A/N: Gah... Snake and Scarlett drama is so hard to write. As of right now, my 'Fire Red, Ninja Black' plot bunnies are either dead, hibernating, or simply deciding not to cooperate, so consider this one-shot an apology for the long wait.
The sun had already set by the time she arrived at the U.S. Army Advanced Surgical Recovery Facility, throwing a cool, hazy light everywhere.
After locking her vehicle, Scarlett recounted the number of envelopes in her hand and sighed, fighting back the heavy feeling in her chest. No, she sternly told herself. Don't even go there. What has happened has happened.
Still, she was unable to fight back a prick of guilt. This was her fault. All her fault. If she hadn't gotten her webbing caught in that stupid door, he would probably be back at base, conversing with her over a cup of tea. But, no. He was in bed with his head wrapped in bandages and his voice gone forever. There was no telling how much pain he was in; he was the kind of man who would rather bite his tongue and bear it than speak out.
Not that he could speak anymore.
And it was all because of her. Because she hadn't been careful enough.
The clacking of her boots echoed through the empty hallway as she made her way to Snake-Eyes' room. Taking a deep breath, she knocked on the door. "Snake-Eyes?" she called out. "It's Shana." When she heard nothing that could be perceived as a protest to her presence, she turned the doorknob and stepped into the room.
Snake was reclining on the propped-up bed, blinking a little faster than usual. Scarlett felt her stomach drop. "Oh... I'm sorry. Were you sleeping?"
He merely shrugged and turned away slightly. A little awkwardly, she walked over and sat down on the bed. "Hey," she said, her voice soft as she held out the envelopes. "These are from the team."
Snake regarded the items in her hand, his cool blue eyes betraying no emotion. He looked up at her and pointed to himself.
Despite the somber atmosphere, she couldn't hold back a giggle. "Of course they're for you, silly. Why would I be handing them to you if they weren't?"
The man lowered his gaze, a sign of embarrassment, before taking the envelopes. There was the quiet sound of paper ripping, and he opened the card inside.
Scarlett watched his eyes move from left to right then jerk back to the left as he read. A small pang of anxiety nudged at her. Maybe this was a bad idea; Snake didn't like worrying other people, and while the get-well messages were hardly from worried people, she wasn't sure how he would see it.
A heavy silence filled the room as Snake went back to the first message and reread everything as Scarlett tried to decipher his thoughts. Not many could boast that they were close enough to the mysterious man that he would voice his thoughts when in their company. Scarlett had considered herself one of the honored few, but wasn't sure about it anymore. The commando had never been easy to read, and the recent accident had rendered the task nearly impossible.
The small parts were there - the barely perceivable twinkle in his eyes, the slight tilt of his head, and the way his gaze lingered on the written words of encouragement.
Snake raised his head and looked at her for a brief moment before reaching for the notepad and pen sitting by the bed. "It's very nice of you guys," he wrote. "Thanks. I appreciate it."
Exhaling in relief, Scarlett made a mental note to thank Stalker later for the idea of get-well cards. "So..." she started, then mentally berated herself for sounding so pathetic. "So, uh, how are you?"
Scribble, scribble. "Fine," the note read.
Of course. Even if he wasn't, he wouldn't admit it. She held back a frown. "Glad to hear it."
The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them. Her breath hitched, and she desperately searched his eyes for any sign that he had taken offense at her poor choice of words.
Surprisingly, Snake regarded her evenly and his shoulders relaxed infinitesimally. He looked like he didn't even noticed the slip-up.
Get a hold of yourself, girl, she firmly told herself as she felt heat creep up her neck. This isn't the time nor the place to be stupid.
There was a small tap on her arm, drawing her attention back to the bandaged man. "Hm? Oh, sorry. My mind was... occupied." She pulled a spare chair by the bed and sat on it, resting her arms on the bed as she watched Snake-Eyes go through the rest of the cards.
Thoughts that haunted her back at base resurfaced, and - although words gnawed away at her internally - she hesitated to voice them. They weren't bad or harmful words (quite the opposite, actually) but she didn't know what kind of psychological effect they would have on him. Perhaps it was too early, and the accident was still too fresh on his mind. However, at the same time, she had no desire to remind him a few months from then.
Scarlett nibbled at her bottom lip, unknowingly catching Snake's attention before she intended to, and quietly cleared her throat. "Snake?" She looked at him. "I, uhm, I just wanted to say..." Her fingers laced together. "... Thank you, for saving me - for not leaving me behind. If it weren't for you, I wouldn't be here." When he failed to show any kind of emotional response, she pressed on. "I know it's difficult for you right now, and that no amount of apologizing or thanking will make your recovery any less painful, but-"
She was cut off by the sound of furious writing. The pen flew across the notepad, and words in Snake's neat handwriting appeared. "What kind of a soldier leaves a teammate behind? One that doesn't deserve to be called a soldier. I have no regrets about my decision," it read.
By the time Scarlett had finished reading, he was off and writing again. "You are correct, though," he wrote. "Apologies, thank-you's, and get-well's are no painkillers."
Her heart sank a little at the last part. So much for the cards helping.
Just then, he shoved another piece of paper into her hand. "But they will make recovery that much more bearable. And for that, you and the team have my gratitude."
Scarlett slowly released a breath she hadn't been aware she was holding and smiled. "Good to know."
He held up the notepad. "You could have just written all this down on a card, you know."
"I know," she chuckled. "But I thought I would feel better if I told you in person."
A brief pause, then the words, "So did it work? Do you feel better?" appeared.
Reaching forward, she took Snake's hand in both of hers. "Yes." She gave his hand a squeeze. "Yes, it did. And, Snake?"
His eyes locked onto hers.
"I'll be there for you whenever you need me."
Bowing his head in acknowledgement, he let their fingers intertwine.