Everyone says it. No matter where you are in the world, everyone says it: There are no worse patients than doctors.
Zoe's never wanted to believe that about herself, because, really, what doctor does, but it's not that she's a bad patient; it's just that she hates being sick. It goes against everything about herself that she loves. Mostly she hates the idea the she's not able to take care of herself.
When she was little it was different. She still hated getting sick, because it meant being at home all day with only her mom and the nanny for company, but it would also mean she was her daddy's special little patient. Her mother wasn't great at the whole nurturing thing, but her dad was great at the doctor thing and he would let her play with his extra stethoscope as he checked her over for whatever alignment she had.
That stopped after the accident. She hadn't understood why at the time.
Hindsight, like they say, is 20/20.
The first time she got sick after and she went to her father like she always had done since she could remember, wanting his cool hands to brush over her face as he would take out his little medical bag to check her over, was also the first time he pushed her away. Looking back, it started before that in smaller and less obvious ways, but when he stopped being a doctor even to her, being her special Dr. Dad, was when she first understood that things weren't the same as before.
She remembers what he said that day when she told him she didn't feel well. He had looked at her, over his newspaper, his large hands folding it into his lap and frowned. He rested one hand on her forehead and his frown deepened.
"Looks like you caught the flu that's been going around. Tell your mother to take you to the doctor, I can't deal with this today," was all he said before tucking his newspaper into the fold of his elbow and walking away. That first rebuff had hurt her more than the flu shot she would get later and for the first time in her life her father stopped trying to care of her. So she started to take care of herself.
Rolling over and groaning, Zoe presses her pillow over her head as the sun is hell bent on shining too brightly through her window. She figures if she tries hard enough she could find a way to blame her dad and that first rebuff on how she landed herself in Bluebell, but right now her head is pounding at the mere thought of dealing all of that.
Damn those Person boys. She just had to go and insist on taking them off Brick's hands the other days when they all came in with runny noses and sniffles. Of course it wasn't just the Person boys, but the whole town. Flu season in Bluebell had hit everyone hard and fast and when she and Brick weren't up to the noses with flu shots and giving out antibiotics they were doing on the spot house calls at the Rammer Jammer or the town square. It sucked. Bluebell sucked. And those damn antibiotics sucked because her head still felt as big as a balloon at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Stupid, stupid flu season.
And stupid, stupid sun hitting her face.
With a whine she would never do in front of others, Zoe turns on the bed.
It takes more force and effort than she wants to admit to get up and as soon as she does she regrets it because everything feels sore. All her muscles are tense and bunched up under her skin. The headache has moved from her temple and spread down her whole body, but she makes herself get up and move to the couch where sun doesn't shine too hard across the room. Vaguely she hears her phone beep, whether with a message or a missed called she doesn't know and doesn't care. It's Sunday after all, so she ignores the beeping, opting to pop three Nighttime Advils into her mouth washing them down with what might be day old orange juice. Again, she doesn't care. All she wants is a little more sleep.
The couch is surprisingly comfy to her today and she pulls down the extra blanket Wade used that one time and closes her eyes. She just needs is a little nap and she'll be as good as new.
"Hey, Wade, you seen Zoe?"
"Nope, hasn't even come by the Rammer Jammer for her daily girly talk with Shelly."
"Come to think of it, didn't even hear her bitch about the fuse box going out last night. Why? Something wrong?"
"Hm, no. No, just, thought I'd take her to brunch since she's been having a rough week with the flu and everything going round." — "Right, yeah, yeah. Told her it gets crazy." — "Girl deserves some pampering and pancakes, and Lavon Hayes can pamper with the best of them."
"Right, okay. You might want rethink that one unless you're thinking of advertising for adult diapers."
"Yeah, I heard it. You haven't seen her though?"
"Not all day. You think something's wrong?"
"Probably overslept. Just gonna go check on her."
"Shelly?! Watch the bar for me?"
"Zoe? Zo? You in here?"
It's fuzzy and far away, but she hears someone calling at her and for a second she thinks it's her mom. She's dreaming of when she was little.
"Go away, mom."
Someone's footsteps are shuffling around and then she hears a worried voice.
"Girl, you're burning up."
That deep voice sure as hell isn't her mother's and those hands are too large and warm to be her mother's delicate hands. She opens her eyes. Heavy as her lids feel it's a bit of an effort, but when she manages her vision is filled with Lavon's frowny face and she thinks she can smell his cologne from how close he is kneeling by her, but her nose is too clogged up.
"You missed brunch." His smile is toothpaste perfect and too bright for her. She groans and falls back on the couch, curls herself into a little ball. She hears his awww, baby girl before he calls Wade in and at the sound of Wade slamming her screen door shut, his boots crossing the room much faster than Lavon's footsteps did. She groans again.
"She okay?" Wade's voice filters in and maybe it's the flu taking but for once his accent just kinda relaxes her a bit. Like she's maybe even growing fond of it and part of her likes that he's here too.
Yeah, it has to be the flu talking.
Zoe makes herself look up from her position on the couch and scowls at him.
"What do you think?" She coughs violently between words.
"Oh, she looks just fine, Lavon." Wade drawls, grinning, but his eyes are doing that thing they do when they get worried. "Just look at that little vein that pops up when she's mad at me. So cute."
Lavon glares at him. Zoe decides she loves Lavon. He's her best friend. It's official now.
"Wade, now, don't be mean and help me get her to the house. I'm gonna call Brick and—"
"No!" Zoe jumps up from the couch and immediately regrets everything in life because her head is killing her, the room is spinning slightly, and she just remembered she's only in bikini briefs and an old tank top since she was too hot last night to sleep in her pyjamas.
Lavon and Wade stare at her. The room spins a little bit more.
"No, don't call Brick! You can't let him know I'm sick. He'll use it against me!" Her voice is coming out in a bit of a scratchy whine, she knows, but she doesn't care. They can't let the enemy know about her weakness! And yep, that's the room, the boys, and her lamp, all spinning around in front of her.
She feels the room sway more than herself and then Wade's arm is around her waist, his hand at her forehead — and really how did the hand on the forehead become a medical thing, she wonders. Everyone uses it, it must have started somewhere. She should find out. It'd be a doctory thing to do. — checking over her. His eyes are definitely doing the worried thing now. One thing she'll say about Wade: he's a solid guy to have around. Literally, solid. He's all muscle and bone and very nice to rest against. Zoe presses her head against his collarbone in an effort to make the spinning stop a little.
"No Brick," she mumbles.
"Zoe, girl," Lavon starts, but Wade cuts in.
"Let's just call Addie and see what they've been giving out this week. If she gets worse we'll call Brick."
"Good. I-dea. Let's do that," Zoe nods against Wade's chest and pokes at him. He shifts and cradles her head.
Her eyes are closed but she tell without even looking the boys having a Bro Moment at her expense. They do that, she's noticed, and she would scowl at them, but the skin on her face hurts. Plus, they're taking care of her so they get a pass today.
Lavon's hand brushes over her shoulder. "Okay, I'll call."
Zoe hears him call Addie and tell Wade to take her up to the house.
"Let's put her in the guest room near mine. That way she's not alone out here."
Zoe starts to point out she's never alone in the carriage house because she has Wade in shouting distance and he would stay if she asked, but she can't, won't, ask, and shouting hurts her throat right now so she doesn't. She's also seen Lavon’s guest rooms, and they are pretty rooms — his pillows look nice and soft — and they have those big drapes to shut out the sun like the Four Seasons does back in New York. That's the last thought she has before she feels herself being picked up and her nose finds itself pressed against Wade's neck. He smells like Rammer Jammer, beer, and their little pond. She sighs and mumbles what she thinks is a thanks.
Zoe would never admit it, and she's a little too dopey and flu ridden right now to even accept the thought, but she's missed having someone take care of her. She's always hated being sick.
"How's she doing?"
"Passed out before we were even out of the carriage house."
"Sleep's good, I guess. Addie said she'll be by in few minutes with what Zoe should be taking. Told me to make to she gets a lot rest, fluids, and to make her eat when she wakes up. She also said she'd bring by some soup for Zoe."
"Sound good, like you got everything covered."
"Lavon Hayes is always prepared."
"Uh huh. So, want me to keep you company while you play nurse?"
"You know you don't need to find an excuse to help me take care of her."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"You forget, Lavon Hayes knows all."
"Whatever… Can you believe she was just gonna hole herself up in the house and not tell anybody she was sick?"
"Yeah, I can."
"Me too. Me too."
Someone's shaking her gently, telling her to wake up.
Zoe doesn't want to. Her head is thick and every inch of her skin presses against her muscles too tightly and she’s too warm. Her nose feels full and she can't breathe out of it right.
"Come on, Zo, don't be a baby." Lavon says, his hand over her shoulder, brushing her hair back from her neck and face.
"I'm not a baby," Zoe mumbles, eyes still closed. Then she sneezes violently, repeatedly, and that wakes her up. Holy hell, does it wake her up. She feels as if her lungs are trying to escape via her nose.
Lavon's lips are pressed together like he's trying not to smile and she glares at him.
"You sound like a baby panda when you sneeze, you know."
"I hate you."
He laughs, "Pshaw! Nobody hates Lavon Hayes. Now it's time to take your medicine."
In his hand he has a couple of pills she recognises as the same she's been giving prescriptions for this last week. Then she notices the orange juice and a thermometer on the bedside table. Zoe can't help but feel touched that he's making sure she's okay. She would have been okay back at the carriage house too, but it's nice not to worry about things like pills and temperatures for once. It's not that she can't doctor herself and be perfectly fine, but being doctored is nice too.
"Fine," she sighs, shifting up on the bed and leans against the headboard.
Wade walks in just as she settles. He's holding a tray and he blinks a couple times when he sees her up. Zoe fights the urge to smooth down her hair because she's pretty sure it must be a mess. Then again it's Wade and he's seen her at her worst. She still shoves her hair back but not obviously. Just so it's out of her face.
"Hey, there, sleepy head," Wade smiles. He walks over and sets down the tray by the orange juice.
Zoe doesn't answer right away. Taking the pills from Lavon's hand she pops them in her mouth, reaches over to pick up the juice just as Lavon hands it to her, and takes a sip. Swallows. Her mouth feels less gross than it did before, thank god. Wade and Lavon stare at her the whole time and she almost rolls her eyes. Worry-worts.
She points on the tray. "That for me?"
Wade and Lavon share a look.
"Yeah, Addie brought it by. Chicken soup." Wade says. Moving on the bed she peeks at the soup pretending not to see the look Lavon gives Wade.
Chicken soup is her favourite. Makes her think back to when she was little. Zoe inhales but her sinuses are still too stuffed up and it makes her cough. Her cough makes her chest ache, and that ache travels across her torso and back. Suddenly all she wants to do is lie down again, so she does. She's freezing. Pulling the comforter to her chin, she curls into herself.
"Zoe, you okay?"
Wade and Lavon jump up like mother hens at her coughs and shivering. Zoe wants to explain to them that it's her body fighting the cold, that her fever is probably looking to break and she just has to keep warm and hydrated, but the look in their faces makes her pause.
Lavon starts for the door saying something about more blankets that has her smiling.
"Here," Wade immediately hands her an old sweater. It's brown and definitely not one of hers. A man's sweater. She figures it's one of Lavon's and thanks Wade as she quickly slips it on, pulling the comforter back up. She's warmer, but still cold. Every medical bone in her body tells her exactly what's happening with her body. She settles under the covers and laughs to herself at these two men.
"You two are worse than every mother I've seen all week."
Wade rubs at his neck. "Yeah, well, somebody's gotta watch for you, doc. Or you'd still be sleeping on you couch and I for one can tell you that is not a comfortable place to sleep."
Zoe sticks her tongue at him. "The sun was too bright."
"Ah, well now, of course now it makes perfect sense." He says in that way of his that makes her feel all flushed and uncomfortable, like he's both flirting and teasing her. At least today she can blame the flush on her cheeks on the flu.
Lavon walks back in then, his arms full of blankets. "Now, now, don't be harassing our patient, Wade."
"Wouldn't dream of it."
"Help me out here," Lavon drops the blankets on the foot of the bed and shakes one of them out. He hands one side to Wade. They unfolded it between them, snipping at each other when the it gets twisted at one point, before straightening it out. Zoe watches as they drape it over her with overwhelming affection for both of them.
She smiles, and coughs. "Thanks, guys."
"Not a problem, darling, can't have my favourite tenant sick on my watch." Lavon winks, tucking the blankets in at the end.
"Hey! I thought I was your favourite," Wade exclaims, insulted, but Lavon gives him a what you gonna do shrug and she preens at Wade with her own sniffle and smile. Wade rolls his eyes, turning to her. "If you two have stopped ganging up on me we should let you get some rest and you should try to eat some soup." He steps forward and lifts his hand like he's going to touch her face, maybe brush his fingers through her hair, but as their eyes meet he aborts the move, shoving his hand in his pocket. Zoe licks her lips and nods, eyes drifting to the tray.
"It's Addie's soup. I just warmed it up some."
She looks back at Wade, catching his eyes for a second again, "Right, Addie. I'll call her tomorrow with thanks."
"Eat and get some rest, Zo. Nurse’s orders." Lavon's voice breaks in and she forces up a smile for him.
"Of course. Every good doctor listens to their nurses."
They leave her alone then with her many blankets, her chicken soup, a little stack of crackers and some apples cut up next it, and her juice. She only manages to eat a quarter of the soup, a couple crackers and one apple slice before she's feeling full and sleepy again. Zoe snuggles down, pulling the sweater tighter around her and as she falls asleep she realises it doesn't smell like Lavon's cologne's at all, but the Rammer Jammer and the pond.
"Addie made her vegetable soup."
"Oh did she?"
"You know she did."
"Well, everyone knows chicken soup is better when you're sick than whatever vegetable medley that was. Just added a little extra to it."
A low buzz of noise that starts filtering through her senses is what slowly brings her back to the world. The first thing she senses is the softness of the surface she's on and how warm she is. Zoe shifts impatiently under the covers, shoving the thick comforter covering her down her torso so it pools over her hips. Her face is half buried into a pillow and blinking, she remembers where she is.
She was having a dream about the Four Seasons brunch and Lavon was her nurse. She was a surgeon and someone was kissing her neck with a thick southern accent that she's liking more each day.
But that's wasn't real and even with the dream heavy in her mind she knows her reality like she knows her way around an operation room. That is to say, perfectly. Lavon's guest room isn't bathed in light like it normally is with the curtains flung open. It's softly lit and cozy, curtains closed, and she lets herself relax just where she is, comfortable and sore, before she moves again. That's when she remembers the fuzzy details of the day and flushes at the thought of Wade and Lavon finding her sick and loopy on her couch and having to take care of her.
Lifting her head slightly, she looks around the room and for the first time she notices she's not alone.
In one of the big armchairs in the room, Wade's sitting, or is it sleeping, as the tv that she never noticed before, probably because it was hidden in a fake wardrobe, is playing some sports show on very low volume. At least now she knows what the buzzing noise was. Yawning, she wraps her arms around herself, the sweater soft against her skin. Zoe pushes herself out of the bed. As her toes hit the floor Wade moves in his chair and looks over to her.
Zoe's glad for the low lights because she's sure she's blushing. Remembers that she's pretty much only wearing a sweater she's increasingly sure is his, a thin tank-top, and her underwear.
"Hey," she whispers. Mostly because her voice is still scratchy but also because it feels like it's late.
"Hey," he whispers back, voice low and soft in the dark. Zoe tugs on the hem of the sweater.
"What time is it?"
Wade stretches in his chair and while Zoe has had the distinct pleasure of knowing just how those arms feel in various situations, there's something to be said about seeing the muscles in them bunch and shift under Wade's skin just now. The television's soft light on his lines and curves is better than any professional photographer could manage. He sits up in the chair and looks behind her. She follows his look, swallowing hard at her thoughts--stupid flu.
The bright green numbers on the room's alarm clock shine dimly in the dark.
"Two am, damn, must have fallen asleep." He says.
Zoe smiles. "Yeah, I know the feeling."
"Slept like the dead all day." He stands, more fluidly than she expected from him, and something in Zoe's stomach jumps. "There's your medicine by the bed there. I'll just you leave you to it and head off."
Looking between the table where she can just make out the medicine bottle and where Wade's moving towards the door, Zoe swallows. Her throat is starting to protest, feeling raw, seeking something to soothe it.
"Wait!" Her voice cracks, still raw, and her throat follows through with its protests with a small pitch of coughs, but Wade stops.
"You need anything?"
Zoe's not sure quite what her answer is, but her mouth has other ideas. "Mind staying? I just…" She sighs, "I hate being sick, but I hate being alone when I'm sick more."
She hears Wade's heavy breath from across the room and she knows that she's inching too close to the line she's drawn for both of them. Wade's not stupid and neither is she and they both know exactly just where their little flirtation could go if she let it go that way, but she drew a line and he's been respecting it in his own sometimes obnoxious way. Asking this of him is selfish and maybe a little manipulative, but his sweater is warm and she likes his company. Nobody's taken her care of her when she's gotten sick in a long time, but today he and Lavon did, and they didn’t even have too. She’s a doctor, after all. And she knows she loves Lavon, who's adopted her into his family, but Wade. It's more complicated with him and asking him to stay doesn't uncomplicated it, but it's what she wants right now.
Maybe it is the flu talking, like it's been talking all day, only now she's willing to give in an inch to it. Clearly, her strength and resolve are down.
Except now he's not answering her and she's this close to retracting everything she's just said.
"Fine, but if I'm staying all night, we're sharing the bed. That chair is more uncomfortable than your couch."
Zoe laughs—sneezes. "You'd get sick."
Wade walks across the room and presses a loud, playful kiss on her temple. "Good thing I got my flu shot then, right, doc?"
"Smartass," she mutters. "I just gotta…" She motions to the bathroom and Wade waves her along.
When she reenters the room, he's shifted most of the covers off his side of the bed and the tv is now on some late night show. Zoe yawns and crawls across the bed, pries open the medicine bottle open and pops a couple pills before settling under her mountain of covers. Feeling warmer than before, especially with Wade's body heat coming in from the side, she shoves a few layers off and snuggles back down on the bed, curling around her pillow.
"You sleep like a five year old," Wade chuckles, lips too close to her ears and she swats him away.
"Shh, be quiet."
"Bossy like a two year old, though."
"Night, Wade." She intones.
His smile is evident in his voice. "Night, Zoe."
She can feel his hands fix the covers over her shoulders and in minutes she's asleep to the low sounds late night tv and Wade's breathing.
"Now let's see here."
"Shut up, Lavon."
"Oh, no, I don't think I will."
"I don't think I can. This is just precious! Where's my phone. I need a picture."
"Leave, or you'll find that phone in someplace very uncomfortable."
"Should we tell her she clings in her sleep like a panda too, because it's just too precious."
"I swear if I wasn't… indisposed right now I'd be beating your head in."
"I'm going to kill you."
"I think this is my new screensaver."
Groaning, Zoe turns in her sleep, her face pressing deeper into her nice, warm pillow that for some reason has gone very still. She can hear Lavon and Wade being completely annoying around her and she just wants a little more sleep.
"Wade, Lavon, shut up." She moans out, reaching out to smack at them when her hand connects with a very hard and warm surface. Slowly her senses finish waking up and she cringes because oh yeah, that's not goose feather her hand is touching. Same with her face. Slowly she opens her eyes to Wade's wide eyes, flushed face, and Lavon's bright smile.
"You two are just adorable," Lavon winks and snaps another picture with his phone.
"Ack!" Zoe flips on the bed, covering her face with an actual pillow this time, as she can hear Wade jump out of the bed and chase Lavon down.
Even as her embarrassment is overwhelming her she still can't help but laugh raggedly at the sounds filtering through the door and the memory of how comfortable she had been just minutes ago using Wade as her own personal pillow. In different ways both things reminded her of how much she's come to care about this ridiculous town and the people in it. Especially certain people.
She sighs, sniffles, then coughs.
Stupid flu season, ruining her five year plan.