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Eventually, I woke in the twilight, as Martin shook my shoulder.  “Kari? Bear brought you something.”

 

I sat up to see him proudly holding a tray with a bowl of soup on it.  There were a few random feathers stuck to his clothes. I had so many questions.  I wanted to know where on earth he found a chicken. I wanted to know who knew how to clean it.  I really wanted to know if anyone had supervised the food prep so I wouldn’t also get stuck with salmonella.

 

I really wanted to know who taught Max to “bawkbawk” like an actual chicken rather than the clucking noise that the Old MacDonald had a farm song had taught him.

 

My throat was still sore, so I settled on just eating the damn soup.  It was warm and thick. There were chunks of actual carrot and enough garlic to really clear my sinuses.  “How did you get a chicken?” I managed to get out.

 

Harry, standing in the hall wearing rather more feathers, started to laugh.  Bear glared at him, but he continued, “That is the WRONG question! The right question is how did he get eight chickens, two very fat rabbits and a duck.”

 

I laughed and wheezed, “Eight chickens?” I gasped.

 

Bear shook his head and held up fingers, “Seven chick-hens.”

 

“Yeah, now! ” Harry teased.

 

I stayed awake through the soup.  Bear took the dishes away. Harry informed me that there was a whole pot of soup and Bear had already punched an orc for trying to steal some.

 

Christopher came in to change my med patch.

 

I chuckled and croaked, “What’s up, doc?”

 

He looked at me solemnly.  “You will be sick for five to seven days.  As I already told your mate that there is nothing I can do to fix you.”

 

I stiffened a little at the ‘your mate’ phrase.  “Has he been a problem for you?”

 

“Yes!  Everything from putting in a rush order on live stock to wanting me to confirm that if your fever gets too high you will get brain damage.  I don’t know what idiot told him that. You barely have a fever. You are not that ill!”

 

I laugh/coughed as Martin grinned and Harry looked uncomfortable.

 

“Am I going to make the boys sick?”

 

Christopher shook his head, “You wouldn’t have gotten sick if your immune system was a little stronger.”

 

“Need to eat more,” Bear mumbled from the door, staring at me like I had personally offended him.

 

“It’s hard to eat when you’re sick, Bear.  That’s why the soup is extra special. Thank you for making it for me.”

 

Bear looked momentarily mollified,  “More for later. Boys sleep with Kings tonight.  Let you sleep better.” 

 

It was a nice idea, but, “It will let them sleep better too. I’m so stuffed up, I bet I will snore like a lumberjack.  No one will actually want to sleep in here, whether I can get them sick or not.” I wasn’t ready to go back to sleep yet.  “Can we do bedtime story in here first?”

 

Bear looked at Christopher, who shrugged then left.  “Yes.” That’s the thing with Bear, he could be very definite, about some things.  Usually things that pissed me off, but this time he was on my side. He sat next to me on the bed and I picked stray feathers off him while Martin read a book of nursery rhymes to the boys.

 

I handed Bear my collection of feathers and said, “You will need to have a shower before you come to bed tonight.”  I felt him tense next to me. Martin was smiling. Harry was grinning like a chicken feathered idiot. I rolled my eyes at them before I curled up to snuggle against the pillow.

 

I woke in the dark to Bear putting his hand on my forehead.  I had a vague recollection of Martin teaching him to do that to check if I had a fever.   He was sitting on the bed, wearing a towel. “I should get up and brush my teeth. Maybe hose off so I don’t smell like someone who spent the whole day sweating.  I bet my garlic breath is stinking up the room.”

 

Bear just shook his head. I didn’t know what that meant, but I made it to the bathroom.  Bear followed me to put his light cube on the vanity. I brushed my teeth. The steam from the shower was so nice, I stayed in there longer than I should have.  I was a bit lightheaded when I finally got out. I wrapped up in a towel and sat heavily on the floor.

 

“Kari?”

 

“I just need a moment,” I called as loudly as I could.  “Or six,” I muttered under my breath.

 

Apparently, as loudly as I could wasn’t loud enough.  Bear came in, wearing only his shorts, and scooped me up off the floor.  He carried me bundled in the towel to the bed and pulled one of his undershirts over my head before taking the towel and heading back to the bathroom.  He left the room with an armful of towels and snot rags.

 

I wanted a pair of the boyshort style panties that had been found for me.  Unfortunately, I found that I wanted to stay under the covers more. That meant either asking Bear to bring me some or going without.  I gave myself a pep talk to just go get them.

 

I was sitting up when Bear came back, handing me a stack of fresh hankies.

 

“Thank you.”

 

He grunted, “Sleep in bed now.”

 

I rolled my eyes.  It had become almost a joke.  He told me that every night where a normal person would say, ‘good night,’ Bear said, ‘sleep in bed now,’ like he was a reject from a Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon.

 

I shook my head.  The sinus thing must have been moving to my inner ears because the room wobbled for a moment.  Bear was immediately there helping me lie down. “I am so pathetic,” I whimpered, “I just want my damned underpants I can’t even walk ten feet to get them.”  

 

I was hit by another coughing fit and while I was distracted gasping for air, Bear sorted out my legs and pulled my panties up over my ass.  He didn’t stop there, either, he pulled up my shirt and opened a jar of something that sure as hell wasn’t vaporub and slathered up my back.

 

“What is that?”

 

“Help cough.”  He flipped me over and pulled at my shirt in the front.

 

“You are not going to use me being sick to cop a feel, buddy,” I said firmly as I batted his hands away.

 

He rolled his eyes at me. I couldn’t recall him doing that before.  I did it. Martin and Harry did it. “That’s new.”

 

He smirked as he handed me the little tub.  I gave it a sniff but couldn’t smell anything.  “Where do I put it?”

 

He pantomimed rubbing his sternum.  I rolled over so my back was to him and rubbed some into my breast bone.

 

“Kari?”

 

“Yes, Bear?”

 

“I showered.”

 

“OK?”

 

“You said I need to shower before come to bed.”

 

I handed him the jar.  “I am sick, I could make you sick.  You would be better off not sleeping with me.”

 

“Want to.”

 

“Just sleep?”

 

Nod.

 

“Ok.  Can you leave the light cube on the bedside table though?”

 

He spooned up behind me.  He was warm. It was like having my own personal heated blanket.  Yeah. That wasn’t so bad.

 

I slept most of the night, partially waking at one point as Bear ghosted his fingers along my side.  It took me a few moments to wake enough to really be aware of him petting me. His touch was light but his fingers were calloused making the sensation halfway between a tickle and a scratch, but so gentle the whole thing barely registered.  I wasn’t entirely awake when I caught his hand, pulled his arm around me and hugged his forearm to my chest to make him stop.

 

I dozed some more before waking enough to realize the arm I was hugging was stiff with tension.  So was the chest behind me, his body angled awkwardly away enough that I figured out what the problem was.  I let go of his hand and pushed him sleepily away. He eased himself carefully out of bed, then fled.

 

By then I was awake enough to be nervous but also enough to wonder if I either the sticker on my wrist or the goop on my back was a sedative.  I drifted back to sleep, laying on my belly, hugging my pillow.

 

-----

 

“Mommy! Mommy!  Wake up!”

 

“Are you better yet, Mommy?”

 

Max and Patrick were bouncing toward the bed.  Bear was laying on his side with his hand on the small of my back.

 

I managed to struggle out of the blankets and sit up.  There was no getting out of bed with it shoved into the corner like that. I was effectively boxed in by head board, foot board and orc.

 

I smiled at the boys, “I think it will be another few days.”

 

Harry waved sheepishly from the doorway.  “Sorry! That is the downside of no doors.”

 

I nodded blurrily and looked around for a hankerchief.  Harry came in and passed me one from the bedside table reaching over Bear to do so.

 

“Thanks,” I managed to squeak it out before coughing.

 

Bear was lying on his side watching me, ignoring everything and everyone behind him.

 

Patrick gave me such a disappointed look, “Soup didn’t fix you!” He said it like it was a personal failing on my part.

 

I laughed and coughed, “Oh, Patrick!  The soup is helping me get better because it is something I can eat.  You can’t get better when you are sick without eating.”

 

“But when you are sick,” Harry added, “food doesn’t taste good and you don’t feel hungry.  That soup was definitely made with love.”

 

Max frowned, “Wif chick-hen.”

 

Harry snickered, “That too.  Come on boys! Lets go get breakfast and let Mommy and Bear sleep some more.”