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.
G.I. 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 while gravity stretched out the muscles in his arms and shoulders.
The doorjamb creaked with each rep, and 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. As a result, he pondered the irony of how 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 count 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 the deodorant. He raised his arm to apply it, but paused 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, and 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. He frowned upon reading 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 G.I. Joe headquarters was uneventful. He showed his face to the guard at the front gate and 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 BEACH HEAD
As usual, Beach Head was the first to arrive at 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 exactly on time so he wouldn't feel obliged 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 was alien to him. Moreover, it was a challenge in which Sgt. Slaughter tested him on numerous occasions:
"Are you crazy? You want me to put Mercer in rotation?" Beach Head 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 asking that he guard the president, just give him 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."
Beach sighed. "Alright, I'll let the kid in, but if he shits on the carpet, you're cleaning up the mess."
"Deal." The marine frowned. "Are we done here?"
"I don't have anything else."
Both men glanced in Stalker's direction. When Stalker shook his head in answer, Sgt. Slaughter left. Stalker, who opted to stay behind, closed the conference room door then sauntered over to the coffee maker to refill his cup.
"You seem on edge today."
"What's that to you?" Beach Head replied. He scratched his underarms.
"Just sayin'..." Stalking shrugged. "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?"
"If I never took that sabbatical, chances are I would've been top-shirt by now."
"And somehow we managed to handle the likes of Cobra just fine."
Stalker merely smirked at the rebuke. "You can't go AWOL on family, Beach Head."
He scoffed. "Family... who needs that inconvenience."
Stalker rolled his eyes, giving up. "So, what do you have on your plate today?"
"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's smirk broadened into a lopsided grin.
Beach Head 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. Fortunately, Stalker may have picked up on this as he seemed to back off.
"Since you'll be on the grounds, would you stop by Building 6 when you get a chance?" Stalker asked; he paused to blow the steam off his cup of coffee. "Cover Girl's off-site today, and she's afraid that the guys in the Motor Pool might be tempted to goof-off while she's gone." When Beach Head nodded in agreement, he let himself out.
Beach Head's first stop was the infirmary. His behavior at the meeting forced himself to acknowledge that the discomfort from his rash was starting to affect his job. He sat in the waiting room along with Wild Bill, who he noticed was nursing his shoulder.
"What are you in for?" Beach Head asked.
"I wrenched my shoulder Havoc-surfing yesterday. How about you?"
"Uhm... sparring accident," he lied, scratching himself.
After a few minutes, Lifeline took in Wild Bill while Doc called Beach Head into his office. Beach Head stripped to his waist and raised his arms.
"That one did a number on you," said Doc, examining the rashes on Beach Head'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," Doc said, handing over the ointment. "If it doesn't go away in a couple of days come back to see me."
As Beach Head 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 reconsider 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 put on the ski mask. "There are no short-cuts. This is just another challenge to overcome."
Beach Head left medical and waited by the elevator that would take him to the common area. As he watched the light approach his floor, Wild Bill joined him in the lobby. The elevator doors opened and both men entered.
Wild Bill waited until the doors came to a close. "Hey, pard, I couldn't help but overhear you with the Doc." He noticed that Beach Heed 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," Beach Head said, cutting him off. He stood there quietly with Wild Bill. Finally, 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 Wild Bill'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 Beach Head.
"...We can talk about this further when the results come back," said Hawk. "Now what's this I hear about you giving Low-Light special permission to carry concealed weapons on-base?"
"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, General. Nevertheless, I wouldn't want to be caught in a pinch without immediate access to a weapon. I personally carry a pistol and a backup at all times."
General Hawk shook his head in disbelief. He finally noticed Beach Head standing in the elevator behind them, "You don't walk around with two concealed weapons, do you, Beach Head?"
"Of course not!"
Hawk sighed with relief at his answer. After a few seconds, however, his expression turned sour, and he turned back to ask, "Er... how many do you carry, son?"
"Three pistols, two knives, and a tac-baton," he replied, plainly.
"...And a partridge in a pear tree," Flint said, under his breath.
Hawk threw a reprimanding glare at his top command subordinates. "I'm sorry I brought it up."
"Alright, I got another one: Cobra Commander in drag or the Baroness-"
Cross-Country groaned. "Let's not play this game again, Alpine."
"It can't be that easy," Crankcase pondered, rubbing his chin. "What's the rub?"
"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," Cross-Country persisted. "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 skivvies last week, and he's been looking for payback ever since."
"That's pretty funny," said Lift-Ticket, "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. He continued to shuffle the cards.
"Still, this isn't exactly the type of enriching conversation one can enjoy sober," said Cross-Country.
"What else are we going to talk about, the weather?" Alpine 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 Cross-Country. He picked up his cards and fanned them out. "This would be before Cobra Commander mutated into a snake I assume?"
"Of course! What kind of pervert do you think I am?"
All this time Crankcase had not stopped rubbing his chin. "Hooded Cobra Commander, or Battle-Mask Cobra Commander?"
"Why does that matter?" asked Alpine, nonplussed.
"Because, in the dark you can pretend that the silhouette of Cobra Commander's hood is chick's hair."
Alpine rolled his eyes, "Fine: Hooded Cobra Commander it is."
Lift-Ticket sorted the cards in his hand, "If one were to choose Cobra Commander, would he be catching, or pitching?"
Alpine sneered. "You're catching."
"Damn, then that defeats the purpose of the hood." Crankcase said. "What's the mode of death if I choose the Baroness?"
"I'm sorry guys, but you're ruining my poker-face," Cross-Country said, interrupting. "Can't we pontificate upon something that isn't so puerile?"
"Okay, Mr. Sophisticated, what did you have in mind?" said Crankcase.
Cross-Country shrugged. "I don't know, how about ethics?"
"I got just the thing," Alpine said. 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 Cross-Country.
"He puts the Baroness in charge of 'collecting' your DNA—"
"It's always the Baroness with you." Crankcase spat.
Alpine smirked. "That's because the bitch is fine."
"Well, I'm tired of her. I vote for Scarlett under mind control instead?"
"No, but I'll give you Zarana disguised as Scarlett."
"So far, so good. What's the rub?" said Lift-Ticket.
"The rub is: if you enjoy it, are you guilty of adultery?"
"No, of course not," said Lift-Ticket.
"It's a no-brainer," Crankcase added. "You had no choice."
"What are you talking about," Cross-Country said. "That is cheating because you enjoyed it."
"Aww, C'mon! How is that fair," said Lift-Ticket.
"Cry all you want," Cross-Country maintained, "That makes you a cheater."
Lift-Ticket 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."
Lift-Ticket threw his cards on the table. "You're starting to piss me off, Cross-Country."
The hinges of the door at the Motor Pool's entrances creaked. The four Joes, immediately rose to attention—almost knocking over the flimsy poker table in the process—when Beach Head made his presence known with heavy footfalls.
Beach Head, with his fists on his hips, made no effort to avoid stepping on the poker chips that had fallen on the floor." Aren't you greasers supposed to be detailing the Jeeps?"
"Yes, Master Sergeant", Cross-Country 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," Lift-Ticket replied. "Okay guys, our 15 minutes are up, lets get back to work."
"Alpine, you're not supposed to be in here," Beach Head said, curling his finger. "Let's go."
Alpine started to leave, with Beach Head 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, and Alpine stopped in his tracks. He then stood aside to let Beach Head pass him.
"Age before beauty, Beach..."
Beach Head grunted as he walked past Alpine to the exit. When he stepped out into the hallway, he was startled by a familiar voice:
"Avast, ye scallywag!"
Beach Head turned, only to be hit by a 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 standing over him weilding a limp fire hose. Torpedo was standing next to Shipwreck holding a camera; Alpine slowly stuck his head out into the hallway when he thought it was safe to look.
Shipwreck gulped. "Torpedo, that doesn't look like Alpine."
Beach Head 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.
Beach Head took off his Balaclava and wrung the water out a couple of times. 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," Beach Head said.
The three Joe's burst into laughter, with Shipwreck laughing the loudest.
"You had me worried there for a second, Beach," Shipwreck said, wiping the tears from his eyes. "I thought you were gonna to blow your top. For what its worth, we're really sorry about that."
"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 Beach Head 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. Beach Head, as the administrator of their punishment, circled slowly around the men to make 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 Beach Head was 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," Beach Head continued, "soldiers like Flash, Airborne, and Recondo didn't make the cut, and each one of them were worth ten each of you. And yet, here I am staring at the backs of your heads. Then I got to thinking: I always had this feeling that 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.
Beach Head walked over to Shipwreck, put his foot on the sailor's back, and he leaned into him. Shipwreck struggled between the reps against Beach Head's added weight.
"If I decide to rape you, rest assured it won't be in your mouth, boy!" Beach Head leaned in with all his weight, and Shipwreck's arms trembled. He smiled in satisfaction. "But, I will tell you that the idea of dressing you down is giving me a huge hard-on." He stepped off, and Shipwreck slowly resumed his push-ups. "Hurry up, ladies, we're just getting started!"
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 Beach Head's office and noticed that it was empty. 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 arrived at the training field, he saw that Beach Head was putting Alpine, Torpedo and Shipwreck through their paces on the obstacle course. Beach Head 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," Beach Head replied.
"You should let Sgt. Slaughter handle the reprimand."
"Why should he get all the fun?" he levelled his pistol.
"Keep your butt down when you crawl in that mud, unless you want it to get shot off!"
Stalker glanced at the gun in Beach Head's hand. "Er, are you shooting live ammo at the men?"
Beach Head kept his pistol raised as he eyed 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 G.I. Joe is still hard-core."
"I'm not going to tell you again Shipwreck! If you keep stickin' that ass up in the air, you'll get me to thinkin' it's an invitation to ram something between those sweet cheeks of yours!"
Stalker snorted. He arched an eyebrow when he finally took notice of Beach Head's drenched clothes, "You do know that the clothes come off before you jump into the shower?"
Beach Head sneezed. "Why does everyone in this outfit think that they're a comedian?"
"Alright, sorry." He threw his hands up in surrender and turned to leave. "I'll leave the men to your tender ministrations."
"Hey, Stalker... have you ever...shaved your pits?"
Stalker's brow furrowed. "HELL NO!"
With Stalker finally gone, Beach Head let his thoughts wander. He began to realize that he did, indeed, miss being a drill instructor. As such, 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. Afterall, going back would be too easy. Life is about challenge: the challenge of crawling forward through the mud...
"Less chatter and more mud-humping, ladies!"
"Dammit, Ship! You just had to open your big fat mouth, didn't you?" Torpedo said. 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."
"Hey, I did see Alpine heading toward the door," Torpedo said in defense. "Beach Head 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."