Author's Note: So this fic has been plaguing me for the better part of three months, originally inspired by a dream I had. Once I started it, I realized "I have to have communication with no dialogue. CRAP". That turned out to be the hardest part of the whole story and a challenge to my writing abilities. I hope it came across well. Also, this is unbetaed, so forgive me.

The first thing Jensen was aware of when he woke up is the silence. After the chaos of before, it's a welcome thing. Especially since his head was throbbing so hard he thought his brain would explode. The second thing he noticed is the blood drying on his neck and the sides of his face.

Something moved out of the corner of his eye, and he whipped his head around. The whole room tilted wildly, and if he hadn't been tied to his chair he would have ended up on the floor. Jensen hung his head for a moment, eyes shut tight until the vertigo passed. He raised his head slowly, hesitantly, and looked around the room again.

It was the same room he'd been dragged into after being grabbed and thrown in a van. His heart thudded against his chest as his mind turned to his friends. He'd been grabbed while they were on a mission. Cougar had been on the roof, positioned directly above the corner room Clay had chosen ahead of time for Jensen to use. Normally, the sniper would have been right beside him, but the room, built to be an office of some kind but unoccupied for now, had floor to ceiling plate glass windows. The kind that stood up to bullets a little too well. As soon as he'd seen the room and it's vantage point to the target, Jensen knew it was the only choice and gave his approval, assuring everyone he'd be fine.

The hacker made a mental note to never do that again.

His blue eyes scanned the dirty, rusted room from behind his cracked glasses. It was large, with a low ceiling and the kind of windows that just screamed "hi, I'm a warehouse, use me for unsavory activities". Jensen would've shaken his head if he wasn't worried about the vertigo again.

Movement caught his attention again, and he turned toward it more slowly this time. Large industrial sinks lined up against one wall, covered in smatterings of paint and long out of use. Jensen squinted, ignoring the spike of pain in his head.

One of the sinks was dripping. Water gathered at the mouth of the faucet, grew fat, then fell, flashing in what little sunlight found it's way through the windows. Jensen exhaled heavily and turned away, focused on finding some way out.

Movement startled him again. This time, it was his team coming in, guns firing behind them. Jensen smiled, pain forgotten and so happy to see his friends he wanted to jump up and down. The smile died quickly, however, as he watched Clay, Aisha, Pooch and Cougar continue to fight their way in. Their guns were firing. Their mouths were moving. But Jensen heard nothing.

Everything was still utterly silent.

Clay's eyes briefly met his, then looked at Cougar and yelled something. At least, Jensen assumed he'd yelled it. He must've to be heard over the gunfire.

Cougar lowered his gun and ran over to Jensen. In one smooth motion he unsheathed his knife and cut the ropes around Jensen, freeing the tech. Jensen tossed the ropes aside and looked up when Cougar stepped in front of him. The Spaniard touched his jaw and tilted his head, most likely concerned by the presence of blood. His lips moved, but again all Jensen heard was silence. The blonde's brow furrowed, and he opened his mouth to speak.

But he couldn't.

He tried, his lips formed the words 'I can't hear', but he didn't feel the familiar rumble of air moving through his larynx to form vocal words. He tried again, and it was Cougar's turn to crease his brow. He said something that looked to Jensen like "boss" and Clay appeared at his back. Jensen tried to follow their conversation, but was quickly lost. He did see, though, the concern and alarm on the two men's faces as they looked back and forth between him and each other. Jensen finally had to look away, staring numbly at his hands. His wrists were ringed in dark bruises, and each palm was marked with red crescents from where he'd dug his nails in. He remembered pain, he remembered vocally screaming, but the rest wasn't coming.

Jensen didn't realize he was shaking until a heavy hand rested on his shoulder. He looked up, and now the whole team was crowded around him, talking. Well, the other three were talking. Cougar was looking down at him with a soft, comforting expression. The Spaniard gave his shoulder a squeeze, and Jensen's heart fell. This was bad.

Whatever they'd done to him, it was bad.

Bile rose in the back of Jensen's throat. He clapped both hands over his mouth and sprinted over to the sinks, barely making it in time to prevent emptying his stomach all over himself. He clutched the sides of the sink so hard he saw his knuckles turn white. Even after the entire contents of his stomach were pooled at the bottom of the sink or running sluggishly down the drain, he kept heaving. As if his body was trying to cleanse itself of this whole terrible situation.

He jumped weakly when one hand flattened on his back while the other grasped his arm. Cougar rubbed his back soothingly, and for once Jensen was thankful for the man's ability to communicate silently. Jensen straightened from the sink, and Cougar pushed a water bottle into his hands. The hacker drank gratefully, but choked quickly. Cougar took the bottle back and stroked his back again until the coughs subsided. Jensen tried to smile and say "thank you", but again he only felt his lips make the words. His distress must have showed on his face, because Cougar cupped his jaw and said something. Tears burned Jensen's eyes. His legs gave out underneath him, but Cougar easily caught his arms and slowed his descent to the floor, kneeling with him. Jensen leaned back against the sinks, feeling his chest move with every heaving breath. Cougar grasped both of his shoulders and forced the hacker to look him in the eyes.

Slowly, Cougar's lips formed the words "You will be okay". Jensen nodded, but his chin still trembled as he tried like crazy not to cry.

This was his hell.

Something changed in Jensen's expression, and suddenly Cougar folded his friend into his arms, pressing the blonde to his chest. Jensen could feel the rumble of words moving through the sniper's body, and something like a sob vibrated through his throat. The silence roaring mockingly in his ears only made him cry more. Cougar held him through it, stroking his back and hair, rocking slightly.

Jensen lost track of how long they were like that, Cougar holding him while he cried his heart out. Finally, Cougar gently grasped his arms and pulled them apart, lifting a hand to touch Jensen's cheek. When the technician looked up at him, Cougar smiled comfortingly. Jensen returned it weakly and his eyes flickered to the rest of the team. They were still standing over by the chair Jensen had been tied up in not too long ago, huddled close together. Jensen could see them nodding and talking, clearly making sure to give the two men their space, which the hacker was grateful for. He hated those moments of weakness, but he'd rather it happened in front of Cougar than anyone else. Not that he believed the others would mock him, it just seemed like Cougar was the only one that knew how to put him back together.

Cougar unwrapped the dark scarf around his neck and used one end to wipe the sweat, blood, tears and vomit from Jensen's face. The blonde let him, not moving to shrug off the tender contact. Right now, touch and sight was all he had to experience the world. Everything else had been ripped away from him. He swallowed the lump in his throat at the prospect of being stuck like this the rest of his life; to hear no other voice but his own until his dying day. The very idea itself was enough to make him go insane.

Apparently satisfied, Cougar folded his scarf and tucked it into a pocket before standing, pulling Jensen to his feet as well. The wounded man swayed, equilibrium screwed up by his injuries. Cougar waited patiently for him to steady, then guided Jensen over to the others with a hand on his back. The hacker glanced at his teammates before determinedly looking away. He couldn't take the pity he saw in their eyes.

Jensen knew they were talking; Cougar kept a hand on his back, and he could feel the vibrations of it through his t-shirt. It hurt that he could only guess what they were discussing. He never thought that even when standing amongst a group of people he considered his family, he'd feel so alone. His chest tightened, and anger cast his brain in a red haze. The helplessness, the sheer terror he felt boiled his blood. He was the one on the team that could talk his way out of anything. He wasn't much of a fighter, like Aisha or Clay, and he didn't have an encyclopedic knowledge of things that could hurt people and how to use them, like Pooch or Cougar. He had been made useless to his own family, and it hurt worse than any gunshot.

The hand on his back disappeared, cupping the back of his neck instead. Jensen looked up at Cougar, blinking perhaps a bit too much. Concern flitted over Cougar's dark face. Jensen gave him a smile that he hoped was reassuring, but it felt forced and probably looked it too. Cougar gestured with a nod to where the team was getting ready to move out. Jensen nodded in acknowledgement, and as they left he made sure to stay close to Cougar.

Even though Jensen kept his head down as they quietly, so he hoped, made their exit, he could see the others looking at him from the corner of their eyes. It was a mix of pity and concern that made his stomach turn. He never wanted pity, ever, especially not from them.

Jensen was jerked off his feet by an arm around his waist and a hand over his mouth. If he hadn't been so terrified, or if he had the ability, he would have laughed at the fact that someone was trying to muffle a mute. He was pulled flush against a large, solid body that began dragging him backwards. Jensen squirmed helplessly, kicking and lashing out with his gangly limbs, trying to either get free or get his friends' attention. In his head, he was screaming desperately for help. He was dragged around a corner, out of sight of the others, and panic washed over his vision. He bit at the hand over his mouth, swung his fists backward and felt them connect with a warm skull, kicked as hard as he could at his captor's shins, everything he could possibly think of, but it looked bleak. He was back in their hands, and they were going to torture him. They were going to break him entirely before letting him die, and there was nothing-

The body behind him suddenly jerked and began to fall, dragging him to the floor with it. As Jensen fell he caught a glimpse of Cougar at the end of the hallway, rifle still raised.

As soon as the body hit the floor, it's grip on Jensen was jostled loose and the hacker moved without thinking. He pulled the man's gun from it's holster and stood on shaky legs, pointing the pistol at it's owner. The man, a large, bald and usually mean-looking son of a bitch, looked absolutely terrified. One hand was raised in surrender while the other covered the bullet wound in his shoulder. Something snapped in Jensen, making him flip the gun around and go down on one knee. He snapped the safety on, wrapped his hand around the barrel of the handgun, and brought it down, hard, on the man's face.

The bald man's nose exploded in a spray of crimson. Jensen grit his teeth and did it again. And again. And again. It wasn't long before the face was unrecognizable as a human face, but the blonde still didn't stop. His eyes were bright, teeth bared like an animal's, and he was crying again. Inside he was screaming in rage, and his inability to properly express that vocally only fueled him further.

He didn't stop until the others grabbed him, Clay seizing his wrist and wrestling the gun from him while Pooch caught the other arm. Cougar wrapped both his arms around Jensen's body, pulling the wounded man's back to his chest, and pressed his face against the side of his friend's neck.

Clay handed the gun off to Aisha, who expertly dismantled the weapon and tossed it aside. The former commanding officer cupped the back of Jensen's head and moved in close, hugging his young soldier. Pooch shuffled forward on his knees and pressed his forehead against Jensen's, clasping his hand tight. Jensen was beginning to calm down, anger being replaced by bone-deep exhaustion, when Aisha knelt in front of his and held his other hand in both of hers. When she closed her eyes and bowed her head, lips moving in what he assumed was a prayer, he gave up fighting and fell unconscious again.

He woke up briefly, and it took a moment for him to realize he was in the van. His eyes rolled around the cabin, instinctively checking on the others. Pooch was behind the wheel with Clay in the passenger seat, and Aisha was in one of the middle seats, but from the way she was leaning forward and the look on her face Jensen could tell she was arguing. In fact, it looked like all three of them were arguing. Jensen tried to move, reach up, anything, but his body felt too heavy and his hand was being against his chest. He looked down and saw another more tanned hand over his. Out of the corner of his eye he saw denim-clad knees beneath his head. He looked up at Cougar, who was looking out the window with his mouth in a tight line. Jensen felt a heavy hand on his forehead, and let out a breath that felt something like a sigh.

Cougar looked down at him and smiled, a genuine smile that Jensen had only ever seen directed at him. The sniper's legs shifted beneath his skull, as did the hand on his, before the Spaniard settled back again. Cougar ran his thumb over Jensen's brow, then bent down and pressed a kiss there. Jensen blinked up at him sleepily, trying to stay awake again, until Cougar mouthed "sleep" to him. He gratefully sank back into darkness.

The next time Jensen woke up, he was in what clearly looked like a hotel room. The throbbing in his head had subsided to a dull ache, most likely due to the painkiller being pumped into his veins through an IV hung on the headboard. The curtains were mostly closed, and the light that came through was a fiery orange. He glanced at the digital clock beside the bed, which told him that the sun was just setting. At least, he thought so. Someone had removed his glasses, so the glowing red numbers were fuzzy. Jensen reached out drowsily, moving his hand across the bedside table blindly until his questing fingers found his neatly folded glasses. He carefully put them on with one hand and could finally make out the shape of Cougar on the other bed. The man was propped up against the headboard, hat tilted down over his eyes and chin resting on his collar. Jensen stared at him for far too long, finally tearing his eyes away to check out the rest of the room.

It looked the same as every other hotel room they'd ever stayed in. Plain walls, outdated tv, comforters on the beds covered with leaves. He smiled when he saw his laptop resting on the table tucked away in one corner. He was trying to figure out if he actually dared get out of bed to retrieve it when movement caught his eye, making him jump. Cougar smoothly climbed to his feet and retrieved the computer, bringing it over to his bedridden teammate. He set it down in Jensen's lap with a small smile before sitting down on the other bed. Jensen smiled gratefully and carefully pushed himself up. Cougar was up in a flash, arranging the pillows behind him. A smart remark rose on Jensen's tongue, but again it came out soundless. Cougar saw his effort, and Jensen looked away from the expression on his face, focusing on turning on his computer instead. He sank back against the pillows and gave Cougar a tight smile for thanks. The sniper nodded in return.

Jensen opened up his word program and typed out a sentence, then turned the screen so Cougar could see what he had typed.

"Where's everyone?"

Cougar reached across the space between their beds to reach the keyboard. "Aisha and Clay went to get a doctor. Pooch went shopping." Jensen nodded absently, staring blankly into space. Cougar looked at him for a moment, then reached for the keyboard again. "What do you remember?"

Jensen bit the inside of his cheek, but shook his head and shrugged. Cougar frowned, a sign that he didn't quite believe his friend. Jensen sighed and finally typed one word: "Pain".

Cougar's eyes darkened and his frown deepened. Jensen easily recognized the homicidal rage in the sharpshooter's subtle expressions, and touched his shoulder. Cougar tore his eyes from the screen and that one word, his face softening beneath the brim of his hat. Jensen arched a brow, the wordless "you okay?" clear on his face. Cougar smiled and nodded, patting his arm. Jensen returned the smile and turned back to his laptop, long fingers hovering over the keys. He bit his bottom lip and typed hesitantly. He stared at Cougar for a minute before turning the laptop around again.

"Can this be fixed?"

He didn't have to elaborate; Cougar understood. Finally, after some time of stillness, Cougar moved over to Jensen's bed, sitting beside him on the mattress. He carefully took the computer and balanced it on top of his thighs as he wrote. When he turned the screen to show Jensen, the younger man's heart sank.

"I don't know."

Jensen swallowed around the lump that quickly formed in his throat, blinking against the tears pooling. Cougar closed the laptop and set it on the other bed, then moved up to lean against the headboard beside Jensen. The Spaniard slipped an arm around the other man's shoulders and pulled him close. Jensen pressed his face into Cougar's chest and twisted his shirt in one hand. When Cougar felt tremors wrack his friend's body he only held on tighter, bringing up his other hand to cup the back of Jensen's neck. Cougar turned his head and tenderly kissed the blonde's forehead. Jensen cried again, quickly soaking the sharpshooter's shirt, but Cougar never let go.

Jensen was woken by someone shaking his shoulder. His eyes snapped open, momentarily panicking, but relaxed when he recognized Cougar's dark face. The sniper held up a notepad with the hotel name at the top. Jensen fumbled his glasses off the bedside table and slid them on before squinting at the notepad again. "Doctor's here" was printed in Cougar's neat handwriting. Jensen nodded in recognition and began to push himself into the sitting position. Cougar again arranged the pillows behind him. Jensen looked up when he saw something move in the doorway and caught Pooch's eye. The other man tilted his head toward the bad ass killer playing nurse and raised a brow, smirking. Jensen felt his face grow hot, though he didn't know why, and quickly turned away.

Cougar put his hand in the middle of Jensen's chest and pushed lightly, guiding him to lean back. The hacker smiled gratefully at his friend, who touched the brim of his hat in response. It was amazing how fluid their interactions had become without the benefit of actual speech, and how quickly. It took a huge weight off Jensen's shoulders, knowing that even without his voice he could still express himself to his family.

Or at least to Cougar, which, if Jensen was truly honest with himself, was a little more important to him.

Pooch and Cougar looked toward the small hallway connecting the door to the bedroom at the same time, telling Jensen that the doctor had arrived. His heart started to pound, and he swallowed hard. This was the moment of truth. This guy was going to tell him if he'd ever hear or speak again. Jensen's hands curled into fists, and he didn't notice until Cougar covered one with his own hand. Jensen looked over at him, surprised, but the Spaniard wasn't looking back. Jensen pursed his lips, then loosened his fist before wrapping his fingers around Cougar's. The sniper squeezed his hand briefly, but didn't let go, even when Clay came in with the doctor in tow.

She wasn't what Jensen had expected at all. First, he didn't expect a female, and second, he didn't expect her to be so young. She was pale, which Jensen found comforting in a weird way. To him, it just said she spent more time working to be a great doctor than outdoors. Her bright red hair was pulled back into a loose ponytail, and her deep green eyes were hidden behind a pair of rectangular glasses. Her wrinkled t-shirt and jeans said that she had been dragged out when she was least expecting it. Clay gestured toward him, obviously doing introductions, and Jensen could only smile weakly. She smiled back, gentle and understanding, and she reminded him of his sister.

Jensen was pulled from his thoughts by Cougar placing his laptop on his legs and lifting the screen. He released Jensen's hand and moved out of the way so the doctor could sit in the chair they'd put beside his bed. Jensen restored his word processor from the toolbar and turned the computer towards her.

"Hi, I'm Dr Morrigan McManus." She typed. Jensen flashed her a bright smile.

"I'm Jensen." This time she smiled, almost a mirror of his.

"It's nice to meet you. Your friends told me you can't hear or speak." Jensen nodded. "I'll see if I can fix that, ok?" He smiled, but it felt strained.

He sat calmly as she looked in his ears, jerking slightly when the instrument hit the wound. She smiled apologetically and tried again, more carefully. Her brow knit in confusion when she examined his throat, though, and that alarmed him. The others stood at the end of the bed, watching the exam intently. Cougar sat on the other bed, and as Morrigan moved around Jensen their eyes would meet across the space. Somehow, it calmed the hacker every time and kept him from squirming under the intense scrutiny.

When Morrigan was finally done, she gave him one last smile and a pat on the shoulder before moving over to speak with Clay, Aisha and Pooch. Jensen stared intently at his hands in his lap, trying not to think about what was being said, until a hand slipped into his. He looked up at Cougar, who smiled comfortingly and squeezed his hand. Jensen curled his fingers around his friend's and grasped it tightly, showing his only connection to the world his fear. Cougar glanced over at the others, who were engrossed in their conversation with Dr McManus, then lifted their entwined hands and kissed the back of Jensen's hand, holding the blonde's eyes. Jensen blushed deeply, though he wasn't sure why, and looked away when it became too much.

The bed shifted and Jensen looked over at Morrigan, who sat beside him with his laptop. He relaxed his hand, preparing to let go of Cougar, but the sniper just squeezed again, stopping him. Jensen could feel the others staring at them, but suddenly he did not care.

Morrigan moved the computer closer, catching his attention. The first thing he saw were the four words at the top: "I can fix this." His hand tightened in Cougar's, and he could barely suppress a smile.

"I want to let your ears heal on their own. Surgery is too risky. But I can give you your voice back. Come to the hospital tomorrow."

Jensen looked up at her and nodded, a grin splitting his face. She smiled as well, green eyes sparkling. She closed the lip of the laptop and set it behind her before standing up. She extended a hand. Jensen wiggled free from Cougar's grip and jumped to his feet, throwing his arms around her in a crushing hug. He could feel her laughing, and her arms closed around him in return. Another hand rested on his back, and Jensen didn't have to look to know it was Cougar.

He finally released the doctor, still smiling. She gathered up her backpack and gave him one last nod before leaving. Aisha and Clay nodded as well, saying something to Cougar before following Morrigan out. Pooch gave them a suggestive smile, and Jensen really wished he had a voice in that moment. The driver said something that made Cougar raise an eyebrow and shake his head. Pooch laughed, and Cougar shooed him out of the room. When the sniper came back, Jensen was still standing between the beds grinning like a fool. They looked at each other for a moment, then Cougar smiled as well, relief clear in his dark eyes. The two men moved at the same time, coming together in a fierce embrace. Jensen wanted to laugh in relief.

The Spaniard's hands moved to the blonde's face after a while, putting space between them. Jensen's hands came to rest on Cougar's hips and his cheeks were beginning to ache from smiling. As they looked at each other, something passed between them. The hacker licked his lips, making the other man's eyes flutter to them briefly. When their eyes met again, both men blushed. Jensen took his hands back and Cougar's moved, one falling away from Jensen's face while the other moved to the back of his neck. Cougar pressed gently, guiding the man to the bed. Jensen sank onto the mattress, suddenly bone-deep tired. Cougar smiled understandingly, and Jensen was amazed at how well the man could read him.

Jensen handed Cougar his computer and slipped back under the covers. Cougar was at his side in a second, arranging the pillows and blankets. Jensen lifted a hand to wave him off, but the ache under his skin made it fall back. Cougar chuckled before removing his glasses, carefully setting them where they could be grabbed quickly. The sniper reached over to turn off the lamp, then paused, looking down at Jensen with an indecipherable expression. His other hand moved to Jensen's hair, the calloused fingers moving through the blonde spikes. Jensen exhaled through his nose and closed his eyes, soothed by the touch. He saw the light go out behind his eyelids.

Jensen kicked his feet idly at the linoleum, not able to hide his boredom. Finally Cougar touched his knee lightly, and he stilled immediately. Out of the corner of his eye Jensen saw Pooch grin, but pointedly ignored him.

Everyone looked up when Morrigan came in to the hospital room, a syringe in hand. Jensen blanched, and he felt Cougar touch his arm. Dr. McManus smiled comfortingly and spoke to Cougar, setting the syringe and a vial on a metal tray before going over to wash her hands. Cougar turned to him and pressed gently on his shoulder, silently telling him to lay down on the hospital bed. The hacker did so, looking nervously at his teammates. Clay was leaning against the window, arms crossed over his chest. Aisha mirrored his pose next to the door, while Pooch had taken the only chair in the room. Finally, Jensen looked up at Cougar, who was still standing next to him. The sniper's hand ghosted over Jensen's on the mattress, subtly lending his support. Jensen swallowed, and Cougar stroked a thumb over his knuckles.

Morrigan moved to the other side of Jensen, now wearing gloves and the needle prepped. She lowered the head of the bed until he was almost flat and flipped on a bright overhead light. Jensen squinted in the light and felt his breathing speed up. Cougar took Jensen's hand in both of his, moving into his vision and holding his eyes. The rough hands were comforting and gentle.

Jensen focused hard on his friend as Morrigan swabbed his skin with cold alcohol then carefully slid in the needle. He winced at the sharp pinch, grasp tightening briefly. Cougar just held on, stroking the back of his hand comfortingly. Jensen could feel the medicine move through his veins, washing his vision with fatigue.

Morrigan moved away, tossing the syringe and her gloves. She said something to the others, then patted Jensen's leg and gave him a smile. He could only manage a small one in return, too exhausted for much else. Clay did the same, giving his genius a nod before leaving. Pooch clapped his shoulder carefully, moving his chair over so Cougar could use it. Even Aisha set her hand on his leg and gave him a nod of acknowledgement before following the others out the door. Morrigan gave some final instructions to Cougar, then pulled the curtain around the bed. Jensen's head lulled sideways toward his friend, fighting to stay awake. Cougar took the seat Pooch had vacated, still holding Jensen's hand.

The blonde's eyes fluttered, and the last thing he saw was Cougar pressing his lips to his hand.

Jensen slowly opened his eyes. The sun was setting through the window of his hospital room. He flexed his hand, still feeling the warmth of Cougar's touch. He looked over at the now empty chair at his bedside, where the black cowboy hat was sitting neatly. Jensen smiled to himself and slowly sat up, rubbing his throat absently. He looked at the hat for a moment, trying to decide whether to seek his team out or not. They had most likely gone for food not long ago, after Morrigan had talked to them out in the hallway. He still wasn't sure why they'd done that, since he couldn't hear, but he appreciated it anyway. He would've driven himself crazy trying to read their lips.

Finally Jensen stood, testing out the strength of his legs. He only managed a step away from the bed before the curtain swept aside. He looked up, smile in place, ready to greet his friends, but his expression quickly died. It wasn't his team. It wasn't them at all.

The man was tall and muscular, haircut short and face hard. Jensen was back in that room, tied to that chair again, and this guy was coming at him with something thin and sharp. He was thrashing, but a large, meaty arm locked itself around his throat, holding him in place. That tool went into his ear and pressed. There was a deceptively diminutive pop, and a rush of pain and blood made Jensen scream. The man laughed and grabbed a fistful of Jensen's blonde hair, wrenching his head to the other side. Another pop, more blood, more pain, but the hacker mercifully lost consciousness this time.

Jensen could feel himself breathing hard and fast. He raised his hands in a placating gesture and stumbled backwards as the man advanced, smiling predatorily. He didn't get very far before his back hit the bed. His eyes widened, as did his attacker's grin. Jensen was trapped, he was back in their hands, and this time, he was going to die.

The man moved in, and Jensen lunged without thinking, diving past his legs. He felt searching hands briefly grasp his shirt before he managed to slip away, heading blindly for the open door. He just cleared the doorway when something snagged the leg of his pants, sending him to the floor. He fell with his upper body still outside in the hallway. Jensen drew in a deep breath, and screamed the first word he'd spoken in almost two days.


The name ripped itself painfully through his unused throat and chest. He was yanked into the room, sliding smoothly across the cold tile. A heavy fist struck his cheek, snapping his head to the side and dazing him. He blinked furiously, trying to clear his vision, but two hands closed around his throat, cutting off his oxygen. Jensen grabbed the man's wrists and pulled at the iron grip, mouth moving as he fought to breathe. He lashed out blindly with his legs, feeling his knee connect with the side of a rib cage. The vice on his throat mercifully relaxed momentarily, allowing him to suck in a deep breath, but then it was back. The man straddled his hips, pinning him down. Darkness appeared at the edges of his vision, closing around the man's terribly grinning face.

A shadow passed over them, and Jensen saw something dark fly out, striking his attacker. The man fell sideways, and his grip came loose. Jensen used the opportunity to lurch up, throwing the weight off. The blonde blindly scrambled across the floor and pressed his back to the wall, pushing his glasses back up on his nose.

Cougar stood between him and the other man, knees bent in preparation to move. The attacker pushed himself up onto his hands and knees, wiping at the blood dripping from the corner of his mouth. He looked at Jensen sideways and gave the hacker a smile that chilled his blood.

The man lunged at Cougar, throwing his shoulder at the Spaniard's chest. Cougar was pushed back into the wall, and Jensen had to scramble out of the way. A hand grabbed his hair again, stopping him from going too far, and his head was slammed into the plaster. The hacker felt himself groan and go limp, but the grasp on his blonde hair kept him from slipping to the ground. Cougar brought his knee up into the man's stomach, jarring his friend free. Jensen collapsed, fighting to stay conscious.

Cougar threw the man to the ground and knocked him out with a firm kick to the head. The sniper stared down at the attacker for a moment, catching his breath, before sliding to his knees beside Jensen.

"Cougar, Cougar, Cougar," The hacker was mumbling his friend's name over and over, not knowing if he was even coherent. Cougar cradled the blonde's head in his arms, fingers blindly searching through his hair. His hand came away red from where the wall had split open Jensen's scalp. "He did it. He was the one, Cougs, he did this." Jensen's eyes roamed blindly around the room, dazed. Cougar finally put a clean finger on Jensen's lips, silencing him. The sniper said something, Jensen could feel the rumble of his chest, but his head hurt too much to make out the words on his lips.

More shapes moved into Jensen's vision, but he knew it was his friends. He managed a weak smile before darkness claimed him.

Jensen was back in the hotel when he woke up. He tried to lift his head, but a hand on his chest stilled him. The lamp beside the bed turned on, and Cougar sat on the edge of the mattress.

"Did he get away?" Jensen's chest and throat still ached from disuse, and he still couldn't hear himself, but he knew he was talking when a smile touched Cougar's eyes.

Cougar shook his head, and Jensen couldn't help a relieved grin. Cougar finally smiled openly, that same smile he'd only ever shown the computer genius. Jensen lifted his hand, and Cougar took it, clasping tightly.

"Sorry I worried you," Cougar just shook his head again, wordlessly saying he'd come to expect it. Jensen didn't blame him. "I don't do it on purpose." Cougar rolled his eyes, but didn't stop smiling.

"I knew you'd come for me."

The lines in Cougar's face smoothed, and his expression changed to something undefinable. He nodded slowly, drawing Jensen's hand closer to his chest.

"Always," Cougar mouthed in the dim light. Jensen suddenly felt pinned and laid bare under his friend's dark gaze. His heart pounded against his ribs.

Cougar pressed his free hand into the mattress, next to Jensen's shoulder, and slowly leaned down, still holding Jensen's hand against his chest. Jensen's eyelids drifted closed, and he parted his lips. There was a soft puff of air against his mouth, then Cougar's lips touched his.

The contact was hesitant, testing. Jensen tilted his chin up, pressing his mouth firmly to the sniper's. Cougar took the silent invitation and sealed their lips, moving closer to his friend. Jensen cupped the back of Cougar's neck as he sought entrance to the other man's mouth with his tongue. They wrestled briefly before exhaustion on the blonde's part made them stop.

"I love you," Jensen spoke before he lost his nerve, forcing himself to open his eyes. Cougar smiled fondly, tracing Jensen's face with gentle fingertips, then leaning in for another kiss.

Cougar pressed his lips against Jensen's cheek, and the hacker felt him say "I love you" back.