Author’s Note – this is basically a PWP: no major plot or bad guys, just some plain ol’ hurt/comfort. Bunches of thanks to Jane and Carol for once again being super betas!
"A toast to our new friends!"
Pete, Alan and Galen all raised their wooden cups in the air, then drank the wine within, following suit with the dozen or so others in the small house.
They'd come to the small village of Caprilla a little over a week ago—just as its residents were harvesting the grapes on the vines that filled the fields. Although the villagers were at first suspicious of the trio—how often did an ape travel with humans and call them friends?—they were soon welcomed warmly into the home of Barat, one of the chief winemakers in the village, where they'd traded food and shelter for their labors in the vineyard.
"And a toast to our wonderful hosts!" Pete called out, raising his cup high in the air, above the rising voices of Barat's cheering family.
"Take it easy on that stuff, Pete," Alan warned. "Been a long time since we've had anything this strong. Don't need you waking up with a hangover in the morning."
"Hang over?" Galen questioned, clueless as always to the twentieth century vocabulary that often came out of his human friends' mouths.
"Wine sickness," Alan clarified.
"I don't get hangovers," Pete argued.
Alan, about to raise his cup to his lips, stopped mid-motion. He raised his eyebrow in question, instead. "So you don't remember Jeff Byerly's stag party?"
"Sure I do!" Pete replied, smiling. "I remember Lola....La la la la Loo-laa..." He sighed at the memory of the tall blonde stripper.
"Okay, what about the next morning, when I was the one that had to carry your sorry butt out of the hotel room and back to base?"
"Nope, don't remember that part."
"Well, my back still does," Alan replied.
The party revelers made their way around Barat's house, dancing and singing, celebrating the harvest, grabbing Pete, Alan and Galen by their arms, and pulling them along as they went.
It was in the wee hours of the morning that the party ended, the trio making their way clumsily toward the spare room they shared in Barat's house. As it turned out, it was Pete and Galen that had to carry Alan into their room, putting him down as gently as they could onto the narrow bed.
"We'll just see who has the hangover in the morning now!" Pete said with a smile.
"I noticed you didn't drink much of the wine at all," Galen remarked as he sat on his own bet, watching as Pete pulled off his shoes. "In fact, I believe I saw you empty your cup into Alan's a few times!"
"Sssshh," Pete hushed him, quickly looking over at Alan. "I never was much of a wine drinker. Stuck to good ol' American beer."
Galen sighed loudly and rolled his eyes. He didn't think he would ever understand Pete's sense of humor.
“Pete. Pete, wake up.”
“Mmmm, five more minutes, Mom,” came the sleepy reply.
“Come on, Pete,” Alan called again. “Rise and shine, we’ve got work to do.”
Pete rolled over with a groan and blinked back tears as the morning sun hit his eyes. He raised his hand to shield his eyes while he tried to focus on his friend. “Al?” he called, confusion in his voice. He thought the other man looked a bit too chipper and un-hungover considering the previous night’s events. He sat up, ready to point out that fact when a sharp pain lanced through his skull. He grabbed the side of his head and lay back down with a groan. “Shit.”
Alan chuckled to himself and shook his head. “Well, at least I didn’t have to carry you up two flights of stairs this time,” he remarked.
Pete replied by waving one of his fingers in Alan’s direction.
“Pete, you’re not eating,” Melda, Barat’s wife, remarked.
“Maybe later,” he replied quietly. He was about to pass the plate of food he’d been given over to Alan when he saw the disappointed look on Melda’s face. “Maybe just a little bit,” he ceded, taking a bite of a biscuit.
“I think he had a little too much wine last night,” Alan explained. “It’s been a while since we’ve had anything like that to drink.”
“Wine sickness,” Barat mused, shaking his head. “Happens to the best of us at one time or another.”
“And it was hard to resist that wine,” Alan remarked. “My compliments to you. It was very good.”
“Yes, that wine was made two years ago,” Barat told him.
As Alan and Barat continued their conversation on the art of winemaking, Galen took a closer look at Pete. He’d noticed the way his friend had been rubbing the side of his head, keeping his eyes shut most of the time. Could just two cups of wine have caused wine sickness in him? “Are you all right, Pete?” he asked.
“I’m fine, Galen,” he replied. “Just a headache. It’ll pass.”
“Take two aspirin and call me in the morning,” Alan joked, giving Pete a playful slap to his shoulder.
“If only,” Pete whispered.
Pete was helping out in the yard, cleaning out the wooden barrels that would be used for the wine. Taking a break, he brought a hand up to shield his eyes from the sun and looked around for his friends. He squeezed his eyes shut tight then, blocking the light and the sharp pain it sent through them. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a headache this bad. He couldn’t believe that just two cups of wine would do this to him. This homegrown stuff packs a whollop, he thought miserably, squeezing the back of his neck.
He’d felt awful at breakfast, and the biscuit and eggs made him feel twice as bad, but refusing Melda’s food would have made him feel worse. Just thinking about food again was making him nauseous and he turned and bent over, breakfast making a second appearance in the low brush.
So much for not giving Alan the chance to gloat over the fact that I’m hung over and he’s not, he groaned, wiping his mouth. What I wouldn’t give for those two aspirin Alan mentioned, or a pair of sunglasses, or maybe some dynamite to blow my head clean off. Maybe there’s some in the house…
As Pete started walking toward the house, things started to look a little blurry. And sideways. He thought he heard Galen calling his name.
Galen was helping Melda as she prepared lunch. He was looking out the window of the kitchen when he saw Pete heading for the house. He wondered what would bring his friend in so soon, but then saw the way Pete was staggering, holding his head in his hands, and then stumbling to the ground.
“Pete!” he exclaimed, dropping the dish of fruit and heading for the door. He ran to Pete’s side and put his hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Pete? What’s wrong?”
“Hurts,” Pete got out through gritted teeth.
Galen didn’t think he ever seen someone in so much pain. “Melda!” he called to the woman, who had followed him out. “Go find Alan!” To Pete, he said, “Come on, let’s get you inside.”
He helped Pete rise from the ground and guided him into the house, into their room. Pete fell onto the bet in a heap, curling up into a fetal position, hands and arms about his head. Galen didn’t know what to do, what to think, as his friend rocked back and forth on the bet moaning in pain.
“Galen! What happened?” Alan asked, rushing into the room.
“I don’t know. He says he’s got terrible head pain.”
“This is one hell of a hangover you’ve got, buddy,” Alan said, kneeling down next to Pete’s bet.”
“I don’t think this is a wine sickness, Alan,” Galen said. When Alan met his gaze, he continued, “Pete only had one or two cups of wine last night.”
Alan was confused. He turned back to Pete and tried to pull his hands away from his face, to see him better. “Pete? What’s going on?”
“Headache. Migraine maybe?” Pete replied piteously, resisting Alan’s attempts at lowering his arms away from his head. “Oh, shit, Alan,” he gasped, quickly shoving Alan out of the way so that he could lean over the side of the bet. More of his breakfast appeared as the spasms wracked his body again, exacerbating the pain in his skull.
Alan held onto Pete, keeping him from falling off the bet, and slowly rubbed his back, hoping to give his friend some comfort, or at least a distraction from the pain.
“Alan?” Galen called quietly. “What’s migraine? Is it bad?”
“Nothing life-threatening,” Alan replied quickly, to allay Galen’s fear. As he helped Pete to lie back down onto the bet, he continued, “It’s just a very severe kind of headache. My sister gets them. They can last anywhere from a few hours to several days.” Turning back to Pete, he asked, “Light and sound bother you?” When Pete nodded in reply, Alan nodded, too. “Yeah, sounds like it. You’ve had these before?”
“Once or twice,” Pete got out. “Nothing half a bottle of Tylenol couldn’t cure.”
“What can we do?” Galen asked.
“Keep it dark and quiet in here. Get some cool water and cloths, too.”
Alan and Galen had covered the small window in the room with a couple of blankets and placed a cool cloth over Pete’s eyes to block out as much light as possible. They spoke in whispers as they tended their friend, finding that even normal speaking voices were too loud for him to bear.
“One simple little purple pill,” Alan mused, watching as Pete once again took up a rocking motion, trying to find a distraction to the pain.
“Excuse me?” Galen asked.
“Back home, one little pill could have taken away the pain.”
Alan knew the tone of Pete’s voice. He helped him roll to his side, to lean over the side of the bet and over a bucket. Pete had lost the last of his breakfast over two hours ago, and was now suffering from dry heaves. “Easy, Pete,” he whispered, gently rubbing his hand in a circular motion on Pete’s back.
When Pete was done, Galen and Alan helped him lie back down. Galen wiped his face clean before putting a fresh, cool cloth over his eyes.
“When’s this gonna end?” Pete groaned. His breath came in harsh gasps as he tried to get a handle on the sharp knives slicing through his skull. Somewhere in his mind he was aware of Alan and Galen’s presence - their touch, their voices - but they weren’t any match for the pain he felt. “Just shoot me already,” he moaned.
“Not much longer, Pete,” Alan whispered, gently patting Pete’s forearm. “It’ll be over soon.”
Galen looked at Alan—saw that Alan, ever the hopeful one, didn’t look so hopeful. “Why don’t you take a break, Alan. I think Melda probably has dinner ready by now. I’ll stay here with Pete.”
He looked at Pete, now crouched up on his elbows and knees, head under his hands, then at Galen. He nodded and left the room, sighing out loud, his worry for his friend coming through.
Melda had directed her family members to the other side of the house for their evening meal, in the hope that they would not disturb Pete. Alan joined them just as they were sitting down.
“How is Pete feeling?” Barat asked.
“Not too well,” Alan replied. “But I’m sure it’ll pass soon.”
“Has he been able to keep any of the willow tea down?” Melda asked. “That will cure almost anything.”
“No, I’m afraid not. I think he’ll just have to tough it out until it goes away on its own.”
“I’m sure he’ll be better in the morning,” Barat said assuredly. “Everything is always better in the morning.”
When Alan returned to their room, he told Galen to go get dinner, and that he’d stay with Pete now. After Galen left the room, Alan blew out the single candle that had been lit and sat by Pete’s bedside. He placed a gentle hand upon his friend’s shoulder and whispered, “How ya doin’, buddy?”
“Nothing’s working, Al. It won’t go away.”
Alan heard the desperation Pete’s voice. And the exhaustion. He’d been fighting the migraine for more than half the day with no sign of the pain easing any time soon.
“Just have to wait it out, Pete. I’m sorry. I wish I could make it better for you.” When Pete didn’t reply, Alan added, “Call me if you need anything,” and lay down on his own bet.
In the middle of the night, Alan and Galen were awakened by a loud crash.
“Pete?” Alan called, seeing the outline of his friend on the floor, crawling toward the door. He got out of bed and rushed over, as did Galen. “Pete, what’s wrong?”
“I can’t take this anymore! I need to get out of here!”
Alan grabbed Pete around the waist and restrained him. It wasn’t very hard; Pete barely had any strength in him. He pulled him up against his chest and held him tight, comforting him as best he could. “Easy now, calm down. You’ll just make it worse,” he whispered soothingly. “Slow, even breaths…”
Galen lit a candle and then grabbed the bowl of water and a cloth. He began to wipe down Pete’s sweat-covered face and neck, hoping to cool him off and ease his discomfort. “That’s right, just relax,” he offered, adding to Alan’s litany.
After a few minutes, they had Pete calmed down and got him back into his bed. Once there, Pete took up the rocking motion that he’d been using most of the day to distract himself from the pain.
Galen motioned Alan away from Pete and towards the other side of the room. “You’re sure this will go away?” he asked, uncertainty and fear in his voice.
Alan had had his own doubts, wondering if Pete’s condition was the result of some other ailment or injury. They’d been in lots of fights with gorillas since they’d crash landed. Who knew what kind of long-term effects could be caused by the injuries Pete had received? Other causes—brain tumors, strokes, meningitis and a few other ailments came to Alan’s mind—were things that the modern medicines of his time could cure, but here, now… without even a simple aspirin to take the pain away… “Yeah, I’m sure,” he finally told Galen. “He’ll be fine,” he added, for his own benefit as much as Galen’s.
When Alan heard the rooster crow, he realized that he’d fallen asleep sometime during the night. Looking across the darkened room, he saw Pete’s still form and panicked. Getting out of his bed so fast that he almost fell, he rushed to Pete’s bedside. “Pete?” he whispered, hands reaching for the younger man’s neck, needing to check for a pulse. He sighed in relief when he found one.
“He’s just sleeping now,” Galen whispered from his bed, startling Alan. “He’s been that way for an hour or so.”
Alan nodded and rose to his feet, going back to his bed and sitting on its edge. “He was so still. It scared me.”
“I know. Me, too.”
“I don’t know what I’d do without you two.” He sighed, shaking his head. “Here I am, worrying over someone with a simple headache.”
“But he’s worth worrying over.”
Pete rolled over with a groan. Every part of his body seemed to have protested the movement, had reported in to his brain with messages that told him moving would hurt, but he had ignored them. Thus the resulting pain-filled groan. “Shit,” he swore when his feet finally touched the floor.
Pete sat there, head in his hands, as he waited for his world to stop spinning. Both his mind and body again questioned his reasoning for getting out of bed. Gathering his resolve, he made it to a standing position, barely, and headed for the door.
It was going to be a good day. The sharp, stabbing, overwhelming pain that had been his existence for the past day was gone. Left over was exhaustion and an all-over body ache, but compared to his life just one day ago, it was nothing to complain about.
He heard voices in the other room and headed their way. Memories of his friends’ care and help in getting through the ordeal came to mind. He needed to see them.
Barat’s family, along with Alan and Galen were sitting down at the table, eating dinner, as Pete made his way wearily into the kitchen. Seeing the slight sway in his walk, Alan quickly rose and met him, guiding him to a chair.
“You better sit down before you fall down,” he told him.
“Thanks,” Pete replied as he sat down.
“It’s good to see you up and about,” Melda told him, getting a fresh bowl of stew and putting it in front of him.
“It’s good to be up and about. Thanks.”
“I take it you’re feeling better? The headache is all gone?” Galen asked.
“Just down to a dull roar now, yeah,” he answered. “I’m sure some of Melda’s stew will help that, though,” he added with a smile aimed at the woman.
“Nothing like the simple things in life, huh?” Alan asked.
Pete took a moment to look around him; to see his friends, new and old, and realize that he had all he really needed in life. Nodding in agreement, he said, “Good food, good friends… what else could a guy ask for?”