Three Days Later:
"Are you sure about this, Fire Storm?" Kamakura asked.
Fire Storm smiled as he packed his gear. "Yes, Kamakura. I have made my decision and Snake Eyes has approved it. There is still so much for me to learn and he will need someone with him while he heals."
"But you could continue your training here," Kamakura protested, "and there are many monks at the Shaolin monastery he will be staying at to help him."
"But none of them are family and, despite the great strides I have made here in training and my own healing, I do not feel that G.I. Joe is a proper fit for me." Fire Storm pulled the straps tight on his backpack and slung it onto his shoulders, attaching his swords to the side of it. "Why does it matter to you whether I go or stay?"
Kamakura shrugged, "I suppose I do not understand how one could want to leave this place. G.I. Joe became a home for me after my father died and Snake Eyes took me under his wing before my sorrow could destroy me. G.I. Joe, the ninja team, Snake Eyes, they have all become a part of me. After all they have done for me I suppose I feel the need to pay them back with my loyalty and hard work."
Fire Storm straightened from where he had been shutting the empty drawers of his dresser and turned, "Kamakura—" But the blue clad ninja was gone.
Fire Storm went to the door and looked left, to see his once-upon-a-time spar partner turning the corner. "Fire Storm?" He looked to the right to see Tiger Claw approaching, "Do you need help?"
"Eager for me to go, eh?" Fire Storm grinned, and they both entered his quarters.
"Of course I am," Tiger Claw replied, with an answering grin. "As soon as you're gone I can move some of my stuff back in here so that my rooms won't be as crowded. I was using this suite as a storage space before you came."
"Let me get this straight," Fire Storm handed two boxes, filled with books and weapons, to Tiger Claw. "You have three rooms in your suite and yet you were using this one for storage?"
"Well, more like an area where I can practice my hobby without anyone tripping over it."
Fire Storm grabbed his other bag and hit the light switch on his way out. "What's your hobby?"
"I build battle scenes," Tiger Claw said, his voice sounding proud of that fact. "I was working on the Battle of Lepanto when you came."
Fire Storm narrowed his eyes, "Wasn't the Battle of Lepanto a sea battle?"
Tiger Claw grinned sheepishly, "I was using your bathroom."
"You had the Battle of Lepanto in my bathroom? I wondered why there were so many water stains on the floor." Fire Storm glanced behind him but sighed when he saw the empty hallway.
"He won't come back," Tiger Claw.
"I was hoping to say goodbye to him."
Tiger Claw shook his head, "He already said it." Fire Storm looked at him in confusion. "He told you why he's so 110% for G.I. Joe and sensei Snake Eyes, right?" Fire Storm nodded. "That was his goodbye. He has acknowledged why you are leaving and why he can never leave; your paths are separate now. You have family, I have family, Jinx and sensei have family, but all Kamakura has is this base and its people. Maybe one day he'll meet a nice girl who will take G.I. Joe's place but for now Kamakura lives and breathes the missions."
"I think I understand. As strange as it was for us to become friends it doesn't feel so bad parting like this, we're still friends, still members of the same clan, but, as you said, we walk different paths now," Fire Storm said, and the two ninja headed quickly to the garage on the ground level.
Snake Eyes and Jinx waited beside an unmarked jeep that they had loaded with supplies. 'You are ready?'
"Yes, brother," Fire Storm stowed his stuff inside and turned to the waiting three ninja. "I guess this is goodbye for awhile."
"Don't become a stranger, cousin," Jinx said. "Write to us and if you don't visit for Christmas I'm hunting you down."
"Duly noted," Fire Storm saluted her before Tiger Claw stepped forward to clasp his hand.
"Drive safely," Tiger Claw said, smirking at Fire Storm's outraged expression.
"That's hurtful, T.C., it wounds me deeply."
"I'm sure you'll get over it."
Jinx and Tiger Claw backed away and left the two brothers alone.
'I am so proud of you,' Snake Eyes signed. 'You truly have come a long way.'
"And yet," Fire Storm smiled, "I still have so much more to learn. It's like you said: I may have been ready to help Storm Shadow overthrow Cobra's mind control but that doesn't mean I'm ready to take on the world. Or was it that the world wasn't ready for me?"
'I guess you'll have to work on your sign language to figure it out,' Snake Eyes was definitely smirking beneath his mask.
Fire Storm huffed and then almost yelped when Snake Eyes quickly drew him into a hug. When he was finally released he looked at his brother in shock, "I didn't flinch!"
'No you didn't,' Snake Eyes agreed, "but you'll definitely have to work on your observation skills so as not to be startled like that again.'
Fire Storm huffed and turned; pivoting on his heel he threw himself at Snake Eyes with his arms wide open. Snake Eyes stepped to the side, grabbed an arm and turned Fire Storm so that the younger man found himself in a headlock. Fire Storm at first sagged against his imprisonment but loudly protested when he felt his brother's hand descend on his head and start giving him a niggy.
"We left so that you two could say goodbye," Jinx snarled, "not attack each other!"
"He started it!" Fire Storm protested, as he wiggled his hands in between his neck and Snake Eyes' arm and twisted himself free.
"Sensei would never do such a thing," Tiger Claw said, looking to the entire world as if he truly believed that Snake Eyes' reputation needed defending.
"Oh, of course he wouldn't," Fire Storm said sarcastically, making a strategic retreat to the jeep. "Well, if I had known that this was how you Joe ninjas said goodbye to friends I would have planned a farewell gift of my own, oh wait," he snapped his fingers, " I did!"
Fire Storm quickly drew three balloon balls filled with paint and threw them at the trio, at the same time jumping into the driver's seat of the jeep. He heard the yells of outrage before he turned the key and he quickly floored the pedal. He did not look in his rear view mirror until he was out of the garage and the sight he saw made him start laughing.
Snake Eyes, Tiger Claw and Jinx had each been splattered by a different color paint and, in their hurry to get to him, had tangled with each other. They were now covered in various different colors and were running after him.
Fire Storm continued to push the gas pedal down, not letting up until he had put five miles between himself and the G.I. Joe base. Easing up on the pedal Fire Storm slowed down to the speed limit and made his way to the rendezvous coordinates, which were in the next county over.
Approaching the specified place, Fire Storm jumped when he heard someone land on the roof of the jeep. In a second Storm Shadow's face appeared at the driver window. "Pull over and let me drive."
Fire Storm quickly obeyed and hopped over to the passenger seat while Storm Shadow opened the door and stepped in. In less than a minute they were on the road again and Storm Shadow had a silly smile plastered on his face as he fiddled with the radio stations with one hand and drove with the other.
"Where to, little brother?" Storm Shadow asked. "The whole world lays open before us."
Fire Storm grinned, "How about we go to the Shaolin monastery I promised Snake Eyes we were going to go to in order to get some peace and quiet?"
"What's this? No shout for adventure? No cry for freedom?" Fire Storm's face remained set and Storm Shadow grinned as he looked at his younger brother. "You've grown, Fire Storm." He sobered quickly. "And I missed it."
There was a minute or two of silence before Storm Shadow headed the jeep towards Nebraska. "Well, we wouldn't want to make you out to be a liar to those do-goody ninja, would we? So I guess it's off to the remote, boring monastery where the monks drone and the atmosphere is stifling with peace and tranquility."
"They do have some excellent game up there," Fire Storm pointed out. "We wouldn't have to stay at the monastery itself."
Storm Shadow grinned, "Why didn't you say so before?"