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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Allow Me This Moment To Breathe
By Freya


The blinds on the windows to the outside world are closed, the room dipped into half-darkness, but the lights from the corridor provide enough illumination for Natalie's eyes to adjust rather quickly.

"How are you holding up?"

Eva's eyes are red-rimmed and heavy-lidded when she lifts her head and Natalie has to suppress a shudder at the image of the woman that presents itself so differently from its usual self.

They are all showing various stages of sickness, everyone at the hospital is, but Eva was the first of the team to present with any symptoms, though it seems to be progressing slower in her than in others.

While graced with the same rash along her torso and upper extremities as Eva, Natalie is still more or less healthy otherwise.

Natalie puts her charts down on the table and moves to sit next to Eva on the hospital bed, the one in which Eva refuses to lie, and so they sit side by side in the twilight.

Eva sighs. "I'm doing okay, I guess," she answers quietly, her breathing coming heavier than just two hours ago.

She turns to face Natalie, stealing a side-way glance and a smirk.

"You're not gonna get rid of me that easily, Doctor Durant," she adds, trying to lift the heavy atmosphere with a little humor. It seems to work. A smile ghosts across Natalie's freckled features and quiet laughter rumbles in her chest.

Yet despite the smile, her eyes are serious when she looks at Eva, one of her hands creeping into Eva's lap to interlink their fingers.

"I'd be disappointed if you were so easy, Miss Rossi," Natalie breathes and Eva feels her own breath catch in her throat.

She does not know if it is yet another symptom of the unnamed disease that is wreaking havoc in her body. She wants to say yes, it is, but it has been happening more frequently than she would like to admit lately, long before she fell ill, so she cannot.

A wave of heat rushes over her back, sweat breaking out along its wake, and Eva suddenly feels like she is burning up. She wrenches her hand from Natalie's, brings it up to touch her cheeks, her forehead, and sure enough she finds she has a fever now, too, to go with the headache that set in hours ago.

Natalie removes Eva's hand and replaces it with her own, confirming what Eva already knows.

"You have a fever," Natalie states, softly brushing Eva's hair away from her face, sliding sweaty strands behind her ear, and Eva tries to smile reassuringly as another wave follows the first, this one cold and icy, like a bucket of arctic water emptied over her body, and she shivers as goose bumps form on her skin.

Next to her, Natalie rises to her feet. She places her hands on Eva's shoulders, applying gentle pressure and guiding her friend into a horizontal position. Eva does not protest and Natalie feels a pang of worry at what that submissive behavior reveals about the younger woman's current condition.

She tucks the sheet around Eva's form, silently observing that the press liaison has lost weight, noticeably so, after only two days, and sits on the edge of the bed.

"Try to get some sleep," she says, and Eva knows it might sound like a suggestion, but Natalie is a doctor and suggesting is not something she usually does under the given circumstances. So Eva nods, turning onto her side and pulling the sheet up to her chin, willing her body and mind to relax.

She feels Natalie tracing a finger along the contours of her face and she opens her eyes, surprised that she hasn't even noticed them falling shut.

Natalie is smiling down at her, finger still moving over Eva's face, tenderly brushing her hairline, and Eva briefly wonders if Natalie is even aware that her touch feels more like a caress than anything else. But it feels good to have Natalie fussing over her like this, and it might be the only good thing to come from this illness.

"I'll get you something for your fever," Natalie whispers. "I'll be right back."

Eva nods again, letting her eyes close as Natalie's touch leaves her face. She follows the sound of the other woman's footsteps as Natalie crosses the room, then the door opening and closing with a soft clicking noise.

A moment later, Eva is fast asleep.

The End

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