Snow & Winter series
New Year's Eve Coda
“How many times have you barfed?”
“Max—“ I croaked.
“How many?” he insisted.
“This morning? Or in my lifetime? Because that’ll take some thinking….“
“Dude, I’m calling your dad.”
“Don’t call my dad.”
“You sound like garbage.”
“I look like garbage,” I clarified.
It wasn’t the flu, but still. One hell of a stomach bug had me down for the count on New Year’s Eve, face buried into my mattress with an empty tissue box on the floor, cold medicines all over the nightstand like I was opening my own pharmacy, and I’d vomited two—no, three times since last night.
“Don’t come to work,” Max stated, voice shrill and sharp from the speaker.
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” I said, talking in the general direction of my cell laying beside me.
“I still have to call your dad,” he said. “You know, for the security alarm at—“
“Just stay closed.”
“You’ll lose money.”
“No one’s shopping for curiosities today. Have a safe holiday.”
“Are you sure, Seb? Want me to bring you anything?” Max tried, and damn if he couldn’t just be as sweet as they came now and then.
“I’ll survive. Thanks, though.”
“All right. Well, don’t forget you’ve got Sexy Ginger at your beck and call now.”
Sure, Calvin had taken a bullet for me about two weeks back, and he’d come out to his family, essentially choosing an uncertain future with me over them, and he had joined me and Pop for Christmas. It all sounded pretty official to me. I wasn’t by any means a scholar in Boyfriend Etiquette, or the proud owner of Rules & Regulations for Boyfriends, but I was pretty sure meeting the parent qualified as keeping your man around for an extended period of time.
It’s only… Calvin still hadn’t talked about dating, used the term boyfriend, or anything like that. I just didn’t want to make assumptions about him or us, especially after all the shit I’d put him through.
“You still there, or did you die?” Max asked.
“I’m here. Sorry. Yeah. I’m going now.”
Max made a sound under his breath. “Seriously man, call your dad or Calvin if you get worse. It’s hard to pick up my paycheck when you’re dead.”
“You’re so sweet.”
“I know.” Max hung up.
I laid there for a few minutes, listening to the heaters clank and general sounds of the city filter in through the closed window.
Even if me and Calvin were so official we called one another sugarpie and lovemuffin, (‘baby’ would suffice, thanks) I’d have felt bad calling him. He was already on leave from work and mending a shoulder wound. The last thing he needed was catching my nasty.
A romantic night welcoming in the New Year together would have been nice.
My front door shutting was what woke me up. My first thought was, Neil’s home. Great.
Then I had to think.
Self. How high on NyQuil are you, to have your first thought be Neil? Like, for real?
Old habits die hard, apparently.
Half awake, I raised my head and listened to the steps through the living room.
Slow and light.
Kinda wished it had been Calvin, even though I’d tell him to leave so as to avoid coming down with anything. Still, to briefly see his gorgeous face… that would have made me feel better than any of my cold medicine did. Besides Pop, Calvin also had a key to my place, but he’d not invited himself in with it as of yet.
Now I was confused. Christmas with my dad suggested dating. Not using the key I’d insisted he keep after the Nevermore case said otherwise.
Wow, I had a fever. This wasn’t a good time to think serious thoughts.
“Kiddo?” Pop called, knocking on my bedroom door.
“Come in,” I said. “But put a hazmat suit on first.”
He opened the door, clucking his tongue. “Max called me.”
“He said something about you’d sooner simmer in your own juices than ask for help and I figured that sounded about right.”
“I’ve got a cold. I’m fine,” I murmured.
“You’re stubborn as all hell,” Pop corrected. He walked to the side of the bed and reached out, putting his hand against my forehead. “You’ve got a fever.”
“And you should take a shower, Sebastian.”
“Likely so,” I agreed.
“Come on.” He pulled back the comforter, the chilly air biting my bare feet and ankles.
“I’m a grown man, I don’t need you babying me, Pop,” I insisted as I slowly sat up, taking a moment to let some nausea pass.
“I know.” He touched my forehead again. “But you’ve got a terrible habit of not asking for help when you need it. I’m not sure why you think you’ve got to handle life all on your own.”
“I ask for help.” I didn’t need my glasses to know that Pop was giving me The Look. “I’ve no trouble calling the police,” I stated. “The pig’s heart, Mike—“ I started ticking points off on my fingers.
“When you went to deal with Beth’s break-in yourself? Or when you tried to deal with that madman, Duncan?” Pop continued for me.
I paused on the third finger, thought briefly, then said, “I may have made a mistake or two along the way.”
“Come on. You’ll feel better after a shower. I’ll change your bed.”
“Dad—“ I protested.
“Sebastian Andrew Snow.”
I winced. Pretty sure that when a parental unit enacts the dreaded middle name at thirty-three years old, it’s far worse than when I was… say… seven.
“All right. No reason to bring Andrew into this.” I slowly stood and left the room.
I walked to the bathroom without my glasses, which despite a home full of rotating clutter, I knew where most of the piles were and how to avoid furniture legs with my toes. I shut the door behind me, stripped off my grubby pajamas, and got under a hot stream of water. The heat made my head swim a little, but it relaxed my muscles and I could breathe through my nose, if only briefly, so I dealt.
When I got out, I wiped condensation from the mirror and leaned in close to study my face. I figured I had that nice, sickly pale thing going on, or maybe that supposed green around the edges, but such a subtle change in complexion is basically impossible for me to see. Still. I did look like crap. And I had some serious whiskers coming in, which dear Christ, I did not have the face or sense of style to pull off.
More like homeless.
I grabbed my electric razor, did a half-ass job cleaning myself up, and left the bathroom with a towel around my waist. I was halfway through the living room when Pop looked out from the kitchen doorway.
“Don’t go back to bed just yet.”
“What cruel and unusual punishment.”
He probably rolled his eyes. “When did you last eat, kiddo?”
“I’ll make you soup.”
I started to protest for what felt like the hundredth time, but there was no reason for it. At the end of the day, Pop was— well, Pop, and I was his kid, no matter how many years past eighteen I may have been. And if he wanted to brave being around me and heat up chicken noodle soup on my behalf… there’s a reason I say he’s Father of the Year.
“What’s that on your chest?”
“Hmm?” I looked down, staring at a blotchy spot under my collarbone. I felt heat rise to my face and covered it with one hand. “A love bite.”
And with that, I turned and made an escape for the bedroom.
“Feeling better?” Pop asked, sitting across from me at the table.
I was hunched over a half-eaten bowl of soup. “Yeah, a little.”
“You’ve got some color back in your face at least.”
I grinned a little. “Do tell.”
Pop chuckled. “I think you’ll survive into the New Year.”
I stared down at the bowl, stirring the broth. “Hey. Can I ask you a question?”
I stirred some more. “What color are Calvin’s eyes?” When I looked up, Pop had his chin resting on his propped up hand. He gave me a quizzical expression. “I’m curious.”
“Blue,” he answered.
That didn’t really narrow it down. There were so many blues, after all.
“Blue like what?”
Pop leaned back in his chair, folding both hands on the tabletop. “Like… the sky in spring, just after sunrise.”
“Light blue,” I confirmed.
Pop nodded. “Light blue,” he echoed. “Why?”
I shrugged and turned my head to sneeze a few times. “Ugh… sorry.”
I sniffed and looked at Pop again. “Do you think—“ I stopped myself. I used to ask him this a lot when I was little. Do you think I’ll ever see color? When I was a wee thing it was an honest question. Now, of course, I knew the answer. There was no cure for achromatopsia. So unless there was some extraordinary breakthrough in science and medicine, no. I would not see color and I would not experience that exact shade of light blue that were Calvin’s eyes.
And asking Pop that question wasn’t fair to him either. It only upset us both.
“Do I think what?” he prompted.
“Do you think we’re dating?” I blurted out instead. “Me and Calvin.”
“I suspected you meant Calvin,” he said with a wry grin. “I don’t know. Are you?”
“I asked you first.”
“On one hand, he spent Christmas with us,” I said, holding up a hand.
“On the other, he’s got keys to my place and hasn’t come over yet without being nudged.”
“Well, he probably—“
“He came out to his family for me,” I continued. “He said he loved me. But he still hasn’t said anything about dating or… you know, I like being called boyfriend.”
“I mean, what the hell is he waiting for?” I asked, now waving both hands like an idiot. “Do I need to send him a formal invitation?”
I could see it now.
Be it known that on this date, December the thirty-first, Sebastian Snow is once again extending his hand in holy boyfriend-ness, to a one, Calvin Winter. Please accept this summons at your earliest convenience.
“Have you brought it up?” Pop asked.
“Of course I have! Way too many times. If I do again he’s going to recant on the love dealio entirely and hightail it out of the City!”
“I mean after everything that’s happened.” Pop raised his eyebrows. “Mentioning wanting to date during the middle of all the nonsense that happened was probably not the greatest timing.”
I started to protest before a cough attack seized me and I nearly threw up a lung in the process. Pop got up and went into the kitchen, bringing back a glass of water and patting between my shoulder blades.
“I’m dying,” I wheezed, grabbing the drink and downing it.
“You’ll be fine,” he insisted.
I put the empty glass down and took a shaky breath. “I haven’t really said anything since Christmas,” I replied after a minute, looking up.
Pop crossed his arms, leaning lightly against the table. “I know you like him.”
I nodded. “I really like him, dad,” I said, quiet. I felt shaken by how deeply I cared for Calvin. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced before.
“But,” Pop said. “Slow down a bit. There’s no need to rush.”
“I see how he looks at you. He’s not going anywhere.”
After Pop had left, I migrated to the couch for the afternoon portion of being sick. I dragged the comforter from my bed with me and had successfully cocooned myself in it. The television was on, but I wasn’t really watching. My gaze kept wandering around the room.
It was still a little crazy to see that Neil was really gone.
Not that I was regretting the decision.
Far from it.
The door between us had slammed shut a long time go.
Mentally, emotionally, physically— I was done with that relationship.
But I guess I had, even when I was unhappy with Neil, just assumed our relationship was going to be the one. It sounds stupid, but it simply hadn’t occurred to me that I could leave. Four years is a long commitment, and throwing in the towel on something like that hurts, no matter what. But it was better than being complacent. It was a hell of a lot better than the piss-poor moods Neil had put me in when we were together. I prefer being happy.
I guess I’ve always been a sort of hopeless romantic. In my own crotchety way.
I enjoy being with someone.
I reached out to the coffee table and grabbed my phone. I leaned back in my nest, holding the phone close as I typed a text message with one finger.
“Hppy New Years Ev.”
My phone dinged with a response before I was even able to set it down.
Calvin Winter flashed on the screen as I swiped. It always made my stomach flutter a bit, which just now made me feel nauseous.
“Happy New Year’s Eve, baby.”
A second message came before I could decide whether to continue the conversation or not pester him.
“Spending the night with your dad?”
I perked up a bit. Was this Calvin looking to come over?
Oh, except I had the bubonic plague. Fuck.
“No. Udder the wethr.”
Crap, did I just text ‘udder?’
“You know whaat I men.”
I didn’t get an immediate response. I figured Calvin was deciphering my messages when my phone rang.
“You’re sick?” was the first thing he asked, sounding sort of surprised.
“Supposedly I’ll live, but I’m not so sure,” I answered.
“You don’t sound so hot.”
“Shows what you know. My temperature is 101.”
“Do you need anything? I can—“
“No, don’t be silly,” I murmured, burrowing into the blanket.
“Why is that silly?” Calvin asked.
“No it’s not, I— I’m okay. You’re supposed to be resting.”
“I’ve been shot before.”
“Yeah, how many people get to say that?” I asked.
I could almost hear Calvin’s smile. “I just mean that I know my limits.”
“I appreciate the offer,” I said.
Both of us were quiet for a moment.
“Guess that means we’ll have to settle for phone sex,” I eventually said.
Calvin laughed that time. “Not really my style.”
“Me neither. Can you imagine? I’m in the middle of telling you to take your pants off and start sneezing.”
“I prefer hands-on participation,” Calvin stated.
“And mouth-on,” I added. “My dad saw the hickey you left on my chest.”
“You told me to be rough.”
“I did not,” I said firmly.
“You’re right,” Calvin said thoughtfully. “More like begged.”
I felt the tips of my ears burning. “Ass.”
He chuckled. “I’m sorry you don’t feel well.”
“Yeah… sort of mucked up my plans.”
“What were those?”
“Well, I— didn’t have plan, plans. Just— if you were free… I thought maybe we’d see each other.”
He hummed under his breath. “I’ll let you rest.”
Stupid, stupid, stupid. I keep pushing and he’s not ready.
“Okay,” I muttered.
When I’d made the decision to turn in early that night, I realized my bottle of NyQuil was empty.
A travesty if there ever was one.
So I had to get dressed and leave the house for the drug store. It was dark and cold and I was sassy as all hell about it. Plus, there were folks out who clearly were ready to have a night of fun, and I was salty that I wasn’t counting myself as one of them.
I wished I hadn’t mentioned wanting to be with Calvin tonight. Pop was right. I needed to stop pushing and shoving my way into his life when he was so clearly trying to just keep his head above water at this point. I’d come out to just my dad, Calvin had come out to both his parents and his siblings. I had been a kid, more or less, he was in his forties.
It sucked, this whole ordeal had been significantly rougher on him than myself.
I was head over heels about him. He knew it. And he felt the same.
So… I guess that’d just be good enough for now.
Let Calvin breathe a little.
I dragged my sorry ass down to the end of the block where the twenty-four hour drugstore was, and picked up a bottle of NyQuil. They had tacky New Year’s items on sale at checkout— you know, shit like plastic hats and clappers and horns with the new year stamped on the side that would be piled up in public trashcans by tomorrow morning.
I looked at the line of customers I was standing amongst. There was one mom trying to end a fight between three kids about a candy bar, a businessman holding an energy drink and a package of peanuts, and one woman with her basket full to the brim with hair products. The guy ahead of me was buying no less than seven cases of beer. It was the cheap crap that college kids drank, but hey— out of the lot of us, at least I knew who was having the party.
“Next,” one of the cashiers called.
In a feverish impulse, I grabbed a package of the New Year’s horns and went to the register. Maybe I’d set my alarm for midnight, wake up, blow one in celebration, and then zonk out again.
Jesus, I knew how I live.
“What?” I asked.
She held up the NyQuil. “I need to see I.D.”
Did I look younger than eighteen? What’d she think I was going to do with it other than take the recommended dose and get some sleep? What’re kids doing these days that now I have to show identification for over-the-counter cold medicine?
“I… didn’t bring my wallet,” I answered, pushing my sunglasses up.
She pushed the medicine aside. “I can’t sell this without I.D., sir.”
Maybe if I coughed on her….
“Just this?” she asked, raising the plastic horns up.
I weighed how badly I wanted the medicine. Did I have the energy to go home, come back, wait in line again— I looked over my shoulder. A few more people had gotten in line, this time with what looked like bags of chips and party accessories. Also some drunk dude was arguing with a stock boy now.
No… I’d rather cough myself to sleep.
“Uh….” I looked at the candy in front of me, grabbed a package of taffy on sale because fuck it, and said, “Yeah, just these.”
Like how you shouldn’t go to the grocery store when you’re hungry, I don’t advise shopping in general when you’re feverish. I got back to my apartment building, sans medicine but one up on a plastic toy and candy, and dragged myself up the three flights of rickety stairs. I stopped at the landing, staring at a wrapped package leaning against my door.
I eyed it warily, slowly approaching. It was very thin, a bit smaller than a record sleeve, and wrapped in leftover Christmas paper. A note was taped to the front.
Bring this to the roof.
Calvin? Wait. Had I left the house for fifteen minutes with nothing to show for it, and missed him coming by?
Then I read the note again.
I brought my mystery package up to the roof. The door creaked loudly, dragged against some poorly laid metal siding, and made my presence known.
Calvin turned around and smiled. “Hey.”
“Uh— hey,” I slowly said. “What’re we doing up here?”
“I know you’re sick, but I thought you’d still like to enjoy New Year’s together.” He walked toward me, and I noticed behind him were two lawn chairs sitting out.
I waved my arm and coughed briefly into the sleeve of my jacket. “Don’t get too close, I don’t want to get you sick.”
Calvin ignored the warning. He still had his arm in a sling with his jacket draped over the shoulder. “You’ll need to open that,” he continued, nodding his head at the package.
“Oh. Right.” I looked down and tore the paper off to reveal— the spinner used in the game Twister. The only addition to it being that the colors had all been labeled. “Okay….” I said before glancing up. “I’m confused.”
“Come over here.” Calvin took my free hand and motioned to the chairs.
I quickly nudged the access door shut with my foot before following. We both sat down. Calvin picked up a blanket from beside his chair, shook his briefly, then set is over my lap. I smiled and set the spinner down on it. “What now?”
“Spin,” he said, digging into his coat pocket and taking out his cell.
I flicked it and laughed while saying, “Right hand red.”
Calvin already had his phone to his ear and I watched him curiously as he reported my results. “Red first.” He hung up and then pointed forward to a space in the sky between several tall buildings.
“What?” I asked.
“Shh. Just wait.” Calvin reached out and put his hand over mine, threading our fingers together.
I smiled and watched the empty, dark sky before a sudden light appeared and fireworks began exploding. “Oh, wow!” I exclaimed. Good thing I was still wearing my sunglasses. I looked at Calvin to see him grinning. “Did you plan this?”
“Aren’t fireworks illegal in the city?”
“We won’t talk about that.”
I laughed and returned to watching the display. “So these are red?”
I held up the board with one hand, comparing the shade of gray labeled ‘red’ to the explosions going off. They were kind of similar. Definitely different from the one marked ‘yellow.’
And suddenly I was hit by how… sweet the gesture was. Maybe I’d never see color for what it truly is, but Calvin had found a hell of a way for me to experience each one for what it was to me.
“Can I spin it again?” I asked, caught off guard by the tightness in my throat.
“Go ahead, sweetheart.”
“Left foot blue.”
Calvin made the call, and less than a minute later, more fireworks went off.
“Happy New Year,” he said.
I glanced away from the board and sky, meeting his gaze and returning the smile. “Happy New Year.”
“Do you still want to date me?” Calvin asked.
“Good.” He gripped my hand a bit tighter, leaned close, and kissed the side of my head. “I’d be honored to be your boyfriend.”
It turned out to be the best cold I’d ever had.