Christmas Countdown: December 12
Steve pulled up short, causing the soup on the tray he was carrying to slop over the sides of its bowl a little bit. "Sorry? Jess, for what?"
His lover, Jesse Travis, was huddled into a little ball of misery on the middle of the bed they shared. "Ruining Christmas. I suck."
"No, you don't," Steve disagreed. He placed the tray on the table next to the bed and then perched himself on the edge of the mattress. "And you haven't."
"We were supposed to go to your aunt's for Christmas dinner," Jesse sniffed, although Steve knew that the younger man wasn't crying. It was just the result of the respiratory flu that he'd come down with.
"If it weren't for the fact that you're miserable, I'd be pretty happy about the whole thing," Steve told him. "Spending Christmas with Aunt Dora isn't exactly my idea of fun."
Jesse gave Steve a look that clearly said that he didn't believe him. "Yeah, right."
"No, I'm serious," Steve insisted. "I love my dad and I love my dad's family, but get all the Sloans into a room together and it's not always pretty."
"I don't believe tha-, tha-. . . ." Jesse sneezed twice. Steve silently handed him a tissue. After Jesse blew his nose, he sighed. "I don't believe that. You Sloans are really close and I'm sorry I messed up your chance to spend Christmas with them."
Steve felt his heart ache. Jesse's family life hadn't been very good growing up and, as a result, he tended to put the Sloans up on a pedestal. Steve had to admit, he and his dad were pretty tight; a sharp contrast to Jesse's relationship with his father.
"We're not perfect, Jess," Steve took the younger man by the hand. "We get on each other's nerves and have our fair share of conflict. Just like any other family."
"If you say so," Jesse sneezed again. He was clearly unconvinced, but probably felt too bad to argue the point any further.
Steve kissed Jesse's forehead, frowning when he felt how warm the skin was. A quick glance at the clock showed that it was just a little too soon for Jesse to take any more aspirin.
"Can you eat some soup?" Steve rose from the bed and picked up the tray.
"I'm not hungry," Jesse complained, but he sat up anyway and let Steve put the tray in front of him.
Steve tapped on the edge of the bowl. "Try anyway. Feed a cold and starve a fever."
Jesse rolled his eyes. "Which one of us went to medical school?"
"I was raised by a doctor," Steve pointed out. "Now eat."
He picked up the spoon, but Jesse just stirred the soup listlessly. "Chicken and Stars? Does your dad know you brought canned soup into his house?"
"Comfort food, Jess," Steve replied, but didn't let his focus be shifted. "Eat. You'll feel better."
"Yes, mother," Jesse sighed, but took a bite.
Steve didn't let the younger man's complaining upset him. Jesse wasn't used to being fussed over and didn't know how to react when Steve insisted on taking care of him. As far as Steve was concerned, Jess better get used to it, because Steve had every intention of doing it for the rest of their lives.
Under Steve's watchful eye, Jesse finished half a bowl of soup. When it became clear that Jesse was choking the food down, Steve took pity on him and removed the bowl. He next handed Jesse the aspirin and supervised as Jesse swallowed the medication.
"Satisfied?" Jesse asked.
"No," Steve shook his head. He'd noticed that Jesse was shivering, probably from chills caused by the fever. Without answering, he climbed into the bed and wrapped himself around his lover's body. "Now I'm satisfied."
Jesse put his hand over Steve's, where they were clasped over his stomach. "I'm contagious."
Steve nuzzled Jesse's hair. "I don't care."
A chuckle from Jesse turned into a cough. When he recovered, he was rueful. "You won't say that when your head feels like it's stuffed full of snot."
"Nice," Steve laughed. His arms tightened around his lover. "You're not going to scare me off, Jess."
Jesse sighed, but carefully and so avoided another coughing fit. "Well maybe Santa's going to put me on the naughty list for saying this, but I'm glad."
"Get some sleep, Jess," Steve murmured into Jesse's hair. "You don't have to worry about Santa's list; you just have to worry about mine."
"Mmmm. . . ." Jesse murmured, already halfway asleep.
Steve kept up a comforting patter of words, until he felt Jesse's body become heavier as slumber took over. Only then did Steve let himself relax into a nap, setting his mental clock to wake himself in four hours. Jesse would need more aspirin by then to keep the fever under control.
As the soft arms of sleep drew him down, Steve reflected on spending Christmas with Jesse in his arms. No matter what Jesse thought, it beat spending the holiday with Aunt Dora hands down.
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