Notes: I do not own G.I. Joe or its characters. I am only borrowing them for my own story. This is based off the new "G.I. Joe Renegades" series on the Hub. As far as pairings go, I'm a SExS fan, but read into what you want. So far in this new incarnation of the Joes, it would seem Snake and Scarlett are very close, and maybe closer than simply friends. I'm a pretty new fan to the Joes, as well, so any problems with characterization are totally mine.

TO SERVE, AND PROTECT

It wasn't going to be easy. To clear their names, they had to prove COBRA Industries was dirty. Filthy. And no one outside their small group of five believed them, except for Duke's parents. And that wasn't even for certain.

Shana O'Hara sighed into her hand as she watched the landscape pass by through the window. She sat toward the rear of their armored transport truck, trying to figure out what else could be done. They'd escaped from Flint and Lady Jaye, albeit with Jaye's help, and were driving toward an unknown destination. All she'd wanted was to prove COBRA was in the wrong, a company hiding it disgusting secrets behind a squeaky-clean public image. And where had that gotten her? A listing on America's Most-Wanted.

A gentle hand on her shoulder caused her to glance back, and meet the gaze of the black-clad ninja who sat behind her. Shana wanted to give Snake some sort of reassurance, but there was nothing to give. She'd dragged him into this too, though he'd escaped the public eye so far. He wouldn't back out on her, anyway, even if she tried to get him to. He was far too loyal and protective for that.

"So, what's next?" Roadblock asked from the shot gun seat.

"Don't know," Duke said. He sounded angry and irritated, but Shana couldn't blame him. She didn't blame any of them. She'd gotten them into this.

Snake squeezed her shoulder again, and she gave him her full attention. Go ahead, she signed.

This isn't your fault, he said, his hands graceful in the air.

Yes, it is, Shana told him, shaking her head when he made to protest. She hadn't voiced aloud how she was truly feeling, not wanting the others to think she was weak. COBRA needed to be taken down, and she wanted in on that process.

"Well, we gotta have a plan," Roadblock said, looking back at the others.

"Ask Scarlett," Duke snapped.

Shana sighed and leaned down to absently rub the leg she'd injured when the COBRA lab in Springfield had gone up. She was tired of running, but they couldn't stop, not now. COBRA and the Army were after them. "We keep moving forward," she said.

"Sounds great," Tunnel Rat commented, his voice heavy with sarcasm.

"Any other brilliant advice, Red?" Duke asked, and Shana's temper started to kick at it restraints. She held it in, though, knowing a yelling match would get them nowhere. A headache was starting to crawl through her forehead, and she rubbed at her eyes, fighting it. This wasn't the time to get ill.

"You alright?" Tunnel Rat asked, the sarcasm fading to genuine concern. "You look pale."

"I'm okay." It was a lie, but better than the truth. She'd gotten plenty banged-up during this mission-gone-south, but she wasn't prone to any complaining. If the boys could take it, so could she.

"We need some sleep," Roadblock suggested. "Decent sleep, not in this bumpy ride."

"When? Where? Flint will be coming after us hard, and so will COBRA," Duke said, glancing back at Shana.

"They will," she agreed, glad to at least be civil with him this time. "But Roadblock's right. We can't stay sharp without sleep."

"Unless you're a ninja," Tunnel Rat said, pointing at Snake.

"Even he needs to rest," Shana told him, giving Snake a small smile. He inclined his head, and she imagined he might be smirking a little beneath his mask. She sometimes wondered what he looked like, but would never be disrespectful enough to ask him to take it off. Nor would he, she suspected, if she did.

"Hey, man, I at least gotta stretch," Roadblock said, looking over at Duke.

Duke sighed but pulled the big truck over. Roadblock and Duke got out, followed by Tunnel Rat.

Shana decided she may as well take advantage of some freedom and moved past Snake to get out. She knew he was right behind her; she sometimes felt there was a super strong connection between them, alerting her to his presence whenever he was near. The feeling grew exponentially every day. She walked out into the field they'd parked next to and stared out into the vast nothingness. Her headache was screaming now, and she winced as sharp pain flashed behind her eyes. Maybe sitting down would help, but as she started to lower herself, her injured leg twitched and the ground came up fast.

Before she could fall, two strong hands caught her and lowered her safely. Shana tried to smile, to play it off, but couldn't force any lightheartedness. "Thanks," she whispered.

You need to rest, Snake signed, kneeling in front of her.

"I can't, not now. Everything is a mess, and it's my fault," she said, her voice quiet. Behind her she could hear the other three talking.

No. It's COBRA's fault, Snake said, his fast hands making the words adamant.

Shana wanted to believe him, but she knew the lab accident could've been handled better. She shouldn't have let things get so far out of control. One Joe was already dead because of her inability to salvage the situation.

"Scarlett. Let's go," Duke barked, and she started to push herself up. Snake took her right forearm and helped her, and she was grateful for his support, for his simply being there. It made her feel like she could still do this, still bring COBRA down and clear their names.

"You okay?" Duke asked, watching her, a critical look in his ice-blue eyes. "That leg is bothering you."

"It's okay. Come on. We should keep going." She climbed into the truck without waiting for his answer and sat down heavily in her seat.

"Fine by me." Duke got the big machine rolling, and silence stretched tight over the group.

Shana rubbed her temples, hoping no one would comment. They all needed to be thinking of ways to bring COBRA down. They'd seen Adam DeCobray's true face, and now had to expose his company for what it truly was.

Snake touched her left shoulder, and she turned to face him. Sleep, he said, his movements quick and clear.

She gave him a tired smile. Maybe later, she said back.

"Okay, you two are freakin' me out," Tunnel Rat said, watching them. "Is that sign language?"

"Yes," Shana said, irritated. "Do you have a problem with that?"

"No. Gees, spy lady, calm down."

"So why are we freaking you out, then?"

Tunnel Rat shrugged. "It's not so much that, it's more like you two just seem connected in some uber-spooky way. You're always communicating even without signing."

Shana nodded. She supposed to anyone else it did seem odd. "We're close," she said, not wanting to elaborate. Snake added his own quick nod.

Tunnel Rat shrugged again and turned away, and Shana settled into her seat. She did have an uncommon bond with the ninja, a bond she was positive was unbreakable. Yet she was a bit saddened by this knowledge as well – Snake wouldn't desert her, even if she was dragging him down into a hole from which recovery was likely improbable. How would they clear their names? Every piece of proof they got showcasing COBRA's dastardly deeds ended up getting trashed or back in their hands.

"Hey, look over there. We could get some z's there," Roadblock said. Shana saw him pointing to what appeared to be an abandoned barn. "Come on, Duke. Pull her over."

"Yeah, that looks okay." Duke pulled the truck behind the barn. Trees grew thick around the old weathered structure, providing some camouflage. They all got out and went inside. Mourning doves, startled by their sudden intrusion, burst into flight, causing dust to fly everywhere.

Shana sneezed, which made her head clamp with pain, and she tottered, unsteady. Snake put his hand on her shoulder, and just for a moment, she leaned against him, needing to borrow the quiet steel of his strength. Then she was ready to stand on her own again, but she knew he would stay near, a silent shadow of protection.

"We sleep in shifts," Duke said, gathering them around him. His eyes strayed to Shana. "Scarlett, Tunnel Rat, and Snake Eyes. You sleep first."

Snake shook his head and pointed up at the rafters.

"He wants to keep a high ground," Shana said, carefully watching the ninja. He nodded.

"Fine. But get some rest. We all need to sleep," Duke said. "We'll give you an hour or so. That'll have to be enough."

"We could've slept in the truck," Shana said, adding, "You could let someone else drive."

Duke narrowed his eyes. "Don't get smart, O'Hara. Just get some rest." He motioned to Roadblock and they moved off, guns ever at the ready.

Tunnel Rat yawned. "I'm all for the hay, myself. Those truck seats are murder." He walked over to an old pile of hay and plopped down, sending a mouse scurrying.

Shana shuddered and turned away. "I'll be in the truck." She'd rather risk the stiff seats and a sore body than a mouse crawling over her.

Snake took her hand and stopped her. He pointed up. Shana stared into the rafters. "No, that's okay. You go on." She wasn't afraid of heights, but sleeping way up there wasn't appealing. But he didn't let go of her hand, and with a reluctant sigh, she followed him up the ladder and into the high hay mow. Snake's sharp eyes caught all the holes in the worn floor, and he kept her well-away from them.

She laid down in the spot he indicated, watching as he crouched on some hay bales near the window. He wouldn't sleep; she knew that much, and wondered how he did it, how he kept so vigilant on so little rest. His left side was closest to her, and she was certain his left eye was on her, making sure she was sleeping.

"Snake?" Her voice was low and soft, and he immediately looked at her, his muscles tensing a little, as if preparing for some unknown threat to her. "Thank you, for everything. You didn't have to stay with me," she said, hoping he would understand how much it meant to her that he had, how much he meant to her.

He turned to fully face her, his muscles bunching and gliding as he shifted position, and began to sign. We're in this together, Shana.

She nodded, knowing he meant it. No matter where this mission took them, he would be there to help, to serve, to protect.

"'Night, Snake," she whispered, and finally began to sleep.