This was written as a Prize fic for anyone that could identify where the 'rutabega' comment came from in the Monster Within fic.

Only PhantamEmpress could come up with the reference, of BeachHead making a greenshirt clean the barracks with a potato, in GI Joe FrontLine(issue #17 for those interested).

Although I offered to send it to her via email, she chose to have me post it, for all to enjoy, so Thank You to the most generous PhantamEmpress!

This is set waaaay back in the beginning, after Snake Eyes helicopter incident, where he rescued Scarlett. He's mostly healed up now, and still adjusting to life with his teammates with his scars and muteness. I hope that you enjoy it, and please, feel free to leave me reviews, thank you for reading!

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Scarlett grabbed at the dashboard of the truck as it lurched sideways. "Whoa.. are you sure this road is passable?" The driver nodded at her silently.

The driver was her friend, a deadly ninja, terribly competent commando, one of the original members of the GI Joe team.. and also a very poor judge of road conditions in her mind right now. Snake Eyes was mysterious and quiet and a bit of a conundrum to most of his teammates.

She had been spending a lot of time with him. They worked together a lot, and meshed well as a team. As they got closer, they'd become good friends, and she started to think they might be a little more. When the accident happened, she had been terrified that he would blame her, as she blamed herself. It had taken months for him to recover and nearly that long for her to forgive herself, and to realize that he had never blamed her for his injuries.

Although Stalker had done his best to help his long time friend, it had been Scarlett he turned to more often. He hung out with Stalker when he had good days, and brooded with Scarlett on the bad days. He used up entire pads of paper ranting about his teammates, and his own limitations, about the doctors and treatments, and life in general. She'd convinced him to begin learning ASL, although it had been Stalker that sent him back when the first group class had been a disaster.

Snake Eyes shifted the truck into first gear and gave it more gas, pushing the poor vehicle up through a particularly rutted section of trail. After that, it smoothed out a little, although the lane was so overgrown as to be nearly invisible. Scarlett looked out over the view in one spot, open to show the valley they had climbed out of, before the trees closed in again.

"It's really pretty out here, how much further?" He shook his head. She swallowed, kicking herself for not asking in a way he could answer, she knew how frustrated he got. "Sorry.. are we within an hour of getting there?" He tilted his head.. and then nodded. "Half an hour?" He nodded again. "Ten minutes?" He shook his head and she took a deep breath. "So it's a cabin?" Another nod. "You built it?" He sighed heavily and nodded again, turning his head to look at her. "Okay... okay. Shutting up."

He smiled, and despite mask covering, she could tell he looked amused. He'd begun wearing a bandana at first, trying to cover the worst of the raw scars, but people's horrified expressions made him so self-conscious that he'd gone to a ski mask with goggles eventually to hide his entire face. He'd tried going without the mask around the team, but the pity on his friend's faces caused him too much distress, and eventually everyone got used to seeing the masked commando, rather than Snake Eyes, their reliable teammate.

Scarlett remembered the first new Joe member that hadn't ever seen Snake Eyes before the accident. He accepted the commando's unusual attire at first, and it took a couple of weeks before he had asked about the mask. Snake Eyes had basically been thought of as unfriendly, and stand-offish, because he'd been avoiding everyone, and refused to take off the mask to eat with the team. She knew how badly it hurt to have his own teammates flinch away from his face, and it didn't matter that some of them flinched out of pity, while some out of horror. Since it hurt, he closed himself off from caring, and took a long step away from having friendships even with team members. If a person didn't make a lot of effort, he'd ignore them other than necessary interactions for training or planning.

Breaker has been doing nothing that any new guy did on a team. You identified the outsiders, and then you dissed them a little to make the rest of the people like you and accept you in to the 'us' status away from the 'them' status. Primate behavior. Unfortunately, he'd picked Snake Eyes to diss. Not his fault, since he had no idea about his background, or why he chose to eat alone in his room, or wear a mask, or never talk to anyone. Stalker had ripped into him anyway, letting him know exactly why he should shut up and that would have been fine.. except that Snakes had walked in on it and heard most of Stalker's rant.

The fight between those two had been the worst the team had experienced so far. Stalker yelled, and Snakes wrote notes back, and eventually the ninja left. He'd been gone for exactly seventy-one hours and forty-five minutes.. barely inside the time limit to be declared officially AWOL. When he came back, he walked past everyone, ignored Stalker's attempts to apologize, and went directly into Hawk's office. After a couple hours he'd emerged, wrote a note telling Stalker that it was over and he didn't want to discuss it, and disappeared into his quarters. After that, it was a few weeks until he did anything but train, go on missions and disappear otherwise.

Eventually even the worst has to pass over though. She sighed. Stalker and Doc had worked hard with her, using every trick they could think up to get their friend back into the team, as opposed to just going on missions with them. Eventually he had to either give in and do what they wanted or go mad with them pestering him. If he'd been a bad person to begin with, he would have managed to isolate himself. But appealing to his guilt over his teammate's guilty feelings eventually forced him to come back to interact with them. After a lot of very careful work, they had their friend back, albeit a more reserved and quiet version. She'd take what they could get at this point.

Even though she thought their relationship was going well, it was very very slow. She knew the man was fond of her, and she darned well thought highly of him. But after a year, he'd gotten to the point of holding her hand and perhaps sitting and talking in a intimate setting. Yes, he would occasionally pull off the mask if they were alone, but he almost always looked away, and turned his face to the side if she hugged him.

The truck lurched unexpectedly and she jerked forward, stopped more by his arm than the lapbelt. He made the 'ok' sign at her in a somehow questioning way and she nodded. "I'm fine.. just was lost in thought." He nodded and went back to watching the grassy lane.

She smiled to herself when she thought of him laughing the week before. Stalker and Clutch had been working on one of the armored personnel transports, and he was attempting to help. She came in and basically showed him up, fixing a belt in minutes that he'd been struggling with for an hour.

Far from being insulted, he'd waved her to his spot, indicating she should take over. When she tried to demur, afraid that he would be upset at being shown up by a woman, he had pushed her physically to the truck engine, pointing at her. Clutch had snorted and called her 'Cupcake' and she had kicked him.

Stalker had rolled out from under the transport and looked at Clutch holding his leg. "She's more of a spicey cornbread.. she'll burn you every time you try to take a bite.. better keep your mouth shut Clutch." Snakes had begun to laugh, but without a voice, it ended up sounding like panting. He'd put a hand to his throat, astounded at the lack of noise, and that's when she realized that he hadn't laughed since before the accident.

Before she could stop herself, she'd spoken up in a casual manner. "What's wrong Snakes? Did you think you hadn't laughed in so long you forgot how to?" For some odd reason that had struck him as even funnier, and he pant-laughed harder, eventually ending up in a coughing fit. Because he'd found it funny, Clutch had found it funny, and started to laugh, which meant Stalker had ended up joining in, and the sight of the three grown men laughing.. all because Snake Eyes couldn't laugh properly, just set her off. She'd eventually declared she was going to wee on herself, and they'd all lost it again. By the time they got themselves under control, Snake Eyes had suddenly looked at her and written out a note that simply read.. 'would you like to come up to my cabin?'

Since she had already been approved for leave, she'd agreed, rather pleased with the invitation. She'd been surprised when Stalker knocked on her door that night, taking the time to make sure she had 'honorable' intentions towards his friend. With all the time they'd spent together, he still wanted to be certain that she wasn't toying with him, perhaps flirting without meaning to. When she'd begun to elaborate on why she liked him so much, Stalker had suddenly interrupted her.

"Never mind.. you're in looooove. No one gets that googley-eyed without it being love." She'd tried to object but ended up talking to the backside of her door, as he left without listening. After she thought it over, she accepted that maybe she was a little bit.. infatuated with the man. Perhaps it was a little bit of loving.. maybe.. maybe a lot. She sighed suddenly, hoping that she wasn't doomed to pine after a man that didn't return her affections.

The truck lurched to a stop suddenly and Snake Eyes cut the engine. She looked at him and he spread his hands as if to ask 'what do you think'? And then she realized.. they were there. She peered out and smiled. Yes, the cabin was small, but it was set in a perfectly lovely clearing, and she could see a lake sparkling through the trees. She got out and walked towards the center of the clearing, looking around at the nearly unspoiled wilderness around the little place.

"It's great. Really lovely." She saw the mask crinkle as he smiled in return. "You know.. no one is up here, right?" He nodded at her, engrossed in pulling out their bags. "So.. you can take off your mask.. if you want to." He froze, and she turned away, looking towards the lake, and letting him think it over. "You know I don't mind." When she turned back, he was walking to the cabin, mask still in place and the bags slung over her shoulder. She grabbed the box of canned goods out and followed after him.

Inside, she found it was one room, with a small attached bathroom. No tub, unless you counted the metal one hanging outside. She noted a wide, low-set bed. Only one bed, and she wondered briefly if he'd even thought about that. He pointed to the fireplace, and made a carry motion with his arms. "Yeah, get firewood.. should I start the fire for us?" He nodded and went back out, leaving the door standing open. There was a fire laid already, basic lore for camping, always leave your fire ready to light. She found flint and steel on the rough mantle shelf and made use of them.

Once it was burning nicely, she looked around, finding cargo netting hanging from the rafters, and various boxes setting up on top of the beams. Snake Eyes came back in, carrying an armful of wood and she helped stack it into place beside the fireplace. He added a couple pieces to her fire, and nodded at it, giving her a thumbs up.

"Not bad for a city girl, right?" He shrugged and then turned to pull down one of the nets. It turned out to have several large pillows and he took a couple outside to beat the dust out of them. She grabbed the others and helped with that. He obviously had a routine, and she felt like she was two steps behind the beat, but made a effort to help with whatever needed done.

When he'd started to pull the blankets off the bed to air them out also, he suddenly paused and looked at her. It was comical the way he looked from her to the bed, and she smiled, thinking that her earlier surmise had been accurate. He tucked the blankets under his arm and signed at her clumsily. *Sleep floor me.*

She looked at the rough planks and shook her head. "No way.. you'll catch your death of cold on the floor.. and don't give me that ninja training junk. Besides, the bed is big enough, we've slept closer together than that out in the field!" He looked doubtfully at the bed and back at her.

He'd tried again. *Sleep truck me.* She put her hands on her hips with a stern glare. Then he'd shrugged and gone outside to shake out the blankets. She made sure that all the blankets went back on the bed when he came back in. He motioned her to come with him, and led her to the lake edge. Pointing off to the south, he wagged his finger at her 'no-no'. She looked that direction and gave him a shrug. He repeated the 'no-no'.

"Why not?" He stood a second, trying to think of what to tell her that he knew how to sign. "Is it a person that direction?" He shook his head. "Animals?" Again a negative response. "Umm.. something dangerous.. but not people or animals?" He nodded and mimed a deep swooping motion. "Uhh... " He made it again, then walked his fingers downwards. "A ravine?" Sighing heavily, he finally shrugged and sighed. "Close enough?" He nodded. "Okay.. don't go that way. Can we swim?" He nodded, then hugged himself and mock shivered. "Cold.. I bet it is. But if we have a fire inside to warm up... " She looked off across the still lake, watching the sky begin to turn colors.

He reached to touch her arm, and she looked at him. He motioned for her to come with him, and she pointed at the sun setting.

"I'd love to watch the sunset, it looks like it'll be spectacular." He shook his head and motioned again. "But it'll only be a little while.." Looking impatient, he motioned more sharply. "Okay okay.." She followed him as he took a path up a slight incline.

She should be disappointed that he didn't share her appreciation for things like sunsets. Most guys didn't enjoy looking at nature's beauty. That was a girly thing she guessed. But he could at least let HER appreciate it. She looked through the tree branches as the sky's colors began to turn to reds and oranges. She was missing a lovely sunset, for no good reason.

He reached a washed out spot in the game trail they were following and stepped up onto a exposed tree root. Then he turned to hold his hands out to her. She stepped closer, and let him lift her past him, setting her onto the upper portion of the trail safely. Then he scrambled up too, accepting her hand to boost him up onto the edge.

"You okay? Wow.. that part really got washed out." She bent to look at it, noting the exposed roots, and finding that it was more packed roots than dirt on the edge he'd lifted her onto to begin with. He touched her, and motioned for her to continue on, and she waved at him. "Wait.. I want to see this.. you get flash flood ever?" He gave her arm a little impatient push. "Hey, cut it out! You rushed me away from the lake, you can wait a second while I at least get to see how this got all washed.. " He suddenly took her by her arm and twisted her around, pointing.

"Oh...." She was struck dumb by the vista. He'd brought her up high enough to overlook the lake.. and a natural clearing had been formed by a mudslide or something at some point far in the past. It was a natural theater, framing the western horizon. And it was fireworks spectacular right now. They both stood as the sky deepened in color, brilliant reds flashing into purples and blues... the wondrous sight spread out for their personal enjoyment. "Wow..." He motioned her to sit, and she found a comfy clump of thick grass to seat herself on, and just gazed happily at the sunset. He settled next to her and scooted over until his thigh brushed hers. The two of them sat and watched in utter silence until the sky darkened and the colors faded. She only looked away when she heard the scritching of his pen on paper.

He handed her the pad and she read the neat script. 'Did you like it?' She beamed at him and nodded. He took the pad back and wrote quickly. 'I've been waiting a long time to have someone special enough to share this with. I'm glad it was you."

She held the note for a long moment. When he shifted nervously, she looked away and sniffed. He suddenly jerked and waved at her, shaking his head and snatching the note away. He wadding it up with elaborate movements and threw it aside, making motions with both hands indicating 'never happened' and shaking his head frantically. She wiped at her face and abruptly hugged him, turning him loose quickly.

"No.. I'm just so happy. I'm glad you'd want to share it with me. I'm not sad." He puffed out a relieved breath. "I really like you a lot. Thanks so much for.. for showing me. For inviting me up here. I know it's your private getaway.. I hope I'm not intruding too much by being here." He shook his head, and put his hand on his chest, then pointed at her, before spreading his hands to the faded sun setting across the lake waters. "Yeah.. I'm glad I got to share this with you too."

He smiled and then hesitated, looking away for a long moment. Then he reached up and pulled the mask loose, holding it for a second and then tucking it into his pocket. He didn't look at her, just looked away, but it was enough. She scooted a little closer to him and leaned to rest her shoulder against his arm. After a few seconds of them sitting in silence, he glanced down at her, and leaned over just a little bit. She stayed still, only gazing at the setting sun, and after a few minutes, his arm came up hesitantly to rest across her back lightly.

She smiled. For a new first date.. not that bad at all.