Author's Note:

Okay. I confess that the "What a Tangled Web" story is facing another delay. LOL

I was hit by another story idea last night. It's kinda related to the fact that I've been nursing a bad cold for the past week. So let's just say I did the research for some parts of this the hard way.

This is not a one-shot. I've got a team/Ethan storyline planned out. So just sit back, start reading and enjoy! There'll be more to come soon. :o)

Summary: Ethan catches something during a mission. It ain't fish. But it involved water. Lots of it, in fact.

What's in the Water

It must have been one hell of a landing. At least that's what Brandt, Jane and Benji concluded when they finally arrived at the bottom of the waterfall that Ethan and their target had just gone over in a wrestling tangle.

As they saw Ethan struggling out of the water, pulling a clearly less than conscious Hernesto Handerez along behind himself, they couldn't help but notice how Ethan was still harshly coughing out water even as he staggered onto dry land.

Ethan didn't even look to see where he dropped Handerez onto the shore, before he himself leaned forward, his hands on his knees, breathing heavily as his face turned a worrisome shade of pallor.

Jane and Benji were with him within seconds, while Brandt checked and secured Handerez.

"Ethan, are you alright, man?" Benji asked worriedly, as he and Jane reached him, and helped lead Ethan a few steps further away from the water's edge, to get him to sit down on a tree stump. Ethan didn't resist. That alone told them just how much Ethan didn't trust his own legs at the moment.

Jane also really didn't like the way Ethan was shivering slightly even as he sat. The air around them was humid. So it couldn't be from feeling cold. As she glanced back towards the pond of water that was being fed by the waterfall, she realized that it may not have only been the high fall and the hard landing that had Ethan standing a bit beside himself now.

What really had her worried were the foamy areas at the far end of pond, and the stale-smelling, smaller water holes that were directly connected with this body of water.

They had seen Ethan struggle with Handerez even during the fall, right before Ethan had taken the brunt of the impact on the water. The chances were high that Ethan had inevitably swallowed a good load of it, before he had been able to come up again for air.

And while, in the end, Ethan had obviously still somehow managed to finish the fight with Handerez, Jane couldn't shake the feeling that the actual winner of this battle had been the brackish water of this pond. The very water that Ethan was still coughing up. Water that clearly held more bacteria than could be good for even a person as healthy and as strong as Ethan.

With these thoughts in mind, Jane kept a close eye on Ethan as he got his strength back while he sat on the tree stump. It took a few minutes, which gave Benji and Brandt the chance to package up Handerez in a nice bundle, binding his hands with rope and a piece of tape over his mouth so they wouldn't have to listen to his argument that he 'didn't feel like walking'. Well, tough luck. Neither Brandt nor Benji cared one iota about Handerez's feelings.

By the time they were done, and Handerez was safely flanked by Brandt, Ethan had gotten some color back in his face. In fact, he was looking decidedly better. So much so that he eventually gave them the signal to get ready to move out again. They still had about an hour's trek through the jungle to cover before they would reach their extraction point, where they would be picked up by a plane to be flown back home.

As they moved out, Ethan seemed to have mostly recovered from his unplanned dive and bath. In fact, during the first half hour of their trek home, Jane actually began to relax again as she saw that Ethan was moving at point with his usual efficiency and at normal speed.

But that didn't last. By the time they neared the little jungle airport, Ethan no longer even tried to wipe away the sweat from his forehead anymore – which was yet another clue to the rest of the team that their leader was starting to come down with something that couldn't be fully hidden anymore.

They got their next piece of evidence as soon as they stepped onto the plane. On any normal mission that ended with a pick-up by one of these rather expensive private jets, Ethan could be trusted to go and ask the pilot of the plane to switch places with him, so Ethan could get some flight time in. It was one of the things the team had found out early on about their team leader. The man loved to fly.

But this time, as they boarded the private jet that would take them home, Ethan made no attempt to even ask.

In fact, after he had changed into some new, clean clothes, Ethan came back from his bunk in the back of the plane without even one look in the direction of the cockpit. He merely glanced at where Jane had secured the now sedated Handerez to a chair, before he walked over to them and sat down in his own seat diagonally across from Benji and Brandt.

As Ethan then poured himself some cold water from a bottle on the small cabin desk, he didn't even appear to notice the concerned glances that were exchanged over his head between his friends. Halfway through the flight Ethan excused himself once more to the curtained-off back of the plane where their bunks were located.

At Jane's slightly worried question as to whether he was feeling alright, he just nodded and sent a tiredly mumbled "yeah, no need to worry" over his shoulder before he disappeared from their view.

It wasn't that they didn't want to believe him.

But the man had been known to have the tendency to forget about such simple things as his own health, when there wasn't someone around to actually remind him that he needed to take care of himself. They had learned that lesson the hard way a couple of times before.

So, they decided to give him the benefit of a doubt. For exactly ten minutes.

At ten minutes and one second, Brandt got up from his seat to check on Ethan.

When Brandt came back a few moments later, his gaze was instantly met by two anxious pairs of eyes.

"He's sleeping in his bunk," Brandt answered the unspoken question, as he sat down again, now even more aware of Ethan's empty chair beside his own.

"He actually lay down?" Jane inquired.

Brand simply nodded, knowing exactly what Jane was thinking. Because he was thinking the same.

Ethan wasn't anywhere near as fine as he had told them.

-o-

-o-

To be continued … because the team has got a plan. The only question is whether Ethan will play along. LOL