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Love and Romance (Go Together Like Revenge and Vengeance)

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"Come on, give me an honest opinion here," Clay said. "Too much?"

Jensen grinned. "Flowers, champagne and a card? Who's the lucky woman, and are you sure this one's not going to try to kill you?"

Clay remembered a time when he'd possessed dignity. Pathos. "Aisha."

Pooch guffawed. Clay wished him many weeks of home-leave during which he'd get to change smelly diapers. (Luckily, he knew a guy in a perfect position to arrange just that.)

"All right, so I guess the whole trying to kill you ship's already sailed, huh," Jensen said.

"To be fair, I returned the favor this time. Or we did." Clay still wasn't quite sure how he felt about that. Glad they hadn't succeeded, possibly, but then, what had been the point?

You try to kill me, I try to kill you, and at the end of the day, does it make the sex any less mind-blowing? Might as well not bother, rest up and go shopping for a wedding ring - or some small arms.

"Look," he said, "I just want to try and make this thing work, okay?"

"Yeah." Jensen looked pained. He'd been very quick to forgive Aisha for shooting him in the arm.

Less quick to remind everyone that he'd gotten injured, but then you couldn't have everything. (Well, so people said. Clay intended to give it a go anyway.)

"Too bad they don't make Hallmark cards for that, huh? 'Sorry I killed your dad, let's still be friends'? Something like that."

"I would buy that card," Clay said. "Sadly, I cannot. Hence, flowers, champagne and a generic 'thinking of you fondly' card."

"She'll trash the flowers, rip up the card and break that bottle over your head," Jensen predicted. Clay wondered where Jensen got his intel. It felt uncannily on the mark. "Why not give her a nice gun or something, or a knife? Something useful."

Knives had always been Roque's thing. Clay preferred guns. "I want to try for something normal."

More guffawing from Pooch. Jolene was a wonderful woman. Calling her 'normal' might be a bit of an insult, but in general, Clay felt the term applied.

If he could have, he'd definitely have settled for a Jolene of his own. Someone to stay home and watch the house and do the grocery-shopping. Someone to come home to.

Someone he could depend on to not try to kill him.

You'd think that it wasn't that high a bar to clear. Maybe he was just unlucky. Bad karma or something. The sins of his carefree youth catching up with him.

"Have you tried apologizing?" Jensen asked. "And I'm talking serious groveling here, not just a quick 'and by the way, sorry about that thing I did'?"

"One, I don't think she'd go for it. Two, I don't think I'd go for it. He was a bad man, Jensen."

"It's called 'lying'," Jensen said. "I've been told it can be a really effective means of communication."

Clay sighed. "Never mind, forget I asked. Should have known better."

"We'll put that on your gravestone, shall we?" Pooch said. " 'He should have known better'."


"A romantic, huh?" Aisha said. She was wearing something light and flimsy - very practical, considering the local climate. Clay wondered where she was keeping her guns, knives and other assorted items which she might use to try and commit violence in regards to his person.

Not that she seemed to have much trouble improvising.

His kind of woman, and no doubt about it.

Of course, at one time, he'd considered Roque his kind of guy, so maybe he shouldn't go putting too much stock in his gut feelings. (Then again, what else was there, other than kooky personality tests on the Internet, according to which he was 'very much unlike Tony Stark and somewhat alike to Steve Rogers'? What did that even mean, other than that last time he checked, he wasn't some sort of blonde beefcake?)

"I considered jewelry, but ... " Clay shrugged. "Wasn't sure where I'd find a necklace of human ears in this place."

"There's at least three, and two that do custom orders if the price is right."

"I did not know that."

Aisha chuckled and tipped back the bottle of not-champagne. Clay wasn't sure what it was, other than local and vile. He loved the taste of it on her lips. "I was kidding."

"Now that, I did know." Inflammable as hell, probably. For the sake of everyone in this hotel therefore, it was his duty to see to it that the stuff did not end up spilled all over the floor - after someone'd cracked a bottle of it over his head, say.

Well, it was good to dream big.

"Liar," Aisha said. She sounded affectionate.

Probably a little tipsy. Clay had been told alcohol softened some people right up. "Hey, you want human ears, I'll go and get you some."

"Like I said: a romantic." Aisha shook her head. "I don't want human ears, Clay."

"All right."

"But thank you." She leaned over to kiss his cheek. It felt nice. Kind of normal, like they were tourists or something, enjoying a quiet evening on the balcony of their hotel room.

Like they'd been together forever.

"So, anything else I can get you? Other than Max, of course." Some days, Clay figured he'd be just as happy if he never set eyes on the man again. Delaying the inevitable was a time-honored strategy.

He supposed Aisha was right about him: a real romantic. This right here? He'd take it over revenge any day of the week.

Pity she probably didn't feel the same, but then, in the greater scheme of things, maybe one father weighed a bit heavier than twenty-five kids you'd never met before. Or maybe he and Aisha just weren't that much alike: he, a self-confessed romantic, and she - well. One hell of a woman.

"Anything occurs, I'll let you know," she said.

"Fair enough."