A/N: So when I first saw the movie and found my way to the fandom, there were only three stories on here. They were all so much fun and there was so little that I decided, why not? It's not a competition, and it doesn't have to be a work of art, I started (and then stalled) on a little mini-story of my own. And by the time I actually made myself finish it it's over a week and seventeen stories later! I'm one happy camper, even if I don't think this one came out so well, lol. Well, here we go!
Ever since he let Max get away, Clay's been on edge. Not every second of every day, no, but as soon as Jensen stopped cracking jokes or bickering with Pooch, or Aisha stopped uncovering new trails for them to chase and the dust was all settled, then he reverted to a tense readiness. He watched his boys more closely now- and Aisha too, who was quickly becoming a long-lost foster sister to the rest of them. One that they fought with more often than not, but still almost like one of the boys. It was not quite the same relationship she had with Clay, which was fine with him. He liked his women volatile.
Part of the problem was that Max was still out there, and while he'd had his claws clipped and his fangs cracked he was still probably the most dangerous man Clay had ever met. And Clay had met some dangerous men. Max was just always three god damn steps ahead. But they were hot on his trail, and he could only keep the dance going for so long. What worried Clay more was the new insecurities he was developing about his team. It was a weakness, like the crack in an egg shell you didn't want to touch for fear of the whole thing splitting open. He'd mentioned it to Aisha once before- they had lives outside the Losers. Jensen's niece, and especially Pooch now with his baby. Those were some strong pulls. And Cougar was one of the most reliable men Clay had ever known, but he had a loner streak in him. It had been part of his problem before he'd joined the team. Aisha was never truly here enough to even constitute her absence as missing, but it only made it more obvious how much less okay he'd gotten with the idea of them going their separate ways. He used to think that even if they all left, fell apart, he'd still have Roque. And look how that had turned out.
Clay refused to admit, even to himself, that he still missed the man sometimes. When they needed to blow something up, or when they came across something that needed the finesse of knives to fix. Or when he knew he was being particularly stubborn about something, and Roque's voice crawled into his ear to tell him off, and remind him to get his priorities straight. It still hurt, so Clay didn't even touch those ideas that lurked in the back of his head. No reason to even go there- he'd turned on them, and when Clay had seen Pooch, Cougar and Jensen lined up and on their knees at gunpoint, he knew there would be no redemption. That Roque wasn't his second in command anymore, his closest and oldest friend, not after he'd set up the boys for slaughter. Clay didn't regret a second of what happened after that. It was as it had to be.
But now he kept finding reasons why they had to do everything together, move in a pack, stay close. He was lucky no one seemed to find it weird that they all moved as a unit to watch the Petunias play soccer, or staked out rooms in Pooch's house and took turns babysitting. All Clay knew was that the boys were all he had now, that and his vendetta against Max. And his boys were the best in the business, so even the secret scumbag of the CIA had started the beginning of his own end when he blew up that helicopter full of children, thinking it was them. Clay took that kind of thing personal.
Right now he had to focus on the immediate, the little steps to get to that goal. There wasn't a lot else they could do while they still, technically, didn't exist. They only had about a month's vacation before Aisha alerted them to the fact that Max was looking for them again. The fucker must have gotten his feet back under him, because now some people were asking questions, and it'd be best if no one went looking around their families to find them. And while he'd definitely miss this domestic month they'd spent living like civilians, like some kind of militant family of uncles to Jensen's niece and Pooch's kid, it'd be good to get back to the only world he really knew.
But first he had to kick everyone else's asses back into line.
"Pooch, finished with the truck? We're settled? We're leaving at eighteen hundred hours, make sure you've got the essentials. Jensen, you heard me? Essentials only, got it?" The blonde techie gave a mocking salute and a wry grin from across the law, by the lightly packed van.
"Sure thing, Boss! Now Pooch, I got this phone set up so it'll loop through its receiver company and come up like a ghost on the records, and just as a little silver lining there won't even be a money trail, so you're getting' it for free- but I'd still say lay low about it, alright?"
"Jensen, what the hell did you just say to me?"
"Basically it's untraceable and won't come up on phone records, so it'll be safe to talk to your wife on it. And it's pretty much free service. But no ongoing hours of phone sex, go it? It'll start to look awkward if some phone company spots it, and it's not fair to the rest of us."
"JENSEN, do you want me to kill you right here? On the front lawn of my own house, and with the whole neighborhood to witness it? Learn to muzzle yourself, dammit!"
Clay couldn't help smiling at the youngest member's antics as he turned and headed back inside to say goodbye to Jolene and the baby. As much of a pain as the blonde was -all the time- you couldn't deny he kept their lives interesting.
After a good half hour spent arguing with the kid about what kind of electronics counted as 'essentials' for a hacker, they finally managed to get everyone on the road and out of the small suburban life they'd been visiting. Clay had Pooch on a straight shot to New York- and he grabbed the front seat this time too, leaving Jensen to nag Aisha, and Cougar to ignore them both. The road rolled past three hours of it before they'd even reached the edges of New York, and Clay was amazed that no blood had been shed in the back seats yet, though there'd been a few close calls for Jensen. By the time they were heading over the bridge into New York City, the blonde had moved on from stiltedly hitting on Aisha to pestering her about stories from her time in New York, since she'd stayed there a few months back.
It was about then that everything went to shit.
Guys in nondescript, dark clothing popped up from corners and cars, two even appeared up in the supporting cables of the bridge, shooting out their tires and bringing the whole bridge to a standstill with an earsplitting cacophony of screeches. It eerily reminded Clay of Miami, except this time, his team was the target.
"GET DOWN, FIRE AT WILL, WATCH FOR CIVILIANS!" Clay roared his orders as he flung open his door and rolled to the ground as a wave of bullets smashed into the side of the van, hiking up his gun to fire from under the car. There was barely a pause before Aisha was at his other side, rolled in from the left flank. Clay tried taking out a few of the snipers first, but he was hitting two out of the seven of them from this angle and distance. He needed Cougar for that. He switched to shoot two guys coming towards the car and then rolled away to hide under the truck next to them. Their section of the highway was in lockdown, and it seemed like most people had the god damned sense to stay in their cars this time. Clay heard the thump of someone falling into his old spot while he checked on the enemy- they were heavily armored, and the only places he could hit were non-fatal and unlikely to do anything more than slow them down.
"Damn- Cougar, keep an eye on the snipers! See if we can hit these guys with something a bit heavier than handguns!"
"You got it, boss!" Pooch was still in the driver's seat, but he had his head down and his hands on something that looked a bit bulkier than his normal Beretta.
"Well shit, looks like we're boxed in here. Seriously though, could they be any less original? Using our own tricks against us, damn that's desperate." Jensen sounded like he was still in the van somewhere.
"Desperate like you're desperate, techie?" Pooch grunted before firing off a shot out the window that had the approaching four soldiers blown backwards.
Clay had that strange juxtaposition of feeling like he was leading a team of elite super soldiers and babysitting a bunch of kids. It was hard to say which was more true. But he could use both to fuel the fires of his battle rage, which was all he really cared about at the moment.
"Watch the skies men, they're up to something!" Clay had that bad, chilled feeling he got when he saw the rapidly growing dot in the sky. Too fast for a helicopter- they wouldn't use air weaponry on them, would they? They had civilians and their own men down here! The dot grew and formed a suspiciously sleek shape. Clay glanced at everyone's position.
"Cougar, get back up in the van! Be point cover- Pooch, Jensen, stay in the truck! Is Aisha still there? You guys need to make a retreat, now!"
"What the fuck- 'you guys'? Where're you going Colonel?" Pooch snapped while he scanned the crowded Tetris field of cars.
"I'm clear of the van- you guys go without me, I'll catch up with you in the city!" It was Aisha, sounding far away and voicing Clay's own plan. He wanted to demand she leave to, and he'd hold them up, but that jet was almost on them now.
"Get out, we'll meet you!" He didn't dare shout out where on the battlefield, but they all knew where they were going anyway. They were at least that professional.
"You better be there!" Pooch demanded, throwing the van into reverse and screeching a pathway between the gridlocked cars that Clay would have bet money wasn't there a second ago.
"Aisha, regroup!" Clay fired a few shots and rolled to another vehicle in her general direction.
"Way ahead of you, Clay." Aisha was abruptly at his elbow, appearing from nowhere. She smirked at him and rolled out from under the car, so skinny she was almost flat on the ground, and screamed as she let out rapid fire rounds. Clay gave a small laugh to himself before all humor was wiped from his mind as he spied the same jet flash above them, twin trails of smoke branching off and heading towards the others. Pooch was good, but he could only move through a New York City deadlock so fast, and it wasn't fast enough. The only thing Clay could do was watch as the van was hit- and a soft cloud of smoke enveloped it.
Clay's heart only had a second to jump in relief before it stuttered again as the van lost control and slammed to a stop in the side of another car. Clay could see the people in their cars nearby falling onto their steering wheels.
"Dammnit Clay, we've got to get out of here!" Her strong fingers dug into the muscle of his arm, but Clay shrugged her off and started to climb out from under the car.
"Get off me woman!" Almost all the heat on the two of them switched to head for the still van, Pooch, Jensen and Cougar still inside.
"Clay! There's nothing we can do, there's too many of them! If they haven't killed them now they won't for a while, we can come back for them. Let's go!" Damn her and her coldblooded logic! Clay didn't want to hear it, but his military mind saw the situation from a tactics standpoint and knew it was the only thing he could really do. But doing the most coldblooded, logical thing hadn't always been a strong point of his- technically, it was his largest drawback as a Black Ops commander and had earned him his place on the Losers.
He roared in frustration and turned away as men in black swarmed into the nondescript van that housed everything in his life. He shrugged out of Aisha's hold and sprinted towards the edge of the road- it fell off into open air. Aisha was two steps behind him as they flung themselves off the bridge, into its shadow on the water.
Clay hit the water in practiced perfect form, and the cold could do little to numb his body any more than it already was. He and Aisha swam for the nearest pillar, and Clay went into mission-escape autopilot. He'd done it so many times before that his mind emptied away into a blanket of white, leaving only the grasping cold wetness of his clothes, the chemical dust of the air, the steady pounding of adrenalin in his ears and the burning conviction that he was going to get them back.