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Adventures in Suburbia

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Clay hurts. All over. Not bad, not dying bad, or something's broken bad, but there's definitely a lot of pain. He feels like one big bruise. Maybe a concussion. That's what happens when a building drops on your head.

"Jensen," he croaks. The fear that's creeping up on him is worse than the all-over generalized sort of pain. "Jensen!" he yells a little louder.

There's a groan to his right. A coming-to-consciousness groan that he recognizes very well. A minute more, and he'll hear something that tells him how injured Jensen is.

"Jensen," he says one more time, softly but with force. There is power in a name, and Jensen especially responds to it.

There's some harsh breathing, that's not good, and then a wailing sort of closed-mouth groan. Not a hum, no, much more pain than that. Shit.

"Here, sir," Jensen says, breathing shallowly after.

Whether or not Jensen gives him a status report will tell Clay if he's got a concussion. He waits.

It takes a minute, but then there's a breathy humming sound that tells him Jensen's remembered protocol and is assessing his situation. "Uh," Jensen says, followed by some labored breathing. "Uh, my leg is trapped. And broken, I think. Lost my comm."

Shit, Clay hadn't even thought about comms. As soon as Jensen mentions it, he knows his is broken. He can feel it on his ear, but there's nothing, not even static. His arms are free, and now that he knows Jensen is alive, he takes out his flashlight to take a look around.

It's dusty as fuck, and there are twisted vines of rebar and huge chunks of cement between him and Jensen, including the one that's got Jensen's leg pinned, but it seems Jensen's head fared off better than Clay's because his comm is between them, just within reach.

He rips off his broken one, clenching his fist around it because he really wants to throw the thing, but he can't leave something like that in the wreckage of a building. He takes a deep breath and tucks it into a pocket on his tac vest before picking Jensen's up and settling it on his ear.

Cougar's soft Spanish prayers are exactly what he wanted to hear, so he listens for a minute before he says, "Angel." Call signs are notoriously bad jokes, and Jensen had chosen Cougar's – protecting from on high, he'd said – but it feels a little weird saying it now, when death was so close, and still might be hovering over Jensen.

There's a moment of surprised silence that Clay hopes is simple happiness they're alive, but has the telltale sign of something more disconcerting. Finally, Cougar says, cautiously, "Sir." There's another hesitant silence, and then, "Geek?"

"Affirmative," Clay says. "Injured."

The harsh exhale is typical Cougar, and as loud and obvious as a string of expletives from Roque. There's a click on the line and Cougar says, "Jake?"

Clay isn't sure what that is about; he's already briefed Cougar on Jensen's status, and also no one calls Jensen "Jake" – not to mention they very carefully never use names on comms. He takes a minute to absorb what this all means, unsure of what to say, but certain that he does, in fact, need to say something.

"I'm on his comm," Clay says. "Mine's busted."

"Oh." Cougar's silences are remarkably expressive. This one is short, but pained. "Okay. Radio silence from you."


There's a pained breath, this silence of Cougar's suddenly marked by the fact that Jensen is also silent, his shallow breaths the only thing that assures Clay he's not dead. It's disturbing, Jensen's silence, and Clay will deal with it as soon as he has the sit rep from Cougar.

"They knew we were coming," Cougar says. "Pooch was captured before they set off the building. Heard Roque in a struggle, but he's radio silent now."

Shit. If they have Pooch, they have Pooch's comm – and Clay's just given up that he and Jensen are still alive under the debris. The only thing that he's still trying to wrap his mind around is why Cougar can speak freely. The only thing is… if Jensen and Cougar have a different frequency from the rest of the team.

Clay whispers, "Jensen."

Jensen takes a few quick, shallow breaths, and then huffs out, "Yes, sir."

"You and Cougar have a second frequency?"

Jensen's moan sounds less like pain and more like the kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

"Cougs can speak to me direct, yeah." Another couple quick breaths and words that are fast, even for Jensen. "I only have one outgoing channel, though."

Clay nods, then a quick look at Jensen shows he's missing his glasses, so Clay says, "Relax, Jensen. Deep breaths."

He clicks back on and says, "Plan?"

"Mmhm. I'm following Pooch."

Clay is stymied by his inability to answer. He wants to bark orders, do something that will make him feel better about this mess, but he'll have to trust that Cougar can manage on his own. He clicks on and answers with, "Roger."

"Going radio silent until I have more information." There's a pregnant silence; Clay knows Cougar has more to say, but is struggling with it. Sometimes that's just Cougar; he doesn't talk much, and while the language barrier is barely noticeable by the team anymore, he's fairly certain Cougar's thought process is in Spanish, not English. Cougar's also just generally quiet. He doesn't need to talk so he doesn't.

"Take care of him."

Of course Clay is going to take care of Jensen, like there is any doubt about that. He knows Cougar knows that, though, so that means there's something else in there. He can feel the obvious thought in the back of his mind, but he refuses to put words to it. That would make it real, and he has more than enough to deal with already.


Clay releases the talk button, letting out a heavy breath. Even if they get rescued, they've got at least hours and maybe days down here. There's only enough room to crawl on his belly, so he slithers his way across the six feet separating him and Jensen, huffing and puffing. He's getting too old for this shit. The one saving grace is that at least no one can hear him.

He turns his flashlight on Jensen, surveying him closely starting with his eyes. They both dilate, and evenly, so he's probably okay on the concussion front, though the fact that he hasn't been babbling continuously for the last several minutes of his consciousness concerns Clay. "Good," he says. Jensen breathes out, reasonably loudly.

"Talk to me, Jensen," Clay says, checking Jensen over slowly, letting the flashlight move over him with care. No blood on his upper chest, breathing deeper now. "C'mon, Jensen, the peanut gallery is going to riot soon if you don't delight them with your witty banter."

"What would you like me to talk about, sir?" Jensen asks, quietly.

There had been a moment when Jensen joined the team, shit, probably a few days, even, when he'd been quiet as a church mouse. Those first few days, Cougar'd said more than Jensen did.

Pooch had tried to draw him out with no success, and Jensen seemed mortally afraid of Cougar (not a bad instinct, in Clay's professional opinion), but only slightly wary of Roque (a huge mistake, in Clay's professional opinion). And then he'd tripped over his feet one day and dumped coffee down Roque's shirt and immediately started apologizing.

But it wasn't regular apologizing – it was Jensen's crazy, stream-of-consciousness patter – and Cougar laughed after Jensen talked so much with one breath that he looked like he might pass out. And that was it, really. Roque had been so surprised at Cougar's laugh that he forgot all about gutting Jensen with a knife, and Jensen had never shut up.

Until now.

"Just talk to me. What do you know about sea monsters?"

Usually Jensen can go on at length about the weirdest stuff, but his body just jiggles in a way that makes Clay think he shrugged. "Not an expert on that one, sir," Jensen says, breathing out hard again.

"Fine, then," Clay says, doing his best not to let the exasperation show. "Vacation plans, your niece's soccer career, something, Jensen. Something nice."

Jensen's abdomen and groin look okay; even his upper thighs are nothing but dusty. The piece of cement trapping him has punctured his left shin, though, and if Clay has to guess, it's probably a compound fracture – if Jensen's lucky.

"Tough to think about nice things right now, sir."

Clay rolls his eyes. He's pretty good working with his soldiers, and Jensen in particular responds to command well. Probably, Clay thinks, because he only uses it when necessary, and lives with Jensen's babble the rest of the time. He doesn't think he can order Jensen to word-vomit, though, so he does his best to fill the silence.

"Well, let me tell you then," Clay says, rolling onto his back to dig the Advil out of his tac vest. "How about after this is all done, after we have Max's head on a pike and our names and reputations back, you get to go home, see Jess and Emma again, and do something completely boring for a living."

Clay wracks his brain for something totally ridiculous. "Flower shop. You definitely should open a flower shop."

There's a huffing sound from Jensen that might be laughter, or might be thanks for Clay handing off three Advil.

"And you'll buy a little house down the street from Jess, and Emma'll come running to you when she fights with her mom, and you'll listen to her cry but still send her back home to Jess, and always with a flower in her hair."

Clay's pretty proud of himself. It's not that hard to do this, really – just take off your brain to mouth filter and let everything spill out.

"Will Cougar be there?" Jensen asks quietly.

Clay has another brief moment of trying to decipher that comment before his brain puts up a brick wall with emphatic force, and he just says, "Hell, we'll all be there. Pooch and Jolene'll have to drive up for Petunias games, but you know they will, when Pooch can get away from the shop. Roque'll probably run the local coffee shop, because you know he won't stand for weak-ass joe in his neighborhood."

Jensen hums, and Clay edges the flashlight just a little closer so he can see the smile on Jensen's face.

"And I'll mow lawns for a living. I've always liked mowing the lawn. I'm sure I can get a decent clientele in suburbia. I look trustworthy, don't I?"

That is definitely a laugh, soft though it is, and Clay smiles.

"That is beautiful, Clay." Roque's voice comes over the comm, and Clay can hear clapping and laugher in the background.

Clay takes the earpiece off and shines the flashlight on it; he was absolutely sure he'd gone off comms.

"Oh, you can't turn my comm off," Jensen says, with a smile in his voice. "I mean, who doesn't want to listen to me on comms all the time?"

Clay groans and runs a hand down his face. "Jensen," he starts, but he's interrupted by Cougar's voice.

"And what do I do in suburbia?"

Clay'd purposely left Alvarez until last. He doesn't really know suburban life, and flower shop was his limit for off-the-wall careers. He'd been trying to figure out what the hell Cougar'd do back in a normal life and coming up blank.

"Don't answer that," Pooch warns, and Clay decides that's definitely the right plan of action.

"We've eliminated the threat, sir," Pooch continues, "And we're currently working on getting the equipment and hands necessary to get you out of there. It's gonna suck, but we will get you out."

Clay breathes a sigh of relief. He very purposely hadn't let himself think about the other option, there was no point. Still, hearing there is going to be a rescue mounted sets his mind at ease. "Thanks," he says, maybe a little too earnestly, but he's already built a fantasyland for them in suburbia, what's thanking your team for saving your life, yet again?

He takes the comm off and inchworms himself up Jensen's body to hook it over his ear. "Keep me posted," Clay says.

"Yes sir," Jensen says,

Clay rolls back onto his back. He's getting way too old for lying around on concrete for days at a time.

"You'll be at home taking care of the twins," Jensen says, and Clay just rolls his eyes, grateful when he just continues right on with, "and don't think Pooch and Jolene wouldn't move right down the block. Roque'd live in the cool part of town, though, in a loft. With a view of downtown."

And as Clay listens to Jensen describe his rickety doublewide and beat-up pick-up truck with three mowers and his droopy bloodhound in the back he thinks… that doesn't sound too terrible after all.