Connor rubbed his eyes before refocusing on the report he was writing. Nothing they had brought from N.I.H. was affecting this virus. And judging the timeline he and Miles had put together, soon the guards and soldiers would be hitting the deadliest stage. What was he missing?
Activity in the hall outside their lab had increased, so he wasn't surprised when someone knocked on the door. He brought the report with him. DG took no notice of the paperwork in his hand, merely grabbed his free one off the doorknob, and pulled him out of the room. "Jeb's back!"
Being dragged along like this was such a novelty they were on the second floor of the manor house before Connor thought to ask. "Why do you need me?"
DG obviously had no fear of his counterpart that translated into no fear of him and included shooting him are-you-an-idiot looks. "Jeb brought your son and Dr. Durant back." She stopped in front of the bedroom suite door assigned to him and blocked it. "Jack is fine, but Dr. Durant was hurt. Raw is working on her."
Connor's heart plummeted mid-leap. "What happened?"
"I thought getting you was more important than details." DG huffed, but opened the door. "We'll find out together."
The parlor was full. Cain blocked the open doorway of the middle bedroom. Jeb Cain had claimed an armchair and jerked his head to stop it from dropping to his chest. His son, filthier than Lisa had ever let him be, perched on a sofa. "Jack!"
Jack's face lit up underneath the smudges of dried dirt. "Dad!"
He caught his son in a bear hug. Jack's grip was strong and his breathing steady, but Connor still searched his face for any signs of distress. "Did they hurt you?"
Dirt flew from Jack's hair as he shook his head. "They talked like they would if Natalie didn't help them. They put us in a hole, but kept pulling Natalie out to doctor some of them." He frowned at the state of his clothes. "Really, I didn't get this dirty until the booms started. Jeb pulled me out before the walls caved in."
"The Longcoats ringed their camp with landmines," Jeb answered. "Some tried to use Dr. Durant as a shield, but they stepped on one and she got caught in the blast."
Connor didn't realize he was stepping toward the middle bedroom until his double grabbed his shoulder. "No point in disturbing Raw. If he needs help, he'll let us know."
DG touched Jack's shoulder. "Why don't you get cleaned up before supper gets here?" She guided him towards the third bedroom. "We put your stuff in here, and there's a bathroom attached."
Connor rubbed his face and stepped back. The report was crumpled in his right fist. "How bad is she hurt?"
"From what we could see," Jeb said, "a broken arm and knocked-out cold."
He didn't know how what they called a Viewer closed the bullet hole in his shoulder and was too busy with the disease to worry much about it. Raw was obviously their trusted medic. Connor finally sat on the couch. There was no way he could go back to the lab and keep working, not until he knew Natalie was okay.
DG joined him on the couch, claiming the other end. "I'm sorry."
That jolted Connor. "None of this is your fault." Natalie would be horrified that DG was blaming herself. He was about to add more, but the man with bushy hair and a vaguely feline look to his features and a maid left the middle bedroom.
They left the door only slightly ajar before the maid curtseyed and left and Raw faced them. "Done all I can tonight." He fell into the second armchair. "Leave splint on arm. Must heal more in the morning."
"You had more to heal with her head?" DG frowned.
Raw nodded. "Delicate. Takes more energy. She sleeps now, no danger. Probably won't remember the attack."
"Short term memory loss?" Connor was trying to put it in terms he understood, and that probably wasn't the best idea on a different planet even if they did speak English.
But Raw nodded. "Go see her, don't wake." He chuckled as Connor strode to Natalie's bedroom. "So much like Cain."
"What does that mean?" His counterpart moved closer to the Viewer.
"When do you take anybody's word on anything?" DG laughed.
Connor ignored them as he returned the door to almost shut and moved beside the bed. A bedside lamp had been left on, but most of the room was in shadows. They had cleaned her up and changed her clothes. What he could see of her left forearm was bruised and swollen, but the expression on her face was peaceful. "I'm sorry, Natalie. I should have protected you and Jack better," he whispered. His finger brushed against her light brown hair on the pillow.
"Dr. Connor?" DG's voice was soft at the door. "Supper's here, if you're hungry."
He stepped out to join the others in the sitting room. Raw met his gaze and nodded. "Will heal her arm in morning after she wakes up. Good-night."
Good-byes were echoed and they sat down at a circular table laid out for the meal. Jack and Jeb were the only ones who made a sizable dent in what had been delivered. And compared to DG picking at her plate, Cain and Conner both ate a full meal. Cain noticed her lack of appetite. Too bad staring at her plate wouldn't put the food in her stomach.
"Tell Miles I'm staying up here so he knows where to find me." Connor asked the Cains and DG when they left.
They promised to, but Jack looked confused. "I thought you had to work?"
"I don't have anything to test." Connor found where the report landed and smoothed out the wrinkles. "I can figure out what to do next and be here if you or Natalie needs something."
"But we're safe here, right?"
"Yes, this is strictly about making me feel better. I don't know what I would've done if they hadn't found you." He hoped he hadn't frightened or upset Jack with that admission and Natalie's inclusion.
Jack squeezed him in a hug and headed off to bed. He was fast asleep when Connor's watch said thirty minutes had passed.
Forty minutes into his night watch, Connor dropped the report in his lap. No new ideas were coming from this umpteenth review of what they knew. He needed Natalie. He returned to her bedroom with a sigh. "I'll still have to bring you up to speed tomorrow," he explained quietly as he pulled a chair to the side of the bed with the lit lamp. "Damnit, you shouldn't be hurt. I shouldn't have let you get hurt." His chest tightened. "How am I supposed to function without you?"
And just how is she supposed to know that, Stephen? He pinched the bridge of his nose. He couldn't deny it had been growing on him for a while, especially after Colima. Frank's joking aside, he needed her.
"We'll talk about that in the morning. For now, let me pretend you're listening to this." He picked up the report and started reading it out loud.