In nothing but a bathrobe, Lucas sat on the damp bathmat, his back up against a wall, his arm resting along the side of the bathtub. He breathed in slow, controlled breaths. In. Out. In. Out. He didn’t have to struggle at all. And only occasionally did he have to dip his hand into the tissue box in his lap in order to catch a sneeze or clear something out of himself that shouldn’t be there. 

David sat on the closed toilet seat. Though he only wore light flannel pants and a white t-shirt, he was far too warm to stay in the bathroom much longer. His cheeks were flushed; his whole face was red, actually, because the whole room was filled with steam from the hot shower still running. 

The mirrors were both fogged up, the countertop was damp, and the air was thick with moist heat. And while this was great for Lucas, it was starting to make it difficult for David to breathe. He fanned his face with his hand, which was little help in cooling himself down. 

Lucas lifted his head, blinking up at him. “You don’t have to stay here, you know.”

“What?” David asked, like the thought of leaving had never occurred to him. Like being in a bathroom with your lover for over an hour was a thing everyone did. And, granted, half that time had involved showering with him. David had held him tight every time he’d needed to sneeze or even cough, not wanting the man to slip in the tub. And a little bit of that time had been wrapping him in a warm towel and drying him off. But the rest of it had been just like this, with Lucas breathing in the steam and David trying not to notice he was overheating. 

“You can go. It’s…” Lucas went to check the time via his Fitbit, but realized he’d left it in the bedroom before the shower. It had been past midnight when David had dragged him into the bathroom for a shower, so it had to be “late. It’s really late. Go get some sleep. I’ll be fine here. See? I can breathe.” In. Out. In. Out. It was effortless now. He didn’t even need his inhaler. 

David got up and, for a moment, both of them thought he might actually leave. But then David seemed to make up his mind about something. He grabbed a washcloth off the towel rack, ran some cold water from the sink onto it, and then pressed it to his own flushed cheeks. “I’m not going anywhere. You stay as long as you need to, and I’ll be here with you the whole time.” He sat down on the floor next to Lucas and Lucas immediately tilted his head, resting it against David’s. 

It was late. And they were both tired. 

Huhhhh… HUHTChhhhhh!” Thrown forward from the force, Lucas’ nose met a wad of dry tissues David had ready. “Snrff!” 

“Bless you, baby. Hey now. No sniffing. Get it out.”

With a little more prompting and tissues held at his nose with just the right grip, Lucas blew his nose until he didn’t feel like sniffling any more. He nuzzled his nose into the tissues, into David’s hand. Then he turned, pressing himself into David’s side with another nuzzle. “I think I want to go back to bed now.” 

“No more steam? But you’re really sounding so much better.” No more rattling coughs, no more wheezing breaths, no more coughing from congestion. 

“Maybe so. But I’m not feeling better. I’m still feeling sneezy. My throat’s still sore. And I’m tired. So tired. Take me to bed?” 

David slid an arm around his lover. “All right. As long as you’re not doing this because of me.” 

Lucas chuckled. “I want to slip between those nice, cool sheets. I want my tissues and inhaler and Gatorade and pillows. And I want you holding me as we sleep. Or… if I can’t sleep right away, I want you stroking my head and holding tissues under my nose.”

David reached up and petted, his fingers combing through the man’s hair. “I can do that last part right here.”

“I’d rather you do it in our bed.” 

Our bed. Our bed. “Well, then. Let’s go.” 

They got up, maneuvering their tired limbs around the bathroom fixtures—toilet, towel racks, sink, cabinets. David turned off the water then got another washcloth for Lucas. “Put this over your nose and mouth so your lungs don’t get a shock from the cool bedroom air.” He stroked Lucas’ hair again then his hand closed on the bathroom doorknob. “Ready, baby?” 

Lucas nodded and leaned into David’s back. He moved in, resting his cheek against David’s shoulder as if he couldn’t stand being so close without touching him. David flipped off the bathroom light and waited a few seconds for their eyes to adjust. In the pitch black of the windowless bathroom, he could hear Lucas’ muffled breaths and knew he was going to stay awake listening, making sure the breathing didn’t get any worse.