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It was close to 8:00pm.  Nick wasn’t home from work yet.  Roxie was trying to get Ariel ready for bed.  Ariel was fighting her.  “I want to wait up for Daddy.”  Ariel stated.

Roxie sighed.  “How about we come to a compromise?”

“What is compromise?”

“It means to agree somewhere in the middle.”

“Oh, okay.”

“How about if you let me get you ready for bed, I’ll let you stay awake until your daddy gets home.”

Ariel thought about it.  “Okay.”

“There’s just one thing.”

“What?”

“If you get tired, I don’t want you to fight sleep.”

“Deal.”  Ariel crawled off the bed and went to get her pajamas out and Roxie helped her change.

They went downstairs and Roxie put The Little Mermaid on.  Roxie retrieved a pillow and blanket.  Ariel lied on the couch using the pillow and Roxie placed the blanket over her.  Ariel was asleep within 20 minutes.

Roxie was still watching The Little Mermaid when Nick walked in.  “Has Ariel rubbed off on you so much that you’re watching The Little Mermaid without her? 

“I started off watching with her.  But as you can see, she fell asleep.”  She said motioning toward Ariel’s sleeping form.

Nick gave Roxie a quick kiss and then picked Ariel up.  “Daddy?”

“Yes it’s me.  Go back to sleep.”  Nick carried Ariel upstairs and placed her in her bed. He then went back downstairs to spend time with his girlfriend.

Two months had passed since Nick and Roxie became a couple.  In that time, they didn’t get to spend much time together alone.  The first couple weeks, Nick was working longer shifts so he could hire a new assistant manager.  When he hired a new assistant manager, his shift went back to normal.  Then he received disturbing news from his bank.  His deposit was $1,000 short one day and Nick found out that his new assistant manager stole the money from him.  Needless to say, she was fired.  Nick started going to work a couple hours before the store opened so that he could prepare his own deposit.  However, since he was once again in the hiring process, he was again staying at work later.

Nick collapsed heavily onto the couch and lied down, pulling Roxie on top of him so he could hold her.

“Don’t you want to eat?”

“No.  I’m really tired tonight so I don’t want to think about food.”

A small rumble started.  As minutes passed, the rumble got louder and the house began to shake

From upstairs, Ariel screamed.  Nick scrambled off the couch and ran upstairs as fast as the shaky ground would let him.  He arrived at Ariel’s room.  Upon entering, he grabbed Ariel and carried her to the door.  He got as close to the floor as possible, cradling Ariel who was crying in fear.

The earthquake ended, but Ariel was still very shaken up.  While Nick was trying to comfort Ariel, Roxie decided it was time for her to go home.  Nick gave her a quick kiss before she left.  He locked up his house while holding Ariel.  Once the house was locked up, he carried Ariel back to her room.

“No Daddy.”

“You don’t want to go back to bed?”

“I scared.  Can I sleep with you daddy?”

“Sure.”  He took her into his room and placed her on the bed.  He entered the bathroom and changed and then got into bed holding Ariel.  Ariel fell right to sleep, and Nick was soon to follow.

As she got closer to her apartment building she began to get nervous.  The amount of destruction increased.  She arrived at her road.  “Shit.”  She said when she realized that her road was closed.  She continued to drive until she found someplace to park her car.  Once she found somewhere to park, she walked back to her road.

She approached the police blockade.  “Excuse me Miss, you can’t come here.”

“I live here.”

“Not anymore.  The only thing left is a few walls and a massive pile of rubble.”

“Okay, thanks.”  She walked back to her car.  She reached her car, but she didn’t know where to go.

Sitting behind her wheel, she was still at a loss as to where to go. Glancing around her car, she spotted a picture of Nick and Ariel.  She never felt so stupid.  She had completely forgotten about Nick.  Starting her car, she drove back to Nick’s house.

Nick woke up thinking he heard something.  When he didn’t hear it again, he put his head back down and closed his eyes.  That’s when he realized that he did hear something.  He heard the doorbell.  He couldn’t believe he was getting visitors this late.  He glanced at the clock and realized that it was only 9:15.  It was still pretty early but it felt so much later to him.

He slowly made his way toward the door.  He shut off his alarm and unlocked the door before pulling it open. 

“Hey Nick.”  Roxie looked at his appearance.  “Were you asleep?”  She asked as he let her in, closing the door behind him.

“Yeah.  I thought you went home.”

“I did.  When I got there my apartment building was a pile of rubble, so I was hoping you’d allow me to stay here.”

“Yeah, that’s fine.”                                                                       

“Thanks.”  Roxie said.  She stood on her tiptoes to give Nick a kiss.  She looked at him in confusion when she realized that his eyes had a watery, glassy look to them.  Roxie ignored it, thinking it had something to do with the fact that he just woke up.  Roxie started to walk toward the living room.  Nick took a step to follow her, and immediately grabbed onto the wall.  Roxie looked back as he steadied himself against the wall.  “Are you ok?”

“Yeah.  I just got dizzy.” 

Roxie wasn’t sure he was ok, but didn’t push it.  Nick walked into the living room after Roxie and collapsed.  Roxie turned when he fell.  “Nick?”  She ran to his side.  She gently caressed his cheek and found his skin to be warm.  “God Nick, you’re burning up.” 

She helped him stand up and began leading him to the stairs.  “Not upstairs.”

“Why not Nick?  You need to lie down.”

“Ariel’s asleep in my bed.  I can lie down on the couch.”

“No.  We’re going upstairs.  I’ll put Ariel back in her own bed.” 

After a few minutes, Roxie got Nick to his room.  She picked up Ariel’s sleeping form and told Nick to get into bed.  She made sure Nick was comfortable and carried Ariel back to her room and tucked her in.  She returned to Nick’s room and climbed onto the bed next to him. 

He opened his eyes when he felt the bed shift.  “Hey.”  He was barely awake.

“You should sleep Nick.”

“I’m cold.”

Roxie kissed his forehead.  “I’ll go get you another blanket.”  Roxie left the room and went to Nick’s linen closet, pulling out a couple blankets.  She placed a heavy blanket on him, and placed the others near the bed, in case he needed them.  He closed his eyes and he was asleep within minutes. 

Roxie starred down at him, gently brushing his hair back.  As she looked down at him, she couldn’t help but worry.  He was too stressed, overworked and tired, and now sick.  He needs someone to live with him full time.  When she came to that realization, she also happened to remember that her apartment had just been demolished by the earthquake.  Was it a sign?  Should she move in with Nick and Ariel? 

 She smiled to herself at the very idea of it.  Ariel would without a doubt love Roxie there to play the full-time mommy role and she thought that she could help Nick get over his depression with her presence there the whole time.  The more she thought about it, the more she loved the idea and couldn’t wait to run it by Nick.  She just hoped he agreed.  She began daydreaming about what it’d be like to live with the man she loved and his daughter.  She fell asleep with the pleasant daydream that continued once she was dreaming.

In the middle of the night, Nick woke up abruptly due to a severe coughing fit that he was having.  He tried to get out of bed so he could get some water.  But he found that he didn’t have the strength to get out from under his many blankets.  Since he couldn’t get up, he was trying to control his coughing so that he wouldn’t wake up Roxie.  He wasn’t successful, and his coughing started to get worse.

Roxie woke up.  She immediately noticed Nick’s coughing fit.  She jumped out of bed and rushed into the bathroom, emerging moments later with water.  She placed the water on the bedside table and uncovered Nick so that she could help him sit up.  She handed him the cup.  He drank the water slowly, and his coughing fit slowed until it finally stopped.

“Thanks.”  He said softly

"You're welcome.  Are you okay?  Do you want some cough medicine?"  She asked.

 Nick bit his lip.  He was always cautious about taking anything that was not prescribed by his doctor.  “Uh, I um, don’t take over the counter medications.”

“Are you sure?  It’ll probably help you sleep.”

“I’m sure.  I don’t like to take medication.  But if it comes to the point of needing it, then I’ll go to my doctor.”

“That seems like a waste of a trip if you really don’t need to go see a doctor.” 

“It’s better for me if I go to a doctor when I need medicine.”  Roxie looked at him, slightly confused.  “We should get some sleep.  Ariel will be up early.”

“And when she does wake up, you’ll still be in bed.”

“But…”

“No buts.  If you refuse medicine then you’re not getting out of bed.”

“Fine I’ll stay in bed.”

“Good choice.  Now you need to sleep.”

“If you’re gonna wake up with Ariel, you’ll need to sleep too.”

“Don’t worry.  I’ll sleep after I make sure you’re ok.”

“I’m ok.”

“Ok Nick.”  She helped him as he struggled to lie back down.  She covered him once again with his blankets.  As soon as he was asleep, she fell back to sleep again.

The next morning, Roxie woke up to movement on the bed.  She opened her eyes and saw Nick trying to get out of bed.  “I thought we had an agreement last night about you not getting out of bed.”

“Am I not even allowed to go to the bathroom?”

She giggled.  “Yes that’s allowed.”  She bit her lip as she watched him slowly make his way to the bathroom.  He came out moments later.  “How do you feel?”

“My head is killing me, I can’t breathe, my body is completely achy; muscles I didn’t even know I had hurt.  I’m still coughing.  Other than that, I’m fine.”

“I think you need medicine.  You should call your doctor.”

He sat on the bed.  “How exactly do you propose I get to a doctor?”

“I’ll take you.”

“And do what with my daughter?”

Roxie shrugged.  “We’ll take her with us.”

“What?  No.”

“Why not?”

“She’s sensitive; I really don’t want her to see me like that.”

“She’ll see you like that anyway while we’re here.”

“But if I’m up here, she’ll soon forget that I’m not feeling good.”

“Fine.  We won’t go yet.  But as soon as you start feeling worse, I’m taking you to the doctor.  Even if it means I’m taking you against your will.”  Nick nodded in agreement and closed his eyes hoping to fall asleep.

Ariel woke up and looked around her room confused.  She knew she fell asleep in her Daddy’s bedroom.  She slid off her bed and walked to Nick’s room as Roxie walked out.  “Roxie.”  Ariel squealed excitedly.

“Sshh.  Daddy’s sleeping.”

“Why?”  She bit her lip.

“He’s not feeling good.”

“Oh.  Did you kiss him to make him better?”

“Uh, no.”  Roxie said wondering what the young girl was up to.

“I’ll do it.”

“Uh, no, Ariel, he needs to rest.”

Ariel ran under Roxie’s legs pushed the door open.   She ran to the bed and climbed onto the bed.  She stood on the bed and walked briskly toward him.  Her small feet got tangled in the sheets and she fell onto the bed with a small giggle.  Nick groaned at the sudden movement and opened his eyes.  “What’s wrong Ariel?”

“I need to kiss you to make you better.”

“You don’t need to do that.”  The longer sentence caused him to start coughing. 

When he turned back to Ariel, she crawled into his arms and kissed his cheek.  “Feel better Daddy?”

“You’re kisses always make me feel better.  But I’m just gonna sleep for a bit longer.  Why don’t you go downstairs and play?  Maybe you can convince Roxie to make you waffles.” 

Ariel smiled.  “Ok Daddy.”  She climbed off the bed and ran to the door where she found Roxie leaning against the doorframe.  “Daddy said you’d make me waffles.”

“He did?  I thought he said you could try to convince me?”

“Nope.  He said you would make me waffles.”  Ariel said matter-of-factly and grabbed Roxie’s hand to lead her downstairs.

Roxie made Ariel waffles and a couple slices of toast for Nick.  She brought the toast up to Nick and then went back down to be with Ariel.  Ariel finished eating and ran to grab her favorite DVD.  She showed it to Roxie and Roxie chuckled, realizing that Nick was probably right to be completely sick of the movie.

Roxie took the movie from Ariel and put it on.  “Ariel, I’m going to go check on your Daddy.  I’ll be right down.”  Roxie said and went to check on Nick.  She kneeled next to the bed and brushed his hair back.  She was concerned at the amount of heat radiating off of his forehead.  She went into the bathroom and found his thermometer and returned to him.  “Nick, wake up.”

“What?”  His voice was a mixture of a groan and a word.

“I need to check your temperature.  Open.”  Nick opened his mouth and Roxie slid the thermometer under his tongue.  He closed his eyes hoping that he could fall back to sleep.  “Nick, where do you keep your doctor’s number?”

He opened his eyes.  “But you said…”

“That as soon as you got worse you were going to a doctor.  Well guess what, you got worse.  You are running a pretty high fever, 102.1 to be exact.”

“It’s in the phone book in the kitchen.”

Roxie hurried downstairs.  Ariel curiously watched Roxie fill up a bowl with ice water and put a hand towel in the bowl.  Roxie grabbed the bowl of water and the phonebook upstairs.  She placed the cool cloth on Nick’s forehead, hoping that it would cause his fever to break.  She grabbed his phone and went into the hallway to make an appointment.  Once she made the appointment, she pulled a chair over to Nick’s bed.  She grabbed the towel and dipped it back into the cold water.  She then reached over to Nick and wiped his face and neck with the cool cloth.

Ariel entered the room.  “Ariel, go back downstairs.”

“You said you’d watch The Little Mermaid with me.”

“Oh, Ariel, I need to stay up here with your dad.”   She placed the towel back on Nick’s forehead and went downstairs and shut the movie off, so she could carry it upstairs.  She put the movie on in Nick’s room and kept the TV on low volume.  She resumed her position by Nick’s side.

 

 

~*~

 

“Nick?”  A nurse called from the doorway.  Nick made his way over to the nurse and disappeared down a hallway.

“Where’s Daddy going?”  Ariel said while sitting on Roxie’s lap.

“To see a doctor so the doctor can make him feel better.”

Ariel looked up at Roxie. Tears were forming in her eyes.  “Is Daddy going to be ok?”  She blinked and a tear rolled down her cheek.”

Roxie wiped the tear from Ariel’s face.  “Daddy will be fine.”

“Promise?”

“I promise.”  Ariel laid her head on Roxie’s chest.

Roxie smiled down at Roxie and gently ran her hand through Ariel’s long blonde hair.

“How old is your daughter?”

“4.” Roxie said.

Ariel smiled up at Roxie.  Ariel noticed immediately that Roxie didn’t deny being her mother.  It made Ariel wonder if Roxie really would become her new mommy.

45 minutes after he got called, Nick walked back into the waiting room holding his prescription in his hand.  Ariel spotted him almost immediately.  “Daddy.”  She slid off Ariel’s lap and ran toward Nick.

Nick caught Ariel as she ran toward him and lifted her up.  The addition of her weight made him lose his balance, proving just how weak he really was.  “Wow, when did you become such a big girl?” He said, trying to hide his weakness.  Ariel giggled and Nick put her back down on the floor.  He grabbed her hand and walked toward Roxie.

Roxie stood up when she saw him.  “Well?”

“Just the flu.”

Roxie sighed in relief.  Her overactive imagination was picturing Nick returning to the waiting room to tell her that he had some rare disease that no one had ever heard of.  “You ready to go?”

“More than ready.  I’m ready to go back to bed.”

Roxie smiled.  “I bet you are.  We’ll stop at the pharmacy on the way home to fill your prescription.”  Nick nodded and they walked out to the car. 

Once in the car, Ariel started babbling excitedly.  Nick groaned slightly, as Ariel’s high pitched voice bounced off the car and into his already pounding head.  Roxie looked over at Nick, who had his eyes shut tightly as he reclined as comfortably as he could in the seat that was too upright for his achy back.

“Ariel, Daddy’s not feeling well, can you try to be quiet until we get home?”

Ariel lowered her voice but continued to go on and on about nothing.  “Ariel, please.”  Nick said sternly rubbing his head hoping that it’ll help.  Ariel bit her lip.  She sniffled and started crying.  Nick groaned and turned around slightly.  "Ariel, don't cry.  Daddy's just not feeling well, all right?  Once I take some medicine, you can talk as much as you want."  He promised. 

 "You wanna go home and watch The Little Mermaid?"  Roxie added after Nick was finished, knowing that Ariel would be excited to hear that.

“Daddy watch it with us?”

"After a little nap, okay?"  Nick said, hoping that would be a compromise for her.

“But Roxie said we could watch it when we get home.”

Nick sighed.  “Fine, we’ll watch it when we get home.”  He said giving in to his daughter’s request.

After stopping at the pharmacy, Roxie drove home.  Roxie got Ariel out of her car seat and they walked back into the house.  Nick lied down on the couch while Roxie put the movie on.

Ariel was lying on the floor on her stomach coloring.  Ariel had finished coloring a picture of Sebastian.  She turned to show Roxie her picture when she realized that Roxie was doing something that she never saw before.  “What are you doing?”

“It’s called knitting.  You start with yarn and you kind of weave it together to make stuff.”

“Oh, what are you making?”

“A sweater.”

“Oh,” Ariel quickly lost interest and turned to show her picture to Nick.  “Daddy look.”  She was puzzled when she realized that her Daddy wasn’t answering her.  She stood up and walked over to him and realized that he fell asleep on the couch.  “Daddy.”  She said shaking his shoulder.  He opened his eyes slowly.  “Look at my picture Daddy.”

Nick glanced at the picture of the red crab in front of him.  “Very nice honey.”  He said and closed his eyes.

“Daddy.”

He opened his eyes again.  “What?”

“If you close you’re eyes, you’ll fall asleep.” 

He then realized that Ariel wasn’t going to leave him alone long enough to let him sleep.  He glanced at Roxie.  She only shrugged and smiled at him sympathetically.  Realizing that Roxie wasn’t going to help him, he turned back to his little girl.  “Ariel, do you want to curl up with me to watch the rest of the movie.”

Ariel’s eyes lit up excitedly and she crawled onto the couch.  She got comfortable as Nick held her.  For the remainder of the movie, Nick played with Ariel’s hair as he held her.  He kept his eyes closed.  As long as he was playing with Ariel’s hair, he was awake, and Ariel wouldn’t wake him up again.

The movie was almost over when Nick opened his eyes.  He smiled slightly when he realized that Ariel fell asleep on his chest.  He closed his eyes again.  He was almost asleep when he felt Ariel being pulled from his grasp.  He opened his eyes to see Roxie taking her off of him.

Roxie carried Ariel up to her room and tucked her in.  She then went back down to the living room and got on the couch to cuddle with Nick.  While Roxie was taking Ariel up stairs, Nick fell into a light sleep.  “Nick.”

“Hm?”

"I was thinking about it and it'd be good for you and Ariel if, you know, I moved in"

“Mm.  Okay.”  He mumbled in his half asleep state.

Roxie smiled to herself.  She curled up closer to Nick and closed her eyes.  If everyone else in the house was going to nap, then she might as well nap too.
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