This story is rated NC-17 (adult audiences). It includes explicit male/male sex, non-explicit violence, and a bit of icky stuff. If this is what you came for, scroll down. If it isn't, hit the Back button.
In Which Cougar Always Looks
First week Cougar and Jensen met -- back when everybody thought General Coleman would be crazy to take on even one of these losers, let alone a whole unit of them; before the copter, before Aisha, when as far as Cougar was concerned Jensen was nothing but a loud-mouthed idiot child -- Jensen took one hand off his laptop and put it on Cougar's arm and said, "Yo, Alvarez, don't look."
Cougar shook the hand off and went back to his scope. Some other time -- when they weren't busy trying to blast an escape path for another unit out of a village ambush -- he was going to have to teach this boy a lesson about respecting his person. The kid was big, but signs pointed to stupid.
He was preparing his comeback when there was a ballooning flash of blue-tinged light, and a second later a deafening bang, and a second after that a rolling wave of heat.
"Shoulda sprung for metal detectors, suckers," their transport guy crowed over the comm.
"All right, move in," the Colonel said, while Cougar stood squeezing his eyes shut against a giant afterimage burned on the insides of his eyelids, cursing his own stupidity: a half-blind sniper wasn't worth much.
"Hey," the kid said, half defensive, half apologetic. "I told you not to look."
Cougar got along OK with Pooch and Roque. They were types he'd met before: the family man, the loyal second. The Colonel he wasn't so sure about; the man honestly expected people to be grateful when he got to going after some windmill, and walked away with his feelings hurt every damned time. Cougar was glad Roque stepped up to play Sancho Panza, because he sure as hell wasn't interested.
Jensen was a weirder case. The kid had a brain like Wikipedia, equal parts vital information, unsubstantiated rumor, and shit nobody cared about. You never knew what was going to come out of his mouth, but you knew there'd be a lot of it.
It got on his nerves at first to have Jensen all the time telling him what not to look at, as if he were a child. "Look, kid, I don't need protecting." It was always on Cougar's lips, but he never said it. He didn't even know why.
But sometime, after a hundred near escapes, after everything he couldn't speak about and couldn't forget, after a time when they were all dead to everyone but each other, it stopped sounding like Shield your eyes, weakling, and started sounding like Got your back.
"Another day," Jensen said, rolling over on the stone with a squishy sound, "another death-defying dive from a copter into an abandoned quarry without a chute. Y'know, the sameness of this job kinda gets to me, Cougar. I coulda been an actor, but I wound up here." He squelched around till he found the rock with the blaze on it where there gear was stowed, and started peeling his sodden T-shirt off. "OK, gettin' naked here. Don't look, buddy. What has been seen cannot be unseen."
There were many things Cougar would have liked to unsee, but the world didn't work like that. They were still there, burned on the insides of his eyelids, always.
He took himself a nice long look at Jensen's bare ass as compensation.
There were good, practical reasons for a sniper to wear a hat. In the shade of its deep brim, Cougar's pupils didn't contract to block out the sun. It protected his eyes from some of the dust, rain, and inevitable explosive debris that were part of life as a Loser. It kept his head cool and unnerved the rare enemy who got close enough to see it.
Also it was good for being able to see things without being seen.
Cougar knew Jensen watched him. When he stretched, in the moments before he took a shot, when he lay just on the edge of sleep, he could feel Jensen's eyes on him like a warm touch.
Jensen never made a move, so Cougar concluded that he only wanted to look.
Jensen didn't know Cougar noticed. Jensen might not even have noticed himself.
"Oh, man," Jensen said, peeling up a corner of the sloppy field dressing near Cougar's left armpit. "Oh, man, that's grisly, that's like something out of a horror movie. Don't look, Cougar."
He was so out of it he didn't really even register the pain as Jensen wetted and peeled and wetted and peeled to get the crusty gauze off, just laid his head back against the pillow and breathed through his mouth.
Three days it had taken them to get out of the mountains when the plane was shot down. At least he thought it had been three days. He'd lost track, what with bleeding screaming hallucinations, and blood loss, and not quite enough water to go around. Anyway, it had been a hell of a long time, walking and hitching. Jensen and Pooch had gone for first aid as soon as they'd hit the safe house, though they had to be nearly as dead on their feet as Cougar was. Three days, or was it four?
He craned his neck over to look as the wound was revealed. The color reminded him of old meat, and way down there he thought he saw something wriggling.
Saliva flooded his mouth. "Gonna heave," he said. But he could feel consciousness slipping away. Someone's hands turned his head to the side.
"Dunno why you even bother saying that, Jay," Pooch was saying as he drifted off. "Cougar always looks."
None of them had ever intended to be outlaws for life. They'd been soldiers, like thousands of others, with the usual ideas about what they'd do when their hitches were done, if they survived.
But it couldn't be denied that the Losers were a little different. A little less controllable, a little more -- well, it wasn't as though they could go home and work at Starbucks.
When Los Angeles was dealt with, they had about two weeks of downtime before Jensen picked a fight with a referee, and Pooch got pulled for doing a hundred in a construction zone. Aisha just about severed a guy's hand, and would have gone to jail, probably, except that the guy turned out to be a serial torture rapist released on a politically motivated pardon.
Cougar? Well, a sniper had to be good at coping with boredom. He had a window. He knew when his neighbor stepped out before her husband did. He had eyes. He kept himself busy.
Still, when Clay sent him off on a solo pest-control mission -- some shitty town in the Gulf where one of Max's dirty projects might or might not have been going forward -- he was damned grateful.
You didn't look at television when you were on a mission. He knew it rained buckets, sluicing off his hat brim and down the ends of his hair while he sat on the roof of an abandoned warehouse in Port Isabel waiting for a trafficker who never showed. And he knew he ended up hitching back because flooding had grounded all the flights.
But it wasn't until he unlocked his apartment door at 3 a.m. and Jensen sat up on his couch and yelled, "Holy shit!" that he learned that a twister had wiped the warehouse right off the map shortly after he left it behind.
Jensen sat staring at him for a long time, while Cougar noticed the mark his glasses had made on the side of his cheek and the dark circles of sleeplessness under his eyes. Then somehow Jensen figured out he wasn't a ghost or whatever, and a huge grin lit his face. "I told them. I told them. I said, the CIA couldn't take you out, no way were we going to lose you to mere meteorology."
He grabbed Cougar and pulled him down for a lightning-quick hug, just a shoulder squeeze and a whiff of gunpowder and fabric softener, and edged away to the end of the couch, talking fast as an auctioneer: "So you must have missed it by hours, maybe even like minutes. You even smell like a hurricane. You don't believe me, but it's the ozone; it clings to your clothes, and that stupid hat, Cougar -- only you could come through a hurricane and not even get your hat blown off," and that was when Cougar identified that choked sound in his voice and said, "Hey."
He'd seen Jensen cry before -- dislocated shoulder; baby pictures; plus the guy was a really maudlin drunk; no big deal. That meant Jensen had something else he wanted to hide.
But Cougar didn't need to see his face. It was there in the muscles of his back, visibly tensed against discovery, while the words went on: "No, no, it's fine, it's fine, just give me a second here -- I haven't, uh, slept for a while and I'm a little fucked up, not in my right mind or I'd --"
Cougar edged closer to him. "Hey," he said to the bent back of his neck. "It's the same. It's the same with me."
Jensen gave a mirthless hiccuppy chuckle. "My friend, I very seriously doubt that."
Cougar looked at him: the taut nape of his neck, the way his body was hunched like he was trying to make himself smaller. And then he curled around him, pressing up against his back. "Like this," he said softly, lips brushing against the warm curve of Jensen's ear.
He could feel the shiver that went through Jensen at the contact, but Jensen stayed stiff, leaning away from him, until Cougar put his hand over Jensen's on the arm of the couch, slid his fingers between Jensen's, squeezed. "Like this."
Jensen's breath went in fast. His head was bent, looking at their joined hands. "Seriously?"
Cougar drew Jensen against his chest. "Yeah."
Jensen went limp against him, head falling back. Cougar kissed his jaw and his cheek and his mouth.
Jensen's kisses were all stops and starts and sudden changes in speed, maddening; Cougar got his other arm around to turn his head, let go of his hand to press against his chest and feel his racing heart.
"I don't do this." Jensen's hand groped backward to Cougar's hip.
Cougar snorted. "Yes, you do." Jensen's nipples were hard under his shirt and his belly hollowed when Cougar pinched one.
"Ah! Nosy fucker. I meant, I don't do this with -- with guys I -- Cougar, with you."
Sweatpants were easy. Cougar just pushed his hand under the drawstring, and Jensen's cock leapt to meet him. "Now you do."
"OK, y-yeah." His hips came right up off the couch.
Cougar tightened his grip. He shook his wrist, pushing against the waistband. Jensen hitched his hips up to shove them down. Cougar spread his knees to get him closer when he sat back, rocking against Jensen's bare back.
"Fuck," Jensen said. He groped backwards, managed to get Cougar's jeans undone one-handed. "Oh, yeah, talented hands, what can I tell you." He pulled at Cougar's hip: "Come on, come on, Cougar, let me feel you."
They weren't going to get naked, obviously. Jensen was wearing boots, and Cougar still had on his hat. He contented himself, this time, with what little he could see -- the side of Jensen's face, red, eyes tightly shut behind his glasses; his shirt pushed up, scratches on his belly Cougar didn't remember making but which filled him with triumphant possessiveness. His cock in Cougar's hand like something that belonged there.
"You're looking at me, aren't you? Fuck, Cougar, that's --" He arched back, showing off. Cougar licked his ear, bit sharply. "Oh -- fuck. You wanna see me come, you just keep doing that." He shimmied his hips back, and Cougar let go -- "No, no, hey, what -- oh, OK, yeah, good idea, you have the best ideas --" just long enough to get his shorts out of the way and his cock fully against Jensen's bare skin before getting his hand back where he really wanted it.
Jensen diverted it, pulled it up to his mouth and licked it wet, grinning back over his shoulder, like he knew how that sight was taking Cougar to pieces. He kept hold of Cougar's hand, molding it around his dick -- as if Cougar needed instructions! -- but it was the sight of that, Jensen using Cougar's hand to jack his own cock, that set Cougar off, muttering something in he didn't even know what language, hunching around Jensen and rubbing out onto the hot bare skin of his back.
"Oh, jesus, wait, wait." Jensen forced their hands still, and there was a breathless pause, Jensen holding Cougar's hand tight and still, before his cock jerked and he said, "Aw, fuck, Cougar," and gave it up at last.
Cougar was almost dizzy with triumph and relief, and he hadn't slept in a very long time. When Jensen let go, Cougar could see in the rhythm of his breathing that some new flood of words was coming to undo all this peace.
He wiped his hand on the cartoon cat on Jensen's shirt.
"So, uh, that was, I mean the joy of being alive and all, or --"
Cougar tipped off his hat and laid it crown down on the end table, on top of two laptops and a smartphone still reeling out the satellite forecast for the Gulf of Mexico.
He plucked Jensen's glasses off his face by the nosepiece, folded them neatly, and dropped them into the hat.
"You know I can't see a thing without those."
He nudged Jensen's head back onto his shoulder. "You don't need to see anything. Go to sleep."
Cougar woke up alone on the couch, and the sun that was heating his face was not morning sun. He had a crick in his neck and a tremendous hunger. His boots were damp, his shirt smelled slept-in, and his breath was appalling. What he wanted was a shower, fresh clothes, a big piece of meat, a decent beer, and a clean bed with Jensen in it.
He opened his eyes.
Jensen was coming out of the bathroom, damp hair darkened to brown, one of Cougar's ratty towels wrapped around his hips. His mouth opened and one hand came up, and --
The expected verbal deluge didn't come. Jensen put his hand back down, and a smile started up in the skin above the left corner of his mouth and spread out until he was grinning full of teeth.
"OK," he said, "yeah. Look all you want." -end-
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March 5, 2012