More S/SE angst, because it is S/SE after all!

When SE left Scarlett just before they were to wed, they went many years without contact. (In comic years, it was about 6 or 7 years, but since they lived together for a while in Georgia after the Marvel run ended, it's hard to tell if it was really that long.)

I can see SE leading the hermit life during that time, but it seemed reasonable and more realistic to assume Scarlett would seek some companionship. Plus it was fun to explore their emotions after he found out she had a boyfriend!

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters; lately they've been owning me!

Scarlett stared at the mirror and sighed. She couldn't believe she was back at GI Joe. But then, it seemed like only yesterday that they disbanded and she and Snake Eyes…no…she wasn't going to think about that. She knew he was one of the team that had returned, answering Duke's call. She hadn't yet run into him and wasn't sure how she would respond. How many years had passed? It was such a blur. Her hand shook as she reached to tuck away a strand of stray hair. No, she wasn't going to jump on this emotional coaster ride again - it was over. Snake Eyes was no longer a part of her life. Her thoughts strayed to Ryan.

…………………………………..

"The key here ladies is to do whatever you can to distract your attacker and get away as fast as possible. You're not trying to play hero here. Use whatever technique you learned in our class," Scarlett instructed the women. She was glad she had given in to her brother's suggestion to teach the self-defense classes. He told her she was isolating herself too much. She admitted she enjoyed the interaction with the other women.

As the women milled around, talking, a man entered the dojo. Is it Thursday already, Scarlett thought? Usually Ryan came on Thursdays to do light sparring with her brother. Scarlett liked her brother's new friend. He was easy going and funny. He was also good-looking, dark hair, blue eyes - not that she cared - she told herself.

When Ryan first began sparring with her brother, Scarlett found herself hanging around, just to see how he sparred, of course. Sometimes she joined in. Ryan was pretty good. She knew she could easily take him, but she wasn't interested in trying. After sparring, the three would hang out and talk. Scarlett was surprised, on that first night, to find herself talking to Ryan long after her brother had already left the dojo. After that, they slipped into a comfortable pattern of Thursday night talks.

One Thursday, after the women left, she waited around, using bookkeeping as her excuse. Ryan never showed up. She finally left and admonished herself for feeling disappointed. This is ridiculous! He is a friend and it's no big deal if I don't see him every week.

She tried to act calm the following Thursday and reminded herself that it didn't matter if he showed up or not. But when she saw his lean but muscular frame come through the door of the dojo, she smiled.

"Sorry I missed you last week," he explained. "Had some family stuff going on."

"You don't owe me an explanation," Scarlett told him. "But I was beginning to think you didn't appreciate that throw after all."

Ryan laughed. "Tell you what. I'll forgive you if you join me for some coffee."

"Uh…sure. Coffee would be good." Coffee, no big deal.

…………………………………..

Scarlett's thoughts returned to the present. She gazed in the mirror one last time before going to the conference room. Her stomach knotted up at the prospect of seeing her old teammates again…well…more because of one particular teammate. She had seen Jaye and Flint some during the years, visiting them at their house. But she didn't visit often. Being around them brought back too many memories of times she and Snake shared with them.

She entered the conference room and saw the other Joes…Shipwreck, Flint, Jaye, Kamakura and – ok Shana - deep breath. He was leaning against the wall, dressed in his black Ninja garb. She had once admitted to Jaye, after a few glasses of wine, how she thought Snake looked incredibly sexy and powerful in his black outfit - muscles straining against the material. After that, Jaye couldn't help giggling when she saw Snake Eyes, to his utter bewilderment. Definitely not the reaction the Ninja was used to getting. Scarlett's heart lurched and her knees buckled. For a split second, she couldn't move. Then Stalker came to her rescue. "Hey Shana! Good to see you!" He hugged her, breaking her paralysis and allowing her to take the seat next to Duke.

"Well, it's good to see everyone again. I wish the circumstances were better. This is no high school reunion," Duke said.

"What no karaoke?" Roadblock laughed.

Snake Eyes already knew the reason behind the meeting. He had provided the intel to Duke about Cobra's renewed activity. No, his attention was focused on a particular redhead. For the first time he could remember, he wanted to throw up. He knew Scarlett had agreed to attend this meeting, but the idea of seeing her didn't come close to the real deal. She's been a specter of his mind all these years, and nothing could have prepared him for the jolt to his heart when she entered the room. He still loved her. This mission was going to be hell. How was he going to be around her and resist the impulse to touch that silky hair?

The meeting droned on while Snake looked at Scarlett, thankful he had a mask to hide the emotions that were most likely evident on his face. He thought back to when he left her. After Ophelia's assassination, he knew he could never give Scarlett one hundred percent with that unresolved conflict weighing on his conscious. But he didn't think anything could really justify leaving Scarlett the way he did.

The meeting finally ended and he watched her get up from her seat. Then to his surprise, she stared straight at him. Her eyes had an odd glint, like she knew he had been watching her during the whole meeting. Her stare was a challenge…of what he wasn't sure. She always seemed to know when he was looking at her, what he was thinking. He guessed some things never change.