Parts of this come from the more sadistic and vicious corners of my brain. You are warned.

Ten thousand geek points go to the one who can place both the children's book "Where's My Cow?" and tell me who reads it to his son every night at EXACTLY six o' clock sharp.


The Arashikage were unusual amongst ninja clans. There were several reasons for this. For one, clan had a well-established history of taking in gaijin, non-Japanese outsiders. Snake Eyes hadn't been the first foreign student to train with the clan, though he was unquestionably the best. There were a few other clans who would train outsiders, but almost none let those students advance very far. Indeed, Snake might have very well been the first gaijin student from any clan to rise to the rank of clan master.

The Arashikage were also unusual for the fact that nearly all of the active agents and both clan masters had served in the American military. There was, in fact, exactly one Arashikage agent who wasn't legally an American citizen and who had no military service to her name.

Junko had never been in the military. She'd never been a Joe. Her combat experience had all been of the sort one acquired in a dojo, occasional street fights, ninja apprentice training, and later through being very close to a man who collected enemies like some people collected postage stamps. The Russian mob, the Night Creepers, Cobra, several Yakuza families, high Russian military intelligence, a couple of ninja clans…Tommy had crossed them all at one point or another, and the only reason the CIA and FBI weren't on the list was that he currently took care of a great deal of their dirtier work.

When she'd first met him, his utter unconcern when asked about roughly ninety-nine percent of his enemies had stunned her. She'd already known that he was frighteningly skilled when it came to combat; she'd spent six years plotting the death of one Yakuza boss, and hadn't really expected to survive the mission. If she hadn't literally and purely by dumb luck crossed Tommy's path while fleeing for her life, she wouldn't have. Tommy had almost casually and with more than a little glee torn his way through six highly-trained and dangerous Yakuza hitmen in about seven seconds, and when he'd asked her if she was okay he hadn't even been sweating.

It wasn't long before she'd realized that Tommy's enemies didn't scare him simply because he knew that he was entire orders of magnitude better at what he did then they were. Quite frankly, his casual and somewhat frightening competence in the field of covert operations and gratuitous violence had been one of the things that first attracted her to him.

(Well, that and how good he looked when he took his shirt off. That was pretty high up on the list of reasons she'd first fallen in lust with him too. She'd afterwards fallen in love with him for reasons entirely unrelated to his abs and those eyes, but damn if the exterior wasn't still nice as hell to look at.)

It had been awhile before she'd been able to get him to talk much about himself; not until she'd after she'd managed to coax him into bed with her and they'd begun moving past "friends with benefits" and into deeper waters had he really opened up. But once he finally had, he'd seemed almost glad to have someone to talk to who wasn't a doctor, wasn't judging him, someone who just cared about him and wanted to listen.

She'd quickly learned that Tommy's past was a fascinating, impressive, terrifying, and sometimes heartbreaking story. And a great deal of it revolved around a black-ops American military group called G.I. Joe and the notorious terrorist organization called Cobra.

Cobra was spoken about in tones that dripped disdain. G.I. Joe, however, seemed to be a source of rather fond memories. A man Tommy only ever called by 'Snake Eyes' turned up often in whatever chapter of his life Tommy was talking about. An old Army buddy and sort of adopted brother, who'd trained with Tommy's family and whom Tommy still considered his best friend despite the fact that some of his more impressive scars had apparently resulted from vicious fights with this 'Snake Eyes.'

(Much later, upon actually meeting Snake Eyes, Junko had realized that both men considered each other brothers, that both men had tried very hard to kill one another more than once, and that both men were entirely and completely crazy. This last was actually almost a prerequisite for attaining any sort of skill as a ninja, so that was okay.)

Junko had met Thomas Arashikage when he'd been slowly recovering from having his memories painfully tampered with time and time again at the hands of a scientist on the payroll of Cobra Commander. There were a few people and events that Tommy rarely spoke of, even to her. His experiences in the brainwave scanner at the hands of one Doctor Mindbender were way up on the list of Painful Events I'd Rather Not Talk About.

Not much could faze Tommy. But Mindbender…there were still deep scars behind the unflappable, sardonic exterior that his torment at Mindbender's hands had left, scars that only the people who knew him best really fathomed. And though she'd never met the man, anything and anyone who dared hurt her Tommy so badly instantly earned Junko's complete and abject hate.

Add trying to hurt her son to the mix, and Junko had a few ideas involving their captive that the Spanish Inquisitors would have approved of.

Taro and the twins, having staunchly refused to go back to sleep, were currently involved in a very deep discussion over whether or not Batman actually counted as a ninja. Terri was maintaining that he didn't, because a real ninja would just behead the Joker and get it over with. Sean was claiming that he did, though he obviously wasn't as good as any of the Arashikage. Taro was saying that he wasn't, claiming that bat-shaped shurikien "wouldn't work well". All three agreed that the Dark Knight would get his ass thoroughly kicked by any of their parents.

It was keeping them harmlessly occupied, which was good; Junko really didn't like to think about the sort of chaos her remarkably talented offspring and his two friends could cause with high-tech military equipment if they really put their minds to it. She'd lost enough sleep over the last four years preventing the fiery destruction of the entire Arashikage compound; anytime the three were quietly and harmlessly occupying themselves it was a good thing.

Tommy was on edge. He was putting up a façade of calm that would have fooled most people, but then she wasn't most people. He was tense, and even when he was speaking to someone there was still that edge of distance in his eyes. She scooted a little closer and leaned comfortingly against his side, but this normally infallible method of unwinding her man a few notches had no effect.

Actually, none of the others in the aircraft were fooled. Snake Eyes knew Tommy too well. Shana was too observant. And the big man wearing a tac vest, a muddy green balaclava and carrying four firearms that she could readily spot seemed to be the type who noticed everything.

She'd heard them calling him 'Beach Head.' She'd heard about a Beach Head; the command Sergeant Major of G.I. Joe and senior DI. Legend at the Ranger stronghold of Fort Benning, and the boogyman of slacking recruits across America. From what she'd seen during the raid, all of what she'd heard about Beach Head's apparent indestrucability, downright incredible effectiveness in combat, singularly impressive vocabulary and gruff nature was true. Tommy had more than once referred to the man as "Sergeant Major Mudpit," apparently because deep, cold mud had been a regular fixture on the obstacle courses the Joe team had trained on.

Junko had once voiced the opinion that watching a couple dozen extremely fit men get wet and muddy sounded like a pretty good morning. Shana had promptly informed her that it lost a lot of charm when you were up at the "Ass crack of fucking dawn and getting yelled at by a psychotic Ranger and forced to do seventeen billion pushups in the goddamn mud." Junko, a morning person and a ninja, hadn't thought that sounded too bad but had refrained from further comments.

The psychotic Ranger in question, however, was currently asleep and snoring softly. She rested her chin on Tommy's shoulder. "You going to be okay?" She murmured the words so softly that no one else could hear; Tommy of course, did.

He sighed and finally leaned back against her a little bit. "Fine. It's just…"

"Bad memories?"

"Exactly." Another sigh. "I've planned out how I'd like to kill that bastard a thousand times…"

"…And none of it seems good enough now?"

A slight smile. "Precisely."

"You'll figure something out. I have a few ideas."

He turned his head slightly to look down at her. "Like?"

"Burn pieces off with acid, one bit at a time."

A long moment of silence. "Good, but I don't think we have any acid handy. Unless we drained the sulfuric from the battery on Billy's motorcycle."

"He might even donate it willingly if he knew what it was for." Billy hated Mindbender almost as much as Tommy did.

"True. I'm leaning towards progressive amputation at the moment, but he'd almost bleed out too quickly from that."

"You'll figure something out." She half-closed her eyes; Tommy was nice and warm, and the short nap she'd grabbed in the air before hadn't been nearly enough. "I know this might be impossible…but try not to let him upset you too much. You helped destroy his life's work, and you're going to kill him now. I hate seeing you upset and knowing I can't make it better."

His lips turned up slightly. "You do. Go to sleep."

She did.

Tommy elbowed her awake again as they were landing. Junko woke to find that her son had apparently crashed from the adrenaline rush of the clan confrontation and was using her lap as a pillow. She smiled and ruffled his hair fondly; he shifted but didn't wake up.

The twins were sitting beside Snake, playing some sort of complex game with small vaguely humanoid figures apparently manufactured from duct tape. The rest of the roll was lying on the seat beside them. Junko added 'children's toy' to her mental list of 'things duct tape is good for'.

Beach Head was looking on curiously as Sean reached for the tape again, tore of a bit, and rolled it into what was apparently supposed to be a sword for his duct-tape action figure. "The hell are they doing?"

Shana glanced over. "Playing."

"Ah can see that. With tape?"

Snake Eyes shrugged. *Keeps them quiet. Give yourself another-what was it? Seven months? -and you'll be wishing you could get silence so easily. And just so you know; you can't get a baby to be quiet by ordering it to. And if CoverGirl is anything like Shana, she'll get mad if you just buy some earplugs after the first week without sleep.*

Shana dug an elbow into Snake Eyes' ribs. "They're not having twins, Snake, so they'll actually be able to sleep sometimes. It won't be bad, Beach. Don't listen to him." A glare at Snake Eyes. "Look. Now you've scared Beach Head. He's going pale."

*He should be scared. He's going to have a child that's half him and half Covergirl. The kindergarten teacher better have good life insurance.* This earned another elbow in the ribs.

Tommy snickered. "You have to tell me when he or she starts learning to drive. I want videos. Do you know whether it's a boy or girl? Because if it's a girl, I'm going to need to get the forty-four magnum painted pink before her first birthday rolls around."

"Shuddup, all of ya, or so help me ah will shove my boot up your scrawny ninja butts." Beach scowled. "Courtney says no firearms until the tenth birthday, anyway."

It was as Snake Eyes and Beach were discussing with Shana whether or not a BB gun was an acceptable gift for a toddler and as Snake Eyes was fondly remembering the Daisy BB rifle he'd received for his sixth birthday that they finally touched down. There were a few moments of organized chaos as children were roused, equipment was gathered, and they piled out of the aircraft and back onto familiar home soil.

The other aircraft was unloading too; all the former Joe team members automatically straightened their spines as General Hawk hopped out of the aircraft. The aircraft powered down, and the pilot named Ace jumped out behind Junko.

As the noise of the engines faded, Tommy suddenly went still. Junko looked sideways at him, to find slightly worried shock written all over his face. He shot her a look that was downright pleadingly apologetic; Junko raised her eyebrows questioningly.

"Tommy! Long time no see!" That was an unfamiliar female voice. Junko pivoted to find herself face to top-of-head with a woman in a flight suit identical to Ace's. The shorter woman grinned at Tommy, her expression all pleasure at seeing someone she hadn't seen in some time but knew very well. Junko knew that look

She slowly turned to eye her husband and narrowed her eyes.

"Taro." Tommy bent and picked up the boy. "This is Sherry. She's an old friend of mine, from before I met your lovely, wonderful mother whom I love very much. I've been good, by the way."

Shana was smiling wickedly. Snake Eyes was clearly grinning under his mask. Even the imposing General Hawk looked amused.

No matter how skilled and infamous a man was, there were a few things that terrified any human with a Y chromosome. An ex-lover and a current lover meeting, with him right there, was way up at the top of that list.

"He's a cutie." The short pilot beamed at Taro. "Looks like you."

"Thanks." Tommy was still shooting Junko glances out of the corner of his eye.

"So." Junko folded her arms. "You know my husband pretty well, hmm?"
"And I think I'm going to go put my son down for a nap. Bye now." Tommy did an about face. "Sorry to run, General…I'll thank you in person later, but I've got some urgent parenting to do. Sherry, good to see you again, sorry to be rude, but I like keeping my balls."

He took off.

There was silence for a moment.

"Stop giving me that look." The short woman finally said. Her voice was still light. "Yes, I slept with him. It was years ago, and I was just in it for the hot ninja ass. We parted on good terms, and I'm not going to try and move in on him again. You don't have to do anything horribly pointy to me. I'm not stupid."

Junko suddenly smiled. "It is a pretty spectacular ass."

"And the worst part is that he knows it."

"True. Very true."

"Damn good in bed, though."

"Again, very true." Junko sighed. "And again…he knows it. Makes kicking him out onto the couch extremely difficult sometimes."

General Hawk grimaced. Snake Eyes pinched the bridge of his nose. Sherry laughed, and Junko just smiled.


Doctor Mindbender had made a career out of being a slippery bastard. He'd worked for Cobra Commander and against G.I. Joe. He'd painfully altered the memory of a certain ninja master multiple times, and despite the fact that the conditioning of the Brainwave Scanner was supposed to be almost impossible to fight, the damned man had broken through it multiple times. Damned annoying. And seeing as Storm Shadow could carve someone up with the precision of a surgeon but with much less altruistic purposes and a much more terminal end result, damned dangerous too.

He'd cloned a fully functioning human being from the blended genetics of some of the greatest warriors and leaders in history, including that annoying, dangerous ninja master. He'd sided with his cloned masterpiece against the whole world.

And he'd lost. Serpentor had been killed. Mindbender, who despite a well-developed sense of narcissism was not entirely without a sense of self preservation, had carefully faked his own death. When you counted Cobra Commander, Destro, G.I. Joe, and an entire ninja clan amongst your enemies it was smarter to appear dead.

But he'd never been able to let it go. So he'd hired a ninja clan. But those damned backstabbing sneaky bastards had turned him over to the Arashikage, and now the outlook wasn't very good. Mindbender had no illusions that he was likely to worm himself out of this mess; he'd been sort of counting on having an entire heavily-armed ninja clan between him and the certain pointy, prolonged death that awaited him in the hands of the Arashikage.

He must have hired defective ninja, or that bastard Aito had been behind this…the man had been eying his neck and fingering a knife in that same hard-eyed, long-suffering, calculating sort of way that used to make him nervous around Storm Shadow.

He'd almost think that the man understood Italian, Spanish, and Russian, all three of which Mindbender had called him some very unflattering names in. But he'd only ever spoken Japanese or English, and had never so much as blinked when Mindbender insulted him to his face in another language.

The whatever-the-hell this aircraft was called hit a patch of turbulence. Mindbender swore as he was jolted against the unforgiving sides of the cargo locker he'd been stuffed into. The locker was secured tightly; he'd tried to ram it open with his shoulder multiple times. This had just gotten a foot slammed into the other side of the door, jolting him painfully. Billy's completely-too-gleeful voice had ordered Mindbender to be quiet before he opened the thing and broke a few minor joints to shut the doctor up.

Little traitor.

It was a long, uncomfortable, flight. The discomfort was almost welcome, though, because otherwise he would have had nothing to distract him from speculation on exactly what would happen to him when the locker opened.

His throat still ached from Storm Shadow's chokehold. Mindbender almost wished that the ninja's wench hadn't convinced him to let go. Storm Shadow had had years to nurse his admittedly justified grudge. Mindbender knew for a fact that the ninja master was capable of inflicting a great deal of pain on a person when he hadn't had a decade to plan what he'd do to them.

Still, thoughts crept in…thoughts depressingly full of blood and pain. His blood. Mindbender clamped firmly down on such thoughts, setting himself instead to try and figure out a way to worm out of this fix as well.

Money? Ha. There wasn't enough money in the world. Fighting? Again, not a chance. He'd get taken apart in seconds, though if it came down to it that might be preferable to giving them a chance to draw things out. Escape? Difficult, but if an opportunity presented itself the best option at the moment.

Perhaps he'd simply be taken into custody. General Hawk had been there, after all…Hawk was one of the only ones who could stop an Arashikage ninja fully bent on a vengeance-killing. Federal prison would be a breeze to escape from. Mindbender cheered slightly. That seemed likely; perhaps he could even manipulate things a bit towards that end.

It was a long time before the strange plane finally began descending and at last came to rest. Mindbender waited tensely, but no one came. The locker didn't open.

Minutes ticked by, and then and hour. At last there was a metallic rasping sort of noise. The locker door opened; Mindbender squinted as light suddenly assaulted his eyes.

Seven people were standing there. Seven no-longer masked people. General Hawk was nowhere to be seen. Shit…

"Hello, Mindbender." Storm Shadow's voice was a low, dangerous purr. "It seems that Hawk and the others considerate enough to come to our aid must be off. However, you're staying right here with us. I've owed you for a very long time."


"And is Hawk aware of this? He wouldn't be happy if you killed his prisoner now, would he?"

"Hawk was never here." Scarlett smiled thinly. "Can't take a prisoner if you weren't present."

Snake Eyes signed something. Storm Shadow smiled, a smile so completely cold that the hair on the back of Mindbender's neck stood on end. "Thank you for the offer, brother, but no. He's mine. Any bits that come off are going to be because I cut them off."


"What if I want a piece of him?" The woman at Storm Shadow's side…Junko, who according to what intel he'd scrounged up seemed to be almost as hard to kill as the ninja she'd married, was worryingly eying his groin and toying with a small knife. "I don't like people who hurt you and threaten Taro."

Storm Shadow seemed to consider. "Maybe a little piece. Only because it's you."

She smiled nastily.

"What about me?" Billy sounded hurt. "You aren't the only one who has issues with the guy."

A sigh. "Fine."

Jinx narrowed her eyes. "I'm Arashikage by blood. He tortured my cousin. I've got a claim on a piece of him too."

"A little piece."

"That's okay." Jinx smiled sweetly. "He'll still miss it."

Signs from Snake Eyes. Storm Shadow sighed again. "Fine. Everyone gets a go. Keep it painful but fairly nonvital. I get to kill him."

Mindbender swallowed hard. "Now, let's be reasonable about this…Zartan is still alive…And you seem to be doing pretty well, so there was no permanent harm done."

"Shut up. The Hard Master didn't want me to kill Zartan. You, on the other hand..." Another cold, deadly smile. Storm Shadow's arm blurred, and a fist cracked into Mindbender's temple. There was an explosion of pain, and everything went black.

When he came to, his head was aching. His arms were wrenched backwards around something solid, and his wrists were secured tightly enough to cause pain. He tugged, and the pain increased as unforgiving strips of plastic cut into his skin. Bark was rough against his back, and there were birds happily chirruping nearby. He opened his eyes.

He was zip-tied. To a small pine tree which was apparently located in the middle of a dense mountain forest. The tree seemed completely unfazed by his struggles. He craned his neck around as far as possible and just caught glimpses of buildings through the trees, down the hillside a bit and maybe a quarter-mile distant.

He didn't see anyone around. He wriggled; he wasn't going to be able to slip the restrains, but maybe he could wear through the plastic strips on his wrists? He seemed to mostly just be flaking bark off the tree.

"He wakes." The voice was right in his goddamn ear. Mindbender whipped his head around to find Billy's face just inches from his own. The young ninja grinned. "Sensei will be pleased…you've been out for a few hours. He hit you hard. I should go tell him you're conscious again."

"William." Mindbender forced himself to keep his voice calm. "I will make you a wealthy man. I served your father loyally for years…"

The air blurred. A foot slammed into his ribs. Mindbender felt a rib snap.

"Cobra Commander is not my father." Billy said coolly. "You tortured the man who rescued me, cared for me, and taught me to look after myself. You tortured me. You took away the first person who'd ever given a damn what happened to me and reprogrammed him to try and kill me and my friends. And then you ordered my little brother kidnapped and threatened to do the same to him. And you dare try to buy me off?" A disgusted snort. "Whatever Sensei does to you, you've earned a thousand times over. So shut up, or I'll cut out your tongue."

Another kick, in precisely the same place as the first. Mindbender yelped. Billy grinned, and did it again.

"Been wanting to do that for years." He turned on his heel and stalked off; through the smarting of his ribs, the ache in his throat whenever he swallowed, and the throbbing of the bruise on this temple, Mindbender still managed to reflect that someone with a metal leg should not be able to move that quietly, however advanced the technology was.

It wasn't ten minutes after the young man had vanished that there was another voice right behind him god damn it he hated ninja. Mindbender gave up subtlety and pulled desperately at the bonds on his wrists. Maybe if he broke his thumbs…

"Oh, that's not going to help." Storm Shadow's voice was only inches behind his ear. "They're far too tight. Besides, even if you got free, you'd have to run five miles to reach town. And we'd catch you long before you made it. In fact…Snake, why don't you break his thumbs just so he can try to make a break for it?"

"I…" Mindbender cut off with a hiss of pain as someone with a grip like a vise wrenched his thumbs backwards. There was a horrible crunching sort of noise, and Mindbender whimpered.

"Seems he's not so keen on making a run for it after all. Jinx, I said no knives. That's my job."

"Oh, come on." Jinx sounded disgruntled. "Me and Junko were going to feed him his testicles."

Mindbender opened his mouth to protest. Three feet caught his ribs simultaneously.

"No. Knives."

"Fine." Jinx said sulkily. She stalked around to stand in front of him, glaring down. She was such a tiny thing, really…Mindbender had thought more than once before that she looked more like a doll than a warrior.

Then she suddenly moved, and an axe kick slammed full force into his groin. Petite or not, she had a hell of a kick. Mindbender shrieked; he could actually taste pain.

"That works too." Jinx sounded a bit more cheerful. "He's all yours. I feel better now."

"Good. Keep the students away from the forest for awhile, will you?"

"Sword drills until they pass out. Got it." Jinx turned and trotted away, looking pleased with herself.

"If you're going to kill me, just do it." Mindbender groaned. His groin was still hurting. "You want to get even. I've got it. Just kill me and have done with it."

"Even? Oh, I don't think so." Storm Shadow finally paced into view. He crossed his arms, scowling down at Mindbender. "To get even with you, I'd have to find where you're keeping that machine of yours. And then I'd have to strap you into it, and leave you there for a week, while it painfully ripped away everything you knew and cared about and replaced it all with lies. And I'd have to keep doing that, for years, and force you to serve me as a brain-dead slave. I'd have to watch you try to kill the people you'd once cared about. Then I might be able to call us even. What I'm going to do to you now won't even come close. This isn't getting even; this is vengeance. You've had it coming for a long, long time."

Mindbender assessed the situation. There were at least two extremely angry and probably well-armed ninja near to him. He was tied up, injured, and unarmed. He had no backup, there was no chance of buying this particular group of ninja off, and they all had reason to be personally put out with him.

I'm going to die. Shit…He'd wriggled out of tight spots before, faked his own death before, but this…this went beyond any sort of bad situation he'd ever experienced before.

"I was just doing my job!" He tugged at the bonds again, but quickly gave up as his thumbs throbbed. "I was just doing what I was ordered to!"

"I really don't care." Storm Shadow glanced off Mindbender's left. "Hmm? Oh, yes. Snake, Junko…if you want a piece of him, get it now."

A very sharp knife just barely pricked the skin of his neck. Mindbender tried not to swallow.

"I thought you said no knives?" Mindbender croaked.

"Well, yes. But Snake Eyes called one of your ears, and it's his right as my blood brother. And if it will make Junko happy, I'm willing to give up a few square inches of scalp."

Mindbender whimpered.


It was a long time before a bloodied, battered Mindbender had moved past screaming to pained whimpers. Snake Eyes had quietly slid away after he'd put in his two cents, and so had Junko, who could read Tommy well enough to know when he didn't want to be disturbed.

The Hard Master hadn't approved of seeking vengeance, and that was the only reason that Zartan still lived. But this wasn't for his uncle; this was for him.

Some people claimed that violence didn't solve anything. Tommy highly disagreed with this. If nothing else, this particular violence was making himfeel a lot better about some very deep scars.

Mindbender's jaw was long since shattered. Tommy remembered the screaming agony of the Brainwave scanner, and drove his fist into it again. Mindbender, who was only semiconscious, sagged limply in his bonds.

"You are not passing out." Tommy hissed. "You kept me conscious in that thing for days at a time. If you pass out, your hand is coming off, and I'll even cauterize it so that you don't bleed out on me."

The battered man straightened with some effort. "Please." He whispered the word. "Please…just kill me."

Tommy scowled and drew back a fist again, but paused, listening. He smiled abruptly and drew a knife. "You know," He said conversationally, "there are wild boars in this forest. They're quite vicious, and they'll eat just about anything. They're quite fond of meat when they can get it, as a matter of fact. And it so happens that I hear a pack of them not too far off. They're heading this way. They probably smell your blood."

Mindbender whimpered. Tommy smiled even more widely. "However, I don't want to give the pleasure of killing you to a pack of wild pigs. So…"

His hand flashed. Mindbender shrieked as steel sliced through cloth and skin and muscle; Tommy calmly wiped blood from the blade of his fighting knife before sheathing it again.

"That's a fatal wound." He informed the gutted doctor. "But you're a doctor. You knew that already. You'll also know that belly wounds kill slowly and painfully. If you're lucky, you'll be dead by the time the pigs get here. If not…" He shrugged. "Either way, I think this a rather fitting way for you to go. Goodbye, Mindbender. If there is a Hell, I hope you burn on the lowest level of it."

Tommy shinnied up a tree and settled himself on a comfortable branch.

By the time the snuffling pack of wild boars found their way to the tree where Mindbender was tied, the doctor was almost gone. Tommy could hear the weak fluttering of a heart giving up, from either shock or blood loss. Maybe both.

Wild boars were vicious animals. With the scent of blood in their nostrils, they went almost as mad as sharks in a feeding frenzy.

Tommy watched for a long time before finally slipping quietly back towards the compound.


Junko was sitting on the edge of Taro's bed and correcting mistakes as he sounded out "Where's My Cow?" to himself when she heard the door to their suite open. She cocked her head; there were a few minutes of silence, and then she heard the shower turn on.

Taro reluctantly tucked in, she headed for her and Tommy's bedroom.

Tommy was sitting on the bed, eyes closed and legs crossed. She settled herself next to him.

"You okay?" She asked quietly.

"Yes and no." Tommy opened his eyes and curled an arm around her waist. She leaned into him. "The memories seeing that man brought back…" A shudder. "Not pleasant. But he's dead, and Taro is safe, and you're safe, and I'm safe." A slight smile. "I have to admit…it felt good."

"Vengeance does." Junko could still clearly remember every vivid detail of driving her knife through the ribcage of the yakuza boss who'd murdered her parents. "Now get over here and let me give you some better memories."

Tommy smiled and kissed her.