Tessa tiptoed in after midnight, slipping her shoes off at the door and turning on the light switch with the dimmer. The house felt cool, so she hurried down the hallway to turn the thermostat up, giving her arms a vigorous rub to generate some heat. She entered the bedroom slowly and quietly, not wanting to wake up Scott. She placed her purse on the chaise lounge in the corner, allowing her eyes to adjust to the light; it was only a moment later that she noticed that their bed was empty.
Tessa traveled back and walked down the steps to the living room where she found her missing fiancè. He was sound asleep on the couch with a book opened face down resting on his abdomen. She looked at him for a moment or two with a telling fondness, before sliding the palm of her hand against his chest.
"Scott," she called softly.
Scott made an unintelligible sound as his eyes opened slowly. "Hi," he offered finally, blinking a few times. He sat up gradually. "What time is it?”
"00:30." Tessa sat down on the edge of the sofa near him, leaned over and kissed his cheek. "I told you not to wait up for me." She had expressly told him that she would be late tonight and that he shouldn't wait up.
Scott shrugged. "Yeah, well….when has that ever stopped me?”
Tessa smiled at him and he felt that smile everywhere; it flooded him. Her voice was warm. "Come to bed?" She captured his hand in hers and drew him toward her.
They walked a leisurely pace hand in hand toward the bedroom, stopping at intervals to kiss one another as they giggled like two teenagers. Scott spontaneously grabbed her around the waist and gave her a long, slow kiss. Tessa wound her arms around his neck, he brought her closer and was just sliding his hands along the contours of her rib cage when she abruptly pulled away.
“Scott, you're burning up.”
It didn't register through the burgeoning haze of desire. He bent down to kiss her again, but she placed a restraining hand against his chest. Scott stopped.
Tessa touched his temple with the back of her hand.
"You have a fever.”
"I feel fine," Scott assured her. "I'm a little warm, but that's entirely your fault."
He reached for her again, but she slipped past him. Scott did feel pretty tired, although he didn't want to admit it. But his body had been waking up. Definitely waking up, he mused, as he watched Tessa continue her single-minded march to the bedroom.
"Sit down," Tessa ordered as soon as they passed the threshold to their room.
Scott sighed and sat down on the bed while she walked past him.
"It's like sixty degrees in here, you know," called Tessa from the bathroom that adjoined their bedroom.
"Come over here and I'll warm you up," Scott promised.
Tessa emerged from the bathroom holding a thermometer.
"Under your tongue," she ordered, slipping it efficiently in between his lips before he could protest and she disappeared again into the bathroom.
Scott could hear her rustling around. His head ached with a dull but persistent pain and he felt the first twinge of a chill. With a dash of male pride, he squared his shoulders, determined not to give in to the supposed ailment. Scott popped the thermometer out of his mouth in an act of petulant rebellion, giving it a vigorous shake before putting it back between his lips.
When Tessa returned to his side a couple of minutes later he was the picture of innocence. She plucked the thermometer out of his mouth and read it silently.
"You're right," she told him with an exasperated sigh. "You don't have a fever.”
"See?" said Scott triumphantly, patting the space next to him in invitation.
"In fact, you don't even have a temperature!" She brought the thermometer back to his lips. "Now leave it there.”
"I'm not sick," Scott mumbled in between closed lips. He certainly wasn't going to admit it to her, especially not after he'd made such a big fuss about being fine.
“Yes, you are! I know what a fever looks and feels like," she retorted.
"Maybe you should feel me again, just to be sure," he teased.
Tessa wasn't amused. Scott watched her glance at her watch before hastily unbuttoning her blouse and shimmying out of her skirt. And he felt like he was witnessing a Greek tragedy when she pulled on a pair of silk pajamas rather than the short and slinky something that he'd hoped to get her in… and out of tonight.
She pulled the thermometer out of his mouth.
"101.2," she read.
“So… you're going to bed.”
Scott grinned at her. "Well, sweetheart, that was the plan… “
"To sleep. People with fevers need to rest.”
"Maybe your thermometer is wrong, T. That thing is a dinosaur. I think you need to update your equipment.”
"Mercury thermometers are actually quite accurate, even more so than the new digital models.”
But she had already headed back to the bathroom. He listened to her open and close the medicine cabinet and run the water.
"By the time I get back out there, you'd better be in bed," cautioned Tessa.
Scott heaved a long sigh. Clearly, any plans to seduce her had just flown out the window just because some silly microorganism had decided to invade his body. He didn't even feel that bad, a little headache, a little warm, maybe, and somewhat tired. But not that tired. Grumbling to himself, he took off his shirt and climbed into bed.
Tessa emerged from the bathroom a couple of minutes later and handed him a cup of water and two Tylenol. Scott sighed dramatically, purely for her benefit, and took the pills. Tessa walked over to her side of the bed and slipped under the covers before leaning over and turning off the lamp.
"I really don't feel that bad… “
"Mmmmmm, we'll see how you are in the morning." The finality in her voice certainly wasn't promising.
"Spousal neglect" Scott murmured at the ceiling.
Tessa snorted and the sound was followed by her soft laughter. She didn’t bother to correct him by saying he wasn’t her husband… yet.
Scott chuckled right along with her until they were both giggling, completely sharing the humor of the moment. He felt her move and the soft press of her lips against his shoulder.
"Seriously, baby, get some rest.”
"Not exactly having restful thoughts over here.”
"Well, if it's any consolation, I'm not either.”
Scott expelled a frustrated puff of air.
"Not helping, T."
He was quiet for a moment.
“So, uh… just for the record… what thoughts, exactly, are you having? Be specific.”
"Goodnight, Scott," laughed Tessa.
Scott sighed and closed his eyes, giving in at last to the undeniable fact that, despite all of his efforts, he really did feel pretty damned worn out all of a sudden. Sleep came fast.
Somewhere in the middle of the night, he went from being terribly hot to terribly cold, grabbing at the blankets and burrowing under them. In some remote part of his consciousness he realized that the headache was gone, but his entire body seemed like one giant ache. He woke up at a little before 5 AM when the sun was just beginning to make its ascent, before the light had really touched the horizon.
Through heavy eyes, he made out the form of Tessa lying next to him, curled up, oddly enough, in a little ball. He realized, then, that he had snatched all of the blankets and was sweating profusely. He stood up shakily and stumbled over to the closet, leaning up to grab a blanket which he draped over Tessa, kissed her lightly on the hair, before shuffling into the bathroom. He turned the water on and took a lukewarm shower. He dried off and slipped on a fresh pair of boxers and a new t-shirt and padded back into the bedroom.
Tessa was sitting up in bed. "How are you feeling?”
Scott sank ungracefully into bed.
"Lousy. But I think my fever broke. I woke up in a pool of sweat.”
Tessa leaned over and kissed his forehead; her lips lingered as she gauged his temperature.
"You do feel cooler. That's good. But you should stay home and rest today.”
Scott didn't argue.
Since he hadn't fallen back asleep yet, Tessa set him up temporarily on the chaise lounge so that she could change the sheets on the bed. She brought him a couple of slices of toast with a little bit of strawberry jam and a cup of tea. He ate one piece of toast half-heartedly and took the Tylenol that she gave him without complaint.
He was grateful for the cool sheets when Tessa had him re-installed in bed; she also made sure that he had a glass of water and a box of tissues.
"Can I get you anything on the way home from work?" she asked softly. "I'll be home early.”
"My throat hurts," croaked Scott. “Popsicles?"
"Of course." Tessa smiled.
She bent down to kiss Scott goodbye, but he held up a halting hand. Tessa tipped her head to the side, amused.
"Last night you couldn't keep your hands off me and this morning I don't even warrant a kiss?”
"I don't want to give you the plague.”
"You don't have the plague," Tessa scoffed, rolling her eyes.
"Feels like it," moaned Scott miserably.
"Anyway, I don't get sick," explained Tessa as she meticulously and efficiently rearranged his pillows, settling him into a more comfortable position. "And I've already been exposed to whatever you have so…" she shrugged. "I'm not really worried."
She gave him a light kiss.
"I'll let Patrice know you won't be at work today.”
"Take another round of Tylenol at 10:00. Call me if you need anything.”
"Feel better, babe. That's an order." She caressed his shoulder.
“I’ll do my best" answered Scott wearily, as he sunk back into his pillows.
Scott couldn't get comfortable no matter how hard he tried; the congestion in his head made the simple act of breathing a nightmare and he finally gave up trying to go back to sleep. After slipping on his pajamas, he moped down into the living room with his glass of water, a couple of pillows, and a blanket, and bunkered down on the sofa.
He finally got settled and realized that he'd neglected to bring a box of tissues with him so he got back up, despite the aching protests of his weary body. He plodded into the bathroom to grab the box of tissues along with the small wastepaper basket to deposit the used ones.
His throat felt scratchy and swollen while every muscle in his body seemed to ache. Truly, he couldn't remember the last time that he had felt so completely miserable.
He finally fell asleep around ten o' clock, but he woke up soon after, when chills had started up again, burrowing further under his blanket. He remembered Tessa having told him to take more Tylenol at ten, but he couldn't bring himself to leave the warmth of the sofa. Eventually, he fell into a fever-tossed sleep and didn't wake up for another two and a half hours.
It was after noon by then and Scott still felt weak and achy. It was difficult to pull himself out of sleep, but he knew he really did need to get upstairs to take another round of Tylenol. He rose slowly and made his way up to their bedroom, glancing at the clock as he passed by. He was surprised that he hadn't heard from Tessa.
After taking the Tylenol, Scott puttered back downstairs, cell phone in hand, and speed dialed Tessa.
She picked up on the first ring.
"Hi, Scott," said Tessa. "How are you feeling?”
"Okay," rasped Scott.
"Awwww, honey, you don't sound like you feel very good.”
"Not, really," admitted Scott.
"I would have called earlier, but I was afraid I'd wake you. I'm just finishing up here. I'm going to stop at the store on the way home. I'll bring you some lunch and pick up a few things, okay?”
“Okay”, he felt a little dumb to answer her only in monosyllables, but swallowing and talking seemed very difficult actions, considering the state of his burning throat.
"Did you take your Tylenol?”
"Besides the Popsicles, did you think of anything else that you'd like to have?”
He sneezed.. “Nah.”
"Listen, Scott, I'm going to let you go," said Tessa, her voice uncharacteristically rushed. "The sooner I finish up here, the sooner I can get home.”
“Don’t wor-.” he sneezed again.
It was quarter to two when Tessa finally came in, arms full of bundles. She darted around quickly, putting things away and lining up the medicines that she'd picked up for Scott.
"Scott?" she called.
She found him lying on the couch propped up with half the pillows in the house and enmeshed in a cocoon of blankets.
He was watching Scooby Doo. Tessa glanced at the TV and then at him. She smiled.
"In the mood for some spooky merriment?”
"Something like that. It cheers me up." He offered a weak smile.
Tessa leaned over and pressed her mouth to his forehead, her lips lingering there for a few seconds.
"Still a little warm," she frowned.
"I slept through the ten o' clock dose of Tylenol," he confessed.
She could hear the stuffiness in his voice. "I took it when you called.”
Tessa nodded. "I brought you chicken soup for lunch, unless you want something else. I'll make you anything you want.”
"Soup is good.”
"You feel up to eating in the kitchen or shall I bring everything in here?" asked Tessa solicitously as she ran her fingers through his hair.
Scott closed his eyes.
"I'll come in there.”
"Okay….I'll just be a couple of minutes." Tessa smoothed his blanket before disappearing into the kitchen.
After the soup, Tessa gave Scott some medicine to help with the congestion, some throat syrup for his sore throat and a popsicle. She straightened his pillows, made his blanket neater as she covered him up, and managed to get him feeling much more comfortable than he had felt earlier.
She looked lovely in her blue pantsuit with the powder pink blouse underneath, silver bracelets around her thin wrists and the long wavy hair framing her face. Tessa was always so elegant and impeccably put together, a feature Scott sometimes wondered how she managed.
"Come here," said Scott, and he pulled Tessa down onto the sofa beside him. She slipped her shoes off and settled in next to him, resting her head against his shoulder. Scott was quiet for a moment.
"You have to go back to work?”
Tessa shook her head no and he felt the motion against his shoulder. He gave her a gentle squeeze and rested his chin lightly on the top of her head.
"Good," he said softly into her fragrant hair. "You know what I really want?”
Tessa tipped her head up to face him; they were nearly nose to nose.
Scott gazed at her earnestly.
"A nap. With you. How about it? You and me. Upstairs. I have it on good authority that some bed rest with you will hasten my recovery." He stroked her arm, looking into her face.
“I’d like it," she admitted softly, but, at the same time, she hesitated for a moment. A myriad of things that she needed to get done fluttered through her head and then melted away.
"All right… I'll take you up on that nap.”
They spent their afternoon in bed, cozy and comfortable, cell phones off, happily wrapped up and cuddling under the blankets. Tessa woke up first, she was a restless sleeper by nature; she slipped on a pair of leggings and a sweatshirt and headed downstairs, careful not to wake Scott.
Tessa did a couple of loads of laundry, cleaned the kitchen, and looked through some paperwork for a collaboration that she had brought home from work. By that time it was a little after eight. She straightened the living room and rearranged everything away neatly. She glanced at her watch and decided that it was time to head upstairs to check on Scott.
She grabbed his medicines and poured a glass of juice, Scott's favorite, into a glass.
When she arrived upstairs, he was laying on his side, breathing quietly. He still sounded a little congested, but she was glad to see that he had finally gotten some rest. She put the glass on the nightstand next to him.
"Scott," she said softly. She waited a moment. "Scott," she said again.
"Mmmmm." He gave a quiet groan and slowly opened his eyes.
"I hate to wake you," she apologized, "but we should stay ahead of your cold."
She handed him his pills and gave him the glass of juice. Scott sat up halfway and downed the beverage and the medicine. Tessa took the glass and placed it back on the nightstand. She touched his forehead.
"How are you feeling?”
"I think you're just looking for an excuse to feel me again, T.” said Scott roguishly with that little sideways smile of his.
Tessa's eyes sparkled. "Oh, now I know you're feeling better.”
"A little better. But I think I still need extra attention.”
"Mmmm, we'll see.”
"Thanks for taking such good care of me. I mean it. And as soon as I'm back to normal I'll show my appreciation," he flirted.
"Really? That sounds promising.”
Scott loved the fact that he could still make her blush. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close.
Maybe being sick, Scott reflected, wasn't so terrible after all.