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Sarah O’Brien slid from the room under the guise of fetching more warm water. As soon as she was certain she was out of sight, she leaned against the wall and took a deep calming breath. Seeing Cora like that, so feverish and delirious from the illness that had so violently and abruptly ripped through the household had shaken her to the core. Ever since her disastrous slip in judgement with the soap, O’Brien had bent over backward to avail herself of her guilt and to make up for what she’d done. In the process, she’d grown quite fond of Cora and the thought of losing her now… well, it was inconceivable. O’Brien closed her eyes and vowed to herself that she’d remain by Cora’s side until she was well again. She wouldn’t sleep herself until she knew for certain that she had done everything in her power for her.

A creaking door at the end of the hallway roused her and O’Brien quickly straightened, holding the white basin before her as she rushed forward to fetch the water. Lord Grantham had been in the room when she’d left but still she didn’t want to leave Cora for long.

The room was dark and quiet when she returned a few minutes later. Lord Grantham was gone and Cora lay alone on the bed, her face pale. She moaned deliriously as O’Brien entered, her head rolling from side to side in agitation.

O’Brien rushed to her side, dipping a damp cloth in the fresh water and ringing it out before gently holding it to Cora’s forehead and murmuring soothingly to her. At the sound of her voice Cora stilled and her breathing became even again.

Her eyes fluttered open.

“O’Brien,” she whispered. “Stay with me?”

O’Brien nodded. “Always.”