A/N: Hey guys, sorry I was out of touch for years. I was so drained from law school I couldn't sit down to write as there's always a pile of readings with my name on it. I know, it's a lame excuse, believe me, I wanted to tell Andy's story and that's really why I'm back.
Disclaimer: I own none of the products and establishments mentioned from the past and present posts, except the Jared's resto which only exists in my head.
With Miss Martie taking care of me and the Beast popping into my room every now and then to check up on me, I slowly began to get better. It took two days for the fever to break, it was that bad even with flu meds. I haven't been sick in a long while and so the flu came on me with a vengeance.
Meanwhile, the Beast took to eating dinner with me in my room. In the days when I had a fever, Miss Martie would spoon feed me since the antibiotics made my hands shaky and I spilled broth all over my pillows. The lady doc wasn't kidding when she told me they were strong. In fact, they were so potent I felt weak for days even after the fever broke.
To his credit, the Beast wasn't in a hurry to see me back in the office. From what I guessed, he still worked long nights, way past the time Miss Martie left for the night, but he came up to my room to sleep in the La-Z Boy on the corner at one in the morning because he wouldn't hear of sleeping in his room and out of touch if I needed help in the night.
"Go back to your room! I never wake up for anything in the night anyway," I protested when I noticed him rubbing what must be a sore spot in his neck from sleeping too many nights in the wrong position.
"Don't worry about that," he snapped. "You go back to resting, or whatever it is you need to do to get well."
"But I already am quite well," I said. I still got tired easily and the volcanic cough wasn't completely gone, but I was sure taking a break now and then would keep my strength up. I was already impatient with nothing to do but read all day. I'd finished all the novels I'd bought that day I came across the new Al Dente branch, some of them I'd read twice, and I was bored out of my mind with staring at the ceiling. The Beast had banned me from using my laptop, which he confiscated and was safely ensconced in a locked drawer in his desk in the office. My iPod could only entertain me so much. Forget about the TV in my room; the Beast had locked the TV cabinet and took away the remote.
"You were sick, you need rest and relaxation – why are we even arguing about this?"
"I've already rested enough, thank you," I replied in frustration. "I could probably do some of the work I'm sure piled up on my desk this past week."
"The doctor said to keep you in bed," he said angrily. "I'm not letting you go anywhere until you can walk from your bed to your bathroom door and back without your knees wobbling."
"You're blowing this up," I said, angry now. "I had a flu, not brain trauma."
"That's right, you had a flu," he said flatly. "And working now when you're not completely fine yet is a relapse waiting to happen. I want you to shut up and go to sleep. Boss' orders."
With that, he turned and stalked out of my room while I planned my revenge.
As it turned out, revenge came in the form of The Beast catching the contagious disease. By the end of the week, the Beast was back in his room, which was good because I would spend half the night listening to the sound of his breathing and imagining what it would be like if he was in the bed with me.
One fine morning about two days after the Beast had proclaimed me well enough to go back to work, I was up and about, cooking eggs and ham for breakfast, thinking I was alone in the flat. I thought he was out jogging, but then I heard a series of exploding, volcanic coughs coming from upstairs. In the middle of turning the eggs, I paused and smiled widely.
Moments later, I plopped my plate of ham and eggs and a bowl of vegetable soup I heated out of a can and two slices of bread on a tray and proceeded up the stairs, then went down again for the pitcher of water I left on the counter. When I knocked on his door, he moaned and told me to go away, preferably to the other side of the world.
"Aw, come on. You don't really want me to do that, do you?" I said, and pushed the glass door open, balancing the tray on one arm as I'd done a few times in the past. Finally, doing some waitressing for the ex's eatery paid off.
"Good morning," I said brightly, proceeding to his bedside to put the tray down on his bedside table. "How are we feeling today?"
"Shut up. You're hurting my ears." He sat up, brushing off my hands as I leaned forward to help him. "Mmm... That smells good."
"Oh, you mean my breakfast?" I asked innocently. "That's mine. The soup and bread's yours."
He gave me a mutinous glare. I handed him a glass of water.
"If my guess is correct, your stomach feels like it's full of stones and your mouth, well, like it's covered with sandpaper," I said sweetly, giving him a wide smile. "You're going to waste all the lovely food I cooked by throwing it all up. No, you are going to eat the lovely vegetable soup. It's nutritious and delicious! It says so on the can. "
He choked in the process of swallowing a big gulp of water.
I stood up to fetch the bed tray from my room. I'd used it all week. Just as I reached the door, I heard him murmur, "God save me." I chuckled as I left his room.
I was right. He was barely able to get the bread down, and it was mostly the soup he consumed. He ordered me out of his room and as I was leaving with the remains of the meal, he told me to check his email.
I laughed. " You think you're working from your room? Oh no. You're very sick. You're not working anytime soon."
"You know damn well there are a million things – " he yelled.
"I know," I quipped. "But I also know you employ, what, a thousand managers who never actually get to do any work considering you seem to want to do everything yourself. Such a shame, really. Who knows, this may be their defining moment with you out of the way for a few days." I turned to leave, but him sliding off the bed caught my attention enough for me to stay. I watched as he stood, groaning in pain, and hobbled over to the door.
"I need to make sure – " he said, attempting to brush past me. I planted myself in his way.
"That your empire doesn't collapse?" I asked, daring him to push me aside. "Easy, Mr. Watkins. If Rome took centuries to collapse, I'm sure Coolidge will survive the next few days without you."
"Let me set this straight," he said sternly. "You are not the boss of me. I am the boss of you. I want to work, I work."
"Hey, boss of me," I said, setting the tray on a table in the hall and looked him in the eye, my expression equally stern. "I'm not arguing with that. You're the boss, I admit that. But you know what I think? I think you work so impossibly hard you make people who work with you sick. And now you're even making yourself sick!"
"So you're blaming me for your flu?" he yelled.
"Yes!" I yelled back. "And you can blame me right back if you want. You caught it from me, after all. But you're going to do all your blaming in bed."
"The hell I am!"
"The hell you are!"
We stood staring at each other. After a while, he sighed and walked back to the bed. He pulled the covers back over him and looked at me sheepishly. "Fine, I concede. But only because I'm tired." He was about to fall asleep, but I made him take my antibiotics and flu meds before he did go to sleep.
The morning passed by with him asleep in his room. I checked up on him every thirty minutes or so, trying to see if his temperature had gone down. I cooked lunch and made fed him real soup this time. We ate in his room, watching reruns of CSI: New York in relative peace until he suggested that I fetch his laptop from the office downstairs so he could get some work done.
"Absolutely not!" I said. "If I say yes, then you might as well be downstairs for all the difference that will make. I said no working."
"If you don't get it, then I will!" he yelled.
"Oh, wouldn't I like to see that!" I responded, knowing that he couldn't manage going up and down the stairs. I smirked as he glared at me.
"So you're just going to confine me here with nothing to do?" he asked.
"You should be thankful I'm even letting you watch TV," I replied. "You should be taking advantage of your – 'confinement', is it? This is probably the closest thing to a vacation you've taken in the last five years. And you're wrong, by the way. You don't have nothing to do. Since the word 'resting' is a verb, it's considered as something to do. It's hard work, trust me. If you would only take half the effort you put into working and use it for resting, you should be back on your feet by midnight."
"Two years," he mumbled. "I haven't had a vacation in two years."
"Are you fucking serious?" I blurted out. "Sorry, it just slipped out."
"Hard to believe, isn't it?" he smiled sheepishly, suddenly looking younger despite his pallid complexion. "There's just too much to do. I try to do a little sightseeing when I go abroad for meetings but I always think nothing will have changed since the last time I was there, so why bother, right?"
"Well, there'll be no meetings for you abroad or otherwise until you get well," I said, standing up to put the used dishes on a tray. "I cancelled your meetings for the rest of the week so you can recover nicely."
"Nice, now I'll have to double the amount of work when I get back on my feet," he said waspishly.
"Save your strength," I said sweetly. "How are you ever going to pull off a proper threat of sacking your minions if you keep coughing up your lungs every twenty seconds?"
"Please, please just let me work a little. If you don't, I'll just worry anyway and I won't be able to do my resting properly." He looked quite sincere, and if I were to hazard a guess, this would be one of his first tries at begging for something.
I paused to consider if I could offer something. "Here's a compromise: I'll let you work for thirty minutes at a time during the day until you get well. But you have to promise to stop when you're tired or when I say so, and you have to do as I tell you. Is that acceptable?"
"You're a fucking tyrant, you know that?" he said, amused.
"Take it or leave it," I replied stubbornly.
"Fine," he said with a sigh.
That settled, the next two days passed without incident. Since the fever left him too weak to type for more than ten minutes at a time, getting him to stop wasn't a problem. As the Beast began getting better, he tried more and more to get me to let him work for more than an hour or so. I still refused, since he still had a mild fever and his coughs were coming up with unsightly phlegm, which needless to say told me he was nowhere near the vicinity of healthy.
"The doctor said you can't get tired or winded," I said sternly one afternoon.
"I am neither tired nor winded," the Beast responded. Miss Martie darted to and fro, arranging the bedding and tucking the covers around him. He'd just taken a bath, ignoring my warnings not to risk bringing his temperature back up from bathing so soon after the fever had broken. She left and took the remains of his lunch away.
"We had a compromise," I reminded him. "I say no, you obey."
"I'm going crazy here!" the Beast exclaimed, his grey eyes flashing.
I smirked. "Well, that's not news."
"Why you – "
"Enough work for today," I said firmly. "No TV either. You've been hounding me all day about your headache. Serves you right, you haven't turned the thing off in two days." I wrestled the remote from his weak grip as he tried to argue his way out of that one.
"What the hell am I going to do now?" he asked me.
"You are going to rest."
"Besides that," he snapped.
"You can read," I said, referring to a Ken Follett hardcover on his bedside table.
"I can't watch TV but I can read novels?" he asked incredulously. "You know, if I'm reading, I might as well read the administrative reports. We're having the annual stockholders' meeting soon."
"Oh no, you don't," I replied. "Reading for leisure is relaxing. Reading about work stuff is stressful. See the diff – Christopher Watkins, you SIT YOUR ASS DOWN!"
He looked stunned. He'd been trying to stand up to get the reports downstairs himself despite the fact that his legs were none too steady. I was quite infuriated and frankly, his non-stop insistence on going back to work was becoming irritating.
"Now I know you're my boss, and the things that will come next from my mouth are highly inappropriate – "
"Oh, now you worry about that," he mumbled, then took a look at my face and promptly quieted.
"I'd like to think we're friends of some sort," I said furiously. "So think of me speaking on that level. Now, I know you're smart, strong and capable. But on this matter – of your health, no less – it's as if you don't care. You can be so damned... damn..."
"Damn...?" he asked patiently.
"STUPID!" I yelled passionately. The word seemed to suck the air out of the room, and for a moment both of us were frozen in place. And yet I glared at him, and he had the grace to look ashamed.
"Sorry," he said softly. "I'm not an easy patient."
"You're not an easy anything," I replied, suddenly feeling deflated. "I'm sorry, that was a bit harsh."
"It's not," he said with a rueful smile. "It's just that I have nothing to do. Well, that's not true – I have a million things to do, it's that I can't do them. It's driving me crazy."
"That's because you've forgotten how to relax," I replied, sitting down beside him on his bed and tucking him safely beneath the covers. "Now, I know you'd rather be reading the reports but as of now I'm banning them from your room. At least until your beastly cough tones down enough that you can sleep the entire night through. For now, you can read for fun."
"I don't have many books here," he said. "They're all in New York."
I'd noticed that. It's part of the reason I bought many books in the second-hand bookshop. "Don't worry about that," I said. "I know this bookshop downtown that sells old books. I can get you some – "
"I could order from Amazon." That set, I gave him his laptop and told him to shop away but that I was taking the thing away as soon as I see him doing work-related stuff. As for me, I went out as soon as Miss Martie returned to the Beast's room to watch over him. I wanted to get more old books from the bookshop I'd found. I found more romances so I snapped those up along with some old murder mysteries. As I stepped out of the shop, I got the surprise of my life.