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That Old Familiar Sting

Chapter Text

It didn’t hurt.

As Spencer stared down at the knife sticking out of his thigh, that was all he could think, that it didn’t hurt. There was a knife in his leg, and it should have hurt. It should have been excruciating. But there was nothing but numbness.

A combination of adrenaline and shock, he knew, coursing through his bloodstream were keeping him from feeling anything. Which he was actually a little grateful for, because it was also the only thing keeping him on his feet. Keeping him between the Unsub and his intended victim.

“Move!” the boy screamed, tears streaming down his face. Weaponless after he’d tried to stab his stepfather and Spencer got in the way, but there were other weapons well within reach on the kitchen counter, and Spencer knew he wasn’t fast enough to stop him.

“I can’t do that, Clay,” Spencer said, trying to sound reassuring. His pulse was pounding in his ears and he was feeling lightheaded and dizzy, but he couldn’t let himself collapse. Not yet.

“I have to do this!” Clay cried, his voice cracking on the words. “You don’t know what he did to my mom, to me-”

“I do know,” Spencer said, quietly. “Clay, I do know, and I promise you, he will go to jail for a very, very long time. But you have to let me do my job, okay? Please.”

The rest of his team had to be coming, soon. He really hoped they were coming, soon. All he had to do was hold on.

“Clay,” he tried again, drawing the boy’s attention to himself. “Clay, think about your mom. She doesn’t want you to do this.”

“She’s in a coma!” Clay yelled at him. “She can’t tell me what she wants!”

“She woke up this morning,” Spencer told him. “Clay, your mom woke up, and you were the first person she asked about.”

“You’re lying,” Clay accused him.

“I’m not,” Spencer promised. “Look, let me get my phone out. I’ll call the hospital and you can talk to her. You can hear her voice for yourself.”

Moving slowly just in case Clay got jumpy, Spencer reached into his vest pocket and pulled his cell phone out. Dialing, he listened to the phone ring before JJ picked up.

“Is Mary Lawson awake?” he asked, before JJ could get a greeting out. “Because I’ve got her son, Clay, here, and he really wants to talk to her.”

At JJ’s affirmative answer, he put the phone on speaker and held it out to Clay, biting back a pained gasp when the movement jostled the knife in his leg. It put him off balance for a moment - and Clay’s stepfather took advantage of the moment to shove him out of the way, going straight for his stepson.

Spencer landed on the floor hard enough to drive the knife further into his leg, making him yell as agony shot the length of his body. But he still forced himself to lunge after Clay’s stepfather, grabbing the older man by the back of his pants and dragging him to the floor. Unable to go for his gun, Spencer had resorted to using his own body weight to keep the taller man pinned and was struggling to keep him down when the front door slammed open. Luke, Emily, Rossi, and a trio of the local cops blasted into the room, guns drawn, and Spencer let himself slump to the floor with relief.

Everything after that was kind of a blur. Spencer was vaguely aware of Clay’s stepfather being taken into custody, the cops being none too gentle with him, and of Emily talking to Clay, her tone calm and even as she led him out of the house. He was a good kid, he’d just been in a bad spot, and Spencer was determined to get him the help he needed. As soon as he could move from the floor, that was.

He could hear the sound of his own name coming from a distance, and he looked away from Clay to see Luke and Rossi hovering anxiously over him. They both looked worried, and it took Spencer a second to realize it was because he’d been stabbed. He opened his mouth to reassure them that he was going to be okay, but nothing would come out. Black spots danced in front of his eyes, and he groped wildly for something to hold onto as everything started to go dark. He felt someone grab his hand in a warm, strong grip.

“You’re okay, Spencer,” he heard Rossi say, his voice growing more and more distant. “We’re here, now; you’re okay.”

Okay. Spencer held onto that word as he let himself slip into the darkness. He was going to be okay.

Chapter Text

Out of everything she’d learned about Earth, nothing had prepared Kara for the utter fragility of human bodies. Broken bones, muscle tears, dislocated joints…it had terrified her when she first arrived when she realized how breakable the members of her new family were. Even now, after two decades on Earth, it still surprised her every time.

And the worst had to be the blood.

She’d known that humans had bled red, but she hadn’t really understood how bright the color had been until she’d seen it for the first time. The color almost didn’t even seem real. The smell was horrible - a metallic tang that she didn’t think she’d ever get out of her nose. And the feel of it on her hands, sliding over her skin like thick water, staining her palms and fingers. It didn’t come out, no matter how much she scrubbed at it.

Oh, how she’d scrubbed at it.

Kara stared down at her hands, still faintly tinged pink. The tips of her fingers were a darker red where the blood stubbornly clung to the skin under her fingernails, and she swallowed back the sobs that threatened to burst out of her chest. There was so much blood still on her hands, even after all that washing; how could anyone survive losing that much blood?

She turned the water on again as hot as it would go, dragging her nails across the palms of her hands under the hard spray as she tried to dig the blood out of her skin. For a fleeting moment she wondered if she was strong enough to break through her own invulnerable skin; maybe if she could make herself bleed, she could finally get clean.

She didn’t know how long she’d been in the bathroom when the door finally opened, but she looked up to see Alex standing in the doorway, watching her with a sympathetic expression on her face.

“Don’t,” Kara said, shortly. She knew what Alex wanted to say to her, but she couldn’t hear it. Not now. “Just don’t.”

Alex just let the door fall shut softly behind her. Coming up beside Kara, she held out a small brush with soft, white bristles.

“This might help,” she said, and Kara had to blink back a sudden spate of tears.

“Thank you,” she said, but for some reason, she couldn’t make herself reach out and take the brush from her sister.

Alex reached out and took Kara’s hands into her own, holding on gently. She turned down the temperature of the water until it was more a more tolerable level, and then she put some soap on the brush and started running it across Kara’s hands and wrists in slow, deliberate movements.

“Lena came out of surgery a few minutes ago,” she said, quietly, as she worked. “The bullets missed her heart and lungs by a few inches, so it was touch and go for a bit, but she’s strong. She’s a fighter, and she came through surgery with flying colors.”

Kara nodded, unable to speak around the lump that had formed in her throat.

“We moved her into a recovery room,” Alex went on. “She’ll probably sleep for a while, but she’s going to want to see you when she wakes up.”

“She’s going to be okay?” Kara finally whispered, and Alex squeezed her hands in response.

“She’s going to be fine,” she said, reassuringly. “How could she not be, with me and Brainy as her doctors?”

Kara laughed, and if her voice was suspiciously wet, Alex didn’t mention it. Instead, she turned off the water and grabbed a hand towel to dry Kara’s hands with.

“You’re going to be okay, too,” she said, holding Kara’s hands in a gentle grip. “I promise.”

Chapter Text

“…Foggy Bear, have you heard a word I’ve been saying?”

Foggy jerked back to awareness, shooting Marci a guilty smile. The look he got in return was distinctly unimpressed.

“You fell asleep on me again, didn’t you?” she asked, accusingly.

“I wasn’t actually asleep,” Foggy said weakly, which was mostly true. He’d known that Marci was talking, but he hadn’t been able to actually focus on what she’d been saying.

“That’s the third time this week,” Marci told him. “Foggy, what is going on with you?”

“Nothing, I’m fine,” Foggy protested, while Marci remained clearly unconvinced. “I’m just busy,” he insisted. “I’ve got clients, and-”

“And you haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep in three months,” Marci interrupted him. “Not since Murdock went missing.” At Foggy’s flinch, she softened her tone. “You can’t keep doing this to yourself, Foggy. You need to get some sleep.”

“I need to work,” Foggy corrected her, grabbing blindly at the pile of folders in the middle of the table. He wasn’t even sure if they were all his, but he’d sort that out when he got back to his office.

“I’ll tell Hogarth,” Marci threatened him, before he could leave the conference room. The words froze him in his tracks.

“You wouldn’t,” he retorted, even though he knew she absolutely would.

“Either you leave right now and go home and get some sleep,” Marci said, “or I’m going straight to Hogarth. I know you don’t want the boss to find out that you’ve been sleeping in your office these past few weeks.”

No, he did not want that. Because if Hogarth found out that he was sleeping in his office, he’d have to have a conversation with her about why he was sleeping in his office. And that was a conversation neither of them wanted to have.

“I’ll go home,” Foggy said, and Marci grinned at him.

“You’re making the smart choice,” she told him.

Stepping out of the taxi in front of his apartment building, Foggy hoisted his messenger bag higher on his shoulder as he headed up the steps. The doorman sounded surprised to see him, which Foggy couldn’t really blame him for. He hadn’t really been home in a while, after all.

The ride up the elevator was quiet, a perk of coming home in the middle of the day, and he shuffled down the hallway to his apartment. Ever since he’d gotten in the taxi he’d been swamped with exhaustion, for which he blamed Marci and her almost-supernatural powers of suggestion. When he reached his apartment door, it took three fumbling attempts to get the key in the door, and he silently cursed his clumsiness. Finally, though, he got the door open, dropping his bag and his coat on the floor as soon as he got inside. He was just too tired to worry about things like that.

He trudged to his bedroom, loosening his tie and toeing off his shoes. And then he stepped into the darkened room and froze. Because he wasn’t there alone.

“Who’s there?” he demanded, and a figure stepped out of the shadows by the window. A thin sliver of light was creeping through the crack in the curtains, enough for him to see Matt’s face.

“Foggy,” Matt said, softly, so quietly that Foggy could barely hear him over the roaring of blood in his ears.

“You’re dead,” Foggy whispered, as the apparition came closer. “You died. I cried over you.”

“I’m sorry,” Matt said, reaching out to him.

“No,” Foggy blurted out, jerking away from Matt’s outstretched hand. He stumbled backward, feeling his feet catch on something behind him, and then he was falling…

He came back to consciousness slowly. He was lying on something soft, and there were warm, heavy blankets on top of him, and he was more comfortable than he’d been in a while, and it was just so hard to open his eyes. But there was a reason he needed to be awake…

“Hey, Foggy,” Matt said, from somewhere off to the side, and memory hit him like a freight train. Matt was alive. Matt was here, in his apartment. He needed to wake up for Matt.

“I’m awake,” Foggy told him, although Matt probably already knew that. “I’m awake, let me just-” He tried to push himself up, but he couldn’t make his arms work properly, and he ended up falling back against the pillows again. Forcing his eyes open, he looked over to see Matt sitting in the chair by his window. “I was gonna sit up, but that’s not gonna happen, so we’re going to have to have this conversation with me snuggling under my comforter. Where did you even find this thing, anyway? I haven’t used this in months.”

“It was in your closet,” Matt told him, reaching out to smooth down the blankets at the end of the bed. “You were shivering after you fainted, so I figured you needed to get warm.”

“I didn’t faint,” Foggy protested, automatically, but even he wasn’t convinced by that one.

Matt thankfully didn’t call him on it. “I’m so sorry,” he said, instead. “Foggy, I never should have let you think that I was dead. I was-” He swallowed hard, twisting the edge of the blanket in his fingers. “I was scared,” he admitted. “I was scared that I’d hurt you if I was in your life, and I convinced myself that I was doing the right thing, that you’d be better off without me around-”

“You are such a melodramatic idiot,” Foggy declared, cutting Matt off mid-sentence. “Even more so than usual, I mean.”

“That kind of sounds like you forgive me,” Matt said, hesitantly.

“I’m still mad at you,” Foggy told him. “So unbelievably pissed. You’re going to be making this up to me for a long time, Murdock. I’m talking flowers, my favorite chocolates, maybe a boombox apology from the sidewalk-”

Matt cracked a grin, his eyes crinkling at the corners.

“But right now, I am also very, very tired,” Foggy went on, “and I’m cold, and you give off heat like a space heater. So if you want to start making things up to me, you’ll get under these blankets and we’ll cuddle like we used to after we got drunk after finals in college.”

“I can do that,” Matt said, uncurling himself from the chair and padding softly across the room to the other side of the bed.

He slid under the covers Foggy was holding up for him, and Foggy immediately latched on, wrapping his arms around Matt’s waist and snuggling into his shoulder.

“So warm,” he sighed, happily.

“I really am sorry,” Matt told him, but Foggy was already half asleep and not listening. The last thing he heard before letting sleep completely overtake him was Matt’s quiet, “But I promise I won’t do it, again.”

Chapter Text

The job wasn’t supposed to go like this.

The mark was just a run-of-the-mill sleazy businessman, who’d been cheating his employees out of their fair wages. They’d worked the con for two weeks, and he’d fallen for every carefully-planned step like clockwork. It had been like taking a Renoir from the Met (like taking candy from a baby, only easier). There’d been absolutely no indication, nothing in any of Hardison’s searches, of this.

This was Eliot and Hardison unconscious and dangling from hooks on the ceiling, restrained so tightly that Parker was amazed they could even breathe, let alone move. This was the businessman’s security detail standing at attention with guns trained on the backs of her boys’ heads, ready to shoot at a moment’s notice. This was the businessman, himself, standing there gloating at her with an infuriatingly-smug smile on his face.

Parker longed to be able to wipe that look off his face.

“What do you want from me, Mercer?” she demanded.

“What does any man want out of life?” Mercer asked her, still smiling. “Love, wealth, the chance to leave a lasting legacy-”

“Get to the point,” Parker snapped at him.

The smile fell of Mercer’s face as he glared at her for interrupting him. “What I want,” he said, icily, “is my pound of flesh. You have humiliated me in front of my colleagues and my shareholders, and I want my retribution. I want you to suffer as I have suffered.”

“And how would you like me to accomplish that?” Parked asked, through gritted teeth.

“Sadly, I cannot ruin your life as you have ruined mine,” Mercer lamented, dramatically. “But I can ruin you in other ways. Financially, for instance.” The smug look came back to his face as he added, “Fifty million dollars. In the next three hours.”

“Are you crazy?” Parker demanded. “How am I supposed to come up with that kind of money in the next three hours?”

“You’re the legendary Parker,” Mercer told her. “I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” When she didn’t say anything, he made a gesture to one of his henchmen, and the man stepped closer to Eliot and pulled back the hammer on his gun. “Of course, if you need some motivation-”

“No, stop!” Parker blurted, desperate, making an aborted lunge toward Eliot’s unconscious form.

“See?” Mercer said, still smiling. “Motivation.”

“When this is over, I’m going to kill you,” Parker told him, barely recognizing the gravelly sound of her own voice.

“You now have two hours and fifty-seven minutes,” Mercer replied. “I wouldn’t delay any longer, if I was you.”

Parker shot one last, desperate look at Eliot and Hardison, and then she turned and bolted out of the warehouse and toward where they’d parked Lucille. Two hours and fifty-seven - no, fifty-six - minutes to come up with a plan to rescue her boys.

And then they’d send Mercer straight to Hell, where he belonged.

Chapter Text

I killed you, the note read. You’ll be dead before nightfall.

No signature, not that Steve would have gotten that lucky. Printed in dark block letters that stopped just short of tearing through the heavy paper, the note had been sealed in a plain, white envelope. Running it under an ultraviolet scanner hadn’t turned up any fingerprints; whoever had left it on his desk had probably been wearing gloves. They’d been careful not to leave any evidence, nothing to indicate who’d been able to get into headquarters to kill him.

A sudden knock on his door startled him out of his thoughts. Steve looked up as Danny poked his head into the office.

“Hey, babe, we’re headed to Kamekona’s for a celebratory dinner, you in?” When Steve hesitated just a second too long, Danny frowned at him. “Okay, what’s wrong?”

“What makes you think anything’s wrong?” Steve bluffed, which only made Danny frown harder.

“Chin, Kono, change of plans!” he hollered, leaning backward into the hallway. “Something’s up with Steve!”

Steve groaned, dropping his head into his hands as he listened to the footsteps coming closer and closer. When he looked up again, Chin and Kono had joined Danny in the doorway, all of them staring at him with varying degrees of barely-disguised anxiety. Before any of them could say anything, Steve got up from behind his desk, holding the letter up where they could read it, but keeping it well out of reach.

“I think I’ve been poisoned,” he said.

Steve had always known that Danny was terrifying behind the wheel, but he was seeing a whole new level of intense from his partner. Danny stared straight ahead at the road, knuckles white where he gripped the steering wheel, the dial on the speedometer creeping higher and higher by the second. They’d called an ambulance almost the second after they’d seen the letter, but the dispatcher told them it would have taken too long to get out there and get him back to the hospital. So, Danny had practically dragged him into the car while Chin and Kono stayed behind to start investigating.

The 911 dispatcher had called ahead to the hospital for them, and there was already a team outside the emergency room doors when Danny came screaming to a stop in the ambulance bay. They had Steve out of the car almost before Danny was fully stopped, bundled into a wheelchair and whisked away to an exam room. Steve didn’t protest, the memory of the fear on his team’s faces still fresh on his mind.

By the time Danny had the car parked and found him in the hospital, the doctors had taken half a dozen vials of blood for testing. Steve was hooked up to an IV line, saline dripping slowly into his veins, and a continuous heart monitor beeped softly in the background.

“I feel ridiculous,” Steve groused, as Danny walked into his room.

“Better ridiculous than dead,” Danny retorted.

As he dropped into the visitor’s chair beside the bed, Steve raised an eyebrow at him. “Aren’t you headed back to the office?” he asked.

“Chin and Kono have things under control back there,” Danny told him. “I’ve been ordered to stay here and sit on you to keep you from doing something stupid, like checking yourself out AMA and going after this guy on your own.”

“You guys are so sweet,” Steve drawled.

“Yeah, we love you too, babe,” Danny replied, the lightness in his voice betrayed by the unhappy expression on his face.

He was burning up. He was on fire. Pushing futilely at the blankets smothering him, Steve tried desperately to get away from the heat.

“Hey. Hey, stop that.”

Someone gently grabbed his hands, pulling the blanket out of his grip and easing his arms back down to the bed. Steve grumbled as the blankets were smoothed back over his chest, but then a blessedly cool hand brushed across his forehead, and he moaned in relief.

“I know, babe,” the voice told him. “I know it hurts. Just hang on for me, okay?”

Steve flailed weakly until the cool hand grabbed his, and then he hung on as hard as he could. He didn’t want the voice to leave, didn’t want to be alone in the dark again.

“I’m here,” the voice told him, soothingly. “I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere. I promise.”

When Steve opened his eyes again, the room was dark. A bare sliver of moonlight crept in through the window, casting long shadows on the walls.

He felt weak. Exhausted, and sweaty, and utterly drained, like he’d just done all of Hell Week in a single day. He felt so tired that he could barely lift his arms. Of course, part of that could also have been because someone was holding onto one of his hands like an anchor.

That someone turned out to be Danny, curled up in the chair beside the bed and out like a light. His hand was heavy in Steve’s, his grip warm and comforting. Steve considered trying to pull his hand free, but just as quickly decided against it. A not-so-small part of him liked the feel of Danny holding onto him so securely.

The sound of approaching footsteps drew his attention away from his partner, and he looked toward the door to see a nurse silently entering the room. Her face lit up when she saw Steve awake.

“Commander McGarrett,” she said, warmly, coming up on his free side, “it’s good to see you conscious.”

“How long?” Steve asked. The moon outside gave him no indication of how much time had passed, but he’d clearly lasted longer than the end of the day that his would-be killer had promised.

“Three days,” the nurse told him. “You went downhill pretty fast that first day you checked in, and it was a little touch and go for a while, there.” Shooting Danny what could only be called an affectionate look, she added, “I don’t think Detective Williams has left this room even once since you got here.”

The nurse did a cursory check of his vitals before leaving, and Steve turned his attention back to Danny to see him awake and watching Steve through half-lidded eyes.

“She makes it sound more melodramatic than it really was,” Danny told him. “I went out in the hallway plenty of times to coordinate with Chin and Kono. We got him, by the way. Little punk who wanted to make a name for himself by killing you.”

“And I’m guessing that I’m poison-free,” Steve said, getting a slow nod from Danny.

“Clean bill of health,” he said, voice cracking on a yawn. “Of course, that’s after you spiked a nasty fever and almost went into a coma - but then, you don’t do anything by halves, do you?”

“You sound like you were worried about me,” Steve teased him.

“I mean, if you died, I’d have to break in a new partner,” Danny said, trying and failing to sound light. “You know how much trouble that would be?”

Steve squeezed the hand he was still holding. “I love you, too, Danno.”

Chapter Text

“Majesty, could you hold this for me, please?”

Distracted by thoughts of everything he needed to get done that day, Thor didn’t think twice about reaching out and taking the small bundle of rope that Loki’s newest student held out to him as he passed her in the corridor. A second later, lying facedown on the floor and unable to move, he reflected on the fact that he really, really needed to start thinking twice. Especially anything involving his brother.

“I don’t really know what you were expecting.”

Thor knew he’d spent far too much time on Earth when his first thought was ‘He could print that on a tee-shirt and save himself so much time.’

He shot Loki a tired, exasperated glare from his trussed-up position on the floor as Loki used his own magic to gently flip him onto his back. He could have fought his way loose of the bonds in mere seconds, but Loki’s young pupil looked so utterly pleased with herself that he couldn’t bring himself to destroy her first successful spell work.

Loki, meanwhile, was standing over him with a satisfied smirk on his face, arms crossed over his chest. “If all of Asgard could see you now-”

“You mean once again betrayed by my own flesh and blood?” Thor asked, dryly. “It’s a common enough sight by now, I think they’d be used to it.”

Loki’s smirk blossomed into a genuine smile as he looked down at Thor. He looked almost delighted at having helped young Dari in tricking her king. But, Thor supposed this was rather mild compared to what Loki had gotten up to in the past, and if he was forming a bond with some of the other refugees over teaching them to wield magic, then Thor was willing to be a butt of his brother’s jokes once more.

“All right, Dari,” Loki finally said, as he turned his attention to the girl beside him. “Let the king loose.”

Dari frowned down at him, muttering silently to herself as she made a complicated twisting motion with her fingers. Then again a moment later when nothing happened.

“It’s - it’s not working,” she said, when a third attempt failed to produce a result. She looked anxious, now, darting glances between him and Loki like one of them was going to be angry with her.

“Well, that’s all right,” Thor told her. “Truth be told, I don’t actually need you to break the spell. I can simply free myself-” He stopped mid-sentence when he realized that straining against the ropes with all his strength wasn’t even making a dent in his bonds. “Loki,” he said, fighting for a calm he was rapidly losing, “Loki, I seem to be stuck.”

Loki didn’t even try to disguise the chuckle that slipped out. “Relax, both of you,” he said. “It’s a simple spell; Dari, watch how I do this.”

He made the same motion she had, and then scowled when the ropes stayed firmly tied around Thor’s arms and legs. Crouching down, he made a different, sharper motion - again to no result.

“We may have a problem,” he said, and Dari let out a squeak, eyes wide with fear.

“I broke the king,” she whimpered.

“You did not break the king,” Loki corrected her, reaching out and giving her a reassuring clap on the shoulder. “Trust me, my brother’s been in much worse positions than this. Haven’t you, Brother?”

“Plenty of times,” Thor agreed. “And most of them at your hand.” When Dari failed to look any less miserable, he gave her his best, most charming smile. “I’m not mad. If anything, this gives me an excuse to get out counting inventory for a little while longer.” That brought the tiniest hint of a smile to the girl’s face.

“Why don’t you run and find Brunhilde?” Loki asked. “Tell her to bring her sword; it should cut through the magic on these ropes.”

“Brunhilde?” Thor asked, watching Dari as she ran down the corridor of the ship. “It’s not bad enough that I’m trussed up like a stag after the hunt, but you wish my predicament to be witnessed by Brunhilde, as well?”

“And likely Banner, and Heimdall,” Loki reminded him, with a cheerful grin. “As I believe they’re all currently in the storerooms and they’ll likely accompany her when they hear what happened.”

Thor groaned, letting his head thump backward to the floor. “I hate you,” he told Loki.

“Well, we both know that isn’t true,” Loki said, settling in cross-legged beside him - although floating a few inches off the ground to avoid getting his clothes wrinkled or dirty.

“You’re a menace,” Thor went on, undaunted.

“That one I’ll give you,” Loki replied. “But admit it, Brother, you wouldn’t have me any other way.”

“No,” Thor said, quietly, “I supposed I wouldn’t.”

Chapter Text

Jack Hotchner was so bored. His teacher had been hyping this field trip to the Washington Monument as the most exciting day of the year, but Jack just didn’t get where all the excitement was coming from. He’d much rather be back at school studying for his math test, to be honest.

At least they got a break from the tour guides when they got to go to lunch. Jack had finished his early, wandering over to the bookstore to see if there was anything he could buy. He’d even settle for a book, right about now. Anything to keep the boredom away.

“Hey, Hotchner!”

Of course, there were always other ways to fight his boredom - namely, trying to avoid Jimmy Smithers and his buddies.

“Hi, Jimmy,” Jack said, quickly, ducking down the first aisle he saw in an attempt to avoid the other boys. It didn’t work.

“What’cha doing, Hotchner?” Jimmy asked, as he and his friends trailed after him down the aisle.

“Nothing,” Jack said, shortly. Maybe if he was quiet enough, they’d get bored and leave him alone. Not that they ever had in the past, but there was always a first time for everything.

“You know what I think would be fun,” Jimmy started, and Jack felt his shoulders tense up at the tone in the other boy’s voice. Jimmy’s ideas of fun rarely actually were. “I think it would be fun if you stole something.”

Jack rolled his eyes, secure in the knowledge that Jimmy couldn’t see his face. “That’s not fun, that’s just stupid,” he retorted. “What makes you think I’d ever steal something for you?”

“Cause otherwise I’ll tell Ms. Dinsdale that you cheated on the midterm last week,” Jimmy said, grinning cruelly at Jack when he turned around to glare at the other boy.

“I didn’t cheat!” Jack hissed, keeping his voice low just in case their teacher had come in looking for them.

“Maybe not, but you did help Myles Collins cheat, didn’t you?” Jimmy retorted.

Jack swallowed, hard. Myles had trouble with words, and he hadn’t been helping him cheat, he’d only been helping him spell some hard words on the essay portion of the test, but Ms. Dinsdale didn’t like him all that much, and it wasn’t likely that she’d believe him, and he didn’t care so much if he got in trouble, but Myles would get in trouble, too-

“What do you want?” Jack snapped, barely remembering in time to keep his voice down.

Jimmy poked his head over the top of the aisle, looking around the rest of the store. “Did you see those light-up statue things by the front counter?” he asked. “I want one of those.”

By the front counter. Which also meant right by the cashier. Which meant he was likely to get caught. Jack balled his hands into fists, resisting the urge to punch Jimmy in his stupid, smug face.

“Fine,” he gritted out. “I’ll get you your stupid statue. Just leave Myles and me alone.”

As the other boys drifted toward the front of the store to watch him work, Jack sauntered as casually as he could toward the register.

“Excuse me,” he asked the cashier, holding up a book he’d grabbed off the shelves. “Can you tell me how much this is?”

As the cashier turned toward the register to check for him, Jack grabbed one of the statues and stuffed it quickly in his pocket. His heart was pounding in his chest and he felt like passing out. If his father knew what he’d just done, he would be in so much trouble.

“Thirteen fifty,” the cashier said, turning back to him. “You want me to ring it up for you?”

“No-no thank you,” Jack stammered. “Maybe later.”

Before the cashier could ask him anything else, he darted out the door and into the sunshine. Jimmy and his friends were waiting for him around the corner, and Jack threw the statue at him so hard that it bounced off his chest.

“Here’s your stupid statue,” Jack snapped at him. “Now leave me and Myles alone, got it?”

Jimmy just laughed at him, and Jack watched them head back to the rest of the class, scowling. He started after them, but before he could move past the building, a hand reached out and grabbed him the by the shoulder.

“I saw what you did,” the man said, his voice deep and gravelly. “You’re a thief, and you’re going to pay for that.”

“I’m sorry,” Jack said, quietly. “I’ll go back inside and I’ll pay for the statue right now, I swear-”

He broke off suddenly, when the man pulled a gun out of his waistband, pointing it at him. “You’re going to pay for that,” he repeated, suddenly so much more menacing than when Jack had thought he was just a security guard. “And if you make a sound, I’ll shoot you right here.”

Jack swallowed hard as the man’s gripped tightened on his shoulder. He bit down on his lip to keep from crying out as the man started pushing him toward the far side of the parking lot, away from his classmates, and his teachers, and everyone who could have helped him. This was so, so much worse than being in trouble with his father.

Chapter Text

Tess couldn’t remember the last time she felt this bad. She was cold one second and sweating the next. She got dizzy every time she stood up from her desk too quickly, and a massive headache was slowly building behind her eyes. The few things she’d managed to eat for lunch just tasted sour, and the thought of trying to eat anything else made her want to throw up.

“Face it, Tess, you’re sick.”

“I never get sick,” Tess tried to protest, but the words didn’t come out nearly as strong as she’d been hoping. Groaning, she let herself slump forward until her head thumped on the desk. “I’m not sick,” she mumbled, voice muffled by the desk.

“You are sick,” Lois told her, as she came further into the office. “Did you get a flu shot?”

“I don’t get flu shots,” Tess said. “Because I don’t get sick.”

“Says the woman who’s so sweaty that she’s sticking to her budget reports,” Lois retorted.

Tess forced herself to sit up, carefully peeling off the paper that was indeed stuck to her cheek. “This proves nothing.”

Rolling her eyes, Lois leaned over and brushed her hand over Tess’s forehead, her palm blessedly cool. Tess bit back a moan of protest when Lois pulled her hand away a few seconds later.

“You are definitely running a fever,” she said. “Face it, Tess; you’re sick and you should go home.”

“I’m busy,” Tess insisted.

“You’re contagious.” Crossing her arms over her chest, Lois gave her girlfriend a stern look. “Go home, Tess. You’re not going to get better if you don’t take care of yourself, and you can’t do that if you stay here and keep working.”

Tess tried to glare back, but the effect was ruined by the fact that she was listing to the side. “Fine,” she finally relented. “I’ll go home and work from there.”

“Go home and get some sleep,” Lois corrected her. “I’ll be home in a couple hours, and I’ll bring you some soup or something.”

“Tomato bisque from the deli down the street?” Tess asked.

“With those little oyster crackers that you love,” Lois promised her. “When I get home, I’m gonna pamper the fever right out of you.”

Chapter Text

Day 1:

Rodney stared at the remains of the Jumper’s DHD scattered all over the floor, control crystals shattered into a million pieces.

“Well, fuck.”

Day 2:

“Fucking Ancients. Why would we possibly build useful redundancies in our most vital Jumper components because we’re fucking Ascended beings and-”

John bit back a laugh at the sound of McKay’s bitching from underneath the control panel. He thought he’d heard the best of McKay’s complaints on Atlantis, but those rants had nothing on the ones that were inspired by being stranded on an alien planet with a dead Jumper and no way to get to the space gate and contact home.

“How’s it coming?” he asked, and there was the sound of a thump, followed by even more vibrant cursing.

McKay wiggled his way out from under the control panel to glare at John, one hand protectively covering the brand new gash on his forehead. It matched the one on the other side of his forehead that John had inadvertently given him yesterday.

“I thought we agreed that you were going to stop sneaking up on me,” McKay said, as he reached for the first aid kit and rummaged around for a bandaid.

“It’s a metal floor,” John pointed out. “I wasn’t exactly being quiet.”

McKay glared again, but didn’t say anything in response. Instead, he laid back down and maneuvered himself back under the control panel. John almost thought he was being ignored until-

“It’s going slowly. And it’s going to go even slower if you keep interrupting me.”

However long they were stranded on this planet, John thought, it was already too long.

Day 5:

“I hate the Ancients and their stupid delicate Jumpers, I hate the Tel’nari for interfering with the Jumper and getting us stranded here, I hate-” McKay broke off mid-sentence as he caught sight of the fire Ronon had constructed in the fire pit. “What do I smell?”

“Breakfast,” Ronon told him, and McKay looked around, blinking in the harsh sunlight like he hadn’t realized what time it was.

“When did it turn into morning?” he asked.

“After we got done with night time,” Sheppard said, popping up behind McKay and making him jump so badly he almost fell off the ramp.

“Fucking hell, Sheppard!”

“Seriously, how do you not hear me coming by now?” Sheppard asked, clearly baffled. “Half the planet can hear me stomping around the Jumper.”

“And he’s been scaring all the good game away,” Ronon spoke up. “Teyla and I almost didn’t catch breakfast this morning.”

“Ronon is exaggerating,” Teyla said, also from behind McKay, and both she and Sheppard had to grab onto the back of his shirt to keep him from pitching face-first into the ground. “Rodney, when was the last time you slept?”

“Um - how long have we been here?” McKay asked.

Sheppard rolled his eyes and steered McKay down the ramp, still holding onto the back of his shirt. “You’re gonna eat, and then you’re gonna sleep,” he said, firmly.

“I have to fix the Jumper,” McKay protested, weakly, but his heart didn’t really sound in it. He was already swaying in his seat, blinking rapidly in an effort to stay awake long enough to eat.

“We’ve already been here for five days,” Teyla pointed out. “A few more hours will hardly make a difference.”

“Famous last words,” McKay mumbled, and then he tipped over sideways and fell asleep on Sheppard.

Day 12:

Teyla would never admit it out loud, but she was bored.

Since getting stranded on the planet, there’d been little to do. They had the Jumper, so there was no need to construct a shelter. There was a river only a short distance away that they used for both water and washing up. Game was plentiful, and none of the plants in the area were poisonous. The weather was mild, and the days were sunny and warm. Everything was perfect, and safe-

-and she hated it.

There was nothing to do. She, Ronon, and Sheppard took turns hunting or fishing, but even that didn’t take very long, since they didn’t have any way of storing meat long-term. They’d found no inhabitants of the planet, so they didn’t have to worry about enemies. Most of her day was spent doing mindless tasks just to keep busy. And she was running short of patience.

The only one who had something to keep him occupied was Rodney, and he’d been adamant about not having anyone interfere with his work.

“Hey, Teyla?”

Then again- Teyla looked up as Rodney poked his head out of the back of the Jumper, waving her over.

“I need to borrow your hands,” he told her, as she followed him up to the cockpit. “There’s a spot in the back I can’t get my fingers into.”

“I thought you wanted to work alone,” Teyla said, as she moved to where he’d indicated, squeezing into the tight space behind the control panel. “You told John-”

“I told Sheppard that because he wouldn’t stop talking,” Rodney told her. “And normally I don’t mind background noise, but he kept talking about football scores and he just wouldn’t give it a rest.”

“He is very passionate,” Teyla said, and Rodney snorted out a laugh.

“That’s one way of putting it,” he muttered.

“He misses working with you,” Teyla replied, not mentioning how John’s football rants were very close to getting him banned from hunting trips with Ronon.

But, they hadn’t been a team for four years for nothing. “He’s driving you and Ronon nuts, too, isn’t he?” Rodney asked, knowingly.

“His enthusiasm can be a bit tiring,” Teyla admitted. “But, it is understandable; he feels responsible for us being here, and he’s trying his best to keep our spirits up.”

“This isn’t his fault,” Rodney said.

“Then we need to make him believe it,” Teyla told him.

Day 21:

Rodney bit back a groan as his fishing line got tangled yet again around a plant floating in the river. “Why did I let you talk me into this?” he groused, stomping over to try and untangle it.

“Because you said you couldn’t do anything more with the Jumper,” Sheppard reminded him. “And you were going to drive yourself crazy just sitting there with nothing to do, so fishing.”

“I hate fishing,” Rodney told him. “My father used to take Jeannie and me ice fishing every winter when we were kids, and it was miserable, and I hated it.”

“Yeah, but this is better than ice fishing,” Sheppard told him, casting another perfect throw into the middle of the river.

“Only if you’re good at it.”

Finally getting the last of his line untangled, Rodney went back to his spot on the bank and tried casting again. The line at least went toward the water, but still fell miserably short of the middle of the river. Rodney briefly considered hauling the line in and trying again, but then resigned himself to just fishing in the shallows. Not that it mattered where his hook went, he was never going to catch anything-

Something grabbed the line and yanked it taut, almost pulling the makeshift pole out of his hands. Rodney yelped as he held on as tight as he could, and Sheppard dropped his own pole to help him hang on, closing his hands over Rodney’s.

“What was that about not being good at fishing?” he asked, as they carefully pulled the line in closer.

“This has never happened to me, before,” Rodney insisted, eyes going wide as he caught a glimpse of the giant fish on the end of his line. “Holy crap-”

They fought with the fish for a couple minutes more before finally dragging it up onto shore. Sheppard quickly finished the fish off with his knife, grinning up at Rodney like an idiot.

“Ronon is going to be so jealous when he finds out you hooked a bigger fish than he did.”

Day 27:

When the communicator first beeped, John almost missed it. In his defense, he was in the middle of a very exciting football story, and the communicator was very quiet. So quiet that he convinced himself that he was imagining things. But, the second beep fell right in the middle of one of his dramatic pauses - and this time everyone heard it.

There was an almost comedic moment where they sat there frozen, staring at the control panel like it had just grown a head, and then McKay was up and scrambling for the front of the Jumper. He hit a button and then the most beautiful voice John had ever heard came over the intercom.

“-message for AR-1,” Lorne was saying. “AR-1, if you can hear, please respond.”

“We’re here,” McKay blurted out, slamming the talk button so hard John was surprised he didn’t damage it. “Major Lorne, we’re here!”

“Dr. McKay, is that you?” Lorne asked. “Is everyone okay?”

“We’re fine, Major,” John said, as he, Teyla, and Ronon joined McKay at the front of the Jumper. “Little antsy and ready to get the hell off this planet, but we’re fine.”

“Colonel, you have no idea how good it is to hear your voice,” Lorne said, and John couldn’t hold back his happy grin.

“Same here,” he said.

“You guys hold tight,” Lorne went on. “We have a lock on you, now, and we should be there in an hour to pick you up.”

John couldn’t stop smiling as the communicator clicked off. “We’re going home,” he crowed, happily.

Chapter Text

When the poltergeist tackled him down a flight of stairs, Sam knew he was in trouble. Not because he was afraid of getting hurt, but because it was going to form a massive bruise all along his back. And he’d already had two meetings with the school counselor this year where he’d carefully tried to explain away other injuries without raising her suspicions. He had no idea how he was going to explain this one.

The next morning, just like he’d feared, his back was a mottled mess of dark blues and purples. The bruise stretched all the way from the base of his neck down to his tailbone. Putting on a shirt was pure agony; every movement hurt. There was no way in hell he was going to be able to hide this.

“Hurry up in there!” John hollered, suddenly, banging his fist on the bathroom door and making Sam jump.

He bit back a yelp as the sudden movement made his back spasm, and then he pasted a neutral look on his face as he opened the door.

“What the hell are you doing in there?” John demanded, before Sam could say anything. “Trying to make yourself beautiful?”

John laughed at his own joke, and Sam tried not to wince at the smell of alcohol on his father’s breath. He wondered if his father had slept at all last night after the disastrous hunt, or if he’d just been out hitting bars.

“Just getting ready for school,” Sam told him, ducking carefully around his father as John loomed over him.

“Useless sending you to school,” John grumbled, weaving his way across the motel room and flopping down onto Sam’s neatly-made bed. Dean had been on a hunt with Bobby for the past week, and it had just been Sam and John alone in the motel. “You’re old enough, you should be hunting full-time like your brother.”

Sam bit back the multitude of replies that he longed to say; John wouldn’t listen to him even if he was stone-cold sober, and saying anything to him right now would probably just piss him off.

“I’ll be home after my last class,” he said, instead, grabbing his backpack from beside the door. “Try to drink some water, maybe eat something; you’ll feel better.”

Shutting the door before he could hear whatever cutting remark his father undoubtedly threw at him, Sam took a deep breath to try and steady himself. Then, he started down the road; he had a long day ahead of him.

Chapter Text

Kara wrapped her arms more firmly around her stomach as she stumbled through the snow. Uncontrollable shivers wracked her body as she pulled the blanket she’d found even tighter around her shoulders, but the freezing wind was cutting through the thin cloth like it wasn’t even there. She was so cold.

She could barely lift her feet, sluggishly dragging them through the heavy snow. The suppression bracelet around her leg felt like a blog of ice, getting colder and colder by the second.

She had no idea where she was, or how she’d gotten there. The last thing she remembered, she’d been walking down the street with Alex, enjoying coffee and a cheese danish. And then she’d woken up in the middle of nowhere, naked except for the blanket and the suppression bracelet, with no idea what had happened to her.

She hit something with her foot and fell, the blanket flying off her shoulders and falling into the snow beside her. She tried to grab it before it got too wet, but the cloth was already soaked by the time she got her clumsy fingers closed around it. She put it back around her shoulders anyway. A cold, wet blanket was better than no blanket at all.

A few yards later when the blanket had frozen into a solid sheet, she gave up on even that illusion of warmth and let it drop to the ground. Then she trudged on, one step at a time.

She didn’t know if she was going to find help, or if she was going to freeze in her tracks, but she did know one thing. She wasn’t giving her abductors the satisfaction of just laying down and dying out here.

She was going to fight.