Ennui

Summary: He loves her, but being stuck with her on a stakeout can get... trying. SE/S


A bored Scarlett was a dangerous Scarlett, he'd found. She got strange ideas.

It wasn't that she wasn't a patient individual—well, she wasn't particularly given to patience, that was true, but they'd spent many a long, quiet moment just being together. Truthfully, Snake-Eyes very much liked to hear her talk—her many stories, her theories, luxuriating in the life and the warmth and the surprising brilliance that was Shana O'Hara.

They were good together on missions—very good, objectively speaking: they virtually always got results, even if Command didn't think much of their tactics. But the problem with not always following the rules was that, well, Snake suspected that Hawk sometimes stuck them together like this, in the front seat of a Camero with nothing to do but wait, as punishment for all the extra paperwork they made him do.

Snake-Eyes somewhat sympathized—who didn't hate paperwork?—but… only somewhat.

Neither of them were good partners during stakeouts, he thought. He'd had that from more sources than his own experience. Oh, Scarlett was fun, normally, but when inflicted with the waiting game, she was all intense, anticipatory energy, sometimes frenetic… and sometimes demanding entertainment. And he… stakeouts didn't make him feel very chatty. Even for him. Snake-Eyes was well aware that this could make for a very long night for whoever was unfortunate enough to be partnered with him, but… his girlfriend's armor of concentration and cheer could be nigh-on impenetrable sometimes.

Which might have been the whole point.

And if he wanted her to stay his girlfriend, he knew he couldn't just sit there and just ignore her, the way he would have with… most anyone else, actually.

"Hey, Snake? What was high school like for you?"

Painful, was the first thought that occurred to him.

He just looked at her in the half-darkness, the interior of the car lit by a surprisingly eager streetlight. His night-vision was very good—better than most—and he caught the gleaming curve of her smile, a flash of amusement. Scarlett reached over and patted his knee. "A long time ago, huh? How much of a martial artist were you, back then?"

Snake-Eyes sighed, and raised his hands. He really didn't want to talk about it… but ignoring her would only get him into more trouble. At least she wanted to talk martial arts, which was always a safe topic with them… for the most part. [Second-stripe black belt in taekwondo when I graduated.] Mostly because he'd retreated from the discomfort that was high school society insanity by throwing himself into taekwondo, and his ranks in the sport had been proportionally accelerated. It had worked—of a sense, anyway. There'd been a certain camaraderie in martial artists that he'd never found amongst his peers.

It'd been the first thing he'd really been good at, and… that had almost been enough for him. Almost.

"Really?" Scarlett sounded startled, and he flicked a brief glance at her—the half-light made the line of her cheekbone and her jaw almost achingly pure, a wisp of hair that looked almost blood-black in the spotlights curling along her cheek. Even in the circumstances they were in, though, he thought that little crooked smile… looked a little bit strange. Wrong. Almost aching. "Huh. Me, too. Why did you start?"

Snake-Eyes took his eyes out from the windshield in front of them and studied her, carefully, before turning back. It was so like her to not just assume he'd been placed into after-school classes by his parents, like so many kids were… or perhaps she just knew him that well. Which was as much a disconcerting thought as it was comforting, sometimes. [Why does anyone start?]

"Well… people get into martial arts for different reasons," she replied, and her voice was soft with what sounded like understanding. "Remember, my family ran a dojo. We saw… all sorts of kids coming through the doors."

But with her careful tone of voice, he suspected she already knew. Yes, she did know him that well.

Snake-Eyes shrugged. [It was a long time ago. Like you said.]

It had been a long time ago, that was true. He'd never been seriously hurt—much, anyway; the only thing that his school's bullies had taken issue with about him was that they 'didn't like the way he looked at them.' And even that had stopped once taekwondo had put some bulk on what had once been a spindly frame—and he'd shot up six inches in a year.

That probably wasn't what his parents had intended when they'd seen the bruises and sent him to martial arts classes, but it had worked. In the end, him getting his black belt had had nothing to do with him having being picked on.

But he'd always been too quiet. He'd always had a hard time around people, especially in the frenetic everyday ebb and flow that had been adolescence, and even if the bullying had stopped, the rest of it—the mocking glances, the way he'd been less than invisible to most—hadn't. It couldn't have. He… really hadn't changed that much from then to now—if anything, he knew he was worse about socialization than he'd ever been in his long-ago high school years.

True, he'd found a place where much to Snake-Eyes' surprise, he was welcome for himself as well as for his skills, but that didn't change what he was, who he had always been. And if anything, his gift for being invisible had only helped him in the intervening years.

The only difference was…

Snake-Eyes studied her—this gorgeous, tough redhead with an Ivy League law degree, the fiercest heart of anyone he'd ever met, and more black belts than she knew what to do with. Carefully—because he couldn't help himself—because he wanted—he raised a hand to her cheek, tracing the silky curve of it with the back of one finger.

His glove was in the way. It didn't matter. Her eyes dipped half-closed.

He could only imagine what his high school classmates would have had to say, knowing that this incredible woman had chased him down and, for all intents and purposes, not let him go. Yes, so much of his life had been terrible—but all the same, he'd been far luckier than he deserved. Than he'd thought he could be.

[What about you?] he asked. She'd have let the conversation end, he supposed, but… [Did you always do martial arts?]

Scarlett gave him that crooked smile, again. "Yes and… no. Me and my brothers… we all did. But I kept at it harder than anyone else."

Snake-Eyes smiled, and turned his eyes back to their surveillance. [Because you were so good at it?] And because she was competitive. Very competitive. He had to admit, though, there was a certain visceral satisfaction that came from besting someone on the mats—even if it was just in points—that he was sure neither could have ever gotten from, oh, poker. Or even the courtroom, in her case.

"I was good. Darned good." But it took real effort not to let his head whip around when she replied, matter-of-factly, "But I stuck with it because I was lonely, mostly, and it was… something to focus on."

Snake-Eyes blinked. How was that even possible? She was beautiful—exquisitely beautiful—and so many people would have enjoyed her company for that alone, and that wasn't even all she had. She was one of the smartest, best-educated, most socially graceful people he knew, and some of the Joes really excelled at charm. She knew how to talk—how to laugh—how to make someone welcome. People liked Scarlett—even people she was meeting for the first time. And she liked them, which was even more important.

[But you're… never lonely,] he finally pointed out. Not even when she was alone, not even when she was surrounded by strangers—which was one of the things he envied most about Shana O'Hara, sometimes.

"No, I'm not. Not now." And it stuck in his throat a little when she touched him, running her fingers down his forearm, without even needing to look at where he was. "But in high school, I was the nerdy, skinny tomboy with the black belt and the brassy red hair and the cheerleader older sister," she pointed out, softly. Out of the corner of his eyes, she shook her head. "I didn't dress right or act right, but people found me amusing because I was different. So, sure, I was invited to all the parties, and I always went, but it wasn't until my senior year that I figured out just why I hated going."

It wasn't an ache in her voice, and it wasn't regret—just a matter-of-fact acceptance of what had been. But he reached out for her hand. She blinked at it, at him, startled—but she didn't let go, and he felt the slow gliding rasp of her callused fingertips on leather.

I get it, but he didn't say that. We found our place anyway.

But she knew that.

"Yeah, high school was kind of terrible, wasn't it?" Scarlett mused, wryly. "If it weren't for taekwondo, I think I'd have gone a little whacko."

[Me, too,] Snake-Eyes admitted. If it hadn't been for taekwondo and Terri, he'd have been desperately lonely rather than just… always alone.

But the corner of her mouth was amused, and the moment of quiet, crooked-mouthed wistfulness was gone. "I know you've played Truth or Dare," yes, and he still wasn't entirely sure how Scarlett had roped him into it, but he'd made sure to destroy every video of himself doing the moonwalk, "But… ever played 'Spin the Bottle?'"

Snake-Eyes shook his head. Yes, he'd been to the rare party that involved that sort of parlor game—many, many years ago—but fortunately, he'd never had to deal with that particular adolescent rite of passage.

"You'd probably have been good at it," she mused, thoughtfully. "That or Twister."

Snake-Eyes blinked very, very slowly. [How… can someone be good at 'Spin the Bottle,' Shana?] he finally asked. This was definitely a conversation that was starting to slide down the rabbit hole, and he really should know better than to ask when her mood was so mercurial tonight, but… well, now she had him curious!

"What? I mean, it's you," she protested.

Snake-Eyes stared. Finally, he raised an eyebrow at her. No, she couldn't see it through his mask, but she was very good at knowing when he was doing it.

"Oh… oh, I get it. Yeah. I guess you weren't a ninja, yet, in high school, were you," his girlfriend's voice was teasing, now, and her finger was tapping playfully on his knee again, her humor restored. She patted his thigh, thoughtfully. "You didn't have the control to, say, spin a bottle and end up with it pointing wherever you wanted it to?"

Snake-Eyes had to smile at the idea—but she did that to him, too. She always had. [No.]

"You're laughing at me," she murmured, dryly, and he caught the mischievous sideways glance of her eyes even from where he was scanning the street, "But I know you could do it now, buster, so don't act so surprised."

Well… he'd never actually tried, but… she might have been right about that.

"And Twister might not involve somersaults," Scarlett added, "but you're still the most balanced person I know."

Snake-Eyes cocked his head. [Twister?] He'd thought he'd misheard the first time.

This time, she laughed. "Oh, Snake! You really did spend all of your teenage years in the dojang, didn't you? Yes, Twister. Right foot to red—you know. Did you never play that, either? That's kind of a pity."

He shook his head. Of course, he'd seen the commercials on TV, but… it seemed like a children's game more than anything else, and he really wasn't sure what any self-respecting teenager would have gotten out of it. Well, maybe if someone had been high or something, but she certainly knew better than to think he'd dabbled in that kind of thing.

This time, when she laughed, there was a certain little edge to it—knowledge or amusement? No, both. She was studying the road—he gave her a long, careful look again. "I guess you did miss out, a bit. Not on much. I know, it seems silly, and it is silly, but… well… dangling there with everyone laughing and everyone sort of sliding up against everyone else… it's sort of an experience."

Now she was being cryptic. Were they actually talking about the same game—multiple colored circles and a little spinner and people trying not to fall on each other? He had some vague idea of the rules, but… [I don't get it,] he signed, knowing that he was frowning.

"I guess you weren't much at the mercy of teenage hormones, either, huh," she gave him a small smile—one that was almost a smirk. "We'll play when we get back to base. You'll see."

Board games when they got back to the base. Right. Yes, that was definitely a Shana-on-stakeout kind of idea.

Snake-Eyes sighed, and found himself distinctly—if guiltily—glad when their mark finally broke cover and started strolling away from their car. Next thing he knew, she was going to make him promise to play Connect Four with her or something like that. Wasn't it enough that she already—routinely—beat him at chess? He didn't mind losing, but… futility wasn't something he enjoyed.

No hope that she'd forget about these things, either—HQ, understandably, loved Scarlett's impossible memory, but there were definitely times that Snake-Eyes wished that his girlfriend hadn't been so damned smart. And sure enough, she was carrying a certain box underneath her arm the next time she came to his quarters.

Where in the world she'd found a game of Twister in the Pit… but… Snake-Eyes shook his head, his mouth curving in a small smile. One afternoon of silly parlor games with his girlfriend… not what he would have chosen, no, but he could live with that.

But his mouth promptly dried up when she slid out of her shirt in one easy tug of her long hands—the black lace that remained was very, very dark against skin unmarked by her golden tan.

Oh, yes, never mind the Twister, he could definitely live with this!

He stared, appreciatively—and swallowed as she shimmied her way out of her pants.

Black lace, top and bottom. Garters. All of it. Matching. Snake-Eyes wracked his brain for what exactly he'd done to deserve this—yes, successful missions did tend to rev her up—and they did the same to him—but… that'd been a few days ago. Still, if this was the kind of reward he got for actually chatting with her during stakeouts…

"Well?" Scarlett gave him a long, amused, utterly knowing look through lashes that he knew were thick and just a little darker than her trademark hair. Her hands ran, a slow stroke, down her smooth, strong thighs, back up again. "What are you waiting for, the next ice age?"

Oh. Right.

He yanked off his visor, his mask, and was in the process of undoing his baldric with unsteady fingers when—he paused.

Scarlett was on her hands and knees on the floor… which, considering what she was wearing and the way she was built, really was just a spectacularly mind-blowing sight. But… what in the world was she—

It looked like she was setting up the Twister game.

"What?" she purred, glancing over her shoulder at him after she'd tugged out a corner of the mat. Her hair slid down her back, her shoulder—his eyes followed the liquid pool of it over the bare line of her ribs, that edge of black lace.

He licked his lips, involuntarily. [What… are you doing?] his hands shook, and he glanced down at them, annoyed.

Scarlett smirked, and toyed with the spinners. "What, you didn't think I'd make a board game worth your while?"

Okay, no, he hadn't, but—

"Well, let me tell you, it's not teenage hormones I want from you,Snake-Eyes. Hmmm…" And that wasn't a smirk, that was… well, it was a smirk, but it was also Scarlett extending herself out, feline, her back arching as she reached for one of the colored circles. Snake-Eyes wasn't surprised when his vision dimmed to a haze for a second. "Get over here. Right hand to green, pal. Loser gets to count the ceiling tiles. What do you say?"

Ah. Well, then.

The rest of his gear went… quickly. The quartermaster was probably going to have to replace a few buckles. Right now… Snake-Eyes wasn't just being philosophical about equipment damage, he really just couldn't possibly care less.

A bored Scarlett was a dangerous Scarlett, he'd found. She got… very strange ideas.

But he'd found that a bored Scarlett could be an exceptionally creative Scarlett, as well.

~fin~

July 29, 2009

For the drabble trade with Author376: if I'm not mistaken, I think the cue was Naked Twister. –giggle- I think Lingerie Twister works well enough, don't you?