Note: I know, I know...how come I'm not updating "Silence?" I promise that I have not abandoned that story. The truth of the matter is that I got a little burned out on it and needed some time away. Real life is also interfering and it's hard to find time to write these days. What little writing that I have done has largely been devoted to original work that I can hopefully publish. In the meantime, I hope that you enjoy this story until I get the next update to "Silence" and "Pit Life."
Also, there is an homage/parody of a famous Justice League International scene in this story.
This story is largely the result of Twitter crack. I should also note that this is an AU story, in which Doc, Lady Jaye, and Breaker are still alive.
Also, I don't own GI Joe or any of its characters. There. You have my obligatory disclaimer.
"All right everyone, place your bets."
Breaker, the self-appointed card dealer, placed a combat helmet upside down in the middle of the round table. He looked around at the other Joes who had decided to join the poker game.
"Two dollars," Rock N Roll told him, throwing a couple of bucks into the helmet. Breaker raised him three packs of chewing gum and turned to the only woman at the table. Jinx smirked and pulled out four, long bootlaces.
"I raise you Flint's bootlaces," she said.
"How did you get Flint's bootlaces?" This question came from Spirit, who was seated across the table from Jinx. Freedom was perched nearby on the back of a heavy chair. The eagle was carefully preening himself and ignoring the humans.
"He was a little…indisposed with Lady Jaye in the next room," the ninja explained. "He accidentally left his boots outside the door, along with his socks."
"And the socks?" Spirit asked knowingly.
"I donated them to Order and he shredded them."
"Alright…" Breaker interrupted, bringing their attention back to the game. "The lady raises Flint's bootlaces. Gung Ho? Spirit? What about you two?"
"Who the hell bets bootlaces?" Rock N Roll asked, before either of the other men could place their bets. "I mean, yeah, you stole them off of Flint, but still…"
"You can strangle people with them," Jinx replied, holding a bootlace up in mock demonstration. "It's a perfectly valid bet." Rock N Roll decided to nod his head, rather than voice his opinion that she was just being a cheapskate.
"Of course it is, Cher," Gung Ho told her. The Cajun threw three dollar bills into the helmet. Everyone then turned to look at the Joes' tracker.
"Spirit?" Breaker asked. "What's your bet?"
"Nothing as flashy as Flint's bootlaces," Charlie Iron Knife replied. His lips twitched slightly with amusement. "I do have these."
Two Snickers bars and a package of Skittles joined the pot.
"Dude…this is, like, the cheapest game of poker I've ever played," Rock N Roll complained. He received a "Hmph" from Spirit and Jinx.
"Just startin' out, mon ami," Gung Ho told him. "It'll get better."
They soon began the game, but had to pause when Freedom attempted to snatch a bag of Doritos from the pot. Spirit set the grumpy bird back on his perch and attempted to distract him with a piece of jerky.
"You don't want Doritos," the tracker told his pet. However, Freedom turned his beak up at the piece of meat and continued to eye the bag of chips. "You don't need Doritos," Spirit corrected firmly.
While the "Keep Freedom from stealing the pot" game continued, Rock N Roll studied the tracker's uniform. Spirit had switched to a black bodysuit several months ago.
"So Charlie…we've been meaning to ask you something," the blonde machine gunner said.
Charlie Iron Knife, the GI Joe known as Spirit, looked away from Freedom and raised a quizzical eyebrow at Rock N Roll. The eagle took that moment to greedily snatch the jerky from his master's hand. The tracker frowned at his pet briefly, before looking back at his teammate.
"Then ask," Spirit told him. The tracker set down a couple of chips and tossed a dollar into the pot. "I bet one dollar." They went around the table, placing bets again and scrutinizing cards. Rock N Roll waited until after Jinx folded and Breaker dealt out another round of cards before finally asking his question.
"What's with the new look?" The blonde Joe grinned. "The skintight, black bodysuit and the flowing locks of long hair, I mean. Are you going for the Sexy Spirit look or something?"
There was the briefest of pauses.
"If you're trying to distract me because you have a bad hand, it won't work," the tracker finally replied. That was the only reason that he could think of for the question. Rock N Roll's not so subtle glance at his cards and slight grimace seemed to confirm his suspicion.
"Okay…it was partially a badly implemented tactic," Rock N Roll admitted, folding his cards. "But still…are you trying to lure in women with that look, or what? Because I've seen you turn quite a few female heads around here since you ditched your other duds." Spirit's lips twitched up into a genuine smile.
"Well…that's not the intention...and I'm hardly the only male Joe who turns heads around here."
Rock N Roll conceded that for a moment. He watched while Gung Ho, Spirit, and Jinx now battled it out for the contents of the pot. Jinx's lips quirked up into a smile, before she decided to continue her teammate's inquiry.
"I mean, there's that luscious, shiny, well brushed hair," she grinned. "Your hair looks better than most women's hair." The ninja deftly reached out and managed to snag a strand of the tracker's hair and hold it up for inspection.
"Ooo…and it's even soft too," she cooed. A round of snickers greeted her pronouncement. Spirit responded by scooting his chair about a foot in the other direction.
"You know that's not going to stop her," Breaker told him. Spirit silently agreed, especially when Jinx playfully scooted her chair a foot towards him.
"I've had long hair ever since you've known me," the tracker finally sighed. He was still puzzling over the sudden interest in his looks, but chalked it up to boredom. The Jugglers were playing havoc with the Joes' funding again, which meant that field missions were being kept to a minimum. Everyone was irritable.
"Yeah, but you've always had it tied back or braided so that it doesn't get in the way," Rock N Roll pointed out, backing up Jinx. "Face it, long hair is kinda a liability in battle. Even Scarlett ties her back."
"It's part of the reason that I have short hair," Jinx nodded. "Plus long hair is a bitch to comb."
Spirit thought about how to respond to that. On some level, they were right…but he had a right to make a change every now and then, right?
"I got tired of braiding it," he finally said, which was true. "And I've tied it back a few times out in the field, if it got in the way." The tracker saw his teammates think that over for a moment. Judging from the smile on Rock N Roll's face, the machine gunner wasn't quite done with his questions.
"Okay….okay…" the blonde conceded. "But that's not most of the time…I mean, no offense, but you kinda look like some model from a L'Oreal commercial."
Spirit blinked and stared at his teammate, unsure whether to be annoyed or flattered by the comparison. To be truthful, he was starting to get a little irked at the invasion of privacy. He'd always worn what he'd like, regardless of anyone else's opinion.
"I just got tired of my old uniform," he explained stiffly. Spirit forced himself to relax, as his teammates hadn't actually said anything that wasn't of mild curiosity. Due to the colorful variety that the Joes wore, changes in uniform usually made people curious.
"Freedom! No!" Charlie suddenly blurt out, seeing his eagle prepare to lunge at the Doritos again. The eagle hunched down on his perch and ruffled his feathers. Spirit wondered if he was going to have to put the bird outside or in his cage. The pot was apparently proving to be too tempting for the greedy eagle.
"You've gone through three changes of uniform now, mon ami," Gung Ho piped up, once Freedom had settled down again. He studied his cards a moment, before deciding to fold as well. "You went from the blue shirt and khakis to the green jumpsuit, before going for the black bodysuit."
"And you didn't wear the green one very long," Jinx pointed out.
"So seriously, are you trying to get chicks or something?" The last question was from Rock N Roll.
Spirit studied the group, while trying to decide if he was going to dignify the last question with an answer. It was at that moment that Jinx suddenly turned in her chair and swatted at something.
"Timber! What the hell are you…don't bring that in here!" she yelled. Rock N Roll looked down at the wolf and suddenly backed away. Spirit silently thanked the Great Spirit for the distraction. His romantic life, or lack of, was frankly a private affair.
"Seriously, what the hell is that?" Breaker asked, leaning forward. "Is that a dead rabbit? Where the hell did he get a dead rabbit? What's he even doing in here anyway?"
Finally curious, Spirit bent down to look under the table. Timber had curled himself up underneath the table and was gnawing on a mangled mess of fur, blood, muscle tissue, and bones. Spirit's sharp eyes also picked up blood spots across the floor, marking out a clear, Timber trail.
Breaker leaned his face into his hands and groaned.
"He's…really going to eat a rabbit…under our table…during our poker game."
"Where's Snake?" Gung Ho asked. "Timber's not allowed in the Pit very often." The Marine didn't seem fazed by the intrusion, but Breaker, Jinx, and Rock N Roll were obviously annoyed.
"Hell if I know," Breaker responded, looking at Jinx. The female ninja shrugged and nudged at Timber with her foot.
"Go away Timber," she told him. The wolf growled slightly in reply.
"Ooookay…" The ninja wasn't about to annoy a barely tamed wild animal. "How about we just pick up the table and move it?"
Chairs were scooted roughly out of the way as the five Joes stood up. Gung Ho picked up the table, while the others grabbed chairs and miscellaneous snacks. Rock N Roll tucked the combat helmet under his arms. Very soon, the poker game resumed on the other side of the recreation room. A perturbed wolf stared at them for a long moment, before standing up with his prize in his mouth.
"Don't you dare, Timber!" Jinx shouted. "I don't even know how the hell you got in here!"
The wolf stared at her for a long moment before slinking back out of the room. Where he went next was anyone's guess.
Breaker soon won the first game. He pocketed the money and gum, but shared the snacks with his teammates. The communications officer offered a Dorito chip to Freedom. It disappeared in an instant.
"Please don't get him started," Spirit pleaded. "I had a hard enough time getting him to not eat the chips."
"Sorry," Breaker apologized. The Joe sighed when Freedom scooted closer to him and stared expectantly at the bag.
"Yeah…shouldn't have started that," he admitted. He passed one more chip to the eagle, before quickly hiding the rest. Breaker held up two empty hands to Freedom.
"See?" he asked. "No more." Freedom tilted his head and stared quizzically at the bearded Joe. He seemed to be saying "I don't believe you."
"Freedom," Spirit said sternly. "Behave or you're going outside."
Freedom settled back on his makeshift perch with a sulk.
"So…are you trying to get a girlfriend?" Rock N Roll asked again, between a mouthful of Skittles. "Or get laid at least?"
Spirit flashed him a slightly irritated look. If he was trying to get sex, there were much better ways of going about it, in his opinion.
"I didn't change my outfit as a ruse to find a girlfriend…or sex…" the tracker responded with some exasperation. "Why are you so interested anyway?"
"Because I'm bored," Rock N Roll admitted. "And curious. Besides, if that outfit does work…I may try something similar to get a woman."
Jinx bit back a snort and covered it with a light cough. Breaker, with great wisdom, decided to continue staying out of the conversation. The computer technician shuffled the cards and looked around at the others.
The silence ticked by for a few seconds, before Rock N Roll decided that silence equaled "dull."
"So is it a mid-life crisis or something?" he asked innocently. "Mainframe had his a few months back when he went through that Flash Gordon phase…"
"I'm not going through a…" Spirit began, but was interrupted by the sudden arrival of the Joes' residential psychiatrist.
"Who's going through a midlife crisis?" Psyche Out asked. The four Joes twitched slightly and wondered how they had failed to notice the man's approach. The slim blonde looked at them with an expression of mild disinterest, which Spirit didn't trust in the least.
"No one is," the tracker denied flatly. Psyche Out raised a disbelieving eyebrow at Spirit before shrugging his shoulders.
"Right…" Dr. Kenneth Riche responded, not believing the tracker. He hefted his heavy pile of paperwork and studied the five Joes, who had all adopted an aura of "We're perfectly fine and sane…please go away." He shook his head at the body language of his teammates and wished once again that he could get them to relax around him. Lifeline and Doc had no problem getting the others to let down their guards.
"Anyway…I'll be in my office if Mr. Midlife Crisis changes his mind," Psyche Out said. "Oh…" He paused and decided that maybe tossing a peace offering would get them to relax.
"Flint's in a particularly…special mood right now. I'd avoid crossing paths with him, if I were you." Kenneth Rich nodded his head in goodbye and continued on his original task of taking the long route to his office. Shortcuts didn't afford him the opportunity to monitor his teammates for any potential issues.
Once the military psychiatrist was out of earshot, Spirit turned a fierce glare on Rock N Roll. While he respected Psyche Out and understood that his duties demanded this sort of monitoring, he was still irked. The machine gunner gulped slightly and waived his hands in protest.
"Dude! I had no idea the shrink was there! Honest!"
Spirit grumbled under his breath, but turned his gaze towards the wall and made himself calm down. After all, he himself had completed a bachelor's degree in psychology during his brief stint as a civilian. He knew why Psyche Out insisted on meetings and evaluations. That didn't mean he had to like it though.
That probably explained why Charlie had chosen to go back into the military, rather than pursue a career in what he had studied in college.
Breaker cleared his throat and attempted to break the slight tension.
"Anyone up for another game?" he asked, shuffling the cards.
Gung Ho shrugged in reply. "Ain't nothin' else to do right now."
And so, the poker game began anew.
"You know Spirit…" Jinx said after a while. Her mouth twitched in a near smirk, so very like that of her cousin Storm Shadow. "If you are looking to get laid, I overheard a few of the female greenshirts complimenting your ass."
Spirit covered his face with a hand and sighed. He was starting to get more than a little irked at the invasion of privacy. Whether he had sex or not was his own business.
"I already told you, I'm not…"
"So you already have a girlfriend?" Jinx asked with feigned innocence.
"No, I…" Spirit trailed off before he could add "don't." He glared at the ninja, knowing full well she had just manipulated him. That annoyed him even more. The tracker gritted his teeth for a moment, before deciding that his teammate wasn't being mean spirited…just annoyingly curious.
"Why are we even talking about my sex life anyway?" Spirit sighed. His eyebrows had a sullen crease to them.
"Or lack of," Gung Ho piped up. Spirit turned a stoic glare on his friend, which caused the Cajun to hold up his hands in defense. Etienne immediately gave the other man an apologetic look. He knew that Spirit was intensively private.
The other Joes seemed to take the hint and shut up about the tracker's private sex life.
The poker game eventually ground to another halt, this time with Rock N Roll winning the game. He gleefully slid the odd assortment of candy bars, money, and chewing gum to his side of the table. The blonde machine gunner held up the boot strings, which Breaker had thrown back into the pot, before tossing them at the nearby bald eagle.
"Have at it, Freedom."
Freedom gave him a piercing look and proceeded to ignore the pieces of string.
"Piiicky," Rock N Roll muttered. Gung Ho laughed and reached over to scratch the bird's chest. Freedom lifted a wing and craned his neck. Spirit merely shook his head at his pet.
"Spoiled rotten," the tracker said.
"You spoiled him rotten," the Cajun shot back.
"I did no such thing," Spirit denied. "I know you slip him treats when I'm not around." His roommate immediately pointed to himself and shook his head, as if to say 'Me? Never!'
"Oh!" Rock N Roll remembered suddenly. He popped open a pack of gum as he grinned. "Speaking of female admirers…I overheard Firewall say something about Spirit too." The tracker's head whipped over to stare silently at him. Jinx raised a slight eyebrow, while Gung Ho snickered not so subtly under his breath.
"What…did she say?" Spirit asked carefully. His muscles had tensed up slightly. Rock N Roll scratched at his beard, oblivious to the other man's sudden tension.
"I think she said that Spirit looked…bishawnen, was it? Or was it Beeshownen?" he asked, still puzzling over what exactly Firewall had said. Jinx blinked before cracking a smile.
"Bishounen?" she asked.
The female ninja doubled over in laughter, while four pairs of male eyes blinked in puzzlement. Spirit in particular was hunched over slightly, feeling uneasy. He hoped that "bishounen" wasn't something bad. Did Firewall think poorly of him?
"What is a 'bishounen?'" Charlie Iron Knife finally dared to ask. The other three men leaned forward, curious to know as well. Jinx wiped her eyes and regained her composure.
"Let's see… I think I know that word," she responded, adopting a clinical tone. "Bishonen, Japanese noun. Refers to a beautiful man. Object of pop culture fascination. Typically depicted with long hair, tight pants and an enormous . . ." She leaned forward with a sudden leer and Spirit's face flushed a deep red.
"Fan base," she finished coyly, poking the tracker in the chest.
Gung Ho let loose a guffaw before placing a friendly arm around Spirit's shoulder. The tracker was doing his best not to look at any of them, feeling somewhat embarrassed by his reaction.
"D'aww…he's blushing, Kimi," the Marine told Jinx. "Ah've never seen him blush before."
"I'm not…" Spirit began to deny, before sighing again. "Why do I put up with all of you?"
"Same reason we put wit' you," Gung Ho responded cheerfully. "Cause we're all…dammit!"
Freedom, ever the opportunist, had seen fit to snatch a bag of M&Ms out of the Marine's hand. The eagle fluttered off the chair before either Gung Ho or Spirit could catch him. By the time that Charlie cornered him on the other side of the room, Freedom already had devoured half the plastic bag and a good many of the chocolate candies.
Spirit managed to maneuver the remnants of the bag away from his pet before sighing.
"If you get sick Freedom, it's your own fault."
The eagle made a tiny "kukuk" sound and drooped his tail feathers.
Unbeknownst to the Joes, two Greenshirts huddled together in one corner of the recreation room. The taller one, an army ranger who Beach Head had dubbed "Tweedle Dee," leaned his head forward to whisper to the shorter and stouter "Tweedle Dum." Beach Head usually distinguished between them by bellowing "Dee" or "Dum." Sometimes he didn't even bother and just shouted "Tweedles! Two hundred pushups, NOW!"
("See…Ah can get all literary and shit," they had overheard Sgt. Major smirk once to Lady Jaye.)
"Are you sure?" Dum asked. He was a former member of the FBI swat team. The Greenshirt nervously ran a hand over his close shaven, blonde hair. Dee waived off his concerns.
"Look…Sgt. Scarlett and Sgt. Snake Eyes both told us that we needed to practice our stealth training. Remember our homework assignment?" Their hand-to-hand combat trainers had seen fit to give them "homework," after mercilessly beating them into the floor mats.
"They told us to practice on each other," Dum corrected. His eyes nervously flitted back to the poker game, which seemed to be winding down for good. "They never said anything about practicing on a seasoned Joe."
"That's why this is so brilliant," Tweedle Dee told his teammate pompously. "It will impress our instructors." And he was all about impressing his hand-to-hand combat instructors. "Plus you heard what the other Joes said…Spirit's long hair is a liability in combat. It will let us test the theory and show him, when it's not a life or death situation, that they're right. It's for his own good." In the mind of the ranger, it was perfect. They could one-up a Joe, impress Sgt. Scarlett and Sgt. Snake Eyes (or any of the ninja, for that matter), and teach Sgt. Spirit a valuable lesson. It was a perfect brown-nosing opportunity.
Tweedle Dum frowned doubtfully.
"I'm still not sure this is a good idea…"
Dee snorted in reply. "Come on man, we're not going to be made full Joes if we don't take calculated risks. Nothing is going to go wrong with this. It's too perfect…"
And so, they began making plans.
"Ah swear spook, Ah'd better not see a spot of blood, fur, bones, or guts ANYWHERE in this base!"
Spirit carefully avoided the danger zone near the intersection of the living quarters and the recreational area. Beach Head was currently towering over and bellowing at Snake Eyes, who was vigorously scrubbing at the floor with a tooth brush and some rags. A bottle of disinfectant was next to the obviously grumpy ninja.
Charlie Iron Knife was a brave man…but he wasn't suicidal. The tracker carefully took a detour around the two men and decided that he could wait half an hour or so before going to his room. He thought for a moment and decided to head down to the commissary. It wasn't dinner time yet, but that didn't mean that he couldn't run reconnaissance on what Roadblock was supervising for dinner.
When he arrived at the commissary, however, he found that Roadblock was employing two ninja as guards. Both Storm Shadow and Jinx were sitting self-importantly in front of both entrances to the kitchens.
"Sorry Spirit," Storm Shadow told him somewhat apologetically. He pointed to the huge sign on the door, which stated "KITCHEN PERSONNEL ONLY! NO JOES, NO GREENSHIRTS, AND NO PETS!"
"He bribed you?" Spirit asked, somewhat jealous. Charlie privately admitted that he would gladly be bribed by Roadblock to guard the kitchens.
"Not bribery," the Arashikage master denied. "Arashikage can't accept bribery. Now payment, on the other hand…." Storm Shadow held up a few rice balls that Roadblock had made specifically for the ninja.
"Same thing," Spirit noted. Storm Shadow shrugged and popped part of the rice ball in his mouth. Charlie admitted defeat and turned to head back out of the commissary. He hoped that Beach Head and Snake Eyes would be gone by the time he got back to the living quarters.
"By the way…who's the girlfriend?" the ninja asked nonchalantly. Spirit's head whipped around to stare at the other man.
"What?" Charlie asked.
"That's the newest gossip going around the rumor mill," Storm Shadow replied. "That, and you're going through a midlife crisis. Thought you should know."
"Thanks," Spirit replied. Internally however, he was irritated. It would be one thing if he actually had a girlfriend…which he didn't, though he wouldn't object to finding one. What irritated him was the invasion of privacy, especially since any Pit gossip that involved the possibility of sex always got a little…explicit.
He sighed and decided to ignore it for now. There wasn't anything he could do to stop the latest rumors and he'd honestly have better luck teaching Freedom to tap dance. Spirit left the commissary and took his time walking back up to the next level of the Pit.
When Charlie arrived back at his original destination, he was relieved to see that Beach Head was absent and that Snake Eyes was now at the opposite end of one of the recreation rooms. In fact, Spirit noted, the ninja was bent down in the very location where Timber had disrupted the poker game the previous day.
The ninja seemed to be trying to clean blood out of the carpet and must not have been having much luck, because Airtight and Scarlett were both trying to give him advice.
"Try mixing dish detergent and water," Scarlett suggested. "That's what my mom always did when one of us dripped blood in the house."
"How much blood did your family drip?" Airtight asked her.
"Well, we did run a dojo…so there were the occasional accidents…"
"Nevermind," the Joes' CBR expert replied, shaking his head. "If you really want to get it out Snake, you need to use ammonia and water. You know Beach is going to come back in here to make sure that nothing is visible."
Spirit debated whether or not to bypass the conversation, but he was somewhat curious about how bad this particular bloodstain was. Besides, it was in his best interests to find out what the best way to remove blood was, in case Freedom would ever pull a similar stunt to what Timber had done.
And knowing the gluttonous bird, it was a valid concern.
The tracker was halfway over to his teammates, when he sensed movement behind him. A split second later, someone grabbed a handful of his hair and jerked down hard. What happened from that point was simply a matter of reflex.
Spirit twisted out of his attacker's failed attempt at locking his arms, pivoted one of his feet, and landed a hard blow on a man's nose. All Charlie saw was a blur of the other man's red hair, before the greenshirt fell backward with a loud thud. The next thing he saw was an unconscious greenshirt sprawled on his back, with drool and blood seeping out of his mouth.
"One punch! One punch!"
Charlie flicked his eyes over to another greenshirt, who was quivering a few feet away. The unknown greenshirt kept looking down at his teammate and then back up at Spirit.
"One punch!" the greenshirt stuttered again, backing slowly away from Spirit.
On the other side of the room, however, a somewhat similar, yet different reaction was taking place.
"One punch! One punch!" Airtight repeated, doubled over in laughter. "Oh my god! That was glorious!"
Spirit ignored his teammates and focused his ire on the other greenshirt.
"I hope you have a good explanation," the tracker said icily, his words dripping with anger. The greenshirt shook his head no and stepped back a few more feet.
"One punch," the greenshirt repeated, this time with a whisper.
"One punch!" Airtight laughed again, this time pounding on the back of a couch. "Oh God, I hope we caught that on the security feed."
Somewhere near Airtight, Charlie could hear a loud, feminine "Bwahahaa!" A glance in its direction showed Scarlett bent over an armchair, with tears running down her face. Snake Eyes' shoulders were moving up and down with silent laughter.
Spirit turned his attention away from his teammates and glared hard at the blonde greenshirt, who seemed to have been the accomplice to the man still drooling on the floor. It was at that moment that Clutch and Covergirl walked in.
"Hey everyone," Clutch greeted. "How's it going…" he paused and stared in Spirit's direction. "Uh…is that a greenshirt on the floor…"
"Is he dead?" Covergirl asked. "Do we need to get Doc?"
Spirit ignored the motor pool personnel and continued to glare silently at the still standing greenshirt. The shorter man backed up another step.
"Well…." Charlie asked, still staring at the blonde.
"I'm sorry sergeant," the conscious greenshirt stuttered, still backing away. "I told him it was a bad idea, sergeant. Ohmygodpleasedon'thitmetoo."
"Wait, what?" he heard Clutch ask at the same time the greenshirt was stuttering. The mechanic's voice now came from Airtight's direction.
Spirit chewed on his lip, but decided that thrashing the younger man wouldn't do any good. Instead, the tracker nudged the unconscious greenshirt with his boot.
"Spirit belted him," Scarlett answered in the background.
"Get him to the infirmary," Charlie ordered the greenshirt. "Then go report your actions to Beach Head."
The greenshirt's face paled even more. It was a wonder, Spirit thought with some satisfaction, that the man didn't piss himself then and there. However, the blonde summoned enough courage to walk trembling to where Charlie stood, pick up his teammate, and get out of the recreation room as fast as possible.
"Spirit belted him!" Covergirl shouted loudly. "And I missed it?"
Charlie snorted softly in disgust, before massaging the back of his head. His scalp still hurt from the hair tugging. Nearby, his teammates were still preoccupied with the failed sneak attack.
"One punch!" Airtight repeated, reenacting the story for a grinning Clutch. Covergirl, meanwhile, continued to gape after the retreating greenshirts.
"Spirit belted a greenshirt and I MISSED IT?"
Beach Head rubbed at a migraine that was threatening to tear his skull apart. He stared down at the aptly named Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. Dee lay on the infirmary bed, still unconscious. Dum cowered nearby. Wayne Sneeden idly wondered how the man had made it from the FBI swat team to the Greenshirts.
Well, the man hadn't washed out yet…
Yet. Beach Head was sorely tempted at the moment.
He looked down at the medical report in his hands and recognized Lifeline's handwriting. The slim medic had scrawled "attempted suicide" as the reason for Greenshirt Tweedle Dee's current state.
"What happened, Dum?" Beach Head asked, wryly noting how appropriate the name was.
"Dee…pulled Sgt. Spirit's hair, Sgt. Major," Dum stuttered.
"And why did he pull Spirit's hair?" Beach Head braced himself for the inevitable, convoluted logic that was going to follow. The Greenshirt didn't fail his expectations.
"It…was supposed to be a sneak attack," the former FBI agent began to explain hesitantly. He gulped and continued. "The other Joes were telling Spirit that his hair was a liability in combat…especially when not pulled back."
"And so you two just decided to attack a seasoned Joe?" The disbelief in Beach Head's voice was evident. Lifeline had been correct in his analysis of "attempted suicide." Dum's face flushed slightly before he responded.
"Well…Snake Eyes and Scarlett told us in hand to hand training that we needed to work on our stealth…"
"On each other," Beach Head corrected. The greenshirt flushed again. Wayne sighed and resisted rubbing at his migraine.
"And what happened when Dee jumped Spirit and pulled his hair?" the ranger drawled. He watched as the greenshirt's eyes flickered down to his unconscious teammate and back at him. Dum's face had paled again.
"Um…he beat the shit out of Dee, Sgt. Major," the greenshirt responded. Beach Head's mouth twitched slightly. While he had half a mind to kick Dee and Dum out then and there, it was slightly possible that they had learned their lesson…
"And what did you learn?" Beach Head asked. He was greeted by a long moment of silence, then….
"Hair pulling is not a viable combat strategy, Sgt. Major," Dum answered. And even more quietly, a now conscious Dee also managed to answer haltingly.
"Don't pull Spirit's hair, Sgt. Major."
Beach Head tapped his foot and turned his glare from Dum to the somewhat conscious Dee. By the time he was done bellowing at both greenshirts, his migraine was doing somersaults in his head. Dum was pumping out pushups when Lifeline appeared out of his office.
The slim medic silently handed Wayne a glass of water and two Aleve.
"Thanks," Beach Head muttered.
"You looked like you needed it," Lifeline replied. "What're you going to do with them?" Beach Head smirked at him in reply.
"After I fill out the incident report?" the ranger asked. "I'm going to let Spirit pick the punishment."
The two Tweedles whimpered in reply.
Psyche Out managed to corner Spirit after the next morning's PT session. A mud covered Charlie found himself caught between the door to the lavatory and an equally mud covered psychiatrist.
"I think you're due for an appointment," Kenneth Rich told him. Spirit glanced around for a way out, but the Joes nearest him scooted out of the shrink's path as fast as possible.
"I'm fine," Spirit told him. "Really."
"You beat up a greenshirt," Psyche Out replied, raising an eyebrow. "In light of your other issues."
"I have no other issues," the tracker said firmly. "And he pulled my hair!" He was still annoyed about that.
"Well…" here the psychiatrist paused a moment. "I'll grant you that Greenshirt Dee obviously has some suicidal issues that we need to resolve. That still doesn't excuse your excessively violent reaction."
Spirit stared at the other man. Excessively violent? He had been attacked and had reacted like any well-trained, special ops soldier would have done. If anything, Dee had gotten off lightly.
Maybe this was why he hadn't stuck with psychology.
"I reacted out of instinct," Spirit told him. And I was perhaps a little pissed.
"Fourteen hundred today in my office," Psyche Out said. "I've already penciled you in."
Spirit swore silently while the shrink walked off. Now he didn't have any choice about it. If he "accidentally" didn't show up to his appointment, Psyche Out would complain to Flint until the warrant officer was annoyed enough to hunt Spirit down and order him to make up the appointment.
No, he would have to go…as much as he wanted to find a reason to not show up. Charlie sighed and looked down at himself. Beach Head had made sure that the newest tunnel on the obstacle course had been filled with mud. It was going to take forever to get clean.
He was feeling less irritated by the time he exited the blissfully hot shower. The Pit was the only military base he had ever served on which had regular, hot water in the showers. Spirit dumped his muddy clothes in a clothes hamper and resolved to head to the base's laundromat later that day.
The day passed by with a bit of a blur. Hawk announced that he'd managed to convince the Jugglers to restore some of the Joes' budget, which meant that they could resume more missions. This resulted in raising the morale in the Pit. An excited buzz pulsated wherever Spirit walked as Joes anxiously awaited being sent back to the field.
Spirit's good mood, inspired by Hawk, deflated slightly after his meeting with Psyche Out. He again reminded himself that the psychiatrist was just doing his job and that he was only interested in Charlie's well-being.
The tracker glared sullenly ahead of him and tried to forget that he had another mandatory appointment with Psyche Out in two days. He passed by a sign which said "Second level," and paused when he heard ACDC music and a familiar, female voice humming along to it.
Charlie discretely peeked into the electronic communications room and found the Joes' newest computer technician hard at work. Firewall was sitting cross-legged on a chair and typing furiously away at a keyboard. A large, coffee mug with the strange words "Buffy" inscribed on the side caught his eyes briefly, before they turned back to the young woman. Her raven hair had been tied up in a messy ponytail, which trailed down the back of her tan neck.
The tracker thought back to the poker game and debated asking Firewall about the "bishounen" comment. He threw that thought away a moment later, not wanting to embarrass his teammate or himself. His next thought was to say hello or to ask if she wanted to get coffee with him.
In the end, Spirit decided that she was too busy and didn't need to be interrupted. After all, fobbits were a strange and mysterious lot and seemed to object to whenever their concentration was broken. Or, at least, Mainframe and Breaker often bitched when that happened.
If he had also lost his nerve…well, Charlie wasn't about to admit that.
Spirit had gone a few feet down the hall when he heard a chair squeak and footsteps walk quickly towards the doorway. A female voice stopped him in his tracks.
"Oh hey! Was that you Spirit?"
Spirit turned to look at the woman in the doorway. She had a friendly smile on her face and a new coffee stain down the front of her shirt.
"Hello Firewall," he greeted politely. "I…didn't want to interrupt you." She smiled brightly in reply and stretched her arms. The computer technician then rubbed her neck.
"Jeez…I'm still sore from yesterday's PT…let alone today's…"
Spirit merely nodded his head and avoided saying that he wasn't really sore. Firewall was still playing catch up with the rest of the Joes on her physical conditioning. Charlie didn't think that she would react well if he accidentally said something that would remind her of that.
"Anyway," Firewall said, pausing to look up at him. "I really need a break and some more coffee…want to come with me?"
Charlie stared at her, somewhat astonished. Unable to find his voice, he merely nodded his head yes. Spirit wasn't really sure why he was having so much trouble saying a simple "Yes, thank you." After all, she was a fellow teammate.
Finally, he forced himself to say something.
"So…who or what is a Buffy?" he asked lamely. Firewall blinked with surprise before smirking. She looped an arm around his and tugged the tracker in the direction of the commissary. Spirit willingly followed along.
"I'll tell you if you tell me who this mysterious girlfriend is," she teased. Spirit felt his face warm suddenly in response.
"I…don't have one," he explained stiffly. "That's a rumor."
"Oh yeah?" Firewall asked.
"Yes. I'm…quite single."
There was an awkward pause. The former hacker broke it a moment later.
"Tell you what…" she smirked up at Charlie. "I'll show you who Buffy is when we're both off duty tonight." This time it was Spirit's turn to blink at her. Something made his mouth agree to meet Firewall later that evening, even though he had no idea who this Buffy person was.
The snickers under Firewall's breath as they walked to the commissary didn't help either. However, Spirit didn't mind it too much or find the snickers particularly alarming. In fact…they sounded rather…nice.
Later that evening, Spirit found himself sitting through the opening music of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He decided that in the future, he would view Firewall's snickers as a prelude to possible doom.
But even so, he didn't mind that much.
"So…she's a high school cheerleader…and she kills vampires?" Charlie asked cluelessly.
"Yep," Firewall replied. Her lips quirked up into a smile.
First of all, I want to thank Totenkinderm for several things: offering suggestions for this story (such as Lifeline's "attempted suicide note and Jinx's explanation of bishounen), offering editing suggestions, and for introducing me to the Spirit/Firewall pairing. Neither of us have really written about this ship yet, so this is my first official debut of the Spirit/Firewall ship, even if it's only hinted at in this story. She also suggested the title of this story, which I struggled to come up with.
I also want to thank willwrite4fics for the suggestion that someone pull Spirit's hair. I'm also thankful for her portrayal of Beach Head and Lifeline, from which I am borrowing for my own characterization of them.
The Justice League International scene that I paid homage to in this story was the infamous "One punch! One punch!" scene where Batman knocked out Guy Gardner/Green Lantern with one punch. I even made Tweedle Dee a red head. Scarlett hopes that you enjoyed her rendition of Ted Kord/Blue Beetle's "Bwahaha" laugh, which while it doesn't happen in this particular scene, does happen at various points in the comics.