Apology throughout the Ages

A/N: I've had this story in the works for a couple months now, ever since I first started watching G. I. Joe Renegades, which is probably my favorite incarnation of the series. I really loved the relationship between Scarlett and Snake Eyes and wish that they had expanded upon it- thus this story was born. Reviews are all greatly appreciated, and I hope that you enjoy reading!

Warnings: Some coarse language, rated PG-13/ T

G. I. Joe Renegades and characters (c) Hasbro


1.

In the two weeks since her father's death and one since the memorial, Shana had not cried once.

Snake Eyes observed only from afar, knowing that his presence in the young woman's life was as of yet unneeded. But once his burns had been sufficiently treated he had set out on the mission the professor had given him. Scars would remain, perhaps permanently, and Snake Eyes doubted that he would ever fully heal. No matter. He would honor his promise—eventually. Shana did not require his assistance.

Two weeks was a rather long time, however.

In his rigorous covert observations of the girl, Snake Eyes had discovered the blazing bravery of a soldier beneath her impassive exterior, a trait which would likely get her killed if not tamed. While she demonstrated no outer struggle, moving around her empty campus like a phantom, he did not have to guess on the war that waged within her. He only need wait until the war moved to the forefront of her mind and she lost control.

It was at two weeks and a half when this conflict became public.

Snake Eyes had been keeping watch on her dorm room from the roof of a building just across from the school, and had seen Shana when she returned from another failed attempt at making friends during a school wide meet and greet. She threw her bag on the bed and plopped down beside it, leaning forward so her forearms were against her thighs. And then she flipped her nightstand over.

Packing away his binoculars, Snake Eyes fired his grappling hook and swung over to Shana's balcony as she was in the process of crushing her lamp.

He had been tentative to come to such drastic measures so quickly, but Snake Eyes had no other choice now that the girl had become destructive. So he knocked on the window.

As Shana spun around, a scream was already halfway out of her throat. He could only imagine that he appeared to her as some demonic apparition in the darkness, intent on sullying her honor. As it was, the girl could not run very far because in her hurry to get away had tripped on her overturned nightstand.

Snake Eyes unlocked the window and hopped lightly into the girl's posh dorm room, and he scanned every nook and cranny to make sure it was not bugged. As he did this, Shana was scurrying backwards on the floor, and the fact that she was not standing told him that she had injured herself.

He reached her in less than a second, and the girl was pale and trembling as she looked up at him with terror and determination fighting for supremacy in her emerald eyes.

"I-I don't have any-anything, I sw-I swear," she pleaded softly.

Snake Eyes sank to one knee and reached for her damaged ankle instead of answering. She flinched at his touch, and he was forced to sign "I will not harm you," in the confidence that her father had taught her sign language.

He was not disappointed as Shana nodded shakily, and cautiously extended her leg again. Snake Eyes lifted her pant leg and removed her sneaker, gloved fingers deftly massaging the bone. It was only twisted, and he told her so before lowering her foot. She watched him now with curiosity, and she fiddled with the bottom hem of her jeans as he sat back.

"Who are you?" she asked slowly, sharp eyes searching his face—or lack of one. "And what are you doing here?"

"You may call me Snake Eyes, Miss O'Hara," he signed, and bowed. "I heard of your father's death and thought it wise to help you."

Snake Eyes was certain that the girl was not yet prepared for the truth behind his mission (and he was not ready to tell her), and was proven correct when her eyes blazed.

"Help me with what? Bringing him back from the dead?" she snarled, and tried to stand. She would have fallen flat on her face had Snake Eyes not steadied her with a light grip on her elbow. Shana pulled away from his touch again, but only swayed once when he released her.

"You have been considering revenge on Cobra."

"So what?" she demanded, folding her arms over her chest. "It's their fault he died. Can't a girl enjoy a revenge fantasy or two?"

Snake Eyes shook his head once. "Fantasy leads to reality. You have been planning an attack—one that you will not walk away from. I can train you–prepare you enough to stand a chance."

"And why would you want to help me? I'm sure that I'm only one of hundreds wronged by Cobra." Shana was suspicious now, and rightfully so. The professor had been correct when describing her—she was resolute, and a worthy pupil. A pupil who would require intense training, but certainly be worthwhile. And beneath her distrust, a mien which Snake Eyes was convinced would never quite fade, was the faintest glimmer of a solemn, almost childlike, hope. She needed him now.

"Why would you want to help me?" she repeated, moving her hands to her waist as impatience broiled behind her eyes.

I couldn't save your father.

It's my fault he's gone.

I can't leave you alone.

I made a promise to a friend.

"We have shared enemy," was what he signed instead.


2.

Two months passed before Shana finally broke.

The girl had been doing remarkably well in her training, having participated in several self-defense classes at her father's prior insistence. She was by no means a master, and Snake Eyes could still deck her in a second flat, but she was improving despite her inexorable impatience.

Much of their time training was filled with meditation to calm Shana and purge her mind of all thought, particularly the destructive ones, none of which usually worked. The school year had begun and she now had classes and studying on top of exercises, though she never missed one appointment or slacked off in her studies nor, however, did she ever spend time with friends. The few times Snake Eyes had mentioned her antisocial nature she had scowled and told him to keep his nose out of her business. He had then reminded her that he was her sensei and ordered her to the corner where she did flips for half an hour.

She still did not trust him, at least not completely, and again Snake Eyes could not fault her. Shana continuously wished to know what he looked like under his mask, a question he regularly dodged with further instruction on her kata. He wondered for how much longer he would be able to avoid the subject.

Aside from her blatant cynicism, the rage she had become so good at hiding was breaking loose bit by bit, until she would burst into fits of fury mid-training or, the latest installment, in the middle of her psychology class.

Snake Eyes had only stopped to search her vacant dorm before absconding to the school's parking lot. As he had suspected, her vintage Ford Mustang was gone and rain clouds were broiling on the horizon.

Hitching rides atop buses and trucks, Snake Eyes made it onto the freeway leading to Atlanta. He spotted the cobalt blue Mustang on the side of the road at the same time the heavens opened up and released torrents of rainwater.

Snake Eyes leapt off the Greyhound and into the slick mud with hardly a sound, jogging over to the topless Mustang where he could see a flash of unmistakable red within.

He found Shana in the front seat with white knuckles around the steering wheel, head bowed with her fiery crimson hair plastered to her face and neck hiding her expression. She was shivering violently as Snake Eyes' heart finished racing and he opened the passenger side door, carefully sliding in beside her lest she went into another one of her tirades. She did not move, and her shoulders did not stop trembling as the rain continued to fall, likely ruining the leather interior.

Finally, Shana's breath hitched.

"Did I ever tell you about my dad, Snake Eyes?" she intimated quietly, and he shook his head in trepidation, knowing that she could not see the action. "Well he worked for Cobra," Shana continued just as softly. "He was never home, and even when I was a little girl, his work always came first and…and I hated him for it. I hated my father." Her shoulders arched as she forced down a sob, and Snake Eyes waited patiently, in silent agony, for her to release the fears and frustrations she had kept bottled since before Professor O'Hara's demise.

"I would try everything to get him to stay," Shana said, and chuckled weakly, "I would pretend to be sick for days, or come up with some excuse for him not to send me to another boarding school." Her voice was suddenly hard and pained. "But my father was a stubborn jackass. No one could make him do anything."

With a mental wince, Snake Eyes remembered the look of steadfast determination in the professor's eyes as he set the MASS Device to overload, though his countenance remained as impassive as ever.

Shana was gasping now, sobs mingling with her words that were nearly lost to the roar of the downpour. "My stubborn jackass of a father, who didn't even let me say g-goodbye." Her entire body shook, but still Snake Eyes held back.

"H-he didn't let me. I was so furious, and there he w-was, making excuses and keeping me out of his life—I didn't say g-goodbye or 'I-I love you'." Shana's lithe body heaved with every sob, and she sounded weaker than Snake Eyes had ever heard her.

"He's dead now. The selfish bastard didn't even let me say goodbye."

Shana fell quiet, allowing her grief to swallow her as she rested her forehead against the steering wheel of her vintage Ford Mustang in the rain on the side of the freeway. Snake Eyes moved at last, placing a hand on her shoulder, and drawing the redhead towards him. Shana was too exhausted to do anything other than lean into his touch, and relaxed as her head was guided to the spot between Snake Eyes' neck and shoulder.

She would say no words of thanks, and only cried silently into Snake Eyes' chest as his arms encircled her, protecting her from what he could not protect her father.


3.

"I've decided to go to Riverside Academy."

Snake Eyes looked up at Shana, but her features remained carefully neutral as they continued practicing their kata.

"The military school?" he signed unnecessarily, but Shana nodded all the same.

"If I ever want to bust Cobra open, I'll need formal backing, and the school's not far from here. I didn't want you to go out of your way to get there."

"I will follow you, wherever you go."

Neither commented on his meaning, and in the year they had known each other Shana no longer questioned his company as much as she used to. In spite of everything, the same little furrow formed between her brows before he even finished signing, and he knew that her mind was hard at word to uncover the truth beneath his presence. He often longed to somehow find a way to smooth the crease that darkened her features so terribly.

"I know," was all Shana said, and her hand unconsciously fingered the locket around her neck as she continued mimicking his movements.


4.

It wasn't until two years after they met that Shana saw his face.

It had been purely accidental—they were on the roof of the warehouse he was bunking at not far from Riverside, and Snake Eyes was showing her how to make one of his smoke bombs. Shana had been pouring the concoction, but something had been mixed incorrectly and the entire thing exploded. Snake Eyes had shielded her from the blast, and while it had not been too damaging, it had ripped a good portion of his mask to shreds.

Shana had stopped asking him why he wore a mask about five and a half months into their first meeting, though her curiosity had not once abated. Not until she laid eyes on the deformed face, twisted with innumerable scars, was that curiosity permanently sated.

It was not until she handed him one of his spare masks did she ask the question that had still been burning her throat.

"What happened?"

Snake Eyes did not respond until the new mask was firmly in place, and even then he did not sign. Miming an explosion with his hands, he looked up to meet her gaze through his visor. How he wished he could tell her more, but she was still unprepared for such news.

Shana only nodded, her expression dwindling between empathy and relentless inquisitiveness. She finally resigned herself to cleaning up the mess she had made, and as he bent down to help her she softly said, "I'm sorry, Snake Eyes."

He knew that she could not understand that he was the one who was supposed to be apologizing, begging for her forgiveness, and hoped that she would be as accepting of it when the time came.


5.

They had been fugitives of the law for less than a month.

The soldiers did not know or even trust each other, not yet, and it was one of many quiet nights. Weems' death still weighed a heavy toll over all of them, perhaps Shana most of all, though Snake Eyes knew she would never admit it.

He had started a small fire, and they were somewhere in the backwoods of New England so he did not expect them to be found. Snake Eyes still took first watch, a fact that Shana explained to the others as they did not understand his obscure way of communicating. He was the least trusted; a ninja without a face, and he did not blame them. Shana would be sure to stem any ideas of unrest before they grew.

They spread out around their impromptu campsite, Roadblock in the stolen Cobra truck, Duke in a passenger seat, and Tunnel Rat outside in a sleeping bag. Snake Eyes was in the branches of a tree as lookout, and Shana leaned against the base of it. He heard her sigh, and when he looked down at her she had her locket open in her palm.

Snake Eyes dropped soundlessly onto the grass beside her, inclining his head so Shana would not attract attention when she spoke if the soldiers were not all asleep. She understood his attentiveness as a question toward her well-being, and smiled faintly.

"Nothing's wrong, Snake Eyes. I didn't mean to distract you. You can get back to your watch."

In response, Snake Eyes folded his legs beneath him and sat at the ready, letting Shana know he was not going anywhere. She laughed, blowing her bangs out of her eyes. "Right," she said, a genuine smile tugging at her lips as she looked up at him through her hair. "Wherever I go, you go."

Snake Eyes nodded. They had been in each other's company for so long that the use of sign language was hardly required. Although, Shana had not finished speaking.

"But, Snake Eyes, don't you…don't you ever regret deciding to help me? I mean, you're sure as hell not getting rid of me now." Despite her joking inflection, Shana was wringing her pale hands in her lap. Snake Eyes reached out with one hand and entwined his gloved fingers with her own, successfully calming her.

He searched her expression, lowering his head until he met her gaze. Her fingers tightened around his and he knew that Shana understood he would never leave her.

Snake Eyes lifted his other hand, his fingers gently brushing her cheek, and he waited to see if Shana would reject a touch more intimate than she was familiar with. He was only partially surprised when she leaned into his hand, her lips brushing his palm. Shana sighed, and her felt her breath through his glove.

"Thank you," she whispered, closing her eyes and placing her hand over his. "For…for staying with me."

Snake Eyes nodded, and their foreheads brushed.

"For you, anything, Shana," he signed.

She laughed softly. "Actually…call me Scarlett."


6.

The debriefing with General Abernathy seemed to have gone on for an eternity, but their efforts had not been in vain—the Joes were dropped of all charges and a team was being formed to hunt down the rest of Cobra's operatives.

Tunnel Rat, Roadblock, and Ripcord were all in favor of a celebration over their newfound freedom, after about a week's rest. They were allowed to retire after a grueling interview session for each, though Duke, Professor O'Hara, Scarlett, and Snake Eyes were forced to stay for many more hours. The latter was only attending because of his extensive association with the O'Hara family and knowledge of Cobra's inner workings, which Scarlett would then translate for their higher-ups.

While Shana's raging passion for the destruction of Cobra had never dwindled, for some time it had been more than her father's dead that compelled her—it was the injustices committed to all of the super company's victims. She was in the process of avenging every one of them now, with a steady hand and a steadier heart.

Scarlett had also eventually understood his part in her father's apparent death, as Snake Eyes had hoped she would, and with the Professor around to clear everything up, he suspected that she was close to almost forgiving him. Maybe. He was cautiously optimistic.

Snake Eyes was also tired.

Contrary to popular belief, he was actually human and could fall prey to the same tendencies as that of his teammates. And after hours of mind-numbing and repetitive questions (admittedly made tolerable by Scarlett's presence), he was just about ready to call it a night.

The bedrooms he and the others had been assigned were standard military issue: plain, and sparsely furnished, with one bedroom and one bathroom. The bed looked distinctly inviting, but he was still stiff after sitting in the same chair for five hours. Snake Eyes decided to loosen his muscles by practicing his kata with one katana before turning in, at the same time offering a way for his thoughts to wander, so they would not be keeping him up until the late hours of the night. Or morning, rather, when he noticed the time.

Minutes passed, and, while exhausted, Snakes Eyes' movements were as smooth and fluid as they had ever been. In his mind, he went over the past days' events—everything from Shana's conclusions regarding her father and his involvement, to the long hours of interrogations in which Shana had not looked at him unless she was translating his sign language.

Even with his back turned, Snake Eyes became aware of a new presence even before the door had closed noiselessly behind them. He sensed them move behind him, though he did not interrupt his kata until he felt a hand on his shoulder.

Still crouched with his blade extended, Snake Eyes looked up at Scarlett as her hand trembled. Her touch was light and hesitant, much like his often was, and she would not look him in the eye. She seemed uncharacteristically small, but she still carried herself with the same kind of grace and dignity Snake Eyes had always been privy to.

Concerned, Snake Eyes rose from his stance, and took Scarlett's tremulous hand in his own. He bowed his head, hoping to illicit a response for her untimely, if not unwelcome, intrusion.

Scarlett finally met his gaze, and her emerald eyes were gentle and unwavering, and without further prompting, pulled up Snake Eyes' mask and kissed him firmly on the lips.

For many seconds, Snake Eyes was unsure how to process the feel of Scarlett's lips on his, and stood completely still as all ability to think abandoned him. But then his katana slipped out of his numb fingers and clattered to the floor, and he wrapped his arms around Scarlett, deepening the kiss.

Snake Eyes now had viable reason to believe that all had been forgiven.