Chapter ten

When Ethan woke up he felt nauseous. It was a weird feeling, sense of vertigo although he was lying down accompanied by a queasiness as if his organs had been turned inside out. Overall, he wasn't feeling very well, but somehow that was okay. It even felt weirdly familiar.

Sleepily he looked around. He was in a room with lots of people. They were talking to him, but only fragments of the conversation reached his conscious mind. Then he was in a smaller room with fewer people. And then he was alone.

He had no idea where he was or how he got here, but still, everything was okay. Slowly it started to drift through the haze in his mind that he was suffering the aftereffects of anesthesia. That mystery solved, he leaned back into the soft pillow with a sigh, when the door opened.

A woman in a white lab-coat stepped in. Ethan decided she was a doctor.

She started explaining something in a mix of accented English, Portuguese and medical Latin. Ethan caught a few words, something about a serial costal fracture and gastric hemorrhage. His brain was still too slow to process that information, so he stored it for later.

When the doctor realized her patient wasn't quite following, she stopped. "Mr. Hunt, there are visitors for you outside," she said instead. "Do you think you are well enough to see them?"

Ethan blinked at her slowly. "Yeah, sure," he said. The doctor didn't look convinced, so he tried it with a smile. "Would you send them in, please?"

She still looked less than happy but nodded. "Take it easy," she warned him. "I'll check in on you again later." Then she turned around and when she was gone Brandt, Benji and Luther stepped in. Quite some time must have passed since Ethan had last seen them because Brandt was back in a suit. Also, Benji's left hand was now in a proper splint instead of the makeshift cast Luther had given him the previous day and his right hand was no longer bandaged.

Ethan was suddenly aware that outside his window the sky was growing darker. "Hey," he said with a happy grin. The others looked at him with an all too familiar mix of concern and relief. Slowly his brain sobered up. "What happened?"

"You remember back in Brussels when I told you that broken rib looks bad?" Luther asked.

"Yeah," Ethan replied, thinking hard. That night seemed ages away.

"That broken rib punctured your stomach," Luther finished.

"Oh," Ethan answered. That explained a lot.

"You know, I'd tell you to be more careful if I thought that would actually do anything," Luther added dryly.

"I'm sorry," Ethan said with a wry smile.

"On brighter news," Brandt put in, "we're not disavowed anymore. That is technically we've never been disavowed. Hunley was kind enough to clear that up."

"That's good," Ethan replied. With considerable effort, he maneuvered himself into a more upright position. "What about the virus?"

"Was indeed on the server," Benji explained cheerfully. "The good news is, it was the master-copy and there were no other copies made, so we're safe from that now. And it didn't get into the network, but we did have to purge the server and they're doing a full back-up now."

Ethan only smiled back at him tiredly. Suddenly he was feeling very exhausted.

Brandt caught his glance. "I think we should let you get some rest now," he decided and herded the others out. In the door, he turned around. "By the way, Dr. Lee heard of this and she said she wouldn't let you back into active fieldwork for at least the next six weeks, so Hunley suggested you take some time off until then."

Ethan smiled knowingly. "See you in six weeks."

\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/

Ethan paid the taxi driver and shouldered his bag, then looked up at the building towering before him. He had only been mildly surprised this morning when the reception had called up to his hotel room to tell him his taxi was waiting and that he was now standing in front of the Aeroporto de Faro was hardly more than the logical conclusion.

It was almost seven weeks since he had woken up in the hospital and while he had enjoyed the vacation in the coastal town, he had almost reached the point where doing nothing was more exhausting than actual work. He was looking forward to going back.

That in mind, he walked up to the counter and asked for a ticket to D.C.

"I'm sorry," the woman at the counter replied with a charming smile. "But all our flights to the states are fully booked for the rest of the week."

Ethan raised an eyebrow. The foyer of the airport was almost empty, and it wasn't summer yet. The tourist season was still to come.

The woman didn't miss a beat. "However I can make you a very good offer for a flight to Belfast, Mr. Hunt," she said without breaking eye contact and discretely pushed a ticket across the counter.

Ethan glanced down at it only to find the familiar logo engraved into the thick paper. "Belfast," he repeated with a smile of anticipation, then looked back up. "Please, tell me more."


Once again thanks everyone for reading and the awesome reviews!

I've already started the next story, but real life keeps leveling up, so I don't know how long it's going to take me to get it finished.

Until then, I hope you all have a good start into the new year!