Reviews appreciated. This is my first fic for Intelligence, so let me know if anyone is OOC.
It was early Saturday morning when Riley's phone buzzed. She groped around on her table for a moment before locating the device and pulling it to her ear. "Yeah?" she mumbled into the receiver.
"Riley?" Gabriel's drawl came over the earpiece, sounding weaker than usual.
She bolted upright, fully conscious.
"Gabriel? Are you alright?" Within a second, she was on her balcony, trying to get a visual on him. She couldn't. Gun she slept with under her pillow already in hand, she threw her door open and headed down the stairwell. "Gabriel! What's your status?" she huffed as she leaped down several stairs onto the next landing.
In the time it took him to answer, she had another flight. "Fine," his finally voice came over the line as she started on the next one. "'M fine."
She stopped dead in her tracks. So he wasn't in danger. She glanced at the replacement Swiss quartz watch she had bought after the Mexican kidnapping fiasco- 12 a.m.
Then... "Can ya just come over here?" His voice was uncharacteristically hesitant, and her thoughts immediately flashed to several potential emotional upsets that could be plaguing him at the moment. If he told her, she would be able determine the best course of action in dealing with it.
Amelia? The chip? Conversation? A hug?
Jesus, a hug? Where had that come from?
Well, she was the protector, and she supposed that extended to emotional capacities as well.
"Yeah. I'll be up in a minute."
She walked down the last few flights of stairs at a more leisurely pace, made the short trip across the alley to Gabriel's complex and used the elevator to get to his floor. When she put her key in the lock of his door, she discovered that it was already unlocked. She ground her teeth as she turned the knob- Did he always have to making protecting him so hard?
Stalking into the entryway, she scanned the area. "Gabriel? I swear to God, what are you thinking?" she growled as she searched for him, emotional issues be damned. "Do you know how dangerous it is to leave your door unlocked?" She journeyed further into his living room, searching for him. "Gabriel?"
"Here," a scratchy voice called from the couch, and a limp hand stuck in the air.
She approached, a bit surprised at the sight before her. It was Gabriel, but instead of being in the usual soldier-wide-awake-whatever-obscene-hour-of-the-day-clad-in-semi-military-garb mode, he was buried under several blankets. Only his head was visible on one end. His hair was sticking up at odd angles, his eyes were half-shut and watery, his skin had a faint greyish tinge to it, and his nose was red. The phone and a roll of toilet paper sat on the floor next to a trashcan and a rapidly accumulating pile of used tissues.
She would have found his appearance funny, if he didn't look so miserable. "I thought you said you were alright?"
"'M not dying," he grumbled. "Was calling to see if you had cold stuff."
She shook her head as she placed her hand on his forehead, a little alarmed at the warmth. "I don't get sick."
She took one last assessing look at him before reaching over the couch for his phone and scrolling through the contacts. It only took two rings for the man she wanted to pick up. It was not a surprise; Doctor Cassidy was...quirky, and it was little wonder that he kept odd hours. "Hello? Gabriel?" Cassidy's voice came over the phone.
"Doctor Cassidy, this is Agent Neal. Sorry to disturb you, but-"
"-Is Gabriel alright?" the doctor cut in, concern piquing in his voice.
She could understand the notion. "He's okay, but I think he's got something-"
"-Is there a issue with the chip?"
"-Not with the chip-" she stated, a little frustrated. It would be simpler if he just let her speak. "-but he's sick."
She could hear the sound of the doctor getting up hurriedly and knocking something over, and briefly marveled at how the clumsy man managed to perform such complicated feats of experimental neurosurgery. "Say no more, I'm coming over."
"There's no need," she assured quickly, "it's nothing too serious." She glanced over to her charge, who hadn't moved. "He has flu-like symptoms. Fever, fatigue, watery eyes, congestion …"
"Sore throat…" Gabriel croaked helpfully. "Cough. Puked some. Cold as Antarctica. Feel like death warmed over."
"You get the idea," Riley stated. She heard the sound of the doctor clucking his tongue on the other side of the phone and shot a glance at Gabriel, who had started shivering. Cringing on his behalf, she refocused her attention the doctor.
"…It sounds like Influenza."
Well. She could have figured that one out, and she was but a lowly Secret Service agent. "Is there anything I can do for him?"
Though she couldn't see the doctor, she knew he was shaking his head in his usual emphatic way. "No, no, I'm afraid not. Beyond, say, Tamiflu, there isn't much one can do except wait it out. Even then, the influenza is a virus, and medication is not always effective. He needs hydration and rest… If it offers you peace of mind, we could transport him to my home, or Cyber Command-"
"I'm good here, doc," came the southern drawl from the couch, stronger for Cassidy's benefit. "Riley here'll keep me company just fine."
Cassidy seemed appeased. "Very well, then. Are you sure he-"
"-We'll be okay," she cut in. "Do you mind calling Lillian?"
"No, no, not at all."
"Thank you, Doctor Cassidy. Have a good night." She hung up, and turned to Gabriel, who offered a weak smirk. "What?"
"You didn't have to call him… got Web MD in my head…"
She rolled her eyes. "Showoff."
Riley crossed to the closet to pull out a coat, and though it seemed to take great effort, he tilted his head up slightly to gaze at her. "You leaving?"
She shook her head. "Nah. Going to get 'sick stuff."
His head thumped back down, and she winced on his behalf. "In all fairness, Amelia used to take care of that... I haven't gotten sick since…" He trailed off.
She elected it best not to comment on the sore subject as she pulled one of his wool sweaters over her t-shirt. "Be back in 20 minutes. I'm locking the door."
True to her word, exactly twenty minutes later she turned the lock of his door and stepped inside, bag from the small drug store two blocks away in hand. "Gabriel?"
He wasn't on the couch, but the sound of retching alerted her attention the bathroom. She hurried in to see Gabriel hunched over the toilet, his fingers gripping the side as he dry heaved into the toilet. His body was crunched uncomfortably over the seat as it tried to rid itself of what little acid was in his stomach. She could see the strain and discomfort in his shirtless shoulders and clenched stomach muscles. Wincing on his behalf, she set the grocery bag down and knelt next to him. Her hand found its way to his back and began making soothing circles while he gagged.
After a few minutes that seemed much longer than they were, Gabriel finally stopped heaving and sat back on his haunches, spent. Riley swung into action, pulling some towels down from the rack and arranging them on the floor. "Here, sit on this." He complied, back coming to rest against the wall with a thump, and pulled his knees up to cradle his stomach. Riley wetted a washcloth and gave it to him. "Clean your mouth." He did. She pulled a Pedialyte Popsicle out of her drug store bag. "Take a bite of this."
He eyed her skeptically.
"It's a stomach settling agent, and it'll keep you hydrated." Still, he didn't take it, and she waved it in front of him. "It's blue raspberry-flavored." She silently thanked the powers that be when he took a bite- he was a sucker for all things blue raspberry: Gatorade, jolly ranchers, and whatever else happened to come in the flavor.n.
After the popsicle, his eyelids grew impossibly heavy and he slumped further against the wall. She took pity on him and used a clean, damp rag to wipe the sweat from his face, hair, and body. It was a true testament to his level of exhaustion that he let her do so without comment. Once that task was complete, she settled back next to him, waiting for the next bout of nausea.
It didn't come, but after a few minutes the chills struck again and he started shivering. She briefly considered trying to move him to bed or at least back to the sofa, but decided that, with his apparent lethargy and weight that was substantially heavier than hers in consideration, attempting to do so was not a good idea. She settled for retrieving a few blankets and pillows from the couch.
Gabriel was hard-pressed to move as she made the pillows into a makeshift bed. "'M a Ranger. Slept on only th' floor before."
"You didn't have the flu," she pointed out matter-of-factly as she helped him lay out across the pillows. After he was settled, she sat next to where his head was resting and slid a pillow under herself.
Gently, she covered his shaking body with the blanket and checked her watch. 2:30 a.m- Plenty of time for him to try and sleep, considering they wouldn't be going to work in the morning…
And didn't he look… peaceful like this? The lines of his face, etched by danger and tragedy, relaxed and dark hair all… spiky. She ran her fingers through the light brown locks.
She didn't notice that she had continued doing so until he spoke up. "This is…"
"Emasculating?" she joked quietly.
"…Nice," he amended. "If ya don't get sick, how do you know to do all this?"
"Who do you think took care of the First Kids on Air Force One?"
He contemplated this for a moment, and then sighed. "'Good at it."
In response, she slowly pulled her fingernails across his scalp. He made a purring noise that she was sure he would be mortified by if he was completely lucid. Scratch that; he didn't do embarrassed. But he wouldn't have made it in normal circumstances, and she would enjoy it now, even if was only because he felt like crap. In a day or so, he would be back on his feet, Rendering and causing her hair to grey prematurely. However, tonight, it was simply the two of them. Friends.
And despite the situation, she appreciated that.