Homecoming by Catwings1026

Author's Note: To understand the backstory of this vignette, you must be familiar with the events in Snake Eyes: Cobra Civil War #2-3. The story was written before #4 came out, under the assumption that Snake Eyes would return to base before his next mission… and that the special item given to him by Scarlett was left behind. Also, this story follows the Hamaverse canon that Scarlett and Snake Eyes are a couple – though at this point in the IDW timeline, their relationship is still in the formational stage.

Finally, yes, jewelery made of bullet shell casings can be purchased. I've seen some very nice examples online.


If I read this same page over one more time, I think I'm going to scream. Scarlett glared at A Game of Thrones, as though her distraction was its fault, and resisted the urge to fling it across the room. She was making no headway, despite Tunnelrat's promise of an addictive escape from the day to day, and finally closed the book, setting it on the end table. She thought - again - of taking a short walk before lights-out.

Three corridors over, two doors down on the left...

No. Give him his space. Let him come to you, for a change. She frowned, glancing at the door. And if he doesn't...

Best not to think about that. It had been four days since Snake Eyes had returned with Helix from the ill-fated mission to Everest... four days without so much as that initial greeting, clasping one another's hands tight, unable to say or do anything else in the crowded debriefing room. She'd thought that maybe, just maybe...

She blew irritably at a stray straggle of hair that dropped into her face, glaring at nobody and nothing. Her emotions roiled, and her qi, as Snake Eyes might say, was clouded. But what to do?

You keep chasing him, Shana, you'll lose him for sure.The inner voice was something like her own, something like the elderly black neighbor of her youth - Granny, she'd called her. Of course, she'd never discussed boys with Granny; she'd been barely eight, but...

A knock, quiet but firm, on her door. She hesitated, and it repeated. No voice called a greeting from outside.

She moved to the door, opened it a crack, then wide. Snake Eyes stood in the corridor, out of uniform, glancing behind him. He wasn't shy about his devastated face around the barracks, and showed no inclination to hide it off-duty - but being seen outside her door might be another story. So...

"Hey," she said, forcibly casual, gesturing him in. "Come on in... I was wondering if you'd stop by." Wondering? Hoping, more like. Praying, even.

He nodded, but did not seem inclined to move more than a step beyond the threshold. His eyes met hers, and she could read his unspoken words... Sorry. Been busy. You know how it is.

She nodded, keeping herself a pace and a half away. "Yeah, I know how it is. I'm just... glad to see you." She crossed her arms in front of her, uncrossed them, shuffled. "You want to sit? I can make tea..."

Snake Eyes shook his head. His appearance no longer gave her pause; the guilt she'd felt for her part in the ruination of his face had subsided, and now every crevice and scar-line was as familiar a face as her own, and dear to her. And his eyes...

God, he's got the most beautiful eyes...

He shifted from one foot to another as she watched, and found herself smiling inwardly at his visible discomfort.

Awkward, isn't it? But still... it shows you're human. And that you're as nervous as I am. She took pity on him and moved to the sofa, leaving plenty of room for him, for distance. He took a seat beside her. His eyes dropped - and he pressed a folded piece of paper into her hand. She glanced at him, then read:

Your compass. It's still on Everest. I'm sorry.

Her eyes misted for a moment – that lucky charm, that one link to her past, that tangible connection to her father, her grandfather, gone. Snake Eyes placed a hand against her neck, his thumb caressing the line of her jaw, a tactile apology. She met his gaze, offered a wan smile.

"But YOU came back. The magic still works. And that's the important thing." He shook his head, and her brow furrowed slightly. "It's not?"

His hand dropped away, his battered face assuming a look of intense concentration, lips moving silently as he began to form out words in sign - the ASL they had been working on together, slowly, painfully, since the battle with Chimera. The reply was slow, deliberate, clear - if fragmented.

Important. Thing. Home. Not. He shook his head, frowning, then repeated with gestured emphasis. Important. Thing. Not. COME. Home. Important thing... home.

"The important thing isn't that you came home?" she repeated, puzzled. He nodded, gestured for her to continue. "The important thing is... being home?" A sigh, and his eyes closed in frustration as he shook his head. "I can get you paper..."

He snorted angrily, shaking his head again, rising and pacing briefly. Behind him, Scarlett rose, watching him. He glared at the floor. He couldn't be carrying a pad and paper around for basic conversation... and he didn't want to write this. He wanted to sayit. To tell her. Needed to tell her, but the signs swam in his mind... finally, he turned and tried again.

Important, he signed. Then, inspired, he reached out, cupped her face in one hand, nodded at her, then lay the other hand on his heart, nodded again, then signed, home. He could see her working through the message, her lips parting slightly as she thought.

"The important thing..." she started, her voice soft, slow. "isn't that you came home. The important thing..." She glanced at him for confirmation, and he pointed at her directly. Her face cleared, and she smiled - a brightness that suffused her whole being. "The important thing is having someone to come back to?"

He shook his head, stepping close, bowed his head until their foreheads met, touched. They stood that way for a moment, until he pointed to her once more, resting his finger on her heart, feeling it beat through the fabric of her shirt.

The important thing is having YOU to come home to. Having somebody who cares.

He swore he'd be able to tell her that one day... but for now, he sensed she understood. Slowly, he wrapped his arms around her, felt hers encircle him, never breaking the contact of their foreheads. They stood that way for a long moment, eyes closed, breathing as one. He could have happily stood there forever, absorbing the warmth of her body, the scent of her... but he stepped back, lifted the hand that held a tiny box. She flushed, embarrassed.

"Oh. I'm sorry... what is it?" He rolled his eyes, gestured to her.

Open it!

Nestled inside, packed in tissue paper, she found... a shell casing? Yes, it was certainly a shell casing, high caliber brass, but it had been etched with Japanese characters she could not read. It dangled from an antique brass chain, like the chain holding any soldier's dog tags. Its end was plugged by a matching brass cap, also etched with a symbol. Snake Eyes touched the symbols, then gestured to her, signing the meanings.

Protection. Thought. Memory. Connection. Distance.

Strength.

Love.

The last symbol was etched on he cap. He tapped it again, then mimed unscrewing it.

Scarlett twisted off the tiny cap, gasping in surprise as a small scroll of rice paper tumbled into her palm. Snake Eyes stepped back, giving her space to read. The handwriting was his own firm print, neat and compact.

Red -
I am with you every step of the way. It IS good to know somebody cares.
Strength and love.
- S

Trembling fingers rolled the tiny paper back into its scroll, returned it to the casing, capped it. When her eyes finally sought and found his, there were tears in them. Snake Eyes stepped forward again, gently taking the necklace from her, stepping behind her and looping it around her neck, fastening the clasp. When he stepped back in front of her, she had one hand over the shell casing pendant, holding it to her heart. He tilted his head, signed a phrase he'd learned specifically for this moment.

Just bring it back to me, okay?

Her response was somewhere between a laugh and a sob as she flung herself at him, her arms going around his neck, joyfully strong. He smiled, his arms acting without volition, crushing her to him, one hand finding the nape of her neck where his fingers twined into the luxuriant burnished mass of her hair, feeling its silk against his own ragged scars as he pressed his cheek to her. His skin seemed hyperattuned to every brush against hers, echoing the sensation of their last embrace, so long ago now.

Unbidden, the words of Khalikhan pierced his mind, bringing with them the glacier chill of the mountaintop... Does the stoic warrior have a heart? A pulse? In the end, is the killing machine a man? You disappoint me. You may be human, after all.

He felt Scarlett pull back, perhaps sensing that momentary tension, his body's echo to the words in his mind. Her eyes were puzzled, asking the question she would not speak. Those eyes, so blue and deep enough to fall into, so inviting... Was the killing machine a man? Hell yes. A man who wanted desperately to kiss this beautiful woman in his arms, to kiss her and keep kissing her, and...

No.

God, I'm gonna regret this... But still, no. It wouldn't be fair to her. There was too much he hadn't told her, too much he couldn't share. Not yet.

He stepped backwards. He knew it hurt her, cut her like a dull blade, the distance between them - the distance she tried so hard to bridge. For each hesitant step she took forward, he took a step away - maintaining that space, and he couldn't explain to her why he HAD to. Couldn't explain why she couldn't be there, be with him, the way they both wanted. He knew she blamed herself for that.

But it's not her fault. He almost felt it would be kinder... more honorable... to cut her loose. He could do it. He probably should. She'd hate him for it - he'd see to it that she did - and that would be it, then. She still had Duke, after all. Wouldn't she be happier with Duke? With what he could give her, with what he could be FOR her...? Duke wouldn't have to be watching the shadows, wondering...

Duke wouldn't be awake nights remembering that it was his feelings for this strong, passionate, beautiful woman that put her in danger every day he allowed her to keep caring for him.

"No." The sound of her voice startled him - the tone, so firm that she might as well be on duty, and the glint in her eyes as she insisted he look directly at her. She'd grasped both his hands tight, and she tugged on them slightly - not to draw him closer, but to hold his attention. There was something in her expression that made him wonder, for a moment, how much his own had revealed to her...

Even that face can register emotion, Khallikhan had said.

"Don't." The single syllable, her voice softer now, but no less determined. "You need your space. I get that. But you are NOT bolting on me this time. You can have as much space as you need. As much time. I wish you didn't have to... but... I'm not going anywhere." And she released his hands, dropped her gaze, stepped back. "Not... not unless you want me to."

The slight catch in her voice almost undid him; she was keeping the tears back by sheer force of will. There was a knot at the base of his throat, and for once he was glad he didn't have a voice to betray him. She knew... somehow, she knew, or at least sensed, that struggle within him - and here she was being the strong one, giving him permission to send her away. And if he did... she'd stay gone, this time. It would be the end.

But he didn't want her to.

The realization came to him then, and with it some sense of relief. He didn't want her to go anywhere... not without him. And if she meant what she said... if she truly understood... well, it still wasn't kind to her, but it wasn't something he was inflicting on her, then. And if he knew one thing about this woman, it was that she never said anything she didn't mean. She didn't like it, the space between them... but she understood. As best she could, she understood.

And someday, someday soon, he would be able to tell her... everything.

Her eyes were still on him, waiting for his reply. I'm not going anywhere. Not unless you want me to.

His hands formed the sign almost without conscious thought. Never.

He framed her face with both hands then, tried to say with his eyes what he couldn't say aloud, then leaned in and kissed her gently, tenderly, on the forehead. When he drew back, her eyes were unreadable. He stroked her cheek as he stepped away, then reached out to touch the pendant. It was warm to the touch... a living warmth.

He turned on his heel, left the room. Only when he had returned to his own quarters, the door firmly shut behind him and locked, did he allow himself to turn and softly, softly pound his forehead against the wall.

Damn, damn, damn...


Three corridors away, Scarlett sat curled on her bunk, regarding the pendant dangling from her fingers. Music, muted by the walls, filtered in to her - Mainframe and his 80s CDs, she thought. Footsteps passed her door without pausing, and she knew none would - not tonight. She caressed the smooth brass with her thumb. She wouldn't take it off... it felt a part of her already. The message inside was etched in her memory.

She couldn't understand what had gone wrong, but sensed... what? Something had come between them, broken the moment... but this time, she thought, it had been different. This time, she'd nearly lost him for good. She didn't know how she knew, but even now, thinking back on it, her heart chilled slightly. How could he come here, give her this token... and then want to run? But... no. It wasn't that he wanted to run. He didn't, and she was sure of that now. There was more to it... something he couldn't explain, something she could almost feel herself. Almost, but not quite.

Sighing, she slid under the covers, turning her face to the wall.

Damn, damn, damn...

-00-


The core of the GI Joe fantasy is loyalty. The fantasy isn't about shooting at Cobra,
the fantasy is about 'If I get left behind, Snake Eyes will come and get me.'
-Larry Hama, CHUD Interview