Just FYI, "This is Cougar speaking Spanish", because I find it a little irritating to have to constantly go up and down, reading the translations. Short, easy-to-undestand Spanish will be in Spanish, but the long, important sentences will be written "like this," because I am lazy. Just pretend they are in Spanish, okay? Leave me alone; I'm tired. Reviews are good, though. I own nothing!
Cougar is, by nature, a very, very patient man. He can remain motionless for hours on end, waiting out his prey, and can maintain his composure under pretty much any form of torture a prospective captor can come up with. He's quiet and cool-headed, and it's these traits that make him so very useful. The other Losers trust his assessment of situations, and even Clay won't argue when the sniper suggests a retreat.
So when the hacker became part of their team, and everyone got fed up very quickly with his "let's talk about every subject there is while I invade your bubble and bore you to death with techno chatter" behavior, Cougar was the last one standing, so to speak. He would sit, quiet and taciturn, but occasionally nodding or frowning or twitching the corner of his mouth, and let Jensen talk his ear off.
Jensen absolutely loves this.
When he realized that the silent man would listen to whatever he had to say, would actually pay some modicum of attention, he latched onto the sniper like some sort of technological koala and has yet to let go. This is where the problem began.
Cougar is not used to friendship. He's a sniper for a reason; he keeps his distance. Even Pooch, who was the closest thing Cougar had to a friend before Jensen came along, had only barely scratched the surface of What Makes Cougar Tick. And Pooch has always been fine with that. Jensen is not fine with that. When the Spaniard declined to answer any personal questions ("How old were you when you first killed somebody? What's your favorite ice cream flavor? Got any siblings? What's your favorite Journey song?") the hacker made it his personal goal to not only scratch the surface, but to drill through it. He began spending all his free time following the dark-haired man, peppering him with questions and opinions and whatever thoughts popped into his head.
Lots of people have tried to get inside Cougar's head. Women, men, psychologists, the CIA, and quite a few enemy potentates and soldiers. Many of them have been persistent as hell, but Jensen's got them all beat for staying the distance and sheer tenacity. More than once, Clay has had to order the info op to "get off poor Cougar's back (literally, on one occasion) and let the guy work!" Pooch laughs at Jensen's indignation and insistence that he's being really, really helpful. Roque used to roll his eyes or call them a couple of five-year-olds (when he was in a good mood; other times it was less g-rated name-calling). The hacker tends to ignore such comments, and if they bother Cougar he doesn't show it.
The problem is, after about a year of such constant, affectionate battery, Cougar realized that he'd begun to enjoy it, to expect it before and after every mission, during the occasional peaceful interlude, at least once a day. If he doesn't get a dose of Jensen-style ribbing, he gets edgy. Edgier than usual. Tetchy, even. Once, when he was assigned to scope out a location and ended up being alone for well over a week, he actually snapped at Clay. He tells himself it's just the natural attachment that guys get in the military, the kind of bond you get for people that save your life on a regular basis, that it's nothing more. Even though he knows that's bull, because Pooch and Clay and even Aisha have hauled his ass out of the fire on a few occasions, and he's saved them countless times, but he sure as hell hasn't had any dreams about slowly undressing any of them. It's just Jensen, it's always Jensen, smiling and moaning in his mind's eye, making him wake up with a start and a hard-on he's too mortified to do anything about.
After Bolivia- after Roque- after Max, the hacker became more interrogative, more needy, more chatty, while Cougar just got more and more withdrawn. Of course, he's always withdrawn, so it took a while for anyone to notice, but eventually Clay pulled him aside, wearing his "Worried Leader" expression.
"Look, Cougs... I dunno how to say this, exactly, but, uhh... we're not in the Army anymore."
Cougar arches an eyebrow, which in this case means "thanks, I was actually aware of that fact before now. What's your point?"
"What I mean is, uh-" Clay clears his throat. "Y'know, none of us are gonna judge you. But you need to get this thing out in the open before you explode from too much internal pressure. This thing, it's just gonna fuck with your head until somebody does something about it."
The sniper blinks.
"Don't try it, Cougar. If I've noticed, you can be damn sure Pooch has, and even Aisha asked me what's up with the two of you. In fact, it seems like the only people we know who haven't noticed are the two of you!"
"What do you mean?" It's the longest sentence Cougar has said in about two weeks.
Clay points a stern finger at his best marksman. "I mean: Tell Jensen. Soon. Or I will."
They may not be in the Army anymore, but Clay is still Cougar's CO, and he'll never disobey a direct order like that.
So. Tell Jensen.
Fortunately for Cougar, no language was specified.
Of course, Cougar is cautious. He starts out with innocent compliments, stuff that will just earn him a smile and maybe an "Aaww, Cougs!" if it gets accidentally translated. When the first few comments, ranging from "You did a great job on that satellite today" to "Your shirt is funny", get him only blank stares, he moves up to slightly more serious admissions.
"Those swimtrunks are nice," he says quietly as Jensen saunters past him on his way to the hotel pool.
"Huh?" The tech halts, glancing over his shoulder. "What? Do I have something in my teeth? Is my tag sticking up? What?"
And Cougar shakes his head, hiding a smirk.
"You shouldn't sit so close to the screen; you'll damage your eyes." Clay throws a few kernels of popcorn carelessly at the back of Jensen's head and gets up from his easy chair, heading for the kitchen. The hacker is sitting on the carpet of the living room in their current hideout, his nose an inch from the screen as Milla Jovovich is dragged screaming from her room by aliens.
"Eh. They're damaged already; remember that time I walked in on you and that dancer?" Jensen shrugs.
"What dancer?" Aisha stands and follows Clay, who is beating a hasty retreat. If Pooch weren't visiting Jolene, he'd be high-fiving Jensen and laughing.
Cougar frowns and grabs the back of the blonde's shirt, hauling him back a few feet to a safe distance and muttering, "I like your eyes the way they are; don't make them worse."
Being stuck in a large air duct for an hour, pressed up against a sweaty, irritable, just-as-talkative-as-ever Jensen would drive any other Loser absolutely insane. Fortunately, Cougar has been a little insane for most of his life. He sits as still as possible and listens to his friend rant about all the different ways this plan could have gone better, how many ways it's gone wrong already, how it's going to go from here, and the outcome of the newest episode of Warehouse 13.
"-and then they go back to the hospital and Mika's all better, and she wants to talk about what Pete said but he pretends he can't hear her and everything works out, and then Artie and Claudia-"
"Your hair smells nice," Cougar says, shifting his hips away from Jensen's and feeling the cool steel of the vent on his belly.
"-and she turns around and there's Todd and what? Did you just insult me? I'm pretty sure that was an insult. It was, wasn't it? What does cabello mean?"
"You fucking idiot!" Clay is not pleased. None of the Losers are pleased. They are, in fact, in the state of mind that is most often known as Pissed Off. Most of this mood is directed at Jensen.
"Jesus, Jensen, do you have any idea how much you freaked us out? We thought you'd been fucking captured! But, no, we find out after two days of absolute hell that you're absolutely fine; you just 'forgot to call'!" The colonel rages. Behind him, Aisha is silently glaring, and it's hard to decide which is scarier. The hacker sits, arms folded defensively, and stares belligerently back at his commander.
"What was I supposed to do? My niece broke her ankle; I had to visit-"
"You were supposed to check in! You were supposed to give somebody a clue as to your whereabouts! For cryin' out loud, man, you nearly gave Cougs an aneurism!" Pooch waves dramatically.
Jensen sighs. "I'm sorry. I just kind of panicked when I heard, okay? C'mon, Pooch, wouldn't you flip if something like that happened to your kid?"
Pooch can't argue with that, and after a few more minutes of shouty venting, the irritated fugitives back off, satisfied that, for a while at least, their tech has learned his lesson. Only Cougar remains, leaning against a wall, hat tipped down.
Jensen looks at him. "Sorry I gave you a panic-attack, Cougs. I'm kinda sad I missed it; I'd pay good money to see you flip a shit. You gonna yell at me too?"
The Spaniard tilts his head and heads for the door. He pauses, face still obscured, and says, "I'm glad you're okay. I was worried. Next time, tell someone."
"Aagh, he's cursed me in ancient Spanish! I'm doomed! That's what that was, right? A curse? Or something like a curse? Am I getting close?" The American's voice follows him as he walks away, the corner of his mouth twitching in silent relief.
"Cougar, watch out! 8 o'clock!" Aisha's strained voice buzzes through his comm, but the sniper keeps his focus trained on the two figures, ten stories down in the parking lot of Multi-National United that have Jensen cornered. Just a second, he need just a second more-
He exhales and squeezes the trigger once, twice, and the two men with Kalashnikovs fall. In the next instant, he's rolling onto his back, his pistol drawn and firing at the man who's managed to creep up behind him on the roof of the building where he's perched. The man grunts as a bullet tears a hole in his chest, but the shot comes a second too late and Cougar makes a muffled sound as a slug buries itself in his side.
"Cougar!" Pooch, flying above in their emergency-escape helicopter, shouts a warning to the others. "Guys, I just saw Cougs take a shot; I'm coming in to grab 'im!"
The chopper swoops in, loud and looming, and he can see Pooch maneuvering the controls for a landing. He rolls onto his belly once more, gritting his teeth, and peers through his scope at the distant figure of Jensen. He's shouting into his comm, "Cougs? Cougs, you okay? Hey! You better be okay!" Through the scope, the wounded man can see his friend's worried expression, and he raises his talkie to his lips, grunts out a "Si," and then Pooch is dragging his ass upright and over to the chopper.
"I warned you! I told you that guy was coming up behind you; didn't you hear me?"
They're in an abandoned warehouse, lit by candles and propane lamps. Cougar is stitching himself up, the bullet lying in a bloody puddle next to a pair of tweezers, and Aisha is railing at him.
"Si. I heard," he says, and winces as the thread tugs the ragged edge of his wound.
Aisha throws her hands up in exasperation. "So why the hell did you wait to turn and kill the guy?"
He doesn't answer, just tsks in frustration at the way his thread keeps pulling free and restarts his stitch. His hand is perfectly steady; he's done this countless times before, to himself and the others, but the position of the wound is just so that he can't quite get a good angle to stitch from.
The irritated woman turns and looks at the others to back her up, but Pooch and Clay learned long ago that Cougar will be Cougar and no amount of shouting will make him place himself before his friend in dangerous situations. Jensen is the only one supporting her, yelling and furious right alongside her.
"Why would you ignore a warning like that? C'mon, man, I'm the stupid one!"
The sniper remains unresponsive. Clay, to his unending credit, decides to step in before anyone's head explodes.
"Alright, guys, I think he gets the point. We're okay, aren't we? Nobody else got hurt, the mission went well. Let's all get some rest and let him patch himself up."
Aisha scoffs, and Pooch rolls his eyes, but they obey and head for their separate bunks. Jensen stays, glowering, arms folded across his chest. The colonel sighs and pats him on the shoulder, casting a "sorry, pal, you're on your own; good luck" glance back at the wounded man as he exits.
Jensen paces angrily in front of his friend. "Seriously, Cougs. Why couldn't you have just shot the guy when she warned you? Do you have a fucking death wish? You're lucky he just winged you; you could've been killed!"
"They would've shot you. I'd rather take a thousand bullets than watch you be hurt." Another knot slips loose. "Mierda." He purses his lips and rethreads the needle.
"What the hell did any of that mean? Except the last part; I think I got that. Dammit, Cougar, I wish you'd talk to me! In English, for fuck's sake! And let me do that!" The hacker snaps, snatching the needle and thread. Cougar relents, and tries not to flinch as the point sinks into his skin and pulls, Jensen crouching in front of him, alive and gloriously unharmed, and that's all the sniper could ask for.
"Stupid mysterious bastard," the tech says affectionately, his tone softening as he places a steadying hand against his friend's hip. Cougar hisses slightly, and pretends it's at the sting of the antiseptic, instead of the way Jensen's fingers slip, for a split second, down his skin, brushing sweat and blood away.
"Gracias," he says softly, lowering his head to hide a blush in the shadow of his hat.
Jensen grins up at him, perfect and radiant. "See, now that I understood."