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God, I wish that had been a dream. But I guess there’s no chance of that, is there?
Sighing, he pushed himself upright, cradling his right hand in his lap as he swung his legs over the side of the bed. He sat there for a moment, head down, before summoning his strength to stand. He rose slowly, discovering that his calf muscles had tightened painfully as he slept. He exhaled and began making his determined way to the hallway—he remembered McCoy telling him that the bathroom was the next room to the right.
He was grateful that he was wearing sweats, and not something with a button or a zipper.
With that taken care of, he wandered into the living room. Cynthia glanced up from the book in her hand and smiled.
He nodded. “Just sore.” He stood uncertainly near the doorway.
“Well, come in and sit down, then,” Cynthia prodded gently, gesturing to the couch. She unfolded her legs from beneath herself. “I want to check your temperature again … and are you hungry?”
He almost smiled. “A little,” he admitted.
She smiled impishly and stood. “I’ll be right back. Make yourself comfortable.”
He edged over to the couch and sat, looking around. The opposite wall was lined with bookshelves, filled to overflowing and with a plasma screen TV opposite the couch. To his right was a grandfather clock, and to his left was a desk with an obsolete computer in one corner. Glancing after Cynthia, he bit his lip and located the television remote.
The TV was tuned to NBC, which was just beginning its evening newscast. The lead story was the fire that had displaced him.
The feeling of numbness returned as he watched the video. The building had been gutted by the fire. Clearly, he had little if anything left.
He took a shaky breath and closed his eyes against the sudden rush of misery. How can this be happening?
“Mike?” Cynthia had returned, the thermometer in her hand. She glanced at the TV and gently but firmly took the remote from him, changing the channel. “I don’t think you need to worry about that yet. I’m sure Jack will tell you that you’re welcome to stay as long as you need to. Open.”
He didn’t feel like arguing, and she slipped the thermometer under his tongue. She disappeared again as it read his temperature, returning with the quilt he’d slept under for most of the day and draping it over him.
He avoided her gaze even as she took the thermometer.
“Ninety-nine point one,” she read. “That’s a good sign. Fevers tend to spike in the afternoon, and yours has dropped.” She smiled at him. “Your body’s adjusting.”
“Great,” he mumbled tonelessly.
“I’ll warm up some soup for you,” she offered. “What would you like?”
“I’m not hungry.”
Even without looking at her, he could see the sympathetic expression on her face. “You need to eat,” she advised. “Even if it’s just a few bites of soup. You’re a vegetarian, right?”
Defeated, he nodded. “Mostly.”
“I think Jack has some tomato noodle soup hidden at the back of the pantry.” She regarded him for a moment. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
He watched her go, his eyes hopeless.
Link to [Part 16]