Disclaimer: As per usual, I do not own G.I. Joe. I only do this for my own enjoyment (okay, maybe for others, too).

Duke walked into the conference room, being one of the last ones to arrive for the debriefing. He found a spot along the wall and took a couple of aspirin along with a mouthful of coffee to wash it down. They had come back to find the base being attacked by a large force of Cobra Vipers and B.A.T.s. The building itself looked worse for wear, but the Joes inside had kept the invasion stymied at the motorpool. Someone had decided to use some of the tanks to corral groups of the invaders that the ninja apprentices and some of the other Joes were outright slaughtering. In another area of the motorpool, a jeep had gone out in a blaze of glory; its remains still smoking as it sat among the ruins of enemy bodies.

Once they joined the battle, it became a rout with only a few Vipers making it out. Faced with an extremely pissed off Storm Shadow, most of the Vipers had panicked, running for other exits. The Joes had needed to scramble like mad to get those exits covered, but once they did, the remaining Vipers pretty much surrendered. It had been a good way to let out some of the frustration after the failed mission.

The very last of the Joes came in and Hawk called the debriefing to order. Since most of them had been there when Colton's house had blown up, there wasn't much to say about it. There was a report that a rocket had been responsible for its destruction. Hawk called on Storm Shadow next.

"Wait, shouldn't he be in the infirmary getting that chip thingy removed?" questioned Ripcord. Some of the others nodded their heads in agreement.

"Already done. I would have preferred if Doc had removed it instead of having that scythe pass through my head, brother," Storm Shadow said, grinning.

Snake Eyes shrugged. *Better than the alternative.*

"Going back to Cobra? Any day." Tommy turned his attention to the room. "What started this whole thing with Father Time was Mindbender," he said, spitting out the last word. "He found out in one of our ... little sessions about my side job and decided to distract Cobra Commander while he changed the programming. He has steadily increased it towards making me use those connections to cause destruction and chaos."

"Why? I mean, it isn't as if you can't cause enough destruction and chaos on your own," asked Dusty.

"Why don't you just tell us what you are? We already know about everyone else," Lowlight asked, frowning.

"Why would I want to do that? Being a hermit might suit Snake Eyes, it isn't how I want to live," Tommy said, smirking. "As for why it was being changed, I'm not su-" he paused and looked like he was listening to something. "Ah, most helpful, thank you," he said to the air. "Apparently that fool of a doctor thought having his foul creation come in and "save the world" from a rampaging monster, namely me, would help his royal Insaneness take over the world. And, once the balance was thrown off, Mindbender would then be able to use his powers without having to deal with his rules."

"What was that?" asked Stalker.


"How did you suddenly know?"

"Snake Eyes isn't the only one with assistants," Tommy said, smirking.

*I could use a small army of assistants like yours.*

"Mine, brother, get your own."

Snake Eyes sighed.

"Anyways, the Commander actually finding Father Time was unexpected. That dead-man-walking doctor decided that it would be an excellent time to start his plan in motion and suggested to the Commander to send me out to make sure Zartan killed Colton."

"Why Zartan? Why not go himself?" questioned Lady Jaye.

"Cobra Commander already has a power. Can't have two of 'em," said Beachhead as Snow Job nodded.

"The rest is just the same old story. Snake Eyes found me, we fought, he won. I think my skills are dumbed down with the rest of me when I'm like that. It's the only reason I can think of for you to win so often, brother."

Snake Eyes snorted, punching Storm Shadow lightly in the shoulder. *You wish.*

"I know you're happy being back and all, man, but could you tone it down. The whole bunch of you are like a pack of fuckin' puppies. We failed today! Colton is dead and so is Norris!"

Duke took another sip of coffee, considering what Ripcord had said. As soon as Jinx had seen Storm Shadow in the motorpool, she had run up to him and given him a hug, getting Viper blood all over him. Neither Billy nor Storm Shadow could seem to stop grinning as they caught up and made plans for more training and even Snake Eyes seemed happier. Only Kamakura was really acting the same as before. Duke knew he was happy Storm Shadow was back, but that he was still blaming himself for Storm Shadow's capture.

There was a knock on the door, interrupting Duke's thoughts as well as further conversation. It opened and General Colton walked through. He closed the door behind him and surveyed the room, only seeing two soldiers saluting him. "Well?" he barked. The stunned soldiers quickly regained composure and saluted. He surveyed the room once again. "Much better. At ease." The soldiers relaxed once more.

"How...I mean...what... but... I saw you in the house when it blew up! Sir," sputtered Tunnel Rat.

"I was, until the second before it blew up. You'd be amazed how fast you can move when you slow time down."

"But, don't you have rules about that?" questioned Clutch.

"I think I have been around long enough to know what I can and can't do, soldier," Colton said, narrowing his eyes. "Continue with the debriefing, General Hawk."

"Yes, Sir! Pleasure to know you're still among the living, although I suspect at least one of us already knew you were still alive" said Hawk, grinning.

"Ah, the Grim Reaper is here, somewhere, yes?" Snake Eyes nodded and several people pointed to him. Colton nodded at him. "You already knew it wasn't my time. Death is always timely."

Snake Eyes nodded.

"Does that mean you know when you are going to die, Sir? I mean, some of the things we researched say you have connections with death," asked Breaker.

"No. I got a headache from hell the last time I tried to find out."

Snake Eyes snorted.

"I was booted from the crossroads and told to take care of my own business. Just as well. No one really needs to know when their time is up until it happens. Not even me."

"Is it true you're the spokesman for 2000 flushes, Sir?" Heads whipped around looking for the source of the question.

The general scowled. "God damn internet," he raised his voice. "No, I have never been the spokesman for anything. Next person to bring it up gets a month of extra PT! Get back on track."

Storm Shadow continued, "After Snake Eyes removed the programming and the chip, things get a little fuzzy for me."

*I helped Tommy back to base.*

"And we got to see... Just what the hell did we see?" asked Stalker.

"Death doing its job. It'll be the only time you see it and live," stated Snow Job.

"I don't know why you couldn't just look the other way and let Norris live. Or any of those that have died since you've been the boss of death, Snake Eyes," blurted out Clutch.

"It's been explained!" shouted Snow Job.

"Then what good is it, having that kind of power? What's the benefit?"

*Benefit? I was chosen because I can do the job regardless of how I feel about it.*

"Even if it was Scarlett?" Clutch questioned.

"Enough!" Snake Eyes lifted his hands to sign. "No, don't even answer that question, Snake Eyes," Hawk glared at Clutch.

"I can guarantee when anyone close to Snake Eyes dies, he will be as shocked as everyone else. His assistant...assistants? Whatever, but they would be the ones handling that sort of thing. Similar to my assistants dealing with my... account." said Storm Shadow, glaring at Clutch.

"Do you know what the punishment would be if Snake Eyes were to do what you asked?" asked Colton.

"No, Sir, but it can't be as bad as letting good people die. I don't even know why I'm having this argument and not Beachhead!"

"Because Ah know if Snake Eyes could do something, he would. Ah can't believe you're this stupid."


"You mus' be. How many times has he taken injury because he's lookin' out for his teammates? Ever notice how them injuries don't jus' magically heal themselves?"


Colton interrupted Beachhead and Clutch's argument. "Secure it, soldier! The punishment for misusing the powers is eternal servitude to that power. Do you really want Snake Eyes to end up like Firefly? It would only take one time."

"Doesn't seem like Firefly got such a bad deal," Clutch grumbled.

"Firefly is living out the rest of his mortal life with partial servitude. Once he dies, his real punishment starts. His soul will never again join the cycle."

Hours after the debriefing and thoroughly being poked and prodded by Lifeline and Doc found Tommy wearily walking to his room to get some much-needed rest. It would have been longer, since the shrink had tried to ambush him. He mentioned to Psyche Out and that he was too tired to play mind games. The shrink had gone paper lily-white before suggesting they continue later. It might also have had something to do with Tommy pulling out a shuriken and running his thumb along the edge before looking back at Psyche Out and smirking evilly. He was just about to open his door when Snake Eyes poked his head out of his own and then snapped his fingers.

"What can I do for you that can't wait until I wake up, brother?" he asked, turning around to face Snake Eyes.

*I need help with Scarlett.*

Tommy shook his head. "What did you do to piss her off this time?"

*She wants to see it.*

"What, the Grim Reaper thing?" Tommy shrugged. "So, show it to her then."

*You're not being helpful.*

"You want her to stop being mad at you, then that's my best advice."

*As Cupid or Tommy?*

"Both. One of the reasons I got this gig was because of my charm," Tommy waggled both eyebrows at Snake Eyes.

Snake Eyes sighed loudly. *Not h-e-l-p-f-u-l.*

"Look, Red loves you, regardless of what you look like."

:Soul mates?:

Tommy reached for one of his many hidden knives. "Who's there?"

*Assistant. Apparently, she finds what I do here f-a-s-c-i-n-a-t-i-n-g. Keeps listening in randomly.* he tilted his head, looking towards the ceiling. *Get back to work.*


*And now loves acronyms. W-A-B-M*

"Why is she doing Cupid's job?"

:Apologies, M'lord Cupid.:

Snake Eyes heaved another loud sigh. *Fine.*