Author's Note: This is . . . well, it's not quite crack and it's not quite fluff, is it? Let's just call it silly and go with that.
I was viciously assaulted by this plotbunny while watching Legally Blonde. When I mentioned it to willwrite4fics, she offered to update "Ranger Rendezvous" immediately if I wrote it—and after the cliffhanger she'd left the story on the previous chapter, how could I say no?
Therefore, this story is dedicated to her. She's been having a rough time of it lately, so if you get the chance to read her 'fics and go give her some review love, please do so. :)
This also contains some shout-outs to willwrite4fic's magnum opus, "Joes on Vacation." See if you can spot them!
Rating: T for occasional naughty language
Pairings: Some implied CG/BH
Disclaimer: G.I. Joe and all associated characters and concepts are property of Hasbro Inc, and I derive no profit from this. 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.
Final Warning: This is an utterly silly, pointless, inconsequential, and goofy 'fic. Frankly, it's what happens when you give me five different characters and let me put them in the same room and argue themselves to death. If you're looking for something ground-changing or serious, turn back now.
A Model Soldier
by Totenkinder Madchen
"I can't believe this!" Vivien Wiseman said, sweeping her perfectly layered chestnut hair out of her eyes with one beringed finger. "How long has it been? Six years?"
"Eight," Delia Harlow responded, punctuating the number with the snap of her powder compact closing. "Eight years since she lost her damn mind and decided to get herself killed. I can't believe you actually found her, Viv!"
"It was seriously not easy." The other woman settled back in her chair and sipped her cappuccino.
The two of them were chatting with the familiarity of long friends, but they sat with the effortless ease of women who knew they were always the center of attention. And why shouldn't they? After all, they were both career models with prestigious fashion spreads to their name, and the pair of them were dressed to the nines in the height of casual couture. Vivien was tall and Amazonian, with a lean figure that inevitably reminded people of Xena, Warrior Princess, while Delia had a dark exotic beauty that had made her one of the top cover girls of the past five years. Granted, they were alone in the coffeehouse right then and there was no one to show off for, but sitting like queens enthroned by a nation of worshipful magazine-readers was a hard habit to kick.
Both loved the artsy little San Francisco coffee house they were currently waiting in; it had the knack of making low-cal cappuccinos taste good, and there weren't any paparazzi to disturb their meeting with an old (okay, not old, nobody would dream of calling her that, but definitely long-time) friend.
The brass Tibetan bell hanging over the door jangled, and both Viv and Delia turned in their seats. Three people were entering: two men, and a woman in a brown leather bomber jacket. The woman's copper-colored hair was in a casual updo, her nails were short and blunted, her makeup was beautiful done but much too understated for the season's trends, and aside from a pair of steel studs in her ears, there was not a speck of jewelry to be seen. Viv and Delia exchanged glances.
"Is that-" Delia began.
"It is. Oh my god! Courtney!" Viv called out, jumping up and almost turning over her chair in her excitement. The woman at the door turned her head in their direction, and a familiar, two-thousand-dollars-per-shoot smile appeared.
"Vivvy, calm down!" she said, grinning as she reached the table. The three women exchanged air kisses, and Courtney pulled out a chair and settled into it as comfortably as if she'd never been gone. "You don't want to scare Julian . . . wait, does Julian even still own this place? It looks completely different."
"Oh, he's retired," Delia said. "His nephew Frankie runs it now. He's used to us." She suppressed a bit of a mischievous giggle. "He should be, considering how much we've put him through!"
Courtney shook her head, rolling her eyes a little. "Why am I not surprised. You brought one of your bachelorette parties here, didn't you?"
"Aw, how'd you guess?"
"'As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.'" From the sound of it, it was a quote, but Delia and Viv didn't recognize it. Courtney shook her head again. "Never mind. One of the officers I work with loves to quote all kinds of stuff, and it's an easy habit to pick up."
Delia waved for the waiter, who scurried over and stopped nervously beside the table. Small and artsy as the coffeehouse was, a party of three strikingly beautiful women (two wearing real diamonds) was clearly not the kind of thing he expected to be facing during the midday shift. He offered Courtney a menu almost shyly, but she waved it away. "Black coffee, please," she said. "Two sugars."
"Are you sure?" Viv interjected. "The iced mochas are to die for, and they've got some great new teas in. Frankie said he picked them up on a trip to Japan, or China or something."
"No thanks. If I never smell another herbal tea it'll be too soon." That got a raised eyebrow from Viv, and Courtney made a comical face. "Couple of guys in the unit. I swear they don't drink anything else."
"My god, what has the army done to you?" Viv said as the waiter hurried off. It was mostly a joke, but there was a small bit of genuine concern mixed into it: eight years was a long time to not see a friend, especially a friend who had dropped an incredibly profitable fashion career to go get shot at, and both women were more than a little curious. "You look so . . . fit. Like, scary fit. And is that . . ." She frowned. "Is that a scar?"
Courtney hurriedly brushed her hair over the small white mark on her forehead. "It's not a big deal, guys. Our medic says it should fade completely as long as I wear sunscreen."
"'Unit,' 'officers,' and now 'medic.'" Delia shook her head. "You did it, girl. I can't believe it really happened. You're a soldier."
"I'm better than a soldier, Delly. I'm a tank driver." Courtney flashed that grin again. "Uncle Sam's given me access to some of the biggest, scariest pieces of hardware that the government's got, and I get to play with them as much as I want. Tell me you don't understand the fun in that."
"I still don't get it," the taller of the two models said frankly, "but considering how much red tape my rep had to cut through just to find you, you must be getting to play with some really, really secret stuff. I can't believe we even managed to arrange this; my people must've been rerouted to different bureaus thirty or forty times. What was with all that 'the soldier you are attempting to contact is security level green' stuff, anyway?"
Courtney made shushing motions, and Viv clammed up. "It's a long story," she said, pitching her voice so low that the two models had to lean in close to hear. "Let's just say that the fewer people who know I'm here, the better, okay?"
"Wow," Delia breathed. "It sounds like you're in deep."
"If the government was the Playboy Mansion, I'd be the bunny banging Hef." Courtney leaned back, loosening up a bit as the moment of danger passed. "Minus the creepiness, that is. The government has much hotter guys than Hefner."
"Obviously," Delia murmured. Her eyes danced as they met Courtney's. "Like the big angry one by the door, or the hottie reading Car & Driver at the counter?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about," Courtney said, straight-faced.
"Puh-lease. Ever since I had that dumbass one-night stand with Clooney, I've been having paparazzi following me everywhere." Delia pursed her lips and flicked her eyes towards the man at the counter, who was scratching his stubble-covered chin and appeared absorbed in the ads for classic car parts. "And I know when someone's watching me. Especially two someones who just so happened to come in at the same time as my friend." She pivoted on her chair and waved to the man. "Hey, handsome! Quit being all FBI and come sit with us already!"
The man gave Delia a confused look, and Courtney sighed. "You were made, Clutch," she said, shaking her head slightly. "And you too, Beach." She didn't raise her voice, but the abovementioned big angry one by the door clearly heard: he let out an irritated grunt and stood up, crossing his arms.
"Gawddammit," 'Beach' muttered, and Vivien clapped her hands over her mouth and stifled a laugh at his annoyed expression. "Ah told you this was a bad idea, Barbiedoll."
"Don't blame me," Courtney said archly. "It was the general's idea to send me with babysitters. And anyway, you volunteered for it."
"Clutch volunteered first. Ah wasn't gonna let that stand."
"What's your point?"
"Ah volunteered 'cos I was sure this was gonna go wrong. He's here 'cos he thinks with his gawddamn di-" Beach caught the amused expressions of the two models and amended his language. "That's cause he's always tryin' to get off work."
"But this is work!" The other guy, 'Clutch,' pointed out. He was a broad-shouldered, dark-haired man with a nicely tight t-shirt and a genial grin, and Delia couldn't help smiling back a little when he winked at her. "By the way, was that a genuine invitation? Because I promise I'm not going to take your picture if you don't want me to."
Courtney covered her face with her hands. "Oh, God. Please tell him no, Del—you do not want to encourage this one."
"Killjoy," Delia said. "C'mon over here, Mister Clutch. And you too, angry soldier man. More the merrier, right?"
"Don't mind if I do," Clutch said, nicking a chair from another table and sliding neatly into a spot between Delia and Vivien. Beach's expression was vaguely murderous, but he grabbed a chair for himself—and sat down right next to Courtney, angling his body to make sure that he was mostly between her and the door. A very nice body it was, too, though the face looked like it had been on the losing end of several fistfights and he was beginning to develop a cauliflower ear.
"Viv, Delia," Courtney began. "These are my . . . technically, they're my immediate superiors." Delia raised an eyebrow, and Viv stifled another snicker at Courtney's expression. "This is Sgt. Clutch. No, that's not his actual name, he's not allowed to tell you that one. And this here is Sgt. Major Beach Head, who wouldn't tell you his real name even if he was allowed because he's too Ranger for any of this human-interaction stuff. They're my babysitters for the day."
Clutch flashed a grin at Delia and Viv. It wasn't quite two-thousand-dollars-per-shoot quality, but he did know how to look charming, and both women returned it without quite knowing why. "She's too modest," he said. "The general wanted to make sure she wouldn't reconnect too closely with her charming best friends and run back to the glamorous world of modeling."
"Clutch, you skank." Courtney punched him in the shoulder, which didn't deter him in the slightest.
"Wow, I wish my bodyguards were this cute," Viv said, evaluating Clutch through her long eyelashes. "Most of them just stand there and punch people who try to lick my Manolos or something."
"I'm going to be in town for a few days, if you'd like to have me guard you for a while-"
"Clutch!" Beach Head barked.
The driver shut up, and Viv rolled her eyes at Courtney. "Awfully controlling, isn't he? Doesn't that get boring after a while?"
"Oh, he means well," Courtney responded, smiling and patting Beach Head on the shoulder as if he had just done well on his spelling test. Beach shrugged it off and glared. "He just doesn't get to spend much time with people who aren't either shooting at him or under orders to obey him."
"I like it," Delia said. "Those ones are so hard to get going, but once you start 'em up, they never stop. Remember that one time in Milan, Court? That big guy who used to be part of the Swiss Guard?"
Courtney stifled a laugh. "Poor him. Or was it poor you? I didn't even see you two again until we were about to leave, and both of you were walking like you'd been on an all-night bender with Gen du Chatilgnac and her coterie."
"Now that's a dated reference, Court. You haven't heard?"
"Oh? Heard what?"
"Gen's been married since you went into the army." Delia pursed her lips and leaned forward, eager to share a bit of gossip. "Three times, and a big juicy prenup each time. Technically, she's now Genevieve du Chatilgnac Juarez Kolonofsky Fotheringale-Smythe now."
Courtney's mouth dropped open. "She's Genevieve Fotheringale-Smythe? Party girl Gen's gone legit?"
"Wasn't that the one you and Red were guarding at that diplomatic thingummy a couple of months ago?" Clutch said thoughtfully. "The one with all the plastic surgery? Ow!" Beach Head retracted his fist, and Clutch scowled a little as he rubbed the sore spot.
"Ah told you," Beach hissed. "Keep. Yer. Damn. Mouth. Shut."
"Hey!" Viv interjected angrily. To Courtney's surprise, she reached across the table and tried to swat Beach Head with her purse, but the sergeant major dodged aside. "We're trying to have a very nice conversation here, Mister Army, so pipe down and go . . . invade a country or something. If you don't want to listen to him, you don't have to be here."
"Yes, Ah damn well do," Beach said bluntly. "Barbiedoll got it inta her head that she wanted ta hang out with you people, an' she's a soldier under my immediate command an' occasionally in the way a' some very unfriendly people. Clutch an' Ah are here for her protection, whether you or anyone else likes it or not. And if Ah have to duct-tape Clutch's fool mouth shut t'keep him from revealin' government secrets, then Ah will. Ya gotta problem with that?"
All of this was delivered in a flat tone of voice, backed by a shark-eyed stare of the kind that had made veteran Army Rangers wish they were anywhere but there and on the spot. But to Beach Head's surprise it had absolutely no effect on Vivien, whose own eyes narrowed as she placed her hands flat on the table and fixed Beach Head with an expression that a certain kind of man would pay millions to have aimed at them.
"You don't scare me, you psycho," she snapped. "I've modeled for Wolfgang Joop and debuted Lagerfeld's After Midnight lingerie collection. After spending seven hours having every inch of me looked over by a creepy old German guy with a ponytail, nothing you can say will intimidate me. So why don't you. Back. Off."
Beach Head just turned in his chair to eye Courtney. "Ah said this was a bad idea."
"You told me it was a bad idea on a national security basis," Courtney said, unruffled. "Not because my old pals were scary. Lighten up, Beach. Viv, I promise Beach isn't a psycho, he's just overprotective. And Clutch is under his command after all. Everybody have a coffee and pipe down."
The waiter had been hovering in the background with Courtney's order for a couple of minutes, seemingly unable to bring himself to interrupt the conversation long enough to actually deliver the drink. With both Viv and Beach temporarily quiet, he jumped into the gap. "Here we are," he said, cautiously edging around Beach's bulk to set down the cup. "Black coffee with two sugars. Would the, uh, men like anything?"
"No thanks," Clutch said. Beach shot him a look. "Look, I just said I didn't want coffee. That's not going to get the Pentagon on our case, is it?"
"Fine," Beach replied. "No coffee." The waiter scurried off again, shaking his head to himself.
Courtney sighed and sipped her coffee, ducking her head slightly as she did so. A strand of hair fell out of place, revealing the small white scar again, and Viv and Del exchanged glances.
Eight years ago, the Courtney Krieger they knew had been . . . well, she had been a glamorous thrillseeker, to be honest. She, Viv, and Del been rising stars of the fashion world-where everyone was looking for kicks-but Courtney had been of a slightly different stripe than most of the others that traveled in that sphere. The three of them had bonded over their love of travel and adventure, but only Courtney considered skydiving a been-there-done-that. No, she wanted to try base-jumping, and once had to be actively talked out of trying a HALO dive. Flinging herself out of planes was hardly her only activity, either: doing crazy things at five thousand feet was a distant second to her love of doing crazy things behind the wheel at 165 mph, preferably without a seatbelt. She'd actually agreed to do a shoot for a designer in Germany purely so she could drive on the autobahn, which had no official speed limit. The Courtney Viv and Del knew had been hopping with excitement and pent-up energy, determined to go somewhere, do something, and manage it all at speeds that no human being should be subjected to.
The Courtney they were looking at seemed calmer, somehow. Not diminished: there was still that evil spark in her eye when she grinned, and neither Viv nor Del was willing to bet that their exhaustive exercise regimens came anywhere close to what she had been doing. But she seemed more contained, more . . . in control. And both Del and Viv knew that a Courtney Krieger with her assets under control and her eye on the prize would be a terrifying thing indeed.
Now if only they could ditch Scary Sergeant Beach and go talk about it. It's so hard to gossip effectively when you've got a grumpy man breathing down your neck and telling the cute New Jersey guy to shut up.
Although . . . Del and Viv exchanged further glances. They'd been best friends for a long, long time, and each of them often knew what the other was thinking. Viv flicked her gaze towards Drill Sergeant Nasty before returning to Del, while Del mouthed the name Courtney. The possessive glances, the classic bodyguard me-between-you-and-harm, the volunteering for a guard mission he clearly hated, the glaring at anybody who tried to compromise national security—or was it just her security? Abruptly, both of them burst out laughing.
"Ohhhh, no," Courtney groaned, putting down her coffee cup. "I don't care how long it's been, I know that laugh. You two have got some kind of evil scheme going."
"'Scheme?'" Del said. "Who even says 'scheme' any more?"
"There's no scheme," Viv chimed in. "I know I was just thinking, anyway, that we should get out of here and go someplace more fun. We can't have the three of us back together and spend the whole time drinking coffee. Maybe even get your escorts to loosen up!"
"No can do," Courtney said regretfully. "I'm not even supposed to be in 'Frisco, let alone being seen with two It Girls. The Pentagon gets really cranky about stuff like that."
Del waved a hand. "Pfft, it would be easy. We could give you a quick do-over, and nobody would know the difference. Something nobody would expect Courtney Krieger to wear. Remember when you told Francoise Marin that you wouldn't be caught dead in a fur-collared pantsuit?"
"No," Courtney repeated. "No no no no no. I said it looked like something from an ultra-exclusive Soviet gulag, and I meant it. And I've been in a Soviet gulag since then."
"Barbiedoll-" Beach Head said warningly.
"Right, right, sorry. The United States Government hereby informs you that I haven't been in a Soviet gulag, and there are a lot of men in black suits standing by to provide you with ample evidence that the bullet scars on my ass are from a completely explainable on-the-job accident."
Viv's eyes widened. "You have bullet scars on your-"
"Don't answer that, Bar—"
"Beach, shut up. For all they know, you shot me. Yes, I have bullet scars on my ass. No more lingerie modeling for this girl." Courtney signaled for a refill, and the wide-eyed waiter brought it quickly.
"Ah wouldn't shoot you," Beach growled. "Ah'm a better shot than that."
"Oh, come on," Del said with a light tinge of scorn. Protectiveness toward a friend only endeared her to someone so much. "You've already made it clear that you don't like being here or any of us, sergeant. Since Court clearly just told us she wasn't in a gulag, you're one of our best options, right? You're loud and angry enough."
Beach's eyes narrowed. "Someone shoulda told you not t'judge a book by its cover."
"Well, the cover I'm seeing right now says 'Danger, This Book Is Full of Loud People Who Get Their Rocks Off Shouting at Other People.'" Del shook her head. "Maybe if you changed your dust jacket a little, people wouldn't assume that you wanted to bite their heads off."
"Now that's a challenge," Viv chipped in. She examined Beach head-to-toe with a sharp eye, making the sergeant major twitch uncomfortably in his seat. "But I don't think it'd be impossible. Nothing to do about the scars or that broken nose, but if you use it right, it could work for you. Sort of that Rocky Balboa thing. Lunkhead with a heart of gold?"
"Wait just a-" Beach began. Viv, with the aplomb that comes from years of ignoring people she didn't consider worth her time, talked right over him.
"You'd have to start with an exfoliating scrub. Scars can be sexy, but dry skin and old tan, definitely not."
"The hair is a disaster," Del chipped in. "Cowlicks everywhere. What d'you think, Viv? Shag—no, more like the highlights look. He's such an Autumn, but we might be able to get away with some Spring color."
Viv frowned. "I'd say both. There's a lot to work with, but this is definitely a desperate case."
Completely at sea, Beach Head turned to Courtney, looking a mixture of pained and confused. "Jesus damn, Krieger, can't ya get 'em to stop talkin' 'bout me like Ah'm a piece of damn meat?"
"Settle down, big guy," Courtney said placidly. "It means they consider you worth saving." Clutch shot her a look, and Courtney grinned at him. "Don't worry, they'll get to you in time. Stubble and curls make you very grunge-chic, so they're focusing on the one that really needs help first."
"Krieger, this ain't funny." Beach Head put his hands on the table, getting ready to stand. "Ah'm declarin' this mission compromised an' taking us all back to base right now."
Courtney just shrugged it off. "The mission hasn't been compromised," she said, offering him a bright smile. "They've heard no details that were pertinent to an operation that wasn't later released into public records, so there's no violations for you to cite for the general. I know for a fact that everyone working in and running this cafe was assessed by the Pentagon before I was allowed to do this, so we're safe for casual conversation. If you decide to cut short what was allocated—by our team shrink, no less—as necessary psychological leave for me, which will be 'helping Cpl. Krieger reconnect with a healthy base of non-military friendships and reestablish herself in the wake of significant physical traumas,' you'll be doing a woman under your command a severe disservice. And if you pull rank for no reason than you're uncomfortable with two high-class fashion models talking about how to make you more handsome, Clutch and I are going to tell everyone every juicy detail. Do I make myself clear?"
" . . .you are gonna be doin' so much PT tomorrow, Krieger," Beach Head muttered.
"I've been betting on it since you decided to tag along. Are we good?"
"We're good." Beach frowned. "For now. An' yer not allowed t'let those two get any of that highlight junk inta my hair. Ah had enough problems with that aunt of O'Hara's messin' with it."
"I'll do my best to keep my sergeant major out of peril, sir," Courtney said, saluting. "However, the United States Army must always be prepared to go down in the line of duty, especially when facing overwhelming forces."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just . . . enough with the gawddamn hair."
The sun was setting over the hills of San Francisco as Delia and Vivien piled into Delia's customized Porsche Carrera. The backseat was crowded with shopping bags, and both women gratefully pulled off their shoes and chucked them into the backseat with the bags. Those new Pradas were gorgeous, but a long day of living it up with an old girlfriend could really put some strain on the heels.
"We have to do that again sometime," Viv said as Delia put the car into gear. The Amazonian model leaned back against the headrest and sighed, pushing her sunglasses up on her nose. "God, I missed her. But I still can't believe you let her drive the car."
"She got shot in the ass, Viv. She'll never be able to wear a thong in public again. After that, I just can't say no to her." Delia eased the Porsche into traffic carefully: after what it had been through that day, she was inclined to coddle it a little bit. Damn, but Courtney wasn't kidding when she said she got to drive fast for a living. "She looks good, though."
Viv giggled. "Didn't you hear Beach Head talking about the mudpits on his courses? She gets a mud bath every day. Of course she looks good!"
"Maybe I should join." Delia shook her head. "Or not. I don't know how she puts up with that loudmouth all day . . . He must be really good in bed."
"Too bad she couldn't tell us. 'Frat regs,'" Viv parroted, trying to get Courtney's Midwestern accent right and not quite managing it. "But it was so obvious. Good for her, I guess."
"And too bad we couldn't get him to change clothes. I never met a man who could resist having us tell him to get undressed." Delia shot a glance at Viv. "Either he really likes her, or he is seriously, seriously gay and doesn't want to spill."
"Don't ask, don't tell," Viv sighed. "Oh, well. It was nice to see Courtney, though."
"And not just Courtney."
"What do you mean?"
Del kept her left hand on the wheel as she fished her right into her handbag, lying discarded next to her. Two immaculately-manicured fingers held up a scrap of paper. "Got the hot one's number."