Benny Ray Riddle moved through the
tangled undergrowth of the jungle,
silent as a cat. He sensed a slight movement ahead. Stepping
a tree trunk and bringing his rifle to bear in one swift motion,
found himself staring down the barrel of Margo's pistol. Benny
jerked his weapon up and away from her, blowing out his breath
an explosive hiss.
Margo's head fell back to rest against
the tree trunk and her gun
hand dropped to the jungle floor. Her face was deathly pale and
streaked with sweat and grime. Blood welled from a gash in her
thigh, soaking through a makeshift bandage.
Benny Ray knelt in front of her,
setting down his rifle and shrugging
out of his rucksack. "What happened, darlin'?" he asked,
probing her wounded leg.
"One of the guards
more on his mind than security," she explained
quietly, her tone indicating that the offender no longer had
at all on his mind. She winced as a sharp pain shot though her
"I'm sorry," Benny Ray
apologized. "How long ago did this happen?"
"Couple hours," Margo replied
Concerned, Benny Ray reached out
to touch her face. Margo's skin was
cool and clammy with sweat, and she was obviously weakened from
loss of blood. He rummaged in his pack, coming up with an emergency
medical kit. "Did you clean this at all?"
Margo shook her head negatively.
just tried to stop the
Benny Ray gripped her shoulder firmly.
"Sweet Pea, I've got to try
to clean this up a little and stop the bleeding before I try
you, OK?" Margo didn't answer, and he shook her slightly.
stay with me."
She shook her head slightly. "I'll
just slow you down." She pushed
her own pack towards her friend. "I got the evidence. Take
"That's not happenin,' Margo,
and you know it. Everybody comes home."
She struggled to sit up straight,
pushing away from the support of
the tree. "There's enough evidence on those tapes to clean
up one of
the biggest drug pipelines in the world. Stopping that inflow
narcotics is much more important that any one person's life
"And it won't do us a bit of
good if you get caught and the other
side figures out what we're up to
so I'm just gonna have
to clean up
this wound so I can move you safely," Benny Ray replied
in a tone of
cool professionalism. He sorted through the small selection of
antiseptics and bandages. "This is gonna hurt some,"
he told her
Margo nodded tightly.
Sucking in a deep breath, Benny Ray
quickly cut away the soiled
bandage, grimacing as he saw the deep, ugly gash. He glanced
Margo and saw that her eyes had drifted half-shut and there was
slightly sick expression on her face. "Darlin', how do you
yourself into these things?" he asked in a lightly bantering
trying to work as swiftly as possible. Despite his care, Margo's
hands clutched convulsively at her rucksack and tears of pain
down her cheeks.
After tying off the bandage, Benny
Ray foraged through the kit again,
coming up with some small pill bottles. After carefully examining
the labels, he shook two pills into his hand, then opened a flask
"What's that?" Margo mumbled.
"Antibiotic," he replied,
popping them into her mouth, then raising
the flask to her lips. Margo swallowed obediently, and he handed
two more capsules.
"Pain killers. I don't think
I'll be able to move you without 'em."
Digging out a clean square of gauze, Benny Ray dampened it and
wiped Margo's face. "Better?" he asked.
Margo nodded, mustering a small smile
Satisfied, Benny Ray smiled back
at her and began gathering up all
evidence of their presence, stuffing everything into his pack.
twig snapped, and he whirled to face the intruder, gun in hand.
"Hey! Don't shoot - I'm one
a da good guys!" Nick Delvecchio
exclaimed, raising his hands in the air.
"You try somethin' like that
again and you're gonna be one of the
dead guys," Benny Ray muttered darkly.
"What happened?" Nick asked,
eyeing Margo's bandage.
"One of the guards at the estate
happened," Benny Ray explained.
"Here," he said, thrusting Margo's pack at Nick.
"Keep that safe
are inside," Margo instructed.
Nick nodded, securing her pack inside
"How much time do we have to
get to the rendezvous?" Benny Ray asked,
picking up his rifle.
Nick checked his watch. "'Bout
faw awahs," he reported, his New York
accent becoming more pronounced as his stress levels mounted.
Benny Ray knelt beside Margo again.
"OK, darlin,' soon as we get
across the border, we can get you to a real doctor and get you
fixed up, OK?"
"All right, then, let's get
He slipped his arms around Margo,
drawing her carefully to her feet.
Her face turned gray and she clutched at Benny Ray for support.
- it's OK - I've got you," he assured her.
Drawing in a deep, shuddering breath,
Margo carefully eased some of
her weight away from Benny Ray and took a tentative step, still
leaning on his shoulder. Sweat beaded her forehead and her face
contorted in agony.
Benny Ray tightened his grip on her
before she could fall. His eyes
met Nick's and he shook his head faintly. It was quite evident
there was no way Margo could walk out of there without assistance,
and entirely possible that they'd need to carry her.
She took another step, gritting her
teeth as she tried to take more
of her own weight. Benny Ray slung his rifle over his shoulder,
using both hands to steady her.
"You're doing great," he
Margo shook her head. "Too slow."
"It'll be fine," Benny
"You should leave me,"
Margo told them.
"NO!" both men replied
"You have any idea what Matt
would do to us if we left you here?"
They heard a chopper overhead and
shrank back into the shrubbery.
Benny Ray leaned Margo back against a tree and freed his rifle.
As they waited tensely, the sound
"You think they've figured out
that the tapes are missing?" Margo
"I dunno, but I'm not waitin'
around to find out. Come on." He bent
to lift her again, but Nick stopped him.
"Let me," he offered. "Keep
your hands free - you're a better shot
than I am."
Margo nodded, and Nick stepped in
close and slid his arms around her
waist. "You know how long I've dreamed about this moment?"
whispered in her ear.
Margo rolled her eyes in exasperation,
while Benny Ray shot Nick a
look that spoke of serious physical harm.
Matt Shepherd drummed his fingers
impatiently against the inside of
the car door. He could clearly see the border crossing where
supposed to rendezvous with his team
but they weren't there
time allotted to complete their mission was more then adequate
should have been back by now.
Deke Reynolds looked up from the
magazine he was trying to read.
"They've still got an hour and a half," he reminded
"They should have been back
by now," Matt insisted. "Something's not
"These people are pros
do what they have to and get out."
"And if they don't?" Matt
The huge man in the driver's seat
shrugged casually. "Then we go in
and get them."
Margo tensed as she heard footsteps
approach her hiding place.
"It's me," Benny Ray's
barely audible whisper reached her ears. "How
you doin'?" he asked, crawling in under the fallen log that
her from view.
"Never better," Margo quipped,
her voice sounding frail, even to her
own ears. She secured her weapon as Nick joined them in the cramped
Benny Ray and Nick exchanged concerned
glances. She'd been growing
progressively weaker as they trekked through the jungle towards
border, but they were still in enemy territory and didn't dare
for very long. At first, their infrequent rest stops had seemed
help, but now Benny Ray knew they'd be lucky if Margo was still
conscious when they reached the border.
"Were they looking for us?"
Margo asked, referring to the patrol
whose presence had forced their delay.
"We didn't stop to ask 'em,"
Nick replied nonchalantly.
"How you holdin' up?" Benny
Ray asked seriously, not liking Margo's
"I'm just fine thanks,"
Nick replied glibly. He winced as Benny Ray
belted him in the arm.
"I meant Margo," Benny
Ray said pointedly.
"I'm all right
she said with a wan smile.
He crouched next to her and smoothed
her bangs back from her
forehead. "We're almost there, Sweet Pea. We've just got
can you hang on that long?" he asked gently.
"Anything you guys can do
"Roger that," Benny Ray
chuckled. He uncapped a water bottle and
passed it to her. "Drink up," he urged.
Margo gulped the water greedily,
then passed the half-empty bottle
back to him.
Benny Ray shook his head. "I'm
Margo wasn't having any of that however,
and she continued to hold
out the bottle until he accepted it and took a small swallow
Nick looked up from checking her
bandages and met Benny Ray's gaze.
He shook his head, frowning gravely. The bandage was dirty and
blood-soaked again, but they didn't really have the time or materials
to fix it. The leg was starting to swell around the dressing,
He rummaged through the medical kit and handed Margo two more
She frowned. "Are you sure this
is a good idea?"
"I think you need 'em,"
Benny Ray nodded his agreement, so
Margo shrugged and swallowed the
medication, washing it down with the remainder of the water in
bottle. Nick took the empty container and stowed it in his pack,
studying her out of the corner of his eye.
"You ready to move out?"
Benny Ray asked solicitously.
Margo yawned. "I think so,"
she murmured. She blinked owlishly for
a moment, then slumped against his shoulder.
Benny Ray looked accusingly at Nick.
"What did you give her,
Delvecchio?" he demanded.
"A sedative," Nick admitted.
"Look, she woulda kept trying to walk
until she passed out - you know that. At least this way, we have
some control over the situation - and we can move faster if I
Benny Ray glared at him for a long
moment, trying to find something
wrong with that argument. He settled for giving Nick another
look before returning his attention to Margo. After satisfying
himself that she was breathing properly and resting peacefully,
shifted slightly so that Nick could scoop up her slight form.
be sure and let me know if you get tired," he told the other
"I will," Nick promised.
"Don't want you droppin' her
or anything," Benny Ray grumbled angrily
as he stepped out onto the trail.
"I'm touched by yer confidence,"
"You pull another stunt like
that and you'll be touched by my fist!"
Matt Shepherd slapped his hand against
the dashboard. "That's it -
"They're only five minutes overdue,"
Deke pointed out calmly in his
"You know damn well they should
have been back hours ago," Matt
retorted. "Or at the very least, someone should have gotten
"They were told to wait until
they got to the border before they
risked the transponders," Deke reminded him.
Matt, however, was in no mood to
be reasonable - he wanted his people
back. Knowing that they could be in trouble and not being able
anything about it was enough to make him crazy. Finally, he heard
Benny Ray's voice through his headset.
" There was a
sharp crackle of static. "Sir
"Benny Ray! Where the hell are
More static. Then, suddenly, Benny
Ray's voice was replaced with
Nick's. "Matt? We got problems here."
"What do you need?"
"We need a lift outta here,
and Margo needs a doctor."
"What happened to her?"
Matt demanded as a cold knot of fear settled
into his gut.
"She had a run-in wit one a
da guards and his pet machete. We gave
her a sedative ta make it easier ta move her, but she's bleedin'
"Understood. How far are you
from the border?"
"I can see it from here,"
Nick reported, "but it's patrolled."
"No chance you can get through?"
There was another burst of static,
then Benny Ray's voice broke
through. "That's a negative, sir."
"Has your objective been achieved?"
"Yes, sir, Major, it has,"
Benny Ray informed him.
"Standby," Matt instructed.
He stared out the window, trying to
arrange his thoughts. He had three operatives in enemy territory.
Margo was unconscious - that meant that someone else had to carry
- Nick, most likely, since Benny Ray was the better marksman.
defender against an unknown number of assailants. Unacceptable.
part of him that was a mission commander screamed that he should
order Benny Ray to take the evidence against the drug lords and
proceed across the border immediately. The part of him that was
Quentin Shepherd's son screamed equally loud that no member of
team could ever be left behind, no matter the circumstances.
Everybody comes home - his rule - constant and irrevocable. The
that had cost him his military career
and saved his soul.
Deke watched the ebb and tide of
emotions play across Matt's
countenance. He saw the two arguments join a battle that ended
stalemate, no matter how hard Matt tried to find a way around
"Both," he rumbled quietly.
"What was that?" Matt asked,
"You're trying to decide if
you should make the mission your priority
or the team. Don't decide. Do both."
"And how do you propose we do
Deke shrugged. "Drive down and
"Uh-huh. And what's to keep
the border guards from taking us out as
soon as we get in range?"
Deke grinned wolfishly. "A little
something I've got stashed in the
A relieved smile flooded Matt's face.
"Yessir," came the immediate
"Hold your position. We're coming
to get you."
Benny Ray crept to the edge of the
underbrush, peering out
cautiously. The way was clear, so he gestured Nick forward. They
saw a dark four-by-four stop at the border crossing. The guards
it a cursory look and waved it through. The vehicle rolled onto
road that ran into the jungle then made some show of putting
hazard lights and pulling over.
Deke exited the car, making an overly
casual gesture of opening up
the back - as though searching for a toolbox. He scanned the
surrounding area until he spotted Benny Ray and nodded once.
"OK, people, we're almost home,"
Benny Ray muttered, tightening his
grip on his rifle. "Ready?" he asked Nick.
"As I'll ever be," the
other man replied fervently.
They broke cover, running for the
four-by-four. The border guards
spotted them and shouts and gunshots rang out. Benny Ray returned
Deke straightened from the back of
the car, providing cover fire with
something that resembled a miniature bazooka.
Suddenly, Nick grunted in pain and
stumbled to his knees. Benny Ray
crouched over his two fallen comrades, laying down a field of
"Can you walk?" he grated out.
Nick rolled over, clutching at his
"Then do it!"
"What about Margo?" Nick
yelled over the thunderous din of gunfire.
"I'll take care of her. Go!"
Drawing his sidearm, Nick weaved
towards the car and dove inside.
Once he was sure Nick was safe, Benny Ray hoisted Margo over
shoulder in a fireman's carry. He backed towards the car, firing
he went. When he was close enough to the vehicle, Deke covered
as he turned and delivered his precious burden.
"Deke! We're buggin' out!"
he hollered as Matt revved the engine.
Deke nodded, still firing and backed
into the car. He leaned out the
open window and continued to shoot, covering their escape as
sped back across the border.
PENSACOLA N.A.S., SICKBAY
Margo was sitting up in bed when
Matt, Benny Ray and Nick trooped
into her room. She was wearing a pale pink robe and her hair
been washed and loosely brushed out over her shoulders. There
healthy flush on her cheeks and her eyes were alert.
"How'd it go?" she demanded
Matt grinned as he bent to kiss her
cheek. "You look much better
today," he remarked, presenting her with a large bouquet
"Thank you," she replied
automatically. "But how did it go?"
"The doctor said you should
be able to get out of here in a couple
more days," Nick added conversationally.
"Fine, but how did it go?"
Margo asked again, tapping her fingers
impatiently. "I swear, Nick, if you don't tell me I'm gonna
your other shoulder!"
Matt looked at her exasperated expression
and grinned. Delvecchio
had already dissolved into helpless guffaws.
It was Benny Ray who finally took
pity on her. "It went down just
fine, darlin.' The evidence we brought back was enough for InterPol
to move on that compound in Colombia. The organization that was
responsible for the largest drug trafficking ring in this part
world has now been effectively dismantled."
"Thank you," she replied,
smiling radiantly. She held out her hand
and Benny Ray took it, squeezing her fingers gently. "Thank
getting me out of there."
"It was my pleasure, ma'am.
Like the man says
everybody comes home.
Even Nick," he added.
"Whadda ya mean by that?"
Nick demanded in an injured tone as the
group burst out laughing.
"I've never tried a stand-alone
SOF fic before, so I hope I got all the
details right! Feedback is most welcome." Kath....
Disclaimer: SOF is the property of
Rysher, et al this is a
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recreational endeavor, no profit is being made and no copyright
infringement is intended.