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This Side of Paradise

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"That is a terrible idea," Jensen said. "No, no, a thousand times no."

"You have to be on the island," Clay said. "Because, as you just spent half an hour explaining at great length, you need to be there to clone the whatever-it's-called, should you ever manage to get within fifteen feet of Rile." Clay unconsciously rubbed the scar on his arm Rile's security system had given him the first time they tried to get past it. "And to be on that island, convincingly and unobtrusively, you need a boyfriend. So choose your boyfriend," he said, gesturing at the available company.

Jensen's eyes skittered frantically over the assembled company, looking for a patsy - or, no, substitute, substitute was a better way to put it - because someone else needed to do this. Aisha was out, because - well, because they didn't have any ladies to send with her, and anyway the smiling couples in the pictures of the Really Really Ridiculously Gay Resort brochure were all dudes. So Aisha and a lady was a thought - a great thought, a thought that would occupy him for many future private hours except for the part where Clay and Aisha would kill him together, and then find a way to bring him back a couple of times so they could each kill him separately. But the point was, it was a thought that was out.

And Clay was out, too, since, again, risk of death, this time at Aisha's hands.

Which left only the boyfriend problem. Jensen didn't want to go a gay resort island with Cougar. He'd seen those movies. And his Spidey Sense was tinging. And also, just, no. Unfortunately, his other options were limited and a lot less suitable for the whole boyfriend gig.

"Pooch?" he said desperately.

"Hey, I'm game. If you're sure you won't need rescuing," Pooch said. "I don't want Clay piloting a boat. Remember that time he hit New Zealand?"

"Well, but then - Cougar -" But Jensen knew he was doomed.

It had to be Cougar. Obviously. With the looks, and the skills, and also the looks. And the way there was really no one else, but the thing was the looks. Jensen studied Cougar hopelessly; he was, as usual, being super hot, and also watching them all with the air of vague interest he always brought to planning sessions up until shooting something came into it.

"I'm a really terrible boyfriend," Jensen pointed out. "The last woman who went on a second date with me tried to kill me."

"I think that's why she went on the second date with you, to kill you. I'm not saying you're not a terrible boyfriend," Aisha said, "because you definitely are. But that one time is not a data point."

"Not. Helpful," Jensen said.

Cougar stood up, adjusted his hat, and nodded once at Jensen. "I'm a good boyfriend," he said, and headed for his room.

Jensen stared after him, blinking. "That makes me feel so much better, thanks. Except for the part where it doesn't help at all."

Clay gathered up their briefing papers, brochure included, and patted him on the shoulder. "Cheer up," he said. "Maybe you'll get lucky and you'll achieve your objective the first week." He headed back to what was technically his room, but actually his office, because he sure didn't sleep there.

Jensen stared after his departing back. "The first week?" he said. Aisha shrugged, gave him one of her patented you are supremely pathetic and I could break you with my pinky finger looks, and followed Clay. "Wait!" he called. "No one said anything about multiple weeks! What's wrong with ONE week? Or even a weekend? Are you telling me you think we can't do it in forty-eight hours? I bet we can do it in forty-eight hours. Or less! Rile will be relaxed and alone and we'll be in and out in forty-eight minutes, you watch."

Pooch got up. "Well, so now you know how much to pack," he said. "Get to it."

"I have a raid this weekend," Jensen tried, but no one on the team understood the intense demands of the Warcraft lifestyle.

Pooch just shrugged. "Look at it this way," he said. "What's the worst that could happen?"

"Don't -" Jensen started, but of course he couldn't even overrule Pooch on this one.

"You could have to bang Cougar," Pooch said thoughtfully. "Or -"

"Oh my God, stop -"

"I guess really the worst that could happen is you could bang Cougar, fuck up, get shot." Pooch clapped him on the same shoulder Clay had, so clearly there was a curse on that shoulder, a terrible terrible curse. "But, hey, bright side: if that happens, you'll have a good time, and then you'll never see the bullet coming." Pooch sauntered out.

"This is going to be a disaster," Jensen told the table, since at least it couldn't walk out on him. Then he sighed and went off to pack.


Packing began, of course, with the critical issue of devices, and how many he could take, and how many he'd need (mysteriously, that was always more than the number he could take). That led to Googling. Google was frustratingly unforthcoming on such simple topics as the average number of devices gay men take on long vacations, yielding irrelevant results like how many outfits women wear on vacation on average and vacation tips for single gay men. Jensen read them, of course. Information like that was bound to come in handy.

Some hours passed in the contemplation of all things electronic. Jensen wasn't prepared to say how many. When Clay came in to check on him, he was on his third Red Bull. He had a Kindle in pieces on the floor and three iPads on the bed, and he was digging into an iPhone.

"I thought you said you'd rather die than use - what was your term for iPads, again?"

"Closed boxes! There's no scope, there's nothing for my magic fingers to touch and stroke and tease and - okay, that went to an unexpectedly sexual place, but my point is: there's nothing for me here." Jensen gestured at the technological wasteland in front of him.

"You've already gotten to eighth base with that Kindle," Clay pointed out. "Seems like you're managing."

"I can add a few options, sure, but basically you're sending me in armed with stone knives and bearskins."

"I bet there's a really good reason you can't just bring your regular computer," Clay said.

"I'm supposed to be gay! I'm supposed to be banging Cougar. Would the kind of gay dude who is banging Cougar have decent taste in technology? No. No, he would not. He'd be too sex-addled to rebuild an Ubuntu kernel, for fuck's sake!"

"Riiiiight," Clay said. He shook his head and left.

Five minutes later, Pooch came in carrying two bottles of beer and wearing a grim expression. He kicked the door closed, passed one of the bottles to Jensen, and sat down carefully on the desk, which happened to be the only item of furniture not covered in cheap, gimmicky, uninteresting toys. "Okay," he said. "I'm here, and I'm one hundred percent supportive and all that shit, but don't give me details, you hear what I'm saying?"

Jensen nodded, took a deep breath, and began explaining the fundamental inadequacy of the technology available to him in his new persona.

After a few minutes, Pooch held up a hand. "Whoa, whoa. I don't give a fuck about your feelings about Steve Jobs, man."

"Then why are you here?" Jensen said. "What good are you?"

"Clay said you were having a sexual identity crisis and I should deal with it because I'm a father and it's my job to be supportive and accepting."

"I'm not having a sexual identity crisis, I'm having a packing crisis," Jensen said. "If you want to be useful, stop being supportive and pack my clothes. It's going to take me all night just to get this set up right."

"Right. Great. Good. Out of here," Pooch said, and he was gone.


When they assembled in the living room of the rental house the next morning, Jensen was bleary-eyed and jittery from too much Red Bull, the drink of champions. Clay and Aisha looked tired. Cougar looked like Cougar. And Pooch was grinning so hard Jensen was afraid his head was going to split in half.

"Have a great trip, man," Pooch said sincerely, handing him a carry-on and a wheeled luggage set.

"Credit cards, ID, tickets, papers, maybe read them and memorize your identities before you have to introduce yourself this time," Aisha said, handing each of them an envelope.

"That happened once," Jensen said defensively. "Once!"

"Test," Clay said, and so Jensen shoved in the not-really-iPod headphones, pressed the button on the not-really-iPod, and said, "Hi, I'm about to go on the worst trip of my life, any final messages of cheer for me, Colonel?"

"Get going," Clay said in his ears. Seemed like the system was working okay.

"And don't call in while you're in the resort itself for anything less than an emergency," Aisha said. "Stick to the scheduled check-ins. You'll get overheard. I've been to places like this."

"You've been to gay resorts?" Jensen said. "Because in the interests of information gathering, I really think you should give us full details on your trips. Full details. The fullest."

"Get going," Clay said in his ear, this time louder and meaner.

"Mi corazon," Cougar said to Jensen, and picked up his bag.

They left. On the up side, Jensen remembered to read up on his identity in the airport before they got on the plane. On the down side, all the rest of it.


"You're going to have to take off the hat, you know," Jensen said when the fasten-seatbelts lights came back on. The suit was fine, kind of a weird Westernesque vibe to it, but Cougar made it look good. The hat, though. The hat was a problem.

Cougar took off his hat, looked at it, looked at Jensen, and put it back on. "I wear the hat," he said.

"You have to get in character," Jensen explained. "You have to live the role. You have to - no, this is serious, I've read up on this - you have to sell it. Everything you wear, everything you say, everything you do has to sell the part." Cougar just watched him, unimpressed, so Jensen had to spell it out. "That hat isn't gay," he said.

Cougar turned and looked out the window at the big island they were approaching. So, okay. Apparently that discussion was closed, which was - fine. Cougar just wasn't a giver, obviously.

Five minutes later, Cougar finally said, "I wear the hat."

"Right, you said," Jensen said, twitching. The no-devices part of flight sucked, especially since they'd proven there was no risk from most of them. He was suffering for what amounted to a superstitious belief in fairies or whatever, so he was bored and the victim of injustice. He beat out a little rhythm on the armrest.

Cougar slapped his hand down over Jensen's to make him stop. "No," he said firmly. "If I wear this hat, and I am gay, it is a gay hat," he said.

"Riiiight," Jensen said. "You're really selling the gay to me right here, man. I totally see how you're making that hat gay by extension, with your extreme and serious gayness."

Cougar dropped his eyes, looked down at where his hand was pressing Jensen's into the armrest. He relaxed his hand, took Jensen's, turned it over, and they were holding hands. Cougar was still watching as he stroked one finger gently along the inside of Jensen's wrist, and - okay, yes, Jensen was a man of completely normal proclivities so of course that felt good. He wanted to say as much, but his throat was inexplicably dry, so he swallowed, hard, loud enough for Cougar to hear.

Cougar looked at him, not straight on, exactly, but somehow looking up through his lashes a little, and the look was - well. Cougar had never looked at him that way before, Jensen was sure, because he'd have noticed. "Uh -" Jensen said, and then completely failed to come up with anything to follow that.

"Yes?" Cougar said, and licked his lips. Jensen found himself following the movement, and, okay, no. No.

"That is - I - the finger touching, the looking, whatever, I'm a, a, a flexible guy, I can take - I can handle - it's fine, but the lips are too much. Over the line. Not crossing the line, crossed it, way over, just -" Jensen seriously had no idea what was even coming out of his mouth.

"Okay," Cougar said. He stopped stroking Jensen's finger, which was good, because it'd be forty-eight hours before they checked in with the team, and Jensen was sort of nominally approaching the verge of having to have that supportive talk with Pooch after all.

"Good," Jensen said. "I'm glad we understand each other."

"The hat?"

"Jesus fuck, yes, fine, the hat, I'm good with the hat, don't want to impugn the hat, wear the hat."

"Thank you," Cougar said politely, and returned to his book, something called El libro del arena.

Jensen wrapped his hands around the armrests and tried to go Zen, do a little sitting meditation, get in touch with his inner Jensen for the rest of the flight. Or as long as he could stand, anyway, which turned out to be about 45 seconds.


There was the plane trip and then the helicopter trip and then they were at the Really Really Ridiculously Gay Resort. They were given random shells on a string, and they got introduced to a whole bunch of staff members for reasons Jensen didn't entirely process, and then he and Cougar were alone. In their cabin. On a gay resort island.

Jensen looked around the room and realized he'd made yet another decision without thinking it through. There was the giant hot tub on the - deck, maybe verandah, whatever, the outdoor thing made of wood. There was the giant tub, plenty big enough for three if they were friendly, next to the bathroom. There was the bed. The lone bed. It was king-sized, sure, but it was still - a single bed. For him and Cougar to share.

The last time they'd shared a bed, it had been in a fleabag motel in Uyuni, and Jensen had mostly been grateful for the body heat. Now. Now it was in a different context, and Jensen hadn't really been in this context enough to know for sure what it was all about.

Jensen hadn't let Peter and Marcy and Francis take his bags from him, although they'd wanted to, but Cougar had, and his things were neatly put away, leaving plenty of space for Jensen's stuff. Jensen heaved his duffle on the conveniently-provided little luggage shelf thing and unzipped it. And froze.

Thirty seconds later, Cougar walked noiselessly over to stand before him. "Problem?" he asked.

"Pooch is a sick man. A sick, cruel man. A terrible man," Jensen said. "I - I asked him for help, I extended my hand for help, and he gave me this." He gestured at the bag.

"You let him pack for you?" Cougar said. He walked away, shaking his head. It just stung to know that not only had Pooch betrayed him, but also Cougar was acting like it was Jensen's fault.

Jensen sighed and started unloading his clothes. Pooch had either gotten his sizes wrong or wanted him to be uncomfortable for the entire trip; all the jeans and t-shirts were too small, and three-quarters of the t-shirts were pink. There was one with little purple hearts on it that Jensen was pretty sure was designed for a preteen girl.

Pooch had also packed three Hawaiian shirts, all in extreme floral patterns, a pair of white pants Jensen couldn't in a million years fit into, and the smallest square of fabric Jensen had ever seen masquerading as a swimsuit. That didn't even get into the underwear. And given the state of that, Jensen was probably lucky his pants were all so small he'd have to go commando.

Under the underwear, he found a very large box of condoms. A box that contained more condoms than Jensen had used in the past - oh, no reason to count the years.

"My wrath is mighty," Jensen informed Cougar, who was salting the room with knives. Cougar looked up at him, nodded once, and went back to taping a knife underneath the bedside table. It was nice to be appreciated by someone.

There was one item left in the bag - so, good to know Pooch expected him to wear nothing to bed, given that he hadn't included even one pair of comfortable boxers - and Jensen eyed it with trepidation. "I'm qualified on fifty-four weapons. I can hack a mainframe in the time it takes most people to tie their shoes. I've taken fire on every continent except Antarctica. I am motherfucking badass," he informed the duffle.

Out of the corner of his eye, Jensen caught Cougar making a tilty hand gesture. "I am a motherfucking badass," he said, because, come on: certified badass in seven separate MMORPGs, one of which just happened to be real life. "And that's why I'm not afraid to open this toiletry kit. I'm not afraid, and I'm about to open it." He stood there, working up to it, getting ready, and then Cougar came over, picked up the kit, and unzipped it.

"Hey!" Jensen said. "I was preparing to work my magic."

Cougar rolled his eyes and started taking things out of the bag. Shampoo. Conditioner. Jensen could tell just by looking that they'd both smell flowery. A little tub of something, and four little bottles, and a razor. Then Cougar reached in and pulled out the largest container of lube Jensen had ever seen. He looked at it, looked at Jensen, raised his eyebrows, and put it back in the bag.

"Pooch packed this, not me," Jensen said, but Cougar was already across the room, checking sight angles on the windows, which was ridiculous; he hadn't even been able to bring a gun.

"My life is hard," Jensen said. "Good thing I'm harder."

"Clearly," Cougar called from across the room, finishing with the world's most ridiculous obscene hand gesture.

Things might have started to get uncomfortable at that point if there hadn't been a discreet knock on the door. The staff member smiled at them and said, "I'm Matthew. Welcome to Vanahatula."

"Well, thank you, Matthew. I'm Jake and that's Carlos," Jensen said, looking at the basket Matthew was carrying. Big enough to hold a lot of explosive, or any number of weapons, but, bright side: too small to conceal even a really tiny assassin.

"This is a welcome gift, from us to you. I hope you enjoy your stay," Matthew said, very sincerely, and handed Jensen the basket. "Will you be dining in your room tonight?" He leaned in and smiled, looking straight into Jensen's eyes.

Jensen stepped back a little and looked over at Cougar, who nodded slightly. "Yeah," he said.

"Wonderful. What time may I serve you?"

Jensen blinked at the wording before saying, "Uh. Seven."

"Very good. The kitchen is fully aware of your dietary preferences, but if there's anything special you'd like for your first night here, please let me know." Matthew paused invitingly, but the only Jensen really wanted was a decent internet connection, and he already knew this island was limited to 320 kbps, like they'd gone back in time or something. Plus, Matthew really seemed to be offering something else, here, and Jensen - didn't know exactly what to do with that. Cougar did, though, obviously. Matthew glanced over at him, and it was like a whole different Matthew who stood up straight and said, in very professional tones, "Then I'll see you at seven. Just touch two on the phone if you have any questions or concerns." And then he was gone.

As soon as the door closed behind him, Jensen was checking the basket. Covered in crinkly wrapping paper, which could hide anything. It didn't tick, it didn't feel inordinately heavy, it didn't smell funny. He shrugged, took the knife Cougar was holding out, and cut it open.

"Oh sweet Jesus yes, I have been a good boy," Jensen said, because he knew alcohol when he saw it. Alcohol and chocolate: it was like someone somewhere wanted him to be happy. Admittedly, two bottles of wine wasn't going to do much, but he was willing to take what he could get.

Cougar studied the labels before handing one of the bottles to Jensen. He pulled out the corkscrew, opened the other one, and took a long drink before handing it over.

Jensen considered making Cougar use the provided glasses, because for once they had the opportunity to be classy and it would probably never come again. But then, they were still Jensen and Cougar, the dudes who bet on the number of people who would piss on the side of a given building during a single surveillance shift, so it was probably not worth making the effort.

"We gotta be true to ourselves, man," Jensen said to Cougar sincerely, as Cougar opened the second bottle.

Cougar tilted the bottle at him in salute and took another long swallow. Jensen watched his throat, his neck, his Adam's apple bobbing, and didn't really think anything at all.

Ten minutes later they opened bottle number three.

They drank the rest of the wine. Then they checked out the room amenities until dinner came, with four glorious courses - Jensen wasn't entirely sure what the yellow mousse thing was, but he was totally prepared to marry it - and more wine. Much more wine. And after that, the hot tub.

By then, Jensen didn't even care that his swimsuit was more obscene than nudity would be. He just put it on and jumped in to the hot tub, noticing only slightly too late that there was a perfectly serviceable ladder. Thing. Way in. And then Cougar arrived, wearing a swimsuit obviously more comfortable than any of Jensen's current wardrobe options, really just black lycra shorts, basically. Black lycra shorts that did nothing to hide - to hide Cougar's anything. Jensen found himself staring. When he finally jerked his eyes up and away, Cougar was watching him thoughtfully.

"What?" Jensen said defensively. "You've got - you've got stuff. You put it out there, people look at it, that's how it goes."

Cougar nodded like Jensen had something really interesting, instead of just pointing out a fact Cougar presumably had to live with every day of his life. "You look at all the boys that way?" he asked.

"Well, no, just -" and Jensen seriously could not figure out why he was still talking, when surely a merciful god would have taken him out with a tranquilizer dart or something by now "- I mean. You have, you are - you're a fucking god, man, of course I'm looking at you, what do you take me for?" And maybe it would be a good idea for Jensen to just drown himself in the hot tub if that was what it took to make his mouth stop moving.

Cougar nodded again. "Okay," he said.

"Okay what okay?" Jensen asked. He was pretty sure the only question he'd asked couldn't be answered with "okay." He - he'd had some choice adult beverages, definitely, but he wasn't drunk, not enough to be skipping out on parts of the conversation.

Cougar smiled at him, and it was a different smile, and suddenly he was closing in on Jensen and fuck, because - because Cougar. And closeness. And it wasn't like Jensen hadn't been close to Cougar before, because obviously that wasn't the case, but this closeness had a different tone to it, a different quality, and whatever it was, it kept Jensen still and stunned as Cougar picked up his left hand and licked along the pads of two of his fingers.

"Wow, okay, hello, um -" Jensen's hand usually wasn't this closely connected to his dick even when he was jerking off, holy shit. And then Cougar sucked two fingers into his mouth, and Jensen moaned, and then. Yeah. That was pretty much - yeah.


Jensen jerked awake the next morning. Naked. In bed. With a teammate. A very naked teammate, who - who he'd done stuff with, not that he was ever thinking about that again, because that way led to screaming and shooting and not being on the team anymore or maybe not being alive anymore. He opened his mouth, remembered in time not to make the slightest noise, and hauled ass off the bed.

Ill-advised sex apparently turned him into some kind of stealth god, though, because Cougar generally slept on high alert even when he was on the really good painkillers, but he didn't so much as blink open an eye as Jensen - well, you couldn't call it running. Not really. Not sauntering, no, but definitely a dignified walk. Anyway. As he did that into the bathroom.

Jensen pissed, trying very hard not to think about the flaky white stuff - oh god, Cougar's come - dried on his stomach. After that, he spent some quality time with the utterly ridiculous shower, which had eight heads and two different movable arms and a big stone bench and a steam setting and was basically a place Jensen would choose to live were it not for the inevitable pruning. Ten minutes of jets of water hitting basically every part of his body simultaneously relaxed him, got his brain really working, and the result was a plan. An excellent plan. A plan to deal with this whole Cougar sex thing without the going down in the flames - complete with disaster, screaming, and few and traumatized survivors - that were both his birthright and his history. He called it Operation Platonic.

It was simple. He'd pretend it never happened, pretend he'd never had a slight slip over the line that divided the gay side of the force from the completely straight one that was Jensen's natural, normal milieu. He'd be professional, Cougar would follow his lead, they would accomplish a picture-perfect op as soon as Nathan "My Middle Name Isn't Paranoia Which Is Ironclad Proof That My Parents Weren't Psychic" Rile showed up, and then they would return to the team, where any leftover weirdness would go unnoticed in the massive weirdness that surrounded and penetrated and bound the Losers together.

Jensen paused and made a mental note to check his speech for unfortunate words like "penetrate" for the next little while, even though obviously giving up Star Wars references would be like giving up oxygen.

He'd be fine. They'd be great. They could put this shit behind them.

Probably he should avoid "behind," too.

Did totally straight dudes think this much about gay sex? Well, presumably, since Jensen always had.


By the time Cougar woke up, Jensen was set up in the living room area. He had computers on both sides of him on the couch and their identity papers spread all over the coffee table. He was an impervious wall of professionalism, basically.

Cougar wandered in wearing just boxer shorts, stretching and yawning and somehow still, God damn it, unfairly attractive. No one should be hot immediately after waking up; it wasn’t fair.

And, right, he was supposed to be thinking heterosexual thoughts. Oops.

Cougar came over, and Jensen braced himself for - whatever, a kiss or something - but instead Cougar checked out the setup.

Then he checked out the sight lines from the wall of windows opposite Jensen.

Then Jensen hurriedly adjusted his screens and picked all the papers back up. Maintaining security was way easier in fleabag motels than luxury fucking resorts. "Shit, why do they even have all these windows, it's like every peep show I've ever been to except the call is coming from inside the house," he said.

"You go to peep shows?" Cougar said, amused, and headed over to the phone. As always, his phone manners were probably most kindly described as to the point, but apparently around here that got you places, since some lady showed up like fifteen minutes later with a giant sprawling breakfast. Coffee and tea, and obviously the coffee was the critical point, but the food was also excellent: crisp hot waffles and fluffy scrambled eggs and like fourteen kinds of fresh fruit, three of which Jensen couldn't identify, and sausage that made Jensen want to personally kiss whatever animal it came from full on whatever that animal used for a mouth.

"What animal does sausage come from?" Jensen said. "Is there some magical sausage creature in the world?"

Cougar leaned over, speared one of Jensen's sausages from off his plate, and bit into it. "Pig." He shrugged. "They aren't magical." Then he finished off the sausage.

And the thing was - well, obviously Jensen had some kind of temporarily crossed wire in his brain, probably caused by some secret pink kryptonite field installed in the basement of the building or something, because Cougar + sausage was an equation that currently led to dangerous results in Jensen's brain. Jensen kind of lurched into speech as a result. "So what's on the program for today? I know my friend and yours, Mr. Howard Hughes Mark II, isn't supposed to be showing up until tomorrow morning at the earliest and that fucker is never on time -" and Jensen had more words, but Cougar was holding up a sheet of thick, creamy paper with the resort's logo. It was, according to the header, a Customized Pleasure Itinerary.

Cougar was pointing to the line that said "His and His Massage."

Jensen sighed.


Jensen was new to the massage thing, but he was a little surprised that the dudes with the magic hands did it in their cabin. Like, wasn't this supposed to happen in a place of healing somewhere, with maybe some weird chemical smell in the air and scary nurses everywhere? Jensen's past medical experiences - and he was definitely classifying this as a purely medical experience - had happened in places like that. Or, okay, more commonly while he was on his back in the mud, or under inadequate cover taking heavy fire, but the best medical experiences, in terms of overall access to good painkillers, had happened with smells and nurses.

Not this time. These dudes showed up with their weird portable tables with holes in them, and their weird scented oils, and their weird towels (technically the towels were only weird by association, but Jensen was prepared to count it), and invited Jensen and Cougar to make themselves comfortable before leaving.

Jensen looked at Cougar. Cougar grinned, stripped, and climbed up on the table, sprawling out face-down in what could only be described as "all his glory." Jensen stared at him, or at least the visible parts of him, for maybe five seconds longer than the acceptable heterosexual limit, and then took off his own clothes and climbed onto his own table, which somehow felt a lot clumsier than Cougar made it look.

A few minutes later, the massage dudes came in - and this was just inherently wrong, they were both essentially blind and no one was watching their six - and started working.

Ten minutes later, Jensen didn't care if he ended up with a knife in his back. He was floating on a cloud of dreaming dreaminess and moaning and maybe drooling a little. Time passed hazily, and when the dudes left, carrying their tables with them, Jensen could only smile helplessly at everything - the room, the weird art all over the walls, the bowl of fruit that kept getting refreshed even though they never left the room, Cougar.

Cougar smiled back, slow and lazy and sexy and - shit.

"I, uh, I might be allergic to that oil," Jensen said. "I have very sensitive skin. So I'm gonna shower now, before I break out in giant hives that will stop me from fulfilling my 100% professional responsibilities here during this non-vacation." And he bolted.

The problem with Operation Platonic, Jensen realized in the shower, was that Cougar didn't appear to be on board with it. Well, that was one of the problems. The other one was that parts of Jensen were way, way too okay with that.


The next problem with Operation Platonic came to the fore immediately after the shower, when Jensen came out to the living room area - fully dressed, thank you, he wasn't new - and Cougar stared at him, eyes narrowed. Jensen completely recognized the expression from years of watching Cougar study the terrain, looking for the perfect point to set up, analyzing flight paths and weaknesses and access points.

Jensen didn't have a flight path, but he did have weaknesses. And they'd basically proven he had access points - and, whoa, that sent him a jolt of a flashback, Cougar sliding his fingers into Jensen's mouth before wrapping his hand around Jensen's dick and right, right, heterosexual thoughts. Jensen blinked back to the room to find his face faintly warm and Cougar maybe fifteen inches away.

Jensen yelped, jerked backwards, and tripped over the couch; he managed not to brain himself not with his obviously exceptional dexterity but by, basically, being really close to Cougar, who caught him and angled him so that he fell into rather than behind the couch. Cougar settled him, eyed him like he was waiting for Jensen to do another trick, and then sat on the couch next to him.

"We need to talk," Cougar said, and no no no, that wasn't fair, not at all.

"You never want to talk," Jensen said, betrayed. "We did that entire road trip from La Chorrera to Valledupar and you said seventeen words. And ten of them were to the dude you shot outside Monteria. The entire time, you acted like your mouth was glued shut, but now you want to talk? Now, when I am counting on your natural reticence to allow me to pursue a very reasonable strategy of denial and evasion, and, shit I wasn't supposed to be saying this out loud. Why am I still talking?" Jensen eventually managed to get his mouth shut, though way, way, too late, and he turned to stare at Cougar accusingly.

Cougar looked less amused than he normally did in the face of Jensen's failures to control his mouth. "We didn't need to talk in Colombia," he said. "Now we do."

Jensen slumped back on the couch. "Why?" he said, talking mostly to the ceiling, even though, seriously, if there was any kind of God he was clearly playing some hideous game with the Losers in general and Jensen in specific. "What could there possibly be that talking could make better? We had sex, okay, and it was excellent sex, but I don't know about you, but I'm not ready to lose my job or my life for even really great sex. I don't know, maybe this means I'm less than a man or something, but I hate getting shot and I hate getting left behind, and I just don't think there's a blow job good enough to make up for that."

Cougar considered. "Getting shot?" he finally said, in the same tone he used to check key details in complicated operational plans.

"That's how this ends, Cougs, you know that. It ends with someone getting shot, and given our relative track records, okay, I am no slouch with a gun, but I'll never even see it coming. You'll kill me in my sleep."

"I never shot anyone I dated so far," Cougar said after a moment of careful thought.

"I don't want to be first," Jensen said. "And before you point out there's other options, let me remind you that the other ones aren't better. Do you think I'm going to somehow find another rogue mercenary team to take up with? One that is actually competent and in no way affiliated with those creepy government freaks and that will value my amazing skills enough to put up with my less useful habits? I want to keep my life. I want to keep my team." Jensen waved his hands in a way that sort of indicated their current hideous mission and also pretty much encompassed their entire lives to date; Jensen fucking rocked hand gestures, okay.

"You go from sex to death and abandonment." Cougar sounded genuinely confused, like that wasn't the perfectly normal association that all perfectly normal people had.

"Who have you ever known who had sex that didn't lead to bloodshed?" Jensen said. "Right, I know, Pooch, but Pooch is the outlier here, he's some kind of freak of nature. Or maybe Jolene is, I think it's Jolene. Whatever. Clay. Roque. Me. My sister. My parents, my fucking parents, holy God. There's sex, and then comes a lot of yelling, and then someone pulls a gun or a knife or the police get called or I get packed into a car in the middle of the night wearing only a t-shirt and the next thing I know I've got a new name and I'm living in New Hampshire. Who doesn't have that happen?"

"Me," Cougar said, competently navigating what even Jensen could tell hadn't been his most coherent sentence ever. "My parents. My sisters, my brother. The people I knew in high school. And Basic. Mostly."

"Great, so you grew up in Perfectville, population: all kinds of awesome healthy people with healthy perfect lives." Jensen rolled his eyes.

"No," Cougar said, and his voice was still perfectly level, but it made Jensen flinch because that, that was the sound of angry Cougar. "It was not perfect. There were many problems. It was normal."

Jensen took a deep breath and tried to break through Cougar's rock-hard skull without pissing him off more. "Right, okay, fine," he said. "I'm glad you know what normal looks like, but me? I've never seen it, and I sure can't do it, and I can't - seriously, I can't go down this road with you. I'm okay with bleeding, I'm not okay with bleeding out." And Jensen was suddenly done with the conversation, done in the way he got where he had lots more to say but was all out of motivation to say it. "I'm going for a walk," he said, standing. "And when I get back, we're going to fucking fake that we don't want to fuck each other until we actually don't want to fuck each other, because as much as I might want to go down that road, like I said, I don't want to die there."

And he got up and left the cabin, heading out to the beach, which remained perfectly, gleamingly gorgeous even though any reasonable weather system would pour with rain right now. Fucking South Pacific.


Jensen walked - okay, more ran - all the way around the beach to the main house, where there were rooms for people who didn't have cabins and where they did the welcoming and also the fine dining experience, as the brochure had put it. By the time he got there, he was winded and sweaty - fucking barefoot runs on sand, the absolute worst, he'd almost died in sand more than once and it was pretty much one of his nightmare death scenarios - and really in need of a beverage. And hey! Right there, a big house full of people who wanted to get him what he needed.

When Jensen bellied up to the cabana-bar-thing near the giant pool-waterfall complex, the dude behind it smiled like he'd just been waiting this entire time hoping Jensen would drop by all sweaty and disgusting and ask for water and something cold and fruity, because if ever there was a place where no one was going to mock him for his love of girly drinks, this was that place.

Three minutes later, Jensen had his water, plus a giant glass filled with icy fruit glop in a variety of colors - the yellow layer under the pink layer under the red layer, topped by a stick full of fruit and an umbrella. He took a deep, appreciative sip of the fruity sunset, turned around, and almost walked right into Nathan Rile, all 5'3, 117 pounds of him.

Jensen took a hasty step back, spilling glop on his hand, and tried to inconspicuously inspect the situation. He was hoping against hope, but usually wherever Rile was, you found - and, yup, there he was, Ibrahim Perrault, Rile's bodyguard/constant companion/whatever Aisha's stupid theory was. Rile stepped carefully five exact feet away from Jensen and Perrault conferred with the bartender for a minute, giving Jensen a chance to check out Perrault's body with a lot more detail than they'd ever gotten before. Perrault was wearing only a tiny white swimsuit that seemed to glow against his dark skin, somehow drawing attention to every single one of his amazingly defined muscles, and now that Jensen was looking, he could see the scars, too, which only made him - damn it, it only made him hotter.

Heterosexual, heterosexual, heterosexual, Jensen chanted to himself.

When Jensen managed to tear his eyes away, Rile was giving him a narrow-eyed look. Jensen tried for the harmless smile, always step one in Operation Ingratiate, and Rile's eyes got narrower. "Mine," he said, jerking his head toward Perrault. "And I don't intend to share with you."

While Jensen tried to decide whether he wanted to take offense at that or not, Perrault finished at the bar and turned around holding two beers, still unopened. Perrault opened them both, handed the opener back to the bartender, and gave one to Rile with a smile that could only be described as - fuck. As loving.

Soooo. Looked like Aisha won the "Is Rile Fucking Perrault?" pool, pretty definitely, and Jensen needed to use this opportunity to close with the target. Except Perrault was between Jensen and Rile, and he was looking up at Jensen, looking him up and down like Jensen was the target.

"Good day, mates," Jensen said, hoping his Australian accent would pass muster, and got the hell out of there. He wandered around the pool area, hanging out just long enough to see Rile and Perrault disappear down a path labeled Noni Cabin - Jensen and Cougar were in Cherimoya Cabin - and then he headed back to the cabin by the short route along the path.

When he got there, okay, it could have been awkward, but he had big news. He opened the door, found Cougar sitting on the couch exactly where Jensen had left him, and said, "Rile is here with Perrault. As in here with Perrault. As in Rile is banging Perrault like a screen door."

Cougar thought about that. "Shit," he said. "We owe Aisha $700."


Rile had been a disgustingly difficult target from day one, which was the day Clay got nailed by his home security system while just casing the perimeter. Jensen still thought that was a violation of some kind of law, but apparently in Brazil they didn't give a shit about innocent bystanders. The idea inherent in Cougar and Jensen's Big Gay Vacation had been to get Rile somewhere away from his security team, his dogs, his technology, his cameras, his tripwires, his explosives, and, of course, Ibrahim Perrault.

They'd managed everything but getting him away from Perrault, and yet things weren't all that much easier.

Cougar and Jensen started the op by attempting to case the perimeter. Jensen put on his not-really-iPod-headphones and wandered down the beach toward Noni Cabin, singing loudly, because he had been blessed with the gift of music and it was only right to share it with the world. And since Cougar was monitoring remotely, well, he had to give the dude something to listen to.

He did have to climb over some kind of gate or fence or something, but that seemed like no big deal - just a rustic gate - until about a minute later, when he was assuring the world that he's saving all his loving for someone who's loving him, and a giant hand planted on his chest brought him to a stop.

Jensen pulled off his headphones and gave Ibrahim fucking Perrault a big smile. "Hey, mate," he said, remembering to hang onto the Australian accent. "How's the barbie?" Jensen took a moment to wish he'd actually seen all of Crocodile Dundee.

"Private beach," Perrault said. "No admittance."

"Just doing a circuit. Because, you know, circuit training, it's the latest thing in - uh, Woolydong, where I'm from. Mate."

"No," Perrault said, and folded his arms in a way that made the muscles in his biceps disturbingly obvious.

Jensen looked at those arms for a few seconds, and then he looked all the way up to Perrault's set, grim face, and he realized he could hear Clay's voice in his head, yelling ABORT ABORT ABORT. "Toodle-pip, matey," Jensen said, and headed back the way he came.

"No go," Jensen said when he got back to the cabin, but Cougar obviously already knew that, because he was kicked back on the sofa with a tiny smile on his face.

"Toodle-pip?" Cougar said, and something weird was happening to his face, like a smile, but with - extra parts.

"It's a thing that they say in Australia," Jensen assured him loftily. "I know, because I've seen almost all of Crocodile Dundee, which is an awesome movie that was clearly lacking in your history."

"Seen it," Cougar said, and damn, that wasn't fair. "Why Australia?"

"Well - you know, cover." Cougar nodded. He was smiling all weirdly, and it was throwing Jensen off. "I was thinking fast, back there at the pool bar, and I thought - what's totally unsuspicious? Australians. You never see Australians doing anything bad. And they're really polite."

"That's Canadians," Cougar said.

"No, trust me, I spent four years living in New Hampshire. Canadians are rude motherfuckers." Jensen paused, and then, in the spirit of full accuracy, added, "Okay, one Canadian was a rude motherfucker, but trust me, she was really rude. No country could call itself polite with a citizen like that."

Cougar shook his head like he couldn't entirely believe it. Then he waved it off. He got up, walked over to the little mini-bar-esque thing, and opened a bottle of water that he handed over to Jensen, which was a little weird, but Jensen was thirsty, and Cougar was a thoughtful guy. Jensen nodded his thanks, took a big swallow, and said, "Okay, next plan?"

Cougar looked at Jensen, waiting. Riiiight. The plan guy was still back at the base, probably having a lot of hot sex with the plan girl. But that was fine, Jensen could step up. "Uh," he said, his brain spinning. "Well, okay," he said. "Sooner or later, they have to leave the room, and that's when - I better break in." Cougar raised his eyebrows. "Perrault doesn't like me much," he said honestly. "Some people I just don't hit it off with, and Perrault is clearly one of those people, and frankly I think he's going to be keeping his eyes out for me. Whereas you will be able to be - wherever they are - and keep a subtle eye on them, and, uh, a word of advice: don't ever look like you're checking out Perrault, Rile doesn't like it."

"Uh-huh," Cougar said.

"I wasn't actually checking him out! I mean, yeah, he has pecs and abs and glutes like you wouldn't believe, but I was just wondering how the fuck much time he put in at the gym to develop his manly physique," and okay, time to change the subject, Cougar looked amused again, "but anyway my point is that Rile is a suspicious motherfucker, which we know, and you don't want him to think you're checking out his lady. Dude. You know what I mean."

Cougar nodded encouragingly.

"So now we just need to know when they'll be out of their room," Jensen said.

Cougar tilted his head. "Leave it to me," he said. He walked across the room, picked up his wallet, and pulled out a big sheaf of money.

So. Good. Jensen could leave this to Cougar.


"Two days," Jensen said. "Two days?"

Cougar shrugged. "He said he'd tell me if they came out sooner."

"What are they going to do in the cabin for two fucking days?" Jensen said, and then wished he hadn't, because Cougar just looked at him and smiled. "They could do that at home," he pointed out. "Why come to a fucking island just to - fuck? Okay, that sentence could have ended better, but you know what I mean."

"More romantic," Cougar said, and walked off into the kitchen area.

Jensen stared after him, his brain honestly locking up on all the things he needed to say, and as soon as Cougar came back he just started sharing: "First let me point out that we're talking about Perrault and Rile - a paranoid data-hoarding computer freak and his gigantic bodyguard slash lovemonkey, not, like, William and Kate, here. And this is banging, not hearts and flowers and, and Barry White and chocolate or - whatever. And -" he trailed off, because only hand gestures could express how tragically deluded Cougar was.

Cougar looked at him for a long, thoughtful moment. "You don't know much about romance," he finally said.

"I've seen the movies," Jensen shot back.

Cougar walked off again, this time to the bedroom. He came out a few minutes later wearing the hat, of course, but different jeans and a threadbare greenish t-shirt that he'd apparently painted on. Jensen stared at his pecs through the shirt, remembering - he'd been running his fingers along those abs, and then Cougar grabbed his hand and moved it to one of his nipples - one of those nipples right there, in fact, because now they were perfectly visible, and the memory and the sight combined kind of made Jensen's mouth dry.

"You're impossible," he told Cougar. "It is literally impossible to be around you and think only heterosexual thoughts, it's like you do it on purpose, and why am I saying this out loud?"

Cougar made a hand gesture that clearly meant please go on, but Jensen managed to shut his mouth. "I need to stop talking," Jensen said.

"Movie?" Cougar asked.

Jensen looked at the in-room TV. "That could work."

"Not here. You ready?" Cougar asked.

Jensen looked down at his obscene running shorts and hot pink t-shirt. "Yeah, whatever, I'm good," he said. It wasn't like he had more comfortable clothes to wear. "Why are we leaving? Why am I following you out the door? Where are we -" but there was obviously no point in asking, and Cougar was leading. Jensen had no wish to be left behind.


"Wow," Jensen said, staring around. "Wow."

He'd had no idea the island even had this - a gorgeous theater with a full-sized screen, incredibly comfortable, luxurious seats, and even a dude standing by in uniform to bring them buckets of popcorn - not real movie butter-flavored oil, but still tasty - and giant sodas and Raisinets, holy fuck, a real actual movie-sized pack of Raisinets.

"You're a god among men," Jensen informed the uniformed dude, who nodded and headed off. Jensen settled himself in the front row, in a gorgeous comfortable semi-reclining theater seat with fold out tables for refreshments, oh God. "I don't even care what we're seeing," he told Cougar. "We could be seeing that one hygiene instructional movie they made us watch in Basic and I'd still be in heaven, God."

Cougar nodded, apparently agreeing. And then the movie started.

Two hours later, Jensen wiped his eyes on his t-shirt and tried to refocus on the world. "Oh God, Spock," he said. "I just. Spock," he finished helplessly.

Cougar said, "I bet he comes back."

"I know, of course he does, but Kirk's face and their hands on the glass and I've never seen any of this on the big screen, it's so much more intense, it's just amazing, and - wait, wait, you bet he comes back? Are you telling me you haven't seen the Search for Spock?"

Cougar shrugged.

"There are no words for the extent of this travesty," Jensen said. "God, if I had known, I wouldn't have wasted all those years trying to get you to like Batman, because I would have understood you were coming from a place of severe cultural deprivation." Jensen thought quickly, because he was good in a crisis, and this was definitely a crisis. "Look, we can probably stream it, I don't want you to be deprived of this, it's like being deprived of - of oxygen, or bandwidth, or -"

"Don't worry," Cougar said, settling in, looking mildly amused.

"Ready for the next one?" the usher dude called.

"Yeah," Cougar said.

"Oh God, we get to see it here?" Jensen said, and then, a minute later, as the music started and his heart swelled: "This is the best day of my life."

Two more hours, and Jensen had finished all the refreshments and they'd saved Spock and all was right in the Federation again. He leaned back happily and sighed. "I never got to see that in the theaters," he said.

"You said. When you got poisoned in Latvia," Cougar agreed. He got up and stretched - Jensen's eyes followed the movement, and his brain couldn't help making favorable comparisons between Cougar and every dude in the movies they'd just watched. The Enterprise and her crew would always be in his heart, but there was just no comparison between Kirk and Cougar, in a non-heterosexual sense.

Jensen followed Cougar out, blinking at the realization that the sun was setting. "That went fast," Jensen said. "Time flies when you're having the cinematic experience of a lifetime, I guess." Cougar looked back at him, eyebrow raised, and for some reason he thought of Spock. "Hey, do you think he, like set up with that Vulcan chick and made Vulcanized babies? All adorable and full of logic and eyebrows?"

Cougar stared at him blankly. "He's with his team," he pointed out.

"Wait, I thought you were in the pro-romance party," Jensen said.

Cougar stayed quiet on that one all the way back to the cabin. Just before they did the standard room check, though, he said, "They aren't always mutually exclusive."

It took a few seconds for Jensen to connect that one back up with the previous conversation. And then he did.

Huh. So Cougar was hooking up Spock and Uhura. Jensen made a mental note to show him the reboot movie in support of his preferences. "Badassest babies in the galaxy!" he called to Cougar as he finished checking the bathroom (five places large enough to conceal a person, two egress points).

When he came back out, Cougar was looking at him funny. But they would be. They really would be.

"Wait," Jensen said, realization hitting him. "Had you seen Wrath of Khan?" Cougar shook his head. "Holy fucking shit, did that pop your Star Trek cherry?" Cougar nodded. "Oh, wow, I have got so much shit to show you, because the movies are great, but there's so much more, and lucky for you, I'm prepared to be your guide through the miraculous future as promised to us by the Great Bird of the Galaxy. I'm going to make you a man, Cougar. It's what I owe to you as a friend and teammate."

Cougar pressed his lips together, obviously trying not to laugh, but Jensen could let him have his moment of doubt. Soon he'd know the truth.

Jensen started working his magic, and ten minutes later they were in front of the TV, with Jensen trying to figure out a way to showcase all the brilliance of the series in the limited time available. Obviously Cougar wasn't a completist, since he'd started with the second - wait. "Hey," Jensen said. "Why did you decide to skip the first one?"

"You said it was boring," Cougar told him. "In Latvia."

Jensen had a done a lot of talking in Latvia, and he remembered basically none of it past "I don't feel so good." But, hey, apparently he'd told the truth. "This," he promised Cougar, "is going to change your life."

"Okay," Cougar said.


They slept late the next day following their Star Trek orgy; Jensen wasn't as young as he used to be, and he'd finally tapped out at four in the morning, with Cougar still looking like he could go for another four hours or so. Jensen didn't really remember getting into bed, but apparently he had. Cougar, naturally, had taken the time to change and had probably even brushed his teeth, and even so, he was already awake, stripping off the boxers he'd slept in.

Jensen watched through half-open eyes, and maybe it was that he was tired, or maybe it was that the day before they'd shared the most intense emotional experience two grown men could ever share, but he found himself checking out Cougar and not trying to jerk his eyes away. He'd - he had hit that, and, okay, it had been a stupid decision, but who could blame him? Cougar was hot.

And Jensen was obviously not entirely heterosexual.

He waited for the panic to start up over that thought, but apparently whatever sexual identity crisis he'd had scheduled got overwhelmed by the pure, true beauty and perfection of Star Trek. Could happen to anyone; it wasn't like mere personal issues could hold up in the face of the Enterprise streaking through space on her (five-year, continuing, Jensen could go both ways) mission. So, fine, he wasn't perfectly straight; that just meant he could hit on any hot person he met, although realistically his odds probably hadn't improved any. Plus, he'd most likely already had the best sex of his life. With a teammate.

The teammate part, yeah, that was a problem. Jensen had long since accepted that his genes were a curse that doomed all relationships to an inevitably fiery crash, but he just - he didn't want to die at Cougar's hands. It'd be depressing, and Cougar would probably feel bad after, and just all around: no.

So. Much as it sucked, still his job to prevent any actual - relationship-type stuff with Cougar. No dating. No flowers. No chocolate - and then Jensen mentally crossed that one out, because come on, chocolate. But definitely no romance-type stuff.

The bathroom door opened, releasing a cloud of steam into the room; given his preference, Cougar showered at temperatures that would melt the T-1000. "Island today," Cougar said quietly.

Oh. Yeah. Right. They had a couple-only visit to a deserted beach today to check in with Clay. "Why do people want to do this?" Jensen asked, getting up and pulling today's hideous, hideous clothing from the drawer. "Is it, like, some freaky kinky roleplay thing, where dude A pretends to be what's his name and dude B pretends to be the other what's his name and they bang in the surf before the nuclear fallout arrives?"

Cougar blinked at him. "Did they make a movie out of Robinson Crusoe?" he said doubtfully.

"Probably. They make movies out of all kinds of shit." Jensen finished stripping off yesterday's clothes and went to shower. He tried to put some extra wiggle in his walk, show off his assets a little, because he was pretty sure he could feel Cougar's eyes on his ass all the way to the bathroom.


The deserted island getaway was one of those ideas that sounded great on paper. Get abandoned on a gorgeous tropical beach with a hamper full of delicious food and drink and the partner of your choice!

Jensen hated it. There was sand, there was so much sand, and the comms equipment he'd brought, while nicely camouflaged in case of baggage searching, turned out not to like sea air much. It took him an utterly humiliating twenty minutes to send a simple no progress, no problems indicator to Clay, definitely a low point of Jensen's career.

They got back confirmation plus a go-ahead signal, and that was - it.

"How long are we out here for?" Jensen asked, and checked his watch. "Holy fuck, we have three and a half hours left. What do people do out here, and don't even look at me like that, no sane person would fuck around all this sand. Look what it does to guns, man; who wants that to happen to his dick?"

Cougar considered. "Blowjob," he finally decided, like he'd been considering all the options in the light of his considerable experience, and - huh. Yeah, okay, that would work. No really sand-related friction problems, no potential salt water issues, clearly there was a reason Cougar got some everywhere they went: people looked at him and just knew that here was a dude who could select the correct sexual approach in any situation.

"You're probably right," Jensen said. "But what are we going to do?" He sighed. "I think there's Fruit Ninja on this stupid iPad. Tournament?"

It took about fifteen minutes to get his ass kicked by Cougar, and then they were back to the original problem. Jensen managed to get another twenty minutes of distraction out of the picnic hamper, drawing out the meal as much as he possibly could.

And that just left him with three hours to go. Jensen checked the time again, threw himself back in the sand, and tried to think. Cougar, post-food, was clearly entering that weird lizard-like state he had where he barely moved or blinked but if you tried to sneak up on him he'd have you pinned so fast your eyes would water from sheer speed, not that Jensen and Pooch had tried that. Well, not more than three times, anyway. Mostly because Cougar's revenge turned out to be the kind of thing no one wanted to risk a second time.

Jensen looked resentfully at Cougar, peacefully idling in neutral, and tried to come up with something to do. It was difficult. One might even say hard. And that was Cougar's fault.

Jensen's brain kept replaying Cougar saying "blowjob," and the problem was - okay, Jensen had not yet experienced the glory of a Cougar blowjob, but he could imagine it only too well. He remembered Cougar, focused and intent, picking up every tiny sound Jensen made - and, okay, the louder sounds, too, because Jensen had sacrificed dignity pretty quickly in favor of begging for more - and every move of Jensen's body, taking that information in, processing it through the, whatever, Cougar Sex App, and turning it into the most devastating handjob Jensen had ever gotten from anyone. He'd taken Jensen apart like a fucking M-200.

And that was just with his hands. With his mouth - fuck. Jensen shifted slightly, trying to give his dick some room, and glanced over at Cougar, who hadn't moved or apparently even blinked. Fuck it. They were stuck on a boring-ass island for three interminable hours; Jensen let himself think about it.

Cougar's mouth. On him. Jensen imagined it - Cougar walking over to him, right here, standing over him, blocking out the sun. Sure, they could talk, but this was Jensen's imagination, so he just pictured it, Cougar kneeling down next to him, pushing Jensen back against the sand, running his hands over Jensen's dick before opening his pants and just swallowing him down. Jensen knew it'd be good, he knew it'd be amazing, he could pretty much imagine how good it would be, and - fuck, he was hard, so fucking hard, and it wasn't like he could just go jerk off. Jensen shot his eyes over at Cougar - still no signs of life - and then pressed the heel of his hand over his dick, just once, to sort of calm it down a little.

Didn't help. And Jensen wasn't, he seriously was not going to beat off with Cougar six feet away, suspended animation or no. He shifted. Shifted again. Tried to think about something else. His brain was fucking fixated, though. He was still pretty sure he could make it through the next three hours, though. Just three hours and a fast boat trip, and then he could shower and - and then Jensen's brain pointed out that there were two dicks in this potential equation, and also two mouths, and he'd only considered one of the available options.

Blowing Cougar. Jensen had no idea what it'd be like - he was an enthusiastic giver of oral sex, generally, but for some reason he didn't have quite the success rate with the ladies you'd expect from women's magazines. Cougar, though. Cougar would probably tell Jensen exactly what to do - or, no, just make him do it, just position his head and hold him still and fuck him, and for some reason it was that thought that broke Jensen, absolutely and completely. He was hard, he was fucking leaking in the stupid capri pants Pooch had bought for him, and Cougar was right there.

Jensen said, "Cougar, hey."

Cougar blinked and focused in on Jensen. His eyes swept once over Jensen, checking him out, pausing at one point to linger on some part of Jensen's anatomy, Jensen wasn't about to guess which.

Cougar smiled.

"So," Jensen said. "Uh, I'm not saying this is a good idea. I'm just saying I really don't care so much anymore."

Cougar narrowed his eyes, and Jensen was suddenly absolutely convinced he was going to say no, and then Cougar was standing up and moving over towards him.

The reality matched the fantasy right up until Cougar was lying next to him on the sand. Cougar apparently wasn't in any hurry, though Jensen certainly was, because instead of going right for it, he kissed Jensen. And Jesus Cougar was good at this, hot and wet and intense, biting at Jensen's lower lip and generally making him crazy, but Jensen didn't need any more foreplay.

"Cougar," he said, surprised at how rough his voice sounded. "Fuck, I - can we - oh Jesus fucking God," because Cougar was keeping up with the biting, and he'd found a place under Jensen's ear that was bliss and torture at the same time. Cougar raised his head long enough to smile at Jensen, and then he went back in for another kiss, another bite at the same time that his hands went down. Jensen was ready, totally ready, prepared for Cougar to strip off his pants and have his way with him, but Cougar was apparently doing some kind of scenic route thing; he pressed his hand against Jensen's dick through his pants and then stroked his fingers over it. When Jensen moaned, Cougar made a quiet sound against Jensen's jawline. He sounded pleased, but he was still just touching, and Jensen needed more.

Jensen reached down to undo his pants, but Cougar was faster, shoving Jensen's hands away and pressing them down into the sand. "I got this," he said intently, holding himself back away from Jensen - and at this point it was a serious fucking crime that Cougar's mouth wasn't doing something, kissing or biting or please God sucking - and waiting.

Jensen nodded, making fists out of his hands to remind himself not to reach for his aching dick, and let Cougar do - whatever he wanted, basically. Some indeterminate length of time passed before Cougar finally undid Jensen's pants. Jensen heard his sharp intake of breath - apparently Cougar hadn't expected him to go commando - and it sent another jolt of heat through Jensen's already overloaded system. He'd surprised Cougar, he'd turned him on, and that - fuck, that was exactly what Jensen wanted. He moaned, and his hips jerked without any conscious intent.

"Hold still," Cougar said, and shifted until he was breathing on Jensen's dick.

"This - uh, if you want - this isn't the way - how the fuck do you expect me to hold still, come on, Cougar, please -" Jensen knew he was babbling and didn't care. His hips were shaking with the effort of not thrusting and he wasn't going to be able to stop himself much longer.

Cougar shifted again and licked a hot stripe down the length of Jensen's cock. Jensen gasped and tried to thrust up, get some more of that, but Cougar was holding him down now, so Jensen had no choice, he just had to lie there and let Cougar take him to pieces.

Cougar licked Jensen's dick, he licked Jensen's balls, he ran the tip of his tongue over the head of Jensen's cock, he did every fucking thing but actually go down on him, until Jensen was reduced to helpless swearing: "Fucking - please, please, just, whatever, fucking do something, please, I can't -" Jensen said, and a part of him was sure that Cougar was going to hold him here forever, just keep him desperate and begging.

Some other part of him thought that sounded like a fantastic idea. The thought made Jensen's cock jerk, totally untouched, and Cougar made a noise like he was the impatient one, and then Cougar's mouth was closing over Jensen's dick, and yes. Yes.

"Fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck fuck fuck," Jensen said. Cougar's mouth was hot and wet and perfect, and Cougar just kept going down until Jensen's dick was basically engulfed, and then Cougar let up on Jensen's hips some, enough so that Jensen could thrust a little, and that was it, Jensen was lost, thrusting and thrusting, coming so hard the whole world went white.

When Jensen blinked his eyes back open, Cougar was kneeling over him, undoing his own pants, eyes hot and dark and intent on Jensen's body. It looked like maybe he was planning to jerk off on Jensen, which - fine, whatever, another day, but right then Jensen had to at least get his hands on Cougar's dick. He sat up and shoved Cougar's hands away and just went for it, did something he definitely knew how to do with skill, and Cougar's gasp of surprise was as hot as Cougar's dick in Jensen's hand. It didn't take Jensen long to find the right angle, and then it was just a few strokes before Cougar moaned softly and came all over Jensen's chest.

For a few seconds there was just the sound of both of them breathing hard and the waves breaking on the beach, and then Jensen let go of Cougar's dick and collapsed back into the sand. "Holy shit," he said, sprawling there, his whole body tingling and warm.

Cougar did a sort of controlled fall to land next to and half on top of Jensen. "Yes," he agreed. "Holy shit."


They slept through the rest of the island getaway and both jerked awake when the boat came within earshot. "The reflexes still work," Jensen observed to Cougar. "Sure, in this case they're just saving us from an embarrassing visit from Captain Discreet over there, but it's good to have these reassurances." If there was one thing life had demonstrated over and over and over to Jensen, it was that a boy could go far in life with good hands and lightning-fast reflexes.

Captain Discreet motored them back to shore, and they showered off sand and salt and come, and then it was time for Operation We're Robbing Nathan Rile Not Just Because We Need To But Also Because It Will Be Really Satisfying, although Cougar objected to the name as excessively wordy. Cougar dressed in yet another pair of ass-hugging jeans, plus a white button-up shirt that he left just undone enough to make Jensen's mouth go dry. Jensen wore his running shorts, which weren't exactly traditional home invasion garb, but Pooch hadn't left him with a lot of options in that arena.

They ran the equipment check - the not-really-iPod headphones were working fine - and confirmed the abort signals, and then Cougar strolled off to the luau/hoedown/whatever thing by the pool.

Fifteen minutes later, Jensen heard Cougar's voice, quietly confirming that the targets were both present. He left for the cabin.

It took Jensen ten minutes just to get into the cabin. Who added extra locks to what was basically a hotel room? Oh, right, Nathan Clinically Paranoid Rile. Once inside, Jensen had no trouble finding the cameras they'd hidden; he just scrambled his entrance and looped the data, and voila! An unentered home.

Finding the fucking dongle wasn't as easy. Jensen checked the obvious places, then the less obvious places, and bupkis. Jensen stepped back, took a breath, and checked in with Cougar. "Hey, gonna have to toss the place," he said. "Because some people just can't stand to make my life easy. You good?"

Cougar sounded a little amused as he sent the confirmation signal - "I'll have another just the same" - and Jensen went back to work, reassured.

An hour and two check-ins later, Jensen found it. "Hey, Cougs, I got it," he said. "No fucker on earth can defeat the wit, wile, and determination of one - oh fuck," he finished, turning over the dongle.

It had a slot for a removable authentication chip. And the slot was empty. "Shit, fuck, fuck, damn," Jensen said, and then remembered Cougar could hear him. "I'm okay, but we're kind of fucked," he said. "Pull back when you can, I'll meet you at point one." Point one was just the cabin, but Jensen could practice radio security with the best of them, thanks.

Cougar showed up 45 minutes later, which was a fairly loose definition of "when you can," but Jensen was good with it. He had beer, and he was contemplating a dark, dark future, and Cougar could take his sweet time with the fruity drinks and hot - dudes, right. When Cougar did stroll in, Jensen laid it out for him.

"Nathan Rile does not just have a fucking dongle required to access his motherfucking ridiculous arms manufacturer secret hideout database of doom," Jensen said grimly. "The dongle needs an authentication chip to function. One that is not in the dongle, and not in his cabin, and therefore either on his person - my bet, probably nestled next to his ballsack - or back in his fortress in Brazil. What kind of sick, sick fuck does that? What is the possible point of that? Why does Nathan Rile hate me and want me to suffer?" Jensen didn't even need to spell it out. The point was to get the item, clone it, return it, and head back with no one the wiser. Otherwise Rile would just change the security codes and lock out the dongle, and, bam, one island vacation totally wasted except for the hot sex.

Cougar digested this in silence. "Did you lift the dongle?" he asked after a minute.

"Yes, because I'm a moron. I thought it'd be brilliant to steal the one thing Rile was guaranteed to look for and take it back with me, where it could sit being pretty because we can't use it without the chip."

Cougar thought for a minute more. "Perrault invited me back to his cabin tonight," he said.

Jensen sat bolt upright. "Wait, he - for - why?"

"Threesome," Cougar said.

"That is so unjust, that is so fucking unjust," Jensen said. "He had like fifteen chances to hit on me, and did he? No. But one look at you and they're all, oh, hey, come back to our place, let's make three-way monkey love in our garden of forbidden pleasures. How does this shit happen to you? What did you even say?"

"Said I'd have to check with my boyfriend," Cougar said. "He told me to stop by if he said okay."

"Fucking rude," Jensen said. "Why not invite me, too?" He saw the surprise on Cougar's face and added hastily, "It's not that I want to fuck Perrault and Rile, because I definitely don't, I just think there's a parity issue here that's going unaddressed. Not to mention manners. It's common courtesy, right? You ask a hot dude to get down with you and your bulldog - uh, that sounded bad, but you know what I mean - and he has a boyfriend, you say 'the more the merrier,' right? That is basic common courtesy that Miss Manners and Martha Stewart both agree on, right?"

Cougar shrugged. He still looked a little startled, but apparently the etiquette of open relationships was not of interest to him. Probably he was more upset about the security thing, because there was no way they were getting close enough to Rile to - and then Jensen's brain finally woke the fuck up. "Of course," he said. "Threesome. Of course. No problem getting up close to Rile when he wants you to lick his disco stick."

Cougar nodded. "You want to do it tonight?"

Jensen considered. "It's not like I wouldn't like more time," he said slowly. "But I can clone the chip with what I have on hand - and the next time Clay gives me shit for overpacking on the technological front, I want you to remember this moment and shoot him somewhere painful but non-fatal - and we want to strike while the iron is hot, here. I mean, not that I think they're going to forget about your considerable charms, here, but. Yeah. Let's do this."

The great part about being on a really solid team was that you didn't need to take a lot of time to plan in an emergency. Well, okay, being on a solid team that saw a lot of action. This wouldn't even be the Losers' first break-in while someone was having sex. Not even this year. Admittedly, it'd be weird that Cougar was having the sex, but - huh. Jensen actually felt - a little weird about Cougar getting his freak on with Rile and Perrault.

Well, whatever. They'd all sacrifice a little in the name of - and then Jensen's mouth started talking. "Are you actually going to sleep with them, though? I mean, obviously you do what you have to do, but, just, it seems like a question worth exploring, because I'm not saying I have, like, a claim here, but I do think if I'm going to be sleeping with everyone you've ever slept with -" and then Jensen managed to muzzle himself. Probably too late, but A+ for effort. The thought that counted. All that.

Cougar was just watching Jensen, probably waiting for his mouth to run down. "No," he said.

"But the mission, uh, seems to demand it."

Cougar shrugged. "I'll handle it," he said.

And, okay, apparently Cougar didn't do three ways, or maybe he just didn't find Rile all that attractive. Whichever. Jensen was down with that. They reviewed the plan, then reviewed the option points - Clay didn't train fools, or maybe it'd be more accurate to say fools didn't survive around Clay too long.

Jensen watched as Cougar dressed and then handed him all the tech they had that might pass muster - an earring radio, basically, and a not-really iPhone with not-really headphones Cougar could use in an emergency. Jensen set the fake iPhone to automatic broadcast. "Try to set it out where you are, this direction so I can see some stuff," he said. "And, uh, try to - talk some." Cougar raised an eyebrow. "So I know where you are, what you're doing. Like, 'Oh, baby, yeah, this bed's so soft.'" Cougar cracked up, laughing so hard he had to lean against the back of the couch for a minute. After he straightened up, he tipped his hat to Jensen and walked out the door.

Jensen listened to him walk for a minute - he was whistling Be Our Guest, that sick fuck - and stared at his hands. The thing was, they did technically have an emergency contact line. They weren't supposed to use it, because there was no way to know how much Rile was monitoring, and the dude had out-paranoided Jensen before.

But. You didn't survive as a Loser without listening to your gut. Jensen hesitated, then took out his own not-iPhone and pressed the contact "Annie." He pressed the number labeled Home.

The phone rang eight times and then Aisha answered. "Hi, Jake," she said. "How's the holiday?" Jensen couldn't hear the relay at all. He loved telecommunications technology.

"Gorgeous, it's fucking beautiful," Jensen told her. "You'd love it here. You should check it out." Soon, he added in his head. He wasn't sending the distress call, not yet, but he wanted them to be on the highest fucking possible alert, because. Bad feeling.

"Glad you chose it?"

"It's everything we wanted," Jensen said.

"How's Carlos?" she said.

"He's, he's great," and shit, Jensen wasn't supposed to repeat that word, that was a cue without a meaning, but he'd been distracted by thoughts of exactly how great Cougar actually was.

The tiny pause showed that Aisha had caught the mistake. "Good to hear," she said cautiously. "He's having a good time there?"

"Like you wouldn't believe," Jensen said honestly.

"I bet it's nice," she said. "But, look, I can talk to you when you're back. You go enjoy your vacation with your hot boyfriend, okay?"

"Sure," Jensen said.

"Love you, Jake," Aisha said, and hung up. The love part always made Jensen blink, because who said that? But Clay swore it added, whatever, realism or something.

Clay had some pretty weird ideas about love. But, hey, they all did, pretty much.


Jensen tuned back in to Cougar and heard him - shit, talking to Rile and Perrault. "I'm glad you decided to stop by," Rile's nasal voice said. "I was hoping to get to know you better."

"That's not what you said to me," Jensen told the empty air, hurt.

"Beer," Cougar said. "Thanks."

Annnnnd silence. Jensen listened intently, but he could only hear vague sounds. Someone undressing? Someone dragging a dead body out the door? Someone beating off? It could be anything. There was a reason Clay tended to plan to keep Cougar at long range and Jensen in close. Jensen could actually talk his way through something like this.

Of course, available signs pointed to Perrault shooting him in the knee if he talked to them. So, yeah, Cougar was the better choice in this situation.

Someone said something too far away from the mike to pick up. "It's flexible," Cougar said.

"What's flexible, Cougs?" Jensen muttered to the open air.

He didn't click the transmitter button, so Cougar couldn't actually have heard him, but he responded anyway. "Best relationships always have some give and take," he said.

Oh. They were - what, having a discussion before they got busy? Who did that? Did these people sit down before they fucked and, like, make lists?

Apparently they actually did, because the next thing Cougar said was, "No fluids, no restraints on me, don't surprise me." Jensen blinked, surprised. "Safeword's ayúdame."

That was Spanish. Cougar using Spanish meant he was okay but there was a hitch. Jensen stared at his hands and willed Cougar to tell him something already. Then Jensen smacked his forehead, opened his phone, and typed ayúdame into the Spanish-English dictionary app.

Help me. Cougar needed help. "Got it," Jensen said, still not activating the mike. He grabbed the equipment, shoved it in the go bag he'd packed - unlike Pooch, he knew how to pack for contingencies - and headed out for the cabin.

This time, Jensen made the basic assumption that Perrault and Rile were at Clay-after-three-days-without-sleep levels of ridiculousness, and thus he (eventually) found the perimeter monitors they'd installed on a resort island that didn't even belong to them, where someone could totally wander past for a 100% innocent reasons. Sure, Jensen didn't have an innocent reason, but someone could. Jensen went over all 900 reasons as he weaseled his way closer to the Cabin of Love.

And then he was close enough to put a remote cam up and check the windows, and - huh. Empty living room. Clothes everywhere. Jensen checked in on the microphone and heard - splashing?

He crept around the side of the cabin just enough to confirm that Cougar, that beautiful, brilliant man, had gotten them all in the hot tub. And Jensen had worked under way more stressful conditions. He grabbed his tools and went in.

Easy, easy, super-peasy, basically. Rile, it turned out, carried his authentication chip in his phone, and Jensen had it out and cloned in like two minutes. Cloning the dongle was harder, since it required opening it up, but then it was a simple matter, splash bang boom. He was awesome, he was a master, they were golden.

And then he heard talking. They were coming back, and Jensen was all the way across the room from the wall o' windows. He could head out the front door, but he hadn't disabled any of the alarms on it, and it was in line of sight from the back deck.

Jensen dove forward. Seconds later, he had Perrault's wallet and was searching through the rest of his clothes, pretending to be caught unawares.

"What the fuck -" Rile said.

Perrault and Cougar just moved. Cougar was, no surprise, faster than Perrault - Cougar was faster than Usain Bolt when he had to be, holy fuck - so it was Cougar that grabbed Jensen by the shirt and shoved him against the wall.

"Uh -" Jensen began, and his mouth just kind of locked up.

"You're the fake Australian," Perrault said, coming up behind Cougar, narrowing his eyes.

"Thief," Cougar diagnosed.

"Shit!" Rile shouted, and dived for his clothes. Perrault looked back at him, his attention redirected for a second, and Jensen palmed the dongle and chip, and then realized he couldn't pass it to Cougar because he was naked. Cougar took it anyway, though, and Jensen said, "Uh, naked."

Cougar rolled his eyes. "Search him or cover him?" he asked Perrault.

"I've got you covered," Perrault said, and Jensen noticed, uneasily, that Perrault was standing where he could easily cover them both.

Cougar began a brutally efficient search. He found Perrault's wallet pretty fast and tossed it onto the couch. Rile grabbed it and looked through it. "There's nothing in here," he said.

"Stripped it?" Cougar said.

"No, I mean - ID, a few thousand dollars, why would he want this?" Rile said. He was standing there, arms folded tightly, like he didn't know he was naked, eyes narrowed. "There's -" and he froze, looking at Jensen.

"A few thousand is a lot to some people," Perrault said.

"Yeah, sure, crime of opportunity, whatever. He's been stalking us. He's been after us since we got here. He has to be staying somewhere on the island, he has to have planned this, and that means he's not after any thousand dollars." Rile was tapping his fingers tightly now, and his brain was going click-click-click, and shit. Fuck. Damn. They were screwed, because if Rile got suspicious of Cougar - Jensen had no idea where he was hiding the dongle, but it couldn't be too well-concealed, right.

Jensen did remember to keep his eyes away from Cougar's. That much, he could do. But this situation was out of his control, God damn it, and -

Cougar stepped away, and Perrault's gun didn't track him. Perrault, at least, hadn't figured too much out yet. Cougar reached for the phone.

"Hey," Perrault barked. "No phone calls, are you crazy?"

"We need data," Cougar said, keeping his hand on the house phone, not lifting the receiver. He was looking at Rile, not Perrault, because that statement was designed to appeal to him.

"Yeah, but what, who are you gonna call?" Rile said. His foot was tapping now. The dude was almost vibrating in place.

Cougar shrugged. "Management. He's staying somewhere, right?"

Rile nodded once, tightly. "What did you say you did again?"

Cougar gave the answer from his cover identity: "Security consulting," he said, and smiled at Rile. "This one's free."

And then he was dialing, and Jensen had no fucking clue what the plan was, but he was willing to let Cougar be in the driver's seat. He just kind of - pushed himself against the wall and waited.

"We've had an incident," Cougar told the phone. "We want to speak to security." He listened for a minute and hung up the phone. He nodded at Rile and Perrault, and reached for his pants.

"Right, yeah, got to put some fucking clothes on," Rile said. He headed into the bedroom, shaking his head, muttering something about how this wasn't how he wanted the night to go. Jensen felt a strange and basically unprecedented bond of sympathy with Rile; his plans weren't working out, either.

And then Perrault stepped over and handed his gun to Cougar. "You know how to use this," he said, and it wasn't a question. "Keep him covered while I get dressed."

So that was good, that was very good. Jensen measured the distance to the door - Perrault was distracted, Cougar was holding the gun, the moment was clearly now - but Cougar shook his head so minutely only someone who knew him would even catch it. Jensen's legs hurt with the need to run, but he held still. What the fuck was Cougar waiting for?

There was a knock on the door, and Perrault crossed to answer it. "Hotel security," said a woman's voice, crisp and slightly accented. Jensen blinked at the door, not really believing it, and then - Aisha walked in.

Jensen blinked. Yeah, he'd called them in, but even so, that had been weirdly fast. Where the fuck was the base?

"What's going on here?" she said, and Jensen had to give her credit: she was 100% in character. He even sort of believed her, and he'd seen her fine and completely commendable disrespect for the law.

"This man broke in while we were in the hot tub," Perrault said. "He tried to steal from us."

"That isn't the problem," Rile said, coming in from the bedroom. "He's been stalking us, surveilling us, and he is clearly part of a larger plot against me. My home is routinely invaded, I can't be safe anywhere, and I thought this place might be better, but it isn't." Rile's voice was going up, getting louder and higher-pitched as he talked. "Even here, my enemies pursue me!"

"I - see," Aisha said, managing to sound professional and just a tiny bit worried that Rile was crazy. "I'm very sorry about that, sir, and I want to apologize on behalf of the Vanahatula Resort and Spa. I can assure you we take security very seriously, and I as head of security will be investigating this matter in full."

"I don't want an investigation," Rile said. "I need information. I need every single fact you know about this man, and then I need to know how you know it, and I need to look at how you received that information. I'm better with data than any man alive, and I can figure out what's going on here, but I need access to your system."

Aisha paused. "I'm sorry, sir, our system is confidential, and that's not a decision I can make. I would need to speak to -" but Jensen's attention was caught by Perrault. Perrault was looking from Aisha to Cougar to Jensen, again and again, looking like he was trying to remember something.

"Nate," he said, breaking in, and Rile looked over at him. "I've seen her before," and oh fuck. They needed a distraction, immediately, and Jensen - Jensen was up. Jensen looked just once at Cougar, to be sure he got the message, and mimed it with his eyes: out, then right. Cougar gave his tiniest nod. And then Jensen went.

He dived towards the door, behind Aisha, using her for cover; Cougar was holding the gun, he wouldn't shoot. Jensen tore out the door like the hounds of hell were after him. Behind him, he could hear a lot of running feet. He needed to lose them before he did anything else, so Jensen stopped thinking and put everything he had into running.

Aisha still managed to gain ground on him, which was fine as long as Perrault couldn't run like she could. Jensen started thinking they might get away with it, which was obviously a mistake, because that was when the first shot was fired. With a silencer, but still - this was a fucking resort, what was Perrault thinking? Innocent people everywhere! The fire was coming from behind and to the right, so Jensen took the next left he found, then the next, and pretty soon he was really thoroughly lost.

Aisha managed to pull level with him and made a gesture that probably meant let me lead, unless it meant you fucking moron. Jensen was willing to go with the first theory for the moment. He ran after her, they ran together, and he just hoped she had some idea where she was going. They vaulted a fence, and then they were in the employees-only part of the resort, which was a lot more open, a lot less landscaped. It had a lot less cover. A problem, since their pursuers were still close enough that Jensen could hear them, but maybe Cougar was the only one armed - and then a bullet hit the ground close to Jensen and that theory bit the dust. Cougar wouldn't have been shooting anywhere near them, not when he didn't have a visual.

Aisha made a really tight turn, and Jensen wasn't expecting it. He had to slow down a little to correct, and when he did, he felt a stunning, burning, stupidly familiar pain in his arm. He was too out of breath to swear out loud, but his brain started chanting fuck fuck fuck this shit I fucking hate getting shot I'm moving to Iowa and opening a fucking bakery. Then Aisha grabbed his arm, yanking him sharply to the right and hurting him badly enough that he'd have screamed if he'd had the breath. Jensen almost fell on top of her, stumbling to a stop, and - huh. A dock. And a boat.

"Come on," Aisha said, breathing hard but able to speak.

Jensen sometimes wondered if she'd found some kind of magic gauntlet or something. Or maybe she was an alien. Fuck, his thinking was getting hazy, which always fucking happened when he got shot. Jensen refocused on the key point. "Cougar," he said.

"He's got to be coming, he can't have been that far behind. Get on the fucking boat," she said.

She had a point, but - Jensen shook his head stubbornly, and she looked like he wanted to push the issue, but fortunately Cougar came running up then, moving fast but smoothly, looking like he could run all night. He'd managed to pull on some shorts, although Jensen thought they maybe belonged to Perrault. And he still had the hat, thank God.

"They're close," he said.

"Boat," Aisha said, and shoved Jensen toward it.

Losers knew how to clear the area. They were on the boat and the boat was moving out of the dock in seconds. Jensen didn't even pause long enough to wave to Pooch, over at the helm. "I need a computer," he said.

"You need stitches," Aisha said, pulling out the first aid kit.

Cougar was already there, applying pressure to the wound. "He had another gun," he said, and he sounded sorry, which was just weird. There was a pinprick, and another pinprick, and the pain receded a little.

"People get shot, Cougs, it happens. I need a computer, quick, before Rile thinks to change his security settings and locks us out."

Aisha handed Cougar the first aid kit and headed to the - whatever the front part of a boat was called. Aft? Starboard? Galley? "Am I bleeding a lot?" Jensen said. "I'm not making a lot of sense in my head." Cougar didn't answer, which was answer enough. "Don't let me bleed to death now," Jensen said to him. "You haven't seen the one with the whales yet, and no one else is going to know to make you."

"You won't bleed to death," Cougar said.

"People always say that," Jensen said. "But now's really not a good time. We have a lot of ground still to cover - like, I think we should go on a real date, because -" and then Jensen had a stunning realization. "Oh God, we did date, didn't we? You took me on a fucking stealth date! You wooed me with Star Trek!"

"Yes," Cougar said. "This will hurt."

Cougar did the stitches thing, which was old way back the first time Jensen got sewed up by him. There was an interlude of panting - no screaming, thanks to the earlier pinprick - and he lost his train of thought. The great part about his brain was that it always came up with a new one, though.

"And we never got to fuck," Jensen said. "If I'm not straight anymore I think I should get that, you know? So now's not a good time for bleeding to death, I just don't have room in my schedule, because - whales. And fucking."

"Jesus Christ," Aisha said.

"There," Cougar said. "No dying." And he started cleaning up.

"Oh, hey, nice job," Jensen said.

"Jensen, if you can focus both your eyes simultaneously, could you at least tell me what the hell button I'm supposed to be pressing?"

Jensen looked over at her. She'd gotten the computer up and running, and she was holding the dongle and the chip and - hey, no. "Move aside, this is my job," Jensen said.

"Yeah, but you couldn't tie your own shoes right now," Aisha said. And maybe that was true, but Jensen had hacked the FBI with a concussion and a gun to his head; this was nothing. "Step aside, little lady; let the man work."

She did. "I'm only letting you get away with that because you're drugged," she said. "Otherwise I'd shoot the other arm."

Cougar stepped forward. Jensen went to work, and the next time he opened his mouth, Cougar poked him in his good arm. "No talking," he said. And, yeah, that was good advice. Jensen just typed and clicked and downloaded and owned, like the superior being of near-cybernetic godliness he was. And it was - good to know Cougar was nearby. Yeah. Good.

"Okay, done," Jensen said. "Can I pass out now?"

"We've got eleven hours before rendezvous," Aisha said. "Take him somewhere to sleep it off."

"I got this," Cougar said. "Come on, Jensen."

Jensen went.

Six Weeks Later

Cougar's expression when he walked in the room was set, flat in the way that Jensen knew meant shit was gonna hit the fan. "What?" he said. "Just tell me, don't keep me in suspense, I fucking hate suspense."

"Maybe I shouldn't tell you, then," Cougar said, sitting down next to the bed and crossing his legs.

"Oh God don't do this to me, Cougs, I'm not a well man." That wasn't really true anymore; sure, whatever, infection, blood poisoning, it happened. That was why they invented modern medicine and really good drugs. But Jensen had been great for days, and it was basically complete injustice that everyone was conspiring to keep him away from the internet, which he needed like caffeine, just because his orgy of hacking and data mining had probably contributed at least slightly to last week's whole undignified collapse thing.

Cougar caved. Instantly. So predictable. "Trailer dropped for the new Trek movie," he said.

Jensen sat bolt upright. "By, by, by Grabthar's Hammer, give it to me right now or - or - or" and he seriously couldn't think of a threat good enough, but it didn't matter, Cougar was pulling out his phone.

"Don't tell Clay," Cougar said, and started the trailer. Japanese subtitles, for some reason.

Jensen watched it in tense silence. The real Kirk and the real Spock could never be replaced, but he still was invested, here, and - and then he saw it. The hands. On the glass.

"Oh God," Jensen said shakily. "Oh God, they can't - they won't - oh my God, oh my fucking God."

Cougar nodded. He'd learned about the importance of all things Trek pretty rapidly. Of course, he'd had a good teacher. The best.

Jensen watched again, heart in his throat. And when he got to the end, he reached out and grabbed Cougar's hand. If he was holding too tight - and, okay, maybe fighting back tears - Cougar would never tell.

"How can they do this to me? How can they expect me to wait five months for the movie after that? How can Hollywood be entirely full of sadists? Help me understand, Cougar, I'm really trying to learn, here."

Cougar tilted his head and said, "Shove over." When Jensen did, he kicked off his shoes and took off his hat and climbed onto the bed next to Jensen. "We're going to Max's Peruvian base next week," Cougar said. "The time will pass fast."

Jensen didn't believe him at all, because there were some things work just couldn't touch. But Cougar was warm and comforting next to him, and Jensen had learned how to take advantage of that. He curled against Cougar, head on his shoulder, and resettled their hands into something slightly less death grip and more just - holding. "Five months," he said, and something about the position - or, okay, possibly the recovering from the latest near death experience - was making him a little sleepy. "It'll be okay, though, right? Because Spock. They'd never take Spock away. That'd be like taking the joy out of the universe."

Cougar made a noise of vague agreement and shifted just a little, and Jensen was so comfortable, and Peru wasn't until next week. And cuddling, cuddling was one of those things that turned out to work okay if you did it right.

As he drifted off, Jensen had a thought, a realization, and as always, he shared it. "I had a good teacher, too," he said.