Through the Looking Glass
Note: contains homosexual relationships
Jeff impatiently drummed his fingers on the cold steel of the table sat on. He shivered at the cold nip in the air coming in through the air conditioning vents. It was a moist, damp cold and one he'd been feeling constantly since he stepped into the room. He pulled the paper gown tighter around his waist and crossed his arms in front of his built, bare chest. He hated the paper gown. He hated the wait. Most of all, he hated going to the doctor's. Just the thought that there was something wrong with him set his heart rolling down the stairs like a bowling ball. He hadn't even wanted to come in, but it had lasted longer than normal, and he was a bit nervous about it. So, he dragged himself in and subjected himself to pokes and pricks and pinches.
The door opened, and a tall, thin man entered, looking down at his chart. “Hello, Jeff,” he extended a hand and made eye contact. “I'm doctor Henry. And I'm going to start out with a few questions, all right?”
The doctor launched into them, reading from his clipboard. “Any coughing or sore throat symptoms?”
“Congestion or stuffiness in the nasal region?”
“Sniffling or sneezing?”
“Do you work regular hours around others?”
He nodded. “I work in an office building.”
“Air conditioner working all right there and in your house?”
The doctor stopped to take a look in his ears, eyes, nose, mouth carefully. Then asked the final, “Have you ever had this happen before?”
Jeff paused, then nodded, ashamed to admit it. “A few times, but never this long.”
“How many days?”
Without thinking, he rattled off the calculated, “four days and thirteen hours.”
The doctor nodded, staring at the chart and rubbing at his own nose with a thoughtful expression plastered on his face. “I'm afraid there's nothing we can give you right now. Colds are tricky.” He patted Jeff on the back a few times. “Don't you worry now. If it doesn't go away in a day or two, there may be something we can give you. OK?”
Jeff nodded depressingly, looking down at his paper-covered lap. “Thanks.” He hated doctors. Jeff proceeded to get dressed and made his way through the halls to the germ-laced waiting room to pay the receptionist.
She gave him a smile as she ran her hand beneath her runny nose, then passed him his bill. He signed wrote out his check and passed both back to her. She coughed gently as she processed it and handed the receipt back to him. “Feel better,” she told him, looking on him with pity as she reached for the tissues to blow her stuffy nose.
He nodded his appreciation and made his way out to the streets and toward the bus stop in the rain. He was just in time to catch the bus. Jeff boarded it and sat in the back, out of the way. People would notice his ailment soon enough and he wanted to give them the room to move away from him if they so desired. Though this afternoon it was rather full and passengers were forced to claim all seats. In the seat beside Jeff sat a tall, black fellow who gave him a smile. Jeff nodded back, then quickly made eye contact with the ground, feeling badly about the whole situation.
The man patted his leg and whispered softly, “Don't you worry.”
Jeff looked up at him again. “Excuse me?”
“You don't sniff look sick.”
“All I meant, is don't feel badly, it'll wear off soon. It's cold season.”
Jeff rubbed the back of his neck. Was it that easy to spot? He looked around the bus to see that there were no other seats at the moment. And here was this man quite obviously hitting on him? “I get off on the next stop.”
The man smiled. “You get off, hmm?”
Jeff stood up quickly. “I need to go.”
The man nodded once again. “Theo Wilcox. You… should…” his face fell a moment, dark black eyes closing and squeezing up tightly, his pink mouth dropping open and his tongue almost falling out. “hhhuuuuuuuhhhhh,” he wound up deeply, strongly, perfectly. “KRUMPSHISHHHHHHHHHH!” he sprayed freely, raising his hand to wipe his wet nose upon his wrist and sleeve. He sniffed wetly from the sneeze and the cold flowing through his system. “Feel sniff free to look me up.”
Jeff was certain he wouldn't. And as the bus came to a stop, Jeff hurried off, listening to the man's teasing sniffles. Jeff hurried home on the surface route, closing himself into his apartment in depression once it was reached. No e-mail awaited him, no messages blinked on his answering machine. It had been three months since his last boyfriend, and he was sure people at work were beginning to think him straight for the lull. Luckily the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy was still in effect, but he still didn't care to think about their opinions. He fell onto the couch with a deep sigh, wondering if there we anyone he could call up who might make him feel better. His thoughts strayed to Erik, his last lover who, after thirty-two years, had discovered that he was actually straight. A pity, too… the man had a wonderful body, and a terrible immune system.
Feeling depressed, he turned on the television. The movie channels had nothing good playing, and the rest of the commercial channels were being interrupted by small bits of sitcom trash on the breaks, so he flipped it off again.
His thoughts, however, remained on his predicament. A cold, damp wind blew at him from the special, government-regulated air conditioners, and with his hair still wet from the rain, and feel still a bit wet, he forced himself to sleep, hoping in vein for so much as a runny nose when he awoke.
Several hours later, Jeff sat drumming his fingers on the tissue-strewn counter top as he sat staring at the blank screen of the videophone. There had to be someone else to call. There had to be. He'd tried Gregory, but he was out partying. He'd tried Terrance, but he'd been in bed with his lover and a fever, the lucky dog. He'd even tried his sister Alice, but she was out with her wife. So he was stuck. Completely. “Theo Wilcox,” he said out loud before he could stop himself. “Audio and Visual.”
The screen flashed a few times before Theo's smiling face appeared before him. The man was tall, dark, with a handsome look of sophistication about him. Very striking. Very regal. “Hey, the guy frob the bus, right?”
Jeff nodded. “My name's Jeff.”
Theo raised a tissue to an obviously runny nose and blew carefully. “Hi, Jeff. How're you feelig?”
“Miserable,” Jeff replied with a sigh. “I don't mean to be rude, but do you, um… specialize in…”
Theo laughed powerfully in a beautiful, thick chuckle. “Dot brofessiodally. If you're looking for that you've got the wrog guy. I just…” he blushed. “I thought you were cute and thought we bight have sob fud with that sweet doze of yours… you dod't have a husbad do you?”
Jeff laughed. “No. I'm not even dating. Man, you sound adorable.” The man had such a deep, rich, stuffed up voice.
Theo blew his nose again and blushed a little. “Thags. Look, do you wadt to cob over? We could watch a bovie ad get to dow each other better.”
Jeff smiled. “I'd like that.”
Theo smiled back, then raised a finger to signal a wait. His handsome face fell, brown curves of his face changing as lines and skin merged and squeezed up for a tremendously wet-sounding sneeze. “KKUUMMPPSHHISHHHHHAHHH! Sniff, Sniff!” He grabbed a few tissues and immediately blew his nose, then wiped at it. Then sighed with another smile. “Beed holdig that ode id for a while dow.”
Jeff felt himself growing warm. “Looks like you're glad it finally come out.”
With a nod and a desperate look towards him, “Id feld woderful. You bay haf do hurry over here, Jeffy.”
Jeff blushed. “See you in a few minutes, then, Theo.”
“Id a few.”
Jeff hung up just as the transferer dinged at the bottom of his system. He opened its compartment to find a slightly used tissue with Theo's address written there. Not only did the man seem kind and erotic, but had a sense of humor; Jeff liked that. After packing a small bag of the essentials, he set out in the rain towards the man's apartment.
Theo met him at the door wearing slacks and a sweater, and with a plump finger under his nose. “Oh hi. You… eehhh… bade great tibig… I was just heehhh… ehhh…about to have a bit iihhhhh… of ad al… al… aleehhhhh… hehhh… “ he rubbed violently at his nose, eyes half open. And yet he still managed to hold off the sensation. “Ad allergy attack.”
Jeff's heart skipped a beat. He looked around and saw a white, longhaired cat jumping down from the couch. Not only one hell of a sneezer but bestowed with allergies as well? This man surely had luck on his side. “Don't hold back on my account. You look adorable.”
Theo grinned and lowered his finger at the door was shut and locked. “OK… but odce the tigle starts, it's eehhhhh hard to ahhhhh… hard to… to stob… ehhhhh… aahhhhhh ehhiihhhhhh…” his face changed from pre-sneeze to the look which signaled a sneeze's inevitable arrival. Quickly he burst forth with, “KKAARRRUSHHHHHH! KKEEEHHCHAHHH! KAATTSHIIIIISHHHHHHHHHH! ehhh.. kaaaaaaaaahhhhh-KEERRRCHSHAAAAHHHHHH! SNIFF! HEHHHHHHHTTSHOOO! TISSSHHHHHAHHH! KAAARRRUMMPPHHHTCHAH!” Each sneeze was powerful, but only at medium volume. They were sneezed freely into the air, towards Jeff, but too far away to reach him.
“Goodness! Bless you,” he said softly, rather in awe of the man, with emphasis on the 'you' rather than the 'bless' as was the custom. It was more of a thank you sort of way to say it.
Theo, congested still, couldn't help but laugh. “You thig… that… was biiihhhh… big? It was… od… odly the fiehhhhh… hehhh…first wave.”
Jeff's eyes grew wider. “Only the first wave? There's more?”
With a nod, “Cad… cad I sniff cad I borrow a tiiihhhhh a tiiiiihhhhhh…a tissue?”
Noting the man's look of pre-sneeze desperation, he quickly fumbled through his pocket to pull out a tissue and hand it over.
Theo took it and smiled. “By doze is really full. I'll deed a few bore.”
Jeff handed him two more as he, panting, lifted them to his nose for a mighty, wet, gurgling, “fisshhhuggugugsshhhhhhugugugugugussshhhh…sniff!” He wiped his nose and upper lip and folded the clump of tissues in half, finding a dry section. Then blew again, surprisingly just as long and wet as the first one had been. “hehh-sshuxugshgsshgshggushhhhhahhh… sniff!” Then Theo found the last dry section of tissues, covered his nose and poked two index fingers through and into his nostrils. He rubbed them around, and pulled out with a stuffed-up “sniff!”
“You all right?” Jeff asked curiously.
Theo's face immediately fell, mouth open, tongue half hanging out. He nodded as he choked out, “Sec… sec… secod… hehhh…wave… heh-KURRRAAHSHHHAHHH! KEEHHTISHHHOOOO! HARSHUSSHAHHH! huh-KEERRRCHUSHHHHHHAH! KKAAATSHHHHIISHHHHHH! TUCHHHAHHH! KAARRRSSSSSSHHHHHHHHAHH! Sniff!”
Theo nodded, his face still fallen. He pointed to the tissue box and handed back the soggy tissues Jeff had given him.
Taking the hint, Jeff pulled out a fresh handful and guided them to Theo's powerful nose. “Was that how all your allergy attacks are?”
Theo shook his head and held up the 'one second' finger as he let loose, “eeegggsssiiiihhhhugugugugugshhhhhhhhhhhxxguushhh! Sniff!” He swallowed and sniffed again. “Third wave… still to cobe. I cad sniff feel it tiglig id by doze.” He stuck his fingers through to dry the insides of his nostrils, but pulled them out as his chest started heaving. “eeehhhh…”
Jeff, completely impressed and amused, asked, “How many waves until you stop?”
Theo smiled, and tried his best to answer before the sneezes hit. “Ud… udtil what eehhhhh whateeehhhhh…what…ever… triggered by al… aller… allergies is aahhhhh is ahhhhhhh…hehuuuhhhh… KETCHISHHHAHHH! out! HEHKUUHSHIIIASHHHH! HAARSHUSHHH! KUHHCHISHHH! KAAHHHSHUSHHHOO! hehhh… ehhhh… huhhh…” His hand came up and waved helplessly about at the force behind it, and Jeff realized that this meant the end of the fit. “ehh.. kkeeeehhhh…huuhhh.. eh.. heh.. heh.. heh…HUH-KKAAUURRRMPTSHHHHIIISHHHH!” Theo doubled over at the force, panting when done.
“Bless you!” Jeff said, patting the man on the back. “Are you all right?”
Theo nodded, blinking, sniffing. “Just fide dow. Why dod't you go settle od the couch sniff add sniff I'll go bake sobe bobcord.”
Jeff nodded and curled up halfway, leaving a bit of room on the seat beside him. He could actually smell the popcorn when it was ready, and his spirits sank. His nose was clear, his sinuses free. Theo came over and placed the popcorn bowl in front of Jeff, then instead of sitting in the seat beside, he curled up behind him, spooning him gently. “Is this ok?” he asked to make sure he wasn't going too fast.
“Mmmm…” Jeff paused a moment before answering. While he was in complete comfort, he still smiled and shook his head. “I can't see you sneeze when you're lying behind me.”
The dark man laughed, eyes wrinkling in the corners. “All right, we'll try sniffle adother sniffle cobidatiod.”
With a bit of arranging, they ended up in an ideal position. Jeff sat normally on the couch, and Theo lay lengthwise on his back with his head in Jeff's lap. He admitted to not feeling terribly well, and was glad for the company that night. The popcorn and a full box of tissues sat on the table beside. They'd popped in a movie and were loosely watching it as they conversed. “So tell be about sniff yourself, Jeffy.”
“I'm twenty-two and work for a computer firm uptown. Grew up in Toronto, then moved here. I like reading, soft music, romantic nights…” he trailed off to see Theo struggling with a sneeze.
“eeehhhh…huhh…” he drew in a sharp breath and let it out, “HEH-KKRRUMMSHHHISHHHH!” spraying wetly into the air, just barely catching Jeff's chin.
Theo motioned that he needed a tissue and Jeff supplied a few instantly. He blew a few times, then dropped them to the ground in a used ball. “Thags. Sniffle, this heaby code I hab sniffle, sniffle really bakes by doze rud sobethig fierce.” He wiped his nose with the back of his hand, then rubbed two fingers underneath. “Sniffle.”
Jeff sighed. “You're so cute when you do that.”
“Sniffle! Thags,” he said again. He cleared his voice and explained about himself. “I'b twedty-four, lived id the city by whole sniffle life. The kitty you saw earlier is Sdowball; I've sniffle had her for three years… sidce I broke ub with by last boyfried.”
“Oh, I'm sorry.”
“It's quite all right. I got the best of the deal… Sdowball.” He looked up and stroked Jeff's cheek once, softly. “Poor baby's got a well bug, huh?”
Jeff nodded. “Yeah, I seem prone to them this time of year. It's kinda depressing.”
“I'll bet. There's dothig better thad a hadsobe guy sdeezig frob a good, wet, strog sdeeze.”
Jeff smiled, bent down and kissed him on the nose. “I've been thinking about you since we met.”
Theo grinned and turned to his side to sort of cuddle against Jeff. “I wadt you to catch by cold. I thig that would be so robadtic. We dod't have to do adythig todight that you dod't wadt, either. I just wadt you to start feeling better, ok?” He rubbed at his nose a few times. “Besides, I have a rule: do sex udtil the third date, at least.”
Jeff ran his finger up the length of Theo's arm, over his biceps to his shoulder, across his shoulder and up his neck, then up to his chin, then his cheek, then softly to his nose. “I like your rule. And I like your idea.” His fingers gently rubbed the sides of the man's dark nose.
Theo cooed and closed his eyes. “Feels so good.”
Jeff continued to stroke the sides of his nose, but brought his other hand over to brush his fingertips across the bottoms of Theo's pink nostrils.
“hehh…iihhh…eehhh…” His body grew stiff and tense against Jeff's as he drew thick, rapid breaths. His nostrils flared, and his nose began to run. He tried to move but found one of Jeff's hands holding his arms down. Jeff's fingers still tickled gently, causing Theo to give in and close his eyes. “HUUHHH-KAARRSHUMMPH!! KEETTCHISHHHHHHHOO! Sniff! SNIFF! SNIFF! Oh do…”
Jeff chuckled as the man tried to control his runny nose. First he tried the sniffling, but when that failed, he flared his nostrils and wiggled his nose as much as he could. Then he tried to bend his head to wipe on his shoulder, but that would not be possible in the position Jeff had him in, either. “Sniff, Sniffle. Jeffy… sniff, sniff, sniff, I sniffle, snuffle, sniiiffff, I deed a snniiiffff, sniff, sniff, sniffle, a tissue.” Jeff continued to smile and chuckle a bit, then guided then man's head to his own khaki-clad thigh. “Sniff! I sniff, sniff I dod't dow—“
“Shhhh, just rub if you don't want to blow. I'll let you clean up when you're done.”
He smiled, blushing a little, and buried his nose in Jeff's crotch, rubbing his nose dry, and blowing just a little. “shnigugshhugushhahh…uh…” He pulled out, taking a deep breath and coughing from severe congestion. “I really, really godda blow by doze righd dow, baby.”
Jeff looked down at Theo's nose as he reached for the tissues. It was running in two thick, slow streams towards his upper lip, and trembling with shaky, flaring nostrils. His eyes were closed, too; the sinus pressure he was experiencing must have been enormous, either that or the embarrassment had gotten too much for him. Jeff guided four tissues to Theo's nose and helped push the man into sitting position as Theo skillfully blew and blew messily until his nose was clearer.
“You ok, Theo?”
He nodded, sniffling a few times and leaning closer to Jeff. He put his arm around the man and slowly leaned in, eyes closed. Jeff, who knew exactly what that meant and what was about to transpire, closed his eyes and opened his mouth halfway to accept it.
“KKAARRRRSHHHHEESHHHHH! KEEETCHSHHHHHHAH! SNIFF!”
Jeff opened his eyes, grinning. His face was soaked with the sneezes he'd been expecting. “Bless you,” he whispered while passing over a few more tissues. He was beginning to realize the man's dependency on tissues. Perhaps he could use it even more to his advantage later…
“Thags, Baby. Did I get ya?”
Nodding and brining his arm up, he wiped his face with his sleeve. “You sneeze-kiss well.”
Theo smiled. “So I've beed told. By doze isd't usually this full, though. I'b sorry about before.”
Shaking his head, Jeff looked down at his slightly wet crotch. “No apology necessary. You were so handsome.”
Theo shivered and looked up at the air conditioning vent. “I'b gettig a bit code sniff cold. Would you like sniff to get udder the covers with be?”
Jeff hesitated. “Your rule…”
“I dow,” he held up a finger as his breath caught. His chest heaved deeply. “huh.. hhhuuuuuuuhhhh… huhUUUHHHSSHHHHIIIISHHH! HUHHKAARRRSHIISHHHH!” He held the ball of tissues to his nose. “I dod't bead sex. A little blay… but I wadt to cuddle with you udder the covers. Add I have a few gabes id bide, if you feel ub to theb.”
This was his kind of man. “Lead the way.”
Theo crawled under the covers where Jeff tucked him in. “How are you feeling?”
“They'll come, baby. They'll come. So… have you ever blayed strib sdeezig?”
With a shake of his head, Jeff replied, “Strip sneezing… sounds interesting. Explain it to me?”
Theo snuggled against him, sniffling. “Well… I'll have to chadge it a bit sidce you are't sdeezig… but every tibe I sdeeze, you have to take off a piece of clothig. Every tibe you stob ode of by sdeezes frob cobig out, I take off subthig.”
Jeff grinned. “All right.” They rearranged, sitting beside each other in bed. Jeff brought the tissue
The next morning, Jeff woke to find his arms around Theo, hugging his body close against him. It was a few minutes before he realized his head was a little a little foggy, and his nose a little stuffy. His heart jumped. He snuggled against the back of the man, spooning him tenderly, then leaned closer, nose to his ear, and gave a soft sniffle. “Theo…”
Theo stirred, yawning. “Mordig.” He gave a pleasant smile. “You stayed.”
Jeff nodded back. “If you're happy about that, you'll be ecstatic about this…” he took a deep breath. “I think I may be coming down with your cold.”
An eyebrow raised and a congest cough overtook him, backing off just in time for, “Oh yeah?” He reached over and pulled a few tissues out, sniffling and blowing his nose to clear himself from the usual morning stuffiness. “We'll just have to stay in bed today thed… sniff, sniff, ady objectiods?”
Jeff shook his head, tightening his hug around the man. “None at all.” He wiggled his nose, feeling a tickle therein.
Theo turned his head, looking back out of the corner of his eye. “Excited, hmm?”
Blushing, Jeff nodded. “Of course… oh…” he wiggled his nose again with another light sniffle. “I think it's coming… slowly… “
Theo turned himself completely over to get a better view, pulling the covers up over them both to their necks. “Don't push it, baby. Give it time.”
His breath wavered, caught, then slowed and relaxed. He went to rub his nose with his finger, but Theo held his hand down.
“Just let it come… feel it…”
Jeff sniffed strongly, wiggling his nose and scrunching his face. “But… ehhh…it just ahh… won't come! It's so frustrating! Hehh…ehhh…” his face fell, but just as quickly as the urge had come than it had backed down. “Ugh!”
With a soft, sweet breath of air to Jeff's nostrils, Theo continued to hold the man's hands down, allowing the sneeze to finally come on its own, with just a little assistance.
This time, Jeff's face fell not in the desperate pre-sneeze urging, but in a look of excited recognition. This was it, and this time it was full and too strong to worry about its premature stopping. His eyes relaxed shut, then his brow furrowed and his body tensed. Suddenly his nostrils flared widely to take in a deep, halting breath as it struck. “heehht-SCHOO!” Sniffs immediately followed to clear up his runny nose.
Theo reached over to the bed stand and withdrew a large, neatly- folded handkerchief. He handed it over as a comforting congratulatory statement. When Jeff had finished blowing, his pink lips kissed the tip of Jeff's peach nose. “That was cuter thad I had edvisioded.”
Sniffling, Jeff rubbed his nose on a soft, dry corner of the handkerchief.