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PostPosted: Mon Jan 31, '11, 8:30 pm
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Andi awoke in the middle of the night and rolled over, only to find that Gabe was not sleeping soundly beside her. She sat up, looked around, and saw light coming in from outside the bedroom door. Wrapping a blanket around her shoulders, she followed the light and discovered Gabe hunched over the bathroom sink, vomiting.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you up,” he said when he saw her, wiping his mouth.

Andi stared wide-eyed at what she thought were tinges of blood. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing, I just haven’t been feeling well for a few days. It’s probably just something I ate.”

As the words came out of his mouth, Andi could tell that even he didn’t believe them. “How many days is ‘a few’?”

He couldn’t look at her. “Maybe a week...or two.” His red-rimmed gray eyes flicked upward. “I couldn’t have you worrying about me, it’s not good for you.”

Her hand instinctively went to her protruding stomach. “I don’t care, you still should have told me you were sick.” He wordlessly agreed with her. “Get dressed. We’re going to Oputa.”

“What?”

“You need to see a doctor. Come on, let’s get going.”

“Andi...” Gabe was finding it difficult to maintain eye contact with her again. “A doctor isn’t going to tell me anything I don’t already know. I work in a laboratory, remember?”

“Is this because of that explosion?” He nodded. “Tell me everything, and so help me, Gabe Thompson, if you are anything less than one hundred percent truthful with me.”

“There’s not much to tell.” He splashed some cold water on his face and dried it off with a towel before continuing. “I breathed in toxic fumes. I was exposed to malignant cells we were breeding, along with the media in which we were growing them. I’d be surprised if there weren’t any bad effects.”

Andi felt helpless. “So what now?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “We were the only ones working with those relatively new materials. There’s never been an accident like there was several months ago. There’s not much else to do but wait and see what happens, and document everything.”

She remembered the rest of his team. “What about the others?”

“They’re experiencing some of the same symptoms.” He looked down again. “More or less,” he mumbled.

“More or less?” she repeated, unsure of whether to be angry or upset.

He struggled to keep his voice even. “A couple of the guys haven’t been to the lab in a while.”

Andi closed her eyes. “Are they alive?” she asked, fearing the answer.

“As far as I know, yes. They just...haven’t been feeling well enough to come to work.”

She kept her eyes closed as she thought about what to say next. “I don’t want you going back there,” she finally told him.

“Why not?”

Her eyes flew open and she stared at him in disbelief. “There’s already been one explosion that nearly cost you your life!” she reminded him.

“It was an accident, you said so yourself.” The biologist tried to choose words that he thought would sound reassuring. “Upstairs in the lab, they’ve been monitoring the local seismic activity, their findings align with reports generated by Mother Brain. Everything is under her control, there’s nothing to worry about.”

“It was supposed to be under her control the first time!”

He didn’t have a valid response. “Don’t you’d think you’d get tired of me being here all day with you?” he asked, trying to manage a smile.

“At least I’d know you were safe.”

He crossed over to her and put his arms around her shoulders. “I’ll be fine,” he said as he pulled her close to him. “I really do want to assist in the rebuilding of the basement lab, but if you don’t want me to go, I won’t.”

Andi knew how much he loved his work and felt slightly guilty for her previous request. “If it’s that important to you, then go,” she said into his chest. “Just promise me you’ll be okay.”

“I promise.”

Unfortunately Andi got her wish, for in a month’s time, Gabe was too weak to work at the lab. Despite his efforts to hide it, she knew he would still get ill throughout the day and there was no denying that his dark purple hair had grown thinner. He tried to remain upbeat, though, as he didn’t want to lay his burdens on the mother of his child.

“I must be boring you,” he said to her as she lay curled up in a ball next to him in bed, almost looking more feline than human.

“I’m not bored.”

“Why don’t you go paint something?” he suggested. “You haven’t painted in a while.”

“I don’t feel like painting.”

He reached down to stroke her long hair and frowned. As bad as he felt physically, he felt worse for taking away some of the passion and energy that had previously defined Andi. He continued wrapping the soft pink strands around his fingers and tried to think of something else for her to do, anything to cheer her up.

As she felt his hand near her face, she instinctively reached out to touch him in return. She was lying on her side, approximately eye-level with his abdomen, and she ran her fingers along the smooth skin directly in front of her. Gabe had always been slim, but as he had been having difficulties keeping food in his stomach, she could now practically count the ribs she was looking at.

It seemed as if he could read her mind. “I’m sorry that not only am I a boring old man, I am now a hideous, boring old man,” he tried to joke.

She shook her head. “You’re beautiful.”

“Men are supposed to be handsome,” he teased.

“I don’t care.”

“Hey, look at me.” She managed, with some difficulty, to scoot her body around so she could see his face. “Just because I’m not going outside and running laps around the house doesn’t mean you should sit around moping all day.” He cupped her face in his hand and gently brushed his thumb across her lower lip. “You not being you isn’t going to help me feel better.”

Andi put her own hand over his. “I just don’t know what to do to help you, I feel so useless.”

“You are anything but useless. I just need to rest, I’ll be fine.” Gabe tried to sound convincing, but he didn’t think she was buying it. “I know you don’t agree with me, but I can’t help but think Mother Brain is still protecting us. She still wants what’s best for us and I don’t think she’d let us suffer. The accident at the lab was a mistake that shouldn’t have happened, but she’ll make it right.”

Andi looked away from him and didn’t answer. “Go paint me something,” he requested again, changing the subject. “Something pretty. It’ll help make me feel better.”

“What would you like?”

Gabe laughed and ruffled her hair. “I thought no one ever told you what to do.” She stuck her tongue out at him and his face broke into a big grin. “There's my girl. I knew you'd come back to me eventually.”

“I'll start tomorrow,” she sighed. “I just found a comfortable position and I don't want to move yet.”

“I understand.” He managed to slip around to the other side of her and curled himself around her body. Andi could feel his heart beating against her back and the steady rhythm lulled her to sleep.

Over the next several days, Gabe watched Andi paint whenever he was awake. Something had changed and he spent his conscious moments trying to figure out what it was exactly. Her brushstrokes seemed more focused, more deliberate; while her face was usually its own palette of human emotion, this time, she was simply the picture of serenity.

Andi refused to let him see her work-in-progress. “A surprise will really make you feel better!” she said, trying to match his earlier enthusiasm. Whenever he was up and about, she made sure the easel was turned towards the wall; to his credit, Gabe never tried to sneak a peek.

The weakened biologist slept frequently, regardless of the time of day. The late morning sun would shine directly in through the window, though, and would nearly always rouse him from his slumber. One morning, when Gabe opened his eyes, he saw that Andi had propped her canvas up directly across from him so he would see it as soon as he awoke.

The stunning colors of the sun rising over the ocean greeted him from the end of the bed. Unlike her previous paintings, there was nothing abstract or complex about it. The gentle waves of the water seemed as if they were ready to crash down at his feet and he could almost feel the heat coming off of the brand-new sunbeams reaching out to him. Had he the ability to wield a paintbrush, the depiction of his memories of the sunrise would have looked exactly like this.

He heard a noise behind him and turned to find Andi watching him. “I thought you didn't paint the sunrise,” he said.

“I thought no one told me what I can and can't do.”

He smiled. “As always, you're right.”

“I figured I might as well try something new. Do you like it?”

He reached his arms out to her and motioned for her to come to him. She carefully sat down next to him and slowly reclined. These days, part of her irrationally thought he was so fragile, she would break him if she touched him the wrong way, but this morning, she held him as close as she possibly could around her growing stomach.

“It's perfect,” he whispered in her ear.
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