I know that Storm Shadow had been captured by Mindbender by the time Snake took apprentices, but seriously…we all know that sooner or later Tommy is going to break through that programming, shove several dozen pointy objects through Mindbender's vital bleedy bits, murder a few dozen vipers, and ally with his sword brother again. So indulge me, please.

This is for General Zargon, who specifically requested this story right down to detailing the characters, the scenario, and the fight. I like General Zargon, so I will post this piece as per her request. If anyone else happens to enjoy it, well, good for them.

"Ten-eight" means 'prisoner' in military jargon.


Sherry Takenawa knew that there were some things in life that she was very good at. Flying being the most obvious example; she'd made a career out of the fact that she was more at home twenty thousand feet in the air than most people were in their own living rooms.

Flying was how she'd carved a place for herself in the world…a small one, but then she didn't need much room. That she could thank her four foot-eleven mother and her five foot-one father for; she'd spent a lot of time having hems taken up thanks to their genetics.

She was not so happy in a situation like her current one; her plane down, sabotaged, in the middle of a Godforsaken hellhole of a swamp, separated from the rest of the Joe team, staring down a dozen very large and heavily armed men and one blonde woman in biker gear. She sighed. At least her eject hadn't failed and/or blown her up.

Look on the bright side of things. That was the key to life, or so her mother had always said.

Her mother had probably never been covered in smelly swamp scum, alone, with several large-caliber weapons leveled at her skull. Sherry calculated; she'd taken the plane away from civilian areas when it had become apparent that the Sky Striker had been tampered with and the landing gear sabotaged; better she blow up a few dozen trees and several thousand mosquitoes than a shopping mall when the plane hit. She was probably about ten miles off from the main fight, and while the GPS tracking device on her plane was still working, it would take awhile for them to find the remains of her Sky Striker. And longer to find her if this lot dragged her off somewhere.

Which left her alone, facing down a dozen Dreadnoks and Zanya. The swamp-sucking bastards must have tracked her as she was going down. While any of the ninja on the G.I. Joe payroll could probably take these assholes without breaking a sweat, Sherry didn't have any illusions about her own chances of taking this lot on alone. She raised her hands, and hoped very hard that that apprentice of Snake Eyes'…Kamakura, right, that was his name…or Tommy showed up really soon.

"If you shoot me." She said dryly, "you'd only be improving my day."

Ten minutes later, and she was being marched through the swamp at gunpoint. They'd disarmed her, though fortunately Zanya hadn't let the overgrown apes feel her up too much during the process. Sherry hadn't thought she'd ever be grateful to the upstart little bitch, but hell, live and learn.

"So." She said. "Where we going?" She forced cheer into her voice. She made a mental note to thank BeachHead for whipping her through all those obstacle courses and runs; slogging through an overgrown swamp was, scarily enough, actually easier than the ranger's PT training.

She'd put on fifteen pounds of muscle after joining the Joe team…which, considering her size, wasn't an inconsiderable fraction of her previous bodyweight. Right now, she finally forgave the drill sergeant for making her go up a clothing size.

She got a rifle butt dug into the small of her back. "Shut it, midget."

"Just trying to make polite conversation…jeez."

"Let her be." Zanya glared at Sherry's tormenter. "She's not getting away, so there's no reason she can't know." Zartan's daughter eyed the pilot. "We're taking you to a secure facility…the Commander will pay a lot for you."

"Shiny." Sherry pried a foot from a particularly thick, sucking pit of mud. "I'm guessing I'm worth more alive than dead, since you haven't shot me yet."

"A smart one." Zanya resumed walking. "But don't do anything stupid; the Commander has good medics, and he'll pay for you maimed just as well as for you untouched."

"Not planning any spectacular escapes yet. Please leave my kneecaps intact." Sherry sighed. This was not a good situation. "So, why am I so valuable as to warrant a sabotaged plane and a Zartan's dear little girl as my personal escort?" Sure, she'd blown up her share of vipers, but still…

"Bait." Zanya grinned. "The Commander's been lamenting the fact that his favorite bodyguard is still working for the wrong side…and our intel says that you and Thomas have been seen together more than a few times."

Sherry looked up sharply and promptly tripped over a creeping vine hidden in the mud. She had a moment to curse her distraction as she struggled to regain her feet, bogged down in the muck, but then a large hand came down and one of the Dreadnoks picked her up by the back of the belt and set her back on her feet.

She spit out some mud and wiped ineffectually at her hair. "Thomas?" Sherry had only ever heard Tommy referred to by his first name by his teammates…and even most of the Joes called the ninja 'Storm Shadow', 'Storm', 'Stormy', or, occasionally, 'Slippery danged spook.'

Well, actually, that last was BeachHead's favorite term of endearment for all of the ninja.

Zanya gave her a look that was so infuriatingly superior that Sherry really, really wished she had the freakish face-kick speed that Scarlett was always trying to teach her with fairly miserable results. "What? Jealous?"

"Fuck no." Sherry growled. She wasn't stupid; she knew about Tommy's romantic history, and she hadn't exactly been an innocent when she'd met the ninja either. But at least Tommy had taste and standards, neither of which Zanya met.

"Maybe you should be." Zanya flicked her long blonde braids back over her shoulder and smirked. "I knew him before you did, you know. I wouldn't mind seeing him again when he isn't trying to capture me or kill my father."

Sherry considered beating her head against the nearest tree. No. She wasn't having this conversation. She really wasn't.

"You're how old?" She asked. "Shouldn't you be in high school instead of playing soldier? Backstabbing in a clique or something? Screwing the football team maybe?"

"I'm twenty one." Zanya's smirk didn't fade. "Young enough not to have your crow's feet yet."

Sherry, just shy of her thirty-second birthday, glared. "Kiddo, when I get out of this, I've got a sidewinder with your name on it for that crack."

"I'm trembling." Zanya laughed. "Considering that once we're done you'll be dead and Thomas will be getting his memory adjusted again, I'm not too worried. Maybe while he's recovering from the brain picking I'll go in and have a nice long conversation with him." And that…that was a leer. The girl had all of her father's good manners, that was for sure.

Sherry growled softly. She prided herself on generally being thick-skinned; it was something that she hadn't had a choice in developing, considering her height and the fact that she was in the military. But the Dreadnok bitch was really starting to get to her.

Zanya smirked a little more widely. "Am I making you mad, old woman? Worried that I'll steal your ninja? Well, he's never been exactly shy about his appreciation for a pretty face…and mine's a good deal younger than yours."

"Two sidewinders. And a few hundred rounds from my machine guns."A shove between her shoulders as she slowed to glare at the Dreadnok's heir apparent sent Sherry face-first into the mud again. She came up sputtering and livid. "Fucking hell…I hope Hawk sends all five of the bloody ninja after you lot. I will laugh when you get knives shoved up your noses."

"Can't do it yourself? After all that time spent around Thomas? Must not have done you much good." Zanya snorted.

The large, heavily armed ape behind Sherry grunted. "Ain't no one gonna find us inna swamp…dis be our turf. Not even ninja can track when there ain't tracks. Swamp'll cover em' for us. You're goin' to the Commander, girlie, and ain't nothin' you can do 'bout it."

Fuck fuck fuck. Sherry considered how much damage she could do with a sharp stick to the lot of them before she got gunned down. The scenario in her head wasn't promising, but it was looking better by the minute.

Abruptly, she saw something flick through the air out of the corner of her eye. Almost looked like a bug, but bugs didn't gleam like something metallic. And the way a Dreadnok suddenly started twitching and keeled over a few moments later was definitely not from a mosquito bite.

A shot rang out, a second Dreadnok keeled over, and suddenly all hell broke loose. Judging by the tomahawk that thudded into the skull of the man right behind her, Spirit was out there somewhere…and she recognized Stalker's voice shouting orders at, apparently, Kamakura; that accounted for the poisoned dart and the throwing knives that were currently sticking out of several Dreadnoks.

In the confusion, Sherry saw Zanya attempting to slip away. She lunged for the younger woman, and managed to tackle her by the knees. Zanya went down hard, most satisfyingly getting mud ground into that long blonde hair.

The next few seconds were soaked in adrenaline and tinged around the edges with good old-fashioned bloodlust. Sherry wasn't by any means even close to being the best on the Joe team at hand-to-hand combat, but she'd spent years now getting yelled at by BeachHead and Slaughter and thrown around the gymnasium-cum-dojo by Snake Eyes, Scarlett, and Tommy. And right now, she was pissed.

Also she had no problem fighting dirty. Unfortunately neither did Zanya, and the younger woman had the reach on her. Sherry caught a really nasty elbow in her ribs, and Zanya kicked her to the ground and followed her down, hands around Sherry's throat.

The pilot fought for breath and gouged at the younger woman's eyes, but she couldn't reach. Fuck...not good not good…what had Tommy said about ground fighting, again? No weapon, find one…no sticks or rocks within reach, though, and there were black spots swimming in her vision. If you hit the ground with empty hands, fill them…nothing in reach…anything will work; dirt, sand…

Mud.

Sherry grabbed a handful of muck and hurled it at the woman strangling her. It hit Zanya squarely in the eyes and mouth, and the blonde fell back, choking and clawing at her face. Sherry staggered upright, sucking in breath, and there to one side, asking for her to pick it up, was a sturdy fallen branch.

It made a very satisfactory crunching noise when she swung it, Louisville slugger style, at Zanya's shins. The blond toppled with a shriek of pain, and then Sherry was sitting on her chest and driving her fist repeatedly into the younger woman's face.

"Take…" thud. "This…" thud. "You…" thud. "Skank!" Oh, that felt good. Sherry bounced Zanya's head off the ground a few times. The woman was already stunned and the mud wasn't particularly punishing, but it made a very satisfying squelching noise.

"Fuck the sidewinders." Sherry snarled. "I'm gonna kill you with my bare hands. And side note? The ninja is mine until either we get bored or he does something boneheaded enough for me to kick him to the curb." She started choking the other woman out; there really was something to be said for close combat after all.

She let out a livid string of curses when suddenly someone grabbed her from behind and dragged her off of Zanya just as the other woman was starting to turn a really nice shade of purple. "Gerrof! Can't you see I'm killing someone?"

"Easy, girl." That was Stalker's voice; the tracker easily held her back when she tried to lunge for the dazed, semiconscious woman in the mud. "Easy…you're safe now, and she's a high-value ten-eight. Hawk wants her alive."

Sherry calmed slowly and looked around. The Dreadnoks were down, and Spirit and Kamakura were searching the bodies for anything important.

"Let go." She sighed. "I'm good…she just pissed me off."

"Remind me not to make that mistake…I've always said that the short ones were dangerous when angry." Stalker looked amused.

"Our anger has less room to spread out, so it's more concentrated." Sherry wiped uselessly at the mud in her hair again. "How's the rest of the team doing?"

"Things are calming down. It's just mop up now…we've got the nuke core from the satellite, so Cobra's not going to be able to play with plutonium, thank God. Hawk sent us after you when you radioed that you'd been sabotaged and were taking your plane down away from civilian areas." Stalker grinned. "It was fun, actually. Spirit and I haven't had a chance to track anything through a swamp for awhile…nice to have a little bit of a challenge once in awhile. Also, it's nice to show the ninja up sometimes.

Kamakura shot the tracker a look. "Sensei could have done it."

"Right. And so Hawk sent me why?" Stalker peeled Zanya out of the mud and tied her hands and feet. "Snake's good, sure. But I've got my codename for a reason, son."

"Plus, Hawk had Storm and Snake haring after those viper commando troops." Spirit straightened. "And Jinx is attached to the general like a limpet; Snake ordered her to guard him, and those three apprentices won't disobey Snake."

"It is not wise to make Sensei angry." Kamakura said serenely. "Jinx just finished a week of punishment training for talking back to him when we were doing climbing practice; she won't do it again soon."

Stalker slung Zanya over his shoulder and they started off. Sherry eyed Kamakura. "I fight with a ninja on a fairly regular basis; are they really that bad?"

Kamakura gave her a look that she swore was copied directly from Snake Eyes. Even masked and visored, the master ninja was very good at glaring. Actually, so was Tommy. Maybe glares were a class taught in ninja school.

"Masters must be strict with their apprentices." He said simply. "It is for our own good…a ninja must be disciplined. You aren't a ninja apprentice. And the Young Master likes to fight with you."

She smiled. "Oh, I know…and I don't suppose you brought transport?"

"We've got a Tomahawk sitting back by what's left of your Sky Striker." Stalker nodded.

"Dibs on the pilot's seat." The prospect of getting her hands back on a control yoke improved her mood sharply.

A few hours later, and they were being debriefed. Sherry waited outside Hawk's office after being released by the general.

Tommy emerged a few minutes later. He was looking quite pleased with himself, and infuriatingly enough was still fairly clean. He had a few spatters of dried blood on his clothes, but it didn't look like it was his. He caught sight of her, and his eyebrows rose.

"Sweet gods." He looked her over. "Stalker wasn't kidding…you really did go and roll in a mud puddle." A grin. "I hear you worked over Zanya pretty thoroughly."

"Cute." She grabbed him by the front of the shirt and started purposely off, dragging a curious ninja along behind her. "You're coming with me."

"Am I in trouble or am I about to have a very good night?"

"First you're going to shower, and then the latter."

"Good…I didn't think I'd done anything to warrant your wrath this week. And I'm cleaner than you are."

"Fine. I'll take a shower too."

He grinned. "Well, we could double up…"

Some time later, in his bed, Sherry propped herself up and eyed her semi-comatose lover. They'd gone a few rounds already, and he was dozing off. "By the way…you never slept with Zanya, did you?"

Tommy bolted upright. "What?"

"Did you ever sleep with Zanya?" Sherry repeated patiently. "I thought your hearing was supposed to be good…"

"Oh, hell no." Tommy looked vaguely horrified. "Zanya? Why on earth would you think that?"

"She was hinting that she had." She shook her head. "I didn't think you had; I'd have to be absolutely appalled at your taste otherwise."

"She's what, twenty, twenty-one now?" Tommy grimaced. "She was all of about fourteen or fifteen when I was with Cobra…she's about twelve years younger than me." He shook his head again. "Not a cradle robber…I like women, not little girls."

Sherry smiled. "Glad to hear it. Anyway, you've got a schoolgirl crush out there. And if you ever get captured, watch yourself."

"Good god, the only thing I want with her is to lure in her father and remove his internal organs in alphabetical order…" Tommy shuddered. "Gods…By the time she was figuring out plumbing I'd probably already killed my first mark. By the time she was learning that unicorns don't exist I was serving my tours in the jungle."

Sherry cocked her head; Tommy didn't mention his time in the jungle often. She'd gathered that it hadn't been a particularly pleasant time in his life, but she really didn't know much aside from he'd been on LRRP duty and he'd met Snake Eyes there. "I didn't really think she knew much about real soldiering; she kind of seems like a spoiled brat." With any luck, she'd manage to glean a few more bits of information; Tommy tended to be more open directly following sex. "Where'd you serve in the jungles? I was running air strikes near the tail end of things."

"All over." He sighed. "I shouldn't have been so good at it…they sent us right into the worst bits of that hellhole."

"You got sent in as part of your training, right? Weren't your uncles afraid you'd be killed?"

"No." That casual admission pretty well summed up just how truly scary ninja could be, actually. "I was very good at what I did, and they knew I would be. The worst thing was the fact that spending weeks or months at a time expecting every rock and tin can to blow up leads pretty quickly to paranoia…when I finished my second tour, I spent six months diving for cover every time someone dropped a bottle or kicked a pebble."

He clammed up after that. She sighed. "Roll over."

He looked at her hopefully. She smiled. "Yep, backrub time. With luck, you'll get a happy ending."

"Good god. You're going to kill me, woman." He rolled over onto his belly.

She straddled his lower back. "Least you'll go out on a high note."

"Oh, god, yes…lower…" He moaned. "Right there…Oh, I knew there was a reason I keep you around."

"Damn right."


Thirty-seven hours later, and Thomas Arashikage was both in a very, very good mood and very hungry. Sherry was snoring and slowly managing to drag all of the blankets to her side of the bed. He stood, and she promptly rolled over, cocooning herself in a lump of quilts. Tommy cocked his head and groaned quietly to himself. He knew that sound; a soft metallic creaking of bedsprings from a privately purchased queen sized bed, muffled by two cinderblock walls and a four-foot hallway.

Tommy pulled on sweatpants and a tank top, found his socks, and headed for the rec room. Supper was long since over, but the Joes kept a stash of basic kitchen necessities in the small kitchen off the rec room.

He sighed as he opened the door; the familiar squeak of bedsprings across the hall was louder out here. Most people couldn't hear his sword brother and Red going at it through even one wall, let alone two; he, of course, was just that lucky. When he got back he'd have Sherry put some of that god-awful noise she called music on; painful, but still better than listening to Snake and Scarlett engaging in a little vigorous frat reg violation.

In the rec room's kitchen, he poked through the fridge, humming softly to himself. Oh, good…there was some pastrami left.

He straightened, a jar of horseradish in one hand and the lunch meat in the other. He pulled the bread out of the cupboard, tilted his head, and spoke calmly.

"Tiger Claw, come down from the ceiling…you got shot a week ago, you're not supposed to be climbing yet. Kamakura, I know you're under the couch."

His sword brother's apprentices appeared, looking disappointed. Tiger Claw was the one who spoke first. "We didn't even move…how'd you know where we were, Young Master?"

"I can shoot a squirrel blindfolded at fifty feet. I can hear your hearts beating at ten." Tommy dug the sliced swiss out of the fridge. "Snake have you trying to sneak up on me?"

"Tiger Claw said that he bet he could after Sensei complemented him on his stealth skills. Sensei said that any of us who could get within knife range of you without your knowledge would be let off of stealth training for a month…but if we failed, we'd train harder for two. I was supposed to witness his attempt." Kamakura looked vaguely triumphant. "I told him he couldn't do it."

"I apologize, Young Master." Tiger Claw just looked disappointed.

"Snake Eyes is a sly one." Tommy spread mayo on his bread. "Little secret; He couldn't sneak within knife range without my knowing. He's tried before. He's got the scars to prove it. But boasting isn't an attractive trait in an apprentice." Tommy shot a look at Tiger Claw, who looked appropriately chagrined. "That's what he's punishing you for…rightly so. Be contrite and apologize for your impudence enough and he might let you off with only a month of harsher training. Might. I wouldn't, but he's more lenient than I am."

"Sensei has never taught us any technique that lets us hear a human heartbeat at ten feet." Kamakura looked interested. "Young Master, if I may humbly request…"

"I can recognize an individual by breathing and heartbeat at twenty feet, not ten, and I can't teach you." Tommy started layering pastrami, swiss cheese and tomato slices on his sandwich. "My hearing is a genetic gift from my mother, not a learned technique."

"Oh." Both apprentices looked disappointed.

"So, how mad was Beach that we didn't show for PT?" Tommy topped his sandwich off with horseradish and started a kettle boiling.

" He…wasn't happy." Kamakura's wince told Tommy all he needed to know about exactly how much pain he'd be in for later.

"I'm surprised he didn't kick down my door." Tommy took the kettle off and fished his sword brother's stash of tea off of the top shelf.

"He considered it." Tiger Claw shifted uncomfortably. "He…decided he didn't want to."

Tommy smirked. "He's not as dumb as he looks, then." He respected the Sergeant Major and liked him well enough, but if the ranger barged in when he was very much involved with their little fighter pilot there would be pain involved. Probably in the form of bladed missiles; Tommy slept with shuriken within easy reach.

"Thank you, by the way, Kamakura." Tommy turned, sipping carefully at the still very hot tea. "I knew you'd get her back in once piece."

Kamakura puffed up just a little. "Thank you, Young Master."

"Stalker said she took down Zanya." Tommy smiled. "Good girl…I told her she was getting better at close combat."

"Actually, she almost killed Zanya." Kamakura looked hopefully at the tin of tea sitting on the counter.

"Go ahead…I'll tell Snake Eyes that I was the one who stole it. He's used to me doing that anyway." Tommy raised an eyebrow. "Did she now?"

"Zanya made her very angry." Kamakura edged his way past the older ninja and reached for a mug. "I was listening before Stalker gave me the okay to attack; Zanya was taunting her. Calling her old, claiming…" The apprentice hesitated.

"I didn't sleep with Zartan's brat." Tommy scowled. "If you mention to anyone that she claimed that I might have at one point or ever may, I will kill you and nothing Snake Eyes can do will stop me. I'd really hate to do that, because we need more fully trained Arashikage and Snake and I have put a lot of time into you…you're both almost ready to be graduated to full field agents. It would really irritate me to have to start from scratch."

Kamakura gulped. "Yes, Young Master sir."

Tommy eyed Tiger Claw. The older apprentice shook his head firmly. "I have no idea what you are talking about, Young Master. I heard nothing."

"Good man…you might make a ninja yet." Tommy took a bite of his sandwich. "So that's why Sherry went after her. What exactly did she do?"

"Kicked her, threw mud in her face, cracked one of her shins with a stick, broke her nose and gave her two black eyes, slammed her head against the ground a few times, and nearly strangled her." Kamakura added hot water to his mug and tugged his mask off.

Tommy grinned slowly. No matter how much he despised one of them, two women fighting in the mud over him was something that he was not too proud to savor. "Good girl."

"Reminded me of the time Zanya was in the brig." Kamakura said. Tiger Claw suddenly started laughing.

Tommy raised an eyebrow. "Something I'm missing?"

"Sorry, Young Master." Tiger Claw quickly stifled his laughter. "Before you joined the Joe team…Zanya was in our custody. We were interrogating her. She started trying to flirt with Sensei. She tried again when he was on guard duty down in the brig." The apprentice started laughing again. "Oh, Scarlett's face…how long was she laughing, Kamakura?"

"About a week." Kamakura smiled. "Poor Sensei; he was mortified. She kept asking after him each time she had a new guard. She kept referring to Sensei's muscle tone from the back in particular." Both apprentices broke down snickering again.

"Indeed." Tommy smiled…he hadn't known that. If he played his cards right, he should be able to get at least two or three days of avoiding greenie hand-to-hand without repercussions out of this. "I'm sure Snake Eyes will be glad you've chosen to share that with me."

He was sure that the two apprentices would suffer accordingly, but then they should already know better than to gossip about their clan members, even to other clan members…particularly when the gossip was about their master, and particularly not when the other master of the clan could hear the lapse of proper respect.

He saw the two come to the same conclusion; looks of twin horror and chagrin passed over their faces. "Young Master…I am sorry." Kamakura looked miserable.

"Too late." Tommy finished his sandwich. "That two months of hard training just became about six…for both of you. Consider yourselves lucky; I'd be well within my rights to kick both of you through the wall right now, and you know it. Fortunately for you both, I am still feeling generous towards Kamakura."

"Yes, Young Master sir." Tiger Claw said unhappily. "I am sorry…It will not happen again."

"See that it doesn't." Tommy dug through the fridge again. "You'd best go report to Snake about how well the little stealth mission he sent you on went off. He'll already know, of course, but he'll appreciate punctuality." He considered. "Well, actually, you might want to wait a bit…he and Scarlett were enjoying some 'alone time', and I think he'd rather you report a bit late than be interrupted." He grinned at the outright shudders from both of them at that mental picture. "On second thought, you'd best get to bed; you're going to get up at four tomorrow and work all of your kata before PT. You can report to Snake afterwards."

"Yes, Young Master." They left, looking downcast. Tommy took one of Jaye's strawberry yogurts out of the back of the fridge, considered, and took a second to take back to Sherry. He also pulled the sliced ham and the brick of cojack out; Sherry, for some reason he couldn't comprehend, didn't like pastrami.

Balancing a ham sandwich on a paper plate, the yogurt cup, a plastic spoon, and two mugs full of his sword brother's very best Dragon Mountain, he headed back towards his room. With any luck, he could extend the stretch spent horizontal by another day or so…he'd take the blame and the resulting PT from hell without blinking. Two or three days spent in bed with an attractive and surprisingly flexible naked woman were absolutely worth it.

This was, so far, a really good week…vipers killed, Zanya captured to use as bait to lure a certain disguise master to an extended and painful demise (Tommy had one idea in particular that involved a fork, thumbtacks, and a pair of cuticles scissors that violated the Geneva laws very thoroughly) and now extended attention from a good looking woman.

He hummed under his breath. Only thing that could make the day better was if Snake and Scarlett would actually keep it down at night for once…but that wasn't likely, so he'd live with things the way they were.