Author's Notes:

I played with the idea a few times of re-writing parts of Arashikage to show Snake Eyes' point of view. Ultimately, I decided not to because the Soft Master explains a lot of it when he tries to bring Storm Shadow back to his senses.

This, however, he didn't touch on. Partly because some of it hadn't happened yet, partly because Snake Eyes isn't the kind to share these kind of things.

I'm writing this as a challenge to myself; I don't do romance much, so considering this little plot bunny seems willing enough, I figured I should give it a go for practice.

Thank you for reading, and please review. I'm a feedback addict.

Chapter 1: Prevention

Scarlett let out a grunt when she slammed into the wall of the dojo, courtesy of Snake Eyes throwing her into it. He had adjusted his throw so that she'd hit with her back first rather than her head, but he hadn't held back otherwise and the impact hurt.

She got back up and signalled for a time out. She needed to catch her breath, and she wanted to know what was going on in her lover's head lately; he'd gotten almost dangerous in their training sessions. She had a theory, but since it boiled down to her boyfriend thinking she was incompetent, she preferred to think there was another explanation.

She just barely blocked the ninja's next kick, aimed at the side of her head. She cursed but had no time to formulate a proper protest, as Snake Eyes kept coming at her, continuing the spar exactly as if she hadn't called for a break. She desperately blocked and dodged for several minutes, unable to find the smallest hole in his defence, and eventually found herself face down on the floor, both her arms extended painfully backwards and Snake Eyes' foot pressing down on her kidneys. She was released faster than she could surrender.

She rolled and sat in the lotus position, scowling at her opponent. "Did you forget what a time out is?" she asked. "What's gotten into you lately?"

The ninja motioned for her to get back up, but she crossed her arms and refused to budge. "Not until you tell me what's going on. It's not that I don't want to get better, but this is getting ridiculous! Out of everyone on the team, I'm the one who needs the least training from you, but I'm the one who's black and blue all the time! I'm starting to think you figure I can't look after myself."

Snake Eyes visibly tensed and signed in jerky movements that clearly conveyed how angry he was that indeed she couldn't.

The red head's face went from annoyed to murderous fury in half a second flat. "EXCUSE ME?"

Snake Eyes shook his head and started signing again, this time a bit more calmly in an attempt to defuse his girlfriend. He started by explaining that the ninja they had fought at Destro's castle was known to him and extremely dangerous.

Scarlett rolled her eyes. "Yes, I kind of gathered that you knew each other; he made it sort of obvious. I'm pretty sure I even mentioned that to you on our way out of there."

Snake Eyes impatiently signed again that the Cobra ninja was extremely dangerous and went on to say that the man likely wanted to kill him and preferably hurt him as well.

"He's got a grudge against you? Why? What does he think you did?"

Snake Eyes sighed but, realizing Scarlett would not cooperate without an explanation, sat across from her and told her how her kidnapper had been his best friend, had welcomed him into his family, and then had been driven to murder by jealousy. He explained that he had hoped for years that Tommy was innocent despite all the evidence against him, but that his working for Cobra confirmed that his former sword brother had indeed changed that much; that he had in fact turned into a cold blooded murderer.

Scarlett frowned when her boyfriend stopped signing.

"Snake Eyes, you could probably fool most people into thinking that's all there is to this story just by telling half of it like that, but that's not going to work on your old pal Scarlett."

He stiffened. She sagged.

"You don't have to tell me the rest," she said with some difficulty, "but I hope you know it's not your fault he went bad like that. There are rotten apples in the World, and you know what? They start out as fresh apples just like anybody else. They just turn at some point, and even when they blame everyone else around, it's almost always their own fault."

The ninja shook his head. He just sat there for a few minutes, and Scarlett waited. Finally, he started signing again. This time, he spoke at length of being shot and carried back to safety in the middle of a storm of enemy fire; he told her in details how the Young Master had watched him get better than him at almost everything without being able to devote enough time to training to catch back up because he was the clan's main source of income and had to work long hours; he told her about the man hunt launched by the Soft Master to capture or kill Tommy following his murdering the Hard Master, and then he stopped again.

Scarlett's eyes widened. She could read her lover like a book, and the tension in every line of his body right now, along with the way his signing had become slightly less fluid as he went through his story, told her the end of that story as well as any word or sign could.

"You found him," she said, "but you couldn't believe he had done it, and you felt you owed him for saving your life in the war, so you let him get away."

He nodded curtly and got back up, gesturing her to do the same.

She swallowed. She wanted to say something, but what more was there to say? She could tell him he couldn't have known his sword brother would go on to join a terrorist organization responsible for hundreds of deaths; she could tell him that he had acted honourably at the time, using his best judgement with the information he had available to him; she could tell him that not being a fortune teller didn't make him a bad person… she could tell him a lot of things, but what would the point have been? He already knew all the standard platitudes. They wouldn't change anything to the situation.

And the situation was that right or wrong, Snake Eyes thought the Cobra ninja would target him, possibly through her, and that at her current skill level, she'd be easy picking. And just to top off these worries with a dose of guilt, her lover had to live with the knowledge that he could have eliminated the threat years ago and had just chosen not to.

She knew better than to think she could talk him out of feeling responsible for their enemy's existence, but if she couldn't help him deal with regretting the mercy he had shown his once best friend, she could at the very least alleviate his worries.

"Okay, buddy," she said, getting up and into a fighting stance again. "Let's do this."

It was the last time they talked about the reason for the intense training; there was no need to discuss it anymore, so why waste the energy? If Snake Eyes had taught her anything, it was that action spoke louder than words. So, instead of arguing, she went along with it and worked harder than she ever had, knowing that every lesson he taught her was aimed at making sure that if she ever ran into her kidnapper again, she'd walk away – even if her lover's former friend and brother didn't.

She did try to approach the subject again outside of their lessons, however. She tried the platitudes, even though she knew she'd never chase his regrets, because at least it was a way to show him she didn't blame him.