The Green Room
(2006) 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.
"April in the Green Room"
by Thompson Girl
Lt. Hanley looked around the Green Room's back sleeping quarters one more time to make sure he wasn't missing anything. Then he picked up the borrowed tan raincoat off his bunk, slipped it on and tied the belt securely. It was a poor fit, an even poorer disguise, and his reflection stared gloomily back at him from the mirror.
He was never going to get out of the Green Room unnoticed, he thought. He looked ridiculous, and he knew it.
If only the front door hadn't been the only real way in or out. He had a sneaking suspicion that the Green Room had been designed that way deliberately. Sure, it may have been the squad's private off-limits relaxation area, but that hadn't stopped the writers from making sure none of the squad could slip out and go AWOL on them. They were always on call. And that lack of exits was sure making plans tonight tough to implement.
He turned out the sleeping quarters' lights, then cracked open the door and peered into the Green Room. Three short rows of chairs had been moved into the middle of the room, facing the back wall. He couldn't see the back wall from his position -- it was directly to his right -- but he knew the movie screen had been set up there. He could see Littlejohn, hunched over the film projector set up on a table near the front door, carefully threading the film from the reels into the portable machine.
The chairs were all filled, except for the end seat next to Billy in the front row.
Kirby, drinking beer from a bottle in the second row, called over his shoulder, "Come on, Littlejohn, you big galoot, get it started already."
Littlejohn's head popped up over the film projector. "You want to do this, Kirby?"
"Just get on with it already," Kirby said.
"If you'd quit interrupting me with your bellyaching, I might have a chance."
"Well, I don't think you know what you're doing."
Littlejohn straightened abruptly. "That's it."
A chorus of "no's!" came from the rest of the squad, and Doc said, "Kirby, just can it, will ya?"
Kirby slouched lower in his chair, stretched out and put his feet up on the back of Billy's chair.
Billy turned sharply. "Hey! Would you knock it off?"
Kirby made a face and dropped his feet back down to the floor.
Hanley watched them all surreptitiously, scanning the rows for Saunders. He finally located the sergeant at the far end of the room, in the place Hanley least wanted to see him. Saunders was lounging alone on the couch near the front door, an amused smile tugging at his lips as he watched the squad, a bottle of beer in his right hand. Hanley grimaced. That made things more difficult. Saunders had to be sitting there, didn't he? Almost as if he were waiting for Hanley and not just monopolizing the most comfortable spot in the room. Hanley would have to wait until the movie started and they killed the lights, then make his break for it.
Just then, with a clackety whir, Littlejohn got the projector working at last, and the movie started rolling.
Everyone cheered, and Saunders stretched a hand back and flicked the room's main lights off. Kirby muttered, "About time!"
"You could say thank you," Littlejohn said. He stepped around the rows and took the seat Billy had been saving for him.
Kirby jerked up straight. "Hey! Move over, you make a better door than a window--"
He was shushed by everyone else. He scooched his chair several inches to the right, earning himself a glare from Doc when they bumped.
Now or never, Hanley thought, while the opening credit music was blaring and the Green Room was at its darkest. He quickly stepped out of the back room and hurried along the edge of the main room towards the front door. He was almost there when Saunders' voice came softly from the couch, "Going someplace, Lieutenant?"
"Oh, I've seen this film," Hanley said, his hand closing on the front door knob.
He heard Saunders sit up, the couch creaking. "Now, hold up a minute..."
Hanley hid a grimace. The door knob was smooth and cold beneath his hand. Just a quick turn and escape was his.
"We haven't all been off at the same time since Christmas. So where you sneaking off to?"
"Sneaking!" Hanley objected and turned towards the sergeant. Even in the dim, flickering light, he could see the amused expression Saunders wasn't trying to conceal.
Saunders went on, "And don't give me any baloney about going out for fresh air. 'Cause I heard that one before."
"I wouldn't dream of it," Hanley said, his eyes widening ever so slightly as he turned on one of his most winning smiles.
But Saunders wasn't buying it, and Hanley realized he should have known better than to even try it. "And I heard that one before too," Saunders said.
The opening credits finished, and the room brightened as the film got underway. Hanley cursed under his breath as he saw Saunders look him up and down in the sudden light, then Saunders' tongue pushed at the inside of his cheek as he frowned, and his gaze moved slowly back to Hanley's face. Hanley glanced down at himself, at the raincoat belted tight around him. Nope. It looked no better out here than it had in the mirror.
"Okay, spill it. What's with the getup?"
Hanley decided he'd had enough. "Look, Saunders. We may be off-duty, but that's no reason I have--"
Saunders' left hand reached over, almost idly, and flicked on the main light switch next to the door.
A chorus of groans and protestations came from the movie watchers.
Exit stage left -- now! Hanley thought. He pulled open the door, only to have the knob nearly yanked from his hand as the door ran into an unexpected obstruction. He looked down and saw Saunders' booted foot extended and blocking the door from opening more than a few inches.
Hanley abruptly became aware that the music had stopped, the men weren't complaining, and that the room was dead silent behind him. Ever so slowly, he turned his head and found the entire squad twisted in their chairs or standing up. And all of them were staring at him. Littlejohn stood the closest, one hand still on the film projector he'd just stopped running.
"What's with the coat, Lieutenant?" he asked curiously.
"Yeah," Kirby said, and Littlejohn's question echoed like dropped ping pong balls among the men.
"Just chilly in here," Hanley said. He felt the door knob jerk completely out of his hand as Saunders kicked the door shut.
"Well, we shouldn't be letting breezes in then, should we?" Saunders said.
Hanley glared at him, but that didn't wipe the hint of a smirk off Saunders' face.
Kirby got up suddenly, looking around suspiciously. He approached them, and Saunders took a step back to give him room. Kirby opened the front door, peered briefly outside, then shut it again. Before Hanley could take advantage of the situation, Saunders moved to block the door once more.
Billy asked, "What'cha looking for Kirby?"
"I just thought if the lieutenant was up to something, he was probably lurking around too."
"Who he?" Billy asked.
"That Andrews character."
Caje groaned. "Oh no, here we go again."
Kirby glowered at Caje. "Don't tell me you haven't noticed. He and the lieutenant are buddy-buddy. And that guy's getting more page time now than we are. First Thompson Girl's Reckoning, then White Queen's Hide and Seek, for which I hear he contracted for at least one sequel."
His words were met with grimaces and rolled eyes.
"Well, it's true, ain't it?" Kirby demanded. "How much page time did the rest of us get in Hide and Seek, huh?"
"Short memory," Littlejohn said in a loud aside to Billy.
Kirby glanced at him. "What?"
Littlejohn looked over at him and said, "I seem to recall some general cheering when you got to sit that one out and loaf around here instead."
Hanley furtively reached for the door knob again. As long as Kirby was distracting them, he might just be able to slip....
"Going someplace?" Saunders asked.
Hanley cursed silently.
Caje said, "What is up with the coat, Lieutenant?"
"Why don't we find out?" Saunders said.
"Saunders, I'm warning you--"
Saunders drew his hand back as Hanley's outfit clinked with a distinctly metallic sound. Saunders cocked his head curiously, then his gaze dropped down to where the metal-capped bottom of a sword sheath was just sticking out of the bottom left-hand side of the coat. Saunders stared at it a long moment, before raising his eyes to Hanley. "That wouldn't be a sword now, would it?"
Kirby stifled a laugh. "What good's a sword out here?"
"It's a saber," Hanley said, stiffly.
Saunders gestured at him to unbelt and remove the coat, "Come on, Hanley. You're not getting out of here until you do."
Slowly, reluctantly, Hanley took off the coat.
"Well, I'll be," Kirby said. "Just whose army you joining, anyway?"
Littlejohn said, "Don't you watch any westerns, Kirby? That's a United States Cavalry uniform."
The squad left their seats and crowded a little closer for a look at Hanley's new uniform. He stood uneasily under their scrutiny, fervently wishing himself elsewhere. Even back in a foxhole, getting shelled or shot at. At least there, he could shoot back.
"That's sure a nice-looking uniform, Lieutenant," Saunders said.
Hanley glared at him.
"Sure is," Caje agreed.
"Just swell," Kirby said, then asked pointedly, "What are you doing in it?"
"Can't you guess?" Littlejohn said. "What's the cavalry famous for?"
"Getting clobbered at the Little Big Horn?"
Littlejohn gave Kirby a stern look. "Riding to the rescue at the last minute. You know, homesteaders, wagon trains... protecting them from the Indians and stuff. Hero stuff. Right, Lieutenant?"
Hanley looked away uncomfortably. "Something like that."
"I'll bet one of the writers is taking a break, or they're at work, dreaming up things to pass the time."
"Something like that," Hanley repeated.
"Hey!" Kirby said, suddenly. "There any women on them wagon trains?"
"What do you think, Kirby?" Caje said.
"Bet they'd be awful grateful getting rescued and all..."
Saunders interrupted, "Come on, now, all of you, knock it off. This isn't our show, so let's just let the lieutenant on this way. He's got a right to spend his free time anyway he wants. He wants to ride to someone's rescue, who are we to stop him?"
Hanley looked back at Saunders, said sarcastically, "Why thank you, Sergeant. I'm so gratified at your support." And why didn't you just keep your mouth shut in the first place?
Saunders stepped aside, giving him clear access to the front door. Hanley watched him warily a moment, knowing this capitulation had to be faked, that it was part of some devious plan to mess up the rest of his night. But Saunders' face, though still clearly enjoying Hanley's discomfort, was giving nothing else away. Hanley shrugged off his suspicions and quickly opened the door. What could they really do anyway?
But as he closed the door behind him, he heard Saunders' voice asking the squad, "So, who wants to be an Indian? I'm looking for volunteers now..."