Author's note: Merry Christmas, everyone! This isn't strictly Christmas-themed, but it's about family, and I wanted to share some warm fuzzies with my favorite fandom.
The title was inspired by the wonderful comic Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, which has some great quicktime-event gags as well as real heart about seemingly silly topics.
Rating: PG (couple of bad words)
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.
Press X to Hug Your Family
by Totenkinder Madchen
Snake-Eyes—sensei—asked him, once, if he was certain that the warrior's path was for him. Becoming a soldier of the US Army was hard enough, but it was nothing compared to being a ninja, and more than once Sean Collins had wavered under the pressure of the life he'd chosen. Some nights, he lay awake on his mattress in that little cabin in the Sierras and stared at the rough-cut ceiling, wondering if he had made the right decision.
But he knew he had.
Some men fight for glory. Some for honor. Some for revenge. The ninja apprentice Kamakura fought for X-Men on the Nintendo.
. . . Yeah, that didn't sound so good. He'd never said it to anyone, though he had a sneaking suspicion that a few people in his life had already guessed about it. Not the X-Men part, maybe, but the general idea. But t it was a good thing he'd never tried to explain this to anyone, because it was a complicated tangle and he honestly wasn't sure he could. "Nintendo" was all he could really say about it.
Collins wasn't his original name. Honestly, he didn't remember what he had been born; maybe his family were already Brocas when little Sean made his entrance into the world, causing his father to miss a very important football game in order to witness the birth. Dad—his first dad—had been all about the football when Sean was young. Never a very athletic man, Dad had always dreamed about glory on the gridiron. Maybe it was that hunger for glory (or recognition, or power) that had pushed him into turning their family into the Brocas.
But whatever the reason, Dad let it happen. Outwardly, he was a pillar of the community. Inwardly, he packed their house with surveillance equipment and started spying on Staten Island military installations.
The death of his first father had been both a disaster and a blessing. Sean Broca, barely eight years old at the time, had practically worshiped his dad—what eight-year-old didn't? He'd kicked a G.I. Joe in the shins for him. (Something that would, years later, make his re-introduction to Spirit supremely awkward.) But his father also scared him with his obsession, his drive to be bigger than anyone else. His mother wasn't a true believer, but she went along with it for the sake of family unity. His father was gone, but so was the thing tying them to Cobra.
Initially, of course, things hadn't seemed different. They were still the Brocas, and still caught in the Cobra coils. But his father's death had set events in motion.
It brought Wade Collins, broken-down worn-out Vietnam veteran Wade Collins, into the Broca household as a replacement father. Cobra had issued orders that the Brocas not been seen to do anything suspicious like lose a family member, and Wade Collins was now a dead ringer the lost paterfamilias. Sean loathed him at first, and his sister no less-who was he to try and just replace their dad? Did he think they were going to be okay with that?
But Wade Collins, it seemed, had had friends back in Vietnam. Interesting friends, who called themselves things like Snake-Eyes and Stalker, and were determined to save their old teammate from Cobra's influence.
Oh, and ninjas were real. And amazing.
With nowhere else to go, Mom, Sean, Heather and Wade had all clung to each other, forming a new family out of the ashes of the Cobra imposture. And only a few years later, there had been another addition to the family: not a baby, but an adopted sister, a war orphan that Snake-Eyes had rescued from Borovia. That revolution-wracked country was no place for a homeless young girl, and the new Collins family had taken her in quite readily. One of the first things Sean had ever said to Marina was "Do you play Nintendo? We have X-Men!"
X-Men for Nintendo. It was completely on impulse, but he was ten, and how else was he supposed to make friends with this new girl? So he did what Mom was always telling him to do, and shared his toys.
Marina had never played before, but with Heather to coach her, Sean never stood a chance. The two of them proceeded to thrash him senseless in five bouts of pixelated superhero combat. Eventually Sean threw down his controller and stomped out of the room. The various martial artists and Rangers had all been staying for dinner that day (adopted uncles and aunt as they were), and Sean remembered glaring at Snake-Eyes and saying "Great. Now I've got two sisters, and they're ganging up on me!" Snake-Eyes had smiled, just a little: one of the only times young Sean had ever seen him do that.
It was a pretty simple anecdote, but to Sean it held an odd significance. The ease with which that strange group held together—bonded by war, revolution, secret training, plastic surgery at the behest of a terrorist organization, and video games—gave him a glimpse of a world that was, in its way, much better than the one most people occupied. It was a world where the phrase "brothers in arms" wasn't just a Dire Straits song. It was a world where the various adopted uncles argued over who had survived the most attempts on his life while a former member of said terrorist organization barbecued.
That little world held together for only a few short years. Storm Shadow was captured and brainwashed back into Cobra's service, Scarlett and Sensei broke up in the wake of a failed wedding, and the Joes scattered to the four winds. Only the core was left intact.
But with all the craziness in their lives, Sean was grateful that he had had that chance to see it, and he made certain to never take the family he had left for granted. And he hoped that one day, while the center held, the others would come back . . .
One night, years in the future, a green-clad ninja slipped in through an open window and flopped gratefully onto the bed there. It was three o'clock in the morning, and he had just completed the dangerous trek up through the hills to the Arashikage compound after three sleepless days of travel. He was exhausted, but triumphant: one Colombian drug cartel was now headless in both a figurative and a very literal sense, the Arashikage clan would be receiving a cool three point five million, and with Sensei and Scarlett in America, he would be taking over the latest group of trainees come morning. He rather liked the sound of that.
But still, there were things to do. He could go to sleep for a whole two hours, and wake at least partially functional for the morning classes. Or . . . Kamakura glanced at his watch, shook his head, peeled off his mask, and rolled out of bed again.
Ninjas as a rule weren't ones for laziness. Luxury, yes, to a certain extent: spend enough time crawling through cramped vents with a bleeding leg, and coming home to a big, soft bed is an absolute must. But the various modern methods of killing time were usually not in favor among the Arashikage. Kamakura had had to beg, plead, and do ridiculous amounts of training drills and missions before he had been allowed this one indulgence.
Sensei knew why he had it, anyway.
Dropping quickly into a comfortable cross-legged position, Kamakura switched on the Xbox and the TV. There were no external speakers on the television; even if Sensei hadn't been firm about that, the knowledge of the Phoenix Master's Ear that Sees would have kept Kamakura from daring to play Call of Duty within five miles of the compound.
The ninja plugged in his headset, adjusted the microphone, and logged onto Xbox Live. His buddy list consisted of only two people, and both of them were online: BorovianGamerGirl and vodka_collins, ready and waiting for him.
"About time, bro," Heather's voice echoed over the headset. "Mar and I were about ready to give up. Where were you?"
"Colombia. Long story. How's it going, guys?"
"Exams tomorrow morning," Marina contributed. She still had the faintest trace of an accent after all those years in the States, but Kamakura barely even noticed it. "I should've joined the army like you, Sean. Maybe I could be traveling the world too instead of studying for my calc final."
"Ugh, don't remind me," Heather said. "Forget the small talk, guys. Are we going to play or what? It's been weeks since I've kicked your ass, Sean."
"Hah! Bring it."
"Any time. What game?"
Kamakura grinned, adjusting his headset again. Behind him, a cool breeze stirred the curtains of the still-open window. Dawn was only a few hours away, and soon, the compound full of ninjas would be awakening for another day. "I kinda feel like X-Men."