We go inside, and Max pokes his head out of his room and says hello before disappearing again. I flick the TV on and sit on the couch, but the Cubs game is almost over, and there's not much else I want to watch. Kate settles on the other end of the sofa and pretends she's not looking at me.
"Are you okay?" I ask, because I don't know what's going through her mind, and this is the easiest way I know how to ask.
There's a pause, and then she gives me a tired smile. "I'm just tired," she says. "Been a long day."
"Long month," I correct; I'm tired and I don't have the burden of time. Three weeks or three days, it would have been pretty much the same to me.
I get up and head for the stairs. "Let me get you a shirt; I'll be right back." I go up to my bedroom and dig through my drawers for a clean shirt and a pair of drawstring sweats. I pick up the dirty laundry from the floor and toss it at the hamper, too, and then I go back downstairs. Kate has shifted, slumped against the couch cushions. She looks half-asleep, but she wakes up when she hears my footsteps. "These okay?" I ask, and she smiles.
She comes out of the bathroom ten minutes later, and I wonder if she fell asleep mid-change. "How do I look?" she asks, and that's definitely the wrong question, because the way she looks in my t-shirt and sweatpants gives my whole body a reaction that is usually reserved for lovesick teenagers and hormonal college students.
It takes me at least seven seconds to find my voice. "You look tired," I say, and of course it's not at all what I meant, but it's already out there.
She shrugs and sets her neatly-folded work clothes on top of her shoes by the door. It's a bit awkward now, because she's in her pajamas—well, my pajamas, actually—and I'm still in my jeans. "Come on," I say, and she follows me up the stairs. I convince her to sit on the bed while I change into the sweatpants I was wearing earlier, and then I join her. She's watching me intently, and I wonder if she thinks I'm going to vanish in the night, or in the next five minutes, if she stops watching.
That's not all I'm wondering, though, because she's sitting in front of me wearing my pajamas and staring at me and I know I certainly can't stop thinking about kissing her. I might be crazy in the head, but the rest of me is pretty sane, and I'm not really surprised at my reaction to her closeness. Right now, I want to hold her hand and kiss her, but I'm terrified she's going to push me away.
Her expression changes, and it's the look that immediately precedes a question. I shy away instinctively. "Can I ask you something?" It's the most ridiculous question I've ever heard. "You can say no if you want."
I'm not stupid enough to answer without knowing the question, but I do nod.
"Can I, uh, stay here?" she asks.
"Uh, you mean—?" I prompt, hopeful.
"Never mind." She shakes her head, staring at her fingers in her lap. "It's okay—I can sleep on the couch."
"No," I say, and she looks up at me. I kiss her—her request has given back my courage. It's short and soft, but she returns it, and when it's over, I warn her, "No funny business." It's mostly a joke, since we're both too tired to do anything but sleep like the dead.
Kate smirks, and I reach out and touch her face. "I missed you," I say. I don't even realize until the words are out that I did miss her. I missed her so much that I imagined her visiting me, making me sane again.
Her smirk turns to a genuine smile, and she says, "I missed you, too." She leans forward and kisses my cheek. I stand up and go around to the other side of the bed. Kate lays down on top of the covers and I follow suit.
"You visited me," I say when we're settled down. She's got both hands under her head, and I'm propped on one elbow. "I would come back to myself, out of the nightmares and the confusion and the delirium, and you'd be there. You talked to me, kept me sane until the meds kicked in again."
Kate inches closer to me, and I reach out and take her hand. "You shouldn't have needed an imaginary Kate," she says. "I'm sorry."
"It's not your fault," I say firmly.
"But what if they'd done something to you? Hurt you? Killed you? What would I do then?"
"I'm right here," I tell her. "I'm alive, I'm not hurt, and I'm not completely out of my mind."
Kate smiles a little, and then a yawn escapes. She covers her mouth with the hand that's not in mine, and I reach back to turn off the lamp. She falls asleep in minutes, but I lie awake a while longer, listening to the sound of her breathing, and my own.
I wake in the wee hours of the morning and she's moved in her sleep—and maybe I have, too—until she's curled up against me. She's laying on my arm, cutting off the feeling in my fingers, and I extract myself before I drift off again.
When I wake up in the morning, she's not there, and I curl up into myself, cursing this madness that gives me Kates and takes them away—and then the bathroom door opens and she crawls back onto the bed.
I know I need to get up and go to the hospital, make sure whatever the bastards gave me isn't doing any real damage, but I'm content for the moment where I am.