A/N: This is a random collaboration with Greentigerr. We had some discussion, and we honestly don't know why the Joes are at the beach for seemingly no reason, so we settled with 'they're on break'. Suggestions otherwise are welcome. Slight racism in this chapter, because - hey - Storm and Snake are best friends. We both think Snake can take a little teasing. Warning: Beach Head in capslock ahead.
Scarlett stepped out of her sandals and onto the fine sand. She let out a sigh of contentment as she wriggled her toes into the warm grains. A salty sea breeze blew in her face and she inhaled deeply as it teased her hair and tickled her neck. It was a perfect day for the beach; it was hot and sunny, with little wind and positively picturesque surf.
Well, almost perfect.
Without warning, two scuba-suited forms sprinted past her, whooping and laughing. They reached the waves within seconds and dived under the first breaker with less difficulty than they'd had in getting out of the transport van.
"And that's the last we'll see of Deep-Six and Wet-Suit today, isn't it?" Cover Girl eagerly clambered out onto the sand, kicking off her shoes and taking a deep, appreciative breath of the fresh air.
The rest of the team hurried out, eager to spend every second of their break relaxing. A half dozen shirts hit the sand, including the former model's, effectively staking out an area on the otherwise deserted beach. It was a testament to their excitement that most of the men didn't bother to glance back at the disrobing woman before following the two aquatic specialists in a headlong rush for the surf. Those who did, however, were treated to a glare from their PT instructor that threatened to burn their skins raw quicker than the glaring sunlight. Predictably, they averted their eyes.
"Not so fast." the Sergeant Major's snarl stopped the five hopeful greenies (sans shirts) in their tracks. "Don't think you'll be gettin' a vacation outa this."
"At least take your shirt off!" Cover Girl called to the always-irate drill sergeant.
He slowly turned to face her. His scowl was visible through his balaclava. "Do ya wanna join our drills, Barbie?"
"No, Sergeant Major!" her response was prompt and forceful enough that he had to answer with a "Hmph" to avoid smiling slightly. If she dreaded his training, he wasn't getting soft. "But if you want to make it worse for them, I suggest showing as well as screaming their inadequacy."
Scarlett shook her head slightly and tuned out the sound of the two talking. A quick glance around, and she frowned. They were two people short, not counting Deep-Six and Wet-Suit. She returned to the van and peered inside. "Snake," she groaned as she reached inside. "Come out. It's nice out here."
The black-clad ninja was sitting in the darkest corner of the transport, clearly making an attempt to become part of the seat. He alternated between tugging on the short sleeves of his t-shirt and rubbing his right arm, over his tattoo. The redhead rolled her eyes. "Stop being such a ninja baby and come out."
The comment only made Snake sink deeper into his seat. Scarlett groaned. There was no way she could drag a one hundred-eighty pound ninja out of the van, and the moment she turned around to call for help, Snake would disappear. "Please, Snake?" She dipped her chin slightly and gave him a mournful look. "For me?"
The ninja tilted his head contemplatively.
"You know, I'll be miserable all day if you don't come out."
"If she's miserable, she might not go swimming. And I know you want to see that, brother." Storm Shadow's voice was suddenly located one seat forward. It took all of Scarlett's willpower to not flinch.
[I can't see much if she's in the water.] Snake signed.
"And where were you?" Scarlett eyed the surprisingly not-shirtless ninja with a hint of suspicion. Storm liked showing off, so it wasn't like him to not take advantage of the scenario.
"Making sure that we weren't being followed," he replied casually before returning his attention to his brother. "You don't want to make her sad, do you?"
Snake's gaze alternated between his love and his brother. He had a hunch both of them had planned this out beforehand, given that Scarlett perfectly timed her pleading expression with Tommy's question. Of course, it could be a coincidence, but he still had his suspicions.
[Fine.] he signed, seeing no point in resisting the inevitable. Almost instantaneously, two different hands shot out, grabbed his wrists, and yanked him out of the van. The cool ocean air hit his skin, and he almost flinched. [Why do I have to wear a t-shirt and shorts again?] he signed once he freed himself from Scarlett and Storm's grips.
"You don't have to wear the shirt if you don't want to," Scarlett suggested coyly. Storm snorted.
Snake rolled his eyes, exaggerating the motion with his head, but she could tell that he was smiling. [I'll take it off back at the hotel. Not here.] He lightly ran his fingers along her jawline. Scarlett grinned slowly.
"And we all know what that will lead to - no sleep for me tonight." Storm ducked as Scarlett swung a fist at his head. "Calm down, Red. I was joking. I brought plenty of earplugs. I already have a waterproof pair in." He ducked again when she tried to kick him.
From her miniscule beach tote, she pulled an enormous bottle of SPF 90 sunscreen. Snake recoiled slightly. Storm's eyebrows rose.
"Come on. You don't need any more burns on your body." She approached him with a handful of the white goop.
Snake frowned. [That was low,] he signed, backing away slowly.
"My point still stands. Come here." She beckoned.
With head bowed, he approached and reluctantly presented one arm to her. He somehow managed to let out a broken-sounding yelp when she attacked his arm and began furiously rubbing the sunscreen into his skin.
Storm chuckled. "Look at you. And just when I thought gaijin couldn't get any whiter..." He ignored the glare Snake shot him.
"Ha ha, 'gaijin couldn't get any whiter.' Keep on laughing, Tommy, because you're next." She paused to flick a gob of the lotion at his face before turning back to Snake. "Shirt off," she ordered.
[You said I didn't have to,] he protested weakly. [I'll keep it on.]
She sighed and swiped a thick line of sunscreen under the collar of his shirt. He winced and wriggled uncomfortably. [Careful.]
"You don't want burns on your burns, do you?"
[They're numb.] He shrugged.
"Lifeline would have a fit." She pointedly directed her gaze toward the medic, who was harrying a sunbathing Cover Girl with a tub of industrial-strength sunscreen rivaling Scarlett's.
Storm Shadow made a dismissive sound. "You gaijin burn so easily."
"At least we're trying not to get burned." Scarlett walked towards him while squeezing another generous blob of sunscreen into her hand. "Now, stay still."
He danced out of her reach. "I've trained for years outdoors in direct sunlight. What makes you think I'll need sunscreen after all that time?"
Snake-Eyes coughed out a silent laugh as, nearby, Lifeline's head snapped up. "You're human too, and you're just as susceptible to skin cancer as the rest of us!"
Storm turned on his heel and dashed off as Scarlett made a lunge for him. A spray of sand went up as he dodged Lifeline and sprinted away with the determined redhead and the disgruntled medic hot on his heels.
A blonde blur shot out suddenly and attached itself to the fleeing ninja's back in an attempt to slow him. He missed a single step, threw Cover Girl off rather roughly, and continued sprinting for a few steps, but the distraction had slowed him enough that Scarlett was able to tackle him from behind. Her sunscreen-covered hands slipped on his arms but found purchase at his wrists, which he helpfully did not use to wrench her fingers backward as he usually did.
"My shirt's not even off yet, ladies," he smirked as Lifeline helped force him to the ground.
"We all know you'll be taking it off. So you'd better sunscreen your back thoroughly." Lifeline was already scrubbing the lotion onto the back of his neck.
"Contrary to popular belief, I do need a free hand to take my shirt off." He raised his eyebrows at Lifeline, who had a firm grip on his arms. "And I'd rather not break your wrist. You really shouldn't hold my arms like that. It would be so easy."
"How, exactly?" The medic eyed his grip thoughtfully. Storm exerted a small bit of pressure on the man's palm, and the medic hurriedly freed his arms. "You should not have that much leverage at that angle." He frowned.
"Ninja," Storm reminded him.
"Ninja who still needs sunscreen." Lifeline hovered another glob of sunscreen over the ninja as he slipped out of his shirt with a flourish. Nearby, Cover Girl gave a low whistle of appreciation, which earned her a few colorful words from a nearby sergeant major.
"Show-off." Scarlett smacked a handful of sunscreen onto his chest as hard as she could. It splattered in every direction, but he didn't flinch.
[You're getting slow if Cover Girl can catch you,] Snake signed as he walked over.
"And how do you know I didn't just let her catch me?" The smug smirk on Storm's face remained in place even after Snake whacked the back of his head reprimandingly. At the same time, Scarlett slapped more sunblock onto him, this time on his shoulder. "That's not how you're supposed to apply sunscreen, Red," Storm pointed out.
"No, really?" She scowled as she began spreading the slippery substance over his muscular torso. Storm grinned and opened his mouth, but Scarlett beat him to it. "Say one word, and you won't be able to have children."
He made a face. "You're cruel." He turned face Snake-Eyes, and gave him his most pitiful look. "How could you let her do this to me, brother?"
Snake shrugged. [At least she's doing this for your benefit.]
Storm didn't budge as Scarlett continued her harsh application of the protective lotion. "I'm going to look like a prehistoric cave painting once she's finished."
Snake-Eyes' shoulders shook with laughter.
Courtney A. Krieger, better known as Cover Girl to her teammates, had been with G.I. Joe for several years. Like every Joe, she had developed a strong sense of camaraderie with the others; it was hard not to, since they went to Hell and back on almost a daily basis in PT. The horrifying things they had witnessed while serving together had only helped to seal their bonds.
Yet, it never failed to surprise her just how different some of her teammates were when relaxed. Well, some of them. Wet-Suit and Deep-Six were - not surprisingly - nowhere to be found. Lifeline fussed over everyone to make sure nobody got overheated or dehydrated, but he too eventually got into the water. Storm swam around quite a bit near the shore and sometimes disappeared for minutes at a time. Scarlett was practically attached to her sunscreen bottle, emerging from the water several times to reapply a protective layer onto her skin.
And Snake. Poor Snake. Cover Girl had never seen him show much skin before, and he looked really uncomfortable in his t-shirt, shorts, and ski mask. It almost made her forget that he was one of the most dangerous men alive. He was adamant about staying on the beach and under an umbrella. His explanation was that any black material other than his bodysuit was bound to heat up very quickly. He didn't go near the water either, under the claim that ski masks were hard to breathe through when wet.
This - of course - led to Storm Shadow chasing him around with a bucket of seawater.
It was also kind of sweet, really, to see Scarlett chasing after the two ninjas as if they were little boys and screaming at them to put on more sunscreen. Snake often complied, although he stayed in shade most of the time, but Storm obviously enjoyed giving the redhead a hard time. This led to elaborate and very entertaining squabbles between the two.
Overall, everyone was acting exceptionally playful and easy-going, which - in turn - helped her anxieties fly away on the ocean breeze.
Cover Girl laid back down on her beach towel and closed her eyes, soothed by the sound of the waves. She was just beginning to doze off, when-
"Too slow, ya maggots! Again, and faster this time, gawddammit!"
She bit back a groan as she sat up and slid her sunglasses up on her head. "Can you be a little louder, Sergeant Major?" she asked dryly. "It's almost relaxing here."
The drill sergeant obliged her request without hesitation. His voice boomed across the beach, almost drowning out the waves. The trainees winced, and one greenshirt eventually clapped his hands over his ears.
Beach's reaction was immediate. "AM AH TOO LOUD FOR YOU?" he roared directly at the unfortunate soldier.
"N-no sir!" The greenie's hands dropped down by his sides. Despite the tremor in his voice, he made every effort to shout at the top of his lungs. Compared to the furious Sergeant Major, his voice was a meek whimper.
"AH AIN'T A SIR! IF YOU CAN'T STAND THE SOUND OF MAH VOICE, THEN HOW'RE YA SUPPOSED T'SURVIVE ON THE BATTLEFIELD?"
"Sneeden!" Cover Girl snapped as she stood up. "Can't you understand sarcasm?"
"Ya told me to be louder. Ya got yer wish, Cinderella. It ain't worth bein' sarcasm if it's good advice." He didn't take his eyes off of the trembling greenie.
"Can't you dismiss them for the day? They've been training since morning!" She pointed at the sun, which was resting comfortably about sixty degrees off the horizon. Afternoon. "Give them a break. They deserve it."
"Ah ain't bout to let them go soft just 'cause the sun's lookin' pretty. When they have to haul their asses along on a mission they'll thank-"
"Yes, we've all heard that lecture." Cover Girl casually shifted her weight to one leg and placed a defiant hand on her hip, drawing the wary attention of the exhausted greenshirts.
"DON'T GO INTERRUPTIN' ME, CINDERELLA!" he barked. "DROP AN' GIMME SEVENTY-FIVE, AND AH'D BETTER NOT SEE SAND ON YER KNEES WHEN YOU GET UP!
Without a word of protest, Cover Girl got down and began pumping out push-ups, a scowl visible on her face.
Satisfied, the Sergeant Major turned back to the five men, most of whom had taken the opportunity to collapse in the sand. "Don't think I didn't see y'all lookin'. Seventy-five, each of ya."
They all complied without a groan. Seventy-five neat, perfect push-ups later, six figures straightened up with a few grunts.
"Now that they're properly warmed-down, how about that break I was suggesting you give them?" Cover Girl rubbed the sand from her palms.
Beach Head frowned, then looked at the tired men. "They should be training."
"And they've trained. Beach, we came here to relax - 'we' including the greenshirts." She tilted her head a little and smiled. "And you."
He grumbled irritably.
"Please, Wayne," she murmured. "You can work them into the ground as many times as you want tomorrow at PT."
"Hey, don't give him any ideas," one of the greenies protested, only to be elbowed by his partner.
Beach's displeased expression was visible through his balaclava. "I'll remember you said that when yer crawling through mud, Barbie."
Cover Girl's smile took on a pained edge. "Yes, Sergeant Major."
The man grumbled and cursed inaudibly under his breath. Inaudibly, that is, to everyone but Storm Shadow, who suddenly made a sour face. "Alright." He turned to face the greenshirts, who immediately straightened up. "Dismissed. But I'd better see ya workin' yer asses off at this 'relaxin' thing. No lazing around sunbathin' or ya'll be right back here, and next time I ain't stoppin' 'till the sand's skinned yer whole puny legs!
The greenshirts' eyes lit up and they all snapped a crisp salute before disbanding in all directions. "If ya drown, ah ain't savin' ya, so keep yer head above water!" Beach Head barked after the men. "An' wave if yer in trouble! Keep an eye on yer buddies!"
The former model covered her mouth with her hand, but couldn't keep from giggling. "What's so funny?" Beach demanded.
"Nothing, Sergeant Major. Nothing at all."