Naturally, Mike neglects to tell anyone that he's coming down with something until he screeches into the garage after taking out a few Kanebots, gets out of Mutt and promptly face-plants into the asphalt. Jacob winces. "Everything okay down there?" he calls down, watching Chuck scramble out of his seatbelt and poke at Mike.
"Ow," says Mike, rolling over onto his back.
Julie hops out of her car, too, crouching down beside Mike. "That was a heck of a stunt! Tripping over your own feet? You've got to teach me that one."
Mike huffs out a laugh. "You're jealous of my smooth moves, I can tell." He sits up against Mutt's side and starts standing up, only to sit back down with a hand on his forehead. Mike gives Mutt a distracted sort of pat on her wheel arch that may have been aimed for her hood and missed a bit. "Whoa, hey, I'm actually just going to take a quick nap here, okay? Wake me up in a few."
Julie looks over to Jacob, raising her eyebrows.
"Hey, lemme take a look at you," Jacob says, moving to Mike's side while Chuck hovers over him, looking anxious. Jacob brushes Mike's bangs aside, feeling his forehead.
Mike leans into his hand a bit. "Oh, hey, that's nice," he says with a sigh. His skin is hot and a bit clammy.
"All right, let's get you inside, mister, you aren't going anywhere else today," he says, slinging Mike's arm around his shoulder.
"I'm fine! Just need a nap, that's all," Mike says, ducking free of Jacob's grasp. He levers himself up on Mutt's hood and wobbles his way to the sofa in the living room, falling into the sofa in a sort of controlled collapse. The couch is way too short and some target dummies pop up over the back when Mike settles into it, but when Jacob covers him with a blanket, Mike is already out like a light.
Texas punches the target dummies out of the way with the very quietest of hwa-yahs.
Mike is a terrible patient, it turns out. Half a day in bed, and he's already twitchy and restless. They find him in the garage at one point, leaning agaist the wheel and fast asleep, Mutt's hood open and tools scattered about. Dutch rolls his eyes and makes a shushing noise at Texas, bringing Mike back to bed.
"How are you doing there, kiddo?" Jacob says when Mike wakes up in a bout of coughing.
"Being sick sucks," Mike declares, half-muffled under a pile of blankets.
"I think whatever immunoboosters you got while you were at KaneCo must be wearing off," Jacob says. He doesn't have any bloodwork to confirm it, but it just looks like a flu, the kind that goes around down here every so often. "You'll be okay-- everyone who comes down here goes through it at some point."
Dutch sighs. "Oh boy, does that means I'll get to go through the whole rigamarole, too? I can't wait."
"Thanks for the sympathy, man," Mike says, though it sounds more like "Thogs fo de symbady" when he's all stuffed-up like this.
"Don't worry, little man, Texas is going to make you his super-enhancing chicken soup, and you'll be back to kicking things in the face in no time," Texas says, clapping his hand on Mike's back.
"Ooh, could you just-- turn the volume down a notch," Mike says, smiling ruefully at Texas and clutching his head. "Wouldn't say no to some soup, though."
Jacob finds Texas staring down a large cookpot and a chicken. Texas picks the chicken up. Makes it do a few high kicks with the appropriate sound effects. Puts the chicken back down. Stares at the chicken, and then the pot. Puts the chicken in the pot. Takes it out. Stages an epic fight scene between the chicken and the spatula. Puts the chicken back down.
"Need a hand?" Jacob says from the doorway.
"No! Nope, everything is going fine. I was just-- tenderizing the meat. Yep. That meat sure is tenderized," Texas says with a jump, patting the chicken.
"Looks good to me," Jacob agrees.
"Aren't you vegetarian?" Texas says dubiously.
"Yep, but I can still discern a well-tenderized chicken."
Texas shrugs. "Just trying to remember what went into the soup my sisters made when I was sick. I know there was definitely chicken. Maybe kimchi. Do you think muscle mulch would be good in there?" Texas looks into the pot, as if contemplating how to make it yield up its secrets.
Jacob shrugs. "Give it a try-- nothing wrong with kitchen experimentation."
"Man, this is delicious," Mike says, cradling the bowl close to his chest and taking small sips.
("...Is he delirious?" Dutch whispers behind his back.
"Definitely," answers Chuck.)
A few days pass, and Mike isn't much better. It's when he isn't even sneaking out of bed anymore to go see Mutt that Jacob starts to worry. The cough widens out into this wet, chest-rattling thing that makes Jacob frown and makes everyone nervous, on edge.
Texas makes a lot of soup. It's odd to see Texas looking morose, but Jacob can understand-- the other kids who grew up in Deluxe never really had to deal with real sickness, the kind that occasionally pops up in Motorcity and takes a few people with it before dying back down, but Texas is sure to have seen a few kids go .
Dutch paints, but his lines are tight and cramped, and he usually ends up stopping after a few strokes to look in on Mike, hovering around the doorway with his paint-splattered hands in his pockets.
Chuck spends a lot of time hanging out with Jacob, lanky limbs pulled in close to himself. Jacob wonders what he remembers of his welcome-to-Motorcity illness-- Chuck had been pretty young, but he must remember some of it. Jacob remembers it all too well: finding a bundle of kid curled up in the corner of garage door, skinny limbs shaking, and not knowing what to do to make it better.
Julie keeps on rushing off to Deluxe for more shifts, coming back with analgesics and other medecine. "Maybe you should ease off the work," Jacob ventures when she comes back, looking more tired than ever.
"Yeah, I know," Julie sighs, leaning on the counter. "It's just-- I hate not being able to do anything."
Jacob pats her on the back and doesn't offer her Texas's latest creation.
Jacob is closing up shop for the day when he hears voices filtering out from the back rooms.
"Guys, you shouldn't get too close, I'm contagious," Mike croaks out, the sound of his voice raw and tired.
"My immune system can beat the crap out of anything. Pow pow! Take that, germs."
"We know I'm going to get sick at some point, right? Might as well start preparing now."
"My job makes me take those immunobooster things, so I'm fine."
"My leukocytes are pretty hardy. They're taking lessons from Texas's."
"No, not actually--"
The talking shallows out into murmurs, the occasional "is he is asleep?" filtering out from the darkened room. Soon enough, those die out too, and Jacob looks in to check on them. Jacob isn't too sure how they all managed to fit onto the tiny double bed, but they've made it work somehow, even if it looks like Chuck's elbow is in Texas's gut. Jacob creeps forward and throws another blanket on them. Mike shifts in his sleep, tightly cradled between Julie and Chuck, and his breathing seems easier than earlier, less laboured.
It's so easy to forget that all of them are still so young when they're tearing around the city and taking out bots before breakfast. Jacob's never really been one for kids-- or, well, for kids who aren't robotic-- and he wonders, sometimes, how he ended up with five of them.
It's a relief when Mike's fever breaks a few days later and the coughing eases up. He still tires out easily, and he spends a few days wrapped on a blanket on the couch, occasionally beating Chuck at Laserswords III because Chuck is too busy looking over at Mike every time he so much as sneezes. Julie replaces Mike when Mike's head droops onto Chuck's shoulder, and Jacob finds them playing with the volume way down low, whispering "Ha, gotcha," and going quiet when Mike shifts between them.
When Dutch catches the bug, he doesn't get it nearly as bad, thank goodness, but Mike frets all the way through it, accompanied by Roth, who hovers over Dutch and periodically dumps blankets and tissues over Dutch long after the fever wears off.
Even after that, they still have plenty of soup in the freezer.
Things go on, as always, and Jacob does his best to keep up.