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"It's no longer a question of staying healthy. It's a question of finding a sickness you like."
by Roland 'Jim' Lowery
Knuckles knocked. Door opened. Jane stood on the other side, looking concerned and wringing her hands on a small can. "I came as soon as I heard," she said.
Mary nodded and stepped back to allow Jane access to the relatively plush dorm room. While not exactly spacious, it sported more elbow room than the dungeon Jane was used to back at Boston Fine Arts. Raft College either took extraordinary care of their students, or it was merely the fact that not every single available surface was covered to overflowing with art supplies.
"How is she doing?"
Mary shrugged helplessly. "She looked a little better the last time I saw her," she said, "but that was a while ago. She spends most of her time locked up in her room anyway, and now . . . " The petite woman threw her hand up at one of the two bedroom doors leading from the main room. "You'd best go in and see if you can do anything for her."
With a nod and a small gulp, Jane moved over to the indicated door and rapped softly with the rim of the can she carried. She then placed her ear against the faux wood and listened carefully, only hearing the soft rustling of sheets beyond. When another knock received the same results, she called out to the person on the other side. When that didn't work, she decided to take a more proactive approach.
The lock on the door was ridiculously simple, meant only to ensure privacy from honest folk, not truly keep a determined intruder out. Jane - having become very determined by this point - pulled out her keys, laid the flat edge of one into the depression in the middle of the doorknob, and twisted, causing the knob's central cylinder to turn and pop out the lock.
Daria's dorm bedroom still gave Jane a slight sense of deja vu every time she entered. It was far smaller than the room back at the Morgendorffer residence, and the padding on the walls was nothing more than haphazardly hung grey comforters from the local thrift store, but it still somehow managed to evoke the insane asylum motif with which Daria had become so enamored.
Without any preamble, Jane closed the door behind her and sauntered over to the bed sitting on the room's far side. The covers and sheets on the bed sat bunched up in the corner, obviously trying to hide the fact that a human form lay just underneath. Jane placed her hands on her hips and waited patiently. She was finally rewarded with a muffled whine.
"'Fraid I can't do that, munchkin," she replied, hefting the can in her hand. "I spent all my cash on the cab ride over here. The only way you're getting rid of me is by carrying me all the way back to Beefac."
Jane chuckled. "Who do you think let me in? Sorry, kiddo, but it looks like your roomie's on my side this time."
The tangle of bed coverings lowered a few inches to reveal an equally tangled mess of brown hair framing a pair of large round glasses covering bleary, reddened eyes. Sweat glistened on the forehead in between.
"You're a horrible human being," Daria said, still muffled by the covers.
"Naaaah," Jane protested, waving a hand dismissively. "Well, maybe. But would a horrible human being bring you this?" She proudly presented the can of chicken noodle soup that she had been carrying around, holding it up with one hand and moving the other across it like a Price is Right model.
Daria's eyes frowned noticeably. "Yes," she mumbled. "S'a trap."
"Just a small one! Come on, Morgendorffer! All you have to do is come out from your little hidey-hole and be sociable for a few minutes and it's all yours. I might even pop it in the microwave for you myself!" She dangled the can a few inches away from the bedside, snatching it away when a slender arm popped out of the cover bundle and swiped at it. "Ah ah ah!" she admonished. "You didn't say the magic words!"
Daria's arm fell lifelessly to her side as she slumped down under the comforters, covering up her eyes again. After sitting like this for a few moments, she shifted down to lay flat on her bed and cover back up completely. Jane huffed and set the soup can on Daria's small writing desk before carefully leaning on the edge of the tiny mattress. At first it seemed that Daria wasn't going to make any concession to this move, but she finally rolled up on one side and scooted back to allow Jane some room to sit.
"So, that's a no go on the coming out thing?" Jane asked. Getting no response, she slapped her knees and said, "Okay then, I'm coming in!"
Daria halfheartedly kicked the other woman in the back as she removed her red overshirt and started unlacing her boots. After stretching out her stocking feet for a second, Jane lifted up the covers and sheets and dove under before Daria could push her back. She turned on her side and scooted her back up against Daria's front, then tucked the covers down around the both of them.
"Good lord, woman," she said once they were settled. "How can you stand it under here?"
"S'freezin'" Daria grumbled before pulling the covers down from her head.
"That's just the fever talking."
Fully succumbing to the invasion of her space, Daria wrapped her arm around Jane's midsection and pulled the other girl closer. She nuzzled her face between Jane's shoulderblades and sighed, "You're gonna have a fever, too, if you keep this up."
Jane shrugged. "A flu isn't gonna bother me too much," she said. "I'll just cough up some phlegm on a canvas. Easy A. Besides," she added as she interlaced her fingers with Daria's, "I figure it's worth it. As long as you don't snot all over the back of my shirt, anyway."
"Just sweat and spit, promise. So . . . don't you have classes to go to instead of bugging me?"
"I only had two today," said Jane. "I was able to work out a personal day thing with the profs, though. I'll just have to art extra hard next week for 'em. If I could've worked it out sooner, I would have brought some orange juice with the soup. Not that you're getting the soup yet, mind."
The two of them lay still for a while, simply enjoying each other's company. Daria would occasionally turn her head and enter into a coughing spasm, but otherwise they stayed still and quiet. Jane could feel the intense heat radiating off of Daria's body and could feel it in the breath on her back, but she kept the covers on and focused on the comforting softness of the smaller woman's form against her. After a while, Daria tightened her embrace for a moment.
"I love you," she whispered huskily.
"Love you, too," Jane whispered back, squeezing Daria's hand in her own. "And congratulations, those were the magic words. You can have your soup now."
"Hooray," Daria said dreamily as her breathing slowed. Within moments, she had obviously drifted off to sleep.
Jane carefully shifted just enough to remove Daria's glasses and set them on the nightstand. After turning off the small bedside lamp, she settled back into a more comfortable position and prepared to doze off herself. She would almost certainly catch whatever it was Daria had - be it cold, flu, or whatever - but she had been telling the truth before amongst her jokes. It would definitely be worth it, and there was nowhere else she'd rather be at that very moment.
Roland 'Jim' Lowery
November 5, 2009