I'm posting this somewhat reluctantly but in response to a metric buttload of PM's and reviews requesting a piece like this. If anyone thinks that the OC is overpowering, let me know and I shall take it down at once. I don't like letting OC's get their own piece, normally, but again this was requested, asked nicely for, and begged shamelessly for. So here it is. Somewhat of a spoiler for chapter 19 of my story "Duty as Usual".


"Damn." She sighed.

To her left, Tommy propped himself up on one elbow to smirk down at her. "I told you; I've never had any complaints."

"Well, never let it be said that I didn't give credit where it was due. You know what you're doing between the sheets, I'll give you that." Sherry yawned. "Don't let it go to your head, though-you've already got enough of an ego."

Tommy flopped back down again. His voice was muffled by his pillow. "Whatever. Judging by the sounds you were making ten minutes ago, I've earned the right to gloat as I see fit."

She yanked the pillow out from under his face and whipped it at him. He blocked automatically and without even looking. Sherry scowled; she knew that she'd never begin to approach the level of hand-to-hand combat mastery that Snake Eyes, Tommy, or Scarlett took for granted, and that was really fine with her. She knew her strengths, and her weaknesses. Close combat was not among the 'strengths' category.

Still, ninja reflexes could be damned annoying when you were trying to land a well-earned smack upside a handsome yet occasionally irritating skull.

Tommy retrieved his pillow, fluffed it, and tucked it back under his head, grinning that jaunty little grin that made it really impossible to stay mad at him. "Nice try, but you need to work on your speed."

"Oh, shut it." She sat up, examining him with interest. He propped his chin up in one hand, raising an eyebrow quizzically.

She reached out to run a finger over the series of red lines tattooed on his arm. "What's it mean?"

He examined the symbol. "It's called Ji Ji; it's the sixty-third hexagram from the I Ching. It means 'already completed'; my ancestors chose it as the symbol of our clan to imply that any mission that we were contracted for was as good as done." He frowned at a small divot marring the edge of one line. "I got nicked there a few months back. Healed clean, but I need to get it touched up now. I should take some leave time and go back home long enough to get it done."

She frowned. "There have to be some decent tattoo artists closer than Japan."

He gave her a look. "Not any who know the proper ceremony for inking a clan marking."

"Oh." Sure. Yeah. Who didn't know that tattooing a ninja could only be done in one place? She shook her head and turned her attention to his back.

She knew where the long scar that ran from his shoulder to his hipbone had come from, but that wasn't by any means his only trophy of long-past battles. She brushed a finger over an odd one low on his ribs; two straight, small, evenly sized lines, separated by about an inch.

"Throwing star." He said. "Courtesy of my sword brother. He gave me that not long after I first started working for Cobra."

"What about this one?" She poked a short, thin line on the back of his thigh.

"I got stabbed with a trench knife. Also Snake Eyes." He grimaced. "That one hurt."

"And this one?" The distinctive small round scar of a bullet, high on his right shoulder.

"Snake Eyes again."

"Sweet Jesus." She shook her head. "You two really have cut each other to pieces over the years."

"Well, yes, but not all of those are from Snake." Tommy craned his neck. "The one along my ribs is from a lucky shot a viper got in a few months back. The one on my right leg is from a kasuri-kama; I was seventeen when I got that. It was before I'd even met Snake Eyes, during a little skirmish with a rival ninja clan. The one on the back of my calf I picked up just after getting home after my tour in the jungle. Again, during an altercation with a rival ninja clan; I caught a throwing spike while I was dealing with another few intruders." He grimaced again. "That one was pretty bad…I nearly died."

Sherry frowned. "From a prick on the leg?"

He gave her another long look. "From a poisoned prick on the leg, yes."

"Oh." She winced. "Sorry…you've really been beat to hell, haven't you?"

He shrugged; disgustingly, he even made that simple motion look fluid and elegant. She'd never met someone before who seemed so… comfortable in his own skin.

"When you fight your enemy in close, you pick up some scars over the years. My uncles had some really spectacular ones. My father lost an eye to another ninja. It happens."

"Yeah…I prefer blowing them up from above with large quantities of high-tech explosives. Or," She grinned. "Just ripping targets into small bits with my machine gun installments. That's always some good fun."

He snorted. "Pilots. Damn cheaters."

"Yeah, you don't say that when you ground troops call for air support. What about this one?" She poked a tiny, faded, perfectly round scar on his upper arm. "Dart? Another throwing spike?"

"Chicken pox." He grinned. "I was five."

"Oh." That wasn't nearly as macho as a blowgun dart to the arm.

"Sorry." He rolled over onto his back. "Ninja children get sick too, you know."

"Did you watch Saturday morning cartoons and eat sugar pops with extra sugar, too?"

His grin widened. "Sometimes."

She snorted at the sudden visual of a line of black-clad, masked ten year olds bristling with weaponry eating cocoa pops and watching Loony Tunes. He raised an eyebrow and gave her an injured look. "What? Aren't I allowed some sugar-fueled early childhood terrorism?"

"I'm just having a hard time picturing ninja as relatively-normal kids." Sherry snickered. "I've seen too many bad ninja movies. I still think of ninja as superhuman, mythic, magical half-gods that spring fully formed from the darkest nightmares of the human soul."

"Well, actually we rather enjoy that reputation." Tommy grinned. "And you can refer to me as 'superhuman' or 'godlike' whenever you want to, just for the record. Plus, we're only 'normal' until we start training…and I started at six. Even before that, well, how many kids teeth on a pair of nunchucks?"

"In your dreams. Just because I'll admit that you're good in the sack doesn't mean I'll stroke your ego that much. And your parents did not use nunchucks as a teething aid."

"They did. There are pictures to prove it." He paused. "And by four they were letting me play with their shuriken; I've always loved shuriken."

She glared. "You're pulling my leg. No parent would give a sharp object to a toddler."

He held up a hand. In the center of his palm was a very old, very faded scar that looked very much like the one on his ribs. "A souvenir of my first encounter with a throwing star. They let me learn the hard way to be careful with sharp objects."

She stared. Opened her mouth. Closed it again. Shook her head. "How do any of you manage to survive infancy? Ninja are crazy."

"But good in bed." He said smugly. "You admitted it. You're not bad yourself. You've got some things to learn yet, but I'm a willing and patient teacher."

She swung a fist at his ribs. He blocked easily, still grinning as she scowled. "Asshole." She growled.

"Kidding." He was laughing. "I was kidding…please don't obliterate me with a missile."

She started laughing too. "I don't know…that'd be a fun experiment. Can a ninja dodge an AIM-9 Sidewinder, or can the ninja figure out some way to hide his heat signature in less than five seconds? I could write a paper and publish my findings."

"I would really rather not find out the answer to that." Tommy said thoughtfully. "I'd really hate to find out that I couldn't. That might hurt."

"Not for long." Sherry pointed out.

"That's fine. I think I'll pass." He gave her that little grin again, and she couldn't help but smile back.

"Wuss." She poked him in the ribs.

"Bite me." He said amiably.

She smiled slyly. "Where?"

His grin widened and increased in intensity by several kilowatts. "Surprise me…I'm open minded."

Her smile went evil, and she let her eyes travel south, very slowly. She sniggered at his sudden look of alarm. "What? You said 'surprise you.'"

"I take it back. Anywhere but there." He winced.

"Fine." She folded her arms across her chest. "Then I won't at all."

He had her on her back and pinned before she'd even realized that he'd moved. "But now you've got me all hopeful." He purred down at her.

"Jesus, man. It's only been fifteen minutes."

"So?"

That was a pretty good point, actually. Sherry willingly traded bickering for making out. Thomas Arashikage knew what he was doing; she did have to give him that.

After another entirely satisfying romp, she glanced at his clock, and moved to swing her legs out of the bed, glancing around for her clothes. Tommy roused himself from a half-doze and cocked that eyebrow, an expression that Sherry had never managed to master. "Leaving?" He sounded almost disappointed.

"I should get back to my bunk. It's getting late."

"You don't have to."

"I don't want to put any pressure on you…we agreed that this is just fun." She examined her flight suit. "What the hell did you do to this? It has-well, had-a zipper, you know."

"It got stuck."

"I told you, jiggle it a few times."

"Would have taken too long. And, by the way, I like waking up to a good looking naked woman in my bed as much as the next man." He patted the mattress in invitation.

She hesitated. It had been a long time since she had slept in company, and the idea was appealing. "I snore."

"I can always smother you with a pillow."

"So long as you have a plan for corpse disposal." She flopped down again, swiping his extra pillow.

"I've got at least seven different ways to dispose of the corpses of irritating people. Thinking of new methods to hide bodies is basic ninja training."

"Weird, but whatever helps you sleep at night, I suppose." She tugged the blankets up to her chin. "I'm a blanket hog too, by the way."

He sighed. "I suppose it's too late to kick you out?"

"Yep." She curled up happily. "Your bed is cushier than the cots in the women's barracks."

"I bought my own mattress." He tugged at the edge of the blankets. "Just because I can sleep on anything doesn't mean I don't like being comfortable. Dammit…you weren't kidding. Give me at least some, woman."

Some shoving and rib-elbowing later, and they'd finally settled more or less to both of their satisfaction. Sherry closed her eyes, savoring the warmth of his back as it brushed hers. She'd always had problems staying warm; her small size didn't hold heat well, and her deployments over the last few years had been in warm locales. The Pit's climate was far colder than she preferred, and she'd swiped most of the spare blankets in the women's barracks.

She smiled to herself and wiggled a bit further into the space warmed by his body. Judging from his breathing Tommy was already asleep, having dropped off with the characteristic speed of an experienced soldier. She smiled again; it had been awhile since she'd slept in company, but longer still since she'd had a bedmate that didn't snore. Which Tommy didn't. She could get used to this.