"Once Upon an Eyelash" by Tris

Okie dokie, so I've worked on this story about 5 weeks and figured I should unveil it now. Another chapter is coming, but it's a complementary chapter, not strictly a sequel. So I won't leave you on a cliff! Part II of Burned and Broken is coming along very well, as is the conclusion to the Prof. Wilken's fic. Robert isn't going quite as smoothly, but coming along none the less. I'm also working on another Leo story, plus another Wilkens story and about 15 more random TC stories so yeah…heh heh…slow and steady, slow and steady!!

If this seems like an extreme treatment of an eyelash, I assure you, this all happened to me. That's what inspired this story. The breathing thing, everything, all happened. So it's possible for an eyelash to be this much of a pain!

Finally, reviews are welcomed with open arms!

"Hey Markus," Val said, stepping into his office doorway. "Are you getting some paperworkMarkus? Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I've just got something in my eye."

"Rubbing it's going to make it worse."

"I can't help it, it itches like crazy!" Markus scrubbed at his left eye, gripping the edge of his desk with his other hand.

Visibly concerned, Val stepped into the room. "Markus, you're going to make yourself blind. And stop holding your breath!"

Markus emptied his lungs in a rush and began breathing in uneven gasps. However, he rubbed his eye even more fiercely, letting out a restrained but still intense noise of discomfort.

"I think I should take a look at this." Val strode forward and grasped his wrist, wrestling it away from where it had glued itself to his face.

"Val, please, I can take care of this myself…"

Undaunted, she gently but firmly pushed his arms away before carefully prying his eyelid open. The brown iris was rolled back in exasperation, but his shoulders relaxed fractionally as he saw the intense concern in Val's face.

"It's getting bloodshot…but, I don't see any foreign objects."

"Can you wrap this up, nurse? This is really uncomfortable," Markus said through his teeth, as his eye desperately tried to crunch closed.

"Markus, hold still and stop being cranky. I want to make sure I don't miss anything." She peered at the slender lances of red shot through the white of his eye.

Tears began welling up behind the lower lid of the irritated eye; they spilled over and trickled down his cheek. "Ugh—uck—Val, can you hand me a tissue please?" Shamefaced, Markus brought his fingers up to his nose.

Val stretched out her hand, plucking a Kleenex from the blue cardboard box on his desk. She handed it over with a sympathetic look.

"Thangs." Markus wiped his nose, sniffling. His eye was clenched shut. "Arrgh, this ITCHES!" He ground his knuckles into the eye, producing a soft squeaky sound due to the moisture from the tears.

"Markus—oh, the tears washed out an eyelash; I guess it was under your top lid. That must be what was bothering you."

"Wonderful. I don't feel any different."

"You should flush your eye with water. There could be something else in there."

"You're probably right," Markus said, giving his nose a final rub and throwing away the crumpled Kleenex. "But right now I'd rather just curl up and die. I think it would end the pain faster."

"Come on, Markus. Our patients go through way more than—"

"Not a lecture, Val. At least, not when I'm on the brink of insanity."

"Okay, you're right. I'm sorry. But you need to wash out your eye; I'll help you if you need."

"You're sweet, Val. Thanks." Markus smiled through his pain. "And you're right--I'm cranky."

"Well, I can't really blame you," Val admitted. "Rogue eyelashes are a pain in the neck. Come on, let's go." Val grasped his arm and pulled gently.

Slowly, Markus got to his feet. "How would you know? Has this happened to you?" He asked as they headed down the hall.

"Yes, it has, and I was doing a cat dissection to boot!"

"Are you serious?"

"Yeah. I couldn't touch my face because my hands were covered in feline body fluids. I just closed my eye and bit my tongue in half."

"Why were you dissecting a cat? Did you want to be a vet?"

"No, it was in high school Bio lab. Our Professor had a bit of a phobia concerning the beaten path. He figured since people usually cut open fetal pigs, he'd get a couple barrels of dead cats."

"Oh, yuck!" Markus had to laugh at the gross mental image.

"Yeah, exactly. I felt like a mad scientist's apprentice." Val laughed with him, but worry flickered in her hazel eyes as she saw he was still struggling slightly for air. "Ah, we're here."

They'd arrived at the tiny unisex bathroom, the only bathroom in the Alaskan hospital. After knocking sharply, Val opened the door and led Markus to the sink where she turned on the cold water. "Now splash this all over your eye."

Groaning slightly as the effect of laughter therapy faded, Markus cupped his hand under the faucet and caught a palmful of the frigid liquid. He began bathing his eye, forcing it to stay open as he dashed the water over the corneal surface. Val stood beside him, trying to keep his spirits up with words of encouragement and support. Finally he grabbed some paper towels and dried his hands and face as they headed back to his office.

"Better?" Val asked as they stepped inside.

"Y-yeah, I think so." Markus made a beeline for the bed that was there for snowbound nights. He dropped onto the edge and leaned forward, resting his arms on his knees.

"Your breathing still isn't back to normal, though." Val noted, finally vocalizing her concern. "Does your chest hurt?"

"No, it's weird; it's like my throat is sealed shut. The air presses inside me, but it can't get out unless I consciously will it. I guess breathing has become voluntary for the moment."

"It's probably just stress." Val grasped his shoulders. "Deep breath in…"

He filled his lungs dutifully.

"Now out through your mouth…mouth, Markus."

"I didn't brush my teeth this morning."

Val laughed quietly. "It doesn't matter, as long as you didn't have garlic shrimp for breakfast."

"No, I didn't," Markus said, looking worn. His fingers suddenly flew to his face. "Is my eye twitching!?"

"The area under your eyebrow did for a second, but it's stopped now." She looked at him thoughtfully, taking in his drooping posture and uneven breathing. "Tell you what, Markus. There's…forty-five minutes until our next patient, and it's just a routine physical. Why don't you relax for a while?"

"Yeah, I think I will. You have work to do, I assume?"

She shook her head and sat down on the bed beside him. "I'm staying here until I'm satisfied that your breathing is easier."

Markus sighed quietly and turned to look at her. His breathing was getting slightly steadier already. "Thanks, Val. I really mean it." He had his serious face on. "Not everyone would take the time for a dumb eyelash."

"Well…you're my friend, Markus, and I care about you."

He put his arm around her back, and they sat in companionable silence for quite a while.