Natalie blinked her eyes against the light pouring in through a window. She was stretched out on a bed, her left arm throbbed with pain, and the last thing she remembered was being in a hole in the ground with Jack prisoners in a camp of a military force. Who didn't have buildings or four-poster beds. She looked down at her arm and grimaced. It was broken, but splinted up tightly. Why hadn't someone put a real cast on it?
She rolled to the side and sat on the edge of the bed without putting any weight on the broken arm. Someone had put a clean T-shirt and yoga pants on her during the time frame she couldn't remember. What day was it? She twisted and looked out the window. Two suns, maybe she should shelve the day question for now.
There was a chair next to the bed. She picked up the papers sitting on the seat and recognized Stephen's handwriting. He was okay enough to work. That knowledge made her heart beat faster. Well, she had accepted that status quo a long time ago. The man leaves her a work assignment and her emotions acted like it was a love note. But she was still glad he was okay.
The door hinges creaked. "Natalie?" Jack grinned and entered the room. "You're awake. You just missed Dad. He said he had to help Miles with the rounds."
"I got his homework." She waved the set of papers and looked at the young woman and furry man who had followed Jack into her bedroom. "DG Gale?"
"That's right." The dark-haired woman smiled. "And this is my friend, Raw. He's a Viewer. What's the last thing you remember?"
"Guys in black trench coats had Jack and me in a pit. Everything between then and now is blank."
"Jeb led a unit of the Royal Army to rescue you and Jack. The Longcoats, guys in black trench coats, tried to use as a human shield until they stepped on one of their own landmines. Unfortunately, you got hurt in the explosion."
"Better wake up than in Colima." Natalie glanced down at her arm. "I should be hurt worse than this."
"Raw healed your head," DG explained. "Viewers have the ability to heal people as well as empathy, to know what you're feeling. He's going to fix your arm this morning and Jack and me will go down and get you some breakfast. What would you like?"
"An omelet and a waffle would be great."
"You'll get it even if I have to cook it myself. Come on, Jack."
Raw chuckled. "DG wants to agitate the servants." He moved closer to the bed. "Healing will hurt. DG takes son away so not to upset him."
"I'm not Jack's mother."
"Not yet." Raw picked up her broken arm.
"Have you been talking to Frank? He has this joke that Stephen and I are work spouses and I don't know if you even have the concept he--LL!" He laid his other gloved hand on top of her forearm and the pain shot up her nerves along with heat. She gritted her teeth to keep from screaming.
Then it was over. Raw untied the splint and flexed her hand, wrist, and elbow. The pain was gone and the limb moved fine. "How did you do that?"
"Viewer talent. Some can heal wounds on others."
She looked up into golden cat eyes. "But you can't do anything for the people with the disease?"
He shook his head. "Can only speed up what the body has started. Viewers never make people with sickness better."
"Viruses and bacteria are both life forms, maybe that's why." Raw couldn't explain the limitation any further than he had, and eventually left her so she could get dressed and concentrate on the report Stephen had left.
Jack and DG returned with the promised breakfast and a fruit drink called papay juice, which tasted like mango and pineapple with a dash of strawberry. They were also trying to teach Raw how to play Uno. She was about to leave when Jack looked up. "We should warn you about Mr. Cain. Just in case you run into him."
Natalie sat down again. "Something happened to him?" The ill-at-ease young man she had met at N.I.H. had saved her and Jack, so she hoped nothing had.
DG blushed. "Jack's means Jeb's father, Wyatt Cain. He looks just like Dr. Connor, identical twins."
"They dress different though." Jack grinned impishly. "Mr. Cain didn't like my idea of trading outfits with Dad."
"Born on two different planets, to two different sets of parents, how is that possible?"
"God didn't break the mold?" DG shrugged as Natalie laughed. "It's the first thing that popped into my head when I met Dr. Connor and couldn't say it out loud. Not with Jeb freaking out that his father was on a different planet."
"Thanks for the warning." Natalie left them to the game after getting directions to the laboratory. Stephen's notes left off in the middle of an experiment, but she didn't have any trouble finding the Petri dishes in question and checking the results. Heavy measured steps entered the lab and stopped, Stephen's steps, and her back tingled in recognition. "You didn't write down what happened with Peramivir. I don't see any changes to the virus." She turned away from the microscope.
Stephen had moved closer. She saw his trademark black T-shirt before his hands cradled her head and his lips pounced on hers. Despite her shock, her body responded, shifting closer to him and deepening the kiss. If he had been bewitched, complaining about it was the last thing she wanted to do.
He pulled back and her wide eyes caused a flicker of remorse in his. "I shouldn't have."
"Stephen." A ringing telephone interrupted her reassurances. "They have phones?"
"Not across the whole country." He picked up the receiver from the circa 1950 telephone on a table against the wall. "Connor." She could hear a panicked voice on the other end. He pointed to the pile of cases. "Someone's coding."
Natalie had the emergency kits out before Stephen had hung up the phone. He took one from her and strode out of the lab and through the double doors to the right. A young woman in a green dress met them, and hurried them through the hall to a set of stairs. She led them to a bedroom on the second floor.
Miles was trying to intubation a young man in the throes of a seizure. Connor moved in beside a blonde woman in a purple dress just as the young man's body went limp. The young doctor met Connor's gaze with a frown.
"That's how they die," the young woman whispered. "That's how they've all died."
The blonde woman moved away from the bed and hugged her. "Come along, Azkadellia. He was a brave boy. The others need you to be brave now."
Natalie moved up to the empty side of the bed. The patient had the air of a soldier. Miles tried to burn holes in the headboard with his glare. "Oseltamivir isn't helping," he finally said.
Connor turned to her. "You have to find what I've missed."
She nodded, and shoved their kiss to the back of her mind. Even if he was under a spell, saving lives still came first.