I slept like the dead that night, and that was something I desparately needed after what I went through all week. In fact, I was sleeping so soundly that I didn't even hear the door open when my Uncle tiptoed in early the next morning to check on me. He smiled, walking softly towards my nightstand, and turned off the alarm that I automatically set for school. Afterwards, he adjusted my blankets so I was comfortably covered, and left just as quickly as he came.
When I awoke, it was after ten o'clock, and I felt a wave of panic wash over me.
"Oh my God," I croaked, practically falling out of bed in my desparation. "Oh my God." I couldn't afford to miss another day of school, and nearly ran headfirst into the side of the doorway as I bolted for the hall.
"Where do you think you're going?" Peter asked coming out of the bathroom just as I prepared to go in, and I stared at him, open-mouthed.
"I overslept!" I squeaked. "I'm already three hours late for school."
"Yeah?" he raised an eyebrow, amused by my slightly hysterical reaction.
"Yeah?!" I threw my arms in the air. "This makes five days!" I held up one hand to elaborate using all five fingers. "I'm gonna be so screwed!"
"No you're not," He promised. "I turned off your alarm this morning."
Suddenly, the panic disappeared, and I swore I was going to faint. Peter put his hands on my shoulders, and turned me in the direction of my bedroom.
"Why?" I squeaked, and once we reached my doorway, he pulled me into a comforting hug.
"Nathan called the school and explained everything to your principal," Peter replied, and I collapsed onto the bed, allowing him to sit beside me. "Claire, you needed go to get some sleep."
"So I won't get expelled?" I asked, not trusting my true voice yet, and Peter ruffled my already sleep-touselled hair.
"Of course not," he chuckled, and I immediately gave him another hug.
"You sound a lot better," I announced, and Peter coughed into a fist before standing again.
"Yeah," He admitted. "I'm taking off for the rest of the week so I won't accidentally make myself relapse."
I snorted, rubbing my hands over my face. "I would kill you if that happened," I teased, and curled right back under the covers. "Thank you," I added, and he touched my face once, before bending down to kiss my forehead.
"I should be thanking you, munchkin, for taking care of me."
I yawned, and turned over, hugging the pillow to my chest. The idea of having a full day off from school without worrying about the reprecions suited me fine. When I woke up around eight, I joined Peter in the living room. He sat on the couch wrapped in blankets, sipping from a cup of tea, and watched the evening news on television. I sat down beside him, and the two of us smiled at each other. No words were needed...he put his arm around my shoulders, and allowed me to use his own as a pillow.
When the news ended around nine thirty, Peter let out a yawn into his fist, and announced he was going to bed. "You should, too," he added, "especially since you're going back to school tomorrow." he rubbed his nose, and I sighed, draping an arm over the edge of the couch.
"Thank God you're better," I breathed once I stood to give him a hug, and he smiled. "I just didn't want to have to say goodbye, not when I'm finally getting to know you. And I love you."
"I love you too, Munchkin," Peter insisted. "Probably more than you can imagine." He gave my cheek a gentle pinch, just before breaking off to sneeze into the crook of his arm.
"Bless you," I laughed.
"Ugh...that was was charming," He croaked when he straightened up.
"Id hate to see your allergies work up," I replied, and he made a face.
"If you're lucky you won't," he said, and cleared his throat before giving me a final wave as he headed into his room for the night. I stood watching as he shut the glass door behind him, wrapping my arms around myself and heading slowly towards my own.
This had been the longest week of my life, even longer than when Zach and I realized the tapes I made of my abilities had gone missing, or the week following Jackie's murder. If I had lost Peter, my world would have been shattered. He was my best friend, and the thought of his being so close to death's door terrified me.
I lay my outfit out on the chair for school, and made sure I had everything in my backpack. I smiled as I remembered Peter's comment about Nathan sticking up for me to the school principal, and was so glad to be part of this strange new family.
Peter improved a lot over the next couple of days, and little by little started to get back into his old routine. I felt a surge of worry when he came out of his bedroom wearing his scrubs in the middle of the week, and he laughed at the expression on my face.
"Claire, you knew I'd have to go back eventually," he said, and I nodded, fiddling with the spoon in my hand. When I returned to school, no one really made a big deal about my absence. A lot of students were out sick with the flu, so they didn't think much of it when I was gone for a week.
"I guess the thought of you being around sick people again scares me a little," I admitted, and he sat down to pour himself some cereal as well.
"I'll be fine," he promised.
After breakfast the two of us got ready to proceed into the bitter winter weather, and just before we parted ways my Uncle gave me a hug and quick kiss on top of the head.
"Have a good day," he announced, and I smiled.
"Thanks," I replied. "Don't work too hard yourself."
He winked before waving, and I hurried down the road towards Manhattan High.