Title: And Rebuked the Fever
Prompt/Summary: As it is, he could have wished for another six hours' respite, maybe twelve, but it's not like he has a say in the matter: these episodes always come at him like a goddamn tsunami, and all he can really do is put his head down and ride it out. Or, Eliot is sick and the team takes care of him.
Characters: Eliot, Nate, Sophie, Hardison, Parker
Rating: PG-13, gen
Disclaimer: Just playing in other people's sandboxes. None of it is mine, please don't sue.
Warnings: None, unless you're not a fan of h/c.
Neurotic Author's Note #1: This is me, venturing out of the Supernatural fandom. *peers around* Huh.
Neurotic Author's Note #2: Shameless, shameless h/c. I may be outside my fandom, but definitely not outside my comfort zone. ;)
If there's one thing Eliot regrets about no longer working alone, it's the constant chatter. Sophie and Hardison, in particular, seem to have this propensity to natter on at length about whatever is going on in their minds at any given time. Sophie, he figures, is just a natural-born conversationalist: words are her weapons, the same way he uses his fists. Hardison has a perpetual stream-of-consciousness thing going on, and even Parker and Nate aren't exactly the quiet types. Nate likes to hear himself pontificate, and Parker, well. Parker is Parker.
Long story short, he wishes they'd all shut up, just for a few seconds. His head is already throbbing, and it promises to be a long drive back if he doesn't at least get a little bit of quiet. He just hopes they can get back and debrief before the worst hits him. On the bright side, the mission's over. A day or two earlier, and he would have cursed the timing with every fibre in his body. As it is, he could have wished for another six hours' respite, maybe twelve, but it's not like he has a say in the matter: these episodes always come at him like a goddamn tsunami, and all he can really do is put his head down and ride it out.
If he's quieter than normal, the others don't notice. It's not like he's big on talking. They're busy arguing the merits of stealing jewellery over artwork —something about invisibility versus resale and the intricacies of aggregated value. Eliot lets the words flow over and around him like water, and when even the faint sunlight peeking through the clouds begins to feel like someone is stabbing him through the eyes with a fork he slips his sunglasses out of his jacket pocket and slides them on. They're two minutes away from base. He can make that, no problem, sore eyes and aching muscles and chills aside.
Naturally it's Sophie, occupying the passenger seat, who notices the shiver a moment later. "Eliot?" her tone is soft, questioning. "Are you all right?"
He jerks his head in a nod. "Fine."
It's too late, though. Now the whole team's focus is on him, and there's no way he can completely hide that he's not firing on all cylinders. Nate slides forward until he's able to poke his head between the two front seats. Eliot doesn't try to turn his head —they're thirty seconds away, and he will not, will not crash the car when he's thirty seconds away from being able to park it and get out under his own steam.
"It was a pretty bad fight," Nate comments, as they pull into their parking spot. "You need a doctor?"
"No, it's fine."
The others are piling out of the car while he still has both hands on the steering wheel. He figures he'll just take a few seconds —okay, maybe a minute— to pull himself together. A tremor runs through him, and he growls under his breath, furious at the show of weakness. A moment later he hears rather than sees his door open, and there's a hand, cool and firm at the back of his neck. Under normal circumstances he'd have broken the wrist belonging to the hand before it even had time to connect, but there's no one here but his team, and he's not sure he can move.
"It's just me," Nate says unnecessarily, his voice coming from close to Eliot's left ear. "You're coming down with something." It's not a question. "You want a hospital?"
He shakes his head, even though it sends pain sparking through his skull and behind his eyelids. Grits his teeth. He knows how bad this must look. "I just need to go home."
"Eliot, you're really sick," Sophie's voice adds itself to the mix. "Let us get you some help."
He pries his hands off the steering wheel, manages to bat aside Nate's well-meaning hands that are still pawing at him, snarls at them both. "No, I got it. I got this," he forces himself to meet Nate's gaze, to speak clearly. "I have meds at my place. Just... trust me that I got this, okay?"
They back off, subtly but unmistakably. He hands over the car keys to Nate, ignores Hardison's machine-gun-rapid questions and even Parker's queries, which would normally amuse him by their inappropriateness. He stumbles a bit leaving the elevator, and there's a hand at his elbow, keeping him upright. Damn it, he doesn't need them, doesn't need any of it, except he's kind of grateful to have something —someone— to lean on right about now. His front door opens without his so much as having to reach for his keys —Parker's always been disturbingly good at getting past his locks, and he's pretty sure he wouldn't have been able to fit his key into the lock anyway— and he manages to make it to one of the leather armchairs that came with their apartments, leaning back and letting his eyes close.
"I don't think that much sweat is normal, even for Eliot. I mean, he's a pretty sweaty guy, but that's excessive," Parker opines.
"Eliot," Nate is in his face again, shaking him by the shoulders. "Meds. Where d'you keep them?"
He cracks open an eye. "Medicine cabinet, where d'you think?" he says testily. "Top shelf, on the right."
He can't believe he just let his whole damn team into his place, with their collective pathological inability to respect personal boundaries when it comes to anything, but there's not much he can do about it. He's goddamn freezing now, tremors racking his whole frame, teeth chattering, and he knows he's in for a rough night, probably a rough couple of days if past experience tells him anything.
"I found a blanket," Parker chirps, though even she sounds a little subdued. "So you'll be warmer. Don't rip my arms off, okay?"
He nods, or he thinks he nods, and small hands tuck the blanket over his knees, like he's an invalid. He thinks he might have lost a minute or two, then, because suddenly Nate is back and pressing a glass of water to his lips, along with pills.
"Seriously, malaria? Seriously?" Hardison's voice rises to a squawk, and Eliot flinches at the harsh sound. "Seriously. Ma-la-ri-a. You have got to be kidding me."
"Shut up," Eliot mutters, a little embarrassed at how much it comes out sounding like a moan.
"No, I mean, seriously. Malaria? And yes, I looked up what the damn pills do on the internet. That's why God invented Google, my friend. How in the hell did you get malaria? They have pills to prevent that these days, you know."
"Hardison, I think explanations can wait," Nate's voice is firm.
"Cambodia," Eliot supplies by way of explanation, but he can tell from the resulting silence that they don't understand what he's said. Context is everything, but he can't make his mouth form the right words.
"Okay, we got it from here. Hardison, why don't you and Parker go set up the debriefing? We'll join you."
"But— okay, fine. You call if you need anything."
Sophie is whispering to Nate, but Eliot can hear her anyway. "Nate, he's burning with fever. He needs a hospital. We're not equipped to deal with malaria —he could have a seizure with a fever that high —or worse!"
He can almost hear Nate shaking his head. "We have to trust Eliot's judgement on this. If he doesn't want a hospital, I for one am not going to force him. Not unless I truly think his life is in danger."
Eliot pries open his eyes, blinks in the harsh light. "You should go," he croaks, throat already dry in spite of the water he just drank. He doesn't want them here, doesn't want them seeing him like this; just wants them to leave him alone to curl up in the dark like a wounded animal and wait for the relapse to run its course.
"Yeah. Prove to me you can make it to your bedroom on your own power, and then we'll see," Nate says, in that infuriatingly reasonable way he has, and at that point Eliot's pretty much willing to walk a one-mile tightrope just to be contrary and show Nate, except when he gets up the whole room does this weird lurching thing, and Nate catches him by the armpits before he pitches face-first against the very expensive flooring. "Thought so. Come on, just let us help, okay? Then we'll leave you to lick your wounds all by yourself, if that's what you want."
He doesn't have much choice but to let himself be half-carried, half-dragged into the bedroom. He makes a half-hearted attempt to bat away the hands that are trying to undress him, but his thoughts won't stay still, keep shattering and spilling like glass marbles on a polished floor. Before he knows it someone is slipping the boots off his feet while his shirt seems to slide down his shoulders of its own accord.
"Come on, lie back," Sophie murmurs, and he's too damned tired and dizzy to argue. It feels like someone has taken him outside and beaten him with a sack full of bricks, and he's still shivering when he feels a blanket being drawn up and tucked around his shoulders. "We won't be far. You just call out if you need anything, all right, Eliot?"
There's the sound of high heels clicking against the floor, leaving the room, and then Nate's voice, close to his ear. "It's okay. We've got your back on this. You can let go."
He murmurs something that he hopes sounds like agreement, and then, blessedly, lets everything go dark.
"Your fever is getting worse," Munny says, eyeing him critically. "You have run out of pills?"
He's a clever kid, maybe sixteen or seventeen. They've been imprisoned for going on five days —which is four more than Eliot had planned on, but then things rarely go according to plan even when everything is running smoothly— and Munny has appointed himself Eliot's friend, for reasons only he knows. Eliot hasn't asked him why he's in this damp, rotting cell, little more than a hole in the ground with bars keeping them in place. Those sorts of questions are best left unasked. Under normal circumstances this place wouldn't have held him for more than a few hours, but under normal circumstances he wouldn't be sporting a compound fracture in his right leg, either, the result of a spectacularly miss-timed fall, which is why he got caught in the first place.
The leg has been clumsily reset, and he's pretty sure he might be able to walk on it, but not climb out of this pit, and yet somehow that's become the least of his worries. At first he thought the fever was the onset of infection from the leg, but the convulsive shivering, the consuming chills, the pounding headache, the fierce ache in his joints all point inexorably to one diagnosis, out here in the tropics.
Above them the sound of men laughing raucously wafts across the camp. The whole place smells of gasoline and rot, of unwashed bodies and the dubious smell of half-spoiled meat being cooked. He thinks he might throw up.
"You will die if you stay here," Munny says, and holds up a cracked cup filled with filthy water to his lips. "So we will escape."
"Eliot, wake up," an arm hoists him up, and the cup has turned into a glass, the water clear and pure, directly from the tap. "Come on, now, just drink and we'll call it even. I was never here, never saw any of it, cool?"
He doesn't answer, just swallows, feels some of the water dribble past his lips, soaking the wife beater he's still wearing. He chokes, coughs, and Hardison pulls the glass away, rubs his shoulder. "Easy, now. That's it. You just, uh, go back to sleep, and don't be trying to kill me for this later."
"Promise," he mumbles, and everything goes dark again.
Munny leads him through the lush vegetation, holding him up as much as he's pulling him forward, urging him on, though the canopy is spinning above his head amidst the screeching of the birds.
"My family can take us for a day or so. Maybe long enough for us to get you help —there are white doctors where they live. And then you will take me to America, like you promised."
He doesn't remember promising any such thing, but then there's a lot he doesn't remember now. His injured leg catches on some unseen root and he stumbles, goes to his knees and retches from the pain, even while Munny is tugging insistently on his arm, trying to get him up again. Above him the canopy continues to whirl in a dizzying display of blue sky and green leaves, and he thinks maybe they've discovered one of those hot springs, because why else would he be so damned hot? Munny is still talking, cajoling, urging, but it doesn't work. He can't move, can't figure out why his body won't do what he tells it to.
"It's because you're sick. You need to sit up and take your damn pills," Munny tells him, and it doesn't make any sense at all, because Munny doesn't have an American accent when he talks, and how is there a ceiling fan in the middle of the jungle? He can see the blades rotating above his head, slow and hypnotic.
"Eliot! This ain't Cambodia. Wake the hell up and tell me you know where you are so I don't have to drag your short, pasty white ass to a hospital."
And halfway through trying to figure out why Munny's here Eliot manages to focus his eyes enough to register that it's Hardison barking worried-sounding orders at him, but it's Munny's name that spills from his lips.
"Aw, no. Hell no!" Hardison's eyes are huge and round, the whites visible all around the irises. "You are not doing this now, not on my watch! You feel free to boil your brain when it's Nate's turn, or Sophie's. Hell, even Parker's, but not mine. Hold still," he orders, and then he's wiping Eliot's face with a damp washcloth, running it down his neck and over his chest, and it's such a damned relief from the suffocating heat that Eliot whimpers when the cloth gets taken away again. Hardison shushes him, and Eliot makes a note to maybe kick his ass later. "Just a sec, buddy."
Eliot's making a second note to kick his ass for calling him 'buddy' when the washcloth makes a reappearance, newly-moistened, and he decides that maybe, just this once, he won't kick Hardison's ass.
A few hours later he's shivering, soaked to the skin. There are hands holding him down and he struggles against them, trying to get free before they can start up whatever it is they have planned for him. Waterboarding, maybe, or worse. He can't remember how they got him, and that's problematic; doesn't know who they are, what they want, and the thought is panic-inducing. He struggles harder, but his attempts to get free are pathetically weak —what did they do to him? Voices murmur all around him, and one voice in particular rises above the others, and he feels himself relax, because he knows that voice, knows it like he knows his own, and it's a voice he knows he can trust, always. These aren't strangers, he thinks muzzily, they're his people, and Nate promised they'd have his back, and so he doesn't fight the darkness when it closes back in on him.
The next time he wakes daylight is streaming in through the window, and he no longer feels as though he's been through the extra-long cycle on a washing machine set to 'high.' He blinks, brings up a hand to scrub at his eyes, is vaguely annoyed at how much of an effort even that small gesture is. Looking around, he catches sight of Nate, slumped in an armchair that's been dragged into the room and set awkwardly by the bed, his face lax in sleep. Unsurprisingly, there's an empty tumbler by the foot of the chair. The digital clock on the night stand tells him it's still early by most standards.
He shifts, grimacing as he realizes that his sheets are stiff with dried sweat, as well as his boxers and the wife beater he still had on when Nate and Sophie put him to bed. Nate comes awake with a small snort, as though he's been waiting for even the slightest sound. He arranges a smile on his face, leans forward.
"Good morning. How are you feeling?"
Eliot pauses to take stock. "Better, thanks."
Nate nods, as though to himself, then abruptly gets up and leaves the room. Before Eliot has time to do much more than wonder what's going on he's back along with a glass and a plastic pitcher whose contents turn out to be about a gallon of Gatorade. "Electrolytes," Nate says succinctly, and if he has to hold the glass steady because Eliot's hands are shaking a little too badly to hold it himself, neither of them say a word about it. Nate feeds him another handful of pills, and Eliot can see him calculating dosages, eyes darting to the digital clock to make sure of his timing.
"Next time," Nate says, "I need you to tell me if you're getting sick. Okay?"
"Okay," he agrees easily, too exhausted to argue. "I don't get much warning, though. Anyway, hasn't happened in years."
"Okay. But I need to know these things. So give me what warning you can."
"I need a shower," Eliot says after a minute, voice still hoarse. Message received, five by five.
"That'll have to wait. I don't think you can stand up just yet, and definitely not in a hot shower, you'll just pass out. How about a bath instead?
Eliot glares, and Nate flashes him one of his rare, genuine grins.
"I promise I won't leak your secret. I'll go run it for you, and while you're getting washed up I'll see about getting fresh sheets for your bed."
"I can manage, you know. Been handling this on my own for years."
"I know. But since we're all here, you can do us the courtesy of letting us help. It's either on my terms, or I let Parker in here to minister to you in her own very special way, and I very much doubt you're going to want that until you're feeling better."
Eliot drapes an arm over his eyes in a gesture he knows to be melodramatic. "Blackmailed in my own home."
"Coerced, more specifically, but yes. Sit tight."
It feels surprisingly good to luxuriate in the lukewarm water of a bath. He sluices away the remnants of fever and sickness, and even manages to wash his hair with the aid of the flexible shower head, tying it back with an elastic to keep it out of his way as he carefully shaves away several days' worth of stubble, trying to keep his hands from shaking. He only nicks himself once, which he counts as a win, and by the time he's done all he wants to do is go back to sleep for another month.
He pulls on the fresh t-shirt and sweats that Nate somehow found and put out for him, wraps himself in his robe, and stumbles back into the bedroom, which is empty save for the re-made bed. He should go out there, he tells himself even as he's sinking down to sit on the edge of the bed. His team is waiting for him. He leans back against his pillows —just for a second— the scent of laundry detergent sharp and pungent in his nostrils, and feels his eyes slip shut. He's going to get up, he tells himself, it's a matter of seconds.
Through the door he can hear the voices of his team, rising and falling in conversation. Parker's giggle rings out over the rest, clear as church bells, and he smiles in spite of himself, slides further down on the bed, nestled against the pillows. It's safe in here, and warm, and his team are just on the other side of the door, and so he slides back under the bedclothes and lets himself sink freely back into the welcoming arms of sleep.