Normality Is Such An Over-Rated Word 1/1Author: entropynchaosFandom:
Film - The LosersPairing:
Jensen/Cougar, Clay/Roque pre-slash, Pooch/JoleneRating:
15/R, for naughty wordsWord Count:
3,466 - according to WordDisclaimer:
Not mine...damnit!Author's Notes:
Written for zortified
's prompt - Clay wondered if his life would be any easier if his unit had all been human. He figures, probably not.
Hope you like it, honey!
Movie-verse, set pre-movie. Comments and con.crit welcomed.Summary: It’s a little difficult to feel like the weird one when there’s a tech-ghost and a hell-fiend on the same team as you.
There’s a reason Sergeant Alvarez got the nickname ‘Cougar’. There’s also a reason Cougar was the one sent to do all the recon for his old team when intel was a little shaky.
People don’t like it when other people can turn into huge vicious cats at will. It makes them wonder about the safety of certain arteries in their necks and just what those sharp teeth and big, clawed paws could do to them.
And so Cougar got all the shit jobs. The suicide runs. And he survived again and again and again and he stopped talking when he didn’t have to – although who did he have to talk to, when his own team-mates barely said more than three words at a time to him? He kept his head down and his eyes covered by the shadow of his hat brim and he did what he was told.
And then Cougar got transferred to Lieutenant Colonel Franklin Clay’s team.
It’s a little difficult to feel like the weird one when there’s a tech-ghost and a hell-fiend on the same team as you.***
Clay’s team is unique in that no one on the team is human. Not completely. Pooch’s dad was human, apparently, but his mom is a mech-talent and Pooch inherited her…abilities
. It’s kind of the reason he’s responsible for all of the team’s transport needs.
Roque’s a hell-fiend. A literal
fiend-from-hell with a penchant for shiny, sharp-bladed objects. That right there’s enough to make Clay’s life a little more interesting than he’d perhaps prefer it but Roque’s good at taking orders and he’s good at, you know, making sure that Clay’s many pissed-off ex’s don’t blow him up or shoot him or otherwise kill him. There was one woman who tried to poison him. Roque hadn’t taken that well.
(Apparently, the police in Turkey didn’t manage to find all of her body. Clay’s not asking and no one’s telling, but he knows that Roque has a tendency to take his ‘protective den-mothering instincts’ a little too far sometimes.)
And, for a year after Cougar joins the team, that’s them. The four of them plus the occasional rotating tech guy that they sign out and return (mostly) unscathed. In the nights when they’re on missions, Cougar and Roque take it in turns to patrol – Cougar padding on huge cat paws around their base and Roque fading into the shadows until the only thing visible is the glint of moonlight off one of his many, many blades.***
One year, three weeks and six days after Cougar joins the team, Clay gets given a new mission. They kind of broke their last tech guy loan (Private D Roberts is in the psych ward pending evaluation. Clay makes a mental note to make his team cut down on the practical jokes with the next one) so Clay gets two folders at the briefing – the mission details and a thicker folder with ‘Corporal Jake Jensen’ scrawled at the top. He sighs and salutes and totes both folders back to his bunk where, hopefully, he’ll be able to read all of it in peace before Roque tracks him down like a mama cat looking for a lost kitten or Pooch turns up to tell him that Roque and Cougar have got themselves into a bar fight. Again.
Corporal Jensen is more than just an average tech guy, as it turns out. He graduated from MIT with honours and he’s got a sister and a niece living in New Hampshire. The sister shows latent signs of the same abilities that Jensen’s got but the five-year-old niece doesn’t. Yet. Clay hopes she never does or that Jensen and his sister are careful enough to keep it covered up. Tech-ghosts are very rare, very good at what they do and in high demand by the government and assorted businesses.
Clay grins, sharp and hungry and probably more than a little feral.
They’ve given him a tech-ghost
Roque doesn’t like Jensen at first – but then Roque’s never liked strangers. He gets between Clay and the kid almost as soon as he can after Clay escorts Jensen into the team’s quarters and uses his height and mass to make Jensen back away. Cougar takes a turn around Jensen, sniffing at him while Jensen stays completely still. The only way you’d be able to tell that the kid was nervous is the way the white’s showing all around the irises of his eyes. Cougar must be satisfied, though, because at least he doesn’t fucking hiss or – like he did with the last guy – try to claw the kid’s eyes out. Instead, Cougar prowls off to strip down and clean one of his rifles over in the corner.
Clay sits back and watches it all unfold. They’ve all been burned by people that they trusted in the past – Roque and Cougar more than most, but this is Jensen’s last chance. After this it’s going to be a locked down government facility where all naughty tech-ghosts go to have their brains ripped into just to see what makes them tick and if that tick can then be replicated, and Clay thinks that maybe Jensen might just work to fit in simply because he has to.
It’s left to Pooch to show Jensen where to stow his kit bag and his laptops (five of them. Fucking Christ.) Pooch is great at putting the kid at ease and Clay watches from a distance and thinks about how great a dad Pooch is going to be one day. Before long he’s got Jensen talking and joking with him and Clay even notices Cougar creeping back into the centre of the room to clean his handguns at the table. Maybe. Maybe this might just work.
They ship out at oh-three-hundred hours, hopping a military flight across from the States to Greece where they disappear from the airstrip and make their way to the nearest port…where there’s a cargo ship and a captain that doesn’t ask questions as long as enough money finds its way into his hands. That’ll be their ride across to Tunisia and then there’ll be a jeep or something
with four wheels that they can drive over to the Southeast corner of Libya. Fucking long-ass circuitous routes but at least there’s less chance of being caught by the wrong people. Or the people that are supposedly on the same side as them.
Fucking covert special ops missions.
And Jensen? Doesn’t stop talking. Not on the military flight or the cargo ship. Not even, it seems, to take a damn breath and Clay might not know everything there is to know about tech-ghosts but this shit? Is not normal.
Still, since when the fuck have any of them been normal?
Jensen, though, takes it to whole new heights. He babbles about his favourite programs (X-Files
was, apparently, made of win), his favourite foods (Jensen can’t, apparently, live without pizza or Mountain Dew) and the cancellation of Firefly
(Clay very carefully blocks out the detailed plan of revenge against the FOX network that Jensen lays out for them. He really
wants to be able to plead ignorance on that one – especially the bit where Jensen has Cougar and Roque sneaking into some TV exec’s bedroom at night to terrorise him into giving Firefly
And with every word, inane or otherwise, that passes his lips, the levels of tension ease and Clay thinks maybe. Maybe this time
Which, really? Clay should know better than to jinx the team like that.***
Technically the mission’s a success. They got the intel and got it back to the higher-ups. Cougar pulled off a one-in-a-million shot, Pooch got to meld three different types of vehicle together to make them some kind of A-Team
-inspired armoured tank-like car and even Roque got to have a little fun and mayhem. Technically a success.
In reality, though, Pooch is playing with his wedding ring on its chain with shaking hands, Roque’s glaring at anyone who comes within ten feet of their little encampment and he’s about to pull out a knife, Clay just knows it (and after the knives comes the accidental fire-starting. Fun times.) Cougar’s pacing a circle in front of the hospital room door that’s getting a little smaller with every turn and Clay could swear that he can see the flick of a tail every now and then.
And Clay may have bluffed and threatened to put a call through to the President of the United States and call in an air strike if this backwater dirty little hospital doesn’t pull through and keep Jensen alive. There’s no such thing as over-reaction in a situation like this…but if there was then Clay might have just gone there.
They all try to crowd through the door at the same moment when the doctor opens it. Clay forces his way in first by right of seniority and by way of having enough blackmail on all of his team to last a lifetime. Jensen’s lying in the bed, bandages all over and his eyes less than halfway open.
“Guess this means you’re not getting rid of me just yet, huh?” he asks sleepily and Clay huffs out a laugh and claims the only chair. It means the other three are left to mill about at the foot of the bed like antsy school children, but Clay’s not above a little pettiness now and again. Not when the newest member of their team was nearly killed in a massive explosion under four hours ago.
“Suppose not, kid,” Clay says. He props his booted feet up on the edge of the bed and leans back in the chair. “Suppose we might find it in our hearts to keep you around a little longer.”
“Not going to be much use for a few days, Colonel,” Jensen says. He yawns, winces at the movement, and then holds up his bandaged hands. “Fingers are all burnt. No more fingerprints, even. Guess it’s time to think about starting that life of crime, huh?”
Clay grins, sharp and feral. “You telling me you need your fingers to hack now, Corporal?”
Roque snickers and Pooch snorts out a laugh. Cougar’s prowling around the room, examining the window (locked), the threadbare curtains and the bed that Jensen’s lying in. Clay sits back and listens to his team mock each other gently while he watches as Cougar shifts forms and finally jumps up onto the bed, settling at Jensen’s feet. He has to twist to manage it in such a way that he doesn’t hurt Jensen, but he does manage it.
“You okay there, Cougs?” Clay asks sweetly and Cougar yawns, showing off his big, sharp teeth. For Cougar, that’s the equivalent of sticking his tongue out and sing-songing ‘nah-nah-nah’, but Clay just laughs and lets it go, all of them riding high on the exhilaration of surviving another mission now that they know the kid’s going to be okay.***
Three months after Jensen's back on active duty and Cougar's levelling Clay with that stare that all cats seem to be able to pull off – no matter what their size or even whether they’re human most of the time. Cougar, apparently, is not happy with him. Clay’s resigned to this although he’d like it noted for the record that this time it’s not his fault or his plan.
Their sniper’s also fingering his rifle with intent. Fucking psychotic, obsessive shifters.
The plan is simple, really – a mark of the truly simple-bordering-on-idiotic minds that came up with it. Clay wouldn’t have expected anything else from the brass. Jensen goes in, undercover, to get the info using his tech abilities with Roque as back-up in the actual building with him.
Only, Cougar wants in. So help him, if Cougar’s marked Jensen like the possessive bastard he is and doesn’t even know it, then Clay’s going to kill him. It’s hard enough co-ordinating missions with a hell-fiend hovering over his shoulder the whole damn time like Clay’s an accident prone three-year-old – he doesn’t need his sniper going all googly-eyed over his tech support.
“Cougs,” Clay tries, again. Behind him, lounging back in his chair, Roque’s snickering and being as obnoxiously unhelpful as he always is. “You’ll be on the roof opposite. Where we need you.”
“I could shift,” Cougar mutters and if he sounds a little petulant, well. Clay’s certainly not even going to try broaching that
one. He rolls his eyes and injects just a little persuasion into his voice. They don’t call him silver-tongued for nothing.
“Cougar, if Jensen walks in there with a giant cat at his side then he’s not going to make it past security. Roque’ll take care of our boy.”
Cougar’s gaze flicks past Clay to land on Roque.
“Like he was my own dear son,” Roque says and if the way Cougar’s eyes narrow is any indication then Clay’s not the only one picking up on that thread of sly humour and insincerity lurking behind Roque’s words. Roque will take care of Jensen, because he always does, and both of them will make it out alive and, possibly, in one piece, but Clay’s got vivid memories of all the times that missions like this ended with explosions and a high enemy body count. One thing Roque and Jensen aren’t good at is subtle and so Clay really isn’t holding out much hope for this latest mission.
Cougar finishes dismantling his rifle and packing it away just as the three of them hear footsteps and voices coming down the corridor outside the door. Their sniper turns to face the door, almost expectantly, and he stands, hefting the case. He pauses by Roque on his way past and Clay braces for the flare-up but Cougar just tips up the brim of his hat with two fingers and stares down at Roque. And the thing is that Roque shouldn’t be intimidated, even if Cougar is currently towering over him as he slouches in his chair. In a fight, Roque would probably come out on top but he still shifts a bit in his chair, looking a little uncomfortable.
“’Course I’ll look out for the kid,” he says. Cougar hums a little growl from the back of his throat and then nods, once.
“You’d better. Sé dónde usted duerme
,” Cougar mutters at Roque as Jensen and Pooch burst through the door, arguing about something obscurely pop-culture. Jensen juggles the two laptops he’s carrying and tosses out a sloppy salute in vague deference to the fact that he’s the lowest-ranked there. “Vámonos
,” Cougar says, and Jensen does a sharp one-eighty and follows Cougar back out of the door, still talking ten to the dozen.
“Fuckin’ scary, man,” Roque mutters and Clay claps a commiserating hand to the man’s shoulder. They’ve all been there and done that. Fucking shifters.
Pooch is settling into a seat and he throws the closed door an amused glance, shaking his head a little.
“Jensen come up here for a reason?” Clay asks and Pooch grins and rolls his eyes.
“Came to tell you he fixed the comms. He’ll probably remember in a half-hour or so. Whenever Cougs manages to shake him.”
Clay snorts and reaches for the whiskey.
“Gonna be a long wait, then,” Roque says as Clay’s pouring out a round into the cheap-ass plastic hotel-provided cups. “Twenty says he gets Jensen naked and in bed before tomorrow’s meetin’.”
“After he’s been dense an’ stupid over the kid this long? What makes you think he’d make a move now?” Pooch asks, looking at Roque speculatively. “You know somethin’ the Pooch doesn’t?”
Roque smirks and leers a little. “Never underestimate the ability of a man to fool himself when he’s stupid-in-love over some pretty young thing.”
“You think Jensen’s pretty?” Clay butts in even though, Christ, he really doesn’t want to. He’s learning more about his men’s sex-lives – except it’s not even sex, Roque and Pooch are talking about Cougs being head-over-heels, dopey-brained, in love with Corporal Jacob fucking Jensen of the United States Armed Forces. Fuck his life. Seriously. Also, Clay’s not going to think about why the thought of Roque finding Jensen pretty starts up a sour feeling in the pit of his stomach. That’s just too much introspection for one day and this is already starting to feel suspiciously like a sorority sleepover.
“Aww, c’mon Colonel,” Pooch says. “You know Roque never goes for blondes.” He’s grinning. Like he knows something they don’t. Roque reaches out and smacks Pooch upside the head with one hand as he takes the cup Clay holds out with the other. “Oh, speaking of…” Pooch starts, pulling his phone out of his pocket. He takes his cup and holds out the phone in his other hand. It’s nothing special or expensive, but it’s enough to play videos and Pooch is bouncing a little on his chair like a kid on Christmas morning.
Roque and Clay exchange a glance and then shrug at Pooch, the both of them not entirely certain what they’re supposed to be looking at.
“Jensen worked his magic,” Pooch says. “It’s the mall near home.”
Clay leans a little closer to get a better look.
“Is that…live?” he asks and Pooch nods, his grin widening to a full-on beam.
“Jolene’s doing her Christmas shopping.”
As they watch, the picture changes, following a teeny-tiny little figure that’s just about recognisable as Jolene in the middle of a crowd of equally tiny Yuletide shoppers.
“The kid hacked a satellite for you?” Roque guesses at last. He sounds worryingly interested and the last thing Clay needs is his 2iC getting his tech support to hack a satellite so he can track Clay when he’s on a date. It’s like the man thinks he’s Clay’s bodyguard sometimes, which is ridiculous because Clay’s a big boy who can take care of himself (and that time with Emma and that bomb in his car was completely an unexpected fluke).
“Yup. And the mall’s internal security cameras. And the external ones. And the traffic cameras along her route home.”
“That’s…kind of cool. Creepy,” Roque says, leaning back a little in his chair, “but kinda cool.”
Clay groans and slouches a little lower in his seat. Roque straightens a bit and his right leg shifts just enough that his knee’s pressing warm and reassuringly close against Clay’s. He wonders if his team would be this difficult to corral if they were all normal – for a given definition of normal, anyway. Wonders if they’d be the same guys that he knows now, if he’d even have them all on his team. Thinks that maybe they’d all be just as difficult, just as fucked up. Thinks that maybe he wouldn’t have them any other way.
He’s got a date with a charming, if volatile, woman named Sara later. Roque’s going to be shadowing him; Clay knows this for a fact because Roque always does, like he thinks Clay’s going to get himself drugged and abducted and wake up on a cargo ship on its way to Amsterdam. And that
has really only happened just the once in the entire time he’s known Roque so everyone needs to stop making such a big deal out of it. It’s just that the thing is…Clay thinks that maybe (Roque’s knee pressed against his, Roque’s hand on Clay’s thigh as he emphasises something, Roque’s gaze warm with something other than hellfire when he looks at Clay
) he might stay back at their hotel instead. After all, they’ve got a mission for the next day and it’s really not something that can be put off just because the commanding officer gets shot or stabbed by his date sometime between the linguini and the invite to go upstairs for coffee.
(When he casually throws it into the conversation later, that’s he’s not going to meet up with Sara, Pooch looks between him and Roque and mutters something about them being as bad as ‘the kids’ with a laugh. Not that Pooch has room to talk – he is
, after all, stalking his wife while in Australia
using Jensen-improved and possibly illegal tech. Roque just looks quietly pleased and if Clay didn’t know better he’d think that maybe Roque’s been jealous all this while.)
Along the hall in their shared room, Cougar finally figures out a way to stop Jensen from talking that doesn’t involve the liberal application of duct tape. When the two of them appear for the final pre-mission briefing at 1400 hours the next day, Jensen’s looking at Cougar with more stars in his eyes than usual and Cougs is purring like a well-oiled engine. Clay very firmly tells himself that he doesn’t want to know, not even when he catches Pooch handing Roque a twenty-dollar bill.
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