The Green Room
(2009) 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.
"No Beer Today"
by White Queen
Hanley walked in the back door to the kitchen, a string of freshly caught fish in one hand and his muddy boots in the other. He stopped just over the threshold and eyed the stranger rummaging through the icebox. "Looking for something in particular?" he asked in his most authoritative tone.
The man straightened up and looked over his shoulder at Hanley. He wore an ugly green paisley shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, well-worn jeans, and boots that hadn't seen a can of polish since they left the store. He had thick brown hair that curled up slightly on each side, almost forming ear-like points on either side of his head. He had long sideburns and a three-day beard, and his face seemed set in a permanent scowl. After quirking one eyebrow and studying Hanley for a long moment, he said, "Yeah, got any beer?"
"It's six-thirty in the morning."
"That a no?"
Hanley decided it was time to take a more proactive role in the conversation. "Just what are you doing in our Green Room?"
The man closed the icebox, crossed his arms, and leaned up against the wall. "Looking for beer," he growled.
Hanley kicked the back door shut with his stockinged foot, set his boots down on the mat, and put the fish in the sink. Then he crossed his own arms and planted himself in front of the stranger, using his considerable height difference to its fullest advantage. "I don't remember seeing you in any of the stories people are working on right now. So tell me who you are and why you're here, or I'll have you thrown in the stockade."
The man smirked. "That's what you think, Bub."
Before Hanley could think up a suitably stinging retort, Kirby wandered into the kitchen, clad only in his boxers, scratching his bare chest and yawning. "Morning, Lieutenant," he mumbled, ignoring the stranger completely. He pulled the coffee can from the cupboard, scooped some into the coffee maker, waited for it to start perking, then wandered out again.
Hanley had never taken his eyes off the insolent stranger. When Kirby was gone again, he said, "You've got two seconds to give me some answers."
The man made an irritated growling noise in the back of his throat, then said, "Fine. White Queen's thinking about putting me in a story, and she said I could take a look around, see how we got along before she starts plotting anything."
Saunders walked in just then. He glared at the stranger and said, "She what?"
Hanley said, "I'm sure she's not--"
Saunders ignored him. "Listen, White Queen promised me she would finish this trilogy before she started any other stories. So if you've got any ideas about jumping ahead of the trilogy, you can just forget it."
The stranger said, "Hey, this is her idea, not mine." He straightened up and headed for the back door.
Hanley said, "You never told me who you are."
The man stopped, half turned, and smirked. "I'm the best there is at what I do, Bub."
"And just what is it that you do?" Hanley asked.
The man shook his head. "What I do isn't very nice." He opened the door and was gone.
Saunders mumbled, "Great, just great." He glared at the door as it closed behind the stranger.
Hanley pulled yesterday's newspaper from the trash bin and spread it on the counter. He took a fish from the sink and began to clean it. With his back to the glowering sergeant, he asked casually, "Aren't you getting a little worked up over this?"
"Over what, some guy telling us White Queen's got a new story in the works? She can't tell us this herself anymore?"
Hanley shrugged. "You know how busy she is." He looked over his shoulder. "This wouldn't have anything to do with Thompson Girl deciding Kirby's her favorite character, would it?"
"No," Saunders snapped. "It has to do with White Queen never finishing her stories lately."
"Ah." Hanley had finished cleaning the first fish. "Get me a plate." He tilted his head toward the cabinet. As he put the fish on the plate Saunders had put on the counter, he said, "You know, I'm sure she's not going to start this guy's story any time soon, and that's why she just didn't tell us. It's probably not done percolating yet."
Billy appeared in the doorway just in time to hear the last sentence. "It's not?" he asked. "Gee, I thought Kirby said he started it ages ago." He peered at the coffeemaker, then pointed to it and said, "It IS done perking, see?" Shaking his head at the folly of officers, he pulled a coffee mug from the cupboard, poured himself a cup, and left.
Saunders opened the icebox and scanned its contents. "Where'd all the beer go?"
Hanley started to say, "It's barely seven o'clock," but he changed his mind and said, "We're out. Littlejohn said he'd run to the PX today." He watched Saunders close the icebox and leave the kitchen, shoulders slumped.
Hanley shook his head and started cleaning another fish. It was going to be a long day.