Disclaimer: G.I. Joe and all associated characters and concepts are property of Hasbro Inc. and IDW comics. I'm just one of a large family of fans who likes telling family stories – no profit needed, no profit earned.
Author's Note: A few folks have commented that they figured out that the wolf is Snake Eyes. Well, yes and no. In meditative healing, particularly in the ninja tradition, the meditator is simply the channel for the energy of healing. It is bad form to try to direct the energy - one simply sends it forth to do its work. As a result, while the wolf DOES represent the healing energy Snake Eyes is channeling through his meditative state, he is not at all aware of the form it takes in Scarlett's mind. Upon waking, he has no knowlege of the wolf Scarlett met in her dream-state, nor of what was said between them. The chimera, by the by, is not Scarlett's fear of the man nor of her inability to deal with the memories... the chimera of her dream is the fear of facing Snake Eyes, as she blames herself for hurting him. In wounding and healing the wolf, in accepting his companionship and listening to him, she is allowing the healing earth energy to strengthen her, allowing her to face the chimera of a wakeful Snake Eyes - and whatever may happen after that.
GATES OF SLEEP by Catwings 1026
Scarlett came awake in an instant, eyes snapping open, as though some sound had jarred her into wakefulness. It took her a moment to remember exactly where she was – she was aware first of the ache in her neck where her head had been tilted at an odd angle, then of the sore spot in the base of her spine. Everything else seemed unreal, however… distant, dreamlike. Where was the forest? She'd last remembered the forest, and the wolf. The blue-eyed wolf.
You must face your chimera… Already it was fading, as dreams will; she remembered a sense of something large and menacing. Something that she had to face. But… the wolf said that I couldn't fight it. That if I tried, I wouldn't win. For a moment, reality seemed to shift around her, and she experienced a moment of confusion. The hospital room, the chair, the sounds – all seemed distant, removed. Then, as her awareness grew, the real world asserted itself. It was just a dream. And she was awake now.
She glanced about the room, saying a silent prayer that she wouldn't find Duke sitting somewhere behind her… that would be too embarrassing, after sending him off the way she had. But no, she was alone in the room, except for Snake Eyes. Not even a doctor in sight. She breathed a sigh of relief.
Then she turned to the bed, and flinched.
Except for a very much awake Snake Eyes.
A very much awake Snake Eyes who was watching her intently… with very, very blue eyes. Eyes that were… familiar, somehow. Her eyes narrowed, then widened.
The wolf… how could he have the wolf's eyes?
Snake Eyes had wakened to the gentle throbbing of his face under the bandages, and the sensation of someone close by his bedside. He opened his eyes the merest slit, but held his head still. The corpsman, occupied in changing his IV drip, did not notice until he opened his eyes fully.
"Mornin'. How's the pain?" Snake Eyes held up two fingers, then five, and the corpsman nodded. "Two out of five? Good. A fresh drip should keep it that way. Doc will be checking on you soon."
Another sound, a soft mutter, drew Snake Eyes' attention to the other side of the bed. Scarlett, her head tilted at what must be a most uncomfortable angle, slept in the rigid chair. She frowned in her sleep, muttered again. The corpsman, following his gaze, smiled.
"Been there since you got in," he said. "Gave the fella who wanted her to take a break hell, my buddy said. Your lady?"
No. Snake Eyes shook his head without turning, eyes moving over the sleeping figure.
"No? Dang, man, you got yourself one hot looking friend, then."
Now Snake Eyes turned to face the corpsman again, who, finding himself fixed in an unsettling glare, had the good grace to flush and mutter something more polite under his breath before taking his leave. Snake Eyes pushed himself up to a sitting position, cast about, and found the pen and paper on the stand by his bed. He scratched out a quick note, turned the pad down on his lap, and settled back to wait.
He had watched many people sleep in his time. Too often, it was part of a mission. Too often, it was in the moments before a very sharp blade assured that the sleeper never woke. He found his eyes drawn to the base of her neck, unconsciously identifying the location of the cartoid arteries, noting the smooth whiteness of her skin, noting where the cut would need to be made for a quick death. Shaking himself slightly, he frowned beneath the bandages.
Old habits die hard.
He allowed his eyes to move to her face, to the slight creasing of her brow even in sleep, as though some dream unsettled her. The crease became a frown as he watched, and her hand twitched upward, warding off something unseen by waking eyes. Snake Eyes had the momentary impulse to catch her hand… but held himself back.
Her eyes flashed wide in that moment, suddenly coming awake, and she sat up, wincing as she scanned the room. The dream-unease faded as wakefulness grew, replaced with a slight wariness. She looked away from him first, as though seeking someone else… but her eyes returned to him soon enough, and when she met his gaze, when she realized that he was fully awake and watching her, she twitched. A spasm of… guilt? embarrassment? something else?... crossed her face. He wished he could smile at her, put her at ease somehow, but all he could do was pass her the pad of paper.
Good morning. Sleep well?
She flushed deeper now, dropped her eyes for a moment, her lips seeming about to speak. Then, resolute, she looked at him again, fully in the face now. Their eyes met and held, his blue, hers green, and he watched as hers widened briefly, then half-squinted as though in confusion, or as if she were trying to place something in her mind. It was not his face she was focusing on… not the bandages, not what lay beneath. His eyes – she was focused entirely on his eyes, hers searching for… something. He tilted his head slightly.
"Your eyes," she finally said, responding to his silent question and shaking her head as though to clear it. "I… you…" She looked at him again, her gaze guarded now; he could see her rephrasing what she'd been about to say – and he sensed that Scarlett was not one to be at a loss for words, ever. "You have… nice eyes," she concluded, somewhat lamely. There was more to it than that, but whatever it was, she wouldn't say. Not now, anyway.
He dropped his chin and tilted his head slightly towards her, looking at her from an angle - if he'd been able to raise his eyebrows, he would have. Body language translation – oooohkay. Right...
He recalled one of the few ASL hand signs he'd picked up somewhere and touched his lips, bringing the hand away like blowing a kiss. Then he indicated her, pointing, and held up two fingers.
Thanks. You, too.
He reached over, took one of her hands, squeezed gently, trying to convey to her what he could not say aloud. Hey. It's going to be all right. Really.
She slipped her hand away, too quickly, folding her arms across herself, looking at the floor. She drew a breath, a shuddering breath, and he could feel her summoning courage.
You must face your chimera, the wolf had told her. But facing that monster would be a hundred, a thousand times easier than what she faced now. Hell, she'd even take on Chimera-the-man again, one on one. Fighting, she understood. She knew she could fight. But this…
He seemed to be so very calm. At the very least, she'd expected to have to battle her way past his physical pain… at the worst, deal with his anger, with blame directed rightfully at her. Anger, too, was something she could deal with. She'd had three older brothers, after all, who dealt with anger in typically forthright male ways, even to their younger sister… and she'd had a sister and mother who excelled in emotional warfare of a subtler sort. So she knew anger, and knew how to guard herself against it.
But Snake Eyes gave no indication of being angry with her. That set her off-balance… was he hiding it? She couldn't see his face, but his body language, his eyes, none of it spoke to repressed anger. Why?
She was trembling now, and hating herself for it… for the weakness, for the guilt. If, at least, he was angry with her, if he showed his anger, she would be able to put that wall up between them – apologize, then walk away. Let things work themselves out in kind.
But this… this is worse, somehow. It's like facing down a monster that's standing perfectly still… not knowing what it can do, or when it will charge, or what will set it off…
Snake Eyes waited for her to look back up at him, did his best to adjust his body language to convey nothing but relaxed attention. He knew what she was going to say, sensed it, and just wanted her to get it out and over with… he could tell, just by looking at her tensed shoulders, her knotted fingers, that this was hard for her. She'd sat by his side all night. She'd pulled him from the pit when his strength was almost gone, then held him until the blackness took him. And still, speaking to him now was harder than any of that had been for her.
Go on, he nodded, when she finally looked at him again. In her turn, she nodded back, moistened her lips, and spoke.
"I… I'm not really sure how to say this. It's hard to know what… or how. But… I want to thank you. Thank you for being there. With Chimera. He… I…"
Her voice was trembling. Was she frightened? This warrior woman, frightened? If so… of what? Was she expecting him to be angry with her? To blame her?
Not entirely unreasonable to expect… if I was anyone else, I might be, I suppose.
She was forcing herself onward. "I also want to say… to say that I'm sorry. It's my fault you're here. My fault that… your face…"
She looked so utterly miserable, her face drawn and pale, her voice sounding so thin and strained, that he couldn't bear to hear her stumbling over each word. That could make him angry, if he let it… the faltering, the fear in her. It was beneath them, both of them, soldier to soldier.
Any soldier knows shit happens. Somehow, though, he sensed that wouldn't make her feel any better, if he reminded her of it. He snapped, softly, to get her attention. The he gestured, miming the pencil and paper, took the pad back when she passed it over.
Not. Your. Fault. he wrote, carefully forming each word. Reading beside him, Scarlett shook her head, beginning to protest.
"It IS my fault. Snake Eyes… if you hadn't been there, if you hadn't been trying to help me…" He fixed her with a look that cut her off midsentence, then underlined each word he'd written several times, snapping the pencil tip in his emphasis.
NOT! YOUR. FAULT.
You would have done the same for me, he added after a moment. Or for Duke, for Stalker, for our team. If I was in your chair right now, if you were in this bed, would you be blaming me?
She fell silent, eyes dropping to her lap, to her own knitted fingers. It wasn't a question she had considered. She tried to speak, but broke off when the words refused to come. Finally, a whisper – painfully hoarse, achingly miserable. "But… your face…"
He considered this for a moment, pondering which course to pursue, settled on one that made his lips curve slightly beneath the bandages. Damn, that hurt… but he couldn't, he wouldn't, let on to Scarlett. He scribbled briefly, then handed her the pad.
Never that good looking to begin with. He watched her mouth the words, brow furrowing, and could see her nearly accepting the joke, only to have the guilt subsume her features again. He took the pad back, wrote again, placed it in her hands. And they say chicks dig a guy with a few scars.
At that, she snorted an involuntarily laugh – the reaction of a girl with too many older brothers, of a woman who spent most of her waking time in the company of men, and when she looked at him again, there was a faint sparkle to her eyes that had not been there a moment before… and a tiny smile, just a bit sad, but still a smile.
"They do, huh?"
He nodded once, solemnly. Of course they do.
"So… we're friends now?" He sighed inwardly. How to respond to that? She'd need time to let go of the guilt, the grief. It was still there, in her voice, behind her eyes. She'd need time to learn that he meant what he'd said, to learn to trust him the way he knew, deeply and intuitively, he could trust her.
He could sense that her qi, her life force, was clouded now – but beneath the fog of self-blame and doubt, it was strong, steady, unwavering. The clouds around her would lift, given time, and when they did – she would shine. She would give her life for her friends, for her family, this one. She would be a good friend to have… given time.
He held out his hand to her, palm up, not demanding she take it, not siezing hers… offering. After a moment, she slipped her hand into his, allowed his fingers to close around hers, a gentle, affirming grip.
Yes. Friends now, the pressure said. He squeezed once, nodded. You'll see.
Scarlett smiled, as though he'd spoken aloud, and lowered her eyes… but she did not release his hand.