Author's Note: This chapter features CrystalOfEllinon's OC, Sherry Takenawa, who had a past relationship with Storm Shadow. GO READ HER STORIES. Also, I'm not sure what Sherry's favorite treat would be (I'm assuming cherry cordials) so... I kinda left that part blank. Any ideas? Hints?


"Phoenix Master?"

"Yes?" Storm didn't even glance at the ninja standing before him. His pen flew as he scribbled something down on a notepad.

"Miss Takenawa is here. I assume you want to greet her?"

"Uhhh..." The phone rang, and he immediately picked it up. "Arashikage, how may I help you? Uh huh... uh huh... I assure you, Master Okinawa, that you won't need bodyguards. Excuse me for a moment." He placed a hand over the mouthpiece and - finally - looked at the ninja. "I'm a little busy. Get Silent Master to greet her. I'll be there in a bit."

"Yes, Master." The ninja bowed before slipping out of the room.

Meanwhile, Sherry stumbled out of the helicopter, blinking rapidly. In order to keep their location secret, the Arashikage required a full body search of all visitors before they were blindfolded and transported to the compound. Sure, she knew that it was for the clan's safety and all, but damn, after what felt like forever on the chopper, she couldn't see a thing after getting off.

"Hello?" She rubbed her eyes. "Tommy? Snake-Eyes? Anybody?"

There was a gentle tap on her shoulder. Gentle, yes. Unexpected, hell yes. She shot up in the air, shrieking, before landing hard on her feet. "What the hell, Snake-Ey-" She blinked. Rubbed her eyes again. Blinked.

Okay, the man in front her was definitely not Snake-Eyes.

"S-sorry..." she mumbled, looking uncomfortably up at the blond man. He only tilted his head slightly, his blue eyes boring into hers. She'd never seen a shade of blue so icy, or so vaguely creepy.

Dang it. Her first few minutes at the Arashikage compound and she's already made a bad impression. "I thought you were Sna- er - the Silent Master. I'm sorry." She dug her toe into a crack between two stone tiles.

To her surprise, the man lifted his hands to carefully sign, [Don't be. You're correct.]

Her eyes nearly popped out and her jaw hit the ground. Not literally, of course... but it sure felt like it. "Snake?! What the heck? I thought your face was-" She broke the sentence off and immediately bit her lower lip.

[Reconstructive facial surgery.] Snake's eyes shone a little. All it did was make Sherry want to stare more. [What do you think?]

Well, since he asked, she supposed she was allowed to have a closer look. "... It's... different," she finally said after a few minutes of contemplation. "You actually look like a normal person instead of a kick-ass ninja."

His shoulders shook with silent laughter. [Right, because normal people have surgical scars on their faces.]

Seeing the ninja laugh helped Sherry relax, though the soundless quivering of his shoulders looked stranger without a mask hiding his expression. She exhaled in relief. "Where's Tommy?"

[Pulling together last-minute preparations.] He walked with her towards the main building. Sherry couldn't help but grin when adults and children alike stopped what they were doing to bow to them. It made her four-foot-eleven self feel taller.

"So, this is what it feels like to be a ninja master," she smirked. "Junko is going to be one lucky girl."

"She already is." A voice said right behind her. "After all, she has me."

She jumped again, yelping. "Tommy!" she gasped. "Jesus! Sneaking up on guests is not nice!" Frowning, she turned to Snake-Eyes and jabbed a finger against his arm. "And YOU! Why didn't you warn me? You must have known he was coming."

[Short people are fun to scare.] Snake signed casually. [It's funny seeing them jump half their height.]

"You say it's funny, yet you're not laughing." Sherry couldn't help but point out.

[I was laughing about two minute ago,] he signed, but the comment rewarded her with a ghost of a smile from the mute man.

"For goodness' sake, brother, have you forgotten how to smile in public?" Storm took the corners of Snake's mouth and pulled up and out. Snake narrowed his eyes in response, but did nothing to stop him. After about a minute of fiddling with Snake's face, Storm stepped back. Both he and Sherry immediately winced.

"Forget it." Storm pressed against Snake's cheeks to get him to stop smiling. "I'd rather have you not smiling and looking like my badass ninja brother than smiling and looking like you're going to eviscerate everybody in the room." At Snake's scowl, he backed up, holding both hands up innocently. "I speak the truth."

Sherry nudged Storm with her elbow. "Be quiet. Snake, you look fine. Gosh, Storm, you're the only ninja I know who needs to be told to shut up."

Her comment went unnoticed as the white ninja flipped out a cell phone she didn't hear go off. He brought it up to his mouth. "Yes? Yes... yes... of course. Hold for a moment." Storm glanced at the two. "I have business to take care of." He waved dismissively. "Shoo. Scat. Get out of my sight. Go roam the compound and make sure nobody is dying."

Snake rolled his eyes and took Sherry by the elbow as he walked away. The pilot sniffed deeply. "... Food?" Her eyebrows rose.

[Yes. Are you hungry?] Snake took a small loaf of bread from the tray of a passing woman. The woman's face lit up in a smile and she bowed deeply.

Sherry eyed the still-steaming bread. "It does smell good," she admitted as she took the food. Without another second of hesitation, she sank her teeth into it and bit off a piece. "Hmm..." She chewed thoughtfully. "It's not taco pizza, but it's tasty." She took another bite before staring at the bread. "Am I going to get sick from this?"

[Depends. Are you going to gorge yourself?]

He didn't get a response. Her eyes were fixed on something behind him, and her mouth hung open. Secretly, he was grateful that she at least remembered to swallow beforehand. Curious, he looked behind him, but didn't see anything out of the ordinary. Just some women bringing out boxes of-

… Oh.

Right.

"Good lord." Sherry muttered as she made a beeline for her target. "Thank you, Tommy."


::Commencing Video::

Tommy dug through the box, mumbling quietly to himself as he went on tip-toes to dig further. Ray watched nearby, curious, but mostly contemplating whether he should grab the Arashikage by the ankles and flip him in. Five seconds later, he decided against the idea. It has been almost a week since his arrival, and Tommy had been nothing but friendly the entire time. He didn't want to possibly offend his newfound friend. Or risk getting attacked again.

"I found!" The kid wriggled out of the box. Straightening up, he adjusted his kimono and fixed his messed-up hair before proudly holding up a roll of...

"Duct tape?" Ray raised an eyebrow. "What do you need duct tape for?"

"Ooh, duck tape? Is called duck tape?" Tommy frowned at the roll. "Does not look like duck."

"No, no, no. Duct tape. Not duck tape." He made a harsh 'ck' sound in his throat to emphasize the difference.

"Ohhhhhh. Duck tape," Tommy said, looking pleased with himself. Ray rubbed his face tiredly.

"Alright. What do you want me t-" His sentence was cut short as the roll of tape was shoved into his hands. "T-Tommy?"

His friend was precariously balancing a video camera on his head - the same one, Ray recognized, that had been on the infirmary table a week ago. A small red light shone close to the record button. "Tape around." Tommy drew a large circle from under his chin to the top of the camera with one finger.

"What are you doing?" Ray sputtered.

Tommy glared at him defiantly. "What I do is not gaijin's worry."

"Fine, fine." He grimaced as he taped the end to his chin and began looping the tape around the camera and back down. "You know this is going to hurt when you take it off, right?"

"I do not fear pain." Tommy didn't flinch when Ray carefully peeled back a bit of tape he had accidentally applied crookedly.

It took a while - and a considerable amount of duct tape - before the Arashikage heir was satisfied with Ray's work. The blond struggled not to laugh as Tommy jumped, nodded, and flailed wildly. "You know it's still recording, right?"

"Yes, I do know. I was... testing." He gingerly felt around the camera taped to his head. "Is still going?"

Ray nodded. "What do you plan on recording?"

The grin the boy gave him was worrying. "You will see, gaijin." He flicked a tuft of Ray's blond hair before climbing over a nearby windowsill. All Ray could do was shake his head slowly at the sight of the little Asian boy running wildly away.

He was gone for only half an hour, but by the time he returned, Ray was alternating between walking in circles and counting the squares of the shoji. "Ray." Tommy smiled in greeting.

His eyebrows shot up. "What? No 'gaijin'? What's going on?"

The boy held up his left arm, which was encased in a bag. "Ray not your name."

"Uh... yes, it is. Ray is my name." Ray backed away a little, suspicious of both Tommy's behavior and whatever the bag was hiding. While doing so, he glanced up. The video camera was still recording.

"I have picked new name." Tommy sat down and began fiddling with the item in the bag. "You need Japanese name."

He was, Ray had to admit, right. The name 'Ray Arashikage' sounded a little better out loud than it did in his mind, especially when Tommy's uncles said it, but a Japanese last name practically begged for a Japanese first name. "Well?" he asked cautiously. "What did you pick for me?"

"Hebi no Me," Tommy answered without hesitation.

Ray blinked. "... What? Heebie what?"

"Hebi. No 'heebie'."

He swallowed hard, closing his eyes and willing his tongue to work. "... Hebi," he finally said, carefully.

Tommy nodded. "Good. Hebi no Me. You know what means?"

"I'm afraid to ask," was the muttered reply.

"It means 'Eye of the Serpent'. Serpent Eye. Snake-Eyes."

"... Snake-Eyes?" Ray gave a shudder. "Sounds terrifying."

"Supposed to be."

"Why did you pick that name for me? Snake-Eyes. It makes me sound like I'm going to stare somebody to death."

"You are." Then, as calmly as can be, Tommy dropped the bag on the floor. Ray froze, his eyes fixed on the long, coiling figure on his arm.

"... A SNAKE?" he shrieked. His entire body tensed, and he could have sworn he felt the blood freezing in his veins. "You... brought a snake into the house?"

"He looks like you!" Tommy said innocently as he grabbed the snake behind the head. The animal didn't even move. It looked extremely groggy.

"It's about to shed," Ray croaked, shaking in fear. "That's why its eyes are milky-blue. My eyes aren't like that."

The boy frowned and turned the snake so that it was looking at him. "It looks like you still. Eyes make me remember you."

"Hebi no Me? Snake-Eyes? Me?"

"Your name will make people remember you. Blue eyes. Water eyes." Tommy suddenly grinned and held out the snake. "I name him Ray."

The sudden comment drained the majority of his fear. "... Very funny, Tommy." He frowned.

"It is funny! Snake is Ray. Ray is Snake." He started walking towards him. "Hold Ray!"

Ray held up both hands and resumed backing away. "No way."

"Yes way!"

"No!"

"Yes!"

"Why?"

"He is friendly!"

"He's shedding, that's why!" Ray took off out the door, screaming, with Tommy in close pursuit.

Nearby, the Soft Master and the Hard Master watched the two running figures; one of which had something attached to his head. "Snake-Eyes," the Soft Master murmured. His brother chuckled.

"It's not a bad name for him. Tomisaburo might be onto something."

::Finish Video::


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