Singing karaoke with your co-workers is not an entirely new idea. But when your co-workers are a special ops Army team, Cougar thinks that might make it a bit more unique. For example, the Losers’ work has them travelling the world together, so the first time karaoke happens they are actually in Japan.
Singing karaoke had not been their goal for an evening out. Jensen and Roque had wanted sushi, and the others went along with it. They didn’t know they had chosen a combination sushi/karaoke bar until they were seated inside. After they had each had about a bottle of sake apiece, getting up to sing seemed like a great idea!
No one expected Cougar to sing, being the quietest one of them all, and he was okay with that. Surprisingly Clay was the first to volunteer. He sang Johnny Cash, and actually wasn’t too bad. Roque said he would only sing if someone could beat him at Five Finger Fillet, and Cougar was glad no one took him up on it because they were all a little too drunk to not miss and need an emergency room visit. Pooch sang Bob Marley, because “you gotta go with the classics man.” He wasn’t quite as good as Clay, but then Pooch tended to slur his words when he was drunk and he was the lightweight of the group when it came to holding his liquor.
Jensen was last to sing, with I Touch Myself by The Divinyls, and he hammed it up the entire song. He sang in an off-key falsetto and threw in some silly dance moves that made the crowd go wild. He somehow ended up wearing a feather boa given to him by what looked like a bachelorette party next to the stage. Cougar wasn’t too sure how he acquired it from the girls, but Jensen acted like those pink feathers were meant to be on his neck.
Jensen wasn’t singing well, but Cougar soon discovered it was an act. There were brief moments when Jensen would lose focus and an actual melody would slip out. His pitch was perfect and he was actually in key for the song at times.
Cougar stared at Jensen, trying to recall if he had ever heard the man sing before. Jensen liked to take on different personas for undercover missions but Cougar didn’t think any of them had ever required singing before. He was spellbound during the song, trying to hear more of Jensen actually singing properly.
Of course this was when Jensen decided to look directly at Cougar for the next chorus.
I don’t want
When I think about you
I touch myself
Jensen and Cougar had an intense moment of eye contact as Jensen seemed to realize what he was singing, and who he was singing it to. He fumbled over one of the lines before tearing his eyes away from Cougar’s and focusing on being a goofball for the bachelorette table again. Cougar could have sworn he saw a blush on Jensen’s cheeks.
“That’s adorable,” Cougar thought to himself, then frowned slightly at the glass of sake in front of him. He pushed it away. He had probably had enough if he was thinking of his friend and teammate as adorable. Of course that didn’t stop the sniper from checking out Jensen’s face for any signs of color when he returned to their booth.
“Not bad Jensen,” Pooch said, and tried to slap him on the back but he missed by a mile. Definitely a lightweight. “You even got those girls interested in you. You could be going home with one of them.”
“Yeah, you know, I’m just not feeling like it tonight,” Jensen answered, smiling at Pooch but his eyes went to Cougar.
Cougar gave him a sideways look from under the brim of his hat, and let a pleased smile show on his face as he turned his attention to a story Roque was telling. He felt Jensen’s knee bump against his own under the table, and Cougar made sure not to move away from the contact.
For the rest of the night Cougar acted normally, smiling at his teammates and joining in with a word or two, but his attention was really devoted to Jensen. Cougar was thankful for his hat, that let him sneak glances at Jensen without being obvious. Nothing in the whole of Tokyo was as interesting as Jensen and this new fact that Cougar had discovered about him.
“So then he shows up at her soccer practice and starts singing to her. Which is romantic, but not that grand of a gesture. Until the entire band on the field joins in the song. And he’s hijacked the PA system - which is pretty badass. So he gets to sing his heart out to this girl, until he gets chased out of the stadium by security...”
“Jensen, why are you explaining the plot of a teen rom-com to us all?” Pooch interrupted on the comms.
Cougar couldn’t see Jensen from their current positions. They were too spread out, trying to have five men cover as much of the jungle as possible. But he thought the tech was probably rolling his eyes going by the tone of his voice.
“Because it’s a movie classic. And because Heath Ledger was an amazing actor. He’s the best Joker of them all. Sorry Jack Nicholson.”
“Switch to a different channel the next time you want to rant about your angsty teen girl drama,” Roque complained.
“Some people just don’t appreciate romance,” Jensen huffed, “I, for one, would be happy to be serenaded like that. Or to do that for someone that I care about.”
“Alright, fine. But technically we’re not supposed to use real names on here.”
The line went silent for a few minutes after that. Cougar kept his eyes on the surrounding trees, alert for any movement from the terrorists they were tracking. He kept his footsteps light so as not to give away their position. Jensen was right about the no real names, even if they were probably the only ones listening. Cougar wondered about the rest of Jensen’s comments. It did seem like an odd topic to bring up, even for Jensen.
In his earpiece Cougar started to notice a very faint sound. It was so quiet Cougar didn’t even register it at first. Soon he realized it was Jensen singing, only it could barely be called singing. It was more like a whisper.
You’re just too good to be true
Can’t take my eyes off of you
You'd be like Heaven to touch
I wanna hold you so much
The singing in Cougar’s ear was so faint he couldn’t even say if the pitch was good. But since it was Jensen, and Cougar had been wanting to hear him sing again for so long, Cougar stilled his own breathing to try and hear the words. But Jensen was soon interrupted.
“Rogue One, you’re on an open comm line,” Clay barked.
“Sorry boss,” Jensen replied and stopped.
Cougar didn’t know which was more frustrating; that he couldn’t say he had ever heard Jensen sing an entire song properly, or the fact that he couldn’t stop thinking about how much he wanted to hear it.
They made it back to their base camp without a sign of any terrorists and without any more singing. Cougar was disappointed on both counts. Now they had to spend another night in the humid jungle and try tracking the bad guys again tomorrow. Cougar wondered if that meant he would get another chance to hear Jensen sing.
Jensen was sitting at a rickety desk trying to coax more speed out of their satellite signal. Cougar sat down across from him and starting dismantling and cleaning his rifle. They worked together in companionable silence for a few minutes. Until Jensen started humming that song again.
Cougar tried to work silently, hoping Jensen would sing again if he wasn’t bothered. Rather, Jensen noticed the change in Cougar’s behavior and clammed up.
“Sorry, I know it’s annoying to everyone. I’ll stop.”
Cougar wanted to shout that was the opposite of what he thought. He wanted to ask Jensen to sing for him, but didn’t know how to make it sound friendly and casual, and not like something Cougar had been wanting to hear for weeks. Jensen seemed to have some hangups about it, since he brought up the topic on their hike today. Cougar realized he couldn’t make such a request, but that he could let Jensen know he was okay with it and hope a situation came up to ask for more.
Cougar bumped his knee against Jensen’s under the table to get his attention. He smiled softly.
"Me gusta", Cougar said.
Jensen smiled back. He didn’t sing again that day, but as they sat together working on their projects Jensen did hum under his breath once in awhile. Cougar counted it as a win.
Cougar’s tennis shoes pounded against the pavement as he ran. The team gave him hell for actually owning tennis shoes and gym shorts, but it was important to stay in shape when they had any down time. They were holed away in a safehouse in Thailand and had been waiting for orders for over three weeks now. Cougar had started to run every day to stay in shape, and to stave off the relentless boredom.
Cougar slowed to a jog as he neared the safehouse. He wiped the sweat off his forehead, grateful he had pulled his hair back into a low ponytail. It felt good to run, but now he looked forward to taking a shower and washing the sweat from his body. Cougar pulled out his earbuds as he entered the house and walked to the bathroom, but his music was quickly replaced by a voice coming from the shower.
Cougar stopped just outside the door. It was Jensen singing in the shower. It had to be. Cougar knew everyone else had planned to go into town to run errands. The voice coming through the wall was muffled, but Cougar recognized the familiar tone.
Cougar knew it was slightly worrying how obsessed he was becoming about this phenomenon of Jensen singing, but he couldn’t help himself. It had been weeks since Jensen had done more than hum in his presence. Cougar pressed his ear to the door in order to hear more clearly. The singing was muffled by the sound of running water and the wall separating them, but Jensen sounded more confident this time and Cougar could hear most of the words.
I know you haven’t made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong
I’ve known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong
It was a soulful song, about love and longing. Cougar wondered who Jensen could be singing about. Was there someone back in New Hampshire he hadn’t told the team about? Or was he thinking of a lost love from long ago? Cougar’s mind raced while a feeling deep in his gut (that he chose to ignore) told him he already knew the answer.
Cougar heard the water shutting off. He didn’t want to be caught listening. He walked very softly down the hallway, so Jensen wouldn’t hear his footsteps, and went into the kitchen. Cougar got a beer from the fridge and had half of it gone in one long drink, desperate for the buzz of alcohol to take his mind off of Jensen.
“Did you have a good run?” Jensen asked, coming up behind him.
Cougar almost choked on his beer, surprised that Jensen, who was usually so noisy, had managed to sneak up on him. That was hard for anyone to do. Cougar must be more distracted than he thought.
“Sí,” he answered, turning to face Jensen and hoping his voice sounded calm.
It probably didn’t matter what Cougar sounded like because he doubted Jensen was paying much attention. He seemed to be more focused on Cougar’s bare chest, because he had gone running without a shirt. As it was, it took Cougar a moment to notice Jensen staring at him, because he was too busy noticing the way Jensen’s shirt clung to his damp skin.
Jensen was first to notice the impromptu staring contest and tried to brush off his awkwardness by stretching his arms over his head. Cougar noticed he was blushing again. It was dizzying how quickly Cougar felt fondness over that particular quirk. He wanted to reach over and feel how the flushed skin felt under his fingertips. Under his lips. Dios mío, he thought, these feelings were only getting stronger.
“You took a shower?” Cougar asked dumbly.
It was obvious that was what Jensen had been doing, but Cougar couldn’t ask him what he really wanted to. Why Jensen was singing that particular song, and would he please sing it for Cougar sometime? In the shower together would be fine if that’s what Jensen preferred…
“Yeah,” Jensen nodded, interrupting his train of thought, “I think I left you some hot water.”
Cougar nodded, giving Jensen a weak smile before heading to the bathroom. It probably didn’t matter because at this point a cold shower was what he really needed.
Dinner is an innocent meal. Friends have dinner together all the time. There doesn’t have to be anything romantic about it. That was what Cougar told himself when the evening started at least.
The Losers were in southern Guatemala, staying along the coast where the seafood was nice and fresh. Jensen had mentioned that he hadn’t experienced Guatemalan cuisine before, so Cougar offered to take him out and introduce him to tapado, a popular seafood stew.
Going to dinner together was something they had done a hundred times before. But tonight felt different. They were seated at a small table for two, at a quaint outdoor patio with paper lanterns strung all around. A mariachi band was walking around serenading the tables of other couples. Cougar thought he wouldn’t have minded at all if this had been a real date with Jensen.
The waiter came by to take their order. Jensen let Cougar order for both of them. He said he trusted Cougar to know what he liked.
“¿Qué te gustaría?” the waiter asked.
“Estoy pidiendo para los dos. Nos gustaría pedir el tapado y los mariscos a la parrilla. Y él tiene un diente dulce, así que también nos gustaría el Pastel Borracho.”
“¿Qué le gustaría beber?”
“Una botella de vino tinto, por favor.”
“¿Es esta noche una ocasión especial? ¿Una cita?” the waiter asked Cougar, glancing over at Jensen with intent.
“No. Solo somos amigos,” Cougar answered, feeling slightly disappointed.
“Bueno, nunca se sabe,” the waiter replied, “Volveré con tu vino.”
“Gracias,” Cougar thanked the waiter as he left, thinking over the man’s words. He turned back to Jensen who was looking at him intently.
“¿Qué?” he asked, still speaking Spanish, but he knew Jensen understood the simple question.
“You use so many more words when you speak Spanish. It’s just nice to listen to your voice I guess.”
Well, that was the best opening Cougar could hope for to bring up the singing.
“I like your voice too,” he admitted to Jensen, “Especially when you sing.”
“When have you heard me actually sing?”
“Thailand,” Cougar admitted.
“You heard me singing in the shower?”
“Well, that’s embarrassing,” Jensen said.
Cougar prompted him with a simple eyebrow raise, letting his facial expression ask for the story.
“It’s something I used to do when I was in school. I actually enjoyed singing. I wanted to try out for the choir and everything. But I guess that was painting a target on my back. I was already the gangly, nerdy kid,” Jensen said with a sigh, “Some jocks beat me up before tryouts. Cracked one of my ribs and it hurt so bad that I couldn’t sing. I had to miss tryouts. After that, I stopped singing and started lifting weights so they would know not to mess with me anymore. I haven’t really sang for other people since then.”
“I’m sorry Jensen,” Cougar said earnestly.
“It’s okay. It was a long time ago.”
“You could sing for me. Every day and I would not tire of it.”
Jensen smiled. “You sure about that? Every day sounds like a long time.”
“It’s a start,” Cougar responded without hesitation.
They smiled at each other shyly. Jensen took a drink of wine to try and hide his face. He was blushing again, which took on a lovely glow under the soft lighting. Cougar felt his heart thump in his chest.
The moment was broken by the waiter bringing them their food. Cougar let the conversation shift to answering Jensen’s questions about Guatemalan cuisine and listening to him recite facts about other countries signature dishes. The food was delicious and well-seasoned. Cougar was happy he had suggested this night out, for just the two of them. Being in Jensen’s company was always enjoyable and it was a pleasant evening. One of the best Cougar had had in a long time.
As Cougar predicted, Jensen also loved the cake. The waiter brought them a single piece and two forks, giving Cougar a wink as he set it on the table. Cougar let Jensen have most of it because he seemed to enjoy it so much. And because the sight of Jensen pornographically licking syrup off a fork and moaning was more of a distraction than Cougar could have guessed.
It was nice to see Jensen so happy and comfortable. The man was never shy about who he was or what he liked. Except with this singing in front of people issue. Cougar wanted him to know that it was okay to sing and share his voice, but he felt at a loss for words. Suddenly an idea came to mind.
"Amigos!" Cougar called out, motioning to the mariachi band that was walking by.
He stood to talk to them quietly in Spanish, explaining his plan. He could feel Jensen looking at them with curiosity, but he didn’t want to explain his idea to Jensen with words. There was another way to show what he was feeling.
The band knew the song he was looking for, and were happy to help Cougar with his request.
“Cualquier cosa por amor,” the guitarist said.
The band started playing but Cougar remained standing. When it was his cue he started singing in Spanish to Jensen. The lead mariachi singer graciously took the backup vocals.
The look on Jensen’s face was priceless. He looked stuck between shock and euphoria. Cougar knew he had a decent voice. Not strong enough to be considered amazing, but for this simple song it was more appropriate to be subtle. Cougar knew Jensen didn’t understand the words, but Cougar poured his emotions into the song, hoping the meaning would come across. Cougar never let his gaze wander from Jensen as he sang.
Dejo todo por un beso tuyo
Quiero ser tu espada y tu escudo
Decirte que te quiero una vez más
Quiero ser tu alas y tu cielo
The other customers politely applauded Cougar when his song was finished, but he only had eyes for Jensen. He felt the mood had shifted, and it was like they were the only two in existence.
“That was pretty awesome Cougs,” Jensen said, sounding a little breathless.
“Are you ready to go?” Cougar asked, suddenly feeling the need for some privacy.
Jensen nodded. Cougar took out his wallet and placed several bills on the table, sure to leave a very large tip for their waiter and the band. They walked out of the restaurant together, into the warm summer night, where the stars were shining. It was a short walk to the beach. They strolled side by side, taking in the fresh sea air.
“I liked your song Cougar, even if I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know you could sing.”
“From what I’ve heard, you’re even better. I would love to hear some more.”
“You really want to hear me sing, don’t you?” Jensen asked rhetorically, “Well, it’s going to cost you. What have you got?”
“I did pay for dinner,” Cougar teased.
Jensen smiled at him, waiting. Cougar thought of all the moments they had shared these past few months. He thought of Jensen’s singing and the emotions Cougar thought he had heard in those songs. Ones that Cougar was feeling too. Cougar hoped he hadn’t read everything wrong and took a chance.
“A song for a kiss?” he offered.
Jensen stared. Cougar held his breath, but kept his expression calm and sincere. He wasn’t teasing, and he didn’t want Jensen to think this was a joke.
Softly at first, Jensen started to sing. Cougar could feel the joy radiating from his face, and that seemed to be the cue Jensen needed to sing more confidently. His tone was amazing, and even without instruments the song was perfectly in time.
If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
Or the mountain should crumble to the sea
I won't cry, I won't cry
No, I won't shed a tear
Just as long, as you stand
Stand by me
Jensen could have chosen any song, and he chose one that was so full of love and devotion. Cougar felt his heart was thumping wildly in his chest. Jensen did feel the same way about him. Cougar felt a desire to kiss him, regardless of the deal they had made. As soon as the song was over, true to his namesake, Cougar pounced, pulling Jensen close to him and capturing his mouth in a passionate kiss. He tried to pour the same amount of love into the kiss that Jensen had into his song.
Cougar had kissed many people but kissing Jensen felt different. Their bodies fit together perfectly. Cougar leaned into Jensen’s broad chest, and stroked his hands up and down Jensen’s back. Jensen was following Cougar’s lead on the kiss, letting him nibble on his bottom lip and caress their tongues together. Cougar teased his thumb behind Jensen’s ear and discovered that made the other man moan. Cougar filed away that information for later.
After a few moments they needed air and pulled apart reluctantly. Jensen had a brilliant smile on his face. Cougar felt that his own returning smile was so strong it nearly hurt his cheeks.
“Stand by me,” Jensen sang softly, cupping Cougar’s jaw.
“Siempre,” Cougar said, kissing Jensen again.
It was hours before they left that beach.
After Cougar made it clear how much he enjoyed it, Jensen sang more often. Sometimes it was loudly in the shower, showing off his range of show tunes and classic television theme songs. Other times it was when he was being silly and dancing around in his boxers in the living room belting out eighties hair ballads.
But Cougar’s favorite times were when Jensen would sing softly to him in bed. In those moments, lying cuddled close together, Jensen would express himself through love songs both old and new. He even surprised Cougar once, learning a couple lines of a Spanish love song. Though Jensen’s pronunciation was a little off, Cougar was touched by the gesture. Cougar looked forward to hearing Jensen’s beautiful voice while Cougar reciprocated with lots of kisses.
They were still Losers and they still had a dangerous job to do. Cougar knew neither of them were perfect, but it felt like their jagged edges fit together to make a complete whole. And that was something worth singing about.