The Green Room
(2007) No infringement upon the rightful owners of "Combat!" and the characters thereof, is intended. Any resemblance between real people and the characters in this story is purely coincidental and no insult is intended. This piece of fan fiction is for enjoyment only, and in no way will the author gain monetary profit from its existence.
"Trying Like Men"
by Thompson Girl and White Queen
Braddock stepped into the Green Room and immediately wished he hadn't. Something was going on. Something that had no business happening in their barracks. Something that made him acutely nervous. Particularly since it was supposed to be their day off.
The squad was cleaning.
Not just everyday policing-the-joint-up-for-the-lieutenant's- inspection kind of cleaning. That was bad enough. No, this was something totally different. This was real cleaning. The kind of top-to-bottom cleaning only ladies in maid outfits should ever do. Short maid outfits. But there wasn't a maid to be seen, only squad members, although to Braddock's everlasting relief, not one of them had found an outfit for cleaning preferable to their everyday uniform.
Littlejohn had a feather duster in one hand and a dust rag in the other. He was studiously swiping them over the top of the bookcases that nobody else was tall enough to reach properly. Kirby had a broom and was vigorously attacking the floor. As far as Braddock could tell, he was creating more dust clouds than he was picking up. From deeper in the Green Room, he heard clinking and clunking and other sounds that boded absolutely no good for someone who wanted nothing more than a hammock strung in the shade and four hours of leisure time to doze and dream. He should've suspected something was up when he spotted Brockmeyer washing windows outside.
Whatever was going on here, he wanted no part of it. He backed up carefully, quietly, making sure he wasn't seen. And bumped right into Saunders.
"Hello, Braddock," the sergeant said.
Braddock eyed him warily. Whenever Saunders used that friendly tone, he knew he was in trouble. "I was just leaving. They asked me to run down to the market and uh... pick up some beer!" Braddock finished cheerfully, proud of himself for thinking up something plausible.
Saunders shook his head, slowly and deliberately.
"I'm not? But...."
Saunders glanced downward and Braddock followed his gaze -- to a case of twenty-four beer bottles tucked under Saunders' right arm.
"Oh," Braddock said. "Oh, I see. You already...."
"Yeah, I already."
"Well, look, don't you think it would be better if I--"
"No one's tidying up the barracks yet, Braddock," Saunders said. "There's all those beds to be made, dirty socks to be picked up."
Braddock grimaced. "Surely, there's something else."
"Nope." Saunders started past him, then paused and turned back. "Oh, there is one thing."
Braddock straightened hopefully.
"You could go relieve Caje... he's cleaning the latrines. I'm sure he'd be more than happy to swap jobs with you."
"Saunders, you have no respect for a man's day's off, you know that?"
"You can always take it up with the lieutenant."
"I just might do that," Braddock said.
Saunders smiled. "He's cleaning the kitchen."
Braddock's own challenging smile faded.
"Oh, I'm sure he'll hear you out with a sympathetic ear," Saunders continued. "Just because he arranged this afternoon's activities, don't let that stop you."
Saunders turned back again, a little more sharply, and Braddock quickly realized he was fighting a losing battle. "I'm just going to the barracks now...."
Saunders watched him go, a smile breaking out on his face again as soon as Braddock's back with turned. The big man crossed gingerly through the main room and still got yelled at by Kirby for stepping in his carefully swept-up pile.
Saunders looked around the living room, surprised at how much the men had already gotten spic and span. He set the box of beer bottles down with a clink on the side table only to hear Littlejohn object, "Sarge! I just got that wood polished!" Saunders snatched up the box again and quickly headed for the kitchen.
"Hey, where's that beer going?" Kirby called, licking dry lips.
"Kitchen. Get it when you're finished."
"I am finished!" Kirby said smugly.
Saunders glanced back. "Sweep under the rug too."
Saunders peeked into the barracks to check on Braddock. The private was there all right, looking around as if he didn't know where to begin. Saunders quickly backed out before Braddock could spot him. He didn't have to peek in the latrine area to know Caje and Doc were industriously cleaning. They also both seemed to be deliberately singing different songs, and their voices echoed loudly in the tile room.
But if Saunders thought retreating to the kitchen was safe, he was sadly mistaken. Hanley had claimed the kitchen and Saunders stared at the sheer quantity of pots pans -- both clean and already used -- and food and spices that were spread over every counter. Billy, who was stuck polishing the silver, had found a seat out of the lieutenant's way in the far corner at the only table Hanley hadn't appropriated.
Saunders sniffed the air. Something on the stove smelled good, but it wasn't what they'd agreed on for the dinner party, that's for sure.
An aproned Hanley spotted him and practically pounced on the sergeant, a giant cooking spoon held carefully in one hand. "Taste this!" he demanded.
Saunders made a show of carefully setting the beer down before turning back to the impatient lieutenant and sampling his meal. It was some kind of chili, well-seasoned, and.... hot! The flames hit Saunders a second later. He gasped, then coughed, but that only made it worse.
"What's wrong?" Hanley asked.
Saunders whirled back toward the beer and yanked a bottle out of the box. Billy was ready with the opener, and he gave Saunders a quick, knowing glance before scuttling back to his corner and out of the lieutenant's way. Saunders downed half the beer before the fire in his throat had been reduced to mere embers. He turned back to Hanley and croaked, "What happened to the spaghetti sauce you were making?"
Hanley threw up his hands. "Don't talk to me about spaghetti sauce! I'm never cooking spaghetti sauce again!"
"But I thought Dana--"
"Yes, Dana gave me a lovely recipe. It was simmering along nicely. Except then those other guys got involved."
"What other guys?" Saunders was having a hard time picturing any of the squad objecting to a fresh batch of spaghetti. And he'd had Dana's sauce before. It was delicious.
"Those two Italian guys.... The big blond one told me there was only one way to cook sauce for Thompson Girl, and the other one told me there was only one way to cook sauce for White Queen, that I had the wrong kind of meatballs, and that my spaghetti noodles were too short. They both told me I was doing it all wrong, only they didn't agree with each other either and they got in a shouting match over it." Hanley shrugged helplessly. "So I scrapped the spaghetti and went with chili."
"The girls like Westerns... what's wrong with chili?"
"It's not what's wrong with chili, it's what's wrong with your chili."
Hanley sighed, shoulders slumping. "Too hot, huh?" He set the spoon back down on the stove. "Well, then, get Brockmeyer in here. He knows Thompson Girl's favorite foods. I'll just ask him what I should cook."
Saunders sat down next to Billy and took another swig of his nearly depleted beer. "This is a lousy idea, Lieutenant."
Hanley's eyes narrowed dangerously.
"I don't mean your cooking... I mean this whole thing." Saunders' swinging arm encompassed the whole Green Room and its busy cleaning. "We know every year come November, Thompson Girl and White Queen leave us high and dry while they frantically write fifty thousand words on something that doesn't involve us. They've done this several times now; we know the routine."
"But they both just finished drafts of our stories in late October," Hanley protested. "Those stories are just sitting there -- just sitting there! -- awaiting revisions. I've got some ideas--"
Hanley crossed his arms. "Saunders, I'm beginning to the think the wrong man got the short straw for cleaning the latrines."
"I just think we're getting worked up over nothing--"
"Oh, that's easy for you to say. Mr. Favorite Character."
"Hey," Saunders said, getting out of his chair to square off with Hanley, which usually sounded like a good idea to him, until he was actually standing in front of the lieutenant and had to look up at him. Way up. "If you'll recall, Thompson Girl left me out of her latest story almost entirely."
"Yeah, but White Queen didn't."
"And who else did she feature -- prominently, I might add?"
"Not me," Billy muttered.
Both men glanced at him, then back at each other. "Let's take this outside," Hanley said.
After the flying dust, the clashing odors of cleaning fluids and chili, Saunders inhaled the clean fresh air outside the Green Room in relief.
"All right, Saunders," Hanley said, hands on hips. The effect was slightly marred by the pale blue apron still tied around him.
Saunders launched in. "I just think you're wasting your time courting favor with White Queen and Thompson Girl. We've got loads of excellent writers around here. They'd be more than happy to join us."
Hanley glanced around uneasily and said quietly, "Yeah, but this is their site."
"And who reads their site?"
Hanley met Saunders' calculating gaze and rubbed at his chin thoughtfully. "We could invite them all."
"You want Thompson Girl and White Queen writing again? How do you think they'll feel when they realize they were so busy with their NaNoWriMo novels they missed the big party?"
Hanley was nodding. "Music, dancing...."
"You know how much the writers would love that. And there's next year's zine stories to be written. With all those lovely fanfic writers around, I'm sure you could find more than one to share your ideas with."
"And we could make it a pot luck!"
Saunders looked around almost as uneasily as Hanley had a moment before. "Pot luck?"
"Yeah, why should we do all the work? I hear that Rico's a fine cook--"
"Sir, I think your chili needs stirring."