A/N: This one-shot is my entry into The Fireplace Writing Challenge. As a result, I'm elaborating on certain points for the benefit of those unfamiliar with the fandom. For those of you following my series, there are no spoilers for episode 2.0 here - it's just for fun.
GI JOE Season 3: episode 2.25
Master Sergeant Wayne Sneeden awoke from his slumber and slowly opened his eyes. He glanced over at his nightstand and took note of the time: as usual, his internal body clock awoke him minutes before his alarm went off.
He sat up and reached under his pillow, taking out his M1911A1 pistol. Once he secured the weapon in his gun safe, he dropped to the floor and cranked off 100 push-ups. He felt invigorated as the blood pumped rapidly through his veins. He sprung to his feet and went to his closet. He gripped the pull-up bar he had installed in the doorway and let himself hang. He exhaled slowly as he let gravity stretch out the muscles in his arms and shoulders.
As he started his pull-up reps, he let his mind wander: there was no revelry bugle; no snores from a nearby bunkmate – just beautiful silence. He had been in the Army for most of his adult life. Only recently did he decide to move off-base into his own house - it was the best decision he ever made. He pondered the irony that those in his line of work rarely availed themselves of the simpler freedoms that they fought so hard to protect. In his musings, he lost track of his rep count. He scoffed at himself and decided to start over: he didn't want to start his day off cheating.
After he indulged himself with a hot shower, he stepped out and walked over to the vanity. He wiped the condensation from the glass and reached for his deodorant on the counter. He raised his arm to apply it, but stopped when he saw a rash developing on his underarm. He examined his other armpit; there was a similar rash developing there as well. He cursed as he threw the deodorant into the wastebasket.
After he got dressed, he went outside to retrieve the morning paper delivered on his porch. He went back inside and poured himself a cup of coffee. He took a sip as he unfolded the paper, bypassing the front page and sport sections; turning, instead, to the weather. After taking note of the Air Quality Index, he finished his coffee and took his balaclava out of his pocket. He opened the seam in the ski-mask and replaced the air filter housed in the hidden lining that covered the nose and mouth area.
He grabbed his car keys and opened the door to leave for work. Before he closed the door, he regarded his abode one last time. It may have been the smallest house on the block, but it had more space than he knew what to do with. The only furniture he owned was a bed to sleep in and a kitchen table to eat on. He couldn't help but feel guilty from the inefficiency of wasted of living space.
The drive to GI JOE headquarters was uneventful. After he showed his face to the guard at the front gate, he was waved in. He drove to the executive parking lot and pulled into his space. He never got tired of reading the plaque above his spot:
PARKING RESERVED FOR BEACHHEAD
As usual, BeachHead was the first to arrive in the admin wing where the command offices were located. He preferred to come in early so he could have the floor to himself while he got his bearings in order to plan out his day.
Over the next couple of hours, the rest of the staff started to trickle in. Flint and Lady-Jaye walked by, waving at him from the hallway as they did so. By the time 0800 rolled around, an intern knocked on his door and gently reminded him about the weekly Master Sergeants meeting with Stalker and Sgt. Slaughter.
He intentionally arrived a few minutes late so as not to engage in small talk and start right away. He hated these meetings. After his promotion, he resigned himself to the fact that the higher rank would bring with it the requisite amount of paperwork. However, lately it seemed that his job was reduced to resolving one personnel issue after another. Being pulled apart in different directions from things competing for his attention forced him to prioritize - something he was used to. Coming to a consensus on what had priority, however, forced him to compromise - a concept that, heretofore, was alien to him. It was a challenge in which Sgt. Slaughter tested him on numerous occasions:
"Are you crazy? You want me to put Mercer in rotation?" BeachHead asked.
"Yea, what's wrong with that?" said Sgt. Slaughter.
"I don't know, maybe it's the fact that he's an ex-Cobra Viper?"
"The kid's ready."
"Says you. I might have a different opinion."
"I'm not saying to give him anything top-secret, just something he can cut his teeth on."
"Yea, this is not my first time, Slaughter. Technical ability isn't the only thing to consider: a mission unit is an organic being. 'Trust' is a big part of the organism: if the members can't trust each other, then the unit breaks."
"Thanks for the Biology lesson. So are you gonna give him anything or not?"
"Alright, I'll put the kid on the list. But if he shits on the carpet, you're cleaning up the mess."
"Deal...Are we done here?"
"I don't have anything else...What about you Stalker?
When Stalker shook his head, Slaughter got up to leave. Stalker followed him, but closed the door to the conference room so he and BeachHead could have some privacy.
"You seem on edge today--"
"What's that to you?" BeachHead replied, as he scratched his underarms.
"Being a Master Sergeant requires a little diplomacy. You're younger than average for this position, so if you're going to survive being second-kick, you need to learn how to loosen up and relax."
"My command style doesn't allow for relaxing. What do you know about being second-kick anyway?"
"Hey, if I never took that sabbatical, chances are I would've been top-shirt by now."
"But you did leave. And we managed to handle the likes of Serpentor and CobraLa just fine without you."
Stalker smirked before saying, "you can't go AWOL on family BeachHead."
"Humph, 'family'...who needs that inconvenience."
"So, what do you have on your plate today?"
"I think I'm going to tour all of the departments. I haven't put enough face-time in with the troops lately."
"Face-time? This coming from a man wearing a ski-mask?" Stalker folded his arms. His smirk broadened into a lopsided grin.
BeachHead pretended to be oblivious to the irony. He recognized that Stalker was trying to be helpful, however, he felt himself quickly running out of patience – exacerbated by the fact that the itching in his underarms had gotten worse. Stalker picked up on this and decided to back off.
"Since you'll be on the grounds, would you stop by Building 6 when you get a chance?" Stalker asked, as he unfolded his arms. "CoverGirl's off-site today and she's afraid that the guys in the Motor Pool might goof-off while she's gone." When BeachHead nodded in agreement, he let himself out.
After leaving the conference room, BeachHead went to the infirmary. His behavior at the meeting forced him to acknowledge that the discomfort from his rash was starting to affect his job. He sat in the waiting room along with WildBill – who, he noticed, was nursing his shoulder.
"What are you in for?" BeachHead asked.
"I wrenched my shoulder Havoc-surfing yesterday. How about you?"
"Uhm...same thing," he said, as he scratched himself.
After a few minutes, Lifeline took in WildBill while Doc called BeachHead into his office. BeachHead undressed to his waist and raised his arms.
"That one did a number on you," said Doc, as he examined the rashes on BeachHead's armpits.
"Tell me about it."
"And you went through the whole list of deodorants that I gave you?"
"Yep, I tried all of them."
Doc walked over to a nearby utility cabinet. He opened a drawer and took out a tube of ointment. "Hmm, I don't recall you ever having such a bad skin reaction in the past."
"That's because I didn't wear any until now. It wasn't an issue before when I would drill the grunts in the field all day. But now that I'm in a hi-vis job with General Hawk, the nature-boy routine presents a problem. My skin is getting rubbed raw with all the showers I have to take."
"Well it looks worse than it is. Keep it clean and apply this twice a day," he said, as he handed him the ointment. "If it doesn't go away in a couple of days come back to see me."
As BeachHead started to get dressed, Doc noticed when he was about to replace his balaclava.
"I know we've been through this before Beach, but you should re-consider getting those allergy shots we've talked about. It would make you less dependent on that thing."
"No thanks Doc. I don't like playing games with my immune system," he said, as he put on his ski-mask. "There are no short-cuts. This is just another challenge to overcome."
BeachHead left medical and waited by the elevator that would take him to the common area. As he watched the light approach his floor, WildBill joined him in the lobby. The elevator doors opened and both men went in.
WildBill waited until the doors came to a close before saying, "Hey 'pard, I couldn't help but overhear you with the Doc." He noticed that Beached glared back at him warily, "It's nothin' to be ashamed of; you just have a condition."
"Do you have a point to make Bill?"
"Nope, just a suggestion: shave your pits."
His eyes narrowed, "Shave my pits?"
"Yep, it's an old rancher's trick used before deodorant was invented. You see, if there's no hair, the sweat and dirt have nothing to stick to. At the end of the day you don't smell as bad--"
"Yea, yea I got it," BeachHead said, cutting him off. He stood there quietly with WildBill as he started to think about his suggestion. Without turning his head, he eyed the chopper pilot to gauge his reaction as he asked, "...have you ever...shaved your pits?"
The two men stood in silence for the rest of the trip. The elevator eventually stopped on WildBill's floor and he got off. General Hawk and Flint boarded the car after him. They were engaged in a conversation and didn't seem to take notice of BeachHead.
"...We can talk about this further when the results come back," said Hawk. "Now what's this I hear about you giving Lowlight special permission to carry concealed weapons off-duty?"
"I thought it was a reasonable request given that Cobra is back on the radar," Flint replied.
"Lt. Jenkins is of the opinion that it isn't necessary. I'm inclined to agree; that's why we have security."
"With all due respect to Lt. Jenkins, his Black-Suits aren't as good as the Green-Shirts were. Besides, there has been precedent for security being breached on this base."
"I doubt that anyone could breach the base before we had a chance to reach the armory."
"True sir. Nevertheless, I wouldn't want to be caught in a pinch without immediate access to a weapon. I personally carry two back-up pistols at all times."
General Hawk shook his head in disbelief. He noticed BeachHead standing in the elevator behind them, "You don't walk around with two concealed weapons do you BeachHead?"
"Of course not!"
Hawk sighed with relief at his answer. After a few seconds, however, his expression turned sour as he turned back to ask, "Uh...how many do you carry son?"
"Four pistols, two knives, and a tac-baton," he replied, plainly.
"...And a partridge in a pear tree," Flint said, under his breathe.
"I'm sorry I brought it up," Hawk said, as he threw a reprimanding glare at his top command subordinates.
"Alright, I got another one...Cobra Commander in drag or the Baroness--"
"Let's not play this game again Alpine," said CrossCountry.
"It can't be that easy, what's the rub?" CrankCase asked of Alpine.
"The rub is: if you choose the Baroness, you die a horrible and gruesome death afterwards."
"Alpine, this is not what I had in mind when you offered to help us detail the VAMPs," said CrossCountry. "If you're not going to help, what are doing here in the Motor Pool anyway?"
"Actually, I'm hiding out from ShipWreck. I super-starched his drawers last week and he's been looking for payback ever since."
"That's pretty funny," said LiftTicket, "so much so, that I'm not even going to ask what you were doing frolicking through his underwear in the first place."
"And I appreciate that," Alpine said, as he shuffled the cards.
"Still, this isn't exactly an enriching conversation," said CrossCountry. "Although I might enjoy it more if we were drinking."
"What else are we going to talk about, the weather?" said Alpine, as he started dealing the next hand. "Besides, we're on duty, so we can't drink."
"We're not supposed to be playing poker either, but that's not stopping us," CrankCase pointed out.
"Maybe so," Alpine replied, "but playing poker isn't that bad of an offense. If we get busted for playing poker and drinking, The Sarge would go to town on our asses."
"Alright, I guess I'll play along then," said CrossCountry."...This would be before Cobra Commander mutated into a snake I assume?"
"Of course...I'm not a pervert."
"...Hooded Cobra Commander, or Battle-Mask Cobra Commander?" LiftTicket asked.
"Why does that matter?" asked Alpine, nonplussed.
"Because, in the dark with Hooded Cobra Commander, you can pretend that the silhouette of the hood is chick's hair."
Alpine rolled his eyes, "Fine: Hooded Cobra Commander it is."
CrankCase sorted the cards in his hand, "If I were to choose Cobra Commander, am I catching, or pitching?"
"Damn, then that defeats the purpose of the hood." LiftTicket said. "What's the mode of death if I choose the Baroness--?"
"I'm sorry guys, this scenario is ruining my poker-face," CrossCountry said, interrupting. "Can we explore one that isn't so puerile?"
"Okay, Mr. Sophisticated, what did you have in mind?" said CrankCase.
"I don't know, how about something theoretical?"
"I got just the thing," Alpine said, as he stacked his cards and put them facedown on the table. "Let's say that you're on a mission and you're captured by Dr. MindBender. You find out that he wants to build an army of super soldiers using your DNA and you cannot refuse under pain of death."
"This all sounds a bit familiar, but go on," said CrossCountry.
"He puts the Baroness and Zarana – disguised as CoverGirl – in charge of 'collecting' your DNA."
"So far, so good. What's the rub?" said LiftTicket.
"The rub is: if you enjoy it, are you guilty of adultery?"
"No, of course not," said LiftTicket.
"It's a no-brainer," CrankCase added, "you had no choice."
"What are you talking about," CrossCountry said. "That is cheating because you enjoyed it."
"Aww C'mon! That's not fair," said LiftTicket.
"Cry all you want," CrossCountry maintained, "That makes you a cheater."
LiftTicket shook his head, saying, "So you're telling me as long as I don't enjoy the 'collection' process - which is impossible - that it's not cheating. But, heaven forbid, if I make the most out the situation, that makes me an adulterer?"
"Yes. And furthermore, if you truly loved your significant other, you wouldn't allow yourself to get aroused in the first place."
LiftTicket shook his head again, "You're starting to piss me off CrossCountry--"
"Aren't you greasers supposed to be detailing the Jeeps?" said BeachHead, as he approached them unnoticed.
The four Joes, startled by the Master Sergeant's voice, immediately rose to attention - almost knocking over the flimsy poker table in the process.
"Yes, Master Sergeant", CrossCountry said. "We were just taking a break--"
"Well, if you do half a good a job on the VAMPs as you're doing polishing those chairs with your asses, then I'll expect to be blinded by the shine when I come back to inspect them at the end of the day."
"Yes Master Sergeant," LiftTicket replied. "Ok guys, our 15 minutes are up, lets get back to work."
"Alpine, you're not supposed to be in here," BeachHead said, as he pointed to him. "Let's go."
Alpine started to leave, with BeachHead following behind him. When he came upon the open door leading out of the motor pool, he caught a glimpse of Torpedo peeking around the corner of the frame. Their eyes met for a split-second as Alpine stopped in his tracks. He then stood aside to let BeachHead pass him.
"Age before beauty, Beach..."
BeachHead grunted as he walked past Alpine to the exit. When he stepped out into the hallway, he heard a familiar voice:
"Avast ye scallywag!"
Suddenly BeachHead was hit with wall of water. The force sent him skidding across the hall and smashing into the opposite wall. Eventually, the water stopped. When his vision came back into focus, he saw ShipWreck across the hall holding a fire hose. Torpedo was standing next to ShipWreck holding a camera and Alpine slowly stuck his head out into the hallway when he thought it was safe to look.
ShipWreck gulped before saying, "Torpedo, that doesn't look like Alpine."
BeachHead slowly rose to his feet and walked over to the three JOEs. No one spoke; the only sound that could be heard was the shutter release clicking in Torpedo's camera – he was so nervous that he forgot to depress the button.
BeachHead took off his Balaclava and wrung the water out a couple of times before putting it back on his head. He regarded each of the three JOE's: Torpedo had a look of horror on his face, however, ShipWreck and Alpine snorted quietly as they struggled to restrain their laughter.
"Feel free to laugh, that was actually very funny," BeachHead said, as he adjusted his balaclava.
The three JOE's burst into laughter, with ShipWreck laughing the loudest.
"You had me worried there for a second Beach," ShipWreck said, as he wiped the tears from his eyes. "I thought you were gonna to blow your top. For what its worth, we're really sorry about that; we never would've done that to you on purpose."
"I'm glad to hear that Ship. Heck, after a gag like that, you can call me Wayne."
"Who says you Grunts don't have a sense of humor," ShipWreck said, slapping BeachHead on the back. "You're alright in my book... Wayne."
"Forty-Seven YO JOE!...Forty-Eight YO JOE!...Forty-Nine YO JOE!..."
Alpine, ShipWreck and Torpedo cadenced in unison as they did push-ups on the parade ground of the base for all to see. After an hour, they were already worn out from the punitive PT, but they dared not to show any signs of fatigue. BeachHead, as the administrator of their punishment, circled slowly around the men - making sure each one performed their military-style push-ups in proper form. Cheating would start the count over from the beginning.
"Since you clowns are in such a good humor today, you ought to love this one: It's a story about three choad-monkeys who manage to get drafted into an elite Army unit..."
"Fifty-One YO JOE!...I guess they needed someone to balance the curve," ShipWreck whispered, as BeachHead moved out of earshot.
"Fifty-Two YO JOE!...Shut the hell up Ship before he hears you," Alpine whispered back.
"Fifty-Three YO JOE!...Fifty-Four YO JOE!...Fifty-Five YO JOE!..."
"I don't get it," BeachHead continued, "soldiers like Flash, Airborne, and Recondo didn't make the cut...Each one of them are worth 10 each of you; yet here I am staring at the backs of your heads... I always thought you boys were a little sweet; so I often find myself wondering: whose member have you tea-baggers been servicing in order to stay in this outfit?"
"Fifty-Seven YO JOE!...Is that a proposal Master Sergeant," ShipWreck replied sarcastically, much to the chagrin of his push-up mates.
BeachHead walked over to ShipWreck, put his foot on his back, and leaned into him. ShipWreck struggled between the reps against BeachHead's added weight.
"If I decide to rape you, it won't be in your mouth boy!" BeachHead leaned even harder into ShipWreck, pinning the sailor to the ground, "But I will tell you this: the idea of breaking you down is giving me a huge hard-on." He released the pressure and stepped off,"...Hurry up ladies, its going to be a long week!"
By late afternoon, Stalker had finished most of his administrative duties. He decided to take a break and stretch his legs before evening chow. He walked by BeachHead's office and noticed that he was still out – presumably touring the base. On his way to the staff lounge, he overheard two interns gossiping that three JOE's were being tortured on the obstacle course. Stalker grinned as he quickly put two-and-two together: he had to see this for himself.
When he got to the training field, he saw that BeachHead was putting Alpine, Torpedo and ShipWreck through their paces on the obstacle course. BeachHead monitored their progress from the sideline as the soldiers crawled in the mud under a barbed fence.
"I had a feeling you'd be out here," Stalker said, as he approached. "What are you doing?"
"I'm taking your advice and relaxing," BeachHead replied.
"I see...Shouldn't you let Sgt. Slaughter handle the reprimand?"
"Why should he get all the fun?" he said, as he aimed his pistol. "Besides, this was my field before it was his--"
"Keep your butt down when you crawl in that mud, unless you want it to get shot off!"
Stalker glanced at the gun in his hand, "Hey...Are you shooting live ammo at the men?"
BeachHead kept his pistol raised as he looked back at Stalker out of the corner of his eye. "As long as they don't look up, they'll be fine. The men have had too much downtime; they just need a reminder that GI JOE is still hard-core."
"I'm not going to tell you again ShipWreck! If you keep stickin' that ass up in the air, I just might get the impression that you want something rammed between those sweet cheeks!"
Stalker arched an eyebrow as he took notice of BeachHead's drenched clothes, "Beach, did you forget to take your clothes off before you stepped into the shower again?"
"Why does everyone in this outfit think that they're a comedian?"
"Alright, sorry," he said, as he threw his hands up in surrender. "I'll leave the men to your tender ministrations."
"Hey Stalker," he called out while he was still within earshot,"...have you ever...shaved your pits?"
As he watched Stalker walk away, he let his thoughts wander: he began to realize that he did, indeed, miss being a drill instructor. Part of him wished to go back. Things were simpler then. There was no politics or compromise. The itching of his rash, however, forced him to dismiss this reasoning; going back would be too easy. Life is about challenge: the challenge of crawling forward through the muck:
"Less chatter and more mud-humping ladies!"
"Dammit Ship! You just had to open your big fat mouth didn't you," Torpedo said, as he instinctively ducked from the bullets flying overhead. "I'm a SeAL, not a salamander!"
"Hey don't lay this all on me," ShipWreck replied, wiping the mud off his face. "My plan was brilliant; the problem was having you for a lookout."
"Well I did see Alpine heading toward the door. BeachHead must have cut him off at the last second."
"Next time, remind me to not take you on recon."
"Next time, keep your brilliant plan to yourself."
"If I had known it would end like this, I never would have told you."