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champagne for my real friends

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Jack didn't really have a plan when he went after the Cowboy. It just seemed like a thing he had to do. Maybe a few weeks ago it would have been a "What would Tuck do?" thing, but now it wasn't. Jack Putter knew better now.

Being passive sucked. Jack had 30-something years of experience in that area and it hadn't gotten him shit. Yeah, he knew better.

Except he didn't have more than a month of experience being the New Jack Putter, so he went whipping down the freeway in the convertible, howling along to the radio, and promptly started to panic about his complete and utter lack of a plan.

The limo was about ten car lengths ahead of him; the Cowboy was driving slowly, just riding the edge of the speed limit, so whatever he was up to wasn't going down just yet. They were still heading toward the airport, so Tuck and Lydia probably hadn't gotten suspicious.

Think, Jack, think! Jack flexed his hands on the steering wheel and downshifted. There -- there, the limo was turning, taking the next exit. Jack eased the convertible onto the ramp and followed the limo through a nondescript office park. Okay, if Tuck was able to drag his attention away from Lydia for a minute, he'd notice that they weren't anywhere near the airport.

Jack paused to imagine them, Tuck's big, strong hands tangled in Lydia's blonde hair, her face flushed above the white satin of her dress, blue eyes sparkling, that soft, crooked smile...

No. That was not what he needed to be thinking about now. Ever.

Jack yanked his mind back to the situation at hand. He needed to get the Cowboy to stop driving now, before they got wherever he was taking them, and he needed to do it safely. Non-threatening. Jack Putter could definitely do non-threatening.

Honking the horn, Jack waved at the limo, grinning from ear to ear, trying to look as harmless as possible. "Hey!" he yelled, waving frantically.

The adrenaline kicked in good, roiling his stomach and making his heart pound in his ears. Jack couldn't believe how much he'd missed this feeling.

At first, the Cowboy ignored him, driving steadily through the low, white office buildings. But as Jack kept honking and yelling, he pulled over on the shoulder, a little quicker and rougher than your average limo hack.

The Cowboy opened the limo door slowly, tight smile on his face, still playing the part. Jack tried to catch a glimpse of Tuck and Lydia, but the privacy glass was up. "May I help you?" the Cowboy asked.

"Hey, I just wanted to say hi to my buddy Tuck." Jack cheerfully rapped on the back window. "You see, I'm supposed to be watching his place while he's gone and he forgot to give me the key, so what am I supposed to do? His plants are very sensitive, and if you don't just give them exaaaactly the right amount of water at the same time every day," Jack knocked harder, bruising his knuckles, "they just pfffffft wilt, just like that. Hey, Tuck, old buddy!"

Tuck had opened the window and was peering out with a confused squint. "Putter, this better be important." His tie was gone and his white tuxedo shirt gapped open to reveal a vee of tanned skin. Jack tried not to picture what was going on in there.

As the Cowboy turned to face Tuck, Jack did the only thing he could think to do and literally kicked his ass. He hauled up one foot and shoved as hard as he could, sending the Cowboy into the drivers' side of the limo with a satisfying grunt. Jack elbowed him in the side of the head, hard, before the Cowboy had time to reach for his gun.

Tuck was right there with the program, jumping out of the limo, yelling for Lydia to stay put, which, of course, she didn't, tumbling out of the other door in a flurry of white fabric. Jack punched the Cowboy in the kidneys, sending him to the ground, and grabbed a tiny black handgun out of the Cowboy's shoulder holster.

"What? What? What's happening?" Lydia was yelling, one hand clutching protectively at her stomach.

"Lydia, get in the damned car!" Tuck yelled. "This is not some kind of chauvinist thing; it's the Cowboy and you're carrying my goddamned baby!"

"I'm not an invalid, Tuck," Lydia huffed, but got back in the limo, slamming the door.

Jack and Tuck shared a quick look of relief as the Cowboy struggled in Tuck's arms. "You fools," he sneered. "You have not seen the last of this hombre, I promise you!"

"He might have more weapons," Tuck said. "I'll hold him and you search him." He maneuvered the Cowboy against the car, arms pinned behind him.

Jack nodded, unable to speak now that the moment was over. The adrenaline fled his body, leaving him shaken but thrilled. He did it! He confronted an armed man with nothing but his mouth and a fast car and he did it! He saved them all, again! It wasn't a fluke! This was the new and improved Jack Putter, oh yeah.

He patted the Cowboy down, pulling knives out of his boots and another, larger gun out of his waistband. "I think that's it," he said.

"You had better be sure, little man," The Cowboy singsonged. "Who is to say that I do not have tricks in my sleeve, hmmm?"
"Shut up," Tuck said, slamming his head into the side of the limo. The Cowboy slumped over, unconscious. "Now we just need to hogtie this little cowpoke and we can be on our way." He turned to Jack. "I don't suppose you brought handcuffs?"

"No, I just sort of came without thinking," Jack shrugged, ducking his head.

"And am I ever glad that you did," Tuck said, grinning at Jack hard enough to split his face. "What would we do without you?"

Jack didn't have an answer for that, so he was grateful when Lydia came up to them, bearing strips of torn white fabric. The bottom of her dress was shredded and about eight inches shorter. "Here, tie him up with this."

"Your dress!" Tuck made a face, but grabbed it and wound the shiny fabric around and over the Cowboy's wrists.

"I'm not planning on wearing it again," she said, kissing Jack on the side of the head. "What would we do without you?" she asked, hooking her arm around him and leaning in to press her face against Jack's collarbone. Jack closed his eyes, stealing the moment. He'd earned it.

As Tuck shoved the Cowboy in the back of the limo and locked the doors, Lydia pulled away and caught Jack's eyes. He couldn't help it; she was so beautiful, right there, in the sun, in that dress, and he forgot to look away, to duck his head, to say something dumb and deflect the moment.

"Oh," she said, softly, staring at him with a small, sad smile.

"Oh," Tuck repeated, somehow materializing behind Lydia. "I see how it is." Pained lines creased his face. He put a possessive hand on Lydia's shoulder and drew her slightly away from Jack.

"No, you don't; you don't get it; it's different from that -- I -- " Jack ran his fingers through his hair. "I'd never--"

"I know you wouldn't," Tuck said quietly. "I just--" he bit his lip and swore softly. "I'd hate to lose you over this."

"You're still not getting it," Jack said, and oh shit, was this really happening? Was the new Jack Putter really that brave? He guessed so, because his stupid feet were taking him one, two steps closer to Tuck, and he was hooking his arm around Tuck's neck like Lydia had just done to him, and he was leaning in and kissing Tuck quick, hard, and on the mouth. Not what he had planned. Not that there was a plan. If there had been a plan, it might have involved a manly peck to the temple, like Tuck had given him at the wedding. "Shit," he said, and stepped away.

But he didn't go far, because Lydia was right there behind him, tugging on his hand. "It's okay," she murmured into his ear. "It's okay." Jack turned to look at her, but she was looking past him at Tuck, trying to communicate something by adorably twitching her mouth and rolling her eyes.

Jack whipped around to look at Tuck, who had gone from shocked to amused in about five seconds. "Why don't you get in the limo," Tuck said, with an incredibly winning smile, "and we'll talk about this."

"No!" Jack blurted out, and then clapped his hands over his mouth. Stupid! "I'm, um, going to Egypt."

Tuck furrowed his brow, looking more shocked and confused than he had when Jack kissed him. "Egypt?"

"Yes, I, um," Jack stepped away from both of them and held his hands up. "I love you," he said to Lydia. "And I love you," he said, turning toward Jack. "But I have been -- I've been this guy, okay? I've been someone else's guy -- my boss, my doctor, my -- well, you," he pointed at Tuck. "And now I want to be my own guy, for just a little bit. I've never been to Egypt. I've never been anywhere. I've never been Jack Putter. And Jack Putter has always wanted to see the Pyramids." He scrubbed his face with his hands. "Shit," he said. "I was really sure about this. I never expected--"

"Shhhh," Lydia said, laying her hand on the side of Jack's face. "I get it. We get it. Go." She smiled. "We'll be here. You'll always have a home with us."

Tuck grabbed Jack and pulled him into a rough hug, surprising him with an equally rough kiss, not on the mouth, but on the corner of his eye. "Send us a postcard, buddy," he said. "We'll see you when you get home."

"I won't be too long," Jack promised.

"Take all the time you need," Lydia said, squeezing his hands. She glanced back at the limo. "We should get this asshole back to the police."

"You got that right." Tuck clapped Jack on the shoulder. "Don't be a stranger," he warned, and in his smile was a glint that suggested should Jack try, he would be reminded pretty quickly just how dangerous a team Tuck and Lydia could be, kept too long from what they wanted.

"I won't," Jack called as they climbed into the limo. He waved them off as they drove out of sight. It hurt, but it wasn't the same hurt as when they'd left the wedding. He'd be back. The real him.

Jack climbed into the convertible and grinned as the engine roared to life. He took a pair of sunglasses out of the glove box and put them on. He looked at his reflection.

"Jack Putter machine: Zero defects."