Best Laid Plans
Summary: When their mission goes wrong, it's up to Snake Eyes to try to keep things cool until Flint makes a daring move.
A/N: The prompt for this story came from Rutga as part of my Christmas story giveaway. Thanks to Amykay73 and Alison Faireborn from the "Skeletons In The Closet" group for their feedback on this, as well as VR Trakowski.
Rating: PG-13 for some language.
Disclaimer: Of course I don't own anything related to the dang comic, cartoon, figures or whatnot.
Sitting inside the Tomahawk, Scarlett couldn't suppress a smile. Her last mission had gone well, and since they'd ended up near Atlanta, Hawk had given her a forty-eight hour pass to visit her family. Two days of her brothers' joking, her mother's cooking and discussions with Da had left her in a great mood that even her annoying sister hadn't been able to ruin.
To top it off, Wild Bill had just passed the word that Snake Eyes' team had gotten back from their assignment in West Germany a few minutes earlier. She was thinking of how to celebrate their reunion when she spotted his black-suited figure outside one of the Quonset huts.
Her grin faded immediately; Snake Eyes never, ever paced.
He was already walking toward the landing pad, and she absentmindedly waved in response to Wild Bill's goodbye as she exited. Once they were out of the winds whipped up by the rotors, Snake Eyes took her elbow in his hand and pulled her off to the relative privacy of a Quonset hut.
"Lady Jaye's cover was blown," he signed, his crisp and precise movements the silent equivalent of a clipped tone.
Scarlett's initial dread was short-lived; if her friend had been hurt, he would have stated so upfront. She couldn't imagine any circumstances where he'd have left Jaye behind, and his mood didn't mesh with a friend in danger or the frustration from a failed mission. In fact, she'd never seen him quite like this and wasn't sure what to make of his current state.
"Start at the beginning," she directed, plopping down on one of the bunks.
"Our intel was correct. Cobra Commander contracted with a new munitions firm for equipment. It's a West German company based in Hanover."
"I still say that tidbit came from Destro," she said.
"Probably. The head of the firm, Johan Schmidt, hosted a party at his country estate. We knew he kept his plans there, in a secret safe room. We didn't know where it was, so we decided to plant a bug on Schmidt. Lady Jaye got into the party as one of the guests, Flint knocked out one of the waiters and took his place, and I hid in the ceiling. Dial Tone and Mainframe were outside, monitoring our mikes as they tried to figure out how to hack into the security system."
"Did he recognize her?"
"Schmidt? No. I doubt if he ever saw her. He's paranoid. None of the guests could get within twenty meters of him without a personal invitation. Flint tried to get closer with a tray of drinks, but Schmidt sent an associate to bring his drinks from a private stash."
"Weren't you able to get close enough to bug him?"
He slumped his shoulders slightly, and Scarlett recognized the gesture; he was disappointed in himself. "No. I was in a drop ceiling that hid the ductwork. Schmidt stayed on a dais at the front of the hall, and the ceiling didn't extend near it. I couldn't get a good angle."
Pulling her legs up on the bunk, Scarlett settled in for the rest of the story. His failure to bug Schmidt was, well, bugging him, but it didn't explain why he was so upset. "Okay, so what happened next?"
"Lady Jaye was trying to work her way over to one of Schmidt's goons. If she couldn't get a bug on him, she was going to try to get one on someone who'd be near him. All of the sudden, a big guy grabbed her by the shoulder and spun her around."
"I wish it had been," he signed in vexation.
Scarlett raised an eyebrow as he continued at a faster pace.
"'You've really come down in the world if you're hanging out with Eurotrash, Allie,' he told her."
"Ah," she said. The jet set wasn't that big, and Lady Jaye had grown up in it. It probably was only a matter of time before someone recognized her while she was undercover at some society event. "I guess that scrubbed the mission."
"No! Jaye wasn't fazed at all. 'Keep quiet, Paulie. No one knows it's me.' She took his arm and pulled him into a corner, making up a story that a friend was convinced that her boyfriend was cheating, and Jaye said she was there to see if she could catch the guy in the act for her friend."
"And he fell for that?"
"Completely," Snake Eyes signed, stopping for a moment. "She's really good. I don't know if I could have told she was lying."
"The acting background comes in handy," Scarlett said, pausing him as she fetched them each a glass of water. He might not be bothered wearing a black body suit in a metal hut without air conditioning in the middle of the desert, but she wasn't exactly comfortable.
Her lips curled slightly when he pulled off his mask and drained his glass perfunctorily, suspecting she knew the source of his current mood. "So, how did Flint react?"
"Not as bad as I thought he was going to," he answered, giving his head a bit of a bob when she looked surprised. "I know. But we were on a mission, and he wasn't going to risk anything that would blow her cover. Flint just asked her if the 'gentleman' was bothering her, and then he made it a point to swing by their area on a regular basis to keep an eye on them."
"I'm guessing Paulie wouldn't leave her alone."
"No. Luckily, Flint missed the part where Paulie reminisced in detail about his dates with Lady Jaye." He paused significantly. "Graphic details."
"It wasn't enjoyable."
"It's a good thing Flint didn't hear that conversation."
"You'd think that would be obvious," he signed in a way that reminded her of a sigh.
Scarlett cocked her head questioningly. "Did Paulie cause any trouble?"
"Not at first, even though he was tossing back the champagne like it was water. Lady Jaye tried to shake him, but Paulie was bored. He hated Eurotrash, the weather, the food, the wine. Finally, she asked him why he was even there. He said his company designed the security systems, and he had to attend the party to demonstrate an upgrade later that evening to Schmidt."
"How long did it take her to get the information out of him?" she asked with a knowing smile.
"Less than ten minutes, and he knew everything. She played him a like a fiddle. Flint wasn't thrilled when he saw her flirting, and I thought he was going to lose it when Paulie started groping her in public."
"I can't believe he didn't!" Scarlett exclaimed. Flint was an interesting contradiction. He was one of the most accepting members of the team when it came to the female Joes, and he didn't hesitate to put them on dangerous assignments. But when it came to Lady Jaye, he was an overprotective bear if someone threatened her and a rabid bull if another male showed an interest in her.
"I didn't know who was going to be the bigger problem: Flint and his jealousy, or Lady Jaye killing him because of it," Snake Eyes signed, shaking his head in disgust. "Or if she was going to deck Paulie. She wasn't amused."
Scarlett did her best to hide her smile, but Snakes still gave her a sharp look. "At that point, Mainframe came in dressed up like a waiter and grabbed Flint to get the plans, but Flint didn't want to leave Jaye alone."
"Like she couldn't handle an obnoxious drunk!" she snorted.
Snake Eyes shook his head again. "No, Flint had every reason to be worried. Paulie was a lot taller and stronger than Jaye. She wasn't dressed for a fight; she wouldn't have been able to kick him or throw a good punch in that outfit. And that wasn't exactly a crowd that would interfere if he did try to force her. She had to play along with the creep to keep from making a scene."
"Why didn't you go with Mainframe instead?"
"I was supposed to keep a watch on everything from my vantage point. I unscrewed some of the supports in the ductwork and kept pelting Flint with washers and nuts until he got the message that I'd keep an eye on her."
"It sounds like everything was going well," she said. "All things considered."
"It was – until Tomax and Xamot showed up. Paulie was herding her in their direction, but she saw them first and tried to excuse herself. Paulie followed her into the bathroom."
"It seems he was interested in doing more than just remembering their dates."
"I'm going to have to talk to her about her taste in men," she said lightly, ignoring the second look he directed at her.
"I could tell Jaye was getting angry, but she kept her cool. She had to buy time for the guys to get the plans. She couldn't draw attention to herself with the twins out there, but the guy really didn't know the meaning of 'no.' Too many people saw him enter the bathroom with her, so she couldn't even knock him out and leave."
"So you just watched the show?" Scarlett asked with a smile. It had to be frustrating for him to be stuck observing while a friend was being manhandled.
"It wasn't funny!"
"No, of course it wasn't funny. Not in the least."
Snake Eyes let out a grunting sigh. "I was stuck up in the ceiling spying through a vent, trying to figure out how to make Paw-ly the Human Octopus believe he managed to break both of his hands accidentally when I finally got word from Dial Tone that the others were out. I popped out of the ceiling and signed Jaye to push him my way, and then I dropped a section of ductwork on his head. She screamed, opened the door and called for help, and we slipped out in the confusion."
"The mission was a success then?"
"We got the plans. Mainframe didn't have time to hack into the computer system, but he grabbed the pertinent data tapes and destroyed the rest. And the best part is Mainframe covered his tracks by starting a fire shorting out the security upgrade Paulie installed. He's going to look like an incompetent moron," he signed with satisfaction.
Scarlett tilted her head as she leaned back on the bunk. "Is there a reason you're acting like … well, like you are?"
"The trip back," was all he signed.
Her lips twitched again. "How did Flint find out about Paulie?"
"Dial Tone recorded everything. He was telling Mainframe about what he missed while they were getting the plans, and he didn't realize Flint was standing right behind them when he played some of the choice bits."
"And he acted like a jealous idiot."
"She wasn't any better!"
"I guess they fought the whole way back."
"No. They … sniped." He made 'yak' gestures with both his hands as he stood tensely.
"Oh," she said as she considered the significance of this development. The pair fought easily, but quickly, and they seldom stayed angry for any length of time. It was when they didn't let their respective tempers flare that sent up warning signals.
"Eventually, they both fell asleep on the flight, but they started up again when we got back to base. Flint was grumbling about taking stupid risks, and she shot back that she knew all about dealing with overbearing jackasses who only wanted sex."
He stopped to rub the back of his neck, turning to Scarlett. "He tried to cover it, but I could tell that hurt Flint. At that point, I got between them and motioned for them to split up. He just looked at me and said, 'Or what? You're going to hit me?'"
Despite her concern, Scarlett chuckled lightly. Most of the team saw Snake Eyes as a highly-trained and efficient killer, as deadly as he was mysterious; Flint considered that his job description. As far as he was concerned, Snakes was just one of the guys when off-duty, and the simple acceptance worked for the ninja. They weren't the closest of friends – their personalities were too different for that – but Flint steadfastly refused to be intimidated by Snakes.
And he was right – Snake Eyes would never hit him – but it had nothing to do with their friendship. Snakes would never allow himself to lose control like that. It was just hilarious that the one person who had the ability to most annoy Snakes was also the one person who couldn't be scared into backing off by an angry stance.
"Isn't there a ninja rule that goes, 'Don't make friends with someone you'll want to terrorize later.'?" she asked.
"It's more of a Zen kōan," he admitted after a beat. "Tell me again how they're supposed to be two of the most educated people on the team. They were acting like petulant children."
"They've probably made up by now," she said, but Snakes grabbed her arm.
"Shana, I'm not joking. They were really angry. One of them is going to go too far."
Scarlett stood and stretched slowly. She wasn't too surprised by the blowup; the tension between the pair had been growing in recent weeks, and all that was missing was an excuse to let it out. As upsetting as it must have been to witness, it was probably good that they finally vented.
Explaining that to Snakes was another matter; he wasn't exactly an expert when it came to normal relationships, let alone the fiery and quirky thing Flint and Lady Jaye had. There weren't many people on the team who he was close enough to intervene in a personal problem, choosing to let others lead their own lives, but it had to be maddening for Snakes to think he had been watching them destroy their relationship.
"Let's go see if they're over it yet," she told him, handing him his mask before lifting the trapdoor.
For all her lightness, Scarlett was a bit worried. It was fairly obvious that Flint and Lady Jaye were falling deeply in love. What wasn't as clear was the problem that was creating. They weren't even supposed to be seeing each other, and they had to keep what they had low-key. It wasn't like they could get married, or move in with one another; they were stuck in a type of relationship limbo, and the frustration was getting to them.
Looking around the Pit, it seemed like the frustration was spreading to everyone else as well. Cover Girl and Steeler stood rigidly with Jaye, who was looking through some printouts, while Flint glowered from the side.
"It could be a new turret design for the HISS tanks," Cover Girl said as she and Steeler studied a diagram.
"That's a helpful answer," Flint groused.
"Well, it's not our fault you didn't grab all the files. Or that your intel can't find the specs to go with the designs," Steeler shot back and immediately received two dirty looks from the bickering pair.
Scarlett had to smile; Flint and Jaye were still bitching about one another, but heaven help anyone else who joined in. She was getting ready to point that out to Snake Eyes when Breaker stepped around her.
"Excuse me, Red," he said as he trotted towards Flint.
"Hey, you're needed in the control room. You got some phone calls," he told the warrant officer. "No, seriously. You've had like a dozen in the past couple of days."
"Real original, Snakes," Flint muttered as he walked by them. "That's going to keep me distracted for all of two minutes."
"I didn't …," he started to sign, giving up in disgust as he pointed at Scarlett. "This is all your fault. You had to become friends with Lady Jaye. I never would have become Flint's 'buddy' if you hadn't."
"You could always short-sheet his bed," Scarlett suggested in a stage whisper before walking over to Lady Jaye.
"Don't even start," she said tersely.
Scarlett grinned as she picked up some of the papers to help search for the data specifications. "You upset Snake Eyes. Flint does it easily enough, but I think that's the first time you've managed it. I'm not sure that's something to be proud of."
Lady Jaye let out an embarrassed huff. "I'm sorry he got stuck in the middle of that."
"Well, it didn't help that he was forced to listen to graphic details about your sex life," she drew out. Cover Girl and Steeler immediately looked up, and Jaye shot her a dirty glare. "Interesting fellow you used to date."
"I was seventeen! I only went out with him to try to upset my parents."
"Did it work?" Scarlett asked with a laugh.
"My parents? They still exchange Christmas cards with Paulie every year." Jaye was silent for a moment before letting out a sigh. "Of all the people I had to run into on an assignment, it had to be him. And Flint had to be there. It wasn't like I invited Paulie to feel me up in a room full of people."
Steeler's head shot up quickly, and Cover Girl stomped his foot, hard, before he could say anything stupid.
"Flint was worried, you know," Scarlett said, deciding that making the peace justified a little creative license. And it was probably true. "He didn't know who the guy was, just that he was all over you. He was drawing attention to you, and Cobra agents were at the party. Your cover was in danger, and there wasn't a lot he could do to help."
"I know," Jaye muttered softly, some of her anger morphing to annoyance. "But why does he have to be such an ass about it?"
"I don't know. That seems to be your type," Scarlett joked.
"He's not, not most of the time," Jaye admitted as she walked over to a console to pull up some files, and the redhead followed her. "Flint's, … he can be so … sweet. Then he gets all worked up over nothing."
"Like when you're being manhandled by a creep in front of a room full of Cobra sympathizers and he can't do anything to stop it?"
"I was getting the information we needed," she said, but with considerably less rancor. "It wasn't like I was having fun."
"You could have fooled Snake Eyes," Scarlett said, raising an eyebrow when her friend stared at her in shock. "He said he couldn't tell you were lying. I think you forget how well you can act."
Lady Jaye stood silently for a moment before heading back to the table. "The big knucklehead," she muttered, a trace of doubt crossing her features.
Snake Eyes approached Scarlett, nodding to the door where Flint was hesitating.
"Hey, Lady Jaye," he called out, looking a bit sheepish when she didn't make a move to join him. After a moment, he took a few steps into the room. "Look, I need to change our leave plans."
Scarlett winced at the cool tone Jaye used; with one sentence, he'd managed to annoy her again. The pair had been trying to arrange a two-week vacation to go sailing. Every time they thought it was ready to go, some mission came up, and they had to rearrange their plans. They had been looking forward to the trip for a long time, and Flint's sudden change of heart didn't sound promising.
"I told you it was bad," Snake Eyes signed, but Scarlett was distracted by the warrant officer; he wasn't acting angry but … nervous?
"I need to go home for a few days," Flint continued, unaware of the side conversation going on.
Jaye stopped what she was doing and turned to him cautiously. "Is anything wrong?"
Scarlett smiled to herself; if Lady Jaye was that concerned for him, then they were already on their way to making up, even if the fiery linguist wasn't ready to admit it yet.
"They'll be fine," Scarlett told Snakes, but she could tell he was frowning under his mask.
"She was furious a few minutes ago."
"That's a lifetime when these two are concerned."
Flint was now leaning against a Mauler. "No, it's good. My cousin Peter got a big promotion, but he has to relocate to the East Coast. He and his girlfriend decided to get married before he has to move. They figured it'd be easier than trying to do things long-distance."
"That makes sense, but do they have time to arrange a wedding?" Jaye asked, resuming searching through the papers.
"They decided to go with a small ceremony, nothing fancy, just some friends and family. He wants me to be his best man."
"It sounds nice," she said distractedly, nodding her head. "You should go. You haven't been home in ages."
Flint rubbed the back of his neck, shifting uneasily as he walked closer to her. "So, do you want to go with me?"
Cover Girl looked at Scarlett with a goofy grin, and the redhead was sure her smile was just as big. Snake Eyes just cocked his head in confusion.
"What?" Lady Jaye asked quietly.
"I was wondering if you wanted to get away for a few days."
She set her papers down, tilting her head as she stared at him. Scarlett noticed her confusion; she was obviously having trouble believing Flint was making such a big move.
"Hawk said you could," he added.
Lady Jaye faced her friends, a puzzled but slightly amused expression on her face. "Let me get this straight, you want me to go home with you to attend your cousin's wedding?"
"No, I want you to wait around in the hotel so we can have some fun after it's over," he deadpanned.
"That sounds more like you."
"It's not going to be anything fancy, just a potluck thing, but we should be able to get out for at least one nice meal," he said, and Cover Girl and Scarlett smiled as he tried not to fidget.
When she continued to watch him questioningly, Flint dropped his shoulders and started to leave. "It's no big deal if you don't want to go."
Despite his words, it was clear that he was disappointed, and Jaye watched him sadly before swearing under her breath.
"Flint," she called out, waiting until he turned around. "I'd love to go with you."
She rolled her eyes. "Yes."
Snake Eyes turned to Scarlett, lifting his hands several times, but pausing, before he finally signed, "She was ready to kill him a minute ago."
"Uh, huh," Scarlett agreed, motioning him to be 'quiet' as she listened.
"Good. My Aunt Betty was planning to hook me up with the maid of honor if you didn't come with me," Flint said with a tired grin.
"And you weren't interested?"
"Nah," he drew out slowly. "Now if my cousin Brad had picked out my date…"
"Don't push your luck, Romeo," she said with a faint hint of lingering irritation.
"But she was ready to kill him," Snake Eyes continued. "And he was in a rage!"
"They got over it," Scarlett signed back.
Lady Jaye was regarding Flint carefully. "Were you serious about staying in a hotel? If so, I'll take care of that."
"Oh, I'm serious. My mother likes to believe the Sexual Revolution never happened and that I'm still a good boy."
"She doesn't know you well at all," she sighed comically. "But won't your parents be upset if you don't stay with them?"
"Well, our flight's going to be getting in awfully late. I have to finish the mission reports before we go, so we'll be lucky to get out of here by eleven Thursday night."
"What?" Lady Jaye said sharply, and Scarlett and Cover Girl faced him with disbelieving stares.
Snake Eyes simply rolled his shoulders in exasperation. "I need a scorecard."
"We leave Thursday night. We have to come back Sunday night or Monday morning. Dial Tone's checking the flights for us," Flint explained, frowning as they continued to gape at him. "It's all the time Hawk could swing for us on such short notice."
"Short notice?" Jaye exclaimed. "We're leaving tomorrow!"
"Don't worry, we can do something with your hair," Cover Girl assured her, crossing the room to join her.
"I don't know what I'm going to wear," Jaye replied, and the two of them rapidly began discussing and dismissing various options.
"What?" Flint asked, and Scarlett hid her grin at his exasperation. You could take the socialite out of the limelight, but you couldn't get her to part with her wardrobe. Jaye's locker and trunk were packed with clothing, and even more was stored in his room. When they started talking Chanel, he reminded them it was a casual get together, but they just scowled at him.
"What?" he asked again, turning to Snake Eyes for some masculine support.
The ninja waved his hands across his chest. "Leave me out of it!"
"You sure as hell didn't give me much time to get ready," Lady Jaye said, pulling off a glove to examine her nails. "Damn, I could use a manicure."
"We'll take care of it," Scarlett told her, privately impressed by Flint's invitation. Taking a girlfriend home to meet the parents was a major relationship milestone. It explained why his lover – a master at covert operations who could be ready for a mission in no time at all – was fretting over minor details. Even Snakes had avoided meeting her family so far.
"I didn't know until a few minutes ago. No one forwarded Pete's calls to me in Europe. Why are you worried? You know you could show up in a burlap sack and you'd outclass everyone else there," Flint tried to say calmly.
Lady Jaye stopped fussing and gave him an affectionate smile. "I'd rather not test that the first time you take me home to meet your parents."
"Whatever," he chuckled. "I'll go call Pete back and let him know we're coming. See you at dinner."
Snake Eyes looked at Scarlett, scratching his head. "That can't be healthy."
"What can't?" she asked.
"Rapid mood swings."
"Oh, I don't know," she said in a syrupy voice, rubbing his arm. "He wants her to meet his family, and she's willing to go. It's a big step. It shows they're committed to one another. Don't you think it's … romantic?"
Her lips curled as she felt the barest tremor go through his muscles.
"I need to go hit something," Snake Eyes signed before stalking off to the gym.
A/N II: The prompt for this story was the circumstances of meeting the family for the first time. I hadn't planned on continuing this any further, but I can if there's interest.
And now it continues...