Author's Note: I liiiiive! Yes, I haven't been devoured alive by anything, though you wouldn't know it from the state of my 'fics. There's a reason for this—several, in fact. I graduated from college in early May, and between job-hunting, apartment-hunting, and doing a final edit of my book before it went to the printer's, I've been burned out. With the publication of this little piece, though, I hope to get back into the swing of things.

I have a few projects on the table. The next one to be published isn't, I'm afraid, another chapter of "Order Up." That's been pushed aside by an insane one-shot plotbunny, which will hopefully be published soon under the name of "Masks." (Warning: There Will Be Smut.) It'll be back as soon as possible, but if you want a little more Short Stack in the meantime, you can check out the Twitter account shortstack_92G. It's where all my unused Order Up plotbunnies go to die.

Speaking of Twitter, too, I owe a huge debt of inspiration to willwrite4fics. Not only does she already write a Twitter for her wonderful Li'l Beachie, but she and TinySprite concocted the original "trap Beach with pie" fics. Those go all the way back to her wonderful, wonderful "Joes on Vacation," which is where the shoo-fly pie first made its appearance. Thank you so much, willwrite4fics. And thank you too, TinySprite, for letting me play with your concept. I hope I didn't break it.

Finally, a shoutout to anonymouse Susan, who went a roundabout route to ask me to write more stuff. Thanks, Susan! I'm glad you like my work. :) I made the decision to disallow anonymous reviews because in my experience, people tend to abuse it, but I appreciate you letting me know. If you'd like to leave a review directly, why don't you get an account? I promise that none of us bite.

Disclaimer: G.I. Joe and all associated characters and concepts are property of Hasbro Inc., and I derive no profit from this. The pie trap concept originated with TinySprite and was based on a scenario by willwrite4fics (go read their stuff). Please accept this in the spirit with which it is offered—as a work of respect and love, not an attempt to claim ownership or earn money from this intellectual property.

Acceptable Losses

by Totenkinder Madchen

It's not hard to explain the attraction that juvenile behavior has to hardcore special-ops military men. Life for the G.I. Joe team was, in all fairness, rather like dropping acid in the middle of the "It's a Small World" ride at Disneyland: between the robots, the men in snake costumes, the other man in the metal mask, and the world's most psychotic librarian fetish, their daily lives consisted of so much highly violent bizarrity that they frequently needed to unwind or go completely off the rails. And since drink wasn't allowed on duty, drugs were off the menu for a population composed mainly of health freaks, and violence lost its charm when it became the job you couldn't quit, humor became their main outlet. A few pranks now and then helped the Joes blow off steam, and as long as nobody was incapacitated, the brass generally looked the other way.

Yet oddly enough, it was in the spirit of scientific endeavor that the "trap Sgt. Major Beach Head with pie" pranks got started. A group of greenshirts, hoping to use the principles of operant conditioning to somehow obtain a degree of control over the notoriously uncontrollable Beach Head, had begun baiting box traps with apple pie. The theory went that if they could learn to control Beach, possibly through offers of baked goods, then they could influence his behavior and thereby avoid the worst of the punishment that he rained down on them on a daily basis. What they failed to take into account were two factors: 1) Beach Head really liked pie, and 2) the base contained more than just greenshirts.

This was the reasoning behind the incident when Sgt. Shana O'Hara, alias Scarlett, discovered three ninjas—one of whom happened to be her fiancé—crammed into a broom cupboard with the Martha Stewart Book of Gracious Baking.

"With all due respect, sensei," Kamakura was saying doubtfully as she opened the door, "The sergeant major has consistently fallen for the apple pie. Shouldn't proven methods be—oh, hello, Sgt. Scarlett."

His casual attitude was pure put-on: Scarlett had no doubt that the ninjas had sensed her coming before she had even gotten within ten feet of the door. Normally, it wouldn't have bothered her. Discovering that three of her favorite people in the Pit had decided to chime in on an already frustratingly juvenile set of pranks was, however, straining her patience a little.

"What on earth are you thinking?" she whispered sharply, squeezing into the cupboard and closing the door behind her. There was a rustle in the semidarkness as Snake-Eyes, ever the gentleman and definitely the largest of the four, made room for her by jumping up on the janitor's shelf of cleaning products. "This is a little immature, don't you think? I'd expect pie-baiting from Flint, maybe . . . "

Snake-Eyes snapped his fingers, his usual method of getting everyone's attention. [Training for Kamakura,] he signed. [A ninja must be prepared to use any means possible to outwit his adversary.]

"Besides," Jinx added, "sensei thinks it's funny. Ow!" A bottle of stain remover bounced off her head. "Sorry, sensei."

Scarlett relaxed a little. "That makes sense, I suppose," she said reluctantly. Ninjas using pie to trap Army Rangers? Sure, another day in the Pit. "But why are you plotting in a broom cupboard? I wouldn't be nearly so disappointed if I hadn't been able to find you so easily." There was a moment of silence, then she let out a quiet sigh. "You wanted me to find you, didn't you."

There was an eloquent shrug from the Silent Master. [None of us know anything about pie,] he signed, almost sheepishly. For a ninja to admit not to knowing anything was a rare moment, and Scarlett wished she had a camera. [Especially not the kind of pie Beach Head would like. You're a Southerner. Kamakura is from New York, Jinx was raised in Japan-]

"And you're a Midwestern boy raised on noodle casserole and corn," Scarlett interrupted, grinning a bit. Snake-Eyes didn't say anything, but the shocked looks on his apprentices' faces was enough for her. They hadn't quite learned that only Shana O'Hara had Interrupting the Sensei privileges. "Give me that book. Martha Stewart? Really? Martha Stewart doesn't know a thing about pies. I'll get my momma's recipe book."

The Pit was quiet. Too quiet. Beach Head, ever the consummate professional, was as attuned to the Pit as a bodyguard was to the moods of his principle, and right now the hairs on the back of his neck were telling him that something had changed. People weren't making eye contact—okay, fine, that was normal, especially when he was covered in obstacle-course muck and shouting at everything that moved, but they usually didn't cover their mouths when they failed to look him in the eye. If he didn't know better, he would say that they were grinning. It was downright unnatural. People shouldn't be grinning when he was around.

Another pie trap, was it? It wouldn't surprise him; the last time Flint had been to his office, he couldn't quite restrain a shit-eating grin of his own. Beach Head had promised that he would make Flint regret that before the week was out. Maybe he'd "accidentally" leave his dirtiest balaclava on Flint's desk when he went in to make his report.

His suspicions were confirmed when an unusual smell drew him to the small kitchen on the second residential level. This was the kitchen that people used for small cooking projects, or when the cooks were pissed and had temporarily exiled them from the main chow hall. It usually contained some tea and coffee, Leatherneck's Tom Collins mix, one or two of Wild Bill's country music tapes, and a truly ungodly amount of microwaveable dinners and boxed pasta. It didn't usually contain one (1) shoo-fly pie, still cooling on the counter.

Beach Head knew it was a trap. Beach Head's taste buds, on the other hand, damned the trap to hell and demanded that he go straight for the pie.

Using all the stealth and caution of a five-star Army Ranger, Beach carefully approached the counter. There were no obvious traps: no boxes hanging above the counter, no tripwires strung across the tiles. He knelt down until the pie was level with his nose and eyeballed the counter, daring it to reveal a hidden trigger switch or a taser wired to the pie pan. Nothing. He took a deep breath.

Shoo-fly pie is a dish little known in the northern half of the United States. It consists of a fluffy molasses foam, rather like a souffle, and often topped with a crumbled buttery crust. In its purest form, it's four thousand calories' worth of uninhibited sugary indulgence.

Beach Head was a lot of things. A soldier, a survivor, an honorable man who would rather gnaw off his own arm than leave a man behind. But when he inhaled, the scent of that shoo-fly pie reached deep into his brain, grabbed the residual Southernness that had taken root during Wayne Sneeden's Alabama childhood, and yanked. Hard.

Traps be damned. Thirty seconds later, Beach Head was double-timing it along the corridor to his room, clutching his precious molasses-laden prize and just daring anybody to try and stop him. Flint saw him coming and opened his mouth to ask about some AWOL requisition forms, but he caught one glimpse of Beach's steely glare and closed his mouth again. There are some things that Man was not meant to meddle with, and a Beach Head protecting his shoo-fly pie was about ten of them.

Priceless cargo in hand, Beach jammed open the door to his room and pelted inside. So focused was he on getting the pie to safety that he neglected to notice the industrial-strength half-crate suspended from the ceiling.

There was a thunderous crash. Then silence.

And then, as the dust cleared, the sounds of chewing.

It would take fifteen greenshirts with crowbars to extract the sergeant major from the heavily-weighted box trap. Half of them fled in terror before the final board was pried off, certain that they were going to be murdered in a gruesome fashion involving rope climbs and wire crawls. Indeed, their theories seemed borne out when the first greenshirt—a brave but foolhardy fellow with the temporary name of Sonic the Hedgerat—was grabbed by a meaty fist that emerged from the first gap in the crate.

Sonic cringed as his life flashed before his eyes. There was a moment of tense silence as the greenies wondered who was going to die first. Then, from the depths of the crate, a deep voice emerged.

"Round up every sonofabitch on this base who can cook. I want seconds."