He's already slept through his morning run, and if that isn't a sign of a bad day to come, he doesn't know what is.
When he first hit the snooze button, Mike was pretty sure that it was just a restless night's sleep and a late night with Johnny at the bar that was keeping him in bed. But when he's a little more coherent about an hour later, he realizes that there are other symptoms that aren't related to sleep deprivation at all. Sore throat, congestion, and a pounding headache that won't go away even when he turns the alarm off.
Badass federal agent Mike Warren is taking a sick day.
And he's sort of dreading it. Unlike every other sane, working individual, Mike lives with his coworkers. And there's no one he'd like to avoid more when he's not at his best than his coworkers.
However, on the way down the stairs the next morning, he discovers that he's not alone.
Johnny is prone on the couch, moaning loudly into a throw pillow. Feeling too miserable to be too concerned for others at the moment, Mike nods at Jakes (who seems healthy, sitting in an armchair and bemusedly watching Johnny's dramatics) and moves into the kitchen, mostly ignoring the scene in the living room.
"Johnny's dying," he announces to anyone who's listening, which turns out to be just Charlie. Paige is perched precariously on a barstool, looking miserable with a thermometer between her lips and Briggs hovering at her shoulder. Mike grabs a bottle of water from the fridge, and when the ache in his throat doesn't clear after he takes a swallow, he winces. "Maybe I am, too."
Briggs takes a long look at him and nods. "That seems to be the theme of the morning."
"Suck it up, Levi," Paige teases hoarsely, before Briggs pops the thermometer back in her mouth and pokes the side of her head. "Start over. Again."
"They've been at it all morning," Charlie whispers when she comes to rest a hand on Mike's forehead, smiling fondly, like she wouldn't expect anything else. Louder, for all three of them to hear, she says, "Comes in threes, I guess. Can't any of you keep your germs to yourself?"
Paige looks like she's going to whip the thermometer of her mouth again and defend herself, but a stern look from Briggs keeps it place. When it finally beeps, he takes it before she can and holds it out for Charlie to see.
"Sorry, sunshine," Briggs says, nudging her off the stool. "Looks like you're taking a sick day."
What happens next is an intense staring match that Mike doesn't quite understand the significance of, but eventually culminates in Paige doing what Paige does best (which is whatever the hell Paige wants to do) and grabbing her bag and keys off the counter, prepared to go to work.
Charlie heads her off at the door, wrapping a soothing/restraining arm around her shoulder and steering her towards the living room. "Go," she orders. "Wait with Johnny. I'll be there in a minute."
Paige stares back like she wants to argue, but Charlie stands her ground.
"You're cases can wait," she says firmly.
Paige goes (because no one argues with Charlie), but does so grumpily, with heavy footfalls and pointed sighs.
"Ahh, the teenage years," Briggs laments, ignoring Charlie's shove to his shoulder and failed attempts to shush him through her quiet laughter. "I miss our little girl, Char."
He wipes fake tears from his eyes, and Charlie rolls hers. "At least we still have our little Mikey," she supplies, playing along and teasingly pinching at Mike's cheeks. He squirms away, but she must have felt the heat there because she's suddenly not so playful.
"Speaking of," she sighs. "What are we gonna do with you, huh?"
He smiles widely, trying not to look as pathetic as he feels, but Charlie sees right through it and chuckles sadly. "Ahh, the face," she moans. "It kills me. Go, get out of my sight. Claim some couch space."
Like Paige, he obeys, but shuffles obediently without the theatrics.
Maybe there's a little more to sick days in Graceland than he thought.
Charlie moans and rests her forehead against his shoulder.
"Gonna be a long day," she sighs, and Briggs smiles, patting the back of her head sympathetically. "Long week," he corrects. "Or more."
There's an unintelligible, disgruntled sound that's muffled by his shoulder, before Charlie reappears, rubbing her eyes. "They're terrible patients."
Briggs nods, trying to remember times that they've been sick in the past. "Johnny whines," he says. "And Paige is just a brat. What about Mike?"
"I bet Mikey's a trooper," Charlie decides, after considering it for a minute.
He grins. "Always is."
Craning her neck to see into the living room, Charlie chuckles. "Look how sad," she says, nodding towards the pile of miserable agents on the couch. "Remind me of this later today, when I'm ready to kill them."
"You're not gonna care how cute they are when they're asking for twenty different kinds of popsicles."
"You don't know that," she defends. "I'm very patient."
There's a commotion coming from the living room, which makes them turn back just in time to see Jakes snatching the television remote out of Mike's hand and the FBI agent's pitiful attempt to recover it. Charlie sighs, and her eyes automatically follow Mike's hand as it grasps at air in front of him and comes up empty. When Paige tries to come to his defense, Jakes steps back another foot, and she tires out and nuzzles back against Johnny's side.
Briggs allows his grin to stretch even wider across his face, even though Charlie looks like she's considering smashing her fist through the center of it. "No one is that patient."
"Laugh now," she grumbles, "but don't expect any sympathy from me when it's your turn."
He shrugs and turns his back to her to pull open the drawer next to the sink. From under the assorted junk surfaces an orange envelope that's been addressed to Briggs and saved for a special occasion. The look that Charlie gets when she realizes that he has another ace up his sleeve is one of his favorites, and he's treated to a flash of it when he presents the envelope to her with a flourish.
"What?" she asks suspiciously when he pushes it into her hands. "What is it?"
"Why don't you open it and find out?"
She does. And the look of horror on her face will stick with him for a good, long time. "You're going for a psych eval?" she asks, jaw tight with disbelief. "Today?"
"I'm damaged, Chuck," he says somberly.
"I will damage you," she promises, voice dropping to that low, dangerous place. "And I won't even regret it."
Maybe she should go for a psych eval, too.
"This is-what? Your first since you've been in Graceland? You're not fooling anyone!"
Snagging his keys off the counter, he slowly backs away from her, hoping to disappear before the reality of a day spent mothering their whiny coworkers without him really hits home. "You're lack of concern for my emotional well-being really hurts. I'm going to go cry about it in the car because…"
"You're damaged," Charlie finishes, shaking her head, her lips so tight that they've almost vanished.
Briggs winks, claps a hand over his heart, and slams the door behind him. From the other side, he can just make out the sound of Johnny's voice, hoarse and muffled by congestion.
No one's willing to say with a hundred percent certainty that it's just a sore throat and not a stomach bug that's going around, so Charlie figures they're safest with toast until they figure it out. Wheat for Paige and Mike, white for Johnny, and nothing for Jakes who is neither sick nor helpful. He smiles widely at her when she comes in to deliver the plates, and she steps on his foot in return.
Because she is Charlie DeMarco and she doesn't have to put up with his shit.
Mike starts to devour his without hesitation, but the others are stalling for whatever reason, so she aims her narrowed eyes over her shoulder on her way out and demands that their plates be clean before she gets back. She's wrapping up the cord from the toaster and enjoying the first five minutes of alone time that she's had all day, when Jakes comes in to return two out the three plates she's just distributed. She has a pretty good idea who they belong to.
"Johnny wants peanut butter on his," Jakes says, smiling at her like he can't wait to see how she's going to react to this.
Charlie hates to disappoint him, but it's not an unreasonable request, so she takes the plate and starts to rummage through the cabinet for a jar of peanut butter. "What does Paige want?" she asks absently, trying to remember if Johnny prefers smooth or chunky.
"Um, to not eat it."
"She's going to be disappointed, then."
There's no hiding the gleeful look on Jakes' face at the prospect of Charlie chewing out one of his housemates, so he owns up to it and politely carries both plates back into the living room, with an extra spring in his step. Shaking her head, Charlie follows behind him. Really? This is what it takes to get an extra hand around here?
As expected, Mike has not been a problem child like the others and has placed his empty plate on the coffee table before settling in to watch TV. Next to him, Johnny has managed to sit up and wait for his breakfast, and his moaning has subsided into pitiful sniffles that remind Charlie why she's playing mama bear instead of riding this illness out at the beach, blissfully unconcerned about her housemate's comfort. Paige is resting her head on Johnny's legs, leaning into his warm hand on her shoulder, eyes shut tight to block out the light coming in through the glass walls.
"Toast with peanut butter," she announces, sitting on the coffee table and holding the plate out for Johnny to take. The goofy grin on his face as he digs into his perfected toast makes it worth it. Charlie takes one look at Paige and loses all resolve to force the breakfast issue and instead rests her palm on the other agent's head, feeling for a fever and trying to get her attention. "Can't do it, huh?"
There's faint movement under her hand that might be Paige trying to shake her head, and Charlie winces. "That's okay," she says softly.
Mike is watching them closely, with his forehead creased in concern, and it's just so Mikey that Charlie can't help but smile. She nods to let him know that everything's okay, moving to feel his forehead too because she doesn't entirely trust that he'll tell her If he gets worse.
"How was your toast?" she asks, throwing the kid a bone by acknowledging that he actually did what he was supposed to when his coworkers hadn't.
"Excellent," he says, smirking. Charlie rolls her eyes because it was just toast and sometimes the rookie is such a charmer. She pats his knee, playfully flicks Johnny's head, and heads into the kitchen in search of some ibuprofen.
The medicine cabinet is a mess (she'd like to blame Johnny, but truthfully they all just sort of grab things and hope nothing falls out when they slam the door), but eventually she finds the jumbo bottle that she's looking for and twists open the cap.
"Johnny! What have I told you about putting the empty bottle back in the cabinet?"
"Briggs did it!"
While conveniently the only one not present to defend himself, Briggs most likely did not do it. But either way, they could all probably use some, and Paige looks like she's about to keel over without it, so there's nothing to do but run out for more.
And leave her patients in the most capable hands available.
"I'm going to go get something to bring those fevers down," she sighs, planting her sunglasses on her face. "Jakesy's here if you need anything."
Jakes glares back at her before turning to intimidate his charges. "Don't even think about needing anything."
"That's the spirit." Her words are light, but the accompanying warning look that she shoots from behind their patients' backs makes it very clear that everyone is to be taken care of in her absence, or there will be consequences. Reading her loud and clear, Jakes pointedly adjusts Paige's blanket so it covers her bare feet and smiles innocently back at her. Paige doesn't seem to register the movement, and Charlie frowns.
"Half an hour," she promises. "I just need everyone to survive the next half hour, then I'll be back."
With those rousing words of encouragement, she's out the door.
And almost immediately, it all goes to hell.
Apparently, Johnny and Mike had a little tiff at the bar the night before that basically boils down to Johnny meeting a hot girl and Mike refusing to sleep with her friend so Johnny could go home with the aforementioned hot girl.
And while this would normally be of great interest to Jakes, but they're arguing about it loudly, and working themselves up, and keeping Paige awake, and DJ would really prefer to not die when Charlie gets back and sees them like this.
"Hey!" he barks. "Knock it off!
Did they just ignore him? Seriously, they're still doing this?
"Hey!" he tries again, and this time they turn to face him, waiting. That's better. "She probably wasn't that hot," he says reasonably. "Now, lay down and go to sleep or something."
Except, Johnny has photographic proof that she was indeed that hot, and when he climbs over the back of the couch to get his phone, he accidentally overturns Mike's orange juice glass into his lap. Which does not make things better…
"Seriously, Johnny?" Mike complains, standing up and giving Jakes a good look at the orange juice stain on the couch that he's going to have to explain now. "Come on!"
"Your bad, Mikey," Johnny corrects. "Should have just agreed with me."
Instead of coming back at him (which Levi really needs to learn how to do), Mike just stomps up the stairs to get changed, leaving Johnny to sprawl out in his place, reclining in the orange juice stain without a care in the world.
A sharp nail digs into his thigh, making him jump and swat Paige's hand away. "What?!"
"Shouldn't you be going to get that for him?" she croaks, eyes on the stairs where Mikey's just disappeared.
He narrows his eyes at her and tries to remember if she started sounding so sick on his watch or Charlie's because it sounds like a problem that he doesn't want to be his. "He has a sore throat, not an amputation. And are you gonna make it?"
She shrugs. "Hope so. Cross your fingers."
He will. Because the last thing he needs is Charlie coming home to a casualty.
There's a horrible hacking sound from the other side of the couch, and Jakes shuts his eyes tight, hoping to ignore the problem until it goes away. But, to no one's surprise, when he opens them again, Johnny is still coughing. Hard. To the point that his entire torso is being thrown from the force of his gasps.
"Stop that," Jakes commands sternly.
Paige's nail pricks him again, and he realizes he should probably do something. At this point, Mike has returned with dry clothes to discover his seat has been taken and is now standing next to the couch looking pissed off. "Hit him," Jakes orders.
Mike looks confused, but doesn't miss the opportunity and punches Johnny (who is still coughing) on the shoulder.
"On the back! What is wrong with you?"
With a little more force than is necessary, Mike slaps him on the back, finally understanding what he's supposed to be doing. Johnny continues to cough into his hands, unable to catch his breath.
He hears the door open and shut and Jakes hopes Charlie will make it quick, because after all he's been through in his lifetime, the last thing he deserves is a slow death. He closes his eyes again, and the coughing stops.
Come on, man. Don't be dead.
He opens his eyes.
Johnny waves back at him, grinning around the rim of his fresh glass of water with Briggs at his side.
Jakes relaxes. He's been saved.
"What's going on in here?" Briggs asks, somehow managing to stare everyone in the room down at once. Johnny puts his water down and aims a hard punch at Mike's shoulder.
"Ow! What was that for?"
"You know what that was for. Really, man? I'm over there dying and you're just gonna hit me like that?"
"If you wouldn't have-"
Briggs catches both their shoulders, and instantly (miraculously) they stop. Jakes looks on in awe. Paul Briggs may just be a god.
"You," he says, pointing at Johnny and then to the other couch. "Over there."
When Johnny gets up to move to his new seating assignment, the large orange juice spot is revealed. Briggs stares at it for a moment before flipping the cushion and banishing it from their view. He seats Mike on top of it before taking one look at Paige and wincing. Kneeling next to the couch, he gently shakes her shoulder, only to discover that she's not asleep, just really out of it.
"Come on, kid," he sighs, winding her arm around his neck. "Let's get you some peace and quiet."
He groans theatrically as he hoists her off the couch after disentangling her blanket from Mike's legs and throwing it over his shoulder. Mike waves, but Paige is too far gone to play along and just rests her head against Briggs' shoulder as he carefully maneuvers them up the stairs.
Johnny grins and raises his arms towards Jakes, who swats them back down. "Never," Jakes corrects sternly. "Not ever. Do you understand?"
The younger agent burrows back into the couch, looking discouraged, and Jakes awkwardly pats his foot and drops the remote down in front of him. Accepting it for the olive branch that it is, Johnny perks up and flips through the channels rapidly, pointedly pausing on some of Mike's favorites before flicking past them.
Jakes looks around the living room and smiles. Paul has Paige upstairs, Johnny is contentedly watching TV, and Mikey looks like he's just about to drift off.
He's pretty damn good at this babysitting thing.
Things are still going pretty well when Charlie gets home, loaded down with bags that are full of more than a bottle of pills. She puts them down in the kitchen before coming in to assess the state that her patients are in.
"There were three earlier," she deadpans, crossing her arms over her chest. "You lost one."
Jakes waves her off and shrugs. "Misplaced. Couldn't have gone too far."
"Paul took Paige upstairs because Johnny was being obnoxious," Mike says helpfully. Johnny sits up to retort, and they're off again.
Jakes salutes Charlie (who is a saint, a freakin' saint), and retreats to his room.
Later, when everyone is medicated and resting in their own beds, Charlie and Briggs sit in the counter like they tell others not to and eat ice cream straight out of the carton.
"You came back," Charlie hums contentedly around a bite of chocolate ice cream.
Briggs shrugs and steals the carton back from her. "Course I did, Chuck. Couldn't leave you here by yourself all day."
She stares knowingly back at him, smirking like she knows some big secret. "You didn't come back for me," she teases. "You were worried about our poor, sick babies."
Somehow, a glob of ice cream finds its way down the back of her shirt, and she shrieks, jumping down from the counter. Briggs laughs and hops down next to her, throwing his arm around her neck.
"I knew you had it under control."
Not a technically a denial, and Charlie's probably picked up on that. She'll tease him about it some other time, but for now it's late and they're both tired.
And they still have to check on the kids before they can finally put this sick day behind them.
Thanks to everyone who reviewed and followed the last couple chapters! You are guys are awesome and I'm so sorry that I've been so busy and haven't gotten to reply to you!
Not sure how this got to be so long...