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They were always feeding him, or that’s the impression Malcolm got. Although it was true that he barely ate, was that really that important? But people worried, of course they did, because they never saw him eat and every day he seemed to be thinner, more “slender” as the kind doctor put it. So the people around him worried and they used any excuse to get him food, make him eat.

 

Like Gil. He used to bring him all types of food, beautifully cooked, beautifully seasoned, and made him eat it with the pretext that “you absolutely have to try this, you’ll love it.” or “Jackie and I made it especially for you, it would be rude not to try, at least.” And with that pretext the older cop would watch him eat and it would lessen a bit of his worry. But not for long.

 

More often than not, just some minutes later Gil heard Malcolm emptying the contents of his stomach, and looking even worse, pale and teary eyed from effort. Which undid all the good he’d been trying to do and made him even more worried than he’d been before.

 

He had been keeping tabs of what Malcolm could eat and what was a bad idea, but ever since he’d started seeing his dad again everything was a bad idea. And Gil felt awful because it was him in a way who had put him in the way of his father, back to the midst of the surgeon’s murders. And Malcolm was a fragile creature, very easily frayed and destabilised, and Gil should have known better....

 

That boy was practically family, and it was his responsibility, in a way, to see to his well being. So, if he wouldn’t eat anything... Strenuous, something simple would have to do.

 

“There you go. Plain rice, chicken breast, crackers and soda. Not even your extra delicate stomach will be able to complain at that.”

 

“I.... Thank you, I guess? It’s a bit of a kiddie meal, but...”

 

“Let’s dig in, then.”

 

“Now?”

 

“I want to make sure that you actually eat the food and it doesn’t get abandoned and forgotten in some shelf. Dig in, I said. I got a burrito for myself.”

 

Malcolm sighed. The intentions were good, sure, but...

 

“I’m not hungry.”

 

“You never are. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat.”

 

Malcolm made a sad face.

 

“Do not try and use those huge puppy eyes against me. I know better better than that. Eat your rice.”

 

And a kiddie meal it might have been, but even with no hunger, it tasted delicious.

 

*

 

Ainsley was a bit more subtle in her efforts. Her journalist ways had taught to make your mark say whatever you wanted to say, to corner people so they would have to reveal their secrets or at least reveal that whatever it was was a secret, she had a way... A way to make you do whatever she wanted, without exactly making you realise that you were doing it. She would have been a good cop, too.

 

When she met Malcolm she often did it by a coffee cart, in a coffee shop, by a food truck. And she had always arrived there earlier (even if with other people she was often late) and she had always ordered before hand. “I remembered how much you like cinnamon buns”. “this sandwich looked too good so I ordered for both”, “we have to try this overhyped dish, even if it’s just to know how to criticise it, right?” and there was no room for discussion there. She made the choice for you and you kind of... went with it.

 

Sometimes Malcolm had resisted her journalistic ways and complained, but soon enough they were talking about something else and he was eating the damn thing because it really would be a pity to let it go to waste, don’t be like that.

 

And when all of that didn’t work, came the last and most deadliest of ways. The one that was impossible to escape, the h bomb of tactics.

 

“Please, do it for me?”

 

She went there and he always complied because she was very busy and when she made time for him he should probably just give her this one small thing....

 

“You’re a bad person and an even worse sister.” He said, giving her a nice dose of side eye but still biting into the damn cinnamon bun.

 

“Eat your bun.”

 

And he did.

 

For her.

 

*

 

The world tasted like bile and he was swaying.

 

The entire world seemed to be tilting and every time he got up or moved around, it got worse. Hell, sometimes even when he was sitting the room where he was started spinning around him. He thought he could handle it like he handled everything else, but the last couple of days he’d been barely able to stand. Couldn’t focus on anything, could barely follow the storyline of cartoons.

 

There had been some sort of stomach flu going around the station, and of course he’d got it, and of course it had affected him intensely since he had no fuel and barely any immune system left, as it had been fairly damaged by the myriads of meds he’d been taking throughout all of his adult life and most of childhood too. The fact that he didn’t sleep probably didn’t help. And the fact that he barely ate.

 

As it was of right now, he hadn’t eaten in two days, after spending a whole day and a whole night puking bile and dry heaving, and had no intention of a repeat. So he just stayed there, getting dizzier and dizzier as the hours went by terribly slowly. He couldn’t sleep and it was hard to read (the letters kept swimming in front of his eyes) so everything was... Slow. Eternal and timeless at the same time.

 

He knew he probably should be doing something to get better, but... If Gil or his mum found out they would probably take him to the hospital put him on one of those saline IVs and look at him with concerned eyes and say that they would need to keep an eye on him and put their lives on hold just because he got the stomach flu. No, sir. He’d just told everyone he was taking a couple of days off to try and catch on some sleep, so no one was supposed to call to avoid waking him up from his precious and much needed rest.

 

That’s why the sound of the buzzer nearly gave him a heart attack.

 

She knew that he wasn’t sleeping, and she knew that he had probably caught the bug that was going around. Bright seemed to be the type of guy who got every illness known to man, especially when it was floating in the air. He was taking these days off to retch in peace and was probably too sick to look after himself properly.

 

So Dani showed up there, unannounced, with some of her best “I’m sick” dishes. Home made and specially made. Maybe she was getting a bit attached to this guy...

 

“What....?”

 

Bright opened the door, pale as death, wearing on a white and boxers. And a nice blanket on his shoulders, of course.

 

“Are you going to let me in?”

 

Bright got quickly got away from the door (and then had to hold it for support) and let his co-worker in. What was she doing there?

 

“Did something happen?”

 

Dani’s pleasantly cool hand was suddenly in his forehead, and she was shaking her head and tsk-ing and muttering something about “burning up” and “..knew it was bad”.

 

“I knew you were sick. People were saying that you were finally trying to sleep properly but I knew it wasn’t that. And that you were just trying to avoid Arroyo’s clingy love and care by saying otherwise.”

 

Malcolm opened and closed his mouth. She wasn’t wrong. It still didn’t explain why she was there.

 

“But, since I figured you’d be probably too ill to eat anything but you really needs some fucking fluids in you if you want to get better, so: veggie soup, orange juice, sugar water.”

 

Bright’s eyes were quizzical-

 

“Ok, so I know the typical thing is chicken soup, but I thought, why live in this dictatorship of chicken? Sometimes when you’re sick you have eat soup for days in a row and you should be allowed to taste something other than chicken. I get that when you’re as bad as you, even the tiniest bit of carrot can make your stomach turn - but my veggie soup has all the benefits for vegetables and no bits.”

 

Malcolm was grateful. Not just for the soup or benefits, but for the distraction.

 

“Isn’t orange juice for colds?”

 

“Orange juice is good for you in general. It’s got vitamins and it’s very fucking delicious.”

 

“And the sugar water?”

 

“In case everything else fails. Waters gives you fluid, sugar gives you energy that doesn’t need to be broken down. Fuel for your head so that you don’t collapse entirely.”

 

“So knowledgeable. And thoughtful.”

 

“I get that you are not going to be able to eat and I get that you don’t want to tell Gil... He’s known since you were a kid, he’s probably too overbearing, yeah? That still doesn’t mean you should be alone to weather all this alone.”

 

She took a spoon (how did she know where it was?) and the bowl of soup and motioned to the sofa.

 

“Let’s watch something meaningless, ok, Bright? Maybe if your body doesn’t realise it’ eating it won’t expel everything like a fucking fountain.”

 

He smiled, despite the very graphic joke. They sat on the couch and the tv was turned on.

 

“What’s this?”

 

“British game show.”

 

Dani looked at him with one of those frowns.

 

“Why are you so weird?”

 

“Why are you so strong? It’s our experiences that define us.”

 

She scoffed.

 

“You’re an obnoxious know-it-all, but I still like you. Eat your soup.”

 

He ended up having a good half of the soup and nearly all the juice.

 

Dani kept quiet... But occasionally sent him links to juice places.

 

“Energy. Delicious. All the good things.”

 

A very short message, and yet very touching.

 

*

 

He gives back as much as he can.

 

Gil often finds burritos with his name when he comes back from a call.

 

There are cupcakes delivered to Ainsley’s office on a weekly basis.

 

No one dares make fun of all those jumbo juices Dani’s always sipping.

 

But they all say the same thing: thank you for caring, I’ll eat what I can.

 

For you.