Author’s Note: So I am lying down because I feel rather awful myself at the moment. I had already been thinking of using these scenes for Tuesday truffles, but they seem even more fitting now.
Vred shook his head, trying to push his way up despite the nausea that would keep him where he was. He had too much to do to allow this illness to stop him. Three hundred eighty-eight. No, more, he corrected himself, since he had somehow acquired three more when he joined up with the Kallas family.
“I have to.”
“No,” Malina said, forcing him back when his coughing disabled him. “You are sick, and you are staying where you are. You know that you need rest, too.”
She laughed, humming to herself as she drew up the blanket over him, tucking him in, something no one had ever done to him before, not even his mother. She had been about making him strong, and strength did not come from lying in bed. “Yes, you can. In fact, what you can’t do is use your ability. Not when you’re sick.”
He did not want to think about that. He could not afford sickness. He was not going to stay in bed. “I have work. I can work without my ability—”
“You can,” she conceded. “Yet you do not have to. Even though you’re sick, I can use your ability. I am a mirror, remember? I don’t take on the physical when I borrow anyone. I can use you just fine.”
He frowned, not liking her terminology. “You are not—”
“I look, I assess, and if there is anything, Alik handles it. You’re fine. They’re safe. Now get some rest,” Malina insisted, adjusting his blanket again. She hesitated and then leaned down to kiss his forehead.
Vred stared at her, noting the slight flush before she shut off the lamp beside the bed.
“It’s not nighttime.”
“It is for you. Get some rest.”
“I have something for you, Freckles.”
Felise groaned, trying to pull the covers over her head. She did not know what had cursed her with Enadar Kallas as her primary caregiver while the flu swept through them—and she didn’t know what it was that made Revente genes that much weaker to this particular strain, but while the Kallases seemed almost immune to this flu, she knew that she and her cousins had gone down hard with the full thing—fever, aches, chills, nausea—and she could not get herself out of bed.
“Mom swore by this, and Malina assured me that this is her recipe. Not everything works the way it did when she was alive, though. Something always seems to be missing, and Malina says it is Mom’s special touch—but Malina should have that, so I don’t know why it doesn’t work.”
Felise looked over at him. “Stop talking. You are more annoying than usual when I’m sick.”
He smiled at her. “Normally, I’d take that as an advantage to exploit, but I told you—truce until you’re better.”
“Who are you, and what did you do with Enadar?”
He laughed, sitting down beside her and holding out a mug. “The patented Kallas Kure for all things flu and cold. And Alik overloading himself.”
She studied the cup suspiciously. “What’s in it?”
“Honey, lemon, cinnamon, clove,” Enadar continued to rattle off ingredients enough to make her think he’d made more than half of them up when he started talking. “And, of course, love.”
Enadar grimaced. “Well, that was Mom’s special ingredient. Or so she used to say. It’s not as effective if it’s not made with love and given with love and…”
“And a kiss after every sip,” he said, turning bright red. “Not that I’d do that to you. I wouldn’t. It’s—I—I’m going to leave now.”
He shoved the cup at her, and Felise looked down at it with a slight smile. Made with love, huh? It could be worth trying.
“You look exhausted.”
“I thought I would say that to you,” Alik said, giving the princess a look out of the corner of his eye. She was on the mend, finally, which would be a relief. He had almost been willing to believe that this flu was some kind of side project of Harking’s or the Watch, taking down people with abilities—well, Reventes, mostly—the way it had. “Though you are improving.”
“Vred has a thankless job,” Alik said, unable to summon a smile. He did not think that anyone realized how badly overworked the tracker was or how much could have fallen apart the moment he went down with that flu.
“Which you took up for him?”
“You could say that keeping his people protected suits my interest as it protects mine as well,” Alik answered, rubbing his neck. He closed his eyes, telling himself he was not coming down with the flu. If he did, the floodwaters would break loose, and everything they’d done so far would be undone.
“That’s not why you did it, though.”
“You’re still sick,” he said, aware that she would not have been that bold if she was able to think clearly. He almost liked it. “And no, it’s not, but if anyone asks, it is. You should be resting.”
“So should you.” She flushed. “I just… This is the first time I’ve felt able to be out of bed in days, and I don’t want to go back there. Malina’s exhausting herself taking care of all of us, and I don’t want to be a burden.”
That was so typical of the princess. “She knows you’d do the same for her. Go to sleep. Malina will take her own rest when she can.”
He had been running on pure energy for half a week, and it wouldn’t last, but the crises were abated for the moment, and he would crawl into his own bed for a bit until Malina woke him with something else to handle. “I guess it’s bedtime for both of us, princess.”
“I thought you weren’t going to call me that anymore.”
He smiled, pushing her toward her room. “Tonight it fits. Your turn to go play the role of Sleeping Beauty.”