Fluffy little piece, granting two requests in one! This is for Lady Jaye 1 and General Zargon (although Lady Jaye more inquired than requested, to be honest).
Takes place immediately after The Greenshirts and the Werewolf. I reproduced the epilogue of that here as a prologue so you don't have to go look it up. This is taking place in my usual AU, but as usual, I did my best to make sure you didn't actually need to have read any of my other stories to follow along.
Thanks to TM, Crystal and WillWrite4Fics for the feedback!
A week after the werewolf incident, Storm Shadow found himself sitting in Hawk's office, wondering what the kitchen staff could possibly have complained about to warrant the General calling him in – he had actually behaved, or at least he thought he had. Waiting to be told off while not knowing what he had done wrong forcibly reminded him of his teenage years, where he'd been sitting in the Hard Master's office on a regular basis, waiting to find out what he needed to apologize for. Granted, back then, it was more a matter of finding out what he'd be CAUGHT doing than what he had done.
Hawk finally looked up from the file he was reading to glare at him.
"I got the greenshirts' reports today," he growled. "The only reason you're still getting this assignment is because you're the only logical choice for it, especially with Snake Eyes and Scarlett on their way to California."
Tommy raised an eyebrow. "Sir?" he asked.
"The reason Cobra has been relatively quiet lately is that they've been very actively trying to locate and capture William; we've had to move him three times in the past month alone. I've reached the decision that if Cobra is going to know where he is anyway, he's better off here. He's your new assignment, Storm Shadow. You're going to go get him and he's going to stay here for a while, under your care."
Tommy grinned. Although it was arguably bad news that Cobra had almost found Billy on three occasions in just one month, he'd been trying for months to talk Hawk into letting the teen hide with him rather than with generic witness protection agents.
"About time," he said. "I mean, yes sir," he added under the glare Hawk gave him, throwing in a salute but not losing his grin.
"You need to understand this is strictly a temporary arrangement. As long as he's here, William's location is known and even with you around, he won't be as safe as when he's off Cobra's radar entirely."
"Understood; I'll help you find him new hiding places. I can locate some old friends who can look after him EVEN if Cobra turns up, and who can continue his training."
"You'll need to give me the details, we'll see if they're satisfactory. Here's the address." Hawk said, handing him a piece of paper. "Go get fitted with facial prosthetics and put on a non-white business suit, we don't want you to be recognized. And just in case you're wondering, you still have to do your remaining KP when you get back. I'm still debating whether to assign you more punishment duty, actually. Dismissed."
Storm Shadow read the address and gave the paper back to Hawk before saluting again, still grinning, and running off.
Tommy stopped a few steps later, eyebrows raised slightly as an idea struck him. He ran back to Hawk's office and let himself in after a short knock.
"Sorry, sir," he started. "I…"
Hawk chuckled. "Less than a minute. It's a shame I didn't bet."
The ninja cocked his head questioningly. "You knew I'd ask for backup?" he asked.
The general nodded, smirking. "Yes, and I also know you don't actually need any."
"I'm only thinking of how this will look on paper, seeing we'll have to report the pickup to the witness protection program."
"I'd be wasting the time of whoever I send."
"I can take a greenshirt."
"But you'll be wanting a Ranger, at least."
"Of course. Rangers lead the way," Storm Shadow said, puffing himself up just a little.
"Normanson is on leave and Ford was injured this morning."
"I know; they both missed advanced hand-to-hand this morning. Can I…?"
"You can take Thompson, but only if you also take another greenshirt."
Storm first grinned and then frowned questioningly. "Why? What good would THAT do?"
"Field test with a ninja. Stein has been here for over a month and she still seems nervous around you and Snake Eyes. Psyche Out is not sure just how uncomfortable she is, so a mission where she's not actually needed is an ideal test opportunity. If she doesn't relax and lets it interfere with this assignment, she's out. I'm doing you a favour, Storm Shadow, you do me one too. I'll be counting on a report from you."
The ninja shrugged. "No problem," he said. "But how did you know I'd want to take Thompson?"
Hawk chuckled. "Snake Eyes and Scarlett are always coming up with excuses NOT to teach the hand to hand classes, but YOU asked for the job and obviously enjoy it. Between that and your history, I've been expecting you to try and find yourself a second apprentice, and you made it clear last week that you had your sights set on our young conspiracy theorist. I won't let you force him, but if he's interested, I have no objection to having another ninja on the team."
Storm Shadow made a face at being read so easily, but since it was getting him what he wanted, complaining seemed counterproductive.
"I have no intention to impose the training," he said instead.
"I'll send word to both of them, they will meet you in the motor pool. Dismissed. Again."
Storm Shadow saluted and took off again.
Storm Shadow had plenty of time to marvel on the nature of nervousness while his facial prosthetics and make-up were being applied.
He was not a shy person - rather the opposite. He had never in his life been wary at all of meeting new people, and not only did he not care about what others may think of him, he knew for a fact that anybody he met would think of him what he wanted them to: he could charm the pants off anybody if he tried, or terrorize them, or inspire awe and respect. He liked meeting new people, and he knew that those who knew him best would say that was because he liked having more people paying him attention. He couldn't exactly deny it, and he was quite comfortable with the idea. He'd been the center of attention since his childhood; he was so used to it that anything else felt out of place unless he was actively trying to hide or go unnoticed. Like now, for instance: the idea was for nobody to recognize him and to not attract any attention at the airport, so he was disguising himself and would be the picture of discretion.
He was also very happy that he'd see Billy again. Hawk's reassurances only went so far to put his mind to rest - he knew his apprentice was alive and well, but he didn't know how well his leg was working, how affected his balance and skills were by the artificial limb and the loss of his eye, and above all, he didn't know what state the teenager's mind was in. Billy was fifteen by now, and he'd been through more than most people endured within a lifetime. It would be good to see for himself how he was dealing with it all and more than that, it'd be good to be able to help again if need be.
At the very least, he'd be able to start his training again, and therefore help him find focus once more. All very good things.
And yet he was nervous. It wasn't overwhelming, far from it, but he couldn't seem to get rid of it. He understood why the slight discomfort was there, but the reasons he had identified only made him feel sillier.
He wasn't shy, he liked meeting new people, and he knew he had perfect control over those people's impression of him. Given that, the fact that Billy had only ever known him brainwashed, and would therefore technically be meeting him for the first time as himself, should not matter at all.
His mind tried to delve into why it did, but he scowled internally at himself, told his inner Psyche-Out to shut up, and started busying himself thinking of potential teachers for Billy and what he'd be able to teach him himself while he stayed here, which he assumed would not be for very long at all.
Satisfied with this much more effective use of his thinking time, he rigidly kept at it while the dark grey suit he was using as a disguise was being tailored on him.
Thompson was standing stiffly by Duke when Storm Shadow arrived at the motor pool. Stein swallowed nervously when she saw him and somehow went even stiffer than her fellow greenshirt.
Duke nodded at them all when Storm reached them. "As instructed," he said. "Storm, you're in charge of this team and of their safety; this is NOT a high priority mission. Got it?"
Tommy's jaw clenched at the implication he'd put anybody else than himself at risk if things somehow got hairy. "Of course," he said, keeping his voice as neutral as he could. "I'll take good care of the greenies," he added with a smirk, disguising the urge to tell off the First Sergeant for insulting him, "don't you worry."
Duke nodded before walking off.
Storm Shadow glared after him and gestured the two greenshirts in the car they were to use. Stein rushed to the back seat and Thompson, after a quick deliberation, grudgingly climbed in the front passenger seat. Storm Shadow climbed into the driver side, whistling happily.
Stein stared very intently at the back of Thompson's seat, breathing as quietly as she could and hoping her heartbeat was not annoying, from the moment the ninja climbed in. Thompson, for his part, resolutely kept his eyes pointing straight ahead, and maintained the position – blinks excepted – right until they passed the security gate.
"Okay," he said, turning his gaze square towards the ninja. "What do you want? I ALREADY apologized to Snake Eyes!"
Stein's pulse shot up as she envisioned Thompson's innards getting splattered all over the inside of the car. Storm Shadow grinned. "Ah, you were waiting to be off base and out of sight of most anyone in the team," he said. "I was wondering whether you had decided to further emulate Snake Eyes by becoming mute. Relax, Stein; I wouldn't kill a fellow Joe."
Stein forced herself to relax. She knew she served no purpose on this mission – whether even the commando greenshirt did was debatable as far as she was concerned – and so, could imagine this was a test for her.
Thompson's eyes narrowed and his upper lip started curling up in a snarl. "What do you want? Why did you ask for me?"
"Because I wanted to talk to you." Tommy glanced sideways at the younger man, one eyebrow raised. "You know, I sort of expected you to figure that much out by yourself."
"Why?" Thompson asked. "You want to know how much truth there was to the World Order stuff Cobra made you believe?"
Storm Shadow barked a laugh. The question was funny in itself, but the incredulous, hopeful tone just made it. Thompson was obviously quite willing to discuss that particular subject.
"No," he chuckled. "Although I'll admit I can sympathise with your worldview. Are you still sore over the whole werewolf thing? You heard what I told Hawk, it was simply the best way for me to deal with the situation."
The glare Tommy got was answer enough.
"I kept you four from actually harming Snake Eyes or Timber. The way I see it, I did you a favour."
Thompson's eyes went wide. "You are SO full of…"
"Well, all right, maybe not. Still, I was acting for the greater good. And by the way, you're being rather mean towards poor Stein. You keep giving her reason to think I might go insane with rage and do something painful, lethal or both to you."
Thompson rolled his eyes and started staring out of his window again, giving the landscape a very icy glare. "For crying out loud, Stein, he's a pain in the ass, but a loyal one. Are you in tomorrow's exercise?" he added in an obvious attempt at redirecting the conversation.
"What, getting bored with me already?" Storm Shadow chuckled before Stein could answer. "Oh, alright, I'll get to the point. I think you have potential, so if you're interested, I will train you."
Thompson's eyebrows disappeared under his bangs and he turned to Storm Shadow again.
"Say what? Actually, don't. No need. You want me to be your apprentice too, like the Commander's kid? No way. NO. WAY. Thanks, but no thanks. Not interested." He cursed and went back to looking out his window. Just his luck that someone would actually offer him ninja training, but that the someone in question would be Storm Shadow. He would have accepted in a heartbeat if Snake Eyes had made the offer, but then Snake Eyes, unlike the ex-Cobra, was trustworthy. "No. I'm so NOT studying under you."
"Yes, I figured you'd say that, seeing you're still angry about my keeping you from hurting a defenceless animal," Storm Shadow said, still sounding a bit disappointed. "Just think on it, it's not a limited time offer. And you're about the same age Snake Eyes was when HE started training."
Thompson's head whipped back towards the ninja before he could help himself. This was completely new information to him; he had been assuming Snake Eyes had trained pretty much all his life. Stein snorted at his reaction before slamming a hand on her mouth. Thompson shot her a dirty look and narrowed his eyes at Storm Shadow again.
"We get the kid, then come back, right? How far's the safe house?"
"Other end of town," Storm Shadow replied. "I'd say we still have nearly half an hour to chat."
Thompson clenched his jaw and resumed staring out of his window. As if to mock him, the heavy clouds that had been threatening rain ever since they left finally broke. The rain quickly intensified, blurring the landscape and making it harder to look at.
"Make that an hour," Storm Shadow said, scowling at the delay as he was forced to slow down to a safe speed.
Thompson cursed under his breath. "So, Stein, I didn't catch your answer?"
Storm Shadow concentrated on the road and let Thompson help Stein relax with small talk. It wasn't much good trying to continue talking to him right now anyway, the conspiracy theorist would likely just grow even more annoyed.
The man known to his employer and associates as Watcher 4 suddenly got his feet off his desk and back on the floor and leaned towards the appropriate monitor when one of the several feeds he was watching showed a young man walking into one of WPP house he was monitoring.
He made the remote controlled camera placed on a tall tree two houses over zoom in as much as it could and grinned. Despite the heavy rain, there was no mistaking the teenager: the eye patch, which the boy had been wearing since their last meeting had left him wanting an eye, over three years ago, was a dead giveaway. He had certainly grown quite a lot, and had lost the baby fat, but all that was to be expected: he wasn't 11 anymore, after all, he had gone from kid to teenager.
Watcher 4 picked up the direct line phone to his boss.
"Found Tony Junior," he said, grinning at the phone. This was going to earn him a nice bonus: the boss had been looking for the kid for three years now.
There was silence at the other end for a few seconds, then a sigh of relief. "Finally," his boss said. "Residential?"
"Yeah, house number four," Watcher 4 said. "Want me to send the Silent Team?"
"Immediately. And make sure they get the information from whoever picks him up!"
"Yes boss," Watcher 4 replied. "What if the pickup doesn't know? I know he's been picked up by Tony's men before, but that was a while ago. What if it's actual Secret Services nowadays?"
"They'll still know," his boss said. "Even if he's picked up by a Fed, it'll be a fed on Tony's payroll. And if not, well, Tony's just going to have to mourn from his luxury snitch jail cell, isn't he? I'll be pretty happy either way. Get on it, now."
The boss hung up. Watcher 4 immediately called the Silent Team, and reminded them very carefully that the kid was to be used to make his pickup disclose where Tony had stashed the money, and that if the pickup didn't say, for whatever reason, the hostage was to be eliminated. The Silent Team's representative, much to Watcher 4's satisfaction, got the hint and immediately confirmed they would use the standard and proven strategy of poisoning the hostage and demand the information for the antidote.
That settled, Watcher 4 figured he deserved a break and turned one of the monitors to the baseball game.
Billy sighed and stretched in his chair, leaving the book on the Japanese Feudal Era he'd been reading opened on his lap.
"That looks like a pretty heavy read," the agent in charge of this particular safe house said. He had introduced himself as Mr Andrews. "Homework?"
Billy shook his head. "Personal interest," he said. "When did you say the pickup was, again?"
"Could be anytime between now and dinner time," the man answered. "Do you know where you're going next?"
Billy shook his head and shrugged. "They never tell me. Doesn't matter much, anyway, lately I never get to stay anywhere much more than a week."
"You were located?" the man asked, his eyebrows raised. "And several times? I'm very sorry."
Billy shrugged again and picked up his book. He shouldn't have said anything, he couldn't stand it when people went all sympathetic on him. He hated the situation enough, he hardly needed everyone to remind him how bad it was by looking horrified upon hearing about just part of it.
The doorbell finally rang about three quarters of an hour later. Billy put his book back in his bag and got up, ready to go. 'Mr Andrews' opened the door and let six men came in.
Billy's brow furrowed: that was certainly unusual. Mr Andrews seemed to think so as well.
"Why is there six of you?" he said. "Show me yourrrr…"
His last word died in a small groan and he collapsed, his throat slit. The man who had done the deed did not get to see his victim fall, his face suddenly making contact with a rather heavy and fast backpack. Less than a second later, before the bag even fell back to the floor, his knife was wrenched from his fingers.
Billy was furious with himself: he shouldn't have waited to see a weapon, he should have acted as soon as the six men had come in and apologize later if they had somehow turned out to be legit. He forced the regrets out of his mind by redirecting his anger at the six men; he used the knife he had just grabbed and extended its owner the same courtesy said owner had shown Mr Andrew. He then rolled sideways to avoid whatever weapon may be aiming for him and slashed a few ankles that happened to be within reach before springing back to his feet and jumping back towards the group.
As he had hoped, the five men had been expecting him to try and run, despite the fact they were standing in the closest possible exit and the only one Billy could realistically aim for and hope to reach before being shot in the back, and were unprepared for him to attack. He stabbed the closest one in the chest and kicked at a third one, but the other two managed to get behind him and grabbed him. He felt a prick on his neck and the room went black almost instantly.
Confused? All will be explained in part 2. But just to confirm, yes, Billy is being mistaken for someone called Tony Junior.
Thank you for reading, and please review!