Thank you, Castiel's drycleaner, for your support and for being an awesome Beta.
And thank you to my reviewers of Epilogue1: gottalovealoser, HellzCrusader, Thornangel, Deth Faenim, sivanshemesh3, Ectofralamazoo, lelann37, LaylaBinx and Hidden Relevance. I love reading what you think about my story.
Here's the last, and the longest, chapter for ya. It is unbeta'd because my beta is really busy with life and I'd just like to finish this story once and for all.
This chapter is very long and deals with their return to their family after Bolivia. I've changed it since first writing it and almost decided to list it as a different story altogether (as a one shot) but since I wrote it originally for this story I am adding it here as I had first intended.
To gottalovealoser: Should be just a few more days.
Speaking of gottalovealoser, check out her awesome Loser fic: Hell hath no fury, check out Alex Kade's Loser fic: Fear of the Unknown, check out Andrix's Loser series of drabbles: JensenxCougar Alphabet Fic(warning may be tears and has a lead in to In Memorandum) and check out Snarkcasm's Loser fic: Surrender, Surrender. And for an awesome cross-over fic check out the Loser/Push fic Move It or Lose It by Hidden Relevance. WARNING: You may become addicted.
TWO YEARS LATER
It had been five months, five very long months, since receiving the news that their family had been killed in a helicopter crash after knowingly causing the deaths of 25 little children while attacking a Bolivian citizen.
Sarah Jensen had not believed the bullshit story that the Losers had gone rogue for even one second. Neither had her best friend Jolene Porteous. First, their guys could never knowingly cause the deaths of 25 children. No way in hell. Second, their guys had been sent there on a mission. An un-official mission of course, but a mission none-the-less.
Sarah even had doubts that the men were dead. All her life she had been able to feel it when her brother was hurt. She felt it a lot when she was very little. After their bastard of a dad died she didn't feel it as much. When Jake joined the military she would feel it if he was hurt on a mission. She even remembered feeling it when Wolfe attacked and molested Jake.
When the men supposedly died in Bolivia, Sarah didn't feel anything. Nothing to indicate that her brother had been hurt, much less killed. And during these past five months of hell, every once in a while she would get the same kinds of feelings that she used to that indicated her brother had been hurt. As a matter of fact, just a few days ago the upper part of Sarah's left arm started paining her. It was the same kind of feeling that Sarah got whenever Jake had been shot.
She wasn't the only one who had her doubts about the men being dead. Jolene was sure that Pooch was alive. Why else would his wedding ring have been missing? Whenever Pooch went on a mission, he took his wedding ring off of his finger and placed it on the chain with his dog tags. That way he would always be sure that if anything happened to him, Jolene would still get his ring back.
Unfortunately, they couldn't speak of it when Analicia was around. Even though they both believed that the men were alive, they didn't want Ana to get her hopes up if it turned out that the men really had died. Neither one of them could watch Ana go through that kind of pain again.
For the first month Ana didn't do anything. She barely ate or spoke. She wouldn't be able to fall asleep unless she was curled up against either her mother or her aunt. She had terrible nightmares every night and woke up screaming and crying.
The second month Ana was a little better, not much. She began playing with some of her toys again. She started eating again but only spoke when spoken to. She still needed either her mother or her aunt to sit with her until she fell asleep. She still had nightmares every night.
The third month was better. Soccer season began. Ana was behaving almost normally, eating like she normally did and was speaking again. Not like she used to, the way her Uncle Jake spoke, in fits of concise thoughts along with random thoughts and words. But hey, Sarah was just happy to have her show some of the spirit she had before her 'uncles' had died. Unfortunately Ana still had nightmares but not every night and she could go to sleep without one of them being there with her.
The fourth month was great. Soccer was still underway. Sarah was extremely grateful that Ana had her soccer team. They supported Ana no matter what anyone else said about her uncles. They even told Ana that they played in honor of her Uncle Jake and her Uncle Cougar. That might explain why they were having the best season ever. Most of Ana's soccer team had a crush on her Uncle Cougar. They didn't understand as Ana did that he wasn't a 'lady's man'. But at least the team had Ana talking about Jake and Cougar without her crying.
Now it's been five months. Sarah was a little worried. Soccer season was just about over, playoffs happening this weekend, and she was afraid that Ana would revert back to how she was before soccer. Sarah would do anything to prevent that from happening. Ana's been doing so much better. She was even back to speaking just like Uncle Jake. She still had nightmares but Sarah knew from her experiences with Cougar that those could last for the rest of Ana's life.
Sarah turned away from the window that she had been staring out of just in time to catch her daughter in her arms.
"Ana, honey, you can't leap at Mommy like that sweetie. You would get hurt if I couldn't catch you in time." Sarah hugged her daughter to her and then put her back down on the floor. For an eight year old girl, Ana was still a bit small for her age.
"Don't be silly Mommy." Ana gave her mother an incredulous look. "You always catch me."
Sarah smiled at her daughter's words. She would always try to be there for her daughter, no matter what. "Are you ready to go see Aunt Jolene and your new baby cousin?"
It was Friday afternoon. Sarah and Analicia had just arrived home from picking Jolene and baby Columbus up from the hospital. Jolene had asked to come to Sarah's home instead of going to her home so that they could talk first. Despite the fact that Jolene was clearly worn out, she had seemed so excited at the possibility of going to Sarah's house that Sarah never even questioned why.
Sarah couldn't believe the change that had come over Jolene since the baby had been born. For the past couple of weeks Jolene had been very depressed that Pooch wasn't going to be there to witness the birth of their child. Sarah had promised Jolene that she would be there for her and Sarah was so mad at herself when she wasn't able to be. When Jolene went into labor Wednesday night Sarah was trapped clear across town because of a terrible accident. It was so bad that Sarah ending up offering to help with the injured until the ambulances could arrive.
Since Columbus' birth, Jolene had become extremely happy. But it seemed to Sarah that something else was adding to the euphoria of the birth of Jolene's and Pooch's child. She just wasn't sure what. When Sarah tried asking what had Jolene so happy, Jolene only smiled and said that she couldn't wait until Ana's soccer game tomorrow.
They had barely been home for ten minutes when Sarah heard a creak come from the front porch. She looked to Jolene to see if Jolene had heard it too. Jolene had a huge smile on her face as she stared out the window across the room. She clearly didn't hear anything out of the ordinary.
Sarah heard another noise then and turned to look at the door. It sounded like something, or someone, was scraping at the keyhole. Both Sarah and Jolene got up off the couch when the handle of the front door started to jiggle. It sounded as if a key had slid into the slot.
"Who do you think it is?" Sarah looked to Jolene once again. "The only one with a spare key is you."
Jolene attempted a thoughtful face. "I'm not the only one with a spare key."
Sarah couldn't believe it. She knew and trusted Jolene too well for what Jolene was implying. "Who did you give a copy of my key to?"
Jolene looked at Sarah in surprise as the key unlocked the bottom lock and moved to the dead bolt. She didn't realize that Sarah would think that. "Not me silly, you. You gave copies to two other people. Remember?"
Sarah looked at Jolene in shock as the front door opened to reveal the very two people they had just been speaking of. There, at the door, stood a very alive looking Jensen and Cougar. Not just them either. Behind them stood Pooch, Clay and a very pretty woman that Sarah didn't know.
After two seconds of shocked silence Sarah threw herself into her brother's arms. She clung to him as if afraid that he would vanish if she let go. Sarah avoided touching his upper left arm just in case it was still hurting him. Tears ran down her face as she kissed Jensen on his cheek before burying her head against his chest. "I knew you weren't dead. I knew it. I still had those feelings. I knew they couldn't be wrong. I just knew it."
Jensen chuckled softly as he hugged his sister tightly. When the Losers had first agreed to be 'dead', they had decided not to contact their families so that their families would be safe. Jensen knew that even if he didn't contact his sister she'd know he was alive anyway. He just thought it would be because she didn't believe the military's bullshit story. "So you knew I wasn't dead because you kept feeling my pain? That sucks."
Sarah hit her brother upside the head before moving to embrace Cougar in a bear hug.
Jensen, confusion written all over his face, looked to see his sister dangling in Cougar's arms as she kissed his cheek. Cougar may not have been the tallest man at five foot ten inches, but he was certainly taller than Sarah's five foot four. "What was that for?"
Cougar placed Sarah back on the floor but did not release her as she answered, "That was for not telling me you were alive."
"We didn't tell you to keep you safe. Anyone could have intercepted if we had tried to contact you." Jensen looked at his sister with a look that clearly said she should have figured that out for herself.
Cougar released Sarah after placing a kiss on her forehead.
Sarah moved towards Pooch. "Puh-lease Jensen! We all know that you of all people could have found some way to contact us without being intercepted."
Jolene moved away from her husband so that her best friend and sister could have a proper reunion with him. After all, Sarah had lost him too.
Pooch laughed at the look that came over his friend's face as he accepted his kiss from Sarah. "She's got you there J-man." He felt as if Sarah were trying to squeeze the life out of him with her hug.
Clay stepped in to take some of the heat off of Jensen. "He couldn't Sarah. I ordered him not too. It was just too risky."
Sarah released Pooch so that she could move to Clay. Pooch's arms weren't empty for long though because as soon as Sarah moved Jolene was there. It felt so good having her back in his arms. He knew that it would be quite some time before the urge to hold her and never let go left him because of all the months of not being with her.
Sarah looked up at Clay with an unreadable look on her face. The others watched and waited for what she would do next. Sarah took a step closer…and then launched herself at him. He caught her in mid-air. She enveloped him in a bear hug as she kissed his cheek just like she had done the others.
As soon as Sarah had taken that last step before the lunge, Cougar had reached out to grab Aisha's arm. He knew that she wouldn't understand at first that Sarah wasn't actually attacking Clay and that Aisha's first instinct would be to defend. They'd only been 'partners' for a few days but Cougar was starting to understand her way of thinking. She wouldn't defend Clay because of a care for him, but because she thought that Sarah might attack her after Clay.
Sarah took a quick step back as soon as Clay released her so that she could look directly into his eyes. "I forgive you for giving my brother such a stupid order Franklin."
"Uh-oh, someone's in trouble." Jensen remarked in a sing-song voice. "She used your first name."
Clay gave Jensen a look that clearly said shut-up. Jensen did shut up. But not because he was afraid that Clay would tell Sarah that there was never actually an official order that Jensen not contact her, just an agreement amongst themselves. No, Jensen shut his mouth because Sarah had turned to Aisha.
Sarah saw Cougar grab the woman's arm from the corner of her eye when she launched herself at Clay. After Clay released Sarah and she turned to look at the woman Sarah noticed that Cougar no longer held the woman. Interesting.
Aisha looked at the woman who was Jensen's sister. She was much smaller than Jensen's six feet but she looked like she could definitely handle herself. She'd have to with these guys.
Clay made the introductions. "Sarah this is Aisha. She's working with us now. Aisha this is Sarah, Jensen's little sister."
Sarah made a face at Clay as he said the word 'little'. The Losers always used that word to tease her. They never said it because she was younger than Jensen but because she was so petite.
"So you're a Loser now?" Sarah watched Aisha intently, waiting for her answer.
Aisha stared intently at Sarah as well. She nodded slightly. "Yes, for now, I am a Loser."
For a tense five seconds there was silence. Then Sarah nodded back and smiled. "That's good enough for me." Sarah launched herself at Aisha and hugged her as well. I wonder why she's here and Roque isn't.
Aisha, unsure of how to react, stood frozen for the duration of the hug. Her first instinct, to fight, would not go over well with her companions-for-the-time-being.
Sarah leaned into Aisha and whispered into her ear so that only Aisha would hear, "For now. If you ever do anything to hurt any of these men, I will hunt you down, skin you alive and roast you over the fire pit in my back yard. You got me?"
Sarah still had the same smile on her face as she moved back from Aisha. She watched the mocha-skinned woman intently waiting for her answer.
Aisha bit back the smile that she felt rise up. She may have confusing feelings for Clay, she may or may not be starting to like the other men of Clay's former unit, but she knew for a fact that she definitely liked Jensen's sister. They may have been raised in different worlds, but Aisha could tell that Sarah had a code of conduct that was similar to her own. When it comes to family that is. She also had the makings of a seriously dangerous adversary. If they didn't end up killing each other, they could become…friends. No wonder Jensen is always in awe of what he calls bad ass chicks. He raised one.
A slight incline of Aisha's head was enough for Sarah to know that the woman understood her. She turned to her brother but before she could say what she wanted to tell him, the woman distracted her with a question.
"Have you been wearing them ever since you were told?"
All the men looked at Aisha in confusion. They didn't know what she could have been talking about. All they could see on Sarah were her normal clothes. She wasn't wearing anything out of the ordinary.
Jolene smiled at their confused faces.
"Wearing what? What's she wearing? She's wearing clothes. Just like she always does. We're not nudists." Jensen kept looking his sister up and down in the hopes that he would notice what Aisha was talking about.
Aisha didn't stop looking at Sarah as she remarked on Jensen's comment. "You sure about that Jensen? You seem to like to hack in your underwear." Aisha had the unfortunate experience late last night of walking into the dining room at Pooch's house to find Jensen, in his boxers, hunched over his computer. She had been on her way to the kitchen for a drink when she became distracted by the sight of Jensen's boxers. "In your pretty pink boxers with the white bears holding the red hearts all over them."
Jensen looked affronted. "Hey those were a gift from a very important person thank you very much."
Pooch and Clay laughed at the look on Jensen's face and the thought of those boxers. Cougar smiled as he remembered the moment when he got Jensen out of the boxers that their niece had given Jensen for their anniversary. Ana had given Cougar some of his favorite, but expensive, gun oil.
Jolene smiled and lightly elbowed her husband in the ribs. Pooch looked down at his wife with questioning eyes. She nodded her head in Sarah's direction and then looked down at her own chest.
Pooch followed Jolene's nod towards Sarah. Sarah had a pensive, yet sad, look on her face as she seemed to listen to the others tease Jensen about his boxers. But Pooch couldn't be sure if she really heard any of what was being said because she didn't look away from Aisha, just like Aisha didn't look away from her. It was somewhat intense the way they were staring at each other. Then Pooch remembered Aisha's question and looked back to his wife.
Jolene once again looked down at her chest. She looked back up to see her husband looking at her chest inquiringly. She saw a few moments of confusion before the look of understanding dawned on his face.
Pooch's softly said "Oh," brought Clay's, Jensen's and Cougar's eyes all on him. He smiled at them as he elaborated upon what Aisha was asking. "Aisha wants to know if Sarah's been wearing the dog tags ever since she was told we were dead."
All eyes snapped back to Sarah. She still hadn't moved but they could see tears once again streaking down her face. "Yes. I've worn them ever since receiving them from the military."
Aisha nodded at the expected answer.
Jensen was still looking at Sarah in confusion. He saw her reach beneath her neckline and take out the dog tags. He then turned towards Aisha. "How'd you know she was wearing them? You couldn't see them or the chain and I couldn't even feel them when I hugged her." He looked around at the others. "Did you feel them?"
Cougar, Pooch and Clay all shook their heads confirming that they had not felt them either.
Aisha smiled slightly at Jensen. "You weren't really noticing the dog tags because you were too wrapped up in finally seeing your sister again."
Jensen still looked slightly confused. "Yeah but you didn't even hug her that closely and you knew they were there."
Aisha looked to Jensen and nodded. "Yes, when Sarah moved in to…ah…welcome me, I felt the ball chain against my shoulder." Aisha looked once again at Sarah. "Besides, I had already expected your sister to be wearing your dog tags. It's what a military sister would do. Isn't that right?"
Jolene spoke then. "Yes, it's what a military sister and niece do. It's also what a military wife does."
It was Aisha's turn to look confused. "The military gives two tags, which Sarah is wearing. Whose is Sarah's daughter wearing?"
Sarah smiled. "Oh, she's wearing the same ones I am." She walked closer to Aisha and raised the dog tags so that the woman could read them.
Aisha took the offered dog tags in her hands. Being careful not to pull too much so that she wouldn't choke Sarah, Aisha raised the dog tags and read them out loud. "Jensen, Jake and Alvarez, Carlos."
Aisha looked towards Cougar. "Your real name is Carlos."
The sniper nodded slightly.
Aisha frowned and shook her head. "No, Cougar fits you better." She then looked towards Jensen. "I didn't realize that when you said you were a family that you meant literally."
Aisha released the dog tags as she looked back at Sarah with a new respect. "It must have been very hard for you when you were told that both your husband and brother had died."
Everyone looked at Aisha in shock.
Cougar was the first to recover with his signature smirk but Sarah was the first to speak. "Cougar's not my husband." Jensen shook his head in agreement. "He's my brother-in-law."
Now it was Aisha's turn to be shocked. She looked back and forth between the sniper and the hacker. She knew they were close but thought it was because that's what happens when you're in a unit together for so long. She never had any indication since meeting them a couple weeks ago that they were involved with each other. When Jolene had said military wife, Aisha assumed she was speaking for Sarah but then realized that Jolene still wore Pooch's dog tags as well. "You two are…"
Cougar finished for her, "together."
Jensen nodded as if still in a daze. "We weren't sure if we could trust you when we first met you so we didn't offer any information that wasn't critical to the mission."
Aisha nodded. "And now you trust me?"
Jensen hesitated before answering. "I trust you enough to introduce you to my family." Then he shrugged his shoulders. "I mean, you already knew about them anyway. So why not?"
Aisha nodded again. "Where is your niece?" She looked around the room. "And where's Columbus?"
"Columbus is sleeping in his crib upstairs and Ana wanted to be the one to watch over him." Jolene told them as she took a seat on the couch. She just gave birth two days ago. She needed to sit down.
Aisha raised an eyebrow. "He has a crib upstairs?"
Jolene nodded as Sarah took a seat next to her and answered Aisha. "Yes he does. With them…gone, we wanted to be closer to each other just in case something happened so there is a room upstairs for Jolene and Columbus." The Losers all joined Jolene and Sarah in the sitting area. "Just like there is a room at her house that I share with Ana."
Pooch nodded. "Yeah, that's the room Jensen and Cougar slept in last night. We didn't give it to you because we couldn't risk anything being broken. You know, since it's not our stuff."
Jolene giggled slightly as Sarah looked first at Pooch and then at Aisha. When she saw Aisha throw a guilty look at Clay she smiled. Ah. So she is volatile. I thought so. Just like Clay's other women.
Sarah was just about to rescue the woman when she heard footsteps coming down the upstairs hallway.
All heads turned expectantly towards the stairs. As the feet made their way quietly down the stairs, Jensen resumed his standing position.
They all watched as a beautiful little girl of eight years stopped short at the sight before her. To everyone's horror, Ana fell to her knees and began sobbing. Jensen was the first to reach Ana but everyone, even Aisha, circled around her in concern.
"Ana…honey, why are you crying?" Jensen had fallen upon his knees in front of Ana and could see that these were not tears of happiness. There was such pain and fear in Ana's tear-filled eyes that it hurt Jensen to look at them. He fought the urge to wrap her in his arms. Touching her before she was ready could have catastrophic repercussions.
Ana's body trembled as she continued sobbing. "I just wanna wake up." She wrapped her arms around herself. "I hate this dream. I just wanna wake up."
Sarah gasped as she wrapped her daughter in her arms. "Oh Analicia, honey, I'm so sorry. With everything that's happened today I didn't even realize."
Ana burrowed deep into her mother's arms. Her eyes peeping from under her mother's chin as she looked again at the people before her.
Cougar raised an eyebrow at what had just transpired between mother and daughter. There was something that had not been said and he was troubled by the feeling that he knew what.
Jensen couldn't stand not knowing what was wrong with his precious niece. Calmly, so as not to startle Ana, Jensen begged his sister to explain. "Please Sarah, what's wrong? I don't understand why she's crying like this. If they were tears of happiness that would make sense, but these…what is going on?"
Sarah rubbed her daughter's back softly as she slowly rocked Ana in her arms. "Ever since…"
"Bolivia." Aisha supplied for her.
Sarah nodded her thanks to Aisha. "Ever since Bolivia, Ana's been having nightmares. Terrible, horrible nightmares where she," Sarah lowered her voice even though Ana was right there in her arms, "dreams that you are all still alive; that your deaths were a mistake and that you come home to us. We're all sitting in the living room talking when, one by one, all of us D-I-E right in front of her eyes."
Ana's sobs quieted. "Mommy," she began with a slight hint of an attitude. "I know how to spell die. I am eight years old. Sheesh." She looked up into her mother's eyes. "Why won't they stop? I just want the nightmares to stop. They always feel so real." Ana lowered her head onto her mother's shoulder as she whispered, "No es de extrañar que tío Cougar odia a dormir." (You will find out what this means, I promise, but I'm not putting it here like I usually do because it's a mystery that bugs Pooch until the end of this story. And I thought it'd be a really great last line. So please, be patient.)
Cougar raised an eyebrow at that.
Ana had Cougar teach her Spanish so that they could speak in a language that the others wouldn't understand. She wanted something that was just for her and her Uncle Cougar.
Pooch nudged Cougar. "What did she just say?"
Before Cougar could answer Pooch, Sarah held her daughter out in front of her so that Ana could clearly see what she was about to say. "Ana, baby. Listen to me. This is not a nightmare. Trust me honey. They're here. They are alive and they're really here."
Ana had started shaking her head as soon as Sarah had said that it wasn't a nightmare. "You always say that Mommy." More sobs. "Then you're burning."
Clay sucked in a sharp breath at that. Shit. Of course she'd see that in her nightmares. We were supposed to die in the chopper crash.
No one knew what to say to make Ana believe that they were really here and that she wasn't in the middle of another nightmare. No one except…
Aisha moved to kneel before Ana. She spoke softly to the distressed little girl. "Ana." Aisha waited until Ana looked at her. "You've never seen me in your nightmares before, right?"
Ana studied the woman who was, in fact, a stranger to her. "No, I've never seen you before."
Aisha nodded. "That's right. So why would I be in your nightmare?"
Ana considered what the woman said. She made some sense. Plus…
"Where's Uncle Roque? He's usually here too. But he isn't." Ana pulled away from her mother and looked all around the room, just in case she had somehow missed the tall, dark man.
Miraculously Clay, Pooch, Cougar and Jensen were able to hide their anger and betrayal from Ana at the mention of her 'missing Uncle'.
They weren't able to hide it from Sarah and Jolene though. Both women knew something bad must have gone down, but they weren't going to mention it out of respect for the remaining men of their family. But after seeing those not-quite-hidden looks, they both knew that the unstable Roque had finally crossed the line.
Jensen reached for his niece. He let out the breath that he didn't realize he was holding when she went willingly into his arms. He squeezed her tightly to his chest. "Oh baby. Uncle," Jensen had a hard time not swallowing his own tongue for the name he was about to utter, "Roque is dead."
Ana looked into her Uncle's eyes and saw such pain there that all she did was nod. Until she realized that she was really in her Uncle's arms and that he was alive and not going anywhere. Then she starting crying even harder as she smiled so big and bright it was as if the sun came into the house. The men were becoming anxious once again until Ana squealed in delight and threw herself back into Jensen's arms.
"Uncle Jake!" Ana laughed as she launched into one of her patented just-like-Uncle-Jake rambling speeches. "It's you. You're here. They lied. Mommy knew it. She didn't know that I could hear her and Aunt Jolene but I did."
Sarah and Jolene looked at each other in surprise. They had always tried to be so quiet so as not to raise her hopes up.
"She said that you were alive. You had to be alive. She still felt it every time you got hurt."
Sarah reached over and unconsciously rubbed her upper left arm. A move that did not go unnoticed by the Losers.
Aisha stilled as she realized what the others had been talking about earlier. She had been a little lost when Sarah explained how she knew Jensen was alive, though she loathed admitting it. But now, as Aisha watched Sarah rub her arm in exactly the same place where Aisha shot Jensen, it all made sense. Shit. This could turn into a problem later.
"And you always get hurt every other day. Uncle Clay always says that. He says it's a miracle you've lasted this long because you attract danger like a magnet. You're a danger magnet."
Clay smiled and withheld his chuckle. He did always say that.
"And Aunt Jolene knew Uncle Pooch couldn't be dead because she didn't get his ring back. She said he had to be alive. Otherwise she'd have the ring."
Jolene nodded in agreement, though no one was looking at her. Everyone was too busy watching Ana have what they affectionately termed her 'Jensen Fit'.
"It wouldn't have melted in the chopper fire. So where was it?"
Then they could see the sadness come over Ana yet again. "But you didn't come home. And you didn't call us or try to tell us that you were still alive. Why didn't you tell us Uncle Jake?"
Sarah looked sharply at Clay who lowered his eyes to the floor. A fact that did not go unnoticed by Aisha.
Jensen fought to keep his emotions in check. "We couldn't Ana-bug. It wasn't safe. We couldn't risk putting you in danger."
Aisha leaned closer to Clay. "Ana-bug?" she whispered.
Clay nodded and whispered back. "Jensen calls Cougar: Cougar Cat, Cougar calls Jensen: Jensen Bunny-don't ask," Clay could see the question forming in Aisha's eyes, "so Ana wanted a special nickname too. She loved ladybugs when she was younger and the name just stuck."
Ana looked at all of her Uncles. "But we needed you. And you weren't here. Everyone was so mean and said not-nice things about you and I wanted you home but you weren't here."
The men all looked at Ana uncomfortably. They knew she was a smart little girl, but they also knew that she was still too young to fully understand why they couldn't tell them and be here for them.
Ana pointed from one man to the next as she spoke to each of them.
"Uncle Jake, you weren't here to cheer me on at soccer like always. You weren't here to play Pin the Hair on Uncle Pooch with me."
Pooch shot Jensen a sharp look as Jensen looked away from him sheepishly. Pooch had fallen asleep on the couch one day when Jensen had decided that Pooch needed some hair. So Jensen made up a game that he could play with Ana. They would take colored cotton balls and put some non-toxic, but not meant for skin, glue on them and then stick them all over Pooch's head. Pooch was so deeply asleep that he hadn't felt a thing. When he woke up and walked into the den where he could hear talking, everyone burst out laughing at Pooch's new rainbow colored afro. It took an hour to get off every trace of glue and he had a rash on his scalp for a week.
Ana whipped her hand around to point at Cougar. "Y tío Cougar. Aquí no eras para nuestras oraciones nocturnas e historias de la hora de acostarse. Siempre hicimos aquellos juntos si no tienes una misión." Her voice trembled as she whispered, "No he podido oír hablar de cómo el puma valiente siempre tuvo que salvar a la conejita tonta de sí mismo.
(And you Uncle Cougar. You weren't here for our nightly prayers and bedtime stories. We always did those together if you didn't have a mission. I missed hearing about how the brave cougar always had to save the silly bunny from himself.)
Ana shook her head sadly as she pointed at Pooch. "You weren't here to see Aunt Jolene get big with Columbus."
Jolene didn't even scowl as she usually did when someone mentioned how huge she was when she was pregnant. She just pulled Ana against her side as Ana finished with Pooch.
"You didn't get to feel him moving around. You didn't get to hear the heartbeat when we took Aunt Jolene to her doctor appointments." Ana gasped as she just thought of something. "Did you even miss Columbus being born?"
Pooch knelt down in front of his wife and took his niece into his arms. As they hugged he answered her. "No sweetheart. I didn't miss it. I was there." He held Ana tightly against him. "We decided that we couldn't live without seeing you guys in person again. We'll just have to be extremely careful so that everyone stays safe.
"Well, at least that's something. You got to see Columbus being born. I missed it." Ana smiled brightly as she said, "But don't worry, I won't miss seeing your next one Uncle Pooch."
That got a few laughs from everyone, even Aisha as she saw the look on Pooch's face.
Then Ana became quiet again. "Uncle Pooch, why'd you say it like that?"
Pooch looked at Ana quizzically. "Say what how honey?"
"Why did you say that you guys decided that you couldn't live without seeing us in person again? You saw us? When? How?" Ana needed to know that they had still thought about them. She knew that they would have, but she wanted to hear him say it again.
Pooch smiled at Ana. "Uncle Jake would hack into the satellites so that we could see you." Pooch rubbed her cheek with the pad of his thumb as he told Ana, Sarah and Jolene of how they thought of them often. "We would watch your Mommy working in the hospital through the security cameras. We would watch Aunt Jolene go grocery shopping. I loved to watch her in the food store because I always got to see her for a while since shopping for food always seems to take so long. And we would watch your soccer games. Uncle Jake would even reroute a satellite if there wasn't one in position."
Clay grunted at that. He told them time and time again that rerouting a satellite was a dangerously stupid mistake. Someone could have tracked where the satellite was moved to and what it was focused on. But they didn't listen. And Jensen was very thorough at erasing his tracks. So Clay gave up fighting them and joined them as they watched Sarah, Jolene and Ana.
At Clay's grunt, Ana swiveled around to look at him. She looked back at Pooch. "I'm glad you didn't stop thinking about us."
"Never." Jensen, Cougar, Pooch and Clay firmly stated in unison.
"Good." Ana turned back to her Uncle Clay and pointed her tense little finger at him. "And you. Uncle Clay. You weren't here for our treasure hunts and our piggy back rides. I missed holding your hand as we hunted in the back yard for buried treasure. And I missed our piggy back ride celebration we had when we would find the toys that Mommy and Uncle Cougar hid."
Ana lowered her hand and looked at each man once again. "I missed all of you so much. It hurt to think of you. I couldn't without crying. I wanted you. I wanted you here with me. You said you'd come back. You promised you'd come home. But you didn't."
Tears were yet again streaming down Ana's cheeks. "I felt terrible when I couldn't stand to talk about you. I felt horrible when I didn't want to remember you because it hurt too much. I didn't want to do anything that brought back memories of you. And that was hard because everything reminded me of you. I didn't want to do anything."
Ana looked up at her mother. "But Mommy made me play soccer again when the season started. And I saw Kylee and Rosalie and Veronica and all the other girls again. They helped me. They helped me talk about you again. And it was nice. They helped to make the memories happy and not sad. And they said we were playing in honor of you. That we had to do our best because you were watching from heaven."
Jensen smiled as he thought that they had indeed been watching her from heaven. Via satellite.
Ana's look turned very serious. "And you were in heaven too. Not hell like that bully Drago Vosku said."
The adults all had harsh looks on their faces at that statement.
"He pushed me down and said that my uncles were nothing but a bunch of child murderers. But Rosalie yelled at him to stop saying such mean lies or she'd tell his Mama. Then he said that she's the one who said it first."
Rage flashed across Sarah's face as she muttered under her breath. "I swear, the next time I see that woman I'm gonna gut her like a fish."
Aisha, who had been standing close enough to Sarah to hear her, smiled at the ferociousness of Jensen's little sister. Yes, if we don't kill each other, we could definitely become friends.
Jensen took Ana's hands in his. He looked at her worriedly. "You know that's not true, don't you Ana? You know we'd never hurt a child."
Ana, doing a move she learned from her mother, smacked her Uncle upside his head. "Of course I know that Uncle Jake. I'm not stupid. It just hurt to hear it."
Clay stole Ana out of Jensen's reach as he picked her up and held her in his arms. "Of course you knew that Ana. And we promise you, that even though we still have to go away on missions-"
"To find the bad man who tried to hurt you?" Ana interrupted.
"Exactly. Even though we still have to go away on missions to find the bad man, we will come back and see you. Just like before."
Ana held up her hand. "Pinky swear?"
Clay wrapped his pinky around hers. "Pinky swear. Now how about we go out back and practice for your soccer game tomorrow? Remember tomorrow's game is for the championship that you're playing in our honor. We need to win."
Ana's voice was full of hope as she asked, "You're coming?"
Jensen answered for Clay. "You bet we are. We'll be in the stands cheering our a-"
"Jensen!" Sarah said warningly.
Clay and Ana laughed at Jensen as Clay carried her out the back door. Jensen followed along eager for the chance to run around with his niece. He'd missed being able to hold her and play with her so much.
A cry was heard coming through the baby monitor signaling that Columbus had woken up from his nap. It was probably due to the booming laugh of Clay's just a moment ago. Sarah and Jolene automatically headed for the stairs. Both looked back and spoke at the same time.
Jolene spoke to her husband, "Are you coming upstairs to see your son?"
Sarah spoke to Aisha, "Would you like to see him?"
Aisha replied first. "Sure. That would be…nice." She walked forward to follow the other women. No matter what, Aisha was not going to fall for these children. She couldn't let her heart soften. She had to stay strong. I can't care about these people. I can't care about these people.
Aisha kept repeating that chant in her head as she followed Sarah up the stairs. As long as she kept repeating it, it would work. Right?
Pooch smiled up at his wife. "Yes, baby. I just need to ask Cougar something first and then I'll be right up."
Cougar had been on his way out the back door. He had yet to hold Ana in his arms. Everyone else had their chance to touch her, even Aisha. Yet he hadn't. He needed to feel her there. He wanted to keep her there until Clay made them leave again so that they could follow yet another lead on Max.
But upon hearing Pooch's answer to Jolene, Cougar stopped and waited for Pooch's question. Although he knew what Pooch wanted to know. Pooch had already asked once. Of course he wouldn't forget that he hadn't gotten an answer.
Pooch made his way to where Cougar had walked to. He stopped right in front of the sniper and stood a few inches from his face. "What was that man? What did Ana say earlier?" Pooch paused before continuing. "And you know I don't mean what Ana missed doing with you. What did she say in Spanish when she thought she was having a nightmare? She whispered it. And she sounded so…I don't know the right word man, but hell, I felt like my heart broke into pieces when she said whatever it was like that."
Cougar nodded. He understood. He understood all too well. "Ana said, 'No wonder Uncle Cougar hates to sleep.'"
*tears in eyes at having to say goodbye*
(More stories to come.)