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"How about a glass of orange juice?"

I can see her biting back a smirk, despite the concern I can see in those eyes the color of the summer sky. I swallow carefully, throat burning like it's on fire, then grind out, "I. Want. Coffee."

"You know, if you just admit that you're sick and take your medicine, like I told you to do, your throat wouldn't hurt that badly."

"Not sick," I mumble, turning back to the morning paper. Reading about the latest exploits of Archie Hopper's dog will hopefully distract me from the urge to cough. Not that I care about Pongo's exploits, but I won't succumb to any illness. I'm stronger than that. "You burned the toast. The smoke's irritated my throat. That's all."

Kathryn makes a noise that sounds something like a cross between disapproval and laughter. I'm not sure which it is, or which I want it to be. She sets a mug in front of me with a gentle press of her lips to my temple. "Of course, you're right. That must be what it is."

"This is--" My voice cracks alarmingly, and I feel my cheeks flush with embarrassment. Another sip of the tea she's made goes down smoothly, the lemon is acidic against my throat until the honey coats it. "This isn't coffee, darling."

"No, it's not. It's Darjeeling with honey and lemon. My mother used to make it when I was s--" She pauses when I glare at her with narrowed eyes, a smirk curving her lips. "When I would burn the toast or accidentally make a mess of dinner."

"Hmm."

"Drink up your tea, dear. Darjeeling with honey is awful when it's cold. The honey congeals in the bottom of the cup and the tea tastes bitter." She reaches into her pocket, setting a bottle in front of me. "And take two of these every six hours for your c-- For your aversion to burnt toast."

"I'm not sick, Kathryn," I growl, then start coughing as I can no longer fight the tickle in my throat.

"I know," is all she says as she moves to rub my back gently. The motion is soothing, helping to ease my coughing fit. "Just take slow, deep breaths, Regina." I get lost in the cadence of her voice, eyes drifting shut as I work to sooth the fire in my throat. "That's it. Now try your tea again."

"You don't have to be condescending," I mutter, but do as she says anyway. The tea is helping with that damned tickle. "I forgot that I'm working from home today."

"Oh?"

The shrug is automatic, but I won't meet her gaze. "No meetings at all, for once, and I just don't feel like dealing with people at all. Albert Spencer's been an absolute tyrant about wanting to change the procedures for adding items to the city council agenda. If I'm not there, he can't get on my last nerve. I'm just not in the mood to let him affect my mood again."

"Good. He's a jackass anyway. I hate going up against him in the courtroom. God help us if he ever becomes a judge."

"The day Albert Spencer becomes a judge is the day I find myself in possession of a rifle and go on a shooting spree of the idiots that voted him in."

Kathryn snorts at that, nearly choking on her laughter. I smirk at her reaction, feeling just a slight bit better. A decent day's work at home without the usual distractions will be just what I need. Plus, I can get dinner started. I've wanted to try that new slow cooker Kahlua pork recipe anyway, and this is a perfect day to do it.

"Regina?" Her voice pulls me from my thoughts. "Did you hear me?"

"Hmm?"

"I asked if you wanted me to pick up dinner from Granny's on the way home from work tonight."

*****

"Regina?"

Blinking slowly, I squint at the sound of her voice. Something isn't right. I should be… What was I doing anyway? And where the hell am I? Opening my mouth to speak, I find myself suddenly without a voice at all. For a moment, I wonder if I've been struck mute somehow. And then the cough starts again, throwing my entire body into wracking spasms that leave me breathless and faintly dizzy.

"K-Kill me," I moan softly when I can finally feel my lungs ease a bit.

"No, I don't think so. I rather like having you around."

"What time is it?"

"Just a little after three. I tried calling you earlier to check on your plans for dinner, but you didn't answer. I left as soon as I could to come check on you."

"Kill me," I repeat, feeling the exhaustion overcome me again.

"Nope. But I'll help you into the bathroom. I've got the tub filling for you as we speak."

I shake my head, holding my breath in the hope that it won't cause another coughing jag. "Don't wanna. I'm cold."

"Actually, you've got a fever, Regina, and the bath will help with that. Come on, up and out of bed."

I meekly allow her to help me out of bed and into the bathroom, leaning heavily on her in my exhaustion. I try to undress, but start to sway on my feet until Kathryn gently pushes me against the wall. She makes quick order of my clothes, allowing me the opportunity to stare at my reflection in the mirror. My god, I look awful! My skin is flushed and coated in a sheen of perspiration and my hair hangs limply around my face. And let's not even mention the dark circles under my eyes.

"Didn't look this bad before."

"The sleep probably allowed your body to override your stubborn head," she says, straightening to tuck a damp strand of hair behind my ear. "All right, into the tub with you, young lady."

The water feels both cool and blessedly warm at the same time. I'll never understand how that works. As I settle my head back against the tub pillow, Kathryn spreads out a towel over my body in the water. I frown a bit until the added weight of the towel feels like a new layer of warmth on my skin. I open my mouth to thank her, but end up coughing again. She eases me up into a seated position to rub my back until I calm down again.

"Thank you."

She smiles and leans over to press a gentle kiss to my forehead. "You're welcome, dear. You just rest and let the water and the eucalyptus oil do their work. I'll be back with some fresh tea as soon as I change out the bedding."

"Love you, Kathryn. Owe you one when I'm better."

"Yes, you do, my stubborn, not sick Regina," she says with a grin, "and I love you, too."