Author's Notes

This story is a prize to SkinnyJoeFan for his place in a Cobra Fan Club art contest. It… was a while ago. I haven't been really well since. Not to get into details, but I was completely exhausted and unable to so much as think of being creative. I'm better now.

So, I'm really sorry for the delay, SkinnyJoeFan. I hope you enjoy anyway!

A Ninja Commando's Christmas Letter

Dear Mom, Dad, Terry,

The following is a stupid assignment from my councilor. You see, if you survive something that actually manages to horrify them, the army's way of caring is to make you see a shrink whose job it is to make sure you truly, fully understand just how fucked up you are. Sorry about the language, Mom.

So, anyway, he's making me write you a Christmas letter and I'm supposed to tell you what's going on in my life, give you some news and all that. I wasn't going to at first, but I figure I won't be able to show him how pointless it was to write a letter to my dead family if I don't go through with it first. He'd just insist it would have helped if I tried.

Okay… news. As the medics put it, I sustained serious injuries during a mission. Saying it like that doesn't make it sound like a big deal, does it? I guess it's not. Fact is, one soldier injured is way better than another one killed. I'm going to spare you the details, but the end result is that I can't speak anymore and my face scares people; and I don't mean just small children. I was in the hospital for months and the treatments... weren't fun. Let's leave it at that.

Funny in a way. I signed up knowing I might very well get killed, but at the time I only knew that the same way you know you're going to die eventually; it didn't feel real. And after basic training, I felt like part of a bigger whole, like my own individual life didn't matter that much, so if someone told me I was going to die, I would have shrugged it off as really unlikely - despite the fact it absolutely wasn't - and unimportant.

After Vietnam, dying didn't seem very unlikely anymore; I barely made it out of there alive. And THAT made me realize that just like I couldn't wait to see you again, it would have mattered to you if I had died. My life isn't much in the grand scheme of thing, but to those who care about me... yeah. That lesson sunk in a lot more when I found out I had survived war, getting ambushed and getting shot only for the most important people in my life to have failed to survive a drive to the airport. It made no sense to me; I was the one who was supposed to be in danger, not you.

I could go on for twenty pages on the years after that, but I'm supposed to talk about recent stuff, so here goes.

I'm out of the hospital and back on duty. I'm learning sign language, and I bet the guys figure I'm just doing it so I can go back to not talking because I don't want to instead of not talking because I can't.

And the silly thing is that I'm really pissed at them for saying that, because it's stupid and not funny, but they haven't actually said it. They don't say anything, and when they do, it's always like they're talking to someone else. I get that they don't want to talk about what happened, I don't either, but it's like they're pretending nothing did happen. It's not that I want sympathy, I'm pretty sure I'd hate that, but... well, I don't get to pretend nothing happened, and they do. So I keep going from being angry about jokes they didn't make to being angry about them totally avoiding the subject. Stupid, isn't it?

I guess I should write about Christmas stuff. We're doing a gift exchange. Secret Santa, limit ten bucks. I'm waiting to see how many ten dollar bills in a cheap greeting card get exchanged. I'm not doing that, though: the guy I drew loves gum, so he's getting ten bucks worth of gum.

There's someone else I might want to get a gift for. I don't even know. She's my girlfriend, or she was, but... well, I got my injuries by saving her life. It wasn't her fault, she just got caught in a door at the worst possible time, and she told me to leave her, but it's not like that was actually an option, now is it?

Point is, it's not her fault. I do NOT blame her. Not really, anyway. I mean, it's not like I don't remember what happened, I know this happened because I had to save her. But just because she's the reason for it doesn't mean it's her fault. It's not.

I'm angry at the fact it happened, not at her. I'm not being vain, honest, but I can't show my face in public ever again; it's that bad. And I spent months wishing I didn't survive because of those treatments. I seriously don't think they could have hurt a whole lot more if the doctors had been TRYING to torture me. And I know I was never much for conversation, but it's still no fun not to be able to talk at all anymore. Walking around with a notepad and writing down everything you need to say is a pain in the ass.

She feels bad about it, though. She doesn't talk about it, but it shows; I can't really pinpoint it, but she's acting different. I don't know if she even wants me around, either. It's not like there's any reason she would; I'm not fit to look at anymore, I can't talk, and I'm not exactly cheerful lately. Plus, I bet she feels better the longer she goes without being reminded of what I went through because I saved her. Besides, she's proud: she probably HATES feeling bad about this and she's not likely to admit she does.

I wish she'd be like before. I think we had something good going, and now it's gone and I want it back. I lost you guys, I lost my best friend and my new family, I lost my face, I lost my voice… I don't want to lose her too. Especially since I never needed to talk much with her anyway; she reads me like a book.

I don't think the main problem is how I look, or my voice: she's the exact opposite of superficial. It's how I make her feel that's the real problem. It's how she thinks it's her fault. I want to convince her it's not, but I don't know how because technically, like I was saying earlier, I can't pretend she had nothing to do with it.

Yeah, I think I need to get her something. If I don't, it'll look like I'm actually blaming her. I better wrap this up and figure out what to get her. Is there a kind of gift that says 'I don't blame you I ruined my life saving yours; want to go for dinner?'

I still miss you.

Snake Eyes scratched the back of his head, thinking. He hated to admit it, but writing all that stuff down hadn't been totally useless after all; at least he had a better idea of what to do about Scarlett. Namely, whatever it took and for starters, a nice gift to let her know how he still felt. Maybe some nice coffee… she had a coffee machine in her quarters, so she wouldn't even have to fend off the rest of the base to keep them from drinking all her good stash on her.

He smirked; that was too bad in a way. Shana mopping the floor with the guys was always entertaining.

He looked down at the letter and his smirk morphed into a scheming smile. He didn't really want to let his shrink know he had been right to make him write the letter, and it would be obvious if he read it.

And so would the fact he and Scarlett had been breaking fraternization regulations. He couldn't have that.

He picked the letter up and tucked it in his pocket before heading out. There was nothing for it, he'd have to burn it and tell the councilor that it hadn't been worth keeping. Hopefully the shrink wouldn't come up with an even worse therapy idea.