It began with that most classic of symptoms, a night sweat.
I woke somewhere after midnight in a soaking wet bed. It was so bad, I had to change my sheets and take a shower. By morning, muscle aches and diarrhea had appeared, too. Joy. I lay on my back and stared at the ceiling. The light in the room was unusually bright because it had snowed the night before, not much, but enough to coat the lawn and reflect the morning sun, and the big, drafty mansion was colder than a witch's tit. Even with a fever in my bones, I had heavy covers piled on. I felt too ill to get up, and I was angry. Furious, in fact.
Couldn't fate see fit to give me a break? It seemed that for every good thing that happened in my life, something bad came along to trump it. Sure, I'd expected the disease to hit eventually, but I'd hoped for a little longer before it did. It was only the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Rolling over, I fell back to sleep, woke again when a light touch tapped me on a mental shoulder. The professor, wanting to know where I was. I might not have been a morning person, but I did usually show my face by noon. Yet according to my bedside clock, it was after two. Sorry, I sent back to him. I'm not feeling well. For some reason, I didn't want him to know precisely how -- protecting him, perhaps, though he'd find out the truth soon enough. I think I just want to sleep.
I should've known that wasn't going to work. He was knocking on my door within five minutes. Sighing, I called, "Come in." He never enters my room uninvited, even though it's his house.
Pushing the door open, he motored his way in and up to my bed, reaching out to lay the back of his hand on my forehead. "Definitely fevered. Have you taken cold medicine?"
"Not even aspirin?"
"No, sir." With the drug cocktails Hank fed me, I was afraid to touch anything else. I'd taken some Excedrin one afternoon half a year ago for a headache, and had wound up puking my guts out in the toilet from the drug interaction. Just the cocktails themselves were bad enough.
"What are your other symptoms, besides this fever?"
"Muscle aches, upset stomach, diarrhea."
"I do believe you have the beginnings of a winter flu, Mr. Summers. It's been going around." He didn't sound very worried, almost amused, in fact. "Stay in bed and rest, and I'll have the cook send up some chicken soup and apple juice. Henry will be in to see you when he returns from the hospital. It will be late, though, I fear."
"Okay. Thanks." I rolled onto my side away from him. I hadn't told him about the night sweat and wondered if I should, then decided just to save it for Hank. It wasn't like the professor could do anything, besides worry.
The cook woke me a little later with food. I could barely eat, though I did drink all the juice and she sent up more in a cooler, so I didn't have to go very far to fetch it. I slept most of the day, rising only to hit the bathroom. I forgot all about the drugs I was supposed to be taking. Hank arrived home after eleven in the evening and came straight up. I'd been sleeping again, but when he woke me, I'd already drenched the bed, just like the night before. He changed the sheets himself and made me sit in a chair, drinking more juice. "Staying hydrated is very important, Scott." He didn't say anything else and I watched him. He looked tired after a day at the hospital, but when he was done, he asked, "Do you think you can get down to the medlab with my help?"
Wobbly on my feet and fuzzyheaded, I hadn't moved further than the room's private bath all day, but I nodded. He got a robe on me and took me down to the lab, kept me from staggering into the walls. I couldn't walk straight and my head was buzzing. I ached all over and had to move slowly to avoid becoming so dizzy, I threw up. Hank was extraordinarily patient. I suppose he could have picked me up and carried me like a baby, but he let me get there on my own two feet.
In the lab, though, he simply lifted me up onto the exam table himself. "Lie down," he said. I did and he ran the usual tests, checking my temperature, blood pressure, listening to my breathing, checking my ears and throat (though definitely not my pupils). He didn't ask me for anything beyond my symptoms, which I gave him in more complete detail than I'd given Xavier. His face was solemn as he gloved to take a small blood sample. Then he gave me some new medication, took me off my usual medication, and slapped me (unexpectedly) with a saline IV on a slow drip. "I'd like you to stay here tonight. Between fever and diarrhea, you've lost a lot of fluid. You're dizzy and light-headed right now from simple dehydration." Then he took me to one of the med beds off the main bay and tucked me in. I didn't wake until sometime early in the morning. The sheets were damp again, but not as badly as before and I was able to ignore it, empty my bladder and go back to sleep.
Hank came in before he left for the hospital and took out the IV. "You look much better today, not so dark under the eyes or so flushed." He gave me some more medication and helped me back up to my room, putting me to bed. Later that morning, the professor visited and we talked for a while until I fell asleep again. I'd probably slept forty of the last forty-eight hours. By evening, though, I felt well enough to get up and come downstairs for supper, or rather, more soup for me, supper for the professor. The cook clucked about like a mother hen and stocked up my cooler with juice. Mindful of what Hank had said the night before, I made sure to drink plenty, even if it meant running to the restroom. Everything seemed to go right through me.
Hank was back earlier that night. He must have gone straight to the sub-basement as we didn't see him until after supper. He entered the dining hall where Xavier and I were talking over juice and tea. I had one of the mansion cats sprawled in my lap, a big fat black male with his legs hanging off either side. "Scott," Hank said, "could I see you in the lab?"
Glancing at Xavier, I rose (dumping the cat, who protested loudly) and followed him out. I didn't need his assistance this time to get downstairs. "You're feeling better, I see."
"Excellent." But he said nothing more than that. In the lab, he gloved and we went through the full blo