Shado noticed first. She would, she was good at that, the instinctive eye that made her a natural archer absorbing everything around her. In his more honest moments Ollie would admit that he had ulterior-in-the-carnal sense motives for watching her so much but in truth he mostly wanted to figure out how she did that.
So Shado was the one who noticed Slade had woken up with the shakes that morning. “You look terrible,” she said, pulling Slade up short just as he was on his way out.
Slade gave her the same look Ollie used to give his parents when they would catch him sneaking into the house hungover at dawn. “I'm fine,” he said and wow, Ollie didn't know how he'd missed it but Slade did not look fine. The morning was still cool but Slade was flushed and sweating, one hand braced against the wall like he wasn't entirely sure of his legs keeping him up. Ollie immediately wondered if the leg was infected, flashing back to how sick he'd been when the arm went bad, but he wasn't limping so that couldn't be it. “Fighting off a bug, it's nothing.”
“Same one as two days ago?”
Slade scowled. He and Shado seemed to be having an entire side conversation Ollie wasn't party to. “Hover over him if you need to mother someone,” he said, nodding to Ollie. “Told you, I'm fine.”
He stormed out before Shado could make another argument; Ollie saw her jaw clench tight for a second as she watched him go. He stood up and moved to stand beside her. “What was that?”
Shado just shook her head. “Me hoping I'm wrong.”
“Um...are you wrong?”
She crossed her arms, leaning against the wall. “Like I said. I hope so.”
Slade came back at dusk with two cleaned pheasants on a string, threw them at Ollie, put his weapons away and promptly curled up on the bedding with his back to the both of them. Shado quirked an eyebrow as she took the pheasants from him, a clear you take this one look if Ollie had ever seen one. “So, um...you feeling all right?” Ollie said, crouching down next to him.
“So I have to catch the food and cook it, too?”
Ollie put up his hands and backed away; Slade could be a pain in the ass even in a good mood, let alone now. He went back over to help Shado, who already had the pheasants cut up and in the big pot they'd brought back from Yao Fei's hideout along with his supplies a few days after the mess with Fyers. She rolled her eyes as she handed him some wild greens to shred. “Well, you certainly tried.”
“Yeah, no, you don't talk to Slade when he's in this kind of mood. Made that mistake, got the black eye to prove it.”
“Coward,” she said, although she didn't deny that had probably happened. After a few minutes of Ollie mostly managing to stay out of the way Shado nodded back over to Slade. “He's quiet. Check to see if he's sleeping.”
“Why do you want me to get punched?”
Ollie rolled his eyes but went to check on him anyway, surprised to find Slade fast asleep in his clothes. “You're right, he's out,” Ollie said, easing some of Slade's wraps off to let him get some air. “That's not like him.” Ollie could feel worry start gnawing at him him now, too; Slade was usually the first one up and the last one asleep. When he'd still been hobbled by the bullet wounds in his leg tying him up had been the only way to keep him from going on nightly perimeter checks.
“Does he feel feverish to you?”
Ollie put the back of his hand against Slade's forehead, which made Slade grumble but didn't wake him up, an even worse sign than him falling asleep in the first place. “Yeah, he's a little warm.”
“Let him sleep. Come back over here and help me.”
The uneasy silence that settled over the rest of the night took away Ollie's appetite. “You're really worried,” he said, watching the crease between her eyebrows deepen by the second. “You were going through your dad's stuff all day, what were you looking for?”
“It doesn't matter, it wasn't there.” She sighed. “You shouldn't mind me, I'm probably getting worked up over nothing.”
“Yeah, but you don't really think that.” He shrugged when she glared at him. “What? You don't.”
“And you know me so well so quickly.”
“Well enough.” Shado looked away, as good an admission of defeat as he knew he could expect. “You want a hug?” She gave him a look of such pure incredulity that Ollie couldn't help laughing. “Look, I'm not good at much but I am good at hugs.”
“You're good at plenty of things, Oliver,” she countered, shaking her head.
Ollie thought that her letting him wrap his arms around her instead of going into any of those things weakened her argument a little bit, but the way Shado's head rested against his chest meant he couldn't bring himself to care. “Stop worrying, okay? We beat the bad guys. Nothing but smooth sailing now until we figure a way off this rock.”
It sounded good, anyway. And the next day Slade slept later than usual - and when he did wake up it was in a foul enough mood Ollie could all but see a cartoon black cloud sitting over his head - but his eyes were clear and he ate enough breakfast to feed a platoon. He tried giving Shado a See, I told you so look but the worried crease was still in her forehead. Ollie assumed working out that tension was why their training session that day was more outright abuse than teaching fighting technique but Ollie would take that over the weirdness of the previous day. And the next day Slade seemed himself enough to take a turn beating him up in the name of training, so Ollie had some hope that things would get back to what passed for normal.
That night Ollie woke from sound sleep. He froze for a moment, trying to identify what the sound that woke him had been; when alcohol wasn't involved he'd had always been a light sleeper, something that had come in handy more than once since landing here. He didn't hear footsteps approaching, though, and everyone was accounted for so he slowly relaxed.
Then he noticed Slade was up too. Ollie kept his eyes half closed so Slade wouldn't know he was watching; Slade kept shifting around like he couldn't get comfortable and that hit the worried pit in Ollie's stomach. Slade slept like the dead and he could do it anywhere. After a few minutes Ollie moved over enough to touch Slade's shoulder and that was all Ollie needed to know the fever was back. The guy felt like a radiator. “Hey,” Ollie said, keeping his voice low. “Shado's right, you are sick.”
Slade didn't quite startle when Ollie touched him but he clearly hadn't realized Ollie'd gotten that close, which was a bigger sign something was seriously wrong than any fever. He recovered quickly though, shrugging Ollie off and rolling his eyes. “Not you too.”
“Seriously, what's up with you?”
“Told you, I'm fine,” he said, rolling on his side away from Ollie.
“Yeah, you look fine.” He could all but feel Slade glaring, like it bounced off the wall and still managed to hit him. And Slade could insist he was fine all he wanted, it didn't change that it was a warm night and he was still shivering hard enough that Ollie had to fight the urge to throw a blanket over him. Ollie guessed around an hour passed before he heard Slade's breathing deepen, although the sleep wasn't an easy one.
Ollie wasn't tired anymore. And if he had been, the way Slade groaned in his sleep would have killed it. That was the way he'd sounded when the infection in his arm was killing him.
Ollie looked over and saw that Shado was awake now too, staring at him with a Told you twist to her lips.
Ollie must have managed to doze off after all; he woke to thin dawn light streaming through the shelter and the sound of Slade and Shado arguing. He leaned up on one elbow and watched as she shoved Slade, a calculated move designed to look like an outburst; he saw her eyes narrow and guessed she'd done that to see if Slade would stagger back. And he while he didn't he did take a step back, one more than Ollie would have expected from a shove without much force behind it. “Touch me like that again we're gonna have to dance---”
“Oh, save it. Right now Oliver could put you down, let alone me.”
“Hey!” Ollie thought he'd gotten a lot better lately.
And to her credit Shado looked chagrined that he'd heard that, while Slade just rolled his eyes. “Now look what you've done. You woke the baby.”
“Stop trying to change the subject. You're not going anywhere today.”
“Are you stopping me?”
“If I have to.”
“If I don't hunt we don't eat.”
“We have enough to last for a few days, at least. Stop pretending there's nothing wrong---”
“I know what's wrong with me,” Slade said, his voice low. “I've had it before, there's nothing to be done about it. I'll push through.”
“You can't expect to just act like you're fine.”
“Last time I was still marching fifteen miles a day and came through. Leave me alone.”
That was enough for Ollie. “Someone mind letting me know what's going on?”
They both turned to look at him, like they'd completely forgotten he was there. Slade leaned back against the wall, clearly leaving this to Shado, and she finally just sighed. “He has malaria.”
“People still get malaria?” The words were already out of Ollie's mouth before he realized how dumb they sounded, and Slade rolling his eyes didn't make him feel any better. “I mean...I read about people getting malaria but it was always, like a hundred years ago....”
“The biggest surprise there is that he reads.”
Ollie was thankful for the glare Shado sent Slade's way, and even more for how she spoke up so he couldn't keep rambling himself into oblivion. “People in sub-tropical Pacific islands do, yes. I'm surprised it's taken so long for one of us to catch it, honestly.”
“Like I said, I had it before,” Slade said, his arms crossed over his chest. “Once in Timor, once in New Guinea, I know what it feels like. It's not as big a thing as she's making it sound.”
“Yes, yes, and you were marching fifteen miles a day, you said that. I'm assuming you were being given medication while you were doing all that.”
“You...use what, quinine for malaria, right?” Ollie said.
“Which we don't have,” Slade said, looking to Shado for confirmation. “And no one uses quinine anymore, it's artemesinin now, or at least it was my last round with this.”
“Which we also don't have,” Ollie guessed. Shado looked away and he wondered if that was what she'd been rummaging for in Yao Fei's supplies. “So what do we do?”
Slade shook his head. “Nothing. I get over it or I don't.”
Ollie honestly thought Shado was going to hit him. “You'd have a better chance if you'd take at least one day and rest. We finally have some breathing room, take advantage of it.”
Slade pushed off from the wall – not like he was annoyed, Ollie noticed, more like he wasn't sure he'd be able to stand without the leverage – and stepped right in Shado's face like he was trying to stare her down. She didn't move, didn't blink, and after a tense instant where Ollie thought those two were going to fight for real Slade stepped back. “Fine,” he said, throwing his hands up like he was doing them both a favor. “One day and you leave me alone. Both of you.” He went over to his guns and started cleaning them, which Ollie supposed counted as relaxing for Slade. “I have a snare set up half a click north,” he said, making a point of not looking at either of them. “Someone should check it.” Shado nodded, shouldering her bow and moving toward the door. “Take him, too,” Slade said, gesturing toward Ollie. “About time he learned how to set those, anyway.”
Something in Shado's expression shifted but she didn't argue. “C'mon,” she said, turning to him. “We should go before the sun gets too high.”
Ollie nodded and followed, grabbing his own bow and the folding knife Slade had more or less let him claim as his. The instant they were out of Slade's earshot Ollie grabbed her arm, turning her around. “Okay, be completely honest with me now. Is he going to be okay?”
Her expression tensed, like she'd debated lying for that one instant, then she leaned against a nearby tree, her shoulders slumped. “I don't know,” she admitted. “The fever's been two days on, two days off, there are two strains that follow that. One is...there are no really minor cases of malaria but better, at least. It's possible to get over without a targeted treatment, not a sure thing, but possible. And if that's the strain he had before he might have built up some resistance.”
“And...if it's the other one?”
Oh man. Ollie didn't like that look in her eyes at all. “Then we'll know sooner rather than later.” She shook her head, like she was trying to banish that thought. “Come on. We don't have much farther, and you should learn how to set snares.” Ollie trudged after her, the don't ask me any more questions message coming through loud and clear. “If you see a green plant with yellow flowers, let me know,” she said over her shoulder, like they'd been talking about flowers the whole time. “It should look almost like a fern.”
“Um...are we looking for flowers?”
Then they were on the snare and Ollie was able to put all of that out of his mind. By the time they got back Slade was asleep and he stayed that way most of the day, but the sleep was sound and when he woke up his mood was actually relatively cheerful, enough that Ollie could tell himself they were worrying for nothing.
The fever spiked come nightfall.
Slade had been quiet for a few hours, long enough that Ollie would wonder later how they hadn't caught on sooner. He and Shado were getting ready to bed down when the silence hit them both all at once; Shado looked at him and then nodded over to Slade, who was curled up against the far wall with his head bowed over his knees. Ollie crept toward him, tension tight under his skin, and put one hand on Slade's shoulder without making him stir. That was so unlike Slade that Ollie checked to make sure he was still breathing. “Hey,” Ollie said, nudging him. His temperature was hotter than the night before, hotter even than he'd been while fighting off the infection.“Time to get up.” Ollie nudged him again, a little harder this time with the same complete lack of response. “Shado, he's not waking up.”
“Then wake him up.”
Ollie shook him hard and that worked; Slade's eyes snapped open and his whole body tensed, like he didn't recognize Ollie and was expecting a fight. “Hey, hey, easy,” Ollie said, crouching down to eye level. “You know me, okay?” The moment passed and Slade relaxed, rubbing his hands over his face. “You know where you are?”
Slade nodded, crossing his arms against the full body shiver that passed through him. “I pass out?”
“Yeah. Like, all the way out.”
Slade nodded, his eyes wide and that look hit Ollie like a punch. It took a hell of a lot to scare Slade Wilson. “Prob'ly...shouldn't let me do that again.”
“You got it.” Ollie tipped his chin up to get a look at his eyes, the low level panic not being helped at all by finding them bloodshot and glassy. “How long have you feeling his crappy?”
“And you didn't mention this, why?”
“Didn't want to hear the two of you rubbing it in about being right.”
Ollie shook his head. “C'mon. Let's get you up, huh?” Ollie gave Slade his hand and pulled him to his feet, taking a step back to see if he'd find his balance. “You good?”
Slade nodded out of what must have been pure instinct, because two seconds later his legs buckled under him. Ollie grabbed him and slung Slade's arm across his shoulders, half-dragging him to the center of the room. “I gotcha, you're good,” Ollie said, laying him down and propping him up on some blankets. Slade's eyelids were fluttering again and Ollie snapped his fingers in his face until Slade was something approaching alert. “You said not to let you pass out.”
“So now you start listening to me.”
Ollie didn't even notice Shado sit next to him. She motioned him back and forced Slade to take a cup of what looked to Ollie like grassy-smelling sludge. “Drink that.” Slade curled his lip at the smell but complied, choking it all down and giving Shado his best are you happy glare.
“Tell me you found some of that stuff,” Ollie whispered to her.
Shado shook her head. “No, but this should help with the fever.”
“Good, 'cause we can use him to cook at the rate he's going.”
“I heard that,” Slade groaned, curling up on his side as another bout of the shakes hit him.
Shado put a wet cloth against his neck, which made him wince. “Now imagine how much worse this would be if you'd been exerting yourself all day.”
“Told you she'd rub it in.” His teeth chattered even as more sweat beaded up on his forehead. “I can't catch my breath.”
Shado nodded but Ollie didn't miss how her eyes went hard. “Try sitting up. It might help.” Slade gave her an Oh, that's cute look, like he thought she was humoring him (and maybe she was for all Ollie knew, this was spinning out of control fast) but he made a token effort to push himself up.
Ollie let him get up halfway and wrapped one arm around him to help him the rest, hauling him over to the wall and sitting him against it. “You should just smother me and get it over with,” Slade murmured, bracing one hand against Ollie's shoulder to keep himself vertical.
“Shut up,” Shado said, and Ollie was right there with her because he didn't at all think Slade had been kidding.
Things only slid downhill over the next few hours. Slade kept slipping in and out of consciousness as the fever inched up higher and even when they did manage to bring him around he woke confused and disoriented. He called Ollie “Billy” once, insisting he could keep up and they didn't have to report this and wouldn't calm down until Ollie promised to cover for him; another time he woke up, looked right at Shado and called her by another woman's name. She at least was quicker on the uptake than Ollie had been, taking the excuse to make him swallow another dose of the fever remedy and playing along until his eyes closed again. “It's like you do this everyday,” he complimented her, taking the wet cloth she handed him and putting it against Slade's neck.
“Does it seem that way? At least it's not completely obvious I don't know what I'm doing, then.” She shook her head. “I keep trying to remember every stray thing I ever heard my father say.”
“Well, you're faking it better than I am, anyway.”
“That's not true. You can be very patient when you want to be.”
Ollie shrugged. “When my sister was little she would get ear infections all the time with these really high fevers and I used to help my mom take care of her. He's just as cranky just, you know, taller.”
It wasn't much of a joke but at least she smiled at it. “I imagine you had more supplies then.”
“Never thought I'd wish I could get my hands on some aspirin so bad in my life.” He nodded to the empty bowl at her feet. “Is that stuff really gonna help?”
“Maybe,” she admitted. “It's supposed to build in the system so we should start seeing results soon, if we're going to. I just didn't know what else to do.”
“What are we gonna do?” Which he knew wasn't a fair question but their current “wait and see if it gets better” plan just wasn't working.
“We need to bring the fever down before we do anything else.” She didn't say or he'll start seizing and die but Ollie heard it loud and clear; when she'd been three Thea had seized from a 105 degree fever while Ollie had watched. She didn't remember it but that moment was still high up there on Ollie's list of horrible memories, island and all.
“And if we manage that?”
Shado frowned as she took Slade's pulse, shaking her head as she wiped another damp cloth down his chest. “I'll find something.”
Over the next hour the fever did tick down by a few degrees, enough that when Shado woke him up for another dose Slade knew who they were and where he was, a drastic improvement over the past hours. “What time is it?” he groaned, coughing as Shado forced him to swallow some water.
“Still middle of night. Maybe a little past midnight.”
Slade nodded, rolling to his side and fumbling the canteen back to Shado. “My head's killin' me.”
Shado put one hand on his forehead. “Try to stay awake anyway,” she said, then she pushed herself to her feet.
Slade caught Ollie's eye. “Stop her.”
Since Shado was strapping on a knife like she was planning to go out Ollie thought Slade had the right idea. He grabbed for her arm as she went for the door, letting her go fast when she gave him a look that said loud and clear she'd put him on the floor if he kept that up. He didn't back down further, though. “Where are you going?”
For an instant he thought Shado would just leave without another word. “The plant they make artemesinin from is called qinghao, it's a type of wormwood. I'm going to find some.”
“Is that what you had me keeping an eye out for today?”
She nodded. “It can grow almost anywhere and it's native to China....”
“But it doesn't grow here.” The two of them turned to look at Slade, who'd managed to prop himself up on one elbow. “We both know that.”
“We don't know that.”
Slade rolled over to his back, one hand over his face. “You think I don't know what that stuff looks like? I been here longer than either of you and I've never seen any, and believe that I've looked.”
“My father would have planted some even if it wasn't here already.”
“Assuming they gave him the chance.” He pressed one hand to his chest, like talking hurt. “And if he \had, it would be in with his supplies already.”
She didn't have an answer to that. “I'll find some.”
“Try to be useful and talk sense to her.”
Yeah, that was a job Ollie wanted. “Look,” he said, trying to find the best way to do this that wouldn't get him punched. “He has a point, if it was here already....”
She took one step closer.“I will not sit back and watch as this island takes one more person,” she said, the words quiet and sharp as the knife on her hip. “I watched my father die.. I can't....” Ollie watched her visibly pull herself together. “I can't not do anything.”
And yeah. Ollie understood that all too well. “I...all right, but wait until dawn at least. It's dark, you won't find anything....” She gave a little shake of her head, her eyes darting to Slade and back to Ollie.
It was like feeling his blood turn to ice drop by drop. He hadn't realized the denial had been that strong until it broke open. “Okay,” he said. “Okay, go, I'll hold down the fort.”
She kissed him, her arms wrapping around his neck and Ollie couldn't believe how much he'd needed that just then. “I'm sorry,” she said, pulling back. “I shouldn't have done that, I know you said....”
Ollie cut that off by cupping her face in one hand and kissing her back. “Don't ever apologize for that, okay? Just find the stuff and get back safe.”
Shado nodded. “Keep him awake if you can,” she said, her voice low. “And do anything you can think of to keep the fever down.”
“We'll both be here when you get back. Promise.”
Emotion flashed across her face, like she was caught somewhere between kissing him again and breaking down into tears, but all she did was push his hair away from his face before slipping out the door. Ollie stood watching after her for a few seconds, then turned back and sat back next to Slade. “You shouldn't have let'r go,” he muttered as Ollie took his pulse, which was still just as rapid and weak as the last time.
“Yeah, well, you stop her and see how far you get.”
That dragged a grin out of Slade, even if it faded almost immediately as Slade closed his eyes, one fist pressed against his forehead. “We both know how this is gonna go, right kid?” he said, so drained Ollie could barely make out the words.
“Yep.” Slade opened his eyes, like he was waiting for a punchline. “You are gonna owe the two of us pretty much forever.”
Slade groaned as he closed his eyes again. “'Hate you both.”
“Lies.” Slade didn't react to the backtalk and Ollie touched his shoulder. “Hey. Stay awake.”
Slade grumbled and tried to push him away. The chills shook him so hard Ollie had to help hold the canteen when he pushed it back into Slade's hand. “Drink a little more. You'll feel better.”
Slade managed to force down a swallow before lying back down, coughing as he tried to catch his breath.“Now who's the liar?”
It only took a couple of hours for the fever to start inching back up. Ollie got into a routine of checking on Slade every few minutes; the worse he felt the less he complained at Ollie which under literally any other circumstances Ollie would be all for but silence was nothing but bad now. “Slade!” Ollie said, shaking him awake for what felt like the hundredth time that hour. He crouched down when Slade's bleary eyes finally opened. “You gotta stay awake, you know that.” Slade nodded even as his eyes started closing again. This time when Ollie shook him Slade tried to shove him away, which he supposed was progress. “C'mon,” he said, grabbing his wrist. “Walk around a little bit, it'll help.”
He managed to get Slade up sitting before the guy mustered up the energy to glare at him. “I will kill you slow.”
“Look, you can kick my ass up and down this place for the rest of the night if it'll keep you up. Now c'mon, you know I'm right.” Slade managed to make it almost the whole length of the shelter before his legs gave out; this time when he begged off Ollie didn't fight him, instead just sitting Slade down and forcing more water into him. “That was good, take a breather.” Slade gave him another glare, this one clearly of the I don't need your permission variety. Ollie ignored it and put the back of his hand against Slade's forehead, swearing under his breath. Making Slade move around worked to keep him awake but it only served to kick the fever up higher and Ollie was running out of options. What he needed was an ice pack, a cold bath, any of those second nature luxuries he'd taken for granted back home. There was no ice to be found on this island though, and even the water they had wasn't all that cold. Ollie felt like he was watching Slade cook right in front of him and not be able to do anything about it.
And as if the night wasn't already bad enough, thunder seemed to choose that moment to all but shake the shelter right off the island. Less than a minute later a deluge of driving rain hammered down, the sound loud against the metal walls. Slade looked up and Ollie knew they were both thinking the same thing. “Go after her,” Slade said, confirming it.
Ollie couldn't even say how tempting that idea was. “No,” he said after a long moment. “I go after her in this she'd just wind up having to rescue me instead. She'll be okay.” And if there was a whole lot more hope than certainty in that, Ollie just hoped it didn't show too much.
The rain did give him another idea, though. “Hey. Hey, get up,” Ollie said, putting one arm around Slade's shoulders to pull him to his feet. “We're going outside.”
“Thought...just said you weren't going looking.”
“I'm not. We're heading out anyway.” Slade gave him a are you crazy look and Ollie pushed him toward the door. “We need to cool you down and I think I might have figured something out.”
Ollie didn't think Slade really put together what he'd been talking about until he stepped outside and the rain first hit him; he cringed back but Ollie was behind him and wouldn't let him back inside. “Keep going,” he said, giving Slade a little shove to keep him moving forward. Ollie propped him up against the outside of the shelter, staying close in case Slade fell. “You need a cold bath, right? Well, I'm guessing this is the next best thing.”
Slade crossed his arms over his chest, his shoulders hunched up against both the sheets of cold rain outside and the chills wracking him from inside. “I am absolutely gonna kill you slow,” he said through chattering teeth.
“Kinda hope you're able to,” Ollie said, almost under his breath. He put one hand on Slade's shoulder when he shook again. “Easy. We're just out here until your temperature comes down a little bit more.”
“If this keeps going bad I want you to end it.”
Ollie could barely make him out over the sound of the rain and he stepped closer, hoping like hell he'd heard that wrong. “What?”
“You heard me.” Slade picked up his head, meeting Ollie's eyes. “If I keep getting worse – if I go down again and the two of you can't wake me up, don't let me linger. I don't want that. End it there.”
You should just smother me and get it over with. “I don't...what do you think....?”
“Breathing already's starting to hurt. That's one of those signs they tell you to watch for and if it gets worse my lungs'll collapse and I'll suffocate slow. Either that or I wind up in a coma and starve. I've always been fine with the idea of dying but I don't want it to be like that. Asking you to make sure it isn't.”
I...why are you asking me?”
“'Cause I am.” Slade looked down into the dirt, rain dripping down his face. “So will you or not?”
No. Hell no. Not a chance. You'll be fine. We're all gonna be fine.
That was the same barely audible break that had been in Slade's voice when he'd asked if he was going to have to fight Fyers alone. “Yeah. Yeah, I will. If it comes to that.”
Slade nodded, his teeth chattering again. “All right if we go back inside?”
Ollie put one hand against his forehead and shook his head. “Hold out just a bit longer. It came down a little, let's try for a little more.” Slade rolled his eyes but didn't fight Ollie, instead just slumping against the shelter. “If you'd had this before that means you knew the whole time how serious this could be,” Ollie said, hoping to keep him talking. “Why were you still heading out hunting each morning? Shado's right, we have enough supplies for a few days.”
Slade shrugged. “I don't like sitting around.”
“No, that's not it.” It came on like light. “Were you stockpiling? In case you...um, couldn't... go out hunting?” Slade didn't look up and Ollie knew he had him. “You really do think we'd starve, huh.”
“Think you will, yeah.”
“Don't worry, I'll keep the terrible secret that you care.”
He shivered again and Ollie put both hands on Slade's shoulders to hold him steady. “Easy. Little bit longer.”
“You keep saying that.”
“Eventually I'll mean it.” Slade shook his head, ducking down further against the rain. Ollie was shivering a little himself, his clothes drenched and sticking to him so he could only imagine how miserable Slade must be feeling. “So who's Adeline?” Ollie said, not able to resist any more.
And that definitely did snap Slade to attention. “Where'd you hear that name?”
Ollie shrugged. “You got kind of delirious there for a while. You called Shado that once.”
At least now Ollie knew what it took to make Slade look completely mortified. Ollie gave Slade credit though, he recovered quick. “Doesn't matter who it is.”
“She's your kid's mom. Am I right?” Slade didn't answer, which Ollie figured was as good as a yes. “I know you have a son. You only talked about him the once but I actually do listen. His name's Joe you said, right? Joseph?”
Slade just nodded once, not looking at Ollie. “See?” Ollie said. “That's why you can't talk like this is what gets you, you have more reason to want off this island than any of us. You've got a kid waiting for you out there somewhere.”
“Already thinks I'm dead. I must've been declared KIA ages ago.”
“That doesn't change anything. Trust me, I watched my dad die and I still expect to see him walk out of that jungle. Look at everything Shado did for her father. That never goes away. And hell if I'm gonna let you die just to get off this island and have some scary kid of yours tracking me down to ask why.”
“So you're lookin' out for yourself right now, huh?”
“Not living in terror for the rest of my life sounds like a plan to me.” He'd really hoped Slade would crack a grin at that. “How do you feel? Any better?”
Slade shook his head. “Dizzy.” And with that his legs buckled under him, forcing Ollie to grab him. “Gotcha,” Ollie said, pressing him back against the wall to keep him upright. Ollie could tell the fever had gone down but not enough to stop heat still radiating off him. “Little longer.”
“I say anything else embarrassing?”
“You thought I was Wintergreen for a while. That was weird.”
“Oh.” Slade actually looked a little guilty about that. “I take a swing at you, or...?”
“Nah. Better times, it sounded like. Well, you still thought you were sick so not really, but better than how things wound up with him.”
Slade nodded, like that made more sense. “He looked out for me the last time this happened. That's probably why.” He shivered hard again, holding tight onto Ollie's arms to try to hold himself up. “You're better at it,” he admitted. “Know I'm...I know I'm hard on you but that's just 'cause you screw up so much,” he said, a hint of his usual smile on his face.
“You come through in the end, though,” he said, all traces of joking gone. “When it counts. Don't know how, but you manage it. Rarer than you'd think.”
Ollie never would have thought someone saying something nice about him could scare him like this. “Stop talking like you're settling accounts.”
“You just remember what I asked you.”
It was the tone, maybe, the exhaustion in Slade's voice. Or that little hitch in Slade's breathing when his legs almost gave out again and Ollie had to wrap one arm around his waist. Or the simple fact that Ollie was close enough to feel Slade breathing and he'd never been great at resisting that, no matter who it was. Could be any number reasons Ollie didn't especially want to think about as to why he leaned over the couple of extra inches and kissed him.
Sick as Slade was, Ollie still braced himself for a possible incoming punch. “You taking advantage of me now?”
If there was ever a time for baseless bravado, this was it. “That a problem?”
Slade let out that reckless little laugh of his, a tired version of the way he'd sounded when they'd found each other again after the fires had gone out after the big battle and kissed Ollie back. Ollie hadn't expected that. Not the kiss or the way Slade's hands went up into his hair and definitely not how it felt like Slade had been waiting a long time to do this. Ollie decided that maybe he should stop trying to figure out how things worked on this island because he was always, always wrong.
Slade slumped against the wall, just letting Ollie hold him up now. “Glad you wound up on this island,” he whispered, his head against Ollie's shoulder. “Hell of a thing to say, but I am. ”
Ollie kissed him again to avoid having to admit even to himself that maybe he might be too, at least for that one moment. “We're gonna get out of here. All three of us.” Slade nodded, finally out of energy to argue. Ollie checked his temperature again and decided this was probably the best they were going to get. “C'mon. Back inside.”
Ollie hauled him in and lay him back down, making a token effort to dry them both off while leaving Slade in his wet clothes to wring every last benefit from the cold rain. “You look like a drowned rat.”
“Whose fault is that?” He let Slade pull him down next to him, trying not to let the surprise show when Slade wrapped one arm around him as the shakes got bad again. This time Ollie kissed him before even realizing he was going to, a slow, careful, deeper kiss than outside. He shifted closer and felt Slade press against him and that really felt like something they should have been doing this whole time.
“How long until dawn, do you think?” Slade whispered.
“Don't know. An hour, maybe two.”
Slade nodded. “She's not back by daylight you go after her.”
“If I agree to that you have to stay awake, all right?”
“Not like I'm not tryin'” His lips tipped up. “Wouldn't mind some enticement.”
Ollie grinned and kissing him one more time, making it teasing. At least this was something he knew he was good at. “Okay. Eyes on me, now.” Slade nodded, fever bright eyes fixed so intensely on Ollie it was all he could do not to look away.
Shado finally burst through the door muddy and bruised just as the early dawn light hit and Ollie hadn't even realized the hard knot that had been growing in his stomach until he saw her alive. She pulled up short when she saw the two of them tangled together on the floor, then she just gave Ollie a brilliant smile as she unwrapped a cloth bundle full of green leaves. “I knew my father wouldn't disappoint me,” she said, gathering them back up and heading over to prep whatever it was she had to make. “I wish he'd put them in an easier to find place, but I knew they'd be there.” She looked over her shoulder at them again, chuckling to herself as she went back to work.
“Your girlfriend's jealous,” Slade whispered.
“She's not my girlfriend.”
“Then you're even dumber than I've given you credit for.”
“Stop,” she said. “And I'm not jealous. You two make a very nice picture”
Ollie didn't know why but that made him blush bright red, and it didn't help when Slade laughed. “Look, you embarrassed him.” And as if it was karma another attack of chills hit him, making him groan as he pressed against Ollie. “Kill me or cure me, just hurry up with it.”
“Constant complaining since you left.”
“That must have been a trial,” Shado said, giving him a look that was equal parts teasing and worry. After about twenty or so minutes she walked over with a bowl of steaming liquid and peeled Slade away from Ollie, straddling across his waist. “Drink this, all of it, now.”
Slade took one sip and cringed. “It's hot.”
“Baby. Finish it.”
He did as he was told, fumbling the bowl back to her. “You know making it as a tea can take three days to work. If it does.”
“I know what I'm doing.” The tone was the same hard-edged teasing but the touch was gentle as she stroked one hand across Slade's forehead. He closed his eyes as he relaxed into the touch, and Ollie felt her catch his eyes. “Get some rest. I'll watch him for a while.”
Ollie was about to argue that he didn't feel tired but that would have been a lie, because the next thing he knew he was opening his eyes and from the light it was somewhere around late afternoon. Slade was draped on top of him and for the first time in what seemed like forever he didn't feel like an over-stoked furnace. Shado was sitting on the floor a few feet away, looking cleaned up and exhausted. “Hey,” Ollie said. “You shouldn't have let me sleep so long.”
“You needed it.”
The way her hands were trembling told Ollie she probably needed it more. He nodded toward Slade. “How's he?”
“The fever finally broke about an hour ago. We'll have to watch him for a few days and keep dosing him to make sure it doesn't cycle back, and to watch his breathing, I don't know how damaged his lungs were.”
“Stop worrying. Okay? You're as bad as he is.”
She seemed like she was about to argue with him and stopped herself, shaking her head. “Is there room for me in there?”
Ollie grinned, holding out one arm. “C'mon.” She slipped in between them, giving him a kiss on the lips that was almost chaste and at the same time definitely not. Slade shifted in his sleep to give her room, too. “Careful. He gets handsy.”
“Heard that.” Slade muttered. “Do I get a kiss too or does he have them reserved?”
She smiled and leaned up on one elbow to kiss him, her hair shadowing them both, and Ollie had to admit that wasn't a bad picture either. “Now go back to sleep.”
Slade nodded, already halfway there. He threw one arm across the both of them as his eyes closed, his breathing going even again in seconds.
Ollie didn't know how her hair always managed to smell nice. “You're really not mad?”
She twisted around to look at him, one eyebrow cocked. “I'd assumed this,” she said, nodded from Slade to him, “had been going on the whole time.”
“Oh. Really? No.”
She settled back between them, a drowsy smile on her face. “What were you waiting for?”
Ollie didn't know. Probably just that it would never have occurred to the person he'd been before landing here.
He stayed up for hours as darkness chased away the last of the daylight, just listening to the two of them breathe. The man he'd been (boy, really, Slade had been right to keep calling him kid) wouldn't have been able to make that shot on Fyers, either. He'd felt pieces of him slipping away bit by bit, until he started worrying that the next time he looked at his reflection he wouldn't recognize it. That the “real” him had died in the shipwreck after all.
Ollie watched Slade and Shado sleep and for the first time thought maybe that would all be for the best. He stayed up until dawn, keeping watch until the sun rose high.