Warning: Adult Situations and Homosexual Relationships

Chapter One

The shadows stretched across Aaron's face, seeming to stretch down his neck and seep below the folds of his turtleneck. They darkened his hands, but let a single bit of light from the moon dance a second-long pirouette upon the metal of his spoon; without the glimmer, in the pitch black, he would sooner have directed the spoon to his ear than his mouth. Clouds of mist burst from between his lips at regular intervals, between swallows. His limbs were brought close to his body, covered in shirts, sweatpants, a sweater and a coat. And around that, were the blankets, tucked around him as he sat, cross-legged, on the couch, alone in the black cold.

Then there was the door, a light pound on it.

Aaron got up, opening it without checking to see who it was; he'd called Virginia only a minute ago.

The dark figure in the doorway, however, was hardly Virginia. The hallway was a pit of blackness, compared to the apartment. But in it, a silhouette could be made out—someone with a large bag hanging from one shoulder and another as the extension of the right hand. The someone had on a hat, rounding off the head, making the form completely curved, but bulged in any number of places from an overly bulky coat. Aaron's eyes focused in the dark, the smallest of details jumping out at him finally- brand name patch on the coat, untied laces of the boots, and delicate, handsome facial features.

"Kid!" Aaron exclaimed, throwing himself at the man, wrapping his arms around him, and giving him a long, passionate kiss.

Brian pulled out of it with a charming smile. "Hi Honey… I'm home."

Aaron laughed, drawing him close, his hands on the small of Brian's back, the man's soft, masculine figure hidden beneath the masses of the down coat. Aaron stared down at his lover, taking in the handsome face, the luring smile, the deep eyes that were nothing but black and white in the darkness.

After a minute, Brian grew restless. "Honey, can I go inside some time tonight?"

Aaron blushed, unnoticed. "I'm sorry. I… I missed you so terribly."

Brian smiled, pulling Aaron against him. "I missed you, too. I tried calling a few times, but the line was busy or the stupid payphones ate my ch—Honey!"

Aaron was busy nibbling and pulling at Brian's earlobe with his teeth and soft, lush lips.

Two could play at that game. He nuzzled his face into Aaron's shoulder, then his neck; his nose pulled the neck of the turtleneck down a little. With a deep breath, he exacted his own long welcome, with a strong kiss, sucking powerfully, lovingly. He felt Aaron's body lean into his, heavy, with additional weight he didn't need with the bags he still clutched. But he stopped only when he was finished, and not a moment sooner.

Aaron gave a deep sigh, his eyes closed, his mouth open with a gentle, please smile. "Welcome home, Brian."

He pushed the door open wide behind him, and backed in and to the side, his hand sweeping in gesture. "Put your stuff down wherever you want. It's useless to try to unpack in this darkness."

Brian deposited his things, along with his coat, and found a seat on the couch as Aaron wrapped a thick blanket around him. Then Aaron sat down beside, handing Brian a spoon and a carton of ice cream. As he dug in, "How long's the power been out?"

Swallow. "Almost an hour now. I was trying to finish up the last of this ice cream. I called Virginia to come up when she could, but got no answer. Thank goodness you came when you did!" Laugh. Swallow. Lick. Swallow.

Replying with laughter of his own, "I guess I must have been psychic then. And to think, I thought you were the one with the powers in those areas."

He scraped the last of the vanilla ice cream from the sides of the carton, and blindly guided it to his mouth. "So," Swallow. "Here's a silly question: why are you here?"

Brian cleared his throat with a smile. "Was wondering how long until you asked that." He coughed and put down his own empty carton. "It's a long story that I don't feel much like telling after such a long train ride."

Aaron scooted over, holding his arms out, and Brian complied, snuggling over against Aaron through the layers of fabric. His breath was warm against Aaron's neck, and their love warmed them both. "So give me the trailer," Aaron said, running on hand over Brian's shoulder, down the length of his arm, resting his cold hand on top of Brian's, linking his fingers with Brian's.

With another clearing of his throat, "Chicago, apparently, is just as prone to cold and flu season as here. It's rather difficult doing takes when the cameramen are coughing and the make-up artists hover over you with constant sniffles. Melissa," his co-star, "came down with a cold yesterday, and I wasn't feeling all that hot this morning either. So we decided to break for the holidays two days early and go home."

Aaron leaned back and looked down at Brian with great concern. "You're not feeling well?"

Brian shrugged. "Scratchy throat, and I kept getting the chills."

Aaron reached over, tucking another blanket around Brian. "This is not what you need… maybe we should go warm up in the car—"

As if on cue, the lights flickered back to life.

Aaron sighed with relief, and squirmed out from beneath Brian. "Let me go turn the heater back on. You hungry?"

Brian shrugged. "Nah. I nibbled on something on the ride over. But I've been dying to make myself one of those orange teas we have."

"I'll make it for y—"

"That's ok," Brian said, getting up. "I miss the kitchen." He certainly had learned his lesson about letting Aaron cook… even tea. It was much safer for the whole building if he simply stayed out of the kitchen.


A few minutes later, they were back on the couch, cuddling. Brian sipped slowly away at his tea, and Aaron kneaded his fingers into Brian's shoulders in a slow, comforting massage.

"Mmmmmmm…" Brian sighed, moving his head from side to side to get the kinks out of his neck. "That feels delightful. I could really have used you cough these last few days."

"I know," Aaron replied, letting his concentration, his energy, flow into Brian's shoulders and down his spine. "You've been stressed. I could feel it. Something about a… a horse?"

Brian chuckled, finding his throat was a bit rough. Aaron was getting better. Sometimes he could feel only emotions, other times he saw letters, and sometimes a bit more. "Close, Honey. It was a zebra—ahem!— at the zoo. I, cough, excuse me, I was supposed cough to feed it a carrot. But first it didn't even get there on time, and then it snapped at my hand," he held up his hand, a bandage around one finger. "And then it cough, cough tried to kick at me. And the lines were just dreadful for both of us and it cough, cough—"

"Hush, Kid." Aaron quieted him. "Let your voice rest. You can bitch to me all you want later."

"Mmmm," he agreed, sipping some more tea. "So tell me how have you been doing?"

Aaron shrugged. "Nothing much. New line-ups for the Christmas specials. I know I'm supposed to be impartial, but so many happy, dappy Christmas with pappy specials are making me sick, Kid. Another 'Fill-in-the-blank saves Christmas' and I'm going to go nuts!"

Brian laughed softly, clearing his throat a few times afterwards.

"Tea helping at all, Kid?"

Brian shrugged. "Throat kinda feels numb it hurts so much. I can't taste anything, but at least it's warming me up a little."

Aaron kissed him gently on the cheek. "Oh… I didn't know you felt that bad. Maybe we should just go to bed for the night." It was only just after nine.

Shrugging again. "I don't know… I'm exhausted, but I know you can't be tired yet. Cough, cough." Sip. "I'll be cough," sip, "all right."

Though he doubted it, Aaron let the matter slide, at least until Brian had had a chance to finish his tea. That would help, he was sure. Then he'd take Brian to bed, with maybe a shower before, and tuck him in and cuddle him in his arms until the man feel into a gentle sleep. Brian had been away nearly a month, and they'd spoken on the phone whenever they could catch each other. Brian's filming schedule had been so sporadic, and Aaron's work so filling, that even a quick hello-and-goodbye had been infrequent. Years ago, when they'd fallen in love, Aaron had assured himself that the time apart wouldn't be so bad after a while. In all relationships, the wild, unbridled passion died down sometime. But they were up to nine years and counting now. And with each week away their hearts ached just as much as ever. Now that he was home, all Aaron could think to do was hold him forever, and never let him go again.


The sneeze took Aaron completely unawares. He raised one eyebrow and tightened his arms around Brian in a tender hug. "Bless you, Cutie." It was a name that had stuck years before, and one both Brian and Aaron associated with one of the best nights of their lives.


Chapter Two

Valentine's Day, Four Years Ago

"Stupid cold…" Brian mumbled, blowing his nose powerfully and then rubbing two fingers under it.

"Nothing about you could ever be stupid," Aaron corrected him, sliding up beside him on the blanket. "Don't you be sorry for anything now, understand?"

Brian shrugged, propping himself up with one elbow from lying on his back. They had been planning a full day for weeks now. But that morning he'd woken up with the sniffles, and it started raining, then Brian fell into a badly-needed sleep and so they finally gave up and cancelled everything. Still dressed to the nines for the dinner they were missing out on at their favorite restaurant, Aaron had had a wonderful idea. He'd ordered in, and set up a small, elegant picnic on the living room floor. It had been wonderful and, after he was finished, Brian stretched out on his back with the tissue box beside to quiet his nose. Aaron went off to do the dishes, and Brian waited for him, feeling guilty that he'd ruined all their plans. "How'd you know that's what I was thinking?"

He began drawing small hearts with his finger on Aaron's chest, through the light dress shirt. Aaron giggled when the finger grew close to his tummy or sides. "It's been four years. You don't think I know every little thought going on in that head of yours?"

Brian sniffed. "Okay then, Mr. Psychic, so what am I thinking now?"

"Same thing I am," he said with a soft smile. "I love you."

The corners of Brian's mouth turned up into a smile. "That was it exactly." He turned his head to rub his nose on his shoulder. "Know what I'm thinking now?"

Aaron giggled as Brian's fingers hit a ticklish spot, playfully pushing the man's hand away. "Hey! Mr. Psychic cannot concentrate when he's being tick—Kid!" he burst out laughing as two hands gently attacked his tummy, making him double over.

Laughing back, Brian let it last a minute or two longer, before catching the man's lips against his own. They quieted to the conformity of a kiss. Finally, Brian was able to finish. "I was thinking that maybe you might want to help me get this tickle out of my nose."

Both of Aaron's eyebrows went up in surprise. "Oh yeah?"

"Mmmm… yeah…" he rolled over on top of Aaron, untying the man's tie and pulling it off. His nose wiggled, and he paused to guide one of Aaron's hands to his face. It had been the first time in months since they'd even mentioned Aaron's fetish, not since their extended weekend the previous fall when the secret had been revealed. And there was an air of nervousness associated with Brian's newly acquired ailment, and its choice of timing, almost as if trying to tell them something. It felt different to them this time- the wild, curious, 'newness' to the fact warn off almost completely. It was now simply just 'one of those things'. And with another sniffle and wiggle of his nose, Brian knew it was time to show Aaron he understood that. "Rub my nose for me, Honey. Sniff! Would you?"

Aaron complied, growing warmer as his shirt was unbuttoned for him. He gently rubbed a few fingers beneath Brian's nose, watching in awe as his lover's nostrils flared against him. He could feel a light wetness against his fingers, and so determined Brian's nose was running, which made him rub all the more.

"That's- eehhhh-" Brian began, stopping to pull back as the sneezey sensation grabbed at him. His nose twitched a moment, free of Aaron and in plan view. And the breath that he had taken in with such a sharp, halting gasp remained full in his chest for the hours that were only a few brief moments. For then the sneeze came, eyes closed, mouth open with a bit of a natural frown, body falling forward. "EHHTISHHHHH!" So wet and cold on Aaron's bare chest, striking the skin and catching it off guard so that it burned, his whole body yearning not for another sneeze, but for Brian. The young man pulled back, pushing himself up after lying flat and collapsed on Aaron's body. "That's it," he said, his voice thick, with nasal undertones. He rubbed a finger under his nose with a single swipe. "So tell me. What ab sniff what am I thinking now?"

Shaking his head, he cupped his hands around Brian's face. "I don't know. But I'll tell you what I'm thinking." The base of his palms rested on the man's chin, his fingers reaching up and out against his cheeks. His thumbs rested on Brian's bottom lip. His pointer fingers ran along the sides of Brian's nose to the corners of his eyes. His middle fingers were at the other side of Brian's eyes, touching the light wrinkles, crows feet, which had formed there from smiling. His ring fingers touched the man's ear lobes. And his pinkies lined up with the man's jawbone. It was a perfect fit. He heaved himself up, straining to kiss the man on the lips lightly but wetly one time, two, three, four, five times. "Five Valentine's Days ago, we sat together at the movies. And I watched the glow of the screen dance across your face." His pointer fingers gently moved to caress his cheeks, fingertips rolling back and forth over the balls of his cheeks. "We were so young then, both of us. Just starting, out on our own- out of college. We both needed someone, and we both felt we weren't ready to date yet. But it happened, several times. There was no denying our hearts. But when I watched you that night, the light dancing off your face with such a cute expression, I felt something grow inside of me that I'd never felt before. I knew you were the one, Brian. Even then. There was something about you that made me fall in love. And it's still there. It's always been there. I can still see it in your face."

And now, when he ran his pointer fingers over Brian's cheeks, he was wiping away tears which glided down silently, as the man bit his lip to keep his emotions contained.

"You mean the world to me, Brian Christopher Thomson." He pulled up for just one last kiss and whispered ever so softly, "Five years, going on forever."

That did Brian in. The man pulled away from Aaron's touch, burying his face in the man's shoulder, sobbing helplessly, overcome with emotions. He felt Aaron's arms wrap around him, holding him tight, close, secure. "Ih luff yuh" came the only muffled sounds apart from the sobs. Brian took in a deep breath and tried again, tears streaming down his face. "I love you."
"I love you, too," he echoed, light tears falling from the corners of his eyes, down around his face and into his ears.

Alligator tears, they were called, but Brian had another name for them. "Tears of Love," he said softly, pulling out a few tissues to help Aaron and himself, following it with a thorough blowing of his nose.

With a deep sigh, Aaron sat up and gently kissed Brian's nose. "You're such a cutie."

Brian's eyes, though still damp, shown with happiness to accompany the smile which had taken up permanent residence on his face. "You trying to give me a new nickname?"

Aaron, smiling just as much if not more, gave a delicate chuckle. "If you like."

Brian lay back down, pulling Aaron with him. They lay on their sides, face to face, with their legs one on top of the other. "Happy Valen… Valentine's… d… duh… deeehhh-eehhhHETCHUUSH!" he sneezed freely. He gave a soft, sweet sniff and finished as if he'd had no interruptions at all. "Happy Valentine's Day, Aaron."

Aaron pushed forward, rubbing his body against Brian's to let him know how hot he was. "Happy Valentine's Day… Cutie," he said, grinning, and pulling Brian against fully for a hold of passion, desire, and love that was just the beginning of a long night of the same.


Chapter Three

"Thanks," Brian said, rubbing a tissue against his nose. "I think this might actually evolve into a bit of a cold," he said, sniffing. "What a way to start a vacation."

Aaron kissed Brian's nose. Though he knew Brian was being sarcastic, he couldn't help his emotions. "Mmmm… you said it. Maybe it'll be a Merry Christmas after all, aside from all the commercialism and specials on television."

Brian shook his head. "You're the only one I know who could grumble at Frosty the Snowman."

"Oh, I don't mind Frosty," he said with a sigh. "It's 'The Return of Frosty' and 'Frosty sings Christmas songs' and 'Alien Autopsy: The Hidden Truth about Frosty the Snowman.'"

Brian burst out laughing. "Okay, okay. So I guess we'll be staying away from prime time TV for a week?"

Shrugging. "Put it this way, even if we had a ratings box I'd be asking you if we could turn off the TV."

"Whoa!" Brian laughed, finishing up his tea. "That's pretty bad! I'm so cough sorry, Aaron. But you've got some time off coming up. And I'm sure we can find quite a few things to keep us occupied." He grinned mischievously.

"Mmmm…" Aaron said again, running his hands down the man's sides. "I like the sound of that…"

Turning his head so Aaron could see the grin fully, Brian leaned in for a kiss, and to cop a feel at the same time.


"Damnit," Aaron said with an almost painful whisper, sensations running wild through him. He took a deep breath and answered. "This had better be important, Virginia."

She gave a sharp, surprised laugh. "Sorry, it's not. When have you known it to be, anyway? Just checking in. How are you, Sweetie?"

"Just fine. The power's been out for a while—"

"—so I noticed. It came on when I was—"

"—just walking in. How are—"

"—Fine, too. Warming up. It's started snowing outside. Maybe you'll have a white—"

"—Don't you dare say Christmas—"

"—Solstice. It is in two days, isn't it? The day—"

"—that Brian gets back. Right." Aaron broke their usual pattern of speech to gaze a loving, playful eye at Brian. 'Want to talk?' he mouthed.

Brian nodded, silently clearing his throat and rubbing at it a moment.

Meanwhile, Virginia spoke. "So, what was so busy just then?"

"Actually," he said with a smile. "I have company over. Would you like to say hi?"

"Uhhhhh, do I know this person?" her voice went from cheerful to softly reluctant.

"Sure do!"

She sighed. "Then I suppose so. Who is—"

The receiver was handed over to Brian, who, grinning from ear to ear, lowered his own voice and sang in a suave, smooth tone, "Chestnuts roasting…"

She burst out with laughter. "Bri!" she shouted. "What are you doing back so soon?"

"Long story," he said, locking eyes with Aaron, who was beaming with happiness. "Short version is that I'm kinda coming down with something."

"Your voice does sound a little scratchy. Don't let Aaron keep you up all night, ok?"

He laughed. "Interesting choice of words."

"Bri, you know what I mean."

"I do. I won't. Doing anything tomorrow? I need a lift to the mall to shop for Aaron."

Shopping with Brian was more than a thrill. It was the only way she got any clothes that even remotely matched. "I'd LOVE to go. What time? Noonish?"

He nodded. "Sounds good. Just let yourself in, I might be in the shower. Thanks."

"Can't wait."

"Want to talk with Aaron again?"

"Nah, just give him my love. Tell him I'll be by tomorrow. Maybe we can all do dinner."

"Can't wait," he said, repeating her words from before. "See you later."

"Bye, Bri."

"Bye, Virginia." He handed the phone back to Aaron, who hung it up. "She wants to do dinner tomorrow."

Aaron nodded, though his mind was elsewhere. "You are so cute when you talk on the phone," Aaron said as Brian settled down on the couch with him, curling up in his arms. "You curl the cord with two fingers, and rock back and forth, and tilt your head a little to the side."

Brian closed his eyes, not wanting to admit how bad he felt. He was feeling chilled again, and glad to be against Aaron's warm body once again. "You're cute yourself, Honey. What with all your half sentences. Did you hear me before? Virginia wants to have dinner tomorrow night with us."

Aaron nodded, gazing at Brian.

He stifled a cough. "Aaron? Um, can I tell you something?"

Aaron rubbed his hand up and down Brian's back. "Always, you know that."

"I'm feeling… a little worse. And I'm gonna start sneezing… any time now. And I… I'm just so sniff tired and… feel sick… and…"

Aaron looked down, seeing Brian rubbing at his nose. He looked absolutely miserable, and something told him that Brian was feeling much worse than he was letting on. "I'll hold you, Kid. As tight and warm as you want. You don't have to hold back. I won't… I just want to hold you. I promise."

Brian might have sighed, had he felt any better. Almost as if a weight had been lifted, he let the sneezes come, right into Aaron's chest, muffled in the layers of clothes Aaron wore. "eehhCHUMMPH! eehhh… ehhhCHMMPPHHH! eeeehhh-CHUMMPH! CHHIITTCHH! Eeehhh… ehehehhheeehhhhEHHHCHMMPPHH!"

"Bless you," he said softly, almost embarrassed about the reaction he could not control.

Brian gave him a gentle, reassuring rub, then rubbed his nose and snuggled closer. "Thank you."


"Mmmhmmm…" he mumbled, sounding half asleep already.

"Want to go to bed?"

He shook his head. "Don't sniff want to sniff move."

Aaron reached over, retrieving a tissue and wiping his nose gently with it for him. "You don't have to. I'm comfortable here. Just close those handsome blue eyes and relax, okay? I'll take care of you."

With a smile, Brian complied. "I love you," he whispered.

And he heard Aaron's returned "I love you" just before falling into a deep sleep in the arms of the man he loved.

* * *

Brian woke a few hours later to find himself sprawled out across the couch on top of Aaron. "Aaron," he whispered, rolling over, nudging the man a bit. "Aaron, Honey. Wake up, p-please…"

Aaron stirred, but did not wake.

"Aaron? C-come on, Aaron!" he shook the man a little harder.

Aaron finally awoke, rubbing his hand against his face, and rubbing at his eyes. "Ugh, what time's it?" Aaron inquired, his speech slurred.

"D-don't know," Brian said. "I need you."

Aaron nodded, closing his eyes. "I'm here for you."

With a sigh, Brian knew the man was about to fall asleep again. "Aaron?" he asked, feeling weak and helpless. He shook at him again. "D-d-do I f-feel like I… ha-ha-have a f-fever t-t-t-t-to you?"

Aaron opened his eyes, his hand meeting Brian's forehead in coldness. "No but…" his eyes grew wide as he exclaimed with alarm, "Geez, baby! You're shaking!"

Brian nodded. "Y-yeah. N-n-nice of y-you to n-n-note-notice."

Aaron covered the man with his body, rubbing his arms. "Hold on, Kid. I'll be right back."

Coughing, shaking with shivers, Brian held tight to Aaron's arm. "N-n-n-no. P-please."

Aaron gave him a tight hug. "It'll be all right. I'll be right back." He broke free of Brian's hold and quickly got what he needed to.

He returned in but a few seconds. With a shaking hand he shoved a thermometer into Brian's mouth. Then he pulled down the blankets and wrapped one all the way around Brian from behind, and one over him in the front. Then a third came, heavy- cold at first, but warming. "It's the electric blanket from the bed." The thermometer beeped and he dove for it. "It's completely normal, Kid. No fever."

"Aaron… I'm… cough, cough s-s-so c-c-c-cold."

Aaron got under the blankets with him, letting the man lie on top of him as the couch was barely wide enough for the two of them. He held him tightly, the weak and shivering body curled in a ball on top of him. His hands rubbed Brian's arms, sides, and legs-anything he could reach- to keep the man warm. After nearly half an hour, the shivers slowed, and Brian relaxed heavily on top of Aaron, falling to sleep.

Aaron sighed, relaxed, and gently fell asleep as well.


Aaron woke to the cold wetness on his face. He couldn't tell whether he'd been asleep a minute or an hour, but the clock read only eleven-fifteen. He grabbed a tissue or two, guiding them to Brian's nose as the man sneezed a second and third time.

"eehhhh…ehhh-CHISHHH! eeehhhhTISHHOOO!"

In a tired voice, he managed, "Bless you, Cutie." It occurred to Aaron, as he heard each deep, strained, congested breath, that the man might need his head elevated a bit. "Come on. You need to be in bed."

Brian shook his head. The couch was perhaps his favorite place to sleep, especially with Aaron. They slept so close—they had to, as the couch was so small.

"Come, on. For me? Pleeeeease?"

He shook his head again.

"Do I need to carry you there?"

Brian rubbed a finger under his nose, then shook his head. But he knew Aaron was right… Aaron was always right. So, reluctantly, he gave in. "Helb be ub?"

"Of course." With a bit of adjusting, they settled back into bed. Brian was still wrapped warmly in two blankets under the covers, and the electric blanket. He lay on his side, his head and shoulders up on two pillows. The Kleenex box and a water bottle lay beside and in front of him. Behind was Aaron, his body pressed up against his, spooning him. Aaron's arm was draped over and wrapped around him, hugging him tightly. Gently, comfortably, Aaron began to drift back to sleep

"EhhCHHSHH! EeehhhhSHOO!"

"Bless… you…" Aaron mumbled, waking back up. He gave Brian another hug as his lover blew his nose a few times, coughed, and took a drink of water. Then Brian relaxed once again, and Aaron closed his eyes.

"Baybe Sniff! Maybe you should sleep out on the couch… Or I should."

"Hush!" he leaned forwards and kissed the man's cheek. "We're both staying right here, all comfy—"

"Ehhhhh… eeehhhhh… EHHHCHOOO!"

"—and warm."

"Bless me," he snuffled through another tissue, then blew his nose again.

"Sorry," Aaron muttered out of habit, pulling back so Brian wouldn't be distracted to find that Aaron was a bit turned on by it all. With genuine concern, "You ok?"

"Yeah. Sniff! Sorry."

He chuckled, breaking off to yawn. "Since when have you needed to say sorry for sneezing around me?"

Brian managed a smile. "Since you have to say sorry and pull back for Sniff being turned on. You sniff, sniff, you know better than… than thahhh… that… eehhh… ehhhhIHHHSHOOO! Sniff! Bless me."

"You're so cute," he said softly, realizing his voice sounded more worn-out and lethargic than he'd meant it to be.

Brian, of course, noticed. "Try to get some sleep, Honey. You have work… don't-eeehhhh… eehhhhhHIHSHOO! EeehhhhSHOO! EeehhhCHISHHOO! EeehhhCHISHHH!"

"Bless yawn bless you."

"Go to sleep, ok? I'll try not to wake you."

He nodded, breathing deeply into the man's ear. "Ok. Goodnight, Lover. So yawn glad you're home."

Brian smiled, rubbed at his nose, then echoed. "It's good sniff to sniff to be home. Goodnight, Lover."


"Bri?" she poked her head in and looked around. Aside from the usual cleanliness of the small apartment, there was nothing. She closed and locked the door behind her. "Bri? You here?" She checked the kitchen, and saw no light on in the bathroom so, cautiously, she opened the bedroom door. And there he was, curled up under the covers, snoring lightly. She smiled and went over, shaking him gently. "Bri, time to get up."

His eyes pulled themselves open and he coughed, sniffed, and coughed again. "What?"

"Are you feeling all right, Bri?"

Wearily, he shook his head. "No I don't. Sorry… wait, what time is it?"

She looked at her watch. "Twelve thirty. You said to come by at tw… "

Brian had already jumped up and begun pulling off the clothing he'd been wearing since the day before. "Shoot! I totally sniff forgot! My alarm didn't go off! I was sleeping!"

"Calm down!" she said, sitting down on the bed. "We're in no rush."

"I'm so sorry," he muttered, throwing on a shirt and grabbing a tissue to blow his nose. "So sorry."

She stood back up, going to him with a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Hey… Bri. It's ok. No acting, no script, nothing to be on time for. Really, it's ok."

He nodded finally, his hand rubbing at his nose. "I am sorry, though. I can't believe I slept in…"

She smiled, kissing him on the cheek. "You're beyond forgiven. Go get changed and I'll warm up the car. OK?"

He nodded again. "Thanks, Virginia."

"You're welcome, Bri."

They met downstairs in front of the building. "Come on, car's running," Virginia said to him as they hurried out, bundled in the cold.

They go shopping, and come home

She opened the door for him with her key, as his hands were full of bags, and let him inside the warm apartment. Wearily, he went straight for the couch, but Virginia latched onto his arm as she shut the door behind them.

"Oh no you don't!" she pried the bags from his hands and stripped off his coat. "You're going straight to bed," she said, marching in right towards the bedroom.

Too weak and tired to protest, he dragged his feet along the way. Virginia made him sit, untied his shoes, helped him change clothes, and then helped him lie down in bed.

"Mmmmm… thanks," he muttered, closing his eyes and curling into a ball to stay warm.

She turned on the electric blanket to medium. She gathered up the used tissues that lay strewn about and dumped the lot of them into the trashcan. She filled up his water bottle with ice cubes and fresh water.

"Actually, c-can you see if there is any more cold medicine in the bathroom cabinet?"

She checked, and brought some for him, helping him sit up to take it. She felt his forehead with the back, then the front, of her hand. "Feel that bad, hmm?" she asked, sitting down on the bed beside him.

He nodded, snuffling, and retreated back under the covers. "Worse."

"I know," she whispered, tucking the blankets around him. "Aaron will be home soon. And then—"

"Aaron!" he exclaimed so suddenly that Virginia looked around to see where he was. Brian laughed. "No, shoot… Virginia Sniff can you hand me the phone?"

She did. He dialed.

One ring. Two rings. Three rings. "Thank goodness you're still in. Listen, the house… yes, we're still… tomorrow, hopefully. I'll give you a call the twenty second. Yes. No… no, please hold it for us. Yes… Yes I understand it's nonrefundable but… yes… Sniff- yes! Thank you, Elsie. Bye." He hung up and grabbed for the tissues, blowing his nose and wincing as a cough escaped his lips.

Virginia looked puzzled but said nothing. She simply too the phone back and sat patiently.

"I'm buying a house," he said at last. "For Aaron. As a present. That was the agent."

This time, she looked shocked. "A real house? You're kidding!"

He shook his head. "Please don't tell him. It's… eehhhh…" he took a handful of tissues and brought them up to his nose. "EhhhhCHISHHH! HehhhhTISHHH! Eeeehhh.. uhhhhCHOOO! EeehhhhCHOOO! eeehhh… ehhh ehhhSHOO! Sniff!" He blew his nose loudly a few times, then tossed the tissues towards the basket, barely making it there. "Bless me," he said softly, almost embarrassed about it.

She patted his leg, to let him know she didn't mind. "Take care, you. Get some rest. I'll put your bags in your closet before I leave. Will you be ok?"

He nodded, sniffing. "I'll be fine. But… I feel bad about dinner."

Laughing, "Don't you dare be. We'll do it another time. You just get better in time to enjoy your vacation. See you soon, ok?"

He nodded again, eyes closing, body relaxing.

"Sleep well, Bri."

He was already there.

* * * * *

It was the early evening when Aaron came home, finding nothing at all out of place and no life signs in the apartment whatsoever. After scouting around a bit, he checked the bedroom, to find pale Brian snuggled into a ball under the covers. He smiled, paused a moment to admire the sight, then went over.

His weight on the bed was enough to rock, but not enough to wake Brian, so used to it after so many years. Brian slept soundly, making normal stuffy sounds through his nose. Incidentally, his nose had become a bit red at the nostrils, and right below it especially. His face was sallow but peaceful in his sleep. His hair was tangled but a beautiful bright blonde just the same. Aaron hated to wake him, so he did the only other thing he could do, which was to crawl in beside him and cuddle up against him, draping his arm around his sick lover protectively.

And this is what Brian woke to, gladly, though his profusely running nose made him reach over to the tissues and break out of the position. "Honey… I'm so glad you're home," Brian said, holding a tissue to his nose. "I missed you."

"I missed you, too." Aaron said, giving him a kiss. "How're you feeling, Kid?"

Brian shrugged. "When I went to bed again I was feeling horrible. Took some cold medicine, even. Feeling a lot better now. Must be kicking in," he joked. After a deep yawn and stretch, Brian sat up and gave Aaron a hug. "Did you bring sniff home sniff dinner?"

Aaron nodded. "McDonalds… I hope you don't mind."

"Not at all…" he yawned again. "Mind if I take a quick shower first?"





A heck of a lot happens… too much to fill you in on. There's a cute scene with Bri and Virginia at the mall running into reporters and such that I haven't had time to type in.


"Go on. Open the bigger package first," Brian whispered.

Biting his lip happily, Aaron tore into the package. Therein lay a box of… invitations. "Kid?"

Grinning, "Go on. Read one."

He nodded, taking the first out. "'You, my sweet and sexy Aaron Ashton are cordially invited to our very own winter house warming party on the eve of December 24. Please RSVP with a kiss ASAP.'" Aaron studied it a moment, then took out another, addressed to one of their friends and phrased a bit differently.

"You knew I'd pick that one," he said, smiling. Aaron leaned forward to kiss Brian, but Brian pulled back. "Not quite yet. Open the next one." The grin on his face disappeared to make way for nervousness.

Instead, Aaron took his lover's hand. "Don't be scared. I'm sure I'll love it—" he realized Brian was shaking. "Oh, Kid. It'll be okay. I—"

"J-just open it, Honey. I'm going insane here."

Aaron nodded and ripped it open. "Oh dear… shit, baby, are these what I think they are?"

Brian nodded, looking down, pulling away. "Don't get angry."

Aaron was in complete and utter shock. "Shit… oh shit, Brian!"

Hot tears ran down his face.

"Brian, of course I'm not angry!" He hugged the man tightly, then tighter, and tighter still. He felt the man shake in his arms. "Come on… you're gonna make me cry if you keep that up…" which only made Brian cry harder. Aaron soon joined him, tears flowing with happiness and sympathy. "Oh, Brian…"

"…Aaron," he sobbed. "We don't have to…"

Aaron sniffed, wiping his face on his sleeve and standing, pulling Brian up with him. "Show it to me."

Brian hesitated, still crying.


Brian still said nothing.

Aaron lifted his face and kissed him gently. "Kid, listen to me, all right?"

Brian nodded.

"People have given me sweaters. They've given me fruitcake. They've given me socks. No one but you, sweet, wonderful, simply amazing you, has given me a house." He sniffed and took out his handkerchief, drying Brian's face with it. "And I want to see it."

They embraced, Brian holding back tears. "The papers aren't signed yet. Sniffle. It's up to you. But I know it's a big leap… and this is the only home we've ever known. I was so scared you got the wrong idea."

Aaron gathered their coats. "Brian?"


"Hold my hands."

He did. "Honey! They're shaking!"

Aaron nodded. "I'm beyond excited."