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"Man, you should just see him," Jensen said, grinning, and Clay noticed the way Cougar leaned forward perhaps two inches (degrees?) - not a good sign in a guy who could as easily kill you from a very comfortable and safe distance as up, close, personal and very messily. "Totally cute," Jensen said, and Clay thought fuck, but what he said was: "A man-sized cougar? Really?" because head over heels in love or not, that did sound a little extreme.

"Yeah," Jensen said. "I think it's the hat." and Clay pictured a cougar with a cowboy hat that was about to kill him. Nope. Still not seeing it. Of course, one might argue a man who regularly slept next to the woman who'd sworn to see him dead for killing her father wasn't in any position to cast stones.

One might also argue that one should mind one's own damn business. Aisha and him, they had an arrangement. They were clear about where they stood. They had really great sex, and they hardly ever burnt down hotel rooms anymore. (A smashed lamp here and there, sure, and the occasional bed, but not the whole room. That was progress, surely.)

They also did not go around telling people they thought the other was cute. (At least, Clay didn't. He didn't think he'd mind if she described him as cute. There were worse things to be called, and it wasn't as if his reputation couldn't take the blow.)

"And he's not really man-sized," Jensen said. "More like, I don't know, cougar-sized?"

"A cougar the size of a cougar," Pooch said. "Imagine that."

"Hey, he's a were-cougar," Jensen said. "It's not that predictable. And, you know, it's kind of a shame."

Don't ask, Clay thought, praying to the ever-absent gods who watched over lost causes and hopeless idiots. Don't anybody ask, and then he heard Pooch asked: "Why?" and he thought Fuck you, too.

"It's ah a sex thing?" Jensen said, because of course it was.

"Wasn't that Godzilla?" Clay asked.

"That's a size thing," Jensen said, and Clay thought Fair enough, because if 'big' was what floated your boat, you probably couldn't get much sexier than Godzilla.

If, you know, the damn thing had actually been real. In which case they'd probably have needed to rebuild Tokyo twice a month or so, which was fine with Clay; he'd been there, tasted the sushi and decided it wasn't really for him. (A good steak now, that was the thing.)

"He's a cougar," Pooch said. "You think it's sexy to get your head bitten off during sex?"

"Pleasure and pain, Pooch," Jensen said, beaming like a benevolent god of kinky sex. "Pleasure and pain. Thin line."

Clay looked an any time you want to step in, please do so at Cougar.

Cougar looked a what? and ruin all your fun? back. Or possibly he just blinked. The hat made it kind of tricky to tell, which was probably the point.

"Gouges in your back," Clay said. "Tooth marks on your shoulder. That sort of thing?"

"Maybe not quite that extreme," Jensen said, and Clay thought Wimp even if he was also kind of impressed at this sudden display of sanity. Sex with a cougar, indeed. For God's sake.

As if one very determined and volatile woman couldn't get that sort of thing done just as well.

"Then what?" Pooch asked. Jolene and the kid were doing well, last thing Clay'd heard, so he wasn't sure where this stubborn determination to ruin his day was coming from.

Jensen grinned and said, "Milk," like that explained everything.

"I prefer a nice cold beer," Cougar said.

"In human form," Jensen said. "You prefer a nice cold beer when you're in human form."

Pooch opened his mouth, probably to point out that milk was quite good for you. He'd been reading a lot of books about healthy living recently - taking the whole Daddy thing seriously. Clay approved of the principle, although he drew the line at messing with people's dinner. Or breakfast. Or choice of sex partners slash enemies.

Clay looked a not now at him, then kicked him for good measure. Gently, of course. Contrary to team gossip, he was neither a masochist nor a sadist. He'd have been perfectly happy to meet a perfectly normal woman to have perfectly vanilla sex with. Maybe.

"Cougars are big cats, though," Jensen said. "Ergo, they like milk."

Ergo, you look like dinner to them, Clay thought, although that probably wasn't fair to Cougar. Clay wasn't a were-anything; he had no idea what it was like to spend part of your time being something else. He imagined it might be a little bit like falling in and out of love: one moment, the world was full of sunshine and rainbows and unicorns, the next, someone had bombed your car.

... Fine, so being a were-cougar probably wasn't anything at all like falling in and out of love.

"I figured I'd pour some over me, see?" Jensen said, and Clay really wished he didn't. On the plus side, next time he needed to talk to Aisha, he knew just what to think of to make sure things stayed cool. For a few extra seconds, at least. "And he could lick it off me. Big, scratchy cat tongue. Flexible."

I wish I could not believe we're having this conversation. Then maybe it would go away.

"Milk is no good," Pooch said. "You want whipped cream or something."

"Cream's made of milk, right?" Jensen asked, looking thoughtful and speculative and like he was forcing Clay to read his mind, which he probably wasn't.

Aisha and me, we go in more for the hard liquor, Clay didn't consider saying, because he didn't have this kind of conversations with people he wasn't having sex with. Hell, he didn't even have them with people he did have sex with. Spontaniety and improvisation were wonderful things. Plus, it was always nice to keep it a surprise which would come first: the part where she tried to kill him, or the part where she fucked his brains out.

"That wasn't a real question, was it?" Pooch asked.

"That was not a real question," Jensen said. "The real question is: where can I get some whipped cream around here?"

"Supermarket two blocks from here," Clay said, looking a there, are you happy now? at Cougar.

"Great," Jensen said, and then Cougar said, "I'm not licking whipped cream off you," and Clay thought thank you, Cougar, except that then Cougar added, "You can lick it off me, though."

Jensen said "Cool" and was off, and Clay turned to Cougar and asked, "Why?" in a voice that was maybe a little bit plaintive. Jealousy, maybe. Desperation was such an ugly word, after all.

Cougar shrugged. "Doesn't being in love mean making compromises?"

No, Clay wanted to say. Being in love means you don't mind when they blow up your car, or shoot you in the leg, or try to kill you half the time, except that he did mind, sort of, because it had been a nice car and leg wounds were a bitch in his line of work; if your luck turned bad, they could very well end your career. And he did enjoy living, even if it was with guys like these.

Pooch was nodding, too, and so far, he was the only one of them who was officially married, so Clay figured he should know what he was talking about.

"A compromise, huh?" he said.

Cougar grinned, showing teeth. "He's cute when he thinks he's getting what he wants."

"I think you mean 'easy' there," Clay said. "Jensen's easy when he's getting what he wants."

"That, also," Cougar said.