New Winslow S5E54
Roman was embarrassed that he had to draw a line on running today. It wasn’t happening. He’d woken up with a chest cold that had clearly settled in overnight. So even though he was meeting Noah today, it wasn’t going to be down at the track. He’d do a lot of things, but running when he felt like shit wasn’t one of them.
He pulled himself upright, rubbing at his sternum. He must have picked this up from Aidan’s playgroup. It was brutal. With a little bit of effort, Roman stood up and walked from the bedroom into the bathroom, turning the shower as hot as he could stand it. Unlike Celine, who seemed to bathe in lava, Roman always kept the shower to a sensible human temperature. But today, as the steam billowed into the bathroom, he needed that extra heat.
He took off his clothes and stepped into the shower, hissing as the scorching water hit his body. He coughed, trying to loosen up some of the shit in his lungs, and it helped a little.
Just a chest cold then, no big deal.
Roman showered quickly, finally giving in to temptation and lowering the temperature before he cooked himself. Then he got out and dried off, wrapping a towel around his waist before brushing his teeth and walking back out of the bathroom.
Celine was up when he got into the bedroom room. She smiled at him as she pulled a shirt on. “Morning.”
“Morning,” he replied, voice hoarse.
Celine frowned. “Are you alright?”
“Chest cold,” he said, walking over to his own dresser. “I think I got the bug that Aidan had earlier this week.”
“I’m not surprised,” Celine said. “Jamie’s had a stuffy nose all week, too.”
Roman’s nose felt clear enough, but his head felt like it was stuffed with cotton. “You’re still good if I meet up with Noah before the meeting?” Roman asked her.
“Of course,” she said, sliding on a pair of tight black pants that Roman had always liked. “Tatiana’s got the shop until five, so I’ll stay here with the babies. You’re not going running, are you?”
“Fuck no,” Roman said, and she laughed. “I’ll see if he wants to get coffee at the general store, but I’m not going near that track today.”
Thirty minutes later, Roman was walking into the New Winslow General Store. The tables were full, but he noticed Noah had claimed the one by the window. The other man had at least six inches on Roman and for a second as he slid into the seat, Roman felt almost like a kid, despite the decade between them. “Thanks for being flexible,” he said.
Noah shrugged. “I don’t mind,” he said. “Are you okay? You look like hell.”
Roman felt like hell. The cotton feeling in his head hadn’t gone away with the cold air outside and his chest felt even tighter than it had at home. “Chest cold,” Roman said. “I’ll try to keep it over here.”
They stood up to get their drinks, Noah leaving his coat at the table to claim their spot. As they stood, Roman’s heart sped up. He was anxious, but there was nothing to be anxious about. So why the hell did he suddenly feel like he needed to get out of here, needed to go home? He took a deep breath, wincing as he did so and hoping Noah didn’t see it.
The line was a few people deep as they got to the register with their coffees. “So we get the keys to the Limerick place tomorrow,” Noah said as the people two spots ahead of them paid. “I’m just bringing my toolkit with me to see if I can at least get some repairs done first thing. We still don’t have an opening day planned, but the sooner it’s making money, the easier I’m sleeping at night.”
Roman laughed, trying to ignore the way his heart was now beating loudly in his ears. “That’s how it was for us too,” he said. “The first day the building was ours, Celine was repairing toilets while I nailed up insulation. It was just us, no contractors yet. That night we-”
He broke off as a bright flash of pain squeezed his chest. Noah looked alarmed, and Roman tried to reassure him that he was fine. But his heart was hammering in his head now.
“Hey, how about I drive you home?” Noah said carefully.
Roman wanted to argue, but he wasn’t even sure he had the strength to pull his wallet out of his pocket right now. So instead, he nodded, trying to catch his breath. He watched Noah saying something to Tara Stevenson, who was at the cash register. Then he steered Roman out the door.
“It’s a chest cold,” Roman said.
“Wait, the coffee.”
“I told Tara I’d come back and pay for them.”
Roman was about to argue that too, but he couldn’t catch his breath. So instead, he climbed into the passenger side of Noah’s old truck.
“How far are you?” Noah asked.
“Up on Westchester.” Why did Noah look nervous? It was just a chest cold. “Five minutes maybe.”
“Alright, I’ll head that way.”
“I’m fine,” Roman said as Noah turned on his truck. “Don’t worry, it’s a cold. My kid had it too.”
He was a little dizzy, almost like he’d been drinking. But he hadn’t, he’d been sober for a decade. Wait, hadn’t it been Roman driving Noah home? Not the other way around? He was about to say so when Noah said, “Can I see your phone?”
Roman handed it to Noah, not sure why he needed it, but not caring too much either. He told Noah the passcode, then leaned his head back against the seat, breathing in the scent of fake pine and gasoline.
“Do you want me to bring you to Dr. Degas?” Noah asked. “It’s not a problem.”
“No, I’m fine,” Roman replied. “I promise, it’s a chest cold.”
Noah was driving now, and Roman realized he was on the phone with someone. “Meet me out front,” he heard Noah say through the stuffing in his head. “I don’t know. He said he’s fine, but I don’t feel right about this. Yeah, three minutes away.”
Roman was about to ask him what the hell was going on, but then there was a sharp pain in his chest, so strong that it felt like it might pull him apart. He could feel Noah staring at him from the driver’s seat. “Stop looking at me and look at the road before you kill us,” he murmured, keeping his eyes squeezed shut.
“I’m not looking at you,” Noah said as the truck sped up.
Roman swallowed a moan as they pulled into his driveway a moment later, where Celine was waiting for them.
“Rome,” she said as she opened his door, her face pale.
“I’m fine,” he said, smiling at her.
But he knew he wasn’t fine. And judging by the grave faces around him, they all knew it too.