This is pure fluff. The plot bunny would not let go, even after my insistence that I don't usually do romance. It's also fluff set a good bit into the past relative to the events usually seen in GI Joe, as it involves a young man who will one day be known as the Hard Master, with his new wife, the future Goblin Granny.
My thanks to LadyJaye for betaing this for me!
It's slight. Barely noticeable, even for me; but it's there. The intake of breath that is just a tiny bit quicker than usual, the single, ever so slightly louder thump of her heart…
It hurts her. Every. Time. Not much - it's more of a light sting than anything else - but it's still more than I can tolerate.
Today is no exception. Our opponents, a pair of Kagura ninja hired to steal the painting we've been hired to guard, started the fight with a taunt, thanking their good luck that they only had to face the Stick and his Bricklaying Goblin Lady.
I'm the Stick, obviously. I've been called that pretty much all my life, and don't recall ever having been bothered by it. My enemies usually find out the hard way that I am a very fast moving, very solid stick, and that I have several sharp pointy ends to boot.
My new wife, a woman I love more than life itself, is the Bricklaying Goblin Lady. In the few months since she has become known to the other clans, this particular insult has become a standard. It's an attempt to imply she is not a ninja because she was not born within a clan and a jibe directed at her short stature and her looks.
The bricklaying part of the insult doesn't affect her at all; she is rightfully proud of her father, who is a skilled man and a hard worker, and she knows she is a fine kunoichi despite starting her training much later than children born within ninja families. As proud and fierce as she is, however, she's still human; she's not vain by any means, but even as a bricklayer's daughter, she grew up in a culture that constantly reminded her that girls ought to be pretty.
She isn't, and she knows it. I adore her, but even the bias created by my feelings towards her is not enough for me not to know it as well. I couldn't care less: she is better than pretty, she is magnificent. She is an outstanding fighter – strong, fast and skilled - but more importantly, she has a great inner strength, she is wilful, incredibly smart, she is dedicated to both her families, she's a hard worker just like her father, and she is passionate in everything she does.
The Kagura, and many others, see a short skinny working class woman with a face that does not fit the current standards of beauty; I see a warrior gifted with the wisdom of an elder; I see strength, pride and loyalty; I see the perfect woman.
I don't intend to let anybody continue hurting her, even slightly, but I can't possibly kill anyone who might potentially call her a goblin, especially not fast enough for her never to hear the insult again.
What do you do when you can't deprive an enemy of his weapon? You make that weapon harmless. They call her a goblin, because goblins are small, ugly and useless, lowly servants or worse, idle pranksters… but just like poison can be defeated by immunizing yourself to it, I can take what little power this word has by adjusting its meaning.
I force a smile, bow and start talking very fast, intent on not giving them a chance to interrupt. I don't actually have a hope of fooling anyone, especially since everything I'm about to say is pure invention on my part, but talking will still distract the Kagura, which is never a bad thing, and I hope that my wife will understand what I'm doing and choose to adopt my new stance on goblins.
"I am pleasantly surprised that even though we are pitted against each other tonight, you choose to honour my wife with a compliment. In all our myths and stories, there are no creatures more fierce and loyal than goblins," I declare confidently, fully aware that goblins are not portrayed that way in any common story. I took my inspiration from a common image of goblins being used as a horde of minions by higher evils, and I'm assigning them the quality of an ideal army. "They are the ones who fearlessly charge into battle against foes twice their size and they are the ones who would rather die than fail a mission." I suddenly frown. "Why would you do that? Why would you compliment an enemy? Are you… are you flirting?" I raise my tone to convey both incredulity and anger, and my scowl deepens. "Don't you know you're too late? Do you think yourself so irresistible as to be able to woo my wife away from me?"
I unsheathe my swords and charge them, screaming. As I had hoped, this sudden charge surprises them and I have an immediate advantage. "I don't think so!" I roar. "She is MY GOBLIN!"
She joins the fight and between the two of us, we quickly force the Kagura ninjas to retreat. She turns to me, one eyebrow raised.
"Possessive, are we?" she teases. "You ought to; Goblins are rare to come by."
"Don't I know," I reply. "Such a shame."
"Is it? I would hope you'd be content with one."
"More than content," I reply, taking her hand and bringing it to my lips. "But since I have no intention to share, your rarity is a loss to the rest of the World."
She smirks. "Stop your shameless flirting and get back to work listening out for incoming would-be thieves; for all we know, the Kagura won't be the only ones after this painting tonight. You wouldn't want your Goblin Lady to get angry with you, now would you?"
How anyone can think she is anything less than perfection is beyond me.