Author's Note: This was one vicious plotbnny. Fluff, silliness, crack, and AU. My AU is heavily influenced by Rise of Cobra, since that is how I got into the fandom. Yes, I now know that the movie wasn't actually that good. Retaliation BETTER BE GOOD.
Also, I've decided that Snake-Eyes' former name is Ray as a homage to Ray Park. Because admit it - Ray Park and Lee Byung-Hun did a spectacular job portraying Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow in RoC.
The Arashikage compound was as busy as ever. Women gossiped as they rolled bun after bun of some kind of Japanese treat. The ninjas were either repairing parts of the compound or patrolling the perimeter. The ninja apprentices were armed with brooms or paintbrushes, helping to touch up the place. Little children squealed with excitement as they chased each other, their mouths sticky with mochi and their hands full of paper cranes they'd folded.
Scarlett laughed and shook her head slowly. She swore - the clan was more excited about tomorrow's wedding than the soon-to-be newlyweds were.
Speaking of newlyweds...
She held out her left hand, admiring the ring on her finger. Her own wedding was only a few months away, and even though she was very happy for Junko and Tommy, she was impatient for her own special day.
Poor Snake. Storm had just decided one day that it was high-time Snake asked for her hand again. The black-clad man hadn't been prepared at all, thinking that she didn't want to marry him after he left her at the altar. It took the combined efforts of Storm, Junko, and Jinx to drag the panicked ninja to a very amused Scarlett. Needless to say, it was the first time she'd ever seen a mute man truly speechless.
A pair of black arms wrapped around her waist from behind. Scarlett smiled and leaned back against her fiancé. "Morning, Snake. Shouldn't you be helping Storm?" She ran her fingers over his bare cheek. It had been almost two months since Snake-Eyes had had reconstructive facial surgery, but she still wasn't completely used to his new face. It had been a daunting task for the surgeons, but they had managed to give him most of his face back. Almost all of his scars were gone, and his face was smoother overall, but some still stopped and stared at him. Scarlett hadn't been happy, but Snake was just grateful that nobody had run away screaming.
He lifted his hands to sign in front of her. [Don't feel like it. It was his idea to invite the masters of friendly clans. I'm not a people person.]
"Well, you should go help him anyway." She pinched his cheek even though she knew he could barely feel it. "He is your sword brother, after all. If you don't help, he might see it as an excuse to return the disservice on our wedding day."
Snake sighed audibly and stared at her with wide, doleful eyes. Scarlett groaned. Somehow, despite being ninja masters, Storm and Snake could both pull off a kicked puppy look whenever they wanted. Maybe it was a ninja thing - when all else fails, give the enemy your most pitiful look.
On second thought, that wouldn't work. Ninjas would rather die than surrender.
"Don't look at me like that." She crossed her arms.
Snake's shoulders slumped. [Fine,] he signed reluctantly. [I'll go help Tommy. You?]
"Actually, I've been looking for Junko." Scarlett took a moment to glance around, in case the woman decided to appear out of nowhere. 'Speak of the devil' was most often true for ninjas. "Have you seen her?"
The ninja laughed his silent laughter. [She's looking for an Arashikage heirloom. Guest bedroom. Five steps west of the bed. Trapdoor under rug. There's a concealed door to the right after you drop in. Watch your head. Bring a flashlight.]
Scarlett smiled. "Thanks, Snake." She planted an innocent kiss on his cheek before heading towards the main building.
The concealed door was, not surprisingly, hard to find. She ended up yanking and pushing on nearly every panel on the right wall while praying that none of them triggered a deadly trap of some sort. In the end, the bottom-most panel gave in, and a door swung open silently.
The room was rather small and dark, she noted, as she stepped inside. The interior was filled with scrolls, cabinets, boxes, and vases, and the air smelled stale. Intrigued, Scarlett shined the flashlight around until the beam of light landed on a familiar red figure digging into a box.
"Junko?" she whispered.
The former geisha whirled around, looking like a child who had just been caught taking a cookie from the cookie jar. In place of the cookie, though, was a video cassette in her hand.
"Junko, what are you doing?" Scarlett looked around the room. "Snake told me that you were down here looking for a heirloom or something."
"I was." Junko was trying to look bashful, but her smirk ruined it. "And I found it." She held up a jeweled hairpin.
"Then what is that?" Scarlett gestured toward the cassette.
The smile on Junko's face grew. "This," she said, a hint of triumph in her voice, "is only one of a series of Arashikage home videos."
Ninjas? With home videos? Scarlett couldn't help but chuckle. "I thought ninjas didn't like leaving any trace of their existence."
"They don't, but that doesn't mean they don't have footage of precious moments." Junko indicated towards a box. "That's why they're all down here - where nobody but the Arashikage family knows."
Scarlett eyed the box with interest. "Do you think there's some footage of Snake-Eyes?"
"I don't think so. I know so." Junko tucked the hairpin into a pocket as she bent over. A small 'oomph' escaped her as she lifted the box. "After all, didn't Snake-Eyes join the Arashikage at age..."
"Six." Scarlett finished for her as she glanced inside. "Jesus. They're even in chronological order." She pulled out the first videotape. "'Ray's Arrival'," she read out loud.
"Ray is Snake-Eyes, right?"
"Shhh!" The redhead pressed a finger to the other woman's lips. "Nobody is supposed to know that."
Junko shrugged. "Just confirming," she whispered, before both women burst into giggles.
It was easy enough, finding a video cassette player. All Junko had to do was poke her head into Storm's office and cheerfully ask where one was. The Phoenix Master had been too busy alternating between juggling three phones and answering questions from clan members such as, "Is this the shade of white you want?" or "Do you want the children to stay with their families or sit in a separate group?" to give much thought to his beloved's question.
Fifteen minutes later, she and Scarlett were reclining comfortably on a couch in one of the more soundproof rooms.
"So, do you want to start from the beginning or do you want to jump around a bit?" Junko looked through the cassettes, quietly scanning the titles.
"Why not both?" Scarlett still had "Ray's Arrival" in her hand. "We can go chronologically, then when we find an interesting one, we can watch that one before moving on."
"That works." Junko eyed her friend's selection. "I have a feeling you want to watch that first."
Scarlett turned the cassette over carefully. "I want to see Snake as a child. Sounds adorable."
The Asian woman laughed. "Same for me with Tommy." She made a sweeping gesture towards the television in front of them. "Go on, then. Put it in."
The player made a small whirring noise as it accepted the videotape. Scarlett scrambled back into the couch. "Shouldn't you be making plans for tomorrow?"
Junko snorted. "Screw that. I'm the bride. I do what I want, and if I want to see my husband-to-be as a little kid, then that's what I'm going to do."
All the redhead could do was laugh.
Tommy grabbed the video camera from a nearby table as he scurried towards the Arashikage infirmary. Last night, when he had gone to the kitchen for a bedtime snack, he'd found a boy about his age reaching toward a plate of leftover rice. Thinking to stop the thief, Tommy had attacked him. He hadn't stopped until his uncle, the Soft Master, arrived. The stranger had had taken quite a beating at the hands of the ninja-in-training, with blood streaming down his head from several cuts on his forehead, but he was still standing - something Tommy couldn't help but admire once he found out that the boy was starving.
Ray set down the empty bowl as soon as he heard the door sliding open. Despite the events of yesterday, he felt strangely content. He had woken up in a warm bed with clean clothes, bandaged wounds, and food. After running and hiding from police for over a month, it felt nice to be comfortable for once. Now, his attacker was standing in front of him, holding a... video camera?
He watched with mild interest as the boy placed the camera on the table, with the lens pointing towards him, and pressed the red record button. "Ohayo, gaijin," Tommy chirped happily as he hoisted himself up onto the edge of the bed.
Ray blinked. "What?" His throat felt scratchy and sore.
"What did you say?"
Tommy swung his legs back and forth. "Good morning. No Japanese?"
"Then I speak English!" The six-year old puffed out his chest proudly. "I learn from my uncles!"
Well, that was a relief. His attacker at least knew a bit of English. "What is the camera for?"
"Huh?" Tommy looked confused. Ray pointed to the camera on the table. "Oh! Um... First time, gaijin come here. Gaijin... ah... aliens, never come here. It's important, today." He suddenly looked remorseful. "Sorry for last night. I thought you are thief."
"It's alright. I'm sorry for breaking in." The boy paused to lightly touch the bandage on his forehead. "I got what I deserved."
"No touch!" Tommy hissed, grabbing Ray's wrist. "You want infection!?"
"No, no, no. O-of course not." He winced as he pried his wrist free. The guy had a killer grip. "What's your name?"
"Name?" Tommy tilted his head.
"... Name! Yes, of course." He pointed to himself. "Arashikage Tomisaburo! And you?"
"Um..." Ray looked dazed. He had only caught the 'Tomi' part. "I'm Ray. Nice to meet you, uh... To... Tomi-"
"Tomisaburo," Tommy repeated, smiling a little. Of course - he had forgotten that gaijin tongues weren't flexible enough to pronounce Japanese names. "You can call Tommy."
"Tommy." The boy looked hilariously relieved. "And your last name?"
"Arashikage. It means 'Storm Shadow'."
Storm Shadow. Ray slumped ever-so-slightly. Now that was a cool last name.
He shot back up. "I... I, um, I don't have a last name."
Tommy looked shocked beyond belief. "No last NAME? No legacy? No family?"
"No family." Ray looked away. He could feel tears stinging in his eyes, and a familiar lump settled in his throat. "They're dead. Car crash. We were on vacation here. Only I survived. I didn't want another family, so I ran."
"Dead," Tommy murmured thoughtfully. "My father, alive. My mother, dead too."
The blond boy turned back around, his eyes round. "... Oh. I'm sorry."
The Asian shook his head so hard his black hair whipped his forehead. "Do not be. Long time ago." His own dark eyes met Ray's. "... You have water eyes."
"... Water eyes?"
"Yes. I have night eyes. I see at night. Can you see in water?"
Ray scratched his head. "Uh... as long as it's well-lit, I guess. Why is that so impor..." he trailed off when Tommy leaned very, very close to him. His eyes were wide with wonder. "Um... Tommy?"
"... I LIKE YOUR EYES!" A happy grin spread across his face.
Ray blinked rapidly, hopelessly confused. Why was he acting as if blue eyes were such a big... Oh. Right. He had never seen a gaijin - a foreigner - before. "... Thanks? You, uh, you have... pretty eyes too."
Having resumed his usual sitting position, the young Arashikage heir beamed. "Thank you. I have my mother's eyes, my uncles say. They say she is beautiful." He frowned. "When alive."
Awkward silence hung between the two children, during which Ray had more than enough time to fully process that Tommy said that his mother was, "beautiful when alive," instead of "was beautiful when she was alive."
"Where will you go?" he finally asked, resting his chin in his hand.
Ray shrugged. "Somewhere. I'll keep on hiding, I guess."
"You have no family. No father. No mother."
"Yeah, I know."
"I have no mother - only my uncles and my father."
"... Yes, you told me that."
"Do you have brother?"
Ray shook his head. "No. I had a twin sister who loved to torment me."
Tommy grinned and, without a moment of hesitation, hugged Ray tightly. "Then I will be your brother. The Arashikage, your family. You can stay here."
Cautiously, the boy hugged his new-found friend back. "Thank you, but I-"
"Do you have somewhere to go?" Tommy sounded a little irritated. After feeling Ray shake his head, his voice returned to cheerful, child-like optimism. "Now you have last name. Arashikage."
Ray Arashikage. It sounded so ridiculous Ray had to hide his laughter in his sleeve.
As usual, thanks to Greentigerr for her edits.