This will be the LAST chapter in this. I'm really glad that everyone has enjoyed it so much! The Quiz question was in the Joes on Vacation fic, and was roughly "Why does Snake Eyes hate Tuesday mornings?" And the answer was "Because tuesdays was debriding day at the hospital where he recovered from the terrible burns on his face." Thank you to all those that answered correctly!! On to the fic!

* * * *

Scarlett awoke the next morning and sighed softly, snuggled in under the blankets, next to the warmth of Snake Eyes. It felt wonderful, and she felt his breathing deepen slightly behind her. When he shifted in his sleep, she stretched her legs a little, feeling more relaxed than she had in months. That's probably why she didn't catch herself when his leg abruptly shoved her out of the bed and onto the floor.

"Oooomph!!" She landed hard, and the floor was freezing cold. "HEY!" Getting to her knees, she peered up onto the bed as Snake Eyes sat up suddenly, blinking and looking confused. "You bastard..." Her grumbles continued as she climbed back into the bed, shivering at the chill in the air. "You kicked me out of the bed!"

She saw him open his mouth too late to stop him.

"Sssaww...." He clutched at his throat, struggling not to cough.

She grasped his shoulder. "Shh... you know better than to try to talk.. it's okay.. " She scrambled back up to get a cup of water from the pitcher on the table. "Here.. sip it.. just a little.." He sat on the side of the bed, his chest jerking with the need to cough which he was suppressing. He'd told her that the only pain worse than talking was the coughing after he tried. What was left of the mutilated vocal cords was still raw, and any attempt to use them tore the tissue worse. Coughing after that was pure pain. Even regular coughing was somewhat painful. He reached out for one of the towels and she grabbed it to hand to him. He pressed it over his mouth and began to cough despite his attempts to stop.

"I'm sorry... I know it hurts... is there anything..?" He shook his head. When he pulled the towel away to take a sip of the water, she saw flecks of blood on the cloth. "Oh god.. is that blood?" He just nodded and took a few sips of the cold water. "Is.. is that okay? I mean.. " He reached to pat her arm and then made the 'ok' symbol with his fingers.

After a few more minutes, he shifted sideways and lifted the blankets for her to seat herself beside him. She slipped in, already shivering. He picked up the notepad and wrote.

It happens, I should remember not to try talking. I'm so sorry I pushed you out of bed. I must have done it in my sleep, I'm sorry.

She read it and smiled. "It's okay.. I didn't figure you deliberately kicked me out of the bed." He shook his head and then coughed a few more times. "Are you sure you're okay?" Nodding, he put the towel aside and sipped at the water again. "Well.. that was more effective than an alarm clock!" He let out a couple of pants, laughing at her. Then he held his throat and grabbed the pad back.

DON'T make me laugh!!!

She smiled at him. "Sorry. Habit.. I've been trying to make you laugh for so long.. it's just habit to try now. I'll try to be as non-funny as possible." He let out another pant, and shook his head at her. He scooted out from under the covers, reaching to tuck them around her shoulders. Moving around the room, he added wood to the fire and put a pan to heat on the edge. "What are you making?"

He paused and fingerspelled at her. *E.g.g.s* Picking up a loaf of bread, he held it up at her and she sighed.

"Your favorite breakfast.. eggs and toast." He nodded at her. "I don't know how you get your calories. You eat like a freakin' bird." She got a shrug and he reached into the box to toss her an apple. "Thanks. I wonder if you're the only Ninja Chef in the world?" He looked surprised at her and grabbed up the pad to write.

What do you think ninjas eat? Of course ninjas can cook. You can't exactly order in pizza to the super secret ninja hideout. Despite that silly turtle cartoon.

She read the note and started to laugh. "Okay.. point taken." She sighed heavily. "I wish we had longer to stay up here. A couple of days just doesn't seem long enough." He nodded. "I know.. let's go swimming again!" He raised an eyebrow at her. "What? It's got to be warmer during the day, right?" He tilted his head and then rocked his hand side to side. "Well, then it'll definitely be warmer when we get out. And I never get to swim anymore, the pool at the Pit just doesn't count."

Pulling the pad back, he scribbled again.

I agree, the lake is invigorating, the pool is only good for exercise and drowning Ripcord in.

She laughed and pointed at the Ripcord line. "Well, maybe not actually drowning him..."

She wasn't surprised when he wrote more.

As long as I let LifeLine revive him, it's all okay, I checked with Hawk. No permanent damage is the rule. Lifeline is a very good medic so I can go a long ways before worrying that I'll get into trouble.

She shook with laughter. "Nooo.. Hawk did not tell you that!"

Now he was grinning as he wrote.

Ripcord called me 'burger face' in front of Hawk once, and he said he wasn't stopping me from kicking his ass as much as I wanted to. That's the same thing, right?

Scarlett fell over in the bed laughing hysterically. "You're too much. I think you've taken that casual comment a little too seriously. Although Ripcord does go too far with his mouth on occasion. I don't think he means to.. I think he's just trying to be funny sometimes." Snake Eyes rolled his eyes. "I know.. he picks on you too often."

Snakes picked up the pad and wrote for a while, before handing her the lengthy note and going to finish cooking their eggs and bring the pan to the table. She read through it twice.

He humiliates me! I can't yell back at him, and if he turns away or refuses to read my notes, I can't even respond at all, and he knows it! He tells people that I'm stupid or a dim-witted, because I can't talk to tell them different. He's intercepted my notes and thrown them away so the people I'm trying to communicate with can't read them! It's unfair that he can torment me all he wants and pass it off as 'joking' while the instant I respond I get told that I'm going too far.

She sighed at him. "I know he drives you crazy. I'll have a talk with him when we get back." Snake Eyes suddenly came back and snatched the pad away, ripping the note off and wadding it to throw into the fire. "What? Come on.. I know it's hard.. but I can let Rip know that he's going too far."

He was getting more agitated and came back over to write furiously.

I don't need your help! I'm a grown man! I've been through more training and more combat than anyone else on the team, including Hawk and Stalker! I've seen more stealth missions than EVERY other person on the team combined!!! I'm tired of people treating me like I'm retarded just because I can't TALK!

She read it and looked at him helplessly. "I know.. I know it's been hard."

He suddenly sat down and scribbled.

People who don't know me assume I'm DEAF just because I can't speak. I can't go anywhere without a mask, and then everyone thinks I'm a freak for wearing a mask. You don't KNOW.

He stopped writing and she leaned to read over his shoulder. After a few seconds, he ripped the pages off and threw them into the fire. He sat disconsolately. Finally he wrote slower.

I'm sorry, you're the only person who has been there for me. I shouldn't be bothering you with all this. At least I can destroy my words after I 'say' them now.

She shook her head at him. "No.. you can't. I always remember what you say. I don't want to forget them either, because it's how you feel. It doesn't matter if you get angry or frustrated. You're entitled to feel that way. Everyone feels frustrated or angry some time or other. You're got a heck of an excuse for feeling that way right now. I don't want you to stop telling me how you feel." He tipped his face up at her and gave one of his twisted smiles that only vaguely resembled a happy expression. She bent and kissed him impulsively.

What was supposed to be a comforting kiss of friendship suddenly flashed into more. Her lips pressed against his, and he was startled into responding. His hand came up to stroke across the back of her neck, pulling her in tighter. His tongue touched her lips and she opened her mouth, inviting more. She reached to run her fingers through his short hair, leaning in to press her body against his chest. One of his powerful arms slipped around her torso, hugging her to him, stroking down her spine and back up to between her shoulderblades. When she settled into his lap facing him straddling his hips.. he broke the kiss and sighed lightly.

She was panting just a little bit and looked into his eyes from inches away, sitting across his lap and sliding her arms around his neck. "Well... this is much nicer than swimming.. don't you think so?" He swallowed and nodded. She bent and kissed him all over again, surprised when he broke off the kiss again, and ducked his face down slightly. "What?"

He gave her a tiny nudge to get her to stand, and got up. Once standing, he looked at her and then shook his head. "What? What no?"

He moved away and plucked up the notepad. She saw his hand shaking ever so slightly as he wrote.

You don't really want this. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked you up here. I didn't mean to seduce you or for any of this to happen. I promise it won't happen again.

She read the note twice slowly, before she looked at him in exasperation. Deliberately, she wadded the note and tossed it into the fireplace and came back to stand in front of him.

"Look you hard headed dumbass. I'm tired of beating around the bush with you. I love you. I hope you have some feelings for me, but whether you do or not, I still love you. If you don't like me back, then tell me that now. I'll do my best to stop bothering you. But don't think that YOU are the one seducing here. I've done everything but break out the duct tape."

He blinked at her. She stood and waited. Finally he signed clumsily. *You love me*

She took a deep breath and held it for a few seconds. "Yes." She watched him blink a few times, completely taken aback.

*You love... me.* She nodded. He suddenly turned and walked out the front door, leaving it open as he stood outside in the grassy open space, staring blankly at the lake. She finally followed him out and stood a few feet behind him. Did he think she was lying? Or did he not have any feelings for her and didn't know how to tell her? Had she ruined any chance of friendship with him?

When he turned to look at her, she laughed at the broad grin. He rushed inside and came out with the notepad, writing on it. He ripped loose a note and pushed it into her hands, already writing again.

I never wished I could yell with happiness more right now. But puking blood on you would ruin the mood. I love you so much and I think I've loved you a long time.

She started to respond and he put another note into her hands.

I love you but I don't want this, in case you realize it's a big big mistake to love me. Everyone I've ever loved has died or been taken from me and I don't want that to happen to you too. I was scared to love you before the accident and when it happened I knew it was a sign that I should never feel love for anyone ever. They always get hurt.

"Snakes.. that's ridiculous.. you're not cursed, I love you, and I didn't get hurt, you got hurt."

He was already writing.

I AM cursed and if you knew all that's happened to me you would know it's a mistake. What can I offer you like this? I can't go out on dates with you or take you nice places. I'm in the Army and it's all I have to look to in my life because I can't do anything else now. If Hawk decides to discharge me I don't know what else I could do, I don't have skills other than combat. What could you see in this maimed useless person?

She sighed and reached to still his hands. "Stop. I do love you. I fell in love with you, not with your pretty face." He rolled his eyes. "I know.. but you were handsome to me. And better, you're a good person, not just a good-looking person. You care so deeply for your friends and even just for your fellow teammates. You're so full of passion and love, you just won't let anyone see it. You don't have to be afraid with me, I love you, and I'm not looking for you to change who you are. And.. you did take me out on a date to a nice place! Look around you!"

He spread his hands before picking up his pen and then standing there trying to think of what to write. Suddenly he dropped pen and pad and swept her into his arms, hugging her tightly and then bending to kiss her as if he were drowning and she was the very air.

When they finally stopped to breathe, he looked at her and she smiled at the light in his oh-so-blue eyes. The scars didn't matter, because the same person looked out at her from those bright eyes. He twisted and motioned towards the lake.

"What? Swimming? Really?" She blinked as he left her standing to go get towels. "Uhh.. yeah.. swimming." This was not exactly the activity she was picturing.. but at least the cold water would settle her down before she screamed in frustration.

Snake Eyes followed her down to the water, watching how lithely her body moved and sighing with frustration himself. He turned away as she changed to a pair of his shorts, and very sternly told his body to behave itself. It wasn't that he didn't understand what should happen now.. what she wanted to happen now.. what HE wanted to happen now. He didn't want it to be a single moment of passion that she regretted when they got back to the Pit. A declaration of love was easily forgotten.. a round of sex much harder to forget. If she realized her mistake in giving her heart to him, he didn't want sex to mess up their friendship as well.

He sighed as his body continued it's protests, and jumped into the freezing waters. Shuddering, he winced as his passion was extinguished near instantly. Ninja training aside, the water was damned cold... thank god. Because Scarlett was standing up in the edge of the water, dripping wet, with a teeshirt clinging to every curve.. and he sighed and ducked his head back under again. Cold.. why wasn't the lake COLDER?