Jolene is barely three weeks out of the hospital after having Dion when Clay decides that breakfast is the perfect time to bring up how the Losers need to go after Max. She gives him the look, and he changes the subject. It won't last, of course, but at least he's smart enough not to push it when she exhausted from being up three times a night with Dion and still healing.
Lord knows if he tries her right now, she'll bury him in the back yard to use as fertilizer for her vegetable garden. His thick skull would at least be good for something then.
Jolene is just glad Aisha isn't around to for Clay to try and impress. Else she'd never get him to shut up. It doesn't seem to matter to Clay that Aisha wants him dead, as long as he's got somebody to agree to his crazy plans. Rouqe had been the one who'd kept Clay under control, before everything went wrong.
Aisha seems to have the opposite effect. She has been staying with Clay in the spare bedroom, but she rarely eats at the table or spends any time with Jolene or Dion. It is rather obvious that she doesn’t know what to do with civilian life. She stares at Dion like he's an armed grenade. Every day she gets more snappish. It's just a matter of time before she convinces Clay to go headlong after Max. Jolene just hopes she can convince Pooch to wait until there is an actual plan in place.
Jensen and Cougar are avoiding the whole thing by staying with Jessica and Grace. Jolene doubts she'd ever see them if it wasn't for the fact that Jensen loves babies and Cougar is the only one that can get Dion to sleep when his colic is acting up.
They come over three nights a week. Usually after supper, once Aisha and Clay have gone off to find somewhere to fuck. After the first night they'd woken Dion up with their racket, Jolene had made it clear there would be no hate sex in her spare bedroom. She loves Pooch's family, she does. Sometimes, though, she wants to put everyone in timeout. Just for some goddamn piece and quiet.
As expected, Cougar shows up barely ten minutes after Aisha and Clay vacate the house. Jolene tries to ignore the fact that this means Jensen has the house bugged. He does it from a place of love. Besides, she's housing three fugitives a surveillance system is kind of a given.
"No Jake?" She asks as she helped Cougar transfer Dion from her arms.
Cougar shakes his head, eyes focused on Dion. Who is screaming fit to wake the dead. His face blotchy from the prolonged strain. He coos to Dion in soft Spanish. It is too soft for Jolene to catch more than the edge of a few syllables. It works like a charm though. He's barely made three circuits of the living room and kitchen, murmuring all the while, before Dion is asleep in his arms.
"I swear you are magic, Cougar," Jolene says as she lets herself slip sideways on the couch. Pooch is sleeping so he can get up with Dion tonight, and she can hopefully manage some sleep. But an extra nap wouldn't keep her from sleeping through the night. Not as exhausted as she feels. It's peaceful having Cougar here, watching over her, Dion, and Pooch.
"We-,." Cougar starts. There is a long pause, before he starts again. This time in a whisper. "We're not going after Max."
It takes Jolene a minute to connect this with Clay's comments at breakfast. Cougar and Jensen weren't present, but when has that ever stopped either of them from knowing what's going on? "I'm not planning to let Pooch run off with them unless they have an actual plan. I just got him back, and Dion should get a chance to know his whole family."
"Good for a son to know father," Cougar agrees.
"I just don't know how to keep Clay from running off and doing something stupid" And Pooch won't just abandon his team. If they did something stupid, he wants to go with them to pull their butts out of the fire.
Cougar takes his time answering, tucking himself into the recliner that faces the couch, starting it rocking, Dion's head cradled by his hand. Cougar's eyes are staring at something she can't see. "Max killed children. Watched them die, heard it. Is hard to think straight when can't forget those sounds."
Pooch has woken up screaming from dreams about the children too.
"Man like that needs stopping, but we're not right for job." Pooch rocks back and forth a few more times. "Roque was friend, family. Not like him to betray us. Bothered Jensen."
With that tone of voice, Jensen hadn't been the only one bothered. This isn't going to be a pretty conversation. Pushing herself off the couch, Jolene picks Dion up out of Cougar's arms. Pressing a kiss against Cougar's forehead as she does. "I'm going to go put him down okay? Then I'll be right back."
He nods, hiding his face behind his hair and curling smaller into the chair.
She uses her hip to push the bedroom door open, hand carefully cupped around Dion's ears to muffle the sound of the hinge's creaking. "Pooch!" she hisses. It takes a few tries before Pooch wakes up. He's as tired as she is.
"Jolene, baby?" Pooch knuckles at his eyes. It's a move guaranteed to make her heart melt a little. She loves him so much. How many times had she dreamed about seeing him wake up like that, when she'd thought he was dead. "Cougar is in the living room. Wants to talk about Max and Bolivia. I'm going to put Dion down, see if you can get him calmed down while I do? We can talk once I'm finished."
It takes Pooch a second to catch up. He might be able to roll out of bed into battle in a few seconds, but words always take him a little longer. "Right. I'll get the beers. Want a soda?"
"Root beer. No caffeine, remember?"
"Right." He shuffles towards the door, just stopping long enough to press a kiss to her cheeks. He gives Dion a look like he wants to kiss him too, but if he does Dion is likely to wake up so he moves on.
She can hear the muffled sound of him calling to Cougar. Probably trying to convince Cougar to unball and help him get the drinks together. Hopefully that will be enough to keep Cougar grounded. She doesn't want to have to call Jensen to come get him if he dissociates to badly. Not if Jensen isn't here, already. The only reason Jensen wouldn't be here for this conversation was if he was handling things worse than Cougar was or if Cougar had asked him to stay home.
She takes her time putting Dion down. Listing to his little snuffling breaths as he realized there weren't warm arms around him or a heartbeat under his ears. She hums softly, running fingers over his thatch of baby fuzz and over his belly until he settles back into sleep.
It's no real surprise when she finds Pooch and Cougar sitting in the lawn chairs out on the back porch. Pooch keeps up a stream of chatter about engines while Cougar slowly shreds the label off his beer. She leaves the sliding door partially open so she'll hear Dion if he starts crying. Cougar looks a little better, he's at least tracking things that are happening in the present again. If the way his eyes cut to her the minute she steps towards the door is anything to go by. Hypervigilance isn't great, but it is better than a complete shut-down. Pooch left the chair furthest from Pooch for her. Bottle of root beer dripping sweat beside it.
She relaxes into the chair and waits, Pooch's patter soothing her into a half-asleep trance, but when Cougar talks, she jolts back awake.
"Roque was smart, he wouldn't just go against us for no reason."
Pooch nods. "Yeah, he was a good Sic."
"Jensen didn't want to leave it alone. I thought it would help. He needs to understand things."
"What happened?" Jolene asks.
Cougar grabs another beer and starts shredding that label to."It's big. He's not a terrorist. Owns satellites, politicians, whole countries. We stopped the snook. Got dozens more. We fight him head on, we die. Roque was smart. Knew Clay wouldn't listen to reason. Thought he could survive without us."
"That didn't work out so well for him," Pooch points out.
Cougar nods. "No. Almost didn't work out for us either. Lucky. Won't happen again.
"Can we run?" Jolene asks. Because she thinks like a civilian and a mother and she's starting to suspect she knows why Jensen didn't come with Cougar. Jensen has a family and a man like Max wouldn't be afraid to go after them to make the Loser's back off.
Cougar nods. "One chance. Jensen making new identities now. You come with us, or you stay with Clay and Aisha. Once we go, won't be coming back. "
"You can't expect us to just leave Max alone. Not after what he's done!" Pooch lunges towards Cougar, grabbing his shirt"
Man like Max's not going to let our families walk away. We go after him, they die."
Jolene has family, her mother and aunts, a couple cousins. She'd had plans to take Dion to meet his Grandma in a couple weeks once he's big enough to travel more comfortably. She could stay, let Pooch leave with Aisha and Clay or go with Jensen's family. Live out a normal, civilian life like she'd been doing when she thought Pooch was dead. Maybe Max would leave her alone, maybe he wouldn't. Somebody big enough, scary enough to make Roque turn on the Losers and to scare Jensen and Cougar like this, she's not counting on a man like that forgetting she exists. "How long do we have to decide?"
Pooch's head snaps around. She lays a calming hand on his arm. They'll discuss this tonight, on their own. For right now she needs to know what her choices are.
"Leave tonight. We'll leave drop info where can pick up new identities. How to find us. Only good for twenty-four hours."
Pooch waves a hand, voice pitched to be calming, soothing. His peacemaker voice. "That's really fast, man. We need some time to think things through, and don't you guys want some time to think about it? I mean, I know you're scared, but rushing into something like this is-"
"You think Aisha is going to let us go?" Cougar cuts in. "Or Clay? Once Jessica and Grace safe, then we have time to think. Figure out how to kill Max. Not going to wait until house explodes or Aisha decides to kill us for not helping her."
"Jensen and the girls are already gone, aren't they?" Jolene asks. She loves Pooch's willingness to think everything through in detail before he acts. Sometimes, though, it keeps him from being able to react when somebody does something unexpected.
He smiles, it is that special proud smile he usually saves for Grace. "Left as soon as Aisha and Clay were gone."
Pooch has that pinched look around his eyes. His head whips back and forth as he tries to keep an eye on both of them. Things are moving too fast for his liking. She'll apologize later. Once Cougar is gone and they can talk about things in detail. "Can you give us thirty-six hours? If we decide to leave, We'll need to get everything sorted. We're both exhausted and Dion is still very young to be traveling."
"Can give you extra time, but may have to burn IDs if Aisha comes before you can." Cougar replies. He puts his beer down. His eyes and hands steady for the first time tonight. This must be what he's like on a mission. Clear and focused.
"That's fine. I doubt we'll be able to keep things a secret for even twenty-four hours with them living in the house. Twelve more hours shouldn't increase that risk by much." Even if they run off in the middle of the night, like Jensen and Cougar are doing
"Will give you second drop information. If can't get away from Aisha use that one and we'll come get you." Cougar stands, face pinched for a second. "Jensen asked I give you." He makes a scooping motion with his hands.
It takes her a long second to figure out he's trying to pantomime a hug. She gets up and hugs him tightly, letting his arms wrap around her. Pooch joins in squeezing them both tight a moment later.
"Whatever we decide, you guys will be safe, right?" She asks as she pulls away. She knows they will be, but still wants the reassurance. If this is the last time she gets to see Cougar she wants to be able have this promise to hold on to.
"Will be careful. Make contact when can. You are family." Cougar gives her one last squeeze, before he heads back into the house. She hears the front door close a few minutes later.
"Are we really considering this?" Pooch asks after a few minutes of quiet, both of them trying to sort out what just happened.
Dion's thin wail starts up in the house. "I think we need to. Even if you decide to help Aisha and Clay, it might be safer for me and Dion to go. If Jensen and Cougar are right about how far Max's reach goes."
Pooch's mouth opens and closes a few times. Like he's trying to figure out what to say first.
Jolene lays her hand back on his arm."We don't have to decide right away. I'm not military. I'm sure there are a lot of things I don't know about disappearing like this. So you think things through, while I go get Dion fed and then we'll figure this out together."
He shoots her a grateful look as he collapses back into the lawn chair.
As she goes back into the house, she lets herself linger for a few seconds, committing the sight of him to memory. Whatever Pooch decides, and whatever they end up doing, she's still glad he came back. Knowing he got to meet Dion, and that she got three weeks with him will be enough to get her through whatever comes next.
Even if what comes next is seeing Pooch walk out the door to almost certain death. She's survived him dying once, she can do it again if she has to.
She just prays she doesn’t have to.