The Reluctant Journey Ch. 06byDarlin92©
So here's chapter six. Sorry for the highly extended wait, but this chapter has been difficult for me to write for some reason. It seemed the more I wrote, the more I erased and rewrote. So I will finally get it out of my possession in fear that it will all be gone if I try and read it again. I do hope this moves the story along as several comments suggested. Enjoy.
"Bon appétit monsieur" Malia said in a cheesy French accent as she opened Tristan's door. She was getting in a routine that started with delivering a breakfast tray to Tristan's suite where they would have breakfast together.
"Merci mademoiselle." Tristan smiled from the far seat at the table where he was always sitting when she arrived in the morning. "S'asseoir s'il vous plaît." Tristan didn't use the cheesy French accent.
"Um." Malia looked at him confused. For obvious reasons she'd missed any kind of required high school foreign language classes.
He laughed. "Please sit." He motioned to the chair across from his.
They ate together like they had for the past two weeks. It had been surprisingly relaxing spending time with Tristan. Cain had disappeared which was only catalyzing her ability to relax. Tristan assured that Cain often disappeared for weeks at a time without notice. She wasn't excessively worried either way.
She bit into a hot buttered English muffin. The food never failed to impress. Usually Tristan provided the conversation during meals due to her complete concentration on eating. It took the whole muffin for her to notice that he was being especially quiet this morning. She looked up at him and also noticed that he wasn't eating very much.
"Are you okay?" Malia asked, her voice full of concern.
He smiled sweetly, if less than energetically. "I'm feeling a little under the weather. It's not unusual for this time of year."
"Do you need a doctor?" Malia was suddenly worried, her delicious breakfast forgotten.
"No, it's not nearly that serious." He smiled reassuringly but Malia could see that he was fighting to hide his pain. "I'm afraid I'm not going to be much company today though."
"No, no of course not. You should go back to bed and rest." He looked like he was about to resist but Malia was adamant and he went back to bed.
Malia went to the kitchen with the breakfast trey. Usually someone would come to collect the trays, just as they would come to deliver them, but Malia insisted that she could be useful. Mrs. Smith was putting things away in the kitchen when she arrived.
"Tristan isn't feeling well." Malia blurted out, her voice full of concern.
"Did he want something brought up?" Mrs. Smith also sounded concerned as she stopped what she was doing to look at Malia. "No, he's playing tough guy, but do you think he should see a doctor?"
She smiled and continued to walk over to the cupboard as she replied. "Tristan is a very responsible man, if something is truly wrong he will let someone know. The poor dear always gets sick around now, and he always pulls through just fine, you'll see." The woman patted Malia's shoulder in reassurance.
Malia's days had been spent with Tristan. She had no idea what she was supposed to do if he was sick. She went to her own room. Malia had gotten used to the layout of the manor fairly well. She didn't know her way around completely, as it was a very large layout to get to know, but she could get to the places she needed to go.
She loved to read but couldn't seem to focus on the pages. Where was Cain? No, she didn't care where he was. It would just put her at ease if he were here, for Tristan's sake. The door to her room opened and she nearly jumped out of her skin.
When Gwen appeared she took a breath. "Oh, I didn't expect you to be here. I can come back." She began to leave the room.
"No, wait!" Malia jumped up from the lounge. "Do you need help?"
"Um, no?" Gwen looked confused as she stood in the doorway.
"Tristan is sick and I need to keep myself busy. I feel like I've been on vacation for too long." Malia could tell that Gwen wasn't going to accept her offer, so she got up and walked to the hallway where her cart of supplies was and grabbed various cleaning products.
"Um, Olivia, you can't just-"
"Look I'm going to help you whether you like it or not. It doesn't make any sense for me to just sit around all day." Malia interrupted.
Gwen was clearly uncomfortable with the turn of events but short of fighting Malia for the cleaning supplies, she didn't have any options.
It didn't take long for the two to take care of the bedroom, just some vacuuming and light dusting. However, Gwen informed Malia that the bathroom required extensive cleaning today. The extravagantly large bathroom was covered in sparkling granite on virtually every surface. Malia gladly grabbed a tiny brush and began to scrub grout lines on the floor.
"So, Tristan's sick?" Gwen asked. Malia was surprised that she had initiated conversation, as she was generally frustratingly reserved. "Yes. He said he doesn't feel well, but Mrs. Smith said that he always gets sick in early spring?"
"Yes he does." She nodded. "I mean, I have heard that. Last spring I was new to the manor and I wasn't working directly with the masters of the house yet. However, Tristan did get violently sick at the end of fall. He had terrible fevers and was forced to stay in bed. It was quite...disconcerting." It was the most Malia had heard from Gwen. She sounded scared for Tristan, even more so than Malia had.
"I'm sure he will be fine." Malia attempted to comfort her.
Gwen looked up as if snapped out of a daze. "Yes, of course." She said quickly and returned to scrubbing grout. However, it was too late, Malia's interest was piqued.
"So you must know the, um, masters of the house fairly well?"
"Not as much as most of the staff." Gwen was still concentrating on the floors.
"So you are the newest to the manor?"
"Well, there's you." Gwen looked up at her smirking.
"Yes, but I'm not sure what I am in this place."
Gwen looked up at her seriously. "You are a member of the household, as far as I can tell. You aren't staff, and you're not a guest. Though not exactly mistress of the household." Gwen smiled in a reassuring way.
"The general wants me to marry Tristan." She hadn't intended to tell her so tactlessly, but she needed a confidant. Malia felt isolated. She instantly regretted it as she saw an unmistakable streak of pain cross Gwen's expression. So she did have feelings for Tristan.
"Oh." Gwen bit her lip and began to scrub again. Malia studied her.
"I like Tristan, he is very nice and charismatic and noble." Gwen only nodded. "But I don't want to marry him." Gwen looked up at her then. Her eyes looked larger and bluer than usual.
"Oh?" She repeated, trying to look uninterested and failing miserably.
"I only want to go home." Gwen nodded and looked down again. Malia continued with her blunt approach. "How long have you been in love with Tristan?" Instantly a pair of saucer like blue eyes stared up at her. Malia only raised her eyebrows in question as Gwen clearly fought for words.
"Don't try and deny it." Malia interrupted. Gwen bit her lip.
"Is it obvious?" She looked excessively vulnerable.
"Actually it isn't." Malia smiled. "You hide it quite well. I only realized it a minute ago."
"It isn't proper, or realistic but," Gwen looked distressed. "He is more remarkable than any man, any person, I have ever met."
"Have you talked to him?" Malia asked gently, though she knew the answer. Gwen may have been gorgeous, but she was painfully shy.
"I've spoken with him before." She replied slowly. "But no, not in the way you are referring, not in any way other than professionally."
"You should talk to him, personally."
"I can't, he's my boss, and I wouldn't know where to begin." She looked nervous simply thinking about it.
"He'll never know if you don't tell him. He's astute but you're, um, very reserved."
"And if he knows that I have a debilitating crush on him, he's going to what? Propose? We're going to ride off into the sunset to our very own mansion and have a dozen kids? It's just not going to happen. I don't have anything to offer him."
"And I do?" Malia asked. "I'm not exactly a princess. I wouldn't peg Tristan as the kind of man who judged in those terms anyway. Just think about it, you'll never know if you don't try." They both finished cleaning the bathroom in contemplative silence.
Marriage to Tristan was her ticket to possibly seeing her family again. Malia had been trying to help Gwen but it probably wasn't in her best interest. She didn't want to hurt her new potential friend, but she also didn't want to risk her chances. She didn't want to marry Tristan, but she would if she had to. She felt a knot form in her stomach and it wouldn't go away. Why did he have to marry her anyway? She would just explain to Cain that Gwen was in love with Tristan and he would get her family out and let them all go live quietly in the countryside. It hurt too much not to believe it.
Malia and Gwen parted ways once her room was clean. Gwen thanked her for her help, though she seemed to be still lost in thought. Malia really hoped she didn't have to hurt Gwen. She didn't deserve it. Not knowing where else to go, Malia returned to Tristan's rooms. She entered the main room when no one answered her knocks. The bedroom door was open and he was asleep. His brow was pinched in agitation and sweat beaded on his forehead. His prosthetics were standing on the side of the bed. Malia tried to swallow the knot that was forming in her throat. She wasn't good with any of this medical stuff. Her stomach began to churn and as she went to leave the room he spoke.
"Is Cain here?"
Malia looked over at him, he was looking up at her clearly. "Um, no. I don't think so."
"Pick up my cell phone, it's over on the desk." He closed his eyes again, clearly uncomfortable.
Malia walked over to the desk in the room and grabbed the phone.
"His number is under contacts." Tristan said as he raised he hand to cover his eyes. Malia found his number, right next to a small picture of him smiling. She dialed the number and tried to hand the phone over to Tristan but he shook his hand.
"Ask him when he's returning." He said, he sounded like he was going to be sick. Fantastic, she was going to have to talk to the enemy on the phone.
"Tristan? Is everything all right?" He sounded so much unlike himself when he was concerned.
"No, this is, um Olivia." She said slowly, unsure.
"How did you get this phone?" He said accusingly. That sounded more like him.
"Tristan is sick. He wanted me to call you." She replied fumingly.
"Why would he want you to call me? What are you trying to pull?"
"I'm not trying to pull anything! Your brother is sick, he's in bed, and it looks like he has a headache to top everything off. I can't imagine why he wouldn't want to talk to someone as lovely as you in that state!"
"Put him on the phone." She could tell he said it through clenched teeth.
"He wants to know when you're coming home."
"Let me speak with my brother, now." His formidable voice went directly in her ear and caused goose bumps to break out on her arms. She looked down at Tristan who still looked miserable.
"He wont talk to me." Malia said to Tristan, extending the phone towards him. He grabbed it and brought it to his face.
"Hello" He sounded terrible.
Malia didn't like not hearing the other side of the conversation.
"I'm fine, it's just a fever." Tristan winced. "And an unbearable headache."
"No you don't need to, I'm fine. If it gets any worse I'll call a doctor. I just wanted to know when to expect you, you've been off the grid."
"Okay. Try and be nice." Tristan said and handed the phone back to her. "He wants to talk to you."
"Lucky me." She winced, and he halfway smiled. "Yes?" She said into the phone.
"I'm going to be home this evening." She bit her lip. "Until then I want you to take care of Tristan. You are a doctor in training?"
"Well, yes, but-"
"It shouldn't be that hard then. I will be there around dinnertime to check on him."
"Cain I don't think-"
"Goodbye Olivia." He said as he disconnected.
He'd enunciated every syllable. He rarely said her name, well her sister's name. It was disconcerting.
Gwen brought Tristan's lunch of broth and toast up. Malia went into the kitchen area to meet her.
"I need your help." Malia begged. Gwen looked surprised. "I'm supposed to be helping Tristan and I don't know where to start. I'm not good at this stuff and he's getting worse." Malia spoke quickly, her stress had been increasing since the phone call. Tristan had vomited earlier and Malia had almost fainted. She'd had to leave the room and had almost vomited herself.
"Aren't you trained in medicine?" Gwen spoke softly in an attempt to calm Malia.
"Please, I just need your help."
"Okay, calm down." Gwen held up her hands. She walked into Tristan's bedroom slowly. Malia knew she could smell the vomit when she entered. Malia stood in the doorway as Gwen walked over to the bed and took the top throw blanket off of the bed. It had taken the brunt of the vomit, with a little getting on the rug beside the bed. Gwen walked with the blanket into the bathroom and put it in a hamper.
"Go into the kitchen and ask Mrs. Smith for some baking soda." Malia nodded and walked out of the room quickly. She was glad for direction and the ability to leave the room that smelled like sickness. When she returned with a new box of baking soda she noticed that Gwen had cooled some washcloths and placed them on Tristan, one on his forehead and one in each armpit. Tristan must have removed his sweaty shirt because his chest was bare. He looked more relaxed and asleep.
"His temperature was 102. Did you give him anything for the fever?"
"Um.." Malia was showing her inexperience, but she couldn't do this. She wasn't her father and she wasn't her sister.
"There should be some acetaminophen in the medicine cabinet in the bathroom." Gwen was calm and collected, just like Olivia would have been. Malia retrieved the bottle and walked back into the room. Gwen was pouring baking soda all over the rug when she entered. The smell was immensely improved and Malia's nerves calmed minutely. She handed the medicine to Gwen who supported Tristan's shoulders so he could swallow the pills without choking. At least Malia had gotten him some ice water. Other than that inconsequential favor she had epically failed at playing doctor.
After Gwen had attempted to feed Tristan some broth, she drew the curtains and turned on a fan. Both women walked out of the bedroom quietly and partially closed the door.
"So you want to tell me about that?" Gwen asked motioning to the bedroom.
"Thank you so much for helping me. I don't know what I would have done. I just blanked, I don't know what happened." Malia was speaking a mile a minute.
"Olivia, are you trained medically or not?" Gwen looked at her seriously. She wouldn't believe her if she said yes, who would after her laughable disaster. But if she told Gwen the truth, she would be trusting her with everything. She would essentially be giving the woman dirt on herself. It wasn't smart; especially when Malia was planning on marrying the man she was in love with if it came down to that. Gwen would have the power to sway any decisions she made if she wanted to. But she couldn't bring herself to lie to her. She had become her friend.
"Please don't tell Cain." Malia begged.
"Tell him what exactly? Why does he think you are training to be a doctor?" Gwen's eyes looked trustworthy, but Malia still had a lump in her throat.
"I pretended to be my sister." Malia whispered. Tristan more than likely was unconscious, but she wasn't taking any chances. "He asked me if I was Olivia Yates and I said yes, to protect her. My name is Malia Yates." Her voice was shaky. Gwen's eyes were huge with surprise.
"He doesn't know?"
"No one knows." She begged the woman with her eyes to keep it that way. Gwen nodded in understanding
"And you aren't medically inclined?" She actually grinned at that and Malia laughed out loud.
"What gave me away?"
Gwen eventually had to return to work, but she promised that she wouldn't tell a soul. If she was lying it was convincing. Malia desperately wanted to trust her though, so she did. If it was her downfall, so be it.
Tristan woke up a couple hours later. Dinner was quickly approaching and Malia's nervousness had skyrocketed. Cain was going to be back. She didn't realize just how tense he made her until he was gone. She hadn't been able to sit and do one thing the entire time Tristan slept. Finally he walked into the living room where she was sitting, not watching a movie. He was wearing shorts and it was the first time Malia saw his legs.
The prosthetics were very modern and looked technologically advanced. She could see why he moved so fluidly. They were made out of some silver metal. Other than the metallic color, they looked like legs. The edges fit directly into metal implants in the skin. Above the sleek metal was pale skin dusted in dark hair. White scars marred both legs were the prosthetics met the skin. The muscles beneath the skin were strong and maintained.
If Tristan hadn't been sick she was sure he would have caught her staring. She looked up only to discover he wasn't wearing a shirt. He had a white terrycloth bathrobe on but it was completely open. He was definitely muscular. His abs weren't overbearingly defined, but she could count the six-pack. A light dusting of hair covered his broad chest and drifted downwards. He was actually very attractive, which caught her off guard. She hadn't thought of him that way before.
"You should sit down." Malia rose to indicate the couch. He looked confused and agitated.
"It's so hot." He complied softly.
"That's good, it means your fever broke. Let me take your temperature again." Malia walked into the bedroom to retrieve the thermometer. She gave it to him to put under his tongue. "99.8, it's lowering, that's good." Malia could deal with temperature taking. She sighed with relief that he was improving.
Cain chose that moment to enter the room. Malia visibly jumped.
"Oh, you're up." He looked at Tristan. Tristan seemed to notice his state of undress and tied the robe around his waist.
"Yes, I feel a little better." He ran a hand through his unruly curls.
"Yes, Gwen was here I think?" Tristan looked over to Malia. "She must've helped you give me medicine or something."
"Yes, she showed me where everything was and helped me." Malia said quickly.
"Did she now." Cain drawled while looking directly at her hostilely. Malia looked at the ground.
"I think I'm going to take dinner in my room tonight. Thank you Olivia for taking care of me today, I'm sorry that I was such a burden. I regret that you had to see me like that, as I do believe I nearly vomited on you." Tristan spoke with more strength and life than he had all day and it put Malia at ease.
"It was no burden at all." Malia assured him. He nodded and Malia walked slowly towards the door, towards Cain.
"Please call if you need anything brother?" Cain asked.
"Of coarse." Tristan reassured his brother. "It's good to see you again by the way." Cain nodded and joined Malia in the hallway.
She began to walk towards her own room but he grabbed her upper arm with a large tanned hand.
"I do believe we have some catching up to do, Little Girl. Please join me for dinner." Malia didn't like the slow deliberate tone he used.