by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Author's Notes: This is my first Big Wolf On Campus fic, plus I've seen less than 1/3 of the eps, plus I'm seeing them totally out of order, plus I haven't written fan fiction for over a year. Be kind! Um, also, no beta and very little editing. There are reasons why I haven't posted fic in a year, and having this fic betaed would have fed the insecurity just enough to ensure it never saw the light of day.

Merton hated being sick. First of all, it meant he had to miss school and, despite the presence of people who went out of their way to point out his place in the social hierarchy, Merton actually liked school. Which probably accounted for at least some of the reason he did exist in the basement of the social pyramid.

Second, it meant that his parents were fussing over him. If his mom hadn't taken one look at him over breakfast and sent him back to bed, Merton would have gone to school despite the interesting colors of phlegm he was hacking up.

But mostly, Merton hated being sick because he hated being alone when he was sick. The general consensus seemed to be that his company wasn't worth a head cold.

Seized by a coughing fit, Merton bent over a much-abused Kleenex and tried to ride it out. Make that a chest cold.

A warm hand abruptly settled on his back and a glass of water appeared before him. Merton wrapped both hands around it and sipped frantically between coughs. He got some relief about four sips into the glass and looked up at his savior. Tommy. Merton knew he shouldn't be surprised - who else would just walk into his room? - But he was.

"Hey," he said, wincing at the roughness of his own voice. "Didn't hear you come in."

"I think you were too busy hacking up a lung," Tommy said with a little smile. He'd started rubbing Merton's back. Just a little, but enough to make the smaller boy want to sigh.

"I almost wish I had," Merton moaned, tossing the Kleenex in the general direction of the trashcan. He pulled another one out of the box at his side. "At least then I'd stop coughing."

"Yeah, but then you'd be dead, and that would suck."

Merton grinned weakly and took a moment to blow his nose. Loudly. Tommy actually looked startled by the time his friend came up for air. Merton discarded the Kleenex. At this rate he was gonna need a new box. "Hey," he said, a thought occurring to him, "Should you be here? I mean, you're breaking quarantine."

Tommy laughed and stopped rubbing Merton's back to put an arm around him. "It's not the plague, Merton," he said. "I can survive a chest cold." He grinned slyly, "But I fully expect you to keep me company in the midst of my own misery."

"Deal," Merton said, grinning. Tommy wanted to hang out with him when he was feeling miserable. Not any of the dozens of people who'd gladly endure a chest cold for a little time with the quarterback, him. Maybe it was a weird thing to take as a compliment, but it made Merton feel a lot better.

The Goth settled back into the couch, realizing only then that Tommy's arm was still around him. Okay, sure Tommy put an arm around him in school all the time, but that was in public and all in good fun, and that...lasted a lot less time.

"Uh, Tommy?" Merton said, not really wanting to lose the warmth of his friend's embrace, but feeling a little self- conscious. "Your arm's still around me."

Tommy squirmed a little uncomfortably but didn't change position. "Yeah," he said, scratching the back of his head with his other hand. "I'm just, uh, feeling a little protective, okay?"

Merton's eyebrows shot up. "Protective?"

Tommy shifted, but his arm just settled more securely around Merton's shoulders. "Yeah. You know, you're kind of the closest thing I've got to a..." he frowned uncertainly. "A pack, I guess. And you're weak right now-"

"Hey!" Merton interrupted. "I'm not weak." He paused. "Okay, well, maybe a little weak, but-"

Tommy silenced his friend with a hand over Merton's mouth. The Goth considered licking his friend's palm but decided that would be tempting fate. Instead he waited and rolled his eyes. "Weak as in vulnerable," Tommy explained, removing his hand. "I've got this feeling like maybe I'm supposed to protect you."

Merton's eyes sparkled. "You're talking about instinct, right?" Tommy could almost see a burst of scientific curiosity overtaking his friend, but it was cut short by another spate of hacking. Really bad hacking this time, too. It shook Merton's whole body. He gasped for air in between coughs and couldn't calm his throat long enough to take a sip of water. The one time he tried he choked alarmingly.

By the time the attack passed Merton was sprawled mostly in Tommy's lap, both of his friend's arms around him. Merton went pretty much limp, exhausted from the spasms, his forehead resting on Tommy's shoulder. "This is good," the Goth murmured after a moment.

"Coughing so hard you choke is good?"

"No," Merton corrected. "The holding part is good."

Tommy couldn't see his friend's face, but the way his ears pinked up suggested he was blushing. "Hasn't anyone every taken care of you before?" Tommy asked.

"No one ever wanted to," Merton said, turning so that he was looking up at Tommy. "Other than my Mom," he rolled his eyes, "and I stopped letting her coddle me years ago."

"Well, I'll take care of you now," Tommy said decisively. After a moment he realized how that sounded and blushed a little himself, but he didn't take it back. Merton was looking up at him with this odd little smile... Tommy took a deep breath and noticed something odd. "You smell sour." He said thoughtlessly.

"Well, gee, thanks," Merton grumbled.

"No, that's not what I meant," Tommy said quickly. "I mean, normally you smell pretty good. You smell different now. Almost sour."

"You know how I smell?" Merton raised an eyebrow.

Tommy shrugged, an awkward move when he had an armful of his best friend. It was probably odd that he was still holding onto him like this, but Merton didn't seem to mind and he was...kind of enjoying it. Except for the coughing fits. "I didn't ever think about it specifically," he said, "but you know the wolf doesn't completely go away. I know the scents of the people I spent time with. Yours is the most familiar. Comfortable." His eyes kind of glazed over, as if in memory. "You Like home."

"Cool," Merton breathed, staring up at Tommy.

The word pulled Tommy back from whatever thoughts had captured him. He looked down, and tilted his head just a little too much. His nose bumped Merton's.

Tommy would have pulled back, but there was something there in Merton's expression that made him hesitate. Then he was moving forward instead, turning his head just a little so that their noses didn't bump again. Lips met instead, and Tommy registered only warmth and pressure and the soft puff of Merton's breath.

The kiss seemed endless, as if time had paused to let Tommy enjoy the slide of Merton's lips against his as the caress deepened. Tommy's arms tightened around his friend, though Merton, sprawled across his lap, could hardly have gotten any closer.

Eventually they parted, lips clinging for a moment. Tommy opened eyes he couldn't even remember closing. Merton was grinning at him. "What?"

Merton just snickered and pulled him down for another kiss. After a moment th Goth pulled back and practically giggled. "You are so going to get sick now," he murmured, lips brushing Tommy's as he spoke.

"Worth it," Tommy responded, his hands on Merton's hips. "Completely worth it."