Tommy met the redhead's glare evenly, his expression blank and unrevealing. Scarlett noted his relaxed shoulders and loose hands with a building irritation. "Tell me," she repeated. "What's going on here? Why can't I tell her?"

"That," he replied coolly, as if she were an ignorant trainee, as he pried her fingers off of him, "is none of your business, Shana."

Scarlett looked indignant. "That's what I said to you multiple times in the past and you still ended up butting your nose into Snake's and my business!"

"That's only when I saw something obviously wrong and decided that the drama that would ensue from your miscommunications wouldn't be entertaining enough to be worth the time." Storm still looked annoyingly impassive. "This matter, however, does not need your interference and I would appreciate if you stayed out of it." He stood up smoothly and walked over to Snake-Eyes. "It's good to have you back, brother." Firmly, he patted his shoulder. "Let me know if you need anything. Red, I'll tell Healer to expect you. Rest well, you two. See you at dinner." And with that, he silently slipped out the door.

"Bastard," Scarlett muttered after a few minutes. "Stupid, secretive bastard."

[He thinks our arguments are entertaining?]

"Really, Snake?" Scarlett turned to glare at him. "Is that all you picked up?"

He stared back. [What else was I supposed to pick up? He made it clear that whatever happened between him and Junko is none of our business, so we shouldn't make it our problem.]

Scarlett chewed on her bottom lip in displeasure but thankfully didn't argue. "What do you think happened?" she asked.

[Didn't I just point out this isn't our problem?]

"Discussing it doesn't necessarily mean it's our burden to bear," she protested. "I'm just asking for your thoughts, that's all."

Snake-Eyes sighed audibly, perhaps in irritation, but his hands moved. [I think someone asked Junko when the next Arashikage heir is coming into this world. Since Tommy is the last in the Arashikage bloodline, she probably feels pressured.]

"That... that's dumb." Scarlett pinched the bridge of her nose. "Who the hell just goes up to a woman and says, 'Hey - when are you going to get pregnant? Since, you know, your husband is the last Arashikage?'"

Snake raised his hands defensively before signing, [You asked what I thought and I told you. Now drop the subject. Don't stress too much.]

"The baby is fine, if that is what you're wondering about." Idly, she went back to lightly touching the bonsai plant.

Out of the corner of her eye, Scarlett saw Snake move. The bed she was sitting on dipped a little with his weight. A hand gently took hers and held it tenderly. [Get some rest,] Snake signed with his free hand. [It won't look good on either of us if you fall asleep at dinner.]

She hummed quietly in response. "Good point." Smiling, she slipped under the covers held open for her and snuggled into the bed. "Nice," she mumbled, as Snake settled himself beside her.

In seconds, she was asleep.


"Hello," Junko called out quietly, smiling at the four pair of gray ears directed towards her. "My, aren't you cute," she cooed at the three pups frozen in their play by her presence. "So, you're Snake's wolves, huh? All four of you. At this rate, he's going to have an army of wolves to terrorize the world with in a few years." Slowly, as to not startle the animals, she moved from behind the pillar and sat down on the stairs, about ten feet from them.

Dojo blinked at the intruder, confused as to what he was supposed to do. If they were back in their own territory, he wouldn't have hesitated to chase her away. But currently, they were in a new environment, filled with bizzare new smells and occupants. It was all very confusing, but Alpha appeared completely at ease, so he decided that he would try to be too.

He watched as the intruder extended a paw. Wait - not a paw. It looked like... the appendages Alpha and Alpha's female had. The kind that offered food and gave orders and nice behind-the-ears scratches. Dojo tilted his head. Was this creature identifying herself as the same as Alpha?

Snorting, he got up and trotted a little ways. The creature was of no interest to him. If she wasn't Alpha or Alpha's female, then he wanted nothing to do with her. Once he decided that he was far enough, he laid back down on the warm ground and resumed his supervision of the pups.

The pups, on the other hand, were a little more inquisitive. Romulus gave a quiet snarl, in case the creature was trying to take Alpha's place while he was away, but curiosity soon overcame wariness. He sniffed, then straightened up in alarm. The scent of the white male that attacked Alpha was all over her! Conflicted between wanting to growl at her more and remembering his encounter with the frightening white male, Romulus turned to Remus to take his stress out on the lower-ranking pup.

Remus had been completely frozen, eyes glued to the form on the stairs, when Romulus barreled into him. Yelping and whining, he rolled himself onto his back, belly exposed, in a plea for mercy as Romulus bit his muzzle.

Timber had followed his sire away from the unfamiliar creature and was currently watching his brothers play-fight. He didn't trust the person one bit; she looked similar to Alpha's female, but the scent on her indicated that she'd had contact with the white male recently. Everything here did. It had probably been his territory.

One of his ears twitched. He was glad Alpha won the challenge battle with the white male. It was proof that he was the most powerful - so therefore deserved his position as Alpha - and it put the white male in his place.

Alpha's kind were strange; even though the white male lost, Alpha didn't chase him out of his gained territory, nor did he claim the white one's female. It was very odd, but Alpha knew best. Shaking out his fur, Timber lay down next to Dojo, but kept alert.

Junko giggled quietly at the sight of two wolves edging away from her. She had heard about Snake-Eyes' wolf Timber, and had been disheartened to hear that he had died before she got the chance to see him. He was a very loyal wolf, she had been told, and had a way of keeping Snake on his toes.

She looked at each of the three wolves carefully. None of them appeared to be the loyal type, at least not yet. If they were anything like their grandsire, they would be willing to follow Snake anywhere once they grew older.

Junko's slight smile disappeared and her chest suddenly felt heavy. These four were Timber's legacy, his bloodline, his contribution to the world. The two were play-fighting again, so full of life and youthful energy. Involuntarily, she shuddered.

She almost jumped when something thick and warm descended on her shoulders and back. "Just thought you might be cold," Tommy's voice said as familiar hands tucked the blanket around her.

Junko forced herself to calm down. "Thank you." She gripped the blanket and pulled it tighter around herself.

Storm Shadow sat down next to her, his eyes on the wolves. "Observing our uninvited guests, aren't you?"

"A bit," Junko admitted, smiling slightly. "They're quite adorable."

"Yeah, well, they're adorable now. Wait a month or so and they won't be." Tommy chewed on his bottom lip before tentatively wrapping an arm around her.

She tucked her head under his chin, grateful for the physical comfort, "What are their names? Do you know?"

"Yeah. According to Billy, the full-grown one is Dojo, the one next to him is Timber reincarnated, the lightest-colored one is Remus, and the darkest-colored one is Romulus." He frowned. "That one tried to eat my ear."

"Oh... dear." Junko's eyes flew to Tommy's ears.

His chuckle sounded forced. "I was just joking. It was just a nibble, but it surprised me nonetheless."

"Ah." She tilted her head. "How did he get close enough to even bite you?"

There was a moment of awkward silence before Tommy spoke. "Snake... pinned me to the ground."

One eyebrow rose. "And why did he pin you? That doesn't sound like the Silent Master's way of greeting anybody."

Tommy had the look of a boy caught stealing the last cookie from the cookie jar. "Because I... tackled him."

The other eyebrow rose. "And why did you tackle him?"

"Because I saw the wolves and got irked that he didn't care to warn me beforehand."

Junko sighed and shook her head. "I will never understand why you and Silent Master enjoy torturing each other so much."

"It's called 'being brothers,' and I'm sure you've seen Kamakura and Billy do the same thing." He tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear.

"I thought they simply disliked each other."

"Nah, it's all just for show. They can really get along if you put them on a mission together."

Junko mumbled incoherently in acknowledgement before falling silent. Her heart sank a little; this was how all their conversations had gone recently - slightly forced at the beginning, then slowly warming up until one of them broke it off. It was stupid, really. After practically having been to hell and back several times together, they shouldn't be so awkward around each other.

She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. He was hiding something - she knew it. Probably something involving Snake and Scarlett. It hurt a bit to think that he was keeping something from her, but she was doing the exact same thing, so she couldn't exactly blame hi-

A high-pitched howl broke the uncomfortable silence. Timber, with his head thrown back and eyes closed, howled again. He had grown extremely fidgety with the white male so close by, and had finally given up and was calling for help from the only being he knew who could chase the unnerving creature away.

"Damned thing, you'll wake him up if you don't stop that racket!" Tommy stood up and walked towards the pup, who immediately stopped howling, scrambled out of reach, and resumed his call as soon as he was a good distance away from the man.

Junko exhaled quietly in relief then looked at a moving form on a rooftop. One of Healer's assistants waved at her from there, then signed in exaggerated gestures, [Healer. See. You. Now.]

She nodded in acknowledgement then watched as the form disappeared. Swallowing hard, she took one last look at the light-hearted scene of her husband chasing a wolf pup and slipped away silently.

Storm sighed in frustration as he watched Timber shoot off in Snake's direction. There was no point in chasing; four legs always beat two when it came to speed, and chasing could provoke an attack from the others. So much for some rest for his brother.

"There goes our peace and quiet for the next few weeks, huh, Jun-" He blinked. The blanket he had given her lay neatly folded on the steps. Spinning in a slow circle, eyes trying to seek her out, he cursed beneath his breath.