Chapter 1…Private Nicky Lee

Being Nicky Lee had its ups and downs. Being Tunnel Rat had mostly downs – but every once in a while there was an up, too. He didn't get to hang around the dirt or sewers as much, what with being in a truck most of the time, and he was stuck hanging out with a group of soldiers he never would've associated with otherwise – but at least being on the run had made him more and more…observant. Of course, he'd always been observant of plants or things found underground, but now he was seeing more of people and ideas. He found that conspiracies he used to call "crazy" or "paranoid" were now totally obvious. He was able to understand people a little bit better – including his discovery that Scarlett's abrasive personality was really just a façade – for what, he didn't know, but forty bucks said it had something to do with an ex-boyfriend or her dad. Chicks almost always seemed to have daddy issues (in his small amount of experience with women, anyways).

But still, even with all these newfound observational skills, he could not, for the life of him, understand anything about Snake Eyes. Obviously that was the intention – what with the mask and the barely any form of communication without Scarlett around to translate – but it still frustrated Nicky to no end. It was hard to work with a guy that he didn't know anything about. Except that he's an assassin. Which wasn't much of a confidence booster, honestly.

So anytime Nicky did discover something new about their little team's resident ninja – he was very proud of himself. It wasn't often, but it happened. He noticed that Snake Eyes really loves that motorcycle he stole – need for speed, maybe? He noticed that Snake Eyes was sometimes sleeping when he's in a meditation pose (though usually he's actually meditating, which meant that sticking your hand in front of his face would lead to an unwelcome bruise on your wrist). He noticed that when they offered Snake Eyes food, he would grab it, nod, and head somewhere else to eat - must've really not wanted to show his face to anyone.

But specifically, and most recently, he'd been noticing Snake Eyes'…attachment to Scarlett.

Now, he'd made jokes about them from day one. That's what you do when two people are as ridiculously close as they are, you make boyfriend/girlfriend jokes. But after utilizing his crazy new observational skills, Nicky noticed that…his jokes might not be as funny as he thought.

Whenever Duke and Scarlett spent an excessive amount of time together, especially if they laughed about something, Snake Eyes would walk off or and avoid the gang for a little while. Whenever the group was in immediate danger, whose arm would get grabbed by the resident ninja to pull her to safety? Scarlett's. Who was the entire reason they had the ninja on their team? Scarlett. Scarlett Scarlett Scarlett. What did Snakes do for this team that didn't have to do with Scarlett?

Nicky opened his eyes and glanced out the window of the Coyote. Trees everywhere – looks like they'd stopped for a quick break. He turned his head to see Roadblock sleeping in the seat next to him and Duke trying his best not to fall asleep in the driver's seat. Good thing they'd stopped.

Curious to where the other two had gone, Nicky looked out the window again and noticed a familiar redhead sitting against the bottom of a large oak tree. Must've needed some fresh air – he could understand that. He started to wonder where Snake Eyes was, but remembered that if the ninja didn't want to be seen, he wouldn't be. No point in trying to look around for him.

Deciding that he needed some fresh air himself, Tunnel Rat stretched and headed out the door next to him, closing it slowly in an effort to not wake up Roadblock or Duke. Those two were cranky if they didn't get their beauty sleep. Once outside, he took a big whiff of the air and smiled – nature was something he had understood his whole life. Didn't need to be on the run from Cobra to understand the great outdoors.

Scarlett either didn't notice him get up or didn't care – she continued staring off into the distance and playing with that necklace of hers. Nicky shrugged it off and decided to take a quick walk – maybe he'd be lucky and find some food while he was wandering.

After about ten minutes of wandering around, Nicky came to the conclusion that this walk was a total waste of his time and he might as well get some more sleep if they were gonna park here for the afternoon. Once he was almost back to the clearing, he noticed a figure in a large tree a few dozen feet away. Well, now he knew where the ninja was. But what was he doing?

Snake Eyes was sitting in a high branch, leaning against the trunk of the tree – probably on watch for the group while everyone else relaxed. But, Nicky noticed, Snakes was definitely looking down at something in particular. Following the man's (potential) line of sight, Nicky noticed he was looking right at Scarlett. Just…watching her.

He raised an eyebrow. Did Snake Eyes usually watch Scarlett from a distance? Maybe things weren't as…mutual as he'd thought. Curiosity getting the better of his judgment, Nicky cupped his hands around his mouth and whispered up towards the ninja, "Hey, Snake Eyes!"

Snake Eyes glanced down at Nicky and quickly hopped down from the branch, nodding as if to tell the other man to keep talking. Tunnel Rat pointed a thumb in Scarlett's direction. "Not that it's any of my business or nothin', but what's goin' on with you 'n Scarlett?"

Nicky had never seen someone look flustered without…actually being able to see their face. But somehow, Snake Eyes definitely had that expression going on for a brief second before he composed himself. In response, he pointed back and forth between himself and Scarlett while shaking his head no.

Tunnel Rat raised another eyebrow at that. He didn't expect Snake Eyes to talk about how great the sex was, but he didn't expect the man to deny it, either. "You kiddin' me right now?"

Snake Eyes crossed his arms over his chest, in an obvious do I look like I'm kidding kind of way. Normally Nicky tried to back off when Snakes got like that, but he needed some entertainment at that moment.

"Huh. Maybe I'll ask Scarlett about it then," he commented, quickly turning around and starting to walk in her direction. A large hand grabbed him by the shoulder and forced Nicky to turn back around. He was met with Snake Eyes shaking his head no again.

"What? What's the issue?"

The ninja brought a hand to the back of his neck and rubbed it awkwardly. It was kind of weird for Nicky to see Snake Eyes act so…human. He was usually more of a crazy, super-powered, ninja hero. Or something.

Interested in seeing this strange human side of Snake Eyes, Tunnel Rat partly crossed his arms and pointed behind him again. "You tryin' to tell me she doesn't know?" The thought of Snake Eyes having a big ol' middle school crush on Scarlett was…well, honestly, it was pretty damn funny.

Snake Eyes shrugged his shoulders, clearly uncomfortable with this whole conversation. He made a couple of motions with his hands – too quick for Tunnel Rat to catch and clearly in sign language, which he didn't know - so Nicky just made a face at the ninja when he was done.

Putting his hand on the side of his head, Snake Eyes pointed over to Scarlett, then to Tunnel Rat, then back at himself. Then he shook his head no for the thousandth time and pointed to Tunnel Rat again, followed by an obvious zipper motion on the spot where his mouth should be.

Nicky got the message – don't talk about Snake Eyes and Scarlett's relationship…or lack there of. Apparently it was a sensitive subject. Which seemed kinda sad to TRat, but hey – he hadn't had a girlfriend in years. What did he know?

Shrugging, Tunnel Rat made his way back to the Coyote, very tempted to ask Roadblock or Duke what they thought of all this (if they were awake, that is). Not that Nicky was a gossip or anything, but if Snake Eyes and Scarlett were doing anything on the Coyote with everyone else around, he figured everyone should be perfectly aware of what was going on. It only seemed fair.

He stepped back inside and immediately noticed that Duke was now totally and completely out of it, whereas Roadblock had rolled over at least once, leaving a gigantic foot on Tunnel Rat's seat. Fantastic. Like he needed a giant foot up his ass when he wanted to sleep. Whatever, he'd just move to the front seat. Scarlett wouldn't mind – she was still hanging outside.

Speaking of, before he drifted off again, Nicky glanced out the front seat window. Scarlett seemed to have fallen asleep or something – considering how her head was resting against her knees, that's what it looked like – and when he glanced up to where Snake Eyes was before, he saw the ninja was still staring down at their resident ginger.

Whatever was going on, he hoped that he wasn't around when it was dealt with. With Scarlett being involved, it was bound to be messy.