Disclaimer: I don't own GI Joe or work for Larry Hama, though it would be awesome if I did.
Duke rubbed at his forehead, but the migraine refused to dissipate. Of course, the reason might possibly be that the two causes of this particular migraine were standing in his office glaring at each other.
"It ain't mah fault that you're such a stuck up…."
"Beach Head," Duke warned.
"Yes, I'm stuck up just because I prefer to shower like everyone else."
"Flint," the top sergeant said sharply.
"What?" the warrant officer asked. "It's true."
The two men began bickering again and Duke sighed and massaged his temples for perhaps the fourth time. Each man was of course denying any responsibility and blaming the recent fight entirely on the other man. Duke muttered under his breath. The whole thing was just a slightly more adult version of one of those juvenile arguments that consisted of 'He started it,' 'No, he did!' 'Did not!' 'Did too!' and of course, everyone's favorite 'It's not my fault he has cooties.'
Duke was a patient man, but he was reaching his limit.
"Enough!" he finally pleaded, pounding a fist down on his desk. Both men shut up and eyed him warily. Duke glared at both of them. He didn't buy any of the usual crap that it was somehow entirely Flint's fault or entirely Beach Head's doing.
"This is your fault you know," Flint told Beach Head. The sergeant major snapped back a rather uncouth response.
"Okay, that's it!" Duke shouted, throwing his hands in the air. "Both of you sit down and shut up!"
Now, this was the first time that Duke had actually lost his temper to this extent. But really, could one really blame him? The traditional sniping between Flint and Beach Head was practically a daily occurrence. Some days it was better, usually if one of them was absent or a world shattering catastrophe forced them to work together, but other days it was worse. It probably didn't take much guess work to realize that today was one of those days.
"Okay," he said when both men were dutifully sitting down and being very quiet. "Look, I don't expect the two of you to be friends, but would it kill either of you to get along for at least one day?"
The murderous expressions on two faces told him that yes, it would kill them. Duke sighed again as he wondered what to do this time. Orders against fighting were usually obeyed for a while, but then one of them would conveniently 'forget' about the said orders and then end up on punishment duty. To Flint and Beach Head's credit, however, they usually tried to be professional about it and at least not fight in front of the greenshirts or while on duty.
"What's it going to take for the two of you to at least pretend that you get along?" he asked tiredly. Ace currently had a betting pool running about the estimated countdown until the next fight. Duke had ordered him to discontinue that particular pool, but the continued entertainment and string of winnings from it were too enticing for Ace to simply obey and drop it. Because of that, the man was now on KP duty for the second time.
Hmm….a bet. Maybe this would get them out of his hair for a while. Nothing else had worked so far.
"I bet that the two of you couldn't even pretend to be friends for a week," Duke told them. He received two sets of scoffs.
"A week?" Flint asked. "I wouldn't last a day." Beach Head nodded before realizing that he was in agreement with Flint. Since that was of course unsatisfactory, the ranger decided to go for the opposite opinion.
"What's the matter Flint, don't want to come off of your high horse for a week?" the ranger taunted. The warrant officer sputtered at Beach Head. He seemed about to say something, but then Flint cast a glance at the unsmiling first sergeant and shut his mouth.
"I'll take that bet if you two are willing," Duke said nonchalantly. Two sets of eyes stared at him.
"You're not serious?" Beach Head drawled. "Flint, tell him he's not serious."
"The terms of the bet," Duke said, thinking fast. He had to think of a way to entice them. "Is that you two must go for one week pretending to be friends. If you can fool everyone for that long, then I'll…" He'll what?
"I'll wear one of those embarrassing outfits that Beach Head uses on misbehaving soldiers. In fact, I'll wear it for a whole day," Duke said, wincing as he said it. Of course, he didn't believe that the two men would last a week, so there was no harm in it. Beach Head's eyes lit up before narrowing with suspicion.
"That's it?" the ranger asked. "Just that for putting up with Flint for a week?"
"Hey!" Flint retorted.
Duke gritted his teeth. Wasn't it enough that he risked undue humiliation by wearing something god awful that was probably pink and sparkly for an entire day?"
"And what if we lose?" Flint asked.
"Uh…the opposite," Duke replied. "You two have to wear the outfits for a day."
"No deal," Beach Head replied sharply.
"What, can't take your own medicine, Beach?" Flint replied snidely. "Of course, you probably try them on first."
"That ain't it," the ranger replied back. "Why should Ah have to suffer through pretending to be friends with you, and probably fail, and then have to wear something stupid?"
"Fail?" Duke asked innocently. "I didn't realize that 'fail' was even in the vocabulary of the Joes." Beach Head fumed about that for about two minutes while Duke plotted his next move. Okay, so Beach Head and Flint weren't willing to stomach each other for a week just for a day's worth of humiliation.
"I understand there's also a gun show coming up," Duke added. "I know everyone is going to be racing to get their requests in first to go to it. Barring any national or international emergencies, I'll be on duty if one or both of you wish to go."
That did it. Both Flint and Beach Head were now deep in thought. A chance to go to the gun show and Duke potentially wearing something embarrassing? Even they couldn't pass that up. Of course, Duke was none too happy about it. He didn't want to wear something stupid and he also wanted to go to the gun show. However, even one Flint and Beach Head conflict free day was too much to pass up, especially if they miraculously managed to go a week.
"Alright," Beach Head finally agreed. "If the rooster here agrees, I'm in."
"What did you call me?" Flint asked. The ranger put on an air of innocence.
"Mah apologies, sir. You certainly don't look like a rooster with that beret and all the strutting you do."
"Seriously, you expect me to be his 'friend' for a week?" the warrant officer asked.
Oh yes, they were sure to last a week. Duke was fairly certain that it would all blow up at some point and probably give him a bigger migraine. However, having the two men at least pretend to be on amicable terms would mean no fights or arguments within his earshot. The result meant fewer headaches for hopefully a few days…a week if he was lucky. Duke was positive that neither of them would last a week of 'getting along' without people realizing that it wasn't real. It was a win win situation, as far as he was concerned.
Besides, it was going to be free entertainment.
"How the two of you manage it is up to you," Duke told them. "People have to believe that you're at least becoming friends. It probably won't be believable if you suddenly 'became friends' overnight." It was salt on the wound and Duke received the 'are you fucking kidding me response' that he expected. He ignored it while he dug a Hershey Kiss out of his drawer and popped it into his mouth. Chocolate went a long way in relieving stress.
"Okay, fine," he said, as neither man showed any signs of shutting up. "But don't disobey any regulations, as long as it's believable." And it gets you out of my hair for a few days, he added silently.
"Fine," Beach Head finally grumbled. "But just so you know, I'm picking out a special outfit just for you."
"I'm looking forward to it," Duke replied. "By the way, I have to approve whatever costume you pick to wear for yourselves. I'd hate for you to pick the least embarrassing ones if you lose the bet."
"Fine," Beach Head repeated sulkily, having apparently been planning that very thing.
"Duke, I swear to God I'm going to kill you by the end of this," Flint groaned. "You or Beach Head. Hell, I should just murder you both and be done with it."
"You don't have to do it," Duke pointed out, but his friend shook his head. A challenge was a challenge and Flint wanted the end reward just as much as Beach Head.
"Fine, dismissed," he told them. The two men filed out of his office. When they were gone, Duke again pondered the wisdom of such a bet, especially since he was the second in command. He shrugged his shoulders a moment later and popped another piece of chocolate into his mouth.
It was a win win situation. There was no way that he would lose.
It was just after dinner when the two antagonists made their way to the obstacle course, armed with a pad of paper and a thermos of coffee. Beach Head had reasoned that there were too many ears in the rest of the Pit, even with the temporary absence of Storm Shadow. Flint had agreed, especially since they could claim that Beach Head was demanding certain materials for the obstacle course as a pretext.
"So how are we going to do this?" Beach Head sighed, having become resigned to the unpleasantness that was Flint.
"I could save your life," the warrant officer suggested. Beach Head gave a derisive snort.
"Like hell that would work," he drawled. "Besides, you've already saved my life at least once and vice versa. No one would believe it." They crouched in silence for a while before the ranger finally made a suggestion.
"Trapped in an elevator?"
"Cliché" Flint responded.
"Trapped in an elevator with Deep Six or Shipwreck for twelve hours?" Beach Head asked.
"I'd have committed suicide by that point…wait, what's that got to do with the bet?"
"Nothing, I just like the thought of you committing suicide," the ranger smirked. Flint nearly threw the thermos at him, but then it would have been a waste of good coffee. Silence enveloped them again. The two men awkwardly stared around them before casting a glance at each other.
"Smoking whatever bongo shaman crap that Spirit probably has?" Beach Head asked.
"He doesn't have anything that's narcotic," Flint replied. "I made him tell me what kind of herbs he had. If anything, I'd be more worried about what kind of bongo crap the ninjas have and aren't telling us."
"So that's the secret to Snake Eyes's success," Beach Head deadpanned. "He gets high off of marijuana." Flint rolled his eyes. He forced himself not to breathe through his nose, or risk inhaling the sergeant major's particular brand of stench.
"Uh…deep soul searching after a night of drunken carousing?" Beach Head asked after moment, running out of ideas. "Finding out we were brothers in a past life?"
Both suggestions produced negative responses, especially since Flint didn't believe in reincarnation and had no particular desire to go drinking with the sergeant major. They continued to argue for several minutes before they were finally on the verge of giving up.
"We just have to face the facts," Flint finally admitted. "There's just no realistic way that I could ever become friends with a cranky, psychopathic bastard like you."
"Oh yeah," Beach Head drawled. "Well Ah wouldn't become friends with some trussed up, arrogant strutting peacock if we were threatened with nuclear war."
They sat in silence again. Flint poured himself a cup of coffee and offered the thermos to the sergeant major. Beach Head hesitated a moment before taking the thermos and filling one of the extra Styrofoam cups Flint had brought with him. They were colleagues after all and were trapped in the same, stupid bet. Flint reasoned that if he could manage to share coffee with the Alabama bear, then maybe the bet was plausible.
"I'm not giving Duke the satisfaction of winning," Flint finally said.
"Me neither," the other man replied.
"It would be kind of satisfying to pull the wool over the ninjas' eyes for once," the warrant officer added wistfully. Too many times he had been the victim of a ninja prank, even if a relatively benign one due to his rank.
"Hell," Beach Head added. "We've got a former Cobra ninja with borderline OCD and a flair for the dramatic, a gourmet chef who's a gunner, a former supermodel tank driving lunatic…"
"A pitbull for a drill sergeant…"
"Don't go mocking the poor dogs, being compared to Sgt. Slaughter like that," the ranger corrected, although he knew full well that Flint had been referring to him.
"Haha, very funny."
"Anyway, the point is we fight snake themed terrorists, have dealt with time travel, robots, weather machines, and mutated Mindbender experiments," Beach Head continued. "Ah'm sure there's a reasonable, believable way we could suddenly become friends."
"Mindbender's Brainwave Scanner?" Flint suggested. "Oh, I know…let's give you brain damage! Oh wait, you already have some."
"Funny Flint, did you get that out of the Idiot's Guide for Juvenile Insults?"
The two men sighed as they were forced to admit that Duke had a point. There was no way they could become friends over night. They might very well have to spend a few days or even a week building up to the actual week. Flint finally suggested that one of them pretend to have had a fight with his girlfriend and then go get relationship advice from the other man. Beach Head, however, pointed out that the terms of the bet stated that no one else was to know about it, which meant no help from either Lady Jaye or Cover Girl.
"That's true," Flint finally sighed. "They probably wouldn't let us use them as an excuse anyway."
"You know," Beach Head said after a moment, "We'll have to be careful about a certain peeping tom eavesdropping on us when he gets back. The last thing we need is a danged ninja interfering." Flint started to agree when he realized the choice of words.
"Wait…you know what a peeping tom is, right?" he asked. Beach Head snorted.
"Ah ain't an idiot, that's why Ah said it," he answered. Flint snickered slightly before catching himself. There was no way he was going to laugh at a joke that Beach Head had made, even though the analogy of Thomas Arashikage being a 'peeping tom' was actually somewhat amusing.
"I guess we'll just have to do our planning via writing when he comes back," Flint said instead. "That way Mr. PT doesn't overhear us."
"Peeping Tom," he answered. It made a perfect codename for Storm Shadow, honestly. 'PT' could be mistaken for the physical punishment that Beach Head inflicted every day. Besides, Flint rather liked the idea of secretly poking fun at the ninja.
"We should have a plan of action before he comes back," Beach Head pointed out. "We still don't even know how we're going to become 'friends' yet. All we do is fight."
"Maybe that's it," Flint said suddenly. Beach Head gave him a curious look and he rushed to explain.
"One final fight," the warrant officer said. "Off duty, off base, and out of uniform so we don't get into trouble. Since we'll be in civvies, rank won't matter, so it won't matter who punches first. It'll let us get it out of the way first so we're less likely to kill each other during the week."
"It might work," Beach Head mused. "We can tell people that we completely got everything out of our systems and resolved some of our issues. After that, we can pretend that we're starting to actually 'like' each other."
"Alright then," Flint said. "I think we should both request a day pass next Friday. We can have the fight then."
"Aww Lawd, Ah can't believe Ah'm doin' this," Beach Head groaned. "At least Ah get the pleasure of kickin' your ass out of it."
"That remains to be seen," Flint said hotly. "After I kick your ass, we can become 'friends.'"
"You couldn't kick mah ass if you tried."
This time Flint did throw the thermos at the other man. Beach Head ducked and the coffee thermos hit the side of the A-frame with a bang. They scuffled a little bit before common sense took over. The two men panted slightly before calming down and recollecting themselves. Seconds later, they were professionals again.
"Next Friday," Flint told him.
"Looking forward to it."
Here's a fun little story that I've wanted to do. As promised, updates for Ninja Walkabout and Silence will come again after May 1st with hopefully an update a week or every other week. I'm looking for a beta reader for my stories, primarily for Ninja Walkabout and Silence, but not necessarily excluding other stories. I have a possible beta already, but I'd like to know if anyone else is interested.