It was going to be a long, very long journey. Not exactly the journey of a lifetime, but one that meant a lot.

The room was small and barely showing any decoration, but at the Pit it was a luxury that Snake-Eyes enjoyed thoroughly. Scarlett finished packing the duffle bag placed on the bed, glancing over at her silent companion standing in her line of sight. To no avail, since he wasn't signing at the moment and hasn't been for a time. The red-haired woman sighed slightly, while zipping the bag up.

"You don't have to do this," she said, now looking straight at Snake-Eyes. How many times this sentence had been said during the last week, she couldn't tell. But it has been way more often than she would have expected or wanted.

Since it has been decided – by the black-clad ninja, and after long sessions of private meditation – that he would give a try to the staff of the Brooke Medical Center, Scarlett had asked that same question again and again, never receiving a definitive answer. It's not that she was overly insistent, but she knew that such a decision from his part had to be carefully weighted and that the reasons why he would accept the long and quite painful procedure had to be clear in his mind.

Finally, after yet another shrug, the commando signed *Yes, I have to.* He paused, and a frown could be seen under his mask as he added, *Not that I am particularly looking forward to it.*

Instinctively, Scarlett stepped to him, finding his arms open and welcoming her. They stood silent, sharing the apprehension, trying to diffuse the uncertainties. Snake-Eyes would not easily admit that he was having an unhealthy amount of concerns about the next week, but the way he hold Scarlett in his arms, being the one welcoming the comfort she provided, spoke volume to her.

There was no rush yet, they still had a few minutes for themselves before joining Wild Bill and start the long flight to San Antonio. So they stayed there, silent and happy to be alone together.

The moment was unceremoniously broken by an insistent beeping of the door chime. If they tensed a bit at the sound, it was more from the unwelcomed interruption than anything else. Reluctantly, Scarlett stepped to the door, almost yanking it open, showing a bit of her displeasure at the "intruder".

Jinx stepped in quickly, silently, bowing slightly at Snake-Eyes then smiling at Scarlett.

"Alright, Jinx," Scarlett started, "Two minutes, then off you go."

Jinx grinned, then turned to Snake-Eyes, "I'm in no hurry, sensei," she said. The grin vanished from her face before she continued, "I'm going with you both."

Before the ninja could reply, Scarlett's voice echoed in the small room, "Oh no, you're not!" She locked eyes with Snake-Eyes, more to show him how determined she was than seeking approval.

*It is nice of you to offer* he finally signed to Jinx, *We will be just fine, Scarlet and I*

Shaking her head, Jinx sighed, like someone who knew that what she was going to say would not sit well with her sensei and the red-head. "Orders. Hawk's orders, actually." She didn't give them a chance to protest, "And no, he's not around. He just left for a very important meeting, and wanted me to let you know that trying to contact him was impossible at the moment."

"Alright, you come with us, then you come back right away," countered a frowning Scarlett.

"Nice try," the apprentice replied, "But Hawk knows the gig. Orders stay that I have to stay at the hospital with you both for the duration, and return with you when the time comes." She paused a split-second, then added, with an annoyed look, "Look, I know this bothers you, it bothers me to have to bother you."

Jinx turned towards her sensei, who looked a bit tense. Orders are orders, and even he could not go against Hawk's. The level of annoyance in the commando showed in his next signing.

*Back of the chopper. Bring a book. I will not hear a word from you.*

It was a rare event when Snake-Eyes would express his angry mood and have it on his apprentices, but this was one of these moments. What was supposed to be a private matter, was becoming a national crisis. It was even more rare, that Jinx would bow to her sensei without adding a word. But the dismissive signs from her sensei made her leave the room right away this time, and now more than two individuals were fuming at Hawk.

A few minutes later, the three of them met again by the chopper that Wild Bill had ready. Bags were placed – rather, tossed – at the back where Jinx sat, book in hand and frown on her face. A silent trip of many hours was certainly not her choice of mission.

Snake-Eyes tapped on Wild Bill's shoulder, his thumb up signaling that everybody was aboard.

"Hrm…" Wild Bill hesitated, "Not quite yet…"

From her seat behind, Scarlett jumped when an additional bag was tossed inside, ending its course on the pile at the back of the helicopter. Then a white shadow appeared in the open door.

"This is insane," the red-hair sighed. She looked up at Snake-Eyes who had stepped directly in Storm Shadow's path to the interior of the chopper, blocking his way. "I don't care about your orders, you're not coming."

The white ninja, visibly refraining from grinning, looked over his brother's shoulder at Scarlett. "Orders never stopped me," he said, "Duty to my brother comes first."

Quick hand moves, a few whispers in reply. The conversation between the ninja masters was kept between them.

*Thank you for your concern. But we are fine. More than fine. Jinx is with us.*

"Now, brother," Storm Shadow replied, quite seriously. "We know how vulnerable you will be. And how hospitals can be dangerous places. I'm sure you haven't forgotten about that."

Snake-Eyes groaned. How could he forget? Having your girlfriend shot in the head wasn't something one could easily forget.

*Everything will be fine* the black ninja signed after a moment. *They are just going to rip off my face again and give me a new one.*

To his credit, Storm Shadow winced at that. "I'll only make sure nothing else happens," he replied, "That way, Scarlett can stay with you all the time and not worry about anything else." He paused, seeing how his brother was considering that notion, "Plus, I will keep Jinx busy with some training. And you know – I will be there, that you want it or not."

That was it. Arguing with his brother didn't seem to be a battle he could win. Snake-Eyes turned to Scarlett.

*Storm Shadow will stay at a distance.*

Scarlett muffled reply, colored with a few cuss words, went unheard as she turned to face away, looking at the tarmac. "Wild Bill, I swear if you don't take off now and someone else shows up…"

Wild Bill, sensing that every second of delay meant more tension in his passengers, didn't need to be told twice. Soon the helicopter was taking off.

Snake-Eyes sat next to Scarlett, a few explaining to do about his quick decision to let his brother come with them.

Said brother decided to keep company to his cousin in the back of the chopper. Jinx looked at him as he sat down, barely bowing her head in greetings to her cousin.

Noticing that Jinx wasn't in the best of mood either, a grin appeared on Storm Shadow's face.

"It seems that my brother had his own orders for you as well," he said, pointing at the book. "Let me guess: silent trip for you?"

The look Jinx sent him then could have killed a weaker person.

"Oh. This is going to be /such/ a nice trip!" Storm Shadow laughed at Jinx' misery, easily dodging the book aimed at his head.