The shivers take hold when they leave the precinct together. She’s still wearing that oversized sweater and her hair is a mess and she keeps such a fierce strain on her jaw line, he is scared she will break herself apart.
He notices the tremors in her shoulders when they enter a cab and he wraps his arms around her shoulders as she leans into him, face pressed into the crook of his neck and he prays that maybe if he holds her tightly enough he can stop the fall.
She breaks when they enter the loft. She folds into herself as if her spine wasn’t able to carry her weight anymore and he sits on the floor right next to her, backs pressed against hard wood and cradles her into his chest. Her entire body is shivering, undulating like a raging ocean and even her eyes hold a hurricane.
He whispers sweet words like, “It’s okay” and “You’re safe”, but you can’t ease a storm with whispers.
She watches the video over and over and he makes tea and when she comes to bed her skin is callused and glass-like and he doesn’t know how to make it better.
The coughs start in the night and have him waking up to her arched- up back and gasping lips for better air and all he can do is run soothing lines along her back. When she finally settles against him her skin is fire.
The next morning she is bending over with coughs that seem to hold the strength to shred her insides. She clutches at her chest as if to rip herself apart and when she falls back against him he sees the tears in her eyes.
He tucks her into the one additional blanket he kept at the foot of their bed but even then the tremors don’t subside and her coughs seem to come out flat and empty as if there wasn’t enough energy left to perform this task.
He starts to get up but is stopped by her fingers wrapping around his arm, keeping him in place.
“Don’t leave” her voice is rough and he stays for a second longer.
“Kate, you need some water and aspirin, I’ll be right back I promise”
“Please” he never knew words could have so many edges and her eyes don’t seem to see him at all. They flicker and dance with images that make his chest tighten and he strokes her hair until she falls back asleep.
The next time she wakes up he has a glass of water but she startles away from him, fists clutching his shirt.
“Please, no” her voice sounds foreign on her chapped lips, “Please stop”
The worst is that he knows exactly where her feverish dreams have taken her.
“Kate, it’s me” it takes her a while to recognize him but she manages to swallow the aspirin as well as the water before she falls back asleep.
He stays there the entire time and holds her close, whispering in her ear whenever she whimpers and trailing words up and down along her spine whenever her breathing picks up.
The next time she wakes up the coughs have her pressing her palms against her mouth and heaving for minutes and when they finally pass she falls back into his chest as if her ribcages had disintegrated.
She looks up at him and her eyes hold more than both of them can take, “I hate this.”
He kisses her cheek and presses his hand atop her chest right above her heart.
She sniffles and occasionally singular coughs fall from her lips and echo through the silence but he knows they’ve survived the worst of it.
Her eyes flutter closed again and he leans in to her ear and whispers the only words he knows. The only words that hold enough hope to let the rest fade, “I love you.”