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To Remain Standing (Westworld) Part 8 of ?


Chanel_no5

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 ***Note***

This is something as unusual for me as a flu fic with something that resembles a plot. Also some denial. Later caretaking (M taking care of sick F). And the whole thing actually evolved from this one screenshot from one episode, where Theresa and Bernard are standing on the stairs listening to Lee bragging/presenting his newest narrative. I saw the screenshot and if you have imagination and you squint just a little, it kinda looks like Theresa is sporting a bit of a pre-sneeze face. Soooo, I took it and ran with it, and things escalated into a story. I will mix (season 1) episode timelines and canon and pure imagination wildly in this fic. 

Screenshot under spoiler, because it's HUGE, and you might want to know that in advance. :rofl:

Also bad language ahead. It's not my fault, not really. They do use the f-word a lot in that show. It wouldn't feel right to leave it out in writing. :lol: 

 

Spoiler

tumblr_oiwnoi4Fst1r2bfpdo3_1280.jpg

Also spoiler, although if you've seen the two first episodes or read basically anything else I've written about her it's revealed already, but those two are having an affair. AND I THINK THIS IS THE MOST ADORABLE CANON COUPLE IN ANY SHOW, AND ALSO THE MOST STARCROSSED LOVERS SINCE ROMEO AND JULIET I mean what? I just... love them.

 

***

“Did I miss anything?” Bernard asked as he came down the stairs and stopped next to her.

Theresa shook her head, then held up a finger to tell him to hold on, turned away from him and sneezed against her arm in a semi-polite attempt to at least muffle the sound somewhat. She didn’t really care that much, but there were three facts to take into consideration: Lee was making a speech, her sneezes were loud, and the room did have rather impressive acoustics.

HuEPSSSHHuh!"

Down on the floor below where they were standing, Lee momentarily paused and sent her a quick glare which Theresa didn’t just ignore, she didn’t even see it; she was busy grimacing at the wetness soaking her sleeve.

“Bless you,” Bernard mumbled. “Need a tissue?”

“I think I need a fucking towel,” Theresa muttered as she did a couple of half-hearted wiping motions that looked more like slaps. “It’s like I have to choose to be either loud or wet.”

“Well,” Bernard said, watching her with a completely straight face, “I’ve known you to be both at the same time.”

“Charming, Bernie. I’m talking about sneezing.”

“So am I,” he said.

Theresa rolled her eyes.

“Love that eye roll when you’re at a loss of words, by the way,” Bernard said, lowering his voice even further.

“I’m not at a loss of words, I simply didn’t find a reason to gratify that remark with a verbal response.”

“Ah. I suppose that’s why you’re blushing as well.”

“I’m not blushing, Bernard.” As if her body was determined to make a liar out of her, her cheeks were turning flaming red.

“No? You must be getting a fever to go with that sneeze, then.”

Theresa rolled her eyes again, then caught Bernard watching her with a smug grin, and shook her head as she looked away.

“I’m not getting a fever, I’m not sick, and I’m not blushing.”

“You know, when people speak in negations, it’s often a sign of them admitting to the very thing they deny.”

Without even attempting to answer, Theresa bent over her already soaked sleeve and sneezed again.

HeePTSSHHHuh! Ugh, fuck me.” She looked up, caught her lover’s eye, and scoffed. “Don’t comment on that.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” he said, but there was a glint in his eyes that was far from innocent. "Unless, of course..."

“You know, for the strong, silent type, you’re being very chatty today,” Theresa interrupted. Then a frustrated, almost angry, expression came over her face and she rubbed her nose furiously with both hands, only to surrender to yet another sneeze, this one more powerful but with the spray contained in her cupped hands.

HuuuAASSCHoo!”

“And you are being very sneezy,” Bernard replied, frowning. “What’s wrong?”

Theresa just shook her head, hands still cupped over her nose and mouth. She had no idea. Once she was sure there weren’t even more sneezes following, she wiped her hands off on her slacks and sighed.

“I’m probably allergic to Lee’s inflated self-importance.”

Bernard laughed softly.

“If that were the case, you would sneeze your head off every day.”

She huffed.

“Undoubtedly.”

She rubbed her nose hard for several seconds before finishing with an upward swipe that left a rather prominent crease right across her nose. Bernard thought it was a cute addition to an elegant nose, although he chose not to share this opinion (or observation) aloud. He correctly assumed she wouldn’t appreciate having anything about her called ‘cute’.

Theresa sniffed, then leaned forward against the railing and hid her face in her hands. She had a brewing headache right behind her eyes, and the repeated sneezing had made it worse. She really hoped this wasn’t a sign of something more ominous than a random allergy event. Allergies she could deal with. They were annoying as hell, but not incapacitating.

But now that she thought about it, she had been feeling tired and achy since she woke up this morning. In fact, almost feverish. So it could very well be a cold. And there was another possibility as well, the dreaded worst-case scenario that was so unlikely it was almost bound to happen because of that. This could be the flu. And this would be the worst possible time for that kind of acute infection, because her assignment at Delos, the very task she was actually hired to do, under the guise of being in charge of the Quality Assurance, was in its final and most delicate stage.

The board would not like that. Rather, they wouldn’t care whether she lived or died, much less if she had a viral infection or not, but they would care that she would be capable of carrying out her mission till the end. They would care very much about that.

In six years she hadn’t been sick with anything more serious than a couple of mild head colds. Six years. And in the final six days, this.

She straightened up and gripped the railing with both hands.

No. No, this is allergies. Either that or just random sneezing. And stress. That’s what’s causing the headache. And the fatigue. And the chills. And the overall aches. There are plenty of other possible explanations. Oh God please don’t let me have the flu.

“Are you sure you’re alright?” Bernard asked, and now the playful tone was gone from his voice. Theresa looked down at her hands and realised she was holding onto the railing so hard her knuckles were white. She forced her hands to let go.

“Fine. I’m fine. I’ve got some work to do. Excuse me.”

She walked off, in the direction of her office. She needed to think and come up with a strategy how to handle this, just in case it turned out to be more than allergies.

And, she realised with mounting horror, she needed to blow her nose as well.

***

 A couple of hours later, there was no doubt about it. She was definitely getting sick, and given how fast the symptoms progressed, the unthinkable was indeed happening.

The flu. Where the fuck had she picked up that? She couldn’t remember interacting with anyone who was sick. But of course, the facilities were huge and they had thousands of visiting guests coming and going. It could have come from anywhere.

She coughed, then hung her head and allowed herself a moment to acknowledge just how miserable she felt. If she could, she would have headed back to her quarters – the good thing about being the boss of her department was that most of the time, people didn’t have that much insight into her work schedule, so she could just make up an appointment – but she had a scheduled video conference with Charlotte Hale this afternoon. That was unacceptable to cancel.

Theresa always felt anxious when she had to meet with the board executive, whether in person or by video link. Charlotte often enjoyed playing mindfuck games with her minion. For most part, Theresa could stay ahead of her, thanks to being familiar with the techniques used, and having almost fifteen years on the other woman. However, she had never been faced with her superior’s gleeful manipulation fuckery while battling illness before.

Theresa didn’t get the sense that Charlotte did this exclusively to her, though. It was just something she did whenever she could, as a little hobby. Charlotte enjoyed her power for power’s own sake, where Theresa enjoyed using hers to get things done. Theresa could certainly admit to being a bitch from time to time, but when she was, it wasn’t with the intention of hurting anyone (although it was more often than not a side effect), but rather with a straightforward intention to force the very best performance out of everyone and everything. Despite popular belief, she took no pleasure in seeing others fail. Charlotte, on the other hand, liked to see others fail, falter, and struggle to keep their ground, and she sometimes still managed to trick even Theresa into insecure silence or stuttering.

Whatever you do, don’t admit it. Don’t act like you think there's a problem.

Yeah. Right. She could give herself good advice as much as she liked, but this was a problem. A problem that could easily evolve into a fucking shitstorm if she was unable to remain standing and do what she was supposed to do.

Right now, her top priority was getting through the video conference without giving off the impression of falling apart. Everything else, every single thought, would have to be put on hold.

She pinched her itching nose, knowing that was her greatest weakness in this very moment. Big mistake. The touch made matters worse, sending what felt like tendrils of fire from her nostrils all the way up to her sinuses, and she sneezed twice before she could do anything to stop it, throaty, messy sneezes that rendered her both hoarse and congested at once.

No, her body was not going to cooperate with her plan, that was one thing for sure.

 

 

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This was HOT! B and T are soooooooo romantic and steamy!!! I love them! I felt like I was there watching a private moment between them and the  way you used imagery in your words portrayed everything so realistically and beautifully. Like stolen quiet moments of happiness. B is so caring and protective and I was so interested in reading that he’s the silent quiet type. Yaaas! I love the clever conversation and sneeze spellings too! 

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On ‎2018‎-‎05‎-‎16 at 7:59 PM, Reader said:

This was HOT! B and T are soooooooo romantic and steamy!!! I love them! I felt like I was there watching a private moment between them and the  way you used imagery in your words portrayed everything so realistically and beautifully. Like stolen quiet moments of happiness. B is so caring and protective and I was so interested in reading that he’s the silent quiet type. Yaaas! I love the clever conversation and sneeze spellings too! 

Thank you!! I'm so glad you liked it!! :heart: Oh God yes I know, the chemistry between those two is just palpable!! GAH! :boom: 

 

Here's part two, and yes, Charlotte is evil. Theresa is pretty tough though, sick or not... I personally wouldn't be. :rolleyes: Luckily, this is fiction.

***

Theresa knew she wasn’t fooling Charlotte one bit (as much as she tried to do it discreetly, she kept having to sniffle, and as if that wasn't enough, her voice kept trying to crack), but the other woman had ignored her obvious symptoms for nearly half an hour, sticking to business alone. Theresa was starting to think she might get away from this without at least having to tell an outright lie, but she should have known Charlotte was only waiting for the right moment.

This past half-hour, her nose had at least graciously refrained from itching, but all of a sudden, she felt a sharp, piercing pinprick in her left nostril. She held her breath and raised her hand up to her face, trying to look like she just absently touched the side of her nose and wasn’t at all desperately trying to rub a sneeze into oblivion. Still, she could feel how her facial features pulled into a pre-sneeze face regardless how hard she tried to keep them neutral. The prickle only grew worse and worse. There was no way she could hold this back. 

Theresa leaned out of the camera’s range and let out a squelching sneeze. It was nowhere near as loud as her usual sneezes, but it was so much wetter. She might actually end up needing that towel she had joked with Bernard about earlier.

She quickly wiped her face with her sleeve and sat up straight again, praying this sneeze would come alone.

“Excuse me.”

Charlotte made an impatient gesture.

“You’ve been snuffling and coughing this whole conversation, Theresa, are you getting sick?” she asked. “I mean, it’s not that I really care either way, but in case you haven’t noticed, we’re under a bit of a time pressure, so you’d better not be.”

“I’m not sick,” Theresa assured her, despite feeling sicker and more feverish by the minute. “I’m well aware of the time issue. It’s no problem.”

“Nevertheless,” Charlotte said, leaning forward towards the camera in a way intended to make Theresa shy back. She didn’t, but only because she was intimately familiar with this intimidation method, having used it herself on many occasions.

“Best make sure you keep your interactions with other humans to a minimum. You do look rather…”

Charlotte’s lip curled in a disdainful way that Theresa wasn’t sure if she was aware of or not, before she went on;

“…contagious. The whole board will arrive within less than a week, and I don’t think any of us would appreciate walking into a flu epidemic.”

She reached out of frame for something, and when her hand came back into view again, it held a tissue.

“These little fuckers are called Kleenex,” she said pointedly.

No they’re not, Theresa thought through the haze of her increasing headache. The one you’re holding has a far more exclusive brand name.

“Great invention,” Charlotte continued. “Drastically limits the amount of viruses you subject other people to. I’m not sure they have that old slogan ‘coughs and sneezes spread diseases’ where you come from” – as if Denmark was some primitive backwater country – “but, a good thing to keep in mind.”

Theresa swallowed the chastening without giving further response than a thin, hard smile. Going up against miss Hale wasn’t something she felt like attempting even on a good day, and she was not having a good day. She knew when she was up against someone who could crush her… even if Charlotte’s powers were less her own doing and more something that came with money. In all honesty, Theresa didn’t think Charlotte was much more than a rich brat with a taste for bullying, but she was a very rich brat.

Now Charlotte gave her a sweet smile and crumpled up the unused tissue in her hand.

“Not only tissues are disposable, you know.”

Did Lee Sizemore write your lines for you? They’re really that ridiculous, Theresa thought, despite the uneasy feeling of being a timid mouse that a sadistic barn cat was toying with.

“I’m aware of that,” she replied. “This is just allergies.”

“This time of year? Hm. Perhaps an update of your company health file is in order, then. I’m pretty sure it says June through August.”

What the hell are you talking about? I didn’t get allergies until a year after I started working here…

Then she recalled the note she had left Bernard at the very beginning of their affair, mentioning casually how ‘notes are so old-fashioned, but they’re the only thing we don’t monitor”, and felt a surge of dread. Because if Charlotte knew that, what else did she know?

Charlotte saw that dread mirrored on her face, and it was exactly what she had been aiming for. Her merciless smile turned into an amused laughter.

“I’m kidding! I don’t know when you’re allergic, and I don’t fucking care either, but you’d better not be sick right now, because we need to be able to count on you to do your job and do it well… ‘kay?”

Once more leaning forward, she flashed her beautiful smile while sending death threats through her eyes.

"You know what's at stake here. Well. You know most of what's at stake, anyway. Trust me, you really don't want to fuck this up."

Theresa, who was starting to feel like rusty fish hooks were digging into her throat, as a lovely addition to the droning ache deep inside her joints and the fuzzy tickle in her nose, somehow managed to plaster another reassuring smile onto her fever-flushed face.

“I will be fine.”

Which, she quietly admitted, wasn’t the same thing as being fine. But Charlotte was finished toying with her, at least for the time being, and broke off the connection with another disgusted twitch of the upper lip. This time Theresa was certain the younger woman was unaware. She saw her own reflection in the darkened screen and was rather disgusted by the sight herself.

She could lie to others, but she did not have the luxury of lying to herself. She was well on her way of becoming very sick. The flu was still to this day a miserable disease, but it was easily treatable thanks to the past decades of medical advances… but she had painted herself into a corner by insisting she wasn’t sick. Everything out here really was monitored, and if she sought medical treatment, Charlotte would take great pleasure in figuring out a cruel punishment for her minion’s audacity to lie.

On the other hand, if she suffered through the illness, that alone might satisfy her superior’s sadistic sense of pleasure. Maybe. Ugh, her head hurt like a bitch, how was she supposed to think?

A sharp twinge shot through her sore nose and there was no reasoning with it; she bent over her own lap and sneezed violently.

OoESSHHooo! Fuck…”

Staring at the tiny droplets of spray glittering on the navy fabric, Theresa once more thought about that towel. But then again, given her usual (bad) habit of sneezing uncovered, she wasn’t sure she’d think fast enough when the urge to sneeze struck to have much use for a towel anyway. Especially not when she felt this crappy.

Get yourself together, Tess. For fuck’s sake, get yourself together.

That, she figured, was going to be the challenge of the decade… not to mention one that already seemed doomed to fail.

She decided to give it her best shot anyway.

***

It was late that evening when she finally returned to the spartan apartment she called home during her work rounds, and she felt terrible. Despite taking a shower so scorching hot her skin seemed to scream in agony, she kept feeling like she just couldn’t get warm.

Sweating profusely, yet somehow still chilled enough to shiver, she crawled into bed, but had barely laid down when she heard a knock on her door.

She groaned. She had completely forgotten today was Thursday. Bernard always came to her place on Thursday nights, if they hadn’t agreed otherwise. She thought about pretending she was already asleep, so she could ignore his knocking, but she knew he would be worried if she didn’t answer.

She reluctantly dragged her achy self out to the hallway and opened the door.

The look on Bernard’s face when his eyes fell upon her was priceless. It was such a perfect study in surprise it would have been funny, if it wasn’t there on behalf of her appearance.

“I forgot it’s Thursday,” she said, determined to downplay this as much as she could. “Sorry, but I’m too tired to…” she paused briefly as she almost sneezed, but then the sneezy feeling went away, and she could finish; “fool around tonight.”

He still stared at her as if he hadn’t heard a word she said.  

“Oh my God, Theresa.”

The cold night air gave her goosebumps and sent yet another chill down her spine. When he saw that, Bernard seemed to finally break from his stupor, and gently but firmly ushered her back inside. Once he had closed the door behind them, he placed a hand on her forehead and stated what had been obvious from the start:

“You’re burning up.”

“I’m fine. Just tired.” It felt like speaking through shards of broken glass.

He sighed.

“So you insist on denying you’re sick?” he asked. Theresa only looked at him with glazed eyes, trying to look defiant but not being very convincing even to herself. “Okay. Deny as much as you want. But I’m staying overnight to keep an eye on you and your non-existing flu.”

“That’s not necessary, I…” she began, but this time the building sneeze did more than just tease her, and she snapped forward with a throat-tearing double.

“HuEESSCHHoo! HahhERRSHHuh!”

They were so forceful she lost her balance for a moment and had to grab onto his arm for a support Bernard didn’t mind giving. He gave her shoulder a light caress and she leaned into the touch, instinctively seeking comfort without even noticing herself.

“Bless you. Let’s agree to disagree. You don’t think it’s necessary. Fine. But I do, so humour me, please?”

Theresa kept her eyes closed, and now she nodded wearily without saying anything. She knew she would sleep better if he was there anyway. Question was if he would get any sleep, but she knew he wouldn’t offer if he wasn’t willing to follow through, and she just didn’t have the energy to debate.

“Tess,” Bernard mumbled and nudged her gently. She snapped back to consciousness. “Let’s get you to bed, you can’t sleep standing up.”

She wasn’t exactly standing up either, she realised, she was half-leaning on him, and upon this realisation she pulled all her willpower together to walk on her own. If Bernard would let her go to work tomorrow, she had to get her shit together and fake self-control believably enough.

It was of course possible that this was one of those short-lived viruses and that she really would feel better in the morning. Okay, fine, it wasn’t likely, but it was possible.

Clinging to that hope, Theresa more or less sleep-walked into the bedroom. 

When Bernard had undressed and climbed into bed only a few minutes later, Theresa was already out cold. Or hot, rather. Her body radiated waves of heat, it was like lying next to a bonfire. There was a slight wheeze when she breathed, and he wondered for a moment if he should prop up her head with yet another pillow to help her breathe easier, but decided he didn’t want to risk waking her up. 

He was concerned, but not really worried. The flu was nasty, but there were treatments readily available at Westworld’s medical team, she could get it tomorrow and take a couple of days off – she could use it either way, she had worked herself half to death lately – and she’d be good as new by next week, in time for the board’s arrival.

Bernard, of course, knew nothing about Theresa’s deals with the devil that was Charlotte. A smug, powerful devil who was of the opinion that if Theresa had been stupid enough to get sick in the first place, it was only fair she dealt with it, too. Without the help of medical science.

 

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Just a shorter update to this fic today. Updates will be less frequent from now on, while I try to untangle all the threads my head wants to weave together in this fic. :blink: 

***

The next morning, Bernard woke up first, and while he didn't care much for her laboured, raspy breathing, she wasn't as hot and feverish as she had been last night. 

When Theresa woke up about twenty minutes later, she ruined his cautious positivity by immediately rolling over to the side and starting to cough, a chesty, wet, rattling cough that had him cringing. Of course, because of her penchant for cigarettes, especially of the filterless kind, she started most of her mornings with a coughing fit, but this sounded far, far worse than those.

Even as she was mid-fit, Theresa got out of bed and started getting dressed. Bernard watched her in disbelief.

“You’re going back to bed,” he said. She stubbornly shook her head and kept coughing.

She finally managed to stop long enough to draw a couple of full breaths. Her face, neck, even her chest, were flushed, tears streamed down her cheeks, her nose was running. She was a pathetic, drippy mess.

“I’b fide,” she insisted. “Just sboker’s cough.”

The fine line between her eyebrows deepened as the look of an oncoming sneeze began to fill her face. Her elegant nostrils flared. Her lips pulled back in a desperate wince as the burning sensation spread throughout her nasal passages. Her breath hitched several times, she almost regained control, then surrendered angrily to the sneeze. She almost spat it out, frustrated and helpless against the viruses taking her over.

"AAERSCHHH!"

“And what was that?” Bernard asked. “Smoker’s sneeze?”

Theresa sent him a watery-eyed glare, but it didn’t intimidate him. 

“You need to take today off,” he said. “You’re so sick you can barely stand up.”

Theresa grabbed a couple of tissues and blew her nose violently. It felt like her nose filled up faster than she could empty it, and the sinus congestion was almost painful.

“I can stand up well enough,” she said into the tissues, before blowing her nose again. She folded the tissues over, wiped her nose, and tossed the wad into the trashcan. She finished buttoning her blouse and tucked it into her skirt, put on her heels, and hung her jacket over the chair so she wouldn’t forget it when she was ready to leave.

Bernard watched as she began applying makeup, slowly shaking his head.

“I can see there’s nothing I can do to keep you from going to work, so at least let me give you some advice.”

“Makeup advice?” she asked in a raspy, thick voice that wasn’t completely devoid of humour. “It’s not that I’m opposed to men wearing makeup, but I know for a fact that you don’t.” Her voice cracked and she had to cough before she could finish; “… so I think I know this better than you do.”

“Applying, yes. But my advice has more to do with the observer’s view. You draw attention to the very things you try to conceal if you put on too much. You don’t normally wear a lot of makeup, if you do today, everyone will notice.”

Everyone will notice the frequent bouts of coughing and sneezing either way, was what he was too kind to add, but Theresa already knew that. She looked at her reflection in the mirror, at the heavy layer of foundation she had caked on, and had to admit he had a point.

With a congested sigh, she wiped it off and started over. Bernard stood behind her and took advantage of the mirror to get his tie completely straight. Once he was done, he leaned in and kissed her hair.

“At least cut yourself some slack today. And please go see the doctor first thing you do.”

Yes, maybe she should, but she knew something Bernard didn’t; the physician on duty was another recruit directly from Delos’s own. They liked to put their own people in certain strategic spots. Theresa no longer trusted this system, even if she was part of it herself. People weren’t necessarily what they were posing as, just like Theresa wasn’t exactly boss of the Westworld QA team. Her actual field of competence was a little bit more hands-on than that.  

“I’ll be fine, Bernie.” She smiled at him in the mirror. Even her facial muscles ached, but she smiled anyway, hoping it would look convincing enough. “Really.”

“I don’t think your fever is as high as it was last night, anyway,” he reluctantly admitted. “Although that can fluctuate, especially in the beginning. If it spikes again…”

“Listen, it’s sweet of you to fuss over me, but I know what my body can handle.” She gave him a mischievous look that was only half-fake. “You’re not completely unfamiliar with its capabilities yourself.”

Bernard laughed a little and ran his hands down her shoulders.

“You do indeed have a very capable, not to mention very nice-looking body,” he said. “I’m just worried you’re pushing it to its limits.”

So am I, Theresa thought. But I really don’t have a choice right now. I may not be completely disposable at this point, but I could be. If I can get them what they want – all of it - I might be considered valuable enough to keep around for future missions. If not…

She didn’t finish the thought.

 

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Hi. I am at work now and can't do that thing where I pay close attention to every single amazing detail and idea you've implied... but I will, I promise. I super enjoyed this quickread, and I can't wait to get home and actually get home and take it all in. 

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Oh my goodness! You should come over, stay, and make your home on the cold fic side! Just superb. 

Hahahahahaha smoker’s sneeze! You’re too much! I love it! It’s so fun learning about these characters from your writing! I really like Charlotte. Maybe it’s because you wrote her the way you did but she’s snarky, quick-witted, funny, and a bit cutthroat. My heart dropped at the same time Theresa’s face filled with dread though. I was like nooooooooo! 

You knocked the symptom descriptions out of the ballpark! Just so creative and new! 

I love the pull and push that is Bernard and Theresa. I adored the morning scene with B and T. They are so right for each other! You can’t stop writing them until a ring and a lifetime of happiness is promised them. I should not have seen all those clips hahahaha. Anyways....

I liked how you set up the story so that Theresa couldn’t be treated and just has to wade through the sickness until she’s better. Lots of paths you can take the story now. And I’m here for it! 

 

 

 

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Hello! I have been home for a few hours. I am BACK and am READY, here we GO, OKAY.

On 5/16/2018 at 10:40 AM, Chanel_no5 said:

“Well,” Bernard said, watching her with a completely straight face, “I’ve known you to be both at the same time.”

I'd like to go ahead and just mirror what Reader said, this entire story is so romantic and sweet but like, sexy, you know? (Of course you know, you wrote it). The way these to interact in your writing is really fun to read and ughhh I love this lmaooo.

On 5/17/2018 at 1:47 PM, Chanel_no5 said:

“I’m fine. Just tired.” It felt like speaking through shards of broken glass.

My interest in characters who are in-denial of their conditions fluctuates very frequently, but I really like it here. I feel like? A big appeal of Theresa feeling under the whether is that she's such a hardworking and responsible character and Westworld is such a shit show to take care of that, how could she take the day off? 

Also, the sounds you use-- you already know how I feel about them. They're perfect. All harsh and sharp and unapologetic skdfjnskdfn pure GOLD. 

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I'm having so much fun with this fic you guys, and it's weird because stuff I normally don't like works for me in this thing and I have no idea why. Coughing is one of the most off-putting things I know. Writing it in this fic, though? Yeah. It... works for me. I mean, it works for me. :shock::blushing:  :lol:

I hope to get the next part up tomorrow or the day after. ^^

 

On ‎2018‎-‎05‎-‎18 at 9:41 PM, Reader said:

Oh my goodness! You should come over, stay, and make your home on the cold fic side! Just superb. 

Hahahahahaha smoker’s sneeze! You’re too much! I love it! It’s so fun learning about these characters from your writing! I really like Charlotte. Maybe it’s because you wrote her the way you did but she’s snarky, quick-witted, funny, and a bit cutthroat. My heart dropped at the same time Theresa’s face filled with dread though. I was like nooooooooo! 

You knocked the symptom descriptions out of the ballpark! Just so creative and new! 

I love the pull and push that is Bernard and Theresa. I adored the morning scene with B and T. They are so right for each other! You can’t stop writing them until a ring and a lifetime of happiness is promised them. I should not have seen all those clips hahahaha. Anyways....

I liked how you set up the story so that Theresa couldn’t be treated and just has to wade through the sickness until she’s better. Lots of paths you can take the story now. And I’m here for it! 

Awwww, you're too sweet!! :heart: Yup. Smoker's sneeze. Speaking of which... no, you'll have to wait until I get that other thing we talked about written. :P Charlotte is a great character, she's so deliciously evil and she likes to be. I did think Theresa managed to hold her own admirably well, especially considering how lousy she's feeling. ^^

Hahaha, sorry I introduced you to the clips. I know it's a walk of heartache. Rest assured that fate will never happen as long as I have anything to say about it. Which I do. Thank God for fanfiction. :rofl: Oh yeah, soooo many different ideas I want to use, but I think I have decided on a path now. Theresa is NOT happy with me, but she has to tag along for the ride anyway. 

On ‎2018‎-‎05‎-‎19 at 9:43 PM, Kicker said:

I'd like to go ahead and just mirror what Reader said, this entire story is so romantic and sweet but like, sexy, you know?

Haha, thank you! Well, yes, clearly the sexual chemistry between these cuties is too potent not to bleed over into the H/C. I'm afraid we just have to live with that. :twisted: Hints are all there's going to be, though, because otherwise it has to go in Adult section. 

On ‎2018‎-‎05‎-‎19 at 9:43 PM, Kicker said:

My interest in characters who are in-denial of their conditions fluctuates very frequently, but I really like it here. I feel like? A big appeal of Theresa feeling under the whether is that she's such a hardworking and responsible character and Westworld is such a shit show to take care of that, how could she take the day off? 

Exactly! Personally, I love denial, but yes, sometimes it can be drawn to a ridiculous point. I feel that Theresa wouldn't necessarily deny THAT she's sick (she's too practical, too "get-to-the-fucking-point", for that), but maybe HOW sick she is. Only reason she's trying to deny it to Bernard in this fic is because she knows he'd try to make her stay home and that mission she has is so important she seriously can't take a sick day right now. Otherwise, she probably would, being this ill. With a regular cold however... she'd definitely go to work, no hesitation. To all of her co-workers' resigned annoyance.. :lol:  But how could she not? Westworld would collapse if she wasn't around to keep all the fuckups in check. :rofl: Re: the sounds... let's say I toyed with the idea of adding a high-pitched girly sneeze just to see if it worked and then laughed out loud because there is no way in hell this lady would sneeze like that and it was even impossible to imagine. No way. 

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OKAY, here with GO with the next part! It got a bit heavy in places. Apologies for that. No, I won't apologise at all for this fic actually. I'm enjoying myself way too much. There is PLOT! :omg: And even I don't know yet what the masterplan is or who Theresa really is. It's gonna be exciting to find out... dun dun dun! 

Okay, onto the story. I'll just give a teaser first; next part (part 5) will include some sneezing-while-hiding. ;) 

 

***

 

Elsie, the behaviour tech, went on and on about the recalibration of the hosts’ memory storage, taking great care to explain the procedure to Theresa. While she hated being taught – especially being taught things she actually excelled in but thanks to being undercover couldn’t tell anyone about – she was grateful for it today, because that meant she had to speak less herself. She kept swallowing, trying to appease the raw sensation in her throat, but if it did anything at all, it only made her want to cough. She had pushed down the fever with some Aspirin rather than seeing the doctor for the actual flu treatment, but she knew it would be a short-lived respite before it climbed back into the high numbers.

And her nose felt like a hot mess. She was so stuffed up at this point that she couldn’t even sniffle. Her nasal passages were completely blocked. Yet, right behind the congestion, where she couldn’t reach it by either rubbing or blowing her nose, a constant prickle was slowly dancing back and forth, and she kept feeling like she might sneeze at any moment. She used her entire concentration capacity to monitor this, because while she wasn’t one bit embarrassed about sneezing in front of people, the sneezes resulting from this illness were only getting messier, and that had the potential to be embarrassing even in Theresa’s eyes.

Elsie had stopped talking and looked expectantly at Theresa, who had no idea what the tech had just said.

“Okay,” she replied. That seemed like a safe bet. But Elsie frowned.

“I… um, I asked if you had received the report on the discarded hosts…”

“Oh.” Theresa wasn’t used to being corrected by subordinates. It was humiliating. “I have, but haven’t had the time to…” she trailed off as the urge to sneeze grew worse. “…t-to go through all of theEASSCHHoo! Them.”

Elsie blinked.

“Bless you.”

Theresa nodded, relieved that she’d have the time to get a tissue out in advance, or she would have had to deal with something every bit as embarrassing as she had feared. At least now the embarrassment was caught in the tissue. She tried to blow her nose, but while messy, even the sneeze hadn’t loosened the congestion at all. She dabbed at her irritated nostrils, then threw the used tissue in the trashcan, among some crumpled paper towels and pieces of broken electronics.

“Are you coming down with something?” Elsie asked. “You sound pretty… sick.”

She regretted asking the question the moment it was out of her mouth. She half-expected Theresa to tell her it was none of her business, or something else as snarky, but this time she wouldn’t hold it against her. The other woman looked like death warmed over. Her carefully applied makeup couldn’t fully hide either the dark circles around her eyes, or the redness around her nostrils. And even if it could, that couldn’t conceal the sick voice. Theresa did have a slight rasp to her voice normally, but nothing like this. And then there was the thickness of it, like she spoke through wet cotton. Yeah, it was pretty fucking obvious that Theresa was sick. And there was another tell as well; she actually covered the sneeze. She only ever tried to do that when she knew she was contagious, and even then, she usually forgot. Or didn’t care. Elsie didn’t know which.

Rather than snapping at her, Theresa only sighed.

“A bit under the weather,” she admitted. “Which is why I really don’t want to keep having to put out these small panic fires at Behaviour.”

Her tone sounded almost pleading and Elsie felt properly chastened. It was more efficient than her usual straight up intimidation approach, because this Theresa actually seemed almost human.

“I’ll gather a few techs and take care of it,” Elsie said. She didn’t want to feel any sympathy for Theresa, whom she viewed as massively unsympathetic, but she couldn’t help it. The older woman looked like hell. “So, there’s no need for you to come back down here and check up on it, unless I call for you.”

“Good,” Theresa said and headed for the door. As she was almost there, she turned back for a moment and said, “Thank you.”

Elsie did a double take at this uncharacteristic display of gratitude, but Theresa was already gone. Elsie could hear her, though. She was coughing heavily, one of those bottom-of-the-lung coughs that sound every bit as painful as they usually are.

Oh yeah, the head of the QA was sick, alright. Elsie decided to go and pick up some of the proactive flu treatment to avoid getting it herself. And she was going to tell Bernard to, as well. She wasn’t sure if those two fucked each other, but she had her suspicions.

***

Bernard caught up with Theresa when she was heading back to her office.

“How are you holding up?” he asked. “You don’t look too good.”

Theresa had to use every ounce of her willpower to create a believable smile. She was still flushed and watery-eyed from the coughing fit, and she didn’t feel like she was even in the same neighbourhood as ‘good’. Or on the same planet.

“Not great, but I’m hanging in there.”

Okay, that wasn’t exactly how it sounded; she was now robbed of the ability to pronounce m’s and n’s, they were exchanged for b’s and d’s. Bernard somehow still understood her, but she wasn’t sure anyone else would.

“I don’t like your cough, though,” he said.

“Yeah, I’m not exactly crazy about it either,” Theresa snapped. “But it sounds worse than it is.”

Bernard didn’t seem to believe her, but he let it slide.

“Did you see the doctor?”

“Not yet. I’ve been too busy.” She touched his arm briefly. “Um, you might want to go and get those pre-emptive flu meds, though. We’ve been… in very close proximity.”

That teased a smile out of him.

“That’s what we’re calling it, now? Being in very close proximity?”

“I just don’t want you to catch it from me.”

“Don’t worry. But if it makes you feel less guilty, I’ll do that.”

“I don’t feel guilty for being sick, Bernard.”

“Yes, you do.” He took a closer look at her. “Is there something else going on that I should know about?”

Yes, Bernie. Everything is about to change.

“Nothing that concerns you. There’s just a lot for me to wrap up before the board arrives, is all. And this,” she gestured to her face, where the illness was written clear as day, “is not helping.”

“Okay. Let me know if you need anything.”

“All I need is to get some things sorted. It’s only work.”

“I could help you, if you want me to,” he offered.

Theresa began to cough again. Bernard waited patiently for her to get herself back under control. When she finally did, she looked even worse than she had before. It was as if the coughing fit had helped the fever escaping its clutches and rising again.  

“You have your own job. Besides, some of the information is classified. Even if I wanted to tell you, I can’t.”

“Classified even above my authorisation level?” he said. “So, what is Delos really up to, then? Government secrets? World domination? Come on. This is, when it comes down to it, just a high-tech theme park. I know Ford thinks otherwise, but...”

Theresa shook her head. To Bernard, she seemed very serious, almost sad.

“There’s a little bit more to it than that. Please don’t ask me any more questions with regards to it. I can’t tell you, and I don’t want to lie.”

Bernard tried to act indifferent, but even in her flu-induced fog, Theresa saw that her words hurt his feelings. Her previously unwavering loyalty to her superiors had been on shaky grounds for years now, but to see that look in his eyes shook its very foundations.

She had been on the position so long because Delos didn’t want to take chances; they knew the latest employee would always the one suspected of being the inside person. It was better to firmly establish that person in their position and allowing it to take a while to secure all data, than having your insider caught in the act.

But they had forgotten the human factor; people are wired to bond with others. Theresa hadn’t thought it would be a problem for her, she was used to keeping her own council, follow her superior’s orders, and not get attached. Yet, six years was a long time, and she had grown to like the people here. Not the business, she thought it was gruesome, keeping lifelike human androids for game, but she liked the people who worked here. Even Lee Sizemore, who annoyed her more often than he didn’t, but she could see past it. It was like having an obnoxious kid brother around.

And then there was Bernard, who had caught her interest because he was everything she wasn’t. It might have seemed to an onlooker (which she dearly hoped they didn’t have) that the aggressive woman found herself a meek man to treat however she wanted. But Theresa knew differently. Bernard wasn’t meek in any way. He was simply calm. Secure. That was what attracted her, how secure and grounded he was. Theresa was a master at hiding her anxiety and appear as an aggressive go-getter, but the truth was that she never felt grounded and safe, only Bernard could make her feel that way.

Of course she had told herself that the attraction was merely physical, but she had been alone for a long time, and she had come to enjoy those moments after lovemaking, when they just lay in each other’s’ arms, even more than the lovemaking itself. It was then that she realised she was falling in love with him. That had scared her, and she had considered breaking up… but when push came to shove, she couldn’t.

So the years went on. She had settled in this role. She liked it, for most part. When it was time to carry out her Delos assignments, she did, but she didn’t think much of it. It was just another part of her job. But now things were coming to an end. Delos had almost everything they needed, and they were concerned about Ford’s sudden renewed interest in the park’s narratives. They wanted to wrap this up.

And right now, for the very first time, it dawned on Theresa that when they did, she would be uprooted from her entire life. Don’t get attached, don’t get used to anything, that was the motto she had lived her whole adult life by, but she had done both those things now. “Home” had always been where she was positioned, but now, when she thought “home”, she thought of Bernard. She often wished they could go somewhere together, anywhere. Anywhere they could pretend they were just any couple. Kiss openly. Have a romantic dinner in a restaurant. Maybe go out dancing. It could never be, of course, but it was a beautiful dream that she enjoyed having, and that dream was getting closer to being crushed forever.

She pushed the thoughts aside. It wouldn’t do her any good to keep thinking about that.

“I need to get going,” she said.

“Theresa?”

“Yes?”

“Flu aside… are you in some kind of trouble?”

She bit her lip.

“I might be if you keep asking me things.”

“Then I won’t. But come to me if you need help.”

She smiled, and this time it was effortless.

“I’ll be fine, but thank you.”

He nodded and left. Theresa watched him leave and nearly felt like crying.

Don’t get attached, don’t get used to anything.

Too late.

 

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I felt like the walls were closing in a little bit further through some parts of this. Bernie just wants to help! My heart! 

Oh my! I loved loved loved your explanation of B and T’s “opposites attract” dynamic. I don’t think I’ve ever heard something like that before. It was  deep and beautiful! 

I was enjoying the tech’s reactions to T’s softer or maybe just tired side. And I liked the bit about T’s tells. Super clever. 

I feel like I learn about a body’s anatomy when reading some of your stuff. And the tickle being BEHIND the congestion and JUST out of reach, always keeping her in a sneezy state was noice. I spelled that right. It was another of your excellent descriptive touches! I’m glad you’re into coughing now for this fic, because you write it like you’ve always preferred it! 

10 hours ago, Chanel_no5 said:

“Um, you might want to go and get those pre-emptive flu meds, though. We’ve been… in very close proximity.”

 That teased a smile out of me too. And just that brief touch of her hand on his arm in the public place was one of those tiny details artists put in their work to bring the drawing together. 

10 hours ago, Chanel_no5 said:

She often wished they could go somewhere together, anywhere. Anywhere they could pretend they were just any couple. Kiss openly. Have a romantic dinner in a restaurant. Maybe go out dancing.

Why is the screen so blurry??

 

10 hours ago, Chanel_no5 said:

Don’t get attached, don’t get used to anything.

Too late.

I’m going down with this ship! 

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On ‎2018‎-‎05‎-‎23 at 9:02 AM, Reader said:

I felt like the walls were closing in a little bit further through some parts of this. Bernie just wants to help! My heart! 

Nowhere near as tight as they will. :P Of course he does, didn't we agree that he's the perfect man? :lol: 

On ‎2018‎-‎05‎-‎23 at 9:02 AM, Reader said:

Oh my! I loved loved loved your explanation of B and T’s “opposites attract” dynamic. I don’t think I’ve ever heard something like that before. It was  deep and beautiful! 

Thank you! As much as she seems to be such a "take no prisoners"-type, I think she needed Bernard far more than he needed her. That's not to say his feelings weren't as real (they were! OH GOD they were!!), and I really liked how they had an independent and not clingy relationship, but I still think she found something in him that she needed to feel grounded. Ironically, something she needed to feel entirely human. 

On ‎2018‎-‎05‎-‎23 at 9:02 AM, Reader said:

I was enjoying the tech’s reactions to T’s softer or maybe just tired side. And I liked the bit about T’s tells. Super clever. 

Probably just tired. :lol: I don't think "soft" is something anyone other than Bernard ever gets to see. I'm torn about her sneeze style, because I don't think she'd normally care AT ALL about sneezing uncovered, but I also can't see her as so completely rude and thoughtless she'd sneeze uncovered if she knew she was sick, so I compromised. :rolleyes: And I kind of think it fits. She wouldn't want to get anyone else sick because that would ruin the efficiency. 

On ‎2018‎-‎05‎-‎23 at 9:02 AM, Reader said:

I feel like I learn about a body’s anatomy when reading some of your stuff. And the tickle being BEHIND the congestion and JUST out of reach, always keeping her in a sneezy state was noice. I spelled that right. It was another of your excellent descriptive touches! I’m glad you’re into coughing now for this fic, because you write it like you’ve always preferred it! 

Haha, thank you..? :P I swear I spend far too much time trying to figure out the right way to describe that sneezy feeling. :yay: Apparently it's worth it, then. Thank you. I'm... a little speechless over this sudden cough thing, because it's actually normally a phobia for me. I don't know why I suddenly find it hot in this. :huh: 

On ‎2018‎-‎05‎-‎23 at 9:02 AM, Reader said:

And just that brief touch of her hand on his arm in the public place was one of those tiny details artists put in their work to bring the drawing together. 

There's one scene in the show where she does, and it breaks my heart because it's such a gentleness in the gesture that is so unlike her. 

On ‎2018‎-‎05‎-‎23 at 9:02 AM, Reader said:

Why is the screen so blurry??

:whistle: 

On ‎2018‎-‎05‎-‎23 at 9:02 AM, Reader said:

I’m going down with this ship! 

This ship is going down with me!! :lol: Oh my God. I thought I knew what OTP was, but that's like theoretically knowing what love is and then actually fall in love. :blink: 

***

I need to stop staying up this late and then sleep until past noon. I hope you appreciate the effort I put in, editing this stuff long after a reasonable person would’ve gone to bed, just to get the chapter up. :lol:

So, Theresa was very foul-mouthed when we did this chapter. In case anyone think I went crazy with the f-word. Don’t blame me, it was her. I edited out some that was completely unnecessary, but I had to leave much of it in because the text didn’t sound right without it. :rolleyes:

And now, after a novel of comment reply and author’s notes, we finally get to the point!

Here goes!

 

***

 

Theresa knew she’d better get down to work. There was plenty of data she needed to download from a couple of hosts that had recently been moved to the cold storage. But she didn’t feel like walking all that distance, and then stand inside a cool room. She wasn’t as chilled as she had been last night, but as the fever steadily rose, she knew she would get there soon enough.  

She was going to take a couple of minutes to sit down and collect her thoughts first, trying to gather that resolve that she was famous for. She felt like her strength was seeping out of her faster than she could compensate for with pure determination.

And she had to sneeze again. Maybe. That tickle was totally unreliable. She brushed the back of her hand against her nose, challenging the tickle. Oh, yes, she was definitely going to sneeze. She took two hitching breaths, wavered on the edge for several torturous seconds, then exhaled as the sneeze fled her. She leaned her head back and groaned. The groan in turn made her cough until her entire body shuddered.

Ugh, I’m so fed up with this.

Her raspy breath hitched.

Cue that fucking sneeze, then, she thought and spun her chair so she was at least turned away from her desk. No need to get spray all over the polished surface. She wasn’t going to care one bit about germs or mess or anything else in her own fucking office, though.

She tilted her head back as the tickle reached its climax, then bobbed forward with a wet, explosive sneeze.

HaESSCHHHoo!”

The power of the sneeze shifted the congestion in the back of her nose, which immediately triggered another sneeze. And yet another.

“Huh-AERRSHHHHoo! HaaaERSSSCHHugh!”

The spray glittered in the dim light like liquid crystals. It was fairly aesthetic, in some odd way. Or maybe it was the rising fever giving her hallucinations on top of everything.

Her nose felt like it was in flames, as if the very congestion blocking her nasal passages was on fire. Since she was so stuffed up, the entire force of the sneeze went through her throat, leaving it even more tender and raw than before. She wasn’t sure if it was possible to lose your voice simply from sneezing, but if it was, that was probably the fate she would meet.

Behind that wall of congestion, the feathery tickle kept working on wearing down her resistance.

“Hehhhh… ehh… hahhh…”

Oh, she must look so ridiculous! Eyes closed, mouth open, nostrils quivering, as she was gasping and hitching her way through one ineffective buildup after another.

“HaaaARRSSHHHHooo!”

Yes, of course that ultimate success in getting the sneeze out would set off another coughing fit, as well. Because it wasn’t like she was already exhausted or had anything more important to do than sitting here and surrendering to all these infuriating, unnecessary flu symptoms.

When she finally stopped coughing, and shakily tried to breathe like a normal human being, she felt like she had been the sparring partner of some boxer. Everything hurt. Her chest felt bruised, her lungs burned. She wasn’t sure she’d be able to walk across her own office, much less to the elevators and down to the cold storage.

But she didn’t have a choice, did she? There were things set in motion, not only within Westworld, that Theresa Cullen was too insignificant a player to stop, and if she tried, she’d be crushed. Charlotte Hale would make sure of that. What worried Theresa far more than her own safety was that if Charlotte knew about her and Bernard, she might think it would be a satisfying final blow to Theresa if she got to Bernard as well. Theresa would much rather push through both her illness and her doubts and follow her orders, than seeing Bernard come to any harm, whether professionally or physically. She could – and would - still lie about the second part of her assignment though, because that was dependent solely on her own professional assessment, no delivery of information or software. The world out there was already burning, and she had decided that she didn’t want to be responsible for pouring gasoline on it.

In her position as head of the QA, her main task was to keep people – guests and employees alike - safe, and while protection, in a way at least, was her basic task even out there, this had turned out to be far more rewarding. It gave her peace of mind and a sense of purpose that she lacked out there. Which was ironic, because it was her search for purpose, her fierce idealism, that had gotten her into this mess in the first place. It had never crossed her mind that she would end up fighting on the wrong side. She had believed she was destined for grand things.

Well, right now, she felt like the only thing she was destined for was a total collapse, but… it was time to get to work. Collapses would have to wait.

Moaning softly at the persistent pain and aches, she got out of her chair and walked towards the door. The corridor outside seemed to go on for several miles.

One step at a time, and just keep going.

Oh, how very fucking encouraging she could be, wasn’t it impressive? Fucking cheerleader material.

Once more surrendering to one of those harsh, wheezy coughing fits, she forced herself to keep walking, but now she had a new thing to worry about – what if she couldn’t keep quiet down there? She had done a shitload of data securing over the years, sometimes with people standing only a few steps away from her, but normally, she wasn’t coughing her lungs up every time she tried to breathe, nor was she on a constant red alert for sneezing.

I’ll deal with that if and when I have to.

After all, there wasn’t much else she could do.

***

The cold storage really was cold.

Maybe it wasn’t if your body temperature hadn’t decided to go haywire, but Theresa’s had, and she was shivering in the cool air as she waited for the data to download. At least she was wearing both blouse and jacket, but the skirt ended above her knee and her legs were bare.

The memory stick flashed green to indicate the download was complete. Theresa cleared her sore throat, sniffed, and moved on to the next and final host, then realised she had forgotten to wipe the traces of memory intrusion from the one she just drained of data.

“Shit,” she muttered under her breath. Her brain felt foggy, not all online, so to speak. Thank God she had remembered it in time. It was unlikely anyone would be suspicious and check these forgotten creations for signs of espionage, at least as long as she was still on location, but this really wasn’t the time to take any chances.

She did a swift memory cleanse, ran diagnostics to make sure all traces of her interference were wiped, and powered the thing down again. Then she moved on to the last host, cut open the heel of its hand and pulled out the connection cable. She had done this probably a thousand times over the years, but it never stopped being disturbing. Given her past, it shouldn’t be, but then again, she rarely dealt with actual bodies. She was more of an engineer.

She began the download and took a step back as she waited. She wished for a cigarette, but even if she had dared to smoke in here, she couldn’t. Her anguished airways were already in uproar, adding further irritation to them would only come back to haunt her.

A sudden clunking noise from the back of the storage made her look up in apprehension, then she relaxed. Ford was down in the old lab again. Sometimes he would go there and talk to the old hosts, the first generation that had been tucked away in their plastic body bags for a decade or more already when she first came here. She didn’t know why he would do that, but she supposed old men liked to revisit their biggest victories.

The lab was a separate room. As long as she could keep quiet, there was no need for concern.

Theresa had barely finished that thought when she felt a tingle starting to grow in the back of her nose. She pressed her tongue against the roof of her mouth to keep the tingle from evolving into a sneeze, putting all her willpower and concentration into this simple action, but it still kept growing in intensity.

Not now, she thought, panic flaring up in her chest. God, not now.

She put her arm across her face, preparing to cushion the sound to the very best of her ability, if she couldn’t hold it back. Theresa wasn’t much of a stifler. She had only done it a handful of times in her entire life because it was so painful, and she was notoriously bad at it too.

She fought against her sick body with all her might, but the urge to sneeze was too strong. She put all the effort she could muster into stifling, but she truly was bad at it, and the sneeze turned into a failed, nasal half-stifle. At least it wasn’t loud, but it was… well… it was… messy.

Theresa remained motionless with her arm still up over her face, wondering why nobody had ever informed her that rock bottom had a fucking basement. Maybe that was something everyone had to find out for themselves, but she wouldn’t have been sorry if she never had to learn that.

At least she had tissues on her. That was a stroke of luck, because even when she knew she would need them, she tended to forget them, or she wore something without pockets to put them in. She lowered her arm with a wince of disgust, fished out a couple of tissues from her jacket pocket, and quickly wiped her face, then her sleeve. Then she stared at the used tissues for several seconds, realising that she’d have to put them back in her pocket.

Apparently, rock bottom’s basement comes with digging equipment, to enhance your downward experience, she thought wryly.

She tucked the damp tissues into a fresh one to avoid unwanted leakage and put the whole wad into her other pocket, unknowingly cringing as she did so. Then she turned her concentration back to the host. The download was almost complete. While she waited for it to finish, Theresa pressed her fingertips against her cheekbones. Her entire face felt tender. If this didn’t end up in a sinus infection, she’d consider herself lucky.  

She took the stick with the downloaded files and put it where nobody (with the possible exception of Bernard) would just happen to come across it – in her bra  - erased the signs of interference with the host’s memory card, and got ready to get the hell out of there.

But before she could, Ford turned off the lights in the lab and left. And for some reason, he decided to walk through the cold storage.

Theresa was not in a good situation right now, and she was acutely aware of it. She wasn’t prepared for any bold escapes. She was feverish and dizzy. She was constantly on the verge of either a cough or a sneeze. Her chest felt tight. Thanks to the cool air there was a never-ending trickle of liquid from her nose that she kept having to sniff back. If she could be quiet long enough for Ford to leave, that alone would be a miracle.

She did have every right to be in here; that was why head of Quality Assurance was the perfect position to put her on. She had access to every place in Westworld, the park, the guest’s quarters, the various departments, the manufacturing, and the storages. But if she was caught sneaking in the shadows, people were bound to start asking questions, right at the moment when it was crucial that she could fly under the radar. 

Ford didn’t seem to be in any hurry, he strolled through the semi-darkness of the storage room as if he was strolling through a park, stopping at random hosts and watching them contemplatively.

Oh for fuck’s sake, did he really have to choose this moment to reminisce?

Theresa’s nose twitched and she quickly got a hand up, pressing it against her scrunched-up nostrils to distract from the burning sensation inside. It felt much like it did when she had been swimming and gotten the chlorinated pool water up her nose. And as if that wasn’t enough, she really had to cough. Her chest felt full, and her throat was throbbing. Forcing these urgent physical needs into capitulation was about to prove more than she could handle, and she desperately curled into herself to muffle any escaping sound.

Then Ford suddenly seemed to be done reminiscing, glanced at his pocket watch, and hurried his steps. Theresa’s entire body was convulsing with fiercely suppressed coughs when Ford left the storage unit and the door slammed shut behind him. She kept trying to suppress it long enough that Ford would be well out of earshot, but she simply couldn’t hold it in any longer. She really tried to keep the cough quick, quiet and efficient, and failed on all accounts. She coughed and coughed until she was out of breath, and then she sneezed violently, once, twice, three times… her breath hitched like crazy as she hovered on the edge of yet another sneeze.

“HuuuERSSHHuh!”

After that fourth, completely uncontrollable, sneeze, it seemed this sudden outburst was finally over. She stood still, nose dripping, eyes streaming, head spinning, and waited for Ford’s inevitable return. He must have heard that.

But nobody came. Theresa’s pounding heart slowly returned to its normal pace as she tried to get herself together. She had never felt this done in her entire life. Just done. She wanted to say “fuck this” and walk off.

But she couldn’t do that.

She made sure the memory stick hadn’t fallen out while she was busy being tortured by her own disobedient body, and then hurried back out of the storage area, still shaking with the aftershock of almost getting caught.

Nobody saw her as she went back to her office, and that was good, because she was certain she didn’t look one bit presentable.

***

“Had enough of being a trooper yet?” Bernard asked. Theresa jumped.

“Don’t sneak up on me like that!”

“I wasn’t sneaking, I was standing here.” He studied her closely. “Elsie said you looked like, and this is a direct quote, ‘something out of a fucking zombie movie’. And to be honest, I can’t say she was that far off.”

“You saw me after Miss Hughes did,” Theresa said, rubbing her fingertips against the side of her nose, creating a squishing sound as well as not relieving the tickle. “I do hope you would have informed me if I…” she cleared her throat, annoyed by the sheer pain speaking meant, “… if I looked like I was about to start eating brains.”

“Point being that you’re still getting sicker rather than better,” he said calmly, ignoring her sarcasm. “Go home. Go to bed. I’m sure the board will understand.”

Theresa nearly laughed.

“They would have no sympathy and no understanding for this condition, or any other delays, I can assure you that.”

“But you’re sick, that’s not something you can help.”

“Bernard, please listen. That doesn’t matter to them. I don’t matter to them. I am not a person to them, I am a work tool. And I knew this signing up, so I can’t be pitied either. I can handle this. I promise. I’m not some damsel in distress, you know.”

He chuckled.

“No, you’re definitely not. But even daunting department managers can have their vulnerable moments.”

She nodded wearily.

“True, but I don’t have time to be vulnerable right now.” Her voice cracked and she had to cough.

“I hate to break it to you,” he said sympathetically, “but you already are.”

Yes, Theresa thought as she struggled to get her ragged breathing back under control. But I still have one more task today, and I can’t do it until after nightfall. If you keep checking on me like this, as much as I may appreciate it, I can’t do that.

She closed her eyes as Bernard put his hand on her shoulder, not in an intimate way they could be called out on, but the way you would offer support to a colleague and friend.  

And I am not just authorised but under obligation to kill whoever comes in the way of carrying out that task. So please, please, back off.

“Theresa, the thing is that even Elsie was concerned. You’re not fooling anyone.”

I’m fooling all of you, unfortunately.

“As soon as I’m done with everything in preparation for the board’s arrival, I’ll do anything you ask of me, but until then, you need to let me do what I’m here to do.” She rubbed her nose but wasn’t anywhere near quelling the itch before it overtook her. “HeeERSHHHoo!” Before he could bless her, she continued to speak. “Please, Bernard. I’m too tired to keep denying that I feel like shit, but I can’t back down yet.”

“Are you sure you can do this?”

“I’m sure.”

He sighed.

“I’ve never met anyone more stubborn.”

“I believe the correct word here is ‘dedicated’.” The playful smile was a mere shadow of what it usually was when they got into their bickering, but it was honest. Bernard took off his glasses and smiled back.

“Dedicated, then. Just out of curiosity; would you ever consider picking anything else over the job?”

Her eyes narrowed. What was he saying? Was he saying what she thought he was saying? Or perhaps it was just wishful thinking on her side.

“Maybe someday.”

A slightly disappointed look came over his face. Or perhaps that too was her imagination.

“That usually means never.”

“It’s the best I can do right n-now... hahHaaERSSCH! Ugh.” She glared at the mist of spray coating her hands. “Did you get those preventive flu meds? I’m warning you, you don’t want to catch this.”

“Elsie picked up some for both of us on her lunch break. It’s alright.”

Theresa raised her eyebrows as she wiped off her hands.

“Sounds like she cares a lot about you. Should I be concerned?”

Bernard looked so puzzled it put her jealousy to rest even before it could fully rear its head.

“Obviously not,” she said. “Look, I’ll try to get home a bit earlier today and get some sleep.”

“Do you want me to come by and check on you?”

“If you do it before ten. After ten, I really hope to be asleep for the rest of the night.”

“I still can’t shake the feeling that there’s something you’re not telling me.”

Theresa said nothing. Eventually he seemed to brush it off as part of her sickness.

“If I get off work before ten, I’ll check in on you. If not, I’ll see you tomorrow. And call me if you need anything, okay?”

She nodded, trying not to show how relieved she was.

Bernard lowered his voice to one notch above whisper.

“I wish I could kiss you right here. Completely openly.”

So do I.

“I’ll see you later, Bernie,” she said, as firmly as her unreliable voice allowed, and left.

***

 

 

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LOL about B being the only one that might find the memory stick.

Fantastic descriptions of the progression of the cold. 

The aforementioned sneezing while hiding scene:  Now that I’ve read it, I actually can picture this happening as opposed to being crammed in some closet with a broom and cleaning supplies. She’s just too dignified. Hahahahaha I loved how you took your analogy down two more levels. Pun intended! 

B and T’s conversations are always great. I love it when Bernie takes his glasses off and his concern was so sweet and subtle in normal circumstances. In the story of course, you see T’s rising panic and learn the stress she’s under. Poor thing. 

I really liked Ford in this chapter. Something about old people reminiscing is nostalgic? Or heartwarming? 

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I'm just commenting here because this story is in progress, but I've been reading your other Westworld fic this week-end, and they are amazing! I love how well you describe Theresa's personnality (and most of all her interactions with Bernard!!!). I'm more into colds and sickness than allergies (but I really liked Lee's cologne short story) so this fic is perfect for me! I love caretaking when it's not too "obtrusive", I don't know if you see what I mean. That's why I'm completely melting in frnt of your Bernard.

On 26/05/2018 at 3:48 AM, Chanel_no5 said:

“Bernard, please listen. That doesn’t matter to them. I don’t matter to them. I am not a person to them, I am a work tool. And I knew this signing up, so I can’t be pitied either. I can handle this. I promise. I’m not some damsel in distress, you know.”

This line is SO Theresa... It's a perfect summary of the way she considers her job and life in general. I love it. And I love love love Bernard's concern and Theresa's involuntary jealousy...

On 26/05/2018 at 3:48 AM, Chanel_no5 said:

“Sounds like she cares a lot about you. Should I be concerned?”

Bernard looked so puzzled it put her jealousy to rest even before it could fully rear its head.

... Perfect.:yes:

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On ‎2018‎-‎05‎-‎26 at 7:41 PM, Reader said:

LOL about B being the only one that might find the memory stick.

"Is that a memory stick in your bra or are you just happy to see me, dear?" :rofl: 

On ‎2018‎-‎05‎-‎26 at 7:41 PM, Reader said:

Fantastic descriptions of the progression of the cold. 

Thank you!! It wasn't long since I had a cold, but it's been years since I had the flu, all I remember is that I barely remember anything. :rolleyes: I was hellishly sick, but I somehow still managed to go on meetings and take accurate notes, go alone to the stable and take in and feed 8 horses… but then I just blacked out and was totally out of it. Not that I particularly look forward to add that to Theresa's predicaments, but... I probably will anyway.  :whistle: 

On ‎2018‎-‎05‎-‎26 at 7:41 PM, Reader said:

The aforementioned sneezing while hiding scene:  Now that I’ve read it, I actually can picture this happening as opposed to being crammed in some closet with a broom and cleaning supplies. She’s just too dignified. Hahahahaha I loved how you took your analogy down two more levels. Pun intended! 

Hahahahaha, no, I can't picture Theresa hiding in a closet among cleaning supplies either. :rofl: I asked her, and her response was "No way. I'm a fucking lady." Um… yeah. That sentence pretty much sums her up, doesn't it? :lol: Haha, I thought about bringing it down a few levels more, but I ran out of puns. :lol: 

On ‎2018‎-‎05‎-‎26 at 7:41 PM, Reader said:

B and T’s conversations are always great. I love it when Bernie takes his glasses off and his concern was so sweet and subtle in normal circumstances. In the story of course, you see T’s rising panic and learn the stress she’s under. Poor thing. 

To be honest, I did feel worse for Bernard than for Theresa here, because he just really wants what's best for her and he has no idea how much harder he makes it for her. 

On ‎2018‎-‎05‎-‎26 at 7:41 PM, Reader said:

I really liked Ford in this chapter. Something about old people reminiscing is nostalgic? Or heartwarming? 

I'm not entirely sure it was in a good way. I don't know yet what his intentions are in this fic, if he's a good guy or a bad guy, or something in between. :lol: 

 

 

On ‎2018‎-‎05‎-‎27 at 10:14 PM, Aliena H. said:

I'm just commenting here because this story is in progress, but I've been reading your other Westworld fic this week-end, and they are amazing! I love how well you describe Theresa's personnality (and most of all her interactions with Bernard!!!). I'm more into colds and sickness than allergies (but I really liked Lee's cologne short story) so this fic is perfect for me! I love caretaking when it's not too "obtrusive", I don't know if you see what I mean. That's why I'm completely melting in frnt of your Bernard.

Thank you so much, it makes me so happy to hear!! :heart: It's quite the challenge since we don't see Theresa showing vulnerability in the show, like, at all, so I have to guess how she would act. So far I have to say she's tougher than I thought, in my experience once the tough ones crack they REALLY crack, but she's too practical for that, it would seem. :lol: She keeps picking herself up. I guess knowing Bernard is ready and eager to catch her should she eventually fall, helps a lot. He really is the perfect man. If I weren't, you know, a lesbian… that's the kind of guy I'd want, so I totally understand her attraction to him. ^_^ 

On ‎2018‎-‎05‎-‎27 at 10:14 PM, Aliena H. said:

This line is SO Theresa... It's a perfect summary of the way she considers her job and life in general. I love it. And I love love love Bernard's concern and Theresa's involuntary jealousy...

Thank you!! She doesn't strike me as the jealous type, checking up on his interactions with Elsie or stuff like that, but I imagined how she must be feeling, sick and disgusting and unattractive, and then there's this much younger, pretty woman working alongside of her lover, offering to get him meds so they can stay healthy, while she still will be sick, disgusting and unattractive, and I wasn't overly surprised that her jealousy twitched a bit there. :lol: Of course, Bernard would only have eyes for her anyway, so that won't have to be one of her problems. As for her view on the job… did it seem to you that she was tired of it all and wanted out (in the show, not the fic)? To me it seemed like she was pretty content with it, but didn't like the whole board-thing and when stuff glitched. But the actress said in some interview that she had the impression that Theresa was fed up with the job, felt done with Westworld and was just waiting for a chance to bolt and do something else. It didn't seem that way to me, although it did seem that for all her tough talk, she was pretty squeamish when it came to actually  seeing hosts being harmed. (hahah, I almost wrote 'ghosts'! :rofl: )

 

 

I'm so glad you guys enjoy reading this fic, because I am having SO MUCH FUN writing it! It's taking a while because the lady isn't that willing to give up her secrets to me either, which means I'm not sure how these threads will connect, but I have an inkling. It's gonna be fun to see if I'm right. 

Next part will be up within a couple of days, but I wanted to reply to your comments first. I'm always nervous about sharing my writing, and if nobody says anything I automatically assume it's because nobody likes it, so I'm so very grateful for your encouragement, it makes all the difference in the world for me! :heart: 

 

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4 hours ago, Chanel_no5 said:

She keeps picking herself up. I guess knowing Bernard is ready and eager to catch her should she eventually fall, helps a lot.

Yes, that's exactly how I picture her too. She's absolutely NOT vulnerable and doesn't show much of her feelings, but it's also because of the (discrete, almost silent, but strong) support Bernard offer her. And I completely agree with you: he IS the perfect man. :rolleyes:

4 hours ago, Chanel_no5 said:

She doesn't strike me as the jealous type, checking up on his interactions with Elsie or stuff like that, but I imagined how she must be feeling, sick and disgusting and unattractive, and then there's this much younger, pretty woman working alongside of her lover, offering to get him meds so they can stay healthy, while she still will be sick, disgusting and unattractive, and I wasn't overly surprised that her jealousy twitched a bit there.

Jealousy clearly isn't a part of her character, I mean it's not a component of her personality, but in this specific situation it's completely logical and psychologically believable. Being ill and miserable, she speaks without really thinking about what she says, but it's only a moment of weakness and it soon passes - but it's perfectly in character (at least in my opinion).

5 hours ago, Chanel_no5 said:

did it seem to you that she was tired of it all and wanted out (in the show, not the fic)? To me it seemed like she was pretty content with it, but didn't like the whole board-thing and when stuff glitched. But the actress said in some interview that she had the impression that Theresa was fed up with the job, felt done with Westworld and was just waiting for a chance to bolt and do something else.

I didn't watch any interview about that show (as I told you, I'm not a huge fan) but what you say about the actress is exactly how I feel about the character. She seems a bit "blasée" to me, she knows that nobody is irreplaceable, and she expects the same "harshness" from her superiors than the one she can display with her subordinates. (I'm not sure I'm being clear... :sweatdrop:) Maybe not to the point to be fed up with Westworld and wishing to go away, but certainly not enjoying what she's doing.

5 hours ago, Chanel_no5 said:

I'm always nervous about sharing my writing, and if nobody says anything I automatically assume it's because nobody likes it, so I'm so very grateful for your encouragement, it makes all the difference in the world for me!

I understand so much!!! Writing is something very... intimate (at least, for me, and I've been unable to let anyone read a single line of my stories for years) and it's always difficult to offer it to others and wondering if you're going to have feedback. But trust me, you don't have to worry because your writing is great. And I really, really mean it.

PS: I read your answer in your other Westworld thread and the way you feel about the characters (and Theresa showing you a solution for your fic you didn't think about before... I totally understand it, it happens very often when I'm writing or elaborating my stories...) and I'm so glad I'm not alone! (And Agatha Christie?!? Wow, that's good news. :D I must confess I really like Agatha Christie.)

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On ‎2018‎-‎05‎-‎31 at 0:16 AM, Aliena H. said:

She seems a bit "blasée" to me, she knows that nobody is irreplaceable, and she expects the same "harshness" from her superiors than the one she can display with her subordinates. (I'm not sure I'm being clear... :sweatdrop:)

Oh yes, you're very clear! Interesting. I guess what other people perceive as blasée is what I pick up on as just living life on routine. Maybe it's because I have such a boring life myself, I'm constantly one level below others. :lol: My "comfortable but uneventful everyday routine" is somebody else's "Oh my God I'm suffocating in this dreary hell!" :lol: 

On ‎2018‎-‎05‎-‎31 at 0:16 AM, Aliena H. said:

I understand so much!!! Writing is something very... intimate (at least, for me, and I've been unable to let anyone read a single line of my stories for years) and it's always difficult to offer it to others and wondering if you're going to have feedback. But trust me, you don't have to worry because your writing is great. And I really, really mean it.

Yes, exactly!! First you create this thing, then you use the words you know to string it together so others can see it too, and it's NEVER exactly as it was in your head, and there are so many ways people can misunderstand you and, oh man..!! And also when what you're into doesn't match what the majority likes, and you wonder if it's REALLY just a matter of taste or if you're just so bad at it... phew. Thank you so, so much, you have no idea how much it means to hear that! Thank you! :heart: 

On ‎2018‎-‎05‎-‎31 at 0:16 AM, Aliena H. said:

PS: I read your answer in your other Westworld thread and the way you feel about the characters (and Theresa showing you a solution for your fic you didn't think about before... I totally understand it, it happens very often when I'm writing or elaborating my stories...) and I'm so glad I'm not alone! (And Agatha Christie?!? Wow, that's good news. :D I must confess I really like Agatha Christie.)

I wonder sometimes if "getting stuck" happens because we stop listening to the characters and start to direct them too harshly instead. It's not like I can stop doing it, but that's why I appreciate headstrong characters that can step in and take the reins if they think I'm straying too far from their actual story. :lol: And yes, Agatha Christie! It was mentioned that she would often take long walks where she held conversations with her characters, people thought she was crazy, until it started paying off in terms of published works and money. :rofl: I'm not a huge fan of her writing myself, but I'm fascinated with her person and what she accomplished! ^_^ So yeah, we're not alone, and some of the finest have done the same thing! :yay: 

 

But onward to the next chapter! It dragged out for so long I had to cut it into two, the next part will be up as soon as I can be assed to sit down and edit it. More misery but no caretaking, hold out, lovers of H/C (and Bernie)! Hope you'll like it! ^_^ 

***

When the alarm started blaring at 9.30 pm that evening, Theresa woke up as if she was fighting her way through a coma. She had felt sicker when she went to bed at seven, and sicker yet now that she woke up. The fever was spiking again, not just climbing upwards but soaring, and she was bathing in her own sweat. The soaked bedsheets were plastered to her hot, clammy skin, and even this light touch hurt like hell. Her throat felt like it was haphazardly cut by razors. The pressure in the back of her nose made her feel like she needed to sneeze, but the splitting headache made her afraid of doing so. The simple act of sitting up felt like too much to ask. She didn’t even want to consider going into the park and upload that fucking data to Delos’ satellite connection.

I can’t do this, she thought as she rolled over, coughing as if she attempted to turn her lungs inside out. And to think only yesterday she still had been allowed the luxury of pretending this was allergies. Ugh. Theresa hadn’t had the flu in over twenty years, and she had forgotten just how desperately miserable it was. And back then she had only had to actually be really sick for two days before the meds kicked in. Now she was looking at the full course; a week, two, maybe even more before she fully recovered. She would not be alright by the time the board arrived. Not by the time her fate was sealed.

She lay there in her near-sleeping fever haze, waiting for the clock to strike ten, when Bernard would know to leave her alone, so she could get ready and get going. Part of her wished he would turn up, wanted to crawl into his arms and tell him everything, the whole plan, her whole background, her assignment, and just put the responsibility in his hands. She hated the damsel in distress trope with all her heart, but sometimes, even she wanted to hand over the reins to somebody else and be the one protected and cared for.

But if she did, she’d repay it by putting him in literal grave danger, and that was not a price she was willing to pay. Besides, she would be pretty bad at taking the passenger’s seat after all these years. It had been a pleasant surprise to find that she had no problem letting him take the lead in the bedroom from time to time, but hiding behind him while he sorted her problems out for her? Like a good little housewife from the mid 1900’s? Not a chance.

Her nose began to itch again, and she pawed at it furiously, not wanting to sneeze again, not with this headache. Instead of fully staving it off, her efforts only managed to turn it into a part-nasal, part-throaty failed stifle that hurt far more than it would have to just let the fucking sneeze out.

Huhhh… GDJSSCHugh!

Oh fuck. That went everywhere. Lovely.

She had brought the box of tissues with her into bed, because it had seemed ridiculous having to reach across the entire state every time she had to blow her nose, and she was grateful for that decision now. The box was almost empty and she had to dig deep to find a few surviving tissues at the bottom so she could clean herself up. All alone in her own darkened bedroom, she could admit it; she was so, very sick. Feeling sorry for herself wasn’t going to make it any better, but yes, she was wretched.

She watched the clock tick on, minute by minute, and she tumbled back and forth between fever slumber and foggy awareness. When it was ten past ten, she decided it should be safe to get dressed and leave her apartment.

Only her whacked body didn’t agree at all. It was like trying to move bedrock.

Get up, you useless fucking bitch, she mentally screamed at herself, but her limbs felt like lead, much too heavy to even lift, much less push into continuous forward motion. She took a deep, thick breath that sounded suspiciously like a sob (but of course it wasn’t, Theresa did not cry!) and very slowly started the process of sitting up so she could get dressed.

Had this nightly outing demanded the kind of formal wear she put on for work, she might not have succeeded in doing more than sitting upright, maybe cursing a bit, and then falling back into the sweat-soaked sheets. Taking as much as a single step in stilettos right now, when she was so woozy she wasn’t sure she’d be able to stand up straight, was simply not going to happen. Now, at least she could simply pull on a pair of black jeans, a black hoodie and a pair of scruffy-looking cowboy boots that had been well worn-in over the years of secret park-walks. This part of the job wasn’t about keeping up appearances and look a certain way; this was about not being seen at all.

“HeeRESSSHHhuh!”

And not being heard, either, unfortunately. Theresa closed her watery eyes and counted to ten. It worked on her temper, maybe it worked on her aggravated nose as well.

“HaPTESSSCHHuh! Oh, ugh.”

Obviously not.

***

A chilly wind thrashed right through her clothes as she arrived at one of the secret outposts in the park, strategically hidden below a cliff. As a much younger woman she had assumed deserts were hot places 24/7, but she was wiser now. At night this time of year, it was in fact quite cold. She regretted not putting on something warmer, but when she set out she had been hot and sweaty.

She coughed, winced at how raw and hollow it sounded and how little relief it offered. She assumed she was still hot, but she felt like she was about to freeze to death. At least the uploading station was below ground, hidden from view, and therefore also from the whipping winds.

She fumbled with the memory stick, her fingers feeling frozen and numb, but eventually got it in place and started the connection to the satellite.

Normally, this was something she did without simultaneously reporting; she’d just upload the information, which usually took about forty minutes to finish, and in the meantime she’d step outside, sit down at the rocks which usually still held some of the day’s warmth imbedded into them, watch the stars, and smoke a cigarette. Or two. Alright, usually two.

Even if she had wanted to do these things tonight (which she didn’t – well, her habituated body cried out for a cigarette, but her tender throat and hurting lungs said a definite no to that), she couldn’t, because the moment she established satellite connection, a video call came in.

“Accept incoming audio-visual call from Charlotte Hale?” The computer voice inquired in an impersonal female voice.

No.

“Yes,” Theresa said, almost sighing the word, squared her shoulders and hoped she didn’t look as dreadful as she felt.

Charlotte Hale’s flawless face came into view on the large screen. She was lying on her stomach on a giant bed, eating fruit from a platter that couldn’t be anything but silver – the symbolism that this kid tyrant used was that obvious.

For a moment, Charlotte actually seemed a bit dumbfounded, but then she threw her head back and laughed emphatically.

“Oh my God Theresa, you look… disgusting!”

She sounded profoundly amused by this fact, and if Theresa’s cheeks hadn’t already been painted a dark crimson by the fever, she might have blushed. There wasn’t a lot that could embarrass her, but looking gross in any way certainly could. Theresa was a woman who was sometimes completely blind to irony, and the irony that she would, on one hand, sneeze openly without a second thought, yet on the other hand be embarrassed about looking sick, blatantly passed her by.

“Oh God,” Charlotte said again, chuckling as she wiped tears from the corners of her eyes, or pretended to for effect. Theresa wasn’t sure which, and she didn’t give a fuck either. “Well, I should probably give you props for making it all the way out there, but then again, we wouldn’t have hired you in the first place if we didn’t trust your work ethics to be stronger than any health-related inconvenience.”

Ethics,” Theresa mused before she could stop herself, “interesting word in this context.”

Charlotte’s brow, unblemished to the point of anyone's envy, furrowed for a second.

“You are the last person in the world who should be concerned about ethics, Theresa. How much blood is on your hands? How many lives weigh on your consciousness?”

“Everything I’ve done is…”

“…what you’ve been ordered to do, isn’t that right? Well, right now your orders are those given to you by the executive board of Delos, do we have a problem with that?”

Theresa shook her head as she tried to hold back a cough. The cough broke through her efforts anyway.

“Jesus,” Charlotte said, more to herself than to Theresa, starting to look through the incoming data on her own screen. Theresa thought it was the data she commented on, but then she continued; “I really hope those you work with have taken precautionary medication, because you sound like a walking plague.”

“I’b fide,” Theresa said.

“You’re not fucking ‘fide’!” Charlotte mocked, but it sounded like she was entertained by the whole thing. “I have to admit this was the crucial part, so as long as you get back without being caught, you’ve actually managed not to fuck this up. Which is kinda impressive. But we must of course make sure you haven’t told anyone anything about our little secret when you’ve been in the throes of that fever.” She looked at some tablet she had next to her. “I’m particularly concerned about this Bernard Lowe… head of programming? You seem to have a close relationship.”

“Close working relationship,” Theresa said. “I find him to be one of the more reasonable department heads, and I prefer to anchor ideas with him before presenting them to the rest. It’s strategic. Two in agreement can present a better case than one with no support. We only speak of work-related issues.”

“Is he aware the relationship is strictly on a working basis?”

“Yes,” Theresa lied without blinking. “Mr Lowe is very correct, very professional.”

Now she was breaking out in cold sweat. If Charlotte already knew about them, she would call her bluff right now, for no other reason than pure amusement. Theresa was a wreck, so why not smash her up entirely? She held her breath, and the captive air was burning in her lungs, wanting to come out in a series of ripping coughs.

“After that whole thing with his family I doubt he’d come running to you, if he wanted comfort. Maybe he’d seek it in that young chick he works with in Behaviour, but you?” Charlotte spoke to herself, but she watched Theresa keenly. “No, it doesn’t sound likely to me. Broken men tend to seek out either motherly comfort or a mind-blowing fuck. I doubt you’d be able to provide either. You’re too fucking cold.”

It hurt unexpectedly much to hear, even if it was a positive thing that Charlotte bought the lie.

Theresa took a raspy breath and it transformed into a chesty cough, almost like magic. Charlotte didn’t seem deterred, she just ate her fruit and checked the stream of data that continuously uploaded to the satellite and continued to download into her device. Theresa’s cough only got worse and worse, and now she was shielding her entire face with the back of her hand. It seemed like the metaphorical rock bottom’s basement had turned out to have a couple of previously unexplored subterranean chambers.

HaauGSSHHHuhh! Oh fuck it,” she groaned, sniffled, and slowly removed her hand. Charlotte looked up at the screen.

“Just reminding you of the great Kleenex invention again,” she said indifferently, gesturing to her own nose. Theresa quickly hid her face with her sleeve while going through her pockets for some more tissues and only found a couple left. “Holy shit Theresa, I never thought you could be this… messy.”

Theresa didn’t really believe she was that messy – had she been, Charlotte’s face would have been a picture of dismay rather than indifference – but she felt too sick to deal with all this bullying right now.

“Was there any reason you contacted me tonight?” she asked.

“Yes,” Charlotte said. “I wanted to make sure you were on location, physically doing the upload, rather than sending somebody else so you could stay home in bed being feeble. If you had, I’m afraid your messenger would be dead by morning. And then I’d have someone come for you.” She beamed. “But, luckily it turned out you were trustworthy enough, and that’s worth a toast.” She reached for, and raised, a glass of sparkling champagne. Theresa watched her without speaking, her eyelids heavy and eyes glazed over with fever. She had a long hike back to her quarters, and she could hear the wind picking up outside. She wished Charlotte would be finished with her and let her go.

Charlotte sat up.

“Wow, you are a tough woman to break,” she said, and she sounded both appreciative and irritated about this fact. “Here you are, practically a walking dead, and you still don’t break. Twisting and bending, yes, but not breaking. I almost begin to think we hired a host for this job. Of course I know better, but fuck…” she took a piece of fruit from the platter and put into her mouth, continuing to speak as she chewed: “I keep thinking I’ll manage to squeeze a tear out of you, but it keeps not happening.”

“What, I’m not messy enough as it is?” Theresa replied, then bit her tongue. Charlotte stopped chewing and regarded her contemplatively for several seconds. Theresa tilted her head and raised her chin a bit, but it was nothing more than a faded parody of defiance.

“Watch it,” Charlotte said. “You’ve done a pretty good job in there, I do admit that, but in the end, I’m the one who decides your fate. If you’re going to start acting all snotty – no pun intended – I will do away with you, rest assured that I will.”

She’s afraid of me, Theresa thought, the insight cutting through her muddled mind like a bolt of lightning. She’s trying to scare me because she’s afraid of me, and she wants to know where my breaking point is. Well, Miss Hale, that’s a point you will never get to see. I’d die before I break down or shed a tear in front of you.

The downside was, that she very well might.

“Got it?” Charlotte asked, her voice was like a whiplash.

“I do,” Theresa replied.

“Yeah… I think you do. You’re reasonably smart as well. Good for you. So. I will pass this data on to our scientists, and the board will be arriving on Wednesday. I assume your personal report will be finished in due time?”

Theresa nodded.

“Alright, then. I think we’re starting to get our ducks in a row,” Charlotte said, and now she sounded composed and pleasant again. “I will see you on Wednesday.”

Theresa nodded again, knowing beyond a doubt that if she opened her mouth right now, she would sneeze.

Charlotte broke off the connection, and Theresa’s battered muscles relaxed, as if she had been fighting to stand upright in a storm wind that suddenly waned. But the urge to sneeze remained.

EeeARRSSSHHooo!”

She doubled over with the drawn-out, exhausting-sounding sneeze, ending up supporting herself by putting both hands on her thighs.

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” she grumbled harshly, still bent over. “You’re sneezing, not doing a fucking boot camp exerci-yESSCHOO!”

Her body begged to differ. Her body definitely thought this counted as boot camp exercise. She had pushed it way beyond what it was willing to endure, and while the need to sneeze calmed down, she wasn’t sure she was going to make it all the way back.

She did her best, but this time, her best wasn’t good enough. She made it to a barn behind one of the ranches in the outskirts of Sweetwater before she collapsed. Her unexpected presence disrupted a bunch of android barn animals from their loops, which alerted Behaviour to the ranch.

And that was where Bernard found her a bit over an hour later.

 

* I can't even apologise for the language anymore. It actually carries into my real life. I've never cursed as much as I do when I write Theresa. She should be apologising to me.

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Even when you put Theresa through the ringer, she didn’t break down. Oh man, I bet Bernard is going to have some questions for her! 

You outdid yourself with the creative descriptions. They were just a cut above! I found myself just marveling over the words themselves and how much of a picture formed. I like when exhaustive sneezes lose their “shape”. LOL at furthering the rock bottom analogy.

And of course my little caretaking heart is excited for the next part. Great writing! 

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On ‎2018‎-‎06‎-‎08 at 11:06 AM, Reader said:

Even when you put Theresa through the ringer, she didn’t break down. Oh man, I bet Bernard is going to have some questions for her! 

You outdid yourself with the creative descriptions. They were just a cut above! I found myself just marveling over the words themselves and how much of a picture formed. I like when exhaustive sneezes lose their “shape”. LOL at furthering the rock bottom analogy.

And of course my little caretaking heart is excited for the next part. Great writing! 

I'm totally impressed with her, for real. I always try to push characters a bit too far just so I know how far they can be pushed (a bit like Charlotte, although my intentions aren't that evil, I need to know for plot-creating purposes), and this is the first character I've ever written that JUST WON'T GIVE IN no matter what! Her collapsing (which by the way was the plot point I mentioned that she kept trying to bypass; she kept insisting she could keep going, crawling one inch at a time if necessary) was the only way I could make her STOP long enough for Bernard to catch up with her!! :lol: Yeah. Bernie is going to have some serious questions for her.  

Thank you so, so much!! And I very much hope your little caretaking heart is going to like this part... :yay: 

***

Theresa? Oh God!”

That was Bernie’s voice, but there was something wrong with it. She had never heard him sound so worried. Almost scared. He was always the epitome of calm. Then she realised that she was lying on the hay-strewn ground outside a barn.

He kneeled next to her and very carefully got her up into something akin to a sitting position, supporting her with his own body.

“What the hell are you doing out here?” he asked, and despite being so out of it, Theresa made a desperate attempt to pull away from him.

Don’t get caught, you stupid bitch. Don’t fuck this up the very last moment.

But her body was so weak Bernard pulled her back into his arms with ease, and when he did, something fell out of the front pocket of her hoodie. Theresa shut her eyes. Now she was well and truly fucked, and not in the good way.

Bernard looked at it, then at her, and his face was a kaleidoscope of questions and conflicting emotions, but then he took up the gun from the ground and took out the bullets. He put the gun in one pocket and the bullets in another.

“I’d really like to know the reason you’re carrying this, but it will have to wait,” he said. “First we need to get you inside…”

Theresa coughed fiercely, struggling to catch her breath in between, and he held her to keep her from falling forward.

“… before that turns into pneumonia,” he finished.

“Okay,” she whispered hoarsely. Now she had spent the final resource of both willpower and physical strength, and she was lying in his arms with her head rolled back against his chest. She was hot as burning coal; he felt it even through both their layers of clothes.

“Normally, I’d call for the medical team to come and pick you up and drive you back,” he began, and Theresa somehow found a sliver of strength to protest. Bernard cut off her objections with a voice that managed to mix kindness and indisputable authority.

“Be quiet and let me finish. But, I assume you don’t want anyone to know you were out here, and until I know what the hell is going on, I think we’d better keep it to ourselves. I don’t know what kind of chain reaction alerting the medics would set off. However, it’s clear as day you can’t walk on your own.”

“I… I think I could…”

“Stop,” he said gently. “I’m not stupid. Neither are you. You can’t walk all the way back, and that’s that.”

A particularly cold gust of wind struck, and Theresa shuddered. No. Not even on sheer willpower could she walk that far right now. She was running on evaporating fumes.

“How…” she coughed, a scraping cough that came from the depths of her aching lungs and tore at her poor throat, gasped for air, only to start coughing again. She went on like that for a full minute before she could speak again. “How are…” she cleared her throat, wincing at the pain, “how are we getting back, then?”

He looked at her like she was crazy.

“I’ll carry you, of course.”

“No, that’s too far, you can’t…”

“It’s either that or the medic team coming out here,” he said. He wasn’t relenting, and truth be told, that was a relief for Theresa – it was in fact the very quality she had fallen for in the first place. He was gentle, yes, but weak, he was not. “Come on. We need to get you to bed.”

He helped her stand up, and she leaned on him like she was drunk. She didn’t even try to pretend anymore, but that didn’t mean she didn’t still have her own responsibility.

“Tell me when I get too heavy, and we’ll stop and rest.” The words sounded distorted and clogged, but Bernard understood, and nodded. “Promise,” she said. “Don’t keep going because you think you’re being heroic.”

“Unlike you?” he asked, grinning.

“Look where it got me,” she replied.

“Point taken,” he replied and was just about to lift her up when Theresa turned away and sneezed again. ‘Helpless’ wasn’t usually a word he associated with this woman, but it was the only word that could describe that sneeze. “Bless you.”

Theresa’s face still had a vague sneezy expression, but eventually she shook her head, sniffed and cleared her throat.

“You okay?” he asked.

“Nowhere near it,” she confessed. “Let’s go.”

***

“So I guess my gut feeling was right,” he said. “There was something you didn’t tell me.”

“Yes,” she said. She was in the exact position she had always thought looked melodramatic and silly; being carried in a man’s arms, with her arms around his neck. She didn’t feel melodramatic though, only sick, and while it did feel a bit awkward to literally be carried, she didn’t feel that silly either. Mostly grateful. Not to mention terribly in love. “Several things.”

“Any of them having anything to do with… us?” It sounded like he had to gather some courage before saying that final word. “Am I a pawn in some game of yours?”

“No, Bernie, no. Nothing like that. This has been real from the start.”

She could in fact feel him relax at that reassurance, and paradoxically, it made her feel worse. What would he think of her if he knew the whole picture? She had never used him or played on his emotions, but that didn’t change the fact that she had kept secrets from him all along. Immense secrets.

“Good.”

He didn’t seem to want to know more on that subject right now, and Theresa was glad about that, because she didn't know where to start.

She was also slightly mystified by how he could keep going without barely breaking a sweat. It wasn’t that she was heavy, but carrying a grown woman more than a small distance – say, for example, over a threshold – still demanded a great deal of physical stamina. Her lips formed into a brief smile. Well, it wasn’t like she was completely unaware of his physical stamina already.

You can count on that part to be over by now, though, an evil voice in her mind said. It was right, too, but she didn’t want to think about that at the moment. Keeping coherent thoughts in her head was difficult enough anyway, so she let them go and drifted off.

***

“How are you holding up?” he asked her an unknown amount of time later. “Tess?”

“Yeah,” she muttered groggily. “I’m doing alright.” That was far from true, but ‘delirious’ wasn’t going to help. “You?”

“No problem.” He barely sounded winded. Did he work out extra without her knowing? “The terrain isn’t difficult,” he said, as if explaining.

Given its impeccable timing these past two days, it didn’t come as much of a surprise when her nose started prickling again, but she struggled valiantly to fight off the sneeze. Of course, Bernard could feel that, as her body tensed up and her breath started hitching.

“If you’re trying to hold back that sneeze for my sake, never mind,” he said. “Just let it out.” Then he added: “I promise I won’t drop you.”

She wasn’t 100 % sure he wouldn’t at least stumble; she was well aware of how full-bodied her sneezes were, but it was coming and she could no longer do a thing about it.

“HahhAESSHHhoo!”

Bernard didn’t stumble at all, but the sneeze was so fierce she almost lost her grip around his neck, feeble as it was to begin with, and she clung to him just as another sneeze took her by surprise.

“MptSSHHH!”

Bernard chuckled and held her a bit tighter for a moment.

“Bless you. That was probably the quietest sneeze I’ve ever heard from you, and definitely the wettest one I’ve felt.”

Theresa leaned her forehead against his shoulder.

“I’b sorry.”

“Oh now you have me worried,” he said. “You never apologise.”

“I just did,” she mumbled, but if he said anything in response, she missed it, because she blacked out again.

***

The next part of the walk was a complete blur, and the next time she fully came to she was tucked into her own bed, propped up against a heap of pillows to ease her breathing. Bernard was sitting next to her on the bed.

“You actually carried me all the way?” she asked.

“How about you start with ‘thank you’? he said lightly, and stroke a strand of hair out of her face, feeling her forehead in the process. “I’m joking. Yes, I did.”

I don’t deserve this man.

“No, quite frankly, I don’t think you do, Miss Cullen,” came Ford’s voice from the kitchen area. “And yes, you did say that aloud. I cannot read your mind. Though with age, I have become quite skilled at reading people. And their intentions.”

He came into the bedroom and put a cup of hot tea on the nightstand. Theresa watched it warily without touching it. Ford smiled.

“You think I’d poison you? Well, I assume I would be careful too, if I were in your place. Though I can promise you that if I wanted you dead, I wouldn’t pick poison to do the job.”

“How comforting to know,” Theresa croaked. Ford’s smile widened.

“The tea is spiked though, but only with something that will temporarily lower your fever. We are going to have a little chat soon, and you need to be as clear-headed as possible when we do.”

“And if I refuse to drink it? What then?”

“Then,” Ford shrugged, “you will have to have that chat with a temperature of around 103, 104 even, perhaps; you’re quite ill. You may not want that, as I will still demand your sharpest thinking. There’s not some miracle cure in that tea, only a brief respite, but far more efficient than Aspirin.”

Theresa didn’t feel entirely convinced, but her thoughts seemed like fragments of tattered plastic bags tossed back and forth in an unpredictable hot wind, and she had a bad feeling about Ford’s knowledge. He had either been here already or Bernard had called him, and she didn’t know what he had said. She really did have to be as clear-headed as she could be when talking to Ford. She believed him when he said he wouldn’t pick poison to finish her off – but that didn’t mean she didn’t think he might. Either way, some hot tea was exactly what her sore throat longed for right now, and the first sip proved to be every bit as soothing as she thought.

“I will be back in a little while,” Ford said, heading for the door. “Make sure our unwell friend rests, Bernard.”

The door closed.

Bernard and Theresa glanced at each other, neither knowing what to say, then looked away at the exact same time.

“It scared me,” Bernard finally said, keeping his eyes fixed on the opposite wall, where shadows danced in the dim light. “To find you like that. I thought you were…”

He cut himself off, swallowed, and took a deep breath.

“You thought I was dead,” Theresa filled in for him. She put her hand on top of his. “Perhaps it would have been for the best if I had been.”

“Don’t. Don’t ever say that.” He spoke with a firmness that made her recoil for a second. “Whatever you’re involved in, don’t say that. Maybe whatever secrets you have should change how I feel about you, but they won’t. I don’t know how many lies you’ve told me about yourself, but I feel it’s more likely you just refrained from telling me anything.”

Theresa gave him a pale smile.

“You’ve been rather reluctant to reveal your past to me as well.”

“All I know about you is that you were born in Denmark and have an estranged brother. Unless those things are untrue, I can’t say you’ve lied to me.”

“They’re true.” Then, sensing that he was expecting at least some more, she continued; “I was born in Copenhagen. Forty-eight years ago, if that matters. I disowned my brother when he joined a Neo-Nazi movement twenty-nine years ago. I’ve never been married. I never had children. Never had pets. Worked too much. Moved around a lot. Used to be proud of what I did, now I wonder.”

She had some more tea before her voice gave out.

“And what about you then, oh Bernard, master of observation. What’s your backstory?”

“There’s not much to tell. I used to be a family man. My… my boy, Charlie, died young.”

Generally, Theresa was skilled at keeping her features in perfect check, but at this revelation, her face dropped. So that was what Charlotte Hale had been referring to. And she hadn’t had the slightest idea.

“Oh, Bernie, I’m so sorry.”

“It happened years ago.”

“I doubt anyone recovers from that, no matter how much time that passes,” Theresa mumbled. She was unaware that she had begun rubbing his arm soothingly with her thumb, but Bernard noticed, and he was grateful, not only for her touch but for her very presence. The thought of losing Theresa as well was too much for him to even consider.

“That’s true. After that… well, my wife and I drifted apart. We made a serious attempt to salvage the marriage, but it had gone too far into disrepair at that point, so… it was a mutual divorce. We still talk, from time to time, as you know.”

She nodded. Yes, Bernard had been upfront about his contact with his ex-wife. He always seemed sad after they spoke, but not in a way that made her suspicious about the relationship. Nothing that suggested that the marriage still existed and Theresa was the other woman. She had supposed he was simply sad about things in life not turning out the way a younger Bernard had planned, but she hadn’t asked. Now it all made sense. Theresa had no children, but she could imagine the pain of looking at your spouse and seeing your lost child in the features of their face. Always reminding each other of the one thing you lost forever.

“Sorry,” he said, clearing his throat. “Thinking about her always makes me think about Charlie too.”

“It’s okay, Bernie. It’s okay.”

“Well. That’s about it. I’ve worked here, oh I don’t know how many years now. Seems like forever.”

Theresa barely listened now, she was distracted by a rapidly increasing tickle in her nose. Her breath caught in her tender throat.

 Hehh.. H-hang on, I… hehAERSSHHoo!”

She sneezed leaning away from him, her stomach muscles clenching painfully. Fuck, if this went on a few more days, she’d be as ripped as a fitness model.

AeeeSCHH!-snf-EESCHHuuh!”

She sniffed and pressed the back of her hand against her chapped nostrils. “I’m sorry.”

Bernard handed her a couple of tissues, which she immediately and with great gratitude brought up to her nose.

“It’s going to take some time getting used to you apologising like that.”

“Shut up, Bernard,” Theresa said and loudly emptied the contents of her runny nose into the tissues. He chuckled at her harsh retort.

“Now that sounds more like the Theresa I know. Whatever is in that tea, it must be fast-working.”

She realised he was right. She was actually feeling better. More like herself.

“Did you call for Ford?”

He looked surprised.

“Of course. Who else could I have turned to? He knows everything that happens around here.”

That’s exactly what I’m afraid of, Theresa thought.

“Bernie, I…”

“Let’s wait until Ford gets back,” Bernard interrupted her.

“Whatever you’re about to learn about me, please…” she bit her lip. “Please, don’t hate me.”

Instead of replying, he pulled her into his embrace, and that told her far more than words could have.

***

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Curious and intrigued about this new development with Ford. It’ll be cool to see where you take this because now it’s off script!! My heart was melting by Bernie assuring her  better than words could. Favorite part I think. 

Earlier in the scene where T did the same to him when he questioned their relationship, I was putty. Bernie was so yummy in this chapter! His reticence, resolve, concern, authority, insecurity etc. Even calling Ford was out of fear but come on Bernie!!! 

Special mentions! That forehead lean and neck cling  by Theresa was very lovely and noice (Still spelling that right!) 

Two special mentions from your usual amazing descriptions was the tattered bags-thoughts one and the kaleidoscope-emotion one. 

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Sorry I'm late here! I enjoyed that last part immensely. No, that's not true, I absoluteny LOVED it. I don't even know what to quote to begin with. I cannot pick ont part that I prefer because the whole part was so perfect. And the caretaking, oh my God... :blushing: It's the exact way I like it. Lots of hidden meaning, carefully concealed concern and some "helplessness" (the part where you describe that "helpless" sneeze? Awsome.) from a very strong character, with just a touch of her inner thoughts and real feelings ("I don't deserve this man", really Theresa?)... Aaaannnd the sneezing of course, but more than that, the other illness symptoms (I'm just completely mesmerized by colds and fevers, I must confess). Bernard is great, as always, and even greater than usual.

On 10/06/2018 at 8:45 PM, Chanel_no5 said:

“It’s going to take some time getting used to you apologising like that.”

“Shut up, Bernard,” Theresa said and loudly emptied the contents of her runny nose into the tissues. He chuckled at her harsh retort.

“Now that sounds more like the Theresa I know. Whatever is in that tea, it must be fast-working.”

Maybe that's the part I prefer, if you put aside every description of Theresa's symptoms and weaknesses...

As for the previous part, I completely missed it and forgot to comment on it, I'm sorry! I don't like Charlotte but you got her cheerful character so spot-on!!!

On 06/06/2018 at 8:16 PM, Chanel_no5 said:

Yes, exactly!! First you create this thing, then you use the words you know to string it together so others can see it too, and it's NEVER exactly as it was in your head, and there are so many ways people can misunderstand you and, oh man..!! And also when what you're into doesn't match what the majority likes, and you wonder if it's REALLY just a matter of taste or if you're just so bad at it... phew.

That's... exactly how I feel, and I'm relieved to see that I'm not the only one!

On 06/06/2018 at 8:16 PM, Chanel_no5 said:

I wonder sometimes if "getting stuck" happens because we stop listening to the characters and start to direct them too harshly instead.

You know what? That's very possible after all. I had never considered this, but now that you're offering that explanation I find it completely plausible... Even if that means accepting to be considered half-crazy for thinking about characters like sentients beings. :rolleyes:

Anyway, this last part was probably your best update and my craving for H/C was completely satisfied! Thank you!!! :hug: 

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On ‎2018‎-‎06‎-‎11 at 8:19 PM, Reader said:

Curious and intrigued about this new development with Ford. It’ll be cool to see where you take this because now it’s off script!! My heart was melting by Bernie assuring her  better than words could. Favorite part I think. 

Earlier in the scene where T did the same to him when he questioned their relationship, I was putty. Bernie was so yummy in this chapter! His reticence, resolve, concern, authority, insecurity etc. Even calling Ford was out of fear but come on Bernie!!! 

Special mentions! That forehead lean and neck cling  by Theresa was very lovely and noice (Still spelling that right!) 

Two special mentions from your usual amazing descriptions was the tattered bags-thoughts one and the kaleidoscope-emotion one. 

Thank you so much!! I'm so glad you still like it and still hanging on. ^_^ Haha, I might have taken the Ford development into a bit too complicated area, but that's where it wanted to go, so... who am I to argue? :lol: 

This kind of romance normally doesn't work for me to write, but for some reason, it works with these two. What's between them is just so REAL! Ironically. :yay: 

On ‎2018‎-‎06‎-‎13 at 9:00 PM, Aliena H. said:

I enjoyed that last part immensely. No, that's not true, I absoluteny LOVED it. I don't even know what to quote to begin with. I cannot pick ont part that I prefer because the whole part was so perfect. And the caretaking, oh my God... :blushing: It's the exact way I like it. Lots of hidden meaning, carefully concealed concern and some "helplessness" (the part where you describe that "helpless" sneeze? Awsome.) from a very strong character, with just a touch of her inner thoughts and real feelings ("I don't deserve this man", really Theresa?)... Aaaannnd the sneezing of course, but more than that, the other illness symptoms (I'm just completely mesmerized by colds and fevers, I must confess). Bernard is great, as always, and even greater than usual.

Thank you so much!! I'm so glad you enjoyed it, and that the caretaking was just right. I'm still very new to that, so it's a relief to know I'm not totally off. :lol: I think it's the first time Theresa ever encountered something/someone she couldn't just throw away when she was finished, and she's at a loss of how to deal with it. Bernard, well... as we've already concluded, he is the perfect man. :yay: 

On ‎2018‎-‎06‎-‎13 at 9:00 PM, Aliena H. said:

You know what? That's very possible after all. I had never considered this, but now that you're offering that explanation I find it completely plausible... Even if that means accepting to be considered half-crazy for thinking about characters like sentients beings. :rolleyes:

Hey, we create something out of nothing, that's pretty much magic. So we're allowed to be a little crazy as long as it works. ;) 

 

This part will be plot-heavier thanks to some reveals and stuff, and it's pretty long. Fun fact; I did surprise myself with one of the plot twists as I was writing. :rofl: Also, I was surprised by how much their love apparently could take. I thought they'd have a harder time accepting stuff about each other (and themselves), but that's mutual love and trust for ya. :P 

I have done proofreading but I'm on day four with a monster headache so I apologise if I missed something glaringly obvious. 

Buckle up, here goes!

***

When Ford returned a while later, Theresa really did feel like her fever had gone down significantly. Not that whatever was in that tea had taken it off of her altogether, and it hadn’t touched the other symptoms, but at least she could think a bit clearer.

Ford took a chair and sat down next to the bed. If he was at all bothered by the fact that his head of programming was still in her bed, with his arm around her, he didn’t show it.

“Bernard called me as soon as he got you back safely. He was quite shocked to find this item on you. He wondered what kind of dangerous mission I had sent you out on,” Ford said as he took out the gun she had kept concealed at all times and only carried on her during these nightly sessions. He put it on the nightstand, then took the bullets and weighed them in one gnarled hand. “What Bernard didn’t think of was that I wouldn’t have had to arm you if you had been out there doing my bidding, would I? So, I was hoping you would explain it to him yourself.”

Theresa glanced at him, her eyes begging him not to do this, but he was merciless.

“Oh, I could tell him if you’d like, but it’s probably best he hears it from you. Besides, I think you owe him that much, don’t you?”

There was something in his voice that scared her. It didn’t just unsettle or worry her, it scared her, and she involuntarily pushed up against Bernard in an oblivious but brief effort to get away.

Game over, Theresa thought. I’m never getting out of this place alive.

But if she was brutally honest with herself, she had never really expected to get out of Westworld alive even if she hadn’t been caught. She had been part of enough covert operations to know that if there was a sole player on site who knew too much, said player was never retrieved but exterminated when the assignment was over. Her hope of becoming the exception to the rule was her specific expertise; she counted on it to be valuable enough. Deep within, she had known a different truth all along, had known it from the way Charlotte Hale spoke to her. She always called her by her first name. Not by title and rank. Not even by last name.

“Tess?” Bernard said. “What is this all about?”

“I work directly for the board of Delos,” she said. “My mission was to gather…”

“I believe stealing is the accurate description for what you were doing,” Ford said calmly. Theresa shot a glare in his direction and continued, defiantly;

“… to gather data from the hosts and secure the code, the software used for all the programming, then send it to Delos.”

“For what?” Bernard asked. He sounded shocked, but he didn’t remove his arm or try to put any distance between them.

“For a… research project.”

Ford seemed amused by this, but he didn’t interrupt again.

“Nothing was allowed to interfere. Had anyone caught me with the information, or before I could upload it, I was under obligation to eliminate said person.”

Bernard became more and more concerned the further she went on.

“Forgive me, but you make it sound like it’s some military operation,” he said. Theresa didn’t respond, she only glanced down on her hands, but Ford’s wrinkled face lit up.

“Ah, yes Bernard, you hit the nail on the head, perhaps it’s about time we start referring to her by her actual title. Isn’t that right, Major Cullen?”

At this, Bernard did remove his arm and he did put distance between them, but it seemed to be only so he could look straight at her.

“What is he talking about? Is he right?” he asked.

“Yes. Yes, I have the rank of Major.”

For a moment she thought he would abandon her despite his promises, and she could hardly blame him; these secrets, when combined, were a bit too heavy to just brush off. But then he surprised her by smiling instead.

That explains your way of handling the staff,” he said. “I always did think there was something military about it. Sometimes I imagine you lining them up and telling them what a sad bunch of recruits they are.”

“Sometimes I imagine the same thing,” Theresa admitted, and when he laughed, she felt the ghost of a smile on her own lips. It seemed his feelings for her truly were strong enough to remain unchanged. That was a relief, whatever happened from now on.

She turned back to Ford.

“How long?” she asked.

“How long have I known you’re in fact Major Theresa Cullen, former high-tech weapons expert with the American-European Special Forces Alliance? Later recruited by Delos’s branch of covert global military operations?” Ford smiled. “Oh, since the day you signed on. We know everything about our guests, and we also make sure we know everything about our employees. Recruits into Delos tend to disappear from public records, living in a bit of a shadow world, but if you know how to find it, all information is still there.”

“So… the uploads… you knew about those all along, too?”

Six fucking years had she thought she had been so inconspicuous, and he had known from the moment she signed the contract of employment.

“Of course I did! You sent them information, indeed, but you only sent them the information I allowed you to send. It was never quite enough to tie ends together. I wish I could see the looks on their faces as they try to make sense of the code they got tonight,” he said with a hearty chuckle. Then he grew serious again. “Do you have the slightest idea what they are trying to create? Do you know what the masterplan is, or are you just another gofer, mindlessly carrying out orders without contemplating the impacts of obeying these orders?”

“I know. They want to create an android super soldier. There won’t be any need to waste time on training soldiers, or spies; you can just upload the software and send them on their way. No need to keep any of the remaining MK-Ultra programs going.”

“MK-Ultra?” Bernard interrupted. He looked like he had a hard time stringing together all these things with the woman he knew intimately, but yet barely knew. “Didn’t they scrap all those in the early 1970s?”

Theresa blinked.

“Officially, yes. Off the record, no. But they have been… outsourced… to Delos since 2020.”

She tried to continue, but her body protested, insisting it was time for another one of those harsh, chesty coughing fits. She bent forward, coughing desperately, and felt Bernard gently running his hand up and down her back. Any other time in her life she wouldn’t have allowed anyone close enough to see her like this, and most definitely wouldn’t have accepted any comfort, but it was different with him. Everything was different with him.

The cough began to calm down, but her eyes and nose were streaming. Bernard handed her a couple of tissues and she blew her nose – wincing a bit as she did; her nostrils were chapped and hurt to touch – then wiped her eyes with the clean tissue. Good thing she hadn’t bothered with makeup after showering earlier in the evening, or she’d look like a racoon by now.

Ford made a “go on” gesture and Theresa did, out of breath and hoarser than ever.

“Either way, these android soldiers would record everything, they would be impossible to harm with conventional weapons, they would be immune to chemical and biological attacks, and they can double as walking bombs. They would essentially be a weapon. You could infiltrate and obliterate any of the active terror cells. With this soldier, we could put a definite end to terrorism within a few years.”

“Yes, yes, that is one part of their interest,” Ford said dismissively. “What about the rest?”

Theresa fell silent. Wasn’t that enough?

“What you said is correct, that’s the short-term agenda, and the cover story to keep military and government funding. You have obviously not been allowed a peek into the long-term one; perhaps they didn’t intend to keep you for that long. Well. Delos think that if the hosts become sentient, fully aware, yet still programmable, then the programming still working on them can be used on real humans, of flesh and blood, as well. Kind of the way… mm…” he searched for the right word, “a virus mutates. Imagine a radio signal, recalibrating all human minds to do what the board of Delos wants. A council of masters and their obedient slaves. Truly a cabal if ever there was one, huh?”

“That’s…”

“… impossible?” he filled in for her. “Oh, not really. Everything we do here is, if we want to be perfectly blunt. Why shouldn’t the unthinkable work elsewhere?”

“Even if it were possible to interfere with human minds the way you suggest…” she trailed off and her breath hitched. The need to sneeze was written all over her face. For some reason, sneezing openly in front of Ford was way beyond what Theresa was okay with, so she took one of the discarded tissues and sneezed heavily into it.

HuhEERSSCHHuh! Ugh. Excuse me. Even if they could alter the minds of humans to be susceptible, the hosts can’t become sentient in the first place. It’s impossible to create consciousness.”

“I’m afraid I must beg to differ. You see, I disagreed with my old partner, Arnold, when he insisted on that very belief, but over the past couple of years, I have come to share his point of view. And the reason for that, Major Cullen, is actually you.”

“Me?” She wiped her nose. “I’m not one of them. If I were, I wouldn’t sound like… huhh… like this r-right n-now… haaERSSHHoo!”

Ford, whose ingrained politeness usually prompted a bless you, still ignored her sneezing altogether.

“No, not you. But somebody close to you. Yes. Somebody very close to you.” He turned to Bernard, who followed the conversation in surprised silence. “You are one of them.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” Bernard said.

“You, my old friend, are a host, just like all of the creations you program every day. The life you remember are mere cornerstones I used to build you.”

Bernard’s reaction was full of confused pain; he got up from the bed as if he wanted to escape, only to realise there was nowhere to run.

“I can’t be one,” he said, almost as if he spoke to himself. “I can’t, it’s impossible…! I’m real, I had a family… I had a son, I loved my son… I can’t be one.”

Theresa wasn’t sure what her reaction to this should be, but her immediate response was sympathy. Her heart ached at the hurt in his voice and she automatically reached out a hand to touch his arm and offer whatever comfort she could, but her hand fell back onto her lap without passing on that support when Ford spoke again.

“That’s enough, Bernard,” he said, and Bernard froze. “There. He has a sensitive disposition. When he gets himself worked up like that, I have to power him down.” Ford gestured to the man who was now standing next to the bed. “Take a good look at your lover.”

“No,” she exhaled, as if her very denial could undo this disclosure.

“Yes. Look at him.”

Against her will, she did, and tears burned in her eyes.

“No, Ford… he can’t be one…” It sounded like a plea.

“Ah, but he can, and he is. A good enough version to fool even you, it seems. I know you’ve secretly programmed plenty of hosts over the years… uploading disruptive viruses whenever Delos needed a delay to catch up, reprogramming hosts to break their loops and develop new learning skills, among many other things, and the traces of your interference have never been picked up by any of our programmers. I knew you were an engineer of some calibre, or they never would have hired a foreigner like you to handle matters relating to our national security, but you still impressed me with your programming skills. You’re quite good at what you do, Major Cullen.” He leaned forward to whisper in her ear. “But it seems I’m better.”

Something else had struck Theresa.

“Was that why… did… did you tell him to…” she couldn’t finish, and that had nothing to do with her failing voice or how much it hurt her throat to talk. She wasn’t sure she could face learning that the love she had shared with Bernard, the man that she had started to suspect was the love of her life, had been an order from Ford. It wasn’t knowing what he was that hurt the most – it was finding out that what they had wasn’t real.

Of course it couldn’t be real. He was just a synthetic body with a string of software code created by an evil genius. The man she loved had never existed at all.

And yet, she was still in love with him.

“The intimacies were your idea, if you will recall,” Ford said. “I think Bernard was glad of the company. It might make your heart weigh less heavy to know that Bernard was not programmed for romance. What he was up to with you remained a secret from me for nearly three months. He was surprisingly resistant to letting me check his log for those secret meetings even after I did find out.”

“What do you mean, resistant?”

“He overrode my commands time and time again, to the point where I almost decided to reset him. He would only answer basic questions about your relationship. And, if this is something that bothers you, no, I have never seen or heard any recordings of your intimate moments.”

“For some reason I doubt that’s out of courtesy,” Theresa said. Her eyes kept wandering back to Bernard, frozen with a look of agony on his face.   

“I could tell you it’s revulsion for the common pleasures of the flesh. But I doubt you would buy that argument, now, would you?” He gave her a friendly smile. “The truth is that when I tried to access it – more to see what you were talking about afterwards rather than the act itself, mind you – Bernard self-destructed the recordings. He saved the memory of them, but that, I could not access. It was… much like an authentic subconscious. So much so, the only difference was the vessel holding it. It was then that I realised he truly was sentient. He became real through love. You made him real.” His smile widened. “He’s still essentially under my control, however, as you can tell.”

Theresa shook her head.

“You’re a fucking monster.”

“Am I?” He chuckled. “Yes, I suppose so. Although I’m not the one eagerly assisting in creating a world-wide army, one with the purpose of blowing up the entire world and put the remnants under the complete control of Delos.”

“I was… deceived.”

“No. No, you see, that word implies that you were tricked despite use of critical thought. You were not. You were simply naïve. You believed you set out to save the world, didn’t you? To crush terrorism, infiltrate and annihilate the enemies of the free world. Instead, you ended up on the side of those who destroy it. By sending the code and software to Delos, that end result would have been your doing, had I allowed you to go through with it.”

Theresa felt her face heat up, knowing he was right and wondering how stupid she had been not to see it for herself. She thought of herself as jaded, but perhaps Ford was correct; perhaps she was naïve where it really mattered.

Ford continued.

“Oppenheimer, after creating the atomic bomb, said he had become a destroyer of worlds. Of course, Oppenheimer was fully aware that his project would be used that way; it could not have been used any other way, he kept going because he wanted to complete and perfect his task. I respect his relentlessness more than I respect your type, the ones that pave the road to hell with your good intentions and lack of thought.”

Theresa turned away from him – from both of them – suddenly overcome with shame over what she had been part of. But she could abandon Delos just as easily as they could abandon her. They trusted her not to speak should she get caught, but Theresa found that she’d rather share her knowledge here. She didn’t know what to make of Ford, but she thought she might have a better chance at survival here than with Delos. As did the rest of the world.

Besides, it seemed she had some things to atone for, and she might have an idea how.

“You said the information isn’t enough for them to piece together to make use of.”

“Indeed.”

“They do have some very bright military scientists under Delos’s lead. Can the code be programmed to self-destruct should it ever be used correctly? Whether they figure it out or stumble over it by chance.”

Ford considered.

“Yes. It would take a couple of hours for me to write, and it would of course demand another upload, but yes, it can be done.”

Theresa nodded.

“Let’s do that.”

“Switching sides, are we, Major?” he asked, amused.

“You’d better call me Miss Cullen again. I think I just deserted.”

“So you came to your senses after all. I applaud you.”

Theresa didn’t give a response to that.

“There is one more thing.” Ford frowned. “I believe I made Bernard’s feelings for you clear. What about your feelings for him? You see, he is my creation, and in my own way, I do care about him.”

“Do you? Or was he just a useful spy?” She coughed. “… and a loyal servant?”

“You hurt me, Miss Cullen. Do keep in mind you’re speaking to the creator of your lover.”

“What Bernard and I have…” she didn’t even notice her use of present tense, “… is between the two of us. As I think he made clear to you already.”

“I thought you said hosts couldn’t become sentient.”

“And I thought you said they could,” she shot back. “What if I decide to trust your judgment on this?”

“I believe what you’re trying to say without using the words, is that you love him?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

At that moment, she felt a hand on her shoulder. Turning her head, she saw Bernard slowly breaking free from the power-down that Ford had put him in.

“Are you doing this to him?” she asked Ford. But the old man only watched Bernard, with a tiny, yet entirely astounded smile.

“Miss Cullen, I believe the program I wrote all those years ago has reached the point of singularity. Fascinating. I did not think I would live to see the day.” He huffed a little. “Love. Who would have thought the romantics would turn out to be right?”

Theresa didn’t listen. Bernard seemed to shed an invisible cocoon, little by little coming out of standby mode and into… consciousness?

But why was it that hard to believe? She had certainly never believed otherwise until the disclosure. He was often a silent man, but not once had he given her the impression that he was nothing but a computer program. Then again… what was consciousness? Perhaps it really was a complicated software code, written by some superior being into the core of the human DNA sometime in mankind’s hazy past.

“Bernard? Please. Talk to me,” she said. Not only was her voice nothing but a rough whisper at this point, but the emotions welling up inside her thickened her accent to the point where she was difficult to understand.

“Don’t expect too much,” Ford said. “He’s likely not to remember you at all. His entire past with you might seem like a vague dream.”

Theresa paid no attention to Ford. Her entire focus was on Bernard.

“T-Theresa?” he managed to say.

“Yes. I’m right here.” She took his hands in hers, and as she looked into his eyes, she saw the spark of life slowly begin to fill them. It was different from before… only a tiny bit, but yes, it was different. And he did remember her. He did.

“I had an awful dream. I dreamed that I was… one of them.”

Ford watched her closely to see how she would handle this. Theresa walked the line between truth and lies, not wanting to start with a lie, but nor wanting the hurt to linger. Ford had placed the perfect curse on her. On them both. The burden of lies was heavy. But the pain of the truth cut deeply.

Instead of picking one or the other of these devilishly neat packages, Theresa opted for a third choice.

“You were, Bernie.”

He stared at her, for once not pensively silent but at an utter loss of words, the one in need of reassurance rather than the one providing it to others. Theresa pulled him down into her embrace, back into her bed, gentler than she had even thought herself capable of.

“You were. But not anymore. You’re under nobody’s control now. You’re free.”

Ford’s face conveyed slight disappointment.

“Elegantly handled, Miss Cullen.”

Theresa softly turned Bernard so his face was hidden against her stomach. He was crying, and she didn’t want Ford to see that. He had caused and viewed enough hurt as it was. 

“You have done enough for now, Ford. Leave my man alone.”

Ford watched them, the crying, newly-sentient android man, and his sick, feverish all-too human woman, and his next words were the sudden outburst of a defeated; resorting to insults when his power faded.

“You two make a beautiful couple. Equally pathetic. Snivelling humans. One of flesh and blood and the other of synthetic material, but still somehow cut from the same sad cloth.”

“Go write that code, Ford,” Theresa said, softly stroking the back of Bernard’s head with one hand. Despite the rugged quality of her voice, the remnants of the high-ranking army officer were clearly audible in it. It wasn’t a plea, a suggestion, or even a demand, it was an order. “Let’s see which road you pave, if the responsibility of saving the world is put onto you.”

For a moment Ford seemed to want to keep tossing eloquent insults at the two lovers, but he reined himself in, focusing on the bigger picture again.

“Then I should get going. I never could resist a challenge.”

She watched as he left, not wanting to relax until he was out of the apartment, but once he was, she laid down and pulled her big, strong, weeping man into her arms. Bernard held onto her as if he was drowning, but that was fine with her; he had carried her far this very night.

“Easy, Bernie. I’m not going anywhere,” she murmured, gently caressing his back.

“I love you, Theresa,” he said in a choked voice. “Even if I’m not sure who or what I am, I am sure that I love you.”

“I know that,” she said. “You’ve shown it time and time again. And I love you too.”

“Even if I’m not…” he hesitated. “…real?”

“But you are,” Theresa said. “As for who you are when Ford has no say in it… we’ll figure that out as we go along. We'll figure all of it out.”

“We?”

“Hm?”

“You said we.” He wasn’t crying anymore, but he sounded like he was exhausted enough to waver on the edge of sleep. If sleep was the correct word. Theresa didn’t know, and to be honest she didn’t care either way, as long as he was in her arms.

“I did,” Theresa confirmed. “I’m not saying ‘I love you’ for the first time in my life to someone I intend to leave. I’m afraid you’re stuck with me for the long run.”

Her throat hurt so much she actually felt tears of pain form in her eyes when she spoke, but she didn’t want Bernard to think she was going to crumble when he for once depended on her for support. Shocking as the revelation had been to her, what had it not been to him? To find out that you’re not an actual human being? If he had always thought of himself as one, and he undoubtedly had the ability to feel human emotions, where the fuck was the difference?

“What happens now?” Bernard asked. His grip on her had relaxed to something more peaceful now that he seemed convinced she wasn’t going to pull loose and leave. Theresa was grateful; the fever was beginning to reclaim her and the aches and pains in her body worsened as the fever rose. A gentle touch was still pleasant, but anything firmer hurt.

“Right now, we get some rest until Ford is finished with the code.”

“You think he’s going to try and harm us?”

Maybe. I’m not sure what his plan is. But Bernie was right; Ford really knows everything… and we know nothing about his intentions.

Theresa wormed out of his arms for a moment, reached for the gun and loaded it, checked the safety, then slipped it underneath her pillow.

“Just in case.”

“I’m not sure I like having a gun in bed,” Bernard mumbled as he pulled her back into his embrace.

“I’m not sure I like it either,” Theresa replied. “But it’s the only precaution I can think of right now.” She scrunched up her nose as it started to itch again, and her body convulsed in Bernard’s arms as she surrendered to yet another pair of harsh, wet sneezes.

EeASSCHHoo! HuhARSSCHHHoo! Oh God, I’m so tired of this,” she groaned with a watery sniffle.

“Bless you,” Bernard whispered and kissed her neck. “Poor Tess.”

Theresa was just about to object to being called ‘poor Tess’, but if she was completely honest, that was what she felt like, and Bernard didn’t make it sound as pathetic as she feared. In fact, it was rather comforting. Then he made it even better by gently trailing his fingertips down her side and saying,

My poor Tess.”

Theresa decided that until Ford came back with the code, she was going to be Bernard’s poor sick Tess.

“Bernie?”

“Mhm?”

“I love you. I just wanted to say it again before I lose my voice altogether.”

He buried his face against her neck.

“I love you too.”

 

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This was such an amazing chapter! It was like a puzzle with all the pieces perfectly coming together and it’s just genius because you basically jumped ahead and told how the series will probably end. It’s my favorite chapter. It went past reading a forum fic to an actual book. It was just beautiful really. You kept the personality of each character even while venturing to a new script. I could quote it all! It’s astounding boo

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On ‎2018‎-‎06‎-‎22 at 6:42 PM, Reader said:

This was such an amazing chapter! It was like a puzzle with all the pieces perfectly coming together and it’s just genius because you basically jumped ahead and told how the series will probably end. It’s my favorite chapter. It went past reading a forum fic to an actual book. It was just beautiful really. You kept the personality of each character even while venturing to a new script. I could quote it all! It’s astounding boo

Thank you!!! Maybe it is a little bit to plot-heavy for a sneezefic, but I really couldn't help myself, it just ran off with me. :lol: I'm so glad you're still onboard with it, thank you so much! :heart: And I promise there will be more romance and caretaking to come, too.  ;) Also fluff. Because oh my God, these two are doing ridiculously cute things in my head right now. :omg::lol: 

I doubt the series will take that route, though. I think the "creating host replicas so you can live forever"-theory is closer to it, to be honest, but I could still picture this as well. ^_^ 

 

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On 19/06/2018 at 4:23 PM, Chanel_no5 said:

“I love you. I just wanted to say it again before I lose my voice altogether.”

Maybe I'm overly sentimental, but that was just so PERFECT I started screaming.

I'm really sorry I'm late for the last updates. Sometimes I don't have much time to go on the forum and as it always takes time for me to read and write in English, I prefer to wait for longer opportunities... And this last part was just amazing. I mean, it's very rare to have on the same time a great sneezefic and a good plot (I really like your Ford by the way), and that's exactly what you managed here! It's taking a completely different solution from the series, but it doesn't bother me at all and it's equally "believable" (as long as you believe you can produce humanoid robots of course).

29 minutes ago, Chanel_no5 said:

Maybe it is a little bit to plot-heavy for a sneezefic

No, no, no, definitely no. Don't worry about that. It's awsome.

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