|The Greenshirts and the Werewolf
Author: Karama9 PM
When they discover that one of the Joes is a werewolf, a group of intrepid greenshirts step up to save the day! No werewolves were harmed in the making of this story. Final chapter now up!Rated: Fiction T - English - Humor/Mystery - Storm Shadow & Snake Eyes - Chapters: 6 - Words: 29,179 - Reviews: 59 - Favs: 23 - Follows: 14 - Updated: 09-19-10 - Published: 06-25-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6084726
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter 6: Every Bubble's Got to Pop
"I'm not going off by myself again," Clearwater mumbled as she made her way to the Security door with Holmes, Thompson and Hart that night.
The four were on their way outside, to once again inspect the grounds in the hope of finding them werewolf-free.
"Me neither," Hart said in a whisper. "At this point, I'm not sure running into his human form would be any safer."
Thompson clicked his tongue irritably.
"Now, stop that, Hart," Holmes said in a mock lecturing tone. "You're upsetting his number one fan by implying such things."
Thompson glared at her.
"He's a subject of research," he said, "not my idol. The fact is, he just happens to be... well, himself. He's too good to hurt team mates and if he wanted to, you wouldn't even see him coming."
Holmes snickered. "Right," she said, "not a fan at all; just fully aware that he's utterly fantastic because you spent most of your life obsessing over him and studying him."
Thompson's upper lip curled in a snarl even as he felt the blood rush to his head. He turned to Holmes but Hart spoke before he could actually think of a come back to her remark.
"Letter," the sniper said, pointing at a bit of envelope just peaking out from behind a laminated floor plan displayed on the wall near the door.
Thompson rushed past him to grab it and opened it, heart beating madly in anticipation. His face fell when a small bag of needles fell out of the folded letter. Now able to guess at the content of the letter, he read it quickly in a low mutter.
I am so sorry. It appears he was able to clean off the honey too quickly for the cure to take effect. I hope you find this letter before you go outside tonight and save yourself another fright.
Please, I beg of you, do not give up. I can imagine how frustrating this new failure must be, especially considering all your hard work, but I for one cannot stand the thought of it all being for nothing and that we would simply stop trying and leave him to his cruel fate, not to mention let the base continue to face this danger without even knowing it's there.
I'm afraid, however, that the other cures I know are not quite as gentle as the first two you were kind enough to attempt. I've enclosed silver needles with this letter – a single prick will suffice, but the silver must touch the living blood. One of us needs to get close enough to prick him fairly deeply, and as I've explained before, I lack the skills necessary for any task of the sort. I must again rely on you.
I wish it hadn't come to this; I know how difficult this will be. I rely on your courage and your skills, and pray that they will not fail you and that we may finally put this all behind us.
"What the heck does he DO here, if he can't do anything for himself?" Clearwater asked grumpily.
Holmes was frowning, thinking hard. She liked those cures less and less: it was too convenient how they got progressively worse for Snake Eyes. It was enough to make one question one's conclusions. Not that she would admit it, but she could still probe indirectly to see what her companions thought.
"Just so we're clear," she whispered as they were heading back to the quarters area, "are you all still in on this? None of you are tempted to suddenly come up with another explanation for the apparent wolf that lurks in the grounds at night, are you?"
"Nobody had better: being tired is no excuse for sticking your head back in the sand," Thompson said. "There IS no other explanation. The bandage even came off both forms at the same time."
"We think," Hart corrected. "It's hard to be certain since we didn't see the wolf every night and since Snake Eyes' bandage is or was under his uniform."
"You could see it make a slight bump when he still had it," Holmes said, shaking her head, "and I checked on the wolf myself the night of the day I first noticed that bump was gone: he didn't have it anymore either. Well, it does you all credit that you're not rattled enough to lose your heads. I feared the cures getting progressively more painful would concern some of you or more likely, be seized as an excuse to stall or give up."
"Well of course they're getting more painful!" Thompson said in an exasperated voice. "The victim was trying the gentlest cures first! Why are we even discussing this? There's a wolf at night that's not there during the day, there's no way it's coming from outside the grounds, and if it were inside, Storm Shadow would know about it, not to mention the dogs. If Storm Shadow knew someone was hiding a wolf, he would tell because of his oath, UNLESS he had another oath preventing him from doing so, such as protecting the life of a member of his clan. Snake Eyes wouldn't be in danger from being caught harbouring a wolf, but it's easy to imagine Storm Shadow worrying of what would become of his brother if he was known to be a werewolf."
"True," Hart agreed.
Holmes gave both of them a thumbs-up, reassured as to her own conclusions and determined to make it look like she hadn't had any doubts herself.
"So, how are we going to do it?" Clearwater asked. "I swear I'm not trying to bail out here, but I can't think of a way to make a trap with needles that wouldn't be kind of dangerous."
"No," Thompson agreed. "This one will require direct human intervention."
"Are you in that training exercise tomorrow?" Holmes asked him.
Thompson glowered. "No," he said. "I'm too new!" he added in a sing-song voice, presumably imitating whoever had explained to him why he hadn't been selected for the break-in exercise Snake Eyes was doing with some of the commando greenshirts in the morning.
"Too bad," Clearwater sighed. "That would have been a really good occasion."
"I'm on the team defending the base," Hart offered.
Thompson looked at him, torn between being viciously jealous and being happy to have at least one of them in on the exercise.
"Perfect," Holmes said. "You can… well, not tackle him, obviously." She scratched her head.
"I'll shoot him with the needles," Hart said, thinking out loud. "I have a blow pipe they'll fit once I attach them to some heads. It won't do much damage at all, especially if I aim somewhere non vital."
"Just don't get caught," Thompson warned.
"To be honest, I think we should go to the officers if it doesn't work this time," Clearwater said, cutting off Hart's answer.
"They won't believe it, remember?" Hart said. "Don't worry, I won't get caught."
"Actually, they might be more open to the possibility now," Holmes said. "Those letters clearly establish at least one other person shares our certainty that Snake Eyes is a werewolf, and more importantly, they are proof that at least one person was attacked by a werewolf on base."
"If he's found out before he's cured, the brass will have his head," Thompson said.
"General Hawk wouldn't do that," Clearwater objected.
"We do need to be realistic," Holmes said with a sigh. "It is possible that we can't cure him, either because The Victim's cures don't work or because we're just not capable of pulling them off properly."
She stopped there, letting someone else speak out the final decision she wanted: curing Snake Eyes would be more impressive than turning him in, but if the cures were going to become more dangerous, it was time to give up on the best case scenario and to settle for the one that still got her closer to a position in intelligence.
"I agree," Clearwater said.
"Nancy!" Thompson protested.
"Dave, come on. If we can't help him by ourselves, it makes no sense not to ask for help," Clearwater said.
"Yes, 'Dave'," Holmes said with a smirk, "it'd be selfish to chase the glory of the rescue at the cost of the rescue itself."
"Are we SURE Hawk will try to help, as opposed to, I don't know, throwing him in jail or something?" Hart asked.
"Like THAT would do anything," he chuckled.
"I can't imagine Hawk not standing by one of his best men," Holmes said.
"Okay, look," Thompson said. "I agree: if we can convince Hawk, we can PROBABLY trust him not to do anything that would harm Snake Eyes. But we don't know for sure, now do we? There's no sense taking the chance unless we have to."
"I say if this doesn't work, we have to," Hart said.
"I agree," Clearwater said, avoiding Thompson's glare.
Thompson sighed. "Fine," he said. "If this one doesn't work, we go to Hawk."
"Hart, do you need help making the needles fit your blow pipe?" Clearwater asked, eager to change the subject.
"Nah," Hart said. "You take a break for once."
The following morning, still sour over not being in the actual exercise, Thompson went over with most of the other Joes and greenshirts to watch the proceedings. He snapped to attention when he heard his name being bellowed from somewhere behind him, fighting back a wave of paranoid panic that the Sergeant Major had found out he'd had something to do with the empty cage and cameras in the PT field a few days back. He turned around.
"Yes, Sergeant Major?"
"Quit standing there and go join your team!" Beach Head bellowed from about 20 feet away, not bothering to come closer to him.
Thompson resisted rolling his eyes, feeling this was a textbook example of adding insult to injury.
"I'm not on any team, Sergeant Major," he called back.
"What do I look like, stupid?" Beach Head yelled. "You've been added to Snake Eyes' team at the last minute! MOVE!"
Thompson grinned, shouted a cheerful "Yes Sergeant Major!" and took off to join the black ninja's team. He tried to spot Hart, intent on getting some needles from him and attempt to prick Snake Eyes, but the sniper was nowhere to be seen. He shrugged it off, thinking they might spot each other during the exercise and that even if they didn't, he was still IN the exercise. He had no idea what had made the Sergeant Major change his mind at the last minute and right at that moment, he was too happy to care much.
From most people's point of view, the exercise was a complete success: about half of Snake Eyes' troops were 'taken out' – with paint guns - by the defence team before they reached the goal. The other half, Snake Eyes included, had made it to the flag-goal but only Snake Eyes himself had managed to get back out again with his uniform – and the flag - free of any colourful markings.
Hart, from his position on the roof, could not tell what was happening inside the base past knowing how many of Snake Eyes' team got in and how many came back out 'dead', but from those two indicators, it seemed to him both teams were doing pretty well. He would have been happy with his own performance, seeing he had taken out a few of the invaders himself, except he hadn't had a chance to take a single shot at Snake Eyes. He had seen him zip by a few times, but the ninja was always too fast to hit with a paint ball, and definitely too fast for Hart to ready his blow pipe and hit him with a silver needle.
On top of that, Thompson had turned up on the ninja's team after all, but Hart hadn't been able to flag him to his position to give him some of the needles. He was fully expecting the commando to blame him personally for his not being able to even try and prick the werewolf ninja, especially since he seemed to have managed to survive for a respectable amount of time, judging by the time he came back out of the base as dead.
In short, Hard was furious with himself because he'd only had one important target, and he hadn't even come near to successfully hitting it. He had to get Snake Eyes now, before everyone dispersed; he absolutely didn't want to miss his chance to try and cure the werewolf, especially considering he had basically just sat out the previous two attempts. On top of that, he knew himself well enough to guess that if he messed up, he'd spend the rest of his life wondering what he'd done wrong and it was anyone's guess what new compulsive behaviour his brains would come up with in an effort to avoid this kind of failure ever reoccurring.
The other snipers were emerging from their positions now that the exercise was over, but instead of following them, Hart crept along the roof until he had a good angle and positioned his blow pipe.
Snake Eyes had his back to him and seemed to be signing something to Beach Head, although Hard could not make out the signs from where he was. He narrowed his eyes in concentration, aiming for ninja's backside mostly to reduce the chances of actual injuries and so increase his chances of survival, and blew.
Snake Eyes would have been hard pressed to define exactly why he needed to turn around and shield himself; it may have been the sound of an object whistling through the air, it may have been a reflection in Beach Head's eyes… ultimately, it was just intuition.
He was crouching in an instant and, catching the movement of the shiny projectile, was able to position his sword just in time: the needle pinged harmlessly on his blade and bounced back a little, falling to the ground. Snake Eyes smirked to himself: regardless of what Tommy may think, he could rely on his instincts just fine when he needed to.
"What was that?" Beach Head shouted, running to the needle. "Who's the idiot shooting after the exercise is done? And with a NEEDLE? Wait a minute… Snake Eyes, would that have hit if you hadn't blocked it?"
Snake Eyes nodded, looking towards the roof.
"And guess what? The one greenie that I know can use a blow pipe well was on the roof today," Beach Head growled. "HART!" he bellowed, taking off at a run towards the ladder leading to the roof.
Beach Head had left the needle behind, so Snake Eyes picked it up and glared at it: it was silver. He turned towards Storm Shadow, who mock-clapped from where he was, several strides away, to congratulate him on the block. Snake Eyes signalled him over.
"Silver?" Tommy asked when he was close enough to be heard speaking in a whisper.
Snake Eyes nodded and signed the word for "Heart".
"That was nowhere NEAR your… oh, you mean Hart, don't you?" He hesitated a moment and finally sighed. "Yes, alright, he's one of them. You DO remember that we don't want them to panic, right?"
Snake Eyes nodded and made a conscious effort not to take off after Beach Head in search of the greenshirt.
"You must be glad you listened to your instincts THIS time," Storm Shadow commented, eyeing the needle. "Granted, this wouldn't have been dangerous as such, especially not considering where he aimed it, but it still wouldn't have felt particularly nice."
Snake Eyes didn't get a chance to respond: Beach Head had obviously found Hart and was shouting at him at the top of his lungs. Storm Shadow cocked his head, listening intently in an effort to make out Hart's answers through Beach's questions.
"Good news is, he hasn't cracked yet," he commented as Beach reached the ground again, dragging Hart by his ear. "Bad news is, it's because he hasn't been able to get a word in."
Sure enough, Beach didn't stop yelling until he had dragged Hart near Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow and the other Joes that were gathering around to witness the excitement.
"GO AHEAD AND TELL THE NINJA WHY YOU'RE TRYING TO KILL YOURSELF, MAGGOT!" he finally shouted at top volume into the sniper's ear while pushing him towards Snake Eyes.
Hart jumped back, obviously terrified, and looked around helplessly. "I… I was trying to… it's… I wasn't going to hurt him! I…"
"THEN WHY DID YOU SHOOT HIM WITH A NEEDLE?" Beach Head bellowed.
"We were trying to put some silver in contact with his blood."
Beach Head whipped his head around to stare down the newcomer.
Storm Shadow patted Snake Eyes' shoulder sympathetically.
Thompson took a deep breath.
"Sergeant Snake Eyes is a werewolf, Sergeant Major. We've seen his lupine form, and we've been in contact with what we assume has been his only victim to date. As far as I can figure out…"
Thompson stopped talking when the shock had dissipated enough for everyone around, with the exception of Hart, Snake Eyes, Scarlett, Storm Shadow and himself, to start laughing heartily. He sighed and patiently waited for the laughter to die down enough to be heard again.
"I have proof," he said a bit testily. "For one thing, these…" he produced the letters from under his jacket, "are the letters to us from that one victim."
"A victim?" Storm Shadow exclaimed. "Thompson, there CAN'T be a victim."
Thompson ignored him; he was more than accustomed to people not believing him.
"Like I was saying," he continued, "I figure whatever happened to that victim was a while ago, before Snake Eyes' control got better, because we would all notice if people regularly got attacked by a werewolf around here. Thing is, we can't…"
"Let me see that," Beach Head said, grabbing the sheets from Thompson. "Dear friends," he read out loud, "I am so sorry. It appears he was able to clean off the honey too quickly for the cure to take effect. I hope you find this letter before you go outside tonight…"
Snake Eyes did not need to hear any more. Truth be told, he hadn't really needed to hear any of it. Tommy was the only one who knew about the greenshirt's theory AND who said greenshirts actually were; he had known what night Snake Eyes wouldn't be in his room because Scarlett's roommate was off base and therefore, when the greenshirts could safely set a trap above his bed; his brother had volunteered to take Timber so the greenshirts could mess in his quarters without encountering the wolf and frankly, who else would manage to talk a bunch of greenshirts into dousing him with water, coating him in honey, AND shooting needles at him? Finally, Snake Eyes even knew WHY Tommy had done it: the idiot was trying to teach him to listen to his instincts more; he'd been obsessing about it ever since the gym incident.
Beach Head was still reading, although he was starting to have a hard time staying angry rather than cracking up laughing, when he felt a block of air moving very fast and suddenly heard the unique sound of two ninjas colliding.
"Ninja FIGHT!" Ace called out, and suddenly, the fighter pilot seemed a very popular person to share secrets with, as numerous Joes approached him to slip him pieces of paper, make small hand signs to him, or whisper in his ear.
Beach glowered at them but didn't push the issue right away: he didn't approve of the bets, but the fact was that ninja fights were pretty fun to watch. This one got even better when Snake Eyes managed to get Storm Shadow in a strangle hold.
"B… brother," Storm Shadow sputtered, smirking as though he was not in the process of getting strangled, "don't you… uck…" The smirk finally vanished as the smaller ninja gasped for air. The talking, however, didn't stop.
"…realize… this… was… all… for… your… own… good?" he finished, gasping between each word.
Snake Eyes released him, signed that he did and proceeded to try and pound his brother and best friend flat. For a man who had been turning blue seconds earlier, Storm Shadow did a remarkable job blocking and dodging most of the hits, merely getting mildly battered rather than clobbered.
Between the fight and the greenshirts' reaction – they seemed to be having trouble facing the idea they had been used by Storm Shadow to prank Snake Eyes and were arguing over alternative ways to explain what was happening - Beach Head was so distracted that he only noticed Stalker when his fellow Ranger grabbed the letters from him.
Stalker read the first few sentences on the top sheet, scanned the rest, rolled his eyes, squeezed the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger, and, making Beach Head jump, suddenly shouted at both ninja to stop.
It was a great credit to the authority that Stalker could put into his voice that both men actually did stop. Beach Head suspected it was partly because they had once both been under Stalker's command, but in any case, the point was that the two ninja snapped to attention before they could help themselves and adopt a more ninja-like casual attitude.
"Both of you, with me," Stalker said, marching back towards the Pit's entrance. "You too, Scarlett. Nobody's going to make me believe you weren't in on this. Your quarters, right, Tommy? I'm guessing he moved with the incense and the CD."
"…and sure enough, Timber was in Storm Shadow's quarter. In his bed, actually," Stalker finished.
"I still don't see the necessity of removing the newspaper," Storm Shadow grumbled. "That was just low, Stalker."
Stalker glared at him and didn't dignify the comment with an answer.
Hawk looked from Snake Eyes and Scarlett to Storm Shadow, to the four greenshirts – two more had admirably turned up when Beach Head had ordered Thompson and Hart to the General's office.
"I don't know whether to laugh or yell, to be perfectly honest," he said. "Snake Eyes, you first. Explain yourself."
Snake Eyes signed that he had to bring Timber along to treat him and had simply wanted to leave his General out of it.
"So, you figured I wasn't big enough to deny you or face the ordeal of looking the other way for a couple of weeks?"
Snake Eyes signed to protest that he knew quite well Hawk was indeed perfectly capable of handling either situation but that it didn't mean he should be made to if it could be avoided.
Hawk snorted angrily at him and turned to his red-headed companion.
"I agreed with him, sir."
Hawk sighed and shook his head.
"I don't want either of you to EVER do this to me again, are we clear? You need to break rules, you TELL me. Got it?"
Snake Eyes nodded and did an 'ok' sign with his thumb and pointer finger.
Hawk turned to Storm Shadow.
"Keep it short and sweet," he instructed.
"Are you sure? It IS a thrilling tale."
"Summarize. Concentrate on what the devil you were thinking."
"Well, for starters, I also felt that Snake Eyes was doing you a favour by hiding this from you because I figured otherwise, you'd let him get away with it anyway and you'd be the one with the added stress. That being said, once I found out Timber had been spotted, I changed my mind and tried to talk him into coming clean."
Snake Eyes' fists clenched, remembering how Storm Shadow had elected to try and make his point by allowing Timber to be shot with a tranq dart.
"How did you find out they had seen Timber?"
"Holmes came to interrogate me after a hand-to-hand class and told me as much. She gave me the impression she knew Snake Eyes was involved, so I followed her to find out how much she knew; that's how I found out they believed Timber and Snake Eyes were two halves of a werewolf."
All four greenshirts glared at him.
"Keep going, Storm Shadow," Hawk instructed.
"They came up with a detailed plan to force Timber to transform back into Snake Eyes in front of at least one witness by drugging him and locking him in a cage in the middle of the PT field for Beach Head to run into on his morning run. They even set up a bunch of cameras to capture the transformation in case it happened before Beach Head got there. I went to pick Timber up before dawn and brought him back to Snake Eyes, hoping the fact his wolf had been shot – if only with a mostly empty trang dart – and caged would make him decide it was safer to arrange for Timber's presence to be known and sanctioned. It didn't, he still insisted on not involving you and, convinced the greenies wouldn't stooge unless they had proof there was a wolf around, which involved at the very least their finding him again, figured he just had to find a better spot for Timber to hang out at night."
"You're saying Timber was outside at night?" Hawk asked.
Snake Eyes nodded.
"Snake Eyes has him trained to stay where he's told and he was leading him to secluded areas," Scarlett specified.
"I found him that first time because he howled," Thompson piped in.
"Which, in all honesty, he doesn't do much," Storm Shadow said. "Once he was used to spending the day inside, it turned out I didn't even need the forest sound CD. Anyway, I was very angry with Snake Eyes when I left his quarters that night, associating his making such a hare-brained decision with his wrist injury in the gym and blaming both on his not listening to his instincts. Ninjas need their instincts to survive, and I was genuinely concerned for his safety."
Snake Eyes sagged and Stalker sighed. Hawk groaned.
"You do realize the fact you actually mean that only makes it more infuriating?" Hawk said.
"I can imagine," Storm Shadow replied, smirking. "It's like when a child makes a bigger mess while trying to clean up, isn't it?"
Hawk forced himself to take a long breath; Storm Shadow sounded like he was getting enough amusement out of the whole situation to make any punishment that was sure to come his way worth it.
"Go on," the General sighed.
"Yes, sir. So, I was picturing all kinds of ways ignoring his intuition - like he had gotten into the bad habit of doing - could become fatal. At the same time, I was furious that he was so angry with me for Timber getting knocked out by a bit of tranquilizer while taking the chance he'd eventually be shot with silver bullets. That WAS the very first thing they" he pointed at the greenshirts with his chin, "thought of once Holmes finished convincing them Snake Eyes was a werewolf."
"Snake Eyes didn't know about that yet!" Scarlett protested.
"Indeed he didn't, something I realized after a few minutes of pacing around angrily, frustrated and wondering what to do to make my brother come to his senses, if not for this particular issue, than at least in general. So, I came up with the idea of getting the greenshirts to do something constructive rather than destructive: as long as they were doing relatively harmless things to Snake Eyes, they weren't harming him OR Timber, and I wanted Snake Eyes to learn to pay attention to his instincts again, something I hoped would happen after a few unpleasant cures were applied, while hoping none of them would actually reach him and I would be proven wrong in thinking my brother was one ninja who would indeed blissfully step on the proverbial landmine."
"Sir?" Clearwater suddenly spoke up, glaring daggers at the ninja. "Permission to test HIS instincts over the next few months?"
"No," Hawk said firmly. "You've done quite enough damage as it is, Private, and he'd be tearing up the place looking for traps."
Storm Shadow cleared his throat.
"Do you want me to continue?" he asked.
Hawk sighed again.
"That explains the water and the honey," he said. "But needles? What were you thinking? That could have seriously injured someone, and not necessarily Snake Eyes!"
Storm Shadow threw Hart and Thompson a glare.
"I assumed Thompson would keep the needles on him and attempt to prick Snake Eyes during the exercise. I only went with that idea after I had convinced Duke last night to make Beach Head include him in Snake Eyes' team. I absolutely didn't expect him to chicken out and ask Hart to shoot them instead. It's honestly extremely disappointing."
"How was I supposed to guess I'd be in Snake Eyes' team when I was explicitly told that I wouldn't be?" Thompson protested. "I even tried to find Hart and get the needles once I found out this morning, but he was hiding!"
"I was SUPPOSED to hide!" Hart protested as well. "I tried to signal you a couple of times, but I couldn't very well yell out for everyone to hear!"
Storm Shadow cocked his head and, inexplicably, smiled.
"You only found out this morning? I take back what I said, then," he said.
Hawk drummed on his desk with his fingers for a few seconds before he turned to the greenshirts.
"I want a complete report, from each of you, detailing EXACTLY what you've been doing under everyone's noses and how you talked yourselves into believing Snake Eyes was a werewolf."
There was a chorus of "Yes, sir!" from the greenshirts.
"I will determine any other necessary disciplinary actions once I've seen those reports. In the meantime, you're all assigned three tours each of guard duty. Sergeant Major Beach Head will give you your exact assignments. Dismissed."
There was another chorus of "Yes, sir!" and the greenshirts trooped out after one last glare at Storm Shadow.
"As for you three, you will take turns watching Timber, outside, at all times. The poor animal has been cooped up inside long enough. When will he be well enough to leave, Snake Eyes?"
Snake Eyes indicated he had planned on Timber going off in the woods outside the base the following day and staying there until he could bring him back to California.
"Scarlett and yourself will bring him back, then, the time of course being taken off your accumulated vacation. You will both be doing KP for two weeks when you come back."
Snake Eyes and Scarlett saluted, Scarlett adding a "Yes, sir."
"As for you," Hawk turned to Storm Shadow, "You're back on daily appointments with Psyche Out, he may be able to determine how you convinced yourself that you needed to cause this much trouble to ensure Snake Eyes' safety."
Storm Shadow's eyes widened. Snake Eyes, who was in the process of writing a note, paused long enough to silently chuckle.
"Sir, that's really not…!"
"That's really not open for discussion," Hawk snipped. "You will also be on KP duty for a month."
Storm Shadow smirked at that, causing Hawk to scowl.
"You are hereby ordered to NOT throw anything away until you are explicitly asked to by a member of the kitchen staff and you honestly believe that they really do want you to throw the item in question away. That includes any food that you deem 'not fit to eat'. You are not to use this order to refuse to obey theirs by pretending you're not sure of their intention. You are to do your very best to make yourself useful as per their instructions and nothing more and to endeavour NOT to terrify anyone. I do NOT want a repeat of the last few times you've been on KP duty. Are we clear?"
"And you can rest assure I will warn them not to just tell you to take out the trash without specifically pointing to the precise bags they mean."
"With all due respect, sir, you're no fun," Storm Shadow said, pouting.
"Why thank you," Hawk said dryly. "Dismissed, all three of you."
The trio saluted and exited the office. Snake Eyes signed to Scarlett that he'd see her later with one hand and grabbed a handful of the back of Storm Shadow's uniform with the other.
Storm Shadow turned, smiling sweetly, pretending not to notice how angry Snake Eyes was despite the other man's elevated pulse and sharp breathing.
"There's no need to thank me or even to apologize, dear brother," he said.
Snake Eyes shoved the note he had been writing at him and stalked away.
Storm Shadow frowned: he hated when Snake Eyes tried to get the last word in this fashion. He read the note hurriedly.
I don't blindly follow my instincts because the last time I made a decision based mostly on my gut feeling, with only limited actual information available, beyond just dodging or blocking something, was when I decided I had to kill you upon finding you with Cobra.
Storm Shadow scowled at the note and crumpled it. He ran towards Snake Eyes and whirled him around by the shoulder.
"Touching," he snarled. "But I'd rather live through that again than have you blunder into a deadly trap because you didn't feel like trusting yourself that day!"
Snake Eyes took a sharp intake of breath and started to sign he didn't need a nanny, but Storm Shadow grabbed his hands.
"You looked like you needed specialized training, I provided," he growled. "You have NO idea how glad I am that it paid off and that you blocked that needle! Seeing as you've never accepted the Hard Master's request to help me lead the clan, complementing your training as necessary would be my responsibility even if I DIDN'T care!"
Snake Eyes shook his hands free but hesitated for a moment, thinking. There was no point arguing with Tommy over his motivations, his friend was obviously genuinely convinced he had done the right thing. There was also no point accusing him of having enjoyed himself, Storm Shadow would not bother to deny it and would not see anything wrong with the fact. It was more than a little scary to think that as head of the clan, Tommy was indeed kind of responsible for him – regardless of the fact it was wholly unnecessary. If anything, Tommy was the one who needed looking after, if only to make sure he kept his head on mostly straight instead of blowing the smallest incidents out of proportion and coming up with this kind of scheme to solve non-existent problems.
He sighed and signed that if Tommy promised that it would keep him from ever doing something like that to him again, he'd yield to the Hard Master's request and help lead the clan.
Storm Shadow's scowl turned into a smile.
"You know, I'd love to pretend this was a secondary objective, but it's actually just a fortunate side effect," he said.
Snake Eyes snorted and, suddenly reminded of what he had noticed while Storm was explaining his actions to Hawk, signed that speaking of secondary objectives, his first advice was to forget about Thompson.
Storm Shadow smirked. "Nah. I'll give him time to cool off before I approach him, but he really has good potential and I like his character, too. Look at all the trouble he went through to try and save you! Err… by the way, I AM sorry the honey went THAT badly. As funny as it was."
Snake Eyes shrugged, both at the apology and about Thompson, and chuckled silently before signing that he was now not sorry at all for any of the mess Timber had made in his brother's quarters.
Storm Shadow laughed as well. "Fair enough," he said. "So, speaking of the fearsome werewolf, who's taking first turn keeping him company outside?"
A week later found Storm Shadow sitting in Hawk's office, wondering what the kitchen staff could possibly have complained about to warrant the General calling him in – he had actually behaved, or at least he thought he had. Waiting to be told off while not knowing what he had done wrong forcibly reminded him of his teenage years, where he'd been sitting in the Hard Master's office on a regular basis, waiting to find out what he needed to apologize for. Granted, back then, it was more a matter of finding out what he'd been CAUGHT doing than what he had done.
Hawk finally looked up from the file he was reading to glare at him.
"I got the greenshirts' reports today," he growled. "The only reason you're still getting this assignment is because you're the only logical choice for it, especially with Snake Eyes and Scarlett on their way to California."
Tommy raised an eyebrow. "Sir?" He asked.
"The reason Cobra has been relatively quiet lately is that they've been very actively trying to locate and capture William; we've had to move him three times in the past month alone. I've reached the decision that if Cobra is going to know where he is anyway, he's better off here. He's your new assignment, Storm Shadow. You are to go collect him and he will be under your care, here."
Tommy grinned. Although it was arguably bad news that Cobra had almost found Billy on three occasions in just one month, he'd been trying to talk Hawk into letting the teen hide with him rather than with generic witness protection agents for months.
"About time," he said. "I mean, yes sir." He added under the glare Hawk gave him, throwing in a salute but not losing his grin.
"You need to understand this is strictly a temporary arrangement. As long as he is here, his location is known and even with you around, he won't be as safe as he is when he is off Cobra's radar entirely."
"Understood; I will help you find him new hiding places. I can locate some old friends who can look after him EVEN if Cobra turns up, and who can continue his training."
"You'll need to give me the details, we'll see if they're satisfactory. Here's the address." Hawk said, handing him a piece of paper. "Go get fitted with facial prosthetics and put on a non-white business suit, we don't want you to be recognized. And just in case you're wondering, you will still have to do your remaining KP when you get back. I'm still debating whether to assign you more punishment duty, actually. Dismissed."
Storm Shadow read the address and gave the paper back to Hawk before saluting again, still grinning, and running off.
A million thanks to my beta Asterisk78!
After Beach Head and Snake Eyes, and following my request at the end of the last chapter, Storm Shadow's got his turn getting coated in honey. It happens in Flames of Paradise, over in the movie section, chapter 9. Anybody else who would like to write it is still welcomed to do so, naturally.
Thank you for reading! The epilogue is just my filling in blanks between stories, not really a direct introduction to the next one.
Feedback insanely appreciated, as always.