The next part of Happy Coincidence, Ethan got more from Nate than just his number. Stress and germs tag team Ethan, but his older sister steps in to help. Thanks again, @sneezytomatochild for drawing him! It made me want to write about him more.
Ethan G. W. Carver:
Cis Male, 21. Black, close-cut/almost shaved hair, warm brown puppy dog eyes. Black, 6'0" Broad shoulders and trim, but not skinny. Huge dork, loves comics and movies. Works as a barista part time. Overly critical of himself and has anxiety issues. Outgoing and tries to stay upbeat, but regularly bites off more than he can chew. Currently being prodded into getting his law degree by his father, but his dream job is to sing professionally. 1 older sister.
“Nate” Nathaniel Edward Wagner:
Cis Male, 20. Pale platinum floppy blonde hair, gray eyes. Wearing glasses. 5'10" Loves to play basketball and reads a lot. He works at an animal shelter. He is still “in the closet” with most of his family and friends. Nate’s mother can be really harsh and unsupportive. His dad is sympathetic and kind but absent due to work. He doesn’t really show his emotions much and can bottle his problems up a lot. 1 younger brother.
Ethan sniffled wetly and scrubbed his nose with a loose fist. He stared with bleary eyes at his laptop’s screen, rewriting his notes for the rebuttal for his civil procedures class. It was almost 2 am. He had to open the cafe in 3 hours. He was completely wiped out.
He had been burning the candle at both ends for about a week. Between classes, exams, the cafe, and the extra study his dad kept pushing him to get in, he was starting to wish that he had stuck to his guns when he was 7 years old and told his mom that he was going to run away and join the traveling carnival. He grinned at the silliness of the memory.
He was in law school… and that was that. He sighed and pushed himself up and away from his desk. He pushed a bit too hard and accidentally knocked his books off his desk and they hit the floor with several muffled thuds.
He sighed. He knew what came next. A minute later, there was a knock at his door. It opened to admit Ethan’s older sister, Rebecca. She clearly had just woken up and rubbed her eyes.
“Are you okay, Bucket? I heard something fall?”
Ethan sniffled and grinned at her use of his childhood nickname. It was good having Becky home from her residency at the big hospital in the state capital. He had missed her. She drew a lot of their dad’s attention and took some of the pressure off of him.
She was 23, 2 years older than him, and going into her 2nd year of residency for neurosurgery. She was brilliant and graduated early from high school as Valedictorian. She was always there for him by text or email whenever he needed to vent or advice. She also was raised in the same house, by the same parents, so she understood the pressure of living with their father.
Stanley Carver was a former Marine, who demanded the absolute highest level of performance from his two children, in school and in life. Most people only saw him as the dedicated family man and breadwinner of a modern family. His children saw a drill sergeant, who pushed his children to their successes and careers through strict schedules and discipline. He expected the best and not meeting his expectations was just not done. He wasn’t physically or verbally abusive, but his word was law.
Ethan smiled at Rebecca and whispered hoarsely, “Just dropped mby books… I'mb a little tired.” He sniffled, his nose running a little. He grabbed a tissue from the box on his desk and wiped his nose with a small groan.
“No kidding?” Rebecca rolled her eyes at him, “Bucket… it’s 2 in the morning! You need to sleep, you sound exhausted.”
Ethan nodded and bent to try to pick up his books. He stumbled, feeling lightheaded. Rebecca was instantly at his side.
“Whoa! Geezus, are you okay?” She pressed her small hand to his forehead, “Shit, you’ve got a fever again… Ethan…” She said reproachfully. He sighed, but the sigh quickly turned into a hoarse cough.
“I’ll be fidne, ’s judst a cold…” Ethan said, turning his head and pressing the tissue to his face, muffling a soft: “Ut'Shoo!” into it. He sniffled, and felt 2 more follow the first. “UHSHoo! AH'TShoo!”
Rebecca frowned at him and tsked. He smiled at her and shrugged. She pulled him to his feet and dragged him to his bed, pulling the covers over him. Ethan shivered as the cool disused sheets covered him. Rebecca removed his glasses, setting them on the bedside table.
“I’ll be fidne, Becky.” Ethan repeated. His voice sounded thin and rough to his own ears. He felt pretty bad but he could nap tomorrow afternoon between classes.
Rebecca shook her head. “You are killing yourself like this. Your body is trying to tell you to slow down. You need rest. You aren’t working tomorrow morning.”
Ethan chuckled at her diagnosis and mandate. She frowned, the lines in her young face more pronounced. "Ethan George Washinton Carver! I am Not joking. You will stay in that bed tomorrow until that fever is gone or I will tie you there and issue a bedpan order. You are sick as a dog. You are not running around in the snow between work and school with a fever like that!“
Ethan gulped, wincing at his sore throat,
"Becky, I opedn tomborrow and… I… Uht'Choo! AH-Shoo! <snff>” He covered the sneezes with the battered tissue. “I have Civil procedures adnd Torts tomborrow, I cadn’t mbiss work adnd class! Dad… Dad will…” He looked down at the covers and clenched his fist around the tissue.
“I will handle Dad… Bucket, look at me…” Rebecca’s hand was soft on his. Her brown eyes, so like his own, were worried and zeroed in on his face. He looked up reluctantly, his anxiety skyrocketing as his brain supplied his father’s likely reaction to him lying in bed for a whole day, neglecting responsibilities and skipping classes.
Rebecca’s eyes were sympathetic as she watched his eyes dart around the room and felt him tense up as his anxiety took over.
“Breathe… Breathe Ethan, you’re holding your breath. Breathe.” She spoke softly and pressed his hand tenderly. Tears came to Ethan’s eyes. The stress, the pressure, and the hours of illness finally pushed through his emotional armor. He threw his arms around his sister and sobbed silently, his face buried in her shirt.
“Easy… That’s it. Cry it out, Ethan. You’re safe. I will help take care of everything. You just need to rest so you don’t get sicker, okay?” She soothed, rubbing his back.
He gradually calmed down and shivered, his fever climbing from the breakdown. He slowed his breathing and whispered,
“Always, baby brother…” she smiled, laying his head down onto his pillow. “Now, let’s text your manager, so they can cover your shift and then we will send an email to your professors so you can make up the lecture or quiz or whatever, okay? One step at a time."
Ethan coughed into his elbow roughly and sent a text to his manager, Jan. She would be in at 4:30 am and would probably cover his shift herself, but he felt bad about not going in.
Rebecca sent an email to each of his professors from his laptop and ensured that the professors would notify Ethan that the email was received and read. She went over to him and said gently,
"I’m going to get you some water and some vaporub. You are in for a long night, Bucket."
Ethan smiled up at her tiredly. His phone buzzed, his manager told him not to be silly and feel better. His eyes went to the message he had gotten earlier from another person. He blushed faintly and smiled at the phone’s screen.
"What’s that for?” Rebecca asked with a knowing smile of her own. Ethan blushed and told her about what had happened a couple of days ago in the cafe and about Nate: the handsome guy who had flirted with him and probably gave him this cold.
The text message from Nate had been an invitation to go to see the latest superhero movie that had come out in theaters over the weekend. He claimed that he was feeling better and would stop by the cafe to see him soon.
Rebecca plugged in his phone and gave his hand a squeeze. “I’m happy for you, but you need to get some sleep first… I’ll be right back.” She got up and left the room. Ethan picked up his phone and texted his reply:
[I’d love to go! I’ll have to bring tissues though, I think I caught your cold. 🤧😊 But as long as you don’t mind me being sniffly, I’ll be there. Good night. See you soon.]
He was asleep before Rebecca returned, but she saw the phone light up with the reply:
[Sorry, I got you sick, but at least I won’t have to feel bad about asking for a kiss this time. 😉 ~ Nate]
Rebecca smiled, her little brother deserved some actual fun for a change. She would take her parents out to dinner Saturday to help run interference. She was determined to let Ethan have the best chance at a good 1st date. He looked much younger and smaller asleep. She leaned over and kissed his forehead.
“Good night, Bucket.”