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A New Present

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Mornings were the time to spring into action. A new day, new exciting things. Usually. Cabanela was vaguely aware of a voice. He was more aware of the ache in his shoulders and the fire in his throat. A few seconds later the pounding throb of his head joined the litany of his body’s complaints.

With effort he cracked his eyes open to see Jowd looking over the couch at him.

“And that confirms it,” he said. “I haven’t seen you look this bad since the great hangov-“

“Don’t,” Cabanela croaked. Some things did not bear remembering, especially currently and especially things that happened a very long time ago, thank you very much. Jerk.

Jowd gave a low chuckle. The bastard. “I’ll inform the Chief of your absence.”

“Just giiive me a minute.” Cabanela tried to push himself up and sagged back as the room turned gentle circles around him.

“As I said,” Jowd said dryly, “I’ll let the Chief know.”

Cabanela made a muffled grumbling noise before he could actually decide which disparaging remark to make and cast an arm over his eyes. He heard Jowd leave, muffled voices then a click of something on the table. He peered out from under his arm to see a cup on the table.

“We’ll be back this evening,” Jowd said and left the room.

He wasn’t sure if he’d dozed off again after that or not, but he was awake now and possibly feeling even more disgusting, disgusted certainly. He remembered the cup Jowd left and tried to reach out to grab it. Just out of reach, typical.

Or you could use those brilliant deductive skills and sit up. He stared at the cup. The room was still doing its best to spin away. He sunk deeper into his pillow. The act of sitting felt like an obscene amount of effort at this point. It could wait.

He spared a glance toward Sissel who was in his customary spot on the back of the couch. “Dooon’t suppose you could fetch that? Ha,” Cabanela muttered and then wished he hadn’t. It hurt to talk.

Sissel meowed once and seemed to settle in more deeply into the couch. So much for that, but what had he been expecting?

Cabanela shivered, pulled the blanket tighter around himself and tried to fall asleep again cursing whatever brought on this gods forsaken flu. As he drifted off he became vaguely aware of a quiet scraping sound. But his eyes seemed to have become heavy weights and he slipped into sleep before he could investigate.

When he awoke again his throat burned with the added pleasantry of feeling parched. Without thinking he reached out and his fingers closed around the cup. It wasn’t until he drank half the water that he remembered his first attempt. He gave the cup a muzzy look. Had he gotten closer? Was it not as far as it had seemed? A magical moving cup? How convenient. What secrets lay in those cupboards of yours, Jowd? He set the cup down carefully. Something to think about later when it didn’t feel like his skull was trying to compress and cook his brain out.

The house was silent. Nearly. He was alone with no company except for Sissel and his feline companion seemed to have wandered off somewhere. The only sound was the ticking of the clock. He hated it. Clocks always seemed too loud on the rare occasion he was ill as if to remind him of the time being wasted stuck in bed.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

He tried to ignore it.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

He gave it a glare that would have stopped it dead if he had such a power. He waved a hand vaguely.

“If I could I’d stooop you riiight there. A stopped clock that’s your fate. If I couuuld,” he mumbled with all the threatening power of a limp rag.

Technically he could, he thought. There was nothing stopping him, except getting up. And pulling it down. And fumbling with the mechanism… and Alma’s frown and… sigh.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Groan.

Tick. Tick. Tick.

He covered his ears with his pillow.

Tick. Tick. …

Blink. Silence. Real silence. He let the pillow fall back and squinted at the clock. The second hand was stopped. Iiinteresting timing. He stared at it, daring it to resume. It didn’t. Well, good.

He tried to settle into something vaguely approximating comfort. Draw legs up against the ache. Not helpful, too warm and, oh yes, there was the coughing fit. He sagged into a sprawl: not especially helpful either and now too cold. Instead, he cautiously sat up. The room refrained from doing its best impression of a carousel. That was a small plus, a very small plus. His fingers dug into his temples. Painkillers. More water. He swung himself off the couch, swayed, scooped the cup up and staggered into the kitchen. The cup was dropped into the sink for a refill and he stared into the medicine cupboard.

His stomach lurched. No… He took a slow breath, steadied himself against the counter. No, no. Not now, but the sickly feeling was crawling up his throat. He could feel the tight warmth in his face. He clapped one hand over his mouth, cringing at the feel of his own clamminess. He swallowed hard. His knuckles went white against the counter.

Sissel peered up from his corner of the kitchen as Cabanela bolted from the room.

The tub was soothingly cool against Cabanela’s back as he half sat half lay against it, carefully avoiding looking at the toilet. Satisfied that he was done, (he had to be finished, what more was there to give?) he finally shakily pulled himself up. Water was sounding better and better.

The cup still stood in the kitchen sink, but was full. Had he filled it already? He didn’t think so, but maybe he’d done it without thinking. He remembered its apparent move. Hmm.

He fetched and downed a pill and made his way slowly back to the living room. His eye caught on Sissel who was loafing on the heater. So that’s where he’d gone off to. Sissel gave him a slow blink, but otherwise appeared to ignore him. Yet, Cabanela couldn’t shake the feeling he was being watched until he was out of the hall.

He slumped back into the couch. At this point even he had to admit sleeping the wretched day away seemed as good an idea as any. The coughing fits had other plans. He felt the cushions dip. Sissel padded alongside him then to his surprise climbed up onto his chest.

“Since wheeen…?” He’d only ever seen Sissel on Jowd. He was Jowd’s cat. Final. He coughed again expecting that to dislodge the cat. Sissel only curled up, still hot from the heater and settled in. He started to purr.

Strange cup things. Stopped clock. Perpetually weird cat and a brain too addled to give it proper thought. Add it all to the think-about-later list. Sissel’s warmth and purr lulled him into sleep.

When Jowd returned he was only a little surprised to find Cabanela sound asleep. He had half expected him to be stubbornly up, or less likely, already feeling some improvement. He was more surprised to find Sissel curled up on his chest. He crept over and lightly brushed his hand over Sissel’s fur.

“You’ve gone cold,” he whispered.

Sissel’s ears pricked. He rose carefully and with a bob of his head at Jowd gently hopped off and trotted away.

Cabanela’s eyes fluttered open and he stared at Jowd sleepily.

“Good evening,” Jowd said. “How are you feeling?”

A disgusted sound in reply followed by a glance down at where Sissel had been. He looked thoughtful in a dazed sort of way then looked back at Jowd. “Your cat’s weeeird,” he said.

Jowd could only chuckle. “Aren’t they all?”

As he left the room, after making sure Cabanela had anything he needed, he wondered what the odds were that Cabanela had been too sick to pay much heed to any weirdness Sissel may have caused. Not good in all likelihood. He made a note to talk to Sissel about anything he might have to explain away.