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Table For Two - Part 5/?


Kaze Wo Hiku

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So some of you who've read my drabble thread might remember River and Colin, I started a few drabbles with them and then said I got an idea for a bigger story.  Cut to 2 years later annnnnnd it's still not entirely done BUT I hate that these guys have been sitting in my gdoc forever so posting what I have so far.

For those who read their drabbles some of this (espc the first two posts) might be familiar but I added more from the original drabbles.  Enjoy, comments are love! :heart:

~~~~

First Course

Silence was something River had nearly forgotten existed; but here it was. Wonderful uninterrupted silence, perfect for starting a new book. Settling comfortably in the black leather chairs which sat in a rectangle around the two-tier glass coffee table, River stacked the massive number of magazines in a pile so he could rest a water bottle on a coaster. Colin wouldn’t be happy with water rings on the glass.  

Knowing his peace and quiet would only last a few hours at most he indulged in recent pick up from the bookstore at a discount of course, being an employee had its perks.  

Reading, River’s favorite hobby, started young. When other kids his age began trying out for sports he was buried in Harry Potter. He read during recess in elementary school, always finished the summer reading list before June ended, and spent most of his high school years in used bookstores instead of dating. For River the size of the potential partners library was a bigger turn then anything physical.  His last boyfriend had been somewhat promising, nearly a year with Devan, but sadly as with most of his relationships sooner or later they came to one massive conclusion; River Cantrell was boring.  

Not in a three-hour long lecture by a monotone professor discussing the mating habits of boll weevils boring, more that River preferred the company of books to people. A fun date to him was a trip to the library. Devan put up with it the longest but finally had enough when River had no intention of attending a college party they’d been invited too. What self-respecting 27-year-old (at the time) would be at a frat party? Devan being a few years younger did not agree, a heated argument ensued leaving River in search of a new place to live.
Thankfully a friend let him stay until he found a new place which happened quicker than imagined.  Looking up at the vaulted ceiling, leather furniture, grand piano in the corner near the window which overlooked Emerald Park sometimes River had to pinch himself that he really lived here.
Time slowed while he read the outside world ceased to exist, by the time he heard keys jingle outside he’d gotten halfway through his purchase. The sound of the apartment door opening did not rouse River from his book, knowing it was Colin returning from his outing no need to be concerned.

Ah’tscheww!

Scratch that. River glanced up over the top of his book; Colin stood three steps in from the door expression blank mouth slightly agape. His right hand contained a wad of tissues hung mere inches from his face.

Hh…AHh’xxhhsuh!  Hh’ktschjuh!    

“Never ever fails!” Colin angrily slammed the door, a picture hanging near it swung from the force. “I knew taking the subway yesterday was a bad idea, must have picked up something even though I washed my hands immediately when I got home.  Next time I’ll definitely wear gloves.” Throwing down his bag the critic walked into the living room collapsing into the leather chair opposite River. “Why do I even bother leaving this apartment?”

“It would make reviewing restaurants harder unless you changed to an all takeout critic.” River’s attention now back to his book. He pitied his roommate’s terrible immune system but also knew Colin’s over dramatic attitude when it came to his health.  Six months in River learned to simply listen and nod every so often letting the food critic vent his frustrations.

“Your humor as always River is impeccable.” Colin replied wiping the excess moisture from around his nose. “I have a dinner party in three days, I can’t miss it.” He slumped back kicking off his shoes resting feet up on the coffee table. “Do we have cold medicine?”

“You’d know better than me.” River flipped the page in his book.

Colin lifted his head hoping to meet River’s eyes. “Could you be a lamb and check for me?” The last part ran together, Colin brought his tissues up.  

Eehh’ktssheww!  Hheh’xxshjuh!  

Groaning he forced himself up grabbing the tissue box from the side table.  There were two amenities the older man could not live without, the first was tissues. When River answered the roommate ad and met the eccentric critic the first time Colin vaguely discussed his health issues. River soon found out how vague his new roommate had been. Every room of the spacious three-bedroom apartment contained at least three boxes of tissues. Even when he wasn’t sick Colin kept wads of them on him. Thankfully he was not a messy person. River never once felt the need to complain over used tissues littering the living spaces.  

Pressing his lips together, River slowly closed his book setting on the armrest of the chair.  Walking down the back hall towards the bathroom he heard Colin’s voice again.

“Also, can you turn on my humidifier?”

River shook his head entering Colin’s pristine room flipping the switch for the humidifier which rested on his black frame nightstand next to the four-poster bed.  A quick gurgle the machine began to blow mist into the air. Colin swore by it, River just thought it wasted water and electricity. Between his tissues, humidifier, and a few other quirks, Colin Fairbanks wasn’t your typical roommate.  

Truly, River didn’t mind, the rent was affordable even on his bookstore wages and the apartment was beautiful, Tuscan inspired with a modern twist Colin had once described it.

He’d never admit it to Colin but River had a sneaking suspicion the successful food critic and writer wasn’t looking for extra money but more for company.  His poor health kept him housebound a good majority of the time. The first month River lived in the apartment Colin only left a handful of times all work related. He also became quite sick with the flu giving River his first glimpse into his life. Although curious the bookworm never questioned Colin on his health, wasn’t his business.  

Opening the tall cabinet in the bathroom River rummaged through it finding over the counter cold medicine. Returning to the living room he held out the box of medicine.

“You’re a peach you know that?” Colin smiled up at the bookstore clerk.  River nodded removing his cell from his pocket as it vibrated.

“Shit.” He grumbled while typing a reply.

“Trouble?” Colin lazily looked over at his roommate.

“Call off; they want me to come in early.” Thrusting his cell back in his pocket River crossed the room for the coat closet.

“Oh, I’m s-sorry Riv-ver…!” Hh’xxhhsuh! Colin sneezed forcefully into his tissues then blew his nose. “What time will you be back?”

River sighed. Colin was a notoriously light sleeper. However quiet he attempted to come he always managed to wake his roommate except if Colin was on prescriptions.  “Hopefully not late but I make no promises.” He threw on his flannel jacket.

The critic frowned, “If you’re past 11:00 please try to be quiet.”

“Colin I’m always quiet, sleep with ear plugs or something.” River replied stuffing his keys into the pocket.

“You know perfectly well they throw off my equilibrium.” His roommate snapped.

Grabbing the door handle River rolled his eyes, “I remember. I’ll be quiet.” It was a lie both of them knew it.

“Thank you.” Colin replied wiping his nose again. “Enjoy work.” He flashed a bright but tired smile. River nodded courtly and left.

Already irritated over being called in early River hoped Colin would rest while he was gone so when he did return late his roommate wouldn’t be angry.

Wishful thinking.
****
The first half of the work day River worked the register, not his favorite job, forced him to talk to customers.  He’d play a silent game trying to guess the genre of the book the person was buying before seeing it.  

However, with about three hours left in his shift he was pulled to help restock shelves as the Non-fiction section expanded.

“I wish he’d simply buy more shelves then have us do all this shelving bullshit.” Jordan complained as he picked up another stack of books off the ground.
River merely shrugged following the college student around the corner to the empty shelf.  

“What pisses me off the most is you know in two months Chester is going to move everything again. Well correction, have us move everything.” He continued pushing his dyed green bangs from his face. Jordan’s short almost shaved sides dyed blonde and long green bangs never made much sense to River but no matter, wasn’t his hair.  Knowing Jordan once it grew out he’d dye it a new color.  

The self-proclaimed rocker continued his complaining, it’s was his favorite hobby followed by playing in a band and hitting on nearly every customer under 35 who came in. Jordan Crane had no shame. River swore once he was going to screen print that on a shirt.

“What do you think?” The possibility of just been asked a question he did not hear jerked River back.

“If Chester wants them moved we’ll move them.” It was a stab in the dark.

“I knew you weren’t listening.” Jordan shook his head.

River said nothing merely continued shelving. Roughly thirty minutes later Chester told them both to take any books left over down to the storage room for tonight, leave the rest for the morning.  Jordan volunteered which pleased River, the dusty basement and he never mixed well.  

“Have a good night River.” Chester McClanahan, the proprietor of Botany Bay Books, called as the clerk left for the night.
****
River stared dejected at the apartment door; it was times like this he wished he could phase through walls like Shadowcat.  Exhausted from the nearly ten hour shift it was well past 11pm, Colin most certainly was asleep. Slowly River stuck his key in the lock twisting it producing the familiar snapping sound. River winced turning the knob delicately sliding the door open. Slipping inside he shut the door quietly. Now came the fun part. River’s room resided further down the hall from Colin’s meaning he had to sneak past the light sleeper’s room every time he came home late.  Normally this wasn’t a huge problem; River didn’t have much of a social life preferring the company of books to people. Aside from his book club meetings and work he only left the apartment when needed.
Starting down the hall, River carefully avoided any spots where the floor creaked, a pattern he’d memorized quickly. Tiptoeing past his roommate’s door River breathed a sigh of relief until he heard a hard cough from the other side followed by several wet sneezes.  Well Colin wasn’t asleep and River assumed he’d not woken him. Against his better judgement the clerk knocked on Colin’s door.

“Colin, need anything?”

“Box of tissues please.” Colin’s congested voice answered.  Backtracking into the living room River looked for the box from earlier however it no longer sat on the end table.  A quick look around he spied one resting on the window sill. Grabbing it he headed back to Colin’s room. Entering the room, the critic lay in bed sitting against several pillows, he wore a grey dressing gown over red pajamas.

He smiled reaching for the box River held out. “Oh, you’re a lamb.” He hastily plucked several palming them. “In the short time you’ve been gone I’ve gone through several boxes.” He brushed the tissues against his nose the edges flaring a dull pink.

River forced a smile; ten hours of work was no “short time” to him.  Colin covered his mouth as a cough escaped him. “Next time I even debate on the subway remind me of this.” He sighed leaning back closing his eyes which River noticed had prominent bags under them.

“Noted.” The clerk replied tiredly stifling a yawn. “Night Colin.” He turned for the door.

“Oh goodnight.” Colin sat up, “Do you work to-o-o… Ah’kktshjuh! Hh’ktschjuh!… tommorrow?” He sniffed then blew his nose discarding the tissues in the trash.

River leaned against the bedroom door. “No. See you in the morning.”  With that he shut it barely making it to his own bed before passing out.

TBC

~~~~

Note: Shadowcat is an X-men who can phase through walls

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Oh River and Colin. I remember when River moved in... so nice to see they are still together. :)  Poor Colin. You have to admire him though for smiling so much even when ill or is he smiling because River is around?

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1 hour ago, M214186 said:

River should get sick

That was my thought as well *lol*

I liked the chemistry between these two. It's interesting that they are "only" housemates; and none of them seems to be much attracted by the other one. I also liked River's "cool" reaction on Colin's pathetic whining about his cold. And to come back to the start - it would be exciting to see, how Colin would react if River got sick. Would he even notice it as much as he's focused on his own misery? :D

 

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On 3/31/2018 at 4:25 PM, Kaze wo Hiku said:

“Do you work to-o-o… Ah’kktshjuh! Hh’ktschjuh!… tommorrow?” He sniffed then blew his nose discarding the tissues in the trash.

River leaned against the bedroom door. “No.

 

Tuning in and excited for more!

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@Juto @Subtly Clashing Wishes @AngelEyes I'm glad you remember my boys :D

@M214186 @Hedgehog I'm not going to give away too much but there will be some River sneezes ;)

@Reader thank you!

Here's part 2!

~~~~

Second Course

River reached out from under his comforter fingering for his phone on the table. Tilting it sideways he squinted barely able to read the blurry numbers. Pawing for his glasses, he put them on then looked again. A little past 9am.  Stretching arms upward he yawned, his shoulders tight from stocking shelves last night.

Keeping his sleep clothes on, black sweatpants and a long sleeved grey shirt with the phrase “As A Reader I Have Many Lives” on it, he quietly maneuvered down the hall. Sadly he wasn't paying much attention until he heard the floor squeak under him. Halting hoping his roommate hadn't heard he then proceeded down the hall into the breakfast area.

Colin’s apartment had a small round oak table with steel legs surrounded by four chairs which matched the top. To enter the formal dining area one merely had to walk through the long kitchen.  The dining area, which Colin only used for parties, overlooked Manchester Street.

Grabbing a bowl and spoon, he reached for a box of cereal dispensing it into the bowl. A splash of milk later he sat at the table enjoying the quiet of the morning. Sadly it didn't last as Colin sleepily strolled in roughly three minutes later dressing gown tied around his waist, tissues in hand he dropped into a chair. Propping his head up with his fist his hazel eyes still lined with dark bags closed.  

River looked up over his glasses wondering exactly why his obviously ill roommate even bothered coming out.  Colin’s normal sick routine consisted of camping out in his room until he recovered only leaving if Alice came. Alice, the only person Colin trusted to clean the apartment, usually came twice a week but she and Colin worked out a weird schedule.  The days never seemed to correlate nor did the times.

At first River was determined to figure out the pattern then a month in gave up, as far as he could tell she showed up whenever she wanted.

“Alice coming today?” Curiosity got the better of the clerk.

Colin produced a weak nod; mystery solved. River continued with his cereal until a knock at the door interrupted him again. Glancing up it appeared his depleted roommate hadn't heard it so River headed to the door.

Opening it Marseille Rogers greeted him with her brilliant smile.  A colorful scarf held back her curly midnight black hair. She wore a brown silk tank top a shade lighter than her dark chocolate skin tone.  “Morning hun, is Colin in? He asked me to bring over some recent articles.” The statuesque fellow critic held out a folder which River accepted.

“He is but he's not feeling well, probably another cold.” He replied as Marseille pressed her hands over her chest.

“The poor thing.” She frowned, “Well I won't bother him just make sure he gets it, thanks hun!” She waved heading off down the hall.

River didn't converse with many of Colin’s friends and fellow critics but he held a soft spot for Marseille.  A week after River moved in Colin held a catered dinner party, River hid in his room but overheard some of the guests discussing in hushed voices Colin’s choice of roommate mixed with laughter, without even meeting him yet Marseille not only defended Colin but River as well.  From that moment on River liked the arts and entertainment critic who rocked those wicked 4 inch heels.

Returning to the table River wasn't surprised to see Colin hadn’t moved, not sure if his roommate was asleep he set the folder down. “Marseille dropped this off for you.” He said sitting back down to soggy cereal.

Colin jerked up at River’s voice. “Sorry what?” His voice heavy resulting from his clogged nose which he wiped.

Pointing with his spoon to the folder River repeated himself a bit slower; Colin seemed to have difficulty focusing this morning.

Finally the critic eyed the manila folder.” Oh good good.” He breathed running a hand through his untidy hair. “Good.” He said again with a cough.  Sniffing again he unfolded the tissues in his hand blowing his nose adding to the raw red edges. Sadly it seemed to trigger a tickle as Colin’s head dipped into the cluster of tissues.

Ah’tscheww! Hh’ktschjuh! Ah...hhh...Heh’ehtscheww!

Another blow Colin threw them into a nearby trash while pulling fresh ones from his gown pocket.

“Not feeling any better I take it?” River rose passing the critic who let out a groan.   

“Worse.” Colin whined leaning his head back he stared at the ceiling.  “Do we have any coffee?”

River finished rinsing out his bowl then opened a cabinet grabbing a mug which he set on the table. “Keurig is all yours.”

Colin remained still for a moment before placing his hands on the table slowly pushing himself up.  Not more than two steps away his breath hitched. Hh’xxhhsuh! Hh’ktschjuh!  The force sent him back a full pace, River jumped over using his own body to stabilize Colin who endured a coughing spasm keeping him bent over. “Sorry sorry.” He finally choked out. “I'm alright now.” His breath quickened but exhausted from coughing the ailing critic unable to cover in time diverted his head from River.

Ah’kktshjuh! Hhh...Hheh’xxshjuh!

Deciding not to take any chances River helped Colin to the black leather couch easing him down.  His roommate exhaled before rubbing his pinkish nose with new tissues. “Sorry, again.” He sniffed hard which led to a wet crackling cough.  “I didn’t want coffee anyways.” He smiled weakly at River.

“I'll make it, not like it takes any skill.” The clerk rose walking back into the kitchen.

“Except strength to push a button.” Colin remarked coldly from the couch.

River shrugged waiting as the machine dispensed the French Vanilla Cappuccino into the mug.  Returning to the couch he handed Colin the mug which the older man accepted. “You're a lamb, thank you.” He blew lightly dispersing the steam rising up.

River half smiled before taking a seat in a nearby chair opening the book from yesterday.

Ktchkk! Hn’xdht! Hhh...Hhktschxxnt!

Colin’s valiant effort at stifling not lost on the bookworm who watched the critic flop back dramatically onto the couch before turning onto his side.  Wiping his runny nose Colin sighed, “I'll have to call Michael and tell him I can't make it tomorrow.” He exhaled a low hum.

“You might feel better tomorrow.” River said into his book, not surprised at the scoff from his roommate.

“The chance of me feeling better by tomorrow is the same as you not putting that book down until you're done. Highly unlikely.”  Colin’s voice cut out, he coughed roughly into his hand.

Silence fell between them only the flutter of the book pages turning sounded. Colin lay red rimmed eyes closed, mouth agape, River figured he'd fallen back asleep.  A few times a cough would escape racking his frame but Colin simply adjusted, eyes never opening. The tissues he'd been holding sat on the floor. River moved one of the boxes onto the table so the critic wouldn't be searching for any once he woke.

About an hour later the doorbell rang jarring Colin from his nap.  Obviously confused to where he was, River answered the door. “Morning Alice.” He stepped aside letting the short middle-aged cleaning lady in.

“Morning Mr. Cantrell.” She smiled up at him dressed in her cleaning scrubs, blonde hair streaked with grey pulled back into a neat bun.  River cringed at the formal address; he’d stopped his attempts of having Alice call him by his first name. “How is...” She paused as Colin lumbered over, eyes glazed he appeared still in a fog.

“Alice my room needs considerable attention today, as does the living room.” He said hoarsely.

“Yes Mr. Fairbanks, I'll start right away.” She nodded proceeding down the hall.

“Cleaning cabinet is stocked so be thorough.” Colin added entering the kitchen he stuck his hands under the automatic sink washing them.

“Understood Mr. Fairbanks.” Alice’s voice echoed from the third bedroom.

“Bless that woman.” The critic dried his hands before sticking them in his dressing gown pockets hunching his shoulders together.

River returned to his book knowing he had a few hours before Alice would shoo him from the living room. The third bedroom played two roles, on the outside it was your typical guest room, a plush queen sized bed and redwood armoire for anyone staying over. However the massive oak cabinet on the far wall housed all of Colin’s cleaning agents. Apparently part of their agreement was Alice only used what Colin supplied. Didn't bother River, Alice cleaned exceptionally plus he never had to worry about buying anything. Colin joked it was part of his rent which suited the clerk fine.

River didn't classify Colin as a germaphobe, more he was overly cautious and given his circumstances why not. He rarely took public transportation, if forced to he never openly touched doors, turnstiles, whatnot unless wearing gloves. Until recently Colin walked everywhere unless the weather was poor, sadly after last winter left him laid up for nearly a month with bronchitis he started using personal cab services to get around on crappy days.

The notion of Colin using the subway was quite odd, but sometimes he found himself in predicaments where getting across town quickly outweighed his self-preservation issues.

Ah’tscheww! Ah… Colin rapidly pulled tissues from the box. Hheh’xxshjuh! Ah’kktshjuh! Able to cover the second he wiped his nose which flared red. Aside from his raw nose and dark bags under his eyes Colin’s complexion appeared waxen though to River he never looked fully healthy.  Colin masked a rough cough in his sleeve before resting his forehead against his palms.

“River...” He said hoarsely not looking up. “Could you be a lamb and bring me my cell?”

River closed the book and slowly rose proceeding into the kitchen where Colin’s phone sat plugged in on the counter.  Retrieving it River set it on the coffee table before settling back down.

“Thank you.” Colin replied with a cough tapping his phone.  “Michael, hello it’s Colin, I...” He paused listening. “Oh really...I didn’t...” He flashed a look over to River then pushed up from the sofa pacing from the kitchen to the breakfast table his dressing gown waving as he whirled, “Well I'm fighting a rather nasty cold as...” Another pause this time due to a cough. “You can probably tell, I...” He stopped fiercely throwing his free hand up. Over the next few minutes the critic barely got a word in edgewise mostly repeatedly saying “Yes but”. Finally the pacing stopped Colin threw his head back dramatically pinching the bridge of his nose. “I make no promises Michael.”  With that he ended the call, heaving a sigh. “I must remember no one says ‘no’ to Michael Wainwright.”

River casually looked over the top of his glasses as Colin dropped back onto the sofa.  “It seems one of this other critic guests already cancelled, leaving me as the only food related one on the bill.”  He chuckled which caught in his throat. “River, can I ask if...”

“No Colin.” River replied bluntly lowering his book ever so slightly. “I will not go with you to the party.”

Taken aback, the older man ran his left thumb over his right wrist, “Fair enough.  No harm in asking I suppose.” A faint look of disappointment flashed in his weary eyes.  “I should have known you’re not a party person.” Colin rubbed his nose before shutting his eyes his pale face slacked. Ah’kktshjuh! Eehh’ktssheww!  Hheh’xxshjuh! The sneezes sounded quite painful.

“You shouldn’t be going either.” River rolled his eyes watching Colin grab more tissues.  “It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, given your state you’ll catch pneumonia.” His lecture interrupted by the sound of his own cell vibrating.  

“Son of a bitch.” The clerk swore slamming his book onto the table upon reading the message.  “Sorry.” He said pushing his glasses up to rub his eyes. “I need to go into work.”

“But you-u-u’re suppo....” Ah’tscheww! Hhh...Hh’ktschjuh! “Be off work today.”  Colin furiously wiped his nose then blew it.  “You worked late yesterday.”

“Colin, if this is about me possibly waking you, I...” River’s calm demeanor on the verge of breaking.

“It’s not River!” Colin shouted cracking his weak voice.  “It’s about you!”

Now it was River’s turn to be confounded.  Adjusting his glasses he shrugged hoping his roommate would not take his outburst personally.  “I’m sure you mean well and I appreciate it but I need to go in.”

“Says who?” Colin scrambled after the shorter man who headed down the hall.  “It's your day off, your first in over a week, River you don't have to go in.”  He followed the clerk into his bedroom.

“Colin, please I need to change and leave. Besides only one of us shouldn't be working and that's you.” River glared up at the critic.

Colin opened his mouth then hesitantly turned away exiting River’s room in a huff.  More confused than irritated at his roommate's behavior River shook it off as Colin’s eccentric ways. He changed into black jeans, black t-shirt, donned his flannel jacket, grabbed his keys and headed toward the front door.

Sadly he found the exit blocked, Colin stood arms crossed over his chest, brow knitted together, his tired eyes narrowed in a disapproving fashion.

“Excuse me.” River said blankly. The critic frowned moving to the side he brushed his raw nose with tissues.  “I shouldn't be too late probably a normal eight hour shift.” He opened the apartment door holding it briefly. “Get some rest Colin, okay?” River stepped out into the hall his roommate hung in the doorway.

“River,” Colin called “Ask for tomorr-r-row...” Breath hitching he cupped his hands over his mouth. Hheh’xxshjuh! Ts’schujuh! “Off-f.” Hh’xxhhsuh! “P-pl-e-e-e” Eehh’ktssheww! “Damn it.” He cursed giving his poor nose a good blow.  Sniffing he stuffed his current tissues into his pocket. “Wonderful I'm out.”

River shook his head, “Not how it works Colin, see you later.” He hit the elevator button.

“Fine.” Colin trudged back into the apartment.

Truthfully River agreed with Colin, sadly he was in no position to request tomorrow off.  However having worked going on ten consecutive days, going in early and on his day off perhaps he had some leverage. Stepping into the elevator his thoughts trailed to Colin’s odd request about the dinner party.

TBC

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7 hours ago, Kaze wo Hiku said:

“River...” He said hoarsely not looking up. “Could you be a lamb and bring me my cell?”

Poor River. I admire his patience. If someone would always come to me with “Could you be a lamb” and asked me to do things for them, I would go out of my mind after two hours at the latest. Colin tends to treat his housemate like a servant.

7 hours ago, Kaze wo Hiku said:

“I must remember no one says ‘no’ to Michael Wainwright.”

I loved this!:D Hope to see more of him in this story. I know, he wasn’t nice to Gabe in the end, but I like Michael.

7 hours ago, Kaze wo Hiku said:

“No Colin.” River replied bluntly lowering his book ever so slightly. “I will not go with you to the party.”

Yes, yes, yes! Finally, a clear “no” from River! Well done, boy. Don’t let Colin abuse you.

7 hours ago, Kaze wo Hiku said:

“You shouldn’t be going either.” River rolled his eyes watching Colin grab more tissues.  “It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, given your state you’ll catch pneumonia.” 

*grins* I wasn’t sure at this point if this was irony or worry. Well done to leave this so open for speculation, Kaze. :D Colin was preciously oblivious at this point.

7 hours ago, Kaze wo Hiku said:

“It’s not River!” Colin shouted cracking his weak voice.  “It’s about you!”

Oh! This was a surprise... for River as well obviously… So, maybe, there is some emotional attraction? A just developing, dainty sprout of a coming flower? Then let's hope, there is no icy wind or careless foot approaching to destroy it.

Very nice second part, Kaze. :heart: 

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Awww Colin wanted River to stay!! And he stood in front of the door blocking it. Melts! 

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Since I missed the opportunity to comment on the first part (or on the parts of this story which already featured in your drabble thread), this is a combined comment ^_^

So let me start with the chemistry between the two. I really liked that we start with River and how he's quietly enjoying his book, since this was in a way the ideal summary of River's part in their relationship. River oozes calmness and patience, he seems like an anchor in the midst of Colin's daily storm in a teacup (or actual storm, depending on the occassion) and I really had the impression that River's way of dealing with certain situations can bring things back into perspective for Colin, without belittling his feelings.

 

On 31.3.2018 at 10:25 PM, Kaze wo Hiku said:

 Looking up at the vaulted ceiling, leather furniture, grand piano in the corner near the window which overlooked Emerald Park sometimes River had to pinch himself that he really lived here.

On 31.3.2018 at 10:25 PM, Kaze wo Hiku said:

He’d never admit it to Colin but River had a sneaking suspicion the successful food critic and writer wasn’t looking for extra money but more for company. [...] Although curious the bookworm never questioned Colin on his health, wasn’t his business.  

Those two parts were so sad but beautiful at the same time. I mean, Colin has everything, yet he doesn't really get to enjoy it, since his immune system is so weak and apparently he did not have anybody to share it with. I had the impression that Colin is either not aware of this, or not ready to admit to himself that he was looking for company. The way I read the story (and please correct me if I'm wrong), this is why River was the perfect match: he is there for Colin, but not intruding, thereby giving Colin enough time to adjust to the fact that suddenly there WAS another person to share things with and to build trust to maybe even share a bit more personal things, while for River, the fact that Colin offered this apartmenet without any strings attached was a godsend. So I think they were just lucky to find each other as roommates when both of them needed exactly what the other had to offer.

 

On 31.3.2018 at 10:25 PM, Kaze wo Hiku said:

“It would make reviewing restaurants harder unless you changed to an all takeout critic.”

May I apply for that job? :laugh: I laughed reading this and it was a great way to introduce River's dry humour.

 

On 31.3.2018 at 10:25 PM, Kaze wo Hiku said:

knowing it was Colin returning from his outing no need to be concerned.

Ah’tscheww!

Scratch that.

Awww... poor Colin :cry: Also: I loved the fact that even though Colin catches colds so frequently and River probably knows how Colin will be like when he's coming down with something, he is still concerned and not annoyed :heart:

And even though one could say that Colin is somewhat demanding when he's sick, I liked how he was not completely self-absorbed and was still concerned with River's affaires - asking if there was any trouble and expressing his sympathy when River needed to go to work early. I can see that his "be a lamb" line could be annoying, but the way he was using this line and asking River to do things for him, also felt like there was a second, more subtle level on which he was looking for reassurance and validation of being a person who is worth to be cared for (If that makes sense? I hope you get what I mean. I tried to rephrase this several times but somehow I can't find a better expression for what I want to say :rolleyes: )

 

On 31.3.2018 at 10:25 PM, Kaze wo Hiku said:

“Oh goodnight.” Colin sat up, “Do you work to-o-o… Ah’kktshjuh! Hh’ktschjuh!… tommorrow?” He sniffed then blew his nose discarding the tissues in the trash.

Colin sounds so disappointed here.. this little "Oh" killed me a little, because I had the impression that he wanted River to keep him company a little longer. Which was intensified by his question of whether River had to go to work the next day. It was almost like he was trying to say that he didn't want to spend another day alone in the apartment. That's also why I LOVED how the conversation about River needing to go to work repeated itself the next day. Only this time, instead of subtly hinting at the fact that Colin might want River to stay, you made Colin say it a little more clearly (and had me melt in the process :lol:)

 

22 hours ago, Kaze wo Hiku said:

Keeping his sleep clothes on, black sweatpants and a long sleeved grey shirt with the phrase “As A Reader I Have Many Lives” on it

Somehow my brain immediately went: "Jordan Crane had no shame " when you mentioned a phrase being printed on his shirt :lmfao:

 

22 hours ago, Kaze wo Hiku said:

At first River was determined to figure out the pattern then a month in gave up, as far as he could tell she showed up whenever she wanted.

“Alice coming today?” Curiosity got the better of the clerk.

I love how River is portrayed here as the silent observer. Again, not intruding too much into Colin's affairs, but still there to keep him company so that slowly, a certain intimacy could grow between the two (I really loved @Hedgehog's description of their relationship as a "dainty sprout of a coming flower" :heart:  )

 

22 hours ago, Kaze wo Hiku said:

“But you-u-u’re suppo....” Ah’tscheww! Hhh...Hh’ktschjuh! “Be off work today.”  Colin furiously wiped his nose then blew it.  “You worked late yesterday.”

“Colin, if this is about me possibly waking you, I...” River’s calm demeanor on the verge of breaking.

“It’s not River!” Colin shouted cracking his weak voice.  “It’s about you!”

And just to stress what I mentioned earlier: THIS is where I melted. :inlove:

Also, I wasn't sure whether this part:

22 hours ago, Kaze wo Hiku said:

“No Colin.” River replied bluntly lowering his book ever so slightly. “I will not go with you to the party.”

Taken aback, the older man ran his left thumb over his right wrist, “Fair enough.  No harm in asking I suppose.” A faint look of disappointment flashed in his weary eyes.  “I should have known you’re not a party person.”

was supposed to be hinting at River's break-up with Devan over the frat party and whether there will be drama ensuing from the new party, or whether we will see sick!Colin trying to soldier through the party even though he is feeling awful, but whatever you have planned, I am looking forward to the next part and anxious about this dinner party.

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I think it’s important that River says no to this! Now we know he can, and that he chooses whatever else happens between them. He’s kind of a reserved and passive guy, so we need to see this strength from him before the plot really he’s underway. 

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@starpollen thank you! :heart::heart:

@AngelEyes :D

@Hedgehog It's always fun to insert Micheal into things now and then ;)

@shadows45 thank you!

@selene seeeeeeleeeeeneeeee :heart::heart: Your comments always make me :D:D River is very much a silent observer, he's quite introverted whereas Colin is more extroverted (but he's not self absorbed :) )

@M214186 thank you!

@queenie River definitely isnt a party animal, youd see Liam out before him XD

Next part! (featuring a small cameo ;) )

~~~~

Third Course

The second the time clock struck 7pm, River punched it exiting out the back door into the alley.  Stuffing his hands into his flannel jacket he huddled in the coat watching as his breath dispersed in the air.  The damp cool spring air hung low in the evening, River wiped his nose across his sleeve holding the position. Txchk! Sniffling he popped into a corner drug store for allergy medicine not wanting the irritation of burning sinuses interrupting the coma he planned.  Working in the dusty basement never mixed well with him and throw in spring pollen, River needed relief.  

Medication purchased the clerk headed back out into the street hurrying back toward the apartment. One of the reasons he'd answered Colin’s roommate ad was the proximity to the bookstore only a few blocks away he easily walked to work.  Plus, it was near Cafe Arcobaleno his normal coffee stop when not using Colin’s Keurig.  The door dinged signaling his arrival. 

“Hey Emmett.” River smiled at the barista behind the counter who gave a weary smile. 

“Hey Riv, what can I get you?” River noticed Emmett’s red watery eyes, allergies apparently, we're getting the better of him too. 

“Chai Tea and Cinnamon Vanilla.” Reaching into his back-pocket River pulled his wallet out. 

"Coming up.” Emmett smiled. River tapped his credit card rhythmically on the counter waiting as the barista brewed the drinks. 

“Here.” He placed the cups in a to-go carton handing it to River who swiped his card. “How's Colin?” Emmett asked wiping his teary eyes with the back of his hand. 

“Sick, hence the tea.” He motioned before bringing out the allergy medicine. “Here,” He broke off a packet sliding it across the counter. 

Oh you're a godsend Riv, how are you still single?” Emmett’s eyes widened peeling back the paper. 

River smirked, “No one likes bookworms.”  

“Well next coffees on me.” Emmett replied after swallowing the medicine. “Hope Colin feels better.” 

River nodded and left throwing back his own allergy pills with warming sip of Cinnamon Vanilla.  A few minutes later he pushed through the revolving doors of Cedar Towers walking past the main office and mailboxes to the elevator, hitting the button.  A brief wait, he entered pressing for the 6th floor. Leaning back against the wall he sighed closing his eyes until the bell rung signaling his floor. Walking down the hall he fished his keys from the jacket pocket, unlocking the door. 

K’hhschjuh! 

Colin sat at the breakfast table, tissues pressed to his nose which donned thin brown frame bifocals. The manila folder opened, he bent over the articles Marseille had left.  Two tissue boxes sat in between the magazines. His head shot up hearing the door open. “Riv..Ah’kktshjuh! Ah...hhh...Heh’ehtscheww! He caught them in the crook of his elbow. 

“Bless you, here.” River set the tea on the table. “And Emmett hopes you feel better.” 

“Oh.” Colin’s voice rose an octave. “He’s such a sweetheart. And thank you.” He removed his glasses rubbing his eyes.  River noted Colin no longer wore his pajamas, instead sported blue jeans, a light blue collared shirt which the collar and cuffs showed under a brown baggy sweater and a grey jacket covering. 

“Cold?” River asked entering the kitchen. 

“No, why you ask?” The critic rested his glasses back on his raw nose, one finger tracing along the paragraph he read. 

River rolled his eyes opening the refrigerator staring intently in it. 

“There's pie.” Colin coughed the phrase. Another spasm bent him over, he cupped a tissue ladened hand over his mouth. “Daria brought it over.” Voice weakened he cleared it. 

Pie would do. River removed the box containing what appeared to be Boston Creme, brought by Colin’s younger sister, cutting a small slice. “How is she?” 

Colin’s expression slacked he raised a finger twisting away. Hheh’xxshjuh! Ts’schujuh! Sniffling he blew his nose wincing “Oh you know Daria.” He pulled more tissues stuffing them into his right hand before propping his temple against it. 

A half-turned smile curled River’s lip.  Daria was nearly 10 years younger than Colin, only a few younger than River.  Half-sister really from Colin’s mother's second marriage but neither used the term, they were siblings through and through.  Daria dropped in on occasion while between jobs to visit her brother. Sweet girl at heart but not the most driven individual, mostly she wanted a job much like Colin’s but without putting any work into it.  Lately she’d been working at a bakery across town hence the pie. 

“Same story different day?” River asked taking a bite. 

Colin nodded, “Apparently now she wants to be a pastry chef.” He sniffed wiping his nose.  

“You tell her she’d have to go to school for it?” The clerk sat opposite his roommate, no lie the pie was quite good. 

Colin huffed a laugh which produced another wet cough, “That I did.  The look I received wasn’t flattering. She did ask me to review the bakery, told her I’d add it to my list.” 

“Well if you’d like a non-expert opinion, this is good.” River replied holding up the plate. 

“I’d be run out of town if I ever used the word ‘good’” The critic smiled looking over his glasses. “But I appreciate your input, I’ll log you as an accredited outside source.”  His breath hitched quickly however nothing came out it, Colin pressed the back hand to his nose for another moment before satisfied he’d stopped the sneeze. 

Finishing the pie, River rinsed the plate then placed it in the dishwasher.  “Early night for me.” He said over his shoulder. 

“Did you get tomorrow off?” Colin looked up an encouraging gleam in his dark lined eyes. 

River cringed, debating on simply lying. “No, hence why I’m going to bed, need to be there to open.  But!” He started seeing the critic’s reaction. “They gave me the next three off and I told them my phone would be off.”   

Colin’s brow knitted but he did not voice an objection merely turned back to his work.  “Sleep well River.” He said quietly. 

“You too.” River headed down the hall to his room.  The allergy medicine definitely was in effect, a grogginess took hold as he changed into sweatpants.  Sniffing he rubbed his nose casually before lying down. Within minutes the bookworm was asleep. 

**** 

Sitting on the edge of his bed hands cradling his head, River wished he hadn’t been scheduled to open 6am arrived far too quickly.  Perhaps it was the after effects of the medicine but his head felt oddly clouded even with all the sleep. Sighing he rose heading for the bathroom, another perk of living here was he had an attachment bathroom.   

Although it crossed his mind River never bothered to ask what the apartments rent actually was.  He knew he wasn’t paying full price for his room, Colin must have been shelling out most of it which didn’t always sit well with the clerk.  Colin was well off, obviously he could afford to live here without a roommate as he mentioned to River when he applied he’d lived alone for several years.  Another aspect he found himself wondering about was why after living alone had Colin put an ad out for a roommate but again probably had more to do with wanting company.   

Still though something about it never felt right however River was set to mind his own business.  Showering complete he threw on jeans, another T-shirt and his flannel jacket. Deciding he was too tired for contacts he grabbed his glasses off the bed side table.  Now came the fun part, getting to the front door without making a sound. Carefully stepping into the hall, he gently shut his door tiptoeing past Colin’s door. He did not hear any ruckus from the other side so breathing a sigh of relief he proceeded into the front room.   

Flipping on the kitchen light he stopped in his tracks.  Colin flinched at the sudden brightness and brought a hand up covering his face which lay on the table.   

“You... slept here?”  River’s surprise faded to concern as Colin pushed up still squinting from the lights.  The critic screwed his face taking a moment to collect himself which really meant to River he was thinking up some excuse for his behavior. 

“Not exactly.” His voice caked in congestion forced a hard throat clear.  Clumsily he reached for a tissue box knocking it over. “Damn it.” He ran a hand over his face which ended up masking a chesty cough.  Tissues acquired Colin blew his nose hard. “What time is it?” He finally looked up at River who hadn’t moved since touching the light switch.  

The clerk blinked trying to makes heads or tails on why his roommate sat in the same spot he’d seen him in nine or so hours ago.  “Uh, 6:45?” He glanced at the microwave clock. “6:55, sorry ten minutes off. Are you okay?” River bent down eyeing the critic. Pale did not begin to describe Colin’s color, he almost appeared white.  The bags hanging from his eyes gave a ghostly grey color to his face. Though as River examined him his cheeks appeared pinkish, the outline of his hair wet with sweat, Colin must have noticed River looking as he aggressively brushed away the dampness. 

“Am I ever okay?” He joked swaying in his chair.  River reached out supporting him. “Sorry.” Colin said grasping the back of the flannel.   

“Come on, let’s get you to your room.” River hoped Colin could support some of his weight, being a few inches shorter than his roommate wasn’t making this easy.  Helping the sick man down the hall River became aware Colin was shivering. Adjusting so he could open the door the pair slowly walked to the bed. Right as River set Colin down the critic curled his head to his chest. Ah’kktshjuh!  

River grabbed one of several tissue boxes next to the bed, handing it to the older man. “Bless you.” 

“Thanks.” Colin lazily wiped his nose. Laying back his adjusted under the covers.  

“Take off your jacket or you'll overheat.” River said helping remove it, tossing it over a nearby chair. 

“You're a peach.” Colin forced a smile which faded quickly into another crackling deep cough.  Reaching over, one hand still covering his mouth, he flipped on the humidifier. 

“I'm late, that's what I am.” River swiped his phone screen on grimacing at the time. 

Colin cocked his head confused. “Where are you going?” Before River could answer Colin blinked taking a sharp inhale. Heh’ehtscheww! Hhh...hhh... 

Expression slacked his tired eyes lost focus as his hand cupped his nose and mouth.  Ah’kktshjuh! Hh’ktschjuh! A cough broke up the sneezing forcing Colin forward. Finally regaining his breath, he looked up at River. “Could you...” He swallowed hard then half-heartedly pointed to his bathroom, “Could you g-g-g...” Hh’xxhhsuh! Ts’schujuh! Sniffling he blew his nose wetly. 

“Bless you.” River replied. “I really need to go what do you need?” He asked walking to the bathroom. 

"Nyquil.” Colin said hoarsely. “And where are you going?” 

“Work. Why else would I be awake at this ungodly hour?” River said from the bathroom. “Here we go.” Grabbing the medicine, he returned to Colin whose heavy eyes narrowed the corner of his mouth turned down. “What?” The clerk waved his hands nonchalantly. 

Unscrewing the top Colin quietly poured the medicine into the plastic cup, making a mocking “cheers” motion to River, he drank it.  

“I hope this works.” He muttered setting the bottle to the side. 

“Anyways I'm off, not a full shift today I'll be back in probably five or six hours, I'll be quiet. Feel better Colin.” River backed up to the door avidly trying to avoid the glare his roommate bore into him.  

TBC 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Kaze wo Hiku said:

River smirked, “No one likes bookworms.”  

Sad! Loved seeing Emmett.

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7 hours ago, Kaze wo Hiku said:

She did ask me to review the bakery, told her I’d add it to my list.” 

“Well if you’d like a non-expert opinion, this is good.” River replied holding up the plate. 

“I’d be run out of town if I ever used the word ‘good’” The critic smiled looking over his glasses. “But I appreciate your input, I’ll log you as an accredited outside source.”

I liked that part! It's funny and makes me want to read one of Colin's critics. *g* Always love your dialogues!

Why did Colin sleep at the kitchen table though? What happened? I hope the medicine is going to help him. He doesn't sound well... 

And is River getting sick? The suspicion... :hypoc:

Also - hello Emmett! Cameos are a nice thing. :D

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I'm glad you like my ramblings and musings, and that I can thereby return at least a little of the fun and emotions which I get from reading your stories. I just love your writing and you deserve all the comments and all the love in return :heart::hug:

On 6.4.2018 at 0:38 AM, Kaze wo Hiku said:

River noted Colin no longer wore his pajamas, instead sported blue jeans, a light blue collared shirt which the collar and cuffs showed under a brown baggy sweater and a grey jacket covering. 

“Cold?” River asked entering the kitchen. 

“No, why you ask?” The critic rested his glasses back on his raw nose, one finger tracing along the paragraph he read. 

River rolled his eyes opening the refrigerator staring intently in it. 

This was such a funny exchange! :laugh: I loved Colin's innocent and completely oblivious "No" :D And also that we got to see his caring side again, when he immediately offered pie to River, even though he was almost choking on coughs in the process.

 

On 6.4.2018 at 0:38 AM, Kaze wo Hiku said:

Perhaps it was the after effects of the medicine

Or perhaps, it wasn't... :naughty::hypoc:

 

On 6.4.2018 at 0:38 AM, Kaze wo Hiku said:

Flipping on the kitchen light he stopped in his tracks.  Colin flinched at the sudden brightness and brought a hand up covering his face which lay on the table.   

“You... slept here?”  River’s surprise faded to concern as Colin pushed up still squinting from the lights.  The critic screwed his face taking a moment to collect himself which really meant to River he was thinking up some excuse for his behavior. 

“Not exactly.” His voice caked in congestion forced a hard throat clear.  Clumsily he reached for a tissue box knocking it over. “Damn it.” He ran a hand over his face which ended up masking a chesty cough.  Tissues acquired Colin blew his nose hard. “What time is it?” He finally looked up at River who hadn’t moved since touching the light switch.

Even though this was the beginning of a serious scene, the mental image of River just STANDING there, staring at Colin like he had just caught a burglar red handed was too precious :laugh: It was just like in these old cartoons, where a person is trying to sneak into someone's apartment and then the lights go - just this time, River as the sneaking person gets to switch on the lights ^^

Overall, however, I felt so sorry and also worried for Colin, seeing that he spent all night out there, falling asleep at the kitchen table, and I am very curious why this happened. Did he just fall alseep going over the articles in the folder or was something else behind all of this? My heart went out to Colin when River collected him from the kitchen table and brought him to his room. Colin was so sick, shivery and weak and just SO ill... *melt* Can't deny that I very much enjoyed that part... :whistle: Special thanks for including damp hair on forehad and shivery goodness :inlove:

Also, I don't think I've mentioned this before, but I love Colin's sneezes. That little "shjuh"-sound at the end is so adorable :inlove::heart:

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Wonderful story Kaze. I am so curious as to why Colin is so concerned about River working too much. Something is up his sleeve... and I don't think it is more tissues. :lol: 

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@starpollen thank you! :heart:

@Hedgehog Your questions will be answered...eventually :lol:

@M214186 thank you!

@queenie saaaaaame.

@Selene I do love playing with their dynamic since theyre roommates and not partners so to me it makes perfect sense River would be like....wait what? when he sees Colin asleep at the table. I really do love writing Colin sick too....mmmm.  Thank you again for your lovely comment :hug:

@Subtly Clashing Wishes See my reply to Hedgie :lol: and thank you! :hug:

Here's part 4, incidentally this is my fave chapter ;) Enjoy!

~~~~

Fourth Course

Descending the stairs to the basement of the bookstore, River crinkled his nose as the dust particles swirling around the room. Walking a few aisles down to the storage room he brought his sleeve up while opening the door. Tch’xxt! Stifling it as best he could his eyes watered, tears pooling behind his lenses. Hhh...Hn’xdht!  

Removing his glasses River rubbed his palms against his eyes. Another perk of living with Colin and his lackluster immune system was the impeccably clean-living quarters once again courtesy of Alice.   

Glasses back on he found the box Chester required before high stepping back upstairs out of the dust.  Sadly, his sinuses already aggravated forced his head down. Nh'xxdt! Sniffing, River set the box on the floor then padded his pockets realizing he'd not brought the medicine.   

“You got that box?” Jordan's voice sounded a few aisles away. 

“Y-Y-ea-a-a-h-h” Willingly himself not to sneeze his hand pressed against his nose River squeezed his eyes shut. A sharp inhale scratched the back of his throat triggering a brief cough. 

“You alright?” Jordan asked half interested. 

River remained silent joining his associate setting the box down between them. “Excuse me.” He sniffed heading to the bathroom.  

Inside he grabbed a paper towel blowing his nose quickly. Glancing up he flinched at his reflection, eyes watering, he longed for medicine. Pocketing a few paper towels he returned to Jordan and the two continued shelving books until Chester approached them.  River knew just from the middle-aged man's expression it wasn't good news. 

“Felicity called off again.” He rubbed his neatly trimmed brown beard speckled with grey. 

“What?” Jordan barked, River merely sighed. 

“I know I will speak to her.” Chester replied. “I managed to call in Vanessa but she can't make it in until 6:00 pm. I need one of you to stay until she gets here.” 

“Not me I've a gig tonight.” Jordan huffed crossing his arms looking at River. 

He didn't ask but River felt Chester’s pleading brown eyes on him. “I'll stay.” He said flatly. 

“Thank you, River.” The older man replied smiling then headed back to the front. 

“Sucker.” Jordan scoffed, River ignored him concentrating on alphabetizing the current row. Another ten-hour day, at least he clocking overtime.  After Jordan left at 2:00 pm, he was alone, save for Chester in the office. Exactly how River liked it, a serene peace filled him being alone with so many books. Taking stock of the American Literature section since it was near the door, he welcomed customers as they came in, answering any questions, ringing them up if needed. The afternoon brought more business than expected River found himself asking Chester for assistance until Vanessa finally showed up, which sadly was closer to 7:00pm than 6. 

Exhausted and nearly dead on his aching feet the clerk's only mindset was getting home. The walk which he normally enjoyed felt sluggish as his feet burned with every step. Entering the building he'd never been so happy to stop moving as he waited for the elevator.  

Stumbling into the apartment he cringed knowing he'd probably woken Colin if he was sleeping. Wonderful, well he'd apologize later, as of now he was going to phase into the couch.  Dumping his coat onto the table River slumped wearily down pushing his glasses up massaging his eyes. 

River must have nodded off since the next sensation he felt was his stomach clenching emitting a low growl. Sighing he pushed up heading into the kitchen. As he entered a note caught his attention. 

Riv, 

At the party. Be home later. There's lemon chicken from Blue Danube. Don’t wait up. 

Colin 

Honestly it didn't surprise him, Colin seemed to put his reputation above everything even his health.   From what he'd witnessed these dinner parties lasted late into the night so he didn't expect Colin home anytime soon, bad cold or not. 

Dinner eaten River pushed his glasses up he pinched the bridge of his nose, a sinus headache pricked the massage to his eyes did little to help.  Deciding another dose of allergy medicine was needed he rose heading into his bedroom. Right as he pulled the packet out heard the doorbell ring.  

His brow knitted in confusion, he wasn't expecting anyone and most of Colin's social colleagues would know he was at a party.  Slipping the medicine into his pocket, River walked back down the hall. 

Opening the door an attractive woman with long sweeping blonde hair stood before him.  She wore a black raincoat tied at the waist and a Dolce & Gabbana purse hung over her shoulder.  A bit taken aback, River’s words caught in his mouth.  

“Hello.” She smiled shaking her umbrella to the side. “Is Colin in?” She looked past River into the apartment but did not enter.   

River blinked before remembering himself, “Um no, he’s at a party.  Probably won’t be home until late.”  

The woman flashed a disappointed smile, “I knew I should have called first.” Letting out a quick sign she appeared in thought.  

River kept quieting, tapping his fingers against the door frame. 

“Well simply tell him Sharon stopped by.  Thanks!” Waving her fingers, she started back down the hall umbrella over shoulder. 

"I will." River answered still confused on what had just happened.  After taking the medicine, the clerk staggered down to his bedroom, changed quickly into pajama's and crawled into bed hoping Colin would pay him he same courtesy when coming home.   River was pleasantly dreaming when his phone went off. “Chester. I swear.” He seethed, grabbing for his glass then looked down at the phone. However, his eyes widened seeing Colin’s number.  “Hello?” 

“Hey hun!” Marseille’s voice sounded on the other end. “Listen I've got two seconds, wait...” River heard her voice move away from the phone, he couldn't make out what she said but assumed it was to Colin.  “Sorry, he's being a prat. I've put him in a cab, he should be there in fifteen minutes give or take. Listen River...” The art critic’s tone lowered. “He's not well and he's drunk. Take care of him please?”  

A long shift and now babysitting, River wasn't sure which god he'd pissed off but all he dreamed of currently was sleeping. Exhaling sharply, he conceded. “Fine.” 

Thanks, hun! We both appreciate it. Gotta go.” With that the call ended.  

Throwing his coat back on River trudged back downstairs waiting patiently in the foyer for Colin. Leaning against a wall he shut his eyes hoping his roommate would simply be too tired and want to go to bed.  A quick glance at his phone showed the time to be almost 1:00 am. 

Sighing heavily, River glanced lazily out the window, no cab in sight, however it appeared from the payment a light rain fell.  Pulling the collar up on his jacket muttering about the rain, a cab drove up. The back door opened slowly then shut abruptly. River paused wondering exactly what the issue was when it opened again Colin staggered out catching himself against the car side as he spun. River dashed out into the rain. 

“Colin,” River grabbed ahold of his roommate who looked up at him from his semi bent over position.  The bags under his eyes were less prominent however either due to drinking or his cold they now flushed red, matching his cheeks.  Hair dampened from the fresh rain glistened in the street lights; he broke into a weary smile. 

“River my lamb!” The critic’s dry voice cracked excitedly. He attempted to straighten placing his hand against River’s shoulder however his equilibrium shifted forcing him back a full step against the cab.  Wobbling he broke into a playful airy giggle doubling over. “You’re all wet.” He continued laughing before his voice broke into a harsh cough. 

Adjusting his shoulder under Colin’s arm, River attempted to stabilize the both of them however his roommates weight shifted enough River stumbled forward dragging a still giggling critic with him. “River...I must tell you something.” Colin’s hoarse slurred speech made it difficult for the clerk to fully understand, “I'm a smidge drunk you see.” River felt Colin lean in closer. Don’t tell anyone.” For a brief moment he sounded sincere then broke into another fit of giggling as River pulled him into the elevator. 

“Must have been some party.” River muttered ignoring the dull ache forming in his shoulder under Colin’s weight along with severe alcohol breath.  

Oh, darling it was, you should have come.” Colin replied lazily watching the floor numbers increase as if done by magic. “Michael Wainwright knows how to throw a party. Next time, next time you'll come.”  

River grimaced at the thought as well as the sensation of Colin’s hand in his hair. “No thank you.” 

The critic produced an overly exaggerated pout, “You need to have more fun little River, be...be...uh....” Colin’s expression blanked then his scrunched his face as if trying to conjure a term in his inebriated state. 

“Be what?” River exhaled happy they'd reached their floor and that Colin wasn't stroking his hair anymore. 

“Be...” Colin held the word as the two slowly walked down the hall.  “Look at that, the ceiling needs painting.” River audibly sighed watching Colin’s dreamy expression tilted upward. “Hopefully blue, I like blue.” Closing his eyes, he leaned harder against River. 

Arriving at the door River shifted his weight for a split second just to get his foot in the door when Colin broke into another giggling fit, the force he put on River sent them both careening into the foyer.  Exhausted and sore from work, wet and fiercely irritated with his roommate, River lay on the floor sideways listening to Colin laugh hysterically next to him. Before he could even form a thought, Colin’s laughing caught in his throat, another hard wet cough shook his frame.  

Helping the critic into a sitting position. River then removed his wet coat and Colin's hanging them on the row of hooks by the door. 

Finally regaining his breath Colin sat head between his knees for a moment. “Have we any cough medicine?” It was the first non-slurred sentence he'd uttered since arriving. 

“You've had enough.” River snapped noticing Colin flinch. “I'm not exactly sure why you decided to dope yourself up and then drink but Marseille saying you were in bad shape was an understatement.”  He stared down at his roommate.  

“I've never heard you angry before.” Colin whispered still not looking up. 

“I'm not angry, I'm tired. I want to go back to bed. Now let's go.” He bent down holding his hand out for Colin whose face paled. Perhaps a bit apprehensively the critic took his hand however when River went to pull him up he misstepped falling backwards pulling Colin with him. Dazed River glanced up to see his roommate who was physical on top of him staring down, his red weary eyes seemed sad almost hurt as if he’d been told bad news.  Feeling his face burn River scrambled out from under Colin who, still wobbly, managed to his feet. 

“Sorry.” River removed his glasses momentarily rubbing his eyes. “Exhausted, long day, I...” He adjusted his glasses only to realize Colin was no longer in the room. Confused he looked down the hall to see the critic halfway to his room using the wall as a crutch. 

“Wait, wait let me help.” River caught up with the older man holding onto his arm. 

"I'm fine.” Colin’s eyes downcast probably watching his feet. 

“You’re not fine, you're wet, drunk, sick and correct me if I'm wrong but you're shivering too.” He'd noticed after removing the critic’s coat a subtle shiver resonate through him. 

Colin wearily raised his head as they'd made it to his room. “Nothing gets by you, eh, River...River.” Holding the middle part of his name Colin once again broke into a muted snicker. 

Heartily rolling his eyes the clerk helped Colin to his bed, pulling back the covers. Assisting him on the bed River grabbed a box of tissues setting it next to Colin. 

“You’re such a lamb, lovely little lamb, leaping lavender lilacs...” He palmed a few tissues in his hand while continuing in a sing song voice, “Lying lazily....” He giggled softly running a hand through his wet hair. “Little lamb.” He leaned back against his pillow eyes falling onto River who rocked back on his heels.  “I owe you...” He sniffed quickly wiping his nose. “I'm going to feel awful tomorrow, aren't I?” He huffed triggering a wet cough he masked in his hand. “My throat aches, talky talky tonight.” He cleared it River noticing Colin’s face contort. Raising his hand, he held it a few inches from his mouth. His already glazed expression slacked, Ah...ah... Colin gestured with his hand hoping to coax the sneeze out. Ah’kktshjuh! Covering with his wad of tissues he broke into another fit of giggles. “My, bless me.” He said in to them. 

Convinced Colin would survive now, River headed for the door. “Night Colin.” He said opening the door. 

Whe...” Hh’xxhhsuh! Ts’schujuh! Colin forcefully blew his nose. “Where are you...” He stopped folding his arms across his chest.  

“To bed, I'm dead on my feet from work.” River pushed his glasses up pinching his eyes.  Adjusting his glasses, it appeared Colin wanted to speak but he remained quiet running his hands over his arms.  

River willed his body back over grabbing the blanket which lay at the end of the bed draping it over Colin’s shoulders.  

“Thank you.” The critic replied softly tugging on the blanket.  

Nodding tiredly River headed back to the door. 

“River...”  

Balling his fist River swallowed the curse word lodged in his throat. “Yes.” 

Drawing his blanket closer the older man smiled slightly, “You’re so kind, truly you are.” His eyes closed he uttered another few words however River couldn't understand them. 

Heading to his room, River felt a twinge of guilt for his actions, he’d not meant to snap at Colin nor fight off cursing, exhaustion shortened his fuse terrifically. As he changed his wet sleepwear the clerk realized he'd forgotten to tell his roommate about the mystery woman visiting. Shrugging it off he set his glasses on the side table falling into a dreamless sleep almost immediately. 

 TBC

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