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ISRAEL

Her name was Meira Vida and she was dreaming. The dream was achingly familiar and she knew that she would recall every detail with painful, perfect clarity when she awoke. She always did. The dream was of a long-ago day in a far-away place when her name had been Margo Vincent.

"Meira?"

A hand shook her awake. Meira blinked dazedly, then raised her hands to touch the wetness of tears on her cheeks.

"You were dreaming again, weren't you?" her companion asked gently.

Meira just smiled enigmatically as she sat up and got to her feet in one smooth motion. "Anything interesting happen while I was asleep?" she asked, gesturing to the bank of communications gear her companion had been monitoring.

The old man waved a hand disgustedly. "Everyone still hates us and wants to blow us up."

"Nice to know some things don't change," Meira muttered. She shook her long braid back over her shoulder as she idly flipped through the channels of one of the radios.

"So, it was the same dream as always?"

Meira smiled with something akin to affection for the grizzled old veteran. "How are the weather reports for today, Abraham?" she asked, pointedly ignoring the inquiry.

"I've known you for more than two years, Meira... how is it that you trust me with your life, but not your secrets?" Abraham genuinely liked the lovely young woman who shared his lonely post and he wondered at the sorrow in her green eyes, and the dreams that occasionally plagued her sleep.

"My life isn't worth a damn... not anymore... and secrets... can be dangerous."

"Such talk from a beautiful young woman! Now, you should meet my son Jonathan..."

"I've met your son Jonathan," Meira reminded him.

Jonathan was a paratrooper, part of an elite unit. He was dashing and handsome, as well as kind, intelligent, and witty. Occasionally, his unit required intelligence from this remote listening post, and he'd take that as an excuse to visit his father and supply him with various 'goodies' that were hard to come by, this far out into the desert. Jonathan had been amused at his father's outrageously blatant attempts at matchmaking and had played along, mainly because he was fascinated by Meira, wondering why someone like her would want such a dangerous and thankless assignment. His father was there because age and an artificial leg prevented him from more strenuous service, but Meira was his own age – young, stunningly beautiful, a gifted linguist and evidently well read and well-traveled. He sensed that she was more accustomed to living in large cities than this barren countryside, though he couldn't say exactly why.

Jonathan had guessed the secret that Meira refused to share with his father. "You loved a soldier, once, didn't you? And he is gone now, and I remind you of him." Meira had nodded, tears streaming from her eyes.

"So why won't you go out with him, eh?" Abraham demanded, startling Meira from her reverie.

"Out where, exactly? We're in the middle of the desert."

"You know very well what I meant, young lady."

"You have too much time on your hands, Abraham."

"Yes... time, but not grandchildren!"

"Oh, you have definitely got the wrong girl," Meira laughed.

"Why?" Abraham demanded as he limped over to check another monitor,
leaning heavily on his cane. "You're a nice girl... Jonathan is a nice boy... why can't the two of you make an old man happy?"

"You're not old," Meira informed him. "Do you need anything from the market?" she asked, trying to deflect his attention.

"Some patch cable, if you can find any, and some cigarettes."

"Cable yes, cigarettes, no," Meira told him firmly. "You know they're no good for you."

"You'd deprive an old man?" Abraham asked plaintively.

Meira just smiled as she checked her gun before concealing it in her bag. It was a P232, a few years old, but top of the line and lovingly cared for, and Abraham had often wondered how she'd come by such a fine weapon out in the middle of nowhere. He'd also noticed the haunted expression that sometimes crossed her face when she was cleaning or reloading it, and knew that it was somehow connected to her life before... and her dreams.

"Well, if you won't go out with my son, perhaps you're going into town to see Jacob the bookseller?" he teased.

"Oh, I don't think so!" Meira replied brightly. She had one hand on the doorknob when Abraham's voice called her back.

"Meira... child...f or someone whose name means 'light' and 'life,' your heart is full of shadows. Whatever it is that has hurt you so badly, you must let it go."

Smiling faintly, Meira walked back to where the old man was seated. She bent and kissed his cheek gently. "You're a dear man," she whispered.

* * * *

The drive into town followed a lonely, twisting dirt road and gave Meira plenty of time to think. The dreams were more and more infrequent after all this time, but always painfully vivid. The California sunshine had been so bright and warm that morning when she'd awakened in Matt's arms – almost as warm as his smile when he'd told her that he loved her. They'd been talking of building a life together – a home, children – but first, Matt wanted them both out of the game. He wouldn't risk his child losing a parent, the way he had. Trout had been very gracious about it, saying that they'd both paid their dues and offering them both non-combat consultancies, which they'd declined, preferring to simply run the Silver Star.

But then the call had come... the frantic call from Trout concerning Libyan terrorists with a stolen cache of hand-held missiles, who had shot down a commercial aircraft and killed several State Department employees headed home on leave. One of the casualties was his daughter.

Before they knew it, the team was en route to the Middle East. As usual, they used different infiltration routes, using false documents and carrying nothing to prove their true identities. The situation quickly deteriorated from bad to total disaster when another missile was used to bring down a second civilian airliner – the one that Nick Delvecchio and Deke Reynolds were aboard. The final, staggering blow came when she'd tried to contact Trout and discovered that none of the codes he'd provided worked. Not knowing the SITREP and no longer
trusting the documentation she carried, she'd turned to her contacts among the Israeli clandestine forces. They created the persona of Meira Vida for her, complete with all the authentic documentation of an Israeli national – just to get her through the crises.

That had been over two years before, and in that time, she'd come to be Meira. No one called her Margo anymore, except Matt... and that was only in her dreams.

* * * *

The town was tiny – less than twenty homes and businesses clustered close together along a single street. Few people chose to carve out their lives in so remote and inhospitable a place as this. Mostly, they were here for the same reason as Meira – because there was work to be done, and a frontier to be guarded.

She was loading a carton of supplies into the back of the jeep when a couple of battered trucks pulled up to the large, barn-like structure that served as town hall, clinic or whatever else the residents found necessary at any given time. Jonathan jumped out of the lead vehicle and waved a greeting when he spotted her. Meira smiled and waved back, leaning against the jeep to wait for him.

"This is a pleasant surprise," he said by way of greeting. "How's Dad?"

"Fine," Meira replied. "Are you coming out to see us?"

"Wouldn't miss it," he assured her with a cocky grin.

"Who are they?" Meira asked curiously. Jonathan's men were assisting a group of battered and in some cases, injured men from the trucks.

"Refugees from a Libyan prison camp. It'll take a while to get them squared away... maybe you could help?"

"Of course," she replied at once, brightening at the thought that perhaps one of those men might have some news of her lost comrades.

"Soldiers who aren't supposed to exist liberating prisoners who aren't supposed to exist from a forced labor camp that isn't supposedto exist... nice symmetry, don't you think? Meira?"

She hadn't heard a word he'd said. Her gaze was fixed on the man who just climbed slowly down from the back of one of the trucks. He was tall, with dark hair peppered with premature gray. Jonathan suspected that he might be considered handsome after a few good meals and a thorough clean up. The man was staring at them, or rather, at Meira, and his expression was that of someone wakening from an interminable nightmare.

"Meira?" Jonathan prompted gently, "Do you know him?"

Her mouth opened, but no sound came out, and her breathing grew ragged.

The man took a hesitant step towards them and one of Jonathan's men tried to steer him into the building with the others. Jonathan waved him off as Meira began walking towards the stranger.

She stopped mere inches in front of the man, her face working as she tried not to cry. The man before her was filthy and unshaven. His clothing hung in tatters and his hair was long and unkempt; he bore the scars of several obviously untreated wounds. No one would recognize this man as a Major in the United States Army Special Forces. No one... except a woman who had seen those same brown eyes
only hours before... in her dreams. "Matt?" she whispered.

He simply stood there, staring as though he'd seen a ghost, and without even realizing it, Meira held her breath, suddenly fearful that injury or captivity might have broken his mind or his memory. Then, slowly, he raised his hand as if to touch her cheek, stopping just short of touching her, as he became aware of the grime embedded on his skin.

"Margo?" he asked in wonder.

She smiled through the tears that fell freely now. "Yes, Matt, it's me." Heedless of the dirt, she clasped his hand to her cheek, turning her head slightly to press a kiss to his palm.

"It's really you?" he asked again.

"Yes," she nodded, still smiling through her tears. Reaching up, she wrapped both arms around his neck.

Matt responded instantly, enfolding her in an embrace that began hesitantly, but grew in intensity until he was crushing her tight against his chest. His battered frame shook with harsh sobs as the sheer wonder of holding her again overwhelmed him. "I thought I'd lost you... thought I'd never see you again..."

"I know," Margo replied, clutching him with equal desperation. "God, I missed you so much... I missed you..."

Jonathan waited until the two had composed themselves somewhat before approaching. "Meira?" he asked diffidently.

Smiling more radiantly then he could ever recall, she turned, still keeping a firm grip on Matt. "Jonathan, this is-"

"This is your soldier?" he guessed, smiling a small, bittersweet smile.

"Yes. Does he have to go with the others?" she asked, unconsciously tightening her grip on Matt's arm.

"You vouch for him?"

"Always," she replied firmly.

"That's good enough for me. If my father has no objections, he can stay with you."

"Thank you."

"Come on, friend," Jonathan said cordially, taking Matt's other arm to steady him. "My name is Jonathan," he added.

"Matt." He glanced at the other man. "You... you're one of the men who saved us, aren't you?"

"Anything to annoy the Libyans," Jonathan replied cheerfully.

"God, you sound like C.J.," Matt chuckled. But then the laughter ceased as though someone had flipped a switch. "C.J.... C.J.'s dead, isn't he?" he asked suddenly.

"Yes, he is, Matt," Margo answered quietly.

"He tried to save us..."

"Shh... let it go for now," she whispered. "Jonathan, do you mind driving?" she asked as they came to the jeep.

"Not at all," he answered, helping Matt to climb aboard.

Margo clambered up beside him, settling herself so that Matt could lean against her. She wrapped both arms around him, as if afraid he'd disappear if she let go.

"I stink," Matt protested feebly.

"I don't care. For two years, all I had to hold on to were dreams... I'm not about to let go now."

"Margo? He called you-"

"It's all right... I'll explain. Rest now."

"Don't wanna rest... afraid if I close my eyes..."

"I'm not going anywhere. I love you, Matthew Quentin Shepherd."

"Love you," he responded automatically, his lips quirking up into a crooked half smile. He reached up to brush his fingertips along her jaw and felt her smile.

* * * *

Margo, Jonathan, and Abraham sat around the table, each lost in their own thoughts as the shower ran in the other room.

Finally, it was Jonathan who broke the uneasy silence. "Margo... is that your real name?"

"Yes," she replied softly. "I suppose I should try to explain."

"In your own time, child," Abraham answered kindly, with a warning glance for his son.

"You've been my friends through one of the hardest times of my life... I don't think I would have made it without you," Margo said, stretching out a hand to each of them.

Jonathan squeezed her fingers warmly. "Why don't you wait until your friend joins us?" he suggested, hearing the water finally shut off. "I'll go see if he needs anything."

Margo watched him go, then turned to Abraham, who still held her hand.

He gave her a long, appraising look, then a slow smile spread over his features. "You know, Margo is a very pretty name, and it suits you, but I think in my heart, you will always be 'Meira' – light. Especially today."

Unconsciously, her gaze drifted back to the closed door of the room Matt occupied. "I thought I'd never see him again," she murmured.

"He is the one in those dreams of yours, isn't he?"

"Yes," Margo admitted, blushing.

The old man squeezed her hand. "True love is nothing to be ashamed of. It's one of life's rarest and most precious gifts... even more precious when someone is given a second chance."

* * * *

Matt stared at his reflection in the small mirror. With the mangy hair and beard disposed of, he looked pretty much like himself again... maybe a little more weather-beaten, a little more gray, but at least he recognized the guy in the mirror. He wondered how he looked to Margo and he wondered about the soldier who'd accompanied them back to this place. It wasn't really big enough to classify as a base, but Matt's instincts hadn't completely deserted him and he knew that this was more than a simple residence. The door opened and Jonathan stepped inside the room. "How are you doing?" he asked solicitously.

"Fine, thank you. And thanks for the clothes. I think I used up the hot water," he added apologetically.

"It was for a good cause," Jonathan told him, grinning.

Matt rose to his feet and offered his hand. "I know I've said it already, but I really am grateful for what you did."

Jonathan clasped Matt's hand warmly. "I suspect that you would have done the same in my position."

Matt grinned, thinking how good it was to hear a voice speak in tones of friendship. "Can I ask you something?"

Jonathan nodded.

Matt carefully studied the other man. Jonathan reminded him very much of the man he had been two long years ago. He had to know the truth however much it might hurt. "Are... are you and Margo...?"

"No," Jonathan replied simply, "and now I know why."

* * * *

Margo looked up as the door opened. Matt stood in the doorway, just staring at her. Her clothes were plain and a little worn, practical for this rugged place, and she'd let her hair grow, wearing it in a long braid, but she was still as beautiful as ever and she took his breath away. She gestured to the chair beside her and he sat down, taking her hand.

"Matt," she began, "this is Abraham and his son Jonathan. This is Matt Shepherd, my-"

"Besherit," Abraham interjected. "Your soulmate."

Jonathan opened his mouth to scoff, but shut it again thoughtfully as he recalled the way Meira – no, Margo, he reminded himself – had known this man instantly, despite his ravaged appearance, and the dreams that his father had mentioned.

Margo blushed again, but she didn't refute the old man's words. "Professionally," she began again, "Matt and I... I'm not sure exactly how much I can tell you," she fretted.

"You're operators," Jonathan supplied. It wasn't a question.

"Yes," Matt answered.

"Tell us what you can," Abraham prompted. "We understand."

"You remember a couple years back, when some Libyan terrorists got their hands on some Stinger missiles?" Margo inquired. The two men nodded grimly. "Matt and I were part of a compartmentalized effort to neutralize the threat. Problem was, the man who was running the op died."

"Died?" Jonathan repeated doubtfully.

"I was able to find out much later that the official cause of death was listed as heart attack. It's possible, I suppose... he'd just lost his only child in the first attack... but I don't think we'll ever really know."

"Trout's dead?" Matt asked. The pieces were starting to fall into place.

"I'm sorry, Matt, but yes, that's what I was able to confirm," Margo told him sympathetically.

"That would explain a lot of things," Matt said slowly. "Benny Ray and I were arrested when we entered the country... we never knew why our cover didn't hold."

"I'm guessing that I'm the only one who wasn't caught in hostile territory," Margo continued. "I have contacts here and I was gathering intel to try and determine where the missiles were being kept and what the next target might be. The people I was working with were able to set up a cover for me. They offered me a haven and a chance to help make a difference here while I searched for my own answers."

"You did the right thing," Matt assured her in a voice heavy with grief.

"How long were you in that camp?" Jonathan asked.

"I'm not sure, exactly," Matt admitted. "I lost track after a while."

"That's quite understandable," Abraham told him kindly.

"I remember there was an attempt to rescue us... they came in a chopper... the Libyans shot them down. One man survived the crash... but they shot him. I heard him scream... I think... I knew his voice..." Matt's face contorted with an old remembered pain. "It was C.J., wasn't it?"

"Yes," Margo confirmed. She rubbed his back soothingly.

"That would be about a year ago," Jonathan mused. "Meira – Margo – and my father picked up some radio chatter and we went to investigate. When we realized what was happening, we tried to give support, but it was too late. The chopper was a fireball... I'd presume that the pilot was dead. Your friend had been thrown clear
of the crash, but the Libyans got to him before we could. It was dark and there were reinforcements moving in on our position, so the best we could do was pick up your friend and move out. We made him as comfortable as we could, but he died on the way back. I'm very sorry."

"Did... did he take any of them with him?" Matt asked.

"I believe he did," Jonathan said thoughtfully.

"Good," Matt replied.

Margo smiled through her own tears, recalling C.J.'s blistering opinions of Libyans.

"We went back as soon as we could," Jonathan continued, "but-"

"The camp had been moved," Matt interjected. "They separated us... I haven't seen Benny Ray since that night."

"You survived... maybe he did too," Margo said hopefully.

"I don't know," Matt said doubtfully. "You know him and his mouth... he was always busting somebody's chops... the guards would beat him for it, but you know Benny Ray..."

"I do," Margo responded, "and that's why I think he's still out there somewhere."

"We will keep searching," Jonathan promised. "We'll get word to you when we have news."

"What do you mean, 'get word to me'? I'm not going anywhere without my people!" Matt protested.

Margo grabbed both his hands in her own. "Matt, some of Jonathan's people will be taking the other prisoners from the camp to the embassies in Tel Aviv to arrange for repatriation." Her voice shook slightly as she continued, "I think... maybe... you should go with them. You have family in the States that can vouch for you. You need medical attention, and-"

Matt straightened abruptly in his chair. His eyes were perfectly clear and suddenly, Margo was seeing the Matt Shepherd who'd come to her in Malta and offered her a new lease on life – the Matt Shepherd who gave up his commission and career to try to save one of his men, and who carried a dead man through the desert so that that his family would have the peace of knowing the truth.

"Not without my team," he announced with more than a touch of steel in his voice. "Everyone comes home."

"You always promise home," Margo said softly.

Matt nodded. "We'll go together... all of us."

"That's a tall order, young man," Abraham observed.

"No, it's not," Margo stated firmly.

Jonathan gaped at her, wondering how this usually pragmatic woman could offer false hope to someone who had been through so much already. Then he looked at their faces and something made him wonder if perhaps they couldn't find their friends after all.

* * * *

Matt was surprised to hear Margo's soft footfalls following him into his room, closing the door behind her. "Margo..." he flushed dark red with embarrassment. "I - I don't know... I..."

She reached up and gently laid a hand over his lips. "Hush. I've waited two years... I can afford to be patient." She graced him with a radia nt smile. "All I want right now, is for you to hold me."

"I think I can manage that," he said with a hint of his familiar grin. Matt very gently wrapped his arms around her, sighing in contentment.

"I won't break, you know," Margo teased.

Matt chuckled a little at that. His fingers found the end of her braid and played with it until her hair came loose, tumbling around her shoulders in soft waves. "You're so beautiful," he whispered. They were silent for a time before Matt spoke again. "All that got me through the last two years was the thought that
someday... somehow... I might find you again. I knew that if any of us could survive here, it would be you."

"I never stopped searching for you," Margo told him.

"Did any of the others make it?" Matt asked.

"I don't know," Margo told him gently. "The only solid information I had was that C.J. was gone – Jonathan brought him out and I identified the body myself. That was all I knew for sure, until I looked up this morning... and saw you."

Matt cradled her face in his hands. "I thought I must be dreaming... I had a hard enough time believing that we were free... and then... I saw you standing there. Sometimes... sometimes I would dream about you... about us..."

"I know," Margo whispered. She reached up to cover Matt's hands with her own and he leaned in to tenderly kiss her lips.

Matt sighed and rested his forehead against hers. "They're out there somewhere, waiting for us."

"Then we'll find them" Margo promised.

"Together?"

"Always."

* * * *


"Someday out of the blue
In a crowded street or a deserted square
I'll turn and I'll see you
As if our love were new
Someday we can start again someday soon"

"Someday Out of the Blue"
~Elton John

Finis.

 

COPYRIGHT © 2000 KATHLEEN KLATTE
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

* * * *


Miss Kathleen A. Klatte
kat@gsidigital.com
kawklatte@aol.com
http://www.homestead.com/Kath725/

Kathleen A. Klatte
kat@gsidigital.com
Kath725@xoommail.com

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