Claire woke up to the sound of the shower running in the next room. She turned over and looked at the rumple of sheets and blankets that was Leon's bed. Trying to book last minute flights back to the States had been a nightmare and Leon had insisted that if they were going to have to endure a sixteen hour stop over in Frankfurt, it may as well be in the comfort of a real bed and not a row of airport waiting-room chairs. At first Claire had resisted; she was short enough to curl up in relative comfort almost anywhere, and it wasn't like Leon really slept anyway. But sinking down into the plush pillow she was glad he'd persuaded her. The shower switched off and Claire pulled herself up into a seated position against a bank of pillows. It had been years since she and Leon had been able to spend this amount of time together and it was nice not to feel the pressure of a whirlwind visit.
" 'morning starshine," Leon said stepping out of the bathroom, his hair still damp and his clothes slightly sticking to his not-quite dry physique. Not that she was noticing.
"Top 'o the mornin' to you Mister Kennedy."
"Don't even start with the Irish jokes. Not until I've had at least three cups of coffee," he said, dumping the provided bag of ground coffee into the miniature coffee maker set up on the dresser.
Claire reached for the remote on the nightstand that was nestled in between their beds, turning on the television with the press of a button. Leon leaned back on the disaster of his own bed, his bare feet sticking out the end. She flicked idly through the channels as the smell of cheap coffee filtered through the room.
"Nice, finally some English channels," she said stopping on an all-day news feed. The anchor was reporting on the sale of a major British corporation while other headlines scrolled across the bottom. Claire shook her head, "now I remember why I don't watch tv. Maybe there's some hallucinogenic children's program on," she said, flipping channels.
"Hey wait, go back for a sec," Leon said, sitting up.
" – our top story. A viral outbreak has been contained within a hospital of a mid-western American city. Residents of Madison, Wisconsin have been warned to stay away from the University of Wisconsin Hospital campus, and are advised to-"
In an instant Leon felt every drop of his blood rush out of his chest cavity into his skull.
"Leon are you okay?" Claire asked, leaning forward. His fists clenched into the blankets, his face flickering between unnatural calm and something Claire had never seen before.
"My mom works at that hospital," he said tightly. Claire looks back at the screen where shaky, amateur footage was showcasing a line of riot-gear police forming a human barricade. She didn't know what to say, so she didn't say anything. She wanted to reach out to him, but his body language warned her off. In her chest, her heart clenched in on itself.
From the nightstand Leon's cellphone gave a chirp, and he reached for it instantly with one swipe of his long arm. His eyes scanned the brief message in a heartbeat and his face went hard in a way that Claire thought she should probably, no, definitely be afraid of.
"Leon," she ventured softly, "what is it?" Her heart felt like a black hole in her chest. In the background the news anchor droned on.
He tossed the phone onto her bed, leaning down to pull on his socks in swift, resentful movements.
"Get dressed," he said curtly.
Claire picked up the phone, already half out of bed. On the screen was a brief message:
Now we're even.
-End Part I-