Idiot! Bastard! Fool! Storm Shadow mentally yelled insults at Snake-Eyes, half of which didn't make much sense. His blood boiled and his body felt so hot with fury he no longer acknowledged the icy ocean water. That son of a bitch, always trying to play hero, always trying to save someone, and it was about to cost him his life.
Somewhere behind him, Scarlett frantically called out Snake-Eyes' real name, but it didn't register in Storm's mind. Just ahead of him, the scared and exhausted greenshirts were practically attacking Snake, all their thought processes reduced to trying to use him as leverage so they could keep their heads above water. Their actions and his mask were preventing him from taking a proper breath, and if he couldn't get to the surface, neither could the unconscious man in his arms.
He was being drowned by the very people he was trying to save.
Pure, blind fury engulfed Storm Shadow, and he dove. He swam under the group and, with a powerful thrust of his leg, kicked a clinging greenshirt away from his brother. Snake inhaled deeply, his throat gurgling with seawater as he struggled to get the man to keep breathing.
"Let GO!" Storm growled, prying the greenie from Snake's hold. For a moment, it looked like his brother wasn't going to comply, but Snake's grip loosened when he coughed, allowing Storm to pull the greenie away.
"Snake-Eyes!" Scarlett gasped as she swam over to him. "Snake! Take your mask off!"
Stubbornly, Snake shook his head even as he spasmed in a coughing fit.
"Goddammit, Hebi no Me!" Storm Shadow snarled. "Now is not the time to be worried if you look your best or not! At least roll your mask up!"
A greenie tried to cling to Scarlett instead of one of the ninjas, but the redhead kept him away. "On your back! ON YOUR BACK!" she ordered. When the greenie struggled to obey, Scarlett helpfully turned him on his back. "Good. Stay there and catch your breath. I'll be right back."
Thankfully, the man stayed where he was while Scarlett swam over to the still-panicking remaining two greenies.
... Two? Storm had one, Snake was still trying to cough out water, and there was only one man floating on his back. There were supposed to be three greenshirts remaining.
She took a deep breath and released it in an effort to calm herself. After refilling her lungs, she dove down, scanning the depths for a humanoid figure. No, no, no, please, no. Don't let it be too late. Please, please.
A hand wrapped around her ankle, almost making Scarlett inhale water. Whirling around, she found herself face-to-face with Cover Girl, who pointed to the surface repeatedly before swimming up. Scarlett followed.
"Have you seen the missing greenie?" Scarlett gasped, wiping her face.
"You mean that missing greenie?" Cover Girl nodded towards Beach Head, who was swimming parallel to the shore with an unconscious greenshirt in tow. He was followed by Storm, who was struggling to drag both Snake and his greenshirt.
Scarlett did a headcount. "Yes. That one." A pause. "Since when did you and Beach get here?"
"We rode the rip current out here. Thought you guys might need some help."
"Well, thanks." She smiled at the former model as they both swam towards the three remaining greenies, all floating on their backs. Their chests still heaved with labored breaths, but they appeared a lot calmer.
"Good job, Steve." Reaching out, Scarlett patted the man on the shoulder. He was the greenie she had forced onto his back. "See what happens when you calm down? Your mind clears and you're able to help others."
"Thank you... ma'am..." he gasped. "What the... hell was that? We couldn't... we couldn't..."
"You were caught in a rip current," Cover Girl explained matter-of-factly. "Didn't you hear Beach?"
Steve shook his head slightly. "No, ma'am. Couldn't hear anything but splashing." He paused. "Damn. A rip current."
"A large column of water heading seaward," Scarlett offered helpfully as she swam around, checking on the other greenies. "It occurs when water gets trapped on the beach and has nowhere to go."
"A fucking rip current."
"Yes." Scarlett turned to another greenie. He was wincing, and one hand was resting on his stomach. "You alright, Tristan?"
"Just fine, ma'am," he replied, his voice tight. "I'll live... I hope."
He carefully prodded his abdomen with his fingers. "It... it was my fault, sergeant."
"What happened?" she demanded again. "Are you hurt?"
"No, ma'am. Not injured." The greenie swallowed. His breathing had evened out, and regret was written all over his face. "I... he... Storm Shadow drop-kicked me underwater."
Scarlett blinked. "Really... why did he do that?"
This time, Tristan rolled over and began slowly swimming back to shore, his progress evidence that the rip current was no longer there. Eyes narrowed, Scarlett easily caught up with him. "Hassett, I demand an answer." She yanked hard on his shoulder, forcing him to stop and face her.
He ducked his head, not looking at her. "You'll hate me, sergeant," he choked.
"Why? What did you do?" Scarlett demanded.
The greenie swallowed hard. "I... I pushed Sergeant Snake-Eyes underwater." As Scarlett's eyes widened, he quickly added. "I'm so sorry! I wasn't thinking! I was so scared, and I c-couldn't keep my head above water then I saw him and didn't think-"
"It wasn't your fault," she interrupted, cutting him off. "So you panicked and pushed Snake underwater. Then what?"
"Th-then Storm kicked me off of him. I... I'm sorry, ma'am. I should've known better."
Scarlett tucked her wet hair behind her ear. "I'm not the one you should apologize to, Hassett. You know that."
Tristan bit his bottom lip. "I do, ma'am. I'll apologize to Sergeant Snake-Eyes as soon as we get back to shore."
Smiling, Scarlett nodded. "I'm sure he'll forgive you."
"But will Storm Shadow?"
The greenie looked positively pale. "I tried to drown his brother. I think he has a vendetta against me now."
Scarlett made a dismissive noise. "I don't think so. If he held a vendetta against every single person who's hurt Snake, Cobra wouldn't be active today."
It took a while for the three greenies to regain their strength, but as soon as they did, the group began swimming back to the beach. Both Cover Girl and Scarlett noticed that the closer they got to shore, the more and more reluctant the greenies looked. "Oh," Cover Girl murmured as she nudged Scarlett and pointed towards the sand. Beach Head was looking royally pissed-off and Storm Shadow was pacing restlessly, a murderous glint in his eyes.
Of course. No one with even a smidgen of common sense would approach those two at the moment.
"Go see to Snake. I'll make sure we don't have roasted greenies for dinner tonight." Cover Girl gave Scarlett a pat on the shoulder before walking out of the water in Beach Head's direction.
Scarlett broke into a jog as soon as her feet found firm footing. Storm Shadow had stopped pacing and was standing next to Snake as Lifeline examined him. Snake's mask and t-shirt were on the ground and covered in sand, but Scarlett took no notice of them.
Snake was bundled up in a large white towel - Storm Shadow's, she guessed - and had a smaller, lighter towel - one that Lifeline insisted on bringing in case of 'emergencies' - completely covering his head. "How is he?"
At the sound of Scarlett's voice, Snake-Eyes straightened up a little and turned his face in her direction. "Yes, Snake - it's me." She sat down next to him. "You alright? How do you feel?"
Snake's left hand appeared from the towel. [Fine. A little dazed, but fine.]
"His body temperature, heart-rate, and breathing are normal." Lifeline stood up. "As rare as it is for Snake and I to agree on his physical condition, yes, he's fine."
Scarlett looked up at him. "How are the two greenies who came back first?"
Lifeline sighed. "They will also be fine." He nodded towards two forms in the sand. Scarlett almost had a heart attack until she noticed that their chests were rising up and down. They were breathing and fast asleep, bundled warmly in towels and thermal blankets. "What took you and Cover Girl so long in getting the rest of the greenies back?"
"They weren't in any danger of drowning or hypothermia. I had Steve float on his back while I made sure everybody was accounted for. Once I got back, he had two others floating with him. As soon as they regained some energy, we swam back. Cover Girl and I made sure none of them passed out or froze to death."
Lifeline nodded approvingly. "I'll go have a look at them. Nicely done, Scarlett, although I disapprove of running out to save someone without a flotation device of some sort."
Scarlett shrugged. "It was a spur-of-moment thing."
"A stupid spur-of-moment thing."
Three sets of eyes and one pair of ears settled on the approaching greenshirt. Lifeline immediately moved towards him. "Hassett, you need to get dry and get warm immediately."
The dripping wet man shook his head. "No, I need to get this out. Sergeant, I..." he cleared his throat. "I'm... sorry for almost drowning you."
"You'd better be," Storm muttered irritably. Scarlett tossed a handful of sand in his direction, with no effect.
"It was the stupidest thing I could've done at the moment, and I did it." He dug his foot into the sand. "I know it's not going to change the past, but I'm sorry. I really am."
Snake tilted his head. Scarlett could almost feel him smiling [It wasn't just you; it was every greenshirt in the water. It's an involuntary reaction associated with drowning. I forgive you.]
Tristan's jaw dropped. "Really?"
[Yes. You got kicked by my brother, did you not?]
The greenshirt's face ashened. "Yes... right..." Slowly, he turned to face Storm, who immediately frowned. "Are you going to hold a vendetta against me?" he blurted out, voice shaking.
Storm's eyebrows went up. "And why would I do that?"
"For..." Tristan stared at his feet. "For... endangering your brother's life."
The ninja stayed silent for a while, thinking, before speaking. "Yeah, I think I will."
The look on the greenie's face was priceless. His eyes bulged, his mouth hung open, and his face was white. He looked like a dying fish, opening and closing his mouth as he tried to formulate a response and got nothing more out than, "Uh... um... uh... wha..."
Storm raised his hand, effectively shutting the flabbergasted greenshirt up. "IF... you don't get back in the water as soon as you are able to, and learn how to properly escape a rip current."
A laugh escaped Scarlett before she could stop it. Lifeline looked indignant. "Storm Shadow, that is unacceptable. These men-"
"Don't know how to recognize or escape these currents and might drown should this happen again," Storm finished coolly for him. "They need to learn. So, greenie, what do you say? Ninja vendetta or swimming lesson?"
Tristan glanced back at the two men he swam back to shore with. "Swimming lesson, sir," he answered quietly.
"You don't sound very sure."
"Swimming lesson, sir!"
"Much better." Storm Shadow grinned.
Scarlett rolled her eyes.
A/N: And so this story ends. I'm surprised at how many of you thought there was going to be a shark in the water. In real life, be careful when going to the beach and watch out for rip currents. Unlike in this story, if you get caught in one, chances are you won't be rescued by shirtless ninjas and you won't get a swimming lesson from one afterwards. Don't be as stupid as the greenshirts in this story. If you do get caught it a rip current, for the love of god start swimming parallel to the shore until you get out of it.
Special Thanks to Greentigerr for co-writing, editing, AND trying on different kinds of wet masks to see what it is like to breathe through them. I'm not lying about this part. She actually did it. I have the chart she made if you don't believe me.
I might (keyword: MIGHT) write an epilogue to this. Maybe. If I feel like it. Until then, this story is considered complete.