In a mall somewhere in suburbia, a handsome couple roamed the aisles of a Babies'R'Us. They looked like any other couple expecting their first child though the man, tall, blonde and muscular but not overly so, moved with an uncommon grace and economy, his hand resting lightly at the small of the back of his companion as they moved along the aisle. She, dressed comfortably in jeans was equally athletic, still feminine and lithe though the telltale bump of pregnancy was now clearly visible through her close cut sweater. Her gaze moved from the racks to him while pointing out the price on a stroller and he, obliging, wrote down the SKU and description of the item on a baby shower registry form. They continued to wander the aisles, compiling their wish list of goodies for their unborn child. Once the list was full, they took it to the registry desk from which Myrna, the white haired older woman that had initially given them the form, had been watching them while they shopped.
"Did you dears find everything alright?" she said, her smile genuine and warm as she took the form from the younger couple. She noticed the gentleman sign 'OK' and looked from his hands up his strong arms to his neck where she saw a series of scars. He had been far more handsome once, she mused to her self. He still was despite what looked like surgical scars on his face.
"Yes Ma'am, thank you. You've been very helpful. I must admit, I've never really looked for any of this stuff before..." the red-headed woman responded, her eyes smiling, her hand unconsciously resting against her lower abdomen. "We really hadn't been planning on a baby so late in the game."
"Late? Bah, you couldn't be more than twenty-five, twenty-six, that's not late at all, Mrs... O'Hara, is it?" Myrna clucked as she adjusted her reading glasses before typing in the information on the registry sheet into the store database. She heard a soft panting and then a cough as the woman before her nudged her partner who she could only guess from his expression was trying not to laugh hysterically.
"Oh quit your giggling Snake, no one needs to know exactly how old I am..." she hissed playfully, then raised her voice to correct Myrna "thank you for the compliment, but I'm actually thirty-five. Mr. Giggles McLaughy pants over here is closing in on 40 pretty soon."
"Still not too late at all. I had my fourth when I was 42; he was quite the pleasant surprise. I'm now grandmother to twelve and am waiting on my granddaughter to make me a great-grandmother for the first time," she motioned towards the very young, very round, about-to-burst-with-how-pregnant-she-was cashier on register six. Snake Eyes' gaze lingered on the girl who looked tense, only to have his attention drawn to where her eyes kept flicking. Something wasn't right about the guy that was approaching the register or how she was reacting to his presence. The young man approaching register six was a ball of tension, coiled up and ready to burst. He paced in the aisle while the woman ahead of him paid for her items, all the while, the girl at the register got paler and more nervous.
Looking them over again while she waited on the copier to finish Myrna sweetly said, "Going to be a beautiful baby, with mom's eyes and daddy's build..." the words faded in Scarlett's ears as she smiled and turned to her husband who had now taken a few steps away from her and towards the cash registers, he had a lethal edge to the way he was walking. Her attention immediately shifted and she scanned to room for cover, exits, hostiles and got a head count of bystanders in the vicinity. The habits of a soldier die hard and though having been off duty for five months so far and off base for one, she still hadn't gotten used to going about in the civilian world with her guard down and 'Once a Joe, always a Joe.' She never left home unarmed, never went anywhere without her phone and though she was now 'officially' retired, never took her tags off as they were equipped with a tracking chip in case of emergencies.
As she watched Snake Eyes move, his relaxed posture was replaced with a hunter's stalking intensity, muscles beginning to coil in anticipation of a fight. The minute changes in him were visible only to her. To anyone else he was a distracted husband, inspecting a display on breast pumps on the end cap of aisle 4 while his wife chatted and finished the forms for the registry. To Scarlett, he's set his body into a position of opportunity, angled and ready to launch over to the threat and neutralize it. Following his eyes, she saw what he'd noticed, a young man, maybe twenty, twenty-five at best, leaning in over the counter and speaking in harsh whispers to the girl at register six. The girl now looking frightened tried to inch away when he reached over the counter and grabbed her arm.
Snake Eyes signed with one hand behind his back to her, the other setting down the breast pump on the display he'd been "looking at."
* Possible hostile. Be ready.* He didn't have to look at her to confirm her understanding, after so many years working side by side, he knew she'd read him perfectly and had been watching him make his approach from the start.
Turning back to Myrna, Scarlett reached out for the papers she was being handed and fumbled, letting them flutter to the floor.
"How clumsy of me! My mother used to tell me she was a complete klutz while she was pregnant with me, I hope I don't follow in those footsteps," she chuckled as she bent down to retrieve the papers. She palmed four shiruken from her ankle strap and made the split second decision to not draw her Beretta.