Disclaimer/Author's Note: Don't own the series or the characters etc. This was a birthday gift for Gretchen aka Skeleton Key of 667 Dark Avenue.

Unguarded Moment

You wouldn't believe how sick you can get, working in a hotel. Or maybe you would, depending on how much you know about the subject. People come here from all over the world, bringing the entire world's bacteria and viruses with them, to mingle in the lobby and multiply all over the elevator buttons. It's worse than working in a hospital. At least there you'd get disinfected.

I'm infected. I'm lying on the floor trying not to move, because if I lie very still I don't feel sick or dizzy or hot and my head doesn't hurt. The only problem with that is that at some point I have to get up. Guests feel uncomfortable seeing the manager lying semi-conscious in a corridor. It's bad for business.

No one's seen me yet, but that's mostly because we're understaffed.

The elevator doors open, and I turn my head to look, which is a bit like trying to move a hot bowling ball full of mucus. (Or so I'd imagine. I don't know from personal experience.) All I can see are sensible shoes and black tights thick enough to hide, say, an ankle tattoo from anyone not actually looking for it, but that's enough to tell me who it is. The person I least wanted to see after Frank. On the other hand, maybe I can get her to tell me what the deal is with those frog lamps I'm not supposed to know we ordered. Let no one say I'm not resourceful.

The shoes stop next to me. "Kit," I croak before she can say anything. "Could you help me to room 614?"

"Leave me alone, Ernest," she snaps. The shoes back away a bit, as if I'm poisonous. Charming. Of course, technically I guess I am poisonous right now.

"Ernest?" I try to sound even sicker, which is a bad idea because it makes me gag. "I'm Frank. Don't you recognise me?"

"Dewey and I just spoke to Frank."

Dewey and I? "Okay, fine." My throat hurts now. "You saw through my fiendish deception. Well done."

She bends down to look at me, feeling my forehead with the back of her hand. Her fingers are like ice, even through the gloves. "You're really not well, are you?"

"No, I'm not, but feel free to just leave me here to suffer. It's what I deserve for my years of villainy, isn't it? I'm sure all the noble, decent people of the world would – aagh!"

That, in case you can't tell, was the sound of a germ-infested triplet being picked up and slung over someone's shoulder. "I'm only doing this," Kit says with an aggrieved sigh, wrapping an arm around my legs, "because I don't want anyone tripping over you."

"Do I have to be upside down?" As if I didn't feel dizzy enough. The corridor's shaking like a bouncy castle in the middle of an earthquake, which is something I do know about from personal experience, but that's a long story and if I told you I'd have to kill you.


"I might be sick down your back."

"Don't even think about it. I'll plant you in a vase."

"That wasn't a threat."

She carries me into the elevator. "I suppose I should be relieved," she says, jabbing at the button for the sixth floor. "You'll be out of the way for a few days."

"Frank won't see it like that," I tell her. "He'll just be annoyed that I'm not doing my share of the work."

"Do you usually?"

"Hey, just because I'm a bad person doesn't mean I'm a bad manager."

She makes a disapproving noise. "At least Dewey and I will be able to go about our business."

"You've said that twice now. 'Dewey and I'?"

"Yes, Dewey and I. As in, me, and Dewey. Your point being?"

The elevator doors slide open again. "I just wondered when my brother's business started being yours."

She takes a deep breath. For a moment I think she's going to dump me on the floor again and make me crawl into bed, but then she sets off down the corridor a lot faster than I'm comfortable with. "Long after it stopped being any of your concern, Ernest."

"It's still my concern. He's my brother. He's been my brother a lot longer than he's been – whatever he is to you."

She doesn't answer. I'm not sure if we've stopped moving or not for a second, but then I realise that what I thought was another hot flash is actually the steam from the sauna. We're here. I hear Kit open the door of the medical room, and the next thing I know I'm being flipped on to a bed.

"There." Kit brushes her hands together. "The word is boyfriend, by the way," she says. "Or lover, or possibly partner or beau."

I lie there with the blood rushing out of my head. "Is that right?"

"Ernest, if I didn't know any better, I'd think you were jealous." She looks around but there's no one else here, so she kneels down to look under the bed. "I suppose I'd better get you a bucket."

"I just didn't think he'd be your type." It occurs to me as I'm saying this that it's probably not the best survival strategy, because I really do need that bucket, but I'm too sticky and dizzy and nauseated to stop myself in time. "Although I guess he's two out of three."

She lifts her head to frown at me. "Two out of three what?"

"I heard you like your men like you like your coffee," I say. "Tall, skinny and morally dubious."

"Don't you dare – " She shouldn't be able to move that fast, or maybe it's me who's just too slow. Anyway she's on her feet again, grabbing me by the lapels and pulling me up out of the bed, but not for long because I start to cough and then retch and she drops me back onto the covers again and shoves a bedpan under my chin. I throw up. A lot. You don't really want any description, trust me.

"Don't you ever mention that again," Kit says, quietly, while I'm getting my breath back.

"It sounded wittier before I said it," I mutter. I don't feel hot any more. I feel cold, shivery. "Can I have some water?"

She pulls her shoulders back as if she's about to storm out and leave me here, but then she sighs and goes over to the sink. "I shouldn't do this," she says, filling a plastic cup. "You're lucky I'm feeling generous."

"I realise that." I slump back onto the pillows. "That's why I'm not jealous."

"You're the one who betrayed us," she says, handing me the water. She thinks about it for a second, then pulls off her gloves and takes the bedpan from me. "I'll empty this for you, but then I'm going. You can take care of yourself. Or ring for assistance."

"Who's 'us'?"

"Your family."

"You're not my family," I point out.

"You know what I mean." She walks into the bathroom. I hear a flush, and running water.

"Yes. I do."

She comes out of the bathroom, putting her gloves back on. "You made your choice, Ernest. You've made it perfectly clear whose side you're on."

"Oh, I know." It hurts, but I push myself up on the pillows. "So what about Dewey? What happens to him when he's not on your side any more?"

"Nothing. That won't happen." She shakes her head, walking to the door. "Dewey would never turn his back on VFD."

"I was thinking more the other way round."

She stops moving. She doesn't say a word.

"You heard me," I say. "I've seen what you did to – what you do to people you don't agree with any more."

She turns to look at me, slowly. "You mean people who can't be trusted," she says. Her hands are together, white fingers twined around each other. "People who try to destroy us."

"I don't want to destroy Dewey," I say. "I might disagree with everything he stands for, but that doesn't mean I want him hurt."

She walks back over to the bed. Bending down again she puts a hand to my forehead, brushes limp hair out of my eyes. Her hand still feels cool.

"Neither do I," she says, and I feel her breath on my face.

She straightens up. Her own hair is coming out of its knot, and when she pulls the pencils out it falls down around her shoulders. She gathers it in one hand, ready to pin it up again.

"It looks better like that," I say.

She doesn't answer. She pins her hair up and looks at me one last time, unfathomably, and then she leaves. I watch the door close behind her, and then I pull the blankets over my head and lie there, fully dressed and hot and shivering.