Cougar disappears on a milk run. Literally. One of the things Aisha has come to understand, if not fully appreciate, was the way each of the men she's found herself tied to had bizarre quirks that everyone else just accepts. Like Cougar's cereal addiction. When it was available he'd eat it for two meals out of three and no one else was allowed to finish off a carton of milk. The food rules were simple; don't eat Jensen's Twizzlers, don't drink the last of Clay's coffee, don't even think about touching Pooch's peanut butter, don't touch Cougar's cereal but don't complain if he touches yours, and under no circumstances finish off the last of the milk. Everything else in the kitchen was a free-for-all regardless of who bought it.
The rules were simple, straightforward, and didn't apply to her things apparently. She knew she wasn't supposed to finish a carton, but she'd been pissed that someone, once again, finished off her bottle of ranch dressing. If she couldn't be guaranteed ranch then there was no way in hell Cougar could be guaranteed milk. She hadn't understood that Cougar wouldn't wait until morning to go to the grocery store instead of driving off in the middle of the night to find someplace open and selling milk.
( “You know that's Cougar, right?” Pooch doesn't look up from the engine pieces he's got spread out on the table, but Aisha knows he's paying close attention to her.
She shrugs, just to prove she doesn't care and reaches for a glass, “I bought it.”
Pooch snorts, “Like that has anything to do with it. Last of the milk goes to Cougar.”
“He'll live,” She says dryly as she pours every last drop into her cup.)
It takes a week for Jensen to run down the security footage of every damn little convenience store and gas station between their middle-of-nowhere and Las Vegas. It's impressive how many men went into taking Cougar down. The fight shows more than that though, it shows that this isn't Max. Not even close because Max would've been better prepared for Cougar. There would have been better fighters and there certainly wouldn't have been the man standing in the background looking nervous. Eventually the man in the back shoots a tranq dart into Cougar and that cinches everything as far as she's concerned.
She's been involved with enough underground fight clubs to recognize a “recruitment” when she sees one. Even one as sloppy as this was. She doesn't expect the sharp burst of shame that goes through her thinking about those clubs though. The stupid American soldiers and tourists that she lured into capture in cities all across Europe weighing heavily all of a sudden.
(“Come on soldier-boy, you're not worried about me are you?” She bates her eyelashes and plays up how drunk she is as she walks around the corner into an alley. She rolls her eyes as the man comes after her and one sucker punch later she's calling for pick up.)
Even if she has to struggle to look them in the eyes as she explains, her past gives them the connections they need. It takes a few days to track down one of her old contacts in Vegas without him knowing someone is looking, but from there it's just a matter of making a convincing run-in.
(“Aisha?” The voice calls out behind her, the question clear in the tone, like the owner isn't sure it's really her.
She doesn't sigh in relief as Romero calls out behind her, but it's close. She'd been walking past him, just in his line of sight, for the past two days. It's almost embarrassing how long it took him to notice. Instead she turns around and smiles brightly, “Romero! What are you doing here?”)
Easy as one, two, three, and she's got a job at fight recruitment again. She gets a tour of the facility that same day and a look at who she'll be working with. Romero just sighs are her expression and tells her to that she's a god send. Lure them in and knock them out is the name of the game. Not that she needs to knock Jensen out to get him in.
(“We're going to need someone on the inside,” Aisha says as she walks through the door after her tour.
Clay glares, “We have you.”
“I can't get close to Cougar,” She sits down on the couch and lets out the growl of frustration she's been holding in all day. “The pens where they keep the fighters are too well guarded for us to break him out of there. It's going to have to be in the fight ring.”
“High roller or another fighter?” Jensen says, perking up slightly from the dark cloud that's been over him since Cougar went missing.)
It's almost a bit underwhelming how well the rescue goes from there. The only complication is Cougar's apparent amnesia, but Jensen works around it. In a rather surprising manner, but it works as a good distraction on top of everything else so she isn't going to complain. Instead she waits for the regret of lost contacts to come, but it never does. Her name is less than dirt in that particular circle now and it feels surprisingly freeing.
Two months and a half a dozen safe houses later she's once again staring at the last of the milk. This time she smiles, just slightly, and reaches for one of Jensen's disgusting sodas. It's still better than the tap water. But her ranch hasn't mysteriously run out in the last two months either, so she'll live.