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"Always" (Secret Santa for Azuralis)


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newyear.gif Merry Christmas, Azuralis! You were my Secret Santa :) I know it's a little early, but I got your story done and am going to have lots of people around starting tomorrow, so I wanted to post it while I had the time. Hope you like!


I roll over and switch off the alarm clock, taking a moment to admire Abby before I have to wake her up too. She’s always beautiful, but I love to watch her sleep because it’s a rare moment when she’s still and quiet—a precious time when she allows herself to be calm. I lean down and kiss her cheek.

“It’s time to wake up, sweetheart,” I whisper. She grumbles something and I smile. “Oh come on. This is your favorite kind of day—137 things to do in just eight short hours.” She sniffs and turns her head so I can finally look in those blue eyes I love so much.

“I do like those days,” she said, her voice still thick with sleep. I kiss her forehead.

“I know. There’s something very wrong with you,” I tease and get out of bed. “I’m going to grab a quick shower, okay?” She nods and stretches her arms up over her head before scrunching up her nose.


She turned her head to the side and sneezed suddenly.

“Bless you,” I call, heading towards the bathroom.


After my shower, I shave, brush my teeth and head back to the bedroom to get dressed and let Abby take over the bathroom. I do a double take when I find her still asleep in bed. I sit down on her side of the bed and brush her hair off her face.

“Abby? Honey, are you planning on getting up any time today?”

“Just wanted five more minutes,” she said.

“Well, you’ve had twenty,” I say. She growls, but flops over and throws the blankets back, shivering when the cool air hits her skin. “I’ll make you coffee,” I offer.

“Mmm. I guess I can get up then.” She rubs the back of her hand against her nose before sneezing.


“Bless you.” I frown and grab her a tissue from the box on the nightstand.

“Thanks.” She takes the tissue and wipes her nose.

“Abs, you feeling okay?” I ask her.

“Fine. Just a sneeze,” she said, getting out of bed. She gives my hand a quick squeeze. “Didn’t you say something about coffee?” she asked.


I’m putting cereal, milk and (the much anticipated) coffee on the kitchen table when she comes in dressed for work. She looks amazing—grey pencil skirt and matching jacket and a blue shirt that makes her eyes look otherworldly. As gorgeous as she is though, I can’t help but notice she looks tired even though we went to bed early last night. I fill her coffee mug and slide it across the table to her. She thanks me and pours a splash of milk into it.

“Want some?” I shake the box of corn flakes in her general direction. She shakes her head.

“Not hungry this morning.”

That’s not like her. I hope she’s not coming down with something. Abby has a bad habit of ignoring a cold or flu until it completely knocks her out, taking what could have been a mild illness and letting it get completely out of control. She’s my little workaholic warrior and she’d rather walk on hot coals that admit she wasn’t feeling well. I decide not to mention it for now because it will only result in an argument. Instead I decide to run through our schedule for the day.

“So we’ll meet back here after work and then get ready for the Thompson’s Christmas party?” I ask.

“Yeah. What time does it start again?” she asked.

“Seven, but you know how I feel about being the first people at the party.”

“7:30 then?”

“That’s my girl.”

“What can I say? I know my man,” she says with a wink. I try and hide my smile behind my coffee mug. I feel that familiar worry tug in my chest though when I see her eyes slowly lose focus then flutter shut as she curls a finger underneath her nose.

ahhtschh! hhtschhew! Ahh…ahhTsschhew!

“Bless you, Abby.” I get up from the table and get a couple napkins from the kitchen counter and put them next to her before sitting back down. She presses one to her nose and sniffs.

“Thahh hah thanks,” she manages before sneezing again.

Ahhtschh! Tsshhheew!

“Bless you again.” She nods and rubs her nose back and forth in the napkin. When Abby looks up at me her eyes narrow.

“Don’t,” she says.

“Don’t what?” I ask her, but I know I just got caught.

“You have that face,” she says. I start to ask what she’s talking about but she interrupts. “The ‘I’m needlessly worried about Abby and about to go into concerned, hovering, annoying husband mode” face.

“I was…” I feel the word “not” wither on my tongue when she glares at me. “Okay, maybe just a little,” I concede. “It’s just that you look a little tired this morning and you’re sneezing. You’ve been working so hard lately that I wouldn’t be surprised if you were coming down with a cold.” She smiles and stands up, putting her coffee cup in the sink before leaning down and taking my face in her hands.

“Mathew, I love you so much but if you ask me if I’m sick one more time I’m gonna punch you in your ridiculously handsome face. Got it?”

“Got it.” It’s her go-to threat and a playful way of telling me I’m officially pushing the limits of her patience. She kisses the top of my head and then wanders back to our room to grab her shoes and her coat. I take that moment pull the handkerchief from my pocket and grab a couple cough drops from the cupboard, slipping them into her briefcase. She may not like it, but she’s coming down with a cold and I’m going to do my best to look after her…plus she can’t punch me when she’s at the office.


I’ve been home for nearly an hour when she calls.

“Hey Abby,”

“Matt, I’m so sorry. I’m running insanely late,” she says. I can tell in a single sentence that she’s sick. Her voice is hoarse and there’s a touch a congestion dampening her consonants. “It’s been absolute chaos today,” she continues. “My 2pm meeting ran late and then someone double-booked me at 4pm and I’m just—”

“Abs, it’s okay,” I say. “Just take a breath. Where are you now?”

“I’m stuck in traffic about five miles from home. This rain is making it impossible to go more than ten miles an hour.”

“Abby, take your time and drive safely. The party doesn’t even start for another hour. Just get home in one piece, okay?”

“Yeah. Okay. I’m sorry,” she says.

“Just be safe. The weather’s awful. I love you.”

“I love you too, Matt.” She must have hit the wrong button because the call didn’t disconnect. Instead I hear her sneeze loudly.

hahhEhhtschhheew! ahhTSCHHeeew!

“Oh God,” she sighs. I can vaguely hear the sound of traffic in the background as she rustles around and finds something to blow her nose into.

“Abby?” I call out, wondering if she’ll be able to hear me. I’m sure her cell phone is sitting on the passenger’s seat next to her. She doesn’t notice though so I hang up and go into the kitchen. Based on where she said she was, Abs would be home in the next fifteen minutes. I put some water on to boil and get down the teapot Abby’s grandmother gave her as a wedding gift last year. I lean against the kitchen counter and try and think of a way to convince Abby to skip the Christmas party and stay at home and take care of herself. As soon as I put the tea leaves in the pot to let them steep I hear the front door open and close. I can tell she’s moving slowly just by how long it takes for the sound of her keys to clang in the bowl we keep near the door.

“Hey sweetheart, how was—” I’m shocked when I see her. She’s completely soaked and shivering. “Abby, where is your coat?” I ask, grabbing the blanket off the back of the sofa and wrapping it around her shoulders.

“Forgot it and I was already running late so I didn’t want to go all the way back up to the office to get it. It wasn’t raining that hard when I left.” I can feel her shaking and I rub my hands up and down her arms.

“You’re going get pneumonia,” I mumble, pulling her towards me.

“M’fine,” she says, but she tucks her head into the bend of my neck—something she only does when she’s needing a little extra TLC. I wonder if she’s knows that’s her tell. I hug her a little tighter and rub her back slowly. I hate to let her go, but she really needs to get out of her wet clothes.

“Abs, you’re chilled. Why don’t you go hop in the shower? I’ll have tea for you when you get out.”

“Okay.” She pulls out of my hold and gives me a little smile. “Sorry about getting your shirt all wet. I hope that wasn’t what you were planning on wearing tonight.”

“It’s no problem.”

She sniffs and rubs her nose. I know that look. If I wasn’t so worried about her I might find it adorable—the way her nose wrinkles right at the bridge just before she sneezes.

hhNtschheew! Ahhtsschheew!

“Bless y—”

hahKtschhhew! Ahhtsschhheew! Ahh AHHtsschhheeew!

“Whoa!” I grab her around the waist when I see her wobble on those ridiculous high heels she insists on wearing. “Bless you, sweetie.” She nods and keeps her eyes shut. “You okay?” I ask.

“Sorry. Lost my balance,” she said. “You’re right. These shoes are an invitation to break my neck.” She slips out of her heels and then heads off to the bathroom. All I can do is shake my head and roll my eyes. Stubborn as a mule, my Abby.

I go into the bedroom and change into what I was planning to wear tonight, but my mind is stuck on how to convince Abby to admit she’s sick and stay home. I’m knotting my tie when she comes in from the bathroom wrapped in a towel, her hair already in curlers. Now that she’s showered and washed her makeup off I can see how pale she really is. She’s rummaging around in the closet and I hear her stifle two quick sneezes. I ignore them, willing to play along for a little while longer.

“What do you think?” she asks, coming out in a slinky black dress. I think I can see goosebumps on her arms but I smile and say,

“You look amazing Abs. Always do.”


“Bless you. I think you’re missing one critical accessory though.” She looks confused as I go into the closet and come back with a well-loved sweatshirt from my alma mater. She sniffles and cocks her head.

“What do I need your old sweatshirt for?”

“Abby, let’s stop doing this,” I say as gently as possible. “You’re sick. We both know it. Can we just stop this game where we pretend everything’s fine?” She bristles and I’m ready for the fight, but just when she looks ready to deny it and kick off the argument, she sighs and seems to deflate. She pinches the bridge of her nose and sniffs.

“I’ve been trying to hold it together,” she said. I tug her hand and we sit on the edge of our bed.

“You don’t need to hold anything together, Abby. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. I know you didn’t feel well when you got up this morning, but you seemed determined to go down swinging.”

“I don’t like people knowing I’m sick,” she mumbled, fussing with the hem of her dress. I still her nervous movements by resting one my hands on top of hers.

“I’m not ‘people’ sweetie, I’m your husband. You have to be honest with me about stuff like this.” She leans her head on my shoulder and I brush my thumb over the back of her hand.

“Matt? I have a cold and don’t feel good,” she says in a quiet rush. I laugh and kiss her head—I can’t help it. She’s too much.

“You don’t say?” She laughs too and feel the tension dissipate. “I’m so sorry you don’t feel well, Abby. Why don’t you change into some pajamas and we’ll have a night in together? When was the last time you took any cold medicine?” She was about to answer, when she held up a finger, her breath hitching slightly.

hahh ahh Ahhtschhheew! TSCHHeeew!

“Bless you!” I grab the tissues off her bedside table and she grabs a couple, blowing her nose.

“I can’t take anything else for a couple more hours,” she said in answer to my earlier question.

“Okay. Hop in bed and I’ll be in in a minute. Just want to call the Thompsons and let them know we’re not going to make it.”

“Matt, you’re—”

“Not going to tell them you’re sick,” I finish for her. “I’ll make up an excuse that doesn’t involve you being under the weather.” That small embarrassed smile is all the thanks I need.

Abby is putting on a pair of socks when I come back to the bedroom. She’s in yoga pants and my sweatshirt (which I know she secretly adores). I put a glass of water down on her side of the bed and sit down, leaning against the headboard. I pat the bed next to me and she sinks down with a sigh. I reach over and start taking the curlers out of her hair, piling the pins on the comforter next to me.

“Sorry I’ve been difficult,” she says. I kiss her shoulder.

“It’s fine. I just worry about you.” The last of the curlers gone, I run my fingers through her hair, taking time to massage the tight muscles in her neck.

“I know you do ahh Ahh…and I appreciate it.” She barely gets through her sentence before,

ahhTsschheew! Ahhtschhew! Tisshhheew!

“Wow! Bless you sweetie.”

“Not ahh hahh…not done yet…”

ahh Ahh hehAHHtsschhhew! Ahh AhhhKTSSHHHeeew!

Bless you, Abby. Are you okay?” That last sneeze seemed to make her whole body shudder. She nods but coughs until she’s able to take a sip of water.

“Sorry about that,” she says. I notice the way she shivers despite being bundles in pretty thick clothes. I get up and tug the blankets back and make a note to check her temperature soon.

“It’s okay. Come on—in bed.” I’m not sure if she’s so compliant because she feels that poorly or if it’s because she’s trying to be better about letting me take care of her. At this point I don’t really care. I kick off my shoes and ditch the tie I’d put on earlier before lying down next to her. She grabs the television remote and begins flicking through the channels. She doesn’t find anything that interests her and passes the remote to me.

“I don’t care what we watch,” she says through a yawn. “I’m going to be asleep soon anyway.” I find a basketball game and turn the volume down so it’s just loud to still hear.

AhhNTSHHHeew! heh AhhSNTSCHHHeew!

“Bless you.” Her sneezes sound bad—she’s either feeling worse or not hiding it as well. Or both. Can never rule out both when dealing with Abby.

“Thank you. And thank you for looking after me.”

“Always.” She slides over, resting her head in the bend of my neck and resting one hand on my chest.

“This is better than the Thompson’s Christmas party anyway,” she whispers.

“I couldn’t agree more.”

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Oh. My. Gosh.

I can't believe I was the lucky one to get YOU for Secret Santa! You are one of the best writers on the forum :wub: I love reading all of your drabbles and fics!

This story was P-E-R-F-E-C-T as always! So adorable and yummy and... I'm meeeelting. Thank you SO much for this gift; I couldn't have asked for a better one!! :D:heart:

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Oooh the first Secret Santa! I like the relationship between Abby and Matt a lot, how he knows she's sick and how she's behaving. I like her trying to hide it, too. It's so mushy and sweet and awwwww :P

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