She tossed and turned for the millionth time that night. The bed, though comfortable, wasn't hers, and Nora felt out of sorts. She didn't have a sleeping handicat at her side and there wasn't a snoring polar bear taking up a sizable corner her room. The night noises sounded foreign, and though she was only mere miles from her place of birth, it certainly didn't feel like home-like at the moment. And yet, she knew that none of that had anything to do with why she couldn't sleep. They were just excuses and nothing else, and though she knew the truth, she had yet to truly adapt to this new part of her life. It was simple: she didn't need much sleep anymore. Where she needed a solid six or seven hours to be able to function well at work the next day, she could now get the same quality of rest in less than half that amount of time.

This had been her new routine over the past few months. Toss and turn for a while before giving up. Read a book until she was tired enough to fall asleep, watch something on YouTube or Netflix when that didn't work, poke around on social media when that inevitably failed, and eventually, in the wee hours of the morning, she would fall asleep, only to be woken up by her alarm just a few hours later. It was miserable.


The familiar chime of her alarm rang out across the room. With one eye barely open, Nora reached towards the nightstand so that she could hit snooze. It took her a few moments; she hadn't completely adjusted to this temporary living space and it was hard to break out of old daily habits. She clumsily poked at the screen to hit the snooze button and set the phone down once more, burrowing further under the covers for another nine minutes before her precious sleep was interrupted again.


The alarm was silenced for the day, the bedside lamp turned on. Nora rubbed the sleep out of her eyes before swinging her legs off the bed, flinching as the bottoms of her feet made contact with the cold hardwood floors. It's like ripping a Band-Aid off, said a familiar, chirpy voice in her head. She let out a small groan. So it was going one of those weeks. She padded through the apartment and into the kitchen so that she could get some much needed coffee brewing before she could go about the rest of her morning routine.


She walked through the doors of the hospital and made her way over to the nearest staff elevators. She had only been at UCSF for a week and was still getting used to the ins and outs of things: the different protocols, the different workflows, the myriad of hallways, the disarming friendliness from her new coworkers that seemed so genuine and yet so cold at the same time.


From the moment she walked into the hospital up until sometime mid-day, she had hardly had a moment to herself. There was hand-off and pre-rounds to contend with. A quick, filling, protein-heavy breakfast to get her through the next several hours of work, just in case it ended up being the only meal she had until later that evening once she was finally off campus. And then, of course, morning rounds, surgeries, and non-stop consults. Finally, she had a moment to breathe and eat a protein bar. The peanut butter KIND bars taste better, you know that, the chirpy voice said. Though Kara usually stayed out of Nora's way while she was at work, she hadn't hesitated in offering her unsolicited, unfiltered opinions throughout the course of the morning thus far. They were in a new hospital surrounded by new people with no one else like them. It was exciting but lonely at the same time. She couldn't blame her for being chatty.


She finally had a few moments to herself. She was done with surgery for the day and only had to work through post-op rounds, notes, a consult or two, and hand-off. She knew better than to say the 'Q' word during a lull and grabbed a sad-looking sandwich from one of the cafes on campus so that she had something to munch on. Don't forget the chips! Nora sighed and grabbed a bag of salt and vinegar kettle chips and a can of seltzer as she walked to the checkout lane. Minutes later, she was settled in one of the resident pods, demolishing one half of her sandwich before starting the other one and digging into the various work emails she had missed. After going through those, she pulled her phone of her pocket and began to go through her personal emails. Nora frowned, noting that her inbox seemed to be rather quiet, but after a few moments, she realized that maybe that was a good thing. Maybe it was quiet at home; after all, no news was good news, right?

She began to make the rounds with her friends. Bodhi was the priority today. She had promised her friend that she would quarantine her if necessary, if her ring came back and made her lose all sanity. "You doing okay, B?" she tapped away on her screen. "You're not, like, feral or anything? You've got your wits about you?"

It only took moments for a reply to pop up. "Sweetpea, whatever are you talking about?"

Nora furrowed her brow in response. After some poking and prodding, it seemed clear that Bleez wasn't around. Well, that was one less person to have to worry about, at the very least. She continued to check in with other people, all of whom confirmed that their counterparts weren't around, either, and what could she possibly be talking about? It wasn't until she got a response from Nasim that the gravity of the situation hit her.

"BRB," she typed. "I think I'm gonna be sick."