Cold Season

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Summary: Of course it's the season for illness, but such a disaster has never before been known, in the history of Mineral Town: two people have passed out at the same time! How will the Clinic cope with the sudden rush of business? Doctor/Elli, Claire/Cliff, silliness and more silliness.

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Disclaimer: I don't own 'em, and they may not mind me, but they sure do think I'm a strange 'un.

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From the moment that Sasha appeared in the lobby of the Clinic with an unconscious little blonde farmer draped over her shoulder, Elli knew that the day would not be a good one.

And when, a few seconds later, the doctor emerged from his office to discover the situation, he was rather inclined to agree.

It wasn't because Claire was irritating as hell, or generally a terrible patient because she simply never shut up, or that Elli usually disappeared when she saw the girl coming, thus leaving him alone to deal with the onslaught of useless chatter after first giving him a wistful little look that made him feel decidedly as though he was kicking a puppy by spending enforced quality time with a girl he couldn't stand in the least.

All of this was, certainly, one factor in producing his pained groan when his eyes lit on Sasha and Claire.

But more crucial was the scruffy young man already occupying the cot nearest his office.

"Elli, go wake up Cliff for me, please," Tim requested absently.

The little nurse wheeled on her boss furiously.

"What! You can't do that! He's still weak!"

He wheeled back on her.

"And just why are you so concerned about Cliff?"

"Well, why are you so concerned about Claire?"

"I'm a doctor!" he reminded her calmly, with only mild shouting and the merest amount of wild gesturing. "It's sort of my job!"

"Well, I'm a nurse," Elli pouted, arms crossed. "I'm worried, too. Particularly, I'm worried about the possibility of a malpractice suit if we turn a patient away before he's fully recovered."

"And in the meantime," Sasha interjected mildly, hefting the unconscious farmer higher over her shoulder, "she's not getting any lighter."

"Do you think they'd both fit on the cot?" Elli giggled.

The doctor brightened.

"We can try it. Sasha, this way, please."

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"Oops," Elli said sadly a few minutes later as Cliff toppled unceremoniously to the floor from the right side of the cot, and Claire rolled out of the left.

"I'm out of here," Sasha said emphatically, already starting for the door.

"Thank-you for your help," the doctor called after her, reflecting silently that any woman who could carry around that much noise and chatter was a terrifying creature, and worthy of much respect by any man who valued his life.

"Well, now what?" Elli asked, peeking up at him from the floor where she was crouched, inspecting Cliff for severe injuries.

"Oh, no," the doctor muttered. "She's coming to." He helped the little brunette to her feet. "You know that malpractice suit you were mentioning? It'll be quite real if she wakes up on the floor. Help me get her into the cot."

With a long-suffering sigh, she obeyed.

"Now, what about Cliff?"

"Uh, well, maybe he'll wake up on his own if we get him upright."

"Is that your professional medical opinion?" Elli muttered sourly, taking Cliff's arm as the doctor took the other.

Together, they dragged him into the lobby of the Clinic, and carefully balanced him on his thoroughly unconscious feet.

"I'll be back to help you as soon as I can," he called in a whisper as he bolted back towards his office. "Just let me get her squared away."

"Jerk," Elli pouted, bolting forward to retrieve Cliff as he flopped face-first to the floor.

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"You're awake, are you?" the doctor was meanwhile greeting the flannel-clad blonde in the cot. "You overworked yourself and collapsed."

"Yeah, I figured," Claire said woozily.

"How are you feeling?"

"Woozy," Claire replied snippily. "Read the narration. Although," she added, attempting innocence but being rather undermined by her wolfish grin, "I think I'd feel a lot better if you sent in Elli to spoon-feed me Bodigizers. And see if she'll take off her dress and just wear the apron."

"Funny," the doctor said thoughtfully. "That's my favourite method of recovery, too." Then he seemed to shake himself off. "Well, I'll just be at my desk if you need anything. Try to get some rest."

"But…Elli!" Claire called plaintively. "Bodigizers! Naked-apron!"

The doctor sighed and shook his head as he headed back to his office, rather quickly, anxious to be away from that special and particularly unpleasant scent cast by a person who, upon going to sleep after a long walk in the snow, had heated up very quickly.

It rivaled wet dogs, he decided, shuddering slightly.

"Doctor!" Elli called from the lobby. "What should we do with Cliff?"

He sprinted from his office.

"I don't know, Elli," he hissed, motioning for her to keep her voice down. "Just…put him somewhere."

"Fine," she said huffily. "I'll take him upstairs to my bedroom."

With that, she hoisted the young man effortlessly over her shoulder and started toward the stairs.

"Hey, wait a second!" the doctor protested, ignoring the part of his mind exclaiming in frantic surprise over her show of unsettling physical strength, too. "There's no need—"

"No, Doctor, it's alright," she interrupted pleasantly. "The poor ruggedly handsome young movie star look-alike needs to rest somewhere, and I volunteer to sacrifice my privacy for the time being, until he feels better. Even if it means sharing my bed, I'll do it, for the good of Mineral Town's collective health."

The doctor continued to protest until she was out of sight, although none of it was in coherent words.

He glared darkly at the bottom of the staircase.

"Brat."

"Hey, that's not fair!" Claire's voice called, outraged, from the cot. "Why does Cliff get the special treatment, while I'm stuck down here?"

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"Wh-what happened?" Cliff asked weakly some three hours later. "Why does the cot feel suddenly…comfortable?"

Elli turned, startled from the reorganization of her bookshelf and teddy bears by this plaintive call.

"Oh, you're awake!" she noted. "You're not in the cot anymore, Cliff. You're in my bedroom, actually."

Cliff turned abruptly very red, and his eyes approached the size of the average dinner plate.

"Um…what happened?"

"N-nothing like that!" Elli assured him hastily, equally red, although without the dinner plates pasted to her face. "We experienced some overcrowding issues, and you had to be moved."

"Overcrowding issues?" he repeated with a frown.

"Yeah," Elli said sadly. "We've never had two people pass out at once in this town before. Although, I'd really like to know what Claire was doing, standing in front of the Clinic, in a heavy snowstorm, casting her fishing rod over and over," she finished in an annoyed mutter. "I think she's just addicted to the Bodigizers."

Cliff hunched into a forlorn little ball.

"I-I got bumped for Claire?"

Elli's eyes transmitted mute sympathy

"I'm sorry, Cliff, but overcrowding can happen in a small town with insufficient facilities."

"Is she okay?"

"I'm sure she's just fine," Elli replied beamingly. "I'm sure she's talking the doctor's ear off as we speak."

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"So, how are we feeling now?" the doctor was meanwhile asking briskly, casting an absent glance at the girl in the cot as he rummaged through the cupboards for something.

"I'm not speaking to you," Claire informed him airily.

He sighed.

"Tremendous loss."

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"Yeah, probably," Cliff agreed, much comforted. Then he sighed. "I guess the doctor really likes her, huh?"

Elli tried to shrug casually despite shoulders stiffening abruptly.

"It looks like it. And really, who wouldn't?"

"Yeah," Cliff agreed wistfully, utterly missing the resentment thick in Elli's voice. "I guess they're probably having fun."

"Well, of course! He's probably going to propose any day now," she continued with cheerfulness that sounded more than a little forced.

Cliff looked up frantically.

"What!"

Elli gave a painedd little laugh.

"Oh, come on, Cliff. Wouldn't you propose to her?"

"Y-yeah, I would," Cliff replied, staring morosely down at his hands.

This seemed to pierce completely through the little nurse's protective barrier of denial and oblivion, and her eyes grew at once wide and teary.

"Oh, Cliff, I'm so sorry!" she wailed, crossing the room in one gravity-defying bound, and pulling the miserable young man close. "You're in love with her, and I'm busy worrying about my own problems!"

"That's okay," Cliff assured her, muffled by being pressed comfortingly between her reasonably bountiful feminine charms. "I'm feeling lots better, actually."

"Alright, what is this?" an angry voice demanded from the door.

Elli looked up, and abruptly let go of Cliff.

"Doctor!"

"Hi," Cliff greeted with a goofy little grin. His heart might be broken by the loss of Claire, but other parts were still working quite satisfactorily.

"Rrr!" said the doctor, advancing menacingly on the pair in the bed.

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A mere five minutes later saw a distinct change in the situation.

Cliff was reinstated very quickly in the cot near the doctor's desk, with that same doctor's eye fixed watchfully on him at all times. He smiled to himself despite the scratchy linens and hard mattress; it was nice to know that they did care about him here, after all.

Not only that, his cheeks were a permanent shade of red from Claire's fit of panic when she had seen how pale her poor Cliffie-Wiffie still was from his brush with death in the snow a few days ago. So frantic had been that blonde farmer-maiden that she had insisted upon borrowing a spare apron from Elli and spoon-feeding Cliff a bowl of chicken soup, wearing the apron and only the apron.

Meanwhile, the doctor had reminded Elli, with a hopeful little smile, that Cliff had not been the only one to go through an awkward and boundlessly aggrivating situation today.

Elli had nodded thoughtfully and agreed, and ten minutes later had seen the doctor fastening the strings of her other spare apron around his waist, looking terribly annoyed about it.

But, as she had been similarly garbed, minus the apron, and had foregone the Bodigizers and the chicken soup in favour of jumping him and removing his apron, his mood had quickly improved.

Yes, Claire decided once the dust had settled and all the aprons were either safely back in Elli's closet or worn over long skirts and prim, frilly little blouses as usual, Mama had certainly been onto something when she had dispensed to her only daughter that bit of boundless wisdom.

Always remember, child, she quoted silently as she snuggled down amid the fluffy pillows and blankies and teddy bears to be found in Elli's bed, she who complains the loudest will be heard and heeded.

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End Notes: Yyyyyyeah, that was silly. Would you believe it? This started out as my attempt to write a Cliff/Elli ficlet. I guess I need the red marker. XD