Olly heard the call as he headed up the second staircase. “I’m coming already!” he called back. Such calls were a rather common occurrence since he’d moved into the mansion. Not that he minded them, of course. He was happy to help his friends whenever they needed help. It was the least he could do given the fact that he had free room and board.


            When he reached the room halfway down the hallway, he found the door cracked. He pushed it open and it squeaked, but he did not step inside. It was an unspoken rule of the house. The man he found was sitting naked on the edge of the bed, his back towards the door. Before Olly could clear his throat to be sure his presence was announced, the man’s head tilted back, then his whole body snapped forward. “HUHH-Chooo!” His shoulders sagged and he sighed deeply, the tat on his back rising and falling with his body.


            “Bless you, Coyote,” Olly said, craning his neck to look around the man to his face.


            Coyote looked over his shoulder and sighed again, this time with relief instead of frustration. “Thank heavens you’re here. Close the door and come on in.”


            “Can’t remember when I had an offer that sounded so good,” Olly chuckled, shutting the door behind him and walking over to the bed.


            “Just don’t get your hopes up,” muttered Coyote. “Cuz I feel rotten.”


            Olly sat down on the far side of the bed, just beside Coyote, completely ignoring the fact that the man was naked. Or, at least, half of him ignored the fact. The other half jumped excitedly at the sight. But he switched himself into completely professional mode. “Tell me about what’s wrong.” He touched the man’s forehead to find it warm but not overly so.


            “It started this weekend,” Coyote said, his voice sounding strained and masked by something. “I was camp… camp…” He grabbed hold of Olly’s arm to hold himself steady. “hahhh-HAH-Chooo! H’Choo!


            Olly, who always seemed to have tissues in his pockets, dug a few out and handed them over. As Coyote blew his nose, Olly reached over and switched on the bedside lap in order to brighten things up a little more than the overhead light could. “Nothing about you is camp, Coyote,” he said, trying to entice a smile out of the musician.


            “Ha ha,” he said, rolling his eyes at the doctor. “I was camping,” he finished. “Bloody cold outside, too. Didn’t get any sleep and spent the whole night coughing and sniffling. And when I got home this morning I showered and tried sleeping but I felt too much like…” He searched for the right words.


            “Death warmed over?” Olly guessed educatedly.


            Coyote sniffed and nodded. “Headache, chills, exhaustion, burning sore throat, runny nose, sneezes, coughs…” He sighed deeply. “Can’t you just make it go away? Or just knock me out so I’ll get some sleep at least?”


            “I’ll do my best to help you feel better and help you fall asleep,” Olly promised. He had Coyote open his mouth while he looked inside, assisted by the additional light. Then he had Coyote breathe in and out deeply a few times while he pressed an ear to chest and back. “I think it’s just a bad cold,” he explained.


            “hahh… HAH-SHooo! HuhhChoo! H’Choo!


            “A really bad cold.” He pulled a few more tissues out of his pocket. Then he gathered up the maroon comforter on the bed and draped it over Coyote’s shoulders. “But, luckily, I know of a few good treatments.”


            Coyote coughed, a phlegmy, light cough that came from his throat not his chest.


            “Starting with some herbal tea to help with that coughing.” As a singer, Coyote was no stranger to Olly’s teas. “But I’m also going to prescribe some aspirin and Nyquil as well as a good helping of Indiana Jones.”


            Coyote raised an eyebrow. “Indiana Jones?”


            “Absolutely. All three movies in order.” He nodded his sureness of this and patted Coyote’s back. “I’m going to set out a few more blankets and some pillows in the first floor rec room for you. I’ll bring you tea and medicine.” And the DVD set, of course. The rec room had a nifty five disk DVD changer so he’d be able to watch them all without getting up. Though Olly was relatively sure Coyote would be asleep before Indy located the correct spot in which to dig.




            “And tissues,” Olly added, though that didn’t really need to be said. He’d of course also bring the standbys- bottled juice, heating pad, cold compress- anything to make him feel comfortable enough to just get to sleep the first time. If he got sleep, Olly was sure he’d feel a considerable amount better.


            He left Coyote’s room and headed back down the two flights of stairs with blankets and pillows from the hallway closet. After a stop by the kitchen, he met up with Coyote again in the first floor recreation room. The room wasn’t used much, except by Olly during one of his movie fests, as the basement recreation room contained the pool tables and video games and the entertainment room on the first floor was where most of the mansion’s residents gathered to watch movies and television as there was much more seating. This rec room contained just a smattering of chairs and only one couch.


            Coyote was stretched out on that couch now, covered by several blankets. He did not appear to be wearing a shirt, but Olly didn’t want to guess if he’d put more clothes on for his journey out of the bedroom. Olly sat down on the edge of the couch in the bit of room Coyote had left for him. He eased another pillow under the man’s head then stroked his forehead gently. “Can you sit up for me for a second to swallow?” he asked.


            Coyote chuckled. “Why Olly… I knew you were hard up, but I didn’t expect to hear that out of you.”


            “Ha ha,” Olly said, echoing Coyote’s earlier sarcasm. “Just take your medicine. We’ll talk about blow jobs when you’re better.” He handed over the pills, a cup of syrup, and a glass of cool water. After Coyote had taken it, making a face at the taste of the syrup, he lay back down while Olly started the DVD. “Is there anything else you can think of that you’d like?” he asked soothingly. “I don’t have to be at the clinic until noon.”


            Rolling over onto his side, Coyote coughed and looked up at Olly pleadingly. “I’d like to go back in time and opt for the motel instead.”




            “Awww, it’ll be exthiting!” Fenton said, practically throwing himself at Coyote. He stroked the back of his hand against Coyote’s cheek. “You’re the dethiding vote, Yo… whatta ya thay?” He batted his eyelashes seductively.


            Coyote was not moved. Furthermore, he sat perfectly still in his seat as the tall, lanky, blond cross-dresser rubbed up against his side in what was supposed to be a convincing manner. Perhaps it would have been if Coyote went for that sort of thing… or if he was single. With a sigh, Coyote threw back his head, his dark black hair whipping back at the motion then coming to a rest against the side of his head again. “If it’ll make you stop dry-humping me Fen, I’ll say yes.”


            “Yeth!” The man exclaimed, throwing his arms up in victory, but hitting the ceiling of the SUV. He fell back against their band’s drummer, Franco, a burly Latin lover type who immediately wrapped his arms around the base player and kissed his neck.


            Coyote sighed and rested his elbow on his armrest. He regretted the decision already.


            The engine turned over and the other guitarist, Alex, directed them out of the parking lot and onto the highway. Every exit seemed packed with gas stations of every color, so many fast food chains you’d die of the grease, and more motels than any of them could shake a stick at. Or anything else for that matter. But they drove onwards, with the keyboardist, Reilly, navigating by bic lighter at intervals.


            “It’s exit fifty-seven. Have we passed that yet?” Reilly asked, sounding hopeful. If they’d passed it there was a good chance they’d just give it up altogether and find a motel instead. They’d brought the camping gear along in the end just to humor Fenton; none of them had thought they’d actually use it. After all, what self respecting drag queen would want to rough it for the night instead of staying in a sleazy motel where they boys are as free as the ice?


            “Just passed fifty-five,” replied Alex, sounding depressed. He reached up and stuck a finger between his glasses and his face and rubbed at a tired eye. “We’ll be there in a couple minutes, then.”


            “Oh goody!” exclaimed Fenton with excitement.


            “Oh goody,” Coyote whispered under his breath. Normally he’d be up for an adventure, even if it had to do with tents and dirt instead of glitter and clubs. But he’d had a pain in his throat all evening that wouldn’t go away after multiple glasses of water and ginger ale and now he felt so tired all he wanted to do was take a warm shower and crash on a comfortable bed.


            But he did have to admit it was fun seeing Fenton so excited about this. And as he’d been one of the three casting votes for it, he wasn’t about to go back on his word now. So he put on a smile as the vehicle pulled off the highway at exit fifty-seven.


            The campground was dark and filled with trees as far as the eye could see, which wasn’t far in the dark. They picked up a site map, a tag and marked timecard at a station near the entrance. Then came the more difficult task of choosing a site. It wasn’t that sites were all full so much as five gay boys from DC didn’t have much of an idea of what to look for. Out of sheer exhaustion and irony they selected S69 and kept the big black SUV’s headlights on as they climbed out.


            With all five of them working, it did not take long to set up camp, even with Fenton calling out the most unhelpful instructions ever. The tent was easy enough to set up, though, as it was more of an ‘insert Pole A into Slot B’ and they knew how to do that sort of thing well indeed. And though it was slightly lopsided, the tent was erect and sturdy, a thing they all had similar experience with. Then came moving in sleeping bags and pillows and any bags they wanted. The equipment stayed in the car, which was locked with the alarm on.


            A battery-powered lantern was hung from the hook in the center of the tent, giving them all enough light to see by as they rolled out their sleeping bags. It was a four person tent, according to the box, but when they rolled the sleeping bags out it was clear five would be able to squeeze in, especially as Fenton and Franco were planning on sharing a sleeping bag.


            Afterwards, they set to the slightly more difficult task of building a fire. They took turns scrounging for wood and building the pile, but in the end it just took a few clicks of a lighter and some pages torn out of the latest issue of Cosmo to get the fire going. “Should last a few hours if we keep it up,” Franco said, tossing a fresh stick into the fire.


            “That’s what my last boyfriend said about sex,” said Reilly, complete with tongue-in-cheek and a wanking hand motion.


            “Speaking of which,” said Alex, taking a large gulp of his beer and sitting back against the table part of the picnic table they’d dragged over near the fire. He and Reilly sat on it, while Fenton and Franco shared a log along one side of the fire, across from Coyote who got a tree stump all to himself. The discussion picked up practically where it had left off during the drive. “Longest fucks. We haven’t done those yet. Mine’s about an hour, I think. I get impatient.”


            Coyote rubbed a couple of fingers alongside his nose then drank from the bottle of water he’d rescued from the cooler in the car. At this stage in the road trip there was more water than alcohol in the cooler as the band members had made progress on the several cases of beer and hard liquor they’d brought along. “Three hours fifty-two minutes,” Coyote said offhandedly and they all stared at him in disbelief.


            It was met with comments of “That’s impossible!” and “Yeah, right!” and “I can’t beat that.”


            Coyote shrugged. “It was back when I was on drugs and he and I practiced quite a lot. He was a tantric master over at the Phoenix Community Center. He gave workshops and kept journals to record all his lovemaking sessions. Kinda creepy, really, but that’s how we came to time it.” He shrugged and crossed his arms over his chest, feeling cold. There was a chill in the air and an occasional breeze that was much worse, but nothing too strong as to threaten the campfire. Coyote leaned forward on the pretense of tossing another stick into it but remained hunched over to be closer to the warmth.


            “Well,” said Reilly with a snort. “Let’s move on to the biggest dick size of a guy you’ve been with.” As was the rule, the one who proposed the topic went first. “Eight inches. Who can top that?”


            Alex was in for eight and a half. Coyote said nine and a quarter. Franco said about nine but he’d never actually asked or measured. And Fenton topped them all with ten and three quarters. “And more importantly, he knew how to uthe it!” Fenton laughed. Then he patted Franco’s thigh. “But don’t worry, Baby. He wath as dumb as brickth. And no thtamina at all.”


            Coyote coughed, feeling his throat tighten and his head pound. “Think I’m going to go turn in for the night,” he announced before another topic could be proposed. He was usually exhausted on nights after a long gig, but he still didn’t usually go to bed so early and hoped his bandmates wouldn’t mind.


            “Actually, I’m pretty beat, too,” Alex said, rubbing at his eyes again, though this time without the glasses to get in the way. He only needed them for driving.


            Though Coyote was a bit relieved to not be the only person going to bed so early, he still might have liked a few minutes alone in the tent first. They both got up and everyone exchanged ‘goodnight’s. Then Coyote and Alex headed over to the tent.


            “I’m going to go take a piss first,” Alex said, clapping Coyote on the back, right where his tattoo was, coincidentally. “See you in a few.”


            Grateful for small miracles, Coyote practically sprinted to the tent. Used to sleeping naked, Coyote settled for sweatpants tonight and changed in the darkness, not wanting to turn the lantern on for just a few moments. Then he unzipped his sleeping bag and climbed inside.


            The sleeping bag and pillow felt cold to the touch and almost damp, though he couldn’t imagine how they could be so. Perhaps it was just the cold that made it feel so damp and uncomfortable around him. He waited for it to warm up to him, but did not have to wait long before a tickle in his nose plagued him.


            Not wanting the others to hear him sneeze, he turned his head and buried his face into the pillow. “huhhhfff! Huhfff!” He sneezed, the sound almost completely muffled. As he sniffled and scooted his head over on the pillow, Alex unzipped the door to the tent and stepped inside.


            “I didn’t interrupt anything did I?” Alex chuckled, zipping the tent up behind him again.


            Coyote shook his head. “Nah. Just getting settled, which is hard to do. Literally hard, and not in a good way.” He slapped his hand against the floor of the tent a few times. He’d slept on floors before, usually when he was drunk or after a good fuck, but never on anything so hard as the cold ground beneath him now.


            Alex laughed and slipped into his sleeping bag, pulling off his jeans beneath but keeping the rest of his clothes on. “Night Yo.”


            “Night Alex,” Coyote replied. He sighed deeply and turned onto his side. He faced the sloping side of the green tent, the material slick and dark to his eyes. He could feel the cold seeping in through it and closed his eyes tightly. As nice as the campfire had been, he definitely would have preferred a motel room this night.


            “hahCh!” He half stifled. Coyote glanced over his shoulder to see that Alex had already fallen to sleep. He sniffed hard and closed his eyes again. The way he was starting to feel was a good indication that this wasn’t just fatigue or even his allergies acting up. This was a cold coming on, pure and simple.


            He went in and out of sleep for a short while, staying mostly out than in. He heard the others at the campfire laughing and talking, though their voices sounded muffled and far away. He heard Alex snoring softly just a few feet away, and even he sounded far away. Coyote tried to concentrate to hear what was being said, in order to take his mind off the cold and the awful way he was starting to feel. But he couldn’t make the words out. And he couldn’t make the sneezes go away.


            “hehhChfffff! hahhChufff! Shffff!” He sneezed into his pillow more often than not.


            After a while, the others put out the fire and headed to bed as well. Coyote pretended to be asleep by staying still and keeping his breath slow and shallow. He wasn’t really sure why, but he didn’t feel like talking just now. He just wanted to fall asleep and get a good rest, or as good of a rest he could possibly get while sleeping on the ground in the cold. An adventure this was, but one he wanted to get through without getting sicker.


            Reilly fell asleep nearly as fast as Alex had, and Coyote felt jealous. Fenton and Franco, on the other hand, did not go to sleep immediately. Instead, they purposefully stayed awake, moving together beneath the sleeping bags which had been zipped up together to form one large enough for them both.


            In no time at all, the two seemed to come to the consensus that they were the only ones awake, and thus they began to do more than touch and kiss. And Coyote heard every bit of it. The smacking, the grunting, the panting, the moaning. It all sounded so delicious when he was on the receiving end of it, but to hear two friends doing it on just the other side of a very small tent was rather unnerving.


            More importantly, he felt like he was going to sneeze again, which would surely tip them off that they weren’t alone. Coyote pinched his nose closed and buried his face in the pillow to keep his breaths from being loud. His panting would have sounded just like Fenton’s otherwise. As it was, it was all he could do to keep the sneezes from bursting out of him as the tickling in his nose was so intense. “hhh… HCHFFF!” He managed to keep it down to just one, but even that was enough.




            He lifted his head and made the mistake of looking over. He got an eyeful of bare ass and bare front just inches away from each other. Franco was just as handsome naked as he was any other moment of the day. “So sorry,” he apologized quickly. Coyote looked away and his eyes fell on his bag. He sat up, reached forward, and pulled on a hooded sweatshirt. “I’ll leave you guys alone. I can’t sleep anyway.” And with that he got up and left the tent.


            When they pulled into camp earlier, it was already dark, but somehow it seemed even darker now. Perhaps the clouds had overtaken the sky or perhaps the trees were so dense as he walked that they kept the moonlight from reaching him. Either way, it was dark and terribly cold as he walked the road, shivering. He stuck his hands in the pockets of the sweatshirt to find his cell phone.


            He pulled it out and switched it on. It was late, the battery was almost dead and the phone only got two bars in reception, yet he still felt a desire to call Marty. He waned to complain about how cold he was, and how he wasn’t feeling very well. But three dates didn’t exactly constitute the sort of relationship in which he could call the man up in the middle of the night and bitch. So he switched the phone off and shoved it back in his pocket. Then he turned around and headed right back on the road that wound around the campground.


            Along the way he passed a few other campsites, with tents and portable stoves and picnic tables that matched the one at their site. He’d been staring at his cell phone the first time he passed them, going the other way, but now he paid attention to them. Coyote tried to keep his sniffles quiet so as not to wake anyone sleeping in the tents. He felt envious of them as well. Everyone in the whole campground was probably asleep except for him.


            When he reached S69, he passed the tent and went to sit by the fireside, even though the fire was nothing more than burnt wood and cinders now. He rubbed at his nose with the cuff of his sleeve, having nothing else to use.


            “hahhh… hahhh-Chhuhhh! Sniff! Definitely sick,” he whispered to himself. He rubbed his nose, then hugged his arms to his stomach and hunched forward as though curling up while sitting.


            The hours ticked by and a chill settled in his bones. He was beyond shivering. His throat was terribly sore and he tried not to swallow. His nose felt terribly stuffed and he tried not to sneeze. His eyes were tired, eyelids heavy, so he closed his eyes and tried to feel sleepy. But all he felt was miserable.


            Finally he gave up finding peace and returned to the tent. The smell of sex lingered in the air, and he unzipped one of the windows an inch to let in some fresh air. Then he crawled back into the cold sleeping bag and curled up, coughing as softly as he could.


            Really he didn’t mind this whole idea of camping. In fact, he thought he might almost grow to like it. Things were simple, fresh, new. It was just damn cold and he didn’t feel his best. And try as he might, he couldn’t get himself to sleep.




            Coyote opened his eyes to see the side of the tent again. This time it was a slightly lighter shade of green. It was morning. Or close to morning, at least. Which means he must have dozed off for a few minutes at least. Maybe an hour if he was lucky. But he still felt horrible and exhausted and he’d only been awake a few seconds when he realized he had to sneeze again.


            He curled up into himself more, bringing the sleeping bag with, and sneezed into the fabric. “hah… huhh-SHooo! hehhSchooo! Sniff!” He moaned quietly. “What is it, Reilly?”


            “You were snoring, Man.”


            Coyote sighed and closed his eyes tightly. As he lay there, trying to fall back to sleep, he was aware of something at his back. He turned his head and looked over his shoulder to see Reilly in his sleeping bag, spooning Coyote in his own. Alex’s back was pressed up against Reilly’s, and both Franco and Fenton were snuggled together in their sleeping bags. Everyone looked tired and cold.


            “Sorry,” he whispered. He wouldn’t be snoring any more now that he was awake, but now he had to worry about waking the others with his sneezes again. With a sigh, he sat up and slid out of his sleeping bag. Shivering badly, he collected it into his arms and hugged it. Then he stood and left the tent as quietly as possible.


            He sat down at the picnic table and unzipped the sleeping bag all the way. Then he draped it over his shoulders and wrapped it around his front. He felt warmer, but no less miserable or exhausted. He closed his eyes and waited for the others to wake for the morning. The sooner they got up, the sooner they would be able to head back south towards home.


            Slowly but surely, the others woke. The morning started slowly, the bodies a bit stiff from sleeping on the ground. In the morning light, they could see a water tap just beyond where the picnic table had been before they dragged it to be near the fire pit. A few washed a little after waking, splashing water on their faces. But in general the cold, crisp morning was enough to wake them up.


            They loaded their things into the back of the car, then dismantled the tent carefully. Coyote pulled up the tent stakes and stuck them in the bag. Then he helped take apart the poles one they’d been slipped out of the loops that bound them to the fabric of the tent.


            “hahhh…” He pressed his nose against his shoulder. “hahhh-Shoo! Chuoo!


            “You’ve been sneezing quite a lot this morning,” Reilly said concernedly.


            Coyote nodded and shrugged. “Think I’ve come down with something. Haven’t been feeling too good.” He voice sounded harsh and strained.


            “You look tired,” Fenton said, heading over to him. “Maybe you thould go lie down in the car and let uth finith up.” Fenton rubbed Coyote’s back gently. “Otherwithe you’ll be out of comithion for a while.”


            “Damn, that’s right!” said Alex, rubbing the back of his neck which, admittedly, felt sore. “We’ve got to play at Strokes in two days.”


            Coyote smiled. “I’ll be better by then.” He coughed. “And if I’m not, I can get Turbo to reschedule us.” He rubbed at his nose. “I just want to get back home and get into bed, okay?”


            They could all understand that. The tent came down quickly and it was packed up and loaded into the SUV just as quickly. They checked out at the main cabin office on the way out and headed straight for the highway.




            Coyote yawned widely and smacked his lips a few times afterwards.


            “Thirsty?” Olly asked, the glass of water still in his hand.


            But Coyote shook his head. “I think the medicine’s kicking in. Feel so sleepy…” His breath caught, however, and Olly handed over a few tissues from the fresh box he’d brought over. “hahh-hehh-Chooo! hehhShooo! H’Shooo!” He took a deep breath to blow his nose, then coughed uncontrollably. His whole body shook with strong coughs until they passed. Then he shivered and moved around restlessly beneath the blankets.


            Olly reached down and stroked Coyote’s forehead. “Just have a few sips of tea,” he said soothingly. “I promise it’ll help.”


            Willing to try anything at this point, Coyote sat up and drank a bit. Then he collapsed back onto the couch cushions. He glanced at the television screen. The bar was going up in flames during the fight scene. Coyote smiled.


            “Don’t fall asleep. You’ll miss the best part,” Olly said, pointing at the screen.


            Coyote tried his best to stay awake. But either during or directly after the ‘I’m your new damn partner’ line, he closed his eyes. It only took seconds for him to fall asleep and stay that way. Olly waited a little while, until the snoring started, then he eased the used tissues out of Coyote’s hand and tucked the blankets more tightly around him. “Works every time,” he said, nodding towards the screen. “Thanks, Harry-baby.” He let himself out of the room and closed the door. Then he headed off to let a few of the other house residents know Coyote was sick and crashing in the rec room.