"Reed?" Johnny peered around the edge of the door. If the doors were left ajar like this, he was pretty sure that all of
Sue's carefully prepared rules were suspended. And anyway, those were mostly for her benefit; the rest of them were guys,
what did they care?
But it didn't matter, because Reed wasn't in his room. Johnny stepped back into the hall and frowned. Where else could he
be? Ben was flat-out unconscious on the couch, and Johnny had just left Sue alone in her room. He couldn't be in the lab,
could he? After that fight with Victor-- no, Dr. Doom, like the reporters said; saving the world from Dr. Doom
sounded way more impressive-- he couldn't possibly be awake enough to want to do science.
Then again, this was Reed, whose logic never was like Earth logic even before he got turned into a superfreak. Johnny
sighed and turned toward the big gutted space at the center of the building. Since Sue and Ben were temporarily indisposed,
that left him to drag Mr. Fantastic away from his toys and put him to bed like a toddler.
It kind of had a certain appeal, when it thought of it that way.
A small sound made him pause as he passed the bathroom. This door was ajar too-- or at least it was after he nudged it with
his foot-- so he looked in.
Reed was huddled on the floor, one hand braced on the edge of the toilet, the other pressing a towel to his mouth. The look
on his face was familiar to Johnny from many late nights and mornings-after: the desperate concentration of trying to prolong
the moment between bouts of vomiting. A shudder ran through Reed's body, and the moment ended. Johnny winced at the retching
and gagging that followed. Their fearless leader was going to have a hell of a sore throat in the morning.
"Dude," he said as the spasms eased and Reed slumped back to the floor. "What happened?"
Reed jerked in surprise. "Jesus, Johnny, don't sneak up on me like that!"
"You wouldn't have heard a marching band coming down the hall," Johnny pointed out, figuring that sounded more like logical
reasoning than "you left the door open" would. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." Reed tried to stand, but couldn't quite manage it. Johnny wasn't sure if that was because his power had made
his legs too rubbery, or if it was the normal human knees-turning-to-jelly that accompanied being sick. "Nothing's wrong."
"Reed, you just puked up everything but your socks. Generally speaking, that gets filed under 'not okay.'"
Reed glared, but he looked so pale and awful that it pretty much lost its impact. And anyway, for once Johnny had the upper
hand in terms of logic. He folded his arms and raised an eyebrow, waiting for Reed's supercomputer brain to process that.
He didn't give in gracefully, but he did give in. "Victor pumped me full of supercoolant, remember?" he said, wiping his
mouth again. He threw the towel into the corner, and Johnny noticed that his fingers tried to go with it. "That's not exactly
meant to be taken internally. Fortunately, instead of killing me, my body's...filtering it out." His face twisted and he
clamped his mouth shut, fighting another round of shudders and somehow holding them down.
Johnny shifted his feet in the doorway. Sure, he'd asked, but he didn't actually expect Reed to admit anything. "Oh,"
he said finally. "So it's not some kind of power backlash?"
Reed frowned. "I don't think so. Why, are the rest of you having...backlash?"
Johnny shrugged. "Well, not Ben, but Sue and I, yeah. I mean, we've never used our powers that much before, not for anything
"Is Sue all right?" Johnny wished there was some way he could've put money on that being the first question out of
"She got this headache, so bad she couldn't even see." Johnny couldn't remember the last time Sue had cried in front of him,
or even admitted to hurting at all. It scared the hell out of him. "We had to turn all the lights off, put a cold washcloth
over her eyes, and she took some kind of monster painkiller she found in your medicine cabinet." He shrugged. "She thinks
she'll be okay in the morning."
"I should go check on her." Reed tried to stand up again, and now Johnny was pretty sure that just normal exhaustion wouldn't
make his knees bend like that.
"No, she's sleeping," he said quickly, before either of them was embarrassed more by Reed's inability to exert even that much
control of his body. "I don't think you should wake her up."
A weird mixture of relief and frustration flashed in Reed's eyes as he gave in and settled back to the floor. "What about
you?" he asked after a moment. "What are your symptoms?"
Johnny ran a hand over his hair. "Um. Well, I'm-- cold." It was weird; he'd been perfectly, toasty warm ever since the
accident, but since they got back to the Baxter Building, he couldn't seem to stop shivering.
Reed blinked. "You're wearing a sweater." He sounded both surprised and annoyed about it, which confused Johnny until he
realized that Reed was annoyed with himself for not noticing that right away. He saw it as a failure of his scientific
powers of observation. Dude. We stopped an honest to God supervillain tonight. You're entitled to overlook the details
of my wardrobe!
"Anyway, there's that," Johnny said with a shrug, "and..." He held out his hands, and Reed's brow furrowed in concern as
sparks flickered and crawled over the skin. "Guess I'd better sleep in the bathtub tonight," he said lightly. "You know,
so I don't set the sheets on fire accidentally."
"We should get you some flame-retardant bedding," Reed mumbled, closing his eyes for a moment. "You can use a fire blanket
tonight, I suppose..."
Johnny noticed that where Reed's hand still rested on the toilet seat, his fingers were slipping and forming themselves to
the cracks between the porcelain. "Are you sure you don't have any kind of backlash?" he asked pointedly.
Reed glanced down at his hand and yanked it away from the toilet, a look of helpless anger flashing over his face. There
was nothing Reed hated more than not being in control. "Damn it," he muttered, shaking his hand until it went back to its
proper shape. "It is taking a lot of concentration to hold myself together."
"Sounds like you overextended yourself." Reed barely smiled. Johnny wanted to reach out to him, at least put a hand on the
guy's shoulder in silent commiseration, but like most lab rats of the human variety, Reed had a strong dislike for casual
touch. Johnny remembered Sue teasing him, back when they were dating, about what she had to go through just to get a hug.
Johnny couldn't imagine not loving human contact. He'd laughed Sue off when she'd asked if he really wanted to go through
his whole life on fire, but the truth was, the idea of being isolated like that was just too awful to really think about.
"You should get some rest," he said. "It kinda sucks, that we saved the world, but we're too tired to party."
Reed rolled his eyes. "Yes, that would be a great party, with one guy setting things on fire and another one throwing up
in the corner."
"Those are the best parties," Johnny corrected with a grin. Screw Reed's personal phobias; Johnny held out a hand to help
him to his feet. "Come on, Mr. Fantastic, let's get you to your room."
Reed shook his head. "Go ahead, Johnny. I'll be okay in a few minutes."
Too proud to beg, huh? Well, Sue would kill him if she found out he'd left Reed here like this-- and in fact, he found
that he didn't like the idea of leaving Reed on the bathroom floor like a freshman who'd wandered into the wrong frat party.
"Hey, it's no big deal," he said as casually as he could, catching Reed's arms and helping him up. "I know all about hangovers.
Not supercoolant hangovers, but Jagermeister can't be too different." They stood still for a minute, Johnny supporting Reed
while Reed got his feet under himself. "I guess you probably don't know anything about sort of thing, huh?"
Reed half-smiled at him. "Hey, I had my share of rough mornings in college, thanks to Ben and your sister." The smile vanished.
He knew Victor going all Dark Side was harder on Sue than on him and Ben; he hadn't really thought about how it would be harder
for Reed, too. "Come on," he said uncomfortably. "Left-right-left, soldier."
They managed to get Reed down the hall to his room and onto the bed. The relief on Reed's face was obvious, and even if it
hadn't been, the way his limbs flattened out against the mattress as his control temporarily slipped was a dead giveaway.
"Maybe you could sleep in a bucket," Johnny said. "Like that guy on Star Trek."
Reed stared at him. "You watch Star Trek? It's not too dorky for you?"
"The reruns are on SpikeTV," Johnny said. "That's my channel."
Reed actually grinned at him before his eyes started sliding closed. Johnny moved to the door.
"I guess I'll check on Sue one more time and hit the sack myself," he said. "Night."
"Tell Sue I--" Reed hesitated.
"Yeah," Johnny said quickly, wanting to avoid being sucked into the romance novel if at all possible. "I'll tell her you
Reed shook his head, but he smiled again, and Johnny slipped out into the hall. After a few steps, though, he sighed in frustration
and gave up, hurrying back to open Reed's door again.
"Reed?" he called softly. "I'll tell her you love her."
Reed was already asleep, which gave Johnny grounds to add, "Because God knows when you'll get around to telling her yourself."
He closed the door behind him and headed off down the hall, sparks dancing around him in the dark.