Chapter Twenty-Eight

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Hector scrambled for a towel and pressed it to her mouth, effectively catching the next gush of blood. His eyes darted over her with a mixture of panic and helplessness that Rachel had never seen in him before.

"Hector, no, you need to get away. You're gonna get sick too."

"Here, have some water. Have some water, Rachel." He handed her a small, pink cup and his hands shook so badly that water splashed out and landed on the sheets, making the red stains spread until the fabric looked more red than white.

She pushed against his chest but it was like pushing against a wall- she felt so weak and hadn't quite noticed it until now.

"Get away." She groaned, but he refused to listen. Though she was sitting down, the world seemed to tip at an angle and she slipped sideways. Before her head could smack against the side rail, Hector righted her and hastily stood, wiping the blood from his hands.

He went to the door and slammed his stained fists against the glass and yelled for a doctor.

"Hey! We need a doctor in here. Hey!"

A few moments later, Dr. Everest arrived, taking in the room with a trained eye. As he came closer, Rachel could see--even through his mask-- that his once older but handsome face seemed to have more lines than before and deep shadows clawed at his eyes.

A quiet calm had settled over Rachel while a cold unlike any began to seep through every cell of her body. Dr. Everest and a nurse adjusted the head of her bed so that she was laying down flat and turned her onto her side.

She coughed again and blood spewed onto their rubber shoes. Hector stood on the sidelines, hands on his hips, his chest rising and falling rapidly. Rachel was struck by how young he looked in that moment.

"Get her another IV bag and something for the fever." Dr. Everest said to the nurse. On her way out, she eyed Hector with worry.

"You can't be in here, anymore." She said to him.

"I—"

"There's no negotiating this anymore, Hector. You're going into a separate isolation room to get tested."

"Don't do this, Doc—look at her, she's sick and someone needs to stay with her. Here, there, it doesn't really make a difference, just look at me." He gestured to his blood-covered clothes. "I might be sick already so it doesn't really make a difference if I stay or go."

"Make him go," Rachel croaked. "Please. Save him." Save him from this wretched disease inside me. He was too stubborn to see that staying there might get him killed. What if he was wrong? What if he wasn't immune and his grandfather had died of something else entirely? She couldn't have his death on her hands- couldn't forgive herself even if she only lived a few more hours.

Dr. Everest studied her face for a few moments. Whatever he saw there convinced him to shout out into the hall while he held a pink basin out to Rachel in order to collect her another gush of blood. "Guards!"

"Rachel, don't do this."

"You have to go," She whispered but her voice was lost in the sudden commotion caused by the guards. They wore suits now too but there was no mistaking their aura of authority. It took three of them to overpower Hector and drag him towards the door.

Somehow he managed to escape their hold and he rushed to her side, dropping down to one knee while he cupped her face with one hand.

"Rachel, hermosa*, this isn't something you want to do alone. Please let me stay."

She struggled to turn her face away, his face spinning in her peripheral vision. As much as she wanted him to be the one holding her in her last moments she couldn't allow herself to be so selfish. He deserved to live.

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