TITLE:  This Way (1/1)

AUTHOR:  Angel Hungerford

EMAIL:  anna@zhadum.com

DISCLAIMER:  Scarlett and Snake-Eyes aren't mine, more's the pity.  They belong to Devil's Due and Hasbro, and probably other people with lawyers.  I don't have any lawyers, just this story.  So there.

FEEDBACK:  Would give me something to think about besides finals.

DISTRIBUTION:  FF.net, list archives.  Otherwise, please ask.

PAIRING:  S/SE

SUMMARY:  Five years down the line, a decision is made.

SPOILERS:  Implied for issue #4.

NOTE:  Call it mid-finals de-stressing.  (You'll notice that I wasn't even able to go the whole length of the story without thinking about Shakespeare.)

NOTE THE SECOND:  It's an unabashedly sappy songfic.  Lyrics from "This Way," by Jewel, off of the overwhelmingly songfic-inspiring album of the same name.  (Yeah, watch for a F/J piece if I survive finals intact.)

NOTE THE THIRD:  The aforementioned Shakespeare reference is from the kick-ass opening speech of Richard III.

Love be still, Love be sweet

Don't you dare Change a thing

I want to photograph you with my mind

To feel how I feel now all the time

Scarlett was still sleeping.  He'd watched the sun slip in and start creeping across the room hours ago; it was halfway across the bed now, highlighting the golden tone of her complexion and bringing out the myriad shades of red in her hair: auburn and cinnamon, roan and amber, sienna and gold.  The sheet was draped across her, hiding enough to be interesting.  There were dark circles under her eyes, her right leg was mottled black-and-blue, and she had angry red scratches across both feet..

She was breathtakingly beautiful, he thought, and drew the pencil carefully across the page to capture the exact line of her jaw.  He wished, again, that he had better tools than the pencil from the desk drawer and a piece of hotel stationary, but he'd always been the type to make do.  The Gideon Bible was, in fact, currently doing duty as a flat surface.

People were startled to discover he drew.  Of course, people were always startled to discover anything about him, like the silent, scarred ninja was all there should be.  Like he hadn't had a childhood, or gone to high school, or done anything before the military.  The Birth of Snake-Eyes, he thought, mildly amused at the mental image of himself on the half-shell, masked and menacing.

The sun had slipped a little farther across the bed, lending light to the rings on the nightstand.  The diamond reflected it back in fractured rainbows.  Perhaps it was this that woke her, because she stirred, eyes fluttering open.  She was searching for him before she came fully awake, and the fact amazed him yet again.  In your eyes, I am forever beautiful, he thought, marveling.

Say that you'll stay Forever this way

Forever and forever, that we'll never have to change

Don't move, don't breathe

Don't change, don't leave

And promise me, Say

You'll stay

Oh, we'll stay This way

"Good morning," she said, smiling as she caught sight of him.

He put down the pencil and let the book and sketch rest against his knee long enough to sign,  "Good morning, beautiful creature."

"Been awake long?"

"A while," he shrugged.  "Watching you."

She glanced out the French doors to the beach beyond.  "Surely there's something more interesting to watch than me sleeping."

"Only rarely."

"Let me see," she coaxed, noticing the sketch.

"Not done yet."  He firmly put it on the desk, face-down, and put the Bible on top of it.

"Then come back to bed." The invitation in her eyes was clear.  What the hell – it was their honeymoon, after all, even if it was being taken to celebrate their fifth anniversary.  It wouldn't be a real honeymoon without spending half the day in bed.

I get afraid, Don't think ahead

Let's just stay this way, in bed

Feels so good inside your arms

Home is everywhere you are

He loved her, so completely that it sometimes still surprised him.

Two decades and more, he'd known this vivid, complicated woman; two decades he'd loved her.  She was looking up at him through lowered lashes, asking without words if he wanted to give it another go, and just the sight of it, of her, was enough to make him pull her close again.

Drowning in her, he was, and he'd been doing it long enough that she'd somehow become the thing he needed to breathe. 

She whispered his name, head thrown back, with that hair that was itself an incitement to lust spilled across her shoulders and caressing the tops of her breasts.  Calling attention to them, he thought, and let his attention be called.

Say that you'll stay Forever this way

Forever and forever, that we'll never have to change

Don't move, don't breathe

Don't change, don't leave

And promise me, Say

You'll stay

Oh, we'll stay This way

They were actually walking on the beach outside the French doors for the first time since they'd arrived, intertwined fingers making the separation a little less harsh.  "Love you," she said, sounding almost careless about it.

"I love you," he echoed, one-handed.

"It's so peaceful here."  She stared down the beach, where a few sunbathers were sprawled.  Kids were chasing each other, shrieking, except for one diligent architect with a bucket and shovel.  A guy was throwing a Frisbee for his dog.  Peaceful, normal, simple.  "This is what it's all for."

Moments like this? he wondered, and she seemed to hear him in that way she had.

"Not us, I mean.  But that."  She pointed.  "So kids can build sand castles, and people can fall asleep on their towels and get sunburned.  So guys can play with their dogs.  So moms can yell at their kids to come out of the water, already, so they can go home.  Normal stuff."

He thought about it for a few minutes, and then reclaimed his hand.  "No normal for us?"

She laughed, somewhat ruefully.  "I'm not sure what I'd do with normal if you handed it to me, love.  I told Allie that, when Joe was disbanded – that I'm like Richard III, unfit for peace."

"Did you spend your days contemplating your deformity, then?" he asked, looking over at her with mischief in his eyes.  "Or were you determined to prove a villain?"

"I wouldn't make a very good villain, I don't think.  I've been a good guy too long.  And since I seem to be rather lacking of deformities, I suppose I'd better keep fighting the good fight."

"Are you sure?"

They stopped after he asked that, standing in the sand where the tide kissed their bare toes.  The tropical sun was brilliant but bearable.  The entire conversation, there on the beach at St. Bart's, struck him as a little absurd.

"I'm sure," she said finally.  "I've thought about it, especially since Jaye left to have their moppet.  You know, is that the kind of thing I want?  Baby showers and morning sickness, first teeth and first words and first days of school, the whole lot."  She lapsed into silence.

She had clearly thought about it, and it worried him a little that she hadn't talked to him about it.  The subject troubled her.

"It's not me," she said finally.  "I'm just not mom material.  Can you imagine how much therapy my kids would need?"  She laughed a little.  "I'll just stick with being Aunt Shana, who can hand them back at the end of the day."

Is that what she really believes, or is she just saying that?  For me?

"Is that selfish of me?  I mean, we haven't talked about this in a long time – do you want kids?"

He mused on it for awhile.  They started walking again, past the kids and the sunbathers and the dog.  He even watched the sand-castle child, solemnly collecting seashells to decorate his now rather impressive edifice, wondering if he wanted someone like that in his life.

Blonde and serious, carefully doing katas with us in the morning. Red-haired and merry, climbing a tree to prove she can.  A little boy with her smile.  A little girl with Terry's eyes…  The thought of his lost sister almost changed his mind, almost breathed life into the hypothetical child in his head.  Then he thought about the crowd of nieces and nephews that so overwhelmed him at Christmas, how Scarlett got tongue-tied and confused dealing with Jaye and Flint's small son, and how quickly he got bored dealing with him.

"Not really," he admitted.

"It feels like a betrayal, doesn't it?  I mean, it was okay when kids were a 'maybe someday.'  When they become a 'probably not,' it feels funny.  At least it did for me."

The truth of the matter was, it did.  Somewhere in his head there was still an imaginary list of Things to Do in Life, and despite the fact that most of his life had been lived well away from the list, after the 'Get Married' box had been checked off five years ago, the list had popped up again.  'Have Kids' was next on the list, but when?  He hadn't mentioned it, because if she took time off to have a baby, he'd be losing his trusted partner, and it wasn't selfish if he didn't talk about it.

"It does."

"But, hey, we've gone this far just you and me against the world, right?  We'll just keep going."

They'd come back level with their patio at some point during the conversation, and he caught up her hand and nodded at the door in suggestion.

The smile she gave him was all the answer he'd ever need.

Don't move, don't breathe

Don't change, don't leave

Promise me we'll always be

This kind, this sweet

This good to me

Promise me

We'll always be