A/N: Hey everyone- really, really sorry about it taking for-freakin'-ever to get this out. After putting the last chapter up I got a full time job and I have absolutely no time to myself anymore. Which is the case for a lot of people so i have no real excuse, but I also had a huge writes block for a few weeks there too. I knew what i wanted to say, i just couldn't figure out how to write it, or get Jensen's voice right. And you'd think Jensen of all people would be easy to write, right? Well he was certainly the most fun. I put some extra effort into this one to make is up to you- you personally, who's reading it right now. Yes, you. Thanks for reading. =D
So this is the last chapter, leaving a few mystery loose ends like I tend to do. Also: there's some suspiciouis Jensen/Cougar bromance going on towards the end there. And by bromance i mean they love each other. The reader can decide for themselves what kind of love that is- kinda like how we do when we watch the moviel. :)
THANK YOU for all the reviews/favs and so on! I adore them, and I adore you. I just love having people read my stuff. Thanks for following me this far.
Jensen cracked weary eyes open to see the battered steel inside of a vehicle. It was amazing how exhausted he could be just waking up, as if he'd been scaling walls and leaping buildings instead of sleeping. His entire body felt like one giant, forbidding ache too. Jensen was smart enough to know if he so much as flinched he would regret it. But at least he was looking at steel walls now, and not cement.
Focus on the now Jensen, come on. Let's not go back there just yet.
Black lingered on the edges of his vision so he let his eyes slide that small sliver shut again. His body shifted slightly with the humming and movement of the van he was in- it couldn't really be anything else- and its smooth movement was helping his thoughts to drift off, on an internal tangent about the usefulness of obnoxious personalities in covert missions. The van drove over a bump then, and Jensen noticed that his head was pillowed by solid warmth.
Well that was a good sign.
Jensen started to listen to who else was around him, using soldier instincts he'd so far neglected in his exhausted condition- Clay'd tear him a new one for that, if he knew. It took about four seconds for him to ID everyone in the van with him, and relief stuttered his breathing a little. He'd lived with these guys closely enough, for long enough to know even the sounds of their breathing and the little shifts and non-movements they made. As much as he loved talking, and he did, he could never find the words to explain it.
Cool fingers touched his forehead, and Jensen dragged his eyes open again, looking straight up. There, of course, was Cougar. Watching him with two steady brown eyes as he lay pretty much in his lap.
"Good ol' Cougar…" Jensen murmured, enjoying the feeling of waking up pillowed in the lap of a friend, and not in a blood stained cement cell.
"Por supuesto." Was Cougar's quiet response, half to himself.
"Jensen?" Jensen dragged his eyes to the other man in the back with him. Pooch looked awful, his face such a mess it was nearly comical. It didn't look like anyone had even tried to patch him up yet. Jensen would have to do it himself then- he was frustrated seeing Pooch's face all beat up, but not surprised. He'd already seen it- the dreamlike moments from what he would assume was the rescue were floating to the surface.
"You never said- you lose a fight with an ex of Clay's or somethin'?" Talking wasn't so hard if he took his time about it and didn't breathe too deep.
And Pooch's face looked even more clownish when he scrunched it up like that.
"Same way you did man, and you're far worse than me, so you can't talk. You shouldn't anyway, we're not in the clear yet. Just lie still."
"Pooch? Is Jensen awake?" Jensen heard the gruff voice travel from somewhere beyond his head, a little more hoarse than usual.
"Yeah, he's cracking jokes and everything."
"Jensen you god damned stupid kid! You couldn't keep your fuckin' mouth shut long enough for us to get there? You tryin' to get yourself killed?"
Jensen grinned from his lax position on Cougar's lap. The Colonel only really lost his shit like that when he was all upset about something. Anger was the way the man showed affection.
"Aw, Colonel, you do care! That's so sweet. Did you miss me?"
"Not funny Jensen." Pooch snapped, voice low and quiet but reaching everyone in the steel box. The silence filled up the van like mustard gas. Jensen struggled with his urge to break it. He wanted to look around and check who was there- he guessed Aisha was silent but driving- but he couldn't pull his eyes from Pooch's serious stare.
Cool fingers slipped onto Jensen's forehead and pushed sticky hair away from his eyes.
"Stop talking now." Cougar's accented words made the soft command sound calming, soothing. Well, fine then. He could feel unconsciousness tugging at him like the riptide, and maybe they'd all calm down once they got a room and a drink and everyone was stable. Not in that order.
He could rest a bit 'til then.
Jensen let Cougar slip his cracked glasses off while he relaxed back into sleep.
Jensen woke up when they tried to move him from the van.
He went from deeply passed out to his body crackling like it was electric. His eyes sprang open and he sucked air through his teeth in a long hiss. Above him, Clay was eyeing him warily, his arms hooked under Jensen's armpits, slightly lifting him off the van's floor. Jensen was a little annoyed- what did he think was going to do, bite him? He wasn't going to attack him OR die on the spot, so there was no need for him to look at him like that.
"…Jensen. Do you think you can walk?" Clay asked. Jensen glanced down to see Pooch near his feet, ready to carry his other end. These were strong military men, but the techie had an absolute ton of muscle weight on him. It would be an awkward trip. Jensen shrugged out of his commander's light hold and put his wait on his elbows, breathing out to exhale the pain. His sore body had gotten a little stiff in the van.
"Yeah, of course boss. It's not like anyone shot me in both of my legs or anything, right Pooch?"
"Ha ha. Oh Jensen, you are so. Funny. Why don't you try standing before you start talking smack, alright?" Pooch gently nudged the blond's feet over to the open doorway. Standing outside the van, holding open the sliding door for them, was Cougar, silent as always.
"So where's our Amazon princess?" Jensen asked, stalling for time while he tested out his limbs. His arms seemed alright, his legs were weak.
"She's inside, clearing out a room for us." Clay answered him. At Jensen's look, he added, "Not with bullets, you idiot. She's paying for a room and getting us a back door."
Clay then paused to put two fingers to his ear, looking at nothing for a moment. Then he nodded.
"Alright. We're on our way. Jensen, you sure you can walk?" Clay gave him that annoyed look that secretly covered up love and affection. Jensen grinned back.
"Of course I can! Just give me some space guys." Jensen shifted his legs over the side of the van and then pushed himself the rest of the way up, into a sitting position. The sudden movement stretched his bad shoulder- his new bad shoulder, not the old one, and his aching stiff chest. Jensen tried another of his deep breathes while he steadied himself.
"You sure man? You look pale even for you." It annoyed Jensen that Pooch was so concerned for him when he was beat half to hell himself. It made him feel like he was weak. And Jensen wasn't weak.
"You know in the 18th century, pale skin was considered the epitome of beauty. Women would bathe in milk and powder their faces white to try and look as pale as they possibly could- it's what the 'fair' in 'fair lady' means. So you can just shove your jealous barbs up your ass, Sir Pooch, and admit I'm the most beautiful one here." While he talked he inched himself slowly off the van, trying not to stretch or tear anything as he went. By the end of his little history lesson, he'd gotten his feet on the ground and pushed up to stand- instantly his vision went dark and the world spun around him.
Jensen gripped at the van's edge, and felt a hand on his shoulder steadying him. When the blackness receded and he felt somewhat secure standing, he gave the owner of the hand on his shoulder a thankful grin. Cougar nodded back, his eyes shadowed by his hat.
"… alright, Cougar you go with him. Keep him on his feet. I'll be just ahead, so call me back if you need an extra hand, otherwise I'll be clearing the way ahead and meeting up with Aisha. Pooch, think you can drive far enough to stash the van?"
"As long as it doesn't involve any quick, fancy maneuvering."
"Let's hope not. Alright Losers, let's go."
Clay turned and headed across the back parking lot of a motel towards what looked like a staff entrance. Jensen eyed the distance wearily.
Cougar shifted closer, putting his shoulder under Jensen's and wrapping his other arm around his ribs. Jensen hissed in pain when Cougar put pressure on his side.
"Cougar, be gentle!"
"The ribs aren't broken. I checked." That shut Jensen up, who decided to devote all his attention to making it across the parking lot without passing out. Cougar patently supported him the entire way, and they made it to Clay and his propped open door without anyone having to do a face plant.
Inside, Pooch joined them around the time they got to their dingy back side motel room. Aisha let them in and the place seemed to have already been transformed into a makeshift army med tent. The table was in the middle of the room with a plastic tablecloth strapped to it, the couch from before shoved against the wall with the rest of the useless furniture.
"What, are we doing surgery or something?" Aisha caught his eye as she finished drying some kitchen utensils. A pot of boiling water was cooling behind her. It didn't look good.
"The bullet in your shoulder." Cougar reminded him.
"God damn it! Alright fine, let's do this. Again. Why is it always me?"
"'Cause you're the one with the big mouth." Clay grumbled half to himself, leaning against the wall and looking at the floor. Jensen was about to answer when he realized it was the truth. Well, damn.
"Lie down on the table and take your shirt off." Aisha commanded, slipping on some latex gloves that she got from who-knows-where. Jensen chuckled to himself; she could at least buy him a drink first. Before he could grace everyone's ears with this witty retort, Cougar moved past him and touched the array of knives in front of the girl.
"I'll do it." He seemed firm in his decision. Aisha glared back at him, and then swept her eyes over the rest of the men in the room, her gloved hands still ready to get to work digging into Jensen's body.
Cougar was the one who has always patched them up before. He had dug a bullet out of Jensen's shoulder not that long ago, and Aisha had been the one to put that bullet there. Really, one of them clearly had the better resume here.
Whatever she saw in the other men's faces, Aisha gave a disgusted snort and stepped back.
"Fine, have it your way." She peeled off the gloves and handed them to Cougar. He glanced down at them with a half smile and a glint of amusement in his eyes, ignoring them to pick up the supplies she'd cleaned and examining them.
"We've all been covered in each others blood before- if we were gonna get each other sick, we'd have done it already." Clay answered her furious look.
The back-alley style operation was agonizingly painful, as always, but quick and military. Cougar had him stitched up and Jensen could unclench his teeth from a borrowed belt in no time. Or that's what he told himself as he closed his eyes and worked on his breathing. Then a sudden stinging made him snap his eye back open again. Weren't they done yet?
"Hold still buddy. Cougar's got to clean your burns." Pooch was leaning his hip next to him on the table, done cleaning up blood but still staying close. Cougar glanced up from pressing a damp cotton ball to one of Jensen's chest burns to give him a look. His black hair fanned down around him, and his cowboy hat shadowed his face like always. He certainly didn't look like a doctor, but Jensen couldn't have trusted anyone more.
"… sure thing guys." Jensen made an effort to smile and then just closed his eyes again.
It took forever to clean the burns.
When Jensen was finally allowed off that godforsaken table, he had lost enough blood that the blackness was permanently lurking at the edge of his vision. Clay had a glass of water for him.
"Here, soldier." Jensen downed it gratefully as he noticed Pooch and Aisha were gone. After chugging the glass down he asked about it.
"Pooch is asleep in the side room. Cougar'll look him over before he wakes up. Aisha's out, doing whatever it is Aisha does with her time." Clay sounded weary. Tired. It made him seem like an old man.
Cougar finished washing up and brushed his hand over Jensen's shoulder and he walked past, heading for Pooch's room. Once he was gone, Clay rested his head back against the wall, eyes closed, while Jensen leaned heavily on the plastic covered table across from him.
"You okay Colonel?"
"I've told you to stop calling me that Jensen. I'm not a Colonel anymore. I'm not anything."
Jensen paused at that, trying to think of what to say. All his textbook psychology, not that he had all THAT much, told that this was clearly an identity problem, but the way he worded it also sounded like more than that. Like maybe this was an issue of loss, too. He'd lost his position as Colonel, he'd lost three men on a mission, he'd lost Roque- and the last one was purely Roque's fault, the bastard.
"Hey, Clay. You're still a Colonel whether you're receiving military orders or not- Max only takes that from you if you let him. And you got us back alright, so no harm no foul, right?"
Clay cracked an eye at him.
Jensen gave a sheepish grin.
"Ah, well, this is different. This is mostly my fault. Just because the guy had to have been spawned from the combination of a cheap hooker and a runty bulldog, doesn't mean I have to remind him of that. I'm sure it's a very painful memory for him."
"Damn right you don't." But Clay still sounded weary, defeated.
"Alright boss, open up. What is it?" Jensen wasn't going to hobble his pasty ass over to that couch until he got some answers. And even then, movement was debatable.
There was a long stretch of silence where Clay examined the ceiling and Jensen resolved to wait him out. He could be quiet if he wanted to. He just never wanted to.
"… I've lost men before. We all have. It's a tragedy every time, they were all good men. But this is different. With the Losers." Clay still wouldn't look at him.
"Yeah. I know." For once Jensen didn't have a speech for him. He just waited for Clay to say more.
"Then they took all three of you, just ripped you away, and then I had… nothing, soldier. Without you three I had nothing." Clay worked to sound like a man in charge, even when letting himself be weak.
"Not even your lovely lady friend?" Jensen couldn't help adding.
"Not even her. I admit, I owe her for how she managed to find the lot of you, and I'm grateful for it, but if she hadn't then we wouldn't have continued together."
Jensen thought about that for a moment. Clay never opened up like this, he was very serious about his strong, undefeatable image. It was important for a commanding officer to keep up that appearance with his tropes, but that wasn't exactly what the Losers were anymore. Jensen smiled a little to himself, thinking about his various computer passwords. He'd been thinking about them as a family for a while now.
"Don't worry Colonel. We're not going anywhere." Clay looked down from the ceiling to eye the blood stains on the dingy motel carpet floor. There was a lot, but the rug was suspiciously close in color to that of old, dirty, dried blood- so the stains could fade relatively unnoticed. It was probably one of the shadiest motels Jensen had ever seen, and he'd seen some shady motels.
"You seem pretty confident about that for a man with half his body's worth of blood on the ground- here and back in that warehouse."
"Don't worry so much Colonel- I'm a tough cookie. It hasn't killed me yet."
"'Yet' being the key word."
"Hey, just because I'm a techie doesn't mean I'm some kind of princess."
"What about being such a 'fair lady'? And you certainly didn't walk out to the car from that warehouse."
Jensen was about to answer the 'fair lady' accusation when the second comment caused a blush to turn his whole face red. He could suddenly picture Clay carrying him out of the concrete building, possibly over one shoulder or in a fireman's carry. Please god let it not be bridal style. He wouldn't be able to live it down.
"… fine, then you're my Knight in Shining Armor then? Alright Knight, assist me to my decadent bedchamber." Jensen pointed towards the moldy couch stuffed in the corner. Jensen's efforts to make a game of it fell short as Clay moved to help him without protest. Jensen really didn't like being so weak. It made him feel like baggage.
After depositing Jensen on the couch, Clay turned around and stopped. Both of them just now noticed Cougar leaning on the wall outside the door to Pooch's room. Jensen was the first to recover.
"Damn Cougar, how long have you been standing there?" Cougar glanced up, looked over at them from under his hat. He raised an eyebrow.
"Normally we would notice, but not when we're all this tired. Make yourself known next time Cougar." Clay demanded, and then walked past him to the doorway.
"I'll go buy a few things. You stay here." And then he left and locked the door behind him, not waiting for an answer. Not that Cougar would have felt the need to give one.
"Now look at that, you made him all embarrassed." Jensen grinned.
Cougar pushed off the wall and walked over to the dingy sink, filling a glass of water. Once it was close to full he shut off the spout and walked over to the couch, placing the glass on a table within easy reach and sat down on the floor, his back resting against where Jensen's upper body was situated.
"Hey, uh, Cougar. Thanks." Jensen was awkward with his thank yous.
Cougar touched the edge of his hat in acknowledgement of the comment, but didn't say anything more. Jensen waited a few more moments while Cougar sat- as still as a statue. Jensen couldn't tell if he was even breathing.
"Hey… you okay?"
Cougar glanced over his shoulder at him, his eyes blank. Cougar usually said everything with his eyes.
"What's up man? Is it the whole warehouse thing? Did they do something to you?" Jensen felt an icy chill climb up into his gut. He didn't breathe as all the different possibilities flared to life in his head.
Cougar just snorted.
"I'm not the one who was cause for concern, amigo." Jensen remembered to breathe again, relief unclenching his limbs. Oh okay. This was just about him again. Did he need to personally reassure each member of his team that he hadn't actually died?
Jensen watched the way Cougar stared straight ahead, blank eyes seeing nothing. Maybe he did.
"Look, Cougar, I'm alive." Jensen pointed to himself, waiting for the shadowed eyes to look back at him. "You saved me. I'm going to be alright. It's over." Cougar didn't seem that convinced. His eyes still had that dead numbness Jensen hated.
"Look, we're black ops soldiers- getting the shit kicked out of you is an occupational hazard for us. These things happen in our line of work."
"No. This does not." Hispanic accented words interrupted the techie's carefully constructed speech. "You being captured, beaten and tortured should not have happened. I should not have let it happen."
"What could you have done man? You were in a cell block like me, just a few halls over."
Cougar wouldn't look at him. He seemed dead set on condemning himself and it was getting under Jensen's skin.
"Cougar, no part of this-" he pointed to himself, "is your fault. It's my fault, it's those bastards fault, it's whoever leaked where we'd be and when's fault. We're in the same boat man."
He looked over at Jensen's prone form, and lightly touched a burn mark that rested were his neck met his collarbone.
"It is my job to protect you."
Jensen was a little confused by Cougar's strange tone and the touching, but for some reason he didn't feel uncomfortable at all. Not that it was easy to make the great Jake Jensen feel uncomfortable, of course. He lightly gripped at the hand resting at his throat and made sure Cougar's eyes were locked with his.
Cougar stared back at him for a bit longer before something seemed to shift in him, a subtle release of tension that make his body liquid again, easy to slouch back against the couch and tip his hat over his face. It was his typical relaxed pose, but Jensen mourned that Cougar's hand disappeared with the change in position. Ah well. At least he still had his guardian lounging at his feet.
Or, to the immediate right of his elbow anyway. Close enough. Or not close enough. Hey, he'd had a stressful day, no one had the right to judge him and or his needs.
Sometimes a man just needed a hug, god dammit.
After a few seconds of silence Cougar's voice made another appearance- the man was really outdoing himself with all these words today.
"Stop daydreaming and go to sleep. I'll wake you went the other's get back."
Jensen smiled to himself and shifted deeper into the ratty pillows.
"Sure thing good buddy."