Binding Ties

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A/N: I have not had to deal with the symptoms of cancer or it's treatment but I have lived through family members embattling the same. I am going to try to treat it with dignity and respect based on the science that I know and the experiences I have collected, first hand or orally. I hope to do it justice.

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Ophelia stood in front of her class, calming everyone down from a stimulating day of being college students and healthy. She took slow, steady breaths in, reminding herself that she couldn't sigh. Not that the rambunctiousness of men and women not always ten years younger than she didn't earn a patented Ophelia eye roll and hopless sigh, but she physically couldn't do it at the moment. Her chest felt filled with water, the tickle in her throat terrible and daunting because if she started to cough, she couldn't stop and then she would throw up. She could feel the weight of a familiar pair of eyes watching her, looking to see how she was holding up.

Anyone else and Ophelia knew she could convince them that she was fine, holding steady. But Nathaniel Spade had grown up looking at her with those dark eyes and seeing past her cool exterior. She remembered babysitting him when he was little and she was ten. He'd made her lose her composure like no one else ever had and it was a lesson that had stuck with her for life. And ensured that he remained a close friend while they both grew up. As close as she ever got with anyone, and as it seemed she was dying, it'd been the best way to live afterall. No one's heart to break with her death, no little babies to never see grow up.

Opi smothered the quivering voice in her head and slowly breathed out, using an ujjayi technique to keep her physical discomforts from overwhelming her in return. They were leaving and it wasn't a moment too soon, her knees quaking. She let her mouth relax into something mimicing a smile, realizing that the edges of her vision was graying out and she had to sit soon or fall over. There were only twenty or thirty students left to file out but they all watched her out of the corners of their eyes, seeking signs of her sickness beyond the shorn hair. Makeup hid the pastiness of her alabaster skin and concealed the bags under her eyes and careful layering disguised the wasteland of her body. It tricked their eyes and the students smiled their farewells, mollified that she was going to survive for another day.

The first cough racked her body as the doors swung shut and she muffled it against her fist, dreading the next one. Phlegm coated her throat and made her nauseous, and she coughed harder. A bottle of water cracked open and Nate was suddenly there, offering her a solution and a sympathetic smile. "Pneumonia huh?" he made it a question, but his tone was sure. The young man might be a shirt chaser and far too charming for his own good, but he had been through this with Ophelia and her family the last time she had gotten sick. The doctor had warned her that loosing her ability to fight off illnesses would be the biggest hurdle to her health while she went through chemotherapy.

Opi cautiously drank the water, washing the sensation of the phlegm away and helping stave off the coughing for a while longer. It would hit eventually, but wasn't all that bad now that she could wash her palette. She actually missed being able to spit, how strange was that? But although the water helped clear her coughing away, the faintheadedness lingered and there was a tinny ringing in one of her ears. Before she realized that she had swayed, Nathaniel had pulled the chair out and helped her sit down, knowing how she very much hated to be caught should she fall. Her breathing hitched in slight panic as she couldn't get a deep breath but she controlled the quick panting breaths back into slow stready ones before her heart rate could climb too high.

“I’m alright.” She insisted before he could ask and instead of a lecture, Nathaniel laughed.

“I wasn’t going to say anything to the contrary Professor, I was just going to remark how flattering it was that I can steal your breath away like that.” Nathaniel teased with a teasing smirk on his face.

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