Think of wicked things
You would like to do
To the friend who gave
All their germs to you
Wipe sniffle wipe
wipe sniffle wipe
Atchoo!There is NOTHING more miserable than having a cold.
I curled back up on the sofa and glared at Anastasia.
Anastasia looked back at me, her eyes wide and her tail flicking, and then began to wash in a manner which clearly indicated that she didn't deign to notice. Damien had much the same look whenever I glared at him.
I wanted Damien to come home. Now.
It was nearly half past eight, I was ILL and where was he? At some wretched conference in Birmingham. And as if that wasn't bad enough, he'd taken Robin with him. I took another deep breath and sniffed as much as I could through a heavily bunged up nose. My eyes were sore, my head ached, I couldn't breathe and Damien was rapidly running out of handkerchiefs as I'd filched most of his out of his drawer over the course of the evening.
And nobody cared.
It was dark outside. I'd thought for a while about turning the lights on, but it had stayed only a thought. I couldn't be bothered to get up for a start, and it was too cold to uncurl from where I was on the leather sofa. The leather MIGHT be asthma proof but it was damn chilly when you first came into contact with it.
We were still getting used to the new décor. Damien had asked about eight times last night.
"Are you sure you don't want Allen to come over, or to go to your mum and dad's for the evening?"
I was FINE at home alone. We'd put smoke alarms in virtually every room and it was nearly two months since we'd moved back in. I didn't even walk in the door and blink at it being different anymore. Damien was the one who was flapping, not me.
I wished he'd come home.
The remote control to the tv lay on the floor just out of my reach. I had a brief try at stretching out with one foot and kicking it closer, then gave up when it involved moving. Anastasia jumped up onto the chair opposite, turned around twice and lay down, primly tucking her paws under her.
The flash of headlights through the front window announced Damien's car turning into the drive at last. I deliberately curled up deeper where I was, relieved and a little guilty for the manipulation, but wanting to hear that certain tone in his voice and to be compensated for the last three hours of being miserable here on my own while he drove around Birmingham with Robin. That certainly deserved compensation.
His key in the lock was followed quickly by his voice, raised and a little anxious.
Ok, I'm not that mean. I sat up and shaded my eyes as he snapped the living room light on. He was still wearing his heavy coat and he still looked concerned as he came across to me.
"Are you okay? I thought you must have gone to Allen's when I saw the lights out."
"I'b god a cod." I said pathetically with all the diction I could muster. Damien's face changed at once, somewhere between amusement and sympathy as he sat down beside me and pulled me into his arms.
"Oh baby, when did you start that?"
"Last night." I admitted into his neck. He snorted, hugging me hard- one of his bone crunching, crushing hugs that sinks right into me better than any medication or alcohol known to man. Temporarily I forgot about the headache and the breathing problems and just hugged back.
"You're bad, you never said a word." Damien said into my neck. I wriggled, working on negating that.
"I thought it would clear up."
"You thought I'd push lemsip down you." Damien said severely. "When did you come home?"
"Beth made me come home at lunchtime."
"Good for Beth. You're freezing Nicholas." Without delicacy, Damien's hand inserted itself inside my shirt, groped until it ascertained my temperature and then dug into my ribs, making me squirm away from him.
"Let's get you into a bath and then I'll make this place look lived in. What have you eaten today?"
I looked at him. He shook his head at me and snatched a quick kiss.
He peeled his coat off on the way upstairs, hung it over the bannisters and pushed me ahead of him into the bathroom, turning the hot tap on full blast before he started to strip me. I co operated, comforted by the steam and by the attention, and tried not to sniff too heavily. Damien hung a heavy towel on the radiator and patted me somewhere distinctly personal as he let me go.
"I'm guessing you haven't taken anything for this?"
"I was waiting for you."
"Uh huh." He disappeared onto the landing, pulling the door to behind him. I stuck an experimental toe in the water and turned up the cold tap.
"How was the conference?"
"The second speaker was worth hearing." Damien's voice was muffled. "Otherwise it was fairly average. The hotel was nice."
"Did Robin behave?"
"Yes. He does occasionally."
I pulled a face, not answering that, and climbed into the water, sinking myself as far under it as possible. The swish on the landing indicated the curtains being drawn and I heard the pipes start to humm as he turned the thermostat up. The house took on a more welcoming air just as he moved through it. I turned the tap off with my foot and swore quietly through an almighty sneeze.
"I HATE colds."
"I want to know where you got this one from." Damien appeared in the doorway, coat, jacket and tie gone, and two glasses in his hand. The dreaded lemsip. I gave him a suspicious glower and sank further under the water.
"You don't HAVE to get them any particular way, they just happen."
"Which means you've got a guilty conscience." Damien observed, sitting on the side of the bath and handing me the first mug. It was steaming, the contents were yellow and smelled strongly of lemon. I pulled a face and handed it straight back.
"I can't drink that, my throat's sore."
"The heat'll help then." Damien said cheerfully. "Get it down please."
"It's good for you and it doesn't react with anything else you take." Damien pushed the mug gently back, waiting. I tasted it cautiously and winced at the grating, salty taste of aspirin not at all adequately covered by the lemon flavouring.
"Can I have a tissue please?"
"Of course." Damien lifted the mug deftly out of my hands while he turned his back, handing them both back together. I glared at him.
"What do you THINK I'd do with it?"
"Darling, I know exactly what you'd do with it." Damien pointed out. "It's for internal use only."
That's the end-of-the-line tone.
I drank, except for a slight altercation over the last half inch where the aspirin is strongest and which ended with him unkindly holding the mug and my head and tipping ruthlessly.
Some people have no concerns about choking.
He took the mug when I was finished, handed me a mug of tea to recuperate with and got up.
"You've got another ten minutes, don't get cold."
"It's hot water." I pointed out.
"So keep it hot." Damien said comfortably. I rolled over in the water, folding my arms and leaning my chin on them, snuffling to try and ease the ache in my head.
"Yeah, I'll just lie here radiating gently."
He took the mug out onto the landing and I heard the CD player start up softly, one of my Adiemus albums. That helped. And I was starting to feel warm for the first time in hours.
I could hear him puttering around downstairs for a while, the opening and shutting of cupboard doors and the clank of the pipes as the hot water ran, then the steady footfall as he came back upstairs, chirruping to Anastasia on the way.
Something chinked in the bedroom as he put it down, then he pushed the door open and took the towel off the radiator.
"Come on then."
"No." I said, looking at him over the edge of the bath. He snorted at me and leaned over to pull the plug out. I splashed him and instantly got splashed back, a handful flicked in the direction of my face before he swatted my rump, which since I was still face down in the water was admittedly vulnerable.
"I can fix that." Damien said meaningfully. I looked at him. Eyes twinkling but just enough of a glint to remind me that even in play, he usually won. I got slowly to my feet and let him wrap me in the towel.
"I feel horrible."
"I know you do." Damien said comfortingly, "The aspirin'll start to work soon."
I let him steer me into the bedroom and stood while he rubbed me down with far more efficiency than I ever manage when I dry myself.
"Bed." He said when he was done, pulling my pyjama top over my head. I clambered into the trousers and found, when I sat down on the bed, that he'd put the electric blanket on. The effect was pure bliss. Damien brought the tray over and pulled the quilt straight, laying it on my knees before he sat down beside me.
"So what's the guilty conscience about?"
I looked blankly at him. He smiled and put the spoon into my hand.
"Soup. I meant about how you got this cold. No one we know has a cold."
"I could have got it from anywhere. People in shops. In the street. Clients." I stirred soup. "They’re very infectious, colds."
"So why are you looking furtive?"
"I'm not." I protested, sneezing again. Damien caught and steadied the bowl.
"Are you going to eat that or do I have to feed you?"
"I don't want it."
"That's not the issue."
I stirred it some more. Damien took the spoon away from me.
"It's only tomato, you like tomato, and I doubt right now you can taste it anyway, can you?"
"No." I said pathetically.
He spooned soup into me. He was quite right: hot and wet was all that could be said for it. I put up with about three mouthfuls before I slid gently out from under the tray and turned over, burying my face in his lap. He tapped the top of my head.
"That isn't going to save you."
"It hurts to swallow."
I declined to move. He leaned over me to put the tray somewhere safe and picked me up, prising me off his waist without difficulty.
"Are you telling me you're too ill to eat?"
I thought before answering. There's usually a catch to statements like that, which I've discovered through several years of trial and error.
"I'm not hungry," I said eventually, cautiously. "And it hurts to swallow, and it doesn't even taste of anything."
"Hm." Damien kissed the top of my head. "Half of it."
"Just some more tea." I bargained, hopefully.
"You need to eat."
"Because I say so." Damien said calmly. "Half. Sit up."
"I only want a drink-"
"Sit up please."
I sat up, scowling and sniffling. Damien picked the bowl up, unmoved.
"Don't sniff darling, you'll upset your sinuses."
My sinuses already felt full of cement: I declined to believe they could feel any worse.
There is something heartless about the assumption that because you have won numerous times before, you will automatically win this particular battle and therefore see no need to fight it. It's a flaw I've noticed before in Damien's character, and one that fails entirely to concern him when I draw his attention to it. He inserted tomato soup- I won't say I ate it.
I curled up with the promised mug of tea and scowled at him when his majesty finally was satisfied.
"Aren't you eating?"
"Robin and I got some sandwiches on the way home, and they fed us a hot lunch at the conference." Damien put the tray on the dressing table and lay down beside me. "So what DID cause this cold Nick?"
I sank myself deeper in the tea. Damien waited, head propped on his hand, his free arm draped over my waist.
There is only so long that you can string out a mug of tea. Damien took it out of my hands when it was empty and returned to looking at me.
"I don't know." I said irritably, "Germs. Maybe a client."
He waited, hazel eyes interested and inquisitive. I rolled over and pulled the covers over my head, sniffing again with a miserable attempt to clear my head.
"How?" Damien repeated calmly. "Darling, you'll feel a lot less congested sitting up."
I ignored that. Until I was forced out from under the quilt in search of yet another handkerchief. Damien handed one to me as I emerged.
He is mean enough to keep this up for hours. Trust me.
"I DON'T KNOW."
"Take a wild guess?" Damien invited.
I rolled over, mostly to thump him, and ended up buried in his arms, my own wound around the comforting breadth of his chest.
"It's a myth anyway about getting wet."
"What is?" Damien said against my ear. I shut my eyes as his hand ran down my back, rubbing at the worst of the aches.
"Getting a cold because you got wet. It's always happening in Jane Austen. Someone gets rained on and nearly dies. It's amazing anyone ever survived April."
"When did you get wet?" Damien said, untangling that without effort.
I shrugged, burrowing closer.
"I had to get the spare key from the shed this morning."
"It wasn't raining this morning."
"It rained last night." I mumbled.
Damien leaned back to see my face.
"Tell me you didn't walk down the garden in your socks again?"
Thoroughly meanly considering my delicate condition, he swatted what he could reach of me through the quilt.
"Nicholas Martin Hayes, I'll swing for you."
"You make me keep all my shoes upstairs!"
"How hard is it to go upstairs and find a pair?" Damien said heartlessly.
"It's QUICKER just to go in socks. And then I didn't have time to change because I was late-"
"So you wore wet socks all day."
"And I knocked the plant pots over when I opened the shed and there was rain water in them, it went all over my trousers."
That was HIS fault. I didn't keep plant pots by the shed. I didn't keep plant pots anywhere.
"And you went to work without changing them either?" Damien demanded. I didn't look up, sustaining my grip on him.
"It's a MYTH, you don't get ill from being wet."
"You DON'T feel any better when you have a cold from being chilled and uncomfortable." Damien said severely. "You can't get a cold that way but you can definitely make it worse. And if I wasn't worried about making your breathing worse, I'd spank you."
Thank goodness then that at least one of us was responsible. I shifted, trying not to cough, and leaned my head against his chest. Damien stroked my hair, voice still stern above me.
"You spend tomorrow in bed my boy, and I don't want to hear a word about being bored."
Now was not the time to debate that. Tomorrow morning he might be more amenable to persuasion, and I might feel more resilient. I coughed again instead and felt the pressure of his lips against my forehead before he let me go and got up.
"Nebuliser my boy. Then you can try and get some sleep. Brat that you are."
"I'm sorry." I said plaintively, watching him untangle the cable and plug the nebuliser in. He gave me a wry look, putting the machine down beside me.
"Not noticeably. "
"You DON'T get colds from being cold. It's fact."
"I'd put this on and quit while you're ahead." Damien warned, putting the mask over my face. I curled down in the pillows, breathing in my green fog and watching him get ready for bed. When he has a cold, about this time of night we have the fight about him sleeping in the guest room on the grounds he doesn't want me catching it, and the death threats as to what'll happen if I infiltrate at any time during the night. When I have a cold, he denies all risks of contagion. He has his own quaint logic.
"We can have an experiment if you like-" I offered.
"Yes, we can see if you get pneumonia." Damien folded his clothes and turned the landing light out, padding across to sit on the edge of the bed beside me. "That ought to be fun."
"Ha ha." I said through the mask. He pushed my hair back off my forehead and watched the dial on the machine. I shifted closer to him, unappeased.
"I'm serious. Someone ought to test this stuff about coats and wet feet and all the rest of it-"
"Nicky, it's very simple." Damien interrupted. "You just don't try any of it, whether or not Jane Austen says it's dangerous, or I'll spank you. You can test that out if you like."
"That's not scientific." I pointed out.
"Quite possibly. More breathing, less chat."
I couldn't see Einstein appreciating that argument. On the other hand, the aspirin and the green fog were starting to help, and his hand on my hair was finally starting to dull the headache. And he was home.
Just for tonight I leaned my head against his knee and let him win.
He has to occasionally.