A/N: *sigh* ... Yeah, I know. I have the bad habit of starting stories then neglecting to update them regularly. Sorry about that; my mind goes where it wants to go. Don't worry - school is now out and I'll have a lot of free time to write (and draw; that's why I haven't updated in a while). This one should be the last new story for a while. I'll update the others in due time.
Storm Shadow knew a lot of things. He knew how to enter just about any building, regardless of security measures taken by those who owned it. He knew the heartbeats of Vipers who had foolishly irritated him and made sure to give them an extra hard glare whenever he walked past them. He knew how to kill any man in less than three blows and leave no evidence of the murder.
What he didn't know - however - was why he was being replaced.
"Master?" he stared in surprise up at Cobra Commander. "What do you mean I am not needed for a while?"
"It means what it means." The Commander leaned back casually in his throne. "I am changing your assignment temporarily."
Storm Shadow blinked. How... odd. "Have I displeased you?"
The masked figure shook his head. "As rare as the answer may be, no - you have not displeased me. Quite the opposite, actually. " Slowly, he stood up and began walking towards the ninja. "Cobra can really use your... skills."
That much is clear, Storm thought sourly. "Then what would you have me do?"
Cobra Commander laughed, his voice as unpleasant as nails on a chalkboard. "A very important job, Storm Shadow." Lifting his head, he regarded the door to the throne room. "Let him in."
Slowly, the doors opened to reveal... a small boy flanked by two armed Vipers.
"Storm Shadow," Cobra Commander gestured to the child. "You will be guarding him for the time being."
He raised an eyebrow. "A kid. You want me to guard a kid." If this was a joke, it was one hell of a stupid joke. In fact, it was downright insulting. He had not trained his entire life just to guard a kid. Then again, the same applied to the Commander.
Cobra Commander laughed again, making the back of Storm's neck prickle. "Ah, you should know better than to jump to conclusions, my ninja."
Not your ninja. Storm frowned behind his mask.
"This young man," the Commander began, walking over to the child and placing a hand on the kid's shoulder, "is my own son, William."
Oh. That explains it.
Now curious, Storm studied the boy. He looked about five and had brown hair that looked like it was ruffled one too many times. He had a scowl on his face that Storm was willing to bet was given to him by his father, and he wore a red Cobra t-shirt. He was nothing more and nothing less than Storm would have expected from an offspring of Cobra.
Upon seeing the ninja, the boy's expression immediately changed into one of interest. Oh, god. Storm wanted to disappear, to get away from the kid's scrutinizing gaze. Like father, like son, he supposed.
"Father, who is this?" the boy asked, walking towards the white figure before him. "A ninja?"
"A ninja," the Commander confirmed. Storm could hear the pride in his voice. "You asked for one, so I got you the best of the best."
Wait. Storm turned to the faceless man before him. "Commander..." He was careful to keep his voice even. "I was under the impression that I am to be this boy's-"
"William," the Commander corrected.
Clenching his jaw, he continued. "William's bodyguard, not his 'present'."
The man made a dismissive motion with his hand. "You'll be staying with him anyways. Whether he sees you as a gift or not doesn't matter to me."
Storm opened his mouth to speak, then thought better of it. His hands curled into fists. Any man smarter than the Commander might have realized the mortal danger implied when a ninja as formidable as Storm Shadow clenched his fists.
Billy continued staring at his father's gift to him. "Father." He tugged on the Commander's uniform. "Father, he's not black."
One of the Vipers next to Billy had to cough to keep from laughing. Storm visibly frowned through his mask.
"He's so good at what he does that black is boring for him."
"Nuh uh!" Billy stomped his right foot. "Black is better! Black belt is better than white belt, so a black ninja is better than a white ninja."
Cobra Commander sighed audibly and looked at the Vipers. "Attack him." He nodded towards Storm Shadow.
Both Vipers visibly stiffened and exchanged a glance with each other.
"Go on!" the Commander barked.
It was too easy for Storm Shadow. He was already running before he heard the gunshots. Bullets whizzed by him, but none came close to hitting him. For extra flair, he somersaulted and flipped several times. Putting on an extra burst of speed, he ran towards a wall, kicked off of it, and landed right between the two Vipers, forcing them to drop their firearms and block his attacks.
A kick, three punches, and two strikes later, both Vipers were staggering and obviously struggling to keep fighting. Taking pity on them, Storm jumped straight up and kicked each Viper firmly enough on the chest to send them sprawling on the floor.
Billy laughed and clapped his hands. "Do it again!" he giggled excitedly.
Cobra Commander simply inclined his head and brought a hand up to his right ear. "Viper squad 596, report to the throne room."
Half an hour later, Storm Shadow decided that he didn't like the Commander's son at all.
He kind of regretted losing control the last five minutes of his 'show'. Up until then, he had been using his sword solely for blocking and deflecting bullets. He'd just sort of... snapped, and before he knew it, the entire squad was on the blood-splattered floor, groaning softly. At first, Storm felt remorseful for wounding them - it wasn't their fault he was in this situation, but he had lost his patience when William demanded yet another encore.
With a flick, he shook the blood off of his swords and carefully resheathed them. "Anything else, William?" he asked, his voice strained and his words clipped.
The boy looked thoughtful. "Yes."
"What's your name?"
Oh. That wasn't too bad. "Storm Shadow."
Billy's eyes widened and he tugged incessantly on Cobra Commander's cape. "Father," he whispered loudly. "Is that his real name?"
"Indeed it is, my son."
"That's a cool name!"
"Can I have an awesome name like that?"
Cobra Commander smoothed his son's hair. "You will, my son. You will."
Billy's lower lip stuck out and he ducked away from his father's hand. "But I want one now!"
"You'll get your name when you earn it." And with that, the Commander returned to his throne. "Storm Shadow, your task from now on is watching over my son and making sure he is not harmed."
Storm stared at him. "What about you?"
"I've found temporary replacements for you."
He heard approaching heartbeats, and his eyes widened. In a flash, he had his swords out and turned-
His blades clashed loudly with another sword. Calmly, he stared at the razor-sharp edge a few inches away from his face. Had he reacted a blink of an eye later, he would be dead.
The new ninja smirked and removed his blade from Storm's. "Young Master." He did a mocking, sweeping bow. "I did not expect to see you here."
"You liar. You saw me, recognized me, and attacked me."
"Obviously." Dice ran his thumb along the side of his katana. "After all, don't think that we've forgiven you for bringing a gaijin to the clan."
"He's not a gaijin. He's my brother. Also, 'we'?"
"Mmhm. Yes. Then would you care to explain why your brother is on the opposing faction of this whole conflict? Some brother. As expected from a gaijin."
Storm chose not to respond. His ears picked up second heartbeat, and moments later, Slice dropped silently into the room. He didn't acknowledge the second ninja and instead glared at the figure on the throne. "You brought traitors here."
"Oh, did I?" Cobra Commander leaned back languidly. "Ninja vendetta, I'm assuming?"
"They betrayed my uncles." Storm Shadow's voice was hard and cold.
"Sure, whatever." The Commander sat up. "Slice, Dice, meet Storm Shadow. Storm Shadow, meet Slice and Dice. Slice, Dice, I expect you not to provoke or disturb Storm Shadow. Storm, if Slice and Dice attack you, you may kill them if you wish."
Dice let out an indignant sputter, only to be silenced when the Commander looked at him.
"So Slice and Dice are to guard you?" Storm didn't take his eyes off of Cobra Commander.
"Yes." The man somehow managed to look pleased as both ninjas moved to stand on either side of him.
"And I am to guard your son until I receive further notice."
Storm Shadow nodded slowly. "Understood... Commander."
Cobra Commander nodded, apparently satisfied. "Storm, you are to move your belongings to the room next to William's. William, feel free to give your new ninja a tour of your room after he's finished moving in."
Billy nodded so hard his upper body shook. "Yes, father." He turned to Storm and grabbed his hand. "Come, Stormy!" And he dragged him out of the throne room.
Storm could already feel a headache building up.
A/N: As usual, special thanks to Greentigerr for her editing help. She FINALLY started writing! Her first G.I. Joe story, "Movie Night" should be out. *eyes Greentigerr suspiciously* It's a Snake-Eyes/Scarlett story, so if you like the pairing, you should have a look. She's listed under my Favorite Authors.