There was a light knock on my door, and I looked over to see the bearded security guard standing at the threshold. He walked over to where I knelt beside Asher's prone form on the bed. Asher, who had lost consciousness just minutes before, didn't move.

"Is she breathing? Pulse?" The officer spoke with a slightly condescending, official tone.

"Yes, she's breathing and she has a pulse. I don't know what happened. She just got a headache or something, the started sobbing and clawing at her head, rocking back and forth. I was really scared she'd hurt herself, but then she passed out." As I spoke I unconsciously rubbed my fingers over Asher's palm, but her eyes didn't even flutter.

"So you want to go to the hospital?"

"Yes, I don't know what else to do. Should I call her mother?" I stood up and looked around for the phone, while the security officer lifted Asher easily and started downstairs.

"OK, you call her mother while I take her out to the van. We'll wait so you can come with her to the hospital."

...

"Hello?" The groggy voice was tinged with anxiety.

"Hi, Ms. Bolton?" What was I going to say? I looked down at my feet shuffling around on the floor.

"This is she."

"I'm a friend of Asher's at school, Ms. Bolton, and I just wanted to let you know. Asher's being taken to the hospital."

"Oh holy christ, what's wrong?! Is she okay?"

"I don't know, she's unconscious. She had a headache earlier, then it got really bad I guess and she passed out. I didn't know what to do, she was in so much pain."

The woman on the other end of the line let out a long breath. "Oh, Asher. Which hospital?"

"Beloit Memorial."

"I'll be there in half an hour." Suddenly I was listening to dead air and realized Asher's mother had already hung up the phone. I took my coat and Asher's too, and raced outside, flipping off the light as I exited my room.

...

"Miss? I want to ask you to wait out in the waiting room please." The nurse frowned at me.

"Is Asher awake? I just wanted to say goodbye to her before I go."

"Yes, she's awake. Please be brief." I nodded at the nurse and knocked softly on the door.

"Asher?"

"Green? Is that you? Why are you still here?" Asher's face looked pale and drawn, and her eyes were still unfocused from the drugs they had given her for the pain. She no longer had her hat on, and I could see her bare scalp, only a few small patches of fuzz on it. I tried to hide my surprise.

"I just wanted to make sure you were okay. Is your mother still here?"

"No, I made her go home. You should leave too. I'm sorry for passing out on you earlier, that was really dumb."

"I guess it wasn't your fault though. Are you sure you're okay? I was so scared for you."

"I'm sorry you had to see that Green, it came on so quickly."

"Yeah, right, like I would have preferred you passing out in your room so you could just lay there all night and maybe wake up in the morning, if you didn't stop breathing before then. Come on Asher." I couldn't look at her anymore and shifted my gaze out the window. "Will you still be able to come to the play this evening?"

"Yes, for sure. If the doctor doesn't discharge me, I'll leave anyway. Fucking hospitals. My mother will come by this afternoon to take me back to school. I'm not going to be able to make theory this morning though, will you take notes for me?"

"Sure thing. Get better okay?"

Asher looked away. "Thanks for staying with me Green."

I reached over and caressed her bald head. "Glad to help." I struggled with the words, and turned towards the door before she could see me lose control. "See you this evening I hope. I'll call you," I called over my shoulder when I reached the door.

...

I sat between Asher and Maude in the darkened theater, watching people dance around on-stage. I wasn't much for plays, but I had to admit this was a pretty good production. I know Asher noticed when I looked turned my head to look at her profile, but she didn't look at me. I had called her room earlier that afternoon and it had rung and rung, worrying me that maybe she was still in the hospital despite what she had said. Finally she picked up, her voice as clear as it had been that morning, and I was relieved. We agreed to meet in front of the French House at 7:30 with Maude and Jody, then walk over to the theater. When we met she seemed well, cheerful and charming as ever. Her cap was back in place, and I smiled when I saw her, tugging the hat in a teasing way. She had grinned and pushed my hand away, turning energetically to say hi to Jody and Maude as they walked up. I was so glad to see her like that, after the horror of last night.

Now, though, I was starting to worry again. I noticed her hands clench around the armrests. After a few moments, I leaned over and whispered in her ear, "Are you all right?"

"Yes, fine. I just need some air. Come with me?"

I nodded and rose, quickly exiting the building with her directly behind me. When we got outside I turned to her, asking again if she was okay. I could tell she was trying to retain her composure, but when I led her over to a bench she collapse into it. The wood was cold against the back of my legs but I kept my seat next to her, reaching my arm around her shoulders to draw her into a comforting hug. All I wanted to do was press my lips against her temple and make all the pain go away, but I had the sense to restrain myself.

"The doctor gave me some pills for pain, maybe I'll go back to my room and take one," she said hesitantly.

"Is it really bad?"

She rolled her eyes and nodded, her face remaining expressionless as she turned to me, "I think I'm going to have to duck out on you. Enjoy the rest of the show okay?"

"Asher, no way. I mean," I suddenly paused as I thought that maybe she wanted to be alone to regroup or something. But if she was going to pass out again.. "I'd like to come with you, if that's okay. I just want to make sure you don't hurt yourself. Please?"

She nodded and we stood up, my arm around her waist. "Oh no, Green, our coats."

I looked around for no reason and decided she was right, we'd freeze if we tried to walk all the way across campus without our coats. I left Asher shivering on the bench while I went in to talk to an usher. He allowed me to quietly enter between acts and retrieve the articles, and I thanked him. To my surprise, Asher was still huddling on the bench outside.

"Asher!" I handed her her dark coat and she slipped it on. "Why didn't you come inside? It's freezing out here! You must be fucking cold girl." I put on my coat then sat down beside Asher and held her shivering body against mine.

Her voice was low. "I didn't want to fall, okay? Can you help me back to my room?" I could hear the tears in her voice and I quickly helped her to stand.

"Are you okay to walk or do you want me to carry you?" I didn't think I could carry her, though, and hoped she could walk to avoid the embarrassement of asking someone else.

"I'm okay I think, I just need to lean against you, is that alright?" She looked worriedly at me, "God, I'm so sorry for putting this on you Green, you can just call Security okay? I'll be fine, go enjoy the show."

"Asher, stop it. That's ridiculous. How could I enjoy the show, not knowing if you were alright? Come on, I'll help you up. You tell me when you need to sit down, got it?" We started off slowly across campus.

The air was clear and cold, but there wasn't any snow on the ground so our footing was firm. As we walked down the street, just before the library, I saw our shadows stretch out before us on the pavement. Our arms wrapped around one another, our bodies pressed close. I shot a glance over at Asher, who's face was twisted up in pain or concentration I couldn't tell. I couldn't imagine how hard this was for her-hell, I hardly knew the lady. I wondered if I should ask further about the cancer, but decided she would tell me if and when she were able.

I took Asher to her room and made sure she took some pain pills. She assured me she could handle her pajamas, so I left her. Returning to the French House, I sighed and sank down on the couch to watch a movie already in progress. How could something like this happen to someone as nice as Asher? I looked up as Jody came into the room.

"Hey buddy, what's this?" Jody sat down next to me on the couch, shoving me over to make room.

"I don't know, Legends of the Fall?" I glared at her mockingly.

"Whoa, calm down tiger, what's with you?"

I sighed, "You want to talk about it somewhere else?" indicating at the others watching the movie.

Jody silently left the room, and I followed her into the Green Room. Ha ha ha, and if you even laugh about that I'll brain you I swear to god. The room has green carpet and has nothing to do with me.

"So what's up?" Jody's tone was serious as she settled onto one of the low black-leather couches.

"It's Asher. She's really sick, and I don't know what to do."

"Asher? What do you mean?" Jody looked slyly at me before turning away.

"I don't know, I you know.. I like her. But.." I started to blush.

"You like her!" Jody crowed, "I knew it! You have a crush on her!" She laughed loudly.

I rolled over and buried my face in my hands. "So what, maybe I do have a little crush on her. She's nice, and sweet, and caring, and very hot. But she gets these horrible headaches, and it just tears my heart out to see her in so much pain. I don't know if I want a relationship where I'm always the caregiver."

"Green, does she even like you? Hell, does she even like girls? But seriously, forget about the sick part, everyone gets sick sometimes and likes to be.. taken care of." Jody raised her eyes suggestively at me, and I threw a pillow at her.

I didn't want to betray Asher's confidences by telling Jody about the cancer, even though when Asher had told me it hadn't seemed like such a big deal. "Maybe you're right. And, yes I am almost 100% certain she likes girls."

"Sooooo..? Ask her out on a date. Go to Uncommon Grounds. Or borrow a car and take her to a movie."

I remembered Sherry and Julie's invitation to go dancing with them in Madison this weekend, and told Jody about it. "So that's kind of like a date I guess."

"You're an idiot. For it to be a date, you have to ask her or she you. Maybe this is a double-date, maybe. But good luck man, I'm sure she's already madly in lust. Who could resist a stud like you?"

"Ha ha, whatever." I smirked self-consciously.

"No, seriously. That body, that sexy fade haircut you got going on. Those eyes-oh my, they kill me everytime. And your-"

"Jody! Geez, give it a rest. You know I have the biggest ego in the world, let's not make things worse!" I glared at her, serious this time. Nothing's more unattractive than a person with a huge ego, and I knew it. "Leave me alone, I'm going to bed." I left in a huff that was at least a little bit exagerated.

Upstairs I stripped off my clothes, brushed my teeth, and turned on the lamp before I turned off the overhead fluorescent bulb. I put the Bob Marley CD in the player and turned the volume down low. I lay down on my back on top of the cool sheets, completely naked. I closed my eyes and smiled at the thought of Asher. Asher's face came to mind, not wrenched in pain as it was earlier, but cool and smart as she had been when I met her before the play. Her calm hazel eyes seemed to pierce mine through the dark, and I focused to bring her entire body into my mind. My hands slowly traced down my body, stopping at my nipples briefly before continuing down. I grasped my right wrist with my left hand, and my right hand quickly located my clitoris. I started stroking the soft flesh on the right side of the sensitive tissue, before gasping and quickly moving my fingers to rub the left side. I smiled in my pleasure. Breathing hard, I brought my fingers briefly away, sensing the flush on my cheeks and the rapid beat of my heart. I resumed the motion with my right hand, starting again on the right side of my clit, then moving over to the other side of the sensitive protrusion. I moaned in ecstacy as I felt my muscles contract and my hips jerk involuntarily against my hand.