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Prey (Updated 1/27/18) Complete


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Okay, so I moved from the US to China, and my choice of TV programs is severely limited.  One of the only English channels shows a lot of nature documentaries, and also plays a show called "Scam City."  The first sentence of this fic was taken directly from a documentary about orcas.  The rest was inspired by "Scam City."  Not sure if it's going to be a one-shot or have multiple chapters... we'll see how the Muse (and your response) goes... ;)


When you’re smart, and you know what your partner is thinking, you can develop ever more effective strategies to outwit your prey.

Unless, of course, you have a miserable cold.

“hh--… *snfl* eh’g--gk… *snrt* eh-hh… … hgm… hh’HUH!... *cough* … Huhh---HH-HIH--!...

“….fer fuck’s sake, jus’ sneeze already.”

Tain’s dark, hawk-like eyes were scanning the square for a potential mark, irritated by his partner’s inability to control his body.  Irritated… and also perversely turned on by the younger man’s heavily hitching breaths.

HEI-HH--!!’uunnnngghh… fugk.” The gravelly voice dissolved into barking coughs. “… y’bade be lose id.”

“Sorry,” which they both knew was a lie. 

Glancing across the alley, Tain’s honed gaze raked the younger con from head to toe.   Tousled sandy curls crowned a handsome face that was normally open and innocent, helpful-looking.  Arren had a face that could get away with murder: sky blue eyes and an easy, wide grin combined with the Irish lilt in his smooth voice usually had tourists eating out of his hand.  Which was essential for the kind of work they did.

Right now, though, the man looked like hell.

Curls disheveled, his face was pale and drawn, eyes shadowed and red-rimmed, lyrical voice nearly destroyed.  Arren’s nostrils were painted scarlet, alive with constant flickers and flutters, active with incessant sniffling and snorting.  The younger man was either teetering on the verge of a sneeze, bent double sneezing, or wheezing in recovery from the most recent sneeze.  He hadn’t stopped sneezing for two days.  

It was no surprise that Tain hadn’t wanted to bring Arren out today.  But ‘rent’ was due next week, and they were severely short. 

Plus, today was a national holiday, and that meant both the tourists and the locals were out in droves.  The perfect storm to line their pockets with other people’s money.

“hk!—KSSSHH’HAA!  HE-KGSSSSH’Hahh!... Hh—HH!!- HEISSHH’haa…”


More barking coughs.  Thick, congested snorts.  “Thagks.” 

“Fuck, mate, y’ sound like total shite.  I should go in alone.”

“Ndo,” Arren swiped at his streaming face, drawing in a wet, wheezy breath that ended in more coughs.  “We godda…*cough*…. bake redt.  I’b… *coughs*… good.”

Tain’s dark brows pulled together, certain that in this moment his partner felt anything but ‘good,’ but they both knew the consequences of failing to come up with the money on time.

“All right.”  He turned to continue scanning the crowds.

When the two men had arrived separately in Barcelona, they had been little more than boys.  Fresh from dropping out of different universities – one in Ireland, one in Scotland – they had met by chance in a hostel.  The very next day they had hit the bars… and together been robbed of every cent they had.

It had happened so quickly, so easily – and the cons had gotten away with so much of their money - it seemed obvious that the best way to get their money back (and more) was to do it themselves.

They had no degrees, little family connections back in the UK, and a shared thirst for adventure. So, they became partners.

They were pretty good con artists.  Not the best, but good enough to make decent money most days.

However, in the course of learning the ropes early on, they had mistakenly crossed one of the local bosses.  In exchange for not breaking every bone in their bodies, they had agreed to make monthly payments.  ‘Rent’ for working in his territory, which happened to include the choicest tourist spots.

Now, nearly ten years later, the boys had become men.  Every New Year’s Eve they toasted that this would be the year they’d finally save enough to stop, to change to a legitimate business, to feel safe enough to settle down and have families.  And every Christmas they just didn’t have it.

Sharing rooms, beers, meals… lives… together over the past decade had brought them very close.  Close in a way Tain didn’t know how to define.

“hg-G’HIESS-Hieuu… *snrfl*” A small quake went through Tain’s body, his dark eyes closing for one long second.

“Bless,” he breathed, eyes opening to focus back on the square.  Tain was torn between determinedly scouring for the perfect mark, and wanting to bundle Arren up, take him back to their small flat and throw him into bed, crawling in next to him and feeling the younger man’s body shake with each wet sneeze.

Tain honestly didn’t know where this was coming from.  In ten years they’d both experienced colds and flu, Tain himself coming down with a wicked case of bronchitis one Christmas that had almost become pneumonia.  Arren had been the one to drag him to a clinic, forcing hot tea and giant horse-pill antibiotics down his throat for days until he was finally better.  Never before had either of them failed to work, and never had either displayed any attraction to the other.

Both had dated.  Mostly women, but the occasional man.  None had lasted long.

None could rise above the priority of their partnership, their friendship.

“h’HH!---hrr'EESHHieuu!!... ESSH'oo!...”

Tain blew out a short breath.  “Okay, that’s it.  Yer goin’ back t’ the flat, mate.  Now.”

“Ndo, I cad--…”

“Fuckin’ Christ, A!” Tain turned his razor-sharp stare to his partner, who looked pathetically more prey than predator.  “Y’ look like shite, y’ sound like shite.  Y’ can’t go two full minutes without sneezin’.  Yer takin’ yer sick arse t’ bed.”

“Th’ fugk, I cad’t,” Arren grumbled, one hand tucked in the pocket of his leather jacket, the other hovering near his crimson nose as it continued to twitch dangerously. 

“All right,” Tain turned to lean his shoulders against the cold brick wall, crossing muscled arms over his broad chest and glancing down at his watch.  “Let’s see, then.”

The two men stared each other down, red-rimmed blue eyes locked on eagle-black.   Fluttering nostrils continued to pulse, looking for the world like all they wanted to do was erupt with wet, juicy, satisfying sneezes.  Over and over again.

But Arren stubbornly pinched and knuckled and snorted through them, blinking furiously as he struggled to deny the strong cold-induced tickle.

Tain knew it was only a matter of time.

The younger man’s chest expanded with a sudden involuntary breath, face collapsing from ‘bull-headed stubborn’ to ‘helplessly sneezy’ in less than a second.

“One minute,” Tain drawled, watching as Arren wrestled with his body for control.  Hitching and snorting, Arren scrubbed at his increasingly reddening nose, holding his breath and fidgeting until the urge had backed down. 

Backed down but not gone, as Tain could easily see from the blond’s fluttering lashes, distended nostrils, and parted lips. 

At 1:45, Tain whispered. “Two minutes.”

Arren’s eyes slipped closed, head tilting back as his chest heaved in a deep, gasping breath… then he exploded into his cupped hands.  “Itsch’SHEW!  ehH’SHIUU!  HEESSHHHOOO!-ESSSHHOO!-RREESSHIUUU!... Huh’IESHSHHWEUhhh!!... Heh’TSXCHUooh!”

Arren had attempted to stifle the last sneeze, which had sprayed out all over his hand despite his best attempts.  It also launched him into a harsh fit of coughing, which ended with him bent over with his hands on his knees, hacking and spitting at the ground as his entire face ran.

“All right,” Tain growled, shoving off from the brick wall and wrapping his large hand around the younger man’s upper arm.  “Yer done, mate.   Time t’ head home.  I’ll come back later and work the crowds while you sleep off this plague.”

“Ndo,” Arren tried, reaching up with cold fingers, trying unsuccessfully to free himself from the older man’s firm grip.  “I cad do it, T.  I swear, I--…”

“Hey,” Tain stopped at the other end of the alley, where they were still unable to be observed by any passers-by.  Pulling Arren close, he raised his free hand to cup the pale cheek, already feeling warmer than he’d like.  “I’ve got you, yeah?”

Arren squinted, “Y-yeah,” he croaked, nostrils still flickering with need, trying so hard not to sneeze with his partner so close.

“Go ahead,” Tain pulled Arren to him, resting his chin on the top of the sandy curls, sheltering the sick man in the circle of his arms.  “Sneeze it out, mate. Y’ll feel a lot better.”

And Arren did, his hard body clenching with a set of six harsh, wet sneezes as his system desperately tried to expel the virus invading its tissues. 

“S-sorry,” the blond wheezed when he had a break, raising a hand ineffectually to try to wipe away the mess streaming down his face and coating his friend’s jacket.

“No worries,” Tain crooned, keeping an arm around the smaller man’s shoulders as he steered them back to their flat.  “Know y’ feel like shite.  We’ll get ya t’bed an’ take care o’ ya proper-like.”  The sandy head dropped to his shoulder with a thunk.  “Some soup ‘r somethin’.”

Arren’s response was another wet sneeze, followed by more coughs.

Tain didn’t like leaving his partner on his own when he was obviously so sick, but he helped the younger man climb the stairs to their flat, tucked Arren into his rumpled bed with hot tea and a roll of toilet paper on the floor within reach, then locked the door behind him as he made his way back to the square.

He had ‘rent’ to make.

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This is darling! The dynamic here is perfect, very intriguing. And poor Arden is really very adorable. Thank you for sharing!

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This is such an interesting plot, I love it! I hope you decide to make it more than a oneshot! ❤

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I'm so glad you guys like this!  :D  These two characters kind of came out of left field for me, and I wasn't sure how this was going to go.  I've not given up on my Tommy/Hayley series, but Tain and Arren were insistent that their story get written in the meantime.  Thanks for your lovely reviews!  :heart: They help keep the story going. 


Part 2

Tain had tucked Arren into bed with a cup of tea and a roll of toilet paper around 10am.  By the time he finally got home, it was after 2 in the morning.

Fleecing tourists out of over 2,000 Euros worth of cash hadn’t taken him longer than a couple of hours. Dodging the newbie cop who had decided to chase him down, finding a place to stash half of the cash in the middle of the chase in case he got caught, bribing the cop with the other half and then going back for the rest only to find it gone... and having to con another 3,000 Euros (and bribing two more cops with a third of that), getting shoved in the back of one of the cop cars and driven halfway to the precinct before finally naming a price the cop would take… por favor, mi compañero está muy enfermo... y tengo que conseguirle un medicamento pronto…” and then going back for 2,000 more Euros from the tourists to cover his ass...  that had taken forever.

Finally though, he had enough to satisfy Guillermo for another month... and to buy things to get Arren well.  

Unlocking the door, Tain set the shopping bag on the tiny kitchen counter and flicked on the light.  The first thing he noticed was that the flat was cold; they must not have paid the heat bill...

“A?” he called out as he took a box of tissues from the bag, not shrugging out of his coat until he was halfway down the hall that led to the two small bedrooms.  “You ‘ere, mate?...” Knocking softly on the door frame, Tain peeked into Arren’s room.  “...A?...”

Eyes adjusting to the darkness, Tain saw that his partner was tangled in the covers, legs askew, one arm hanging over the edge.  The bed and the floor both were littered with crumpled balls of toilet paper, the naked cardboard roll on its side in a corner.   The teacup was gone, which meant that the sick man had stumbled out at some point and taken it with him.  It hadn’t been in the kitchen sink… God only knew where Tain would find it...

“Yo, A... y’dead, mate?”  Tain sat on the edge of the creaky bed next to Arren’s lean hip.

The blond’s bloodshot blue eyes cracked open, tongue coming out to wet parched lips.  “...T?...”

“Yeah, s’me,” Tain murmured, Reaching out, he slipped a wide palm under the sweaty curls to press against the younger man’s forehead.  Hot, but not burning.  High enough for the Scotsman to be glad he’d insisted that Arren come home, but thankfully not high enough to need a doctor: that was an expense they couldn’t afford right now.  “Y’gonna live?”

“...uhg…. dot sure…” Arren croaked, rolling over and pushing himself up on one elbow with a rasping groan. Tain himself nearly groaned in sympathy when he got a look at his friend’s flushed face.  Arren’s nose had been red before, but now it was glowing: visibly irritated and sore.  Lips parted, eyelids drooping, Arren had just woken up and already looked ready to sneeze.  When he tilted his head back to suck a thick, congested sniffle, Tain noticed heavy moisture glimmering in the dark depths of those painfully chapped nostrils.

“Got y’somethin’...” Tain produced a box of lotion-infused tissues, long fingers cracking it open and fishing out the first white square.  “Looks like y’need it.”

Arren’s bleary eyes widened.  “... unh, thagk fugkig god…” Pushing his aching body back to lean against the headboard, he closed cold fingers over Tain’s around the box with one hand and snatched the proffered tissue with the other.  It flew to his nose, pressing urgently as his brows drew together.  “...beed… hh!--... tryid’ dot t’suhh--... sdeeze f-... for… h’HH!-H!... aage-ess…” his ruined voice climbed in pitch, the coming sneeze slowly occluding his throat.  

Sensing the inevitable, Tain helped the sick man blindly tuck the box between his knees before snatching a few more tissues and holding them at the ready.  Arren continued to hitch and huff, snuffling urgently.

“D’hh- dabbit… kuh-- HH!’hgk-EHH!... heehhhh… ad dow it w’-... eh-hh… hhHHHH!... hh--… *snfl* … ahhh... wod’t cub… eh’g--gk… *snrt* … fugk I deed to… hh’HUH!... deedtosdeeze…  EHHg--k… *snrt* eh-hh… …HHHHhh’h--… fuuhhggkk be... …”

“Here,” Tain pressed two more tissues into Arren’s free hand, watching as the sick man choked and snorted, pawing at his rebellious nose with a frustrated grimace twisting his handsome face.  “Blow, mate.   Yer prob’ly so bunged up yer nose jus’ can’t git th’air y’need.  Unload summa that shite.”

Arren nodded vaguely, dropping the first used tissue into his lap and stretching the two new tissues between his fingers.  Tain’s blood burned as he watched Arren’s chapped lips quiver, blond brows raising and then crashing like waves over the ocean of his blinking blue eyes.  The younger man’s body, slighter than Tain’s own brawny build, was toned; both men liked to work out, and Tain’s dark eyes could see the evidence of it as they raked down over Arren’s firm chest, pectoral muscles flexing through the thin shirt as the blond's breath continued to scissor.  The younger man rotated the tissues into just the right position before finally taking a deep breath and burying his nose into them for a desperate, wet blow.


Lush and liquid, Tain pulled in a long, slow breath through his nose at the sound, hawk-like eyes not blinking as he watched Arren bend double, shoulders curling with effort. The older man pulled more tissues from the box, passing them to his partner as Arren continued to try to empty his nose with blow after sopping blow.

Halfway through the third pair of tissues, the blond’s breath suddenly stuttered, head tilting back and eyes squeezing tight.

“Here we go,” Tain muttered.

Sure enough, Arren began to sneeze.   “Hb’NGX-SSCCHHiu!  HH- huh!- wuh’BXKSSHH-hou! …”  Still horribly congested, Tain could hear how they ripped through his partner’s clogged sinuses, “HET-SHHKGK!... H-hHH… hck’GKZXNsh!...”

“Damn,” Tain shifted so he was sitting beside Arren against the headboard, rubbing the Irishman’s back as he pitched forward helplessly again and again.   “Yer a right mess.”

IXSHHouu!... h-h-h-H! --HHEEEZZSHHHIIEEW!  … ...”  Arren panted for breath, trembling a little under Tain’s big hand.  “uhn… I dow...” the blond groaned softly, the fit winding down.  “..I'b lighd-headed... thad was h- HEIISSHHhooo!... idtedse…”

“Yer tellin’ me,” Tain chuckled softly, still rubbing soothing circles on his partner’s back as he began to cough and hack and spit crud into the tissues, scrubbing and blowing and wiping his burning nose as he wheezed to catch his breath.  Carding his fingers through the tangled curls at the top of Arren's neck, Tain murmured, “You eat anythin’ t’day?”

The blond shook his shaggy head, slowly sagging to the side and coming to rest heavily against the bigger man’s bulk.  “By head’s killig be, I cad’t breathe… huhUH-AISSSCHEEW!... w’AHISTCHOO!... Feel bloody awful... hh… ad I... h-h-!.... HuhIESHSHHWEUhhh!!... ughhhh I cad’t stob sdeezig!… hh… hehh… F- fugk… haah… hah!… dot agaid... ihhh… huhhh… ah’h!… hh…”

“Here,” Tain murmured gently, reaching a hand up to lay two fingers under the sick man’s quivering chin.  “I got ya…”

Steadying him as Arren helplessly trembled and hitched, Tain’s dark eyes narrowed in concentration.  He brought his other hand up to curl a long finger under his partner’s twitching nose, slowly massaging the irritated, flaming nares, feeling the flushed skin curve under the pressure of his touch.  Warm wetness oozed around the rims and coated his finger as he worked.

Tain wasn’t sure where this was coming from.  In the past ten years, he and Arren had developed a level of rapport that was unrivaled in any other relationship he’d ever had.  The men rarely needed to communicate with words when pulling a con, almost able to read each other’s minds.  Closer than family, but never quite crossing that final line into… something else...  But now, Tain found himself not only completely comfortable doing this highly intimate act, but unable to not do it.   

Arren didn’t bat an eye.  Probably because he was so miserable that any relief was not only welcome, it was unquestioned.

“Ahhhhhh…” the younger man’s body sagged as he blew out a ragged breath, ending in a series of thick coughs.  “...th-... thags.”

“Here,” Tain pressed more tissues into Arren’s hand and stood, lithe as a jungle cat.  “Yer gonna eat somethin’. I got soup from that vendor y’like by the cathedral.”  Seeing the blond wracked by a shiver, the older man scowled before adding, “Think we didn’t pay the heat, so I’m not sure if we’ve got hot water fer a’shower.  But if we do, yer takin’ it.  Try to flush out summa that crap.”

Arren’s only response was a low groan, listing to one side until he sank into the mattress with more thick coughs.  

“How’d y’get so bloody sick anyway?” Tain grumbled as he stalked back to the tiny kitchen, knowing Arren couldn’t hear him and probably wouldn’t have been able to answer even if he had.  Casting back in his memory, Tain couldn’t pinpoint the moment he realized his partner was coming down with a cold.  It seemed like one minute Arren was fine, and the next he was a sneezy, wheezy wreck.

“I-Ih’txshyuu!...  *sngkskgnskgnkssss*... Het’xshhoo!...”

“Bless,” Tain called back through the small flat.  Sound traveled easily through the thin walls, as Tain knew well from listening to Arren hack and cough and toss and turn and sneeze incessantly over the past two nights.

Using a match to light the small propane burner, he put the kettle on for tea.  All Brits know that tea solves every problem, and both men could definitely use a steaming cuppa right about now.

By far, Tain was the more domestic of the two, which no one would have guessed from his intimidating appearance.  Arren loved to tease the older man that the real reason he had such impressive biceps was because he wielded a mean frying pan.

Tain took his time making tea, listening as Arren shuffled into the bathroom to piss and sneeze, each wet explosion echoing off the tiled walls.  Making tea really was more art than science: Tain preferred his milk in before, Arren preferred it in after.  Many of their Spanish acquaintances couldn’t understand that there was a difference.  But there was definitely a difference.

After delivering Arren’s cup to him - small shivers rippling over his skin to hear the younger man’s croaked "thagks" - Tain went about the process of heating and serving the soup.  

“Sopa de Ajo,” he announced when he set it on the battered milk crate he brought in to serve as a temporary nightstand.  “Know y’usually like th’one with chorizo, but th'garlic is gonna help clear out y’sinuses.  S’good fer yer immune system.”

“Thagks,” Arren blinked sluggishly, eyelids just barely out of sync.  He was cradling the half-drunk cup of tea to his chest, fingers curled around it for warmth.  The Irishman looking a split second away from either falling asleep… or exploding with yet another sneeze.

“Here,” Tain draped a threadbare towel over Arren’s knee, taking the cup from the sick man's cold hands and switching it out with the bowl of soup.  “Eat all a that.  M’gonna check on the hot water...”


Okay guys, should there be hot water?... or no hot water?  :renske:

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Oh, the weight of decisions! I would say yes to hot water because a) no hot water seems too mean and b.) hot water means steam, which means clearing out sinuses, and we all know where that will lead.

Still adore this.

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I'd go for no hot water. Sorry Arren, I know this is not very nice for you but I like you all sneezy and stuffy like this ;) I'm sure Tain'll help you through it.

Happy to hear there'll be more Tommy and Hayley at some point, I miss them :) I actually started rereading the series in chronological order yesterday evening instead of just going back to fav chapters.

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Maybe there’s like... SOME hot water so he starts to feel better, but it runs out before he’s done and he ends up all shivery and miserable?? Tain will have to help, of course. He feels very tenderly toward the lad. 

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  • 2 months later...

Leaving the water on to warm up in the small shower stall, Tain went back to his partner’s bedside.  “Yer in luck, mate,” he rumbled, bending down to take the nearly empty teacup and bowl from Arren’s cold hands.  “Water’s hot.  Not sure fer how long, so y’better move yer arse.”

“...uunnnnn…” Arren groaned as the bigger man hauled him to his feet, steadying him with large, warm hands.   Stumbling down the hall to the small bathroom, the younger man shed his clothes like petals, dropping them to the ground in a wilted trail.   Tain picked his way over them on long legs, taking the cups and bowls to the kitchen where he’d left cold, soapy water standing in the sink.   He wanted Arren to have as much of the hot water as he could, not waste it on dishes.

From across their flat, Tain heard Arren rocketing out sneeze after ferocious sneeze as the steam began to work on his clogged sinuses.

HH… H’AHHH… HUHIXGK’K-SHHH-- HT’SHHHCHHH hguhh… hnn.. huhhhhg… ahh-HGXT’SHUU...  INGXXSHHH’uu!...”

Tea.  Tain decided his flatmate needed more tea.  

Putting a generous dollop of honey into the last clean cup - still not knowing where the younger man had left the cup he’d had earlier - the big man tested the heat of the kettle by holding his hand a few centimeters away.  

The shower shut off, and within a few minutes Tain heard the slow shuffle of weary feet, chesty coughs heralding Arren’s arrival to the kitchen.

Glancing over his shoulder, Tain did a double-take.  Arren had Tain’s towel knotted around his waist, his own towel tight around his shoulders in a white-knuckled grip.  His hair was dripping, lips nearly blue, scarlet nose glowing in his milk-pale face.  And shivering as if he were out naked in a blizzard.

“W-w-water t-turned c-c-c-...”

“Cold,” Tain finished, flicking the flame off the stove before crossing the short distance between them in two steps, pulling the sick man into his arms and chaffing his towel-clad back to generate warmth.  “C’m-ere… yer bones’r rattlin’ like buttons in a box, yer shakin’ so hard...”

Arren tucked his cold face into the taller man’s neck, pressing so close it felt like he was trying to burrow under Tain’s very skin.  Tain smelled the clean scent rising from the younger man’s wet hair, felt the hard muscles quaking under his hands.  More chesty coughs erupted, harsh blasts of hot air punching into Tain’s collar.

“There, now,” Tain crooned, arms tightening reflexively around the sick man spasming in his arms.  “We’ll get you warmed up.”  Keeping one arm around Arren, Tain reached for the kettle and poured the tea with the other.  “Here we go, love, this’ll help.”

If Arren noticed the endearment, he didn’t acknowledge it.   Hands still trembling, he reached for the hot drink, vaguely nodding thanks when Tain’s large fingers helped him keep the cup steady.   Tain watched Arren’s pale lips close on the rim of the cup, feeling the sick man’s throat work as he swallowed several slurping sips.  

“That’s right…” Tain murmured, one hand steadying the cup and the other running up and down the younger man’s muscular back.  “There’s a good lad…”

Arren suddenly jerked his head away, chest expanding with stuttering inhales.  “HEHHH!HEH-EHHH… HRRSHGK-ieuu…” He’d lifted the towel to sneeze into at the last second.

“Bless,” Tain rasped, having gone hot and cold at once.   The sick man groaned, pressing the cloth against his mouth as he shook with more nasty coughs.   Tain set the cup down, keeping Arren within the shelter of his muscular arm. “I’ve got s’more things…” Tain leaned across, digging into the shopping bag and producing a bottle of strong cold medicine and analgesic throat drops.  “T’help you feel better...”

“I do feel better,” the younger man croaked, leaning his damp head onto Tain’s hard chest as he gasped for breath.  “This… this helps...”

Tain went rigidly still, feeling the precious weight of the other man’s body as it settled against his larger frame - like two puzzle pieces locking together.  Slowly, he pulled his hand away from the medicine and brought it up to lay against the back of Arren’s head, cupping it gently.   The heel of his hand rested against Arren’s neck, and he could feel the heat of low-grade fever.  “I’m glad,” he breathed, closing his dark eyes for just a moment, savoring.  

Arren began moved his head back and forth, and it took Tain a second to realize that the younger man was rubbing his nose on the towel.  

“Gonna sneeze?”

Arren huffed half a laugh.  “A lot,” he croaked in a ruined rasp of a voice, still rubbing the towel urgently across his flaming nostrils.  “By doze is - h!H… so full of thihhh… this … HH!... wredtched c-cold… hh--… *snfl* … ahh... eh’g--gk… *snrt* … it keeps tryid t’… eh-hh… … hgm… hh’HUH!... *cough* … sdeeze it all … out... Huhh---HH-HIH--!...”

“Here,” Tain took the edge of the towel from Arren’s cold fingers, cupping it in his hand.  “I’ve got ya.”

Arren sagged against Tain’s firm chest, tucking his hands under his arms and letting the older man hold the makeshift hanky as his cold took over his tired body.

HGK-KKSHHHi’u! huh’gxschheww!... IPSHHHGKK! -H’IXGSHHHOU!....  h’grr-SSHH!...  HRUSHHHUu!

Tain felt each wet explosion punch into his palm, bracing the smaller man’s damp body as he sneezed and sneezed and sneezed.

“Good Lord, love,” Tain chuckled when Arren stopped for breath.  “Yer a right mess…”  Shifting a little, he pulled the towel so he could reach the other corner and brought it up to wipe away the greenish snot that had rocketed from the scarlet nostrils.  “...such a mess…”

“I kdow,” Arren rasped, closing his eyes and leaning more heavily into the older man’s arms.  

“Here,” Tain let go of his charge long enough to pour cold medicine and unwrap a lozenge. “Drink this down - hopefully it’ll take the edge off and help you sleep.”  Arren took the liquid like a shot of whiskey, tucking the throat drop into his cheek with a sigh.  “Let’s get you back to bed.”

Tain kept his big hands on the smaller man’s back as he shuffled down the hall.  Arren dropped both towels and fell into his bed with a groan, curling around his pillow and coughing raggedly.  The taller man’s large hands straightened the covers, tucking them around the bare shoulders that radiated heat.

As he turned to go, Arren’s hand shot out and grabbed hold of his wrist.

“Stay,” the Irishman whispered, not opening his eyes, cold fingers squeezing Tain’s arm just slightly.

“Sure, mate…” the Scotsman murmured, brow furrowing with confusion.  Arren pulled at Tain’s arm until the bigger man was forced to settle his hip on the bed just behind the sick man’s back, and kept pulling until Tain’s hand was tucked under Arren’s chin, elbow trapping the arm around his chest.  Tain hesitated a moment, until the position became uncomfortable enough that he had to swing his legs onto the bed and push his long body up against the other man’s.  

Arren gave a wheezing sigh, settling down into the mattress still holding on to Tain’s wrist.

“I ain’t yer teddy bear, y’know,” Tain rumbled, heart pounding and mouth dry.

“Yeah, y’are,” Arren’s hot breath blew over Tain’s fist.  “By big, brawdy lout of a... b-bear… hu’KSHHH! EPSCHHeiu!

“Bless,” Tain shifted, trying to mask his discomfort.  Being so close to his partner - practically wrapped around him as he sneezed tiredly into his pillow - was causing blood to rush to various parts of his body.  He was sure his cheeks were nearly as red as Arren’s nose.

The sick man made a low noise in his throat, the lozenge clacking against his teeth as he moved it from one cheek to the other, and sucked several deep sniffles that sounded like he was trying to manage the results of those two eruptions.

“Here,” Tain gently tugged at his trapped hand, smirking a little when the younger man whined in protest.  “Let me have m’hand back, love.  Just to fetch some tissues.  I promise I ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

Cold fingers reluctantly released their grip.  Tain rolled onto his back and reached a long arm down for the box that rested on the floor next to the bed.  Pulling it up, he settled it in the small gap between their bodies, pulling three squares and cupping them in one hand.  Reaching around, he pressed them to Arren’s face, amused when the sick man took a deep breath for a much-needed blow without  even opening his eyes.

“Thagk you…” came the drowsy whisper.  

Tain grunted, brushing the hot nose once more with the tissues before tossing them to the floor.  He could feel the feverish body next to him sinking deeper into the mattress as Arren drifted off to sleep, debating whether or not he should settle there or go back to his own bed.  Part of him wanted nothing more than to hold the younger man in his arms while he slept off this miserable cold... but part of him wanted to keep things between them unchanged.

If he stayed, if they slept in the same bed, it might lead to… other things.  Things that could ruin what they had spent ten years trying to build.

Tain sighed and started to roll away, but - almost as if he’d been anticipating it - Arren’s hand closed once more around his wrist.

“Stay,” Arren breathed, his other hand reaching behind him to settle on Tain’s lean hip.   “Love… stay.”

Tain’s big body froze, holding his breath.  The moment seemed poised, like a drop about to fall.  Then, slowly, he shifted to lie fully next to his partner.

“Bove the tissues.”

Awkwardly with the arm that was underneath, Tain flicked the box over Arren’s waist, happy when it didn’t fall onto the floor; he suspected they would be needing them later.   In a moment of weakness he indulged himself, molding his body around Arren’s and nuzzling into the soft curls at the back of his head, breathing the clean scent of him.   Hard muscles flexed under his arm, his nerve endings feeling hypersensitive to the warmth radiating from the other man’s skin.  

“...softie bear…” Arren murmured in his sleep, turning over and burrowing under Tain’s chin. When everything was finally settled, Tain found himself with arms full of feverish Irishman, listening as his wheezy breathing began to rattle with congested snores.

“Sleep, A,” Tain rumbled, pressing a bold kiss to the sick man’s warm head.  “M’not goin’ anywhere.”


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Wow. Just...wow. I'm sad I didn't see this story sooner but it's incredible!! The way you built the world, and the characterization, and the spellings, and just EVERYTHING! I know I'm gushing but I can't help it! A+++ work!

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What a GREAT story it was! The sneezing, the coughing fits, the congestion... everything I love in a sickfic. And the H/C was so well-done! It was the perfect balance between "I'm really concerned about my partner so I'll take care of him" and "I'm going to let him some personal space because I'm not sure about the way he will react if I come too close"... Your characters are completely credible and you have developped their psychology and interaction in a very interesting way. Thank you for sharing this fic!

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Omg! As usual, starpollen,  you always deliver the yummiest cold and H/C stories with all the wonderfully messy, sneezy details that I love to read. I loved this. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

This was incredible and very well written!!! I wouldn't mind seeing more of these boys, they're so cute!!!!! :heart:


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