The Substitute....

What can you do when asked to substitute for a friend? Especially a lovely wounded friend who asks ever-so-sweetly while blinking large green eyes at you? Scarlett WAS wounded.. her left arm was in a sling for another week, Beachhead was too busy out on the PT courses, and even Jinx was temporarily out on assignment. Besides, Snake Eyes was actually the head hand-to-hand instructor. So it was a beginning Karate course? It would be a easy few hours, then Scarlett would owe him a favor, and he knew she was due for a 'home package' to arrive and he was a sucker for home baked fruitcake. Sharing baked goods would easily make up for his valuable time, and he got bonus points for stepping in to help.

Snake Eyes heard Scarlett's 'instructor voice' ringing out as he came to the open door.

"Alright class, since I'm banged up, we've got a substitute teacher. I'll be running the class, and my teammate here will be our body double." A couple of hoots sounded and low comments about bodies not being equal at all murmured. The redhead glared and it got quiet. "He's taking his personal time to do this, so we'll be really nice, right?" A chorus of "Yes Sergeant!!" filled the dojo. As Snake Eyes entered, she noted the heads turning, and the stares as he casually walked up to the edge of the mat.

Twenty-seven sets of eyes stared at him dressed in his normal dark fatigue pants, combat boots, black long sleeved shirt and gloves, with the ever-present mask and visor concealing his maimed face. His outfit was chosen for stealth and intimidation.. and combined with his reputation, was quite formidable. One of the youngest trainees finally blurted out...

"We're gonna have Snake Eyes as our instructor?!?" A short lived babble sounded, until the infamous green-eyed glare shut it down. The group seemed equally divided between terror, and delight. It didn't take very long before even the rankest newbie to the Joe team knew who Snake Eyes 'the infamous unstoppable mysterious mute ninja' was. Normally he was the star of the juiciest gossip, as long as he was well out of hearing range. Somehow he always heard about it anyway, and she'd never let on at how amused he would get over some of the more outlandish rumors. He was fond of saying that the less they knew, the more bizarre the things they would make up. Scarlett straightened her sling a little bit and began setting them up to run through the kata exercises. One would throw the punch, while the other would use the proper block, each one in order.

"Alright then... same as every day.. pair off, odd man out is Dalton.. you get Snake Eyes. First form.. and... ONE, and TWO, and STRIKE, and back." She watched over the pairs, and stepped over to Dalton who stood uncertainly. "Is there an ISSUE here?" The slightly built young man shook his head. "Then move it!" He stepped forward, then stopped short again.

"But.... Sergeant.... but... " She stood aggressively next to him. "But I can't!!" She looked at the ninja who shrugged slightly.

"Why not?" Dalton looked between the two Joes.

"I can't hit Snake Eyes!! He's a NINJA!! He'll KILL ME!!" Scarlett stared, while the deadly ninja turned and paced off, the twitching in his shoulders the only sign of his silent laughter. She was sure the trainees who were all surreptitiously watching thought it was twitching in preparation to rip heads from bodies... she struggled to keep her grim instructor face on.

"He is your instructor.. he will not kill you. Do you think he's a uncontrolled killing machine?" She watched him try to stop the automatic nod. "He's a instructor, and as such, will not do anything to deliberately injure you. So step it up, and do the kata!" Dalton gulped but firmed his resolve.

"Yes Sergeant!!" Looking like a man doomed to a messy death, he stepped up in front of the black-clad ninja who had returned to crouch in perfect classic form. Scarlett went back to sounding the cadence of moves.

"First form.. ONE! And TWO! And STRIKE! Eyes on YOUR partner Phelps! And again!! ONE! And TWO! And STRIKE! Get those elbows UP! This isn't your first time doing this so do it RIGHT!" She did watch out of the corner of her eye as Dalton made halting pokes at her substitute trainer. "Dalton, stop playing pattycake and HIT HIM!" Her sudden yell startled him into throwing the proper punch, which landed directly on Snake Eyes chest. Dalton gave a yelp of surprise and jumped. Snake Eyes nodded and motioned for him to continue. "He's a instructor... he will preform the kata in the proper sequence, Dalton, same as I do. So practice some proper hits, and stop acting like he'll eat you!"

Half an hour into it, and the green recruits had gotten the idea that they had their own personal ninja to toss around, and that not only would he not murder them for landing a proper blow on him, but he would only respond with the correct counters and punches. Scarlett watched the enthusiasm grow for this class grow in leaps and bounds. Why hadn't she thought of this before? Snake Eyes was enduring the 'abuse' fairly well. He could easily move with punches and kicks, blunting the worst of the impacts, and knew how to fall properly. When a throw was properly executed, he even 'helped' the move happen, since the main objective was to teach the correct movements, not to actually spar-fight with each student.

She used her teammate to boost the training on several recruits who had the ability but lacked the finishing touches on form. Snake Eyes could show them a move, and then show them how to counter it, correcting improper stance, and pointing out flaws in the execution. The same things she herself did when she was the 'body' instructor. His muteness was a slight handicap, but between the ones that knew ASL, his own practiced miming, and her own interpreting for him, they made it work. The ninja rarely had to resort to pad and pen, which made the lessons go by faster.

Scarlett winced a few times when clumsy blows, or lurching students, managed to land overly hard on her friend. It was part and parcel of instructing in martial arts, but never fun to catch a full punch in the armpit because a trainee stumbled further forward in the maneuver than was called for. Because it was a set of strike/counter moves, by the time Snake Eyes knew the blow was going awry, it was usually too late for him to get out of the way. Luckily his uncanny speed and reflexes kept the damage to a minimum. The legsweeps on this particular kata meant the 'opponent' landed on their back rather heavily. Knowing how to fall correctly could only blunt the impact so much, and by the twentieth time you fell over, properly or not, it still hurt a bit. The enthusiasm of the students meant Snake Eyes took a bit harder falls than the typical opponent, but he gamely continued without complaint. She did hear the occasional snort or puff of exasperated breath, but he didn't sign for a break, so she ignored it.

There was one particularly enthusiastic woman who managed to overextend her kick, and fell forwards as Snake Eyes threw the proper block. Her heel smacked into his head with a meaty smack, and he clutched at his face.

"I'm so sorry!" Scarlett hurried over as the frantic trainee apologized. "I fell over.. I didn't mean to kick him in the face!!" Snake Eyes waved her concern off, pinching his nostrils shut through the dark mask. He could feel the ooze of blood, and tugged the end of his nose, checking to see if she'd managed to break it. Other than a sharp throbbing pain, he seemed fine. Scarlett watched as he straightened up and signed with his free hand.

*Good kick, don't over extend your leg. Swing from the hip, don't hop forward while you kick* Assured that the errant kick to the face wasn't severe enough to stop the exercise, she moved on, tapping the nearest students with her bo staff to motion them back to their own opponents.

By the end of class, she had the most enthused students ever, all of them excited and over half of them having gotten to 'beat' the infamous ninja at least once. Snake Eyes was gracious, but obviously regretting his offer to help out. Scarlett let the class relax finally. "Everyone say thank you to Sergeant Snake Eyes for helping us out." A chorus rang out immediately. Before the ninja could turn to leave, one brash fellow spoke up.

"To think we used to think you were a real bad dude who could wipe the floor with any of us!" That stopped Snake in his tracks, and Scarlett cursed mentally. Being thrown around by a beginning class was one thing, but being direct disrespect was another thing altogether. He turned and signed with a elaborate casualness.

*You believe you can beat me* He stepped onto the mat. *Would you care to spar*. Scarlett waved everyone to back up.

"Alright Curtis. You wanted to bait him, now you can spar with him." Curtis smirked confidently and walked up. Scarlett held her good hand between them and gave Snake Eyes a warning look before stepping back. The trainee leapt forward, with perfect form, punching towards his masked opponent. There was almost a collective gasp as it seemed he would connect. Then in a sudden blur, the ninja stepped into the punch, causing it to miss entirely, blocked the clumsy second blow and hit Curtis five times before he could lift his arm to block the first strike. His legs seemed to lift off the mat of their own accord and he fell backwards over the legsweep he never saw coming. By the time the soft 'thump' sounded, Snake Eyes had already stepped back into place. Slightly stunned, Curtis rolled over and clambered to his feet.

"That's.... that wasn't fair!" Scarlett raised an eyebrow. "I couldn't counter all that!" She motioned to her teammate, who replicated his moves at a slower speed to demonstrate exactly what he had done in response to the initial 'attack'.

"He used only the moves 'you' have been taught, with the proper countermoves. And this... " She raised her voice to the entire class. "This is the difference between beginners and a Master martial artist. The entire reason you have been throwing each strike repeatedly is to install the movement in your muscle memory. That's the purpose of katas. Once you've mastered the moves, the speed builds itself. We are training your bodies to fight, and your minds need to be open to learn. The first time you succeeded at preforming a move correctly, you immediately became arrogant and decided you were done learning. Now you know better.... right Curtis?" She rounded on the hapless young man.

"Yes Sergeant." She tilted an eyebrow at him. "YES SERGEANT! THANK YOU SERGEANT!" She tilted her head at Snake Eyes and he turned and gave the short bow at him. "Thank you Sergeant for instructing us!" The class echoed him.

"Much better. Later in your training, you'll no doubt end up under the care of Snake Eyes for advanced instruction. If you're lucky, he'll have forgotten your comment today." Curtis blanched slightly.

"I doubt that Sergeant!" She grinned.

"Class dismissed, clean up for lunch." The group scattered, leaving in clumps. All of them were talking excitedly, and she overheard multiple versions of "Did you see me throw him over my knee??" and "I hit him dead center TWICE!" She walked over to the bench to her friend who was stretching himself, rolling one arm repeatedly and wincing.

"Thanks again.. I do appreciate it. Sorry about Mr Loudmouth." Snake Eyes gave her a headtilt and shrugged.

*Always one in every group.* His relaxed signing relieved her. She wasn't certain he wouldn't get angry, but despite his fearsome reputation, the ninja was fairly laidback and easy going. He rolled his shoulder a few more times and felt at his face carefully.

"Are you okay? Your nose isn't broken is it?" He peeled the mask up enough to pinch it carefully, wincing as he did so. Tugging the mask back down, he shrugged again.

*If it was, at least it wouldn't hurt my appearance much.* She sighed at him. "Joke... it was a joke.* Scarlett smiled. *You owe me for this. I feel like I've been beaten up by kindergarteners all day.* This time she laughed loudly.

"Well, I guess I do owe you big time. They did enjoy using you as a punching bag." He snorted and clicked his tongue in a reproving manner. "You can't blame them... who gets the chance to punch the most deadly warrior in Joe history, without worrying that he'll go postal and snap you into bite sized bits and put you into a secret ninja recipe for 'trainee stew'?" She watched the silent laughter.

*My reputation.. will it survive* She laughed at his overacting. When he put a wrist to his forehead and staggered, she punched his shoulder playfully. He rubbed it dramatically. *Not you too, that's unfair. I'll be a mass of bruises already, don't add to them*

"Stop it. You're such a drama queen. Would you like to have some lunch with me?" He bowed slightly to her and offered her his elbow. "Well, thank you. Such a gentleman.. for a deadly ninja." He signed at her with his free hand.

*Careful. I may have a ancient ninja recipe for redheaded instructor stew too* She laughed heartily. She decided to get one last jab in as his stride seemed just a tad too jaunty.

"You do realize...." She paused and looked at him slyly. "All those trainees are right this moment, in the messhall.. regaling everyone... all the other Joes even, about their training session where they spent the entire time whipping your butt." She enjoyed the dramatic tossing of hands in the air as he vented his distress.

*Great... the thanks I get for helping a wounded teammate.* She laughed and tucked her arm through his again, pulling him along towards the messhall anyway.

"You'll survive.. you and your little reputation too!" She turned a particularly wicked look on him. "Besides.. there's only six more days until Doc clears my arm! I'm sure they'll go by sooo quickly!" The ninja heaved a very put upon sigh and then signed resignedly.

"I'm going to die."