This is Chapter 2 of the backstory of Rae and Jake, two characters whose story has been peculating around in my head since early last fall. If you are new to their story , you may want to start with Chapter 1 of The First Time They Met or with Leaving (Chapter One) or Absence (Chapter One )
“Hi. I’m Rae. I know that this is a little intrusive, but can I check your forehead? You look feverish.” Without waiting for a response, Rae crouched down the best she could in the small space where he was now laying curled up in a fetal position on the tiny bathroom floor and put her hand on his forehead. He was hot. Burning up actually. She reached out and touched his flushed cheek. It was also scalding hot.
She looked up in time to see Ivan walk through the kitchen with a serving bowl in hand and flagged him down. He came over and took in Jonathan Ryan on the floor in a pool of vomit while Rae crouched as best she could in the mess.
“Do I even want to know?” Ivan asked Rae, raising an eyebrow at the scene.
“I think your guest of honor is ill. Maybe a stomach virus? Maybe food poisoning?”
“Food poisoning,” a weak voice from the bathroom floor said. “I think it was the sushi I had last night for dinner. If you could just get me back to my ho. . .” the rest of the sentence was lost as he pulled himself up to vomit for the fourth time.
Rae and Ivan exchanged looks. “I don’t think he’s in any shape to pour into an Uber and send back to a hotel,” Rae said “Unless he came with someone. . ?”
Ivan grimaced, “No, he came alone. I agree that he’s too sick to send back in an Uber. He’s going to have to stay here. Why don’t we get him somewhere more comfortable? I think the guest room makes the most sense. It’s closest and we can bring him up the back stairway. The two of you are a mess and I’m sure that Jake doesn’t want pictures of him covered in vomit all over the internet tomorrow.”
Ivan knelt down toward his guest, who was now pathetically resting his head on the toilet seat and said, “Jake, we are going to help you up to the guest room and get you cleaned up, man. You can sleep this off here.”
Jake wearily raised his head, “Thanks mate. Could I get something to rinse my mouth out with first? Water, maybe?”
Ivan went to grab Jake a glass of water. Jake looked over at Rae from where he sat on the floor. “I am so sorry about your clothes. I knew I was under the weather when I left the hotel tonight but I would have never come if I had known I would do this,” he gestured helplessly at the mess in the bathroom.
“Don’t worry about it,” Rae said reassuringly, feeling badly that her first selfish thought had been to lament her new boots. “I am sure that this not how you wanted to spend your night.”
After Jake rinsed his mouth with the water Ivan brought him, Ivan and Rae managed to get their arms underneath Jake and half drag, half carry him out of the bathroom. As they started to move across the kitchen to the back stairs, Toni popped into the kitchen with a load of empty wine glasses.
“Oh my God, what is going on in here?!” she asked panicked.
Ivan paused to readjust Jake’s weight. “Hey babe, looks like Jake may have eaten some bad sushi. Rae and I were going to take him upstairs and let him get some sleep in the guest room.”
Toni put the wine glasses down on the counter and folded her arms firmly across her chest. “Jake is welcome to stay the night but neither he nor Rae are going anywhere near our new carpet in those clothes. You both are going to have to undress down here. Sorry!” To emphasize her point, Toni closed the kitchen door soundly and locked it. “Okay, take them off and we’ll put them in a garbage bag until I can throw them in the laundry machine.”
Jake looked from Ivan to Rae with an expression that seemed to ask, “Is she serious?”
Rae knew that Toni was deadly serious about her new carpet. Sighing, she shifted Jake’s weight enough that she could empty her pants pockets onto a corner of the kitchen counter. She turned to Jake and asked, “Is there anything in your pockets?” Jake nodded affirmatively and provided coaching to Ivan and Rae where to find his wallet, hotel key and two mobile phones. He and Rae were both blushing furiously after she fished a cell phone from the pocket closest to her. She hadn’t intended to grope him but it was tough to get her hand into someone else’s front pocket!
Apparently they were all taking a little long for Toni’s taste, “Okay fine, Rae why don’t you take off your shoes and pants first and then you can strip down Jake. Ivan should be able to hold him up for a couple of minutes on his own.” Toni already had an empty garbage bag and piles of dish towels in her hands and was waiting impatiently.
Rae exchanged looks with Ivan over Jake’s head before deciding that stalling wasn’t going to make this less awkward and humiliating. Toni could be immovable once she had made up her mind. She took the dish towels Toni proffered to wipe off the worst of Jake’s sick from her boots and pants, threw the towels in the garbage bag and started to self-consciously unlace her boots. She placed each one in the garbage bag, trying to communicate to Toni with her eyes that they would most certainly be talking about this later and then reluctantly removed her pants, then her soiled socks before throwing them all in the garbage bag. She was NOT happy to be standing in front of them in just her underwear and her sweater.
Jake, who had been silent through her disrobing suddenly piped in, “Are those Doctor Who panties?” but immediately shut up when Toni gave him a look. “Sorry,” he mumbled under his breath.
Toni handed Rae clean dish towels to wipe some of the sick off of Jake’s pants before prompting Rae to get him out of clothes. As awkward as it had been to strip in front of Jake and Ivan, Rae discovered that it was actually more awkward and uncomfortable to strip a strange man in front of an audience. Particularly one who was so shaky from being violently ill that he could barely help. Usually when Rae took someone’s clothes off, they were enthusiastically assisting. Jake was clearly weak from fever and pretty ambivalent about having a strange woman get him out of his sneakers, unbutton his jeans, unzip his fly and wiggle him out of his pants legs while Ivan bore the brunt of his weight.
Rae pretended she didn’t notice Jake’s body partially responding to her half-dressed on her knees in front of him assisting him out of his pants. She was more grateful than she expected that Toni had locked the kitchen door because Rae could do without someone walking in on this scene which she had feeling looked like some kind of weird fetish porn film. Finally, Jake’s jeans, socks, button down shirt, jacket and sneakers were stowed in garbage bags and the poor man was shivering in a tee shirt and purple boxers in the harshly lit kitchen.
Finally given the okay from Toni, Rae assisted Jake up the narrow back stairwell while Ivan went on ahead to look for clean clothes and supplies. Jake was holding heavily onto the railing with one hand, dragging himself up and had his other arm over Rae’s shoulder for stability. He was just a couple of inches taller than she was and she could feel wiry muscle under his tee shirt. Rae tried to not dwell on the fact that they both were only wearing underwear from the waist down but it was a stretch.
Jake turned his head to look at her as they slowly made the way up the stairs. “I’m sorry—what did you say your name was again?”
“Rae. Rae Scott.”
“As you have gathered, I’m Jake. Rae Scott, I am sorry about tonight. About your clothes, and the mess and you having to strip me. . .” The tone of his voice implied that he knew that she knew about his involuntary bodily response in the kitchen. He paused for a moment. “I’m sorry. You are an attractive woman wearing nothing but a jumper and Doctor Who panties. No British man could resist. Queen and country and all.”
It took Rae a moment to realize that he was half smiling, trying to ease some of the tension of the situation. She half-smiled back. “Understood. Don’t worry, it will make a great story for my blog.” She saw the stricken look on his face and suddenly remembered that he was celebrity, not just some random guy who had been sick all over her new shoes. “Sorry! Sorry! Just joking! Well, not about the blog—I do have a blog—but I wouldn’t violate your privacy like that.” As he still looked skeptical, she added “And this is a little embarrassing for me too. How about I save it for a story to tell my hypothetical, future grandkids?!”
They had successfully made it up the stairs and Rae started to guide him to the guest room. Jake looked at her for a long moment before saying, “You’d be surprised how many people would have happily taken a picture of me sick on that bathroom floor and been thrilled to post on twitter about taking off my pants.”
Rae digested that for a moment. “First of all, ick. Second, I realize you don’t know me at all and you barely know Toni and Ivan, but please know that we are not those kinds of people.” Rae managed to turn the guest room light on with her elbow and steer him into the room. He was shaking like mad and she didn’t know how much longer she would be able to hold him up on her own. “After Toni won Project Runway things got a little crazy with the press. We couldn’t go to Whole Foods or the movies or out to lunch without the press following her around for a couple of weeks or strangers coming up to us. We would not subject you to that.”
Before Jake could respond, Ivan came in carrying a pile of clean clothes, towels, a tub of baby wipes and an empty bucket. Ivan dropped everything on the bed, spread a large bath towel over the side of the bed and came over to help get Jake more upright. “Rae, Toni really needs me out there. I hate to abandon you but I think you are going to have help Jake get into clean clothes and into bed on your own. I don’t think we should leave him alone. Do you mind hanging out with him. . . ?” Ivan didn’t wait for an answer. “Toni promised to bring some supplies up as soon as she can get free. Maybe Jake could sit on a towel on the bed while you help him change? No offense man, but you look like you are going to keel over.”
“Pretty much how I’m feeling,” Jake confirmed. He gratefully dropped down onto the bath towel Ivan spread out on the bed and fell backwards ungracefully.
Ivan started to head out of the room as Toni was heading in with a tray of water bottles, ginger ale, saltines, what appeared to be Rae’s slice of cake, all the things that had been in Rae and Jake’s pockets and an empty trash bag, presumably for the rest of Jake’s clothes. Toni promised check in if she could, leaving Jake and Rae alone again.
Now what? Rae asked herself. Ivan appeared to have left a sweatshirt and a pair of sleep shorts for Jake. She resolved herself to winging it.
“Jake, I need to get you out of the rest of your clothes and clean you up. If I put arm underneath you and help you sit up, do you think you can help me get you out of your tee shirt?” Rae started to slide an arm under him while she asked him this.
Jake turned his head toward her and contemplated her seriously with very blue eyes. “I honestly don’t know but I’ll try. I’m sure you’ve heard this before Rae Scott, but you have lovely eyes. Can’t figure out exactly what color they are, but lovely. Please know that I am not flirting with you- I have a girlfriend, a very jealous girlfriend—I just couldn’t help but mention it.”
“Thank you. . . I guess. Trying is all I can ask of you,” Rae replied. She got her arm more fully behind him and pushed him up. Jake did his best to help her. She was sweating almost as much as he was by the time they successfully freed him from his soiled tee shirt. He fell back hard on the bed when she removed her arm. She carried his tee shirt carefully across the room and added it to the other soiled clothes in the garbage bag.
“So, where exactly does one buy Doctor Who underwear?” Jake asked from the bed.
“I thought you weren’t flirting,” Rae said, blushing now that it was clear that he had been looking at her ass again. She tried to focus on opening the container of baby wipes and pulling out a handful before returning to the bed.
“Not flirting. Just curious.” His tone was injured innocence.
It was hard not to do a double-take when she turned around and was faced with the Jonathan Ryan lying on the guest room bed in just a pair of purple boxer shorts, particularly as she was not nearly as dressed as she would like to be. Jake had an impressive collection of tattoos on his chest and arms. Rae was curious about them, but given he was shivering like mad at this point, she cleaned him up with the baby wipes as quickly as she could. He was the only person she had ever seen whose skin was actually paler than hers, but whether this was his natural coloring or the illness, she couldn’t tell.
“Thanks,” he said when she finished. “At least I smell better now.” He looked her up and down, “Are you going to put some pants on soon? I don’t think my girlfriend would approve of this,” indicating his boxer shorts and her current half-dressed state.
“I promise that my intentions are completely honorable,” she reassured him, grabbing the sweatshirt and preparing to assist him into it. “As soon as we get you all cleaned up I am going to put on my pajamas.”
Jake looked slightly puzzled, “Do you live here too?” This time he anticipated that she was going to try to lift him enough that she could ease the sweatshirt over his head and helped the best that he was able to in his weakened state.
“No, but I had been planning on staying over and helping Toni and Ivan clean up after the party.”
“Where do you sleep when you stay here?”
“Pretty much where you are right now.”
Rae shrugged her shoulders. “The big chair and the ottoman over there are pretty comfortable. Do you think you could keep a few sips of water down? I am worried that you are dehydrated.”
“Are you nurse or a doctor?’ he asked.
“Clinical social worker, actually,” Rae said grabbing one of the bottles of water Toni had brought. For the third time she slipped her arm under his shoulders and helped him up. He took a cautious sip of water, then two smaller ones. He looked green, “I think that’s all I can handle for now.” She eased him back down.
“You would make a good nurse or a doctor,” he said once he was lying down again.
“Well, the plan had been med school but I discovered that I liked beautiful spring days hanging out with my friends more than three hour laboratory classes.”
“Three hour laboratory classes sound dreadful.”
“Sadly, I would have to agree.”
Rae examined Jake with a critical eye. Damn, his boxers were wet in places. She had been so hoping that they wouldn’t need to go there.
“Jake, we need to get you out of those boxer shorts and cleaned up but I don’t know how to do that without embarrassing both of us even more than we already are.”
She was suddenly struck by inspiration. “Maybe I can cover you with a towel and then pull your boxers down?”
Jake looked like keeping his eyes open was a struggle. “I am quite at your mercy. Whatever you think is best.”
It worked, mostly. The towel did slip a little and she could now confirm that Jake Ryan was indeed a natural red head but they managed to get him out of the wet boxers, mostly dried off and into the clean sleep shorts without her threatening his virtue too much. With some additional work they were able to get him completely on the bed, his head on a pillow and under the covers. She was still worried about him and laid her hand again on his forehead. Still burning up. She wet one of the smaller towels Ivan had brought in with water from the water bottle and put it on his forehead. He managed to open one eye and murmured, “Thanks. For everything. I think I’m going to pass out now.”
“You’re welcome.” Rae finished cleaning up the room and got her pajamas out of her overnight bag. Jake seemed to be asleep. Still, she turned her back to him while she changed. She was slipping her pajama top over her head when she heard from the bed, “Nice tattoo.” She froze for a moment, startled. When he said nothing further she finished pulling her top down, grateful that he couldn’t see that she was blushing furiously again.