Yes, I know.. finished.. but I forgot to put the epilogue in, so here it is! I'm so glad everyone liked the story, and hope to post something else soon!
* * * *
Approximately one week later:
BeachHead settled deeper into the armchair in the rec room of the Pit's lower levels. Even though it had been rare for the Sergeant major to appear in the rec room other than looking for someone to gripe at them, in the last week, he'd cautiously slunk into the room to find himself a corner at least twice. Although everyone was curious, most of the Joes left him to himself.
The first two evenings, he'd brought in a technical manual and read through it, marking passages he needed for a report later on. LadyJaye had approached the second night to ask what he was reading. After he told her in the least amount of words possible, she had hummed at him slightly and gone back to the catalogs on the coffeetable that she and Scarlett were rummaging through. CoverGirl came in to join them and other than a quick interested glance at the Ranger in his corner, she hadn't bothered to approach him at all.
Now the third time, BeachHead had brought his ball of yarn and knitting needles in, thinking that he might be able to relax for a while knitting before he hit the bed. He was unaware that his repeated appearances after-hours was driving everyone mad with curiosity. Tonight his corner was empty again and he took the beat up armchair that had been shoved into an awkward part of the room, and thus was rarely ever occupied by anyone wanting anything more social than a spot to read by themselves. Perfect for him but shunned by most of the Joes who came to the rec room to socialize.
Once he had the knitting laid out over his lap, the ball of yarn tucked in a corner by his leg, Beach settled in to casting on more stitches, carefully keeping track of the count. He already had over a foot of scarf done and was rather proud of how neat and even it was looking.
"What are you DOING?" Shipwreck bent over the arm of his chair, staring at the project. He reached to grab at the strand of yarn. "Beach is crocheting!! Har har!"
Smacking his hand aside, BeachHead snapped at him. "Knittin'.. not crochetin' ya ignoramous. What's wrong with knittin' anyway?" LadyJaye was already headed over, a bright curious look on her face as she came to look as well. "Heck. Sailors used to all knit on board ships. Ain't no big thing." He slid down in the chair a bit more.
Shipwreck grinned larger. "Yeah maybe... but purple yarn? Watcha knitting? A purple balaclava? Trying to get in touch with your feminine side Beach?" He caught an elbow in the ribs from LadyJaye.
She pushed him aside to look at the knitting herself. "Shut up 'Wreck. I think it's cool. I want to learn how to do it too. Just because your big clumsy hands can't manage knitting needles, no reason to start dissing it."
Shipwreck rubbed at his ribs. "Alright alright! I could knit if I wanted to. I just ain't got any pressing need to make a binkie."
The Ranger scowled at him, making him back up out of range. "It's not a 'binkie', it's a scarf. It's my first project so that's what I'm makin'. Why don't ya drop it a'fore I gotta get up outa this chair? Cause I'm tellin' ya right now.. if'n I gotta get up, I'll kick yer butt once fer making fun a me about knittin' and once fer makin' me get up."
Shipwreck held up his hands. "Sorry.. geez.. don't get all bent out of shape over it. You want to knit, you can knit all you want to."
LadyJaye snorted at him. "Yeah.. you couldn't knit with a instruction booklet and a tutor. You should be a knitter, don't sailors have to deal with nets? Isn't a net the same thing? So shut up!"
Dusty raised his head up in interest. "My gramma used to knit sweaters.. right out of a ball of yarn. It was the coolest thing I ever saw as a kid. It's like things just grow out of yarn right there in your hands."
BeachHead scoffed at them. "Geez.. it's just knitting. It's structured tangling of string on sticks. Ya'll act like it's rocket science."
Mainframe's voice piped up from the rickety cardtable in the corner where he was playing dominoes with Dusty. "Rocket science is easy... knitting is hard."
Draped across the arm of the couch watching an old movie, Scarlett twisted to put in her own commentary. "SnakeEyes says knitting is really hard to keep straight."
The Ranger lifted his face and paused in the stitches. "You heard from him yet?" The commando had been sent out the morning after they'd returned, just as they predicted. She shook her head but didn't seem disturbed by it so he returned his attention to the yarn, working it from one needle to the other methodically.
"Mail call..." The cart and the magic words of 'mail call' served to snatch the interest of everyone. There was good natured jostling as the letters and packages were handed out. BeachHead, as always, never bothered to get up. He and SnakeEyes were nearly the only Joes who consistently never got mail. He knew now that Scarlett's family included him in her packages, but he still never received items himself, any more than Beach did. He continued with his knitting, finishing a row and swapping the needles again to begin the next row.
"BeachHead?" He tilted his head to listen without looking. "Sergeant major BeachHead?"
"Yeah?" He glanced to see who was talking to him. The mailroom attendant held out a envelope. "Me?"
"Yes Sergeant major.. "
Beach looked at the outstretched white envelope for a few seconds before he reached out to take it hesitantly. "Thanks." He peered at the thin paper.
Scarlett walked past and paused to lean over smiling at him. "It's a 'letter' Beach. If you open the outer paper shell.. it'll have writing on the inside bits that you can read."
His gaze narrowed. "Yer chappin' my ass, Scarlett... see how many laps ya get to run tomorrow mornin'." He looked at the envelope again and then finally tucked it away without opening it.
* * * *
Late in the evening, BeachHead strode quickly down the hallways to his office. He'd tucked his knitting project away.. after CoverGirl had come to admire both his previously unknown ability to knit and also the soft woolen yarn he was using. He mused over the idea that when he finished the scarf he could give it to her. He wasn't certain if it was a good idea though, what if she thought it was stupid.. or that it meant something more than that he thought she'd like a purple scarf?
Seating himself at his desk, he pulled out the heap of papers sitting in his 'INBOX' and sorted them out quickly. He was on night shift in an hour and had a bit of time to finish up paperwork and such first. Once he had the important forms in front of him, he filled them out quickly with a neat hand.
Setting them aside, he pulled out the unopened letter and turned it over in his hands a few times, just looking at it. Setting it on the desk, he thought back to when he used to get letters from his sister. The anticipation of it, wondering what she'd written to him about.. good news, bad news, silly stuff that didn't make any sense to him... It didn't really matter what she had written him, he just always felt like she cared enough to sit down and write a letter just for him.
Looking at this new unopened letter, he wondered what was in it. It wasn't that he didn't want to read it.. more like thinking about how good a piece of pie was going to taste, before you actually tucked in and ate it.
Finally he slid letter opener out and slit the envelope open. A puff of breath into it and he tipped a folded letter out. Aunt Beth's neat cursive writing covered the page and he glanced over it before settling in to read.
I hope your drive back to base went well and that you didn't try to drive all the way back in one run. I know you were anxious to get back though, so I'll be betting that you did indeed rush the trip by driving all the way without stopping. Where you get your energy from, I'll never understand!
I enjoyed your visit so much and I hope that you will reconsider about christmas. Won't your friend Granite(I think that was his name?) take your shift? I know the kids would love to see you again. Kevin asked if 'his Army friend' went back home and if you went off to war. His dad watches a lot of war movies and I think he's afraid you go and do things like running into battles with guns and it worries him.
Have you talked to that lady friend of yours? If you haven't then you should right away! Jack and Seth both said they want to see a picture of her, because apparently they think she must be very pretty.
My hens have finally started to lay properly. I went out and gave them a talking to about not laying. I can make chicken and dumplings with any that don't want to lay eggs, after all! The two nannies are about to kid any day now. Hopefully they'll both have twin girls, that would be perfect! The whole silly flock of ducks got out of their pen somehow and I spent most of a day rounding them up from the neighbor's pond. The hole in the fencing is fixed now, which is good, because I don't think I'd like rounding them up again! That's too much work.
I found more of the purple yarn that I gave you so if you run out, I can send it so you can finish the scarf. You still are knitting, right? I haven't found the blue yarn for SnakeEyes' sweater but it's here somewhere. I'll have to trip over it before I find it, I guess.
Nancy just called and when she heard I was writing to you, she said to tell you that she hasn't forgotten your box of cookies, but her oven decided to stop working. She's trying to get a new fancy one with all sort of gadgets and geegaws. Bobby is trying to convince her that a regular oven is good enough. Once he gives in and gets her the fancy one, she'll bake up your cookies, no fear.
June called(well, her mother called and let June talk to me, of course)and she was chatting about school and how she told her teacher about 'Uncle BeachHead' and how you ran for ten miles every morning. She won a fitness award and got a ribbon for it and she's very proud of herself and said she was going to write you a letter to tell you all about it.
Well I hope that you are doing okay out there and staying busy. Are your recruits all behaving and doing well? I know you are a good trainer and will teach them all they need to know.
I'm thinking about you and hoping you are well,
BeachHead sighed and reread the letter again, just to savor the fact that he got a letter. Aunt Beth certainly had a lot of things to say. He looked it over and then checked the time. He supposed he should write a reply to her. It was polite and if he didn't write her a letter back then she might think he didn't get the letter she sent him.
Pulling out one of his writing pads, he ripped the top two sheets off, finding a clear unused sheet finally. Tapping a pen on the paper a few times, he thought about it. Finally he nudged the letter over to look at it as he wrote.
Dear Aunt Beth,
Got home fine. All is well here. Thanks for the letter.
He gazed at the short note and twisted his lip a bit thinking it over. Finally he wadded it up and tossed it into the trash and got a fresh sheet of paper.
Dear Aunt Beth,
I got your letter. The drive back went fine. I think you meant Flint instead of 'granite', although he is a bit of a rock-head. He isn't kindly disposed towards me at the best of times. But even so, he is going off base so I have to stay here and run things. Otherwise, there could be a repeat of the prank war that happened three years ago, no one wants that, trust me. Cleaning four hundred pounds of peanut butter out of a hummer is no fun.
Tell Kevin I'm fine. I can't say a whole lot more than that. I had dinner with my 'lady friend' in the messhall but she put salt in the sugar again for my tea so I don't know if she's mad at me or not. Women are confusing.. no offense to you. Do you think I should give her the scarf when it's done? I don't know if that's a good idea or not.
If those chickens don't lay eggs then I'd eat them too. I think you should just eat the ducks too. Can you make ducks and dumplings? I don't understand why you have babysitters? And two of them? But they are pregnant? Don't nannys take care of kids? I still have a lot of yarn, the ball is still almost as big as my fist. Some of my teammates tried to tease me about knitting but I set them straight pretty quick. There wasn't much bloodshed but our medic yelled at me anyway. It wasn't like I tried to aim the guy at the coffeetable after all.
I agree with Bobby, a plain old oven should be just fine. No need to fancy up something that you just need to bake cookies in. I'm not surprised that June won an award, she's one tough little girl. She could show up some of these whiny recruits I have this time. They start whining and falling out if I push them past ten miles in full gear. I'll whip them into shape quick though.
Well, I'm about to go on duty so I hope this letter is long enough. I don't think I've ever written so much that wasn't explaining about a lost armored vehicle in a official report. Thanks a lot for writing to me. I really enjoyed getting your letter.
He folded the letter up and tucked it into a envelope. Tossing it into his outbox he put away the paper and pen. Opening up the top drawer, he placed the letter inside carefully to re-read it again later on. Reaching in, he pulled out the little battered up army man toy and looked it over. It was just as battered as when Kevin had given it to him, declaring it to be 'just like you!' because of the scarring. Settling it onto the corner of his desk next to the phone, he looked at it for a while. "Keep 'em all safe.. bring 'em all home."
Suddenly he shook his head and stood up. "Time fer work." Pulling out his balaclava, he tugged it on over his face, obscuring his features. His earpiece was clicked on and he tapped an open comm line just at the clock ticked over on the hour.
"Sergeant major BeachHead on duty.. gimme a sit-rep report." Striding down the hallways, he headed off to take over the shift command. The time for letters and kindly people and leave was past... the time for work and duty was now.
* * * *
Thank you all so much for reading, thank you to the reviewers who have helped me so much! Any comments or questions, feel free to review or message me!