"Man I think I could turn this desert into an ocean with my ball sweat."
"Vogels, shut the fuck up."
It was blisteringly hot in the sleep hut at mid-day. Cobin and Vogels were the only two in there at the time, the rest of the squad was probably running around on a detail, having a smoke, the usual. Vogels was splayed out on his bunk like a ragdoll, in nothing but his boxers as he sweated through his mattress. Cobin, on the other hand, had remained mostly decent and had only removed his blouse when he went over to his desk to sit down and write a letter or two to his wife and his daughter. Writing letters wasn't his only option, but he found it therapeutic and at this point did it mostly just for himself.
"Hey man, do you mind if I cam with my girl later?" Vogels said.
"Uhh…" it was a question Cobin really had to think about, "Depends, what're you going to be doing?" he asked, almost timidly.
"Jerkin' it," Vogels said without missing a beat.
Cobin put his pen down and rubbed his face with his hand, "Oh goddamnit," he said, "Fine. I'll… take a nap or something."
"Awesome bro, I owe you one." Vogels said, sighing in relief.
Cobin turned around in his chair to look at his squadmate. "I'm pretty sure the First Sergeant wants to kill you for missing that brief this morning. It was some important shit," he said.
"Hey! My asshole was exploding! I think that's a good 'nuff excuse," Vogels retorted.
"I'm not the one you need to be explaining yourself too," Cobin said, "And he was already pissed off at you for that thing that happened last week with the camel and…"
"Yeah, yeah, I got it!" Vogels said, cutting off Cobin before he could finish the less than flattering story. "So give me the highlights, what was this brief all about?"
Cobin sighed, "New mission. You remember that haji we picked up about a month back, after he blew up our convoy?"
"Yeah, what about him?" Vogels said, sitting up in his bed.
"We're going to his fuckin' haji hut in his haji village in the middle of fucking-haji-nowhere."
"What? Why?" Vogels said, very confused.
"That part isn't our business," Cobin said, shrugging, "But our platoon is escorting an MFT out there so it probably means he asked for something from his interrogator that they can only get from his house. Or at least, that's my read of it."
"Damn," Vogels said, "heavy shit."
"Yeah, no kidding."
Vogels suddenly got this sort of strained look on his face that he only got when he was thinking really hard about something, and it usually meant something really bad was about to come out of his mouth. "You know, what man? We should go ahead and kill his whole fucking haji family, for revenge."
Cobin was pretty taken aback by that statement, and his face took on this bewildered look. "Get the fuck out of here with that bullshit, Vogels. Go jerk off before your murder boner explodes and takes out your legs."
"Hey, fuck you, man!" Vogels said, but he didn't push it, he just laid back down on his bunk and turned away from Cobin.
Cobin shook his head, "Stupid fucking bastard," he said under his breath before turning back to his letters.
God may hate both of us, but the devil welcomes only me.
Cobin's first sensation when he opened his eyes from the dream was nausea, followed closely by the very clear and undeniable knowledge that he was about to vomit. There was no time to make it to the wash room, the best he could do was simply roll over and allow his bile to expel onto the floor, not onto his bedding and not clogging his throat and choking him. It was mostly water (or, what had been water when it had entered his stomach), and spread all over his floor like tendrils of some nasty liquid spider web. He watched helplessly from his bed as the mess he would have to clean up grew and saliva dripped from his mouth, which was taking in harsh, deep breaths.
No one was waiting for him this morning, no audience to bear witness to this moment of weakness, and for that he was thankful. Everyone was at school, or at work, or otherwise occupied. He was no longer the strange new zoo animal that everyone needed to make time to see. He sighed, and sat up in bed, and wiped off his mouth with his sheet. He rubbed his eyes and thought, It's my first day at work, wouldn't be good form to be late.
He cleaned up quickly. He didn't have time to properly mop but he soaked up all of his fluids with some paper towels and sprayed down a layer of disinfectant before he got changed into his work clothes. From the various items he had from the shopping trip, he selected a grey suit with nice, light blue tie. The suit was comfortable, and allowed for a greater range of motion than he would have expected from a such a garment. Cobin was never a suit person, he wore his dress uniform when it was demanded of him, but he was the sort of guy who would never get out of his PJ's when he wasn't at work, even if he needed to go out in public. That being said, he liked the way the suit looked on him quite a bit, and believed the costume would only need a proper suit case to be complete. This, of course, he didn't have. And even if he had one, he had nothing to put in it.
He was still set to arrive at his office on time when he finally finished buttoning up the shop and had closed the door behind himself. There had been a little bit of worry when he had first woken up that he wasn't going to make it, but that was lifted now. He walked at a leisurely pace down his driveway, and down the street toward the main cluster of academic buildings. His office would be in the same building as the main combat arena, as well as the gym. All of the other academic buildings were by-and-large year-specific; because his governance was over all of the students, Goodwitch had set him up in neutral territory.
As he got closer, and began seeing students still milling about before the start of their first classes, there was more than one student he had never spoken to before that greeted him with a "Good morning, Mister Cobin!" or even "Professor Cobin." This caught him off guard at first, but he reasoned that after these explosive first couple of weeks his name had finally started to get around. He returned these greetings politely, but quickly in the same manner he had as an NCO, with a sharp "Goodmorning," and a slight nod of the head.
His office, tucked in a corner near the opposite end of the building from the arena, was already mostly furnished with the things he would be needing for this job. He had a good sized desk with a desktop scroll and a printer, one comfortable chair for himself and three less than comfortable chairs for whoever was unlucky enough to find themselves in his office, and plenty of filing cabinets and folders for him to keep records on all of the students who passed through his door. He sat down behind his desk and took in a deep breath. This is life now, he thought, this is… normal. This thought, much to his own surprise, made him smile. For the first time in quite a while, he felt something like being at peace.
Cobin looked toward the top most drawer on his desk, and out of some intuition-based impulse he reached forward and opened it. Sure enough, sitting inside was a sealed envelope with his name on it. Inside the envelope, Cobin found a nicely folded piece of paper, and an ID card. Examining the ID card, he found it to be rather similar to the Common Access Cards, or CACs, that he was issued in the Army. It had his picture (although he could not remember ever having it taken while he had been there), his affiliation with his school, his Vale residency information, as well as his title and credentials as an Expert Level Instructor. Very official stuff.
Cobin set the ID card down on the desk and opened the small piece of paper that had accompanied it. There, in Goodwitch's own expert handwriting, was a brief message for him:
"You should have everything you need in here to get started, but feel free to furnish the office further however you please.
Enclosed is your ID card, this is more of a formality than anything as all of your credentials and relevant information as an instructor has already been uploaded to your personal scroll. However, Professor Ozpin believed you would appreciate having a more material copy.
I have no doubt that by lunch your line of customers will stretch down the hall, Professor Cobin. Good luck."
The sentiment was short but surprisingly sweet for Goodwitch, maybe he was really making a decent impression on these people.
Cobin spent the first couple hours of the morning drafting the necessary documents he would be needing; primarily counseling forms which he modeled after the ones he had used as an NCO in the Army, with necessary adjustments to fit the environment of the school. Each student would have an initial counseling form that would be filled out the first time they had to take a trip into his office, and that would begin the student's file. With each subsequent visit, the student would collect another counseling form, detailing transgressions and punishment, or "re-training." He would use the cabinets to organize the student's files both alphabetically and by year. He was just putting the finishing touches on one of his drafts when there was a knock on his door.
"Enter," he said, looking up over the top of his monitor.
The door swung open, and as soon as he saw who it was, Cobin sighed and put his face into his free hand. "Nora," he said, "What in the world did you do?"
The energetic orange-haired girl had a sheepish look on her face, and her cheeks were rosy red. "Good morning Roc… I mean Professor Cobin!" she said, not leaving the threshold of the doorway. As expected, Ren's head appeared over her shoulder.
Nothing separates these two, Cobin thought. "Alright, come on in, have a seat."
The two students stepped inside and sat down across from Cobin. Ren, stoic as ever, had no problem looking right up and at Cobin. Not so with Nora, the girl was very obviously diverting her gaze and looked nervous.
"Ren, I assume that you're here simply by virtue of association?" Cobin asked, directing his attention to the male student. Ren nodded. "That's what I thought, and whose class are you coming from?" Cobin asked.
"Doctor Oobleck," Ren said.
"Hmm," Cobin said, turning to Nora, "well I'm sure I'll be receiving an email from him at some point detailing the events, but would you like an opportunity to explain yourself beforehand?"
Nora looked up at Cobin and nodded, still rosy-cheeked. "It's all Cardin's fault!" she burst out.
"I will determine that," Cobin said, "but in order to do so I need you to tell me what happened."
"Well…." Nora said, becoming transfixed on an imaginary spot in the corner to the room, "Cardin was bothering the girl sitting next to him, and making a lot of noise while Oobleck was trying to teach. So, I had to stop it!"
"She shot him," Ren said, "with a grenade launcher."
Nora turned to her partner and squinted. The feeling of betrayal resonated throughout the entire room.
Cobin just stared wide eyed at the girl, "You shot him with a grenade launcher? Like, with projectile explosives, you shot him. In the middle of class. With a grenade launcher."
"Well, yes," the girl said.
Cobin took a deep breath, and closed his eyes. So this is what Goodwitch meant by 'good luck.' he thought. "Alright," he said, regaining his composure, "So this is how this works. The first time you come into my office, I do an initial counseling, and this begins your file. For everyone's first time in my office, I am going to assume ignorance. What that means, is that today you aren't going to be punished in any way. What will happen is that you and I will review the rules and expectations that are placed upon you as a student at this school, when we are done you will sign a piece of paper that clearly states you understand all of these rules and expectations. That way, if you ever find yourself in my office again, the only explainable reason will be that you made a willful and conscious decision to ignore these rules and expectations, and you will not like what comes after that. Am I understood?"
"Yes, sir!" Nora said.
"Okay, then, let's get started."
As the day went on Cobin had a steady stream of students coming to his office from all years with different stories and attitudes. Cobin kept his surprise to himself, he hadn't expected to have this many customers so quickly. He guessed that the teachers were eager to utilize this new resource they had in him in order to control their more trying students. Many new files found new homes in cabinets as Cobin refined his organization of them. In between interacting with students he had many emails to reply too, from administration all the way down to maintenance. Blake had brought him something from the cafe for lunch, but they didn't get a chance to speak because he was with a student at the time, and the meeting didn't end until it was time for class to resume. Despite the fact that it was hectic, Cobin was happy to be busy. Once he was in the swing of things, he was home.
The day was coming to close and Cobin was putting the finishing touches on an email he was going to send up to Goodwitch before he intended to head home. However, this is not what fate had planned for him. As soon as he had hit the send key, three solid knocks sounded on his door. Cobin looked at the time, and saw that it was already a half hour past when the last class should have ended. It was strange, but he was still at work, which meant he still had a job to do.
"Come in," He said.
The door opened, revealing a grey hair male and a green haired female, both of which he didn't recognize and both which looked exceedingly miffed. They were wearing the uniforms from one of the visiting combat schools, Haven Academy. One Beacon's security officers appeared behind them.
"Found these two loitering in an area restricted to the visiting students," The security officer said, pushing the two into Cobin's office, "Heard we had a disciplinary officer now, figured I'd take them to you."
"I'll handle them," Cobin said, "Where were they exactly?"
"They were hanging around the armory," The security officer said, "No Beacon students are allowed there without escort, and no visiting students are allowed period."
As the security officer said this, he noticed the female student's head tilt, just in the slightest way, as if she was listening more intently to what the officer had to say. Collecting intelligence. Cobin brushed off this as old-soldier paranoia, but made a mental note to speak to the Chief Security Officer about the meaning of "Operational Security."
"Very well," Cobin said, "You can leave them here, I'll decide what to do about it."
And with that, the security officer nodded and left, closing the door behind him. There was a few moments of silence as Cobin and students stared at each other. "Well, might as well take a seat," Cobing said, "None of us go home until we get this over with." The students did as he suggested, sitting down with arms folded and legs crossed, very guarded postures. "I don't have a protocol yet for handling students from the visiting schools," Cobin said, "So instead of starting a file on you, I'm going to make a standard report on the situation, which will be sent up to the head chaperoning instructor for Haven, as well as my boss. Although this was probably just a harmless mistake, it still counts as a security risk which is beyond the scope of my responsibility. The powers that be will decide how you will be corrected for these actions." Cobin sighed, "Now, if you have anything to add, you may do so now. Otherwise I will write my report with only the information given to me by the security officer. Have anything to say?" The two students gave no reply, verbal or otherwise. "Very well,' Cobin said.
Not a moment later, his door opened without warning. This was the first time this had happened all day, and it alarmed Cobin mildly. His eyes focused on the figure of a woman standing in his door. She had bright red hair, and also wore the Haven Academy uniform. But something about her was different, her presence threatened Cobin in a way he had not felt for a long time. There was an intention behind the woman's very being that Cobin could feel, but couldn't define.
"Excuse me," Cobin said, "I'm in a meeting, unless this concerns the loss of life, limb, or eyesight, you'll have to wait outside."
"I'm a chaperoning instructor for Haven Academy," The woman said, "these students are under my charge and I'm here to take them off your hands." The woman spoke with a smile, charming. To the untrained she probably seemed harmless, but Cobin knew better.
"Oh really?" Cobin said, "Alright, mind if I get your name?"
The woman approached the desk, and stood between the two students, resting a hand on both their shoulders. "My name is Miss Fall," she said, "And I'm terribly sorry, these two are my top troublemakers, I'll handle them accordingly."
"It's no problem at all," Cobin said, smiling back at her, "You know it's interesting. This morning I received an email containing a list of all the chaperones from the various visiting schools, and I don't believe your name was on it," Cobin watched as the woman's smile fell from her face, "I'm also unaware of any of the schools making their instructors wear the student uniforms."
The woman's face was lined with anger, concealed well but not completely, "Professor, I…"
Cobin raised his hand to stop her from continuing. "I'm not sure what Haven Academy's policy is concerning students attempting to impersonate instructors, but I imagine that it's not just a slap on the wrist. I'll be sure to include you in my report," Cobin smiled at the woman, but inside, she scared him, he didn't want to be backed into a corner by her without anyone to back him up. He could deal with the situation more thoroughly later. He figured that these were not the best circumstances under which he should "accidentally" die. "That being said, I don't believe anyone here is willing to further contribute to said report, so you may leave with your peers, Miss Fall. I advise you not to damage your own situation any more than you already have."
The woman made a "Hmpf!" noise as she turned around to leave, "Let's go, you two," she said. The two other students stood, and began to follow her. As she walked away, the woman muttered something under her breath, but with Cobin's standard issue Army hearing loss, he coudn't make it out. Despite this, he had a response.
"Miss Fall," he said.
"What?" the woman asked, frustration in her voice as she stopped and turned back toward him.
"God may hate us both, but the devil welcomes only me," he said.
"You'll have to forgive me, professor, I don't do metaphors." she snarled at him.
Cobin chuckled, he never once showed fear, "It means that whatever bad you think you can bring into this world, I can do a whole lot worse. Keep that in mind next time you decide to barge into my office."
The woman locked eyes with him for a moment, but then turned and left without offering a response. Once they were beyond the threshold, the green haired student turned around and grabbed his door, almost slamming it shut. Once their was a barrier between him and the three, Cobin sunk down deep into his chair, and took in a few deep breaths. He may have not been any good at poker, but goddamn he could bluff. And good thing for it, too. He never pictured himself dying in an office. After a few moments, he collected himself and got back onto his desktop scroll. He had a report to write.
Cobin walked back across campus toward his garage with his suit coat slung over his shoulder, moving slowly but deliberately, taking in the good weather. He suddenly felt a presence walking next to him. He smiled because he knew exactly who it was.
"You gotta teach me how to do that," Cobin said.
Ruby giggled, "Do what?"
"Appear out of thin air like that. Seems like a useful skill."
"Just takes a bit of practice. Having siblings you have to sneak up on helps," she said, "Sooooooooo… how was your first day at work?"
"Good," Cobin said, "Busy but… good. I think I'm getting into the swing of things, and most people are respectful or at the very least reasonable. I think I can do this. Just… tell Nora to try and use her words before she jumps right into using explosives."
"Oh, we tell her that all the time. It just doesn't help."
"Excellent," Cobin laughed, "So, how was class today?"
"Borrrrinnggggggg," Ruby whined, in the typical fasion of a girl her age, "I just got out of Grimm Studies. You think it would be interesting but Professor Port uses up most of his time telling war stories. Guts and Glory and all that."
"That's upsetting, there's a lot more to war than guts and glory." Cobin sighed, thinking, "Hmm."
"What's on your mind?" Ruby asked, looking curiously up at him.
"Nothing, just got an idea."
"Ooooo Tell me, Tell me!"
Cobin laughed, "Not quite yet, I'll have to run it by Ozpin. But I think I might have a better war story for you than the ones you get from Professor Port."
Ruby's eyes got wide "Yes, please!" she said, always eager to learn new things about her friend and his world.
They stopped in front of the driveway leading up to Cobin's shop. His first thought was to shoo Ruby off so he could have some time to himself to unwind after his first day at work, he was pretty tired and didn't think he would make adequate company. But then, he remember the three Haven Academy students, and decided it might be best to not be alone right now.
"Hey, you want to come in and have a soda?" he asked, smiling at her.
"Yes!" she said, jumping. And with that, they went inside.
So I guess I need to explain something, considering it's been about six months now I think. When I started writing this story I did so in order to cope with suddenly losing my father to brain cancer. I wrote and posted the story as a way to keep my mind occupied so I wouldn't completely lose it. Once writing the story stopped fulfilling its purpose, I stopped writing it. Yet here I am, writing it again some several months later, probably because I do like it quite a bit, although I feel as though it means a great deal less now that the third season of RWBY is out (I've been putting off watching it, so I don't know what happens.) I've had this chapter partially finished in my .docs for a while now and at the very least wanted to get it out into the world. What comes after this, who knows. I won't mark the story as "complete" because in my mind I'm not finished with it, but we'll see if that becomes reality.
A note on the music. I'm not changing it. This a character study first and a war story second, and Cobin doesn't like Metallica. The music is there to play into the themes of the scene that's happening at that moment, I have it there because I believe it creates a better picture of what I'm trying to convie. I recommend that my readers listen to the music featured in every chapter after reading. However, this is not necessary.
A final note, the movie Jarhead will come into play in one of the following chapters. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it (although once again this won't be necessary to understand this story.) If you have seen Jarhead 2 and/or Jarhead 3, that doesn't count. Those two movies are cheap action flicks that have no bearing on or resemblance to the original. (As a side note, I strongly believe that Jarhead should be mandatory viewing material for anyone wishing to join the Armed Forces. Have to eat your vegetables before the recruiters and Drill Sergeants feed you the Koolaid.)
As always, thanks for reading!