Soundtrack to the chapter: "What the Hell" by Avril Lavigne, "Arms" by Christina Perri, "Heart Skips a Beat" by Lenka, "New Soul" by Yael Naim, and "Potential Breakup Song" by Aly & AJ.
Chapter Ten: A Fever You Can Sweat Out
You will do foolish things, but do them with enthusiasm.
"How was this a good idea?" Spencer asked from somewhere near my right, at least that had been where he was when we had first entered the room. I hadn't heard him move recently, so I'm assuming that he was still there. Then again, I hadn't looked at him in at least thirty minutes... Jeez, I hope he didn't get any closer to me.
"Sweat out a fever – how does that not make sense to you?" I asked, glancing somewhere to my left. Because...well...my right is a dangerous place to be looking at the moment. There are too many tattoos on display, just too many... Actually, I think that they are all on display...along with a chest that was making me feel weird. "And if you thought this was such a stupid idea why did you agree to go along with it?"
"Because you were mere moments away from the melodrama, I could feel it."
"Butthead." I muttered darkly, deciding to be the most mature person in the room. As I am in most rooms. His response was to cough hoarsely for awhile and then groan. Karma.
"That's the point."
"Do you really think we can break a fever in the next two hours?" He paused, "Are we going to be in here for the next two hours?"
"You have an amazing tendency to complain more when you're hot, did you know that?"
"No. It's a new discovery for both of us." Spencer replied wearily and then sighed, "Are we supposed to stay in a sauna this long?"
"Do you feel like your fever broke?" I asked, wishing he'd stop asking questions, the inside of my mouth was beginning to feel like cotton. And the dry heat was getting really uncomfortable. Not to mention – but totally to mention – my pounding headache that I've been trying to ignore since I woke up this morning.
"How do you know when a fever has broke?" He asked, per usual not giving me what I wanted.
Okay, I'll admit it: I'm in a mood.
"Um...I'm not sure." I admitted, "At least not from within a sauna."
He sighed again and then gave me what I wanted: quiet. We sat silently for a long moment and within that moment I was trying to convince myself that I wasn't drying up from the inside out. I was also imagining Spencer with more clothes on. I had him in a parka with snow pants and was trying to chose his socks (snowmen? Candy canes?) when he cleared his throat – which still took some time.
"It it because I haven't shaved in awhile?"
I grimaced, "What?"
"You haven't look at me since I came in."
I squeezed my eyes shut in embarrassment, "Is it my job to sit around and look at you?" I replied, hoping he'd go back to being blissfully quiet and not mention his scruffiness again. Because I had recently discovered that I liked the scruffy look and it was really bothering me that Spencer is the one that brought that home for me. Just another reason why I can't look at him – there is nowhere safe to focus my eyes on him.
"If it were you'd be in serious danger of losing your job." He replied and then moved. My whole body tensed at the sound of him getting up and when he sat down beside me I was pretty much a statue. A statue in desperate need of air...which I didn't know how to get without bringing to much attention to myself...
He wasn't fazed though; he stretched out beside me and from the corner of my eye I could see that he was glistening. Why are guys so attractive when they're slightly sweaty? Or scruffy? Or sleepy? Or shirtless? Or, let's be honest here, sick?
My Lord, guys suck.
"You never answered." He murmured from way too close to me, "Are we going to be in here for the next two hours?"
I let out my breath in one fell gasp, feeling a little lightheaded, but so happy that he hadn't decided to keep pursuing the whole not looking at him thing. As I began to breathe in the dry air like a maniac, I started to cough. I won't lie...for a second there I thought I was dying.
Yeah, yeah, yeah...melodramatic, I know.
"Are you okay?" He asked, patting me on my back and basically making me want to shoot out of my skin. I nodded my head quickly, more to get him to stop touching me than as a real answer and continued to hack up what felt like a gallon of phlegm. Uck, gross.
"I'm fine." I managed to get out in a gasp, "We've got to get you better; you're going to need your strength to make it through the night."
He rubbed my back for a moment and then let his hand drop, "You need water and you're not hiding that headache as well as you think you are."
I forgot myself for a moment and turned to look at him in surprise. How carefully was he watching me? Why did I find it sweet instead of creepy? Especially combined with the concern on his scruffy face, I found myself a little touched.
And my God, he's pretty.
I quickly looked away and then jumped to my feet, grasping my towel around me tightly. "We probably broke out fevers." I announced and then nodded my head forcefully. "Yeah, time to shower." I moved quickly to the door and was hit with hit with a woozy feeling. I was almost at the door when I began to precariously tilt to the side. I managed to catch myself and then sat back down on the benches that lined the room. "I take it back, we should probably wait a few more minutes."
The little room filled with Spencer's raspy laughter and I turned to glare at him, thankfully anger managed to beat out the weird feelings I had when looking at him. "Shut up." I grumbled and he just laughed harder and then started to cough himself.
Ha ha. Karma, man.
Once his coughing subsided he leaned back against the bench behind him. "How are we going to do this?" He asked softly, turning to pierce me with his cherry wood eyes. He had yet to express concern about the whole ordeal, so it was a little surprising to hear the concern in his tone. "Can we run through your brothers again?"
I stared into his worried eyes for a moment longer and then nodded my head, "Sure. Okay, I have three older brothers – "
"Fitzpatrick, Rockford, and Warren." He supplied and then frowned, "Um...Fitz, Ford, and War. Incidentally, that last one is a little disconcerting."
I smiled, "War is a big softie and you don't have to worry about him, he's in France right now."
My smile faded, "Because Dad kicked him out of the country."
I sighed and crossed my legs, "It's a long story...basically War didn't want to fit into the role that Dad set out for him and things got heated. I love my dad, but he can be a little hard sometimes and I'm the only one that gets any kind of freedom when it comes to my future. Because I'm his little girl and he doesn't want me to be a part of the family business. Unfortunately for War, he doesn't get that luxury."
"What about Fitz and Ford?"
"They want to make my dad proud more than anything else. War is the only one that didn't want a part of it. He wants to put people back together like Ana, he doesn't want to take them apart."
"And for that your dad kicked him out of the country?" He furrowed his brow, "How do you even do that?"
"You have friends in high places in the government." I answered sadly, "People that could make it hard for you to stay in your own country."
I miss Warren, he was the nearest in age to me and we'd always been close. Brought closer by the fact that neither of us were particularly interested in the career path that Dad had set out for all of them. He used his training from his time in the Marines and as an agent in the FBI to mold them into the perfect little soldiers...which was exactly what he wanted them to become. Right now both my brothers are kicking around the idea of either joining the Marines just like Dad or joining the FBI just like him, while War is striking his own path in France. Where he doesn't write or call near as much as he should.
I straightened up and looked at Spencer, "Whatever you do, do not bring up Warren. The family is pretty divided on that argument and the weekend will just get ugly if you mention War at all."
"You miss him." He declared, understanding in his voice.
"Yes." I answered softly and then shrugged, "But I understand why he had to leave. Although the fact that he's not achieving any of his dreams is hard to stomach and...um...we don't really need to go into that."
"Okay." He replied as softly as I had. "Uh...so how protective is your eldest brother? Does he put your dad to shame?"
"No one puts my dad to shame."
"That's comforting." He muttered dryly.
I shrugged, "It could be, it means you've met the worst already."
He nodded his head and stared off into space for a moment, then started to frown. The fact that I knew that that meant that he was trying to broach a difficult subject is proof that I've been spending way too much time with him. He finally turned his eyes back to me, "Um...are we sleeping together?"
"What?" I exclaimed and then started to cough a bit – the kind of cough that isn't deep enough to hurt, just persistent enough to make you believe you'll never take a full breath again.
"Are we sleeping together? How far along are we in this fake relationship?"
"Why...are...you..." I trailed off and tried to catch my breath, "why are you asking me this?"
"Because you're dad seems really suspicious of our relationship. Which, as an American citizen, makes me feel pretty good about his job performance; but as your fake boyfriend, it's a little nerve wracking."
"Um...I'm not sure, how long have we been dating?"
"I feel like that should be your part of the story to fill in."
I frowned, "But I don't know how long it would take me to sleep with a guy."
A slow smile spread across his face, "I feel like that's something you really wish you'd kept in your mind."
I jerked my head up and down. "Yup."
He laughed lightly, "Thought so."
"I've only slept with one person once and...well you know how terribly that went." I hugged my shoulders, "Kind of killed the whole thing for me."
"One crybaby killed sex for you?" Spencer asked incredulously, "Brad Kinsey should not kill the entire experience for you. Ever think that maybe he was just bad?"
"I made him cry Spencer. CRY...and you remembered his name?"
I rolled my eyes, "Well, yeah, I just didn't think you'd remember."
"I listen to you when you talk Willa." He stated simply and dryly, which somewhat downplayed the enormity of his statement. He truly listened when I spoke and retained my words. That's...almost unheard of in men, no wonder Ana keeps him around.
"I'm a horrible best friend." I announced and judging from his somewhat confused look, I'm guessing he didn't follow my same train of thought. "I'm setting out the details – deciding whether or not we've fake slept together – with Ana's boyfriend."
"Exactly, Ana's boyfriend."
He rolled his eyes, "Spencer Romero, I have a name not a title."
"Actually, in this case, you do have a title and it is that of my roommate's boyfriend."
He groaned, "Why do you keep having to bring that up?"
I glared at him and jumped to my feet (okay, struggled to my feet and then swayed a bit), "Because it matters!" I exclaimed, my voice going rasp at the end of the statement. "Because it's against the Code of Sisterhood and because...it's weird."
He looked into my eyes and then nodded his head, "Yeah, it's weird."
"Why are you doing this?"
"I already told you: I owe you."
I shook my head, "But you don't, if anything I owe you for being such a bitch to you."
His jaw clenched for a moment and his eyes glazed over for a moment, as though he were off in another place. After a moment he signed and his eyes refocused, "I'm doing Ana a favor."
Never have I been so disgusted by him.
"By cheating on her?"
"Are we cheating?" He asked, "I barely touch you, we're both sick, and the most we have shared is ibuprofen. I hardly think that this constitutes as cheating and no, I'm not doing her a favor by cheating on her. It's not like I'm trying to get her to breakup with me and I think that telling her that I found my major more important than hers would be enough reason for her to breakup with me."
I had to concede to that argument because I couldn't counter the truth in it. Ana is...really self-important when it comes to her degree. Which is weird, because I know at least four other women seeking the same degree and they aren't so cold and cocky.
"Then how are you doing her a a favor?"
He jerked his head to the side and sent his sweating bangs into his eyes, "I can't tell you." He replied softly, glancing down at the cement floor. "It's not my story to tell, I'm just a factor in it."
"But what does that mean? Are you dating Ana?"
"Do you care about Ana?"
He toyed with the ring in his lip and shrugged, "Of course."
I sat down next to him and contemplated touching him, making him look me in the eye...but I wasn't sure what to do if he started to cry because of my touch. So instead I stared at him until he raised his gaze to mine once again. "Do you even like her?"
His eyes drifted to the side, a telltale sign of lying. "Of course I do."
I frowned, completely confused about their relationship. I have no idea what's going on between the two of them and now that I think about it...I'm not sure that I've ever seen them kiss. I don't know how many times I walked in on Bethany making out with some guy (or that once, a girl) and I wish that I could mentally erase the image of the time I walked in on Talon with his girlfriend. Ugh, best friends should never have to walk in on their friends in the middle the act. Ever.
I had never seen Spencer hug her or be all over her either... I just assumed that it was because Ana wasn't into PDA, but now that I've spent more time with him the more I've realized how affectionate he can be. Not to me – my touch brings tears, remember – but he's always doing that male version of hugging with his friends, high-fiving people, or calling people by nicknames. He's not the type of guy that would turn out being a boyfriend that never touches his girlfriend, he'd be all over her. And I can't image him calling his girlfriend by her name all the time – I have never heard him call Ana "babe" or anything.
"Are you fake dating Ana?" I asked, sounding a lot like I had just solved a major puzzle.
He stared at me for a moment and then smirked, "Are you aware of the fact that your towel is slipping?" He asked, causing me to totally freak out when I looked down and saw that I was practically flashing him. After calling him a miserable jackass and asking what kind of man just sits there and lets a girl expose herself to him (his answer? "Hey, I told you before it got any lower, didn't I?"), I made a run for it. Or rather, I moved as quickly as I could with legs that alternated between feeling insanely heavy and freakishly light. It wasn't until I was showering off the sweat from the sauna that I realized two things: my fever broke and that ass hadn't answered my question.
Spencer pulled my car in front of my house a little over two hours later and cut the engine, before dropping his head on the wheel. "Did it have to be bright yellow?" He asked wearily.
I rolled my eyes, "I'm sorry, does my car threaten your masculinity?"
"Normally it wouldn't." He replied sitting up in the seat and rubbing at his knees, "But with your father being who he is, it has taken an oddly threatening turn to my masculinity."
I glared at him, "I love my car."
"It's the size of a clown car."
"Okay, one: I hate clowns and two: it's a VW Bug, the cars of those scary face-painters are much smaller than a Bug. Besides, it's oddly roomy in the inside, don't you think?"
He shot me a skeptical look, "I'm six four, there is nothing oddly roomy about this midget car."
"Hey!" I rubbed the dash, "You'll hurt Apollo's feelings if you keep going on like that; he's very temperamental."
"It's a car." He replied dryly, "A car that needs new shocks and I'm seriously questioning the state of your ball bearings."
"Um...what does that mean?"
"That as soon as we get back to campus I'm going to work on your car." He answered, turning to look out the window at my house. Once again he had managed to downplay his words by his tone of voice, but that still didn't dim the smile from my face. He wanted to fix my car – it was like I had my own mechanic...finally.
After I got my smile under control I turned my attention to my home as well, trying to look at it as a stranger would. We lived in a two-story house that was built around the time that Titanic sank. It was old, big, and didn't have that many electrical sockets...not that anyone would think that just by looking at it. The paneling was a light yellow and our shutters where a bright white, we had a well groomed lawn (though full of fallen leaves at the moment) and we actually had that white picket fence that people were so crazy about. Our garage was attached to the house and there was already a Prius, a truck, and an SUV parked in our driveway. Which meant that my parents were home (the Prius and the SUV belonged to them) and that my eldest brother Fitz was already here.
Spencer had parked my car on the street and I could already see people peeking out from curtain in two different rooms of the house. I was guessing that it was my mom and Ford, because they were two of the nosiest people that I've ever met. Which is saying in lot when you take into account that my father works for the FBI – his job is to ask questions and get into people's business.
"I still find it a little weird that I was invited to spend the night." Spencer muttered, but I could tell it was because he was getting a little scared about the whole ordeal. Who would want to stay the night at their girlfriend's house under the watch of her protective father and two older brothers? And that's without those men being as skilled in the art of fighting and interrogating as the men in my family. I actually feel bad for him.
...Even though I'm hoping that somehow I can learn something this weekend that will enable me to break him and make him tell me what's going on with him and Ana.
"You won't be sleeping anywhere near me, so it's probably not as weird an invitation as it could be." I frowned, thinking it over. "I wonder where they'll put you."
"Do you have a dungeon?"
"Dramatic doesn't look good on you."
"Hmm...that makes two of us then." He said and smiled at my frown, laughing he turned his gaze back to the house and after awhile his laughter faded. "Are you nervous?"
I swallowed a knot of anxiety and shrugged, "I'm not the one that will be treated like a suspicious foreign dignitary." I frowned and then nodded my head, "Yeah, I'm nervous...but we can make it through this, no problem."
He arched an eyebrow, still looking away from me. "No problem?"
"Okay, that's a bit of an overstatement."
He nodded and then turned to look at me, his dark eyes suddenly serious. "Okay, I realize that this is going to seem inherently wrong to you, but I'm going to kiss you."
"What?" I exclaimed, my eyes wide as I shoved myself back against my seat. "Now that is cheating!"
He sighed, "Look, now your dad is even watching us and he's already suspicious of our intimacy. I'm not going to touch you in there because it would be rude, but out here is my only chance to prove to him that we are actually a couple, not just two people that spend time together."
"Still doesn't change the cheating aspect."
"How about the fact that I'm willing to do it and I'm not a cheat?"
"Beg to differ, since it – " I started to debate but he cut me off by leaning across the car and lightly kissing me on the forehead. My heart did a little skip and a jump at the feel of his lips and the coolness of his lip-ring against my forehead. As he leaned away and lightly brushed my hair from my eyes I realized that that had just been the most romantic kiss in my life.
Which proves that I seriously don't date enough...
...and that forehead kisses are kind of beautiful.
"Forehead kisses don't count." He said in a somewhat hoarse voice, not moving from his position – which was entirely within my personal bubble, not that I seemed to completely mind at the moment. "Okay?"
I nodded my head silently as he leaned away from me and opened the driver door, climbing out of my little car. Once he was on the street he stretched, much like a cat, and I head his knees pop from the pressure that had built up by folding himself into my car. Which, I'll have to admit, was not made for people over six feet tall; even with the seat shoved all the way back, he still looked ridiculous driving. He turned to me a shot a classic Spencer smile, one that conveyed his usual confidence and cool. I'm not sure how completely legit it was, since he had already admitted to be nervous, but it made me feel better all the same.
"Ready to go lie to a federal agent of the United States?" He asked cheerfully.
I laughed and climbed out from Apollo. "Totally."
A/N: Man, I feel so guilty posting this and not even for the normal reason (it being epically late...although I feel bad about that too), no this time it's because I said that I would update SotE on my LJ before I updated anything else. Sorry. Um...it has been so long since I've written this that I'm not sure how to respond to all of your wonderful reviews – and you've probably forgotten what you've written to me already.
Thank you all so much for reading! And now I'm going to go try to finish the 6th version of the next chapter of SotE and outline this story. I know how I want this story to end, I'm just wondering how much of the stuff I want to jam pack in here will actually make sense to be in here...