-laugh- I don't have the faintest idea where this story came from, but darn, I had fun writing it... Beach Head has such a caustic mind. -laugh- Yes, of course, the Joes are not mine.


Audition

Summary: You know what they say about first impressions? Beach Head's first day as drill instructor.


Wayne had never met a command that ran such a sloppy outfit.

In Benning, even the greenest recruits knew that if Master Sergeant Wayne Sneeden was leading PT, if you were sane, you arrived ten minutes early. If you were smart, fifteen. Twenty if you wanted to make it out of PT without your ears getting chewed off. Thirty if you wanted to make it out of PT and still feel like you could make it through the rest of the day.

Mister Comedy on the floor over there had been the only one of Special Counterterrorist Force Delta to arrive half an hour early, at the cool, soft hour of 0500.

Unfortunately for him, though, he hadn't gotten the message about how to avoid getting his ears chewed off. One of which involved, simply, giving your name and your damned designation when asked for it, and actually replying to your goddamned drill sergeant! Hell, that was the easy part of the job!

And this was supposed to be the 'best of the best' that General Abernathy—no, wait, he went by 'Hawk' here—had promised him? Hah! If Mister Comedy—Wayne didn't have anything else to call him, considering the soldier still hadn't given his name— had gotten this stuck to him as a dare, a laugh, or a bet that he'd lost… he was getting a Hell of a raw deal.

Not that Wayne had any pity for him. If you were stupid enough to take a dare or lose a bet that involved playing a really unfunny prank on the new drill instructor, you had to be pretty goddamned stupid. Sure, it was Wayne's first day on the job, but did the boy really think that Wayne wouldn't figure out who he was eventually, mask notwithstanding?

"You will do pushups until I hear a 'sir, yes, sir' from you, soldier!" Wayne snapped. He noted with just a little surprised satisfaction that the soldier had automatically gone to his fists in the grass, rather than to his palms, and he was stable on them, on his first two knuckles. His back was a straight, balanced plank—no dropping his hips—and he kept his elbows close. And he kept his chin up, rather than tucking it and rounding his shoulders. Clean, nothing sloppy. The man's form was good—great, in fact. "You think I'm kidding?!"

Maybe it wasn't that much of a surprise. If he'd pulled shit like the whole mask-wearing silent-treatment routine with his last drill instructor, he probably had a lot of experience doing push-ups.

The man didn't even replyjust sped up his push-ups again. At least he wasn't lacking in upper body strength—he was running on a hundred, if Beach had his count correctly, and his form was still as crisp as it had been. Good. Bad soldier, in good physical condition. One out of two was still a failing grade, but if there was anyone who could fix the former, it was Wayne Sneeden, Master Sergeant out of Benning.

Whether or not he could do anything for the boy's mind, though—didn't the man realize that a single "Sir, yes, sir," and he could stop doing the damned pushups? Maybe he thought this was like E&E, and someone was going to spring him from it eventually?

Wayne shook his head, regretfully. Yeah, he was in for a big, big, big surprise—especially since Hawk had told him he could do whatever he damned well had to to get this bunch into tiptop shape. He'd broken more stubborn idiots before. All it took was them realizing that whatever he could dish out was worse than they could even imagine.

Though sometimes it took awhile.

"That's a hundred and twenty, thereabouts, isn't it, soldier? Your arms starting to burn, yet?" he asked, sweetly.

"Hmmm? What's going on—" a voice sounded behind him, crisp. Lilting?

Female?

Yeah, female. Hawk had told him there were a couple of chirpies on the team. Wayne had trained a rare handful in his years, and had been pleasantly startled by how little they whined. By the time they got to him, they were already pretty tough—rawhide and steel, so butch half the time he could only tell they were women when they opened their mouths and yelled "Yes, sir!" in their higher voices. Some of them washed out anyway, but it wasn't for lack of trying on their parts.

Wayne glanced down at his watch. She was fifteen minutes early. Good for her.

He was already in a bad mood. Bad for her.

Besides, just because he trained the women he was told to didn't mean he liked it.

"And what's your name and designation, sweetheart?" he sneered, turning around to face his newest victim. Not just jokers, but women? And—when he finally got a glimpse of her, Wayne had to take a longer look, just to make sure that he hadn't been hallucinating the first time. Then he realized, no, she really was the way she was, and he tried not to flinch.

The woman was dressed in cammies, and she had the 'tags around her neck… but, much to Wayne's horror, that was about where she stopped looking like a soldier.

Actually… if anything, she looked more like a beauty queen—or a stripper—dressed in a soldier's kit: long red hair in a braid over her shoulder, creamy white skin, the kind of heart-shaped face that looked like it belonged on TV, and a rack on her to make most of the guys that Wayne knew fall flat on their faces. Not even BDUs could hide a body like that.

This really was turning out to be the assignment that no trainer ever wanted to get—ever. The rough, tough G.I. Janes who rolled his way were one thing, but how the Hell was he supposed to mold people like this into members of the best counterterrorist force in the world?!

"Scarlett, sir; I'm Intel. You must be Beach Head." She cast a curious glance at the man on the ground again. "Why is—"

Oh, sweet Lord in Heaven. Not just a woman—not just a beautiful woman—but a Southern chickadee, tried and true. He could hear Georgia in her accent. Intel, huh? Well, that explained what she was doing here—much as he hated Intel most of the time, he had to grudgingly admit that when they did their job, they were every bit as necessary to the mission as the grunts on the ground.

When they did their job.

"No, I must be your worst nightmare. Did I tell you you could talk?" he bit out.

"Mmm." She gave him a level—and unimpressed—look out of a pair of tilted eyes. "Master Sergeant Nightmare, sir—"

If she thought she could get out of the normal punishments just because she'd come from Intel and God had equipped her with a nice set of tits, she was going in for a whole world of hurt. Maybe their last drill master had gone easy on her, but there was a new law in this town: his.

Yeah, some Intel jockeys sat at their little desks all day, but he was damned well going to be sure they knew how to run, jump, slog, and back up his soldiers if it ever came down to it.

"Do you see what he's doing?" Beach Head growled.

She looked past his shoulder—right, as if she hadn't seen Mister Comedy on the ground as she'd been walking up—and then back into his eyes. Oh, big mistake. Didn't she know she was never supposed to meet her drill sergeant's eyes? "Sir, he's doing pushups," she replied, calmly. "What I want to know is why."

That was Intel for you—always with the why, why, why, and the big mouths, and maybe screwing you over now and again. "For disrespecting me, and not following orders." Wayne growled. "You wanna join him? Eyes front and center, girlie!"

She blinked, once, slowly—then her eyes snapped back to that blank, centered, faraway gaze he was more familiar with. Good, someone had taught her that, at least. But her brows crinkled a little at the center, and he glanced down to find her fists taut and trembling at her side. Oh, so she didn't like being spoken to this way? Well, now that was too bad. "Disrespecting you? Sir—I find that very hard to believe!"

Comedians. He was surrounded by comedians. Hawk had told him that he had all the time he needed to get this bunch whipped into shape… Beach Head was starting to think that he might need years, if the rest of them were anything like these two. They couldn't be. They couldn't possibly be. Right? "Are you doubtin' my word, chickadee?!" he roared. "Yeah, you believe it! And he'll keep doin' 'em until he tells me what I want to hear!"

"Sir—" Her gaze jerked back to him, and her eyes were wide—a very pretty shade of green, he noted, irritated—before they unfocused again. Well, maybe now she was getting the idea that he was for serious. "I really don't think—"

Or not. Jesus, this was going to be a harder task than he'd even thought. If she was Intel, she'd obviously beenthrough the Army—what kind of training were they running over where she'd gotten her Basic? "I have to tell you to shut that trap again, girlie, and it won't matter if you're Intel or Infantry or goddamn Grounds Maintenance—"

"With all due respect, sir, permission to speak!" she snapped out. Her eyes flashed green fire, and she was almost trembling—but somehow, Wayne didn't think it was from fear. He'd give the girl that: either she had a serious case of stupid, or she had a serious set of titanium balls. He was really hoping that of the two, she possessed the option he didn't want to fix rather than the one he couldn't fix. The thought of an Intelligence agent with the common sense of a tomato bug was making his throat close off with horror. "You want to hear this, sir."

Oh, so they had two jokers, now, did they? He eyed her arms—she probably wouldn't get far, but what the Hell, if she wanted to play with the boys, she'd get to play, all right. "Oh, do I? Then you're gonna be doing push-ups right next to him, chickadee!" he snarled, shoving his face in front of hers. "And let me tell you now, if you hadn't been Intel, you'd've been doing them the moment you opened your mouth and questioned my reasons!"

To his surprise, she didn't flinch. There weren't that many men, even in Ranger school, who didn't flinch when he got into their grills and raised his voice to its considerable top volume. She had some pretty good volume himself when she barked back, "Yes, sir! As long as you listen to what I'm saying, then I'll do all the damned push-ups you want, sir!"

Her eyes still set straight and center, unfocused. At least she'd learned that much.

Oh, was that how she was going to play it? "Yeah, you sure as Hell will!" he snarled—then he stood back and crossed his arms. Her funeral. "Ten seconds, soldier. Nine—"

"Snake-Eyes can't answer you, sir! He's mute," she yelled, her chin high, bare throat throbbing with the force of her voice. "So if you're waiting for him to tell you something, you'll be waiting 'til Kingdom Come, sir!"

Beach Head, for one of the first times in his life, paused halfway through his intended roar of "I don't care; drop and give me fifty!"

"He's bloody what?!" he yelled, instead."Why the blue blazes would any commander in his right mind have a mute infantryman on his service!"

Hell, he was really starting to doubt General Abernathy's bleedin' sanity!

But then he remembered the way Mister Comedy back there had caught his hand, when he'd reached out to grab that idiot mask off his face—he'd never, ever seen a human being move that fast.

Wisely—probably showing the first good judgment he'd seen out of her all morning—the girl didn't say a word. Though from the look of mutiny on that pretty face, she probably wanted to. Someone needed to teach her to keep the passion out of her eyes.

"You. Joker Boy." He turned back to the man doing push-ups on the grass. Still the same form—a little slower, but he hadn't stopped doing them. Damn. Beach wasn't quite impressed, but... he takes orders. "Stop. Stand up."

Mister Comedy moved carefully, like it was hurting him to move, but he moved deliberately, without any wasted motion. When he stood up, it was straight, and at attention, hands at his side, chin up. If it weren't for the fact that Beach could see the muscles in his arms tugging and twitching right through the long sleeves of his olive drab field jacket, he wouldn't have known that the man had been doing push-ups for—he glanced at his watch again—twenty-five minutes straight.

"This true?" he demanded. "You ain't got a voice in your head?"

The man nodded, then shrugged, tugging gently at the edge of his creepy rubber mask.

"He's got a lot of scarring, sir," Redhead's soft drawl sounded behind him as he studied the straight-backed soldier. "That's why he wears the mask."

"Chickadee, you don't need PT, you need a muzzle," Beach Head growled, but without heat. "What's his name and MOS again?"

"Snake-Eyes, sir." He had to hold back a smile at the twang in her voice—oh, little redbird did have bite, didn't she. Yeah, she might lack common sense, but he was betting on the balls. "Commando infantry."

"Snake-Eyes, huh?" Beach's eyes narrowed in thought, and he cocked his head. "I knew a man who went by that callsign. Years ago, real quiet. You train in Benning, soldier?"

This time, he glanced down at a hint of motion that wasn't just the spasm of overused arms—found the man's hands moving. Aww, you gotta be kiddin' me… sign language?

Behind him, the mouthy girl replied, "He says 'sir, yes, sir—you were my lane instructor,'" and her voice was quiet, steady.

"You all speak sign around here?" he didn't look at her. This whole not-talking thing could get really old, really fast. On the other hand, he'd never have to tell the man to shut his trap… which was obviously going to be a problem with the redhead.

"Not everyone, sir. Stalker or I translate for him, though."

Wayne studied the man again. Yeah, he remembered a kid named Snake-Eyes. Solid, smart—well-trained was an understatement. Best in all three of his training classes—AIT Infantry, Ranger, Airborne—by a long shot. And I never could get him to flinch.

Maybe Hawk wasn't so crazy.

Though the mute-and-scarred thing was definitely new. Wayne was betting on a pretty damned bad injury in the line of fire. If the push-ups were any indication, he'd also put good money on the fact that they just hadn't been able to get Snake-Eyes to resign his commission after it had happened. Yeah, life was unfair, and sucked, but the man was not a quitter.

Which was good for him. Wayne didn't like jokers, but he hated quitters.

"So that why you two yahoos are here early, huh?" he mused, crossing his arms. "To tell me what's up with him?"

Snake-Eyes nodded. Behind him, he heard a "Yes, sir."

"Huh." Probably would have even been a pretty decent idea—if not for the fact that the one who couldn't talk had gotten there first. "Stop that infernal twitching," he finally bit out.

He didn't believe in rewarding bad planning, either.

Those arms jerked once more from shoulder spasm—then the man closed his eyes, behind the mask, and took a deep breath. To his amazement, Wayne watched relaxation visibly go down Snake-Eyes' shoulders to his biceps, triceps, then down all the way to his fingers, right through the thick olive drab of his jacket.

When Snake Eyes opened his eyes again, the twitching… didn't come back. Wayne felt his eyebrows rise. Felt his eyebrows rise further when Snake-Eyes simply kept looking straight ahead, but there was a twinkle in the blue eyes that he could see right through the mask.

Oh, you so want me to ask, don't you?

Instead, he said over his shoulder, "Girlie—you promised me push-ups."

She didn't ask him 'for what,' or 'how many,' which gave her points with him. He nodded his satisfaction as, out of the corner of his eyes, she flopped right down onto the grass, and got up on her knuckles, just like Snake-Eyes had. Her balance was just as good, even though her arms were puny, and when she went down in her first push—yeah, she had good form, too, and a nice, solid rhythm. None of that sissy on-her-knees shit.

She finished twenty-five fast—and cleaner than he'd ever seen any other woman do it. Including the "Butch Bitches," as his Ranger girls had called themselves.

Then she ruined it by looking up at him, still balanced lightly on the balls of her feet and on her small, bare knuckles, and replied, "My name is Scarlett, sir."

Wayne reached up and pressed on the headache that was starting right in the middle of his forehead. "You just bought yourself fifty more, chickadee."

*_*_*_*

In the end, it wasn't that bad. Yeah, he'd had to kick a couple of asses. Yell in a few faces. Assign a couple hundred push-ups. Or maybe a few thousand.

Yeah, what else was new?

But they weren't in as terrible shape as he'd first thought. There was no denying they were a motley crew—most of them hadn't even bothered to show up to PT in standard gear, and the headache that he'd gotten dealing with the chickadee and the joker had been a full-on migraine by the time he'd had the whole bunch of them all lined up in front of him. He'd put them through their paces anyway.

Wayne had to confess, he'd been pleasantly surprised. They didn't look like much, but they had pluck and discipline under the scruff and messy hair and t-shirts with Metallica on them… and the more he'd yelled, the more he'd seen the determination on their faces. Determination, not fear.

It was… kind of novel..

True, he'd been absolutely dismayed to find out that there weren't one, but three women on the team, each of them, unbelievably, more beautiful than the next. Two of them were Intel—which he'd expected—and one of them, the prettiest of the lot, was Armored Vehicle—which he'd made her repeat twice before he'd actually believed it. But they'd actually kept up. In fact, some of the men had started wilting before the girls even started sweating.

He wasn't of the mind to let the maggots forget it anytime soon, either. What had been their names again…?

Wayne'd see how they did when he started running them through his obstacle courses and training missions, but right now… well, he had to admit that maybe General Hawk hadn't lost quite as many of his marbles as he'd imagined. Of course he wasn't about to argue with a three-star General, but he'd spent the rest of the morning after PT memorizing a map that he'd then carefully destroyed, and walking around anyway. Just to see what the yahoos were up to.

He'd grudgingly admit: the yahoos, long hair, scruffy chins and all, had glanced up at him, called him "Beach Head" with grins on their fool faces, and… they actually looked like they knew their stuff, as they were going around their duties.

Which was why he was double-timing it to the area of the Pit that, on the map, had originally been labelled 'Gymnasium and Hand-To-Hand' until someone had scratched it out and written 'Dojo' over it in a long, looping cursive. He thought it was pretty fair of Hawk: if the rest of the Joes, officers and enlisted alike, had to take PT with him, it was only right he had to do all the other kinds of training everyone had to do. Infantry, driving, flight certification. Sure thing. Nothing like having backup to the backup.

Besides, Hawk had assured him that hand-to-hand was run by two of the best martial artists in the military. Which was fine by him—he wasn't too proud to learn a few new tricks.

Though he did roll his eyes when he got to the door of the gymnasium: Beach Head was surethey weren't supposed to encourage a sense of humor in the military, but some comedian had decided to hang a sign on the doorknob that read, "Ninjas Welcome Here."

Wayne glanced down at his watch—he was a few minutes early, which was fine with him. His instructors would want their chance to size him up, just as much as he wanted his own chance to look them up and down and in the eye. It was a different perspective, being on the learning side, rather than the teaching side.

There'd been a lot of Joes lined up in front of him that morning, but if he had to take his bet, he'd put his money on one of the hand-to-hand instructors being the tall one who'd showed up barefoot and shirtless—Wayne called him Karate Kid in his head, though he was pretty sure that wasn't his code-name. Quick… Flick? No, not that, but something like that. And maybe that honest-to-God Indian brave, complete with braids down the side of his face. Spirit, that was it.

Okay, so maybe this was just all weird.

Wayne blew out a breath and pushed open the door. "Master Sergeant Snee—ah—" he grimaced, shaking his head. That wasn't who he was anymore, was it? Not here. "Beach Head, reporting for—"

Beach Head stopped. Looked at the man wearing a black commando uniform in the front of the room—he had on a balaclava and visor, but there was something very, very, very familiar about the way he was standing, with his shoulders straight, his body balanced right on the balls of his feet. He frowned. The Karate Kid fellow hadn't stood like that, like he was ready to attack. "Do I know you, son?"

"Mmm. I believe you've met," a familiar, soft Georgia accent sounded behind him.

Oh, Hell.

Slowly, Wayne turned.

Behind him was an eye-scorchingly gorgeous redhead with a killer rack, wearing a sleek, body-hugging black bodysuit… and tying on a black belt with more gold stripes on it than Beach Head wanted to think about.

Beach Head muttered. "Blazes. Chickadee. So… not just his interpreter, huh?"

Scarlett smiled, gently. "Now, whatever gave you that idea?"

~fin~

Start: June 10, 2009
End: June 12, 2009


I know a nurse who calls me 'chickadee' in the most adorable Southern accent… it seems like the kind of thing Beach would do just to piss Scarlett off. ^_~