BTW, I've never had the flu before. Rubbish colds, yes, but that's it. So I may just be making symptoms up here.
Also, sorry this is a day late. Family drama happened yesterday and I just wasn't in the mood to write the last half of this chapter.
Disclaimer: I own copies of the books, but not the copyright. That's probably for the best.
Two days after Ellen called in sick, Quinn woke up feeling like she'd been his by a steamroller. Her head pounded, her lungs felt far too small, her nose was a useless lump of flesh and cartilage attached to her face and she constantly fluctuated between too hot and too cold without a middle ground.
"Flu," the Fowls' private, top-of-the-field doctor announced, and then the twins were moved to Quinn's queen-size bed so Angelina Fowl could look after all of them at the same time.
When Beckett curled pathetically into Quinn's side, her skin burned. She always stayed still, though she wasn't sure whether it was because she was frozen in place or she didn't want to take away the three-year-old's comfort. To be honest, Quinn wasn't really sure of anything. Sometimes she saw things with vivid clarity, but the things she saw were little people with wings and green skin, and only occasionally did she see the bedroom; most of the time, though, she felt heavy and tired and achy, and words and images had to fight through a haze to reach her.
Every now and then, she would feel something brushing her fringe from her forehead, sometimes refreshingly cool, sometimes bitingly cold, and she always opened her eyes to see a starless night sky. It was a while before she realised she spoke to it, and it was longer still before she realised what she was saying.
"Beautiful. The sky. But no stars."
The words scratched at her throat as she breathed them out, but she never stopped saying them, and then she whined when the sky would momentarily disappear.
When it was gone, Quinn really missed the starless night sky.
Artemis was not happy.
His Cube/computer was nearing completion - he had finally figured out how to meld the technologies without overwhelming the human one or the computer market, and without damaging future developments and profits.
But his mother has roped him in to help look after his sick brothers and, worse, that blasted nanny. He tried to just tend to Beckett and Myles (juvenile though it was) but the three had been moved into the same bed. Infuriatingly, the twins' actual nanny was also ill - she had, in fact, been the one to give them the flu virus.
He would never tell anyone (mostly because anyone he would tell would have been able to guess) but it pained him to see his brothers as they were now. They practically shone with sweat; they shivered despite their burning skin; it seemed they were either sleeping fitfully or crying. Miss Murphy was just as bad. Certainly, she never cried, but she seemed to be delusional half the time.
When Artemis went to bed that night, he begrudgingly admitted to himself that he had gained at least some respect for Miss Murphy, and he didn't suspect her for ulterior motives any more. He had noticed that when one of the twins began to cry, she would try and comfort him. It was never successful - she was too ill to properly to anything - but at least she kept the twins relatively quiet until Mrs Fowl or Artemis could get to them. And in one of Miss Murphy's less lucid moments, Artemis had asked her why she was there: she mumbled something about a starless night sky and Kilkenny.
There was something pathetic about seeing Miss Murphy, someone who wasn't intimidated by him and often fought back, lying in a king-size bed as helpless as his three-year-old brothers.
The twins' fevers broke the next day and they quickly got better. It was the same day Mrs Builder returned to work, however, so Mrs Fowl kept Artemis on nurse duty instead of letting him get on with his work or look after his brothers. Miss Murphy was no longer hallucinating but her temperature still hovered around thirty-eight degrees. Since she was getting quality treatment at the Fowls' manor, Mrs Fowl called the orphanage to tell them the girl would be staying until she recovered.
"You don't have to look so grumpy all the time," a croaky, wavering voice piped up while Artemis was reading a book. He looked up to see Quinn looking back at him tiredly.
"Go to sleep," he ordered, returning to his book. "Also, I do not look grumpy all the time."
"I've seen you sleeping - so yeah, you look really grumpy."
Artemis' head snapped back up. "When did you see me asleep?"
"When I went to that nightclub." Quinn flopped her hand a bit, obviously too drained to raise it properly. "When Butler and I got back, you, Beckett and Myles were asleep in your bed."
Artemis frowned. He would have to have a word with Butler.
"Can I have some water?"
Sighing inaudibly, Artemis put down his book and picked up the glass of cool water from her bedside table. He carefully (because otherwise his mother would tell him off) helped Quinn so she was sitting upright and supported her while he slowly tipped the glass. Quinn sighed happily and looked relieved after she'd had as much as Artemis allowed her.
"Thanks," she said quietly, her voice no longer hoarse, and looked dazedly at him.
Artemis became very aware of how close they were. He could see individual shades of freckles dotting her face and her eyes looked so blue he might have described them as transparent if he didn't know better. The heat of the fever was almost stifling and causing Artemis' lungs difficulty.
He turned around to place the glass back on the side before gently lowering Quinn back onto the bed.
"Now go back to sleep."
Quinn trailed off, her eyes already closed again, and she immediately fell back into a light sleep.
Three days later, Quinn's flu had run its course. To give her a chance to recuperate, she was taken back home to take the rest of the week off, so Artemis didn't see her again for four days.
A note about future updates: they should be monthly, like I'd planned. I can't guarantee an update in May because that's when my exams start. But my last exam is June 20th and my summer will basically be full of writing. Which includes TCC. And if I write as much as I hope to, updates will become weekly. Yaaaaaaay. [;)]
Next chapter contains Important Things. I wouldn't say things 'start in motion' or whatever, because this story is not nearly so plot-driven, but it is narratively important. It won't be as much to write as this one, though (seriously, so much fun to write a delusional Quinn at the beginning).
Thank you so much to everyone who has reviewed or added this story to their alerts - and even their favourites! I absolutely adore every single one of you!