Fine Print (8)
Short and sweet, but I’ve missed this fic.
a nessian fic | masterlist | fic blog
Nesta gets sicker before she gets better.
The sight of her still-intact hair fills Cassian with such profound and unwarranted relief that he doesn’t even notice at first that there’s something wrong with Nesta. He was far too proud a man to admit that he’d spent the better part of their time apart fretting over the loss of her beautiful hair.
But that he had.
The very thought of it being gone had troubled him enough that even his family took notice of his change in mood. Not that they had any inclination as to what the cause in his change of temperament was. Nesta, true to form, made him sweat it out, declining every indirect attempt to get a photo from her. The direct requests were blatantly ignored.
And then there she was, her hair unbound and curled to perfection. As stubborn and fierce as ever, it wasn’t until Nesta attempted to speak that her carefully constructed facade broke. Cassian had to admit that it took him off guard, surprised him. There was a part of him that viewed Nesta as superhuman. Otherworldly. He didn’t think that Nesta ever got sick, not with the way she always marched around, that take no prisoners attitude of hers set into the firm line of her mouth.
Yet, there Nesta was, wobbling in his doorway on her sky-high heels, looking inclined to topple over at even the slightest hint of wind.
It seemed Nesta, however, was determined to pretend otherwise. In fact, she pretends the entire way up the stairs as Cassian guides her towards the bedroom, complaining agitatedly about his “mother hen behavior.” Every instinct tells Cassian that this is a terrible idea, tucking her into his bed to take care of her. Because that’s not what this is, not what they’re doing.
It’s that thought alone that had him resisting a smile as Nesta flops into his bed, grumbling about “feeling fine.” The slur of her words is only one of many reasons Cassian doesn’t believe her; he’s never seen the woman look so pale, her face clear of makeup.
Battle armor, Mor liked to call it. Cassian supposes the phrase fit Nesta, too. She was nothing if not guarded, armed with her beautiful dresses and high heels. Protected by a wickedly sharp tongue.
Cassian lets the weak insults roll off of his shoulders as he gets Nesta ready for bed, tucking her in tightly amongst the blankets to keep her safe and warm before crawling in beside her.
Nesta shrugs him off quickly, whining, “You’re too hot.”
“Thanks, Nes.” Cassian laughs as she elbows him. The sting is worth it.
But he gives her the space she’s asked for without struggle. Cassian’s feelings aren’t hurt by the lack of intimacy; they’re not a particularly cuddling pair, not outside the realms of sex. That’s something they save for afterward, once they’re satisfied and sleepy. Once their guards are lowered, and they’re coming down from their highs. Nesta’s too prickly to how him affection otherwise; though, Cassian wouldn’t hate it were she to roll over and tuck her face underneath his chin.
Touch starved, he recalls being called by his last sexual partner, before Nesta and the arrangement. It was said in the innocent, teasing manner of pillow talk shared between strangers. Cassian felt the words like a physical blow, a stab right through the heart. That was exactly what he was.
Nesta didn’t like pillow talk. “I don’t like you.”
Cauldron, he’d picked the worst sugar baby ever. Cassian barks a laugh at the sickly woman’s cruel words. It’s hard to take Nesta too seriously when her nose matched the color of Mor’s entire wardrobe. “Goodnight, Sweetheart.”
They fall into silence. Cassian makes himself comfortable and listens to Nesta’s raspy breathing, already improving from how she sounded before. He sighs and allows his eyes to fall closed; Cassian’s always found it easier to fall asleep with some company in his bed.
Back in college, Cassian was notorious for how he rotated through women, charming his way into their arms for a night or three before moving along to the next conquest. He said it was because he liked the attention too much to stay in any one place for too long.
The reality was that something restless in him always chased him from those women’s beds. Something full of doubt and self-deprecation. Cassian never allowed himself to dwell on it long enough to really unpack it, to explore it. No, he closed the lid on that Pandora’s box quickly, shutting off the train of thought. And ran off in search of the next conquest.
That all changed after graduation when his surrogate father-figure passed away unexpectedly. Suddenly his best friend and brother, Rhys, found himself in charge of an entire company, and he needed Cassian and Azriel’s support.
Too soon, they were thrust into the strange world of “adulthood” with board meetings and family crises and not enough time to take care of themselves.
Imagine Cassian’s surprise when his thrilling social life came to an end. His neurotic brothers called him at all hours of the day to solve problems—or to yell at him for causing problems. And he often found himself doing the same to them. Suddenly, Cassian didn’t have time for himself anymore. Didn’t have time to chase fleeting ghost of happiness beneath bedsheets with strangers.
And in the blink of an eye, Cassian became lonely.
“By the Mother, Cassian,” Nesta snaps, breaking his train of thought. “Could you think any louder?”
It’s the nasal sound of her voice that keeps Cassian from biting back. He doesn’t have the heart to be mean to sick Nesta, even if she probably deserves it. Instead, he huffs and reaches for her waist; Cassian ignores Nesta’s grumbling and pulls her close, partially atop him.
“Quit your bitching, and got to sleep,” Cassian tells her softly. Fondly.
Never would Cassian have expected to find himself browsing the internet for an “arrangement.” It was something he’d heard of amongst his peers, businessmen without the time or patience to put effort into finding and maintaining a relationship. Curiosity pushed him to finally look; desperation to escape the loneliness that plagued him pushed him to take that final leap.
Cauldron, Cassian had never felt creepier in his life, interviewing women to find one to pay “an allowance” in exchange for their “companionship”—and he’d done some arguably shady shit in the name of family. But Cassian had a hard time complaining about the results.
After all, it brought him the spitfire of a woman currently sliding closer to him and throwing an arm around his middle. Cassian suppresses a smile and hugs her closer.
Yes, it brought him Nesta.
The sound of a wet, brutal cough wakes Cassian up. He reaches for Nesta without opening his eyes, closing the distance between them that grew in their sleep. Cassian sleepily smoothes a hand down her back in a manner he prays she’ll find comforting. Otherwise, Nesta might just take his hand for the offense.
The cough subsides, and Nesta groans, burrowing her face into her pillow and sniffling in a decidedly unattractive manner. He finds it peculiarly adorable anyway.
Cassian gets out of bed with a groan and searches for the cough medicine he gave Nesta last night. It’d knock her out again, but Cassian didn’t think that more sleep would be such a bad thing for Nesta, considering the way she sounded. It would probably do her some good.
Nesta is already asleep once more when he finally returns with the medicine and a glass of water; it’s tempting to leave her be, to let her sleep blissfully while he goes to work. But the “mother hen” in him can’t bear the thought of her coughing her way through another sleep.
Cassian gently wakes her with a hand across her cheek, brushing away the errant hair in her face. The man doesn’t think he’s ever seen Nesta look so ruffled; he likes it.
Nesta blinks open her eyes, scowling a death glare at him. “What?”
“Cauldron!” Cassian swears, offering her the meds and water. He narrows his eyes at her. “Will you just let me help you?”
Nesta quickly snatches the supplies from him, sitting up and downing the medicine like a shot of tequila. She could probably keep up with his brothers if given the opportunity. Now that would be a sight.
“No.” A cough. “I’m perfectly capable of drinking water on my own.”
“Is that why you’re wearing it?” He raises an eyebrow in challenge, looking at the splotches of water on her sweater. Fuck, he did like Nesta in a sweater. “Because you’re so capable?”
Nesta’s icy grey eyes stare him down. Her ability to hold his gaze with such ferocity is impressive; Cassian guesses that means the menthol in the medicine has soothed her throat already. He’s glad to see her up and fighting if exhausted by her stubbornness.
They stare at one another, and time stops. Then Nesta coughs, a quiet, little thing that she tries to muffle. Cassian grins as he accepts the glass of water from her so that Nesta might cover her mouth and cough harder.
“Fuck off,” she wheezes, tears pricking her eyes.
He chuckles. “Actually, I am off to work now. So, you’re in luck.” Cassian earns another ferocious glare. “I should be back in time for lunch. Try not to miss me,” he adds with a shameless wink over his shoulder.
A thought hits him, and Cassian pauses at the door. “Is there anything you’d like me to bring back? For lunch?”
Nesta is quiet so long that Cassian assumes she’s simply ignoring him. He reaches for his jacket, shrugging it on in defeat. Cassian is already more than a little late because of his fussing; he’ll be hearing it from at least one of his brothers. Azriel, probably. Cassian wouldn’t be surprised if Rhys was conveniently absent from the office again.
He’s pocketing his wallet when Nesta says, “Soup.”
Cassian manages to resist looking at her in surprise; he ducks his head to hide the smug smile playing on his lips. Instead, he plays with his tie, feigning indifference.
“There’s a bakery a block over—” Nesta sniffles. “—from here.” She sips the water, soothing her voice. “They serve chicken noodle soup. I like to go there on my way home when it’s cold.”
He finds something endearing about the words, about the idea of Nesta stopping for a bowl of comfort on the way home from his apartment. Nesta doesn’t often give Cassian any insight into her life outside of the time she spends with him. He’s tried to pry little bits of information out of her in the past, of course, but Nesta is infallible. It’s hard to blame her for it.
Cassian glances over his shoulder at her. He smiles at the sight of Nesta curled up in his comforter with her hair piled on the top of her head; it’s so unlike Nesta to look so casual. Even after sex, she’s quick to clean herself up, braiding back her hair and removing her ruined makeup. He likes seeing her like this, even if it’s only due to her illness.
“Thank you.” Nesta’s face is soft. He can tell she struggles to find her next words. “No one has ever taken care of me like this.”
Emotion clogs Cassian’s throat. He wasn’t expecting Nesta to say thank you, much less something like that. It makes his stomach feel funny, and Cassian doesn’t like that one bit.
“I think the meds are going to your head, Nesta Archeron.” He cracks a shit-eating grin, rebuilding those walls they work so carefully to maintain. “It’s making you nice.”
He regrets the joke immediately. Cassian can only watch helplessly as Nesta snaps her guard up high; her eyes flash with irritation, scoffing at him hatefully.
“Aren’t you late for work?” she snaps.
“It’ll be fine.” Cassian laughs, mourning the change in her disposition immediately, but he has no one to blame for it but himself. “That’s the beauty of working for the family.”
Prompt: “No one has ever taken care of me like this.”
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