FINAL CHAPTER!! Yes, I'm sorry, but this will be the finish. It's been a fun ride!
For those that asked about the harshness of the punishments, remember that he STILL did drink, run amok, and call the officer on duty names, PLUS assaulted civilians, PLUS assaulted four Joes(one of them an officer). He would have to have severe punishment as an example if nothing else, or other Joes(cough-Ship, Clutch, etc-cough) might try to claim their own poor behavior after over-indulging was due to being slipped a mickey as well.
As far as the harshness.. it's not so bad, menial labor. By all rights he should have been busted in rank, or even discharged. Plus, everyone involved should be guilty enough over their part in it to not slip any drugs to any other unsuspecting Joes. Lessons learned all the way around. So now we know... and Knowing Is Half the Battle!
* * * *
BeachHead stared down the hallway at the office door. He twisted his lips in distaste, thinking up about fifty excuses why he shouldn't go down to that door. He'd already used up half a dozen during the day so far. He even walked past the door twice. He took two steps towards it and stopped, feeling foolish.
"Aww.. hell." He strode down the hallway with his head down and pushed the door open. "Flint.. you got a minute?"
The warrant officer looked up from a file he'd been working on. "That depends.. will I get head-butted if I say no?"
"Geez.. you ain't gonna make this easy, are ya?" Beach sighed. "I'm sorry I head-butted ya. Frankly I'm surprised ya let me, cause yer not normally that careless."
"Yeah.. careless to trust my command sergeant major to not try to knock me out without warning. Foolish me." Flint's eyes narrowed. "I didn't expect that I couldn't trust you to go into town and not get roaring drunk and run amok all over town."
BeachHead huffed out an exasperated breath. "I know I know. Wasn't all my fault.."
Flint interrupted. "Oh.. yess.. blame me for sending you out. That's real mature. You're supposed to be on call at all times if you're on base, so don't stand there and try to blame me for sending you out.."
The Sergeant major snorted loudly. "Good gawd, shut up." He looked up at the ceiling before he continued. "I ain't blamin' you. Some smartbutt slipped me a mickey at the bar when I went to pick them up. That's what made me drunk to begin with, and then it went downhill. I was drugged.. not that it excuses everything I done.. but dang it.. I didn't go into town and suddenly decide to throw my whole danged career down the tubes for a few drinks."
"Well.. you.. they.." Flint was stymied as to how to respond. "I still want an apology!"
BeachHead reached up and pulled the balaclava off and ran a hand through his unruly hair. "Fine. I'm sorry." Flint snorted and Beach looked away and threw his hands up. "What do ya want? I'm sorry I acted the fool, there's a reason I don't ever drink. I'm sorry I called ya names over the comm line and I'm sorry I head-butted ya." He sighed at the sour look the shorter man gave him. "What do you want from me? You want me on my danged knees in front of the whole Pit?"
Flint gave him a disbelieving look. "You would do that?"
The warrant officer sighed. "Well.. I wouldn't let you do it even if you were offering. It would undermine your authority, and the last thing I need is to spend any extra time backing you up with the Joes or greens." He sat there a second. "There is the whole issue with you feeling up my.. uhh.. I mean.. harassing LadyJaye."
BeachHead felt the blush spread up his neck and looked at the edge of the desk. "Naw.. there isn't any issue. I done gone and gotten chewed out by her, thanks. And I didn't feel her up.. I was handcuffed fer gawd's sake."
Flint stared at him somberly. "You licked her."
Looking appalled, the Ranger stammered a bit. "Oh.. y-you... uhhh... talked to her about it." Beach sighed. "So.. you wanna punch me in the eye or something?" Flint stared at him. "I'll let ya. I deserve it, and if it'll make ya feel better to take a poke at me, go ahead and do it."
Heaving a sigh, Flint put his elbows up on his desk. "Well.. now I really can't. If you're going to go being all noble and offering to let me punch you.. it sort of takes all of the fun out of it. As far as the rest.. what kind of punishment detail did Duke assign you?"
BeachHead tilted his head back and rattled off the list. "Kitchen duty four days a week, cleaning duty three days a week, guard duty three days a week, and I can't go near the outer gates, including on guard duty, so my guard schedule will be indoor stations. No reduction in rank, I'm on probation for.... forever. And my pay is docked to pay for everything." He thought for a second. "Aside from havin' to apologize to everyone involved.. I think that's it."
Flint hummed. "I guess that's enough. I don't imagine that assigning you extra PT duty would work very well, now would it?" Beach grinned. "Yeah.. didn't think so. Just to let you know though.. I better not see you ever look at Jaye.." He saw him wince visibly. "What? What was that?"
"Trust me.. I ain't gonna be able to look at her for a while." BeachHead sighed. "We good? I don't wanna have no long drawn out war with you over this."
Flint scowled. "Like you're really upset that you spent the entire night calling me names and telling me off in front of half of the night shift?"
Now the sergeant shifted uncomfortably. "Look Flint.. sir. You and me, we butt heads. Ain't no doubt about that, and we'll keep buttin' heads. But you can't say that I ever done nothing to undermine yer authority with the troops. I've always respected the station, if not the person. So don't go saying I would've gone and done all this sober."
"Alright. Fair enough. Don't think I'm not going to enjoy every moment of your punishment.. because I am. Every second. Every nanosecond. I might make copies of the security tapes of you mopping the floors." Flint smirked as Beach tugged his balaclava back on over his head.
He turned his back on the warrant officer and opened up the door. At the last second he turned and glanced back at him. "Oh... since you mentioned it.. I got copies of all the communications from last night.. jus' so you know. For posterity.. let's say. If I gotta get punished for doin' it, I might as well know what all I said."
Flint scowled as the door clicked shut quietly behind the broad back. Somehow even though BeachHead was going to have months of punishment details, and humiliating punishment too.. somehow he felt like he'd been cheated out of coming out on top in the conflict between the two of them. Again.
* * * *
BeachHead felt his eyelid twitch and forced himself to remain calm. Mopping floors wasn't that bad. Even scrubbing tiles with a hand brush wasn't too humiliating. After all, he never minded getting dirty to contribute to the base cleanliness. He'd happily scrub toilets as part of his probation. And had. He sighed.
After he ran PT sessions in the morning, he would spend two full hours scrubbing floors, whether it was mopping or on his hands and knees scrubbing the grout with a small brush. Back-breaking work that he'd happily assigned to many a miscreant that had crossed him. The other Joe's seemed mostly delighted to find the feared Sergeant major on cleaning detail, and Ripcord seemed intent on walking on every floor he mopped just when he was one foot away from finishing it. The fourth time he'd watched the paratrooper stroll across his newly mopped floors while smirking, he'd 'accidentally' swung the mop head into Ripcord's ankle and tripped him headfirst into his bucket of dirty mopwater. The resulting mess took him thirty minutes to clean up, but he'd smiled the entire time. Ripcord had taken the hint, and made himself scarce.
The greenshirts were torn between being horrified their instructor had been assigned to grunt duty, and delighted that they couldn't be held responsible. Of course, Mouth had landed in hot water with Duke over something or other. The young man ended up spending a great deal of time working somewhere nearby BeachHead.. doing a similar job separately. He seemed to be pretty ashamed of his actions in getting himself drunk and rowdy while out the other night, as he kept his head low and stayed quiet, even during PT and training. Beach wondered what he'd done to ticc off Duke so badly, other than getting so drunk. After all, he'd only gotten drunk off-duty, when it should be more or less allowable, and as far as Beach knew, he hadn't started any fights or done any amount of damage to the bar. Duke just glared when Beach asked, and then gave him an additional week of guard duty when he'd insisted he had a right to know what HIS greenshirt had done to merit punishment. Wisely, the sergeant major had dropped the issue.
Flint had delighted in happening along every time he was busy scrubbing bathrooms, mopping floors, or wiping down the five hundred and seventeen doors that had smooth finish paint that showed fingerprints... again. He wandered through the meal line in the messhall every time Beach was on the serving line dishing out food, and inspected the kitchen every time he was sitting and peeling ANOTHER five hundred potatoes.
Shipwreck and Footloose were often in the kitchen on KP duty as well, although they were usually on the cooking line, being able to actually make edible food without destroying the kitchen in the process. Shipwreck had backed BeachHead up when he'd warned Chef about himself.. but thoroughly enjoyed the resulting mess and had often been heard regaling the other Joes with the story of how Beach's level of sheer ineptitude had managed to make Chef bang his head on the counter in frustration.
KP duty wasn't something he enjoyed per se.. but he didn't particularly mind it. After the new head cook, 'Chef' had gone through every single one of the cooking duties for lunch, and found out that BeachHead could indeed screw up making a peanut butter sandwich if left to his own devices, he'd been put on pot scrubbing and potato peeling detail.. like he'd told the guy in the first place. He had been explicit in his warning that he had NO food talents, including not being able to beat eggs properly, and that he'd once burned water attempting to boil noodles for Roadblock, UNDER CLOSE SUPERVISION.
But Chef didn't think anyone could be THAT bad, so had immediately put him to searing beef. He'd been moved to boiling carrots when the beef had begun to stick to the griddle surface and turn purplish in color. He'd had the pot of carrots taken away when those turned gray and started to foam their way out of the pot, and been handed a pitcher of batter to make hushpuppies in the deep fryer. He didn't really want to think about the disaster THAT had turned into. Suffice it to say that he'd be cleaning out the oven's vent hood after the dinner services were done and Lifeline needed some practice treating grease burns anyway. Once he'd managed to make a rather large container of wallpaper paste, he'd been removed from pasta duty and put to scrubbing the pots and pans.
Mouthing off to the secondary cook had sent him away from the sinks and landed him in the corner of the kitchen with a paring knife and several fifty pound bags of potatoes. In his mind, they could have saved a lot of time, food, and aggravation had they listened to him in the first place and put him here to begin with. Of course, he was on KP punishment detail, so he had to do whatever Chef as the head cook told him to do, no matter how much of a certain disaster it was doomed to be.
No, he'd happily spend hours out of every one of his busy days cleaning, scrubbing floors, cleaning toilets, peeling potatoes or scrubbing greasy pots.. anything.. as long as it wasn't guard duty. Not that he minded gate guard duty.. at least he could check people in and out, inspect vehicles entering, watch vultures circling in the desert.. watch the feeble bits of grass growing even.
But no.. Hawk had specifically forbidden him to have any guard duty on the fenceline, or anywhere up top where he could be spotted by a civilian. He understood why. Right now, the townspeople couldn't finger the man who'd caused such a huge amount of disturbance and damage. As far as they could prove, it wasn't even a member of the military. They just didn't have much proof of anything, other than the bartender, who didn't have much concrete identification, but at least could have been reasonably certain he came from the nearby base, since he'd arrived to pick up the group of soldiers. As long as he stayed out of sight, then no one would recognize him, and memories would fade, the incident would be forgotten and life would go on.
But standing guard on a doorway in a blank hallway in the bowels of the Pit.. on a door no one wanted to enter anyway, as it was just the entrance to the computer servers... it was so mind-numbingly boring and useless that he was ready to scream and tear someone's throat out. But it was a punishment detail. It wasn't supposed to be fun. His eyelid twitched again and he willed himself to stillness once more. He'd stand here for four excruciating hours.. three times a week. Didn't matter whether it was morning or evening, since there were no windows or even a clock to look at. The lighting was fairly dim, due to the unused nature of the area. Sure, the servers would be something that an intruder would want to get at... once they made it down eight levels filled with security and Joes and cameras... He sighed heavily and twisted his neck to pop it and settled back into place.
He felt Mouth looking at him. He decided to ignore it. The greenshirt had been assigned as the second guard on the door somehow and had to stand there about five feet away for the same four long hours. For some reason unknown to him, the danged greenshirt looked guilty every single shift they served on the stupid doorway. They didn't talk, just stood there. The one time Mouth had started to drum up a conversation, BeachHead ignored him until finally turning and informed him that guarding didn't mean getting distracted by idle chatter. It wasn't so much that BeachHead really thought that two guards standing at a useless post where you'd see someone coming with enough time to finish a hand of cards, get your battle armor fastened, load your weapons and stand up BEFORE the guy would finish running up the long empty corridor to get to you.. couldn't talk to pass the time. But he really didn't feel like chatting with one of his greenshirts, especially not while he was on punishment duty with the kid.
There he went again, staring at him. He turned his head to glare and Mouth snapped back to proper attention, face forward, back straight and arms down. He settled back into his own guard stance and tried not to fall asleep standing up. He'd happily sit next to a little used trail in the hellish Amazon jungle for twenty-four hours to catch a possible terrorist.. bugs eating him alive, sweating until he approached dehydration, flirting with heat exhaustion.. anything but this boring standing and doing NOTHING.
Something seemed to flicker down the hallway and he glanced to look. Nothing. The same nothing as the previous five thousand hours of nothing. He was going mad listening to the fluorescent lights humming at this point. He caught himself counting how many breaths per minute Mouth took and figured out how many breaths the man would miss in the time it would take him to strangle him to death if he used a garrote versus his bare hands. Wire garrotes were the best, he liked this braided wire, normally used for hanging picture frames of all things..
He turned his head to stare down the hallway again. Maybe he was beginning to see things. His gaze flicked to Mouth for an instant, but he didn't seem to have seen anything. After he carefully searched every inch of the hallway visually, he unfocused his gaze and relaxed his brain, letting it idle and immediately fastened on a certain spot on the ceiling next to the exposed conduit pipes. The shape that stood out suddenly to him didn't look like anything, much less a person.. but it hadn't been there earlier.
Keeping his eyes fixed on the shape, he unslung his rifle and headed down the hallway. "Stay put.. guard the door!" When he saw the shape move he broke into a full out run, aiming the rifle and yelling. "Get down from there! Hands where I can see 'em! NOW NOW!!" He triggered his comm unit and alerted Breaker of the intruder just as the shape twisted into a person and dropped to the corridor in a kneeling position. "DANG IT!!! Kamakura!! I oughta put a danged bullet in ya fer being STUPID!"
Beach looked up the hall at Mouth who at least had followed procedure and stayed on post, watching both the opposite end of the hall and BeachHead's intruder, rifle held at the ready. "Stand down, it's friendly." He kicked Kamakura in the side lightly with one boot. "Get yerself up, stupid sneaking spook trainee. I should put a bullet in Snakes.. he sent you down here as a test didn't he? Using me to train his danged apprentices again..." A sudden thought occurred to him and he twisted and yelled at Mouth. "WATCH FER JINX!! Where there's one.."
The second smaller shape dropped off the ceiling right over his head and landed lightly on his rifle with both feet. He held onto it by sheer willpower as the slightly built girl crouched in front of his face. "Get. Off. Mah. Rifle." She flipped backwards and landed on the balls of her feet. "Very funny, you little show-off. You ain't gettin' full points fer sneakin'. I knew you were somewhere nearby."
"No, you GUESSED correctly that I was somewhere nearby, and I didn't fancy having Duke all angry when your trigger happy greenshirt over there put a couple bullets through the power line conduits when he thought he spotted the boogeyman." He narrowed his eyes and she shrank just enough that he could tell. "Sorry Sergeant major, we were training, Sergeant major."
"I'm puttin' ya on report.. both of ya. And.. I'm tellin' Snakes I caught ya in sneaky mode. Let him deal with some punishments fer ya both." Since they both looked rather crestfallen at the idea of their sensei hearing how they'd been spotted, he felt a bit more satisfied. "Go on.. git." He walked back up to the doorway, slinging his rifle back over his shoulder and carefully stationing himself back in place to settle to stillness.
Mouth was already in position again and glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. "Well... that was exciting."
"Yes, Sergeant major."
BeachHead sighed and felt his eyelid twitch again. Only three more hours to go for today. If he ever found out who'd decided to slip him a mickey and get him into this mess to begin with.. his fists clenched and a grin spread over his face under the balaclava. He spent the next few hours contemplating everything he'd do to them. Mouth heard the occasional low growl rumble in the other man's chest and inched slightly further away. Any desire to confess his guilt to the Sergeant major and clear his conscience died on his tongue. After all, he wanted to live.
* * * *
END FINIS DONE.
I hope you've all enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. It really was a great fic to write, and yes, if I didn't DO most of the things Beach did, I've WITNESSED most of them done by others. Especially the whole "arguing with inanimate objects" which I've done, and with a quick poll of people that I know drink, the results were 17 of 18 admitted to having an argument with an inanimate object while drunk. The one person who said they did not remember ever doing so, admitted that he often has those arguments while stone cold sober.
I'll be writing something new soon, and yes, still working on the other fics in progress, I haven't forgotten! If you have any comments or questions, feel free to review or PM me. As always.. THANK YOU for reading! Thanks to all the great reviewers who told me how much they enjoyed it! *BOWS*