The Green Room
(2013) 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.
"You Shall Not Pass"
by White Queen
Lt. Hanley rounded the corner in the Green Room's back hallway and stopped short. Billy Nelson stood in front of the Prop Room door, arms crossed, feet planted wide apart, a gun belt strapped around his waist and an MP helmet on his head. Hanley frowned – he'd believed everyone was out buying last-minute gifts and decorations. That was the whole reason he'd chosen this particular afternoon to go rummage through the Prop Room.
Billy said, "Oh, hi, Lieutenant." He sounded nervous, his voice squeaking on the 'hi' and then going deeper than usual in compensation. The helmet was a little too big and slipped forward over his eyes as he saluted.
Hanley adopted his most official voice, the one he usually reserved for arguing with Saunders and taking Kirby down a peg. "Nelson, what are you doing here?" All he needed was a hat and a couple other things, and he'd be on his way. Why did things never go according to plan lately?
"Just, uh, standing sentry duty, Sir."
"Sentry duty?" Hanley made an exaggerated show of looking all around the narrow corridor. "Why?"
"Because Saunders told me to."
"I see. Well, good job, Nelson. Carry on." Hanley strode briskly toward the door and reached for the handle. Enough of this nonsense – he had a bit part in White Queen's new western, and no one else in the squad had any parts at all, so he'd been keeping this little project classified, and he'd like it to stay that way. Otherwise, the next thing you knew, they'd all be jamming her subconscious, clamoring for attention, and then her novel would never get written and she'd never get back to writing fanfic, and he'd be stuck filling out paperwork for the rest of forever.
Billy moved aside to block him. "I'm sorry, Sir, but I'm not supposed to let anyone in there."
"According to Saunders?"
"Yes." Billy chewed his bottom lip.
"Is Saunders still a sergeant?"
"Am I still a lieutenant?"
"Yeah. Yes, Sir."
"Then stand aside."
"Can't do that, Lieutenant."
Hanley put his hands on his hips. "You want to spend the rest of the war scrubbing my boots with your toothbrush?"
Billy looked down, causing the helmet to tip even farther forward. "I'm sorry, Sir," he mumbled.
"Right, then." Hanley reached for the door handle again.
Billy looked up, pushed the helmet back with one hand, and put his other hand on the pistol in his holster. "I'm under orders," he pleaded. "You can't go in there."
"Are you saying you'd rather risk Saunders' wrath than mine?"
Hanley took a deep breath. Intimidation hadn't worked. Time to try wheedling.
"Everyone else is out buying presents. And decorations. And cookies. And eggnog. Don't you want to join them?"
"Well, sure. But I can't."
"Sure you can – I'll stand guard here, and you can take my Jeep and go shopping. I wouldn't want you to miss out on all the merrymaking." All he needed was his black cowboy hat! And his boots, shirt, pants, and vest… but if he had to do without those, he could. But that hat… it was so central to his character.
Billy shook his head. "Thanks awfully, Lieutenant. But I can't."
Hanley glowered at him. "Listen here, Nelson, just what is going on in there?"
"Saunders is um… he's busy. In there."
"Doing what, exactly?"
"I can't tell you."
"You'd better tell me!"
"It's a secret."
Hanley drew himself up to his full height, took a deep breath, and roared, "Saunders!"
The door opened and Saunders stuck his head around it. "What?"
"What on earth are you doing?"
"Wrapping Christmas presents. You can't come in." He shut the door before Hanley could wedge a foot into the crack.
"Oh, for pete's sake…" Hanley looked at the ceiling, took a couple of calming breaths, then said, loudly enough to be heard through the door, "Look, I just need a… couple things. That I left in there. A month ago. I'll just grab them and be gone. You won't even know I'm there."
Saunders opened the door again, but didn't look out. "What kinds of things?"
"Just let me in, and I'll find them."
"Listen here, Sergeant–"
Saunders came out with a big, round box in his hands. It was tied with a giant red ribbon, with a gaudy, garish bow on top. "I was saving this for Christmas, Lieutenant, but I think you should open it early." He thrust the loathsome object at Hanley, then stepped back with a what looked suspiciously like a smirk.
Hanley looked at the box. "Saunders, you shouldn't have." It was obviously a hat box. This did not bode well. If the sergeant had somehow found out about his role, well, he'd be jealous and probably cause trouble and…
"You're right. But I did. Now open it."
Hanley sighed. "All right." He pulled off the ribbons and opened the lid. Inside was a beautiful black cowboy hat with a silver band covered in elaborate etched fillagree. Exactly the hat that his new character would wear, far better suited to it than his other cowboy hat.
"So… you know." Hanley settled the magnificent hat on his head. It fit perfectly.
Saunders said, "Of course I know."
"Know what?" Billy asked.
"You're not sore?" Hanley wished he had a mirror.
"Nah. There's always next time. Besides, sooner it's done, sooner she starts her new story for us."
"True." Hanley touched the brim of his hat with his fingertips, tipping it slightly toward Saunders. "You're a better man than I, Gunga Din."
"True." Saunders grinned. "What're you waiting for?"
Billy said plaintively, "Won't anyone tell me what you're talking about?"
"Thank you," Hanley said.
"Happy New Year." Hanley turned and walked back the way he'd come, ready to set forth on his new adventure, however tiny his role might be.
Behind him, Saunders said softly, "I believe it will be."