Just a note…I like spicy food. I've won money by eating Jalapeno peppers straight, seeds and all. Fill a Jalapeno pepper with pepperjack cheese, beer batter that little sonovabitch, deep fry it, serve it with Ranch dressing, and you've got my absolute favorite appetizer EVER.

However, ghost peppers, which are about the size of a large cherry, can be 400 times hotter than Jalapenos. And yes, that has the proper number of zeros. They're tiny atomic bombs of digestive system pain. And yes, they burn ALL the way through. They're Satan in innocently tiny, pretty, glossy red little pepper form. You have to wear a breathing mask, goggles, and gloves to prepare them…and you probably will want to wear two pairs of gloves, because they can burn through latex, and they can severely irritate skin. Also, if you get some ghost pepper juice on your hands and then later accidentally touch your eyes or nose, you are going to end up seeking medical care for the acute burning pain and swelling of irritated mucus membranes.

I fear ghost peppers. Some people eat them to prove how tough they are. Some people eat them because they like having their face melted. These people are legally insane.

BeachHead making himself boiled peanuts was inspired by Willwrite4fics. I didn't even KNOW about boiled peanuts until she mentioned them…I looked them up, and they must be a southern thing. I tried them out of curiosity. They are soggy and nasty. Maybe I think this because I'm a northern girl.

Eating live baby octopus (with beaks removed) is considered both a culinary treat and a show of physical and mental toughness in Japan. I really want to try it sometime. I like dead, cooked octopus, after all...

Anyway, on to the Gumbo Incident.

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"You let Roadblock cook." Gung Ho folded his arms across his chest.

"He's Roadblock." The head cook didn't look convinced. "He's got a piece of paper on his wall that says he can cook better than I can. Plus, it makes the troops happy."

"And you let Beach boil peanuts."

A snort. "You want to try and stop him?"

"I don't wanna take over the whole kitchen…I just wanna make up some of my mam's gumbo." Gung Ho scowled. "She just harvested her garden, and sent me some hot peppers. Been a long time since I got proper gumbo. And the kitchens downstairs don't have pots big enough."

The head cook sighed. Damn stubborn soldiers; didn't know to leave well enough alone and stay out of his domain. "Fine. Whatever. Don't burn my kitchen down."

The marine looked mildly insulted. "I ain't never set a kitchen on fire in my life. Ain't about to start now."

"Well, just in case, fire extinguisher is over there." The cook pointed. "And you wash your own dishes, or you're getting oatmeal three times a day for a week."

Gung Ho winced. "Now, that's just cruel."

"Just fair warning."

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Roadblock was often suspected of having what some members of the team referred to as 'chef-senses'. These allegedly let him know, instantaneously, whenever an unapproved trespasser set foot in the kitchen, and whenever a particularly questionable concoction was under construction.

The argument when Snow Job had attempted to make a BLT sandwich using rare steaks instead of bread was a good example of this. Roadblock had happened to turn up midway through construction of the abomination, (while, actually, Snow Job had been liberally spreading mayo on top-cut sirloin) and had quickly let everyone within earshot know exactly what he thought about it. Even though Beachhead, Recondo, Stalker, Dusty, Wild Bill, and Clutch had all hopefully requested copies of the construction and there had been a petition to have SBLT's (sirloin bacon lettuce tomato) added to the regular menu, Roadblock had held firm. It was the principle of the thing.

The only truth to his culinary super senses, however, were a highly sensitive nose and taste buds. Roadblock could ascertain exactly what spices were in a dish from across the room, and when he wandered into the kitchens late one afternoon purely to chat with the cooks, he sniffed, nodded infinitesimally, and made a beeline for Gung Ho, who was staring intently at the contents of a large saucepan.

"Hey." Gung Ho said cheerfully. "Sup, 'Block?"

"Gumbo?" Roadblock sniffed again, and nodded once more in approval. Spicy, but not overly so; just enough to keep the taste buds on their toes. "Looking good…didn't know you could cook."

"My mam taught me." The Marine grinned. "She makes the best gumbo in Louisiana. This ain't done yet, though. Needs mam's special."

Always one to want to learn a new spice or recipe, Roadblock cocked his head. "Family secret?"

"Nah. Only secret is how she grows 'em." Gung Ho grinned again, and pointed to a Tupperware container sitting on the counter. "Mam grows em hotter than anyone else alive."

Roadblock looked. He felt his eyes go wide. "Gung Ho…are those…"

"Ghost peppers." Gung Ho said happily. "Batch this size'll take all twelve."

Roadblock felt the blood drain from his face. "All twelve? For…" He glanced at the kettle. "Twelve quarts?"

"Yep."

"That ain't gumbo, man. That's industrial solvent. One would be almost acceptable. Twelve is suicide."

All that got was a snort. "I understand you're the chef an' all, but if you ain't tough enough to take it, ain't my problem. Mam's gumbo separates the men from the boys…that's what da always said."

"You put a dozen ghost peppers in that pot and all you'll be doing is separating Doc from his entire stock of clinical-strength antacid."

Gung Ho shrugged. "If no one else wants any, I'll eat it all."

Roadblock sputtered. "Those things eat though rubber gloves! And you'd eat twelve?"

"Well, over two or three days, but yeah." Gung Ho shrugged. "Gut of steel…don't bother me any."

Roadblock threw up his hands. "That's it. You ain't human, man. I wash my hands of this. I'm going to warn the team."

"Course I ain't human." Gung Ho's grin widened even more. "I'm a Marine."

"You're suicidal." Roadblock spun on his heel, stomped over to one of the prep tables, and glowered at the man chopping carrots until he relinquished knife and veggies. "That ain't cooking…that's sadism and masochism, right there."

"Not my fault if you can't take it." Gung Ho was still grinning. "I'll admit, it ain't for those with the stomach of a six-year old girl…you'd better steer clear, 'Block."

Roadblock just growled softly to himself.

By the time dinner finally rolled around, there was a certain amount of anticipation amongst certain individuals on the team with a slightly challenged sense of common sense and an overabundance of testosterone. So, pretty much two-thirds of the team.

Roadblock had been quite vociferous in warning anyone who would listen not to accept anything Gung Ho offered them. The words 'nuclear' and 'caustic' had been used. This, much to Roadblock's dismay, seemed purely to interest more of the team than it warned off.

So, the current situation. After the first fifteen requests, the cooks had reluctantly lugged out the rest of the pot (Gung Ho had already retreated to a table with a bowl big enough to feed a small third-world family for a week, and was tucking in happily, apparently immune to the scorching heat) and were distributing bowls to whoever asked.

Roadblock was sitting near enough to the lunch line to watch, and watch he was. And, Death By Gumbo notwithstanding, it was actually pretty entertaining.

The Joe team were good at withstanding pain. They'd never have made the team if they weren't; Beachhead made sure that anyone with a lower than Terminator pain threshold washed out pretty quick.

And speak of the devil...

Block watched curiously as a head of glossy blonde hair and a really spectacular ass paused in front of the gumbo suicide station. A hulking man wearing a tac vest and a balaclava sidled up beside the ex-model.

"Kreiger, ah wouldn't...ghost chilies ain't for everyone."

Covergirl glanced sideways, her eyebrows arched challengingly. "What? You afraid that I can out-man you? I've drunk Tabasco sauce straight, ranger man. Fifty bucks says that I can down more of that stuff than you can."

A snort. "Ah've eaten raw wild boar, Courtney. Ain't no food around that can take me down."

"Put up or shut up, Wayne."

"Aw, that's it...two bowls. You're on, Cinderella."

The two claimed a place down the table from Roadblock. He was watching with interest as Covergirl's face went red and Beachhead started to sweat when he heard another familiar female voice. He glanced at the line again.

"What? The ninja master is scared of a little gumbo?" Scarlett was grinning.

*Yes.* Snake Eyes signed shortly. *My face has been on fire enough times, thank you.* He took his tray and headed for his usual secluded corner table.

Scarlett gave the pot one more look, then followed Snake without asking for any. Smart lady, Snake's got. Roadblock nodded approvingly to himself.

Some of the rest of the Pit's complement of ninja, however, were close behind. The sounds of good-natured pseudo-sibling rivalry preceded Jinx and Kamakura claiming places one table over.

"...just saying, that you should really listen to your brain over your testosterone, Kamakura. Hasn't Sensei drilled that into you enough?"

"Just because you don't like spicy food doesn't mean I don't."

An indelicate snort. "Oh, please. You've seen me when there are peanuts seasoned with wasabi around. But that's not spicy; you do know what a ghost pepper is, don't you? One million on the scoville scale? Why do men have to prove the size of their testicles by eating stupid stuff?"

"You've eaten live octopus, Jinx."

"That's a delicacy." Jinx said haughtily. "It's a traditional food that goes back centuries. Besides, seafood is better fresh."

"Not that fresh. My mom always taught me never to eat anything still twitching. It destroys any right you have to criticize my food choices."

"If you give yourself heartburn, sensei is not going to go easy on you tomorrow."

Kamakura just rolled his eyes and started eating.

Covergirl abruptly made a break for the milk cartons; she wasn't the only one doing so. There were yelps of pain happening in several parts of the mess hall. Gung Ho was on his second bowl, still happily indifferent to the scorching levels of capsicum he was ingesting.

Roadblock, feeling vindictive, just chewed on another bite of his chicken alfredo...pasta is a bit overdone, sauce needs a touch more white pepper...and shook his head. I told them.

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An hour after dinner, Doc was in the clinic. He was leaning back in a chair, reading a medical journal with interest. He had a small pile of bottles sitting next to him.

It had been a busy night. And all one complaint, conveniently enough. Easy enough to fix, too, though the lack of self-preservation instinct on the team was somewhat worrying.

He turned a page and scowled. Another article by Toyjevak...he dismissed my paper on Steen-Greer syndrome as 'a load of bull hockey'. I should send Storm over to your nice safe little office in Iowa City and show you just how serious I was...

The door opened. Doc glanced up and carefully set aside the journal. "Kamakura...let me guess...heartburn from the pits of Hades?"

"How'd you know?" Kamakura looked rather miserable.

"Because you're the seventeenth case in the last hour." Doc tossed him a bottle; Kamakura caught it without really looking. "Take two with water. Repeat in four to six hours if needed. Stay away from ghost chilies."

"Thanks, Doc." The young man looked grateful.

"Anytime." Doc picked up his medical journal again as Kamakura departed. Five more cases before nine, and you owe me a year's subscription to National Geographic, Lifeline...I've got this one. Ghost chilies. He shook his head. Marines.