She gulped, “a friend?”

Nodding he moved out of the lift in long strides, “yep, a friend who thinks you need a break! Now please!”

Mason managed to open the apartment door and carry her through to the hallway. Lowering her to the floor, he smiled, “I’ve got a very juicy chicken in the fridge, amongst other things. I reckon I’ll have a meal ready in an hour.” He pointed to a door, “the shower’s through there if you want one, or at least some joggers or a t-shirt for you to relax in. OK?”

She still wasn’t sure, but the thought of heading home to an empty house, a microwave meal for one and Mike and Steve fighting on the Xbox was a poor comparison to this warm, modern and comfortable apartment. “This goes against my better judgement!” she offered, but her reward was a warm smile.

                “Tell me about it!”

With that he made for the kitchen.

The room he’d directed her into was a bedroom, but through it she could see an en suite bathroom. As promised the wardrobe was filled with clothes, and amongst the shirts, jeans and jumpers she found a pair of soft well worn grey lounge pants and a t-shirt. Lifting them to her cheek she appreciated their softness, then taking a sniff she groaned, he should bottle that scent, it’d get her through many a dark night.

A shower was just what the doctor ordered, it was invigorating, but as she dragged on his borrowed clothes, the exhaustion returned.

Mason looked up as the door opened, the chicken was cooking, he’d prepared the veggies, all he needed was to open some wine. Seeing her he froze. Dwarfed by his too large clothes, damp hair scraped back from her face she looked young, vulnerable and very pale. His heart tugged in a protective way, he’d never felt like this about a woman before, never had more than a lustful urge, but in that instant of spotting her all he felt was a compulsion to see her vibrant, bright and happy again.

                “Hey! You ok?”

She smiled, “I’m just a bit cold.”

He came across the room to her, “you should’ve dried your hair.”

                “I’m too tired.” She slumped onto the sofa, “I’ve had a taxing few weeks, it’s obvious taken it out of me!”

He reached for a blanket and tucked it around her, “dinner will be an hour, just have a sleep. I’ll wake you when it’s cooked and then take you home. OK?”

Her eyes were already drifting shut as she nodded.

An hour later he was more than a little concerned. She’d changed from sleeping peacefully to tossing and turning, her face was flushed and her skin hot. He’d tried to wake her, but she’d only groaned.

                “Mum?” It was all he could think of in a crisis. Fortunately she answered on the fourth ring.

He could hear both the surprise and the pleasure in her voice, “Hi Mason!” Once again he felt a twinge of guilt at the way he’d abandoned her over the years. The rift between him and his step father was nothing to do with her, yet he’d blamed her by disappearing for so long. “What’s gone wrong?”

He laughed, “Nothing! Oh ye of little faith! No I’ve got a friend here who’s not very well. Hot, shivering and I can’t really wake her. What should I do?”

                “Sounds like flu. They need plenty of fluid and paracetamol if you can manage it, that’ll help the temperature come down. And rest of course. Do you need a doctor?”

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