Bryce woke up knowing the day would be terrible. Pain stabbed through her skull and fogged her brain. She felt cold but knew her skin would be hot to the touch. Every little noise sent shards of glass through her ear that ripped and tore until all she wanted to do was curl into a ball and weep.
She had an ear infection.
A common condition that put could put most faeries out for days. Even a half-breed like her. Fae ears were sensitive on an average day, like delicate instruments, they picked up the slightest sounds and caught the most obscure melodies. They also required a lot of care. Tiny pains that would only pose a sight nuisance to most creatures could send a fae soldier to their knees.
Bryce had only suffered through this a couple of times in her life. Once when she was a baby and her mother had just met Randall. When Ember couldn't console her crying baby and was nearly in tears from exhaustion, Randall, who was their guardian escort at the time, came over and massaged the inside of baby Bryce's ears. A trick he'd learned in Pangera to soothe fae children whose sensitive ears were left ringing from the explosives.
It had put Bryce right to sleep, and Randall still bragged to the present day.
Bryce wished he was here now as she smothered her head under her pillow to block out the hum of the firstlights.
Pain. A consistent throb through her whole skull.
"Bryce, are you awake?" Hunt knocked on her door.
Knocking. Boom. Boom. Boom. Her eyes watered, and tears poured down her face.
"Bryce?" The door creaked open. She'd put off oiling the hinges. Squeel, Squeak, Scratch.
She sobs quietly.
A feather-soft touch brushes against her cheek. "Tell me what's wrong, Sweetheart."
His warm voice that usually sends chills down her spine makes her body quake in pain. Bryce doesn't dare reach up to touch them for fear they may suddenly erupt. Hunt notices her flinch. His eyes crawl up to the source of the problem.
"My ears," she mouthes to him.
Hunt's eyes shine with sympathy. He picks up Bryce's phone from her bedside table and shines a light down into them.
Frowning at what he sees, he makes his way out of the room with all the quietness of Umbra Mortis. When he comes back, he has a long, heating compress in his hands. Once that she used to wrap around her thigh on bad days.
Gently guiding her into a sitting position, Hunt squeezes himself behind her so that her back is flush to his chest. He takes the heating compress and lays it across his chest, then carefully positions her head, so one ear lays against it.
A scarred hand appears and slips a tablet between her soft lips, followed by a cold drink of water. She can feel Hunt humming some kind of melody, soft enough not to bother her fragile hearing. The rhythm is soft and soothing, making Bryce's eyes droop in content.
A warm finger massages the ear that faces away from him, helping release the pressure building up inside it. Relief wells up in Bryce so strongly that a breathy sigh escapes her lips. Soon, she is blissfully asleep in a cocoon of soft velvet feathers.
When she awakes, its late in the afternoon, the fading sunlight forming an orangeish warm pool on the floor. Bryce nestles her head against the hard pillow of Hunt's chest. Cracking her eyes, she sees a pair of shoes that are not his at her bedside.
"Ruhn?" Bryce's voice is barely a whisper to keep from agitating her own ears.
He looks a little too smug at their position and waves a small dropper and bottle in her face. "Hunt texted me that you would need this," Rhun matched her volume, keeping his voice soft. "Also, I fed Syrinx. You're welcome. He was nearly about to break in here and bite your ass."
Bryce laughed, then winced at the pressure throbbing in her ears. The motion causes Hunt to stir beneath her.
Rhun looks at her in sympathy. "Come on. I'll help you put the drops in."
Careful to not wake Hunt, Rhun grabs her under the arms and moves her to the foot of the bed. Tilting her head, Bryce allows him to drip the correct number of droplets in each ear.
The relief is swift as the throbbing subsides to a dull ache. "That's some powerful stuff."
A shift of the bed, Hunt's eyes open, and he quickly takes in her state and the number of people in the room. "I'm sorry, Sweetheart. I meant to wake you before Ruhn got here, but I dozed off."
He sits up and gathers her in his arms once more. Bryce is more than content to comply, his warm body like a drug to her too cold skin.
Hunt lets her nuzzle her face into his neck as he gives Ruhn a territorial look over the top of her head. "You can go now."
"I just got here," her brother complains, brows furrowed in annoyance.
Hunt leans back with Bryce, combing a hand through her wine-colored hair. "You could have just called up and given me the drops downstairs, but you showed yourself inside. Well, you've given me the medicine, and now you've overstayed your welcome. Your sister is very sick. Not fit for company."
Bryce could swear the testosterone was flying in the air like sparks as they got in a silent pissing contest with one another.
Grumbling, Ruhn finally concedes and bids her goodbye. Cursing out Hunt for his lack of appreciation as he shows himself out the door.
"There. All better. Now we can watch Lunathion Lover's Lockdown without judgment. It's a new episode." She looks up at Hunt to find him mischievously grinning down at her. "We can make popcorn."
"Popcorn and Trash TV?" Bryce murmurs. "You really know how to make a girl feel better."
Hunt moved her to the couch and buries her in a mound of blankets. After coffee, popcorn, and several hours of mind-numbing reality shows (albeit at a barely audible volume), Bryce felt leagues better.
Later on, after Hunt had gone to take a shower, she opened her messages to see Ruhn had texted to check on her. Juniper had dm-ed her and offered to bring by food by for both of them. And she had missed calls from her mother that Bryce decided she would get back to later.
Bryce's heart swelled. It had been a long time since she felt so loved. Many things had changed, and just maybe, they were finally for the better.