Nothing. Daniel checked the city network with his laptop like clockwork every few minutes, trying to figure out what the heck was going on. Still nothing. He would have banged his fist against the keyboard if he had the energy, but the stomach flu running wild through his system only turned the anxiety into more nausea.
Out through the window of his second-story apartment, Daniel could see the unnatural darkness of the sky. A strange, uncomfortable sensation permeated the air, as if fear itself were a palpable miasma settling over Manhattan. And even that would have been bearable if not for the explosions in the distance.
What was going on? Daniel did smack his hand against the desk this time, anxious and frustrated and worried and—
“Hey now, cut that out. Come on and lie back down.”
He grudgingly followed the advice given by the commanding mechanic standing in his room. Kayla had made it safely over to his apartment, bringing the promised ginger ale to sooth his troubled stomach. Both gave him some measure of relief – but only some. Daniel lay on his back on the bed, staring up at the ceiling with a glazed expression. His stomach was still roiling as if someone had poured acid down his throat, and yet he couldn’t help feeling like he should be out there. Seeing what was going on. Helping.
He felt helpless. He hated feeling helpless. People needed help and he couldn’t do anything about it!
Shutting his eyes for a long moment, Daniel tried to relax, to let his systems cool down. All of this anxiety wasn’t helping his condition – and of all the things that would lay him low, after everything he had survived so far in this apocalypse, of course it would be a flu bug that got him. But if nothing else, he didn’t want to add to Kayla’s worries.
The two of them had been holed up in this room for the last hour, waiting and wondering what could be causing the horrendous noise outside. Daniel could tell the moment she arrived that she was scared, even if she didn’t want to admit it. He couldn’t send her back out into that, whatever it was. So here they sat in his room, him helpless and sick, her scared and worried, and the air ringing with the signals that something was wrong. He couldn’t stand it. Struggling upright, he started to slide his feet to the edge of the bed, intent on checking the computer.
Kayla suddenly stood over him, hands akimbo and a hot glare in her eyes. “Ooh no. Where do ya think you’re goin’?”
Daniel swallowed the queasiness in his stomach and glanced at the computer. “I was just going to—”
“No, you’re gonna lay down right there and rest,” she said sharply. One hand went to his shoulder and, with a solid shove, she knocked the already weak scientist back against the pillow. The woman’s tone brooked no argument. “You ain’t gonna do a bit of good for anybody if you don’t give yourself some time to get better.”
A faint rumble hit Daniel’s stomach, making him wince sharply. He tried to sit up again, but Kayla kept him down, her eyes narrowing at his continued resistance.
“I checked the network already, Daniel! There ain’t nothin’ new for you to get in a fuss over.”
Another rumble. “Kayla—”
“There’s nothin’ we can do about whatever’s goin’ on out there, so you ain’t doin’ anyone any good by makin’ yourself worse!”
“And if you’re gonna keep bein’ stubborn about it, I swear I’ll tie you down and throw that computer out the—”
A deep breathe. “Kayla!”
She gave an exasperated sigh. “What?!”
“If you don’t want me to throw up all over you, then let me up.”
A pause. “Oh.” She released his shoulder. Bolting upright, Daniel lunged for the bucket by his bedside and emptied his stomach. When he was finally able to come up for air, his friend had a glass of water and a towel ready for him. She managed an apologetic smile.
Daniel politely avoided noticing how much her hands shook as he accepted the offerings.
“Thanks.” He rinsed his mouth out and wiped his face, then lay back on the bed with a groan. “…Hate this flu so much…” Glancing sideways at Kayla, he managed to muster up a grin. “Concern is duly noted, but you need some practice telling rebellion apart from violent nausea.”
Kayla laughed a little, but he could tell it hadn’t been done much to decrease the fear in the room. He lay there on the bed and watched as his friend paced, glancing worriedly out the window every few seconds. Daniel’s stomach twisted from something other than the flu virus. I hate this. I can’t do anything.
But at least… “Thanks for coming over, Kayla.” She looked up at him, and he smiled weakly, staring up at the ceiling. “Nice having someone here.”
Kayla grinned, walked over, and patted him on the shoulder. “Well, if I can’t do anythin’ else, I can at least make sure ya don’t keel over from a little ol’ virus. Can’t let somethin’ like that get the best of ya!”
Daniel reached a hand up and caught a hold of her sleeve, his blue eyes staring intently up at her. He waited until she met his gaze before speaking; and for just a moment, he was able to cover the pain with conviction. “It’s going to be alright. Whatever it is.” He smiled again. “Like you said…there’s nothing we can do about it right now. Just wait for it to end and figure it out from there.”
She stared at him for a long time, doubt dancing in her eyes. But finally, she nodded, and Daniel let go of her sleeve. “Thank you, Daniel,” she said quietly. He nodded and closed his eyes, willing himself to take his own advice and relax.
The two fell into a companionable silence. Kayla checked the computer from time to time, giving Daniel updates on what people were posting on the emergency network. Daniel did his level best to keep all of his insides inside, or at least in the bucket. The radio occasionally crackled with chatter, and Daniel or Kayla would answer when they could, trying to piece together the new threat assaulting their already-ravaged city. They made idle conversation when they could, to block out the distant sounds of chaos and dispel some of the ever-thickening tension in the air.
And they waited for the latest storm to pass.
(A/N: This was a short piece I wrote for some characters while I was in a livejournal-based writing game some years back. I’ve been told by online journal submissions that it doesn’t have quite enough “going on” to work as a publishable story… but I still enjoy how this scene turned out. Perhaps one of these days, I will find a way to expand the action to make it more publishable. In the meantime, hopefully you all will enjoy reading this little scene. ~Jenn H.)