After five years Brendan had finally got good at blocking. Not because he didn’t love Freya, and heaven knows if he didn’t love Freya her poking around in the recesses of his scatological mind really wouldn’t matter that much but dammit he did love Freya, and hiding his tracks, as well as communicating with her on a daily basis through his thoughts was actually pretty tiring. Keeping the two tracks separate, while maintaining a mental wall was damn near wearing him out.
But they made a great partnership. Brendan’s crazy memory and Freya’s thought hearing capabilities made their progress through the NSA from nobodies to go-to-guys a shoo in.
Until this case. This case, and Brendan’s cough.
Freya watched her partner out of the corner of her eye. Brendan was a mess. Well, more of a mess than usual. The cough syrup was strong, but not strong enough to knock out the cold, and his cough had gone from tickle to a deep, booming hack, that seemed to wrench his ribs, and leave him shaking and sweating scarcely able to put one foot in front of another.
Reading his mind was actually tiring. She felt exhausted for him. She could feel the strain he was under.
She had half a mind to follow him home. She didn’t. He had barked testily at Myers and Allcroft had also drawn his ire over something simple. Brendan’s bark might have been worse than his bite, but she really didn’t want to upset him. Crowding him when he was sick might make him even angrier.
Her desire to give him some space wore out the next morning when he never showed for work. So she made his excuses to Harper who agreed to let her go, and promised to find cover both of them as long as she checked in regularly. She swung by the store, picked up all the invalid favorites, like chicken soup and crackers, included a bottle of that cough syrup even though she was certain it wasn’t making much of a difference, and went in search of her grumpy bear.
They were partners, friends, and if you couldn’t turn to a friend when you were sick, who could you turn to.
She knocked. It took a while to rouse him, but when the door finally opened, she was shocked.
Brendan was wearing an old navy blue toweling robe, loose and unbelted, over a tired-looking tee shirt that had definitely seen better days, with a pair of limp and crumpled boxers under. His feet were bare, his face was flushed, and there was a sickly, glassy look in his eyes.
“BRENDAN!” She gasped in horror at his appearance. She hadn’t meant to shout, and felt very guilty when he winced. He stepped back, letting her into his apartment.
He slumped back onto the couch, and Freya moved past him, the kitchen was to the left and she deposited the bag she had brought on the counter. She wasn’t sure what she had expected. The apartment appeared to be perfectly tidy, and completely depressing, the walls decorated in a neutral shade of beige, and the place was cold.
Freya walked back to the couch and sat down next to him. “Brendan, you can’t stay here, it’s freezing and you’re sick.”
“Heater’s bust.” Brendan was slumped over, elbows on his knees, head hanging down, he doubted he had ever managed to look as miserable in his life before. But his attention was caught up in keeping Freya from his big, bad, embarrassing secret, because he really didn’t want her to be embarrassed by it. Or worse still, her tender, sweet, gentle nature would feel pity for his schoolboy crush.
Freya looked at her exhausted, sick partner. He was going to get a lot worse if he stayed in his apartment. She made an instant decision. He was coming home with her.
“You’re coming with me.” She said briskly, “and no, there is no argument. It’s my place or hospital.” She wasn’t certain that they would admit him, but the threat was there, and there was no way he could stay here without heating.
Leaving him slumped in misery on his couch, she went to his bedroom, found his rucksack, his closet yielded a pair of jeans, she took two pairs of sweat pants from his drawers, and a few tee shirts, socks and boxers. A tight fit in his daysack, but she kept aside a pair of socks and sweat pants.
Brendan was too sick to argue, and Freya coaxed him into a pair of sweat pants, put his socks on for him, then his shoes, before he realized it, she had dug out his keys, wrapped a couple of blankets around him, and was guiding his shaky steps down to her car.
She got him into the passenger seat, reached over him to put the seat back so that he could stretch out a little, fastened his seatbelt for him and tucked the blankets around him. Brendan lay there and indulged in a little fantasy behind his mental wall. Her hands on him felt so good, his eyes closed when her fingers gently combed through his thick dark brown hair, the cowlicks standing up.
Freya watched his eyes close, and tried very hard to stay out of his head, it wasn’t fair when he was sick, then the hazel eyes peeked at her from beneath the thick dark lashes and there was a softness to his gaze that was unmistakable.
She had known for some time that Brendan had feelings for her. He had worked on his techniques for blocking, and for the most part she did her best to stay out of his private thoughts, but Brendan was an open book to her. She could read him as easily as she knew herself. This was a revelation, and she wasn’t reading it in Brendan’s thoughts.