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está muerto; no está muerto

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They kill Max twice.

The first time they kill him, it's in a very nice hotel in Saudi Arabia.

Clay's sitting on his ass healing up the knife wound in his thigh from the informant they got the info on Max from and the gunshot in his shoulder from the informant's friend who took exception to their methods, so it's Jensen and Aisha who go in with Cougar and Pooch providing cover. Aisha takes out the woman in front of Max, the Sheikh he's meeting with and two of the Sheikh's guards, which leaves Jensen another guard and the kill shot on Max.

Max's dead before the others even hit the ground and Aisha is looking over at Jensen with something like respect.

"Ding dong, the witch is dead," Jensen says, with a maniacal grin. "Can we skip the part where you try to kill us while we get out of here?"

"Shut up," Aisha says, laughing as they run. "It's Clay I'm going to kill, anyway."

She doesn't.

When they get back to their own hotel which is a shitty excuse for a death trap, she looks at Clay for a long moment, rolls her eyes at him when they tell him they got Max and he tenses. "I don't actually like you, Clay," she snaps. "And I don't have any honour. I'll kill a man when he's down."

"So why aren't I dead?" Clay asks, genuinely curious, while Cougar starts checking his wound dressings and muttering uncomplimentary things in Spanish about Clay.

Aisha shrugs. "I've got money but you people are pretty near the only resource I have for going up against Max's people; he had support from a lot of people, and we still don't know what the hell he was actually trying to do."

"As long as Max is dead, what the hell do we care what he was trying to do?" Clay says.

Aisha blinks a little as Jensen starts yelling at Clay. "Are you fucking serious?" Jensen says. "Could you be more of a goddamn asshole American, Clay? Max, probably crazier than any three loonies put together, had his fingers in how many pies, was trying to re-engineer the entire fucking map of the world. Yeah, whatever, maybe we say 'fuck it and peace out, we've done our bit', but: why do we care?"

Cougar smirks a little at Aisha from where he's unwinding the bandages on Clay's shoulder. He always has been possessively fond of Jensen and always smiles like that when Jensen shows more genuine social conscience than any of the rest of them combined. Aisha's not sure where the hell it comes from, but it's refreshing coming from a boy who couldn't be more white if he tried.

Clay heals up and even does his PT. Even when it's Aisha running him through it.

They find out Max is still alive pretty quickly. Rumor's one thing, of course, but Jensen actually manages to prove it after finally getting into a couple of systems he'd been working on as interesting projects for years, and gets his hands on some surveillance video.

Jensen starts yelling, incoherent and furious, when Max shows up on his screen and doesn't stop until Cougar grabs him, lays a finger on his lips. Jensen still looks wild around the eyes but he quiets down under Cougar's hands.

Aisha shrugs. "He's right, we killed him. Unless someone can raise the dead, it doesn't make sense."

It doesn't make sense and it doesn't start making sense, but it means their revenge on the man that burned them has turned to so much dust in their hands. Aisha is just as furious as Jensen that Max is not dead, and finds only cold comfort in watching the Losers lose that which they have struggled for.

They kill Max the second time on an oil rig in the middle of the Persian Gulf.

It's pretty much a suicide mission. It's not just unlikely that they will live, it's unlikely they will manage to kill Max. But they have to try, anyway.

Pooch elects to stay with his family, sensibly. He promises Cougar that he'll look out for Jensen's niece if they don't come back.

Max has learned something since they killed him the first time. He has another woman for a guard, nearly a twin to the woman who was with him the first time, and far more competent mercenaries patrolling. They make it onto the rig and take out a few dozen security, but they get taken anyway, Cougar bleeding from the shot to the gut he took.

Max laughs when the four of them are brought to him; it is not a sane noise. "You killed me," he says as petulantly as a small child.

"Pity it didn't take," Aisha says, and evaluates the woman closely. She will be difficult to take in hand-to-hand; she carries herself like a viper.

"You can't ever really kill America," Max says, brightly. "And I am America."

"Not my America, you fucker," Jensen says hoarsely.

Max bares his teeth at Jensen. "Your America is dead much like, oh, you and your friends. Now, I'm a busy man, so we're just going to have to skip the chitchat. Hope," he says over his shoulder to the woman. "Kill them."

Aisha looks over at Clay; she and Clay move at the same time, a fury of movement that ends with their guards dead, Aisha with their guns, and Clay fighting with the woman. Jensen has taken out his own guard and Cougar's both and dropped back down next to him, hands pressed against Cougar's gut.

Clay will not last long against this Hope but it might be long enough; Max started running when they started moving but he hasn't gotten far. Aisha lays down fire after Max's retreat and follows.

Max goes down in fire and Aisha does not know who threw the grenade, but she does not care. The heat against her face is glorious as she empties her clip to make damn sure this time.

When she looks back, she doesn't see Clay.

"Hey, girlfriend, how about we leave now?" Jensen yells at her, shooting more security with Cougar draped across his shoulder. "Before we all die? Clay's getting the chopper, since none of us want to swim off this rig."

Aisha gets a shoulder under Cougar's other arm and smiles as they run.