The moment Whiskey heard what linked all the cases of the blue rash, he was furious. He had thought Tequila knew better than to be like those druggie bastards. The moment he got free from the briefing – Kingsmen safely tucked away talking with Champ - Whiskey went straight to Medical. He had the whole confrontation planned out in his head.
But when he got there, saw Tequila looking small and vulnerable and young, tucked into that medical gurney. It took the wind right out of his sails. He stepped in, and asked Ginger if he could talk to the kid privately. Once she left, he asked the important question.
"Why, on this green earth, would you be so damned stupid, kid?"
Tequila ducked his head, and quietly said, "You can't tell Champ. Ginger neither."
That stopped Whiskey. "Tell them what? They already know you were doing something stupid."
"Yeah, but they think it was a rebellious, party thing." Tequila looked so serious. "They might even think the weed is to help me relax when I'm off duty. That's fine. It's better than them knowing."
Whiskey had the sinking feeling this was going to be much worse than he had thought. "Knowing what?" It would have been a demand, if it hadn't been said so quietly.
Tequila looked down at his hands. "You remember I was the first person the emergency gel was used on in the field?"
How could Whiskey forget? It had been two years back and had terrified the hell out of everybody. The side effects had still been theoretical at that point. When Tequila had woken up from an injury that should have been fatal, they'd been ready to celebrate. Then their strong, cocky youngest hadn't recognized them. He had spent a week quiet, jumpy, and flinching at every male in the room, before he'd gotten his memories back.
"Yeah. What about it?" Whiskey's voice was hoarse.
"I don't think I came back right." Tequila looked so young. "I mean, I've been getting headaches."
Whiskey closed his eyes and took a breath. Opening them, he asked, "Headaches?"
"I'd rather be hungover most days." Tequila tried for humor, then quickly added, "I can work through it, and I've never taken more than aspirin while on duty! But I just can't sleep and, and somedays I can't eat without throwing up."
Kid looked ready to cry. Whiskey sat down at the edge of the bed and put a hand on his shoulder.
"Why didn't you see a doctor?"
"I didn't want Champ to find out. He'd take me out of the field, and you know I wouldn't be able to handle that!" Whiskey started to rub gentle circles between the kid's shoulder blades.
"Ssshhhh, ssshhh. We'll figure it out. But why didn't you talk to Ginger? That girl is the best backup you could ask for. Don't know what we'd do without her whispering sweet-nothings in our ears."
Tequila choked out a laugh. "I don't want her to blame herself. The gel was still a prototype. And the nanites weren't perfect yet either. She'd be upset."
And how the hell was Whiskey supposed to hate the kid for that?