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anywhere else is hollow

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He eases himself down with a sigh, the hospital bed uncomfortable but the last haven he has.

Laura looks better today, he is certain of it.  Her porcelain skin is less ashen, her green eyes brighter, the frightening glaze of the last few days slowly lifting.

His hand covers her cool one, her fingers entwining with his.

"How was the big day?"

Bill winces, just visibly.  "You don't have to worry about that."

Her laughter is still wicked, even if it cuts off with a cough.  "That bad?"

He holds a styrofoam cup of tepid water to her lips.  "No, taking my nephew and nieces to visit their mother in prison was a sheer delight.  WIsh I could do it every day."

Laura coughs into her hand.  "It's minimum security, Ellen has been in worse rehabs."

Bill snorts.  "Actually, Lee made that point to his mother.  It was a warm and tender moment."

Laura smiles.  "He always was my favorite.  How did she look?"

Better than Laura looks right now, but he isn't about to say that.

"Orange isn't her color," he says instead.  

Laura picks at her hospital gown.  "Not as fashionable as blue, I guess."

He swore to himself he would take this part of the story to the grave.  He wants, despite all evidence, for his wife to think he is capable, or at least not failing miserably.  

But he cannot stand to hear the hint of defeat in her voice.

"I think the low point was when Kara told Ellen she might be pregnant."

Laura gasps, her hand tightening on his.  "Bill!"

"It's okay," he promises.  "The pregnancy test for my teenage niece we stopped for on the way back from prison was negative."

Laura giggles.  "You really did have a day."

"I don't think she was serious, anyway," he sighs.  "I think she just wanted Ellen to stop paying attention to Ana."

"Ana is the best one," Laura observes.  

"If Ana becomes a teenager, I'm moving to Antarctica."

Laura's smile grows soft.  "Take me with you?"

The words spill out.  "Did they say when you might be able to come home--"

She pulls away.  "The doctors won't be in till morning."

He knows that.  He knows that, but he has to leave her here, tethered to tubes and wires, while he braves San Francisco traffic to go home to a small child, two teenagers, his brother's drinking problem, and an increasingly incontinent dog.  

"Do you need anything?"

He's exhausted, but another round trip would give him something to do with his night, would keep him alone in his car....

"A new body?"

He lowers his lips to her hand, to hide his face.  "I like your old one."

Her hand drops to his hair.  "You should get going.  Traffic isn't going to get better."

"Enough to make me miss New York," he manages.

The wave of her hand takes in the west coast, the oncology unit, the kids at home, doing God know what while Saul pounds Scotch in the basement.  "You wouldn't miss all this?"