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.
By White Queen and Thompson Girl
The Green Room door opened on well-oiled hinges, and Kirby entered, followed single file by Caje, Doc, and Billy. Their uniforms were filthy with caked-on mud, and their boots left trails of crumbling half-dried mud as they moved into the main room.
"I've had it with wet and cold and mud," Kirby muttered, and to his surprise, his complaint didn't stop with him, but rolled around the squad, gathering momentum as it went.
"Especially the mud," Caje agreed.
Billy said, "I think my boots weigh twice as much as they usually do."
Lt Hanley, as weary and dirty as the rest of them, trudged in last and closed the door. "All right, men, hit the showers. And stay on the hardwood floor. It'll be easier to clean up before the party. If we track it onto the rugs...."
Everyone groaned at the prospect of cleaning ground-in mud out of the carpets, particularly in the short time they had remaining before the New Year's Eve festivities commenced. They beelined toward the shower room that had recently appeared next to their barracks, carefully walking only on the hardwood floor. Once there, they shucked off muddy boots and stripped, tossing all their dirty apparel in one tottering heap near the door.
"Of all the days for it to rain," Billy grumbled. "It's been nice and dry all week, but tonight, it's gotta rain while we're on patrol."
"We should've started back earlier," Doc agreed. "We'll barely be dry and dressed by the time the girls show up for the party."
"Whose idea was it to send us on patrol on New Year's Eve, that's what I wanna know," Kirby groused. "Writers got no sense of...."
"All right, that's enough," Hanley said as he stepped into one of the little wooden shower stalls and closed the hinged half-door.
The others each entered a shower stall too, and soon the room was fall of steam, with hot suds flying merrily and muddy water eddying around the floor drains. Doc opened the evening's pre-party entertainment with a cheerful rendition of "I Been Workin' On the Railroad" and the others joined in with rather more gusto than artistry.
When the song ended, there was a slight pause and suddenly from out in the main room came the sound of other voices. Female voices.
"Holy cats!" Billy exclaimed, turning off his shower. "The girls are here already?"
Hanley quickly turned off his water as well, coming out for a towel. He wrapped it around him and, still dripping wet, went to the shower room's main door, cracked it open. "Well, I'll be...." he said, then to reassure the other men, he added, "No, it's not the girls."
"Who is it then?"
"Well, by their outfits, I'd say, they're maids."
"Maids? Since when do we have maids?" Caje asked as he too emerged clean and dripping, water droplets glistening across his shoulders and chest. He grabbed a towel from the stack and began drying off.
Kirby, still scrubbing between his toes, added, "How come we've been keeping the place clean if there's a maid service?"
"Shhhhh! Not so loud!" Hanley said. "You want them to come in here while we're like this?"
Billy, a towel around his waist now too, shook his head, sending water everywhere.
Hanley said, "Saunders must have called them in. Probably figured we wouldn't have time to clean up for the party, what with going on patrol and all." He listened at the door a moment.
In came the voices of the two maids. "I tell you," one said, "I wouldn't have taken this job if I'd known these boys would be tracking mud everywhere! That guy on the phone said they keep things fairly clean themselves and this wouldn't take long at all."
"I suppose since they knew they had maids coming in, they figured they needn't bother," the other said. "If I ever get my hands on the people that made this kind of a mess, I won't be responsible for the consequences."
"Well, at least they didn't get mud on the rugs," said the first maid. "I'll follow the trail back and see how much more we have to go."
The men looked at each other, panic on every face. "The closet!" Hanley whispered hoarsely, pointing to the linen closet door conveniently located along the opposite wall. Damp limbs flailed and towels flapped frantically as the men scuttled over to the closet and crammed themselves inside, shutting the door behind them.
It was semi-dark in the closet, the only light coming from a window set high in the wall opposite the door. Kirby stubbed his foot on the baseball bats someone had thrown on the floor under the shelves that held their towels and sheets, but everyone shushed him. They could hear the door to the shower room open and the footsteps of the maids on the tile floor.
"I have good news and bad news," the first maid called back to her companion. "The good news is, the trail ends here. The bad news is what it ends with."
"Jumpin' Jehoshaphat!" the second maid exclaimed. "Those wretches! Leaving us their laundry too! I tell you, we are not getting paid enough for this!"
"What did you expect from a Green Room full of soldiers?"
Muffled sounds reached the ears of the soggy soldiers crammed into the closet -- sounds of boots and clothes being bundled up. "We'll send these out to be cleaned and pressed, then send them the bill," the first maid said. "Maybe we should just sweep the driest mud into the shower room here and wash it down the drain," she added.
"I don't want to use our good broom on wet mud like this," the second maid protested.
"Good point. They must have one around here, or if not a broom, a shovel." There was a bout of feminine giggling, then she added, "Check in that closet over there while I carry this stuff out to our van."
Billy let out a quiet squeak of alarm but Hanley had the presence of mind to check the doorknob and, sure enough, there was a lock on it. He turned it only one second before a hand on the outside of the door rattled the knob, twisting it this way and that.
"Huh," came the voice of the second maid. "It's locked. Probably where they keep their dead bodies." She laughed and they could hear her footsteps retreating toward the main room.
The men let out a collective sigh of relief and set about trying to find things to sit on so their stay in the cramped closet would be a little more comfortable. Surely the maids would be gone soon -- they hadn't made that much of a mess, right?
After what seemed like several hours, but couldn't have been since the sun outside the window hadn't completely set yet, they heard the sound of the maids' van rumbling into the distance. Hanley couldn't help grinning. "Okay, let's get ready for the party." His hand closed around the door knob and he pushed, only to be brought up short. "What the--?" He twisted and pushed again.
"What is it?" Kirby asked from his seat on a big pile of extra blankets.
"What? It can't be!" Kirby scrambled to his feet, and Doc, Caje, and Billy joined him in crowding around Hanley, who rattled the handle and gave it another solid push. But the door seemed wedged tight. "I can't budge it," Hanley said. He obligingly moved out of the way to let the others have a go at it.
Kirby grumbled and kicked the door, forgetting he had bare feet. "Ow!!" He hopped away, wincing. "That's the same toe I stubbed on those stupid bats. Doc, I think it's broken!"
"I'll look at it once we're out of here," Doc said, trying his own luck with the door. "It's no use," he said after a minute or two. "It's completely jammed."
Billy said worriedly, "It's getting pretty late now. What're we going to do?"
Hanley grimaced and looked out the window. The sun was sinking below the tree line outside. The party was due to start any moment.
Caje said, "Hey, how about the window?"
"Great idea!" Hanley agreed. He pushed between the others and made his way to the back wall of the closet and reached up to undo the window's latch. "We'll just climb out, run around to the front door, and be safely in the barracks before anyone gets here.
So that's what they did. Five men clad only in short white towels climbed one by one out of the window, dropped to the ground, and padded barefoot around the corner. And stopped dead when they heard tires crunching on the gravel outside.
"Too late!" Kirby whispered, eyes wide.
They all peeked around the corner of the Green Room and saw Saunders and five women pile out of one jeep, and Littlejohn and four other girls climb out of another. The men were all spiffed up in their dress uniforms, hair combed and boots polished. And the women -- they were dressed in party frocks with dancing shoes on their feet and smiles on their faces. They were all laughing and chattering happily, some of them brandishing already-open champagne bottles. They filed into the Green Room with nary a glance at the unhappy faces peering around the building's corner in the dusk.
"Now what?" Caje asked Hanley.
Hanley looked down at the towel wrapped around his waist, then at his similarly-unclad companions. "We can't go in like this," he admitted.
Kirby groaned. "Of all the lousy luck!"
"Maybe we can get Saunders or Littlejohn's attention?" Doc suggested.
"It's worth a try," Caje said.
They all looked to Hanley, waiting on him to take the initiative. Hanley sighed. Rank had its privileges, as usual. He tiptoed toward the front door. His gaze darted around, and he double-checked to make the towel was secure around his waist before he risked opening the Green Room door an inch. Warmth, music, and the sound of feminine laughter drifted out. He tried to spot Saunders through the sea of colorful dresses. He was trying to decide whether to call out, when the closest woman seemed to feel the cool breeze slipping through the open door. She turned and her eyes met his. Hanley yanked the door shut and beat a hasty retreat. He just made it around the corner when the door opened and the blonde woman opened the front door and called out, "Hello? Someone there?"
The sound of someone whistling "Lazy River" came jauntily from the forest, accompanied by footsteps rustling through the leaves. Out of the evening darkness, Brockmeyer appeared and headed directly for the blonde standing silhouetted in the Green Room doorway. His uniform was spotless and pressed and for once neatly buttoned up.
"I don't believe it!" Kirby hissed. "What's he doing here?"
"Oh, hi!" the blonde called. "Come on in! Party's just starting." They all saw the smile light up on Brockmeyer's face at her words.
"That's not fair!" Caje whispered.
"He's dressed and we aren't," Hanley snapped.
"Not for long," Kirby said and almost started around the corner before he stopped himself, glancing down at his towel.
When no one seemed ready to do anything but talk, Doc shoved to the front and poked his head around the corner. "Pssst!"
Brockmeyer glanced left and right then spotted Doc peeking around the corner. Doc signaled urgently for him to come over. Brockmeyer looked back at the girl in the doorway inviting him in, then back at Doc. He frowned, then said, "Go on back in, honey, I'll be there in a minute." The blonde sighed, but nodded and the door closed behind her. Brockmeyer walked cautiously toward the building corner, keeping his distance and looking around suspiciously. "Hey, Doc. What'cha hiding there for?"
He jumped when Hanley and the others came out of hiding, and he took a couple of hasty steps away from the irate men.
"Well, look who finally decided to report back in," Billy said.
Brockmeyer looked the five men up and down, unable to hide a smirk. "What happened to you guys? Lose a fight with a washing machine?" He choked back a laugh.
"That's enough," Hanley said, glowering down at the wayward private. "You've got a lot of nerve coming back here just in time for our New Year's party. You're under arrest." He glanced at Caje and Kirby. "Grab him."
"Anh-anh!" Brockmeyer said warningly, stepping back toward the Green Room door. "I'll start shouting and that gang will come busting outside, and there you all will be, standing around in your...." He cleared his throat.
Almost subconsciously, Kirby and Caje took a quick step back from him.
"Besides, arresting me's not gonna help you out any right now, is it?" Brockmeyer said, with a pointed glance at their lack of clothing.
The guys exchanged looks, then Caje said, "Look, Brockmeyer, be a pal. Duck in there and bring us out some uniforms from the barracks."
Brockmeyer pretended to consider the idea. "Well...."
"Ah, c'mon! You wouldn't just leave us out here, would you? On New Year's Eve?" Kirby asked plaintively.
But Hanley knew appealing to Brockmeyer's better nature wasn't going to get them anywhere. The private wanted something in return, and Hanley had a nasty suspicion he knew what it was. He also knew they didn't have much choice if they didn't want to spend the next hours outside in the chilly forest. He crossed his arms over his bare chest. "All right, Brockmeyer. What are your terms?"
Brockmeyer grinned. "It's simple, Lieutenant. I'll bring out your uniforms, if you just clear my Green Room record -- no arrest, no stockade, and back on regular duty."
"What, you don't want your stripes back too?" Hanley said sarcastically.
"Nah, that's all right. Just no more jail time. It was a trumped up charge anyway and you know it," Brockmeyer said. "Let's start the new year right, okay?"
"Lieutenant, you can't just wipe his record clean!" Kirby said, both insulted and annoyed that he hadn't thought of that tactic himself first. The fact that their New Year's Eve party hung in the balance only irritated him even more. He glared at Brockmeyer. "That's blackmail."
But Brockmeyer was looking only at Hanley. "We got a deal?"
Hanley wavered. Kirby was right, there was the principle of the thing to consider. Brockmeyer had a way of setting precedents, and this was not one he wanted to see started.
While Hanley hesitated, Brockmeyer opened the front door and peered in through the crack. He whistled softly. "That's quite the party in there. Littlejohn's got two girls, one on each knee, and there are three just standing around drinking champagne and looking lonely. As for Saunders...."
Hanley found himself under the rest of the guys' pleading scrutiny, even Kirby. "All right, all right," he muttered, closing his eyes for a moment. "You got a deal, Brockmeyer. But you ever pull a stunt like this again, and there isn't a writer's house you can hide at where I won't find you. Even Thompson Girl won't be able to protect you. Understand?"
"Perfectly, sir." Brockmeyer grinned that wolfish, leering grin, gave a mocking salute, and opened the door. "Saunders!" he called. "Come here a minute!"
"I knew it!" hissed Kirby. "We can't trust him! He's up to something!"
Saunders took one look at Brockmeyer and shook off the attentions of the three females clustered around him. "Why you--" he snarled, lunging toward the smirking Brockmeyer.
"Wait! Before you do anything, Hanley wants to talk to you outside," Brockmeyer said, holding the door open for Saunders. "I'll be right back out in a minute." Before Saunders could protest, Brockmeyer gave him a little shove out the door, then headed for the barracks, pausing only briefly to favor the womenfolks with a smile. Minutes later, he returned with his brawny arms full of the dress uniforms the men had laid out for themselves earlier that day. He exited the Green Room and stood a little away from the others. "We have a deal?" he asked, looking down at the uniforms, then over at Hanley and Saunders.
Saunders' fists were clenched, but he said nothing.
"We have a deal," Hanley said. "But just this once! Your slate is clean now, Brockmeyer, but it's up to you to keep it that way."
"Right." Brockmeyer stepped closer and let the men pull their uniforms out of his arms.
As they dropped their towels and started to dress, the front door opened abruptly and several of the women pushed out. "Hey, Sergeant, why's everybody keep going outside? The party's in here.... Oh my!"
Brockmeyer and Saunders stepped forward, bravely shielding the shameful sight of half-clad men from the eyes of the blushing females. "Why don't we go back inside," Brockmeyer suggested, taking two girls by the arms. "Don't mind them -- they've been on the front lines too long. Got a little shell-shocked, you know? Now me, I just got back from a special covert assignment in enemy territory...."
As Saunders and Brockmeyer shepherded the women back into the Green Room, Kirby shook his head, then muttered, "You've got to do something about that Brockmeyer, Lieutenant."
"Aw, quit your bellyaching," Doc said while zipping up his pants. "There's plenty more girls in there -- Brockmeyer won't be able to hog 'em all. It's New Year's Eve after all, and we got some celebrating to do!"
HAPPY NEW YEAR!