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A SOF/Kung Fu The Legend Continues crossover
Sequel to The Wedding Reception

Room 404 at The Capitol Hotel
0430 hours

Margo and Cindy sat staring at the lap top, pulling up what information they could find on Dimitri Zhelenko. They could hear Peter pacing in the outer room, waiting for his friend and his father.

Deke was also pacing as he went through the weapons the team had brought along, which wasn't very much.

The two women looked up when the door swung inward, Peter being the first one into the room, followed by a good looking man wearing sunglasses and an older man, dressed very simply in a tunic and slacks.

Deke joined Cindy, Margo and the newcomers at the table.

"This is my pop, Kwai Chang Caine," Peter began, only to be cut off with a curt, "Don't call me that."

Peter smiled affectionately, then continued, "This is Kermit Griffin."

Kermit kissed the hand Cindy had extended to shake with, peering over his sunglasses at her.

Cindy blushed slightly as she pulled away from him.

"I am Caine," the older man said softly, nodding at the trio.

Deke was smirking over the first man's name as the introductions came his way.

Getting from his seat, Kermit applied pressure to a certain pressure point on Deke, bringing him to his knees. "Got a problem with my name, little man?"

"No indeed," Deke denied, quietly fuming.

Returning to his place at the table, Kermit looked at the rest of the group before tossing manila folders at everyone. "Dimitri Zhelenko. He's a nasty piece of work. And I understand in this case, he's out for revenge. That makes him extremely dangerous."

Margo hesitantly nodded, casting a glance at Deke and Cindy. "Excuse me, Peter. I think I need a meeting with my people."

The three moved to the outer room where Margo asked, "So, do we trust these people?"

Cindy shrugged. "Peter seemed all right at the hotel. The others came all this way to help, and we do need the help if we're going to get the guys back."
"Deke?" Margo asked, noticing he was remaining silent.

"We've got to get them out and we need all of the help we can get. Doesn't mean we have to like it or them."

Margo nodded. "Agreed. Especially since we're on our own. We need intel, and that Kermit guy seems to have it. We'll proceed with caution. Everything we know or find out is on a need to know basis for them. And the three of us stick together."

Unknown location
0500 hours

Benny Ray sat in his cell, fidgeting. The walls were a cold steel, so he couldn't even talk to the others, even if they were being held in the same area. He hoped Margo, Cindy and Deke had gotten out of the hotel all right and that they wouldn't try to come after them. They would be severely outnumbered, not to mention walking into a trap.

Room 404 at The Capitol, the hotel
0530 hours

The laptop beeped to announce a hit on the search Margo had been running.

The screen read WELCOME TO THE HUNT OF DEATH LAIR. WHERE OLD ENEMIES COME FACE TO FACE ONE LAST TIME.

Cindy felt Kermit lean over her right shoulder to click on the button for the FAQ section.

Dimitri Zhelenko's face appeared, filling the screen.

The thickly accented Russian voice filtered through the speakers. "As you know, we have your friends and they will die. However, they will be given a fighting chance. Well, a chance. We invite you to come join us for the game. The more the merrier. As I am speaking to you, all the necessary information to find us is loading on the next page, as well as personal e-mails to the ladies on their computers. Do not call the authorities or they will be killed immediately, like the dogs they are. Please click on all of the buttons that follow to obtain your information. See you in combat," he ended with a vicious laugh.

Kermit obtained the information as Margo and Cindy checked their own laptops, wondering how Zhelenko had accessed them.

In her e-mail, Cindy found an attachment containing a photo of Matt. A collar was around his neck, a chain leading from it to the wall behind him. His wrists were shackled in front of him and a small chain held his ankles. Fear warred with anger in her mind and heart as she took it in. Cindy vowed to find and free him.

Slamming the lid down on the laptop, she stalked to the closet and pulled out a black turtleneck and black pants. Cindy pulled her hair back into a ponytail as she rummaged through her and Matt's things for weapons. She was relieved to find Matt had brought enough weapons for everyone, because he was always prepared for the worst. She clipped one of the radios on before leaving the room.

Everyone armed themselves and put a radio on except for Kwai Chang Caine.

"Come on, pop. At least put the radio on so we can keep track of you," Peter implored of his father.

Caine turned to his son and poked him in the chest. "Don't call me that. And I'll be fine without one."

Margo muttered, "I wish we had vests."

"We came for a wedding reception, baby," Deke replied. "Why would we have thought we would need them?"

Kermit approached Cindy. "Need anything?"

Cindy shook her head as she assembled her rifle. She felt Kermit's hand close on her left shoulder and gently squeeze it. Shaking him off, she packed the last of her gear in her bag.

From his place at the table, Deke took note of the new man's proximity to Cindy. He narrowed his gaze and glared.

Margo leaned into Deke. "What's up?"

"He's trying awfully hard to get cozy with Cindy."

"I noticed that," Margo responded quietly.

Deke stood and asked if everyone was ready to leave.

***

 At the SUV, Deke held Cindy and Margo back until everyone was settled in the backseats. They climbed in the front seat with him and the group drove silently to the airport to get the helicopter Deke had acquired.

Setting the coordinates they had received into the equipment, Deke flew the helicopter the short distance to the location in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Blue Ridge Mountains
0700 hours

The helicopter set down in a clearing about half a mile from their destination.

Caine quickly disappeared, Peter shaking his head. "Well, we won't see him for a while."

Kermit slyly grinned. "We might find the bodies though."

"Yeah," Peter responded, trying to hide the worry that was evident in his voice. He couldn't help but wonder how many armed men there were in the area.

"All right people. I think we should split up. Peter, you and Deke take the north end. Margo, Cindy and I will take the south end."
Deke stiffened but said nothing when Margo shot him a look.

For her own part, Margo was perturbed over the way the man had taken over leadership of the team.

"Maintain radio contact," Cindy stresses as they began to move out. "And watch out for traps."

The groups moved out slowly, marking trees so they could tell where they had been.

A short time later, Deke reached out and grabbed Peter's arm. "Watch it," Deke warned, pointing at a trip wire Peter had almost fallen over.

"Thanks."

An armed man jumped out in front of Kermit, preparing to fire. When Cindy took him down with one shot, Kermit turned to her and smiled brightly. "Thanks sweetheart."

"You're welcome, but it's Ms. Varanti," she responded stiffly.

"Whatever," he shot back with a grin as he turned to walk again.

Margo moved up between the two, trying to maintain some peace.

Bringing up the rear now, Cindy was watching the others' surrounding, when silently an arm reached out from the trees and grabbed her by the throat. Working quickly, her assailant pinched a pressure point in her neck, rendering her unconscious before dragging her into the thick foliage.

Suddenly aware she wasn't hearing Cindy's footsteps behind her anymore, Margo stopped and turned to see what was going on. "Cindy!"

Kermit spun around, an urgent look on his face, and followed Margo. "What happened? Where is she?"

"If I knew that, I would be going after her," Margo snapped at the man, finally losing her patience with him.

Unknown location
0745 hours

Cindy woke with a start, to find chains wrapped tightly around her wrists and ankles, securing her between two trees. The tape across her mouth made it impossible for her to speak or ask for help. She could feel the radio was still on her, but it would do her no good this way. A glance up made her blood run even colder.

One of the Russians was setting up a rifle aimed directly at her, only a few short feet away. She could see the wire that was rigged to it. If someone were to trip that wire, the rifle would go off and kill her instantly.

After finishing what he was doing, the Russian approached her and ran his hand across her cheek. Her sounds of disgust were muffled against the tape. The man straightened and backed away suddenly, causing Cindy to try to twist her head back to find out what he had seen.

The man who approached her was the same as the one that spoke on the computer. "Welcome, so glad you could join our game. You see, this is on the Major's route to try to escape. How fitting that he will be the one who kills you," the man taunted, testing the tightness of the chains. He laughed when Cindy squirmed, trying to get free. "With his feet chained, he won't be able to step over the wire if he even sees it, and since my men will be in close pursuit, he can't go back the way he came."

Margo and Kermit were following the trail of freshly broken stems, hoping it would lead them to Cindy. Margo was grateful that for once, the man had fallen silent. Every once in a while, the radios would pick up a small grunt or groan, and it gave them hope that she was at least alive, wherever she was.

Gunfire erupted around them, and Kermit and Margo dove for the forest floor as they returned fire. During the distraction, a Russian snuck up from behind and grabbed Margo, dragging her through the forest to where they wanted her.

Just as abruptly, the gunfire stopped. Kermit raised his head. "What was that?" he asked, only to receive no answer. "Margo?" Confused, Kermit glanced around, finding himself alone. "What the hell?"

***

Deke and Peter were continuing their venture, when they started to run into bodies. "Pop came this way," Peter observed.

Deke grinned as he pressed on. He stopped when he heard Kermit's voice in his ear.

"What's the prob?" Deke requested.

"They've disappeared. Both of them. Cindy first, while we were walking. Margo and I were looking for her when gunfire erupted, and when it was over, I found myself all alone."

South End Cell #1
0800 hours

The men dragged Matt to his feet, removing the collar from his neck. Zhelenko stood in front of him. "Here's the deal. You elude my men and stay alive until you reach the ranch house at the end of your course, and you get to live."

Matt glared at the man as he held out his wrists.

"Oh, no. Your wrists and legs remain shackled. I have to have some fun. There are surprises along the way for you."

"You are a sadistic . . . "

"You made me what I am, Major," Zhelenko sneered as his men dragged Matt down to his trail. "Don't go off the trail, Major, or you'll go, how do you say, kablooey. You get a five minute head start." Zhelenko waited as his men removed the device from behind Matt's ear, then shouted, "Get going!"

Matt started for the forest, unable to move fast enough. This man was sick, he thought as the men started firing at him.

 The South End Cell #2
0815 hours

Benny Ray stood when the cell door opened. The men dragged him out, his hands still cuffed behind his back. "Now what?" he drawled.

Sergei approached him as the men removed the device from his ear. "You survive to the end of your trail, you get to live. Because you're you," the Russian sneered, "You don't get ahead start, so run little rabbit!" he shouted as he shoved Benny Ray down his trail.

Unknown Location
0800 hours

Kermit followed the trail until he found Cindy, chained between the two trees. The sight startled him, and then he grabbed his gun and carefully walked over. He took note of the rifle set to go off. "It's okay, sweetheart." With his free hand, he pulled the tape from her mouth.

Hearing his voice, Cindy was relieved yet rolled her eyes. What was it going to take to get through to this guy? Turning her head to look his way, she realized Margo wasn't with him. "Where's Margo?"

"Don't know. They grabbed her," Kermit stated simply as he stood in front of her. He grabbed his lock picks and went to work on the locks on the chains. After freeing her, he gathered her into his arms. "Are you all right, sweetheart?"

With her hands, she shoved the man away from her. "Look, Mr. Griffin. I'm grateful for the save, and you're a nice person. But my heart belongs to someone else. Considering the circumstances, I think you should catch up with Peter and Deke. And go find Margo."

Kermit stared at her, incredulous. "But . . . "

"I mean it. I'm not your sweetheart, and I'm not interested in a relationship with you. I'll be fine on my own now. Go join Peter and Deke, and find Margo."

"That's not the way . . . "

"You know what?" Cindy stressed, hands on her hips. "You're not the leader of this team. Granted, right now our leaders are in trouble, but you're not a member. Therefore, you cannot take command. At the moment, I am."

Deke said in her ear, "I'm coming over your way, baby."

"Quickly," she pleaded of him. Looking at Kermit, she said, "Okay. Deke's on his way to my location. You go with Peter, Deke will stay with me. No argument, Mr. Griffin, or I'll shoot you where you stand and leave you here."

"Okay, fine," Kermit replied, his hands raised in mock surrender. He turned to walk away. "If you need me, just shout."

"Right," Cindy replied, half-sarcastic. Slowly and carefully she walked away from him, disengaging the rifle. "Damn," she whispered, realizing it was her own rifle. She checked the sight on it and the chamber. Satisfied everything was okay, she started down the path.

Kermit stood, watching her retreating form. "One of these days, sweetheart. I'll wait," he vowed.

Deke crashed through the foliage and grabbed Kermit's collar. "Peter's waiting for you. I suggest you go find him."

"What the hell is your problem? She yours?"

Furious, Deke curled his hand into a fist and slammed it into Kermit's jaw.

"You'll be sorry for that, my friend, " Kermit stated as he got to his feet.

"Just leave the ladies alone," Deke ordered, his tone menacing.

***

 Hearing someone approaching in the distance, Cindy dove into the bushes on the side of the trail. Relief swept through her when she realized it was Matt, until she realized he was still chained and there were men after him.

Quickly rising to her feet, Cindy shouldered the rifle and took down each of the men in rapid succession.

Hearing gunfire, Matt dove into the bushes on the other side of the trail for cover.

"Matt?" she called out after the last man was down.

He crawled out from the bushes and looked around. "Hey. What are you doing here?"

"Now, what do you think?" she asked as she helped him to his feet.

"Who's with you? Please tell me you didn't come alone," Matt said to her.

"Well, Margo's around here somewhere. We were both caught at some point. Deke's here, along with Peter, his friend Kermit and Peter's father."

"What?"

"We needed help. And if Kermit hadn't been here . . . " Cindy let her voice trail off.

"What?" Matt asked, his voice softer this time, his hand under her chin.

"If Kermit hadn't been here, you would have killed me."

***

Matt blanched. "Why?"

"Uhm, you sure you want to get into it now?" Cindy asked, as she tried to unlock the chains holding him, her hands shaking.

"Yeah, I'm sure. Why?"

"They had me chained between two trees, with my rifle trip wired to go off. If you'd have gotten there before Kermit . . . "

"Hell," Matt whispered. "And you don't think I would have gone around it, or stopped?"

"You couldn't go around it, the way it was set up. And his men would still have been after you. If you stopped, they had . . . "

"I would die for you, you know. I'd have just stopped and let them shoot me."

A tear fell from the corner of her eye. "I know, but I don't want you in that position."

His hands still shackled, Matt grabbed her face and kissed her.

Keeping one eye on their surroundings, Cindy responded, her one hand going around his neck. "Matt?" she whispered, breaking the spell.

"Huh?"

Clearing her throat, she said softly, "This isn't the time or place."

"Yeah. Well. Okay," Matt agreed, reddening slightly. When the chains refused to budge, he eyed Cindy. "Just shoot the things."

"All right. You sure?"

"Yep. I trust your shot," Matt assured her, spreading his hands on top of the rock.

"Let's do your ankles first," Cindy told him. "Just in case someone sneaks up, we can run."

"Got it."

Pulling the Glock, Cindy fired one shot that snapped the chain in half, the chain falling uselessly to the ground. Just as she shot off the chain shackling his wrists, Zhelenko appeared from the brush.

"Very creative, Shepherd."

Matt pushed Cindy behind him, grabbing the Glock from her and aiming it at the Russian. "Just stay away, Zhelenko."

Ignoring the potential threat, Zhelenko neared them. "Kill me, the rest of your team is dead immediately."

"Run," Matt whispered to Cindy.

"Nyet," Dimitri replied, aiming his gun at Matt's head.

***

Deke sat in the bushes, watching helplessly. "Damn." Hearing footsteps behind him, he whirled, his gun ready, when he saw Nick.

"How'd you get away?"

"They didn't buy me as Rico. Made it easy for me to escape. Which tells me there's a trap somewhere. What's up?"

"Cindy had Matt, but now Zhelenko has them both."

"Let me see," Nick demanded, yanking Deke's binoculars over to him. "Damn."

"I already said that."

"Who else is here?"

"Some cop who was at the hotel, his father who has since disappeared, although we found the bodies, and some creep."

"What?" Nick asked.

"And Margo who has also been grabbed."

***

 Cindy tentatively raised her Glock to fire over Matt's shoulder, but Zhelenko took a few large strides over, placing his gun against Matt's forehead. She instantly dropped the gun, clutching Matt's arm.

"Wise choice, my dear," Zhelenko taunted. He pulled out a pair of handcuffs and tossed them at Matt. "Put them on. One on you, one on her."

"Go to hell," Matt snarled.

"You first," the Russian ordered, leveling his gun at Cindy.

Feeling her fingers dig into his arm, Matt obeyed the man, glaring at him.

Zhelenko smiled. The man frisked Cindy, then bent to pick up the weapon Cindy had dropped.

Feeling Cindy tense beside him, Matt squeezed her hand.

***

 Benny Ray trudged along, having made it about three fourths of a mile when he saw a mound on the side of the path. "What the...?

When he reached it, he realized it was Margo. Going to his knees, he nudged her. "Sweetpea?"

"Hmm?" she whispered groggily.

"You okay?" he asked, worriedly.

"Yeah," Margo answered, sitting up. "So what's going on?"

"Zhelenko is hunting us down. You shouldn't have come here," Benny Ray admonished her.

"Well, we had help," Margo defended their position. "And we had to come get you guys. How's everybody else?"

"Don't know, haven't seen them since we were brought here. Well, come on and stick with me. I've got to elude these guys to stay alive until I reach the ranch house at the end."

"And if you do?"

"I don't know," Benny Ray admitted with a shrug.

***

 Deke looked at Nick. "So now what?"

"Just start shooting the bad guys as they appear. They're gonna let everybody get to the ranch house, ya know."

"That makes no sense, Delvecchio. Why would they?"

"Cause they're gonna blow it up when we get there. That way, there can't be any survivors. And they knew I wasn't going off and let everyone here, that's why they let me escape. So I can be there too."

"Damn. Where is everybody?"

"They're hunting Matt and Benny Ray. Trout, Chance and C.J. are at the ranch house already, being used as bait to make sure they get in there."

"Let's find Peter and Kermit and regroup."

Nick smirked. "Kermit?"

Deke looked at Nick. "Yeah, Kermit. And don't give him that look about his name, trustme. My neck still hurts."

"Damn."

"Yeah. And another thing."

"What's that?"

"Kermit wants Cindy, I think," Deke admitted. "He's been all over her."

"Oh, man."

"She's even threatened to shoot him and leave him out here."

Nick grinned. "Well, she's with Matt now."

"Yeah. But if he tries something in front of Matt, we may yet have a body to deal with."

Nick nodded. "Well, let's go find Peter and Mr. Wonderful."

***

 Benny Ray was getting ready to step forward when Margo stopped him.

"What's up sweet pea?"

"Coil of rope on the ground." Their eyes followed the rope where it led up into a tree.

"Thanks sweet pea."

"Any time."

Stepping around the obstacle, they continued on, when they heard shots behind them.

"Get down!" Benny Ray ordered Margo, shoving her under a bush, then covering her body with his as the hail of bullets came toward them.

***

Matt and Cindy were cautiously walking along when the Russian came barreling from nowhere and rammed into Cindy, knocking her off the edge of the path.

Keeping one eye on the Russian, Matt glanced down to check their situation. "Hold on tome, darlin'," he said with a calm he didn't feel. A glance over his shoulder told him the Russian was approaching him. Matt looked down again. It was about a seven-foot drop to a foothold. "Do you trust me, darlin'?"

"You . . . know . . . I . . . do," she panted out.

"Okay," he said as he went over the side, grabbing her to him as he went.

"Oh God, Matt. What are you doing?" she screamed out, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck.

"Shh. It's okay," he assured her, taking the brunt of the fall when they landed.

Cindy was sprawled on top of him, the wind knocked out of Matt, who had his eyes closed.

"Matt? Matt!"

"I hear you, I hear you. Gotta catch my breath."

"What the hell was that?" Cindy asked shakily.

"He was sneaking up on me. Had to get us out of there. Was the only way," he gasped out.

"Are you okay?" Cindy inquired, her eyes flashing with concern.

"I think so. I'll let you know when we stand up. Just rest a minute."

Cindy recognized the sound of a rifle being prepped to fire and she jumped up and dragged Matt into the foliage behind them. "Matt?"

"Hmm?"

"You okay?"

"Uh. . .not sure. Hold on.."

"We've got to get out of here," Cindy stressed, hearing footsteps approaching the precipice they had fallen from.

Grabbing his arm, she helped him to his feet, only for Matt's right leg to give out. "Allrighty. Lifting his right arm, Cindy wrapped it around her shoulder and tried again so he could lean on her.

"Damn. That hurts," Matt grumbled.

***

 Together Benny Ray and Margo made it through the trail, stopping short of the ranch house. From behind the trees, they stared at the destination.

"I don't get it," Margo commented. "Why kidnap you guys, bring you here, turn you loose on a hunt, but let you make it to safety."

"It's a trap. It's gotta be. It's the only explanation. Wonder how the Major's doin'?"

"I don't know. I'm wondering about Cindy. She had disappeared a while back."

"What? We've got to go..."

"Calm down. Kermit's looking for her."

"Who or what the hell is a Kermit?" Benny Ray sputtered with disbelief.

"Peter from the hotel's friend," Margo explained, as they sat down to rest.

"Peter's here?"

"Somewhere. As is his father and Kermit."

"How'd they get involved?"

"Peter involved himself, also looking for the people who killed his partner. He called in his father and Kermit. We haven't seen his father since he got off the helicopter."

"Huh. Well, this is getting wierder by the moment."

***

 "Can anybody hear me?" Cindy yelled through the microphone to her radio.

Receiving only static, she shook her head, turning the device off. "Damn. The radio must have broken in the fall.

Matt had his head leaning against hers, fighting against the pain. "Can't go."

"Okay, come on," Cindy whispered, helping him back to the ground.

Clearing
1100 hours

Deke and Nick stood with Peter and Kermit. "Why didn't you get them out?" Kermit shouted.

"We didn't know where they went after they fell. We need to find them."

"No, I do," Kermit stated, stalking off by himself.

Peter reached out to his friend. "No, wait. It's not safe to go off on our own."

"Hasn't been safety in numbers, either. Fine, what then?"

"We go together."

Nick and Deke exchanged glances. "No," Nick stated.

Kermit glared from behind his sunglasses. "What do you mean no?"

"We go to the ranch house destination. That's where everyone will show up."

Kermit stormed over to the ex- DEA agent. "Look, that might be what you think. But Cindy wasn't a target in this. That makes her expendable to them. They already set her up once to be killed. I'm not letting it happen again."

Taking a page from Benny Ray's book, Nick grabbed the man and held on tightly. "Look. Cindy's with Matt. He'll take care of her. She'll take care of him. We gotta find the rest of the team."

Deke stifled a laugh when Kermit went pale.

Unknown location
1130 hours

Cindy was sitting behind Matt, his head on her shoulder, hoping the radio would soon work. She doubted it, but it was all she had.

Her attention was grabbed by the soft whisper of the leaves rustling. Moving from behind Matt, she grabbed a large stick and prepared.

From the foliage emerged Kwai Chang Caine, and she lowered the branch. "Caine. Where've you been?"

"Taking care of. . .potential problems. What's wrong here? You should be moving."

"Matt's leg. . .he can't stand on it," Cindy explained as the man came near them.

Matt glanced at her. "Who's this?"

"Peter's father."

The man knelt by Matt, running his hands up and down Matt's leg. "What's he doing? I thought he was out dealing with the enemy."

"I am...an apothecary."

"Uh...okay," Matt commented.

"Very bad sprain and twisted," the older man explained, as he pulled something from his pouch. He handed Matt a small vial and told him to drink it.

"What is it?"

"It'll help the pain so you can stand."

Matt stared at the man, warring with the decision of belief, but realized they needed to get out of the area, and they couldn't until he could stand. Hoping for the best, he swallowed the contents, handing the vial back to Caine. "How long?"

"Maybe ten minutes. We can wait," Caine assured him.

"So..." Matt began, leaning back against Cindy until a Russian came through the trees.

Caine climbed to his feet as Matt scuttled back, pinning Cindy against the rock face. Matt stared in amazement at Caine's moves. He put Chance and Deke to shame.

For her part, Cindy was sitting behind Matt, her mouth open with awe. She had never seen anyone move that way. "Where did you learn to move that way?" she asked as she helped Matt up, his arm around her shoulders again.

He shrugged nonchalantly and replied, "I am Shaolin. How's the leg?"

"Wow, that stuff really works."

"Let's get out of here," Cindy noted as Caine got under Matt's other shoulder.

Eventually, they made it to the edge of the woods, overlooking the ranch house.

Caine slipped out from under Matt and said, "I'll be back."

"What? Wait. No," Matt protested, not knowing what the man could be getting into.

"Don't worry. Pop does that to me constantly," Peter said from beside them. "Glad to see you're out."

"Thanks. Any sign of the rest of my team?"

"Nick and Deke are back behind here, uh, arguing with my friend. Nick said two of the mare in the ranch house being used as bait."

"Damn," Matt fussed.

Pulling out his lock picks, Peter unlocked the handcuffs, freeing the pair just as Kermit came storming up.

"Cindy! You're okay," Kermit commented as he took her into his arms.

Matt raised one eyebrow angrily, steadying himself on the stronger leg.

"Would you please stop that!" Cindy exclaimed, pushing the man away from her.

"Come on, Kermit. I thought you were working on Karen back home," Peter said to his friend, pulling him away from the furious sniper.

"She doesn't want me," Kermit complained.

"Well you know what, Cindy doesn't either," Peter noted.

Matt limped over in front of the man. "Who the hell are you?"

"Kermit Griffin. Who are you?"

"Matt Shepherd. Cindy's fiancé. Stay away from her."

"Uh, okay," Kermit replied, taking in Matt's stormy countenance.

Cindy stood to the side, blinking in disbelief, wondering if she had just heard what she thought she had heard.

Deke and Nick approached the group, and closed in around Cindy. Everyone turned warily when the leaves behind them rustled, only to see Benny Ray and Margo emerge.

"Sorry. We saw you from across the way, but didn't want to give away your location," Margo explained. "Everybody all right?"

Matt limped over to Cindy and wrapped his arm around her. "Yeah, I think so."

"I'm not," Nick fussed.

"What's the matter with you?" Benny Ray asked.

"They wouldn't believe I was Rico. I've always been able to pull off an identity switch."

"You forget, Delvecchio, Zhelenko saw Rico. You didn't have a chance."

"Do we have any weapons?" Matt asked.

Deke pulled up front and center. He handed Cindy and Benny Ray two rifles and MP5'sfor the rest. Kermit looked like he knew how to use one, but Matt noticed Peter looked a little shaken.

"What's up?" Deke asked him.

"Hope Pop gets out of there before we go in with all this hardware."

"We'll keep our eyes out for him. We've got our people in there too."

Matt motioned for Benny Ray and Cindy to move out, then gave directives to the others. "We're gonna storm the place."

Everyone nodded in agreement except Peter, who looked worried. "Don't worry, Peter. We'll get him out too. Everyone comes home," Matt stated, casting a glance in Kermit's direction. There might be an exception to that, he thought.

Cindy and Benny Ray perched on opposite sides of the entrance to the ranch house.

"Boss?" Nick asked Matt as he followed him.

"Yeah, Delvecchio?" Matt responded, restraining his aggravation.

"What good is Cindy and Benny Ray gonna be when they're gonna blow this place up when we go in?"

"What? Now's a heck of a time to mention that, Delvecchio."

"I tried to during the meeting, but that Kermit kept interrupting. Deke couldn't say anything either. Damn guy thinks he knows everything."

Matt stopped and motioned to the team to move back.

Benny Ray saw the activity through the cross hairs of his scope. "What the hell?"

Seeing the same thing, Cindy had the same reaction.

When they were huddled together again, Matt informed the team of what Delvecchio had told him. He saw Kermit get ready to expound on the subject, and said flat out, "Shut up, Griffin. I'm in charge here."

"But..."

Cindy motioned to Benny Ray when some men came out of the ranch house. The men raised their guns to approach the huddling team. With precision, they took out each of the men.

Matt jumped and turned around. "Damn it. See, Griffin. This is why I don't like distractions."

"Yeah, well maybe I don't like Cindy being in danger. How can you...?"

The rest of what Kermit was about to say was cut off when Matt's fist connected with his jaw, knocking him to the ground.

"Let's get one thing straight. Everyone on this team takes care of every one else. If she wasn't qualified, she wouldn't be here. She's very good at what she does, and we would all be dead if it weren't for her and Benny Ray just now."

Margo raised an eyebrow and glanced at Nick and Deke. None of them had ever seen Matt this way.

When Kermit started to stand, Matt shoved him back down again. "In fact, just stay away from my team."

Deke and Nick ran over and grabbed Matt. "Calm down, boss," Nick said.

Matt tried to shake them off. "No. My team has been through hell, and now this...this..."

"Matt, calm it down a thousand," Deke said, applying pressure to Matt's arm.

Forcing himself to calm down, Matt stormed away from Kermit, Deke following him.

"What's up?"

"He's trying to insinuate himself on Cindy."

"Listen, Matt. You don't have to worry about this. I've been watching the situation, and she's been pushing him away. She loves you."

"I know she does. It's not that I don't trust her. It's just after what happened before, I don't want her pushed to a bad place, you know."

"Yeah, I know. That's why I've been watching. So has Nick. He pulled a Benny Ray on him."

A small smile crossed Matt's face. "He did, did he?"

"It was amazing. It was like, like a Benny Ray Jr."

Matt laughed. "That's just scary, Deke."

"I know what you mean. You okay now?"

"Yeah, I'm good to go."

When the two men returned, Kermit backed away from Matt.

Matt smirked at the man as he issued new orders.

Knowing Cindy's radio was broken, Matt said to Benny Ray, "Motion something to Cindy to let her know I'm coming in her direction."

"What happened to her radio, boss?"

"Let's just say it didn't survive the fall any better than my leg did."

"What fall?" Benny Ray asked, concerned when he saw the major limping. "Boss, you can't go in like that."

"None of us are going in Benny Ray. We're going to have to draw them out."

"What? What happened to the plan?"

"Well," Matt began, glancing over his shoulder at Kermit who was arming himself, "A certain someone wouldn't let anyone else say anything, and en route Nick told me they're gonna blow the place up once we get in there."

"Shit. What do you want us to do?"

"Just shoot anyone who comes out, except for Trout, Caine, Chance and C.J. If you feel like shooting Griffin, go for it."

"Problem boss?"

"No. It's taken care of. I think."

Deke laid several explosives around the perimeter and waited for the word from Matt. He glanced over toward Kermit and Peter. Peter looked worried, Kermit, well, he looked ready to bite nails. Nick was heading over toward Benny Ray while Matt headed for Cindy. Deke wasn't sure where to look for the most excitement.

Without warning, Kermit broke from Peter and changed positions. "Matt," Deke whispered into the radio, pushing the button for Matt's link. "Griffin's moving."

"Damn it. What's he doing? Where'd he go?"

"I lost sight of him. He was heading in your direction."

Matt stopped and turned, looking for the man. Kermit emerged from the foliage and approached Matt.

"What the..."

Kermit lifted his fingers to his lips and whispered, "Shhh..." as he raised his gun to aim it.

Matt flinched. Was this man really willing to kill him and risk the others to get to Cindy, Matt wondered. His leg starting to throb again, he threw his weight against Kermit, tackling him to the ground.

"You idiot!" Kermit yelled, seeing the Russian standing over them.

Not realizing the situation, Matt glared at the other man, his hands around Kermit's throat. "What were you doing?"

"Saving your life, you idiot. Now we're caught."

"What?" Matt asked, confused.

He felt the rifle barrel against his back and Matt sighed. With little prodding, both men climbed to their feet and were led toward the ranch house.

Looking through the cross hairs of her scope, Cindy gasped. Quickly working, she took aim on the Russian and fired.

Without a glance at the body, Matt snarled at Kermit, "Get back there with Peter. Don't make another move without my say so."

Finally reaching her, Matt crouched beside her. "Everything okay?"

"Uh...yeah. How about you?" Cindy asked, worried. She had never seen that blazing lookin his eyes before.

"I'll be better when we're rid of Griffin."

"Uhm, Matt...you do know you don't have to worry about that, don't you?"

"We'll talk about it later, okay? Let's get Trout, Chance and C.J. and go home." Matt ordered her.

"So when are we moving in?" she asked, hiding her hurt.

"We're not. They're going to have to come to us," Matt explained to her. Seeing the question in her eyes, he explained the situation.

"Why wouldn't he be quiet? He should understand the need for intel."

"He wants to be in charge, to be the leader." Into the radio, Matt said, "Okay, Deke. Now."

The explosives went off, and men came swarming from the ranch house. Cindy and BennyRay took down as many as they could, the rest of the team handling anyone else.

"Any sign of Zhelenko?" Matt asked the team.

Cindy whispered next to him, "Yeah."

 

"Where?"

"Here," she squeaked, the rifle barrel against her neck.

"You may get your team, Shepherd. But you won't have her," the man threatened, readying the firearm.

Dropping his Glock, Matt raised his hands. "Let her go. She has nothing to do with this."



***


 
From her location, Margo could tell there was trouble and called Benny Ray. "Can you get him?"

Benny Ray shook his head. "Gun could go off. Damn."

Kermit paced next to Peter. "I told him she was in danger. I can take care of her, he says."

Peter shook his head and walked away from Kermit.

***

"Certainly she does," Zhelenko taunted, "She's important to you. The best revenge of all. Your girlfriend's life for my father's life."

"I killed him, it's my responsibility," Matt offered.

"No! You should live with the pain I've lived with these years. This is ideal."

"What makes you think she's my girlfriend?" Matt inquired.

"The way you look at her, the way you touch her, the way you talk to her. So many things."

Suddenly, a hand appeared and twisted Zhelenko's neck, dropping him to the ground.

Cindy sat up with a sigh of relief. "Thank you Caine."

"Yes, thank you," Matt agreed, shaking the man's hand.

"Your four people are over with Deke and Peter," Caine explained.

"Could you tell them we'll be there in a minute?" Matt asked of the man, as he motioned for Benny Ray to join the team.

"Certainly," Caine replied, bowing to Matt.

 Matt watched the man's graceful movements as he left. "Incredible," he commented. Turning to Cindy, he watched as she quietly shouldered her rifle to walk away. "Darlin'?"

Cindy sighed and turned around. "What?"

"We okay?"

"I should be asking you that," Cindy responded. "I guess," she mumbled dejectedly as she moved away from him.

Matt reached out to grab her arm. "What's hurting you?"

"Nothing, Matt. If you have to ask what's wrong, I'm not going to explain it to you," Cindy stormed as she walked away from him.

Matt stood there, staring after her.

***

 Arriving at the helicopter, Cindy took the furthest back seat, dreading the potential for Kermit to corner her. To her relief, Nick and Benny Ray climbed in beside her, followed by the rest.

As the helicopter lifted off, Nick took note of the pained look in Cindy's eyes, and watched her staring out the window. He knew it was unlike her to sit in the back, preferring to be with Matt. "Uh...you okay?"

Cindy managed a small smile. "As you would say Delvecchio. Nunya."

Nick blinked at her, then glanced at Benny Ray who just shrugged.

Benny Ray was, in turn, watching Matt up front. He wasn't being himself either. Usually animated after a mission, Matt was sullen and silent. He hadn't noticed any trouble earlier, so Benny Ray couldn't figure out the problem. He nudged Margo sitting in front of him, behind Matt.

Leaning back in her seat, she asked, "What's up?"

"Find out what's bothering the major," Benny Ray drawled.

"Already tried. He isn't talking."

"Interesting. Neither is Cindy," Benny Ray informed her.

The Airport
1600 hours

Deke set the helicopter down and Cindy stormed away from the others, going inside the airport, oblivious to Nick following her.

Matt stood there, in shock. He looked at Benny Ray and Margo. "What happened?"

"Matt, you were with her. You tell us what happened."

"I don't know. She got really quiet and sullen. When I asked her what was wrong, she said if I had to ask she wasn't going to explain it to me."

"Matt, I don't know what to tell you. What were you talking about out there?"

Matt grimaced from a pain shooting through his knee. "I was complaining about Kermit. Cindy told me I didn't have to worry about anything with that, which I knew. I told her we'd discuss it later. I didn't want to upset her with a bad memory when we were in the middle of something."

"And then?" Margo prodded.

"When we were leaving, I asked if we were okay. And she said something about she should be asking that. That's when she said she wasn't going to explain it to me."

***

 At the ticket counter, she bought a one way ticket to Rome and went to board her plane.
Approaching the plane, she glanced to the other side of the airfield, where the team was still standing with Trout, saying their goodbyes to the Caines and Kermit. A tear falling from the corner of her eye, Cindy boarded the plane, found her seat and buckled her seat belt.

Nick returned to the team and pulled Margo aside. "Hey. Cindy left."

"Left? What do you mean she left?"

"I mean she walked up to the counter, bought a ticket and boarded a plane. That one right over there," Nick informed her.

"Any idea where it's going?"

"Rome," Nick answered.

"Let Matt know," Margo told the man as she went toward the airport.

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