He had not escaped death so many times to lose to something like this.
When George Wilson called Norman into his hospital room, the man had enough sense left to be surprised that the elderly butler was still up and walking. Norman just shook his head when the man inquired after it, and it was dropped in lieu of more important matters; namely, Wilson's family. George Wilson wasn't a stupid man. He knew that his business rip to Korea had brought the disease back to his wife and children, and he knew that it would more than likely kill them all. Still, there was a hopefulness to the man's demeanor that Norman could never have replicated, one that demanded he continue to behave as though at least one of them would survive.
"Norman," George said, his tone striving for businesslike but unable to come out as much more than a harsh croak. "I want... to transfer your contract."
Norman felt an inward twinge of regret. George Wilson was among the best of men; it was for this reason and only one other that one of the best agents the British Secret Service had ever seen had been willing to take an early retirement to work for the man. Over his nearly twenty years of service, Norman had come to not only respect George and Angelina, but to look upon them as friends, of a sort, and their daughters as his own grandchildren. While Elizabeth had been a little old for that sort of psychology to take too firm a hold, he sometimes wondered if Katherine knew that he really wasn't. For George to be asking him this meant that the man truly knew he was going to die.
"Very well, sir," Norman said aloud, trying to give George the semblance of normalcy he was striving for.
The younger man smiled, and nodded. "From this day forth, you are to offer your services as outlined in our contract to any of my surviving family members. If- if they should all-" George sent him an imploring look, and Norman nodded to show he understood what the other man could not say. "Then you shall be free to do whatever you wish with my estate and holdings. The guest house is already yours; I had the lawyers by this morning." There was a pause. "Norman, I want you to know that after all this time, I can hardly think of you as my butler or even my bodyguard. I still don't really understand why you made that offer, or why you didn't take any of the employment offers that my rivals gave you, but you should know that I'm grateful for it. Knowing that you will be there to watch over them... it makes letting go just a little easier. Thank you... old friend." George's eyes closed, and Norman knew he was no more.
"No... it is I who must thank you... old friend." Norman stood, and promptly collapsed onto the ground, the sickness at last refusing to let him carry on as usual.
When he woke, Madam Angelina and Miss Elizabeth had joined their husband and father. Miss Katherine still clung to life, though she had been the first to fall ill. Somehow, that seemed like a good sign to Norman, and he privately thanked whichever among other people's deities might be watching that at least she would survive. Norman wasn't an emotional man, but he was self-aware enough to admit that her death would have been the hardest to deal with. Poor little Katherine, who never thought she was good enough, but whose naive, gentle smile seemed to put even the most hard-hearted of people (such as himself) at ease.
And so he waited the days it took her to recover, trying to figure out how to break the news that she would be unable to see again. The one surviving doctor at the hospital had informed him of this before taking off, doubtless to grieve or find some semblance of life. The empty hospital continued to run on its backup generator, and Norman continued to keep a vigilant watch by the last Wilson's bedside. Their journey would not be easy, that much he knew. He would take her back to the Wilson Estate in Exodar, he decided. There, he would teach her how to survive without her eyesight, and ponder the new changes in himself that sometimes had him hearing things that people were not actually saying, or that had sharpened his vision and hearing to levels he had not seen even at his prime.
Many things were changing, but Norman vowed to himself that two things would not: he would not stop protecting his charge, and she would not know him as anything more than a grandfatherly butler.