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Sunday, July 31, 2016

TLR Chapter 79

Brendon woke Wednesday morning to report for his shift after his two week enforced vacation. His eyes burned and watered and he let out a huge sneeze and a cough from deep in his chest. He swore to himself. He could not be sick. A vacation was not supposed to make you sick. He had hiked alone through the woods on the nice warm days and walked along the shoreline on the cool foggy nights with Tris. He had swum several times, both during the day and at night. He and Tris joined a couple of the classes on the younger man’s days off.  All that activity was supposed to be good for you, to relax you, not give you a bad cold. He frowned. He washed his face and shaved then blew his nose and coughed as he got dressed. He had no appetite. He rummaged in the medicine cabinet and found a bit of old cough syrup, an over the counter brand and popped a couple of Tylenol. He found a partially used package of Benadryl and popped one of those too hoping it would calm the sneezing fits. He made his way to the bakery, his face pale and his eyes red rimmed and watery.

Warren, who was on duty with him, was glad to see him but could tell immediately that the man did not feel well.

"Bren, what's wrong?" he asked.

Brendon shook his head. "Nothing's wrong. Why do you ask?" he wheezed as he spoke.

Warren gave his boss a look and said, "My Aunt Fanny nothing is wrong.  You look like hell, and you sound like a bullfrog is lodged in your throat. I can hear how labored your breathing is. Bren, you're not in any shape to be at work right now."

Brendon argued, "I'm the boss around here and I think I know if I'm well enough to work or not."

"Let me ask you a question, Oh Great and Glorious Leader, if one of the other guys came in here in your condition would you let them work?"

Brendon scowled. "What do you mean in my condition?"

Warren looked at Bren and said, "I'm talking about you being pregnant, of course."

Brendon couldn't help but laugh which immediately turned into a fit of coughing and wheezing.

Tristan ran into the bakery kitchen, sweating slightly from his rush not to be any later than he already was, when he heard the sounds of labored breathing and ragged coughing.  "Warren? Is that you?" he asked worriedly.  He looked at Warren and then at Brendon and his eyes widened. "Holy Cow, Bren! You look like death warmed over! You shouldn't be here!"

When Brendon got his coughing and sneezing under control he said, "Not you too Tris."

"Me too..." he began, looking from Warren back to Brendon "Yes me too! If I came to work like that you'd send me home faster than a jackrabbit with a fox on it's tail." he said, a little put out.

"He's right Brendon," Warren agreed.  "If you don't let Tris take you over to see Heath I'm goin' to call James."

Brendon's amber eyes went wide. "Okay...okay..." he grumbled at the threat. "I'll go see Heath."

Arnie, who had just entered the room and heard the conversation said, "Sorry I'm late guys, what's going on? Bren, you sick?"

"Yes, he is, and I'm taking him to see Heath, right now," Tristan said firmly.

Brendon scowled at Arnie.  "No...I am not sick...I just have a little bit of a condition," he said.

Warren snorted. "He's pregnant," he remarked.

This time Bren glared at Warren.

The other workers couldn’t help hide a smirk at Warren’s comment.

Warren said, "Tris, take him to Heath."

"C'mon, Bren, it won't be nearly as bad as you think," Tris said.

Brendon went with Tris, but wasn't very happy about it.

They walked across the compound, Tristan wincing every time he heard the phlegmy sounding cough and Brendon's struggle to breathe afterward.  He wanted to run to Heath but knew his boss wouldn't make it at a faster pace.  He pulled out his cell phone and called Heath to let him know they were coming.

Brendon trudged along at Tristan's side glad of the man's company even if he didn't want to admit to it.  He went willingly at this point. He was winded and all of a sudden felt queasy and a bit dizzy as well.

Heath as usual, met them at the main door and led them straight to the closest exam room.

Heath didn't even ask Brendon to take off his shirt.  He sat Brendon down immediately and popped a thermometer in his mouth while he took his pulse.  He gave the head baker a stern look that made Tristan nervous even though it wasn't aimed at him.

Brendon waited for Heath to take the thermometer out of his mouth and cringed a bit inside at Heath's expression.

The little tone sounded and Heath removed the thermometer, making a note of the man's temp and then taking his stethoscope from around his neck put the chest piece on Brendon's back. "Take a deep breath for me," he ordered.

Brendon tried to do as the doctor ordered, but went into a coughing fit from deep down in his lungs. Once again it left him wheezing, dizzy and a bit sick to his stomach.

"Bronchitis, just as I suspected. You of all people should know better than to go to work this sick, Brendon. Your temp is 101.5 and your BP is high from the exertion.  If any of your guys had shown up to work like this..." he let the words sink in.

Brendon shook his head as he regained control. "I woulda sent them home, Doc."

"Instead of sending you home, I am going to keep you here in the infirmary as there's no one at home to take care of you," he replied, his lips a straight line of displeasure even though he kept his tone neutral.  "I'm going to give you something for the cough and congestion and give you Tylenol for the pain and fever and..." he said as he opened his cabinets to take the items out.  "Dang! I forgot, I'm out of Ventolin! I have a shipment due in two days but I don't want you to have to wait that long. I'm going to have to run into town and get more, but as soon as I get it you're going to use that as well for when you're having trouble breathing. And you're going to stay here for at least three days or until the symptoms begin to fade."

"I'll pick it up, Doc," Tristan said.  "And I'll take Bren home afterward. I'll take care of him."

"You have to work, Tristan, and we don't want to risk you getting sick as well."

"I won't get sick, doc, honest. I've never been physically ill a day in my life and there are plenty of guys there to cover the shifts.  Dave and Mitch will be able to cover some of our hours instead of just closing all the time.

Heath didn't look entirely convinced.

"Look, he'll be better off with me being able to take care of him 24/7.  Even you can't do that.  You'll have other patients to take care of and you can't be with him all the time.  I'll run to town, get the inhaler, and take him home.  I promise I'll take the best care of him, and I know that you'll be there checking on him every chance you get,” Tristan said, a pleading expression in his eyes.  'Please,' he mouthed to Heath, 'I need this chance.'

"Brendon? How do you feel about this?" Heath asked.  He knew that Bren was still a little leery of Tristan even though they had both assured him that Tris wasn't the same man he'd been all those years ago.

Brendon knew there was no use in protesting, after all, he wasn't a brat and he was responsible for his health. Besides he knew James would demote him to brat status if he acted out too much like he had threatened to do before. "I'll do as you say, Heath," he said quietly.

Heath nodded and his features softened a bit.  "Good.  Tris, here's the script. I'll keep him here with me until you get back and I'll show him how to use the inhaler properly.  When you take him home, make sure he's in bed or at least comfortable on the couch. And you, Brendon stay where you're put unless you need to use the bathroom."

Brendon nodded. "Yes, Doc."

"In that case, it's all settled.  Bren, you just lie back now and relax while Tristan is gone. Once he comes back I'll let him take you home with him. Deal?"

"Deal," Brendon croaked just before breaking into a spate of harsh coughing that left him red faced and gasping for air.

No longer angry, Heath made Brendon lie back on his couch and prepared a nebulizer for him. "Take this cough medicine, and then we'll put this on," he said, indicating the clear face mask. "All you have to do is stay still and try to breathe as normally as possible until Tris gets back with the inhaler."

"Yes, doc," Brendon repeated once he'd gotten his wind back.  He reluctantly drank the cough medicine that Heath measured out for him, and settled back, allowing Heath to put the mask over his mouth and nose.

"Get that inhaler to him as soon as you can, Tris, alright?"

"Yes sir," Tristan replied. "I'll be back as quickly as I can.  Bren, you just hang in there," Tristan said with a smile.  He briefly grasped Brendon's hand in a reassuring gesture before leaving. Once outside he ran to his car, gunned the engine and peeled out of the parking lot, startling Tom, the gatekeeper, who yelled at Tristan to slow down.


The Masonville Sheriff, Dustin Grayson was sitting at the corner of main street waiting to make a turn when he saw a car just whiz through the traffic light, causing the cars that had the green light and the right of way to stop short, brakes screeching as the speeding vehicle crossed the intersection and the motorists swerved to avoid hitting it or it hitting them. Dustin turned and hit his lights first to see if the driver would pull over or if he would have to hit his siren.

Tristan was so intent on getting into town quickly that he wasn't watching his speed and the next thing he knew he saw police lights in the rear view mirror.  He looked at his speedometer and his face went a little pale. He slowed down and pulled over.

The Sheriff pulled up behind Tristan, exited his car and walked up to the young man's window, his hand on his gun. "Sir, step out of the vehicle please."

"I'm sorry," Tristan rushed to explain as he stepped carefully out of his car. "My boy fr... boss is sick and I need to get him some medicine. I don't usually drive this fast, honest."

Dustin said, "I need to see your license, registration and proof of insurance. Do you realize how fast you were going and that you ran a red light, nearly causing a multiple accident?"

Tristan sat back in his car and took out his registration and insurance card with shaking hands. He handed them to the Sheriff and then reached into his pocket to take out his wallet so that he could remove his driver's license. "No, sir. I didn't realize how fast I was going until I saw your lights, and I heard something but... I wasn't aware that I'd nearly caused an accident. I was just so worried about my bo... boss... I'm really sorry, sir. I won't let it happen again," Tristan said contritely.

Dustin gave Tristan a stern look. "I certainly hope so. I clocked you doing 60 in a 45-mile zone and running the red light...You stay put. I'm going back to my car to run your information and write your ticket."

Tristan could feel the blood rush from his face.  He was worried that every second he was away from Brendon was a second that he would be in need of the inhaler. He hoped that by being cooperative he wouldn't get too big a fine.

Sheriff Grayson walked back to his cruiser and ran Tristan's information. The young man wasn't wanted for anything, no outstanding warrants and no significant traffic violations until now for the past five years. He shook his head as he wrote out the ticket. He walked back to the car. "You need to sign here at the bottom. You'll receive a copy in the mail. On this one it tells where and when to pay it. The one that will be mailed to you has instructions on how to contest it. I sincerely hope this doesn't happen again. I suggest you pay attention to the speed you're driving as well as remain aware of what's going on around you. If you're too upset to drive properly, have a friend who can pay attention do the driving," he scolded sternly.  "I understand that you're worried about your boss and that's commendable. However, you're not going to do him any good in jail or from the hospital. So just do what you promised and we'll be good."

"Yes sir. I'm really sorry. I promise it won't happen again." Tristan nodded earnestly, not looking at the ticket immediately. He just wanted to be on his way to pick up the inhaler.

"All right young man, you may go, but keep to the speed limit and pay attention to your driving I don't want to have to pull you over again anytime soon."

"Yes, Sheriff, thank you.  I won't.  I mean, I will... watch the speed limit I mean," Tristan promised.

"And stay aware of your surroundings so as to not run another stop light?"

"Yes sir. I'll be more careful," he replied, trying not to show his impatience.

"All right young man, you may go." Dustin walked back to his cruiser, got in and watched as Tristan did the same.

Nervously, Tristan got back into his car, watching the police vehicle and making sure to signal and keep an eye out for oncoming traffic as he pulled back onto the street.  He made sure that he didn't exceed the speed limit again and pulled in the pharmacy without many other problems.  He ran into the building and waited impatiently for the prescription to be filled.  It was only when he got back into his car and put the script on the passenger seat next to the ticket that he saw how much it was for.  He could feel the blood draining from his face and was glad that he was sitting down.


Brendon, who had been dozing on and off, woke with a fit of coughing and wheezing.

It was that wheezing sound that Tristan walked in on and his concern over the speeding ticket was replaced once again with concern for Brendon.  He ran to his friend's side and knelt beside the bed in the infirmary. "Here, Bren. I have it." 

Heath, who had taken care of a caller from earlier, was now back with Brendon and was watching over the man who had been sleeping fitfully.  His face lit up when he saw Tristan enter the office with the bag from the pharmacy.  Gently, he propped Brendon up and showed him the inhaler, which he had taken from Tristan.  "Press this while you breathe in," he instructed.  "Try to get two puffs in for one intake of breath, but don't force it or you'll just end up coughing it out again. Understand?"

Brendon took the inhaler and took the first puff and coughed hard and then sneezed. He panted, but took a second one. Heath was grateful when the man's wheezing eased somewhat.

"Can I take him home now, Doc?" Tristan asked.

"Yes, take it easy though.  He's not in any shape for heavy exertion. As a matter of fact, take my cart, get him home and resting, and I'll pick it up later."

"Ok, Doc. Thanks," Tris said gratefully.  "C'mon, Bren, let's get you home."

Too tired to argue Brendon allowed himself to be led from the infirmary to the golf cart and on toward home.  He was surprised when Tris stopped at his own bungalow and began to help him out.

"I thought we were going to my place?"  Brendon asked, confused.

"I want to be able to take care of you, and it'll be easier to have you here than to constantly be running over to your place.  Plus, my place is closer to the infirmary.  Location, location, location," Tris joked.  "C'mon. Inside with you."

If he hadn't been feeling so tired and worn out Brendon would have insisted that Tris bring him to his own bungalow, as it was he took a breath to argue which turned into another spate of coughing.

Tristan tried not to wince in sympathy at each labored breath and quickly got Brendon settled on the couch.  He made sure to give him a dose of the cough medicine and brought him a couple of the Tylenol with a cup of water.  He made some herbal tea and brought a plateful of crackers and set them on the small table beside the couch in easy reach.

Brendon said quietly, "Thanks Tris," before coughing again while he waited for the medicine to kick in.

"You're welcome, and stay put." Tris called the bakery to let them know that he wasn't going to be back and why before picking up several blankets and pillows to make Brendon more comfortable on the couch.

The medicine began to kick in and Brendon managed to snooze a bit.


Brendon's coughing woke him up several hours later.  He was hot and disoriented until he saw Tristan sitting on the floor beside him. 

Tris immediately knelt up and smiled at Brendon.  "Hey sleepy head. Welcome back.  Here, it's just about time for another dose of cough medicine and Tylenol, and once you've taken that I'll help you with your inhaler."

"I can do it," Brendon said.  If he'd been feeling better, his words might have come out angrily as it was he sounded, even to himself, like a spoiled child having a tantrum.

Tris grinned, picked up the little canister of Ventolin and shook it a few times before handing it to Brendon.  "Remember what the doc said, push the top and inhale at the same time."

"I can do it," Brendon repeated, trying to scowl but not quite being able to manage it through the headache that was coming back.

"Can I get you anything, Bren? Are you hungry? Thirsty?"

Bren said quietly, "Thirsty."

"More tea? I bought Lemon Lift. With a little honey it'll soothe your throat in no time."

Brendon nodded dully, "Sure."

Tristan berated himself wordlessly as he went into the kitchen to boil more water. If he hadn't been so stupid, driving like a maniac, he'd have been back to Brendon, who had obviously been suffering, much sooner.  It seemed as though the water refused to cooperate as well, and took a lifetime to reach it's boiling point.  Once it was ready he nearly ran back to Brendon's side with it.  "How do you feel, Bren? Any better? You're breathing sounds a little better," he said softly.

Brendon said, "I feel like I've been hit by a Mack truck. My breathin' is easier since I used that stuff you brought me."

"I'm glad," Tris said with a wan smile. "Can I do anything else for you? Do you need another blanket?"

Brendon nodded. "Yes and more pillows I think to prop me up more."

"You got it," Tris said, smiling more widely, relieved that Brendon would soon be on the mend. He gathered up the pillows and blanket and settled Brendon as comfortably as he could.  Then he said, "I'm going to make you my mother's chicken soup. She always said it'll cure what kills ya or kill what cures ya," he joked.

Brendon smiled. "You don't have to go to all that trouble. Canned is just as good."

"Canned?" Tristan shuddered theatrically. "Perish the thought! Mom's chicken soup is the cure for all ailments, believe me, and it's no trouble. Just lie still and try to rest." 

"Make sure you eat a few crackers so that the medicines don't irritate your stomach, and drink that tea slowly. I'll make you more when you finish that," Tristan ordered.

Brendon gave Tristan a small smile. "Thank you for takin' such good care of me, Tris."

Tristan laid his cool cheek against Brendon's warmer one and gave him a gentle hug. "You're welcome. Now rest."

He left Brendon to rest and rummaged through his refrigerator for the ingredients he'd need for the soup. Tris knew that at first all Brendon would be able to handle was the broth so he was determined to make the soup as much like his mother's as possible.

Brendon fell asleep again snoring to beat the band, worn out from coughing.

Tristan nearly laughed aloud when he heard the sheer volume of Brendon's snoring.  At least it wasn't that painful sounding cough or that terrible wheezing anymore, so he was grateful for that.  He worked as quickly and silently as he could while he made the soup, all the while keeping an ear out for Brendon to make sure his breathing didn't worsen, and just in case he woke up and needed anything.  He tasted the soup several times while it cooked and set aside a good portion of broth for when Brendon awakened.


Brendon coughed and sneezed when he woke and croaked out, "Tristan?"

Tristan, who had been sitting in the armchair next to Brendon, put down the book he'd been reading and perched on the edge of the couch.  "Welcome back to the land of the living," he quipped.  "Are you hungry? I made Mom's broth.  I've been keeping it warm for when you woke up."

Brendon said, "I could try some of the broth."

"Excellent choice, Monsieur!" Tristan said with a bow and his best rendition of a French accent.  "I shall serve it up directly."  He got up and went into the kitchen to ladle up some of the broth into a mug and brought it to Brendon.

"This is really good," he said, eyebrows raised in surprise. "Thank you."

"You're welcome, and I'll tell Mom you liked it.  She'll be happy to hear it's still appreciated." Tris grinned. "If you feel up to more when you've finished with that I'll get you more, but not too much. We don't want to overload your stomach."

Brendon, once he had finished the broth, put the mug on the table and then slipped back to sleep.

Tristan was glad that Brendon was finally sleeping peacefully. Unwilling to leave him alone in case he needed anything, Tris put away the leftovers, turned off the lights and locked up. Then he got himself a blanket and pillow and settled down on the recliner where he fell into a deep sleep.


Brendon groaned a little as he woke.  He sat up on the couch, the covers slipping off him. He stood up to head toward the bathroom, but promptly banged his shin on the coffee table. "Ouch!" He rubbed his shin, edged around the obstacle and then nearly fell over a stuffed chair. "Damn! What the hell...?" He asked himself in exasperation. "Where the devil is the lamp? I can't see where I'm going!" he said to himself.  Then Brendon had a coughing fit and almost wet himself.

Tristan woke instantly and snapped on a light. He threw off his blanket and ran to Brendon, wrapping his arms around the warm body. "I'm here, Bren, what's wrong?" he asked, trying to keep calm to avoid upsetting Brendon.

Bren said in a distressed manner, "Thank God, Tris, I gotta use the bathroom and can't find my way!"

Tristan, still with his arms around his boss, led him toward the bathroom and turned on the night light so that they could see what they were doing but not blind themselves. "There you go, Bren. You're a little unsteady... do you need help?"

Bren looked up at Tris and nodded. "I-I could use a bit of help," He rasped and fell into another fit of coughing.

Tristan quickly got Brendon situated and then ran into the kitchen for the cough medicine and the Tylenol. He went back into the bathroom and filled a paper cup with water so that Brendon could take them. Once Brendon was steady again, Tris helped him wash up and then led him back to the couch, tucking him in and handing him the inhaler. He felt Brendon's forehead and worried that his temperature was too high once again. He ran back to the bathroom and snatched the thermometer out of his medicine cabinet. Making sure it had a clean cover, he placed it in Brendon's mouth.

Brendon allowed Tristan to care for him. It felt good.

Once Brendon had taken a puff from the inhaler, Tris made him lie down again. "I'm going to make some more tea. Stay put." Tris smiled. Once he was in the kitchen his smile faded. He picked up his phone and called Heath while he put on a pot of water to boil.

"Heath here."

It sounded to Tris as though the doctor hadn't been sleeping at all.

"Doc, Bren's fever is higher, 103. I just gave him some medicine and the Tylenol, but I'm worried. What else can I do for him?"

"Do you have any ginger ale?" Heath asked.

"No, but I'm making him more tea right now."

"That's fine, keep him hydrated, but take some washcloths and soak them in lukewarm water. Not too cold, not too hot, and place them on his forehead and behind his neck. Keep him warm, even if he complains that he's too hot. Ok? I'll be over in a few minutes."

"Ok, Doc, thanks," Tris said gratefully.

Increasingly concerned, Tristan didn't wait for the water to fully boil before he poured it into a cup with a teabag. He filled a bowl with tepid water and grabbed a couple of washcloths from his laundry room before returning to Brendon. He placed the warm washcloths where he'd been instructed and tried to get Brendon to drink some of the tea.

"Tris...what are you doin'? I'm hot enough as it is," Brendon said irritably, removing the cloths from his forehead and neck. "They're wet!"

Tristan blushed and took the wet cloths back, rewetting them but wringing them out a little better the second time around. "Heath said to put these on your forehead and neck to help get your temp down, so shush, or else," Tristan said with a crooked little smile.

Brendon looked at Tris and couldn't help but ask, "Or else what?" He gave the man a little grin even though he felt really bad.

"Or else I'll have to give you the suppository that Heath gave me for if your temp got too high and you couldn't keep Tylenol down," Tristan replied, trying not to laugh at the horrified look on Brendon's face.

Before he could say anything else there was a knock at the door and Heath came in carrying his black bag. He'd obviously heard Tristan's threat and was having trouble keeping an unprofessional grin from his own features.

“Sorry Tris,” the doctor said, “I would have been here sooner but I thought you had taken Bren to his place so I went over there first.”

Tris blushed.  “I forgot to tell you I brought him here because I’m closer to the infirmary and it’ll be easier for me to feed and care for him here.”

“Makes perfect sense to me, Tris.” Heath agreed as he sat down on the edge of the couch and took Brendon's temperature again, as well as checking his pulse and respiration.

Brendon said, "I feel awful Doc, worse than this morning if that's possible."

At Tristan's look of upset, Heath glanced up at him approvingly. "You're doing a great job. His temp is already coming down. You'd make a great nurse, Tris. Ever think about going to school for nursing? I could use a good assistant." Once he saw that Tristan had calmed down he turned his attention back to Brendon.

"And you, sir, are bound to feel worse before you feel better, I hate to say. But Tris here is taking good care of you."

Brendon said, "I think he's a great nurse, but a better baker. At least he can't threaten me with a gingerbread cookie."

Tristan and Heath both laughed at that, glad that Brendon was feeling well enough to joke with them. Another sure sign that his fever was going down. Heath tugged the blankets up around Brendon's shoulders and fluffed the man's pillows. "Feeling a little better?" he asked.

Brendon nodded. "Yes, but I have a feeling my fever will be going up and down."

"It may well fluctuate if you go too long without taking your meds," Heath replied.

Tristan blushed in embarrassment. "I'm sorry doc that was my fault. I fell asleep and forgot to wake him up to give him a dose earlier."

"But you did now, and you did a great job of getting his fever down." Heath reassured the young man,

Brendon said, "Tris, you're doin' a good job. Maybe we just need to set an alarm to wake us for the next dose is all."

"I'll do that now," Tris replied, grateful for the two men's understanding. He took his cell phone off the table and began to program the alarm to wake him every six hours starting at 12:43 AM

"The key, Tristan, is to make sure that you sleep whenever Brendon is sleeping, or you'll become exhausted and most likely fall ill yourself," Heath reminded him.

Brendon agreed, "Good idea, Doc."

Tristan stopped programming the alarms and looked up at the two older men. "But I have to make sure he's got something to eat and drink, and if he needs help getting... I mean... if he needs help, I need to be awake. Look what happened just a little while ago. If I hadn't been sleeping he wouldn't have barked his shin on the table," Tristan said worriedly.

"The fact is you are here, and you're doing a great job of taking care of him, but you can't do that if you make yourself sick," Heath reminded him again. "I'll put out the word, pretty soon you'll have more food in your fridge than you'll know what to do with in a year," Heath promised.

"Thanks, Doc. That would help," Tristan admitted.

Brendon chuckled and then coughed. When his coughing was through he said, "So long as it isn't all baked goods."

Heath and Tristan both laughed at that. "Although Vic's Italian bread would go great with mom's broth," Tris said thoughtfully. "And once you're feeling better I can make you my famous grilled mozzarella and tomato on Italian. Oh man, I'm hungry just thinking about it," he said as his stomach growled loudly.

Heath raised an eyebrow at Tristan. "And when is the last time you ate, young man?"

Tristan opened his mouth to respond and then frowned. He couldn't remember the last time he'd actually eaten much more than a taste of the soup. He closed his mouth and shrugged.

"Just as I thought," Heath scolded. "You'll get worn out and sick if you don't take care of yourself, and you won't be able to take care of Bren."

"I'll eat, Doc, I promise. I just sort of forgot."

Bren frowned. "How does someone sort of forget eat? From now on when I eat you eat too."

Tristan blushed again and shrugged. "I had more important things on my mind," he said quietly. "But don't worry," he added quickly, seeing that both Brendon and Heath were about to argue, "I'll make sure I eat when Bren eats. Promise."

Brendon said, "You'd better or else."

"Go make yourself something to eat now while I'm here. Go. Now. No excuses," Heath ordered when he saw Tristan about to argue.

Tristan rewarded them with a sheepish grin. "I'll make myself one of my famous grilled cheese sandwiches as long as I can get you guys something to eat while I'm out there. Deal?"

Brendon grinned. "Deal."

Heath's stomach growled as well and they all laughed. "Yeah," he said, "I think I could go for a late night snack."

Feeling much better, Tristan grinned at them before turning to prepare their food.

Brendon managed to finish another mug of broth and the toast that Tristan had made for him, but he didn't have the stomach for more. After Heath had eaten and checked Brendon once more he left with strict instructions to call him if he were needed again.

 "Yes, sir," Tristan replied with a smile. He went to the door with Heath to see him safely off and then returned to Brendon.

"C'mon, Bren, let's get you to bed. I'll help you wash and get into your pajamas, ok?"

Tristan was as good as his word, making sure that Brendon was seated on the edge of the tub so that he could keep his balance while he brushed his teeth. Tris gave Brendon a sponge bath which left the man feeling much better, and quite sleepy.

He helped Brendon to the bed and covered him once he was settled comfortably. "I'll be right back. Call for me if you need me sooner," he instructed. He went to the linen closet and pulled out another light blanket, tossed it in the dryer so that it was nice and warm and then returned to the bedroom to place it over Brendon.

Brendon woke and smiled at Tris, grateful for the care. "I'm lying here trying to figure out who's the Top and who's the Brat here. I'm the one who should be taking care of you," Brendon said with a wan smile.

Tristan placed the inhaler, more Tylenol and water, and the bottle of cough medicine on the bedside table before getting into the bed under the blankets beside Brendon. "We have to take care of each other. It's what friends do," Tris replied quietly.

He turned to face Brendon and put an arm across his chest, feeling the other man's heartbeat and listening closely to his breathing for signs of distress.

Brendon said softly, "Yes, it's what friends do, but it's also what partners do for each other."

Tristan couldn't help the involuntary intake of breath and tried to cover it up by clearing his throat. The words surprised him and he could feel his chest tighten at Brendon's words. "Partners?" he asked, somewhat breathlessly.  Could Brendon be saying what he hoped? Or was it the fever talking? Tris kept those thoughts to himself and waited for Brendon to speak again.

Brendon nodded. "Yes, we have been partners before and we've been talking about giving that a chance again, so why not? You takin' care of me like this...lyin' here next to you like this...well it just feels...well...umm...right for some reason."

Tristan's body stiffened up. He wasn't sure what to say. Was Brendon serious or was it a combination of gratitude and fever talking? Would Brendon remember what he said once he was better? Would he regret what he'd said? Being back together with Brendon had been a desire of his since the day he'd stormed out, and he didn't think he could take it if Brendon changed his mind.

Brendon felt Tris stiffen. He sighed. "Tris, I didn't mean to scare you. I know we said we'd take it slow."

"I'd like that," Tris replied softly, "But are you sure? I mean, I was pretty awful to you. I know I'm not the same man I was but...," he let the words trail off.

Brendon said, "We agreed to put that all in the past behind us and not hold it over your head. I didn't realize how much I've missed lying next to you until just now, but if you're still too uncomfortable I understand and can wait." Bren lapsed into another bout of coughing from exerting himself talking.

When Bren's coughing subsided he croaked, "Sorry,"

Tristan disengaged himself from the other man and reached for the inhaler with shaking hands. He helped Brendon take a couple of puffs before putting it back on the table. He looked searchingly into Brendon's eyes and saw that the man was lucid and serious.

"I want that, Bren, more than you know," Tris replied, feeling tears pressing.

"Are you ready to take that step Tris? For us to become an ‘us’ again?" Bren asked softly.

"I'm ready, Bren," Tristan replied, unable to keep the tears at bay anymore. "I've wanted it since the day I... well... I mean...," he faltered. "Yes. If you've truly forgiven me, and trust me... if I've earned that... then yes. I'd love to be an 'us' again."

Tristan wanted very much to kiss Brendon but knew that the other man was most likely not feeling up to any sort of physical interaction, especially if it would cause him to start coughing again.

Bren shook his head and just pulled Tris close and cuddled him. "Good because there's no one else I'd rather be an ‘us’ with," Brendon whispered into Tris's ear.

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