A piece requested by about eight people, which I already kind of had in my head anyways. Sorry, Storm Shadow. Remember, I've gotten you laid, so please don't stab me.
"You don't have to come if you don't want to, but I need a drink."
Thomas Arashikage sighed. He didn't blame his friend; the utter destruction they'd been through not a week before could only be described as 'hellish'. He'd seen a lot of death in his life. He'd caused a lot of death in his life. But…watching the men he'd just begun to accept as friends shredded into unrecognizable bloody smears around him was worse, far worse, than anything he'd ever seen. And he'd seen ninja clan wars.
There was a reason he disliked firearms. Blades, arrows, hand-to-hand combat, staffs…at least death from those was precise. You needed skill. You had to see the man you were going to kill up close. There wasn't any collateral damage amongst innocent civilians. Guns, explosives…any idiot with basic motor skills could kill a man with an M60, and the destruction wreaked by that monster was anything but picky.
If he had had an option, Tommy wouldn't even have carried the M16 issued him with his boots and BDUs. Unfortunately, he was supposed to remain incognito, and a soldier who refused to carry a firearm would be anything but. He still carried his bow, and he had enough knives on his person to make anyone who had to search him do a double take. He always used them instead of his gun if he had half a chance, ostensibly because they were quieter, and on a LRRP being quiet was staying alive.
Hiding his abilities, he'd still, unsurprisingly, been found to be almost ridiculously good at LRRP duty. Had he not been concealing his more than a decade of Ninjutsu training, the other men on his squad probably would have thought they were hallucinating. Including Snake Eyes, and the tall blond man…well, Snake Eyes was considered even creepier than Tommy, and Tommy's nickname amongst his now-dead teammates had been 'Spook'.
Tommy had thought, more than once, that the soft-spoken (when he spoke) army Ranger would make a good ninja. After seeing the man during the truly clusterfucked situation that had destroyed their squad, he was convinced that his American friend would be criminally wasting talent if he didn't train. He'd vowed to contact his uncles about Snake Eyes as soon as possible.
Right now, though, the blond Ranger in question was attempting, in his patented I'm-going-to-say-you-don't-have-to-but-I'll-get-that-look-like-a-kicked-puppy-and-make-you-feel-bad-about-abandoning-me-if-you-don't way, to convince Tommy to accompany him to the local dive bar frequented by American G.I.s to have a memorial drink in honor of their fallen friends. Tommy wasn't crazy about the idea.
For one, he was a ninja. Ninja didn't drink, generally. Not to get drunk, anyways. In addition, Snake Eyes had taken the loss of their squad harder than Tommy. Tommy was a ninja, after all…he'd lost friends and family members to early death before, and he hadn't let the soldiers in his squad too close. It had earned him a reputation as rather standoffish, but it was simply emotional insulation.
Again, Snake Eyes had still managed, somehow, to befriend him. Maybe it was simply the two outsiders on the team finding common ground…but the blond American was, truly, a friend. Not just a squad member, not just a fellow soldier…a friend.
Anyway, while Snake Eyes obviously wanted to forget the recent disaster for awhile, Tommy didn't. But…well, they had been his teammates, and they'd been good men. Some sort of respect was owed.
"Fine." He set the bowstring he was repairing aside on his bunk. "One drink. One of us needs to stay sober enough to keep the other from ending up facedown in a ditch, after all."
Snake Eyes flashed that rare ghost of a smile.
An hour later, Tommy was reconsidering. He was fairly sure that if he pulled out one of his knives he could actually cut the air, it was so thick with smoke and the smell of cheap perfume and cheaper alcohol. The noise was almost painful; a battered old radio was blaring bad music on the counter. One of the local women of rentable virtue was eyeing him from the corner; he returned a glare that made her blink and then turn her attention to a different soldier.
"Classy place." He hissed.
Snake Eyes lifted a shoulder. "Sadly, it's the cleanest dive around here. What do you want?"
"A clean glass, which might be a pipe dream in here."
Snake Eyes snorted with…was that laughter? Couldn't be…Snake Eyes, as far as he could figure, didn't have a sense of humor.
Tommy retreated to a table as far as possible from the radio. Snake Eyes went to the bar, and a few minutes later sat down and slid a tumbler full of something clear across the table to him. Tommy eyed it suspiciously.
"I had him wash it." Snake Eyes said. Tommy wasn't sure if his friend was joking or not. Again considering the fact that Snake Eyes hadn't shown a functioning sense of humor in the months he'd known the man, he was betting that it wasn't a put-on.
"To our friends." Snake raised his glass. Tommy clinked his own tumbler against Snakes, and they both went bottoms-up. The next ten seconds, at least on Tommy's part, were spent nearly choking.
"What…" He eyed the empty glass in front of him, coughed again, and shook his head. His eyes were watering. "What was in that?"
"We're probably better off not knowing." Snake Eyes hadn't even flinched.
"It tastes like rubbing alcohol."
Snake raised an eyebrow. "How do you know what rubbing alcohol tastes like?"
"It tastes like rubbing alcohol smells." Tommy corrected himself. "No…worse."
"Sorry. They were out of fine merlot. Are you going to be okay?"
"Fine. I didn't need the lining of my throat anyways." Tommy eyed his friend. "Was that a joke? This stuff is strong."
"It is. You want anything else? The beer is decent."
Tommy blinked a few times. "Shouldn't…" There was a reason behind that, he was sure, but whatever the hell he'd just drunk was hitting, with about the force of a sledgehammer. Why'd he come here? Oh, right…drink to their fallen friends. "It cold?"
"Fairly…are you okay?"
"I'm fine. That."
A half hour and three beers later, and he was elucidating to a still apparently stone-cold sober Snake Eyes.
"See, problem is, I like it." He was staring into the dregs of his glass. "Fighting…I like it. That's why I'm good at it." He sighed. "Killing…it's easy. That's what's scary…I've killed a lot of people, and after awhile you stop feeling anything in the moment when you break a man's neck. But I still know that I killed someone with a family, and friends, every time, and I do feel, later…but I still enjoy the fighting." He blinked. "Why am I telling you this, anyways? I think I need another of these." He eyed his empty glass.
"Because I'm the same way." Snake Eyes said quietly. "And you know it. Are you sure you want another? You're looking a little…"
"Okay." Snake Eyes looked unconvinced, but went and paid for another round anyways.
The next drink rendered things a bit indistinct; Tommy was dimly aware of heckling the dart-playing skills of another group of soldiers, and there might have been a challenge issued. He was fairly sure that at some point during the next few hours he spent some time discussing college with someone he'd never met before, but was definitely now one of his best friends in the world.
One moment of clarity involved the prostitutes making a move on him again. Tommy spoke English, Japanese, and Russian fluently, and had picked up a smattering of phrases in a few other languages as well. He was pretty sure he managed to curse in at least eight languages, sending the woman skittering back to her corner again.
After that, it wasn't very long before Snake Eyes was steering him out of the place, helpfully lending a shoulder for extra support. This was good, since the ground seemed quite intent on bucking him off.
He didn't remember getting back to their bunkroom, but he somehow ended up on his familiar bed, fully clothed, including his boots. Fixing this seemed to be far too much effort, so he just shut his eyes and went to sleep instead.
He was woken the next morning by a splitting headache. He groaned; getting cracked upside the head by the Hard Master's staff hurt less than this. His mouth tasted like…well, month-old MRE's with faulty packaging would probably taste better.
The light was far too bright, even through closed eyelids. And he discovered something that he really, really hadn't ever wanted to know; if you had the Ear that Sees, and a hangover, the two apparently conspired to make you wonder if a power drill to your eardrums would be less painful. His own heartbeat was grating at the inside of his skull; the sounds of everyday life outside the barracks were unbearable.
Then the door, which had a rusty hinge, creaked open. Tommy groaned again and buried his head under his pillow. It didn't help.
He recognized that stride and heartbeat. The fact that Snake Eyes was apparently feeling just fine didn't make the current situation any better.
"How are you feeling?" Snake Eyes, damn him, sounded concerned. Like this wasn't his fault.
"Are you armed? Please shoot me. And stop breathing so loudly."
"I didn't know you were a lightweight…I'm sorry. I wouldn't have asked you to come along if I'd known…"
"Please. Shut up." Tommy almost whimpered. Gods, his ears...
"If you can sit up, I've got aspirin and coffee."
Tommy extracted himself reluctantly from his pillow. "Black?"
"Give." Tommy grabbed the mug and the painkillers. As he rolled into a sitting position, something crinkled in his back pocket. With the pills and most of the coffee already gone, he extracted a sizable wad of what felt like paper from his pocket.
The shock almost –almost- distracted him from the throbbing agony behind his eyes. He flipped through the wad of bills, blinking. "Eight hundred dollars?" He rubbed a hand over his eyes. "Please tell me I didn't pickpocket someone last night."
"No." Snake Eyes did give him a slightly odd look at that. "You challenged the whole bar to darts. Where did you learn to play? You cleaned out thirty-four army men, three marines, the bartender, those prostitutes, and me. I don't think you missed the bull's eye once, and you were pretty toasted by that point."
"My uncles." Tommy didn't elaborate. He flopped back down and covered his eyes with an arm. "I'm going to lay here and die now. Thanks for the aspirin. Remind me to kill you for getting me into this later."
"I am sorry."
"Oh, shut up and go away."