September 13, 2012

Chapter 9: Wings

Spring was pushing through and slowly forcing out winter. In Georgia, that meant cool mornings and lazy afternoons. Sitting on the sofa with her feet tucked under her was Scarlett O'Hara. She was concentrating on an article that was splayed all over Section B1, the hard hitting part of the news. All serenity was abandoned when Scarlett grunted and huffed and growled, crumpling the newspaper into a crude ball. She chucked the rumpled newspaper across the living room. Snake Eyes looked down at the spherical-looking grey and white paper ball now at his feet. He held two mugs of coffee in his hands; confused at the pouting his girlfriend was displaying.

Scarlett's arms were crossed tight, mumbling incoherently through clenched teeth. Snake Eyes eased onto the couch, careful not to spill any of the piping hot liquid. He tried to pass her a mug, but she continued to stare menacingly at the wall in front of her. So, Snake Eyes patiently waited for the redhead to do something, his hand still stretched out with the offerings of fresh brewed coffee. As the mug reached his lips, Scarlett burst from the couch and retrieved the wadded up ball and un-crinkled it, so the ninja could read it.

In all the mashing, the article was creased and smudged beyond recognition. Scarlett by then had accepted the beverage Snake Eyes had prepared, slowly drinking it. Peering from the corner of his eye, the silent Joe feigned reading of the report, counting on Scarlett to soon share what had gotten her so wound up so early in the morning. He was not disappointed. The captain thrust the coffee back into Snake Eyes' hand, the contents sloshing about and over the cup. Snake Eyes screwed his eyes shut, but never made a peep when the burning droplets landed on the bare part of his leg that his boxers didn't cover.

"They're – they're – they're making a biography of him! They're writing about his life story, Snake," she ranted, pacing back and forth. "I mean, after all he has done, some crazy person wants to tell his side of the story. He doesn't get a side. He gets nothing! He's dead. Why would it matter? He's a horri-" Scarlett cupped her hands over her nose and mouth and closed her eyes. She turned away and then back to him. In a softer, wounded voice, "Better people suffered and died because of him. I mean," she paused and gestured to the man she loved. "You're . . ."

Snake Eyes looked about the room for a place to put the mugs down, but with only the floor, he'd have to trust they wouldn't spill on the new carpet. With their having finished painting the living room and settling everything in, they really needed to invest in a coffee table. Nonetheless, he moved to where his girlfriend was sobbing. He brought her to him, wrapping his arms around her. She was crying and even though his skin was marred and vibrant red like the flames that caused all his deformations, he could still feel the cool wetness of her tears as they soaked through his t-shirt.

"It's not fair," she mumbled. She was hitching and desperately trying to quall all her tear-shedding, but the absurdity that a monster was justified a slice of forgiveness was deplorable and too overwhelming.

-G.I. Joe-

Snake Eyes had somehow led Scarlett back to the couch. The mugs were congealing from lost heat and desertion. They were laying stretched out on the couch, Scarlett tightly tucked into her boyfriend. The ninja was oblivious to the time or agenda he had set for himself. For days Scarlett had been buzzing about cleaning, organizing, planning socials (which even though the Joes were still close, they really didn't do social outings on a normal basis) all because of him. Not too long ago, Snake Eyes finally consented to the idea of having the past be the past. He was going to have facial and body reconstruction to gain some societal normalcy; enough to go outside without a mask.

Scarlett was obsessive on her own, by nature. In the last week or two, she was all over and on top of everything. While he was concerned that perhaps she was hushing up a surprise, it was in reality a result of the upcoming surgery. She had been stonewalling her fear about the operation, and now it just couldn't be contained anymore. As her breathing stilled and they lay there in their own worlds, a small rapping came from their balcony.

-G.I. Joe-

Snake Eyes gently placed the blue jay into the shoe box Scarlett had procured for it. It was clear the wing was broken, but it's arrival was mysterious. Living on one of the higher floors of their apartment complex, they were puzzled by how the bird, who had a broken wing, managed to land on their balcony. Decidedly they dressed to bring the bird to the proper authorities, so it could be treated and cared for.

-G.I. Joe-

"I'm sorry, but we have no more room here, and our foster care is full. Unless you care for the blue jay, she will have to be put down." The veterinarian's words were cold, but honest. The place was packed with animals, suffering from illness and other serious wounds. Snake Eyes was still holding the blue jay with the broken spirit in his hand. It sat, head flitting back and forth as if it appeared to be listening in on its own fate. "I'll be back in a few. If you change your mind, than I will give you some of the antibiotics that it will need to make a clean recovery."

-G.I. Joe-

"No, no way, it's too much with everything." Scarlett tried to further her point with quick gesticulations, but Snakes Eyes had been trained by the best and so his resilience persisted until he won. "Fine."

It's not like he broke out into a victory dance or anything of the like, but she knew he was celebrating mentally. He carried the bird outside to their jeep, his hand against his stomach, cupped so the bird could rest comfortably. Scarlett could have smacked the looks of mirth on the receptions' faces as they had watched the scene unfold between the ninja and his pupil.

Two hundred and forty-seven dollars later and Scarlett O'Hara and her boyfriend were foster parents to a blue jay the size of softball.

-G.I. Joe-

Snake Eyes' procedure had gone swimmingly. He was resting at home after a week of supervision at the intensive care unit. His was still bandaged, and fresh applications were a must every few hours. It was astounding when Scarlett was reminded of the recovery time Snake Eyes would go through before being cleared by doctors. But, knowing that he would have the confidence to leave with her and not have to be covered from head to toe was all the motivation they both needed to keep moving forward.

Their patient was also recuperating nicely. It's small scrape on its wing was a thin scab, drying out and flaking away in some places. The bird, though, had not stretched its wing. Scarlett had been warned it may take a month or two for the bone to mend all the way, even so, Leslie was impassive about risking a fall in order to fly. Oh yeah, though they would deny their attachment to the bird, they were compelled to name her.

"It's weird, Snake, is all. Shouldn't she make some type of attempt."

Snake Eyes, was stretching in the middle of the empty living room, they still had yet to purchase a coffee table; however, a cage, cuddle bone, perch, swing, clip-on mirror, and faux nest later was all described on their latest credit card bill.

He watched as the bird titled her head to the side at a painful angle and then craning its neck the other way. Snake Eyes' skin stretched a fraction too far and he winced, hissing. A stitch or two ripping, earned Snake Eyes the right to add some quiet expletives while Scarlett bandaged him up.

Snake Eyes batted her hands away gently, as he slowly stood and crossed over to the cage. Opening the tiny door, he allowed the bird to rest on his hand and be placed on their carpet. A test tap with its little talons and she scampered after the red head.

Scarlett ran, her bubbling laughter echoing down the hall. "I don't think she likes the competition!" Scarlett darted back into the living room with Leslie hot on her heels. Scarlett circled around Snake Eyes who was sitting with his legs in a butterfly stretch. Laying down on her back, Scarlett sighed. Leslie climbed her way up the captain's shirt, promptly sitting center on her abdomen.

I think she won, Snake Eyes commented, cocking his head at the bird. Don't worry, I won't take off with her. Scarlett busted into fits of laughter again. Leslie's distraught frantic moments from all the turbulence forced her to dismount and return to the silent ninja. Their eyes locked, black little pearls staring into the sapphires ones of the former Arashikage Clan member. Nodding in understanding, he had the small bird clamber onto his finger and lifted the blue jay back to its home.

-G.I. Joe-

It had been closing in on three months when the couple decided that another visit to the animal hospital was necessary. Leslie was still stubbornly against stretching or flying. The wing, after much protest from her, was inspected by the vet. "She's healed," declared the veterinarian.

Hallelujah!

Yet, the question than remained as to why the bird was not flying.

-G.I. Joe-

Scarlett plopped on the couch next to her boyfriend. They were eating shrimp stir fry that Scarlett had concocted the night before. Sitting in the living room – which was a no-no to eat in – they couldn't let go of the perpetual inquiries of Leslie's inability to fly. She was healthy, actually she had grown since starting her recovery. It was a stupefying mystery.

Sitting there, quietly eating, Snake Eyes unwrapped the last of his bandages on his head. Blonde fuzz where his hair plugs were working covered his head like it had once upon a time. His piercing but also soft diligent eyes now cushioned by soft, smooth skin. His smile relaxed and his cheek bones defined, he was the man she never met before, but always knew existed. And finally they shared a kiss and all was forgotten.

-G.I. Joe-

Snake Eyes let the band of his boxer snap as he lay back on the couch with Scarlett. Finally settling in, he peered over at Scarlett, who's eyes were locked onto Leslie sleeping in her cage. If they listened, with baited breath, Leslie's light snoring could be heard slowly wafting through the apartment. Scarlett, now sporting Snake Eyes' shirt and her hair in disarray, squinted in concentration.

The red head was making circles on his bare, newly remodeled chest. Snake Eyes sighed contently reveling in the feel of her touch. That feels wonderful, Scarlett. I wish you had done this before. It's sending chills. As if to prove his point, his whole body shivered just then.

Scarlett corked an eyebrow, but then mourned the ignorant comment. "I did." And it was the sad truth. Most of his body, absent of sensation for the longest time, never realized that the light dancing of her fingers across his skin wasn't new.

-G.I. Joe-

It was disheartening to know that Snake Eyes was just experiencing the full effect of what she had enjoyed and probably took for granted when they touched. In some ways, he was a stranger, harboring the man she loved. It was fresh start for the both of them in different ways.

"You know Snake," she began, "You and Leslie are a lot alike, and not because you also enjoy sun flower seeds." Snake Eyes looked disconcerted, tilting his head at an angle to better see his girlfriend, he listened as she continued. "I mean it! I think I finally understand why she won't fly. She may be healed, but she isn't the same bird. She may "hop" around, but she's different – bottom line. Whatever happened to her, changed her. And that's okay because she's found a home with us." Scarlett sighed, deeply and contently. "Plus, I think I'd miss her . . . she's changed my life, kind of like someone else I know."

Snake Eyes took her words in, agreeing with her deduction about how connected they had become, the three of them. Scarlett pressed her palm on Snake Eye's bare chest for support as she straddled him to eventually slide over him and off the couch. As she sauntered away and towards the kitchen, the ninja watched appreciatively. He not only had a beautiful girlfriend with a nice sway to her hips, but also an insightful one.

"Who knew I would attract so many societal rejects, between you and the Joes and now Leslie, I could run my own center," Scarlett called over her shoulder as she entered the kitchen.

Snake Eyes chuckled. He looked over at Leslie who almost seemed to relax and settle, knowing she was safe now and permitted to stay. As if giving a nod to their generosity, Leslie stretched and spread her wings. Joining her, Snake Eyes stretched his hands above his head and smiled, finally able to spread his wings too.

~ End Chapter 9

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