Sorry for the late update! Migraine last night. Usual disclaimer, I don't make money, only mean to honor creators of Joe, all Joe characters are property of Hasbro, etc etc.

Chapter 3

Kimi was furious with him and shouting with no regard to anyone overhearing them. "WHY DIDN'T YOU STOP HIM?!"

Crossing his arms, SnakeEyes waited her out as she fumed angrily.

"I know I KNOW! It wouldn't have worked to detain him but you could have tried!" She clenched her fists tightly and struggled to calm herself. "Why didn't you ask him about the brainwashing? We don't know much other than something was being done to control him! How are we supposed to help if we don't know because you were too squeamish to ask about it?"

SnakeEyes rolled his eyes. *Because if I had pried, he would have fled rather than face it. You didn't see how tense he was. I want him with us so we CAN help him. Satisfying morbid curiosity for no reason isn't a priority.*

She glared. "It isn't morbid curiosity, I just want to know how bad it was and what we can do to help him."

Now SnakeEyes relented a bit. *Remember I have experienced the effects? I know how hard it is to break the conditioning and the mental walls. He has obviously pulled himself free of the delusions and now he simply is adrift and unsure where to take his life next.*

Dusty came walking in the front door and smiled affably at them both. "Hey guys! Man it's still freezing out there.. I hate working on that roof. No wind protection at... hey.. something wrong?" He stopped and stood still as the two ninja continued their argument heedless of his presence.

Jinx stepped closer to her sensei. "I have known him much longer than you have, he's MY cousin, he's no blood to you!"

Now the older ninja stiffened in anger at her. *Your cousin you have barely set eyes on for the last years. Just because he used to buy you sweets doesn't mean he's the same person. I'm his sword brother. That bond is deeper than an accident of birth.* He obviously regretted the words as soon as he finished signing them. *Kimi, StormShadow is not the older cousin who teased you and brought you presents. He has been through much in life that has changed him*

Dusty's eyebrows shot up. "Whoa... who's cousin? StormShadow? He's here? Oh god... I'm going to die... " His eyes searched the room frantically as if the ninja would be hiding nearby ready to leap out and skewer him. "He's here right now, isn't he?"

SnakeEyes snapped his fingers impatiently. *Stop it. StormShadow is not going to kill anyone*

"Oh yeah, easy for YOU to say! You're a ninja! You can dodge bullets and block deadly sword attacks with your eyelashes... I'm just a trooper... I'm the cannon fodder that guys like you chop up to use as airborne blunt objects!" Dusty backed across the room, whirling to stare suspiciously at the large potted fern in the corner. "He's in there, isn't he?"

Jinx snorted. "No, he's not in the apartment. Calm down Dusty. He's not working for Cobra anymore and he was brainwashed when he WAS working for them. So shut up."

SnakeEyes refrained from pointing out that Storm had worked for Cobra before being brainwashed and was also quite capable of killing people before and after his work for Cobra. Instead he turned and pointed at the couch. *Sit. You are safe* His eyes flicked up to Jinx's face briefly. *The mission continues the same as before. Nothing changes*

Dusty was sitting gingerly on the edge of the couch cushions. "Nothing changes? Oh yeah, just a deadly crazed ninja with mental problems running amuck while we try to keep undercover at a Cobra facility where if we get caught, they'll probably melt us with acid. Yeah, that's fine, we'll just act like nothing happened."

Jinx sighed and turned to SnakeEyes. "We shouldn't have let him know about this at all. It would be easier for him to just not know."

Dusty suddenly looked alarmed. "Easier? Wait... what else is going on that you never told me? There's more isn't there?"

SnakeEyes felt the beginnings of a headache. *See? Now he's paranoid. You were the one shouting when he came in*

Dusty pointed at him. "I knew it! There IS more! What else? Wait.. how long have you been keeping me in the dark? What was happening on OTHER missions? Oh god.. it's dangerous isn't it? There's some terrible secret thing that will end up killing me and you just don't want me to worry until it happens, right? I'm right, aren't I?"

Jinx stepped over and patted Dusty gently. "Hey, it's all right, nothing bad is happening.. really.. you should relax." On cue, the desert trooper slumped over facedown on the couch as Jinx pinched his sleeping point carefully. "There.. that's better."

*JINX Don't knock out your teammate!*

She shrugged innocently. "What? He was getting annoying."

*How would you feel if one of the team knocked you unconscious?* SnakeEyes checked Dusty's pulse and lifted his legs up onto the couch in a more comfortable position.

"I'd like to see one try! There's no one on the team who could..." Jinx's amused voice made SnakeEyes straighten and give her a hard stare and she suddenly stepped back a little. "I mean.. you're right, Sensei I acted thoughtlessly. I will apologize when he wakes up." At the short nod of agreement she relaxed just a little. "What are we going to do about Tommy?"

*We will do nothing. I will contact Hawk on a secure line and report on what is happening and what may happen. You will do nothing different and concentrate on the mission* SnakeEyes continued to stare her down until she nodded and agreed. Whatever happened in the next few days, it promised to be exciting. Right now, SnakeEyes needed to find a way to phrase his report so that Hawk wouldn't come out to eviscerate his favorite ninja for promising things outside his authority.

Predictably, Dusty had been angry and annoyed when he'd awoken. Also predictably, the affable young man lost his annoyance and was back to his normal cheer within an hour or so. He was still jumpy and apt to suddenly dart across a room to swish his hands through a set of curtains or the hapless fern, but overall he was back to smiling and joking with the two ninja.

To help make up for her actions, Jinx volunteered to cook dinner. This had caused a rapid acceleration in Dusty's happier attitude. Like most Army grunts, Dusty was happiest when being fed decent chow. The fact that the very attractive young woman was cooking it didn't hurt in the least.

He was seated on a tall stool in the kitchen helping her chop up raw vegetables when SnakeEyes emerged from his bedroom. "Hey Snakes! How'd the report go over? Are you ordered to stab yourself or anything?" His enthused tone made SnakeEyes give Jinx a baleful glare. "Are we being pulled back to the Pitt?"

*Mission still on. Hawk agreed to meet with StormShadow if we can convince him to try* With those few signs, SnakeEyes seated himself on the floor to meditate. Whether he achieved inner peace was secondary to achieving outer quiet from being asked all the questions both of the younger people would no doubt want answered on the subject. Relaxing his body, he did feel somewhat better now that Hawk had backed up his offer. His commander wasn't terribly pleased at first but once he'd thought of the idea of having both ninja masters on his Joe team, he'd become almost gleeful, suggesting several options for SnakeEyes to use to entice the former enemy in.

By the time Jinx's stirfry and noodles were done, he rose smoothly to take his plate into his room to eat privately.

Dusty glanced over to watch him go and then smiled happily at Jinx. "This is awesome! I didn't realize you could cook and kill people!"

She couldn't help but smile back. "Well, it's one of the only things I can cook, but thank you. I have many more ways to kill people than I have of cooking. Eggs or stirfry are my only two dishes I can do well." She began eating quickly, watching him eat his own laden plate with a great deal of enthusiasm.

Dusty swallowed and poked at the zucchini a few times. "Normally I'm not a fan of these, but you just made everything so tasty." His eyes shot over to the closed door to SnakeEyes' room and he paused. "The food I mean.. nothing else."

She tilted her face down slightly so she could look up through her eyelashes seductively. "Oh? Just the food is tasty? How... disappointing."

Dusty stared at her and she could practically see his male libido having a screaming match with his self-preservation instincts. "Ahhh... I mean..." Evidently, the sheer terror that her Sensei had instilled in the man won out. "I meant the food of course.. I wouldn't be so crass to make such a remark on anything else, Jinx."

She gave a little sigh of disappointment and stirred her food about with her fork. "Oh.. of course." Her diffident tone made her interest plain. "Oh well... it was just a passing thought." She leaned over the table slightly, giving him a nice glance of her cleavage before sitting upright and going back to her dinner. If he wasn't going to brave the older ninja to try for her, she might as well enjoy torturing him. The little strangled noise that she barely heard from deep in his throat made her smile on the inside. "This is really tasty."

Dusty sighed to himself and very sternly told his inner dog to sit and stay. It ignored him but he tried to concentrate on the food on his plate instead. It wasn't bad enough that he had to suffer in the cold weather outside, he'd also have to take a cold shower tonight inside the apartment. Somehow the mission accompanying Kimi had seemed so much more attractive when he'd pictured them together without the overlooked fact that SnakeEyes would be along. For a teammate that stayed out of sight most of the time, he certainly had a way of making his presence felt at all times. Especially whenever Dusty happened to catch a glance of thigh or began to think about how nicely Kimi's skirt draped over her... he glanced to his left with only his eyes and froze when he caught sight of SnakeEyes standing there.

"H-h-hi Snakes... wasn't... uhh... wasn't dinner really good? Kimi.. I mean, Jinx is a really good cook isn't she?" Grabbing up his own plate, Dusty shoved the last bites into his mouth and jumped up to drop his plate into the sink of pans. "I'll just do the clean up here.. washing the stuff, you know."

SnakeEyes simply stared at him a few seconds before handing over his own plate. He stood just long enough to make his teammate begin to twitch before he returned to the floor to a lotus position to meditate again. Although retreating to the privacy of his room would have been preferable, at this point, keeping an eye on the two young people seemed to be necessary.

He took several deep breaths and tried to relax. Tommy just didn't know how things were going with his young cousin. SnakeEyes told himself that a few times to quiet the inner voice calling him a prude.

End chapter

Not much needed for ending author's notes... I hope you enjoy and there's more to come! Poor Dusty might need ulcer meds by the time this mission is over. Thank you to all the folks who reviewed!