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Takes place after 4th Date; Ethan takes a turn for the worse...all he wants is Tim



It was two days since their last date.  Tim and Ethan had been texting nonstop since then.   They’d tried talking, but with Ethan’s cold, Tim preferred he save his voice for work.   So, it was a surprise when partway through Tim’s work day, halfway through Ethan’s, Tim’s phone rang.  


It was Ethan’s number.


“What’s up?” Tim answered.


It wasn’t Ethan.   


“Is this Tim?” An unfamiliar voice asked.


“Um, yeah.  Who’s this?”


“I’m Dustin.  I’m a friend of Ethan’s.”  Tim relaxed.  He’d heard Ethan mention Dustin.




“Ethan asked me to call you.”  There was a pause.  “He’s ok, but he’s in the ER right now.”


“ER?  What’s wrong?  Blood sugar?”


“Started that way, but he’s pretty sick.  They’re checking him for pneumonia.  He’s asking for you.  I know you’re working, but…”


“Let me talk to my boss.  I’ll be there.”  He heard a loud raspy sneeze in the background and winced.  “Tell him I’m on my way.  Thanks Dustin.”


He went and explained the situation to Alex.


“Go,” Alex told him.  “You’ll be too busy worrying to be productive.  I know that.”


Tim didn’t need convincing.  He grabbed his backpack and headed for the hospital.  He asked for Ethan O’Connell at the desk and was taken back to an exam room.  


Ethan lay on the cot, looking small and pale, hooked up to an IV, saline running into his arm.


“Hi.” He rasped.   


“What’s going on?  Why didn’t you tell me you were this sick?”  Tim crossed over to him, pulling the chair in the room with him, taking his hand.  


“Didn’t want you to worry.”  Ethan paused to cough into his free arm.  “I felt ok until yesterday.”   


“What happened?”  Tim asked as the door opened, and a nurse stepped in.


The nurse looked at Tim, who stood up.  “I’m Dustin.  You must be Tim.”  Tim nodded, shaking his hand.  


“I’ve heard a lot about you.”


“Same.   And what happened is this boy sucks at taking care of himself.  He passed out between patients.  Blood sugar was low.  They gave him a glucose injection over there, noticed he had a fever too, and sent him over here to get checked out.   He’s dehydrated.  And they’re questioning pneumonia since his lungs sound terrible.”


Dustin paused to let Tim process.  “Of course he probably hasn’t been eating or drinking much, working too hard and not sleeping well.”


“Damn.”  Tim looked at Ethan.  “You managed to get a lot sicker than I did.  Sure this is my cold?”


Ethan shrugged.  Hatshoo!”


“And I have no idea how he manages to sneeze that loud with no voice.  He’s always done that.” Dustin said, ignoring a glare from Ethan.  “He’s got an ear infection.  We’re waiting on a chest x-ray.   Should be back soon.”  Dustin looked at Ethan.  “You know the drill.  Hit the button if you need anything.”  He smiled.  


Tim sat down next to Ethan again.  “Why didn’t you tell me you felt so bad?” He fussed.  “I would have come and checked on you.”


“Didn’t start to til late last night.  Thought I could sleep it off, then power through work.”  Ethan explained in a raspy voice.  “And I didn’t want to bother you.  ‘S just a cold.”


“Colds don’t put people in the ER.”


“Blood sugar did that.”  


“And the fever had nothing to do with it?”


Ethan coughed harshly.  “Maybe a little.”


“How high’s your fever?”


Ethan shrugged.  “102-something.” He admitted hoarsely. 


“Damn.” Tim whistled. 


“They gave me Tylenol.”  He pointed to the bottle in his IV.  “It’s down now.”  He said as Dustin came back in.  


“Doc wants another temp and blood sugar…and and influenza swab.”


Ethan nodded, holding out his hand for Dustin to check.   He grimaced at the high reading.  Dustin sighed.  “You know glucose shots always do that to you.   It’ll come down.”


Ethan nodded, giving a weak smile, pressing a tissue to his nose.  Hachoo!”


“Bless you.  Now that that’s out of the way,” He scanned the thermometer across Ethan’s forehead.  “101.6.  I need you to sit up for this, and I’ll remind you, it isn’t pleasant.  Got a tissue ready?”  Ethan nodded, sitting up, and Tim watched as Dustin deftly swabbed the inside of Ethan’s nose.  “Almost done.”  He said, gently, as Ethan’s face started to scrunch.  He pulled the swab out just in time for Ethan to clap the tissue to his nose.




“Bless you.” Tim gently whispered.


Dustin crossed over to the cupboard, pulled out a washcloth, soaked it with cool water and placed it on Ethan’s forehead.   “Rest.  She’ll be in soon on the x-ray and the influenza results, ok.”


“Thanks.” Tim told him as Ethan blew his nose.


Dustin smiled again.  “Been taking care of him for a long time.”


“Just lucky I got you today, right?” Ethan joked, hoarsely.


“Always.  Just give her about 20 minutes, ok.”  


“Yeah.”  Ethan nodded. “Can I get dressed yet?”


“Not til we know if you’re going home.”  Dustin’s face softened.  “Sorry.   I know the gown’s not your favorite look, but…”


“I know.”  Ethan sighed as Dustin left the room.


Tim took his hand again.  “I know.  This wasn’t how you planned for me to see you half naked for the first time.” He grinned.


That got a laugh…and a series of coughs from Ethan.  Tim gently rubbed his back until the coughing subsided.  


“This is ok, right?” He asked.


Ethan nodded.  “You’re not Matt.   I need to trust you.”


Tim squeezed his hand as there was a knock at the door and another person entered, introducing herself as Staci from respiratory.


“Just want to listen to your lungs again.   See how they’re doing since that last nebulizer.”    


Ethan sighed, but sat up again and breathed deeply so she could listen, coughing with each breath.   Tim, on the other side of the bed frowned, concerned.  With his asthma, this part he was more than familiar with.   


Staci was also frowning when she finished listening.   “I think we’ll try one more nebulizer.”  She said, checking the oximeter she had slipped on his finger.   “Your oxygen’s a lot better, but, your lungs are still pretty tight.”    She took the mask from where it was hanging, filled it with solution and handed it to Ethan to strap over his face.    “I’ll be back in 10 minutes.”


Tim gave a sympathetic smile to Ethan’s stormy glare when she had left the room.   “Hate these.” Ethan grumbled.


“I don’t think anyone likes them.   When I was a little kid, my parents had to hold me down for them.  Otherwise I kept ripping the mask off.”   He admitted.   


Ethan gave Tim a small smile before pulling the mask down.


“You’re supposed to ke-“ Tim began chiding him.


Hatchoo!”  Ethan interrupted, wiping his nose, then slipping the mask back in place.   “The mist makes my nose itch.” He explained, voice muffled by the mask.


Tim nodded.  He’d run into that when his nose was particularly irritated.   “10 minutes, babe, that’s all.” He said, encouragingly.  “So, what happened?” He asked again.


Ethan shrugged.  “Pretty much what Dustin said.  I’m crap at taking care of myself.  Every so often, I get a cold that gets bad like this this.   Combine the two, and I end up here.  I’m better at taking care of everybody else.”  He pulled the mask down again.  Atchoo!” He sneezed, and if a sneeze could sound irritable, this one did.   Sniffling, he replaced the mask.  


“Bless you.   Like 7 more minutes, ok.”


Ethan nodded wearily, closing his eyes.  “Jus’ wanna go home.” He mumbled.


“Soon, ok.”  Tim assured him.  “Home, pajamas, nice warm bed, chicken soup.”  He said as his phone dinged with a text from Alex asking how things were going.


“You have to go back to work though, probably.” Ethan sighed.


Tim finished texting Alex the situation.  “I asked for the rest of the day off.”  He grinned at Alex’s text back.


-        You must really like this guy.  See you Monday.


“I’m yours til Monday.” He reassured Ethan.  “And I know you’ve got a spare bedroom.”


Ethan pulled the mask down again.  Hahshoo!  What if I don’t want you to stay?”  He replaced the mask. 


“Then I won’t stay.  Your call.”


“I’m all sick and disgusting.  I’m sure you’ve got better things to do.”


“Well, my plans were dinner with you.   Alex has his kid this weekend.  It’s Freddie and Jamie’s anniversary.  I suppose I could go see if my neighbors want a night out and offer to babysit their kid.  Otherwise, it’s TV and reading on the couch with the cat, laundry and cleaning.  I warned you already, I’m pretty boring.  And you’re sick.  Not disgusting.”


Ethan pulled the mask down to blow his nose.   “I’d like you there.”  He paused. “At least during the day.” He admitted.


Tim squeezed his hand.  “Whatever you’re comfortable with.” He told him as the respiratory therapist came back in.   


She slipped the mask off and listened to his lungs again.  “Much better.   Air is moving through there a lot easier.”


“It doesn’t hurt so much to cough.”  Ethan admitted.


“Good.  That’s a good sign.”   She checked his oxygen.  “96%.  That’s good too.   I think I’ll be leaving you alone now.”  She exited as Dustin entered, carrying Ethan’s coat and bag.  “Endo sent these over.   We all kinda figure you’re not going back today,” he teased.  Ethan glared.   “Doc’s reviewing everything right now.   She’ll be in in a couple minutes.”


“Okay,” Ethan sniffled.  “I just wanna go home.”


“I know.”  Dustin gave him a smile.  “I need your temp again.   That’s kinda the deciding factor.”  He scanned the thermometer across Ethan’s forehead again.  “101.2. Getting better.”  He cleared his throat, looking directly at Ethan.  “You know you shouldn’t be alone right now, with your blood sugar out of whack.”


Hatchoo!”  Ethan muffled a powerful sneeze into his arm and sniffed.  “Yeah.  Tim said he’d stay, at least during the day.” He hesitated.   “I’m just not sure about having him stay at night.”


Dustin looked at Tim, then back at Ethan and nodded.  “Let me know what you decide.  I can always spend the night.”


“Thanks.” Ethan whispered, as the doctor came in and Dustin slipped out.


She looked firmly at Ethan.  “Well, sir, influenza was negative.  You’ve managed a pretty decent case of pneumonia on top of that ear infection, though.”


Ethan’s face fell.  “Are you keeping me?” He asked.


She hesitated.  “Your temperature’s down.  Your blood sugar’s back up.  The concern is the blood sugar.  Is there someone who can check in with you for meals for the next couple days until you feel like eating again?  And, I’d like you to not be alone for the next 24 hours, at least.”


Tim cleared his throat.  “I can.”  He assured the doctor as Ethan concurred, eagerly.


She nodded.  “Then I’ll send you home on antibiotics, steroids and inhalers.  Temp spikes above 102.5 and doesn’t come down with Tylenol, or blood sugars below 70, you need to come back in and will probably be admitted.  Same for worsening cough, shortness of breath or any trouble breathing.   She fixed her glance on Ethan.


Hatshoo!” He blew his nose on his crumpled tissue, pulled a fresh one from the box and blew again.   “I understand.”  He rasped.


She looked at Tim.  “I’ve got it.” 


“I’ll get your discharge papers ready and send the nurse in to discharge you.”  She smiled.  “You can get dressed now.”    


When she was out of the room, Tim handed Ethan his clothes.  “I’ll step out, ok.”


Ethan shook his head.  “Just pull the curtain. Just in case…..I need a hand.”


Tim nodded, pulling the curtain shut.   Ethan slipped his shirt on effortlessly, but struggled a bit with his scrub pants and socks.  “You can open the curtain.” He called to Tim, mostly dressed.   


Tim found Ethan in his scrubs, one sock on and no shoes.


“Can you help me with my sock and shoes?  I get dizzy when I bend down.”


Tim nodded, slipping on Ethan’s sock, then his shoes, tying them.   “Should we let the doctor know?”


“She knows.  It’s from the ear infection.  It’s in both ears.” Ethan explained as Dustin came in with a stack of papers.


“So, you get to go home.  I know you’ll sleep better there.” He smiled. “Let’s go over the paperwork and get you to bed.”


“Pneumonia and a double ear infection is the diagnosis.”  He looked over at Tim.  “This boy never does anything halfway.  If he’s gonna get really sick, he does so in spectacular fashion.”  He covered the medications with Ethan and when to return to the ER.


HahAshoo!” Ethan verbalized his understanding.  


Dustin laughed and handed him the papers to sign.  “Meds were sent to the clinic pharmacy.  Do you remember how to use inhalers?  Otherwise, I’ll go over that with you tonight.”


“I do.”  He nodded at Tim. “He can help if I run into trouble.”


Tim nodded.  “Sure.” He said easily.  


“Work note faxed to your department already.  Off until Wednesday.  Call your doctor tomorrow and make an appointment for Monday or Tuesday.”


Ethan frowned. He despised missing work.


Dustin ignored him and looked at Tim.  “Are you able to take him home?


“Yeah.  I’ll take him home and stay with him as long as he wants.”


“But my-“ Ethan protested.


“Beth and I will bring your car when I finish work and come to check on you.”


“K.  Atchoo!”  This time, his sneeze sounded grumpy.


“Bless you. You’re free to go.  Think you can walk out?”


“Yes.” Ethan glared.  He was embarrassed enough he’d been brought over in a wheelchair; he wasn’t leaving in one.   He stood up slowly and took the coat Tim handed him.  Tim kept his bag.   


Tim brought the car around while Ethan stopped at the pharmacy.  After a quick stop at Walmart for groceries, cold medicine and other things Ethan needed or wanted, they were back at Ethan’s apartment.   

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be a shame if... tim got it... and was too busy worrying about ethan to take care of himself

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Lovely. I'm a sucker for colds and caretaking.

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Perfectly perfect in every way 🥰

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Love this.  

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And the next part.   Sorry for the delay.  I was working a lot, then school started (it’s my final term and killing me) and to top it off, I got shingles, so writing hasn’t been at the forefront.  
And for the record, this is the cold he caught from Tim...it just went crazy and kicked his butt.  


Tim was set on carrying everything up to Ethan’s apartment, allowing Ethan to carry his work bag only after Ethan was adamant.  Ethan unlocked his apartment and led Tim to the kitchen, starting to help him put things away.


“Go change.”  Tim ordered.  “Then lay down.”


“You don’t know where everything goes,” Ethan countered.


“I’ll figure it out.” Tim poked a hole in that argument.  


HahShoo!” Ethan conceded, heading for his bedroom.  He emerged a several minutes later in gray sweats and a faded college sweatshirt.   


“I thought I said to lay down.”  Tim reminded him as he came into the kitchen.  


“You did.  I wanted some juice.”  


Tim smiled.   “Food?”  He asked.  “Did you get lunch?”


“I had hospital food in the ER.  They ordered a tray.”


“So, more or less?”


“Yeah.”  Ethan finished, pouring himself a glass of orange juice, drinking it, then grabbing his water bottle.   


“Ready to lay down?”


“On the couch.”  


“You should be in bed.”


“More comfortable for you.”


“I’ll be in your kitchen, cooking.”


“So then I can see what you’re up to.  Tell you where things are.  I’m closer if I need something…”. He trailed off, coughing.   


Tim wordlessly found a coffee cup after 3 cupboards, filled it with water and placed it in the microwave.   He placed a teabag in when the microwave dinged.  “Lemon?”


“I got it.”  Ethan took the cup from him and fixing it to his liking; Tim watching on so he could see how to make it in the future.   “I can do things for myself.” He reminded Tim.  “I just need someone with me.”  He brought his sweatshirt clad elbow to cover his face. “Hatshoo!  Ugh.  Believe it or not, since it migrated to my lungs, I’m actually sneezing less now.”  He commented, grabbing a takeout napkin and giving his nose a fierce blow.   


“Bless you.”  Tim gave Ethan a sympathetic look.   “At least, go sit on the couch.  I doubt your day has been very restful.”  He told him gently.   


Ethan couldn’t hide the yawn as he crossed over to the table and sat down.   At Tim’s exasperated glance, he explained.  “I don’t like open containers of hot liquids on the couch when I’m coughing and sneezing.  I like the table.”


Tim nodded, understanding.  He’d spilled his soup or tea coughing and sneezing, not being able to reach the coffee table in time.   “Can I at least get you a blanket?”


Ethan shook his head.  “I’m a little warm, actually.”  He took a sip of tea.  “Tell me what you need to make everything.”  Tim listed off the items needed and Ethan directed him to the appropriate drawers and cupboards.


Tim began making soup, casting worried glances at Ethan from time to time.  He just wished the other man would go and lay on the couch and get some sleep.  “How are you feeling?”


Ethan coughed and blew his nose.  “Lousy.” He sighed.  A pause.  “I need to start the meds.” He pointed out, starting to stand up.   


“I got it.”  Tim grabbed the pharmacy bag off the counter and set it on the table, turning back to his cooking to give Ethan privacy while he took the pills and used the inhalers.   “Can I ask what happened with your blood sugar?” He said, tentatively. 


There was a long pause, followed by a sigh.  “I’m never hungry when I’m sick. I hadn’t been eating much, and it caught up to me. I had some other lows, not that low…but…they should have been a warning.  I know I need to make myself eat…I just don’t like to.”

Tim was silent for a moment.  He opened his mouth to respond but was cut off by a harsh, raspy sneeze from Ethan.


Hatchoo!”  Ethan looked around for tissues.


“Bless you.”  Tim handed him the roll of paper towels; he’d placed the tissues they’d bought in the bathroom; and waited while Ethan noisily blew his nose.    He sat down at the table across from Ethan.  “So, this happens a lot?”


Ethan cleared his throat.  “Not usually this low.  Just low enough where I don’t need insulin and need some carbs.  But, despite what Dustin says, I don’t typically get this sick either.”


“Tell me what you can eat, how you normally eat…” Tim prompted.  


Ethan filled Tim in on his diet, what he could have, how he typically ate, what he liked, punctuating it. with a sneeze.


“Sure, you’re sneezing less.” Tim teased.  “And what can you always eat?”


Ethan finished blowing his nose, setting the crumpled paper towel in front of him.  “You forget, I sneeze all the time to begin with.”  His gaze fell on the peanut butter jar on the counter.  “Peanut butter.” He said softly.  “I’ve been living on peanut butter toast and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches since I got sick.” He sniffled, pressing the paper towel to his nose and wiping at it.


“Are you done with your tea?”  At Ethan’s nod, Tim suggested they move to the couch.  “My iPad is in my backpack.  Let’s look for some recipes that you can have that are made with peanut butter.”  He went to wrap the throw blanket around Ethan, who again reminded him that he was warm.  “I’ll make them for you tomorrow.”  He sat next to Ethan and began browsing and bookmarking whatever Ethan pointed out as looking good.   After about half an hour, they had breakfast and snack recipes; Tim was noticing how warm Ethan was and commented as such.  “I think we need your temperature again.  Where’s your thermometer?”


“Bathroom.  Medicine cabinet or counter.  I don’t remember if I put it away this morning.”


“You had a fever this morning, and you still went to work?” Tim asked, incredulous.


“No.  I didn’t have a fever this morning, so I went to work.” Ethan tried to snap, but his weak, raspy voice didn’t cooperate, and he ended up having a brief coughing fit from the force of it.


Tim grabbed the thermometer from the bathroom (it was on the counter), along with the cough drops for Ethan.  He handed Ethan the bag of cough drops once he got back to the living room and listened while Ethan instructed him on how to use his thermometer, a much fancier model than his own ancient oral one.   He scanned the thermometer in front of Ethan’s forehead.  “101.  Can you have more Tylenol?”


“I think it’s too soon.” Ethan informed him.  “I could have some ibuprofen though.”


“Medicine cabinet?” Tim asked.  Ethan nodded, and Tim dashed off to fetch it.   “I’m going to check the soup,” he said, handing the bottle to Ethan.  “Do you need anything from the kitchen?


Ethan finished taking the ibuprofen and handed Tim his water bottle.  “More water, please.  And I know they’re not in the kitchen, but more tissues are gonna be needed soon.”  He leaned against the back of the couch, coughing.  


“No problem.  Cough syrup?  Cold medicine? Juice? Snack?”  He looked at his watch. “We’ll eat in about two hours.”


Ethan cleared his throat.   “Cough syrup.  The prescription one from today.  Cold medicine never helps with the sneezing, so pass.  I probably should have a snack, even though the glucagon injection has me higher than usual.  There’s sliced cheese in the fridge.  Can you grab a piece of that with four crackers, please?”  


“Sure thing.”  Tim went into the kitchen, stirred and tasted the soup, filled Ethan’s water bottle and grabbed his snack, handing them to Ethan on his way to grab the tissues and cough syrup from the bathroom.




“Bless you.” He returned to another hoarse sneeze from Ethan followed by several strong coughs.  He poured the cough syrup into the cup the pharmacy had provided while Ethan blew his nose.


“This is gonna make me fall asleep…the codeine, I mean.”  Ethan said, hesitating. 


“Good.” Tim told him.  “You look like you haven’t had much sleep for awhile.”


Ethan shook his head.  “Cough.”


“Take it.  I’ll be here when you wake up.”


Ethan blew his nose again, took the cough syrup, then curled up in a ball at the end of the couch.  He talked to Tim for a short while, but eventually his words became interrupted more and more frequently by yawns, and Tim told him to sleep.


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Aw! Poor Ethan! (And poor you!)

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Just a small bit - school and being sick are pretty much my life rn


He was woken a few hours later by Tim gently shaking him.    “It’s a little after 6.   I’ve got supper ready.”   


Ethan yawned, sitting up.   He rubbed his eyes and stretched his neck and shoulders.  “Ok.” He said softly.  “I’ll be right there.”  He headed into the bedroom for blood sugar check and insulin, then joined Tim in the kitchen. 


Tim had a bowl of soup waiting at the table, along with a glass of orange juice and a glass of water.  “Crackers?”  Tim offered as Ethan sat down.


Ethan shook his head.   “Looks good.”  He coughed roughly into a worn sleeve.  He started eating, chatting with Tim while he did so.  “It’s a little spicy for chicken noodle soup.” He commented after a bit, reaching for a tissue from the box he carried with him, blowing his nose.


“My mom’s recipe.  She always made it for me.  Said spicy cleared your head out.  Is it too spicy?  I don’t exactly measure the spices, and I like spicy.”


“It’s good…just surprising.” Ethan responded.  “I’m used to chicken soup being…you know…chicken soup.”  He sniffled, muffling a series of coughs into his oversized sweatshirt.   


“I can make you some regular soup if you want.”


Ethan shook his head.  “This is fine.  I just don’t usually eat spicy food, so its different.  A good different.” He insisted.  “So you were telling me about your neighbor’s kid and their dog…” He rubbed his nose again.


They resumed conversation and eating, Ethan occasionally stopping to blow his nose.


“The spice really builds up.”  Ethan commented.


Tim nodded. “It’s getting you good.”


“Always dohes.” His voice hitched on the second syllable, and he barely had time to turn away from the table before he doubled over with a loud, uncovered “Hatchoo!”


“Bless you.” Tim told him as he straightened up and turned back to the table.  


He grabbed a handful of tissues and taking care of his nose.  “Thanks.” He mumbled, flushing red.  


“That one snuck up on you.”


“Always kinda does.”  Tim looked confused, and Ethan continued to explain.  “Spicy food makes me sneeze.  The first sneeze is always sudden. I know it’s coming, but it always catches me off guard.”


Tim laughed.  “So, we won’t be sharing curry.” 


Ethan shook his head, giving his nose a hard scrub.  “Nope.” 


Tim noticed how congested he sounded and slid the tissues closer.   “And I’d guess you’re done eating, too?”  He asked.


Ethan didn’t answer, just buried another powerful “Ahshoo!” in his sleeve, rubbing his sleeve across his nose.


Tim again pushed the tissues to him.  “Bless you.”


“Might want to wait on that.  I’m gonna sneeze for a little bit.” He mumbled stuffily, with a couple deep sniffles.


Tim nodded.  “Done with your bowl?” He asked, reaching for it?


“I can take care of it,”. Ethan snapped, grabbing his bowl and heading for the sink.   He dumped the contents down the garage disposal and rinsed the bowl, sitting back down.  


“You ok?”  Tim asked.


“I’m fine.”   Ethan insisted through his clogged nose.  “Aside from the ear infection, the pneumonia, and the sneezing fit.”


He’d pushed the tissues away when he’d angrily grabbed his bowl, and Tim reached over and snagged them.  “Blow your nose.”  He told Ethan. “I can barely understand you.”


HahhShoo!”  Ethan pulled his shirt collar up over his nose for another sneeze.  “I’m ok.”  He snapped, rubbing his sleeve roughly across his nose.


“You look like you can’t even breathe through your nose.” Tim pointed out.


Ethan responded with a deep sniffle.   “I’m fine.” He said in a low harsh tone.  “Leave me the fuck alone.”   He got up and stalked into his bedroom, shutting the door firmly.


Tim sat there for a moment, stunned.  This was similar to what had happened a few days back, but more intense.   He heard a loud, explosive sneeze from the bedroom and sighed.  Maybe Ethan would be more willing to talk when he calmed down.  Maybe this Dustin who seemed to know Ethan well would know something when he came to drop off Ethan’s car and possibly spend the night.  He got up and washed the supper dishes and cleaned up what little mess there was in the kitchen.  


He sat on the couch and watched TV, listening to Ethan sneeze from the bedroom for the next 10 minutes.  Half an hour later, he heard Ethan’s cell phone ring, and looked over to see it sitting on the end table.   He picked it up and headed to Ethan’s room, knocking on the door.  “Ethan! Phone!” He called.


Ethan took the phone from Tim, answered it, and went back in the bedroom, closing the door.    He emerged 20 minutes later, looking awkward.   


“That was Dustin.  He’ll be here in about an hour with my car.”  He hesitantly sat down on the couch.  “Um, he’s gonna spend the night; I hope you don’t mind.”


“I think that’s a good idea,” Tim agreed.  “Do you want me to come back tomorrow?”


Ethan nodded.  “If you still want to.”


“I don’t know what happened at dinner; we can talk about it later.” Tim sighed.  “But I’d like to come tomorrow.”


Ethan let out a deep breath he’d been holding.  “I’d like that.”   


“Everything ok?”


Ethan nodded, wrapping his arm over his face.  HahAhschoo!”  He felt the moisture soak his sleeve and kept his arm in place.  “Can you hand me some tissues please?” He asked, voice muffled by his sleeve.


“Hold on.  They’re still in the kitchen.” Tim stood up, and Ethan nodded.  Tim returned a few seconds later, pressing a couple tissues into Ethan’s free hand.    


“Thanks.” Ethan whispered, pulling his sleeve away and covering his nose with the tissues.  Tim saw the spot on his sleeve where the sneeze had saturated it and knew Ethan’s nose must just be running.   A liquid blow from Ethan confirmed that suspicion.  


“Bless you.”  He said when Ethan straightened back up, squeezing his shoulder.   


Ethan nodded, reaching for the bottle of hand sanitizer on the table.  “Thanks.  Sorry; I know that was on the gross side.”


“Happens.” Tim smiled.  “You need anything?”


Ethan hesitated; he didn’t really want to just leave Tim sitting alone on the couch again, especially after what happened at dinner.  “I don’t know if it’s from the cough syrup or everything that happened today, but I’m really tired.  I’d like to go back to sleep.”  Tim nodded.  Ethan hesitated.  “In my bed.  It’s just, it’s more comfortable…I can stretch out…”


“Then you should.”  Tim told him.  “Go.  I’m fine right here. You need the rest.”   Ethan returned to his room, and Tim watched TV while he waited for Dustin.

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Love it

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Amazing 💙

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And the next part...2 more parts to come I think

Tim sat there watching Sports Center until there was a knock at Ethan’s door.   Opening it revealed the nurse from the hospital, this time clad in jeans and a t-shirt instead of scrubs.  “Hi, Tim”


Tim nodded.  Ethan must have really been talking about him, otherwise he doubted Dustin would remember his name after their brief encounter today.   “Hi, Dustin.” He smiled, stepping back so he could come in.  “I’ll go wake Ethan.”


“Wait.”  Dustin stopped him, setting his overnight bag in the corner.  “Can I talk to you about Ethan?”


Tim tensed.  Ethan didn’t have a brother so this must be the pseudo big brother/former roommate talk, and he was not looking forward to it.


Dustin continued, “there’s some things about his last relationship you should know; it’ll make things easier for you right now, trust me.”


Tim relaxed.  Maybe this dealt with the past relationship baggage Ethan had mentioned a few days ago when he had gotten touchy about a comment Tim had made about his sneezing.   Hopefully, Dustin could shed some light on what happened earlier.  


Dustin sat sideways on the couch, and Tim sat facing him.  “I know he was hoping you guys would be together longer before this came up.   Has he, uh, mentioned Matt?  His last boyfriend?”


Tim nodded.  “A little.  He said he wasn’t the nicest when Ethan would get sick.”


“That’s Ethan sugar coating it.  They were together four years, and Matt was horrible to Ethan the last  year they were together.  It started with Ethan catching a cold.  Ethan swears everything was fine the first few days.  Matt was distant, but Ethan figured he was in the middle of a big case and just didn’t want to catch it.   Then, Ethan woke Matt up sneezing and Matt just lost it,  yelling at Ethan for waking him, did he have to be so loud, couldn’t he have the decency to stifle or go into another room…”


“And he can’t.”  Tim shook his head.  “He told me he can’t stifle or hold them back, which neither can I.  And he’s the first guy I’ve dated that sneezes louder than I do.  I told him he’s lucky he only sneezes once, though, not anywhere from 2 to 6;  I hit 8 or more, there’s feathers or someone wearing Invctus around.”


Dustin laughed, then paused.  “Doesn’t Ethan wear Invictus?”


“Not anymore.”  Tim grinned.


Dustin smiled.  “Anyway, he was horrible to Ethan the entire time.  Snapping at him about how loud he sneezed, how much he sneezed – I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet, but Ethan sneezes a Lot, even when he’s healthy.”


“That’s what he says.  This cold kinda took over at the start of the relationship though…”


“It’s worse when he’s got a cold or his allergies are bad.  He doesn’t always sneeze this much…with allergies, it’s more.  But, Matt just laid into him for his sneezing, his congestion, his coughing, his sleeping extra…the low blood sugars.  He’d order him to blow his nose, get a cough drop…like he was 5.  It was worse when Ethan’s allergies hit.  I don’t know if he’s warned you, but he has the worst hay fever in the spring.”


“He mentioned he had horrible allergies in the spring.”  Tim confirmed as Dustin pulled an arm up to his face.


“Hakishoo…kishoo-kishoo-kshoo-kshoo-kshoo-kshoo-shoo…HahKishoo.  Excuse me.”  He pulled a tissue from the box on the table and softly blew his nose.  “Excuse me.  Woke up with the start of a cold this morning.” He sniffed, sliding the tissue in his pocket and continued. “They’re truly terrible.  When he worked other units as a floor nurse, he’d walk into his assigned rooms and introduce himself: I’m Ethan, and I’ve got some allergies going on right now….  Anyway, Ethan was worse, so Matt was even worse.  Just constantly bitching at him for all of it, even after Ethan’s allergies settled down.  And when Matt got sick,”. Dustin shook his head.  “Doesn’t matter if it was self inflicted or not.”


Tim nodded.  He got the meaning of self inflicted.


“He expected Ethan to drop everything except work and take care of him.  Total silence when he was sleeping.  Cater to his every whim,’. Dustin coughed.


Hahtchoo!”  A loud sneeze came from hallway.   “Tell him about the end.”  Ethan sniffled.


“You don’t want to?”


Ethan shook his head, flopping down in the chair.   “I’ll chip in.”


“Ethan came home and Matt’s sitting on the couch with a German shepherd half on his lap.”


Tim groaned.


“Ethan was quickly informed that the dog was staying and went in the bedroom, took allergy meds, laid down, only to discover the dog had claimed his side of the bed too.  Calls me, sneezing, asks me to come get him, which I do.   I get there, he’s sitting outside on the steps with a box of tissues, couple of packed bags, mostly clothes. He’s told Matt it’s over and he’ll be back for the rest of his things.  I get him in the car, get the story, get him home, go back, get his stuff and his car, glaring at Matt the whole time.   And Ethan wouldn’t  date for a year after that.”


Tim gave Ethan a sympathetic look.  “Come here,” he said gently.  Ethan slowly crossed over and sat on the couch between Tim and Dustin.  Tim wrapped his arms around him.  “I’m not Matt.” He whispered.  “I promise.”  He cleared his throat.  “And believe me when I tell you your sneeze is the least annoying one in this relationship.”


“I still think mine is worse.”  Ethan pouted.  “You never sneeze, so yours can’t be annoying.”


Tim sighed.  “Want me to prove it?”


Ethan nodded.  “How?”


Go get your invictus?”  At Ethan’s hesitation, he continued, “it’s too soon in the relationship for you to have tossed it; go get it.”


Ethan gave him a strange look.


“Seriously, go get it.”


Ethan headed towards the bedroom, coming back with the cologne.  “What do you want me to do?”  


“You hold it, for one thing.  Last thing I want is to drop it.”   Tim grinned.  “Spray just a little bit into the tissue.”  He handed him a folded up tissue, and took a handful for himself.  He reached for Ethan’s tissue and took a tentative sniff, followed by a deeper one, pushing it back at Ethan, who got the message to take it back.  


He pressed his tissues to his nose,  hihtschoo, huhitschoo.”  The first two came quick and were followed by a flurry.  Huhhrihhshhoo, rhhishhoo, huhhshoo, huhhrahhshoo, hahrashoo, rahhshoo…ahhshoo, huhhahhshehh.”  He sat up and wiped his eyes. “Ugh.  You can’t tell me that’s not annoying.  Even when it’s only two or four.”  He sniffled.  


“Bless you.”  Ethan passed over the box of tissues.






Dustin looked impressed.   “He’s almost as loud as you, E.  And doubly annoying.”  He judged, as Tim loudly blew his nose.   


Tim looked at Ethan.  “We ok?” Ethan nodded.  “Tell you my stuff tomorrow?”  


Ethan gave a crooked smile.  “Yeah.”


They headed back to the living room where Dustin dug through his overnight bag.  He paused, pulling the collar of his t-shirt up over his nose.  HahKishoo-kishoo-kishoo-kshoo-Kshoo-shoo-shoo-shoo-HahKishoo.”


“Bless you.” Ethan said, in a low raspy tone.


“Thanks.” Dustin sniffled and took a tissue from the box Tim offered.   


“You ok?” Tim fussed.


“He always sneezes like that.”  Ethan eased Tim’s concerns.  “Well, maybe not exactly like that, but more or less like that.”


Dustin nodded, straightening up.  “Always.   Anyway, Ethan, these are from AdaLyn.”


“Yeah!?   You didn’t bring her up to see me…”


“You have pneumonia.”  Dustin reminded him.  “I don’t need a three year old with pneumonia.  Anyway, here is a get well card.”  He handed out apiece of paper for Ethan to take.


Ethan, in turn, spun away.  AhShoo!”


“Bless you.  I think you need the card,” he laughed, handing it to Ethan.  


Ethan looked at AdaLyn’s 3 year old scribbles and grinned.   Tim watched as he stuck the card to the fridge with a magnet, smiling.


“This is on loan.  She couldn’t believe you didn’t have a stuffed animal to sleep with, so remember this?”  He held out a sock monkey.


Ethan laughed.  “I gave her that.”


“And it’s yours until you’re better.”  Dustin grinned, handing it over.


“I will take good care of, what was it, Scott? Stuart?”


“Steve. All monkeys are named Steve, per Beth.”


“But not all Steve’s are monkeys.” Ethan finished.  “I will take the very best care of Steve.” He intoned seriously in his sandpapery voice.


Dustin laughed.  “There’s peanut butter protein balls in my bag.  That’s Beth’s contribution.”


Tim watched as Dustin doled out “feel better” items from Ethan’s “friend-family,” thinking of his own.  When he’d been sick, he’d had Jamie to send over soup with Freddie who was over fussing over him.  Alex who made sure he had everything he needed, and Alyssa who would stop and check on him when he was sick enough to miss work, since she drove right past his apartment on his way to work.    He wondered if someday these families might merge.


Harsh coughing from Ethan broke him from his thoughts, and he grabbed Ethan’s water bottle from the coffee table.  


“Thanks.”  Ethan gasped, taking a slow drink.   


“How’s your breathing?”  Dustin asked.


Ethan took a few deep breaths.  “Not great.” He admitted.  “I’ll be right back.”  He disappeared to use the inhaler.


He came back and flopped on the couch. “HehAhchoo!”


“Bless you.” Tim and Dustin said in unison.


“Thanks,”. Ethan yawned, reaching for his water.  


“I should go.  Let you get some rest.”    Tim said gently.  “I’ll see you in the morning?”


Ethan nodded.  “Yeah.” He smiled.  “What time?”


“When do you want me here?”


“Is 9 too early?”


Tim shook his head.  “Not at all.”  He leaned over to kiss Ethan, but Ethan’s attention was distracted by another sneeze from Dustin.


“HahKishoo-kishoo-kishoo-kishoo-kshoo-kshoo-shoo-shoo-shoo…Hakishoo.” Dustin blew his nose on the tissue he had grabbed while Tim and Ethan had beef distracted with each other.   “I’m done with this.”  He complained.  “Stealing some cold medicine,” he informed Ethan.


“Usual place.” 


“Also bathroom counter.” Tim chimed in.  “I didn’t know the usual place.”


Dustin nodded, headed for the bathroom,  “l’ll put it away.”  He wiped his nose again.


Dustin came and sat in Ethan’s recliner.  “Thanks, man,” he coughed. “You worked peds clinic and family practice.  Urgent care’s the same thing after they close.  People with Colds wanting antibiotics.  So I Woke up with one this morning.”   


Ethan nodded.  “Yeah.  If you don’t get them from AdaLyn and daycare, you manage to pick them up from work.”  He yawned.  


“I’m really…huhshoo, huhahshhoo…Going this time.” Tim sniffled.   “Excuse me.”  He mock glared at Ethan.  “I’m going to be doing that all night because someone didn’t believe I was annoying.” He teased.


“I’m sorry.”  Ethan was truly contrite,


Tim wrapped his arm around him and kissed the side of his forehead.  “First, I think your fever’s up.  And two, it’s ok.  I don’t mind sneezing.   And just so you know, I don’t never sneeze; I have my allergies.  Sometimes the sun gets me, and when I deep clean the apartment, I’m sneezing until I go to bed.  Now, Dustin is going to check your temperature, you’re going to have your snack, and I’m going home for the night.  I’ll see you in the morning.”  He gave Ethan another kiss and slipped out while Dustin was fussing over Ethan.


Edited by aggedy_ann

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I am such a sucker for caretaking. I love this and am so glad you have stuck with it. And poor Dustin is sick now too. 

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I continue to love this.

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Thanks guys.  Here’s the little bit with Ethan and Dustin.   

“101.8” Dustin informed him.  “When was the last time you had Tylenol?”


“In the ER.  I had ibuprofen about 4.”  


Dustin looked at his watch.  “You’re due for something.  You want NyQuil?”


Ethan shrugged.  “You know it never gets me to stop sneezing.” He whined.


“Yeah.” Dustin agreed. “But, it does help with the congestion and cough, so you can sleep between sneezes.” He pointed out.   “And the Tylenol will knock down your fever.”


Ethan nodded.  “I’ll take it with the pills and the inhalers.” He grumbled, disappearing into the bathroom to take the medications while Dustin set up a snack for him in the kitchen.


“Bed.” He ordered, when Ethan had finished eating.


“But…”Ethan protested.  “There’s a movie…”


“You have a TV in your room.  You can watch it in bed.”


“But then you can’t watch it with me.”


“You can make room on your bed for me…you don’t always have to be in the middle of the bed.”  Dustin reminded him patiently.   “Besides,” he commented with a sniffle, “I’m not sure how late I’ll be up.  Beth’s arranged for AdaLyn to stay with the neighbor until I get home, but then I’ll be running after her all day.”  He coughed. “I’ll need my strength.”   


Ethan rolled his eyes.  “Fine.”  He slowly walked to his room and flopped down on his bed.   


“Under the covers.” Dustin instructed, pausing.  “Wait.  Do you have everything you need for the night?”  He coughed again.  “Water, inhaler, tissues, cough drops, glucose tabs…especially after your little escapades today?  He knew Ethan’s tricks to stall getting in bed when told to go to bed when sick.


Ethan sighed and grabbed his water bottle.  He returned with a full bottle of water, box of tissues and the inhaler.  He stalked out again and returned with the throw blanket from the couch and the pillows from the guest room.  




Walking in on Dustin mid fit, Ethan threw the pillows and blanket on the bed and stepped out for another box of tissues.   


“Bless you.”  He said, returning to Dustin, sitting on the foot of the bed, wiping his nose.


“Thanks.” Dustin mumbled, congestedly.   The edges had been wearing off his ‘m’s and ‘n’s all day, and that last set of sneezes had completely ended his ability to cleanly make the sounds.   


“Were you like this earlier?  Was I that out if it that I just don’t remember?”


Dustin cleared his throat.  “Both.  I woke up stuffier than usual this morning, with a sore throat and coughing.  It’s gotten worse as the day went on.   I wasn’t this bad when you last saw me,” he grinned.  “But you were pretty out of it at the start.”     


“When do you get NyQuil?”


“I just took the regular stuff an hour ago.   I’ll take more of that later.  Haven’t taken the night time stuff since before the kid.”  He paused.  “Speaking of kids,” he teased, “ got everything?”  He took in the pile on the bed.  “Leave anything behind?”


Ethan glared, setting up the bed.  “These are your pillows.  This is your blanket.  These are your tissues.  This is your trash bag.”  He started to glare again and then noticed how much more tired Dustin looked than he had earlier that day.  Dark circles were starting to form under his eyes while his nose was turning red.  Add that to his stuffy voice, and he was in for a hell of a cold.    Ethan softened.  “You know it never works for us to share tissues.  One of us always needs them more than the other and hogs them.”


Dustin smiled.  “Got everything else?”


“Water, inhaler, partial box of tissues, extra box of tissues; cough drops and glucose tabs in the drawer.”  He reached in to his nightstand drawer and pulled a bag out, handing it to Dustin.   “I think you need them too.”


Dustin smiled.  “Thank you. Now, bed.  Under the covers bed.”  He pulled Ethan’s blankets back. 


Ethan shook his head. “I’m still too warm.” 


Dustin frowned.  “That fever’s persistent. On bed though.  I’m getting you a cold compress…try to help with that.”


He came back with a cold, wet washcloth, handing it to Ethan and glancing at the TV.  “Jurassic Park.  Seriously.  Can’t you quote this word for word?”


Ethan picked a tissue from the box next to the bed.  Hahshoo!” His head dipped forward into the tissue with a loud, raspy sneeze.  Sniffling, he looked up.  “Probably.”  He admitted, sitting down on the bed, then pulling his legs up in and leaning against the pillows and headboard.   “I’m in bed.  Happy?”  He pulled his sheet over him.  “I’m even under the covers.”  He blew his nose and tossed the tissue in his wastebasket.   He picked up the washcloth Dustin had given him and placed it on his forehead.


“Very.”  Dustin got comfortable on the bed next to Ethan.  “How are you doing?”


“Mostly tired.  This cough is getting to me.  And before you ask, yes, I took the codeine cough syrup.  I should get pretty sleepy soon.”


“Good.  You need the rest.  And so do I.”


Ethan nodded.  “Sorry you have to do this again.” 


Dustin shrugged.  “Coulda just said you had no one for overnight and had them hospitalize you.  But I know you hate that.”


“You knew I wouldn’t want Tim overnight.”


“I knew you wouldn’t be comfortable.  He told me that you get a little upset when he starts taking care of you a little too much.”


Ethan blushed and looked down, sniffing wetly.  He ran a hand under his nose and looked up with another thick sniffle.  


Dustin saw his eyes were also damp with tears, and cleared his throat, handing over a tissue.  “Hey, get your nose, E.”


Ethan took the tissue and blew his nose.  “You’re being your mom now.”


Dustin shook his head.  “My mom: Oh, Ethan, your nose is running.  Here, have some tissues. Blow your nose.  Do you need more tissues?  Do you have a cold or is it your allergies? Oh you poor thing, I hope it’s not both.  Do you need some Benadryl? Cold medicine?....and on and on and on.” He imitated.


Ethan laughed.


“My dad always hands over a tissue and just says ‘get your nose.’ If he says anything.  He doesn’t draw attention to it.”  He rubbed the back of his hand against his nose, and surreptitiously grabbed a tissue.


“You know you’re gonna sneeze eventually.” 


Dustin nodded, holding the tissue at the ready.  


Ethan wanted to tease him more, but he just looked miserable, sitting there, waiting to sneeze.  Ethan could understand the frustration of a stuck sneeze; his spring allergies loved to torture him with them.

Hatshoo!” He exploded suddenly, barely having time to whip his head to the side, away from Dustin or bring his hands up to cover. 


“Bless you.” Dustin laughed. “Scared mine away.”


“I do that.” Ethan grinned.  “My sudden, loud, scary sneeze.” He rasped.


“Yeah.  Scary if you’re under 5.  But definitely loud…especially for a guy with no voice.”


Ethan shrugged.  “You know it’s always-“  He was cut off by Dustin’s first sneeze.


“HahKishoo-kihshoo-kshoo-kshoo-shoo-shoo-shoo…HahKishoo.  Ugh. It came bahhhck…HahKishoo-kishoo-kishoo-kishoo-kshoo-shoo-shoo -shoo.  Dammit.”  


Ethan waited while he blew his nose half a dozen times into tissue after tissue.  “God bless you.”  Multiple sets from Dustin were always deserving of more than a simple ‘bless you.’


“Thanks.  Too early in the cold for me to be doing that.” He sighed.  Dustin blew his nose again, trying to alleviate his congestion.  He scooted back until he was against the headboard and looked at Ethan.  


“So, Tim…taking care of you.  From talking to him tonight, watching him with you, it seems like he cares, like it just comes naturally. You don’t have a problem with me fussing over you.  So…”


Ethan shrugged.  “It’s…it’s…I unno…” he paused for a long while.


Dustin took advantage of this pause to blow his nose.   


“In the beginning, with Matt, he was so different from the end.  At first he fussed with every sneeze…was I sick, was I allergic to something…until I finally convinced him I sneezed all the time.  Tim gets like that.  Before the cold, I was sneezing at his apartment, and he was worried I was allergic to his cat.”  He paused so Dustin could catch up.


“That’s kinda normal, E, especially since you sneeze all the freaking time.  If I was in that spot, I’d wonder the same.  Matt fussed a bit too much in the beginning, though.  And now, you did get sick right away, so…”


“The first time I got sick when I was dating Matt was about 4, 5 months in,” Ethan paused and coughed. “He was really great.  Super attentive.  I had strep throat.  I actually left work sick, remember that?  Anyway, I felt so awful, I went over to urgent care and got seen without you suggesting it.   Anyway, I got my meds, groceries, all that.   Texted him to cancel our date cuz it hurt so much to talk, texted you and fell asleep.  Next thing I know, it’s 6:00, and he’s waking me up carefully so he doesn’t scare me.  He says he’s got soup and tea waiting once I check my blood sugar even though he knows it probably hurts too much for me to consider eating.”


Ahtshoo!”  He cupped his hands over his nose and continued.  “Even with my allergies, he was so sweet  at the start.   Even when my summer allergies would flare up or fall ones would get bad and ruin our plans.   Even with my spring ones ruining everything. Then over time, he got less attentive when I was sick and just kinda whatever about my allergies.  Then, there was the last year.”


Dustin nodded, distracted by his phone ringing.  He silenced the call.  “Beth, to say goodnight.   I’ll call her in a bit.”  He blew his nose noisily.   “So, you’re afraid because it started off good with Matt, it will end badly with Tim.” 


Ethan looked down, not answering.  Dustin reached out and put his hand on his back, rubbing gently.  


“Yeah.” Ethan admitted, voice cracking.  Even though his eyes were wet again, both men pretended that the crack was due to the rough condition of his voice rather than any sort of feelings he may have encountered during the night.  Dustin handed him a tissue.  “Nose again?” Ethan asked, turning his head to blow his nose and hastily, wiping the back of his hand across his eyes. 


“I gotta call Beth.” Dustin changed  the subject and picked up his phone.  “Hey, honey…yeah, it’s gotten worse…just stuffed up, coughing and sneezing…no, I don’t think so…he’s getting ready for bed…I’m in luck, his favorite movie is on…Tim said he’d be back at 9 so, 10, 10:30…no later than 11…promise…ok, I’ll let you talk to him.”  He handed the phone over to Ethan.  “She wants to talk to you.”


Ethan took the phone.  “Hi Beth.  Thanks for the snacks.” He answered in his sandpapery voice.   


“How are you feeling?” She asked.


“Better than this morning.  Thanks for loaning me your husband…again.”


“I’m getting used to this.” She laughed.  “How is he?”


“Stuffy. Sneezy.” He said as he was interrupted by another rapid fire fit from Dustin.  “Coughing some.  He took cold medicine, but maybe he needs the real sudafed in the morning.  I’ll give him one.”


“Thanks.  Get him in bed early, ok.  No staying up half the night watching movies.”


“We’ve got Jurassic Park on.  5 bucks says he’ll be asleep before the dinosaurs escape. Then, at the end, I’ll wake him up and send him to the guest room.”


“And how will I know when he fell asleep?”


“You ask him the last part he remembers.” Ethan said, as though it was obvious, grabbing for a tissue and setting Dustin’s phone on the bed.  HahAhtchoo.  He picked the phone back up.  “See.”


“Bless.  You boys get some rest.”


“Will do.  Night Beth.”  He handed the phone to Dustin and picked up Steve the sock monkey, placing him on his chest.  He looked at Dustin.  “Can we go back to talking about more pleasant things so we don’t ruin my favorite movie?”


Dustin laughed.  “Just watch the movie.” He told him, tossing another tissue into his trash bag.   


“How’s school?”


“You have no voice, and now, you want to talk?” Dustin laughed.


Ethan shrugged.  “Unless we get break together, we hardly ever see each other.  You’re busy with school and Beth and Ada.”


“I’ll be done in 8 months.  It’s getting harder.  Sometimes, I barely have time for Beth and Ada.”   


“Sucks.”  Ethan turned his head, reaching for a tissue.  Hatshoo!”  He directed the sneeze down at the floor, tissue on the way, then blew his nose.    He took the tissue box and placed it on his chest, above Steve the sock monkey.


“Bless you.”


Dustin shrugged.  “Didn’t you say yours was worth it?”


“Yeah.”  Ethan stared in silence at the TV for a few minutes before pressing a tissue back to his nose.  Ahshoo!”


“Bless You.  You ok?”


Ethan nodded, blowing his nose.  “Fine.  Where do you want to work as a nurse practitioner?”


Dustin began talking about the places he’d like to work, how he had family practice clinicals arranged, and hoped he’d like those. 


Atchoo!” Ethan interrupted after another couple minutes, this one followed by a deep yawn.


“Bless you.  Sleepy sneezes?”  Ethan nodded, fighting back another yawn.   “It’s not that late,” he mused, “but with everything that happened today, as sick as you are, the NyQuil and the codeine, I can see where they’d hit.  Time to go to sleep.”  He picked up the remote to turn off the TV.


“But the movie –“ Ethan protested.


“Can be watched tomorrow; you own it.   It’s sleep or sneeze for the next hour and a half, and I know how much you love doing that.”


Ethan nodded, lashes fluttering again, “Hashoo!”


“Bless you.”  Dustin switched off the TV, grabbed his pillows, tissues, cough drops, and the throw blanket.  “Go to sleep.”


Dustin switched off the light and headed for the guest room.   He could faintly hear Ethan sneeze for about 15 minutes before there was silence.   Getting up to check after about 20 minutes, he saw Ethan was asleep.   Laying back down he tried to sleep, but quickly realized it was going to be a long night due to his congestion.   He heard Ethan wake up sneezing a couple times but was glad that the sicker of the two mostly slept through the night.   He figured he must have dozed off in the wee hours of the morning because the last thing he remembered was seeing the clock read 3:50, and the next thing he knew his alarm was blaring at 7.

Edited by aggedy_ann

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Aw! Poor sick, sneezy boys!

I hope Ethan will realize soon that Tim’s caretaking isn’t just an act.

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I absolutely love this 🥰 Dustin is one of my favorites and the backstory was interesting. I love learning more about these characters 

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Oh this is lovely. I love their friendship dynamic but am also eager for the upcoming romantic caretaking fluff too.

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Just a short bit over breakfast.   Fir those wondering about Dustin, he doesn’t suffer alone...there will be related a stand alone fic with Beth taking care of him with this really bad cold.   

He dragged himself out of bed and changed clothes, then went to rouse Ethan for breakfast.  He knew Ethan usually ate between 7 and 8 when he was off and didn’t want him to get off schedule.  He shook Ethan awake.  “I’m gonna start breakfast.  You wanna go get your blood sugar and insulin?”  


Ethan nodded blearily, coughing and throwing his legs over the side of the bed.   “Dustin, you sound like shit.” He commented in his faint, hoarse voice.


“Thanks. Pretty sure you don’t sound much better.”  He winced as Ethan let out a sneeze that was way too loud for this close to just waking up, followed by several harsh coughs.   “Oatmeal, ok?” He asked as Ethan blew his nose.  “Jesus, are you always this loud?” He griped.


Ethan took Dustin’s crankiness in stride.  “You’re definitely sick.” He commented.   “I’ve got a stash of real Sudafed around here.   You go make breakfast.  I’ll find that for you.”  Dustin was normally easy going, but the sicker he got, the worse his mood was.


Dustin offered a smile.  “Thanks.  I barely slept due to the congestion, and my head is throbbing.”   Stealing a tissue from the box next to Ethan’s bed, he slipped out of the room, blowing his nose.


Ethan dragged himself to the bathroom, noticing he didn’t feel quite as good as he had after all the medications he had been given yesterday.   He checked his blood sugar, injected his insulin, used the inhalers, then brought out a packet of regular cold medicine for himself and the box of behind-the-pharmacy-counter-decongestant cold medicine for Dustin along with his antibiotic and steroid.   


Dustin was facing the microwave, using his inhaler when Ethan entered the kitchen.   Trying to go unnoticed, Ethan slipped into one of his kitchen chairs…before doubling over with a sudden loud sneeze.  Hahshoo!”  He announced his presence.


Dustin turned around, slipping his inhaler into his pocket.  “Bless you.  Still doing that, I see.”  “That,” was Ethan’s normal morning of sneezing the first hour of being awake.   Normally, it wasn’t that many, but illness or allergies tended to double or triple it.   


“Every morning.”  Ethan scrubbed at his nose, then took his pills with the glass of juice Dustin handed him.    He shot Dustin a concerned look as Dustin started coughing.   “You ok?”


Dustin paused.  “Asthma’s flaring up a bit,” he admitted as Ethan handed over the stronger cold medicine.   He gave him a grateful look.  “This will help.  Thanks.”   He swallowed the pills with his glass of juice and set a bowl of oatmeal in front of Ethan.   He took his own bowl and sat down.  “How are you feeling?  I don’t think you woke up too much.  At least I didn’t hear you sneezing that often during the night.”


Ethan shook his head.  “I slept.”  He took a bite…and a good look at his friend’s haggard appearance.  “Did you?”


Dustin shook his head.  “Not much.  Too stuffed up.” He laughed.  “At least AdaLyn still naps.”   


Ethan offered a quick sympathetic smile before cupping his napkin over his nose for a third sneeze.  Ahshoo!” A quick sniffle.  “This is why I’m not a morning person.”


“Bless you.  I know.   How’s your breathing?”


“Okish.  Little rattely.  I used the extra inhaler this morning.  Overall, I’m tired and just feel like crap.”  


“Wait til the steroid kicks in.  Then you’ll feel better.  Just remember, it messes with your blood sugars.  So you don’t freak out when they’re high.


Ethan nodded, picking his napkin back up again.  Hatchoo!  Oh, we’re doing it this way this morning.”  He sighed, blowing his nose and taking a bite of oatmeal. 


8 sneezes in 10 minutes later, Ethan was ready to go back to bed.  “Wanna bet on how many more?” He asked, looking at Dustin, as he picked at his oatmeal.


“You’re sick.  At least 5 more. Based on past history.”


Ethan took a bite of oatmeal and sighed. “I’m thinking 7.  It just feels like close to 20 but not there today.”


“Finish eating and go lay down.  I know it’s usually useless, but maybe you can fall asleep and end this.”


Ethan finished his oatmeal and headed back to his room to change his pajamas and lay back down.   Dustin, breathing better on a real decongestant, joined him a few minutes later to make sure he had everything and to have him set his alarm for 10 for his snack.   


“I’ll be in the living room if you need me.  Tim will be here at 9.”  


Ethan nodded, pulling his t-shirt up over his nose.  Atchoo!”


“Bless you.”  He looked at his watch.  “You’ve got 30 minutes for 6 more sneezes if you’re winning the bet”


“Ughhhh.” Ethan sighed, laying down, tucking the tissues in next to him.


Dustin curled up on the couch, called Beth with an update, and counted Ethan’s sneezes for the next half hour.   They stopped at 5 – the bet had no winner.  Yawning, he stretched out and fell asleep until he heard Tim knocking on the door shortly before 9.


Dustin pulled himself from the couch and let Tim in.  “Hi.”  He sniffled.


“Hey. How are you feeing?”


“Ehh…it’s a cold; it’s showing to be a bad one, but Ethan gave me the behind the pharmacy counter Sudafed,  so I can breathe again.”


Tim chuckled.  “I know that feeling.  I’ll send you home to try to get some rest while chasing after your daughter.  How’s Ethan?”


“He’s asleep.  He slept most of the night.  He used the albuterol inhaler this morning – said his breathing was “rattely.”  He’s had breakfast.  Alarm is set so he wakes up at 10 for a snack.  He had his pills.   Sneezed his head off like usual.”


“Like usual?”


“Ethan sneezes the first hour he’s awake.  I have a feeling you’ll find that out.”


Tim shook his head.  “He really does sneeze all the time, doesn’t he?”


Dustin laughed.  “Yeah, he does.”  Dustin held up 2 fingers, indicating Tim should wait, then turned away.  Hakishoo-kishoo-kishoo-kshoo-kshoo-shoo-shoo-shoo-shoo…Hakishoo.   Ugh…Excuse me.”  He turned back to Tim.


“Bless you,”Tim waited while he blew his nose, taking the time to pull his book and notebook out of his backpack as he planned to get some work done while Ethan slept.


“Thanks.” Dustin sighed.  “I’m in for a long day.”


Tim offered up a sympathetic smile, setting his books and pens on the coffee table.


Dustin gave him a curious glance.  “Annual Tax Update Handbook?  That doesn’t seem like something a comedian would be into…”


Tim blushed.  “It’s for my real job.   Stand up is gig to gig, and the show is 6 week contracts.   So, I’m an accountant on the side.   And tax season is starting.  Gotta be up to speed.”


Dustin laughed.  “I think Ethan will like that.”  He coughed. “I should go retrieve my daughter now.”


They heard a loud “Hatshoo!” from Ethan’s room.


“He’ll fall right back to sleep.” Dustin reassured Tim.   “Encourage him to sleep today.  Take it easy. He can do more tomorrow.   I’ll call later, and I’ll come back tonight if he wahhhnts…”  He pressed his wrist to his nose and turned to the side.  HahKishoo-kishoo-kishoo-kshoo-kshoo-shoo-shoo…HahKishoo!”  He crossed over to the coffee table and grabbed a tissue to blow his nose.  “Apparently now the sneezing’s started.” He grumbled. 


“Maybe it’s me.” Tim half-joked.


Dustin scrutinized Tim.  “Not unless you covered yourself in cat hair before you left.  I’m slightly allergic to cats, but it gets a lot worse when I’m sick.”


“Probably some on me.  But I wouldn’t say covered.  He wasn’t even on my lap this morning.”


“It’s the cold.  I’ve found once I start, there’s always one or two after the first with this one.”  He blew his nose again.   “Massive congestion and sneezing.”


“Those are the worst.” Tim sympathized.   “I hope you can get some rest.  Does your daughter still nap?”


“Fortunately.  I’ll call this afternoon, probably around 3 when Ethan has his snack, so I know he’ll be awake.”


“Sounds good.”  Tim closed the door behind Dustin and started reading until Ethan, bed head and all emerged from the bedroom an hour later.

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Two sick guys, what did I do to deserve this wonderful update. 

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🤩 I love all of this 

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He grinned when he saw Tim sitting there.  “Hi,” he said, hoarsely.   


“Hey, you. How ya feeling?”  Tim crossed over and pressed his hand to Ethan’s forehead.  “Still got a fever,” he commented.


“Yeah.  I think I will for a few days.”  Ethan shrugged.  “And not as rough as when I first woke up.  The steroids really help me breathe better.”


“Yeah, they do.”  With his asthma, Tim was well versed in the effects of prednisone.  “Amazing how breathing helps you feel better.”


Ethan cupped a hand over his nose.   Hatchoo!”  He immediately went for the hand sanitizer on the coffee table.  “Tax handbook?”  He shot Tim a confused look.


“Bless you, and yeah…that’s mine.”  Tim cleared his throat.  “I needed some sort of steady income during the lean times, so um, I’m an accountant.   I have a friend who owns an accounting business and he sort of keeps me on as needed.  He pulls me in during tax season though as a trade off for being flexible the rest of the year.   And tax season’s starting.”  Tim explained.   


Ethan stared at him.  “Were you going to tell me this?”


“Yes.  You were just so interested in the comedian part I never got a chance.   Let’s go get your snack, and I’ll tell you all about my boring life.”  He followed Ethan into the kitchen and sat down while Ethan grabbed a protein ball.


“So, accountant.  Dustin would say you’re just my type.”




“I tend to date people with jobs that are detail oriented.  I thought I broke the mold with you.”  He broke off, coughing harshly.   “When did you become an accountant?”


“I went to college right after high school, before I came out here.  Got my bachelors in accounting then.  I’ve been working as an accountant ever since.  Got my masters and my CPA six years ago.”


Ethan nodded, then grinned.  “You are never what I expect, Timothy Fitzpatrick.”


Tim grinned.  “This may be my biggest secret.” He laughed.  “I told you, I’m boring.”


Ethan laughed, which turned into a coughing fit.   


“Need your inhaler?”  Tim looked concerned.    


Ethan shook his head.  “Breathing’s ok. Just need cough syrup, I think.  If you don’t mind me being asleep.”


“I’m under orders to make you rest.”






“How was he this morning?”


“Looked rough.  He was planning to nap when his daughter did. Sneezing a lot and said without the Sudafed, he was pretty congested.”


“They were planning to go out of town this weekend too, visit Beth’s sister.  Leaving in the morning.    He’s off until Tuesday.  Hopefully, they leave him home to rest.  He’s a bear when he doesn’t feel well.”


Tim laughed.  “You don’t seem to be.”


Ethan shook his head.  “Nah.  I mean, I get irritable when my blood sugar drops but other than that.  When I got cranky when I was sick like this as a kid, my blood sugar got checked.  If it was fine, I got told to take a nap.   Probably why I sleep so much when I’m sick.  Conditioning.”


Tim laughed.   “With six of us, my mood was the last thing my parents noticed when I was sick.”  He grinned.  “Actually it was pretty easy to hide being sick, at least until one of the others ratted you out.”


“And with two of us, it was harder to get away with anything.”  Ethan grinned, finishing his orange juice.  “Once in awhile, we did though.  Usually if we worked together.”  He paused, reaching out and taking a napkin, pausing a few seconds longer.  “Sorry, thought I had to sneeze.”   


Tim smiled.  “Nothing to apologize for.” He said as Ethan yawned.  “Why don’t you go lay down, I’ll tell you stories of how my brothers used to torment me, and you can tell me how wonderful it was to grow up without brothers?”


Ethan nodded.  “Couch or bed?”


“I’d prefer you lay in bed.” Tim said, gently.  “If that’s ok.  Then you’ll be more comfortable.   I’ll leave once you’re ready to fall asleep.”


Ethan stared at the napkin in his hand for a long second.  “Ok.”  He said finally, letting out a breath.  “Sorry,” he sniffled.  “Sneeze is toying with me.  I wasn’t trying to freak you out with the pause.”


He got up and lead Tim to the bedroom, stopping suddenly two thirds of the way across the living room.  HatSchoo!” The loud sneeze escaped, restrained by his forearm.


“Bless you.  Feel good to get that out?”


Ethan blushed.  “Yeah.” He admitted, blowing his nose on his napkin and leading Tim into his bedroom.   He sat down on the bed, then slowly, invited Tim to sit next to him.  


“Did you get your cough syrup?”


Ethan shook his head.  “I forgot,” he admitted.   


“Lay down.  I’ll go get it.  Bathroom?”


“On the counter.”


Tim came back, handing him the cough sunup and measuring cup.   Ethan took the cough syrup, making a face.   “Hate that stuff,” he complained.


Tim sat down next to him.  “But it helps.  You doing ok?”


Ethan nodded as Tim turned away, wrapping his arm around his face.  Hihhihshooihhshoo.  Excuse me.  Ugh. I’ve been doing that all morning.” He said with a sniffle.   


“Bless you.”  Ethan offered over the box of tissues.  “You ok?  I didn’t reinfect you?”


“Thanks.  And no.  Cashew got caught behind the couch this morning.  There’s something about the dust and cat hair behind the couch that gets me going for hours.”  He cleared his throat.  


“Sure you’re not allergic to dust?”


Tim shrugged.  “I dunno.  I was when I was a kid.”


“Probably still are, somewhat.” Ethan yawned.  “Especially if you don’t go behind your couch that often.”


Tim shrugged again. “Every couple of months.”


Ethan sniffled.  “Yeah.  Makes me wannahhh Ahhshoo! Sneeze just thinking about that.  That’s probably why you say you sneeze all day when you clean.”  He paused.  “I didn’t hear you sneezing.”


“Tried my best to muffle them.”  Tim rubbed at his nose.   


Ethan nodded.  “Want a zyrtec?  See if that helps?”  


“Ummm…if you don’t mind.”  Ethan started to get out of bed; Tim stopped him.  “I can get it.  You can tell me where they are.”


“Bathroom, medicine cabinet, bottom shelf.” Came Ethan’s directions.


Tim easily found the medication, grabbed a pill and swallowed it with the water he’d brought with him.   Returning to the bedroom, he sat next to Ethan again.  “Thanks.”


“Hope it helps.  Just wish something would help with mine.” 


“The cold medicine?”


“Helps with everything but the sneezing.”  At Tim’s sympathetic look, he smiled a bit.  “So you had allergies as a kid?”


Tim nodded.  “I had really bad asthma and allergies when I was little.  Still have asthma and a little touch of the allergies.  My older brother Steve had allergies, but nowhere near as bad.  One of my nieces has allergies and asthma like mine were which baffles my brother since he never had either, even though that’s not how it works.”


Ethan laughed.  “Nope.  My parents have no allergies, but they run in the family for Erin and I.”


“So, I’d be left out of the activities with my brothers or struggling to keep up with them.   Steve, he was 5 years older than me, he’d watch out for me, and when my allergies got bad, drag me kicking and screaming back to the house.  The rest of the time, they all tormented me.  My sister would fuss over me or ignore me.”  He regaled Ethan with a few tales of life in a crowded house.  “And life without brothers?” 


“A lot quieter.” Ethan laughed, reaching for a tissue, pressing his wrist against his nose.   Hatshoo!” He wrapped the tissue around his nose and blew.   “‘Scuse me.  Erin’s just barely a year older; she’s the quieter one.” Tim laughed; where Ethan could be talkative and was definitely friendly, he was not overly outgoing.   “You think I’m kidding?”  Ethan laughed.  “She’s super shy.  Not at all talkative.   Unlike me, where once you get me going…”


“You never shut up.” Tim finished with a chuckle.  


Ethan nodded.  “Anyway, growing up was very quiet.  Couldn’t get away with anything because Erin never did anything wrong.  My allergies aren’t really horrible in the summer and fall, so I ran cross country in junior high and high school.  They got worse junior year, but if I kept my mouth and nose covered, I could still run.  My spring allergies have always been atrocious so I couldn’t do anything in the spring.  No winter sports on account of being too small for basketball or hockey.”


“I didn’t play sports because of my asthma until high school.  Then it was basketball.  My brothers taught me how to ice skate though. Said it was Wisconsin, I had to at least know how to do that. I can sorta play hockey.”    


“Sorta?”  Ethan raised an eyebrow.


“I know the basics.  I’m just not good.” Tim sniffled, then buried his face in his arm. “Huhshoohuyuhhshoo.  Ugh. Bless me.”


Ethan handed him a tissue.  “It takes a little bit for the zyrtec to kick in.”


“I figured.”  Tim paused as Ethan yawned.   “Codeine starting to get you?”


Ethan nodded, rubbing his nose.  “Starting to get sleepy.”  He picked up his phone to set his alarm.  “You said Dustin was calling around 3?”  Tim nodded and Ethan finished setting the alarm. 


“Want me to go out to the living room and let you get some sleep?”


HahAtchoo!” Ethan buried a large sneeze into a handful of tissues, then blew his nose loudly.  “Stay for a minute.”  He sniffled, blowing his nose again.   “Before Dustin calls, we need to decide who’s spending the night with me.”  He tossed the tissues in the trash.


Tim nodded.  “Ok.  What are you thinking?”


Ethan paused.  “I don’t know.” He said hesitantly.  “I think Dustin’s in for a pretty bad cold.  He was pretty miserable this morning.  And he’s gotta run around after AdaLyn all day.”  He paused to cough.  “How was he this morning?”


“I think the meds had kicked in when I got here.  He was stuffed up but not awful.   Sneezed a couple times…well a lot, but a couple times for him, I think.”


“A couple of his little fits?”   Ethan asked, and Tim nodded.  “He says he’s always sneezed like that.  But for him to have a couple in a short period of time doesn’t happen often.” 


“He was kinda pale too.” Tim added.


“He’s sick.  I should let him rest.”


“And then there’s me.  Is there anyone else?”


Ethan shook his head.  “Not for something like this.  It’s Dustin or Beth, and with Dustin sick, Beth is out.  So…”


“They said in the hospital, you really only couldn’t be alone for the first 24 hours, so, you could be alone tonight.”  Tim pointed out.


“I could.”  Ethan remained hesitant.   


“You’re not used to being alone when you’re this sick.”


Ethan looked down, shaking his head.


“Hey, that’s ok.”  Tim said gently.  Ethan looked up.   “Last time I had pneumonia, Alex spent a week on my couch.   And he’s allergic to cats.”


Ethan gave a smile…and a yawn.   “Sorry…codeine.”  He explained. 


“I know. So let’s figure this out.”  Ethan nodded.  “It leaves me.”




“And you’re not sure we’re at that point…and honestly, neither am I.   I mean, obviously, I’d stay in the guest room…”


Ethan nodded.  “I know.”


“And I wouldn’t come in here unless you asked me to.”


“I know.”


“And I make a great breakfast.”


“I didn’t know.”  Ethan laughed.


“Do you think you could stay alone?”


Ethan shrugged.  “Probably.  I just don’t think I’d like it.”  He sniffled, coughing.


Tim nodded. “You wanna think about it for a bit?  If it was me, and you decided half way through the night you weren’t comfortable, I would go home…”


Ethan nodded, looking serious.   “Wake me early, before Dustin calls, and we can talk more.” Came his request.


Tim nodded and another yawn stretched Ethan’s face.


HatChoo!”  This was followed by a loud sneeze, louder than the last.


“Ok, yawns are getting bigger and sneezes are getting louder.   Time for you to get some rest.”


Ethan nodded, sliding down onto the pillows.  “K.” He yawned again.


Tim slipped out of the room and back to his tax book.    Ethan heard him muffle a pair of sneezes, and then Ethan was sound asleep until Tim woke him at 2:45.

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Awww. Love the update. And Tim's allergy sneezes here remind me so much of mine after things start to settle down... the random doubles throughout the rest of the day.

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On 11/21/2020 at 7:10 PM, ickydog2006 said:

Awww. Love the update. And Tim's allergy sneezes here remind me so much of mine after things start to settle down... the random doubles throughout the rest of the day.

Thanks.  Tim’s biggest challenge is keeping them quiet so Ethan doesn’t get woke up.


and now a short update where Ethan makes his decision and his nose has a mind of his own

Ethan ruminated on what to do in the roughly three and a half minutes it took him to fall asleep.  Drifting off, he thought he had a decision, but maybe it was the codeine talking.  


The next thing he knew, he heard someone calling his name.   Opening his eyes he saw Tim standing in the doorway with the thermometer.  


“Can I come in?”


Ethan nodded, coughing.  “Yeah, come in, sit down.”  


“You always snore or just when you’re sick?” He asked, teasingly, sitting next to him and taking his temperature.


Ethan flushed deep red.  “Just when I’m sick.” He mumbled, looking down. “Or when my allergies are really bad.”


“Darn.  I was hoping then mine wouldn’t bother you.” Tim commented.   “And 99.4.   From what Dustin said, you’re down half a degree from this morning.   I think that’s improvement.”


Ethan nodded.   “I feel better.  Not so hot and cold.”  He turned his head away quickly.  AhHatschoo!”  Ethan gave a thick sniffle.  


“Bless you.  And that’s improvement.  Well, maybe not the sneeze…that one sounded awful.  But that your body temperature is beginning to regulate itself again.”


Ethan laughed, drawing his knees up to his chest, sniffling and running a hand under his nose.   He yawned and looked at Tim.   “Good.”  Another sniffle, and when he spoke again, Tim noticed that that last sneeze had cranked up his stuffy and runny nose, but it seemed Ethan needed to say what he needed to say more than he wanted to blow his nose.    


“I’ve been thinking…” Ethan started, then paused, looking down.  “Been thinking…” And this time he seemed to lose his train of thought for a moment.   Hashoo!” He sneezed quickly into his shoulder.   “Ugh.  Sorry.  One of those tickles…won’t go away,” he murmured.  “Anyway,” he continued in his increasingly stuffed up voice, “I think I’d like it if you did stay.”   He blushed, avoiding Tim’s gaze.


For his part, Tim just nodded.   “Ok.”


“Do you need to go home?”


It took a minute for Tim to interpret Ethan’s speech.  “No.  Dustin asked me to bring things…just-“




He was cut off by a third sneeze from Ethan.  “In case.” He finished.  “Bless you!  Are you ok?”


“I don’t know.”  Ethan started.  And this time, Tim could barely understand him.   “Nose itches.”   Ethan mumbled, blushing.


Tim picked up the tissue box which had fallen on the floor.   “Not trying to tell you what to do, but I can barely understand you.”  He handed him a handful of tissues.   “Besides, those stubborn tickles sometimes go away if you blow.”


Without a word, Ethan took the tissues for three long hard blows, then grabbed up more tissues from the box Tim held out for four more blows.   “Thanks.”  He mumbled at the end, again turning red.


“Better?”  At Ethan’s nod, he continued.  “I’ve had those tickles, where sneezing doesn’t help…they just don’t go away until you blow your nose good.”


“Yeah.”  Ethan answered, softly.   “Hasn’t happened to me in a long time.   You’ll almost never see me sneeze that close together.   Usually you gotta wait at least a minute for the next one.”


Tim nodded. “Thanks for not yelling at me with the tissues.”


Ethan gave him a tentative smile.  “I’m remembering, you’re not Matt.   That’s why I want you to stay tonight.”  He said as his alarm went off.   “Snack time.” He sighed, silencing it.   He slid out of bed and followed Tim to the kitchen.  Ethan selected his snack and sat down to eat, waiting for his phone to ring.


He had just finished eating when Dustin called, having sneezed once during his snack.  He hoped it was over for the phone call.   Ethan answered and got his permission to put him on speakerphone so he could talk to Tim at the same time. 


“You sound better.”  Dustin commented to Ethan.


“You still sound like shit.” Ethan replied, following a harsh cough from Dustin.  “Worse than this morning actually.”


“Feel like shit.  Didn’t feel this bad when I woke up this morning.  Started after we took her morning nap.  Hoping Ada will sleep a little longer this afternoon.”


“What’s wrong?”  Ethan was in nurse mode, tired of being the patient. 


“Coughing, sneezing, congestion, sore throat, headache, low grade fever, chills.  I have to tell you, I don’t think I’m coming up tonight.”


“You got your flu shot, right?  Hatchoo!  Maybe you have influenza?”


“Shit.  You got your flu shot, right?”  Ethan confirmed he did. “Tim?”  Tim also verified he’d had one.  “I mean, I got one too, but…”


“And don’t worry about tonight.  Tim’s got it.  You go get checked out.”


“I will when Beth gets home.  I don’t want to take AdaLyn with me to urgent care.”  He paused, and they heard faint, muffled sneezing on his end.  “Excuse me.  Sorry.” He apologized when he came back to the phone.  


Bless you.  You gonna survive the rest of the day with Ada?” 


“Yeah.  Beth’s be home in a couple hours.”


Hahchoo!”  Ethan interrupted.  “Sorry.  My nose has a mind of it’s own since I woke up.” He said, and Tim laughed.


“When doesn’t it, E?” Dustin asked gravely, in a raspy voice.


“Point,” Ethan laughed.  “Go get some rest.  Call me when you know what’s up.”  He hung up the phone and turned to Tim.  “Looks like it’s just us.”  He blew his nose on his napkin.   “My fever’s down, so that means I get to lie on the couch, right?” He headed for the living room.


Tim followed.  “Let me pick up my stuff.”  He grabbed his book, notebook and pens and put them in his notebook, then picked up the few scattered tissues that littered the coffee table.  After throwing them away, he came back in.   “Move your feet.”  He sat down on the couch, as Ethan curled up on the other end, in reach of the tissue box Tim had been using all morning,  


“Did you stop sneezing?”  Ethan asked.  “Zyrtec do anything?”


Tim nodded.  “Yeah.  Stopped about an hour ago.  Thanks for the pill.”


“No problem.”  He looked expectantly at Tim.


“What?” Tim asked.  


Ethan didn’t answer right away.  Atchoo!  That stupid tickle won’t go away.  It’s always right in the background, teasing me.”  He complained, blowing his nose as hard as he could.   “I know I said I sneeze a lot,  but it’s seriously not all the time like this.”  He blew his nose again.   “But you were supposed to tell me your stuff today, since you learned about mine.”


Tim nodded.   “Ok.  Where to start...”


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