Infection

by Iamakunoichi

A/N: So yeah, finished watching H20 and couldn't get this scene out of my head. My take on Rachel Young's reactions to Hood's hallucinations and what happens afterwards. Do not read if you haven't seen it and don't wish to be spoiled. Contains some Rachel/Hood, R/H, Jachel. Hope you enjoy it.

Disclaimer: I do not own Eleventh Hour or any of its characters, rights, or anything else lawyers can bill me for.

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It was nearly three in the morning, but Rachel Young couldn't sleep. She sat a patient vigil, her eyes watchful as she gazed over at the only other occupant of the small hotel room.

The object of her scrutiny was currently sprawled comfortably under the thick blankets of the hotel bed, with only his curly-haired head poking out from under the comforter. Dr. Jacob Hood, a brilliant if erratic scientist, consultant to the FBI, and her current assignment.

Rachel resisted the urge to snort, not wishing to disturb Hood - he needed the sleep. Assignment. As if that was anywhere near describing the exasperating, frustrating task of watching over an absent-minded scientist who seemed to have misplaced his common sense when he was born -

"I'm not alone anymore."

That sleepy mumble came from Hood, who had somehow shifted to face Rachel in his sleep. Even asleep, his face reflected the sorrow and relief that sentence brought him, brows furrowing before his features relaxed again into gentle repose. He looked so childlike in sleep, when the burdens he carried melted away. Rachel's eyes softened as a soft snore began emanating from the man on the bed. He had really scared her earlier.

It was the sound of breaking furniture that had alerted her. She had just shut her laptop and was getting ready to turn in for the night when she heard the loud crash of metal meeting solid object - and it was emanating from Hood's room. Not stopping to think, she grabbed her weapon and threw open the door.

Whatever she had expected, the sight of Hood, panicked and hurling furniture at an invisible enemy, wasn't it.

----------------- Flashback ---------------

Rachel threw open the door, gun in hand, ready to take out whoever was threatening her charges safety - only to find Hood himself, standing alone in the middle of the room, having just finished hurling what looked to be a vase across the room. He was drenched, either from sweat or water she couldn't tell, and his eyes were wide and glassy, unseeing. She sucked in a deep breath. Oh God, not Hood too... She knew, she just knew, that Hood had also become infected.

When he saw her, he became enraged and fearful - he reminded her of nothing so much as a wild animal who knows it's been cornered. He picked up an overturned chair next to him, getting ready to throw it. "Get away!" he bellowed, his voice hoarse with terror and rage.

She put her gun away, holding out her empty hands as an overture of peace, trying to placate him. She took a tentative step closer, causing him to flinch away. Panic was surging through her, barely controlled. She may have been ready to die in the line of duty, but how was she supposed to protect him from himself? This was a side to Jacob Hood that she had never seen before - and is she was honest with herself, it scared her. The gentle scientist's demons were far darker than she had originally thought.

"Hood..." Her blue eyes, wide with surprise and fear, caught his blank hazel ones. She fought to keep down the panic, but it bubbled up and over, coloring her voice with desperation as she asked, "What's going on?"

Hood blinked, dropping the chair, filling her with a desperate hope that maybe he was alright, maybe he was back to normal - a hope that lasted about two seconds. Then Hood began to stagger drunkenly, rambling feverishly, half to her and half to himself, his voice sorrowful, gasping out the words between pants.

"If Krauss is correct, then we appear to be living in, in the worst of all possible universes." He half lectured, half argued, his eyes closed as if to block out some incredible pain, "But if Dyson is correct, then the universe is receding into the threshold of the unknown." He sank to his knees, body twitching spasmodically. He stared at his hands as he spoke, looking as if he had never seen the appendages before in his life, debating the two points aloud.

Rachel watched, and said nothing, unsure of what she could say to this broken diatribe.

Hood, closed his eyes as he spoke, before opening them to look directly at her. "But if Horton is correct, then all men are dissolving into nothingness..."

"Hood?" Her voice was quiet, pleading. She couldn't take much more of this depressing monologue, and she offered a silent plea for him to revert back to normal, to point out some infuriating obscure fact that she'd wish she'd never learned, to do something besides look at her with those empty eyes.

Hood was unmindful of the interruption, continuing solemnly, "...then the universe is dying, and we are all - alone." His eyes met hers on the last sentence, his voice brokenly stringing the words together even as he looked at her with hopeless despair on his face, his voice cracking on the last word.

It scared her more than anything she had ever seen, and at the same time, she felt the greatest surge of compassion well up for this man who was so broken on the inside. In that moment, she wanted nothing more than to take away his pain.

She sank down in front of him, her voice gentle and soothing, "Hood..." she spoke gently to him, reminded more than ever of the cornered wild animal as Hood stared, not at her, but through her, fear obvious in his eyes.

In a soft, breathy murmur, not even hearing her words, Hood whispered, "...all alone..."

She kept trying, keeping her voice gentle. "It's me. Rachel?" Her voice grew increasingly desperate as her words failed to register in Hood's befuddled mind, her eyes bright as she shook her head, trying to will him into hearing her. "You're not alone."

Hood stares at her for a moment, still twitching. His eyes widen, he flings up a hand in front of himself, screaming hoarsely "Stay back!" The sound of the scream is like a knife grating on her nerves.

Rachel backs up quickly, instinctively, terrified for a moment by the sudden outburst. But still she doesn't leave, staying in front of Hood with her hands empty and outstretched, trying to soothe him. He points at her accusingly, scrabbling backwards even as he grips the edge of the couch with his free hand to hoist himself up.

"Don't come any closer." he commands in a rough voice. The accusing finger is still outstretched as Hood keeps furious eyes trained on her face, shifting into a standing position as he looms over her, and yet still afraid, leaning back from her unconsciously. "They told me about you, "A thread of hysterical paranoia had found its way into his voice. He's almost completely gone - his eyes open impossibly wide as they stare her down, his hands moving in vague, disjointed patterns in front of his face. "They told me about you...'he whispers, a sound that's almost impossibly loud in the sudden stillness of the hotel room. She takes a cautious step forward, heart pounding and blood rushing in her ears.

Hood starts to panic again, trembling, but his voice stays in that same harsh whisper, "Don't come any closer..." His eyes are more afraid than angry now, and they have a beseeching quality to them - almost like a puppy that expects to be kicked. He continued his soft, incoherent mumbling.

Rachel swallowed back the lump in her throat. She kept eye contact with Hood, her voice as firm as she could make it, trying to reason with him. "Listen to me. Right now you're not yourself." She reaches out to him -

A mistake. Hood backs up, eyes terrified as he flung his hands in front of him, trying to ward her off. His voice resumed its normal level as he panicked, "Don't come any closer. Stay away!"

The sheer terror in his voice made Rachel want to be almost physically sick. She couldn't stop a soft gasp from tearing its way out of her throat, along with a quiet, "Hood..."

Hood uttered a wordless yell of confusion and fear, "Aaah!"

His arms slapped the air around his head, as if to fight something off. He was spasming even worse now, falling backwards and continuing to beat himself about the head.

Rachel panicked, grabbing him in an attempt to calm him down and keep him from harming himself. "Please Hood! I just want to help you." She attempted to restrain his flailing arms. She placed a hand at the back of his head, trying to force him to look at her, pressing his other arm down, her free hand on his shoulder. The position would have been unacceptably intimate if the situation were not so dire. She stared at him, trying to reach him, trying to reach past the wall of fear and anger he had built around himself. His eyes avoided hers as they pleaded with him to return to the idiotic genius she knew. She kept talking, panic seizing her heart as he still didn't respond. She softly pleaded/explained, " I just want to make sure you're okay."

Her voice rose in intensity and desperation as those blank eyes refused to look at her. In a frenzy of desperation, she tried one last time, drawing him closer to her. "Jacob? Jacob, look at me."

Incredibly, that did the trick. Hood met her eyes, really met them, clinging to the contact almost like a lifeline. His voice was soft as the tension slowly left his body. "Rachel..."

She fought back the urge to sob in relief. "I'm right here." she assured him, eyes never once wavering as she met his disbelieving gaze.

Hardly able to comprehend it, Hood gazed at he with childlike eyes. "I'm not alone." he uttered, the relief and hope in that statement overwhelming but tempered by despair and uncertainty, hardly able to bring himself to believe it.

A veil of tears obscured Rachel's vision, threatening to fall. Still her eyes did not once leave those of the shattered, innocent man in front of her. "No." she choked out, "No, you're not."

Jacob whispered again, wondering eyes never leaving her face, "I'm not alone anymore."

And then he fell. Rachel's eyes widened, and an involuntary gasp escaped her lips.

She caught him just before he could hit the floor, arms wrapping securely around his torso. She stayed like that for a long moment, fighting back tears. Then, steeling herself, she stood, carrying the unconscious man with her, and set out to do her duty.

------------------- End Flashback ------------------

She had cleaned and bandaged his wounds before tucking him in, Hood hardly stirring the whole time. Then she sat next to the bed, to await the morning.

It was nearly morning now, but Rachel still did not move from Hood's bedside, her eyes watchful as she hovered protectively over the sleeping man. Rachel could not stop a sense of inexplicable guilt over Hood's outburst, feeling as if she should have prevented it - somehow.

She felt even more responsible now after she had discovered the true demons that haunted the past of the gentle, absent-minded scientist. Rachel could never forget the pure terror and sorrow that had adorned Hood's features, nor the profound loneliness that had him so desperate that he was willing to tear himself apart just to escape it.

At the same time, she felt guilty, almost dirty, for discovering Hood's secrets like that. Hood was obviously not in his right mind, and she had no doubt that he would have never revealed that vulnerability under normal circumstances. It felt as if she was betraying his trust if she brought it up, and that was something Rachel loathed to do even more after Hood's earlier display of emotion.

She resolved to never mention the incident again, refusing to embarrass Hood by revealing her knowledge of his innermost secrets.

Hood stirred in his sleep once more, bringing her out of her reverie. His face was scrunched up as if in pain, a low moan coming to his lips. His hand stretched out, grasping at empty air.

Rachel grasped the hand in one of her own, softly asking, "Hood?"

His fingers tightened about her own, his eyelids fluttering as he half-consciously twisted his head, murmuring, "Rachel?"

Gentle fingers stroked through his soft curls, a soothing gesture. Hesitantly, checking once gain to make sure Hood wasn't actually awake, Rachel brushed her lips softly over his forehead. Her voice was gentle as she replied, "I'm right here Jacob. I'm not going anywhere." No, she agreed to herself, I'm not going anywhere.

Hood's face cleared. He sighed softly in contentment before silently drifting back to sleep.

Rachel smiled. There would be much more work required to heal the man in front of her, and she wasn't altogether sure healing him was even possible - but she had made a start.

Hood wouldn't remember any of this after he recovered from the infection in the morning, but that was okay. Rachel would never forget.

It was a long, difficult journey to healing, and Jacob Hood would fall many times. But each time she would catch him, and set him on his feet again. Rachel would protect him from everything, even nightmares. Even himself. After all, it was her job.

And despite how annoying Jacob Hood could be at times, there was no place else she'd rather be.

~ End

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A/N: My first Eleventh Hour fanfic - and I think more work went into this one than all of my others combined. I've never rewritten a scene before, and I think I probably had to watch the video about 6 times, and script out the dialogue. I liked it okay, not sure about the end, but it said what I meant it to so I guess that's alright. Thanks for reading! All reviews appreciated.