And it's the END of the fic. I did want it to end on the day after Christmas, just like in the fic but I must have miscalculated the days and so it ends on Christmas eve. Think of it as a fic present for all the readers who are so kind as to read my feeble efforts at writing. Those who leave reviews, picture a big red bow(that Junk didn't eat) on top of the story, okay? Thank all of you!
Beachhead managed to sleep most of the long flight, although people woke him up a few times. Several times it was to offer something to warm to drink or a sandwich. Not a few times were people who after extensive discussion decided to check to see if sleeping was really the feared 'coma'. Despite his attempts to gripe about being awakened for no good reason, Beach's need for sleep meant he barely got to grumble before falling asleep again.
Mutt and Clutch played cards on a cargo crate, joined by one of the air crew. WildBill had claimed the crewman's seat in the cockpit to chat up the pilots. The Texan never passed up an ear that hadn't already heard his favorite stories. LowLight had chosen the traditional Army method of riding transport to anywhere that didn't require him to be on guard and fallen asleep in his jump seat, beanie tugged down over his eyes. Even the rough jostling of the turbulence didn't waken the sniper, although the worst jerks often made Beachhead wake up enough to blink sleepily around the plane.
Once they finally landed at the airstrip near the Pitt, WildBill helped Beachhead into one of the waiting VAMPs parked there. Mutt pointed at the backseat and then rolled his eyes when Junkyard whined to climb in the front seat instead. "No, get in the back. You're spoiled." He frowned at the other Joes. "I told you guys not to keep feeding him stuff. Now look, he doesn't want to even jump in the danged VAMP."
Clutch got in the drivers seat and raised an eyebrow. "Junk, you wanna treat? I bet there's treats at the kitchen! C'mon Junk! Let's go terrorize the KP crew!" The rottie woofed loudly and scrambled aboard, wagging his stubby tail energetically.
Mutt grumbled as he got in beside LowLight who had loaded their bags into the back. "You're getting him all worked up and you know the kitchen crew is just going to pitch a fit because they got sticks up their butts about Junkyard."
Clutch grinned and reached around to scratch the dog's ears. "Yeah, but when they pitch the fit, they're going pitch it at you, not me. No hair off my back. Right Junk? Right?"
Junkyard woofed again louder and panted happily. Mutt squinted at him. "Who's side are you on anyway?" His dog relented and licked his face as they started the drive.
When Clutch pulled into the garages, they all grinned to see the familiar red jumpsuit pacing back and forth. Mutt was the first to comment. "Look, Beach, your babysitter is waiting for you."
Snorting himself awake, Beach didn't do much more than blink at the other Joes before struggling to get himself out of the vehicle. He ignored the instant stream of questions from Lifeline. "Get away... I just want some hot water and hot food. I don't need to go to the infirmary and I don't need no fussin' over from you!"
Lifeline was practiced at getting his way and sighed at the dirty Ranger as he hobbled rather slowly to the elevators. "Well, let's compromise..."
Beach glared. "Yeah, let's compromise. I'll get a hot shower and hot food and you'll go away."
Rolling his eyes, the medic continued. "As I was saying, let's compromise and you get a hot shower and I check your body temperature and any injuries then you get hot food in the rec room where it's warmer and you can rest while you eat." He listened to the grumbling. "You get everything you want, and just have to let me fuss a little bit to make certain you aren't going to fall over with any intestines hanging out or anything else messy. Fair?"
"Whatever." Beachhead accepted the arm of support for the walk to the showers as Mutt volunteered to bring him dinner in the rec room in a bit. As Beach got his clothing peeled off slowly, Lifeline tutted and fussed but agreed that everything was minor. "Told you I was fine."
"Well, you also said you were fine last time you broke your leg. And before that when you had a sliced open arm... and the time before that when you had two bullets in you..." Lifeline stood outside the shower to wait.
Beach was scrubbing his hair clean and protested. "Those bullets wasn't nothin' but 9 millimeters! They barely count!" He rinsed and turned the water hotter. "Gawd DAMN I'm still cold!"
"Use as much hot water as you need. Nothing warms a hypothermia case better than a hot bath, but a hot shower is good too." Lifeline yawned. "Just don't fall over and crack your skull, okay?"
"Alright but only cause you asked nice." Beach heard the laugh. "Shouldn't you still be at yer sister's house? Thought you were staying a couple days? It's only the day after Christmas."
"Yeah well..." Lifeline shifted his weight. "Sorry you missed Christmas, Beach."
"Ain't no big deal. Ain't the first holiday I missed, ain't gonna be the last. And you ducked the question. How come you ain't at yer sister's?" Beach found the perfect spot to lean against the wall in the shower and let hot water run over himself. Even the worst bruises started to feel a little better with the heat relaxing him.
Lifeline cleared his throat. "I was there for Christmas eve. And I was there Christmas morning. Her kids did the present thing and we all had breakfast, it was.. it was nice."
Blinking sleepily, Beach focused again. "And?"
Giving a sigh, Lifeline continued. "And then my father showed up so I left. What's this got to do with whether your injuries need to be seen and treated anyway?" He tried to sound annoyed but knew somehow he wasn't going to fool his friend.
"Sorry Ed." The Ranger in the shower paused. "Well, just... sorry. Wish it'd gone better."
Mustering a little humor, Lifeline snorted. "I'd say you had the worse Christmas of the two of us."
Laughing, Beach retorted. "I'd disagree. I got to kill the bastards that pissed ME off during the holiday."
"Jeez... you're a barbarian." Lifeline held out a set of sweatpants to the emerging Ranger. "You look like hell."
"Thanks. Appreciate yer candor and sensitivity." Beach moved his feet one at a time. "I think I escaped frostbite."
Checking, Lifeline hummed. "Too early to tell, you have a lot of discoloration."
"Ehh, it's bruises." Showing off the bottom of his left foot, Beach pointed. "Check it out... stone bruise in the middle of my foot. Half my dang foot is purple! Bastards shouldn't have took my boots. That was damned low of them." He accepted help getting the thick long sleeved shirt over his head. Despite the hot water, he still felt chilled. He didn't feel it was very fair to be cold a dozen hours after leaving the elements. Voicing the complaints made Lifeline lecture him about the best ways to warm a hypothermia patient and point out how the Ranger had deliberately foiled all attempts to use those techniques. "It still ain't fair."
"Yes, not fair. Aren't you the one always shouting how 'life's not fair gawd dammit and ya'll better get used to it' at all of us?" Lifeline's mimicing of his accent made Beach frown. "Just reminding you... and don't worry, one good night of sleep in a warm bed and you should feel much better. You won't be doing too much on those feet for a few days." He offered to help as they walked out of the showers towards the Joes' main rec room and was waved away.
Duke's voice made Beach twist to look as their commanding officer approached. "That's fine, Beach is slated to work in the offices for the next week anyway."
"Awwww c'mon Top! I hate paperwork!" Beach's protest was half-hearted at best. "I just got back from the crappiest mission based on the most inaccurate Intel EVER! And it was fuckin' cold and the damn asshole I was hittin' was two days late! I should get a break."
"You're getting a break. You have two days off, starting tomorrow and then you go on office duty for the next five days. Nice relaxing break working in the nice relaxing offices. You'll love it." Duke beamed happily. "And don't worry, I'll take the PT training in the mornings so you can sleep in and everything."
"I hate you." Beach thought about it a moment. "I hate you... sir."
"Very good then. All settled." Duke gave a wave. "I'm off to the security office. Rest up, glad to have you back. That information we're getting off the computer harddrives you retrieved is top notch by the way. Good work. And good work not killing Tournish. I'm sure it was a temptation if you were anywhere close to him."
"Yeah, close to him..." Beach glared as he continued to the rec room. "I was close enough to ram a .50 cal right up his.."
"BEACH!" Courtney had been sitting curled on on the end of the couch in the rec room and came flying up to practically tackle him. His loud yelp of pain as he staggered under the impact made her stop and reach to steady him before he fell over. "Gosh, sorry! I didn't know you were hurt!"
"Dang it woman!" Beach reached for the back of the couch and hobbled around it carefully. "Don't kill me sayin' hello." He settled on the couch spot she'd vacated and allowed her to apologize as she put pillows behind his back. "Fine, fine... fine! Stop it." He got hugged gingerly around the neck before she backed off. "Glad to see you too, darlin'. What are you doin' here anyway?" He watched the lights blinking on a rather ratty Christmas tree someone had dragged in to set up in the rec room. Everyone seemed like they managed to find something to use as an ornament. If half the ornaments were used brass cartridges or brass shell fragments from exploded ordinance, there was enough cheap tinsel to make up for it. Someone had been daring enough to find a barbie doll and wrap what looked suspiciously like white toilet paper to make a simulated angel for the top. If you didn't look too closely, it was almost pretty. Beach focused on the tank jockey hovering. "I thought you'd be gone today and the next couple days, off to your mama's place?"
"Oh well..." Courtney smiled as she shrugged. "I was thinking that I could make my appearance at Mother's big Christmas bash, then leave and get back here to be with my boyfriend. Originally it was spend Christmas here, then leave, but I traded off, left early, then got back in time for Christmas Day." Beach looked aside and she adopted a fake pouty tone, crossing her arms in an exaggerated pose. "But then I find out.. he's off gallivanting about the globe, saving the world and such. Just no time for his poor lonely girlfriend who was waiting back at base, wasting away wondering if he was even thinking about her." She twirled a bit of hair around her finger. "I mean, how selfish of him... not even coming back on time to share Christmas day? Terrible." Her vapid eye blinking made Beach wince. "Were you out partying without me?"
"Yes. Partying with a troop of insurgents." Beach was trying to figure out if she was acting or angry. "It wasn't like I didn't WANT to be back here."
"I know that silly!" She plopped down next to him, all smiles. "I was only teasing. I was really worried when you weren't back though. Are you okay? I mean, if Lifeline let you stay out of the infirmary, you're probably okay, right?" Her careless facade slipped a little.
"Naw, I'm just bruised up and cold." Beach's eyes widened slightly. "And there's my dinner! Thanks Mutt." The dog handler came in carrying a steaming tray, his dog trotting along behind attentively. "No Junk, mine!"
Mutt pushed the rottie aside. "Leave it, Junkyard. He'll bite your nose." Sitting down in one of the chairs, he raised an eyebrow at Lifeline. "You give him his yet?"
"Oh... no, not yet." Lifeline got up and pulled out a wrapped package. "Here, Beach... Merry Christmas." As Beachhead finished the hot food off, the medic pulled out another package for himself. "I waited for you to get back."
Breaker's voice made Beach jump slightly. "Me too." He put a second small bag in the Ranger's lap. "Couldn't open a present from you if you weren't here, you know." He settled in as Mutt and CoverGirl added presents too. "Just didn't seem right."
CoverGirl passed out the small items to the others and got her own packages to grin at BeachHead. "What? You didn't think we'd let you miss Christmas, did you? Come on, Ranger man... it's Christmas!"
Beachhead blinked at them, feeling just a tiny bit out of his depth. He turned as Clutch walked in and handed him a large mug. "Hey, merry un-Christmas Beach."
He took the drink. "You're Jewish, Clutch."
The mechanic grinned and lifted his own glass. "Yeah, but I still like eggnog. Drink up. The kitchen mixed up one last little batch for tonight."
"Geez guys..." Beach forbid himself to sniff even a tiny bit, and if his eyes were blurry, well, he needed sleep, didn't he? "Thanks."
Everyone turned at the loud theatrical sigh from the doorway. Ace bent slightly to peer at Beach closer then straightened to look mournful. "Damn it. I just lost two hundred bucks. Couldn't you just shed one tear for me, Beach?"
"Bastard." The strained mood broken by Ace's witty quip, everyone turned to opening their little gifts. Courtney produced the small blue box that Duke had dutifully given her on the correct day, still unopened. Beach was pleased to get to see her mouth go all round as she looked at the necklace he'd picked out(with a great deal of assistance from Scarlett as to what colors and what constituted 'gaudy' versus 'elegant' in jewelry). Ace graciously helped her fasten it on when Beach's fingers were too clumsy with chilblains to assist her.
"I love sapphires! Wayne, it's gorgeous!" She moved next to him to hug him again, trying not to squash him anywhere that might hurt. "Thank you."
"Better than a radiator?" Beach was kissed thoroughly. "Hmmm, definitely better than a radiator..." He winced slightly as his lip was bumped. "Ow."
Courtney stopped kissing him to check it quickly. "Sorry. You're so banged up it's hard to love on you."
"Ehh, I'll take the sting to get the lovin'..." Beach smiled at her and she kissed him again lightly. "I'm glad you like it."
"I do." Courtney tilted her chin down trying to look at the new necklace. "I can't wait to show Jaye..." She curled her legs underneath her and cuddled to his side gently. "Those are nice socks Lifeline gave you." Beach wriggled his feet in the new wool socks. "Why do you guys always get each other socks?"
"It's tradition." Lifeline answered as he padded by in his new red socks. "The silk is nice by the way. I always wondered why people got silk socks, but they're surprisingly warm."
Beach nodded and sipped at the last of his eggnog. "Best sock fer linin' in cold weather. Put a second layer of wool over top and yer feet never get cold again." Settling slightly lower in the comfortable couch, he sighed. "This is a nice un-Christmas." He gazed sleepily at the festive lights glinting off spent ammo, one day late but still somehow the holiday... just for him thanks to his friends. "Thanks guys."
Mutt looked up from the ever-present cards in his hands. "Hey, couldn't go and have Christmas without you. Wouldn't be right." His attention turned back to Ace and Breaker seated at the table with him. "Got annnnnny... fours?"
Breaker sat up and smiled. "Go fish!" The dog handler cursed softly. Junkyard looked up briefly then went back to gnawing on his own present, a stuffed blue chewtoy that might have resembled Cobra Commander just a little bit. The room was quiet except for the low talk over the card game and the Christmas music playing over the PA system. Beachhead and CoverGirl sat on the end of the couch by themselves on their end of the room.
He kissed the top of her head as she settled it onto his chest. Wrapping his arm around her, he hugged tightly. "Ah'm glad you thought Ah was worth waitin' Christmas fer..." His voice was sleepy sounding as his accent deepened.
She smiled and stroked his chest lightly. "You're worth anything I could do, Wayne. I wanted to spend Christmas with you." Her smile widened slightly as she lifted up to look at him. "Besides, Mother's parties are horrible and there's so much more fun to be had here anyway."
Beach's mouth quirked up slightly at the wicked tone in her voice. "Ahhh, really? Ya know, Ah checked my list... you've been naughty..."
Her voice went all sly as she purred into his ear. "You'd better check it again... because I'm about to be naughtier..."
"Merry Un-Christmas to me..."
Hope you enjoyed. I don't celebrate Christmas myself, so I didn't want to write a regular Christmas fic, and didn't feel it would fit the characters anyway. Too trite and over-done, you know? So I hope you enjoyed this and got the "Awwww!" moment anyway, even if Beachhead didn't make it back in time for Christmas.
Thanks for reading!