Word Count: 2100
Warnings/Pairings: Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow and mentions of Snake Eyes/Scarlet; a curse word here and there; unbeta'd.
Summary: Duke has some learnin' to do as Storm Shadow seeks answers.
Author's Note: It's been a while since I've seen the cartoon, but I've read the comics (several different variations thereof), and have seen a couple of the recent CGI movies. That being said, I don't think anyone can agree on some of these characterizations, so if Duke seems a bit OOC, then blame it on the fact that I'm getting a lot of mixed messages.
The room reeked of mildew and dirt, and the smell alone was almost enough to distract Duke from the feel of sweat and blood drying to his skin. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to take his mind of the critical situation he found himself, and two of his teammates, in.
He, Scarlet, and Snake Eyes were chained up and spread eagle against three separate walls within a small dungeon chamber. From a basic mental run down of his injuries, he suspected he had at least two broke ribs and a severe knock to his head, though he didn't think it was a concussion.
He couldn't be sure how badly Snake Eyes was hurt, but Duke knew that the masked ninja had to be in some pain. Scarlet was easier to read, as sweat continued to pour down her face and her eyes were glazed over from pain.
"How you doing over there?" Duke asked, knowing that he meant both of his subordinates, but that only one would answer verbally. He was surprised at how rough his voice sounded, even to his own ears, but after a quick reflection to the amount of screaming he had been doing, trying to get the others to fall back…
"Internal injuries, but I don't know how severe," Scarlet answered, her southern accent thick with pain. She somehow managed to slump backwards as much as she could in her restraints. "The restraints aint helping, I can tell you that much."
"I couldn't agree more," Duke muttered. He turned his head slightly to look at Snake Eyes, who seemed content to stare at the door rather than at the other two occupants. Sometimes he really wished he was a mind reader, because he knew that the silent man had to be cooking up his own scheme to get them out of there. That's what Snake Eyes did: the impossible. Of course, the same could be said for all of them, but Duke knew that when push came to shove, it was Snake Eyes who went above and beyond their motto.
Flexing, trying to keep blood flowing, Duke turned to look at the door. At first glance, it seemed pretty impressive, even for a Cobra door. Solid steel, welded tightly into the frame of solid stone. But Duke knew from past experience that not all things were what they seemed, especially when dealing with Cobra.
"So, how long do you think it's gonna take the others to come for us?" Scarlet asked, breaking into Duke's silent catalogue.
"If I were a betting man, I'd say they were already mounting our rescue," Duke replied. "Especially Shipwreck."
"Yeah, I'd put money on that wager, too," Scarlet winced. "But I wouldn't bet that Shipwreck is leading the charge."
"He owes Snake Eyes money," the redheaded solder tried to snicker but it came out as more of a whimper.
"How much?" Duke couldn't help himself, and he knew that the inane conversation was probably helping her keep distracted from the pain. If they're conversations distracted Snake Eyes, well, the man was a ninja, and Duke knew he could block their chatter.
"Forty dollars, I think," she answered.
"What was the bet?"
"The usual," she smiled slightly, a dim memory of her usual mischievous grin. "Shipwreck's never given up on trying to reclaim his first forty dollars when he bet against Snake Eyes's first hand-to-hand match."
However, before Duke could reply, the lock to their cell door clicked loudly. A heartbeat later, the steel obstacle opened inward, allowing a single individual to enter.
Duke blinked twice, his brow wrinkling in confusion as he looked at the newcomer, trying to figure out who he was through all the bandages. Who ever it was had one arm in a sling and half his torso was wrapped up in white gauze. There was also a bandage wrapped around the man's head, but when familiar brown eyes turned to him, Duke felt his mouth open in astonishment. "Storm Shadow?"
Faster than an eye could blink, the antagonistic ninja was standing beside him, an unnoticed knife in his hand un-bandaged hand. Duke could feel the sharp edge of the blade pressing up against his throat.
"Silence," Storm Shadow hissed. "Silence one way or another. Your choice."
Duke swallowed, but made no other sound or movement. He knew the ninja's real name was really Tommy, or rather Thomas Arashikage, but for the most part Duke knew that, for all intents and purposes, the man had left his name and family behind him some time ago when he joined the Cobra forces.
The blond man watched as Storm Shadow took a step back, his brown eyes flickering between him and Snake Eyes. Almost as an afterthought, the Cobra operative turned to Scarlet and pointed his knife to her, "Same for you."
Scarlet seemed to take a page from Duke's book and decided to remain silent.
Then, as usual, Storm Shadow turned to Snake Eyes and for the two of them it seemed as if he and Scarlet didn't exist.
"I remember you," the Japanese born American whispered hoarsely, his usual calm voice thick with emotions. "I don't remember much, not since… something, but I remember you."
Duke looked across the room and caught Scarlet's eyes. This… this was unexpected. The two of them quickly turned back to watch as Storm Shadow stalked towards his bound rival on silent feet.
'Even injured, he's a fucking ninja.' Duke thought uncharitably. 'If it weren't for their mental issues, I imagine I could have convinced the brass of getting me an army of them. But they'd never pass the psyche eval.'
"I remember this mask. It haunts my dreams, even when they give me the drugs," Storm Shadow continues, using the tip of his large hunting knife to trace the side of Snake Eyes's mask. "What are you to me?"
"He's your Blood-" Scarlet begins to say, but is backhanded so quickly and so hard that Duke is afraid that she might have been killed.
Both Duke and Snake Eyes began to struggle in their restraints, trying to get free, though Duke isn't sure if either can decide if it is more important to check on Scarlet or to fight Storm Shadow. It was useless, and they both knew it, but that didn't stop them from trying.
Storm Shadow stepped away from her and went back to Snake Eyes, and the only reason Duke didn't yell, or scream, or curse him fit to make Shipwreck proud was because Scarlet let out a soft whimper as she slipped into unconsciousness.
"Now," Storm Shadow continued, his eyes looking only at Snake Eyes. "You will answer me."
Snake Eyes gave a short, curt nod, and Duke knew that the man's eyes were only on Storm Shadow. 'Cobra Commander himself could come through that door, and neither one of them would care,' Duke mused to himself.
"I remember you," Storm Shadow repeated himself.
Snake Eyes merely nodded once again.
"What are you to me?"
To that, there was no simple yes or no answer, and with as tight as the chains are, the black-clad ninja is unable to make any non-verbal gestures.
Angered, Storm Shadow moved to press up against his former friend, knife held at the man's throat. "Answer me! What. Are. You. To. Me?"
"He can't." Duke said, bracing himself for an attack. Even though he thought he was ready for the strike, when it came, it still left him seeing stars.
"He can and he will!" Storm Shadow hissed as he sheathed his knife. And then he did something that was considered taboo, especially amongst the Joes. He tore off Snake Eyes's mask.
In one of those ultimately clichéd moments that should only happen in bad B-movies and in books, time seemed to stop as Snake Eyes's face came into full view. The helicopter crash that had taken Snake Eyes's voice had done more than left the man mute: it had taken away his very ability to look at his own reflection. Even cosmetic surgeons had been unable to do more than offer him platitudes and condolences.
Duke gave a silent prayer of thanks that Scarlet wasn't witnessing this, as he wasn't sure if she had ever seen her sometimes fiancé's true face. Duke had seen what remained of Snake Eyes's face years ago, but it was one of those memories that would wake him up in the dead of night in cold sweats.
Storm Shadow took a single step back, obviously surprised by the truth he found beneath the mask. "You… what happened…?"
"There was a helicopter accident," Duke said carefully, watching as Storm Shadow continued to stare only at Snake Eyes. "Took his face and his voice."
"So you are without a voice?" Storm Shadow whispered.
Snake Eyes narrowed his eyes, and tilted his head; the scars twist across his face with each movement.
Storm Shadow paused a moment, but then began to smile. "Maybe without a voice, but not without answers."
Snake Eyes blinked his eyes and nodded his head once again.
Storm Shadow nodded his head slowly. "But not without answers."
Duke watched as the odd-acting man tucked the stolen mask into his arms sling, his eyes drifting down to stare at Snake Eyes's chest. "I remember a jungle. Training, taking tests, in a jungle."
Once again, Snake Eyes nodded.
"You were there, before…" Storm Shadow murmured. He smirked as he reflected, "Before you lost your face."
Duke wanted to hit him on basic principle for that, but Snake Eyes seemed to take the comment in stride.
"I remember snow, too."
Snake Eyes tilted his head to the other side, and Storm Shadow seemed to take that as it's own answer.
"But that came later." Storm Shadow murmured. "That came after… Japan. I remember Japan… and you."
Snake Eyes nodded twice, slowly.
"But the jungle… We were fighting in a war, weren't we? Destroying villages when we had to, but mostly… mostly we were fighting boys who thought they were men because they had guns and the rest of the peasantry didn't."
Again, another nod.
"And I remember…"
Duke watched as Storm Shadow looked up, and even from where he hung, he could see an odd expression on the ninja's face, a uncertain madness to his eyes. "I remember… you."
Then, to Duke's utter amazement, he stepped up to Snake Eyes and…
Storm Shadow reached behind Snake Eye's head with his one good hand and pulled him forward, tilted his head to the side, and kissed him. Open mouth. 'And there is no way there isn't tongue involved with that.' Duke continued to hang there, silent with shock, and watched as at first Snake Eyes didn't respond, but quickly gave in to it, leaning forward in his chains to press closer.
When the kiss finally broke, both Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes were breathing hard. Storm Shadow leaned his forehead against Snake Eyes, their eyes closed, trying to regain his breath even as he murmured, repeatedly, "I remember. I remember. I remember."
Finally, when Duke didn't think the day could get any stranger, Storm Shadow pulled away and somehow managed to replace Snake Eyes's mask single-handedly. 'Mission impossible? Send a ninja,' he thought, one absurdity needing another.
"I remember you," Storm Shadow repeated, stronger this time.
Moving faster than Duke could see, again, Storm Shadow drew his small knife and sliced through the chains holding Snake Eyes's wrists up, causing Storm Shadow to crumple to the floor for a moment as the blood tried to re-circulate into his abused limbs. Dropping the blade to the ground Storm Shadow took three steps back, his free hand reaching for the door handle.
"I remember you," Storm Shadow stated. "And I remember… everything."
And then he was gone, leaving them with a means of an escape, and Duke with more questions than he had ever had before. But then, he also had more answers than ever before, too.
As Snake Eyes got up to free him, Duke whispered, "I don't know how much you could tell me even if I asked, but seeing as how I'm not asking, you won't have to tell me anything."
Snake Eyes merely nodded his head once, as he had answered for Storm Shadow, accepting the statement.
"And seeing as how Scarlet missed the whole thing, you won't have to explain to her, either," Duke continued. "But if you're going to get married, you might want to think about it."
Silence was the only answer, but then, it was the only one he had been expecting.