Marty sighed with breathless relief as though he'd actually climbed the eight flights up to the apartment instead of just taking the elevator. He closed the door behind him and locked it with the deadbolt. He set his briefcase down, shed his trench coat, and loosened his tie.


            “Want a beer?” He looked over to see his roommate rooting through the fridge, triumphantly withdrawing two bottles of beer. Marty gave her a firm look, and she sighed and put one back in. “Just thought you looked like you could use one,” she said, heading into the living room, kissing his cheek, then flopping down on their couch. “Tough day?”


            He nodded. “Tough and far too long and…” he trailed off with uncertainly, which she noticed.


            She'd been fingering her newest piercing, in her ear for a change, but stopped and looked concernedly at him. “What?”


            He sighed again and walked over to her, sitting down on the edge of the couch by her fishnet-covered midriff and facing her. “Lor, do I feel especially warm to you?” She was a dental hygienist, which meant she was sort of in the medical field. She'd know if he had a fever.


            She touched his forehead with the back of her hand, then the front. “Yeah, you do,” she replied with seriousness. “Have you got a thermometer? I'm pretty sure I don't.”


            He shook his head and felt his own forehead, though he couldn't really determine anything except that he was sweating a little. And that he wasn't exactly feeling his best overall. “There's a bug going around the office. I think I might be coming down with it,” he told her. “And last night probably didn't help anything.”


            “Last night?” she asked, pulling the afghan off the back of the couch and throwing it around his shoulders for him. Then she cocked her head, short, jet black pigtails bobbing for a moment. “Didn't you go out on a date with Yo last night?”


            “Yeah,” he said. “Dinner and a play down in D.C.” His eyes narrowed, and he cupped both hands to his face before bending practically in half. “hahh-Choo! huhShuhh!


            “God bless,” she said, then bent her legs, pulling them to her, reached out for him, and gave his arm a good shove. Caught unaware, he toppled over onto his other side, head hitting a cushion and body curling up on the far side of the couch. “I'm going to go get you some tissues. And another blanket,” she told him.


            He closed his eyes and shook his head. “I should go crash in my room. I don't want you to catch this.” Despite his words, he readjusted the cushion so that it served as a pillow at the right height and angle.


            “Nonsense,” she said, getting up and straightening her short black skirt so that it was in place. “That tiny television you've got in your room isn't the sort of thing you should be forced to watch when sick. It doesn't even get cable.” She searched around among the couch cushions until she produced the remote control and pressed it into his hands. “Go channel surfing or watch those Six Feet Under episodes you keep tivo-ing, I don't care. Just make yourself comfy.” She headed to the bathroom before he could object.


            “Okay,” he said to himself, giving in. But then he remembered, “Yo and I were supposed to get together tonight for dinner before he preformed.” He groaned and sat up, the afghan falling off him. Sitting up gave him access to his pocket, and he fished around in it, finally producing his cell phone. He quickly dialed the number and was slightly relieved when it went straight to voice mail. “Hi, it's Marty,” he said, even though he was certain Coyote knew his voice after their many months of dating. “I'm not going to make it tonight. Sorry. I'm feeling kinda rotten and I'm just going to stay in until the worst is over. Knock 'em dead tonight.”


            When he hung up, he found Loraine hovering over him with a disapproving look on her face. That along with the dark eye makeup and studded collar made his instincts tell him to recoil or run. “You're still in your work clothes and your slacks are getting all wrinkled.” Though she had her arms full with several things, including one very large comforter, she held out her hand, snapped, then wiggled her fingers in a manner that was meant to rush him. “Thought I told you to get comfy. Now strip, Buster.”


            Using the afghan to hide himself, Marty shyly slipped his shoes and pants off. Then he took off his tie and dress shirt, leaving himself in socks, boxers, and an undershirt. He had to admit he did feel a lot more comfortable.


            She draped the comforter over him, placed the box of tissues right in front of him on the couch, set a small trashcan down on the floor between couch and coffee table, and carefully deposited his laptop on top of the coffee table. “Thanks, Lor,” he said, smiling. Even as miserable as it had been at times the night before, there had still been plenty of nice times. And last night he had definitely been far better than he was now with the cold he felt coming on.




-Flashback: Last Night-


            “How about a nice walk around the monuments before it gets too dark?” Marty asked, rising from the table and sliding on his trench coat.


            “Sounds great, Coyote said, getting up as well. As he reached for his grey suit jacket, Marty got to it first and held it up for him. Coyote smiled and slipped his arms through. It was a simple gesture, nothing like the passionate kiss they might have liked to have exchanged, but amongst the rather conservative restaurant crowd they were already pushing their luck. As such, the brief excuse for closeness was much appreciated.


            They headed out together towards the mall, making comments and conversing about the government thanks to the buildings they were passing on their walk. Marty had a destination in mind but made it look like it was just a casual stroll through the district.


            The Ronald Reagan Building on their left warranted two eye rolls, a snort, and absolutely no comments as they were both too annoyed to bother with a proper rant. Instead, they turned their attentions to the building on the right, which belonged to the Commerce Department. “Did you know there's a national aquarium in the basement here?” Coyote asked, used to pointing out little-known-facts to Marty who was still new enough to the area that he enjoyed learning more. “And there's an underground tunnel running across the street right beneath us now.”


            “Amazing,” Marty said, looking down at his feet as though he might be able to see through the pavement.


            “Of course the aquarium in Baltimore's much more impressive. This National Aquarium's something of a joke, but I've always thought it was kind of cute. It's got its own charm.”


            Marty reached over, tugging on Coyote's tie. “Cute and charming? Sounds like someone I know.” He smiled. “I'd love to go there some time with you.” He wrapped an arm around Coyote's waist. “We could watch the fishies… stand around together in the dark by the glow of the tanks… steal kisses when we find we're suddenly alone…”


            Coyote chuckled at the silliness. “You're such a romantic, Marty.”


            Marty nodded, grinning idiotically. “Yeah I am. But it's one of the reasons you love me, right?” Coyote glanced around, then swept Marty in his arms for a nice hug in reply. They were in the stage where they frequently threw around the 'love' word in casual statements or in jokes, but they never professed it to each other, certainly not the way that Sweetie and Jamie did ad nauseam.


            Taking Coyote's hand, Marty pulled away. “Come on. There's something I want to do before the show and we've got just enough time.” They had eaten extra early to be sure they made the eight o'clock show time, but they'd finished somewhat earlier than expected. Marty led Coyote over to the Washington Monument, producing several tickets along the way. “I bought them during my lunch break just in case we had time to kill,” he explained as they walked up the flag-lined sidewalk towards the towering, beige obelisk.


            Coyote plucked them out of his hand, laughing. “What a waste if we hadn't! Really, Marty, you shouldn't have.”


            Marty shrugged. “I can afford it. Tonight's my treat, remember? All you have to do is come along for the ride.” His eyes turned upwards, following the monument they were right up against now as it pointed towards the sky. The timing was, as Marty had hoped, perfect. Though it was a little overcast out, it was also just about sunset. The sky was bright yellow and the clouds grey balls, and it would look all the more breathtaking from the top of the monument when they were holding each other.


            They waited their turn in line, until their group was led into the elevator. Marty secretly wished they still let people walk up and down the stairs but for security reasons he could understand why they didn't. And tonight wouldn't have been a good night for walking anyway, considering he and Coyote were wearing suits and he'd already been through a long day of work. It wasn't exactly romantic to pass out from heat and exhaustion halfway up and make Coyote carry him back down.


            As it was Marty's first trip up, he listened to the elevator guide explaining the facts about the monument's height, the reconstruction, and the building materials used. He noticed, however, that Coyote's attention was on him, and he was smiling with giddiness.


            They were the first ones off the elevator and instead of going straight for the windows right in front like most people did, they moved around to the west side of the monument and found a nice spot to look out at the sunset. “This is nice,” Coyote said with a sigh as Marty wrapped his arms around the man from behind and squeezed tightly. “It was such a good idea to come here.”


            They gazed out over the buildings for a few long minutes. And while the scene with the sunset was beautiful, Marty found himself just as lost in Coyote. He nuzzled his face into the back of the long black and, today, blue-streaked hair. And he closed his eyes, taking in Coyote's smell which was like nothing else he'd ever encountered. It was rich and musky, but with a tinge of sweetness as well from the fruity shampoo and body wash he used.


            After a while they walked around, peering out of different windows at the Nation's Capital around them. “Hey,” Marty said, pointing casually out a window. “Did you know you could see Strokes from here?”


            “What?” Coyote was there in an instant, straining and trying hard to spot the club. But Marty began laughing and Coyote backed away. “Very funny.” They weren't all that far from home, in the city, but certainly not close enough to see from the top of the monument. “Come on. We'd better get going if we're going to catch the shuttle over.”


            “Right,” Marty nodded. They took the next elevator down and headed over to the Metro stop where they could catch the shuttle over to The Kennedy Center.


            As they walked, Marty thought he felt something wet hit his face. He looked up to see the cloud cover thicker and greyer than it had been just a bit ago. “Yo,” he started, holding his hand out to see if he could feel anything else. “Either someone up there's spitting at me, or it's starting to rain.”


            “Was just going to say I thought it was raining,” Coyote said, looking up as well. He flinched, practically jumping in sudden surprise. “There! Felt another drop. Definitely raining.” He frowned in disappointment. “We'll never make it without getting completely soaked.”


            Marty gave him a smile, then reached into the inner pocket of his trench coat and pulled out a small, black umbrella. “Thought I'd bring one just in case.” Marty's list of 'just in case' items had increased since he'd started dating Coyote. Not only did he now carry a handkerchief and tissues, but also a tablet or two of headache medicine and no less than three condoms. Tonight he'd brought along the umbrella as well, not wanting anything to ruin the date he had planned.


            He aimed it away from them then pressed the button on the handle to deploy it. Marty offered it to Coyote, who was regarding it with skepticism. “Doesn't seem big enough for the both of us,” he said as Marty forced it on him. “If I take it you'll still get all wet. And it's your umbrella to start with—”


            “I brought it along for you. So just take it and stay dry or I'll feel horribly guilty for the whole rest of the night,” Marty explained, pressing the handle into Coyote's hand. “So just take it and stay dry and let me feel good about being able to help you.” He leaned close. “Let me be a gentleman and take care of my Coyote, okay?”


            Coyote gave him a sheepish but adoring smile and resolved to use the umbrella. He tried to keep Marty close, so at least part of it was helping Marty, but as the rain grew worse, that became all but impossible to do.


            It went from sprinkling to full-blown rain in less than three minutes. The two scratched the idea of a leisurely walk in favor of a more moderate pace, but with the storm and setting sun it was getting dark out as well and they had to be sure not to get hit by city traffic. They could hear thunder rumbling in the distance as raining turned into pouring. The collar of Marty's trench coat was turned up and his hands were stuffed in his pockets, trying to avoid the rain that was, as Coyote had predicted, completely soaking him. Coyote was a bit wet, despite the useful umbrella, as wind had picked up and blew rain at him from the sides.


            As they neared the station, they spotted the shuttle just a few blocks away. They could definitely make it if they hurried. This was easier said than done with the downpour, but they made the attempt and quickened their pace even more.


            “Wait!” Marty yelled above the rain, flinging his arm out to hold Coyote back. They teetered on a curb just a block away from where the shuttle was pulling up. He pointed down at the street. Though it was darker, a gigantic puddle could be seen starting at the curb and spanning halfway across the street.


            Coyote swore softly and looked down at their shoes that were already somewhat damp. But Marty suddenly grinned and stripped off his coat. He tossed it out into the center of the puddle for them to use as a stepping stone to get across.


            From beneath the umbrella and damp black hair, Coyote looked over at Marty incredulously. “Have you gone completely crazy?!” he shouted, the rain, wind, and thunder too loud for normal conversation.


            Marty nodded and grinned. “I think so!” he said, gesturing. “Go on!” he encouraged. The rain was pouring down upon him directly now, soaking not just his hair and head but his shoulders and whole suit. Coyote was hesitating. “The coat's already wet so just go!” Coyote still was not convinced. “Before I get completely drenched and we miss our shuttle, preferably!”


            Biting his lower lip, Coyote gripped the umbrella tightly and leapt off the curve. He crossed the puddle in one step, thanks to the perfectly-placed coat, stepping once upon it and then landing just beyond it on his other foot. He turned to see Marty do the same, then reach over and grab his jacket by the belt. He gave it a good shake and it was hardly wetter than it had been before the puddle. Marty, on the other hand, was significantly drenched as he folded the coat over his arm.  They did, however, reach the shuttle just before it pulled away.


            Marty let Coyote board first and when they disembarked just a few minutes later, Marty led the way out, holding a hand up for Coyote to escort him like a proper gentleman. Coyote chuckled to himself when he accepted it and stepped down.


            As they walked down one hall inside the Kennedy Center, looking up at the flags of different countries hanging a considerable ways above them, they could hear music. And when they reached the end, there was a large group of people lingering about and a string quartet playing in the center of the group. Marty and Coyote paused respectfully for a few minutes to listen, but then Coyote noticed Marty shivering and ushered them onwards.


            The performance they were attending was in a hall on the second floor, and their shoes made soft squishing sounds as they headed up the carpeted stairs. By the time they'd handed over their tickets and been directed to their seats, Marty could barely feel his feet for the freezing cold. Had he been anywhere else, he might have slipped off his shoes and possibly his socks and folded his legs and feet beneath him on the seat. So he tried to ignore the sensation.


            Both fortunately and unfortunately, he discovered he had more than enough to distract him. The seats were fantastic. Not very far back, but not right up against the pit either. They were in the middle and on an isle so that they could slip in and out easily without climbing over a whole row of people. But they were also just in the path of an air conditioning vent. And, as it was still summer, apparently they'd deemed it important to keep the air conditioning in the building running.


            Wet from head to toe, Marty couldn't help but feel chilly as the cold air fell upon him. When he leaned back, his shirt and suit jacket were flush against his skin and it sent shivers down his spine. He did not want to take the jacket off, however, as he would be even colder with the air upon him and it wouldn't be proper. He thought momentarily about sneaking out to the bathroom to see if there was a hand dryer, but the play would be starting soon. So he sat as still as he could as he waited for the production to start, trying not to be cold and wet and failing miserably.


            As the house lights dimmed, Coyote reached out and took Marty's hand. With a smile, Marty squeezed it back, suddenly feeling as warm as ever.


-End Flashback-




            Lost to sleep, Marty wasn't aware the door buzzer had gone off until Loraine was already at the door, sliding the chain off and turning the deadbolt. Coming awake slowly, he forced himself to sit up and blink groggily by the light of the glowing television screen.


            He couldn't fathom who could possibly be at the door at this time of night until Loraine said with a sigh, “Marty, it's for you.” She stepped aside to let the visitor in. Wearing blue, cloud-patterned, long-sleeved pajamas that seemed one size too big for her, she scratched her hip then rubbed the back of her neck. Without her makeup she looked and sounded just as threatening as if she'd been in full goth mode. “Keep it down out here, would you? I've got an early shift tomorrow.” Tiredly she threw her weight against the door to shove it closed then padded off to her bedroom, closing the door to that as well.


            Marty sat on the couch, blinking up at Coyote. Somewhere among his sleepy mind and his congestion, he understood why the man was there. He just couldn't think of what to say. So he patted the spot of couch beside him in an invitation the musician did not hesitate to accept.


            Coyote sat down and immediately thrust a bunch of flowers into Marty's face. “To help you feel better,” he explained as Marty sniffed and sniffled at the carnations. “I'm sorry they're not more exotic but with my allergies there's not a lot I can be around and I didn't think it'd make sense for us both to be sneezing.”


            Marty gave a weak smile and nodded. “They're lovely.” He coughed and handed the flowers back. “Can you go put them in water for me? There's a vase in the cupboard above the sink.”


            Alone for the moment, Marty ruffled his short, dirty blond hair so it didn't look like he'd been sleeping on the couch. Then he rubbed at his nose with the back of his hand and blew it a few times. This only seemed to irritate it more. “hehhh-Shuhhh! hahhhShhooo!” He blew his nose again.


            Coyote settled beside him on the couch again, wrapping his arm around Mary and setting the flowers down on the coffee table to the side, so there was still a clear view of the television from the couch. “You don't sound very good at all,” Coyote commented. Then he smiled. “This is a bit of a role reversal for us, isn't it? I'm the one being romantic and buying the flowers and you're the one sneezing.”


            Marty nodded again, chuckling. It was true that in the short time Marty had known Coyote, he'd had nearly as many incidents involving sneezing as without. Marty rubbed at his nose. “How'd it go tonight? Sorry about getting sick and missing it.”


             “You missed a fantastic show,” Coyote replied with false bravado. “But I'm glad you had the sense to stay home and rest.”


            Marty looked skeptical. “So, basically, you fucked up part of the performance and are embarrassed about it? Was it 'Roadblocks' again?”


            Coyote hung his head with a sigh. “Yes,” he confessed, but then laughed, which Marty joined in on. Not once had the band been able to perform that particular song properly in front of an audience, despite many perfect practices. It wasn't always Coyote's fault, but apparently this time it had been. Coyote's laughter faded after a few minutes, giving way to a violent yawn.


            “You're exhausted,” Marty noticed. He checked his watch but it was too dark to read the face, so he leaned forward and pressed the display button to read Coyote's. “It's really late!” he exclaimed. Then he screwed up his face. “Or early, depending on how you look at it.”


            Coyote nodded, “Took me a while to find a store that was open twenty-four hours and selling flowers. But, yeah, I am kinda beat.”


            “You should spend the night here,” said Marty decisively. He glanced warily towards his roommate's room and then towards the tissues scattered over the floor, but his mind had been made up. “You can…” He paused, freezing for a moment in thought. Then his head snapped down. “hahhChahh! hehhShooo! K'Choo!” He sniffed wetly and went for the tissues, but Coyote already had a handful and thrust them at Marty helpfully. “Thags,” he said and blew his nose. Then he lifted his hand and pointed in the direction of his own bedroom. “You can sleep in my bed for the night. It's too late to go out driving.”


            “I can sleep here on the couch,” said Coyote, patting the couch cushion beside him as though to test its sturdiness or comfortability.


            Marty looked around again at the tissues, and the blankets. He hugged one of the blankets closer to his body, gathering it up. “I can go sleep in the bedroom, then. I just thought you'd be more comfortable there and since I was already settled… here…” He wiggled his nose briefly, then his eyes closed again and his hand cupped the tissues over his nose. “hahh-Shhffff!


            He felt hands on both his shoulders as he sat back up, rubbing comfortingly. “We can both go sleep in your bed,” Coyote said. “You shared my bed with me when I was sick. Makes sense to do the same now. But I guess we could squish together on this couch if you'd prefer.” He kissed Marty's cheek. “Either way, I'm going to be there for you.”


            Marty shook his head. “Yo… if you do that, chances are you'll catch my cold.”


            Coyote shrugged. “Yeah, well, wouldn't be the first cold I've ever had. Besides, I'm sort of the reason you're sick in the first place.”


            “No you're not,” Marty sighed. “You can't get sick from being a little cold and wet. I caught this at the office so don't you go blaming yourself.” His hand tightened around the tissue in his hand and he covered his face again. “hahhh-Shfff! huhhChufff! KShffffff!” He rubbed his nose dry with one hand and pulled back a little to keep his distance. “The least I can do now is try to keep it to myself.”


            “There's no guarantee I'll catch it but if I do, it'll be worth it.” He wrapped an arm around Marty and hugged the man closer. Though Marty protested, he was too weak to win the fight. “Besides, then I'll be able to stay in bed with you while we get over our sniffles together.”


            Marty turned his head, sniffling as though on cue, and buried it into Coyote's shirt. From what he could smell, it reeked of beer and carnations, not at all Coyote's usual scent. Feeling the arm wrapped around him so tightly, all he could do was laugh. His whole body shook and the laughter was muffled into Coyote's chest. Coyote just held him through peels of laughter, not quite understanding their origin until Marty pulled back, tears in his eyes from laughing so hard. “My God, Yo! I thought it was impossible but you're worse than I am when it comes to romance!”


            Coyote chuckled and nodded sheepishly. “Well, wouldn't it be romantic?” he said, shrugging and rubbing a hand up and down Marty's back.


            “Sneezing so much we keep each other awake? Coughing so hard we shake the bed? Feverish and congested and miserable together?” Marty asked. Coyote nodded again, and Marty sighed. “All right, maybe a little romantic… so long as there's cuddling involved. But I'm still hoping you don't catch this.” He slipped his hand into Coyote's, the man's warm rings feeling cold against his fingers. Then they gathered up the tissue box and blankets and headed for Marty's bedroom.