More former bonuses, but these are, like the Clan War story, set before the beginning of Arashikage.

Just to clarify, I decided at one point that I needed Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow to have gone through basic training together, although they wouldn't actually become friends until they were in the War, after said basic training. That decision spawned a couple of plot bunnies.

There are four mini-stories in this grouping: the first two are set almost right after one another in basic training, while the last two are set in the War.


Story 1: Hand-to-hand, from the point of view of He Who Will Eventually Be Known as Snake Eyes

My eyebrows shoot up when the instructor issues the instruction for this, our first hand-to-hand session, scheduled a day earlier than anticipated in lieu of another team spirit exercise.

I glance at Tommy and as expected, his eyes are a bit wide too. I'm expecting a smile to creep up, but instead, he clenches his jaw in concentration.

Smith, one of the other trainees and, in my humble opinion, the one who should be running away the fastest right now, raises his hand, a cocky grin on his face.

"Sir?" he asks. "Just how no-holds-barred are we talking about here? I mean, what if someone ends up in the infirmary?"

The instructor snorts.

"I'm pretty sure you won't hurt anyone, kid," he snickers.

Smith, being clueless even by his standards, doesn't get the hint.

"But Sir," he insists, "a no-holds-barred brawl between all of us… I'm pretty strong. I just don't want to end up in trouble for hurting someone. But I don't want you to think I'm not trying hard enough, either."

As if to confirm he really is that stupid, he smirks at Tommy, who pointedly ignores him.

The other guys follow Smith's example and at the instructor's signal, basically form a rough circle around Tommy.

I make my way in the circle, then inside it to stand by his side. I don't know him enough to like him or dislike him, and I'm just as jealous as the other guys about the fact he's breezed through Hell Week as if it was a freakin' vacation, but I'm not stupid enough to try and take him on.

Honestly. The discipline we've all been put through didn't phase him at all, he doesn't even break a sweat in our PT sessions, and the guys can't pretend not to have noticed he's a total health nut – they've been teasing him since day one for not touching anything remotely resembling junk food, including anything with caffeine; they also can't pretend they didn't notice his body – he's literally chiseled – because they've been jealous about THAT, too, especially since the girls have noticed as well, leading to Tommy getting most of their attention. It could not be plainer that in Tommy's case, concluding the relatively short Japanese guy is actually a lethal martial artist is not racial stereotyping, it's an obvious deduction.

Tommy glances at me, his expression unreadable.

"I'm NOT taking you on," I explain.

He shrugs just as Johnson, the biggest of the guys, rushes him. Tommy grabs one of his arms and tosses him aside, knocking down Brown, who was coming at him from the side. Tommy's eyes are narrowed in concentration as he takes down Smith next, using him as a projectile to trip Brown. Churchill comes after me and I send him to the floor with a kick in the gut. Tommy pushes him with his foot just in time to make Abraham trip on him.

The guys get up as soon as they're down and come at us again, this time trying to attack all angles at once. No longer having the luxury of tossing them at each other, Tommy changes tactics and starts dodging and actually hitting them. I'm doing the same, if not nearly as effectively as he is, and within little more than a minute, they're all groaning on the floor and the instructor steps up.

"Got some more tension to release, kid?" he asks Tommy. "Want to show off a bit more?"

"No and no, Sir," Tommy replies flatly.

"You were just lucky," Smith growls, getting up. "I want to take him on one-on-one, Sir," he adds, addressing the instructor.

Tommy sighs and suddenly, I realize why he hasn't smiled through this whole thing: I thought he'd enjoy having an excuse to beat up the guys a bit, get back to them for all the taunting they've been doing and gain their respect at the same time, but in reality, he's just stuck having to hold back. If he actually let loose, and it looks like he's sorely tempted to, he'd send them all to the hospital.

I look more closely as the instructor nods and Smith starts circling Tommy who doesn't move, not even following him with his eyes. Smith attacks from behind, and Tommy ducks under the punch, seems to slide sideway, and elbows him in the chin. Because I'm paying attention, I notice that it would have been easier to hit Smith's throat and that the blow is pulled at the last second so as not to break any teeth or dislocate Smith's jaw.

Johnson jumps on Tommy then, or rather, jumps towards him: Tommy's foot connects with his chest, bouncing him back the way he came. Again, the blow is pulled just in time, yet Johnson goes down gasping for air, massaging his chest.

"Stop," the instructor calls.

Smith, who was about to try surprising Tommy again, stops dead in his tracks. He looks more relieved than disappointed.

"You, attack me," the instructor says, addressing Tommy. "Do your best to pin me down, as quickly as you can."

Tommy frowns, obviously displeased by the request. Apparently, he wasn't kidding when he said he didn't want to show off. I do wonder why… I can understand modesty, but he doesn't seem the type at all.

"That's an order," the instructor insists. "You WILL charge me and you WILL do it as well as you can. I want to see your true potential."

"Yes, Sir," Tommy says. He runs to him, grabs a leg that was attempting to kick him, spins it, and faster than I can follow, the instructor ends up on the floor with Tommy on his back, the instructor's head in a headlock. Tommy actually looks a bit more cheerful, like he's glad to have been given an excuse to really show what he can do.

I glance at Smith, who's turned white.

"All right, people," the instructor says, getting up as Tommy releases him. "Did anybody notice something special about the way your friend fought?"

"He knows karate?" Churchill says.

Both Tommy and I roll our eyes. The instructor points at me, indicating I'm to provide an answer.

"He was holding back," I say. The other guys turn a bit paler and I choose not to expand on the other thing I've noticed, namely that this WAS a team building session after all, designed to get the guys to stop acting like high school bullies, and that as crude as it was, it's actually going to work.

The instructor nods.


At dinner the same day, Tommy sits by me. He waits for the conversation to get loud around us before kicking my knee with his to get my attention.

"Did you side with me just because you were afraid of me?" he asks in a whisper.

I take a moment to think about it. I definitely didn't want to fight him, so I guess I was afraid, but I don't think that was the only reason. Maybe I'm just trying to rationalize my actions to give myself a more noble motivation than fear, but I honestly feel like everybody ganging up on him just because he's doing better than the rest of us wasn't very fair. I used to be a bully target too, for much the same reasons.

"No," I reply.

He smirks but doesn't say anything else. I get the distinct feeling he got a lot more information out of my answer than I meant to give.


Notes

If you're wondering why Tommy doesn't want to show off (Future Snake Eyes is right, it's not modesty), it's simply because he was told not to (ninja clans are illegal and so, it just makes good sense not to let outsiders know you and your family are ninjas if you can help it). And yes, he did enjoy being ordered to do his best, because then, not hiding his skills wasn't his fault anymore.