Author376... I'm pretty sure this story was entirely your fault. Well, you'll see. Actually, I'd forgotten that I'd written it until I was going through my story box...


The Art of Dating

Summary: There are some mistakes a man is never, ever supposed to make with his girlfriend. But, well, Snake-Eyes is only human…


Snake-Eyes knew it was his fault—actually, all the signs had been there. When Stalker had mentioned that he needed a partner for a mission—a quick week-trip out, a fast snatch-and-vanish assignment—he'd volunteered. 'Lonzo'd frowned, and said, "Always glad to have you, man, but don't you normally take some time off about this time? We were in Sierra Gordo last year, but didn't something happen the year before?"

He'd shrugged. He took some time off periodically, when he had to, but… well, May was stunningly beautiful in the High Sierras. It made sense for him to take at least his few days of mandatory leave time around this time of year. There was something else, and he'd frowned and considered it… but then it slipped his mind like a small fish when 'Lonzo started going into the details.

Then he told Scarlett about the mission. His girlfriend nodded, and maybe looked a little disappointed, but, well, she never liked being left behind, and she enjoyed what she called 'sneak attacks.' In any case, she saw him off onto the helicopter with a hug and a smile. Snake-Eyes knew that Shana worried about him when he went off on missions and she wasn't there to back him up—he'd actually even considered asking if she wanted to come, but had decided against it: it really was just a two-man job. Even if there was no-one he'd rather have covering his back if things went badly, if there was a choice, he wanted the love of his life safe.

But, for once, everything had actually gone as planned. And after his debriefing, Scarlett was waiting for him outside Hawk's office, her smile neatly professional, but just a touch warmer than perhaps called for. Hawk knew about them, of course, but they always tried to be circumspect. Then they got back to her quarters—and her smile, that long, slow kiss, was anything but circumspect.

Snake-Eyes always knew he was fortunate to have her, his stubborn, redheaded warrior lady. But when her mouth was under his, her arms draped over his shoulders and she was making those soft little noises against him… he remembered exactly why he still woke up in the mornings.

This was one of his favorite times to spend with her—when they were both home from a mission, and they knew that there wasn't any chance of them being called out on another anytime soon. They were sitting in her clean, unfeminine room, both of them fitted into her blue two-person love-seat. She was leaning against his shoulder, watching his hands as he told her about what he'd been doing.

It'd been a simple mission, but satisfying: ones where they didn't have to shoot off a single bullet always were. He knew Scarlett could see it in his eyes, his expression—she was smiling, sweet and relaxed, her hair tickling his neck. The fingers of one hand were running lightly, distractingly, up and down his abdomen. "You just like being the sneaky bad-ass ninja," she teased, poking him gently. "Such a show-off!"

He shrugged—but he was grinning, a little, despite himself. Well, it had been the sort of mission that he privately thought would have brought a smile to his Masters' faces—he could just see the look on Cobra Commander's face when he found out the briefcase was now full of Stalker's son's finger-paintings. The Cobra contracts with the Russian Mafia, on the other hand, were paperclipped neatly together and sitting on Hawk's desk.

But Scarlett's smile was wry when she turned and kissed his cheek. "Aw, well. Bad timing, Hawk ordering you out on a mission on the eleventh. I thought we were finally going to be able to, you know, hang out some. But I'm glad it went well. Sounds like you had fun."

Snake-Eyes nodded his agreement—he had had fun—then frowned, his eyebrows coming together. [Did we have plans?] He normally remembered—them being able to do anything together that wasn't a mission or Pit time was so rare—but…

She shook her head, smiling wistfully. Her hand stilled on his stomach, and she pressed her cheek against him. "No, nothing specific. I just… this year. You know."

This year? Snake-Eyes studied her expression, and frowned at the tinge of disappointment in it. [If you wanted to do something together, you should have said. This wasn't a mandatory mission; I just volunteered when 'Lonzo mentioned it.]

Scarlett sat up very, very straight at that, and pulled her warm, sleek self off his shoulder in a jerk. The look in her eyes when she turned to him, and stared, was full of brilliant hurt and darker shock. "Snake-Eyes…" she whispered, and her voice was soft and hoarse, "Snake. You actually volunteered for that mission? On our anniversary?"

His face froze. His hands froze. His heart froze.

May. May twelve. Oh. No.

His girlfriend of five years studied his expression, her green eyes keen and dark. There was no-one in the world who could read his face better than Shana O'Hara. And Snake-Eyes was all-too-sure it was written across his face in guilt and shock and remembrance: not 'I'm so sorry' but 'Oh, fuck, I am an ass.'

He'd been in situations where, so to speak, Hell had broken loose.

Hell breaking loose didn't cover it, this time. Scarlett got angry two ways—with fire, and with ice, and of the two, he vastly preferred the fire. It was far from pleasant, but Snake-Eyes was actually a little relieved when she slammed a fist into his shoulder—ouch!—started yelling, and, finally, stormed out of her own room.

Snake-Eyes grimaced, and brought a hand up to rub his shoulder—he could already tell he'd have a bruise down to the bone; she hadn't pulled her punch at all—then brought that hand up to rest his forehead in it. Damn it. I can't believe I forgot. I can't believe I did that to her.

When she cooled down, he'd apologize. On his knees, if he had to.

Six days later, she'd definitely cooled down.

Ordinarily, Snake-Eyes would have thought that this was a good thing. But he'd never been in a situation before where she'd cooled down, all right—all the way down into subzero temperatures.

No, Hell breaking loose didn't cover it. Hell freezing over… maybe.

So now they were almost a week later, and not only was Scarlett not sleeping in his arms, or meeting him in the mess hall, or coming out to stand beside him during PT, but she—literally—had not spoken a word to him in… 142 hours. And counting.

Considering that they taught hand-to-hand together, this took some effort.

It wasn't that the date didn't matter to him… well, the specific date didn't… well… there was no good way to say that that even sounded acceptable in his head. The fact that they'd been together five incredible years, though… of course that mattered to him! To this day, he still didn't know exactly what good he'd done in a past life that Scarlett accepted him pretty much just as he was—scars, secrets, soldier and all. He knew he didn't deserve her—much less five years of her love, her devotion, of knowing that this incredible woman would go to war beside him in the daytime, make love to him that night, and give him that slow, sexy smile that reminded him why he was alive the next morning. She kept him going. Didn't she know that?

But… yes, Snake-Eyes understood that he certainly hadn't acted like it mattered.

No, he obviously hadn't meant to miss their anniversary, but the fact that he had was entirely his fault. He didn't claim to understand women, but he definitely appreciated why his girlfriend was so furious.

Unfortunately, though, it was impossible to apologize when he couldn't talk, and she wouldn't even look in his direction.

"Snake… you know I don't poke around in your business, right?" Stalker finally asked him, after about the sixth day.

Snake-Eyes nodded, absently, and nudged his meatloaf with the tip of his fork. He was staring off, he knew that—watching her putting her tray across from Shipwreck's and Rock n' Roll's, watching the way Hector pressed his hands to his chest and pretended to swoon with bliss. Craig smiled at her and ran around the table to pull out her chair for her. The grin she gave the two of them made his chest hurt.

She hadn't smiled at him in a week, either.

"But Scarlett's been treating you like you picked up something nasty in Astana, if you get my meaning," Stalker replied, bluntly. Snake-Eyes felt himself wince, and look back up at the Ranger. 'Lonzo was his best friend, and part of the reason for that was that Sergeant Wilkinson simply didn't mince words… but. "What'd you do, man? She seemed so happy to see you when we got back from Kazakhstan!"

Snake-Eyes squeezed the knot of tension that had taken up residence at the back of his neck, and sighed. He could tell 'Lonzo, of course—but… he knew very Stalker never missed his and his wife's anniversary. Even when they were on missions. Even if he had to patch something through a CB band and send a telegraph message to Lydia in Morse Code… which he'd actually done, one year, when they'd been on tour in the jungle.

"It's not about the date, Snake-Eyes," he'd said, when Snake-Eyes had given him a curious look and asked him why he'd gone through so much trouble to send a crude message. "She knows I'm on a mission, and she's not expecting anything. But I've gotta let her know she matters just as much as the job does. You know? For me, not her. I've been lucky to have her these two years. This is just letting her know I get that."

His best friend, Snake was all-too-sure, would probably hit him harder than Scarlett had.

Finally, he signed, [She was. Then I messed up, and she won't let me apologize.]

Stalker's eyebrows went far up. "That bad?"

Slowly, Snake-Eyes nodded. Hesitantly, he raised his hands and asked, [I was thinking about writing her a letter, but--]

But Stalker was already shaking his head. "If you screwed up badly enough that she's giving you the cold shoulder, Snake, that'll just piss her off more. Doesn't she normally just blow up and then she's done with it? She only goes cold with Cobra."

Snake-Eyes squeezed his eyes shut. [Yes.]

Stalker whistled, softly, under his breath, and visibly shuddered. "Oh, man. Red's going to make you grovel. No. No letter. No man can get down on his knees and beg for forgiveness on pen and paper."

Yes, he'd been afraid of that. Snake-Eyes sighed again, feeling his shoulders dropping. Yes, he knew he'd screwed up, but being suspended from tenterhooks and not knowing when he was going to be dropped into the alligator pit was as exhausting as a high-pressure stakeout.

Stalker, though, was giving him a worried look, down the bridge of his nose. "It is something she's going to forgive you for, though, right?"

[Yes. At least…] he glanced over at the other table again. Shipwreck was gesticulating wildly, she was laughing, and his chest was entirely too tight. [I think so. I hope so.]

He looked up as he felt a hand come down on his shoulder and squeeze, and Stalker's eyes were sympathetic. "Hey, man. Good luck. Just you remember—Red's crazy about you, she's always been."

Sometimes he actually believed that—it was hard to disbelieve it, looking into her green eyes when they were soft and warm and welcoming—but sometimes, she just made him a little bit insane. Snake-Eyes rubbed the shoulder she'd hit—even after nearly a week, it still ached, and the last time he'd looked at it in the mirror, the bruise spreading over the bone had just barely started to fade to purple and green. Finally, he nodded.

Stalker gave him a crooked smile. "Yeah. Women. They tear out our insides and we keep coming back for more. You just let me know if there's anything I can do, okay?"

Remind me of my anniversary next year? But… no. And he doubted, after this year, that he'd ever forget again. Ever.

He just… had to hope that there would be future anniversaries to not forget.

Snake-Eyes nodded, tiredly, and pushed his untouched tray away, standing up. He'd go train some, meditate a little—that generally made him feel better, no matter what sort of problems he was having.

But the gym was too crowded for peace, with too many laughing, bantering voices, even if the thought of lifting weights until he ached all over was tempting. The track was always an option, but running sometimes gave him too much time to think. And the gymnasium… the gymnasium was…

He'd slid, silently, into a shadow before he'd even realized he was doing it.

They weren't the only ones in the large floor space—there was always someone using the punching bags, someone on the mats. But his eye caught on a brush of white-on-white, a sleek flame of red, and suddenly no-one else mattered.

It was just Tommy, spending some time with Scarlett—she was wearing her loose white dobok, with the black collar and belt; Tommy was in his white pants, his white tank top, his outfit looking oddly incomplete without his cowl and mask. It would have made Snake-Eyes blink, no matter what—the two of them weren't rivals by any means, but they definitely enjoyed getting on each others' nerves. He'd never tried to force it; the fact that they'd actually spend any time at all together should have surprised and pleased him.

And it would have, if it hadn't been for the week he'd been having. Damn it. Damn it, she preferred Tommy's company to so much as looking in his direction?

But… well… Scarlett had spent all week in the company of the other men on the team—he knew that, he'd seen it, glimpsed her talking to them, laughing with them. When she flicked her hair over her shoulder, their eyes followed the way her fingertips brushed against the line of her jaw, and caught on the sway of her hips when she was walking away. They flirted with her, cheerfully, because it made her grin, and making Scarlett smile was a reward of itself.

This week, she'd actually spent the time grinning and laughing and giving back as good as she was getting, for once. He'd seen that, too. And maybe it'd bothered him a little, but… only a little bit.

Scarlett knew she was a beautiful woman. They all did. The little games, the laughter and the words with just the faintest inviting edge… no-one ever meant anything by it. He was jealous of the smiles and the delight and the pleasure that they'd put in Scarlett's eyes this past week—yes. But actually threatened by his teammates? No. What would have been the point?

Except now, of all people, Storm Shadow was flirting with her. Visibly so.

Even that ordinarily wouldn't have bothered him much. A little, but not much. Thomas Arashikage could turn charm on and off the way some people did their cellphones.

Except this time, Scarlett was actually flirting back at Tommy. That wasn't just playing, that was flirting—glancing over her shoulder at him with that sexy little smile as he walked around her, studying her stance. Tommy's hand shot out, suddenly, shoving her shoulder—it was the way they'd been taught—but she didn't budge.

Instead, she stuck her tongue out at him.

Tommy chuckled, and waggled a finger at her.

Snake-Eyes felt his teeth clench. He'd offered for years to teach her the sword, if she'd wanted. She'd always claimed that really, all she ever needed was a knife and her crossbow, and maybe an M-16 if the going got rough.

Snake-Eyes knew—or at least he suspected—that she was doing it at least partially to pay him back—he wasn't entirely sure if that made it less aggravating, or more.

But there she was, standing in a focused, stable chuudan-no-kamae stance, Tommy's white-hilted katana glittering and graceful in her hands. She looked… good, sword in hand. Oddly complete. Snake-Eyes had just one moment of admiration at her grace, her poise, at seeing just how centered she was. There was a brief spike of pride—she hadn't even wobbled when Tommy had struck her in chuudan, and it wasn't an easy position to maintain, at first.

Then Tommy's arms wrapped intimately around her from behind, his hands curling around her wrists as he raised her arms, sword and all, over her head. And used his knee to nudge her legs just that few inches from chuudan into the proper joudan-no-kamae. Tommy and Scarlett were almost exactly the same height—he was close enough to rest his lips just behind her ear, saying… something.

Snake-Eyes almost bit through his tongue at the sudden, startling burst of rage when his girlfriend, rather than knocking Tommy on his rear, made a noise that was half a chuckle, half an unintelligible word.

"Mmm. Yes. Joudan suits you," he heard Tommy murmur, when he stepped away, walking around her, studying her. Had he held her just a little too long before he'd taken his arms out from around her?

Scarlett gave him a curious look, cocking her head. "What do you mean?"

Tommy's grin was warm and white, intensely interested. "Well, joudan is an offensive stance—it's fast, with good reach. But it leaves the throat, the body, and the wrists open, so we say that those who use it have to have a very strong spirit, a very hot spirit. To, you know, scare the opponent, unbalance their sword with fear."

Yes, that was exactly what they'd been taught. But it took, Snake-Eyes thought, a certain kind of person to be able to spout ninja doctrine without sounding odd and hokey. Much less hit on a woman with it.

To his disgust and dismay, Storm Shadow sounded like, looked like, what he was: descendant and pride of a ninja clan, dangerous and unselfconscious grace, all coiled muscle and knife-bladed reflexes. As long as he'd known the man, women had found his cutting edges, softened by that paper-thin veneer of civility and charm, fascinating.

He didn't sound hokey.

Apparently Scarlett didn't think so, either: her mouth curled into a smile as feminine, as knowing, as Tommy's was charming. "Oh? Are you scared, then?"

Snake-Eyes barely heard Tommy whispering back, "Oh, there's other ways to unbalance an opponent," for the roaring of the blood in his ears—but he definitely heard Scarlett's low, throaty laugh.

He'd wanted to kill Thomas Arashikage quite a few times in the intervening years since they'd first parted ways. It was the first time he'd actually contemplated how he would do it, and how he could make it just exquisitely painful.

No man on the G.I. Joe team, he knew, would ever even try to take Scarlett from him. Oh, of course, they laughed, they joked, they teased, they looked, they flirted. Sometimes she even responded. But no-one ever assumed she was available. It wasn't anything he'd done—simply an unspoken honor between brothers-in-arms, he'd found. A… rule, of sorts. Snake-Eyes was grateful for it—grateful for the respect that his teammates accorded him, and Scarlett, and their relationship.

Snake-Eyes had a brief, bright moment of horrified understanding that Storm-Shadow had stood beside him through two overseas campaigns—had given him his second home, his second family, acceptance, when he'd been lost in the world. They'd fought, against each other and back to back, for years; they'd saved each others' lives and tried to take each others' lives. There was no-one who understood him quite like Thomas Arashikage.

But Tommy had never had much appreciation for rules—spoken or otherwise.

But after a few more stances, Scarlett handed the white-hilted sword back to his sword-brother. They talked in low voices—her face intense, focused, as she nodded—Tommy's serious as he formed the first of the traditional finger-movements. She mirrored him—they bowed to each other with smooth form, better grace.

Snake-Eyes heaved a sigh of… relief? Just… professional, then. He was being silly. It was the week he'd been having. Tommy was a good teacher, if an unconventional one. He could definitely talk himself into this being acceptable, given some time. If Scarlett wanted to learn the sword-arts from Thomas Arashikage, well, he could trust that Storm Shadow would… would…

Snake-Eyes paused.

Scarlett said something, low and soft. Tommy smiled.

Then Scarlett stepped closer and reached out—ran the back of one finger along Tommy's high, elegant cheekbones, her eyes wide and curious. And Snake-Eyes saw his sword-brother's handsome smile widen with something like victory when his own hand rose up, almost touched the smooth line of her bare arm—

That's it. That. Is. It.

Snake-Eyes wasn't sure when he'd moved, but he found himself standing beside Scarlett—grabbing her, not gently, and spinning her around to face him. He saw her eyes widen with surprise at the manhandling, and her lips were soft and plush and startled, parted. Damn it—damn it, he missed her. But it didn't take more than a heartbeat for his tough, bright warrior to compose herself, and her voice was cool and so damnably professional when she replied, her eyebrows upwards, "Yes?"

'Yes.' As if they were standing in a briefing, and he'd just raised his hand to ask a question, rather than bodily grabbing her out of the arms of his sword-brother. Snake-Eyes ground his teeth.

It was a word. A word. But it was more than he'd gotten in… 144 hours.

[I'm sorry,] he said. Even though he thought, maybe, that he wanted to shake her.

Otherwise, I'm sorry, please stop, I wanted to wait for you to calm down, but watching you flirting with my sword-brother is killing me. All one breath. But he didn't say that.

She just gave him a level look out of those elegant green eyes, and turned away.

Oh, no you don't. He didn't lose his temper often, but he could feel it simmering behind his eyes—had felt it start to boil there when he'd seen her standing too close to Tommy. The look he shot Storm-Shadow should have, by all rights, put his fellow Arashikage into a six-foot-deep grave, but… but he knew exactly who was responsible for what was going on here. He reached for her hand—tangled her fingers with his and drew her back towards him. Carefully, he let her go—she didn't move. [Scarlett, I'm sorry,] he signed again—less jerky, this time. [I know I forgot our anniversary. I know. It was thoughtless, and you mean so much more to me than that. You know you do. I'm sorry.]

"Oh, did you forget?" Tommy murmured. "That's interesting. Your five-year, isn't it?"

Allowing the man to commit seppuku was too good for him. He was going to eviscerate his sword-brother himself. He really was.

Scarlett looked up at him, her expression stony as she glanced down at his hands, then back up at him. For a long, horrible moment, he thought she was simply going to walk out of his personal space and ignore him again. He wasn't sure he'd let her go. Wasn't sure he could.

The sudden relief was like a tsunami washing over him when she cocked her head and actually met his eyes, asking, coolly, "So how are you going to make it up to me?"

He hadn't exactly planned that out yet, but… hurriedly, he thought. [One week of leave, together—we can visit your family?] She knew he wasn't comfortable with her family, but she always tried to get him to come see them, 'so you all can get used to each other.'

"Hm." She gave him an assessing look. "No, I don't think so."

No? No. He really should have asked Stalker for some advice. [What do you want?] he finally asked.

She crossed her arms and looked at him in that level, mysterious way that made him feel like he'd failed some kind of unknown test. But… she was still angry, and he found, to his surprise, that he was getting angry—true, he'd done wrong by her, but this was ridiculous! And how was he supposed to know what she wanted out of him unless she told him?! Mind-reading was not one of his skills.

But at least they were speaking.

Finally, she bobbed her chin, and said, "I accept your apology."

They looked at each other. Her posture didn't soften. But neither did his.

[Thank you. Where's my apology?] Snake-Eyes asked, sternly—glancing pointedly at the grinning Storm-Shadow before looking back at her. He knew exactly what she'd been doing. Ignoring him was one thing. Toying with, touching, his own notoriously unscrupulous sword-brother in front of his eyes, though… that hadn't been anger. She'd been making him suffer.

It had worked, obviously.

Scarlett followed his gaze, then met his eyes. "Hmmm? Ah. Oh, Snake. What can I say?" she gave a little nonchalant shrug of one shoulder… and smiled. He stared—it was a gorgeous smile: inviting, surprisingly sensual, her bottom lip held gently between her teeth—and more than a little wicked.

Rather than 'I'm sorry,' Scarlett purred, "You know I have a weakness for ninjas."

Snake-Eyes had one brief instant to contemplate the fact that that smile was ninety percent temptation and ten percent triumph before he felt the very last of his already faltering control snap like a twig underfoot.

He made it a point to be a gentleman with her—always. His parents had raised him right, after all. When they were out together. When they were in public. When they were in private. When they made love. He thought Scarlett liked it—when she commented on it, it was always with a smile.

So in all his life, Snake-Eyes had never, never once, thought he would pick Scarlett bodily up and toss her over his shoulder. He had the briefest moment to be shocked at himself—the only times he'd ever carried her like this were when she was wounded and unconscious, and he needed his hands free!—but that was quickly drowned out by the rush of hot, possessive "Mine!".

Today… today he was done with being patient, he was done with being a gentleman, and if she was going to play with fire, she was just going to have to deal with that. Scarlett was his, damn it, and he was not playing this game anymore!

But to his surprise, rather than struggling, or yelling, or hitting him—and he was braced for the last—she was… laughing?! "Hey! Watch the knives, pal!"

He looked over his unoccupied shoulder at her in surprise, his intensity suddenly defused.

Found Scarlett with her fingers hooked in his belt loops for balance, grinning up at him, upside-down. She looked so comfortable dangling there that he had a brief moment of vertigo.

"See?" she chuckled, her face alight and excited and lovely, eyes sparkling with humor. "If you'd done this a week ago rather than running off to sulk, you wouldn't have spent the whole week so miserable! Lord, Snake, what does it take to make you jealous?!"

He wasn't sure whether to laugh, yell at the top of his nonexistent voice, or grind his teeth. Or all of the above. At the same time. She ran both hands down the muscles of his back—they clenched, tight, hot at her touch—they always did.

"Mm-mmm. Missed you, big guy," she murmured.

You are in so much trouble, Shana O'Hara…

Snake-Eyes settled for whapping her once on the rear and ignoring her amused "Hey!" as he strode out of the dojo, with his girlfriend still draped over his shoulder.

*_*_*_*

"What the Hell just happened there?" Stalker stared after them. One moment, Scarlett was down-and-out pissed at Snakes for reasons unknown—which was definitely unusual. Normally when she was pissed at someone, she let the whole world knew why. The next, he'd glanced over—only to see Scarlett downright caressing Storm-Shadow's face. Freaked the Hell out of him, that was for sure.

The next, she and Snakes had been… very much out the door. With Scarlett… giggling. He forgot, sometimes, just how fast Snake could move, when he wanted to.

"Oh, well," Tommy chuckled, leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. "I suspect, much as she is probably a card-carrying member of the Women's Liberation Front, that that redhead likes it when he gets a bit possessive. Doubt she expected that, though."

"Yeah, except Snake-Eyes doesn't get possessive." Thank God, considering that every guy on base had ogled Scarlett at least once, and probably more than a few had a fantasy about her that neither she nor Snakes nor anyone but that fellow and God needed to know about. This was… pretty common knowledge. They were guys, she was a beauty. "And if he did—do you have a death wish, or something?"

"No," Storm Shadow replied, cheerfully. "But she and I, we had an… arrangement. She's a beautiful woman, you know. Very distracting."

If this is some kind of kinky ninja threesome shit, I just do not want to know, was Stalker's initial, horrified, thought. But… no. Yeah, Snake-Eyes was an unusual guy, but he was pretty sure Snake would never, but never, stand for sharing Scarlett. With anyone. That didn't mean he was possessive, that was just good old plain common sense.

"What… agreement… is this?" Stalker asked, softly, dangerously. They'd served together, yes, in some pretty bad situations… but if Storm-Shadow was stepping in on Snake's girl… it should have been none of his business, but they were pretty sure Scarlett was the only thing that kept their commando sane, sometimes. Stalker wasn't all the way sure he could put a bullet into Storm-Shadow in a fair fight, but… the man had to sleep sometime. Their friendship only went so far.

"Simple, really," Tommy shrugged. "I help her get him out of his mind with jealousy… and afterwards, she keeps him distracted enough that he doesn't try and kill me for it. I get the entertainment of watching my sword-brother drive himself crazy over a woman, and she gets… him. A fair deal, I think."

Stalker stared at the ninja. "You think seeing Snake jealous is entertaining?"

"Of course." Storm-Shadow raised both of his pointy, dark eyebrows, high. "Don't you?"

Yeah, Tommy Arashikage was Snake-Eyes' sword-brother. Yeah, he was a pretty bad-ass guy to be standing behind in a fight. Yeah, him joining them had given them all some serious insight on Cobra.

But seriously, the man was also just cracked in more than a couple of places.

Then Hawk walked into the dojo.

Stalker snapped to attention—Storm-Shadow followed, just a too-late very rude second later. But it really didn't look like Hawk was in any mood to care about the formalities.

"Wha—wha—what just…" Hawk cleared his throat and looked them over—him, Storm-Shadow. Stalker watched their CO reach up and rub his forehead like he was developing a Dreadnok-sized headache. "Please explain. What, exactly, did I just see walking past me in the hallway?"

There was a moment of profound silence.

Um.

Yeah. Stalker could only imagine what Hawk had seen. Snake-Eyes with Scarlett hauled over his shoulder, Snake-Eyes moving like he had someplace he needed to be, and Scarlett grinning like there was no place she'd rather be.

Finally, Stalker stomped—firmly—on Storm-Shadow's toes, and replied, honestly, "Sir… I haven't got the faintest idea."

~fin~

June 19, 2009


...hey, I'm all for women's lib, but given the choice, I certainly wouldn't mind being thrown over a ninja's shoulder, either... -cough- Okay, yes, I realize that this is pure silliness. -laugh-