Jump to content
Sneeze Fetish Forum

Requited Care - a Tommy/Hayley story - COMPLETE (Updated Mar 18)


Recommended Posts

Many of you have  been asking for this for a while, so ... the Muse finally struck!  Hope you like it.  ^_^   This isn't part of the original list I made - something new, set after their engagement. 


And it's from Tommy’s POV.


"Requited Care" - January - 31 months



It was one of those times when the weather yo-yo’ed, 65 degrees one day and 22 the next, one of those times when your body retaliates against the extreme changes in temperature by internalizing it, bringing the flux inside your cells and making a mirror of the natural phenomenon.

I must have I read that somewhere, because I’m just a dumb mechanic who never finished college.

I came down with the cold first - surprise, surprise - and transformed once again into my own version of the Hulk: a germ-ridden beast who coughed, sneezed, wheezed, and snotted green slime all over the place, instead of smashing furniture.  Hayley doesn’t bat an eye anymore: she just pulled the big basket of cold supplies from the hall closet and parked my sick ass in front of the TV with hot tea and soup.  In the last three years it’s happened so many times, we’ve got the routine down pat.   

But this time, a cold combined with the changes in the weather set my asthma off something crazy.  Two days with a ceaselessly tight chest and light wheezing suddenly rocketed into a full-blown attack like I haven’t had in a long time. So bad that Hayley shoved me into the passenger seat of my Jeep - her face white with fear, lips pressed into a thin line - and hauled ass to the ER without even mentioning the steam shower.  Not that I fought very hard: my lungs were locked so tight I could barely suck sips of air that whistled loud and wet through the gaping opening of my mouth, lips stretched wide like a beached fish. My rescue inhaler had done zilch.  By the time we screeched to a stop at the ER doors even I was panicking - eyes wide, shoulders up to my ears, fighting just to stay conscious, begging my body to just fucking breathe - air air AIR! - Hayley screaming somebody help PLEASE!...

I hate my body.  Hate when it scares her like that.

High-powered nebulizer drugs, shot after shot of adrenaline, steroids, antihistamines, antibiotics and B12 for the upper respiratory infection, plus a change of my prescriptions finally reminded my decrepit lungs how to work the way nature intended.  The ordeal of simply breathing on top of the hospital cocktail had me dozing against the cool glass of the passenger window on the ride home.  My chest felt brittle, like an empty eggshell, the sharp edges scraping painfully with each breath.  Still, I reached for her hand, clumsily lacing our fingers together and giving a light squeeze.

“I’b fide, Hals,” I croaked, struggling to keep my eyes open as I continued to suck slow, sore lungfuls of air through my gaping-fish mouth.  Every time I have an attack like this I wonder in the back of my mind if I’ll ever take breathing for granted again.

She blew a harsh huff of her own breath but didn’t - couldn’t - reply.  I kept our fingers entwined even as I fazed in and out of the drugged doze, even as we shuffled into the house and up the stairs, reaching for her even after I fell into bed, barely swallowing a moan of relief.  

She slipped under the covers beside me, her fingers combing my hair away from my forehead, nails lightly scritching along my scalp as I sunk into an exhausted asleep.  Every time I have a bad attack, she can’t sleep after.  She lays awake watching me.  Making sure I keep breathing or something, I dunno.  

Anything we could do about my stupid broken immune system, we were already doing.  I work out daily, take the vitamins she buys, eat the health food she cooks, go to sleep next to her at the same time every night and get 8 or more hours pretty much without fail. I take all my prescriptions religiously, as if the doctor were a god. I wash my hands a hundred times a day, am hyper vigilant about being around co-workers or customers who are obviously sick.  Try to avoid my allergy triggers whenever possible.

Honestly, it’s the healthiest I have ever been in my life.  Definitely better than when I was a kid and in and out of the hospital practically every week for nebs and tests.  Better than when I was in college and thought I was immortal.  

Hayley doesn’t push or prod or nag, thank god.  If she did I don’t think we would have worked out.  I can’t stand it when people fuss or make a big deal over my shitty system: I was born with it, by this point it’s clear I’m not gonna grow out of it.  I live with it.  WE live with it.  End of story.

But because I love her so damned much - because I can’t stand to see her so fucking scared when I’m sick... when I cough like an 80 year-old chain smoker, when my fever spikes to 104, when I’ve got chills so bad the whole bed shakes, when my lungs fuck up and I can’t do something as fundamental as breathing... I do everything I can to take care of myself.

Because taking care of myself is how I take care of her, too.


Both of us had been so focused on me - on my shitty lungs and ugly coughing and sneezing fits and the fever that wouldn’t fucking break and rivers of endless snot - that neither one of us noticed when she started coming down with it, too.

I think it surprised us both: three years together and it was the first time she ever caught one of my colds.

I was sitting on the couch watching “Thor,” finally on the up-swing -  temperature down to 99.7, feeling my energy coming back in spades, still coughing up crud and sneezing like it was making me money, but definitely better - when I heard the front door open.

“Hey,” I called, my voice a little raspy but stronger than it had been in days.  “I ordered Thai.  Pad see ew and tom kha.  There wahh... HG'ehIISSHaaah... ugh," I snorted up a noseful of mucus, clearing my passages.  "There was a BOGO coupon on--...”  I trailed off, wondering why she hadn’t come around the corner yet. I stilled, but didn’t hear anything.  “Hayley?...”

I got up, swiping a handful of tissues from the nearly-empty box on the coffee table. Unloading a boat-load of snot into them, I made my way to the front hall.  

Once there I stopped, both hands still pinching the wad around my chapped nose, massaging at the lingering tickle.

Hayley was sitting on the small bench just inside the door, bent over with her head in her hands.  Her hair had fallen in a soft curtain so that I couldn’t see her face.

A stab of worry tightened my gut.

“Baby?” I swiped my nose roughly, wincing when the lotion-infused paper still dragged against the tender tissues, and balled the snotty remains up in one fist.  I was in front of her in two strides, dropping to my haunches in front of her and reaching both hands to lay one palm and one fist against the outside of her knees.  “Are you okay?  What’s wrong?  Did something happen?”  The hand not holding the tissues reached up to stroke her hair back, coaxing her to look up.

She looked terrible.

Face pale, bruised smudges under her beautiful eyes, exhaustion coming off of her in waves.  And her nose was pink underneath, lips parted in an expression I knew all too well.


She turned to sneeze off to the side, then blinked at me with heavy lids, sucking an unhealthy sniffle and swallowing thickly.

“I thigk I caught your cold,” she whispered, her normally lyrical voice husky and congested.

“Aw, baby,” I grimaced, dropping the knot of tissues to the floor so that I could cradle her head with both of my large hands.  Leaning forward, I pressed my lips to her forehead and closed my eyes.  Sure enough, she was warmer than normal.  I could feel her body lean into mine, wilting as she gave a long sigh that ended with a few light coughs.  “I’m sorry,” I murmured against her skin, pressing another soft kiss. “A hot shower, pajamas, Thai soup, and then either bed or the couch.  Sound like a plan?”

Her head slowly fell to my shoulder with a long, slow breath.  “Okay.”  

Moving my hands under her elbows and bringing us both up to stand, I tucked her head under my chin and slid my arms around her, holding her close for just a few seconds.  I loved the feeling of her in my arms: the way the softness and curves of her body molded to fit the hardness and angles of mine.  I'd dated skinnier girls, taller girls, girls that other guys turned and followed with their eyes when we passed by.  None of them were as beautiful as her.

I indulged in the feel of her in my arms until she convulsed with more coughs, hot breaths punching through the fabric of my shirt.  Reluctantly, I drew away.

“Come on, baby, let’s get you upstairs.”

I felt guilty, even though I knew it was pretty much inevitable: three years is a long time to be with someone and not have them get sick with something.  As many colds and flus as I’d had, part of me was surprised that she’d held out this long without me infecting her.  But the guilt was still there.  Part of me had half-hoped her immune system was so much stronger and better than mine that I would never have to watch her be sick and miserable.  But... another part of me was crowing, doing some prehistoric caveman roar of triumph that I could be the strong and healthy one for once, could soothe and ease and take care of her.  

The feelings were all tangled up like bad European wiring.  I’m not good at feelings on my best day, so I fell back on instinct: ignore the feelings and leap into action.

Keeping her within the protective circle of my arm, I guided her up to our bedroom and helped her undress.  

I had unbuttoned her blouses before, had unzipped her skirts and helped take down her hair after a long day at work, but under entirely different circumstances.  This time, my hands weren’t impatient with passion.  My fingers undid each button quickly but gently, carefully, one hand tossing the shirt into her ‘delicates’ hamper while the other smoothed over her hair, caressing and soothing as I murmured soft reassurances.  When she stepped out of the skirt, I bent to pick it up and deposited it in the same bin as she shimmied out of her slip and hose.  Her movements were slow, sluggish the way a body gets when you’re sick, achy limbs feeling like they’re bags of wet sand.

I knew the feeling all too well.

Halfway through the first leg of hose, she ducked her head to her wrist.  “eh-KSHHiew!  h’IISShieeww!”  Her head bobbed with each wet release, loose hair slipping over her shoulder.

“Bless you, baby,” I dropped a kiss to her temple as she sniffled in the aftermath, my fingers gliding down from her shoulders to her upper arms before stepping away to get her pajamas.  Her sneezes were light and feminine, but strong.  Her body was attempting to expel the microscopic invaders, issuing tickly fluid that caused her to sniffle and sneeze.

It was strangely adorable.  Suddenly I had a glimpse of what she found so enjoyable about my sneezing.

“ah-K’SHIEWW!  snfl. kkff. Kkff-kkff.”

“Here,” I draped the soft sweatshirt and fleece pants next to her on the bed, taking her hand and leading her towards the bathroom.  “Hot shower time.”  

Edited by starpollen
Link to comment

This is absolutely adorable. I could read an entire book about these two and never get tired. The change in point of view was an unexpected change but it worked so well. It's very interesting to read a story in his words. You did a wonderful job with this. 

Link to comment

So glad you guys are liking this!  :D  I am on vacation, sitting on the beach and finally able to relax and focus enough to write.  I only wish my laptop battery lasted longer... 

Is Tommy's POV working?  It just happened to be the way the inspiration hit (I'm so rarely sick myself that it's hard for me to write 1st person perspective from that side) but if you don't think it's good, please let me know. 

Next part!...


Part 2

Leading her into our bathroom, I turned the shower on high while she slipped out of her underwear.  Steam soon began to curl up toward the ceiling in clouds, and I sucked several deep sniffs as it caused my nose to run.  I held one hand under the spray, adjusting the temperature even as I pulled my t-shirt off with the other.

Behind me, I heard Hayley sniffling like crazy, too, and turned to see her sneeze into cupped hands.  


Dropping my pants, I gathered her in my arms and led us both into the shower stall, closing the glass door to lock in the steam as we stood under the falling water.

Hayley had been the one to insist on renting this place when we moved in together, mostly because of this shower. And, I had to admit, it had been a godsend a bunch of times and not just because of my health.

When she first started talking about her landlord ending her lease and the possibility of us getting a place together, my gut had clenched hard, anxiety rising in a panic-wave.  I had dragged my feet and put her off for weeks, crippled by my own stupid fears.  The last girl I had lived with - April - was a total psycho.  She was wicked hot, don’t get me wrong, almost the spitting image of that girl from the first “Transformers” movie.  But she was also a raging bitch.  At first I was so dazzled that such a knockout would even look at me twice - I still thought of myself as the scrawny, wheezy kid I had been for most of my life - that I ignored all the red flags.  We moved in together too fast.  And once we did, the relationship turned abusive.  Bad.  

I still hadn’t told Hayley about it, could barely even think about it without my stomach dropping to my toes and hot waves of shame and remembered panic skittering across my skin.

Looking down, the love of my life was resting her warm cheek against my chest, the water darkening her hair and causing it to stick to her forehead and shoulders.  Her eyes were closed, lashes fanning out on the pale curve of her cheek.  A tiny trickle of fluid was threatening to slip onto her upper lip.

I shook myself out of past, blinking and heaving a sigh.  One side of my mouth quirked up into a half-smile.

“No sleeping,” I raised my hands from her waist to her neck, cupping her face in my hands and kissing her parted lips.  She tasted faintly of cherry Halls.  “You might drown.”

“Mm,” she murmured softly, warm breath ghosting on my lips, not even opening her eyes as she fumbled for the shampoo.

I took the bottle from under her lax hand, chuckling when her arm dropped to her side with a sleepy thunk.  Running my fingers through her hair, I massaged her scalp and neck.  Suds ran toward her eyes, and I quickly swiped them away with my wrist.  The last thing she needed was to go blind on top of a cold.

I held her against me as I reached for the detachable shower head, bringing it down to rinse away the bubbles and massage her shoulders and back.  I used my hands, too, kneading the tense muscles and sliding my palms over her smooth skin.

Her soft moans echoed off the tile walls, the erotic sound combined with the feel of her slick, sudsy skin under my hands making me so turned on it was almost painful,  I ached to lift her up and bury myself in her, to tuck my head into her neck and feel her arms go around mine as she dug her nails into my back.  But I swallowed hard and willed my testosterone-flooded body to behave.

When I started to rinse the soap from her ass, she lifted the back of her hand to hover a few inches from her face, taking a half-step away from me.

“hh!--hiK’SHHew! eh’ISSHiew!”

“Bless you,” I murmured, keeping one hand on her ribs to stead her as her body bent with the wet double, feeling how she quivered.  Yeah, I was definitely starting to see the appeal... 

“Ugh,” she shook her head, blinking up at me with red-rimmed eyes.  “Thagks.”  

Those two sneezes seemed to wake her up a little, and she took her puffy sponge-thing (loofa? Hell if I know…) and some of the eucalyptus shower gel she’d bought me a few months ago, lathering up and running it over her arms and chest.  

Watching her soap herself has always driven me crazy, but again I tamped down the hot spike of lust and simply got out of the way when she turned on the body jets and exhaled a relieved sigh.

Not for the first time, I thanked whatever god she had bribed for the blessing of this shower.

Hayley passed me the sponge-thing, and I did a quick wash of my big body before hanging it back on its hook. The steamy eucalyptus was opening up my head and my chest, helping me feel clearer than I had in days.  Not bothering to wash my hair (I’d had a shower this morning after Hayley had left for work) I kept my hands on her hips as she stood letting the spray pound into the aching muscles of her back.  My thumbs pressed into the soft skin above her hip bones, fingers lightly digging into her ass.  

Once again, April flashed through my head, her perfect face and cruel eyes cutting my soul to ribbons.  It caused a shiver to wrack me from head to toe.

Hayley froze, raising her chin to look up into my face.  “You okay?”

I forced myself to smile at her, shoving thoughts of the bitch back into a mind-trunk and slamming the lid closed.  “Yep.  Feelin’ almost back to normal.”  I drew a long, clear breath in through my nose to prove my point.

Still smiling, I watched as her lashes fluttered, pink nostrils stretching and lips parting in an expectant pre-sneeze expression.  Her chest expanded with a gasp, causing her slick breasts to press against my ribs and my control nearly to shatter... then two more stuttering inhales, head tilting back and moving side to side with tiny shakes of refusal.

It was no use.

“ahk’SHIEWw!  HAH!-- SHEOO!  eheh-GSHIEOAHhhh!”

The harsh triple had ripped from her sinuses, her shoulders curling and head snapping down between us.  I felt the cool spray of them hit my stomach, feeling the shudders that rattled through her bones under my hands.

“Oh by god,” she panted when finished, bringing a fist up to swipe under her watery eyes.  “Bless be.”

I chuckled again, heart filled to bursting with how adorably sweet this woman was, loins aching with need.  I knew if she looked down she would see what she was doing to me, but I was counting on her being too distracted by her cold to notice.  “Now you know how I feel most days.”

Her lips curved in a wry smile, glancing up at me with a pained expression.  The fist pressed to her lips, body wracked with coughs that weren’t nearly as light as they had been twenty minutes ago.

I sighed, desire cooled and deflating at the sound.

“It’s gonna get worse before it gets better,” I warned, slipping my arms around her waist and pulling her head to rest against my chest.  My chin settled on top of her hair, and I closed my eyes for a long moment, once more feeling her body mold into mine like the perfect puzzle piece.  “But don’t worry, baby.  I got you.”

“I know,” she breathed against my left nipple, causing it to tighten and pucker.  I clenched my teeth. What I wouldn’t give for us both to be healthy enough for what my male libido was craving...  “Thank you.”

My arms tightened around her.  “You got nothing to thank me for, Hals.  God knows I owe you after all the times you’ve done it for me.”

“No,” she sniffled, swiping a palm up at her nose as she raised her head to blink at me.  I could tell the steam was clearing her head a little, but causing her nose to run like a faucet. “Love isn’t about owing anything.” Her voice was still hoarse, but insistent.  She cupped my face with her palm, stroking a thumb across my cheekbone. The diamond ring I had given her twinkled in the damp light. “I love taking care of you.  Sick or well, good mood or grizzly bear.  When you love someone…” she gave a small shrug, her hand leaving my face to scrub at her nose, eyes scrunching shut. She didn’t need to finish.

“I know,” my fingers slipped behind her neck, pulling her close to drop another kiss to her wet temple.  Closing my eyes, I felt my heart swell.  “I love you.”

“Love you... too...” she managed to choke out, throat closing as her breath started winding up for another wet sneeze.  “gg’HIISSioo!... hhH!-- nnnnnn.”  The second sneeze got away, and I couldn’t help another half-smile as I watched her press the heel of her palm hard against her tickly nostrils, wicking the organ around in fast circles.  I could hear the wet squelch coming from inside, and could only imagine how her cold-ridden membranes were crawling with the need to sneeze the tickly virus out.

Speaking of tickles…

“HEH!--” I turned away, aiming for the crook of my arm.  “GRRISSSHOOO!!...  gg- gYIEUSSCHtt!... Hh!ehh!-- … hk’NXZTddshOOO!-ehZDXSH’iuUUU!...”

The steam was getting to me, too.  Which was a good thing.  The more I sneezed this shit out of my sinuses, the better I would be to take care of Hayley.

“Bless you,” she huffed, smiling at me as I sniffled and snorted through my suddenly dripping nose.  “We’re a pair, aren’t we?”

Ducking under the shower spray to rinse my snotty face, I shook my head like a dog and cleared my throat.  “You bet we are,” I winked at her, diving to kiss and nip at that sweet spot just behind her ear.  

She dissolved into giggles, punctuated by more throaty coughs.  I slipped my big hand around to the small of her back, pressing her naked, wet body against mine while my other hand shut off the tap.  

Time to tuck my girl up with tissues and soup, and get her well.

Edited by starpollen
Link to comment

holy shit this is amazing!!! I love reading this from Tommys POV it's a nice change, not that I don't love reading from Hayley's point of view. It's just fun to be inside Tommy's head and get to understand him more as a character. Anyways I love love LOVE THIS!!!

Link to comment

The plot of this turned kind of angsty - not sure why, but probably has something to do with me reading a bunch of H/C during this vacation. :lol:

There will probably be several more parts to this.  It's developing into quite the epic... 


Part 3

I stepped out into the brisk coolness of the bathroom to grab a towel, gently pushing Hayley to stay in the warmth of the shower enclosure while I flicked on the heater.  

“eh’KSHieww!  ah’SHIOO”

“Bless you,” I murmured, snatching a few tissues from the box on the back of the toilet and tucking them into her small hands.

I wrapped her in the big, fluffy towels she usually reserved for my massive frame, rubbing her arms and back through the fabric while she blew and dabbed at her pinkened nostrils.  I stood behind her at the sink, keeping her wrapped like a beautiful burrito while I brushed the tangles from her hair.  

Hayley wasn’t a short woman: 5’6 or 7, if I remembered right.  But I was a good 10” taller, so the top of her head just barely brushed my chin.  It meant that when I stood behind her looking in the mirror, I could see both of our faces clearly.  

Both of our noses were flushed - hers a tender pink and mine more a chapped crimson - both of our eyes looked tired, hers more shadowed than mine.  Almost in unison our hands came up to rub at our cold-ridden nostrils, and we both laughed.  It was a potential commercial for pre-and-post cold research.

Then, her expression collapsed from mirth to need.

“eh!-KSHHieooo!  Issshhiewww!  HAH!-- !  AHHSsiieeww!”

“Bless you,” I kissed the back of her neck when she bent for a liquid blow, then stepped out into the bedroom for her pajamas. I laid them on the counter, letting her get dressed while I fetched clean clothes for myself.  

When she came out of the bathroom, the tissue box tucked under one arm and a cloud of white paper pressed to her pale face, I couldn’t help but smile.  

“Hey there, beautiful,” I breathed, zipping up my jeans before taking her once more in my arms, dropping a kiss to the top of her wet hair.

She laughed, a throaty rasp that ended in more coughs.  “You’re crazy.”

“Crazy about you,” I replied, gently squeezing.  It was cheesy, but true.  I closed my eyes, breathing in the clean scent that was our shampoo mixed with the underlying sweetness that was Eau de Hayley.

Her shoulders jerked twice, breath high as she gasped in preparation for another sneeze.

“hH!-HH!  ks’HIIEEOO!”   That one went up in pitch, ending loud and desperate.

“Bless you,” I replied automatically, rubbing her back through the soft sweatshirt before pulling away.  “Food will be here any second.  Bed or couch?”

“Bed,” she mumbled, face half-hidden as she gave two more damp blows.  “I’b exhausted.”

“Okay,” I kissed her forehead, lingering, this time gauging her temperature.   Lower than before the shower, maybe just over 99.  I turned away to pull down the covers, helping her slide under and tucking her in.  She reached one arm to drop the used tissues on the nightstand, pulling another two from the box she still cradled against her side.  

“...shshshshshsshshshshsshshh…”  Nose running off her face, skin pale, eyes drooping with exhaustion… she was so beautiful it made my chest ache.  She coughed into the tissues and blinked up at me, lips curving into a small smile.  “Thank you, baby.”

“No thanking, remember?” I admonished, patting her blanket-clad thigh.  On cue, the doorbell rang.  “Wait right here.  I’ll bring up some soup.”

She nodded tiredly, dabbing at the runny fluid issuing from her pink nostrils.

I swiped my wallet from the top of my dresser, jogging down the stairs while pulling out some bills.

The delivery boy passed off the plastic bags - two orders of pad see ew which I would scarf down in a little while (I was always starving the few days after a bad cold) and two tubs of tom kha.  I gave him a generous tip before closing the door, taking the bags into the kitchen to unpack.

Setting the noodles to one side, I opened one of the tubs of soup. Frowning, I cocked my head at it: it didn’t look right.  Too red to be tom kha: it looked more like tom yum.  Fishing a spoon from the drawer, I took a slurp.  

Spice raked the back of my throat.  I coughed.  Then, I sneezed.  “hk’GYEITSCH-uu!... ah!uhh-- HEEASSHHOOOoooo!!...”

Yep.  Definitely tom yum.  

Hayley wasn’t big on spicy food, and it usually made me sneeze so much that I couldn’t really enjoy it.  The spices always went straight to my sinuses, digging in with fiery claws and causing fierce volleys to erupt almost the same as if someone shook a handful of ragweed in my face. My buddies in college had always thought it was hilarious, finding ways to sneak cayenne or chili powder or curry spice into my pizza or spaghetti or scrambled eggs just to watch me go off like a Roman candle on the 4th of July.

I would always laugh with them, wiping at my streaming eyes and playing it off.  Until I started wheezing and fumbling for my inhaler.   Then it reminded me how crippled my body was, and I secretly hated it.

Cracking the other tub, I saw that it was the same.  Damn.

Rifling through the cabinets showed me that we were out of canned soup, and I wasn’t even close to the cook that Hayley was to be able to make anything from scratch.  If we’d had any coconut milk I would have tried to dilute it, but we didn’t.

I sighed.

Hayley needed to eat before she slept, as I knew from experience.  Protein and vitamin C, lots of fluids, lots of sleep.  Dayquil and Nyquil, Sudafed and Mucinex.  Vicks Vaporub.  Hot showers. Cool cloths if her fever went over 101.  Water, hot tea, Gatorade, juice.  Checking the fridge, I saw that we were severely low on all of the above, no doubt due to me just coming off of this bug myself. A supply run was definitely in order.  

But, first things first.

I poured the soup into a thick ceramic bowl, grabbed the next-to-last bottle of water from the fridge drawer and fisted it in one hand with the spoon, the other carrying the soup and a tea towel.  At the top of the stairs I stopped, feeling a tickle skittering in the back of my left nostril.  


Holding my arms away from my body, I ducked my head and tried to contain it.

“HEH!--nKGShh!  HZZDDsshtt!  H!-... GGNXZsddrtt!-ahh…”  Shaking my head, I glanced at the bowl.  No spill.  I sighed with relief.

Opening the hall cupboard with my pinky, I looped the cold medicine basket over the arm holding the water, closing the door with my shoulder.  I was sniffling, trying to suck up the tickly trickle of fluid that those stifled sneezes had shaken loose, threatening to spill onto my upper lip.

From down the hall, I heard Hayley give another wet sneeze, fierce but feminine.


“Bless you, baby,” I said, stepping into the room and gingerly setting the soup on the dresser before I sloshed it everywhere.  My head was tilted back, sniffling like mad.

“You don’t need to say that every time,” Hayley replied.  She was sitting up in bed, both hands holding a tissue prayer-style under her nose, fingers steepled on either side, head turning back and forth as she blew.  “If this cold is anything like yours,” she stopped to cough before continuing. “It’s going to get old really fast.”

“Does it bother you?” I teased between wet sniffles, echoing the same question she had asked me on our first date, when I was a dripping, sneezing, allergic mess.  It was a miracle she’d agreed to a second date after that.

“No,” she smiled wanly, one hand plucking a tissue from the box and holding it out to me.  “But if you go hoarse, don’t blame me.”

“Never,” I smiled back, taking the tissue and cleaning myself up.  

My health was one of the things April had enjoyed being the most cruel about.  I’d met her during an early November blizzard, when the tow truck had brought her dead Camaro into my shop.  I’d just gotten over a bad cold, followed by a miraculously healthy streak that lasted nearly four months. By the time my spring allergies started up, I’d fallen for her so hard I would have done almost anything to keep her.

Had done almost anything, as it turned out. Things I still shudder to think about.

“Tommy?” Hayley called softly, her brow crinkled with concern.

I breathed, mentally shaking myself back to the present.   Sitting on the edge of the bed, I held out the basket. “Pick your poison.”

I didn’t know where all these thoughts about April were coming from.  I’d broken up with her - finally, excruciatingly - a month before Hayley and I met.  The 18 months I’d spent with her had been one of the most horrible periods of my life, one I had tried hard to get over, to forget.  I’d been so scarred from it that I almost didn’t stop to help Hayley that day when she’d been stranded on the side of the road.  The situations had been too similar - a girl and a vehicle, both in distress - that I’d nearly gunned my bike to blow past her.  But for some reason, I didn’t.

I guess I had a god to thank for that, too.

Hayley’s cool fingers closed around mine, causing me to suck a startled breath.  She was staring at me intently, and I realized that I’d gone away again for a few minutes.

“Sorry,” I sighed, bringing my other hand up to rub across my forehead.  “Got a little bit of a headache.”

Hayley’s gaze didn’t waver, piercing me like she knew I was lying: she always did, but she never called me out on it.  Which was worse, in a way.  She simply squeezed my hand and picked out a couple of pills and some liquid from the basket buffet.

“Um,” I cleared my throat as I went back to the dresser for the soup.  “They messed up the order, brought tom yum instead of tom kha.  It’s spicy.”  I glanced at her with a wince, holding the bowl with both hands.  “It’s okay if you don’t want it, although I don’t know what else there is.”

“I probably can’t taste it, anyway,” she replied.  I could hear how the fluid was starting to thicken, threatening her m’s and n’s.  “It might help head off the congestion so I can sleep.”

So I passed her the bowl, setting about fussing with the pillows so there were enough for her to lean against comfortably while she ate.  

Pillows were something that I didn’t really appreciate until I lived with a woman - when I was single in college, I’d had one lumpy, sad excuse on the bed and that was it.  Living with women taught me how amazing it was to have a slew of them scattered across the couch, to tuck under arms or legs, to stack and lean against when in the grip of a miserable cold, to have several piled on the bed to play at being architect and configure into exponential structures of comfort.  

Hayley suddenly rushed to set the bowl on the nightstand with a clatter, hands pulled up into her sleeves as she covered her face.  

“heh’SHHEWW!  ISSHIEWW! ... … KISSHHIOOO! ….hik’KSSHiiewww!  heh!-ikshHIOOO! SSHHIEOO!  .... hh-hhh-hHH! heyisshIEEEWW!...”

“Bless you, baby,” I murmured, smoothing her hair over her scalp with my big hand, once more kissing the top of her head.  I wasn’t usually so handsy, something Hayley had commented on teasingly a few times early in our relationship.  It had always been hard for me to give and receive affection, going back to early childhood.  More memories I didn’t like to think about.

“That spice ihhzh’ZZissheieww!... something else,” she rasped, burying her nose in a handful of tissues and giving more thick coughs.  I could tell that this could potentially settle in her chest if we let it, if I wasn’t vigilant. I’d had lots of experience in my life with both head and chest colds: especially with my asthma, I knew what signs to watch for.  

Another tickle flared in my nose, and I lifted a fist.  “HERRUSSHAAHH…” Just one this time, which is how I knew I was almost well.

“Bless you, too,” Hayley murmured, picking up the bowl and cradling it to her chest.  The words were spoken simply - casually - an expression of acceptance and love that flowed as easily from her as water from a deep spring.  My incessant sneezing had never bothered her.  She’d never been disgusted or grossed out, or even annoyed.   It was part of who I was, and she actually thought it was attractive… sexy…

I was still trying to wrap my head around that part.

The first time April had seen me in the throes of a major allergy attack, her flawless face had curled into a sneer of utter revulsion.  “God, T,” she had huffed, reducing my name - me - to nothing more than a letter.  “That’s so gross. What the fuck’s wrong with you?”

The first time I’d let her see me having an asthma attack, she’d told me to leave. “Nobody wants to listen to you being pathetic.  Don’t come back until you’ve got that shit under control.”  I’d ducked out to the Jeep and driven to an empty parking lot, leaning my head against the steering wheel to cough and choke and wheeze and suck on my inhaler for dear life, waiting until it petered out.

That had continued for eighteen excruciating months, each time worse than the last.  

I could still remember the final time I got sick, a week before we broke up.  I’d driven myself to the ER, the stop lights swimming through the haze of fever and lack of oxygen, coughing so hard I’d almost careened head-first into oncoming traffic.  I’d ended up getting admitted, my stats so bad the doctors kept asking me if I had anybody they could call. Anybody.

“Ndo,” I’d croaked, wheezing thickly and staring at the unforgiving white wall with dry, aching eyes.  “There’s ndo ode.”

I’d moved out as soon as I was discharged, burning with humiliation as I’d called Mark to ask if I could crash on his couch.  I refused to talk to him about it, although I think he had known for a long time that she was… well, her.  I had spent the next month working and sleeping and drinking myself into a numbing stupor every night, one moment feeling relieved that I’d escaped the jaws of a demon … and the next missing her so bad I thought my heart would stop.

Then I’d pulled over to help a woman stranded by the highway on a sweltering Saturday in June, and my whole life changed.

Hayley gave a few more harsh coughs, bringing me back to the present.  My experience with both head and chest colds told me what signs to watch for… as long as I paid attention, didn’t get caught up in my useless past.

“You want something else?” I offered weakly, feeling like a complete failure to her.  “We don’t have much downstairs, but I could go get something…”

“No, baby, this is good,” she murmured, reaching for another tissue with a liquid sniffle, clearly unaware of my inner struggle. I ran my hand up the outside of her blanket-covered thigh, then back to her knee, then up again.  I was using the motion to soothe myself, and burned with more shame because of it.

“You want some tea before I head out?” I asked, trying to shove the memories back under lock and key.  “We need soup, juice, bread, tissues… basically everything.”

“No,” she graced me with a soft smile that swelled my heart, her bright eyes filled with love.  “There’s water so I’m good.  Thank you.”

“Hey,” I leaned in, capturing her lips in a heated kiss, tasting the spice lingering on her tongue.  “Remember. No thanking allowed.”

“Gotcha,” she chuckled softly as she turned, the tissue fluttering up to catch an airy sneeze.  “ih’SHHieww!”

“Bless you,” I mouthed against her cheek, closing my eyes and offering a silent apology for not being as good at this as she deserved.  “Text me if you need anything.  I’ll be back soon.”

Edited by starpollen
Link to comment

Thank you guys so much for the comments!!  I’m enjoying writing these two again. :D  Who knows, maybe I’ll do another story after this one. 

Another angsty part.  I promise I’ll get back to sweet fluff sneezy Hayley eventually...

(We’ll see if anybody notices the Easter Egg...) ;)


Part 4

Wandering the Cold and Allergy aisle at the local Walgreens was not my favorite thing to do in the world.  It brought back too many memories of my freshman year of college, bandana pressed to my twitching nostrils, trying to read the description on each box or bottle as I huddled in an unwashed hoodie and sweats shivering from fever or blinking through itchy tears, my sinuses threatening to erupt embarrassingly from either pollen or a cold.

This time, I was miraculously uncongested, sneeze-free, and able to completely focus on the small print.

“... nighttime, yeah that’s good…” I dropped the heavy bottle in the basket.  “...daytime pills…” The thwap of cardboard hitting plastic. “... Sudafed, Benadryl, Mucinex, Cephacol, Vicks…”  All the usual stuff.  I tried to remember which exact types of weaponry Hayley kept in that basket, purple or orange or blue…

Stepping around a stocky young man with blond hair and tattoos who was mopping the aisle, I went over the checklist in my head.  I’d already hit the grocery store for soup and bread and juice...  popsicles that were probably melting in the back seat… I should have gone here first and there second.

Damn, I really sucked at this.


I froze.  For a split second, I was convinced I was hallucinating.  Praying I was hallucinating.

“Is... is that you?”

Turning slowly, eyes wide… and there she was.  The woman - demonspawn - who kept popping into my brain uninvited.


“Well, well, well."  Her lean body lounged like it was on a Victorian couch even though she was standing, posture impeccable.  My body froze, instant ice sculpture, and I forgot how to breathe.  "Aren’t you going to say hello?” her voice cracked like a whip, like it always did when she didn’t get something she wanted fast enough.

“H-hello.  Uh.  April.” I stuttered, my voice low and threaded with a panic I was sure she didn’t catch. “I thought you moved to Arizona…”

“I did, yes.  But that was only while the CFO's assistant was on maternity leave.  Twins.  I moved back last month.”

She looked at me, and I looked at her.  Those same crystal blue eyes, long dark hair, flawless face, supermodel body.  She was wearing a royal blue sweater dress that matched her eyes, and tall brown boots.  The kind she used to call “fuck-me-boots.”  I had a flashback of me taking her on our kitchen table with her wearing that exact pair.  And nothing else.

“So,” she fluttered her long lashes at me seductively, and I couldn’t help my body’s reaction.  Hot lust mixed with even hotter shame.  “What are you doing here?”  Those blue, blue eyes glanced down into my basket, and I watched her upper lip curl.  “You’re not sick again, are you?”

“No,” I replied too quickly, fighting the urge to hide the basket behind my back.  “My… my fiancée is.”

That hit her, hard.  Ocean blue, sky blue, sapphire blue eyes widened, lips like ripe strawberries parted in a surprised ‘O.’  “Fiancée?” she repeated, rolling the word on her tongue like it was alien, and slimy.  “You’re engaged.”  A cross between a statement and a question.

“Um, yeah,” I wanted to keep looking at her and I wanted to drop the basket and run away, both pulling at me with equal strength.  “Well, uh…  it was good s-seeing you, but, um... I… I gotta get going, so…”

“Was it?” she stepped up very close, ample breasts brushing my upper arm, and I was suddenly engulfed in a cloud of her perfume.  The kind she always wore even though she knew I was crazy-allergic to it.  The scent crawled up inside my nostrils, teasing and tickling, like a phantom feather raking lightly along the already sensitive, cold-irritated membranes.  “Was it really good to see me, baby?  I’ve missed you…”

Leaning in to kiss me - she was a solid 5’10 without heels, so I’d always been an easy reach - her lips parted. I held my breath, that ticklish scent - and her - becoming inescapable, overpowering.

Her mouth closed over mine, tongue laving at my lips, trying to gain entrance…

Suddenly, my sinuses revolted.   

HEIISSCHHT!”  Whipping around, I tucked my face into my elbow, nearly knocking her down with my shoulder as I turned.  The itch was sparking like a hot-wire job in my sinuses. I tried to hold it back.  I couldn’t.  I just, I had to-  “AH-HEESSHOOO!—EESSHHOO!... hh-hih!!—G’RIXSSSHOO!!... HHEEAAASSHOOO!!...  aHHAHHSSHOOoo!”

Snatching the bandana from my back pocket, I pressed it tightly to my flaring nostrils, rubbing hard, trying to quell the lingering itch and hoping the fabric would help filter the air.  Glancing up through blinking, watering eyes, I saw that April had taken a few steps back and was glaring at me with that familiar, haughty expression.

“God, T, you’re still doing that?”

I coughed, feeling my lungs tighten, a combination of allergy-induced asthma and gut-deep shame.  “I-... I’ve gotta go.”  Turning, I fled.

Taking long, fast strides to the checkout counter, sweat dripped down my back.  I was terrified that she was going to follow me, that somehow she would - I dunno - capture me or curse or hex me or something.  My brain was consumed with the irrational fear that I would somehow be trapped with her, unable to get back to Hayley, that she’d find Hayley, tell her that we’d kissed, that I hadn’t shoved her away…

That I’d lose everything I had, my life, to the she-devil in a blue dress…

I felt my chest getting tighter and tighter, barbed wire coiling through my ribs as my asthma ramped up in intensity.

I don’t remember how much I paid for everything. I was trying so hard to control the shaking of my hands and the wheezing in my lungs that I just grabbed the bags and high-tailed it out to the Jeep.

I was sniffling wetly, her ticklish perfume still teasing at the sensitive walls inside my nasal passages.  I held my breath because if I sneezed - and god, I had to - I was afraid I’d drop everything right there in the parking lot.

Throwing the bags in the passenger seat, I nearly stripped the gears trying to get into reverse. The itch in my nostrils was becoming unbearable.  

“Hih'ZTDSHOo! dj-SCHHOoo!! h’AHSSHHOoo!!"

I couldn’t stop the coughs that tore from my throat, lungs getting tighter by the second.  Keeping one hand on the wheel, the other scrabbled at my pockets.  The left one was empty.  So was the right. Shit.  

I’d left without my inhaler.  

That awareness caused my lungs to suddenly clamp tighter than a vise.  Even though I knew I was only minutes away from home and help, somehow the knowledge that I didn’t have any medicine on me made everything immediately ten times worse.  My hand instinctively went to my sternum to try to rub away the searing, burning ache, willing my broken lungs to keep working.  

And god, my nose…

“… hah-hah AAAGXSHHHOOO!  g’AAGSSHOO!  yiukk-kg--KG’AASSHHIIOOooo!!...”

I rolled down the windows, trying to blow that sticky sweet scent off of me.  The cold wind made my lungs seize up even tighter. Black dots started to sparkle on the edge of my vision.

Home.  Hayley.  I needed to get home to Hayley.

I don’t remember the drive.  I don’t remember pulling into the garage and hooking all the bags over both arms, taking everything in one stubborn trip.   I just remember pulling in breath after burning, wheezing breath, each one harder than the last, nasty coughs tumbling forth like rocks in a landslide.  The only upside was that my sinuses stopped feeling like ants were crawling around in them.

Somehow I got all the bags onto the kitchen counter, still coughing, gripping the edge with knuckles white and bending in half as I struggled for air.  It felt like I was sinking underwater breathing through a straw.

Something cool wrapped around my wrist, and suddenly my inhaler was in my hand.  

“Come on, baby,” Hayley’s soft, sweet, beautiful voice was crooning a soothing litany in my ear.  “Here we go, breathe out…”

Her fingers were the cool thing on my wrist, and they stayed there as she helped guide my trembling hand up to my mouth.  I was hot and cold, dizzy, all my attention focused on each impossible breath.

“Come on, deep breath in…”

Medicine hit the back of my throat - bitter and blessed - and I sucked it as deep as I could, fighting the urge to cough so I could hold it down as long as possible.  Finally, though, my lungs spasmed hard, bending me in half until my forehead touched the granite surface, hacking like I was trying to extract my spinal cord through my trachea.  The room was spinning.

“One more…”

Her other hand was on my heaving back, rubbing along on my spine, grounding me, reminding me to keep breathing, relax, I’m right here, you’re okay...  The cool grip on my wrist pushed at my arm until I was semi-upright, once more steadying the inhaler so I could draw in another desperate, gasping hit.   

Between her soft voice, firm touch, and the medicine, I felt my bronchioles open up.  The straw got wider and wider, my head clearing as oxygen flooded my blood and climbed up into my brain.  My hand dropped to the counter, arms trembling, pulling in one whistling breath after another as her strong hands gently massaged my back and chest.

“Shower?” she asked softly, with a calm I knew she didn’t feel but that I desperately needed.

I shook my head ‘no,’ already feeling the barbed wire uncoiling from my lungs, the attack beginning to peter out.  “I’m… good,” I rasped, barking out a few more croupy coughs, still wheezing but able to breathe easier by the second.  

“I think it was too soon for you to be up and out,” she murmured, damp sniffles punctuating her words.  One small hand left my back to swipe at her runny nose, and she gave a few throaty coughs, herself.  My stomach dropped to my toes.

I’d forgotten.  April had kissed me and Hayley was sick, and I’d forgotten. Spikes of humiliation and shame and utter worthlessness stabbed me from throat to gut.  

“I’m s-sorry…” I tried, my thin voice breaking as my throat closed, this time from tears.  “I--”

“Hey,” she interrupted me, slipping her arms around my waist from behind and laying her head against my back, still rubbing soothing circles on my aching chest.  “You don’t have to be sorry, remember?  This is me.”

My eyes burned hotter so I let them close, trapping the flaming moisture behind stubborn lids.  The hand not holding the inhaler came to rest on hers, pressing it into stillness over my pounding heart.

She had no idea.  No idea what had brought on this allergy-and-panic-induced attack.  I should tell her.  I knew I should.  She needed to know… she deserved to.

I took a stuttering, shallow inhale, readying myself to begin…

“So, now that you’re breathing again…” She gave me a gentle squeeze, then slipped her hand out from under mine and began rummaging through the shopping bags.  “What treasures did you bring from your travels to distant lands?”

And the moment was gone, popped like a soap bubble.

“Um,” I cleared my throat, swallowing down the bitter aftertaste of the medicine and razor blades of shame.  “More drugs.  More tissues - the good kind.” I had to stop to cough, still rubbing my sore chest.  “...soup, juice, fruit, bread, some fresh ginger, honey, popsicles… Spaghettios…”  I knew that last one was her favorite.

“My hero,” she reached to slip one cool hand around the back of my neck, pulling me within reach to plant a loving kiss on my cheek.  Then she began to unpack all the items I’d just rattled off.

But the feel of her soft, warm lips on my skin caused a sudden and irrefutable need, an irrational urge that I didn’t bother trying to fight.  I grabbed her, spinning her to face me and captured her mouth with mine.  Kissing her fierce and desperate.  My long fingers squeezed the soft flesh of her sides, her hips, her ass, pulling her so close that there was no molecule of air between us.  One hand ground her hips against mine while the other skimmed up her body to cup the side of her neck, thumb stroking her silken jaw and holding her captive as I delved and plumbed and ravaged her mouth.

Like I was trying to drink her, to breathe her in, to bring her light and her goodness inside to burn away all the worst parts of me.  The weak parts that had been tempted even for a moment by a dark-haired she-devil with ocean-blue eyes.

Hayley squeaked, then moaned, then whimpered.  Then she began to push at me.  “T-Tomm--” I swallowed her words, sucking at her lower lip and clutching at her with desperate fingers.

It didn’t hit me until I felt - dimly - her chest pulsing irregularly against mine, her breath hitching. I didn’t realize until too late.

“H!-MMFSSHHH!...” She sneezed into my mouth.

Even then, I was reluctant to release her.  It didn’t bother me, wouldn’t have bothered me even if I wasn’t so caught up in trying to soothe my guilt.  

But I dropped my hand from her face and slipped that arm around her shoulders, tucking her face into my chest and laying my cheek against her hair. My lungs barked out a few more coughs. She kept sneezing.

“Mmffsshht!  heh!-bBMMSHt!  haH!--HAASHHMMFF!!…”

“Bless you,” I rumbled, eyes closed, focusing on the feel of her convulsing in my arms and dampening my shirt.

“Tommy,” she mumbled, muffled against me.  “You know I love you but … can you let go of me now?”

I shuddered and answered honestly, “No.”

She dug her fingers into my sides, unerringly finding my most ticklish spots.  “Please?”

“Aah!” I twitched away, muscles clenching in response to her touch.  “Okay, okay!...”

Her beautiful face was flushed, eyes bright and smiling at me, but there was a greenish smudge of snot under one nostril.  Laughing, she covered her face with one hand while reaching for a new tissue box with the other, turning her back to me to crack it open and snatch several white squares.  

“ahh--SHHIEW!” She sneezed into it, shoulders curling down, then gave a few throaty coughs.

“How are you feeling?” I asked, laying my big hands on her shoulders and kissing the back of her head.

“Snuhh-- sdeehszy - heyEESHHieooo!  Ugh, I sdarted a fit upsdairs,” her voice was suddenly clogged with congestion, a graceful hand fanning the air in front of her face.  “Ahhndd… hah-hah!hah… HATCHHIEWW! -ahhSHIIEWW!  IEESSHHHIEWW!  Ad thed I hH!-- heard you coughig… sdrrff… Are you okay?  What happened?”

Tell her.  Tell her.  TELL HER.

“Bless you,” I whispered, squeezing her shoulders gently.  “Nothing, it’s… nothing.  I’m fine now. Thank you.  For rescuing me.”

“No thagkig, rebehh...ber?” she gave a snotty blow, staving off another sneeze.  Grabbing a second handful of tissues, she turned to face me.  “And… I’m sorry about…” she gestured at her nose and then my face.  “You wouldn’t let me pull away.”

“I know.  It’s okay.  I’m sorry.”

“I supposed I should be reaming you out for leaving without your inhaler in the first place, but…” one shoulder raised in half a shrug, the other hand pressing more tissues to the underside of her twitching nose.  “Having this cold gives you a pass.  We’re both a little out of it.”

Now, I told myself.  Now is the time to tell her about April...

But I couldn’t.

Edited by starpollen
Link to comment

You guys are amazing. :wub:  I've just gotten home from a 10 day vacation, and hope I can keep working on this before I have to go back to work on Monday...

I struggled a little with this part.  It just didn't come as easily as the others.  And I went back and edited the other parts, trying to elevate Tommy's 'voice' a little bit so that it's more immersive, more clear.  It was hard not to fall back into Hayley's POV halfway through this story, but I feel very strongly in artistic unity.  I'll probably go back to Hayley for the next story, but Tommy should finish this one for himself... ;)

Let me know what you think!


Part 5

I coaxed Hayley back to bed with gentle touches and lingering kisses, promising that yes I could put away the groceries and no I wasn’t feeling worse and yes I would come to bed with her when I was finished. I reminded her that I had been dozing on the couch on and off all day, that I wasn’t tired yet.  Hayley was asleep the moment her head hit the pillow.

I did put away all the groceries - unable to eat the noodles I’d ordered hours earlier, my stomach too full of anxiety to have any room for food - and grimacing to feel the half-melted popsicles as I shoved them into the freezer.  I took another shower, scrubbing at my hair and skin to make sure every micron of that fucking perfume - of that woman’s touch - was off of me.  

Then I convinced myself I hadn’t lied to Hayley when I sat in the living room and stared at my clenched hands for an hour.

Climbing the stairs after midnight, I saw that I’d accidentally left the light on in the bathroom, the door mostly closed but enough coming through the cracks that I could still see. Gazing down at the woman sleeping in our bed - her hair tangled on the pillow, snoring through an open mouth and congested sinuses, the wings of her nostrils flushed and twitching with irritation even in sleep - I felt such deep, piercing love that it nearly cut me in half.

Eventually I did crawl in next to her, but she was so zonked out that I was afraid to wake her if I curled against her like I wanted to so badly. I didn’t sleep - couldn’t sleep.  I just laid there, listening to the woman I loved breathe in the darkness, replaying in my mind those minutes standing in the aisle at Walgreen’s across from the woman who’d made my life a living hell.  When I wasn’t imagining all the things I wish I’d had the courage to say to her, I was trying to find the right words to tell Hayley about it.  

When I was out getting you soup and cold medicine I ran into my ex-girlfriend and then we kissed…

Fuck.  I could just picture Hayley’s face if I said that.

I vividly remembered how she had flown off the handle that night almost two years ago, before I’d admitted that, yes, I did want to move in together - that I loved her so fucking much - but that I was terrified.  I couldn’t find the words back then to tell her about April, and she’d jumped to the conclusion that I didn’t love her.  She’d threatened to smash my Kurt Cobain autographed guitar, and then thrown me out of the house.  I’d sat on the steps in the rain all night - bawling my eyes out and wheezing through an attack - convinced that I’d ruined the best thing that had ever happened to me. Trying to gather the courage to call Mark and ask if I could once again crash on his couch, barely able to move as everything burned to ash around me...

Thank god Hayley had come out and confronted me.  Thank god she had taken me in her arms and let me cling to her for dear life, let me take her back into her house and into her heart.  Had forgiven me the moment I opened up and breathed the barest word of how I felt.

One thing I truly love about Hayley is how expressive she is.  She is feelings personified: always transparent, always honest, always completely who she is in every moment.  You never have to wonder where you stand with her: everything she thinks and feels is painted on her face for all to see, and her heart is the biggest, deepest, most compassionate and loving I’ve ever found.  Once you show her a glimpse of your soul, she will love you until she no longer breathes.

After April, I’d needed that. Badly.  

Gods watching over us.  Over me.

Hayley suddenly coughed, rolled over onto her side facing away.  I turned my head and stared at her back, wondering if she’d wake, aching to reach for her and pull her into my arms.  Determined not to disturb the rest she desperately needed.  She gave a sleepy snuffle and started snoring again.

I knew I needed to find the courage and the words to tell Hayley about April, about where my head was. I’d learned last time that I couldn’t just bottle it up and hope it would go away, that if I didn’t tell her then that somehow, someday, she would find out and I truly would lose her.  The downside to Hayley being so ruled by her feelings is that she is helplessly incapable of understanding how people hide them, people who are paralyzed by them.

People like me.

Many don’t understand that those of us who have the hardest time exposing our feelings are some of the ones who feel them the keenest.  

I was terrified of losing her either way: possibly lose her if I did tell her, definitely lose her if I didn’t and she found out.  Try to live with myself if I didn’t tell her and somehow managed to keep the secret. Knowing she could read my moods like an open book - would sense my guilt and shame like stale exhaust - and that she would draw the wrong conclusions.  

Around 4am I gave up on trying to sleep.  Sighing, I hauled myself out of bed as quietly as I could, going around to the other side to kneel down and check on Hayley.

A small sheen of sweat was glistening on her forehead, her breathing harsher and more thoroughly congested. I could tell without touching her that her cold had gotten a lot worse in just a few short hours. It made my chest ache, knowing I couldn’t snap my fingers and make her well.

But there was one thing I could do. Was going to do. She’d be pissed but, hey, what the hell did I have to lose?...

I picked up her cell, stepping out into the hallway and closing the door.  Pulling up her work number from the favorites, I tapped to begin the call.

“Hi, um, this is Tommy Erikson, Hayley Cartwright’s fiancé?... She’s not going to be able to come in to work today - she’s come down sick, running a fever and definitely contagious. I’m sure she’ll be checking her email later, and she’ll call you on Sunday about whether she’s well enough to come in on Monday. Thanks.”

I hung up, knowing the secretary would check the voicemails when she came in at 7:30 a.m. Thank god it was Friday.

Next, I went downstairs to the study to dig through the stacks of paperwork Hayley had brought home, looking for the pad of Post-It notes.  I tried to write big, clear letters, knowing that she would be fuzzy and confused when she finally woke up.


Tip-toeing upstairs, I stuck it to her phone and bent down to place it back on the nightstand.  Suddenly, I felt a sneeze coming on.  I sniffed, scrunching my nose to try to relieve the tickle, but it grew sharply into an itch.  I sawed under my nostrils with the side of one finger, trying to hold back while simultaneously setting the device down as quietly as possible so as not to wake her.  The sneeze was still creeping up the back of my sinuses, making my breath want to hitch, but I swallowed hard.  Finally the phone rested just where she’d left it - silenced, alarms disabled, my note sticking up like a yellow flag.  

Me the referee, me who committed the foul.

Shut up, Tommy. Your nose itches, like, really bad.  You have to sneeze. You’ll wake her up.  


Holding my breath until urge backed off, I sighed, turning toward the door.

Then the urge came roaring back, and I couldn’t help sucking in a hitching gasp.  Nostrils vibrating with need, my whole focus on how badly it tickled.  I just… I had to--

Pressing my fist hard against the underside of my quaking nostrils, I stalked quickly toward the door, desperate to make it out before I exploded. My sinuses must have discovered a pocket of cold virus, and were crawling with the need to blast it free.  I blinked, huffed, my eyes stung, nostrils twitching like crazy.  It was coming.  God, I had to sneeze so bad...

“Hh-hihh… Hhehh..mmPGXkk…” Pinching my nostrils tight, I stifled the first one just as I ducked out the door into the hall.  For some reason my cold sneezes were much harder to stifle than my allergy ones.  “GxXTCH!!-uhh..” There was a moment's satisfaction in my nostrils, before the burning sensation returned.  God, it tickled!…

Trotting down the stairs, sniffling wetly, I stopped at the bottom and clutched the banister, the itch flaring wildly in my irritated membranes. “Hah....-GXRSchhue!!

Ugh.  I shook my head, still feeling the crawling prickle.  Padding into the living room, I snatched up a handful of tissues and waited.  After a long minute, the irritation vanished.  I blew lustily, starting out thick and wet and ending dry and airy. Tossing the used tissues in the kitchen bin, I sniffed experimentally.  No lingering irritation or congestion.  Definitely almost back to normal.

For the next couple of hours I did as many quiet chores around the house as I could: washed all the towels, put away dishes from the dishwasher, wiped the downstairs and sprayed everything with Lysol the way Hayley always did near the end of one of my colds.  I set out the honey and Hayley’s favorite Earl Grey tea, the box of brown sugar oatmeal.  I plugged in the electric kettle that Hayley kept parked on the counter when I was sick, determined to keep a steady supply of hot water just like she did.

Around 9:30, I took a basket of towels upstairs to put away in our bathroom.

Moving as silently as I could, I was tucking a towel around a wall rod when Hayley rolled over, coughing harshly, struggling to sit up.  I left the basket on the floor in the bathroom, moving to sit on the bed next to her hip.

“Hey, beautiful,” I called softly as she collapsed back down.  Pushing her damp hair off her clammy forehead, I gently pressed my wide palm to her smooth skin.  Too warm but not hot, her face was pale, with two hectic flushes of pink on her cheeks. I let myself soothingly stroke her hair, her face, my thumb brushing along the silk-sheathed steel of her cheekbone. Blinking, her normally bright eyes were dull and hazy, chest convulsing as she turned away and continued to cough raggedly into her palm.  

“Hey,” she croaked, sniffling like a thickly plugged storm drain.  

“Good morning,” I murmured with a soft smile, pressing a kiss to her forehead and reaching for the half-empty bottle of water from last night.  “Here, baby.  How’d you sleep?”

Pushing herself up on her elbows, Hayley gulped the water, throat working with a slight wince and a rough sigh. She fumbled for her phone.  “What tibe is it?”

I didn’t bother to tell her, watching her first squint at my handwritten note before pulling it off and seeing the numbers light up on the screen.

“You want some tea?  Juice?  Oatmeal?” I asked softly, reaching behind her to stack some pillows. I was desperate to do something to make her feel better, to bring her relief, to make her smile... “What can I do, baby?”

She blinked and started knuckling at her swollen nostrils.  “Ub,” a thick sniffle.  “Ndot yet.”  

I watched as she set the phone down on the bed beside her, reaching for two tissues from the box on the nightstand.

“Heh-...” her nostrils stretched wide, chapped lips parting and quivering.  Her brows drew together, pale face the picture of sneezy discomfort. “heg’TSHZZieew!  grr’ZZDSjjeew!”

“Bless you, love,” I murmured, dropping a hand to her knee and wincing as she bent over with thick blows and chesty coughs.  “How do you feel?”

“Sick,” she rasped, leaning back into the pillows, nearly as white as the pillowcase with purple bruises painted under her closed eyes.  Anxiety swirled in my gut to see her so frail, so fragile.  

“I’m sorry, baby,” I breathed, closing my eyes and feeling more guilt threaten to swamp me.  Unable to form more words, I simply stroked her, kissed her forehead, petted and touched and rubbed her hair and face and arms.  Struggling to soothe the both of us.

One of us sick in body, the other sick to the soul.

Hayley felt so physically miserable that she simply sighed, coughed, sneezed, and fidgeted uncomfortably.  It was unlike her to be so quiet, so lethargic. I didn’t know what to do, and my helplessness scared and angered me.

I went back to the bathroom, finished putting away the towels as I listened to her toss and turn uncomfortably in our bed.  I had never felt so useless.  

Suddenly, it hit me.

I jogged downstairs, flicking on the electric kettle and dumping a ridiculous amount of honey into a large mug.  Pouring the boiling water into the mug, I stirred messily until the honey dissolved, then plunked in a tea bag.  I fixed some oatmeal, not knowing if she would be able to eat it but unable to fight the painful need to do it - to feed her, to care for her - and carried the mug and bowl upstairs. The newly-stocked cold basket was resting on the floor a few feet from the bed where I had set it the night before.  Setting the cooling tea and oatmeal on the nightstand, I snatched it up and began pawing through it.  

“Hey,” I breathed, settling once more at her hip and squeezing her hand.  “Baby, wake up.”  

Hayley blinked at me, pressing a sad knot of tissues to her increasingly-reddening nostrils.  I pressed some Dayquil and Sudafed into her cold hands, pouring some Robitussin and popping out a Cephacol lozenge.

A fleeting thought fluttered in the back of my mind about overdoses and drugged stupors, but my bone-deep need to relieve her - to kill and conquer and utterly annihilate her discomfort - silenced all doubts.

I steadied her arm as she sipped the hot, sweet tea.  I bracketed her hands as she held the bowl of oatmeal, feeling soothed when her eyes slipped close at the first warm swallow, beautiful face relaxing as it renewed her energy and soothed her sore throat.

Hayley finished the tea and half of the oatmeal, curling into the blankets and snuffling into another fistful of tissues.  “rr’ISSHHieww…. HAH!-GKZDsheeeeww!”

“Bless you, baby.”

She gave a long, snotty blow, coughing wearily.

I took the dishes downstairs, set the bowl in the sink to soak while preparing another hot mug of tea.  Taking the stairs two at a time, I settled the mug on the nightstand and stroked Hayley’s hair back from her head, gently trying to soothe her and encourage her to go back to sleep.

I had to go to work at noon.  The idea of leaving her alone feeling so sick made my stomach cramp and roil nauseatingly.   But I didn’t have a choice. I was lucky to keep my job at the garage with as many sick days as I already took every year; I couldn’t take off for Hayley being sick on top of all the times I had to take off for myself.   Another reason to burn with anger for my broken immune system.

I made sure Hayley was warm - tucking an extra blanket from the hall closet over her legs - set a bottle of water, glass of apple juice, bottle of Gatorade next to the hot honeyed mug of tea on the nightstand, along with the box of Dayquil, bottle of Nyquil, Cephacol lozenges, and new box of lotioned tissues.  

“Call or text me and let me know how you are,” I murmured, brows pinched with worry, unable to keep my hands off of her as I stroked and petted and stalled for time, anxiety crawling across my skin.  “If you need me I can be here in ten minutes.”

“I’b fide,” Hayley mouthed, voice all but gone to the sneezing and coughing and congestion.  “I’b jusd godda hH!... sleeb. kkfff kffff kfkfkff... Dod't- dod't worry.  I’ll see you tonighd.”

I ached for her, love burning in me like a flu I would never be able to shake, that I would never want to shake.  A fever that burned down to my sore, lonely bones and sang sweetly of heat and sweat and cool hands on overheated skin.

“...I love you…”

“I love you, too," she whispered as she slipped into a restless sleep.


Edited by starpollen
Link to comment

I think this part was great in showing all the panic and angst and guilty conscience of Tommy. How he went through the different stages of denial, regret, sorrow, worry and anxiety and tried to make up for the kiss by going in overdrive-caring-mode was a great read and kept my heart aching, because I felt so sorry for him :cry:

Edited by Selene
Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...