D-Day + 28, July 4th 1944
As Morita stood nervously in guard, Dernier and Falsworth were hard at work, doing what they could with the components available to them.
"We're going to have to hurry or its demotions for all." Said Falsworth, "It doesn't have to be pretty, it just has to be good."
Dernier muttered a string of sentences in French that did not sound very kind.
"What's the situation, Corporal?"
"All clear, sir. Word is Harben will be running a little late. We should have all the time we need."
"Let us hope so."
"Dum-Dum, are you kidding with that thing?" Morita asked incredulously.
"What are you talking about? He's gonna love it!"
Morita grumbled. Falsworth approached them from the other side of the tent in a bit of a hurry and said,
"He's here. Get ready!"
"Bucky isn't back yet."
"We'll have to start without him."
It was a couple of minutes before Steve and Jones walked up to the group, back from their recon mission. All at once, Dugan, Falsworth, Morita and Dernier, who'd just exited, saluted him.
Steve saluted them back, feeling a bit puzzled. There was a chain-of-command in the commandos, but the men were competent and disciplined enough for them to shirk the usual military protocol.
"At ease." He said uneasily.
"Welcome back, Sir." Falsworth said, "How did the mission go?"
"Intel was right. Mission is on for tomorrow at O-three-hundred."
"Very good, sir."
"Alright, what's with all the siring and saluting?" Steve asked suspiciously, "What did you do and are we going to have to desert?"
"It's nothing like that, Sir, though mentioning 'desert' is quite apt. It's just… Well, it's your birthday…"
"Happy birthday, Cap." all five other men bellowed in unison, as if they were answeing to a drill sergeant in basic training.
"…And the chaps and I have put a little something together for you."
"Would you care to step inside?"
"Oh." Steve said again, wide-eyed, "Oh!"
On the table, which was usually covered with maps and impaled with trophy daggers were a couple of plates of food, a pie and a bottle of wine.
"Jesus, where'd you get stakes?" Steve said, tossing his helmet aside.
"It's better than you don't know." Morita said.
"Who did all this?"
"They procurement of the materials was carried out by Dugan and Morita. I found the wine." Falsworth explained, "Dernier and I did the cooking."
"It smells great." Said Steve, and turned to Jones, "So I suppose the recon mission you suggested that brought us within a few hundred meters of the enemy was all about misdirection?"
"I got you a gift!" bellowed Dugan.
"Oh my god." Morita mumbled as Dugan reached under a chair to produce a cardboard box, "Come on, open it."
With an excited grin, Steve opened the box and reached in to find a hat. A bowler hat, just like Dugan's, except that instead of the two-bar-chevrons of a Corporal, it bore the silver-bars of a Captain.
"Well?" Dugan asked excitedly.
Steve put it on, and said,
"I love it."
"See?" Dugan said as he nudged Morita, who rolled his eyes. Just then, they heard a Jeep engine approach outside.
"And there's Barnes." Falsworth said and stepped out. Steve followed him, as did the others. Outside, Bucky was getting out of the jeep.
As so was Peggy.
"Happy birthday, little guy." Bucky said as he pulled Steve into a brief hug, "Have a good one."
"Hello." She said, trying to maintain an appearance of professionalism and composure. Steve didn't even try.
"You look so beautiful."
"Oh my, you've had quite a month haven't you?"
"It just got a lot better."
"Right." Bucky said, "Looks like our job is done. Easy Company has beer. What do you say boys?"
"Sounds good." Jones said, and the six men promptly departed for the other side of the camp.
"Where are you stationed?" Steve asked.
"At Camp Rapier. Twenty miles south."
"Is Colonel Philips with you?"
"He is. And he's asked me to debrief you on your actions this past week."
"Oh, okay. Have you eaten? There's a very good lunch on the table. Maybe we could talk over lunch if you're hungry."
"Oh. Good." Steve said with a pleased grin as she walked into the tent.