Here's a slightly longer chapter than normal, but I wanted some humor added to lighten the plot. Also someone is joining the penguins as an extra hand and plot line.
Operation: Poisoned Heart
"Skipper, long time no see." An all too familiar voice drawled from the garage as the Penguin team entered.
"Hans!" Private and Kowalski exclaimed in surprise seeing the double-crossing Dane. "What's he doing here Skipper?" the scientist continued to question.
"Hans has worked with Blowhole before, we need his expertise on what to expect. We can't be going in blind on this one, besides we'll also need the extra manpower, even if it is a Puffin." Rico chuckled seeing the faint blush on his leader's face. He wasn't the only one who happened to be head over heels.
"Why Skipper, your words wound me. Or have you forgotten that night in Denmark? I was sore for days afterwards." A sly smirk crossed the spy's features, "It was quite the fight."
"This isn't the time, Hans, we don't have time to waste." Skipper growled pushing past and throwing a set of keys at the youngest member of the team "Private you're dri- wait Rico take the wheel, I want to hit the Midwest before night fall."
"But Skippa!" Rico chuckled taking the keys and running after the leader leaving the other behind confused for the second time that day.
"He does have a point, Private. Besides do you really want to drive from Washington DC to Ohio in under 6 hours?" Kowalski questioned readjusting his bags as he made his way over to where Skipper was arguing with Hans, hoping that he'd be able to find a decent seat where he could avoid his commander's piercing glare. It wasn't fair, Skipper could go off and have affairs with double agents, but he couldn't have a relationship with the daughter of one of their greatest enemies. Sure, she was reason that Rico was dying, but they had situations far worse than this. The weapons expert was simply over reacting, taking out his frustrations over Stacy Perky breaking up with him. Which most of the team believed was for the better, the fake blonde trying to change Rico into something he wasn't. Not even Private was too upset after his fling with Shawna ended, but that was more of the team's doing than the two having a falling out.
"Well, no." Private stumbled trying to keep up with the taller man; everyone was acting so oddly as of late, but he had to stay positive. If he didn't then maybe the whole world would fall apart around him, it was already starting to crumble.
"Shake a leg boys; it's time to head out. Operation: Poisoned Heart is a ago." Skipper announced as Rico revved the engine and peeled out.
"Now Skipper, you never did inform me of what was happening, one minute I was in Sweden tying up loose ends when you called asking for my help." Hans had settled in next to the commanding officer in the backseat, as the other three got out to stretch their legs, it had only been two hours, but Private had gotten motion sickness due to Rico's driving which was more erratic than usual.
"I didn't ask for your help, I cashed in a favor you owed me." Skipper snapped, but sighed knowing the double agent wouldn't give up anytime soon. "Look, Dr. Blowhole had a daughter who just so happened to catch Kowalski's eye. He didn't listen to my warnings when she finally agreed to a date with him, as a consequence we were captured and Rico injected with some type of virus that will kill him in 14 days. She's the only one with the cure and she'll give it to us if we return all of Dr. Blowhole's work."
"CENTRAAL PARK is just going to hand over those files?"
"No, that's why we need you. The files were sent out to various bases, we can't go in and take them, but you can." Hans smiled seeing that Skipper was stumbling over his words, he leaned forward tracing the shorter man's jawline with his index finger.
"I never did thank you properly for saving my life that night." Lips brushed for just a moment, not enough to be considered a kiss, but just enough to feel the tension between them.
"I couldn't exactly leave you there to die, even if it meant becoming public enemy number one." Skipper pulled away first, his heart racing unable to stop the words from leaving his lips which were still tingling from even that brief moment of contact.
"You are almost too much Skipper, but there is one question that you still have to answer for me before I will help you."
"And what's that?"
"When we stop at the hotel for the night, are you getting us a room with one bed or two?"
"We've ahead of schedule by an hour Skipper; I suggest that Rico take a break from driving at least go the speed limit." Kowalski stated about to get in the car, but froze noticing how close the two men were. "Am I interrupting something, sir?"
"Let Private take the wheel, Rico and I need to talk strategy with Hans, you can take shotgun."
"Aye Skipper! Private, you're driving!" Kowalski left shaking his head at the echoed 'ya-hoo' of Private in the background. Fifteen minutes and they were on the road again, but all of them felt that the fifteen minutes taken were really fifteen minutes wasted.
"Kowalski, had you noticed Rico had been acting odder than usual?" Private asked as if said member of the team could hear them over in the next room as they prepared for bed. They had stopped in Cleveland for lunch and managed to add three hours of driving to make it to Columbus.
"I don't think this is an appropriate topic of discussion, Private. Everyone is under enough stress already."
"But you must admit that Rico had been acting differently even before the attack, surely there was a reason."
"No one knows how Rico's mind works, I've been trying to figure him out for all the years I've known him, but he always does something to surprise me, like magically having the only element that could make my cloning machine work." A fond smile settled over Kowalski's face, thinking back to that particular day Rico was helping him in the lab.
"So what was Rico like when he first joined the team?" It was a combination of his own curiosity and catching sight of the smile that caused the question to slip from his lips.
"Rico's story is a little more complicated than that, he's was born in Costa Rica, but was taken as a child to Chile by a gang called Las Chupacapras who were under the control of an scientist. That scientist did horrible things to him and as Rico told me he wasn't exactly cooperative and when he wasn't they'd drug him up and then beat him into submission. It caused him to become addicted to the pain they inflicted.
"Oh my." Private felt his stomach drop, that hadn't been the answer he had been expecting. Not in the slightest.
"Indeed, that's the reason Rico can do what he can, all of those experiments took their toll on his body as well as his mind. By the time Skipper and I were sent on a raid mission to the area, Rico had lost his fight. We managed to pull him from the gangs, he was 15 but he didn't trust anyone, never spoke a word. Nothing like you see today, yet for some reason he opened up to me, began to trust me." Kowalski paused a twisting feeling in his gut as he recalled the other man's story. It wasn't right telling Private all of this, at least not without Rico's permission.
"I had no idea…"
"It's a well-kept secret. You know the first words Rico spoke, actually spoke to me, were 'thank you'. I almost fainted in shock, even more because he then hugged me. Before then, if you even tried to make eye contact with him he would flinch." Kowalski looked over to the door separating their rooms, concern setting over him. The other man had been off the weeks before Doris made her move, he had only chalked it up to getting dumped, but now maybe it was more.
"You know Kowalski; this is the first time I've seen you smile in a while. Rico seems to bring out the best in you wither you notice it or not." Private chirped, but Kowalski was far too lost in thought to hear. He felt as if everyone knew something about Rico that he didn't, something about Rico that involved him. But in what way?
"Could it?...No…that wouldn't make sense…" the scientist began to mumble to himself, pacing back and forth across the small room. "Private has Ri-" –THUMP-
"Damn it Hans! Stay on your side of the bed! Rico quit laughing and that's an order solider! I knew we should have all gotten separate rooms!" The two men looked at the door in shock, deciding if they should check on the damage for not.
"He'll spend thousands of dollars on weapons of mass destruction and research on combining the taste of fish with everyday food, but he won't spend a few hundred for a one night hotel stay." Kowalski sighed as the door was thrown open and Rico fell to the floor in laughter, tears actually running down the weapon expert's face.
The two looked through the open door to see Hans and Skipper looking rather comfortable in the queen-sized bed, if not a little flustered as well. The sight caused them to burst out in laughter as well, joining Rico on the floor. Skipper gapped like a fish trying to control his temper but lost it in a harsh bark of laughter as his team tried to use each other to get off the floor. Rico grabbing onto Kowalski and Private grabbing onto Rico, but ending up in a tangle of limbs on the floor. Hans began to laugh as well, leaning against Skipper for support, tensions melting. They would definitely be hearing the complaints in the morning, but that didn't matter.
It was one of those unforgettable moments, where everything could just be forgotten, but the clock was ticking away making those moments rare.