**One more fic in honor of Something Like Trust. This time featuring a sick Jared with Brandon taking care of him. Enjoy!**
There was something about a sick loved one that just clawed at my gut. My only experience previously had been with my brother, and Brian was the kind of guy that wouldn’t sit down, sleep, and get well. He’d constantly insist he wasn’t sick, and try to do everything he normally did. He had to be constantly watched to make sure he got the necessary rest and that he took his medication.
So when Jared went from having the sniffles and a scratchy throat to sneezing, hacking, and wheezing in the matter of twenty-four hours, I was terrified my big bad Marine would make himself much worse before he got better. I made arrangements with the producers, and since I had a light week anyway, I hopped in the car and made the three hour trek home. I was on edge and practically frantic by the time I pulled in the driveway, and I left my bag in the car in favor of sprinting into the house.
Jared was shivering on the couch, his big body huddled to half its size and covered with both the comforter from our bed and the afghan from the back of the couch. The coffee table was littered with used tissues, nearly empty glasses of juice and ginger ale, and a whole host of cold medicines. He lifted his head when I walked in, and his face was pale, with high spots of color on his cheeks.
“What are you doing home?” he rasped, the growl dying in his throat to become a hacking cough. I rushed forward, trying to support his body. When the coughing eased, I handed him on of the glasses of liquid and he sipped down what was left in it. I tried not to be dismayed by the sight before me, but he’d managed to make an awful lot of a mess in just one day. The Jared I knew would never have allowed his kind of clutter to accumulate.
“I’m sick,” he said, utterly miserable. He flopped back onto the couch and pulled the blankets up around his ears again. I helped him, tucking it around his neck and smoothing a hand over his brow. His skin was hot and dry and I didn’t like that. He needed a fever reducer and more hydration.
“I know, love. That’s why I’m here.” I leaned down to kiss his cheek, but avoided his lips when he turned his head. He scowled, but I just smiled. “When I get you all better, you can kiss me all you want.”
“I have the plague,” he said with a bit of a whine. “I’m never getting better.”
I resisted letting the chuckle escape. He was just being a big baby, but I knew it had to be brought on by just how awful he felt. He was certainly sick, but it was no more than the flu. As long as I kept him pumped full of liquids and Tylenol, he’d make a full recovery. I rubbed against his shorn hair for a moment and then stood.
“How about I make you some chicken noddle soup and some tea? That’ll help you feel better, right?” I started collecting the glasses from the table, mentally making a note of coming back with a plastic bag and disinfecting wipes. The coffee table was probably a cesspool of germs. I’d need to kill them all.
“Not hungry,” he mumbled from his cocoon.
I shook my head and smiled fondly. “Just try a little, okay? I need you to stay strong.” When I got a nod in response, I turned toward the kitchen, my arms full of dirty glasses. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
I rinsed the glasses and put them in the dishwasher. I hummed a little as I worked. Honestly, as upsetting as it was to see my man laid low by some nasty germy bug, I was more than a bit pleased to be the one taking care of him for a change. He took such good care of me, all the time, even when distance separated us, that to be able to return the favor felt wonderful. I didn’t even care that he was a little bit whiny.
Two days later, I was ready to strangle him with my bare hands.
Whiny had morphed into petulant and demanding as he still felt like crap. He was getting better, that much was clear, but he wasn’t there yet and he was cranky and unreasonable because of it. I wanted to take care of him, to keep him fed and hydrated and give him everything he needed. And usually when he ordered me around, it made me feel safe and cared for. But demands for a fluffed pillow, or another glass of juice, or a bowl of soup with crackers on the side without the courtesy of a please or thank you was wearing thin. More than that, he was whiny.
I’d never seen this side of him. It was disconcerting. And irritating. I was not equipped to handle him like this. I didn’t know what to do. I locked myself in the bathroom and dialed the phone, hoping for some advice.
“What’s up, Bran?” Zane asked with a yawn. It was early, but I didn’t feel bad for waking him.
“I l-love your brother m-more than l-life itself,” I whispered fervently. “But I’m g-gonna kill him.”
Zane’s laughter rang out, and I couldn’t keep my own smile off my face. I adored Zane, and Audra too. They were some of the best people on the planet, and I loved them like they were my own siblings.
“He’s a pain in the ass when he’s sick, huh? Put an M16 in his hands, and he’s fine. Infect him with germs, and it’s like he forgot he was a badass.” Zane paused to chuckle. “You need some back up?”
I sighed heavily. “I should be able to handle my sick lover,” I confided.
“But you don’t have to do it alone. I can stand up to him for you.”
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath at hearing Jared call my name. At least this time it wasn’t followed with a round of hacking.
“He’s calling for me,” I said to said, standing up.
“We’ll be there in a few hours,” Zane responded, and I could hear the rustle of fabric as he moved.
“It’s okay Zane,” I said softly. “I appreciate the offer but I can handle him.”
“Yep. Just needed to commiserate. Hear a friendly voice.”
Zane made an affirmative noise, told me to call if I needed him, and hung up.
I took another deep breath, and then unlocked the door and stepped out of the bathroom. Jared was sitting up in bed, looking better than he had, but still not entirely better. He needed a shower, but he was too big for me to help him, and he wasn’t steady enough on his feet. Maybe I could find a chair to set in the stall, and he could get clean that way.
“What do you need, love?” I asked, doing my best not to let the weariness in.
“To apologize,” he said softly. I stopped short of the bed, the words a surprise. I looked up at him, into his warm brown eyes that were clear of fever for the first time in three days. He tried for a smile. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. I know I’ve been difficult and I haven’t been taking care of you very well.”
“Difficult?” I repeated, letting him know just how much of an understatement that was. When his smile grew just a little, I knew I’d succeeded in amusing him. I walked closer and sat on the edge of the mattress. Once I coaxed him into the shower, I was changing the bedsheets.
“I’m sorry,” he repeated, and I knew he meant it.
“I love you, Jared. Completely. You were sick, and now I know how you react when you aren’t well. And I can deal with it.”
“I love you, too. And I’ll try to be better next time I get sick.” His vow was solemn, and I knew he meant it. Of course, I also knew that it wasn’t likely. The next time some bug laid him out, he’d probably be exactly the same. But if that was the worst of his faults, I’d just have to deal with it. And get him in the habit of taking vitamin C to ward off any sickness.
“It’s a deal,” I said. I leaned in and kissed his check, then stood up. “Now get in the shower. You stink.”