"Hey, Nate, I think we're going to have some issues with the job." Hardison was sifting through his computer, muttering to himself.
"What do you mean, issues?" Nate sat straighter on the couch and dropped the newspaper he was reading into the crack between the cushions.
"You remember that pandemic nobody took seriously?"
"Well, it's here. Like, now."
"What do you mean, it's here?" Nate stood and came to lean over Hardison's shoulder.
"Dude… personal space. Especially now."
"What the hell is going on, Hardison?" Nate demanded.
"The government has issued a 'shelter-in-place' order for the entire state of Washington."
"What's that?" Parker came through the door, chewing on a bagel. She slammed the door behind her and flopped across Nate's couch.
"It means we can't go anywhere. Businesses are closing. So are schools. You can't even go to the freakin library."
"So, museums and stuff are closed?" Parker sat up. That meant there'd be significantly less security.
"Yeah, but you can't steal anything."
Parker rolled her eyes. Rules never stopped her before.
"How serious is this, Hardison?"
"Pretty damn serious."
Hardison's mouth hung slightly open. He was about to answer when Eliot took the words for him. Eliot slammed Nate's front door, grabbed a beer from the fridge, and sat on the couch, Parker squirming out of the way.
"What is it?" Nate asked. Him and Hardison were struggling to see the computer screen, Hardison backing away from Nate.
"It's a virus. A pandemic. Deadly disease that you can breathe in." Hardison flipped the switch to project his laptop to the computer screens set up to keep his teammates from looking over his shoulder.
"Run it, Hardison," Nate said.
"What, you think I already have all the info ready and prepared, with speaking notes and,"
"Dammit, Hardison," Eliot growled.
"Yeah, yeah. Ya'll don't realize how lucky you are to have me around. No appreciation from ya'll. None at all."
"Okay. It's a new virus called COVID-19 because it was first discovered in 2019. It comes from China, a city named Wuhan specifically. Symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. It can kill anyone, but is more dangerous for older people. Death rate is undetermined, but something like 3-4%."
"That doesn't sound so bad," Parker said.
"3% is still over nine million people, Parker."
Parker looked at her hands. Brushed crumbs from her fingertips.
"So what do we do about it?" Nate asked.
"We stay home. Don't have any visitors. No friends, no family. Don't go to the store, nothing."
Parker looked at Hardison. "Can we still steal stuff?"
The answer of "no" was unanimous.
"Now," Hardison continued, "we gotta decide if we're sheltering-in-place together or separate."
All eyes turned to the staircase. A hardly-dressed Sophie was on her way down, clearly having heard nothing. She looked up through a mess of wild hair.
"Goodness! What's going on here?"
"Okay, well I'm just going to…" Sophie turned around and all but sprinted up the stairs. Eliot chuckled softly.
"So?" Hardison asked.
"Can anyone besides Eliot cook?"
"Good point. We go shopping, and we grab whatever you need from your homes, and we stay here until this blows over." Nate hit the off button on the remote. The TV screens whistled and powered down.
"Do we all have to go?" Parker asked.
"Yeah. We aren't leaving until it's safe, so we need everyone's help getting supplies. Eliot, can I count on you to get medical supplies?"
"I've got some at the safe house."
"Okay, we'll pick them up on our way back from the store."
"We're going shopping?" Sophie reappeared, this time dressed properly in a loose blue top and white jeans.
"Grocery shopping." Nate was gathering his things, stuffing his wallet and keys into his pockets.
"Someone want to tell me what's going on?"
"The pandemic that no one took seriously is actually a big deal, and we have to go grocery shopping because we're all staying at Nate's until it goes away and we need food." Parker opened the kitchen closet and pulled out a stack of reusable grocery bags.
"I am." Eliot and Nate said at the same time.
"Yeah, cuz we're all gonna fit in that little sports car of yours, Nate," Parker said. She skipped out the apartment door, swinging the grocery bags behind her.
"Are we really going to put ourselves through being cooped up with her?" Sophie asked as the rest of the group made their way outside.
"We don't have much of a choice. If we leave her alone, she sure as hell ain't gonna follow protocol. And she'll probably starve to death."
The team piled into Eliot's pickup. Sophie sat up front with him, with Parker, Nate, and Hardison stretched out in the bed of the truck.
"Where are we going?"
"Are you kidding me? That's not even a grocery store." Eliot slowed to a stop to let a couple pushing a stroller cross the road.
"It is now," Nate said, sticking his head around the truck to talk through Eliot's open window. "We don't have much time, and we need to get other things while we're there."
"Oh! Like what?" Parker asked.
"Beds. Medical stuff. Cleaning supplies. Stuff to do."
Nate ignored her.
Eliot reluctantly pulled into the Walmart parking lot and killed the engine.
"Um, guys, is it okay if I just stay in the truck?"
"Cuz there's like germs in there, and I don't wanna get sick." Hardison looked like they were asking him to jump headfirst into an Ebola hospital.
"We need everyone's help for this, Hardison."
"Here, wear this." Eliot tossed Hardison a black bandana.
"Cuz the world needs any more reminders that we're criminals," Hardison said, but tied the cloth around his face. He'd be damned if he caught this freakin plague.