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In the Dust

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Jensen says, "Dude, I can hook you up. There's this guy named Joe, and he's willing to shell out the money for a good mechanic."

Roque snorts and says, "Don't trust it."

Clay shrugs and says, "If the money's right."

Cougar flashes Pooch a look that he can't decipher, and somehow, that ends up being the deciding vote. Pooch packs his tools, drives to the strip, and goes in search of a guy named Joe.

"No one called for a fucking mechanic," the lookout says, and Pooch can't blame him. Strangers are always suspect, and Pooch respects that, but he also wants a job.

"Joe," he says.

"No one here by that name."

Arguing isn't going to get Pooch through, so he turns, gets in his car, and drives back to the shop.

"No one knows a guy named Joe," he tells Jensen.

"What a load of crap," Jensen says, and his fingers start flying across the keyboard while Pooch wheels himself under a Ford Civic.


"Okay," Jensen says the next day. "Ask for Joe Collier."

Pooch shoots him a look. Jensen sucks at reading people's faces, so he just stares back. "Are you trying to make me look like a cop?"

"What?" Jensen's eyebrows furrow together. "No one's--"

"Only a cop would ask for someone by name like that. I'm not trying to get my ass whooped for a job, Jensen."

Jensen frowns. "Okay." He straightens and abruptly starts typing again. "Okay. We need another way in."

Pooch sighs. He's not going to argue the 'we' if Jensen manages to get him to the next location and land him this job.


Pooch is skeptical. "No one races there."

Jensen grins. "Which makes it really smart. It's not easy to get into, and this has been so hush-hush exclusive that you're guaranteed a pass!"

Pooch isn't convinced. "Or it's so exclusive that they're going to spot me as an outsider the moment I pull up."

"Look," Jensen says, ever the optimist, "all you gotta do is find this Joe guy and you're in."

"We'll find your body and give you a proper burial," Roque says, and Clay grins as he adds, "No man left behind."

"A vote of confidence would be appreciated," Jensen mutters, and hunches over his laptop again. He shoots a hopeful glance at Cougar. "Cougs?"

Cougar shrugs.


Pooch keeps Joe Collier firmly in mind and hopes that his butt doesn't get rocked over a cliff. The important part is keeping his cool, so he doesn't stop to admire the scenery or ask for directions. He waltzes straight through with his toolbox and makes a beeline for the far end of the lot like he's got a destination. It works pretty well up until someone says, "Hey."

Determined not to panic, Pooch looks over his shoulder and tries to find the voice.

It's attached to a pretty woman with a beautiful smile. Pooch suddenly feels as stupid as Jensen when a lady walks into the shop. Or when some new tech reaches the public.

The point is, he should've said something by now. "Hey," is all that comes out.

He catches a flash of dimples when she laughs. "So is the toolbox just for show?"

Pooch lifts it up, an automatic response. "No. I'm the mechanic." His smooth is going smooth down the toilet if he keeps this up.

"Yeah, I can see," she says.

"Jolly bean!"

The blonde woman who runs up has an accent that Pooch can't quite place. He shouldn't be trying to place it at all. People who can manage incognito and only the most important details, mainly car specs and mods, keep a job like this.

"God, Zoë, you know I hate it when you call me that."

"Bitch doesn't fucking care."

Pooch isn't trying to pay attention, but he can't help but notice the second woman who walks up, and then he goes back to tuning everything out, except names. Zoë's the blonde, Kim's the one with the foul mouth, and Jolene. That's the name Pooch was looking for. She's the one with the beautiful smile.

"Who's this?" Kim asks, and Pooch catches sight of her motioning his way.

"He's the mechanic," Jolene says. He can't help but look at her, and he knows he's been hit when he suddenly has the urge to tuck a lock of her curly hair behind her ear.

So to get back on track he says, "Yeah, I'm looking for Joe. Do you know where I can find him?"

Zoë starts laughing, and Kim snaps to attention with, "Oh no this motherfucker didn't."

Jolene squeezes her arm and puts herself between one obviously pissed off woman and Pooch. He's wondering where the hell he misstepped. Maybe they have some beef, which he certainly doesn't want to get in the middle of. He's just here to do a job and says so to get the air cleared as quickly as possible.

"Joe, huh?" Jolene asks, and then she's gathering up her hair and pulling it back in a ponytail. "Maybe you could help me out instead?"'

Pooch nods and follows her to a Subaru WRX STI. She pops the hood, and he whistles at what he sees underneath.

Jolene laughs. "Treat her right, okay?" And for a gesture so innocent, there's something really damn sexy about the way she runs her hand across the front of the car.


"So," Jensen says, rolling himself, chair and all, across the office. He rams his knee into the corner of the desk, which serves him right for being nosy.

"You okay?" Pooch asks, because he still cares about the guy.

"Yeah, yeah, fine. So." He rubs his knee and Pooch hands the billing off to Cougar, who's got an eye for those details. "I saw you got back late last night."

Pooch tries really damn hard not to roll his eyes. "Never found Joe."

Jensen's face falls, and his eyes start darting over Pooch like he's afraid Pooch has some well-hidden injuries under his coveralls.

"Found someone else," Pooch adds, just so Jensen doesn't go too deep into worry mode.


Pooch nods. He should be embarrassed about the dopey smile that stretches across his face when he says, "Yeah."

"Huh." Jensen grins and wheels back to his end of the office. "I just want to say to all the haters in the bay," he shouts through the window, "that I called it!"

Roque and Clay ignore him, which is exactly what Pooch does, too.


Jolene nudges him with an elbow and has a smile for him when he looks up. "Are you going to stay for the end of the race this time?"

"You want me to?" he shoots back.

She answers with a laugh and then shrugs a shoulder, looking away. "Maybe."

A maybe isn't anywhere close to a yes, but Pooch is on the sidelines when Jolene slides in and pulls the car up to the line. She punches out the second the flag comes down, and Pooch has never been invested in a race before. He doesn't get invested. For him, it's always been about the cars, not the drivers, but he can't deny that there's something really special about Jolene.

Problem is: he doesn't think he's gonna win Kim over any time soon.


"Recommended my ass," Kim says. "That motherfucker doesn't even know who you are."

Pooch takes a second to debate whether he should turn around and head home, but he's got a job to do. One that Jolene is paying pretty well for, even though she's got a solid crew who knows their way around an engine block.

He watches Jolene lean against the car. "He's sweet."

"Is our Jolly Bean in love?" Zoë teases.

Pooch steps forward just as Jolene pushes Zoë away, and she greets him with a smile and a warm, "Hey."

"Hey." Pooch ignores the eye roll that Kim shoots them both.

"Come on, Zoë, let's go."


"Back-cracking slave, bitch, let's go."

Zoë sighs, and Pooch doesn't want to know the details, so he keeps his eyes on Jolene.

"So what's going on today?"

Jolene pets the hood of her car. "Another race. I'm pretty sure I owe you for the work you're doing."

Pooch can't tell her don't worry about it, so he keeps silent instead and motions to the car. "I could do more mods at the shop."

"So you're an official mechanic, huh?"

"I've got the certifications hanging on my wall and everything."

She laughs. "Okay, then." Her arm brushes his as she walks past him. "It'll be the perfect chance to find out what your real name is."


Pooch wants to hide everything he's got, but it's Roque who says, "Don't be stupid," and goes back to working on the Mitsubishi after dosing Pooch with some much-needed sense.

"Most she can do is laugh at you," Jensen says with a shrug. "That's not so bad. I speak from extensive experience, you know."

What Pooch wants to do next is kick everyone out of the shop. One look at Cougar and Clay tells him that's not gonna happen. Jensen whistles when Jolene pulls up in the Subaru.

"Hey," Pooch says when she slides out of the car.

"Hey." She looks around the shop, notices each of the guys and flashes them a smile and a small wave. "So you own the place?"

"It's a group effort." He makes a broad gesture. "We all own it."

Jolene nods. "Better investment that way, huh?"

"Yeah, it's been working really well for the past seven years."

Jolene nods again. "So the waiting room?"

"Uh, yeah." Pooch straightens up and turns, leading the way. "There's some coffee--"

"Freshly brewed," Jensen interjects. "Local grounds. None of that Folgers crap here." And he finally shuts up when Pooch shoots him a look.

Jolene laughs and says, "Thanks. I'm not much of a coffee drinker. Do you have water?"

"Yeah." Pooch fishes out some change from the desk and gets her one from the vending machine.

Her fingers brush his when she takes the bottle from him. "Thanks."

Pooch thanks god that he's got a team behind him for this job. He's got jelly fingers the rest of the afternoon.


The rule's always been don't mix business with pleasure. Clay's the only one who consistently breaks it, and he serves as a lesson of why it's just not done.

So Pooch rationalizes his feelings by telling himself that Clay makes bad decisions. For Pooch, Jolene's the one, and that's why he asks, "So, uh. You free Saturday night?"

Jolene says, "Maybe. Are you free, Mr. Linwood Porteous?" She smiles and her dimples appear.


"Would you like to go to dinner with me? I know this great restaurant downtown."

Pooch isn't sure how his intentions got all twisted around, but the only answer to an opportunity like this is, "Yes, ma'am, I'd love to."


"So," Jensen says, and manages to avoid the corner of the desk this time.

Pooch shakes his head. "It's none of your business, man."

Jensen snorts. "Dude, come on. We all know your date went well. You haven't stopped grinning since you opened up the shop."

Pooch scowls to get Jensen off his back, but as he's locking up, he can feel the ache in his cheeks and knows that Jensen's right. Damn, he's fallen hard and deep.


"Look." Pooch can't help but stiffen when Kim appears out of nowhere. He doesn't know what he did to piss her off so badly since that first meet, but he can respect the fact that she's looking out for her friend. "I'll admit that you know a lot about cars, but you don't know shit about Jolene."

Pooch immediately discards the smartass response he could give and goes with the more neutral and safer, "I'm trying to get to know her."


Pooch nods. He's pretty sure that this was the 'don't break her heart or I'll break your legs' talk. When Kim walks away, he tentatively figures it went well.

Zoë appears next, and Pooch reconsiders.

"Remember how you were looking for Joe when you first came here?" She grins, and Pooch answers with a hesitant nod. "Joe," she repeats. Pooch has learned pretty quickly that sometimes, she doesn't make any sense. She nods to someone behind him.

Pooch glances over his shoulder, and he spots Jolene in the crowd first, swatting some guy's shoulder and shaking her head. Seems like whatever beef they had, she and Joe have worked it out.

"Don't make the same mistake twice, all right, mate?" Zoë pats Pooch's shoulder and walks past him to join Jolene in the crowd.


Jolene's entire face lights up when she wins the race, so he's taken completely off guard when she flings her arms around his neck and kisses him in front of the whole crowd. The whistles go up, but Pooch isn't listening to any of it. The only thing that exists for him right now is Jolene and holding on tight for as long as he can.

"Baby, you were great," he whispers, and tucks the loose strands of her hair behind her ear.

"Yo, Jo, you get him, girl!" someone shouts, and more whistles and catcalls follow.

Pooch looks up, looks around, looks down again. He's really hoping he wasn't that stupid.

Jolene smiles, and it grows wider and wider until she's laughing, trembling so hard from the bright, warm sound of it and getting teary-eyed. "Oh, Lin, you really didn't know?"

All he can do is shake his head and let himself be the butt of this joke for as long as it takes to keep Jolene in his arms like this, looking up at him with those soft-brown doe eyes.

"So is that why—"

Jolene interrupts him with a kiss, this one sweeter, all soft, full lips and the warm tease of her tongue. "This is why I'm letting you take me on another date to make up for it," she murmurs.

It's Pooch's turn to laugh and his turn to kiss her. "You free tomorrow night?"

"Are you?"

"Maybe," he says, but rubs her back and asks, officially, "Will you come to dinner with me, Miss Collier?"

She smiles with her whole face, and Pooch has never seen anything more beautiful in his life. "I would love to," she says.