Kamakura prowled the training room like a lion in too small a cage. He sighed in frustration, that being the only sound he made. His hands clenched and unclenched whenever he paused, arms away from his sides and ready to strike something.
boot camp that had frustrated him. He knew that would be hard. It
wasn't all the ninja stuff, or the small-scale war being held over
he and Jinx's heads between their two senseis. In fact, it was
Silent Master himself that bothered him. He had known that being a
soldier…and then a ninja… would be difficult, but Silent Master
expected him to be a god!
He glared at the various training equipment, imagining that it would jump back and leave him alone. He knew this was probably how Young Master had been at one point, and he knew that anger was easy to sway. But he knew it only because Silent Master wouldn't let him forget for a damn minute! He was beginning to regret learning sign language. He now understood it to a degree in which Silent Master could preach to him any time he saw fit…which was frequently…and give him a good crack across the shoulder if he turned his back on him so he didn't have to hear it.
Wordlessly he turned around and aimed a high rolling kick at a dummy. Not only did somersault to the floor, but there was a satisfying dent in it.
It wouldn't satisfy Silent Master, he thought darkly.
"Destroying the equipment, Kamakura?"
Kamakura didn't even turn around to answer. He just glared forward, folding his arms across his chest.
As the soft footsteps approached, Jinx's Japanese face came into view as she sat on one of the nearby weight benches, raising one of her gracefully arched, dark eyebrows. "You know, you're so angry at him and yet you're becoming him."
"What do you mean?" he demanded.
She gave him a blank look. "Look at yourself, Sean boy. The stance, the sighs, the prowling. Snake Eyes does all that, and probably some other things that you've picked up and I have yet to notice."
He grit his teeth. He had broken his back to earn his code name, and he absolutely loathed that name Jinx gave him. She used it only when it was the two of them, and only when she knew she could get a rise out of him. Ever since the Waltons incident, a story he preferred not to remember, the name had stuck.
"There you go again. Clenching your jaw…and your fists, for that matter, just like Snake Eyes does."
"Shouldn't his pet student be calling him by some honorific? Like Snake Eyes-sama?" he snapped.
"Ooh, burn," she said sardonically, rolling her eyes at him. "No, you'd only use 'sama' when talking to a God or the leader of a country. And he's my cousin, so I can call him whatever the hell I want."
"Good," Kamakura shot back. "Now go call him something vile. Maybe he'll kill you and then I won't have to put up with you."
Jinx stood abruptly, giving him a look that would have killed lesser men. As she left, he heard her mutter something about 'the big guns' and he was left to his brooding.
Ever since he had joined the GI Joes, Silent Master had thrown him into his training. He said that he needed to stand up to the toughest odds, and that there was a reason why the Army's motto was 'Be all you can be': because if you didn't it was more than likely you would get shot. Cancel Christmas. This meant if Kamakura's skills were not perfect, it would be randori until he got it right! And it was becoming more than he could take. He was already beginning to think that Young Master might have had other reasons for trying to kill Silent Master.
As the door opened, Kamakura tossed a ninja star over his shoulder. There was no cry, so he assumed he missed Jinx. But then a woman spoke and he knew he was in for it.
"Throwing shurikens at me, huh? Jinx was right. You are becoming that which we both despise."
Kamakura said nothing as booted feet approached with an eerie silence. He just stood, arms folded, and waited.
"She was right," the woman repeated, and he could feel her emerald eyes on him. "The folded arms, the ignoring people, especially me…damn it, one of Snake Eyes is more than enough!"
"Red Master," Kamakura sneered, using his mocking name for Scarlett. "What do you want?"
"Like I said, one of that bastard is enough around here," she said, taking the same seat Jinx did. Her bright red hair bobbed around her face gently, but her eyes showed that she meant business. "Now, I made the mistake of staying with that man for years. You tell me the problem, I tell you how to counter it."
"Why?" he replied flatly.
"Because," she purred sweetly, "when Snake Eyes goes down and sinks into nothingness for the rest of the life he isn't even supposed to have, it will be because of me, not some bratty recruit."
Their goals compatible, Kamakura relaxed his stance. "He's smothering me!" he shouted, pacing again. "One screw up and I get a ration of shit about how I'm going nowhere but six feet under at this rate, or I'm going to end up with a lead mine in my chest! He's a control freak, and I'm not a kid anymore. I think he's just afraid that he's going to lose control of me if I don't become what he thought I'd be!"
"Snake Eyes has good reason to worry about you," Scarlett said sharply, giving him the look of 'listen the hell up.' "You're a rookie, and I'm sure your dad's told you enough about Vietnam to show you the hell that they went through. Yeah, they were buddies on the LRRP," Scarlett said casually, seeing the distrustful glare on Kamakura's face. "Wade Collins, Snake Eyes, and Tommy Arashikage…their names were synonymous with chaos. Heard the war stories on all three sides. 'Nuff said. At any rate, after hearing all that I'm as worried as he is about you. But he's not handling it right…he never handles anything right."
"Including you?" Kamakura said with a smirk.
"Drop. Thirty. Now."
Scarlett didn't hesitate to smack Kamakura so hard that it made his head spin. No wonder Silent Master had stood there after she smacked him upon their meeting. It took him a second to regain full awareness of his surroundings.
"The best thing you can do, and I can't believe I'm actually saying this," Scarlett said, her Irish temper subsiding some, "is to ask him why on God's green earth he's doing this."
"Where would I start? I've got a long list of complaints," Kamakura growled.
"Start at the beginning, with your own words. Tell him it feels…"
"…Like you're god damn smothering me! I'm not perfect, I'm human, and ever since I came here you're expecting me to be some…I don't know, like one of those ninjas in the movies that catch bullets in their teeth and can fly and stuff, neither of which I can accomplish any time soon. And left to my own devices I can't help but think you're afraid to lose control of me, because everything you thought I'd become isn't working out as planned. So what is it? And don't answer me as a sensei, answer me as Snake Eyes."
Kamakura could tell by the way that Snake Eyes' shoulders were squared that he was both expecting and dreading this moment. He was a ninja, trained to avoid tight spots. But this was one he couldn't get out of.
Alone in Snake Eyes' room they were able to talk without others interfering. Snake Eyes sat on a cushion with his back to Kamakura, his face ever hidden. Though his mask was off he had been cautious to not turn his head an inch to one side. The dim light of the shaded lamp by his bed cast a glow around the otherwise dark room that made it seem like an old temple or shrine, perfectly suiting the sensei's aura. But the mask was off, the uniform was off, and there was nothing left but a young man and a veteran soldier, no barriers of rank between them.
Kamakura heard a sigh from this man, this silent teacher who taught his pupils without ever saying a word. A fair-skinned, ungloved hand ran through the downy gold hair that usually lay flat beneath the black mask. It clenched at the back of his neck: nervousness. Finally he gestured toward a mass of black clothing that lay piled in one corner.
Kamakura understood the gesture by now, and angry as he was with his sensei he was still a pupil, and Snake Eyes had done much for him. Walking toward the pile, he sorted out the black shirt and black pants and black gloves and gear, searching for the mask so that they could face each other as equals.
Snake Eyes dared turn his head as Kamakura turned his back to him. The boy was beginning to appear his age, and appear a soldier. His eyes were set firm with a duty and purpose in mind, and he moved as if carrying the country on his shoulders. He understood, as others did, that arguments and disagreements must be set aside for a better purpose…and resolved if at all possible.
The boy is becoming a man, he thought gravely. But what will he be when the becoming is over and the result is seen? He's headstrong…and proud. It was hidden deep, but it's there. If only he knew…he shouldn't have to, but he's a soldier now. And all the things he has left to learn!
As Kamakura stood upright, Snake Eyes turned away and watched his shadow. He bowed, and his hand appeared at the edge of his vision. Snake Eyes took the mask and the visor that were there, pulling them on with a practiced familiarity. As he turned, he caught another glimpse of him as he sat down. The dark red hair, the expression, even the mere build of his face….
That's Wade's boy, alright, Snake Eyes thought with a bittersweet smile that Kamakura never saw.
"Ninjas aren't allowed to form attachments to people," Snake Eyes began. "But in our latest age that's become void. It happens all the time, and that's why the Arashikage family can claim such pure blood. But at any rate, that's why I'm doing this to you."
"Why? Because you care?" Kamakura scoffed. "If you cared so much you'd back off-"
Snake Eyes held up a hand. "No. Because I did care…I cared very much.
"I had an apprentice before you," Snake Eyes began again, "Her name was Ophelia, a Joe in training. She was my last hope for the Arashikage Ninjas, and I was in the process of teaching her all I knew. She would have earned her code name soon. But she was all too ready to fight and die next to us, in spirit if not in body. And she did….
"The ninja called Firefly killed her. He filled her heart up with lead faster than you can blink. But even that isn't what got to me: what got to me is that she did it for me. I was supposed to look out for the girl, and I failed, and she died because I couldn't watch my own back."
Kamakura gave him a look. "Were you two…?"
"She was years younger, no," Snake Eyes said with a laugh. "Young men…I wouldn't be your age again for anything. But honestly, did you ever wonder why there was that grave near the cabin?"
Snake Eyes nodded. "She was very dear to me, like a little sister," he said. "Hell! The reason I got so attached to the girl was because she reminded me of my sister, who's dead also.
"But the bottom line is this: not only are you my apprentice, but you're my second chance. I failed Ophelia already by not preparing her, and I will not allow that to happen again."
"And you're Wade's kid," Snake Eyes said with a small smile. "I'd do anything for that idiot, including sticking my neck out for his junior idiot. You've been like the son I never had, and probably never will now. After the war I have to admit I'd lost a little faith in God, but one thing I do know is that I am blessed to be able to borrow you from your dad. And if anything were to happen to you in the field, it would be because of my failure…and I could never forgive myself for that."
Kamakura just stared at Snake Eyes for a moment. He was at a loss for words. This explained a lot. Snake Eyes had not only lost an apprentice before, but he considered him like a son…his "borrowed" son. It gave Kamakura more pride and a million other things that words could not convey than he could express. Saying nothing, he bowed his head, feeling both honored by his sensei's words and humiliated by his foolishness.
"You're prideful, Sean," Snake Eyes said, holding his hands where Kamakura could see them. "But I think now you'll learn. But you can't learn if you don't sleep. You can meditate on your newfound wisdom tomorrow after breakfast, alright?"
Kamakura looked up and grinned. "The Wise and Powerful Silent Master is cutting me some slack?" he laughed.
And it was Snake Eyes' turn to feel his heart swell with pride, for in that moment he saw a glimpse of himself in Kamakura's confident grin and glittering, mischievous eyes. "Yeah, don't get used to it, though."
He stood with him, giving the boy a push towards the door. Before he left, however, he stopped him, clapping a hand on his shoulder. Though Kamakura couldn't see his sensei's eyes, he had a pretty good idea of their expression.
"Your dad would be proud," Snake Eyes said finally, giving the boy's shoulder an affectionate squeeze. He then turned, and shut the door, leaving Kamakura in the hall alone.
But Kamakura could only smile. After weeks worth of battling rage and disappointment, he was now content to know that his father would be proud. And that his surrogate father was proud of him as well.
Well, Kamakura resolved as he headed for his room, tomorrow I'll make sure he still has a reason to be.