The Trench Rats: Part 9
TURQUOISE LED GREEN into Mess Hall, mumbling something about going to see the refugee compound at some other time; Green wasn't certain what he was talking about as he wasn't paying much attention anymore. He was too busy gawking around the crowded room to notice much of what the other Rat said. He hadn't thought the room would be so big, or have so many people in it.
Several Trench Rats glanced up at him as they went past, but only briefly, before turning back to their dinners. Turquoise led him to the food line. "You just pick up what you need. I'll be sitting over there. Come over when you're finished." Rubbing his forehead, he walked away to join two other Rats seated at a nearby table.
Green swallowed and made his way up the line. He took the absolute minimum he could without sacrificing the entire meal. Any other time he would have been starving, but today he was far too nervous to eat much. When he got back to the table he saw Turquoise in apparent conversation with one of the other Rats--or rather, the other Rat talked to Turquoise, while Turquoise listened. One of them was dressed in blue, with a lance-corporal's bar on his arm; the other was in gold, with a corporal's bars. Startled, Green nearly dropped his tray, but Turquoise waved him over.
"This is Lance-Corporal Blue and Corporal Gold," he said. "This is PFC Green."
"Hi!" Gold greeted. He held out his hand. Green set his tray down so hard some of the soup spilled over the side of the bowl, and he saluted. There was a pause. Gold shrugged and gave a halfhearted salute back. Then he waved his hand for Green to sit down.
"So you're new here?" he asked, picking up a piece of bread and proceeding to tear it apart with his hands. Green nodded, his throat stuck. The corporal...wasn't quite what he'd expected. He was too short, taller than Green but not by much, shorter even than Blue. And he didn't look like the kind of person who would hit someone in the head with a gun butt. Not at all.
"Yes, Sir," he finally managed to get out.
"Oh, the 'Sir' type. Okay. So you got done stamping those letters, huh?"
The question obviously wasn't addressed to him, so he didn't answer. Turquoise sighed and rubbed his eyes, ink still staining his hands.
"Yes. Every last one. Copper took them, though, so if they end up in the wrong place, it's not my fault."
"Turquoise here is what you call an eternal pessimist," Gold said to Green, as if the other Rat couldn't hear. When Turquoise gave him a nasty look he went back to the subject. "Just so long as they're done. They're supposed to be delivered--tomorrow, is it?"
"I thought it was tonight. He already left, right?"
"Left, right--that's crazy talk there."
"Look, did he leave or didn't he? Copper said he had to have them by tonight...it's tonight, I figure he has to have them by now!"
"Okay, all right, just joking. I thought he came back by now...didn't his company come back in?"
"Do I look like I was there?"
"Of course they did," Blue cut in. "I'm here, aren't I? Where the hell is your head tonight, Gold?"
"Well, that's kind of what I was getting at...I mean, shouldn't you be gone? Silver and the others were supposed to raid that whatchamacallit, that camp. I heard he scoped it out, if they don't do it tonight they're gonna lose their chance."
"That's up to Echo and Charlie Companies. Mine's still stuck here. Just to irritate you, dear."
"Whatever, just so long as he did whatever he had to do with those papers so I don't get held responsible. Look, bread angel!" Gold held up his piece of bread to reveal what he'd been working on; it resembled the outline of an angel with wings. Turquoise didn't seem interested; Blue smiled over his soup. Green just stared.
This guy whacked a Nazi with a gun?
"He's deep in thought," Gold said, tracing patterns in his soup with a spoon and grinning at Green. "Right now he's got to be thinking something deep, something profound. WHAT'RE YOU THINKING, GREEN?"
He said it so loudly that Green snapped out of his thoughts and actually blurted out what was on his mind.
"I don't see you hitting him with a gun, Sir!"
Blue's hand froze on its way to his mouth with the spoon. Turquoise looked up. Gold gaped across the table.
Green turned every shade of red humanly possible. He wanted to just drop his head in his soup and die.
Then Gold started laughing. Green's first thought was to turn red again; then he realized Gold was laughing more at what he'd said than at Green himself. So he simply got...confused.
"Yeah," Gold said as soon as he could control his laughter, "I suppose it is kinda hard to imagine. But it just kinda happened."
"You really did hit him?" Now that the story was confirmed Gold seemed to come more down to Earth; he wasn't the savage Trench Rat brutally bashing a Nazi's head in with his gun. "In the head? With the gun?--I mean, Sir."
Gold took a mouthful of soup. "Yeah, I did. But only 'cause Burgundy yelled to do something. Before that all I was doing was gawking at him." He started laughing again, a weird choked sound. "Somebody smack me before I shoot soup out my nose."
"God." Turquoise this time, shaking his head and putting it in his hands.
"So you're the one who's been keeping the lieutenant in business?" Blue inquired, blowing on his soup.
"No, it was just him, just that one guy. Nurse Skye and I have reached an agreement that I will not be held technically responsible for any other injuries that occur as the result of my gun hitting someone's head. Technically."
This time he and Blue started laughing. Green tried a wavery smile. He hadn't imagined the Trench Rats as being anything like this at all...these people were too...normal.
"I'm sure Burgundy will agree too," Blue said.
"Make him sign something," Turquoise added, "and I'll put the official stamp of approval on it."
They started howling now. Green couldn't help joining in, forgetting all about his food. For several moments they tried to catch their breath, gasping and heaving.
"What, that's all you got?" Gold asked, noticing Green's tray. "That won't keep you going! You should be eating like me, now--"
"You'd need Gold's metabolism too," Blue said. "Or else you'd balloon up."
"Like his head," Turquoise put in.
"Oh, yeah now, that's funny. Eat like Turquoise does and you'll just blow away. Watch out for any strong winds."
"I wasn't hungry," Turquoise retorted, sounding slightly offended.
"You're just like a camel, Turq. You live off of something besides food. Someday we're gonna find out just what that something is."
"And try it out on Gold," Blue finished, and they laughed again.
"I hope you gentlemen aren't having too much fun without me?"
Gold stood up and gave a dramatic bow as Skye appeared, carrying her own tray. "So you've finally decided to join us common folk!" he exclaimed, giving her his seat. She gave him an odd smile as he moved to Green's side. "What dragged you away from sickbay, LC?"
"The sound of charming company in the Mess Hall. Cackling their brains out."
"Careful. Gold threatened to spew soup from his nose," Turquoise said.
Skye wrinkled her nose. Gold tossed his bread angel at Turquoise, who ducked. It landed in another Rat's soup several feet away.
"Did not, at least not anytime recently. Make yourself at home, LC. There's plenty of room, and plenty of food."
"Not for long. Gold's taking it all up. Look, poor Turquoise is going to fade away."
"Ha!" This time Gold flicked a spoonful of rice soup at Blue. It smacked the lance-corporal in the face and he sputtered. Skye and Green had to force themselves not to laugh.
"A bunch of animals," Skye said to Green and Turquoise, as if including them in on a big secret. Gold got up and grabbed Blue by the shoulders, knocking off his helmet and rubbing the top of his head with his knuckles.
"Aw, Blue here's not an animal. It's just me being my stupid old self. Blue, be a doll, and replace my piece of bread. I think I lost it in somebody else's dinner."
"Yes, Sir." Blue retrieved his helmet, picked up his tray, and walked away.
"See what a gentleman he can be?" Gold asked the other three as he left. "And you called us animals--"
"Not particularly. I was specifying you."
"Oh, now, LC, that hurts. Just when I thought you felt something for me."
"That's the indigestion talking, Corporal."
The endless banter and innuendoes seemed very out of place to Green, but as the others didn't seem very insulted by it he didn't complain. In fact, he rather liked it. He didn't feel quite so anxious anymore; it was almost like home.
Which was a place he didn't count on seeing again anytime soon. So, he told himself, he'd better get used to it here. This was going to be his home, now.