fly the F-14 back, Keeter."
"Anything's better than being cooped up with Webb for ten hours."
"There's a story there -"
"Come on you two!" Webb hissed, noticing that they were lagging behind.
"Later," Harm promised Keeter, glaring daggers at Webb's back as they followed.
Gunny was where Webb had left him earlier, perched behind a clump of bushes. "Any change?" Webb asked.
"Not that I can tell. She's still in this end of the house - the room on the top floor with the light in it." He looked around and recognized Keeter and Harm. "Command - Harm. Jack."
"We can do the reunion later," Webb said. "Right now, we need to get to that building." He nodded toward the storage facility.
"That's not going to be easy, sir," Gunny told him. "I've counted four armed guards."
"We need a distraction," Harm said.
"You have something in mind?" Webb wanted to know, clearly not wanting to ask the question at all.
"What do you think would happen if that F-14's engines were to fire?"
"Everyone in the house would head in that direction to stop it," Carson said.
"Leaving Riana with only one or two guards at the most. We clear the plane first, get ready to start the engines and then you, Carson and Keeter return here to wait."
"Sounds like a plan to me, Mr. Webb," Gunny said.
"It would probably work," Keeter agreed.
Carson spoke up. "I'll stay here and keep an eye on the house. There are three guards, shouldn't be too hard to take them out."
"Okay," Webb agreed. "Let's go."
Between the four of them, they took out the three guards with ease. Once that was done, while Webb and Gunny were dragging the men to the side of the camouflaged area away from the plane, Harm and Keeter examined the external auxiliary power unit and the aircraft. Harm picked up one of the helmets, handing the other to Gunny. "You sure you want to do this, Gunny?"
"Always wanted to fly supersonic, sir," he answered with a grin. "Done it in a simulator a few times, but never the real thing."
"I'll be gentle," Harm promised with a grin. "We're not going to be able to turn on the APU until just before we take off the noise will alert everyone in the house."
"I'll stay here and turn it on and then rejoin Webb and Carson as soon as you start the engines," Keeter volunteered. "Be like old times," he said.
"Come on, Gunny," Harm said, putting on his helmet and turning toward the plane. "You'd better get back to Carson, Webb."
"Harm," Webb said, and the use of his first name caused him to turn around. "Be careful. I'd had to have to explain to Sarah if you didn't make it."
"Don't worry, Webb. I'll be fine. Come on, Gunny," he said again.
"Sarah?" Keeter questioned Webb, but the spook was already turning to leave the area.
"No time, Keeter. I have to get back."
"I'll be waiting at the Land Rover for you and Carson to bring the girl out," Keeter told him.
Keeter watched as Harm and Gunny got into the Tomcat's cockpit and strapped in. Climbing up on the side, he said, "You remember the frequency we discussed?"
"We'll be on it. I just hope this thing's got enough fuel in it to get us to safety."
"If you need it, I'm sure Blaisdell can divert a gas station for you, pal," Keeter said, winking at Gunny. "Good luck," he said, clasping first Gunny's hand and then Harm's before returning to the ground.
Harm flipped a couple of switches, and was relieved to discover that the onboard battery was charged enough to close the canopy and light the gauges. Turning to look at Keeter, Harm nodded and gave him a 'thumbs up' sign.
Keeter flipped the switch on the APU, and then pulled the rope to start it - relieved when it started on the first try. When the two engines roared to life, Keeter jerked the line from the airplane and gave Harm a salute before disappearing into the trees to this right - away from the voices that he could barely hear over the jet engines.
Harm waited for as long as he could before taxiing the aircraft out from under the netting that hid it from satellite view, to the end of the runway, already running through his preflight checklist. "You ready, Gunny?" he asked.
"More than ready, sir," Gunny assured him. "We've got company."
Harm glanced to his left and saw several men running toward the plane, guns blazing. Grinning, Harm turned the airplane in a tight, clearing circle, knowing that the exhaust of the engine would knock anyone close to the ground. Once he was facing the runway again, Harm brought the throttle up and sent the airplane hurtling down the runway, barely clearing the treetops as he lifted off.
Keeter had the engine running on the Land Rover when he heard the explosion that took out most of the compound. It had come from the direction of the storage building, and he realized that either Carson or Webb had taken the time to rig it to be destroyed. When he saw two people come out of the jungle and move toward him, Keeter went on the alert, in case it was some of Escobar's men. Pulling out his weapon, he waited until they were closer. "Webb?' he called out.
"Yeah!" Webb replied, half carrying a young woman whose face was battered and bloody.
"Where's Carson?" Keeter asked.
"He didn't make it," Webb said, putting Riana into the back seat of the vehicle before jumping in beside Keeter. "Let's get the hell out of here."
Keeter released the clutch and pressed the gas, heading down the road back to the airfield where Beth was waiting. "I think we're being followed," he told Webb, glancing into the rearview mirror.
Webb turned around to look, seeing the headlights behind them. "Damn. Okay." He grabbed his weapon, and Keeter noticed that his hand was shaking as he lifted it and fired out of the side window at the other vehicle. It slowed, allowing Keeter to turn a corner and pull into a side road, quickly killing the engine and the lights.
The other vehicle - another Land Rover - passed them on the road without seeing them, continuing onward. Webb sat back in his seat. "Good thinking, Keeter."
"What happened back there?" Keeter asked, watching the road for any sign that they might have doubled back before starting the engine and reversing onto the road again.
Webb turned around to check on Riana, who was moaning softly, her bruised arms wrapped around her waist, rocking back and forth. "Carson took a bullet to the chest before we saw anyone. I took the one that got him out and then the second one before I got to Riana. Carson was dead before he hit the ground. Bullet probably got his heart."
"Damn. I hope she was worth it, Webb."
"So do I," Webb agreed, his expression grim.
"Who rigged the explosion?"
"Carson. He did it while we were with the airplane. He figured that two distractions would be better than one."
Keeter nodded in agreement as he recalled the young operative who had been so eager to get out into the field and do some 'real work'. "What's the problem between you and Harm?" Keeter asked, turning onto the road to the airfield, remembering the landmarks from their trip out earlier.
"Is there a problem?" Webb asked as Keeter brought the truck to a stop near the Citation.
Realizing that the agent wasn't going to respond, Keeter helped Webb get Riana out of the truck, and then lifted her into his arms to carry her toward the airplane. About ten feet away from safety, they heard the sound of another truck as it came into the clearing. They could see the muzzle flashes, and dove for the airplane, which was already running.
Keeter ducked behind the vehicle with Webb and the girl and pulled out his weapon - only to stop and look up as he heard the familiar sound of an F-14 in the air above them.
"What the hell is Rabb doing?" Webb asked, following Keeter's gaze.
"What he was trained to do," Keeter pointed out, lifting Riana into his arms again. "Air cover. Let's go."
Inside the plane, Keeter put Riana into one of the seats while Webb closed the door behind them. "Strap her and yourself in," Keeter ordered him. "I'm going to join Beth up front."
Beth glanced up at him, watching as the Tomcat strafed the Land Rover, causing it to explode in a dramatic fashion. "Glad you could join me," she said, barely giving him a chance to get into the co-pilot's seat and buckled in before putting the jet into motion for take off. "I thought you were flying that thing out?"
"Change in plans. Harm didn't like the idea of spending that much time with Webb for some reason."
"I can understand that," Beth nodded. "So much for keeping a low profile," she said as there was a secondary explosion.
"Don't complain. They had some shoulder launched weapons that could have taken this plane out if Harm hadn't been here."
"That man leads a charmed life, doesn't he?" Beth noted as they lifted off the ground and raised the gear.
"Always has. There's always been someone up there watching out for him."
"Well, Blaisdell isn't going to be happy."
"He'll survive. He'll have to learn how if he's going to keep Harm around," Keeter pointed out. Glancing at the back, he saw Riana was moving restlessly. "What's going on between Harm and Webb?" he asked through the headset.
"I think we have time," Keeter said, but Beth's next words weren't an answer.
"Harm should be on frequency by now."
The both grinned as Harm's voice reached them. "Additional Duty to Pick Up. You there?"
"This is Pick Up," Beth said. "Thanks for the help back there."
"Our pleasure. Everything okay there?"
Keeter answered. "The package was retrieved with some damage. One of the pick up personnel didn't make it."
Keeter could almost feel Harm's mind turning, wanting to ask which one hadn't returned, but "Affirmative," was all he said.
"What's your status, Additional Duty?" Beth asked.
"Fuel looks good to the Gulf at least. Might need to top it off if I don't want to end up bingo fuel. She rattles a little - probably needs some maintenance. But I think she'll make it to the destination point."
"Contact Hawkeye on frequency and let them know about the possible pit stop," Beth said. "Pick Up out."
"Will contact Hawkeye about finding a gas station," Harm replied. "Additional Duty out."
Keeter took off his headset. "I'm going to go check on our passengers," he told Beth. "And then you and I are going to have that talk."
CIA: AirWing HQ
Beth and Keeter were waiting at the field when Harm and Gunny landed the Tomcat without incident after an in-flight refueling over the Gulf of Mexico. "I'll expect your after mission reports on my desk before you leave," Blaisdell told them after being introduced to Gunny. "And I hope you have a damn good reason for what you did, Rabb. It's not going to be an easy sell to the people that *I* have to report to."
"How about if he hadn't taken out Escobar's men, then we wouldn't have gotten off the ground?" Keeter suggested. "I saw a shoulder launcher in the back of the Land Rover when I was heading back toward ours after Harm and Victor took off. If they'd gotten a missile off, they could have brought us down or kept us from ever getting in the air."
Blaisdell looked from Harm to Keeter. "And he knew this how?"
"I've had experience with those people," Harm reminded his boss. "I wasn't going to risk it."
"I told him about the launcher, sir," Gunny explained, jumping into the conversation. "While we were in the air. That's why he turned back to provide cover for them."
Blaisdell didn't look totally convinced, but apparently decided not to pursue the issue further. "Write it up and get it to me ASAP, then. Oh, and, you're all on stand down for at least forty-eight hours after that. Get some rack time. I think you all probably need it."
Once Blaisdell turned back toward his office, the others started toward the hangar. "What happened to Riana?" Gunny asked Keeter.
"They'd beaten her up," Beth told him. "And maybe more."
"Damn," Gunny muttered. "I knew I should have gone in there while Webb went to meet you guys. I could hear her screaming -"
"All you would have done was get yourself killed, Victor," Keeter pointed out. "Webb escorted her and the other two to the hospital." As he spoke, he looked at Harm, seeing his friend's reaction to hearing that Webb was still around.
"What happened to Carson?" Harm asked.
"Took a bullet meant for Webb, I think."
"Man goes into a mission with seven operatives and loses three of them, and two more are seriously wounded." Harm shook his head. "And they keep sending him out into the field."
"Beth told me why you weren't exactly pleased to see Webb, Harm," Keeter said as they all walked toward the ready room to write their reports. "Can't say I blame you for feeling the way you do. Webb's one cold SOB."
Harm looked at Beth O'Neil, who shrugged. "He asked, I told. Figured since he's an old friend, he had a right. I had to hold him back to keep him from tossing Webb out of the airplane, though," she finished with a grin.
"Why do you think I wanted to fly the Tomcat back?" Harm asked. "I didn't want to be tempted."
"Tempted, sir?" Gunny asked.
Harm grinned. "Tell you what, Victor, after we finish up those reports, why don't we all go to my place and I'll explain. Beer and poker sound like a good way to relax to everyone else?"
"Poker?" Beth questioned.
"You don't play?" Harm asked.
"I just hope *you're* ready to lose," she told him, giving him a cocky grin as she led the way into the ready room.
The three men exchanged a look of anticipation tinged with worry as they followed her.
Allen Blaisdell looked up when he heard the knocks on his office door. Giving a wary look to the two overgrown juvenile delinquents that stood there, he asked, "What?"
"Thought you wanted our reports, Chief," Keeter said, holding the four reports out. "Harm and I volunteered to bring them for Beth since she's trying to reach her girlfriend."
Blaisdell took the reports and glanced over them. "Thanks. You two did a good job down there," he said in a grudging tone. "Enjoy your two days off," he added, bending his head back to the papers on his desk. A moment later, he realized that they were still there and looked up again. "Something else, gentlemen?"
"We wanted to talk to you about Gunny," Harm said. "He seemed to know what he was doing in the back seat of that Tomcat - and well -"
"We think he'd make a good addition to the team, Chief," Keeter finished.
"Don't call me 'Chief', Keeter," Blaisdell said. "I'll look into Galindez' record. He's on TAD from the Marines isn't he?"
"Yes, sir," Harm confirmed. "He's been working with Webb for almost two years now. I think he'd like a transfer out of that, though."
Blaisdell looked thoughtful. "Send him in to talk to me before he leaves."
North of Union Station
"I believe it's my pot *again*, gentlemen," Beth said, leaning forward to rake the chips in the middle of the table toward her.
"Okay, that's it. I want to know how you're doing it," Gunny said. "No one wins six straight hands unless they're cheating."
"I don't need to cheat," Beth insisted. "I'm good with cards."
"Lucky at cards -" Harm teased.
"Yeah, well," Beth sighed. "Just because Lucy's out of town on business doesn't mean that I'm unlucky at love, guys. She'll be back tomorrow."
"And you'll be suffering from a hangover," Harm pointed out as he rose from the table to answer the knock on the door. "Just don't point her toward me when she wants an explanation," he said, opening the door. Seeing Mac standing there threw him for a minute. "Mac. Hi there."
"Hi," she said, trying to talk over the music. "Can I come in?"
"Sure," he said, stepping back and ushering her inside with a wide arc of his hand.
Mac came into the apartment and saw the two men sitting at the table, obviously in the middle of a game of cards. "Gunny? Keeter?"
"Hello, ma'am," Gunny said, not moving from the chair.
"Mac," Keeter said, nodding, also not moving. "You're looking good."
She glanced at the coat she was wearing over her dress. "Thank you. I didn't know you were still working for the CIA."
"Been TAD to the Company for three years now," he told her. "Just like Victor here."
"You're still TAD to Webb?"
"Not anymore, ma'am," Gunny answered. "Working with Harm and Jack and Beth now."
Mac's attention turned to the red haired woman sitting between Gunny and Jack Keeter. There was something familiar about her. Beth smiled. "Colonel Mackenzie. It's been awhile."
"You remember Beth O'Neil, Mac?" Harm asked.
"Commander O'Neil," Mac nodded, the pieces falling into place. "You and Manetti defended her -"
"And won," Beth recalled. "I left the Navy right after that. Didn't feel comfortable there anymore. Now Harm and I are partners."
Mac blinked. "P-partners?"
"Sometimes," Harm confirmed. "Did you want something, Mac?"
"Yeah. I - uh -" she held up a briefcase. "I was going to ask you to help with some cases - turns out that Carolyn Imes isn't a lawyer. She never passed the bar."
"You're kidding," Gunny said. "Ma'am."
"I could have told you she wasn't a lawyer, Mac," Harm said.
"We have to review her cases, and since you went up against her so many times -"
"You wanted to ask if I'd be willing to go over those cases," he said.
"Yes. And possibly testify in her behalf. I'm defending her on charges."
"If I'm in town, I'll do it. Not sure when we might end up on another mission. I'm sure you know how it is." He saw her jaw tense.
"Yes. I do. Can you go over the cases, at least?"
"Leave them. If I have some free time, I'll look at them."
"Thanks," she said, taking the files out of her briefcase and putting them on the bar.
"You want something to drink?" Beth asked, going to the refrigerator to get another beer.
"No, thank you," Mac said as Beth came over to slip her arm around Harm's waist. Harm barely managed not to jump at the contact. "I'm - meeting Clay for dinner. He just got back into town -"
"We know," Keeter said. "We had to save his six."
"Again," Harm added.
Mac looked from Keeter, to Harm, to Beth, who was leaning against Harm's shoulder, ending up at Gunny, who nodded to confirm Keeter's words. "I'd better go. You need to check your answering machine, Harm. I left some messages -"
"I know," Harm replied, not reacting to Beth's practically pawing him in front of Mac as his partner's hand caressed his chest through his tee shirt. "Seventeen, wasn't it?"
"Something like that," Mac said, edging toward the door.
"This is the first time I've been home for more than a few minutes in the last six months. Boss put us on stand down to get some rest."
"And we intend to make the most of it," Beth informed her with a smile.
"I see. Well, I'll be seeing you," she said, opening the door.
"Yeah. Tell Bud that I'll call him as soon as I can."
"I'll do that. Give me a call? I think we need to - talk," she said slowly.
"I thought you were the one who didn't want to talk?" Harm reminded her.
"Things - change," she told him. "We'll have to talk about the cases, anyway. You know the number. Nice see you all again. Keeter, Gunny. Commander O'Neil."
"It's just Beth now," Beth said, still practically glued to Harm's side. "Nice see you, Colonel."
Mac quickly slipped out the door, closing it behind her.
Beth released her hold on Harm and stepped away, ignoring the look Harm gave her. "What was that all about?" he asked, one eyebrow halfway to his hairline.
She was grinning as she sat down and lifted her beer. "Didn't want her to think you were still pining for her. Even if you are."
"I'm not -" he started to deny, but Keeter laughed.
"Sure you're not, buddy. You were practically stumbling all over yourself from the minute you opened that door."
"I think he's right, sir," Gunny added.
"Okay. Now I see what's going on. You come here, drink my beer, win my money, and then you insult me," he told them, adopting a put upon air. "Some friends you are."
"Of course we're your friends. Why else do you think we're worried about you?" Keeter said, lifting his own bottle. "Friends," he called.
Beth and Gunny lifted their bottles to touch his. "Friends," they repeated, and then looked at Harm.
Shaking his head, Harm chuckled and touched his bottle to the other three. "Friends," he agreed.
Maybe this new life he'd been forced into wasn't such a bad thing after all.