"I have a bad feeling about this," Jensen said.
Clay gave him a bright smile and put on his sunglasses. (Totally cheesy, but somehow, he made it work for him.) "Relax. It'll be fine."
The moment Jensen set sight on their intermediary, he knew it was not going to be fine.
It was a combination of small details. Little things adding up. Like the way the guy just came right out and hugged Cougar as if they were old friends or something.
"Alvarez! Still killing people from a safe distance like a pussy, huh?"
"Excuse me?" Jensen said, because seriously? So not cool.
Cougar smiled a bit. Jensen figured that he was being polite, which was fine - Jensen was all in favor of good manners and playing by the rules and all that good stuff. His darling niece would be provided with a shining beacon of virtue in the form of her uncle, the law-abiding, home-in-time-for-dinner, always-brushing-his-teeth-before-bed government employee. (He still hadn't worked out how to bring up the bit where he went around killing people, but he was sure that he'd come up with something. Maybe when she'd turned thirty. Or never.)
"Hey. What's up? Eliot." Jensen was not offered a manly hug, which was a pity, since it meant he couldn't turn it down with great dignity and a hint of indignation. "Jensen, right? The new boyfriend?"
"New boyfriend?" Jensen echoed. The term implied - well, sure, it wasn't like this was either his or Cougar's first rodeo. Still, like the hug, it annoyed him.
"He's my ex," Cougar said.
"Your ex." So, good news/bad news.
Eliot shrugged. "No hard feelings. Things didn't work out. It happens. So don't worry. Let's just all work together. No need for things to get awkward, right? You seem like a nice guy. Smart."
Some blatant flattery there, Jensen judged. "Thanks. You seem pretty nice yourself."
A lie, obviously. The only thing Eliot seemed was rude. Also, terrifically good-looking, if you liked the type. Jensen didn't. He strictly liked Cougar for his sparkling personality and wonderful sense of humor. What broodily attractive aura with a hint of danger, to say nothing of the slim, hot body? Jensen was far too enlightened to notice such details.
"Do we have a problem?"
Jensen decided he disliked that 'we'. It was an evil 'we'. Suggestive. Insinuating. "I don't know. Do we?"
"I asked first," Eliot said, and then, when Jensen failed to be cowed by that juvenile tactic, "Look, man, I told you: I'm not looking for any trouble here. Me and Alvarez? It was a long time ago. My loss, your gain, right?"
"Right." Jensen could sort of see how the two of them would have fit together.
Eliot nodded, all nice and pleasant. Jensen wondered what sort of face he made when he was about to beat someone up. About the same, probably.
"Right," Jensen said again.
"Um, I'm trying to make a connection here?" Eliot said. "We'll be working together for at least another three weeks, and you're kind of - well, I get the feeling you don't like me."
"What's not to like?" Jensen asked.
Eliot looked like he was trying hard not to sigh. "I don't know, man. You tell me."
"Jealousy?" Jensen suggested.
"I'm not jealous." Eliot's expression was annoyed. "Like I said: me and Alvarez? Ancient history. So what's it going to take to convince you?"
Jensen could have said 'nothing'. It would be more or less true; he knew damn well that Cougar would never - and that was all that should matter, wasn't it? So what if they had a history. So what if Cougar didn't talk about his past much. So what if Jensen looked at Eliot taking someone down with his bare hands and felt a bit outclassed. He had other skills, other qualities.
Eliot was tough, smart, unexpectedly funny sometimes. Like Roque had been, but softer around the edges. Under any other circumstances, Jensen would have been happy to consider him a friend.
As it was: "How about a threesome? For old times' sake?"
Cougar blinked. Jensen wondered if he did, in fact, have a type and 'conveys strong emotions via minimalist body language' was part of that type.
"Hey, don't look at me." Eliot raised his hands. "Wasn't my idea."
"Very mature," Jensen said. He realized that the current situation had a certain potential for awkwardness. Possibly even utter, world-ending disaster.
In a worst-case scenario, he'd have to ask Clay for help. Any bad decision regarding personal relationships seemed far more reasonable with one of Clay's (many, many) bad break-up stories to put them into the proper perspective.
So long as nobody tried to kill anybody else, Jensen figured they were good.
"But you agreed," Cougar said.
Eliot shrugged. "Well, yeah. I mean, I'm not an idiot, am I?"
Make that a certain potential for sappy love confessions and unwelcome reconciliations.
Cougar looked thoughtful. Eliot's expression suggested that he was a menace at poker. Probably cheated, too. Not that Jensen expected to ever meet anyone who didn't. It was part of the game.
"All right," Cougar said. "One time."
"What happened to 'one time'?"
"More importantly: what happened to my pants?"
"What? They were dirty. You're welcome."