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cold (a little less cold with you here)

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No one in the cluster can agree who gave them all the Cold of Death -- Wolfgang made a stink about Korean prison super-viruses for a while until Sun got fed up and throat-punched him, much to the displeasure of the rest of the sensates (who could quite vividly feel the pain, including Sun, who was unrepentant) -- but what they do know is that they're miserable.

It seems that their psychic connection goes beyond feelings and sights and to sicknesses, a fact absolutely no one is happy to find out.

“How are you feeling?” Hernando gently brushes a hand over Lito’s slightly sweaty back. “You spaced out for a sec.”

Actually, Lito had been in Seoul, refereeing a bitter argument between Sun, Nomi, and Wolfgang about whose fault their Death Cold was, but he's not going to say that. “Sick.” He answers dramatically. “Do you think I am dying? I feel like I am dying.”

“Oh, stop being a baby, Lito.” Daniella says, pushing their shopping cart further down the aisle. “Just pick out what kind of cough drops you want while I get something for dinner, and then we can get out of here.” She leaves Hernando and Lito standing in the aisle in front of the big sign for Dora bandaids, Lito squinting into the light with watery eyes like the fluorescents personally offended him.

Lito coughs miserably, and Hernando presses a peck to his cheek, not even grimacing at his boyfriend’s sniffly nose. “I’m going to make sure she doesn’t poison us all. Be right back.”

Lito nods, and doesn’t even jump as he feels a familiar presence standing next to him. Kala sneezes, and Lito wordlessly hands her a tissue, digging in his pocket for his phone, which he holds up to his ear. He’d learned his lesson after Hernando walked in on him when he was visiting the Van Damn and overheard him talking seemingly to thin air in Swahili.

He holds his phone up to his ear, hoping no one actually calls him. “How are you feeling?” He asks. “I think that I am going to die, and it’s all Will’s fault for infecting us.”

Kala laughs, then makes a disgusted face as her nose drips. “I’m fine, thank you.” She says. “I don’t think we’re going to die. You can ask Riley; she’s the one who infected us all with the Death Cold in the first place.”

 

Lito laughs, and he’s standing in an open square, the air bright above him. It’s early there, the sun peeking above the clouds. Even through their blocked nose, he can smell flowers, fresh food, and the faint smell of incense. She’s coming back from the temple, then. It’s a feeling Lito is becoming accustomed to, like he’s getting used to feeling Will quietly reciting American police codes in the back of his head, and to Sun constantly making his knuckles ache with pounding the walls of solitary.

Then they’re back in Mexico, in the grocery store. Kala stares down at the aisles of Spanish-labelled medicines with a wrinkled nose. Lito’s arm is getting tired from holding his phone up to his face.

Capheus’ sound of exuberant delight is as familiar now as Lito’s own laugh, or the creaky seat in Will’s police cruiser. It should be odd, this situation, sharing his head with seven other people, but instead it’s just increasingly comfortable. It’s like returning home after a long trip, except you’d never known that you’d left at all.

“This is amazing!” Capheus says. Lito suspects Capheus would think almost anything was amazing, as long as it was with them. He’s wrapped in a tattered plaid blanket; he’d clearly been watching a movie and wallowing in the Death Cold before coming here. “You have to buy these chocolates; I have always wanted to taste them.”

“They’re expensive.” Lito complains, but tosses them into his cart anyway. “What are you looking at, hermanita? ” He asks Kala, who’s still turning up her nose at the cough drop selection. Which reminds him of his original purpose there, and he tosses a random flavor into the cart.

“These medicines.” Kala complains. “Come, we will get you something better.” Capheus and Lito follow her down the aisles into a section filled with spices and teas he’s not familiar with.

“I just need cough drops, and I can die in peace.” Lito complains. “Perhaps Wolfgang will come and put me out of my misery.”

“I don’t think I could kill you, even if I wanted to.” Wolfgang huffs out a half laugh as he appears next to Kala, both of them blushing slightly as they make eye contact. “Although it would be a mercy on all of us, since you are the one who started this.”

“I am not! ” Lito places a hand over his heart, offended. He almost whacks a woman trying to get around him to find something, but he doesn’t notice. “We all know that it was Nomi who gave it to us!”

“What are we here for?” Capheus asks Kala curiously, ignoring the fight breaking out between the two other sensates. “I do not recognize most of this.”

Kala borrows Lito’s fingers, plucks something off a shelf, and returns him to himself. “My mother and father make this tea for me when I am sick.” She says. “I thought perhaps you would like some.”

“I’m willing to do anything.” Nomi says, appearing. Lito shifts his cell phone from one hand to the other. He wonders if he could bribe one of the others to take his body for a while, just so they could hold it for him. “I’ve woken Neets up like three times today with sneezing.”

Will and Riley are there in a blink of an eye, looking haggard. If there’s one good thing about the Death Cold, it’s that it seems to have driven Whispers off for a moment, giving Will time to breathe. Lito takes great pleasure in the fact that Whispers had their Death Cold, too. He imagines the man trying to run an evil facility while hacking out his lungs.

“Welcome to the club.” Will says, and lets out a monster sneeze which even has Sun, who appears a second later, looking startled.

“Can’t a man grocery shop in peace?” Lito asks the sky, then snatches back his hand as Riley tries to take advantage of his momentary distraction and grab some candy off the shelf. “I would like to die of the Death Cold that Sun gave us in peace, please.”

“You’re not going to die.” Kala rolls her eyes, then puts something else into the cart. “I’ll help you make this when you get home.”

“Will you-”

“Yes, Wolfie, I will show anyone else who wants it how to make it, too.” Kala says.

“What movie are you watching?” Lito asks Capheus, who has the slightly vacant look of one of them when they're somewhere else.

“It is one of yours, actually.” Capheus gives him a guileless grin. The rest of the others snap to the conversation, never missing a possible opportunity to make fun of one of the others. “ Los Pies Del Destino.

 

Riley cackles, the sound only slightly off from the coughing bout she’d been in a half second ago. “Oh, I have to see this.” She says, and projects herself away, followed by Capheus and Nomi.

“Not cool!” Lito shouts at thin air. He sighs and he's in Nairobi, feeling the heat and crammed onto a couch with all seven of the others.

“No, please, Nina. I love you.” Lito says onscreen, one teardrop dramatically falling down his face. Spanish guitars play in the background.

“I am sorry. I cannot be with you, Juan.” The scantily-clad woman on screen says, clutching at her heart. The movement reveals a generous portion of her chest. “Not after you were with my twin sister!”

Ooooh! ” Nomi cackles. “Lito, you cheater!”

Lito clutches at his heart, unknowingly mirroring himself on the television, albeit a lot less suave and a lot more Death Cold-looking. “Juan Hernando Rodriguez Gutierrez would never. He loves Nina almost as much as his ballroom dancer/crime-fighter career.”

“The truth is,” Lito says onscreen, tilting his cowboy hat to look at the girl. “I am not Juan. I am his twin brother.”

“What?!? Ay, no! ” The woman wails, and the sensates make appropriately impressed noises, talking over each other in different languages about the plot twist.

 

Lito rolls his eyes and they're back in the grocery store. Kala takes one more thing of the shelf with the assistance of Lito’s hand and looks satisfied. “There.” She says. “Now we can beat Riley's Death Cold.”

“We all know it was you.” Riley protests, pausing to sniffle until Will hands her a Kleenex. “Or maybe Lito.”

“Hey!” Lito says.

“What?” Hernando tosses something that looks delicious into the cart, which means Dani didn't have a choice in what they got.

“Oh, uh, never mind.” Lito says, and puts his phone back into his pocket, pressing at the screen like he's hanging up on a call. The other sensates watch, undeterred by the fact that they're totally eavesdropping.

“What did you get?” Daniella asks, squinting at the various unrecognizable teas and spices. “This doesn't look like cough drops.”

“I got those, too.” Lito defends. “This is for… tea?”

“You know how to make tea.” Hernando says disbelievingly. He sniffs at one of the packets. “Do you even know what this is?”

Actually, it looks disgusting. “Of course!” Lito says, standing a little straighter. “I am offended you would think that I did not.”

“You didn't.” Wolfgang points out, trying to borrow Lito's body to shoplift something off a shelf. Lito glares at him and he silences.

“Okay, fine.” Hernando says, raising his hands in surrender. “Let’s go home.”

Lito sneezes in agreement. Nomi hands him a tissue.

 


 

“This smells disgusting.” Lito complains, smelling the tea in front of him. Hernando is showering, and Daniella said that she could no longer take his dramatics and she’s off somewhere.

“If you don’t want it, that’s fine.” Kala says, using a spoon to gently stir the mixture. She, for one, already looks like she’s feeling much better.

“No, I’ll take it.” Lito says, snatching the spoon. He’s not going to keep the Death Cold for longer than he has to; it’s ruining his beautiful face with a runny nose and watery eyes. A true tragedy.

Kala gives him a knowing look and takes a sip of the tea, nodding in approval. Really, she and Capheus are the only ones in the cluster who can cook; Will usually survived on donuts and takeout, Sun ate nothing but prison food, now, but even before her skills were questionable, and Wolfgang almost burned down his place once when he was trying to make soup.

Wolfgang is mirroring their actions in his hideout in Germany, and Capheus gives Riley moral support as she struggles to use the ancient stove in her and Will’s apartment.

“Try it.” Kala urges, and Lito gives her a wary look, but takes a sip. It's delicious. Somehow, his sinuses clear immediately and, though still sick, he feels better than he has in days.

“You are a miracle worker, Kala.” Lito spins her around through the air, careful not to spill the tea. “I will dedicate my next movie as a monument to your beauty and greatness. The Death Cold has been defeated.”

“Put me down, Lito.” Kala giggles, slapping at his arms. “I have to make sure Nomi doesn't incinerate her kitchen.”

“You are a miracle worker.” Lito tells her. She smiles and vanishes from sight.

“What language were you speaking?” Hernando asks as he walks in, towelling his hair. “Oh, you look a lot better.”

“Hindi.” Lito hazards. It's a good guess that that's what he was speaking since he was with Kala, but when it came to the cluster, he could never be sure. “I am learning in case I need it for a role in the future.” He takes another sip of his tea. “You really think I look better?”

“A lot.” Hernando says. Lito leans in for a kiss.

“Oh, gross!” Nomi says, popping in on their passionate making out.

“Get a room!” Wolfgang heckles, and though Lito’s eyes are closed, he can feel the German rolling his eyes.

“Let's go.” Riley says. “Too much affection.

Lito feels them leave. “ Now they understand privacy.” He mutters into Hernando's lips.

“Wha-” Hernando asks, a little breathless.

“Never mind.” Lito says, and kisses him harder.

 


 

Capheus sniffles, but hopefully. They've all been feeling better since Kala's magic tea, even Sun, who hadn't had the time not ability to physically drink any from her prison cell, and Capheus, who couldn’t get the ingredients.

Indeed, Capheus feels he might finally be shaking off the Death Cold.

Sun appears on the couch next to him, instinctively folding up her legs so that they can fit under Capheus’ blanket.

“Hello!” Capheus greets her cheerfully. Jela had banned him from working the Van Damn for the span of the week, citing that none of the customers wanted to be infected with his cold. He doesn’t truly mind, and the other sensates and the TV have been more than enough entertainment.

“What are you watching now?” Sun asks, looking at the television.

“James Bond. I finished Lito’s movies.” Capheus says. “Did you know he played three separate sets of twins and two pairs of triplets?”

“No, but I am not surprised.” Sun says. “How are you feeling?”

“Better.” Capheus says brightly. “Lito says Kala’s tea is magical, and also to leave him alone.”

“He tells everyone that.” Nomi says, only just fitting under the blanket when she appears. “He totally doesn’t mean it.”

Nomi, Capheus, and Sun all sneeze simultaneously, but it feels less like they’re going to die, and more like something approximating a normal human sneeze.

“Ooh, James Bond.” Nomi says. “Scoot over.”

“I have never seen these movies.” Sun says, looking up curiously as a huge explosion happens onscreen. “They do not look very good.”

“They’re not.” Capheus tells her.

“I always thought the movies should be about the Bond girls.” Nomi says. “Much more interesting.”

“I agree.” Sun says, flexing her feet under the blankets. “And James Bond’s fighting form is very off.”

“You could be James Bond.” Capheus suggests. “Actually, all eight of us together would make the perfect spy. Nomi’s hacking, you and Wolfgang’s fighting, Lito’s acting, Will’s shooting, Kala’s chemistry skills. We would make a superspy.”

Kala appears, looking quite pleased at the compliment. “We’d be great.” She agrees.

“Please.” Wolfgang says, appearing so that he can lounge on the floor in front of the couch. “I could be James Bond without any of you.” He looks like he’s just woken up, and also is only one step shy of being completely naked. He lounges carelessly in his underwear on Capheus’ couch, ignoring the disgusted faces his fellow sensates send him.

“Yeah, right.” Lito says. “Oh, hey, you are watching one of the best Bond movies. The acting is amazing.”

“Really?” Wolfgang scrunches his nose. “That blood spray is not accurate.”

Riley appears unceremoniously. “Don't take the fun out of it, Wolfgang.” She says. “Good movie choice, Capheus.”

“Thanks!” Capheus said brightly. “We can watch Star Wars, next.”

“Now that’s what I’m talking about.” Will stretches his arms above his head, looking sniffly and sick but far, far better than he has in a while. “I’m free of Whispers for now. I hope he’s suffering.”

 


 

Whispers sniffles irritably. He takes caution to stay sanitary and clean at all times, which means that this disgusting cold of his is the fault of the vexing cluster he’s hunting.

This cold is possibly one of the worst ones he’s ever had, and it makes him feel tired and too energetic at the same time. If he still had a cluster, he could probably connect with them, but it seems far too much work to try and chase after the Cluster, who are stubborn as all hell and would fight him each step of the way.

He blows his nose on an ever-widening stack of tissues, and swears he can hear Will laugh.


He really, really hates this cluster.