Author: Catwings1026 PM
Helix has been asked to deliver something to Scarlett - only when you have a "weird brain," something as simple as delivering a package suddenly gets more complicated. Why isn't Helix on the character list?Rated: Fiction K - English - Drama - Scarlett - Words: 2,535 - Reviews: 16 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 1 - Published: 11-12-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7546854
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: G.I. Joe and all associated characters and concepts are property of Hasbro Inc. I'm just one of a large family of fans who likes telling family stories – no profit needed, no profit earned.
Author's Note: The events in this story are written to take place in the IDW Cobra Civil War continuity, after the events in SNAKE EYES #6. I don't like Helix, but I felt the need to try to get into her head with this story... to see what might happen if the reason Helix wasn't after Vargas with Snake Eyes and Duke was that she was on her way back to Fort Baxter. I'm writing with the understanding, as per Chuck Dixon, that Helix is a high-functioning autistic – and my understanding of autism comes from my teaching experience, and from the most excellent blog, REPORTS FROM A RESIDENT ALIEN, written by an autistic college student. I highly recommend reading it – if for no other reason than it's a darned good blog, and really allows "neurotypicals" like us to understand, a bit, what it's like to have a "weird brain" like Helix's.
I don't understand other peoples' feelings very well; it's hard to detect what they're thinking. I also don't copy other peoples' emotions-I'm not happy just because they're happy, or sad because they're sad.
I don't even really form strong emotional attachments. Out of sight, out of mind. No real desire to socialize. If we have common interests, or you know interesting things I'd like to learn, fine; if not, boring-no offense, really; it's just not something I'm into, however much most people want to socialize. I'm one of the few autistic people I know who are more asocial than alienated.
But I do care a great deal. I feel an odd sort of empathy when I read a news article about someone being mistreated; when my mom lost her job; when my friend broke up with her boyfriend. It feels the same way as when I see a mistake in an essay or a botched equation in my homework, only more intense-like something's wrong, and it has to be fixed. I can't stand leaving a mistake in an essay. I can't stand leaving a mistake in the world.
My reaction to seeing someone suffer is wanting to fix it, wanting to find a solution. As I've become more mature, I've come to realize that a solution can't always be found; that sometimes your solution is indeterminate. Especially, you can't solve death.
- Lisa Daxer, Reports from a Resident Alien Blog
Bees see ultraviolet light as a color.
Humans, with our human eyes, can't. We see a spectrum we've identified and named – starting with red, ending with violet – and we feel pretty superior, some of us, to animals that don't see colors the way we do. Like, bees can't see red and can only distinguish a handful of the colors we see. Poor bees, right?
But they can see ultraviolet, and we can't. The world looks entirely different through a bee's eyes – there are even colors we don't have a name for, and maybe others we haven't even figured out that bees CAN see, because the only way we can understand bee vision is to manipulate the wavelengths of light, pull them down into a range our eyes can handle.
That's what it's like living in a world of "neurotypicals" – people with brains that all work pretty much the same way – when your brain is wired weird.
When the shrinks tried to categorize and label me, they said I'm on the autism spectrum. "High functioning autistic." Which means, essentially, that I'm not locked off in my own little world and I'm not a "Rainman" sort, running stats and counting cards in my head while I walk around muttering "Kmart sucks." To a lot of neurotypicals, "high functioning on the autism spectrum" means "close enough to what I am not to make me feel uncomfortable."
If the autism spectrum was a color spectrum, I'd have bee vision. My abilities put me in the ultraviolet range – the range neurotypicals can't see, can't wrap their normally-wired brains around – but I can't see some of the "colors" that neurotypicals do. Emotions, social pleasantries, facial recognition - not in my range of vision. I know, poor Helix, right? Nah. Poor you, not being able to memorize the katas in martial arts after watching them once. Poor you, not being able to see the world in data sets that give you exactly the information you need to keep yourself and your team alive in combat. It's a genetic trade-off, and I think I've got the better part of the bargain.
So here I am, standing in the doorway to the mess hall at Fort Baxter. I've got a job to do. A neurotypical would call it a "favor." It's not a favor. Favors are no big deal. This is a job, and it's got a protocol. I've been going over it since I got on the transport flight at Ramstein.
Keep the package safe and close at hand.
At Baxter, locate Scarlett.
Deliver package to Scarlett.
Converse as little as is humanly possible.
Job done. Exit and catch some rack time.
Only it's not as simple as that. It never is.
Step one - locate Scarlett. Greenshirt on duty says she's in the mess hall. Great. I've got "face blindness." Lots of autistics do. Faces that make most people think "Mainframe" or "Alpine" don't bring those words to my mind. Makes finding people in a crowd interesting. Try doing one of those "Where's Waldo" books if you don't know what Waldo looks like, and you can get a taste of it. Face blindness doesn't mean I don't know my friends… just means it's their vocal tones and body language that identifies individuals to me, not the structure of their faces. It's handier that way, really – awfully hard to put on a mask and fool a person who knows that you always stand just so, or that before you speak you always look thirty degrees down and to the right. You can't disguise subconscious gestures.
Lucky for me, Scarlett's main distinguishing feature makes her pretty much unique – I may not be able to identify her face from a mug shot, but I can pick out that hair across a room. And that's where she is – all the way at the far end of the mess hall, sitting by herself by the window. Target acquired - begin approach.
Step two. Get from point A to point B without mashing any neurotypical feelings. Neurotypicals are weird when it comes to social etiquette. They're random and chaotic. Their rules about what to say and how to say it and what topics are "off limits" change depending on where you are, who you're with, and what time of day or year or month it is. Mostly, I steer clear of "social chitchat." With the guys, it's easy. The old "chin jerk" salute – catch the eye, move chin up like half a nod, maybe smile – is enough. That gets me most of the way across the room. The package is in my pocket. I'm halfway to done.
That's when Scarlett sees me coming.
She looks up, catching my movement first; it takes her a second to focus on my face – her brain just processed that it's me. She can't help the glance she shoots at the door. I know who she's looking for. He's not here.
Now she's looking at me. She knows I've seen her, knows I'm heading her way. Her face creases a bit between the eyebrows, her eyes narrow, her lips pull together a bit. Could be irritation – but I haven't done anything to irritate her; I just got here. Could be confusion – what am I doing here without my team? Could be discomfort – we don't get along well, Scarlett and me. Could be all of the above – or something else entirely. Freakin' stupid neurotypical emotions.
I am so going to kill Snakes when he gets back. I'm doing this for him because he's my best friend in the world, but I am NOT happy about it.
Feelings. It's not that autistics don't have them... no matter what some people think. I have friends I care about. I had a family, once. I don't like to use words like "hate" and "love," though. Those words have their own rules, and they don't mean the same thing to everyone. I have my own definitions.
I don't hate Scarlett, though, even if I use a neurotypical's definition of it... I just really, really, REALLY don't like being around her. She's got too many random emotional things going on inside her. It makes her hard to read, hard to predict. And her intel training means she's damn good at keeping every emotion off her face, which usually means something good for me – I don't have to interpret what isn't there – but with Scarlett, her "no emotion" face is her dangerous face. At least, that's what Snakes told me.
So now I'm at the table, and my data-crazy brain is telling me that she's been sitting here a while – the ice in the glass is mostly melted – but she hasn't been eating; stuff is moved around on the plate, but not much. Her shoulders aren't tensed up – that's good – but they're also sloping a bit, which usually isn't. Means she's tired, or she's depressed. Hard to tell which.
"Hey." When you walk up to someone, you speak first. Easy social rule. Make eye contact. Nod.
"Helix." Okay – we've got the first name, not a greeting. Not a good sign. She smiles a little, and it's not the kind of smile that gets all the way up to the eyes – and her eyes are a bit red, bloodshot. Sticky residue on the lashes – just a bit – and the skin around her eyes looks sticky, too. Tears. She's either been crying, or trying not to. And those few seconds are a bit too long, since she looks at the chair across from her, then back at me. "You want to sit?"
"Not particularly." Oops. That probably wasn't the best thing to say, even if it was honest. I don't want to sit; I want a shower and a nap. "Just making a delivery before I catch some rack time."
Ten degree head tilt = curiosity. I'm digging into my pocket, bringing out the compass Snakes gave me to give to her. Her eyes fix on it, pupils dialate, then pin for a moment, and she reaches for it as I hold it out. This compass means something to her, but I'm not sure what.
"Snakes wanted me to give this to you," I say. "He wanted to make sure you got it." And I really don't want to say the rest of it. I don't know where he is – I just know that he's with Duke, who probably shouldn't be outside that quarantine bay, and that he wouldn't let me go with them. That he thought it was more important for me to be Stateside. To bring this compass to Scarlett.
In case he doesn't make it back.
And just looking at her, I can see that she finished the sentence in her head. She's turned away now, holding the compass in both hands, close to her, and she's looking out the window. Now would be a good time to leave. Leaving would be good.
Only I see that tremor in her shoulders, see her head droop just a bit. And I think of Snakes, and I feel a lurch inside of me, because whatever else that compass means, Scarlett knows that me giving it to her means he may not be coming back this time.
Snake Eyes always comes back. Always. Scarlett knows that as well as I do.
Only this time, she doesn't.
And maybe I don't, either.
I sit down then. Across from her. She looks at me, just for a second, and her eyes have gone bloodshot, and there are tears welling up in them. She looks away again, swipes at her face with the back of a hand.
"He always comes back," I hear myself say. It's a statement, not a question. A reminder. A fact. Scarlett is staring at the compass now, and I can see that she's concentrating on her breathing, trying to make it regular, steady. She doesn't want to be crying in front of me any more than I want her to be crying in front of me.
"Yeah," she says, and her voice isn't much more than a whisper. "He always comes back."
And somehow, I want to make sure she believes that. That Snake Eyes WILL come back, because he always comes back. I want her to stop thinking that he won't. I know how Scarlett feels about Snakes. I hear the gossip. I see the looks she gives us, sometimes, when she thinks I'm not looking.
And I've seen the way he touches the tablet screen when she's talking to him online after a mission, like he's trying to touch her face from a hundred thousand miles away. I saw the way he looked at that compass, touched it one last time, just before he gave it to me. I also know that he put a note inside of it, a folded piece of paper. So I know how he feels about her, too, even if she doesn't. It's part of my data-set world. Scarlett loves Snake Eyes. Snake Eyes loves Scarlett.
But if Scarlett is sitting here, holding onto that compass and looking like her world is falling down around her ears, it's making it a little hard for me to believe what I know is true.
Snake Eyes ALWAYS comes back.
"Always," I say again. And she looks at me this time, and I can see that she wants to believe it as much as I do.
I try a smile, but I don't think mine reaches my eyes, either. Scarlett starts to reach out, like she's going to touch me or something, but thinks better of it, folds her hands around the compass again. Phew.
"Thanks, Helix." I nod.
And we sit there together, not saying a word, both of us trying hard to believe that what we want to be true... will be true.