Alesha stepped into the office she shared with James just as he sneezed violently, then again, and again. She raised an eyebrow, looking over at her lover as she set down the boxfile she'd just fetched from the archives.
"You don't look too well," she observed.
"Thanks," he said thickly, as he blew his nose again.
She crossed the room to his desk and laid the back of her hand against his forehead. "Jesus, James!" She snatched her hand back. "You're burning up. You should go home and get to bed."
"It's only a cold," he muttered.
"Cold my foot," she said crossly. "You've got the 'flu."
He scowled. "I don't have time to have the 'flu," he said, gesturing at the piles of paperwork on his desk as well as her own.
She rolled her eyes. "Men! Honestly!" She stalked across the room, knocked perfunctorily on George's door, then went in.
"Sorry to disturb you," she said. "I'm going to take James home – he's feverish, probably got this 'flu that's been going around."
George looked at her in concern. "Definitely take him home," he said. "What did he come in for, if he's that sick?"
Alesha shrugged. "You know James. I swear he'd come in even if he was at death's door."
"Too true." He sighed. "All right. I'll call for a taxi." He looked at the clock on his desk. "Don't worry if you don't come back today. And for God's sake, don't let him come in tomorrow."
"I'll try," she promised.
He nodded, then picked up his phone, and Alesha left him to call the taxi firm while she returned to the other office.
"Come on you," she said, quickly grabbing her shoulder bag and her jacket. "I'm taking you home."
James opened his mouth to protest, then quickly covered his mouth and nose as further sneezes wracked him. "All right," he agreed, reaching out to shut down his computer. He pulled on his coat, then wrapped his scarf around his neck. He reached down for his brief bag, but Alesha batted his hand away.
"Leave that," she told him. "You're not taking work home with you when you're in this state."
"But – " he began.
"James!" She scowled up at him and he gave the bag a reluctant look, then allowed her to take his arm and lead him away from his desk. "George has rung for a taxi."
He grumbled something inarticulate which Alesha didn't bother to ask him to elucidate. She simply guided him along the corridor to the lift, then kept her hand on his arm as they went down to the ground floor and outside.
The taxi was waiting at the foot of the steps, the driver leaning out of the window and looking up at them as they went down.
"Where to luv?" he asked cheerily.
Alesha gave him James' address, then followed him into the back of the car. He sat huddled up inside his coat, his hands clamped between his knees, but she could see he was trying not to shiver.
"You really are an idiot," she told him affectionately. "Why did you even come in today, when you were feeling so sick?"
"I didn't feel that sick this morning," he said defensively.
"Are you sure you should be coming with me?" he asked. "You might get it too."
"If I do, you can help me prosecute my GP," she told him, smiling. "I got a 'flu jab."
"Oh." He relapsed into silence and Alesha was glad when the taxi pulled up outside James' home.
"We're here," she told him, and watched as he roused himself from his feverish stupor.
They got out, and Alesha paid the taxi driver, then followed James up the steps, waiting while he dug his keys from his pocket.
"Come in." He unlocked the door and she stepped in after him, then helped him out of his coat as he was shivering again. He hung up the coat and his scarf, then toed off his shoes.
"Come on, mister, bed for you." She took his arm and guided him up the stairs to his room. "Why don't you put your pyjamas on and I'll go and get you something to drink. My mum always says 'Feed a cold and starve a fever', so you should have plenty of fluids."
He nodded agreement and she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. "Poor James," she said fondly, then went out again.
When she returned fifteen minutes later, he was lying in bed with the bedding pulled up to his chin.
"I've brought you tea, and some broth," she told him, carrying the tray across to the bedside table.
"Thank you." He sounded croaky, now, she noted, but didn't comment on it.
She set down the tray, then helped him to sit back up again so he could drink the tea and eat the broth.
"I've put the central heating on," she told him, perching on the edge of the bed.
He nodded, a grateful expression in his eyes as he ate the bowl of broth.
Once he'd finished the tea and the broth she saw him settled back down again. "Try to sleep," she said, kissing his forehead.
"You're not going, are you?" he asked, sounding anxious.
"No, I'll stay here tonight."
She smiled, brushed a gentle kiss over his lips, then stepped away. At the door she stopped, looked back and saw that his eyes were already closed. Satisfied she pulled the door closed behind her, then made her way downstairs. Once in the kitchen she rang the office and told George that James was in bed, then asked if he could send someone over with some of the files she and James had been working on.
"You're not going to let him work, surely?" he asked, the burr of his native Scotland coming through more strongly in his anxiety.
"No, definitely not!" she said immediately. "It's for me. I'll stay with James tonight, then come into the office in the morning. He's so sick that I really doubt he'll be able to get up, even if he tries."
"When are you due in court again?"
"Not until Monday, so that gives him four days to get over the worst of it."
"Aye, well that's something. I'll see about sending you those files you requested. And I'll see you in the morning."
"Thanks George. Goodnight."
Alesha disconnected the call, then pocketed her mobile, before turning her attention to making some dinner for herself. She reflected that it was handy that she and James regularly stayed overnight or spent weekends in each other's homes as it meant that she had some clothes upstairs. That would save her making a detour to her flat in the morning.
* * * * * *
James remained in bed until Saturday evening, a sure sign that he really was as sick as Alesha believed him to be. By Saturday, however, his fever had broken and he was beginning to get restless, so she agreed that he could get up for a couple of hours and eat dinner 'like a civilised person' as he put it.
When he came downstairs, Alesha was in the kitchen, preparing dinner. He stepped up behind her as she poured fresh pasta into a saucepan, and slid his arms around her middle.
"Thank you," he said softly.
She turned her head to crane her neck and look up at him, and felt him loosen his hold so that she could turn around properly. "You're welcome," she said, kissing him briefly. "You smell nice."
He chuckled and she smiled. "I thought that if I was going to behave like a civilised person, I should make myself presentable," he said. "So I showered and shaved."
"I can tell," she said, giggling a little. "You look considerably better. How do you feel?"
"Ravenous," he answered, then pulled her back into his embrace and kissed her a good deal less briefly than she'd kissed him.
When he let her go so they could catch their breath, he rested his forehead against hers. "I really appreciate you looking after me these last few days," he told her.
"You can thank me later, if you're feeling strong enough," she told him, grinning a little when he caught his breath.
"Why don't you sit down while I finish dinner?" When he raised an eyebrow, she clarified. "I don't want you to overtax yourself."
James snorted a laugh, then took a seat at the kitchen table while Alesha concentrated on the pasta to go with the grilled fish and steamed vegetables that were already cooking.
She wasn't surprised when he began asking about the case they'd been working on before he fell sick; they discussed it as she finished cooking, and while they were eating dinner. Alesha was glad of James' input, which she'd missed having over the last couple of days.
After dinner, they had coffee in the sitting room and listened to the news, then James proposed having an early night, which made her smirk at him. He gave her a puzzled look, then laughed.
"I actually do want an early night," he said, his expression rueful. "I'm tired."
"That's all right," she told him. "I don't want you to wear yourself out since I do want you back at work on Monday."
He nodded. "I'm sorry, though."
"It's fine." She leant over and kissed him. "Go to bed, and I'll be up in a little while."
Twenty minutes later, she went upstairs and found James in bed and half asleep already. She put on her pyjamas then slipped in beside him, snuggling up when he put an arm around her.
"I'll thank you tomorrow," he murmured.
She laughed softly. "If you're feeling better," she told him. "There's no great rush."
She lifted her head from his shoulder and watched him for a few moments, then settled again when she realised he'd gone to sleep. She was glad he'd felt well enough to get up for a couple of hours. Hopefully tomorrow he'd be able to spend even less time in bed, and then he'd be back at work on Monday, with luck. She snuggled nearer to James and closed her eyes, deciding that Monday could take care of itself.