Author's Note: I went to JoeCon! I had a lovely time, and got to meet the wonderful willwrite4fics and CrystalofEllinon in real life.
Then I got sick, and left Saturday's Casino Night to go into the ER. And let me say . . . New Orleans, I like you, but I do not love your emergency rooms. Anyhoodle, I've been sick as a dog for a while now, and am facing mounting medical bills plus a whole new diet and way of life to deal with the fact that my esophagus wants to kill me. What does this mean? That's right-no writing time.
But I feel like crap for leaving you guys hanging, especially since I love this fandom and its people so much. So as an apology for taking so long on Order Up and RSVP, here's a one-shot I wrote last year but never released to the public before. Warning: Here Be Fluff.
A couple of tidbits regarding this. First, Sean and Terri were created by CrystalofEllinon, and she graciously allowed me to borrow them for this. Go read her stuff. Now.
Second, there's an element of hospital procedure in this-regarding expectant fathers being kept out of delivery rooms-that may seem odd. It's not universal policy, but I'm basing it on my own father's experience in hospital work and at the birth of his five kids, and it's a fact that he's seen numerous fathers kicked out of delivery rooms because they were nervous as hell and making the doctors' job difficult.
Finally, the very last three letters of the story seem random, but it's actually a comic reference. Kudos to those that catch it.
Disclaimer: G.I. Joe and all associated characters and concepts are property of Hasbro Inc, and I derive no profit from this. Please accept this in the spirit with which it is offered—as a work of respect and love, not an attempt to claim ownership or earn money from this intellectual property.
Final Warning: Fluff. Sap. Shameless lack of drama, consequences or danger. Cutesiness. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
Birth of Two Legends
by Totenkinder Madchen
The man known as Snake-Eyes had spent a lot of time learning and practicing methods of inflicting horrific pain on other people. He was a soldier and a ninja: he had no illusions about what he did or his reasons for doing it, and though he doubted there would be a welcome for him in any theoretical next world, most nights he slept soundly enough. The United States government used him as a precision weapon, aimed only at people who really, really deserved what he was going to do to them. As a rule, pain he inflicted was both intentional and agonizing.
Which was why he was currently seated in a hospital waiting room, staring at the carpet and feeling like a complete and utter unpracticed moron. Of the first degree. With honors in idiocy and associate's certificates in stupidity, ineptitude, foolishness, and generally being an inconsiderate human being. This was an attitude which, juxtaposed with the fact that his body from the neck down carried scars from no less than seventy-seven different peoples' attempts to fight back against him, was turning the ninja into a nervous wreck.
Frustrated, he switched his stare from the carpet to the wall. It was painted a soothing yellow and was hung with various brightly-colored informative pictures about basic infant care, ranging from "Don't shake the baby" to "really, don't shake the baby" and a cheerful infographic about postpartum depression. Oh, and not shaking the baby.
"You know," a lightly sarcastic voice cut in, "I get the impression that they don't quite trust new parents."
Tomisaburo "Tommy" Arashikage was sitting on the uncomfortable couch next to Snake-Eyes, looking a little bored—his default expression, to be fair, but which irritated the other man more than a little bit right then. Like Snake-Eyes, he was wearing his workout gi: the two men had been sparring in the yard of the San Francisco Arashikage school when the phone rang, informing Snake that Sgt. O'Hara had checked into the hospital with very definite contractions. Snake-Eyes had attempted to see his wife, but the staff had been extremely firm. "We don't need more new fathers passing out on the floor—or," a nurse had added, eyeing the new father in question, "breaking anyone's arms." Now Snake-Eyes was stuck in the waiting room, and only the presence of Tommy was keeping him from (a) wallowing in nervous guilt or (b) proceeding with the aforementioned arm-breaking.
Snake-Eyes turned to his brother. [Do you blame them?] he signed, his movements short and jerky. [They want children taken care of. Nobody wants their kids to grow up to meet people like us.]
"As far as I know, shaking a baby doesn't increase its chances of getting killed by commandos," Tommy said thoughtfully. A woman on the next couch over eyed him and pointedly shifted away, which Tommy ignored. "You need to calm down. Red's tough; if she could get right up after six months in a coma, knock out and gag her own sister, and escape into the subway in time to stab me-" The woman shifted again, eyes wide "-she can handle this just fine." Snake-Eyes aimed a glare at him, which Tommy also ignored. "And she'd been shot in the head then, too. This involves a completely different organ system, and one that was designed to take this kind of punishment at that-"
The other man aimed a punch at Tommy's head, which he barely blocked. There was a brief scuffle on the couch, and the magazine table was knocked over by a flying foot, but after thirty seconds or so Snake-Eyes had Tommy in a headlock and was demanding that he tap out. The other people in the waiting room were making no secret of their staring now, and all of them had spontaneously decided that the couches on the other side of the room were much more comfortable.
"All right, all right!" Tommy coughed. "I give!" Snake-Eyes released him.
[You're supposed to be my moral support here,] he signed, jabbing a finger at his sword-brother. [And you're not helping by comparing this to that. Not when I'm responsible for—]
"Calm. Down." Tommy shook his head. "I keep telling you, she's fine. I dropped her in front of an international terrorist leader and she barely blinked, remember? Removing a couple of tiny human beings from her insides is practically a walk in the park."
Snake-Eyes glared again. [It's not the same thing.]
"Am I going to have to put you in the Arashikage Mindset?"
[And do what, send me to Borovia again? Do you really want Shana to stab you five minutes after delivering my children?]
"It'd get you to stop moping and take your mind off it, wouldn't it? Anyway, it doesn't have to be Borovia. I'm pretty sure there's an uprising happening somewhere. Remember what an unrefined sergeant major of our mutual acquaintance used to say?"
Against the odds, that got a small smile from the other man. ['Tha gawddamn Middle-east is like a gawddamn record,'] Snake-Eyes quoted, spelling the accented words phonetically. ['Seventy-five revolutions per minute.']
Tommy grinned and was about to reply, but his eyes widened slightly and something made him sit up straight. Almost unconsciously, his eyes flicked towards the door that led to the delivery rooms. Snake-Eyes tensed.
[Did you hear something?]
[I may not have the Ear that Sees, but I damn well know when you're lying. Did. You. Hear something?]
" . . . you know, I think I did hear about an uprising in Sierra Gordo." Tommy offered him a hopeful smile. "Nice climate—good place to spend a few weeks putting down bloody rioting-?"
Snake-Eyes was off the couch like a shot. Tommy leaped, managing to intercept him before he plowed straight through the door, but it was a near thing and the smaller ninja had to brace himself to keep Snake-Eyes restrained. One difficulty of sign language is that it's difficult to emphasize one's point without volume control, but the white-knuckled hand buried halfway through the wooden lintel was making the point eloquently enough for everyone concerned.
"Sir! Please!" a nurse yelped, ducking through the door and planting herself between it and the ninjas. "Nobody is allowed back here without the doctor's permission-"
"He's nervous, that's all," Tommy grunted, trapping Snake-Eyes' forearm in a particularly painful lock. "First time being a father and all. Brother, are you trying to get sedated?"
The sign that Snake-Eyes employed was universal, and made the nurse frown nervously. "Sir, please. I'll call security if I have to!"
"Wouldn't do any good," Tommy interjected. The nurse gave him a surprised look. "Trust me on this one. Brother? Listen. Doc didn't want you breaking in while Red was in surgery, remember? This is just the same thing. Think of it as surgery. They're just removing two wiggly tumors."
The good news was that Snake-Eyes removed his hand from the lintel. The bad news was that he drove it into Tommy's gut.
The terrified nurse promptly called security, but when they showed up, the guards had absolutely no idea what to do. One attempted to taze the scuffling ninjas; they somehow rolled out of the way, resulting in the clips striking the carpet and accomplishing precisely nothing. Snake was thrown into the overturned coffee table, snapping the cheap wood in two, and yet was on his feet a second later with a retaliatory kick that sent Tommy thudding into the wall. Helpful cartoons about infant care fell to the ground, littering the carpet with broken pieces of plastic.
It was in the middle of blocking another strike that Tommy suddenly straightened up again, almost fumbling his retaliatory jab. "Congratulations, brother!" he crowed, striking Snake-Eyes on the back—with two fingers that "accidentally" hit a critical nerve junction. "Your genetics have successfully been passed on. And the good news is that they're both much louder than you ever were." Snake-Eyes slumped forwards, partially paralyzed, and Tommy caught him before he hit the floor again. "Sorry about this," he added to the wide-eyed nurse and guards. One neat throw sent a platinum Amex skidding across the nurse's desk. "It's a radical new form of therapy for expectant fathers. The Arashikage family will pay for the damages, of course."
The nurse didn't try to stop them this time. She was too busy wondering how much money she would make selling this story to Reader's Digest.
The delivery room was, to nobody's surprise, in not much better condition. Two anesthesiologists were cowering by the far wall, one cradling a wrenched arm and the other apparently shellshocked, and one intern was having his head checked by a veteran trauma surgeon.
("Said 'older women' often prefer natural childbirth," Tommy confided to Snake-Eyes, who just shook his head.)
A small group was gathered around the bed, though, and the woman lying in it. Snake-Eyes shook off his brother's arm and hurried forward, ignoring the still-partial paralysis of the nerve strike. Two of the doctors moved aside, recognizing the blond man, and the woman on the bed tiredly brushed her sweaty hair out of her eyes and grinned up at him.
When they had first found out Shana O'Hara was pregnant, the doctors had been very clear about the possible risks. She was always in good health, but she was still having her first child in her late thirties, and with the extensive medical history that both of them had compiled there were some concerns about whether it was a good idea for such battered individuals to care for a child—let alone two children. Shana, however, had brushed off the doctors' worries: "O'Haras are survivors," she'd said. "And if my being this age means they're born with tails and fins, then that just means their enemies will have a harder time looking them in the eyes." The doctors had been slightly confused, which Snake-Eyes frankly didn't blame them for.
His heart was in his throat, but Snake-Eyes didn't see any tails or fins. In fact, the first impression he got was red: bright red hair, bright red faces tightly screwed up in irritated grimaces, bright red blood leaking from the tiny claw marks on the obstetrician's face . . .
Shana's smile was exhausted, but triumphant. "I thought I heard the door breaking," she said, rocking the slightly larger, pink-wrapped bundle when it whimpered fretfully.
Snake-Eyes eyed the bundle. Bundles. The other, in a helpful blue blanket, appeared to be unconscious. One tiny hand was protruding from it, tiny droplets of blood still dotting the blanket. [Is he a werewolf?]
"He's your son, Snake. Got poor Dr. Marley with those razor-sharp baby nails." She beckoned him, and Snake-Eyes moved to her side. As when approaching any unpredictable target, he instinctively balanced his weight and moved soundlessly, a fact that made Tommy roll his eyes a little.
[Sean?] Snake-Eyes signed uncertainly. Shana nodded.
"Sean." As the blue bundle was lifted into Snake's arms, the pink one whimpered again; Shana rocked her again, brushing away one oddly downy lock of red-gold hair from the infant's eyes. "And Terri."
Sean felt odd in Snake-Eyes' grasp. He was small at six and a half pounds, practically a feather weight that Snake-Eyes would never have noticed in any other conditions, but the weight was peculiarly . . . significant, somehow. It almost reminded him of a bomb: an IED that might go off at any second, striking randomly at whatever poor son of a bitch stepped on it first. Six and a half pounds with the potential to cause a lot of pain.
Unaware of his baffled father's thoughts, Sean yawned and squirmed a little, opening his scrunched eyes. Babies were always born with blue eyes, the doctors had said. Was it a coincidence that this blue was the exact shade of Shana's? Snake-Eyes didn't know. The tiny fingers flexed, droplets of dried blood still trapped under the nails.
"Congratulations, brother," Tommy repeated, clapping Snake-Eyes on the shoulder and derailing his train of thought with a start. "Tonight, the world trembles in fear."
"Congratulate me, Storm," Shana interjected. "I'm the one who did all the work here."
"Of course." For once, Tommy broke character and actually gave her a genuine, no-bullshit smile, which she responded to with a smile of her own and a small nod. They'd never be best of friends—too much bad blood on both sides for that—but . . . well . . . Truce.
Sean's eyes darted from left to right, and his tiny mouth opened, a fretful whine emerging. Snake-Eyes looked at Shana helplessly, but she was calming the unhappy Terri with a soft cooing: that seemed to be doing the trick, but without a voice . . . For a moment, he almost panicked, wondering what the hell he was supposed to do with this small piece of miniature human. Sure, they'd been reading the parenting books, but faced with an actual newborn the advice all seemed to be eluding him. Except for not shaking it.
Wait. Human contact, right? Snake-Eyes shifted the baby to his left arm and put his right hand on Sean's forehead, tracing a quick, simple S sign. One of the newborn's flailing hands caught hold of his thumb and latched onto it, digging its sharp nails into the skin. Or tried to: even the razor-sharp digits couldn't penetrate the thick layer of callous on Snake's finger. Snake-Eyes traced the sign again, almost desperately willing Sean to understand.
Slowly, the baby relaxed, and Snake-Eyes drew in a breath. First hurdle complete. He tried to remove his hand from Sean's grip, but the little one's grip was like a vise, and the sharp nails were dug deep into the callouses.
Strong, he mouthed at Shana. A sudden flicker of pride ran through him as he looked down at the peaceful Sean.
"Of course," Shana replied simply.
For several long moments, there was silence in the delivery room. The blood, sweat, tears, and property destruction of the last few hours had been forgotten as two brand-new humans passed their first hour of life, one peacefully slumbering in her mother's arms, the other happily clawing his way through the built-up dead skin and scar tissue on his father's hand. The doctors bustled around, removing the injured anesthesiologist and checking Shana's IV and vitals, but nobody paid any real attention to them.
"Ms. O'Hara?" one of them said finally. "Ms. O'Hara, we have to take them-"
He didn't get much further, because both Shana and Snake-Eyes turned and Glared at him. The doctor gulped, unable to shake the feeling that he was being eyed by two large, extremely pissed-off bears. "I don't . . . I mean, um, we have to take the children for tests . . . vaccinations . . ."
Shana drew in a breath. "All right," she said reluctantly. "But just a minute." Her gaze met Snake's, and he nodded.
The man in question had been trying to keep to the back, giving the new family a bit of space, but he looked up when his name was called. "What?" he said cautiously.
Tommy frowned at Snake-Eyes, momentarily baffled. Snake-Eyes nodded again and motioned him closer. A little surprised, the ninja nevertheless did as he was asked, moving up to stand next to Snake.
"This," Shana said, nodding to the pink bundle in her arms, "is Terri. That-" Snake-Eyes hefted the blue bundle slightly "-is Sean. They are my children, and the children of the man you call your brother." Tommy frowned slightly, unsure of where she was going with this. "That makes them your niece and nephew.
"I don't trust you, Storm. You know that. It's going to take a lot longer than it's been for me to do that. But I've known you long enough that I do trust your good intentions . . . especially with children." She and Snake-Eyes exchanged a quick glance, and each knew what the other was thinking. Billy. "I want you to promise me that if . . . well, if something happens to me and Snake . . . you'll take care of these two."
Snake-Eyes' heart thudded painfully in his chest, and he unconsciously tightened his grip on Sean. The thought of something like that happening was almost unbearable—the idea of history repeating itself like that, doing to these two odd, small, completely helpless things what had been done to him. But long ago he had discussed this with Shana, and both agreed that this was what they wanted. If something did happen to them, they would want someone who would take care of the twins, come hell or high water.
Tommy seemed momentarily struck dumb. He looked from Snake-Eyes to Shana and back to Snake, seemingly unsure of what he was hearing. For a second, the usual glib mask dropped, and Snake-Eyes caught a glimpse of raw pain.
Then Tommy collected himself, and the moment ended. "Red," he said, "I'd be a lousy uncle if I didn't, wouldn't I?"
Snake-Eyes grinned a little. No making them into apprentices, he mouthed, his hands still pinned by his sharp-nailed son.
"Not even a bit?" Tommy joked. "Just a little training, I promise." A (thankfully empty) bedpan bounced off the side of his head.
"Training, yes; apprentices, no," Shana said warningly. "I don't intend to have my children kowtowing to you. And don't you dare take them on any harebrained quests for revenge, or I swear to any god you care to name that I'll come back from the grave and haunt you."
"Couldn't you have married someone a little calmer?" Tommy complained to Snake-Eyes, ducking a thrown water bottle. The doctors were beginning to look nervous again.
Snake-Eyes snorted, completely unsympathetic to his mock pain. You're the one engaged to the geisha assassin. You have no room to talk.
O'Hara, Sean W. and Terri M. Born 10:02 AM Sept. 2nd, Sinai Memorial Hospital, San Francisco. UUU.