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LimeyBlimey

Ethan and Claire

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LimeyBlimey

New part is here!

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Ethan very groggily opened his eyes when everything was too warm and his head felt very stuffy and congested again. He also had to use the bathroom. He coughed and cleared his throat, forcing himself to wake up but felt slightly disoriented from having slept so hard. How long had he been asleep? He glanced toward the windows of the apartment where the light of the afternoon sun was already waning. Someone had placed his comforter across his body, which might explain why he felt so warm. He pushed it off immediately, where it fell to the floor next to the couch in a heap. He wearily rubbed at his face and sneezed down into his lap. He winced when the motion made the pressure in his head throb a couple of times.

Fuck. Oww,” he said aloud in irritation, momentarily forgetting he wasn’t alone. He pressed his thumb and middle finger to his forehead and squeezed his eyes shut.

“Bless you,” a warm voice said near him, and Ethan opened his eyes, now remembering that Claire was here. He glanced in her direction and saw her sitting on the armchair instead of the couch, an open book in her lap. It made a small thudding sound as she closed it and looked up at Ethan with a mildly interested expression.

“Hey,” Ethan said quietly. “I guess I fell asleep.”

Claire smiled shyly. “Yeah, you did. It’s been a few hours, actually. It’s already 4.”

“Holy crap,” Ethan said, grappling in his pocket for his phone and blinking at Claire. “Wow. I’m sorry about that. I don’t even remember much, before, well…-”

He hesitated and Claire averted her eyes with a small blush, remembering their intimate kiss that morning before Ethan had slept.

“You didn’t have to stay,” Ethan said quietly. “As I kinda warned you, this cold is kicking my ass.”

Claire absently picked up a piece of her hair and twirled it in her fingers. “I didn’t really consider it, especially because you’ve still been running a fever. If it’s not too weird to say…I just didn’t want to leave you.”

She blushed fiercely at the last part of her words, averting her eyes and fidgeting with part of her skirt in her fingers.

“Oh. Well…thank you,” Ethan finally said after an awkward pause between them. He was both pleased and slightly astonished at Claire’s words. She really was something else. Ethan gave her a half-smile, which she returned, before he had to turn his head and give a necessary sniffle that made his sinuses burn. The slight pressure that he had felt in his head since this morning was still there. A momentary wave of dizziness came over him and he closed his eyes, putting one hand across his brow.

“Are you okay?” Claire asked.

“Yeah,” Ethan said. “I just got dizzy for a second.”

Claire’s hand reached up to lightly touch his forehead. “You’re still really warm, maybe that’s why.”

Ethan nodded, sniffing back another prickling pressure behind the bridge of his nose. He briefly squeezed his eyes shut again. “Yeah, I hope it’s not going to turn into a stupid…s-sinus-hhhii’IDschhuuu—sinus infection.

“Bless you,” Claire said gently. “I’m sorry I didn’t think to bring medicine for sinuses. I can give you some more cold medicine, and there are also some remedies I can try.”

“More of your great-great aunt’s?” Ethan asked with a quick grin.

“Maybe,” Claire answered, wrinkling her nose and giving Ethan a slight teasing smirk. “I’ll try something and make some soup for now. Are you able to eat a little bit?”

 “Yeah, I’ll try,” Ethan said, standing up slowly from the couch as not to get dizzy again. “I just need to go to the bathroom. And I should let my roommate know you’re here; he might be off work now.”

“Oh, okay,” Claire said. “The same guy as before?”

“Yeah, Dave,” Ethan said. “He knows we had a date last night, but he just doesn’t know you’re here right now.”

“Well, I can’t stay much longer, anyway,” Claire said. “I’ve got plans tonight with a couple of friends.”

Ethan nodded. “Okay.”

He texted Dave from the bathroom. Can u wait awhile before coming home? I’m feeling better and I got a date over right now. Ethan realized that the part about him feeling better was a bit of a lie, but he didn’t really care. He did feel better than he had this morning, and if Dave was okay with giving Ethan and his date some space, then that was what mattered. Dave didn’t respond to the message, but it was a common thing for them each to read messages without answering. When he went back to the living room Claire was in the kitchen again. Ethan went over to the counter and sat down slowly on one of the barstools, stretching his leg muscles, which still ached a little.

“Feeling a little better?” Claire asked as she finished slicing up a stalk of celery. She picked up the pieces and added them to a simmering pot on the stove. She then went to the fridge and poured a glass of orange juice, which she placed in front of Ethan.

“Thanks. Yeah, not too bad,” Ethan said, casually turning the glass of juice in his hands and giving a couple of small sniffs. “More awake now, at least. Although my head still feels like it wants to push my brains out through my eyeballs, and my nose can't decide whether it wants to clog up or start running.”

Claire chuckled. “Well, I made a warm compress for you and I’ve got some water heating up for steam. You don’t happen to have a neti pot, do you?”

Ethan stared. “A what?”

Claire smiled again. “Never mind. Here, put this over your face.”

Ethan sniffled and accepted a small warm, wet hand towel that she handed him. He had a vague memory of his mother attempting the same remedy when he was younger. He didn’t remember it helping much back then, but he obliged Claire anyway and held the wet compress up against his face. At least it felt nice on his slightly fevered skin. He attempted to breathe in deeply through his nose.

“-Heh’hrrschhuuu!” The force of a sudden sneeze made the towel drop. It made a splattering sound as it hit the counter, and Claire looked over her shoulder.

“Bless you,” she said with amusement. Ethan sniffed again and pushed his hair away from his face.

“Thanks,” he mumbled in embarrassment. “Sorry. Let’s try that again.”

He held the compress against his face again and attempted to breathe deeply through his nose.

-Hhheehggschuuuu!” Again, the towel fell off.

“Bless you. Try breathing through your mouth, silly,” Claire said, watching him this time. Ethan nodded. At last, he felt a little relief from the pressure behind his eyes and face. He paused like this for several moments while Claire silently worked to prepare something on the stove which smelled like soup. He pulled the cloth off to readjust it and saw a small, aqua-colored kettle on the stove that began to steam. Claire pulled it off the burner.

“Do you happen to have a large mixing bowl?” she asked, and Ethan pointed to a cabinet near the dishwasher. Claire pulled out a very old and round Tupperware bowl that had clearly seen better days. She held it up so Ethan could see.

“I think my dad had something like this when I was a kid,” she remarked. Ethan shrugged.

“It’s my other roommate Matt’s,” he said, holding up the wet towel to his face again. “He got a lot of old crap from his parents. But he moved in with his fiancée a couple months ago, so I should probably give it back to him.”

“Will he mind if we use it?” Claire asked.

Ethan shook his head and gave a large sniff, pulling the cloth off his face again when his nose itched rather desperately. He quickly wiped it on his shirt sleeve.

“He won’t care. Actually, he would probably be happy that I’m letting someone help me. Normally when I get sick, I just try to muddle through it on my own and end up getting pissed off at everyone…Hheh’IIitschuuuu!””

“Bless you. My younger sister’s always that way, too,” Claire mused. “She’s even my roommate now and nothing’s changed. She’s the one who helps take care of Penny when I’m away for work.”

“How is your dog? Was she happy to see you?” Ethan asked politely, still sniffing back another urge to sneeze. The warm compress had helped to relieve his sinus pressure, although it was also making his nasal passages drain and burn.

“Definitely,” Claire said. “She’s so sweet, but she’s a little hyper still. Maybe you can come over to meet her sometime.”

“-Hhhehhtchooo!” Ethan sneezed before he could answer. Bits of his hair fell over his face and he pushed them back with impatient force.

“Bless you,” Claire said in her always sweet tone. She put the mixing bowl in front of Ethan and poured the water from her kettle into it. She then casually went to the bathroom and brought back a clean bath towel. She handed it to Ethan.

“Here,” she said. “You might know of this method. It’s a super old technique, but it can help in the same way a hot shower can.”

Ethan nodded silently, still sniffling. He did know, having seen it before in television shows and movies, but wasn’t really sure he wanted to do it himself. It always looked weird to him. However, just as he had done with the warm compress, he obliged Claire and followed her instructions. He threw the bath towel over the top of his head and lowered his face over the bowl. He felt ridiculous and knew how silly he must look. He gave a patient sigh, took a breath through his mouth and abruptly inhaled a cloud of steam. He coughed automatically in response, accidentally blowing the vapors across the counter towards Claire.

“S-sorry,” he said with a chuckle, holding up a closed fist to his mouth and coughing again.

“It’s okay,” she said, giggling and gracefully waving a hand across the steam. “Lean down more until your head is covered. Hopefully your hair won’t get in the way too much. Then just stay like that and breathe in the steam for a while. The soup will be ready soon.”

Ethan did as Claire told him, although just as she had warned, a few longer strands of his uneven hair fell into the bowl. However, the steam helped more than he expected. It made his nose start to drip, and he frequently used the towel to wipe his face as he breathed in the hot steam.

“Hhhngxstchuu, hehhngxx’tchuu!” he tried not to sneeze under the towel and cringed when droplets of moisture fell from his nose into the hot bowl of water. He heard Claire stifle a giggle.

“Bless you,” she said. “That can happen, too.”

Ethan suddenly heard a muffled clicking noise in the living room behind him. The front door was being unlocked. Before Ethan had enough time to pull the towel all the way off of his head, the door opened and Dave walked into the apartment. Ethan quickly yanked the towel off of his shoulders and let it fall to the floor, but Dave had clearly already noticed. His eyes were wide with a mixed impression of surprise and sheer humor at the situation. Ethan quickly snuck a glance at Claire to see that she had taken a step back from the counter and didn’t move, merely shifting her eyes back and forth between Ethan and Dave.

Ethan stared daggers at Dave through clenched teeth, mentally daring him to speak. Dave glanced around, taking in Ethan, then Claire’s presence, the bowl of steam, the simmering pot of soup on the stove, and the blanket on the couch, until they ultimately rested back on Ethan. The corners of Dave’s mouth turned up slightly and it was clear to see that he was trying not to smile.

“Oh. Um…sorry to interrupt…whatever this is?” Dave said, forming the last part into a question. Ethan swiftly wiped his moist face on his shirt sleeve.

“Dude,” he said quietly. “Didn’t you get my texts?”

Dave shook his head in bewilderment. “No, sorry. My phone died and I left my charger at home today. Um, do you want me to go?”

“It’s okay,” Claire suddenly piped in, her face now taking on a slightly pinkish hue. “I actually do need to leave soon, Ethan. The soup just needs another couple of minutes.”

Ethan sighed, accepting his fate and figuring he might as well give introductions. “Oh, okay. Well, Dave, this is Claire. Claire…this is my roommate, Dave.”

“Nice to meet you,” Dave said, holding up a hand in a quick wave.

“It’s my pleasure,” Claire said formally, smiling again and keeping a casual and pleasant tone. She glanced in Ethan’s direction again as she smoothed her skirt and it seemed to him that she was a little uncomfortable.

“Well, don’t mind me,” Dave said out of the blue, kicking off his shoes by the door and walking towards his bedroom. “Mondays make me tired. I’m just gonna get out of your way.”

Dave seemed a little too casual in the way he shut his door behind him and Ethan cringed to himself, fully aware of the teasing that was sure to come later.

“He seemed nice,” Claire noted quietly, turning back to the stove to give the soup another small stir. “Um, where do you keep your bowls?”

“Cabinet next to the microwave,” Ethan answered with chagrin. “And he is, for the most part. But he’ll probably make fun of this whole thing, and me, after you’re gone.”

“Well,” Claire started to say as she opened the cabinet and pulled down a bowl from a stack on the shelf. “I mean, it does have to look a bit strange. You said he knows we were on a date last night, and, well, now I’m here again…making soup…at your apartment…and you’re sick…and we just met on Saturday…”

She drifted off in the last part of her sentence, starting to blush again. Ethan didn’t see the problem, but watched as Claire pressed her lips together, stiffened her shoulders, and turned back to the stove. Ethan watched her as she silently emptied some of the soup from the pot into the bowl and pulled out a spoon from the utensil drawer. Ethan wondered if she was somewhat embarrassed and maybe she was a little more old-fashioned than she preferred to be. He sighed again, coughing from the motion, and sniffled. Regardless of how she felt, he still found every part of her intriguing. He propped his elbow up on the counter and rested his head in his hand.

“Don’t worry about Dave,” Ethan assured Claire. “He makes fun of anything he finds remotely amusing, even if it means embarrassing someone in the process. He doesn’t really mean it, once you get to know him. But it’s still annoying.”

“I can imagine,” Claire said quietly. She set the bowl of soup on the counter in front of Ethan, along with a napkin and a spoon.

“It’s vegetable soup with noodles,” she said, watching his face for a reaction. “And I put some extra spices in there to help with sinus congestion and overall health.”

“Thanks,” Ethan said. He picked up his spoon, relieved that he felt hungry enough to try the soup. It smelled nice, too, from what his temporarily clear nasal passages would allow. He blew on a portion of soup and tasted it.

“It’s good,” he said, sniffling from the heat rising from the bowl, and took another bite. “Is this another of your dad’s recipes?”

Claire nodded with a small smile. “Yeah. I like to make it for myself when I’m feeling under the weather. I use fresh carrots, celery, mushrooms, zucchini, a little bit of onion, some dry noodles, and then all the spices including some ginger, garlic, turmeric, oregano, etcetera. And there’s enough left in the pot for another portion later, if you like it.”

Ethan nodded silently through another mouthful of soup. Claire hesitated, and then reached across the counter to gently move one of his brown curls aside so she could put a brief hand on his forehead.

“You do look a little more refreshed now, but you still seem to have a bit of a fever,” she said, and looked regretfully toward the door. “However, I’ve really got to get going. I’m sorry. I don’t want to be late for my friends.”

“It’s okay,” Ethan assured her. “I’ll be fine. I appreciate you being here today.”

Claire nodded through her concern, still watching his expression as he blew on another spoonful of soup. Ethan glanced back up at her before setting his spoon down in the bowl so he could wipe his mouth and his nose.

“Can we see each other again later this week?” he suddenly asked. “Before you leave? I should be feeling better by then, all thanks to you.”

“I’d love to,” Claire said, blushing from his compliment. She quickly started to tidy up the kitchen and meticulously gather up her supplies. “I’m actually still free on Friday. You can even pick me up at my apartment so you can meet Penny.”

“Sounds great,” Ethan said.

Claire packed the soup away for Ethan and left the packages of medicine on the counter for him as well. She also left him some things for her special tea. At the door they exchanged a rather long goodbye, and Ethan was finally able to finish the kiss he had started this morning. He found Claire’s lips this time with ease and desire, and she kissed him back just as eagerly. He gently caressed the curvature of her back as she held his arm and pressed her body and legs up against his. When they finally pulled away, Ethan unintentionally gave a rather loud sniff, having held it in for the entire duration of the kiss. Claire startled a bit, but then immediately giggled.

“Sorry,” Ethan said, wincing and pushing his hair up and out of his face in mild embarrassment. He helped Claire pick up her belongings and would have walked her out to her car, but she insisted he stay inside and not push his energy levels. She stood up onto her tiptoes, gave him one last swift kiss, and left.

Ethan slowly shut the door and sighed, leaning his head against the frame. With his thoughts hovering on his day with Claire, he silently went to the fridge and got himself a bottle of water. He swallowed a few gulps, sniffled, and then promptly sneezed twice into the back of his wrist. It was then that he noticed the package of cold tablets on the counter. He realized he hadn’t taken any medicine since the first pill Claire had given him this morning and felt a deeper appreciation for the care that she had given him today. In a moment of irony, however, he sneezed a third time. Dave’s bedroom door opened.

“Hey, man,” Dave said. He went to the fridge, passing Ethan, and pulled out a water bottle for himself.

“Hey,” Ethan finally said, staring at a place on the counter where Claire had left some homemade tea bags as well as instructions written in rather pretty handwriting on a small piece of light blue paper.

“So, I’m just gotta say…” Dave started to speak, and Ethan sighed.

“Go ahead, I know you want to make fun of me,” Ethan said quietly, giving a slightly damp sniff before he took another sip of water.

Dave chuckled. “I’ll spare you cause you’re sick. But I do wish my phone hadn’t died. I would have texted Matt a picture so fast…man, you over that bowl with the towel over your head, and your hair…”

Dave gave an exaggerated sigh and clicked his tongue. Ethan rolled his eyes.

“But…in my humble opinion?” Dave continued, glancing at Ethan. “Good for you, man. I guess your date went well, then?”

Ethan nodded. “Yeah. Not too bad.”

Dave clicked his tongue again. “So, she not only puts up with your germs on your first date, she comes for a morning-after in order to use her sensitive and feminine wiles to heal you. That’s pretty hot stuff. Are you gonna see her again?”

Ethan debating throwing his empty water bottle at Dave’s head, but resisted. He absently twirled the water bottle in his hands, wondering where things were going to take him and Claire. “Yeah, Friday.”

“Nice,” Dave merely said. He then went to the armchair and fell into it, picking up one of the game controllers on the coffee table. It seemed to Ethan that Dave really didn’t plan to say anything else about their topic of conversation. Ethan felt a mildly odd appreciation for Dave in the moment and went to join him in the living room.

“So, Call of Duty?” Dave said just as Ethan gave a quick sneeze into his elbow. “Bless you. I’m gonna order pizza. Feel free to chip in if you’re hungry.”

Ethan sank down into the couch, cleared his throat with a guttural cough, and picked up the other controller.

“Sure.”

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More to come soon! ❤️

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ichixshiro14

Gahhhh your writing is so great 🥰 I wonder, will Friday lead to subtle Claire sniffles? 🤔😈🤗

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ickydog2006
1 hour ago, ichixshiro14 said:

Gahhhh your writing is so great 🥰 I wonder, will Friday lead to subtle Claire sniffles? 🤔😈🤗

We can hope

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Puzzle

I’d love to see Claire sick, but Ethan still getting over his cold and maybe having an allergy to her dog? Either way, I’m IN LOVE with this!! 😍😍

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LimeyBlimey

Thanks for all the lovely and positive feedback! And I love to hear your ideas!

Next part is here! ❤️ I do love messing with our poor sweet Ethan boi 😘

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Ethan happened to wake up before his work alarm the next morning. He hadn’t slept well due to his nose becoming stuffy again and running most of the night. He sat up, reaching for another tissue and coughing lightly. He heard hoarseness in his voice and he tried to clear his throat.

“Shit,” Ethan said aloud, hearing the congested and very distinctive rasp in his vocal cords. He reluctantly pulled himself out of bed and cursed again, this time in a louder voice. “Fuck.”

It was no use. Ethan tried to cough to clear his throat, but it did nothing, and Ethan sighed. He was feeling moderately better than he had been yesterday morning, but knew he was still not all that great. He put a hand on his own forehead. It still felt warm, but not hot, which meant it was only a low-grade fever. However, he knew that calling into work sick was not an option he wanted to choose, being that it was the first day back from his vacation. Ethan sneezed again, cleared his throat and blew his nose for what might be the umpteenth time since late last night. He trudged on and slowly got himself ready for work.

Ethan’s research position within the advertising agency he worked for was not entirely difficult, even though it paid more than his previous job. He was starting to get to know more of his coworkers, especially the younger and single women. He would be content at his job if not for the rapport he lacked with his manager Dominic, who had been in Ethan’s department since before he had interned for the agency. Dominic was nice and professional, but he seemed to play favorites a lot, and unfortunately Ethan did not seem to be one of them.

Ethan did his best to avoid speaking to anyone as he walked into the office. There were no cubicles in his zone, only rows of individual desks. In his row he had two coworkers, only rows of long desks and computers. In his row he had two coworkers, Brian and Laurie.

“Welcome back, Ethan!” Laurie said as Ethan approached his desk. “How was your vacation? I missed your sweet face. Come here, love.”

Laurie immediately stood up and moved into Ethan’s space with her arms outstretched, forcing him into a hug. Ethan stiffened his shoulders and allowed it, although he immediately turned his head away due to a strong floral scent of perfume that invaded his sinuses and made them burn. Laurie was older than Ethan by about two decades and often talked to him in ways that made him feel embarrassed, but he was slowly getting used to it. She usually wore too much makeup for her strong features and had a bad habit of bringing up her recent divorce, and usually when Ethan was within hearing range.

“Great, thagks,” Ethan said quietly, knowing how terrible his voice sounded and doing his best to hide it. His desk happened to be next to Laurie’s and his nose finally succumbed to the invasion of her perfume as he sat down. He held up the back of his wrist to his nose.

“-Hhnnggxxtsch!-” Ethan tried to stifle, but that made things worse. “-Hhhnnx’tchh… hehngxsctchuhh!”

“Bless your heart, boy,” Laurie said. “You sound terrible.”

“Allergies,” Ethan immediately lied, and cleared his throat. He sighed again, resting his head in his hands and already feeling tired. He stifled a small cough into his elbow, making his other coworker Brian glance over in mild curiosity. Today was going to be fun.

Ethan definitely found it hard to focus on his job all morning, being constantly drawn toward thoughts of Claire or distracted by the side effects of his own miserable health. In between his projects he browsed the network and found himself starting to sniffle and sneeze more frequently, his nasal passages heightened in their irritation by not just his cold but Laurie’s perfume. Brian or Laurie took turns blessing him each time he sneezed, and he quickly began to regret not at least attempting to call in sick that day.

While in the bathrooms blowing his nose, Ethan heard someone’s presence at the urinals. When he came back out of the stall, he saw his manager Dominic at the sink washing his hands. Dominic looked up through the mirror as Ethan approached. His face took on a slightly peculiar expression.

“Hi, Ethan, how’s it going?” he said. “I forgot you were back today.”

“Hey,” Ethan said quietly over the sound of the running faucet, trying to disguise the distinctive rasp in his voice.

“How was your vacation?” Dominic asked in a polite tone that Ethan immediately recognized as one he used when he wasn’t genuinely interested in the response.

“Fine,” Ethan coughed out. He mildly cleared his throat and tried again. “Sorry. It was fine.”

“Glad to hear it,” Dominic said abruptly as he turned off the sink and grabbed a paper towel from the dispenser. “Hey, um…can you come to my office in about twenty minutes? I’d appreciate it.”

Dominic left the bathroom, leaving Ethan behind to ponder his words. Dominic’s tone and words hadn’t exactly sounded positive. What could have happened while he was away all last week on vacation?

Ethan went back to his desk, swallowing nervous lumps in his throat and chest in addition to all of his other woes. Right as he sat down, he sneezed. Brian twisted his rolling chair around until he faced Ethan, and casually rocked it back and forth. Brian was a man in his late thirties and was a fidgety but rather agreeable person. He had been recruited a year ago from another company that both he and Dominic had worked for in the past, so he knew their manager well.

“Bless you,” Brian said. “Hey, check out the ‘Karen’ review I sent you while you were gone.”

Ethan read the file on his computer and managed a quiet chuckle before suddenly succumbing to a second sneeze. “Hiihxxnnggtchuu! Snf. Nice. Make that into a meme and send it to me.”

“You sick today, man?” Brian casually asked.

Ethan swiped his thumb under his nose and lied again because Laurie sat on his opposite side and loved to easedrop. “Just allergies.”

"I feel ya," Brian said, and Ethan stifled a small cough.

About twenty minutes later, Ethan made his way to Dominic’s office. He saw Dominic glance up as he approached the glass window-and-wood door combination.

“Come on in,” Dominic called, and Ethan entered.

“Thanks for coming in,” Dominic said from behind his computer as Ethan approached. Ethan sat down and glanced around as he nervously waited for Dominic to speak. Like Brian, Dominic loved football and his office was decorated with collectible paraphernalia from various games. He also enjoyed working out, but even though he was fit in stature he was still significantly shorter than Ethan. He kept a stoic expression on his face as he stared at his computer, absently running a free hand along his dark stubbled jaw. Finally, he looked away from the monitor and met Ethan’s eyes.

“What’s going on?” Ethan asked.

“We need to talk," Dominic said seriously.

Ethan swallowed hard as he listened to his manager speak. According to Dominic, Ethan had been doing well enough in his position, which Ethan was very grateful to hear. However, the company had been having some recent and very competitive setbacks. Due to budget cuts, there would have to be staff reductions in each department until things normalized.

“I’m going to have to let you go, too, Ethan,” Dominic finally said.

“What?” Ethan said in shock, his eyes widening in horror. “Why me?”

“I’m sorry,” Dominic said, watching Ethan’s reaction. Ethan stiffened his shoulders and glared at a stack of blue and orange sticky notes on Dominic’s desk. This could not be happening. Not now, after not even half a year in his new position.

 “It’s purely budgetary,” Dominic continued. “And you’re the most recent hire.”

“But I’m not a recent hire,” Ethan argued. “I’ve been with this company for five years.”

“In this situation, your work in previous departments is irrelevant,” Dominic said bluntly.

“Was it because of my vacation?” Ethan had to ask, stiffening his back against the chair as his temper began to rise. He heard the deep hoarseness in his voice and ignored it. “That request was approved when I accepted this position.”

Dominic answered immediately. “Nope, not at all.”

“So who else is getting dropped besides me?” Ethan asked.

Dominic slowly shook his head and picked up a company logo pen from his desk and started twirling it in his fingers. He raised his eyebrows in disapproval, suddenly making Ethan feel as if he were back in his middle school principal’s office. “You know I can’t tell you, Ethan. But as I said, we have to start with you on cuts.”

“What if I moved back over to Media?” Ethan asked, hearing himself growing desperate to stay at the company he had worked for since he had moved from Montana. “I worked there while I interned. You know that, you saw me.”

“We’ve already made our decision,” Dominic said, regarding Ethan with a forced expression of patience. “There are going to be cuts all over, including Media. Corporate gave us the notice last week while you were on vacation. I know it seems unfair, but I’m hopeful that things will pick back up soon.”

Ethan was beside himself. He looked down at his knees, clenching his jaw and fists. He attempted to breathe through his nose, but it didn’t work well. He quickly sniffed against a brief tickle in the back of his nose and mentally willed the sneeze to go away, hoping for his life that Dominic didn’t think he was starting to cry. He looked up then, meeting Dominic’s face and trying to look as professional as possible while he waited for him to say anything else.

“We can give you a call when we can,” Dominic said. “But…let me know if you need a recommendation for another company, should you decide to look elsewhere. You’ve been a good employee, Ethan, even a little ‘Jack of all trades’. We’re grateful for the effort you put in since your arrival.”

Ethan silently left Dominic’s office shortly afterwards with his hands balled up inside of his pockets. He sniffed back another sneeze and walked back to his desk, his head and heart feeling empty and flat. He had never been laid off from a job before. He had been fired from some in the past, but he had never taken part-time jobs in high school very seriously. He was momentarily proud that at least he had not let his occasional temper flare up in front of Dominic. Even though he had really wanted to yell or give Dominic a solid hit to his ugly jaw, he was glad that he had a shown a better sense of control.

After he made his way back to his desk, Ethan pulled out a mostly-empty storage box from a nearby shelf. He dumped the contents out onto the floor and started filling the box up with his own belongings. Brian and Laurie noticed the commotion and turned to look at him.

“What’s going on?” Brian asked.

“I just got fucking laid off,” Ethan said bluntly. Laurie’s mouth dropped open and her eyes went wide. Brian’s expression, however, didn’t change, making Ethan wonder if he already knew about the layoffs.

Of course, he thought bitterly as he realized it. Brian was one of Dominic’s favorites.

“Oh,” Brian said quietly. “I’m sorry, dawg.”

“It’s not your fault,” Ethan apologized. “I’m just not feeling great today and then this shit happens. Man…I’ve worked for this company for five years, including when I interned.”

“Well, I’m going to miss you, Ethan,” Laurie said, eyeing Ethan under her thick eyelashes that always bore too much mascara. “You’ve been that little piece of sweet candy that helped get me through some tougher mornings.”

“Thanks,” Ethan said dryly, already used to Laurie’s cougar-like tendencies. The tickle in his nose began to grow again and he impatiently sniffed it back. He suddenly looked hard at Laurie.

“Just a heads up,” he warned. “Dominic said there are going to be layoffs everywhere. I couldn’t get any other details, but maybe start updating your resume.”

Laurie’s face blanched, and she merely nodded and turned back to her computer. It was unusual for her to react to something this quietly and it was clear by her nervous expression that she wasn’t one of Dominic’s favorites, either.

“-Hheh’IGSchhuuu!” Ethan finally sneezed, turning his head into his shoulder. Despite the terrible reason, he was at least somewhat glad to be able to go home and rest. His body had never responded well to stress and he was beginning to feel very fatigued. He picked up a small picture frame of his sister’s twins and glanced at it before placing it into his box. He was starting to regret having gone on vacation, but then he realized he wouldn't have met Claire. He actually found his body relaxing a little as he thought about her. Ethan had always been good at multiple things, but company politics were a new struggle for him. He wondered if maybe it was time for a change. He then pondered whether or not he should just launch a formal complaint to his recruiting agent or the company's human resources. Instead, he gave another frustrated sigh. He sneezed again as he picked up his box and finally said his goodbyes to his coworkers.

It was a slow walk for Ethan out of the building due to other employees he knew that held him up to say goodbye as well. Eventually he made his way out of the building and into the parking lot where the sun shone brightly with promises of warmer days. Ethan immediately sneezed from the sun’s glare and felt his nose and his head grow foggy. He put his box in his car trunk and slowly pulled off his badge necklace. He tossed it in and stared at the box for a brief moment, inhaling and exhaling rapidly as he balled his fists up and released them. He took ahold of the trunk and suddenly slammed it shut in another wave of anger and frustration. The sound echoed across the parking lot. Ethan wearily rubbed his temples and climbed into the front seat of his car. What was he going to tell his family, or even Matt and Dave? How was he going to be able to pay his share of the rent if he couldn’t get another job right away? Was there a problem with him that made him not worth it to a company to keep? The warm interior of his car felt uncomfortable on his body, which felt flushed and clammy. There were too many things to think about and he was becoming aware that his body was definitely taking on too much stress right now. Ethan suddenly had a desire for Claire’s tea, before his phone suddenly dinged with a text message alert. He picked it up to see that the message was from Claire.

Hi :)

Ethan responded immediately. Hey, good morning. How was your night?

Claire’s answer was quick. It was fun, we went to a movie and had drinks. How are u feeling?

Not so great, actually, Ethan admitted in the text. Feelin like garbage…and I just got laid off from my job.

Oh, no! Claire’s response said. I’m so sorry. Do u want to talk about it?

Ethan stared at his phone and the last message on the screen before he suddenly found himself replying to Claire over several more messages. He told her about his internship, his history with the company, the effort he had put in, the people he had come to know, and even his feelings about his meeting with Dominic. He wasn’t surprised to see that Claire’s responses came back full of kind words of support and encouragement. He actually felt slightly better emotionally, though not physically. He sneezed again, his face feeling full and hot.

Thanks, it means a lot to me, he texted one message and immediately followed it with another two. Think I’m just gonna go home and sleep it all off, I really don’t feel well. Looking forward to seeing you on Friday, tho.

Same! Claire answered. Let me know if u need me, and please take it easy for the rest of the day, ok?Make some tea if you get a headache. It will help.

Ethan gave a small smile. How was she so intuitive? He gave another sudden and wet sneeze that hurt his head, before responding.

Will it help with laryngitis? My voice is almost shot.

Oh no! :(, Claire’s first message read, and was quickly followed by a second. And yes it can! So I’m ordering you to have some tea when you get home, ok? ;)

You got it, Ethan replied. How are u, by the way? Didn’t mean to monopolize the convo, I never do that. Been thinking about u a lot today.

I’m good, Claire had sent. Been thinking about u too. My throat is a little sore, but I think it’s because I had an extra drink celebrating my friend’s birthday last night. I just woke up a few minutes ago, lol!

Despite how ill Ethan felt, he suddenly had a fleeting thought of Claire posing in her bed while wearing a sheer pair of very loose-fitting pajamas that easily exposed her perky frame. He wished he could tell her how sexy he found her gorgeous curves, and thought about a response that wouldn't come across as inappropriate.

Sleeping in is the best feeling, Ethan finally wrote. He hit the send button and dropped his phone into his cupholder. He sniffed back the wet congestion and another urge to sneeze as he put his car into drive and left the building that he had worked in for the past five years. He would come up with a plan later after he had some time to rest and decompress.

.

By the time he got home, Ethan had reached his limit, both physically and emotionally. He set his box on his bed and slowly sat down. He sneezed harshly three times toward the floor, and his shaking body caused the box on his bed to fall over and the contents to spill out. Not bothering to clean it up, Ethan merely collapsed back onto his pillow and was asleep almost instantly.

It was almost dark outside when Ethan woke up much later. He groaned and turned over, opening his eyes and sniffling heavily. He felt awful and knew his stress from the day had officially beat him into submission. His body ached all over and he felt both hot and cold at the same time. He was shivering with what he knew must be a fever and realized he had fallen asleep on top of his comforter instead of underneath it. He groggily looked toward his bedroom door and noticed that he had left it open and the lights were on in the living room. Ethan coughed once and cleared his throat with a guttural sound. His nose was clogged again but both his nostrils were moist. He sat up, reaching for any tissue within range, and immediately felt his nose burn with a terrible ferocity. He aimed his head toward the floor next to his bed as his breath hitched.

“-Hrh…urh…hhh-heh’GSChhuuuu, ii’EGHSChhuuu-ehhtchuu! Hhh…heh…Hhuuh’URSSCHHuuuu! HHH’ITCHOOO!

Ethan groaned when he was done, hearing how congested and hoarse even his sneezes were as they tore through his throat. He blew his nose multiple times, but each time he did his nasal passages immediately filled with more mucus. He sneezed again, and the terrible sound of its fight with his inflamed vocal cords was probably enough to make anyone cringe. Sure enough, Dave’s form soon appeared in the doorway. Ethan looked at him weakly, his eyes watering and his breath starting to hitch again.

“Hey, man, are you okay?” Dave asked.

“-HhehEHHTCHUUuuuu!” Ethan sneezed one last time, his hair flying forward over his face. He angrily pushed it back and looked at Dave, whose eyes were wide.

“Bless you,” Dave said.

“FUCK. B’make them STOP,” Ethan groaned, falling back onto his pillow and cursing the hot waves of misery all over his body that he fervently believed must be trying to kill him now. He wiped his nose with another tissue and coughed wetly, wishing that he could just crawl into a hole and die.

“Pushed it today, huh?” Dave asked, and Ethan nodded silently.

Dave gave a slight sniff himself and walked over to Ethan’s bed. His eyes fell briefly upon the fallen storage box behind Ethan, but he said nothing. Instead, he pressed his lips together and tilted his head, giving Ethan a rather scrutinizing look. He then gave an exasperated sigh and shifted his legs.

“Are you gonna judge me if I do something?” Dave said. Ethan wearily shook his head, staring up at the ceiling and closing his eyes for a moment.

Dave put a quick hand on Ethan’s forehead, which was an unusually attentive move for him. Ethan found it awkward, but didn’t really feel well enough to care, either. He was at least slightly reassured of his own sense of masculinity to find that Dave’s hands were not as pleasurably soft as the hands of a woman, especially Claire. Ethan found himself glancing up at Dave through his half-closed lids. He gave a small cough.

“You’re gonna get sick,” he croaked.

“I probably already am,” Dave said lightly, and sniffed again as if to prove his point. “Thanks for sharing and caring the other day. But, man…you not only sound like shit, you’ve definitely got a fever. You’re burnin’ up.”

“I know,” Ethan hoarsely said, giving another heavy and very wet sniffle. He suddenly smirked, however, and gave a quick barking laugh. “Hell, I probably infected the whole fucking building today at work.”

Dave took a step back and sniffed again. “I’ll grab you some cold stuff. But why do you sound like you’re happy about spreading the plague around your work? Did someone piss you off and now you’re seeking revenge in some weird and gross way?”

Ethan suddenly grabbed his comforter and muffled two more harsh sneezes into it.

“Bless you,” Dave said automatically. They were both quiet for a moment or so before Ethan sniffed loudly again and broke their awkward silence.

“I got fired today,” Ethan said in a voice only as loud as his hoarseness would allow. He sat up and used what little strength he had to throw his now too-warm comforter off the bed, along with the storage box of his old work things. Various items flew along with the box, hitting the corner of the wall and scattering onto the floor. Ethan threw himself back and lay an arm across his eyes.

Dave’s mouth dropped open. “What??”

Ethan gave a frustrated sigh from underneath his arm. “Okay, it was more like ‘laid off’.”

“Oh,” Dave said quietly. “Well, that sucks too.”

“-But I may as well have been fired,” Ethan added, becoming reminded again of the overwhelming feelings of stress and anger that had been creeping in since he had left Dominic’s office hours ago. “I’m not going back. If they don’t give a shit about trying to keep me after I gave them five years of my life trying to work my way up their stupid fucking ladder, then fuck them.”

“I’m sorry, man,” Dave said, and he sounded sincere. “I’ve been there before. What happened?”

Ethan told Dave about his conversation with Dominic earlier.

“It’s tough, for sure,” Dave said when Ethan was done. “And don’t worry about rent. Matt or I gotcha covered, just pay us back when you’ve got another job. You’ll bounce back once you get your resume updated and see what else is out there.”

Ethan silently nodded, and then merely sighed again. He wearily rubbed his face with his hands as the inside of his nose began to itch and burn again. He breathed slowly through his mouth to force it back.

“But why…the fuck…h...hih’IITCHOOooo…is all this happening to me right now?” Ethan said to no one in particular then, sitting up and moving to the edge of his bed again. Dave moved back again as he watched him wordlessly, a passive expression on his smooth features. Ethan suddenly ran his hands over his head and groaned in another wave of frustration, the curls flying in all directions until they covered half his face.

 “Bad stuff happens to everyone,” Dave said quietly. “People get laid off and people get sick. Just take it easy and don’t push yourself. Your body is telling you to slow the fuck down, dude.”

Ethan sniffed heavily as the force of the burn inside his nasal passages continued to fight against his willpower to not sneeze. His entire body ached and his head was beginning to throb. He put his face in his hands and leaned down toward the floor.

“Just bury me right now, man,” he said weakly. “Just take me to the fucking cemetery and let me die…snf…h...h...hehh’tschhuuu, huurrsschooo! Hhhi’gschhhhuhh!

“Bless you,” Dave said, the amusement returning to his voice again. “We’ll go over the logistics of your funeral later. How about I get you some medicine for now.”

Ethan shook his head as he gave a loud and very wet sniffle that he somehow felt behind his eyeballs. “It’s okay, I'm getting up. I need to make tea.”

“Okay,” Dave said, shrugging, turning to leave the room. "You probably should stay in bed, dawg, but I'm not your mom. Let me know if you need some help."

Dave left the bedroom, leaving Ethan alone again. He slowly changed out of his work clothes and into some comfy joggers and a t-shirt. He then went to the kitchen, where Dave handed him the pack of cold medicine along with a glass of orange juice, which he accepted with a quiet mumble of thanks. Dave went to his own bedroom and shut the door, which Ethan was used to happening during the week. Dave called himself an ‘extroverted introvert’, which meant that while he was able to recharge his social energy needs at work, he often found himself drained by the time he got home later. Ethan had discovered a while ago that after-work Dave was often easier to live with.

Ethan was very fatigued and moody as he followed Claire’s neatly written instructions for her tea. He did have to resort to microwaving a measuring cup full of water, as he didn’t have a kettle. The tea didn’t seem to taste as good as Claire’s, but it did help to ease his headache like it had done yesterday. It also reminded him of Claire, which gave him a slight peace of mind in the midst of his pain. Each sip was spicy but soothing to his voice and his head, and he hoped the cold medicine would take effect soon. He sneezed again as he pulled out his phone and texted Claire. She responded, telling him she was currently out to dinner with her sister Sadie but she was still open to chat. Ethan wondered if she had told her sister about him, yet.

Probably, Ethan thought, grinning. He put a show on the tv in the living room and found himself feeling a little better as he started to converse with Claire through text. Despite how terribly this day had gone and already feeling a little of the anxiety that came with job-hunting for the first real time, Ethan felt things would get better. He would focus on getting well for now, and the thought of seeing Claire again on Friday was a nice distraction. Things weren't so bad, really.

.

.

.

Stay tuned for more! ❤️

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Grumb

I love every single part of this!

And I know I'm naughty, but the way he's suffering... Hnnnng...
Can't wait for more of it!!

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Wow Really?

I’ve never been a fan of contagion.. it’s all about the comfort-giving of a healthy person to me.. but! I’m still completely focused on Ethan, so I’m not going anywhere :).. I hope you have more misery in store for him. Cuz I’m weird that way. 😝

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supernaturalfragalistic

I am in LOVE with your characters and stories, and writing style in general! Keep going! 

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aggedy_ann

Poor Ethan, but...I am loving it.   

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ichixshiro14

Oh, poor sweet boy 🥺😈 Definitely happy he's such a giving person 😜

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Puzzle

I LOVE Ethan SO much! Poor Ethan lost his job and is unable to hide his illness any longer! Dave helping him out was extremely cute as well! I can’t wait for the next part! 

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LimeyBlimey
Posted (edited)

Hi, all. It makes me so happy that you’ve been enjoying Ethan’s story! Thank you so much! 🥰


I know it’s been a couple of months since the last part, but tbh, I’m still working on the next one! I’ve had a lot going on recently with life, work, some recent health issues (I’m okay), and fighting writer’s block! Then just as I managed to get back into things, my computer keyboard decided to start crapping out! I’m even using my phone to give this update because my period key and C/G keys refuse to work 90% of the time. I write on my laptop which has been getting on in years and finally seems to be in need of replacement. 😭

Ethan and Claire have an upcoming date at the botanical gardens (hehe) and a drive-in movie, which should have some lovely entertainment for all!

Thanks for your continued patience!I’ll be back with the next part when I can!  ❤️ - L

Edited by LimeyBlimey

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Puzzle

Looking forward to this! No rush and good luck!! 

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ickydog2006

Looking forward to it

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