The Green Room
(2005) 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 Thompson Girl
Littlejohn reached up to perch the angel on the top of the Christmas tree. Billy was hanging ornaments on the branches. Caje paid out gold garland from around its wooden holder for Doc, who was hanging it in droopy arcs just beneath the ceiling around the entire room. A radio in the corner softly played "White Christmas."
Kirby was pouring a bottle of cognac into the bowl of eggnog at the end of the food-laden buffet table. He paused a moment, looked left and right to make sure no one was watching, then tipped it to his mouth and took a couple of huge swallows, before emptying the rest into the bowl.
Hanley slouched contentedly on the couch near Saunders, watching the squad decorate. He had a full stomach, a glass of cognac in one hand, and everything was peaceful for once. Just the break they all needed. "Warm in here," Hanley said, with a look at the roaring fireplace on the other side of the room.
Saunders grinned. "That's the cognac talking, not the fireplace." He held a half-empty glass himself.
The front door of the green room opened abruptly and, amidst a swirl of snow and a roar of wind, a small figure darted in, then turned and pushed two-handedly against the door to shut it against the storm raging outside.
Conversations dropped off around the room as heads turned to see who had entered.
The figure said, "Brrr," in an unmistakable female voice and shook the snow off her shoulders. She was bundled in a white anorak with a hood up over her head, a burgundy scarf wrapped around the lower portion of her face, and ski goggles over her eyes. Everyone peered warily at her.
Kirby stepped forward first. "Help you with your coat, miss?"
She jerked away from his outstretched hand. "No!"
Kirby's eyebrows shot up in offended surprise.
"I mean," she said quickly, apologetically. "I can't take it off. I need to remain anonymous. Can't let you or any of the other girls know who I am."
Sudden groans of comprehension came from around the room, followed by overlapping objections. Caje said, "Hey, you're not allowed in here!" Littlejohn moaned, "Now, that's just not fair, it's almost Christmas!" Billy looked plaintively at Hanley. "Lieutenant, you promised us -- no reporting for story duty until after the new year!"
Hanley leaned towards Saunders and whispered, "Plan B," before reluctantly drawing himself up so he was sitting straight.
Saunders shifted position on the couch just enough to catch Caje's eye and gesture with a nod towards the back door. Caje nodded in return and slipped off.
The woman was holding up her hands, trying to forestall any more protestations. "Really, listen, it's not like that! I'm not here to take anyone out against their will--"
"Then you better just take off now, whoever-you-are," Kirby said. "'Cuz none of us are budging until after New Year's."
"I'm just looking for a volunteer," she said, almost sheepishly. "I thought I'd ask this time. You know, give you guys a chance to decide among yourselves."
Hanley sighed and said, "Lady, in this man's army, we know all about 'volunteering'."
"No," she said earnestly. "It's not like that. Really. It's our Christmas challenge, you see. I just need one of you, we're going somewhere hot--"
That got laughs from the squad. Littlejohn said, "It's hot enough right here!"
Doc added, "Must be eighty-five degrees in here the way that fireplace is cranking."
She took a deep, patient breath and went on, "No guns, no grenades, no artillery fire. No blood or pain or Krauts or anything. Just some R&R. You and some beautiful weather, a delicious picnic feast, maybe some girls, and you...."
The guys were exchanging puzzled and, admittedly, suddenly interested looks. Billy said, suspiciously, "What's the catch?"
It was impossible to see her face, but Hanley would have sworn she was blushing behind her scarf as she mumbled something. "What was that?" he asked sharply.
"You just have to take your clothes off--"
A chorus of groans.
"I didn't say it had to be ALL your clothes," she said hurriedly. "And I promise a really long backrub to whoever volunteers. And the best cognac, not that cheap stuff."
The guys shared more speculative looks and a few half-smiles crept onto their faces.
Hanley watched them, as he considered the offer himself. To Saunders, he said, "We'd better cancel Plan B -- fast."
"Too late," Saunders said.
The back door opened and two men came in, chatting among themselves and followed by Caje.
The woman did a double-take and took a step forward. "William Holden! Dana Andrews! But you weren't on Combat!"
"No, but we should have been," Holden said, stepping forward with a smile. "Hello, there."
Andrews cut in front of him and took her hand with a broad smile. He glanced around the room and asked, "Who decorated this place anyway? You forgot the mistletoe."
Saunders and Hanley exchanged a glance, and Hanley rolled his eyes. "Your idea," Saunders said with a shrug.
"So, what's going on here?" Holden asked.
The woman, still a bit flustered by the handsome newcomers and the sudden attention, said, "Well, I was looking for a volunteer, but none of these cowards are willing to step forward."
"Now, wait a minute," Kirby protested. "We didn't say no, exactly. We was just thinking it over."
"Volunteer for what?" Andrews asked.
"Christmas challenge story duty," she said. "Um, you get to go somewhere warm, and we've got good food, good liquor... you just have to get undressed to enjoy it."
"That's all?" Holden asked and glanced around the room at the squad as if they were nuts. "I'm in."
"I was here first," Andrews said.
Voices erupted around the room, and the woman quickly extricated her hand from Andrews's and backed up out of the way as the squad crowded forward, everyone talking at once. Hanley got to his feet and shouted them down. When it was quiet again, he said, "I'm the ranking officer here, so--"
"Hah!" Holden and Andrews said at the same time. Holden looked Hanley up and down. "Second lieutenant?" He shook his head sadly and looked at Andrews. "Between the two of us we've played enough generals, colonels, and majors that--"
"That doesn't count," Hanley cut him off. "In here, you're civilians."
"Yeah," Kirby added, stepping up beside Hanley. "All that movie star business doesn't mean a thing."
Holden put his hands on his hips and stared challengingly at Kirby. Andrews crossed his arms and raised his eyebrows.
Kirby quickly rephrased, "I just mean it's different for you two. You don't get dragged out and shot and beat up and put through hell week after week by these writers."
Andrews murmured, "You might be surprised," but no one seemed to hear him.
Kirby crossed his own arms and finished, "And so, that means you two don't get a say in this."
Holden spread his hands, smiled, and said smoothly, "Look, she's asking for volunteers, we're volunteering. None of you jokers wanted the job, so why don't you just shove it and get out of our way. Isn't that what you brought us in for? Diversionary tactics? Distract the ladies with our dashing good looks to give you guys an honest break?" He looked pointedly at Hanley, who winced, caught, and glanced away. Holden went on with a grin, "So, fine, we're giving you a break. Now -- out of the way."
He started forward, but Hanley blocked him, saying, "That was before we found out about the current story setup."
"Um, guys?" the woman tried to say. "There's plenty of stories for everyone...." But no one was listening to her any more.
"So, you're reneging on the deal?" Andrews said to Hanley, tone sharpening.
"How do you like that?" Holden said, exchanging a grimace with Andrews. "After we came all this way." His shook his head at Hanley. "Where's your Christmas spirit, Lieutenant?" He stressed the rank rudely.
His insulting tone had Littlejohn stepping up indignantly to tower behind the two movie stars, quickly joined by Billy, Caje and Doc. With Kirby already standing beside Hanley, that left the two men surrounded. Only Saunders hadn't moved. He was still sprawled comfortably on the couch, watching the proceedings with interest. The woman stood near the front door, clearly dismayed.
"Now, you don't really want to start anything with us, do you?" Holden said. "How about we draw straws?"
Kirby said, "How about you hit the road?"
Hanley said, "The door's behind you, gentlemen. I suggest you use it before you really wear out your welcome."
The two movie stars looked casually at the ring of men around them, then at each other.
"Tall one's mine," Holden said.
"Which tall one?" Andrews asked.
The squad pressed in fast before anyone could throw a punch, grabbing arms and shoulders quickly to hustle them out, but Andrews interrupted, "Hold it, hold it, hold it!"
They paused, and Andrews yanked his arm free of Kirby's grip, took an extra moment to straighten his jacket. "Well?" Hanley demanded.
Andrews was trying desperately to hide a smile, "Look, before you go and get physical, it might interest you to know that while you've been chatting so pleasantly with us--" he finally chuckled and pointed past Hanley: "--your sergeant just left with the girl."
"What?" Hanley spun around. Sure enough, the couch was empty, and Saunders' empty glass was sitting neatly on an end table. A few flakes of snow were melting on the hardwood floor as the door clicked loudly shut. Hanley stared at the door.
Holden smirked and said, "Guess Plan B worked after all. Remind me again, who exactly was it supposed to be distracting, Lieutenant?"
Shaking his head with mock-sadness, Andrews added, "That's what you boys get for not being more neighborly."
"Lieutenant?" Kirby asked. "Can we throw them out now?"
"You have to ask?" Hanley said.