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“Fickle dog,” I said.

“She was worried about you,” Devi countered. “She tried to pull me over to the bathroom when you started throwing up in there. I had to give her half my sandwich to convince her that I was a worthwhile substitute, and that you wouldn’t enjoy puking more if you did it with a dog looking over your shoulder.”

“Your sacrifice will not go overlooked,” I said.

“No, it won’t, and to repay me, you’re going to drink the rest of that Gatorade.” Devi smiled, but there was something unyielding in her expression, making it plain that all I’d get for fighting her was a worse headache than I already had. “I heard you flush twice. Now you’re upset and dehydrated, and that isn’t allowed on my watch. Drink it, or I’ll suggest admitting you on suspicion of actual illness.”

“Yes, Devi,” I said meekly. She was right about the dehydration: I was once again thirsty enough that the Gatorade didn’t taste of anything but sweetness. I finished the bottle without pausing.

“Good girl,” she said, and offered me Beverly’s leash. “Do you think you can tell me what happened now, or is it going to make you throw up again if you try?”

The elevator dinged before I could say anything. We turned to see Nathan walking into the lobby, looking almost as flustered as he had when we first arrived. “Sal, grab your things; I’m driving you home,” he said. “Devi, I need you to let everyone know that I’m unavailable for the rest of today. I’ve got to take Sally home, but then I’m going to check in at the ER. I think they’re going to need the help.”

“Yes, Dr. Kim,” said Devi. She turned to her computer, fingers already starting to fly as she pulled up his calendar and began shooting off e-mails to the people affected by the change in Nathan’s plans for the day.

I didn’t move. “Do you want some Gatorade?” I asked. “Devi made me drink some. Then I threw up twice. Then I drank some more. I feel better now. I think I’m done throwing up.”

Beverly smacked her tail once against the floor, as if to emphasize my statement. It made a dull slapping sound, and both of us looked toward the dog. She let her tongue loll, seemingly pleased by the attention.

“I need you to get your things,” Nathan said.

“I need to know that you’re safe to drive, or I’m not going anywhere with you,” I replied. It was an effort to keep my voice steady. “Your hands are shaking, you’re not meeting my eyes, and you’re talking about spending the rest of the afternoon working in the ER. That’s scary. I don’t get in cars with people who are being scary. It’s part of my ‘one life-threatening accident was enough’ campaign.”

Nathan stopped, his Adam’s apple visibly bobbing as he swallowed back whatever he wanted to answer me with. Then he nodded. “Okay,” he said. “I’ll have some Gatorade. Devi, is it in the fridge?”

“I can get it for you, just let me—”

“No, keep doing what you’re doing. That’s more important than waiting on me.” He walked past me and Beverly, pausing to kiss my cheek and murmur, “I’m sorry. I should have realized that would frighten you,” before continuing on to the fridge. He returned with a bottle of electric orange Gatorade in his hand.

“Fake orange or fake mango?” I asked. My voice didn’t quaver. I was oddly proud of myself for that.

Nathan checked the label. “Fake tangerine,” he said. “Who makes fake tangerine?”

“People who’ve never had a real tangerine,” said Devi. She swiveled in her chair. “Your afternoon is clear. Should I go down and offer to help in the ER, or is this one of those situations where the research assistant stays far, far away?”

“This is one of those situations where the research assistant takes the rest of the afternoon off with pay, because otherwise, I’ll feel bad about leaving her sitting up here all alone,” said Nathan. “Go on home. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Devi’s eyes widened. “What happened to you two?” she blurted. “I don’t want to pry, but—”

“She always says that just before she pries,” commented Nathan.

“Hush, I’m serious. Sal comes back white as a sheet and throwing up, you show up almost ten minutes later and tell me you’re leaving, so I think I’m allowed to be a little bit concerned! And where did you get the dog?” Devi paused. “Did you steal somebody’s dog? Is that why you’re both so upset? I didn’t think you had it in you.”

“We didn’t steal the dog,” I protested. Then I hesitated, looking at Nathan. “Did we steal the dog?”

“No,” he said. “The dog stole herself. We couldn’t have stopped her.” He turned his attention on Devi. “There’s been another outbreak of sleeping sickness. We watched a man succumb while we were walking on the Embarcadero. Beverly is his dog. An ambulance has been dispatched, and once we’ve identified him, we’ll contact his family about getting her back to the right people. For the moment, Sal and I are the right people, because we’re the people she has decided are worth trusting.”

Speaking of trust… I looked down into Beverly’s big brown eyes and decided, then and there, that no one I didn’t trust was going to take her away from me, whether or not they were related to her actual owner. Dogs get to pick their people. Beverly had picked me. If her owner didn’t recover, and she didn’t pick somebody else to take my place, we were going to stay together.