Second chapter! Sorry I didn't get this posted yesterday. Busy weekend making 450 tamales by hand. I now know how to make tamales in the pre-Columbian style. I also will have no desire to make tamales for the forseeable future. *grins*

To LadyJoe who said it was stupid for SnakeEyes to say that Dusty being gaijin was a reason for Jinx not to date him... of COURSE it was stupid. He was grasping at straws, which is why even Jinx told him it was silly by pointing out SnakeEyes himself is gaijin. So SnakeEyes is just trying to protest in any way he can think of, because he still thinks of "little Kimi" instead of Agent Jinx. He's trying to be all "big brotherly" and like an "uncle" and failing rather spectacularly. I'm really glad SOMEONE saw how silly an argument it was though!

No Beachhead! He's busy at the Ranger Rendezvous(getting busy... heh heh), but I will have other fics with him later on. (also, Clutch's attempt to fill that request ended poorly for him... but Lifeline says the cast can come off in 4-6 weeks).

On to the fic, thank you to all who reviewed! You guys totally rock and now I'm glad that I didn't trash the whole thing.

Thank you again to Karama9 and TinySprite and all my author friends helping me out. It's appreciated.


Chapter 2

Early the next morning, SnakeEyes was stretching and walked out into the living room to see Dusty headed for the small bath with a dishtowel held over his eyes. Staring at the crazy desert trooper, the ninja wondered what exactly he was doing when he spotted Jinx humming to herself in the kitchen as she packed the tiny whimsical lunch for her workday. Her briefs and spaghetti strap bare-midriff shirt made him sigh lightly.

Turning to glare after Dusty, he could vaguely hear the muttering under the cloth. "Not looking... don't pluck out my eyeballs... I'm being good... not looking..." just before he walked into the doorjam with a thump. "I'm okay!" The trooper closed the door firmly behind himself and SnakeEyes turned his attention back to the slightly built apprentice happily stuffing herself with a hearty breakfast.

*Put on some clothing* His signs were sharp and annoyed in their motions and she didn't argue this time. Trotting to her room she came out in a remarkably short time dressed in another skimpy outfit that somehow managed to resemble both a schoolgirl's uniform and a cheap hooker's outfit for a busy saturday night. Having observed some of the same types of outfits being worn on the other female workers at the offices, SnakeEyes couldn't object but he could frown in a disapproving manner, which he made certain to do. It had little effect on the chipper young woman, but it made him feel as if he had done something about it.

"Goodbye Sensei, I have to leave for work." She smiled as she left, stepping over the thread boobytrap carefully. "Don't forget to take Dusty for his walkies so he doesn't leave a mess in the apartment." The door shut behind her before SnakeEyes could sign a reply.

Dusty came out looking around a bit too avidly for the ninja's taste. "Did Kimi leave?" His gaze stopped at the blank visage of SnakeEyes' visor. "Uhh.. just wanted to make sure she got off okay.. I mean.. that she left for work okay.. so she wouldn't be late... I mean to work, not that she'd be late any other way because you know... " He swallowed and reached down blankly to scoop up his bag of tools. "I should just go. Early to work and all that."

He grabbed his jacket on the way out and was gone in seconds. SnakeEyes stood for a moment contemplating how badly Hawk would yell if one of his desert troopers went missing. Seeing as Dusty was the premiere desert trooper and their best air conditioning repair guy, he probably shouldn't actually disable him. Scaring him was always within bounds however.

Slipping out the window, SnakeEyes set the last of their booby traps and tells to show if anyone fiddled with anything trying to get into the apartment and then he was off across the rooftops. Even in a busy city like this, people rarely noticed anything over head height, which was foolish considering how much was really above a person's head. The apartment buildings teemed with balconies and fire escapes and flower boxes, laundry lines and water pipes making a virtual highway for an experienced ninja.

It took him almost two hours to make his way unseen to the building beside the offices where Jinx was working. He arrived about the same time that she would. Leaning out slightly over an ornamental bit of architecture, SnakeEyes watched her skip merrily across the courtyard, waving brightly to the security guards like a completely brainless bit of fluff. Her ability to blend into the group and appear so completely harmless astounded him. He'd seen her move across a battlefield in the same amount of time that she'd skipped across the courtyard, taking out half a platoon of armed Vipers in such a messy manner that the rest fled rather than continue trying to kill her.

Once she entered the building, he settled back into the shadows and disentangled the electronic listening device he used to eavesdrop on a few bugs Jinx had already deposited in various locations. He rarely heard anything useful, but it kept him busy now that he'd already scouted the entire building and found the most likely points of entry once Jinx made a security hole for him. Normally a ninja as trained as SnakeEyes would have no issue sneaking into a building and stealing whatever they needed. This time, he was certain his errant Clan brother had advised the security set up. It seemed almost tailored to keep out trained ninja commandos. He could still get in but would never be able to retrieve the data and get out without setting off at least a few alarms. The computer maze alone would take someone of Mainframe or Breaker's abilities.

He sighed lightly and braced one foot against a out-thrust bit of concrete to stabilize his body weight. That's why Hawk had the GI Joe team instead of one antisocial ninja. He heard a slight sigh of fabric brushing across brickwork and shifted his position to smoothly rise and face the shadowy form that emerged behind him.

Signing calmly, SnakeEyes stayed ready for anything from a friendly greeting to an all out attack. *How are you, my brother?*

StormShadow looked disappointed as he changed his angle to seat himself on a miniscule ledge. To most it would look as if that had been his objective all along. SnakeEyes was not fooled.

Balanced in an impossibly contorted lotus position, StormShadow nodded at him in greeting. "I am well, brother." He gave a slight gesture for the dark-clad ninja to take his seated position again and waited while SnakeEyes did so warily. "Why so tense Brother? I'm only here to talk, I missed you. Not happy to see me?"

*I did not expect you* SnakeEyes paused a moment. *I am glad you are well* He deliberately relaxed and took a moment to check the audio pickups for anything happening inside the building.

Storm watched and tilted his head slightly, obviously listening to the earbud tucked into SnakeEyes' ear without effort. "Sounds relatively calm... for a Cobra run facility. How is Kimi doing?"

Sighing ever so slightly, SnakeEyes signed quickly, telling Storm of the issues he was having keeping her away from Dusty. Thinking for a moment, he added, *Your cousin is very good at undercover. She never breaks character*

Now Storm produced a small blade and began to polish it, rubbing a small smudge absently. "Why would you keep her from Dusty? Is he a dishonorable person? In GI Joe? I think not." He seemed to be amused at the notion and even smiled when SnakeEyes tilted his head at him in obvious query. "Jinx is quite capable of fending off any unwanted advances if she chooses to end a relationship or if the young man in question decides that some meaningless sex translates as an exclusive relationship. Unless you think she'd go overboard and disable him, causing a lowering in available manpower?"

Waving that concern aside, SnakeEyes began to sign. *She is too young, he is too old...*

"Ahhhhh!" Storm nodded in understanding. "You don't think he'll be able to keep up with her in bed and thus there would be emotional damage to his self-esteem. Good thinking Brother. Can't have little Kimi destroying your teammate's ego. I'm sure she'll find a younger more energetic one soon..."

Now SnakeEyes stared at him. *She is TOO YOUNG* His gestures swung wide as he emphasized the words. *You act as if it would be fine... for her to just run about having sex with anyone* Folding his arms, he awaited the explosion of temper as Tommy realized exactly what Kimi had been plotting.

Instead Tommy laughed softly. "Why wouldn't it be fine? She wasn't raised in Iowa to think that humans should be ashamed of sex. She's an adult, he's an adult. Healthy adults have these urges... I happen to know that you have these urges and you regularly satisfy those urges with your redheaded witch woman."

Stiffening, SnakeEyes signed in short abrupt movements. *Do not disparage Scarlett*

Storm looked contemplatively at his thumb. "You know, she left a scar when she bit me. I think I'm entitled to call her a witch. She's certainly bewitched you..." He suddenly grinned slyly. "I don't suggest you try to fistfight me on this ledge over your woman's honor, I'll just push you off the edge."

SnakeEyes twisted to look at the building he was watching over, signing to the air in front of himself. *You would try to kill me? I thought you were here to talk and not fight?* He was relaxed even as he bantered with his old sword brother. If Storm was here to fight, as he'd done before so many times, he would have launched into the fray immediately, not seated himself to chat.

"It's hardly a way to kill you. I would assume you haven't gone so soft as to die with a mere fall off a fifteen story building with ample handholds." Tommy gave a little bit of a sigh and began to watch the building idly as well. "I just..." He stopped and began to think.

After a few moments of silence, SnakeEyes turned to gaze at him, spreading his hands in query. No matter what Tommy tried to imply, his fellow Arashikage had not tracked him down and approached him just for idle greetings and taunting about his mid-western morals.

Pausing another few seconds, Tommy finally took a breath. "I'm trying to decide what I should do. I can hardly go back to the Arashikage compound as if nothing happened. I don't feel it's right for me to simply hide and meditate on all the ill things I've done, however willing or unwilling the actions might have been. But unless I want to become a real life Batman and run around stopping bad things from happening to random citizens, I don't see a way to do anything to repair my honor." He glanced over at the silent ninja. "That sounds rather... self-important. But I have done so much wrong in my life... I feel a need to help do something to correct this."

SnakeEyes nodded thoughtfully. *You were being controlled...*

StormShadow looked down at his now gleaming blade and tucked it back into his sleeve. "I was not controlled when I first joined Cobra. I willingly worked for the Commander in exchange for finding the real murderer. It was only later when I declared that I would no longer serve that I was... controlled." He was obviously uncomfortable with acknowledging his brainwashing. "Even if I discount all the later actions, although they would never have happened if I had not made the poor decision to work for Cobra to begin with... there is much to atone for."

*What will you do?* SnakeEyes turned to look at his brother. *Become a monk and serve soup to the unfortunate? I think you'd prefer the Batman option*

Tommy grinned again. "I think you're calling me an adrenaline junkie. No, no monk's robes for me. If I wanted to contemplate my navel and sit about uselessly, I can do that all by myself. I considered starting a dojo, but it doesn't seem as if that would do anything to oppose the evil of the world." He stopped again, obviously he wasn't going to outright ask advice from his long-time opponent. Just as obviously, he was hoping for some suggestion.

SnakeEyes brightened suddenly. *Join GI Joe*

Now Storm laughed cynically. "Oh yes! There's a wonderful suggestion! I'm certain that the Joes would ADORE a former enemy coming strolling in through the ductwork saying 'hi guys, I decided to join you instead of slicing you into small bits, so what's for dinner?' Yes yes, that's just a grand idea." He picked at the concrete under his fingers with nervous movements.

Waiting out the laughter and the sharp comments, SnakeEyes answered. *They'd rather serve with you than face you in battle. You WOULD be opposing the same evil that you were serving. It would be...* He paused before adding the sign, *karmic in nature, balancing your actions for the evil with actions against the evil*

Storm frowned at him. "You can't possibly be serious? Me? In a top secret military outfit? I'm on the FBI's most wanted list, I checked last time I broke into Quantico."

Putting a hand over his visor briefly, SnakeEyes shook his head. *Don't mention breaking into highly secure places in polite conversation, okay?* He continued more calmly. *I can arrange for you to meet with Hawk and you could tender a sincere offer to join the team. At worst, Hawk will tell you no*

Storm snorted. "At worst Hawk will shoot me at close range several times with a high caliber handgun. Then he'll let Beachhead shoot me a few times. Then Scarlett can put a few crossbow bolts in sensitive bits of my anatomy."

Signing nonchalantly considering his brother was talking about his own commanding officer murdering him, SnakeEyes replied. *You'd just dodge and run away*

"Well yes.. but that's not the point."

*What IS the point? You can offer and he can accept or refuse. Or did your pledge when you joined the Ranger corps mean nothing to you at all?* SnakeEyes knew that would sting but he was not adverse to bruising his brother's ego in order to help steer him towards not only the path that would make things right but also towards the only help he could think to offer.

"You know my word is my honor!" Storm nearly forgot his surroundings to shout then clamped his mouth shut and fumed. "Well played, my sneaky manipulative brother." He took a few deep breaths. "IF I agreed to this ludicrous idea, how would you arrange it? Hawk is not likely to agree to just have me show up in his office in the Pitt you know, and it's not as if his superiors are going to agree to let me just join up with the top secret team, since I'm a fugitive right now."

Waving aside any of StormShadow's objections, SnakeEyes relaxed back against the stone wall at his back. *I will inform Hawk. If Hawk wants you on the team then you will be on the team.* His confidence didn't leave any room for more arguments. *Will you at least give the idea a chance?*

Straightening up easily from his seated position, Storm sounded hesitant. "I'll... I'll give your suggestion some thought. I don't promise anything. And if they decide I should be locked up in prison, I'll simply escape."

Nodding, SnakeEyes didn't watch as his sword brother disappeared up the wall of the building, effortlessly scaling the nearly sheer wall with ease. Having StormShadow with the team would be preferable to him being in the open where it would be possible for Cobra to get their hooks back into him. It wasn't likely that the terrorists would easily take the ninja into custody alive, but no one was superhuman. It was better for him to have the added protections of the GI Joe team.

Sighing lightly, he watched as Dusty's team of repairmen emerged onto the building's roof to begin working on the industrial sized AC units. With any luck, soon there would be some break that he could exploit to get inside, get the data and then they could have Jinx fabricate some emergency and quit. While they could easily simply walk away and not have her return, such a disappearance could easily alert the company security that something had been amiss with the cheerful young worker. It would be better for them to acquire all the information and leave without Cobra any the wiser.

It made for a very long boring mission of waiting, however.


End Chapter

Well now everyone knows who the shadow was...

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