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Of All the Burger Joints in All the World

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“Remind me again why we’re here?” Pooch asked as he frowned down at his soggy Big Mac.

“It’s tradition,” Jensen shot back at the same time as Roque said “Because Jensen has no taste.”

Jensen glared at him. “Come on, man. We always go out for burgers after a mission.”

“These aren’t burgers,” Clay pointed out. “These are an affront to the senses.”

Cougar nodded in agreement, poking through the massive pile of french fries in front of the team to find the crunchiest.

Jensen agreed, in theory. But tradition was tradition, and they hadn’t been home in over six months with no leave time coming up, so it’s not like they could drop in at In And Out or anything. It was bad enough they were stuck here in Guatemala for the time being, worse yet that they were going to miss his niece’s birthday, so Jake was going to cling to the few traditions he could at least still uphold. “Whatever, it’s the best we can get in this hole,” he muttered before he took a giant bite of his burger.

Okay, maybe Clay was right - these burgers were terrible. The bun was soggy, the lettuce was an insult to vegetables, and someone had had the audacity to put mustard on the damn thing. Jake was about to admit how bad is was when Cougar nudged him with his knee. It wasn’t a flirtatious knee-bump, but rather the kind that meant ‘shut up and pay attention, Jensen, this is important.’

Cougar caught Jake’s eye and nodded towards the counter, where a group of four guys were milled around the lone cashier. They were too far away for the team to be able to hear what they were saying, but it was clear from their body language that they were up to no good.

Then one of the guys whipped around, brandishing a handgun and shouting quickly in Spanish. Jake could see Pooch tense and reach for his hip, where his own gun was holstered, but Clay shook his head ever so slightly, sweeping his gaze through the restaurant. Too many civilians, his eyes said.

Cougar nodded ever so subtly, tracking the gang’s every moment. Jake’s back was to the group, but he could tell by Cougar’s body language that something was going on. He heard one of the gang members tell the cashiers to empty the drawers, quickly or else. There was some milling around, the sound of registers being opened, a woman pleading.

Jake looked to Cougar, who looked back at Jake with an air of calmness, and Jake knew it would be okay.

There was a commotion at the counter as one of the cashiers tried to stand up to the robbers.

“Don’t even think it,” one of them told the cashier, and Jake heard a whimper as a gun was cocked.

Clay and Roque used the distraction to slip away.

“Please, I have a family,” the cashier begged.

“Then don’t be stupid, and give us the money,” a robber growled back.

Far in the distance, the siren of a police car blared.

“Let’s go, let’s go!” one of the robbers shouted, and Jake turned to see them all head for the exit.

Cougar nudged Jake and Pooch’s legs and the three of them sprang into action.

Pooch slid out to tackle one of the robbers, the last one in the group, knocking his legs out from under him with a move he must have learned from all those soccer matches Cougar made them watch. He wrestled him to the ground and pinned him down.

Out in the parking lot, Roque and Clay were fighting the two who had gone through the door first.

Jake and Cougar, meanwhile, went after the big one with the gun. He’d tried to run, but Jake caught up with him easily, grabbing the robber by the sleeve to pull him back, where the robber’s face promptly met Jake’s fist.

The guy stumbled backwards but caught himself, lifted his gun and smashed the butt of it into the side of Jensen’s head.

“Fuuuuuuuuuuck!” Jake raised a hand to his face and leveled a glare at the robber, who was running again. Jake shook his head to clear the throb of pain and took off after the guy.

He caught a glimpse of a very familiar hat on the move to his left, just a few paces behind him.

They pursued the guy behind the restaurant. They had him flanked, the robber must have soon realized when he pulled up short, a building to one side and a high fence with barbed wire around the top to the other.

A beat-up red pickup truck was the only thing between them and the robber. Jensen moved forward, narrowing the space between them to just a few strides when the door of the truck opened.

A heavyset man was just about to get out when the robber raised his gun at the man and shouted “Gimme your keys!”

Jake lunged forward to stop the robber when he heard someone shout behind him.

“Jensen, get down!” Cougar.

He stopped and dropped down. Seconds later, a shot rang out.

Jue puta!” the robber cried out as he collapsed, hands clutching at his shoulder.

Jake secured the gun the robber had dropped, clearing the bullet from the chamber before tucking it into his belt.

“You okay?” he asked the man in the pickup truck, who had turned a dark shade of purple. The man nodded meekly, his eyes wide.

It was only then that Jake caught a glimpse of himself in the truck’s side mirror - there was a long gash across his temple and blood trailing down the side of his face.

“Jensen, you idiot,” Cougar growled as he came up next to Jensen, cupping the uninjured side of Jake’s face with one hand and pressing the flannel shirt he’d been wearing onto Jake’s wound. “Sit.”

Jake obeyed. The world was starting to get a bit hazy, actually. He was feeling somewhat dizzy and gripped the curb to keep from tilting. He vaguely processed the police arriving, followed by an ambulance a few minutes later. Jake learned that Clay and Roque had snuck out before the robbers and stopped the first two as they came through the door. An officer took their statements, and Jake seemed to be having trouble stringing together the events in Spanish that was anything near coherent enough to be understood. Thankfully Cougar was there to interpret.

Cougar. Good thing he was there.

Jake shifted around to face Cougar, who was holding a cold pack to Jake’s temple with a look of concern.

“You’re awesome, Cougs.”

“Shush.” He laid a hand over Jake’s. It was soothingly warm. “You need rest. You did great, Jake.”

Jake smiled and sighed as he let his head drop to rest on Cougar’s shoulder. “See, it was good we came here.”

Cougar huffed. “Yes, good we were here. The burgers were still terrible, though.”