A/N: This one just sorta popped into my head. No, it has nothing to do with my other ongoing 'Losers' fic, lol. But, it does have some more good ol' Jensen pain and angst. Why do we like to hurt the pretty ones? ;)
Jensen lay back in the soft grass, lazily watching the dark clouds passing by overhead.
I should probably go soon, looks like it's gonna rain…, he thought, but didn't make the slightest attempt to move. The air was so warm out today, so comfortable. He'd stay for a bit longer, just a little bit before he headed back home.
Home, he laughed. What home?
He didn't have a home anymore. Max had made sure of that. All he had was a Pooch and a Cougar and a Clay…and Aisha. He was never quite sure where he stood with her. She had an annoying habit of threatening bodily harm to him in ways that would bring nightmares to Hitler, but then she'd flash him that foxy little smile. He found the smile more unnerving than the threats. She did it on purpose. Got to watch that one, he shuddered.
A high-pitched sound disturbed his thoughts. Grimacing at the noise, he stuck a finger in his ear and wiggled it around a bit. What is that? he thought, looking around in the surrounding field of tall grass. The sound seemed to get louder, and he waited until suddenly a small, furry brown shape jumped out of the grass and landed right on his chest, making the most pathetic whining noise.
"Awe, it's okay little puppy," Jensen cooed, trying to soothe the distraught creature. "You're a cute little guy, aren't ya?"
He tried to pick up the little wiggly pup, but for some reason he couldn't seem to lift it off his body. Shrugging, he settled back, stroking the animal behind its ears until finally its whines tapered off.
"There, that's better. You were starting to give me a headache, pup," he grinned, then took a closer look at the dog. "No collar, huh? That's okay, I don't have any tags, either. You can just stay right here with ol' Jensen." He frowned at the dog. "Guess you'll be needing a name, then… Hmm… Mr. Fuzzy Pants. Yeah, that fits." His voice changed so that he talked to the pup as if it were a little baby to be coddled. "You like that name, huh Mr. Fuzzy Pants? You like it? Huh? Huh? Of course you do, 'cause you got cute little furry, fuzzy-"
He cut himself off as he felt warmth seeping onto his chest. Horrified, he watched as a dark stain flowered on his shirt, spreading down to the ground beside him. He snarled back at the puppy.
"Bad dog! No! Bad!" he scolded, trying once again to shove the pup off him. The dog stood its ground. "Awww maaaan, this is my favorite shirt. Mr. Fuzzy Pants, you do not go around pissing all over a man's favorite shirt. How am I gonna explain this to the guys? Come back with piss all over my clothes… Oh, they'll think it's funny. I hope you know, Mr. Fuzzy Pants, that you, sir, have just caused me about three weeks of being called Toilet, or Urinal Cake, or maybe they'll continue to occasionally call me Pissant, but now it'll have a double-meaning. I hope you're proud of yourself."
The pup wagged its tail at him and started licking his face. The tongue was wet and cold…really cold. That's weird, Jensen thought, but shrugged away that particular confusion when something even more peculiar began to happen.
Mr. Fuzzy Pants grew a little bigger. And a little heavier.
"Wow, puppies sure grow fast these days," he speculated absently, failing again to shove the dog off of him. He felt even more warmth hit his body. "Oh, goddamn, dog, how big is your tank? Get off!"
The dog not only didn't move, but grew even bigger. The weight on his chest was starting to hinder Jensen's ability to breathe, and he fought to control his rising panic. Continuing to press his arms against the dog's growing mass, he tried to speak some sense into the creature.
"Okay, Mr. Fuzzy Pants, you're the dog, I'm the master. That means when I tell you to GET OFF, you have to listen to me," he tried to reason. "So… GO….um… AWAY… That's clearly not working…. OFF… GETTHEFUCKOFF!...and quit fucking peeing on me!"
He dropped his arms back to his sides, exhaustion setting in as his breath was coming in shorter pants. What was once a furry little puppy was now a full-sized St. Bernard, and it seemed to smile at Jensen as it pressed its weight further onto his body, not letting up on the steady stream it ejected onto his chest. The dog licked his face again with its too-cold tongue and Jensen tried to push it away.
"I don't need a bath," he gasped out, "I need you to get off my damn chest."
Through his struggles, he vaguely became aware of a voice repeating something in the distance. He relaxed, trying to listen to the words. Clay? he thought, relaxing more as relief flooded through him. Clay would help him. Sure, he'd take a moment to laugh at Jensen's predicament before coming to his aide, but he would eventually help.
"Stay," he heard Clay say.
Stay? What? No, Clay, don't tell the dog to stay. I can't breathe!
Mr. Fuzzy Pants, for his part, kept up with the licking and the peeing and the pressing on his chest.
"No… stay…" Clay said again.
Jensen almost cried. I know this looks funny, Clay, but you gotta see I can't breathe, man. Just get the dog off and we can all laugh about it later.
"Stay!" Clay said more firmly.
Jensen could barely draw in a breath, now. Ignoring the inevitable hounding (hounding, haha, good one, Jensen) he'd receive later, he went ahead and let the tears pour down his cheeks. He had to get Clay's attention somehow, let him know how serious the situation really was.
"Clay," he managed to choke out, "help me. I can't… I can't…"
"Shhh, I know, kid… Stay…"
Jensen's world spun on its axis. Clay knew. He knew Jensen couldn't breathe and still ordered the dog to stay. Why? Why would he do that? Because he was tired of him, obviously. Tired of his damn mouth and cocky attitude. Tired of his jokes and pranks and his questions. He had finally done it. He had pushed Clay too far, and now his Colonel wanted him gone.
Well, fine. He would just go, then.
Clay came to slowly, blinking up at the smoke billowing into the sky above. He felt the heat of the fire as it burned too close to his prone position, and he forced himself to get to his feet. He squeezed his eyes shut against the ringing in his ears.
Damn bombs, he thought, shaking his head, trying to rid himself of the irritatingly constant high-pitched buzz. He knew it would fade in a few minutes; it always did when he'd been blown up.
Always? Been blown up too many damn times, he speculated with a scowl.
He looked at the burning ruins of the building in front of him, trying to put the pieces together in his muddled brain. What the hell happened?
Crazy sonuvabitch is what happened, he thought as the memories started to trickle back in.
They had found one of Max's think-tanks – one of the "evil geniuses" as Jensen called them - who were responsible for the invention of many of Max's more heartless weapons. They had traced the man to his secluded, log cabin-styled home in the middle of the woods in the middle of nowhere, Montana. Clay hated Montana. It was too damn cold.
Keep your head in the game, Clay, he reminded himself.
It wasn't anyone's fault. They had all done their homework diligently. Jensen had taken out all the home's security features; Cougar, from his perch in the trees a ways back into the woods, had quickly dispatched the few men on the grounds who really didn't look like they had been taking their job seriously, anyway; Pooch hung back with the truck ready and waiting for their clean getaway (didn't turn out so clean…); and Clay and Aisha were preparing to enter the house, ready to extract their target. It would be Aisha's job to get the guy to spill the beans on Max's next operation.
They never made it inside. Jensen, apparently having detected something on his surveillance, suddenly came hauling out of the woods, waving his arms at them frantically.
"He's gonna blow it!" the tech yelled.
Clay remembered having enough time to say "Shit," as he turned to dive for cover. The world exploded around him, and he remembered feeling himself being lifted off the ground before everything had gone black.
"Clay! Clay, can you hear me?" a voice said in his earpiece, pushing its way through the fading ringing in his ears.
"Pooch?" he verified.
"Oh, thank god, man, wasn't sure if you made it. Cougar and I are almost there. You see the others?"
"Others?" Clay asked, his vision a bit hazy and the world feeling like it was tilting beneath him. He reached a hand up to his head, feeling the sticky moisture in his hair. Shit. Concussion.
"Aisha and Jensen, Clay. Do you see 'em?"
"Shit," he cursed aloud, scanning the area in hopes of seeing any sign of his teammates in amongst the smoke and flames. He tried calling their names, but neither of them answered. That wasn't a good sign. His heart began to race as he stumbled through the wreckage, heedless of the burns he was inflicting on his hands as he tossed aside burning pieces of house. He lost track of time in his search, and was startled by the sound of Pooch's voice cutting through the silence.
"I got her, Clay!" the transport specialist hollered from somewhere across the clearing. Clay ran to the sound.
"How is she?" he asked as he stooped down beside Pooch, hovering over Aisha's unconscious form.
"I think she's okay," Pooch sighed. "Looks like she got a busted wrist and a pretty nasty hit to the head." He looked up at the Colonel. "So did you," he added.
"I'm fine," Clay waved him off. "Get her out of this damn smoke."
Pooch nodded, lifting her up into his arms. Just as he was turning to make his way back towards the truck, Cougar's quiet voice came through the comm.
They heard it all in his tone. Glancing at each other, they took off running in the direction Pooch had seen the sniper heading towards, Aisha still in Pooch's arms. They came to a stop as they watched Cougar trying to heave a large chunk of wall off their fallen friend. With unspoken word, the two set into action, Pooch rushing to secure Aisha in a safe place away from the fire and Clay moving in to give Cougar a hand.
"Oh shit," Pooch breathed as he came back to his friends' sides, kneeling down to take a better look at Jensen as they got the last of the debris off him. The hacker lay on his back, eyes open, blinking sluggishly as his hands feebly pushed at a chunk of wood protruding from his chest. Each time he managed to rock the piece of shrapnel, blood would pool up around it, pouring down onto the already red-saturated ground beneath him. Pooch quickly grabbed Jensen's hands, pushing them down by his sides to prevent the man from causing further damage to himself.
"Shit. Shit!" Clay hollered, watching as his man struggled to draw air into his lungs. "We gotta get him out of here."
They worked quickly, Cougar using the too-few supplies from the medical kit to secure the piece of wood in place before he set to running a wet cloth over Jensen's soot-covered face, Pooch and Clay working on rigging up a stretcher to transport the injured man back to the truck. Clay was surprised to see the vehicle so close by, just at the first bend in the driveway… he hadn't remembered Pooch driving it up there… damn concussion.
He forced himself to keep his thoughts on Jensen. As they settled him in the back of the truck beside Aisha, Cougar jumped in at his head and continued running the cloth over his face, speaking soothingly to him. Jensen blinked, gasped, and weakly tried to push the cloth away.
"Don't…need a…bath," the hacker mumbled weakly. Cougar and Clay shared a small smile until Jensen's breathing hitched, becoming frighteningly more shallow and uneven.
"Get moving, Pooch!" Clay ordered, trying to brace Jensen as the truck lurched forward, spraying dirt out behind the wheels as it sped off down the road. He looked back down into Jensen's panicked eyes. "Calm down, kid, you're gonna be okay," he whispered, trying to calm his injured friend. The techie's eyes seemed to clear just a little, seeking for something. "I'm right here, Jensen." Their eyes locked for a second before Clay could see the distant look in Jensen's gaze start to reappear. "Stay with me, kid," he said softly, and was taken back by the fear that flashed across the blonde's face.
The truck hit a bump in the road and more blood seeped through the rough bandaging. Jensen let out a small moan as Cougar proceeded to wipe the sweat from the man's brow. Jensen let out a shuddering breath, followed by a similar shudder running through the rest of his body.
"Shock," Cougar cringed.
Clay pulled off his ruined jacket and draped it over the shivering form. He watched as Jensen's breath hitched once again, and seemed to stall for too long. "No, don't do this kid. Stay with us," he begged. Jensen choked and drew in another weak breath before it stopped again. "Dammit, Jensen, I'm giving you an order, soldier. Stay!" Clay shouted.
The ragged breathing started up again and, once again, Jensen's eyes became startlingly clear. He stared at Clay for a second before tears began to stream down his face, which Cougar gently wiped away.
Holding up a weak hand that Clay quickly grasped, Jensen barely managed to choke out, "Clay…help me… I can't… I can't…"
Clay's heart felt crushed at the sound of Jensen's pained plea for help. For once, he was at a complete loss as to what to do, what to say. He squeezed the hand he was holding a little tighter and brushed Cougar's ministrations aside so he could rest his other hand on Jensen's forehead.
"Shhh, I know kid," Clay soothed, rubbing circles with his thumb on the blonde's head. "Just try to hang on a little longer, okay? You gotta stay here, we're not a team without you."
The crying abruptly stopped. Jensen's face took on a look of sad defeat as his eyes slid away from Clay's. He stared up at the sky for a few seconds before his lids slid shut. He took one eerily calm, full breath, and then the struggling rise and fall of his chest simply stopped.
"No," Clay whispered, fighting back his own tears. He ordered Pooch to go faster before he and Cougar frantically began CPR, knowing it was probably too late.
"Oh god!" Jensen hissed out.
He opened his eyes to find himself still lying on his back in that same grassy field, a sharp pain burning in his chest, and a familiar big dog smiling down at him. He realized through his pain that he could breathe just a little easier, and took note of the fact that the dog had apparently decided to shift the bulk of its weight off of him.
"Mr. Fuzzy Pants, move your foot," he pleaded.
The dog continued to press down on his chest with one massive paw, digging its nails into his flesh. He cried out again and grabbed at the foot, trying to pull it off. Mr. Fuzzy Pants apparently didn't take too kindly to that and wrapped his jaws around Jensen's wrist, quickly putting an end to the struggle. Jensen lay his head back down, panting as he tried to breathe through the pain. The dog curled his toes just a bit more, digging in the claws just a little further.
"Please, it hurts," Jensen begged.
"I don't care!"
Is that Clay again?
Yes, it was. He was still there… And he still didn't help… He didn't even care that Jensen was hurting…
"What'd I do wrong, Clay? What'd I do?" he whispered as blackness took him, once again.
It was strained, slurred, barely a whisper, but they had heard it. Clay and Pooch jumped up at the sound of Jensen's voice and hovered around his bed. The beeping on his heart monitor increased its pace and his breathing through the oxygen mask quickened. He mumbled something else that they couldn't quite understand before he suddenly began clawing at the bandages covering his chest.
"Stop, Jensen," Clay scolded, grabbing the wrist and holding it tight. "Take it easy, kid, you're safe. You'll be all right."
Several nurses rushed into the room and stepped around the concerned men.
"Please, it hurts," Jensen cried.
"Can't you get him something?" Pooch asked.
"He's already on a strong pain inhibitor," one of the nurses explained.
"Well get him something else," Clay ordered.
The nurse looked at him. "But, sir, the doctor said-"
"I don't care!" Clay snapped. "Get him something, now!"
With a sharp nod, one of the nurses rushed out and came back in with a syringe. She injected the drug into the IV, and within seconds, Clay could feel Jensen's muscles relax as the beeping on the monitor slowed down and his breathing evened out. Just when he thought sleep had taken the younger man, Jensen whispered out something with such anguish that it made Clay's blood run cold.
"What'd I do wrong, Clay? What'd I do?"
"Nothing, kid, you didn't do anything wrong," Clay answered back, hoping that somewhere in the hacker's mind the words had gotten through.
For what felt like the first time in ages, Jensen was able to draw in a full breath – not the deep, lung-overfilling breath that he would have liked, but at least he felt like he had finally gotten an adequate amount of air into his body. As he blew it out, he cracked his eyes open and was greeted by a bright, warm sun above him. He smiled as he basked in its pain-free glow.
He jerked his head up, searching for the animal responsible for his prior discomfort. He saw the creature sitting idly by, watching him with interest.
"You stay away from me, Mr. Fuzzy Pants," Jensen ordered, scooting back away from the dog a few feet before pointing his finger at it. "You're a bad dog! Bad! Go on! Git!"
The dog simply cocked its head at him and took a step forward. Jensen shuffled backwards a little more and tried to get to his feet. The dog wouldn't let him. It leaped forward, throwing its weight onto his shoulders. He struggled against it for several minutes, his breathing becoming labored again.
"Hold still!" came that familiar voice.
"No, Clay, don't do this to me," Jensen cried. Then he turned and shouted at the dog, "Get the fuck off me you piece of shit!"
The dog abruptly obeyed the command and sat back on its haunches. Jensen scrambled to his feet, prepared to run, but as he stepped he found himself tripping over a rock in the grass. As he went down, he felt the dog's teeth sinking into his hand. Crying out, he hit the ground hard before slipping back to unconsciousness.
"How is he?" Cougar asked as he stepped into the room.
"Breathing easier," Clay sighed. "Aisha?"
"Bored," Cougar said with a little smirk.
Clay smiled back. "Think Pooch'll be able to keep her in that bed?"
Cougar shrugged, his smirk growing bigger. Clay laughed and turned his attention back to the too-still hacker. He watched as a small smile spread across Jensen's lips, and then watched it disappear moments later to be replaced with a look of terror.
"Stay away," Jensen mumbled. "Go."
His legs started kicking slightly under the blankets and his fingers clutched at the sheets. His movements quickly became more panicked and he began thrashing around on the bed before he abruptly sat up straight.
"Shit," Cougar muttered.
He and Clay grabbed the struggling man's shoulders, pinning him back to the back.
"I need a sedative!" Clay hollered out the nurse who was just making her way in. "Dammit, Jensen, hold still before you hurt yourself!" He shouted.
"No, Clay, don't do this to me," Jensen cried. Before the Colonel could even respond, the blonde pushed himself up a little farther and screamed "Get the fuck off me you piece of shit!"
Clay felt like he'd been slapped. He backed off his hold immediately, and Cougar, not knowing what else to do, followed his lead. Jensen seemed to calm for just a second before he suddenly shot out of the bed, tripping over his feet and pulling the IV out of his hand on the way down.
"Goddammit!" Clay yelled, grabbing a cloth and pressing it down on the bleeding hole in Jensen's hand. "Help me get him back up," he ordered Cougar, and both carefully lifted Jensen back onto the bed, hoping he hadn't further injured himself in his struggles. They stepped back as the doctor moved in to see to his patient, and Clay ran a hand through his hair.
"It's the drugs," Cougar calmly stated.
Clay nodded his head, but couldn't help but feel like there was more to Jensen's uncharacteristic outburst than that.
What is that? Jensen thought, peeling his eyes open. He tried to make his mind focus on the source of the sound, but he felt heavy, sluggish, disconnected. With great effort, he managed to turn his head far enough to the side to catch a glimpse of the shaggy dog lying casually several feet away from him, thumping his big tail on the ground.
"Don't you wag your tail at me, Mr. Fuzzy Pants," Jensen scolded, his voice sounding muddy in his ears. "You're a bad dog. Should take you to the pound…or something…"
He couldn't think straight. He knew he should be trying to get away from the animal, but just couldn't muster up the energy or motivation to try. So he lay there, listening to the steady rhythm the dog was pounding out on the ground. When it stopped, the sudden silence was almost deafening. Luckily, it didn't last long.
"Go get it."
He struggled to sit up. It was Aisha this time, not Clay. Maybe she would help him.
Dammit, why can't I move? he thought, frustrated. He risked a glance at the dog, who had stood up and was watching him intently. Jensen stared back at it, mentally willing it to go away.
"Go get the damn ball!" Aisha yelled out.
The dog took off at a run. Jensen laughed, paused, then laughed even harder.
A ball? All it took was a ball? Why the hell didn't I think of that?
His laughter turned into near-hysteria until he was able to calm himself down, allowing himself to fade into his first sleep where he didn't feel afraid.
Aisha sat on the floor with her back to the wall, throwing a tennis ball against the wall opposite her and catching it on the rebound. She was only keeping one eye on it and the other on Clay, who continued to sit like a watchdog over his fallen companion.
"He's not going anywhere, Clay," she finally said. "They got him so pumped with drugs right now he'll probably sleep until next year."
"Yeah, well, you weren't supposed to go anywhere, either," Clay smirked, peeling his eyes away from Jensen long enough to scrutinize the bandage around her head and the purple cast encasing her left wrist.
"I'm fine, Clay. Couldn't lay in that stupid bed anymore, it was driving me nuts. Besides, I wanted to see how he was doing."
"Pooch is probably having a heart attack looking for you," Clay scolded lightly.
"And I don't need a damn babysitter," she huffed.
Pooch chose that moment to walk in, stopping in his tracks when he saw Aisha sitting there innocently looking up at him. He stormed in, knocking the ball out of the air in his anger. It flew out of the room and they heard it thump somewhere down the hall.
"Dammit, girl, I was lookin' all over for you. You can't be wandering around here with your brain all scrambled."
"Clay had a concussion, but he gets to stay here," she pointed out, her voice containing a little heat.
"Minor concussion, minor," Pooch stated. "Now, come on, doctor's gonna throw a fit if he finds you not in bed. Go get your ball and let's go."
"You knocked it out there, you go get it," she snaps. "And I'm not going back to that room."
Pooch looked at Clay for help, but the Colonel merely smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
"Oh, thanks, a lot of help you are," Pooch mumbled. "Fine, stay there on the floor."
He threw his hands up and walked out of the room, leaving a very smug-looking Aisha behind him. Her face then twitched into a frown as she realized her entertainment was still gone.
"Go get the damn ball!" she yelled after Pooch.
A second later, the ball came flying back at her, and she easily caught it before whipping her head back up to the bed. She shared a confused look with Clay as they both watched Jensen begin to quietly chuckle uncontrollably.
"Must be one hell of a dream," she smirked.
Clay only grinned and nodded in return, noticing the ongoing tension finally drain from Jensen's body as he fully relaxed into the deeper, healing sleep that his body had needed.
Something was tickling his face.
Damn flies, he thought as he brushed the irritant away. It came back a few seconds later.
"Go 'way," he mumbled groggily.
"About time you woke your lazy ass up. I'm fucking bored," the fly said.
He cracked his eyes open just enough to see a hand twirling a long, thin stick between the fingers. The hand bent and the stick came at his face again. He clumsily swatted it away.
"Knock it off," he whined.
The stick poked him on the arm a few times, relentless. Sighing, he forced his eyes open all the way and glared at his tormentor.
Sitting up in a bed beside him (crap, hospital bed) was Aisha, complete with bandaged head and cast. She flashed that damn foxy smile at him as she proceeded to poke him with her stick, yet again.
"Where the hell'd you get a stick in a hospital?" he mumbled, unconsciously bringing a hand up to rub lightly at his chest.
"Damn mother hens finally let me go outside yesterday," she frowned, then smirked. "Brought back a souvenir to keep myself busy with."
"…I hate you," Jensen said after a long pause.
Her smile only grew that much bigger. "How do you feel?" she asked.
He looked at her again, surprised by the concern he heard in her voice. Only then did he begin to become aware of his body. He felt tired, weak, and there was a dull soreness somewhere near the center of his chest where he found his own hand lightly ghosting over heavy bandages. Thank god for the good drugs, he mused as he tried to remember how it was, exactly, that he ended up here.
"What happened?" he finally asked once he realized the memories were going to evade him.
"A house fell on you," she answered.
Jensen laughed, then instantly regretted it as his lungs protested the action, throwing him into a coughing fit.
"Something funny about that?" she frowned.
He waved his hand at her, speaking when he finally got control over his pained breathing. "Next time Dorothy's gunning for you, remind me to stay out of the way."
"Ha ha," she mock laughed, a small smirk tweaking up the corner of her mouth.
Pooch, Clay, and Cougar came waltzing in at that moment.
"Hey, hey, look who's finally returned to the land of the living," Pooch smiled, slapping Jensen lightly on the leg as he sat down on the edge of the bed.
"How're you feeling, kid?" Clay asked gently, moving to the head of the bed. Cougar stepped back, smiling at Aisha as he leaned against the side of her bed. Moving Jensen to her room once he was out of danger seemed to be the only thing that was keeping her stationary; and knowing the hacker was being looked after by her watchful eye also became the only thing that had finally convinced Clay to leave Jensen's side. Everyone had caught up on some much-needed rest because of the simple maneuver, and now, finally, it looked like their last teammate was ready to rejoin them. Except something about the look on Jensen's face wasn't quite right…
Jensen looked closely at the Colonel, a disturbing memory tugging at the far reaches of his mind. With sudden clarity, images pounded into his consciousness, memories of a warm, grassy field and a dog and hot liquid pouring down his chest and a suffocating inability to draw oxygen into his lungs and Clay-
With an enraged yell, he lashed out at the Colonel, hitting him hard with a fist before collapsing back onto the bed, breathing hard and hearing the heart monitor blaring away, making known his too-fast heart beat. Caught completely off guard, the hit sent Clay to the ground and he sat stunned for a few seconds as nurses rushed into the room. Pooch and Cougar were at his side, helping him up as a doctor injected something into Jensen's IV. As the blonde's breathing and heart rate evened out again, he turned half-hooded eyes to his Colonel. Clay could easily read the anger, sadness, and a sense of betrayal there.
"Why'd you tell him to stay, Clay?" he asked in a pained voice. "Why didn't you help me? What'd I do?"
He drifted off into a drugged sleep and everyone turned their eyes to Clay.
"What the hell's he talking about?" Pooch asked.
"I don't have a damn clue," the Colonel responded, never taking his eyes off the man in the bed.
Jensen sat up with a jolt, his heart racing as the sound of a dog snarling filtered through the air. He jumped to his feet, the dew from the grass falling off his clothes, and turned to run away from the sound. He got three steps before he realized there was a voice mingling with the snaps and snarls. It was calm, soothing, and despite his fear over approaching the dog, he couldn't help but be drawn to it. The words became clear as he crept silently through the grass.
"Calm down, kid, you're gonna be okay…..I'm right here, Jensen."
Clay again… Is he talking to me?
Confused, he parted the tall grass just enough to see through it, and froze at what was before him. There on the ground, he saw himself lying out flat, struggling for air as Clay wrestled with the large aggressive dog on top of him, seemingly unafraid of the deadly teeth snapping dangerously close to his face. The whole time he just kept up his dialogue to the man dying on the ground. To me, I'm the one who's dying…
"Stay with me, kid…. No, don't do this kid. Stay with us… Dammit, Jensen, I'm giving you an order, soldier. Stay!"
Jensen watched his own mouth move but couldn't quite make out the words, and the almost panicked, sad look in the Colonel's eyes as he answered.
"Shhh, I know kid… Just try to hang on a little longer, okay? You gotta stay here, we're not a team without you."
Horrified, Jensen then witnessed the very moment he stopped breathing. He heard Clay's agonized whisper as he doubled his efforts to move the dog. Man and beast struggled for what seemed like ages, the dog turning its attention fully towards the Colonel. Curses were shouted, flesh was torn, new bruises were formed, but in the end, it was man that was triumphant. The dog tapered off into the grass, keeping its eyes on the man guarding its prey, growling deeply until it was no longer in sight. Jensen turned back to see a bloody, exhausted Clay hovering over his duplicate in the grass, running a hand through the blond hair and coaxing him with whispered words until the still chest rose and fell again.
"Shit," Jensen uttered with a shaky breath.
He looked up as the sky darkened to a pitch black. When it cleared a few seconds later, the dog was back, digging one paw into the chest of his doppelganger. Again, Clay was right there, trying to haul the dog off and uttering assurances and demanding help from someone Jensen couldn't see. He heard himself ask what he had done to disappoint the Colonel, and heard the gentle answer.
"Nothing, kid, you didn't do anything wrong."
The next blackout came and went, shining light on the new scene in which Jensen was trying to scramble away from the dog. Clay was trying his best to hold back the beast; and from his viewpoint, Jensen could see that the more his double moved, the more agitated the dog got. He could hear Clay trying to tell him to hold still, but his panicked self wouldn't listen. Eventually, the Colonel's grip slipped and the dog leaped on top of his prone figure on the ground. The injured Jensen had shouted at the dog, and Clay jumped forward, wrenching the animal back off him. He saw the dog grab at his hand, then the world went dark again.
The next "dawn" brought Jensen to the moment where the dog lay at Clay's feet, calm, obedient, thumping his tail on the ground. Aisha's order to 'get it' floated through the air, but the dog remained where it was. Clay leaned down and whispered something into the animal's ear causing the dog to stand up, and with the second shout from Aisha, he released his hold on the beast. It shot towards the grass and was gone, leaving the Jensen that lay in the grass laughing, Clay smiling and watching over him as he slipped into a peaceful sleep.
Back where he sat watching, Jensen angrily cursed to himself. "Dammit, Jake, you're such an idiot. What the hell were you thinking? Of course he was there the whole time. He wouldn't just leave you to die. Stupid! … Oh god, I hit him… Oh, man, he's gonna kill me… Shit!"
"Shhhhit," he groaned as he opened his eyes. Looking around, he saw that he was back in the hospital, and for some reason he was in a different room. This time he was completely alone – there was no bed beside his containing either Aisha or a stranger, and no one was sitting near by, waiting for him to wake up.
Ah, you blew it, you're off the team, he thought sadly, placing a hand over his eyes.
He messed up, and for his punishment, they had abandoned him. This was worse than waking up to Clay wanting to pound his face in. This was worse than that damn dog sitting on his chest. Now not only did he not have a home, he had no family he could run to. He couldn't risk putting his sister and niece in danger. No, this time, he was truly, utterly alone.
Jenkins? Oh, right, my hospital alias.
"Yeah?" he mumbled out to the nurse.
"Good, you're awake. I'm going to fetch the doctor. I'll be right back."
He was not in the mood to deal with some strange doctor, but at the moment, he knew he really didn't have much of a choice. A short time later, the nurse returned with an older man in tow.
"Mr. Jenkins, how do you feel?" the doctor asked.
"I'll let you know when the drugs wear off," Jensen sassed back.
The doctor just chuckled. "Yes, well, you do have quite the cocktail running through your system. I can ease back more on the medication once we're certain you're going to remain calm. You managed to pop a few stitches during your last…episode."
"Episode? Is that what you call it when you sock your boss in the face? I'm probably fired."
"Oh, you remember?" the doctor raised his eyebrows in surprise. "I had thought perhaps you weren't lucid at the time."
Jensen sighed. "No, unfortunately, I was very, very lucid… I was just a little...confused."
"But you don't feel confused now?"
"Kind of wish I was. Then maybe I could use it as an excuse."
The doctor laughed outright. "Well, son, from what I've seen of your friends, they're very forgiving people. If you're up to it, I can send them in."
Jensen looked up in surprise. "Wait, they're still here?"
"It was all we could do to keep them out of the room. We weren't sure what mental state you'd be in when you came to, so we wanted to avoid any stimulation until we knew you were thinking clearly. Didn't want you hurting yourself, again. I'll go give them the all-clear."
As the doctor left the room, Jensen didn't know whether to feel ecstatic or afraid. How would he explain to Clay what was going on in his head, that he had lashed out because he felt his leader had betrayed him? How could he say 'yes, Clay, I hit you because for a little while, I lost my trust in you?' The Colonel would forgive him, sure, but would he ever be able to live down the fact that even for a moment, one of his own men felt vulnerable in his presence?
"Hey slugger," Pooch said as he stepped into the room, interrupting Jensen's inner monologue.
Thanks, Pooch, just throw it right out there, Jensen thought with a sigh.
He gave them a small smile as his teammates filtered into the room one by one, until Clay stepped in last, looking almost hesitant. The moment their eyes locked became Jensen's undoing, sending him into a litany of babble.
"Clay, man, I'm so sorry. I saw evil genius mad scientist dude through the window watching when Cougar took out one of his guys and then I saw him going for the bomb and I tried to warn you but it was too late and I don't actually remember the house falling on me but that's what Aisha said happened; well obviously that must be what happened because I'm here in the hospital, but what I saw happen, because I think my brain was a little fried from, you know, being blown up, was this dog – Mr. Fuzzy Pants – and he was really cute but then he sat on me and he pissed on my shirt and I couldn't get him off and he started getting bigger until he was so big that I couldn't breathe and then I heard you and I thought you were telling him to stay on my chest when really the whole time you were telling me to stay but I didn't remember it until now and I don't know why I-"
"Jensen," Clay interrupted forcefully.
"…Yes, sir…" Jensen said as he tried to get a read on what the Colonel was thinking.
After a few seconds, Clay laughed and shook his head. "You've got one hell of a right hook, kid."
"That's 'cause he learned from me," Pooch said smugly.
"Then you hit like a girl," Aisha mumbled.
"Well, if that's any comparison to the way you hit, then I take that as a compliment," Pooch smirked back.
And that was it. Just like that, with the flow of familiar easy banter, the issue was dropped. The whole team could see the relief flood through Jensen's whole body, lifting up their spirits even more. They didn't know exactly what he had seen in his pained dreams, probably never would; but they knew exactly what he had needed when he woke and they readily gave it to him - comfort, familiarity, stability, forgiveness, and a sense of belonging somewhere.
Clay and Cougar shared a knowing liitle smile - their team was whole again, and hopefully would stay that way for a long, long time.