Clay finishes the last line on his whiteboard diagram with a flourish and sits down on the table. He re-caps his marker with a click to punctuate the completion of their two-hour group brainstorming session and the operation now sketched out on the wall. Pooch looks up at the board, tracing his tongue over his upper teeth as he runs it step by step through his mind. Roque, chewing a thumbnail by Pooch's left elbow, leans back in his chair and nods.
"Isn't it?" Clay smiles proudly at his creation.
"Only one problem I can see," Roque says, and swivels to face Clay. "We ain't got the manpower. For this thing to work we need two teams moving in sync, coordinated down to the second, and two very tricky exits. Now, I can think of maybe two people we might be able to tap for stealth infiltration, but I don't know any other drivers who're as good as Pooch. At least," he says before the compliment can go too much to Pooch's head, though his voice is warmly affectionate, "none who're still talking to us."
"I do," Aisha says from her perch on the back of the ratty couch between Jensen and Cougar. "One, anyway, and someone who'll jump at a little sneaky parkour and duct-crawling."
"You trust 'em?" Clay asks.
"Unconditionally." She looks at Clay. "We go way back. I helped them out of some trouble in Tennessee a few years ago--they owe me one, though I'm pretty sure they'd do this for free either way."
Roque squints up at the ceiling, visibly holding himself back from snarking on Aisha's suggestion, as if any of them hadn't heard that argument (she's practically a stranger, Clay, and she told you she's going to kill you, how many times are you going to just trust her like that?) a hundred times before or deduced how Clay reliably reassured Roque that he was still his most trusted and beloved.
Clay nods. "Make the call. Tell them I want to meet, test the waters before you give them any details."
Aisha's already climbing over the back of the couch and reaching for her phone.
Waiting at the airport, Aisha won't stop fidgeting. She stares at the arrivals screen like a cat watching a mousehole, and leaps out of her seat when their plane debarks. Pooch thought he was finally starting to get used to Aisha smiling like she meant it, believing that whatever her as-yet unfinished business with Clay, which he's pretty sure's not going to end in death anymore, she's become a part of their twisted little family, but the way she lights up as she snakes her way to the front of the reception area to throw her arms around the group of three women who've just come off the plane is something else entirely. Aisha has friends--friends who make her giggle and flail and who are not him and Jolene and Cougar and Jensen, and that thought maybe stings a little.
"Kim, Zoë, and Abernathy," Aisha says when she leads them back to the five men slouching around the lounge near the baggage carousels, "I want you to meet Cougar, Jensen, Pooch, Roque, and Clay."
Jensen's on his feet by the middle of her sentence, reaching out eagerly to shake all of their hands. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Bell. I'm a huge fan of your work--and yours too, Ms. Mathis, yours too."
"Aw, cheers, mate," the blonde woman says with a grin. "It's always nice to meet someone who cares."
"You're the stuntwoman?" Roque asks Zoë, who nods brightly. "And you're the driver."
Kim, petite and short-haired in a leather jacket, bows slightly. Roque turns an interrogative gaze on their unexpected third.
"Abernathy's a make-up artist," Aisha explains. They share a smirk.
"I'm here to make sure your ugly mugs don't get made so easily, this time."