Charlotte sat up, dragging her blankets with her, her hair tangled and pillow-rough from dozing in bed all day. “You're the best,” she said groggily, reaching for the books Nicky had piled in his arms.
“You're the absolute worst,” he said, dumping them across her legs. “Your bedroom is a quarantined zone – or it should be – and I’ve broken the border. You're still totally contagious. Look at you, you're disgusting.”
“Don't be mean, I’m sick.” She thumbed through his notebook. “I can't read this. Your handwriting is worse now than it was at the start of the semester.”
Nicky rolled his eyes and sat down on the end of her bed, shoving his hands in his pockets. “Feeling better?”
“Not really.” She tossed the book back at him and nestled back under her comforter. “Was class boring without me?”
“I got a lot more done,” Nicky said, grinning at her. “You're a distraction, Johanssen.”
She laughed, and turned her head to cough into her pillow. “Ow,” she groaned, her body ringing with pain.
“Where's your roommate?” Nicky kicked his shoes off and shoved himself backwards so he could lean against the wall. “Buried under one of these piles of books?”
Charlotte spluttered another cough into her pillow. “It's not that bad.”
“It's pretty bad,” Nicky said, looking around her bedroom. “Almost at a Pike standard of clutter.”
“Yeah, right.” She reached for the tissues on her night stand. “She's at her boyfriend's place. She said sickness grosses her out and she'll be back on Saturday.”
“Yeah, just look at you,” Nicky said, turning his attention back to her. “I can practically see the germs. I'll name them for you, if you want.”
Charlotte laughed and kicked at him. “Oh my god, go away.”
He laughed, and picked up his notebook, flipping through it to read over the notes he'd scratched on the paper. “So you're here all by yourself?”
“I have my germs to keep me company,” she mumbled. She closed her eyes and sighed.
Her bed shifted under his weight as he stretched out beside her. “Keeping your fluids up, Char? And you should take some paracetamol, too.”
“Leave me alone,” she moaned, half-heartedly kicking at him. “You're worse than my mother.”
He grinned and leaned over her, his palm cool against her brow.
She curled her fingers around his glasses to slip them off, sliding them onto her own face and blinking up at him. “Remember that time I hit you with the snowball and broke your glasses,” she whispered.
“Remember I stuffed a snowball down the back of your coat?”
“And then we teamed up and attacked Haley Braddock.”
“Dropped her like a bag of dirt.”
She laughed, and coughed, and he put his head on her pillow and waited until it was quiet again. “Okay?”
“I'll be in class tomorrow,” she said, staring up at her ceiling through the smudgy lenses of Nicky's glasses.
“No you won't.”
“I'm bored,” she whined. “It's boring here, and I’m missing stuff.”
“You can borrow my notes.”
“Your notes aren't as good as mine.” She turned her head to look at him, but he was too close, and his features were fuzzy through the glasses.
He tugged them off her face and folded them in his hand. “I'll take better notes,” he said. “You need another day in bed.”
“Mmph.” She sighed and closed her eyes. “Do I look really gross?”
“Nah,” he said. “I'm made of stronger stuff than you. You remember my family, right? I basically grew up in a Petri dish. My immune system is amazing.”
She gave a breathless laugh and rolled over, pulling her blankets tight around her shoulders and curling up into a ball. “Tell me what I missed today,” she requested, closing her eyes.
“Like a bedtime story?” He nudged one arm beneath her and took her hand, slipped his other arm in under her comforter. She shivered when he let cold air in.
“Mm.” She felt him lace his fingers through hers, his brow dropping against the back of her neck.
“It was stuff you already know,” he said. “Lung stuff. The lobes. Three on this side, two on this side.” He touched his palm over her ribs and she drew in a deep breath, letting it out slowly, imagining her lungs filling and falling, filling and falling.
“Fissures,” he added, his thumb tracing lines, “oblique and horizontal, and the posterior border and anterior border.”
“Grade school stuff,” Charlotte complained, her voice almost lost in her pillow.
“Totally,” he agreed. “You're not missing anything. We could stay here and talk to ourselves for three days and we'd come out better off, probably.”
“Probably,” she agreed. “Keep going, Nicky.”
He squeezed her hand and rested his brow against her neck again, his voice vibrating quietly against her skin, and she drew in one breath after another, in and out, in and out, lungs working just as he described them to be.