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Of college quads and their occasional inhabitants (M/M)


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Righto. This originated as an RP that @Mr. Black Cherry Berry Tea and I did a while ago. (Green indicates his parts and purple mine.) 


As the title suggests, it’s set in the garden of a college somewhere in Oxbridge. There will be big sneezes and some smaller sneezes and cheesy stuff going on and also shirtless guys because why not. The characters are:

Archibald – undergraduate. Aristocratic. So stereotypically posh that deep down you can’t help liking him. Or is it rather because of his massive hayfever?

James – student. Artsy, musical, introverted, level-headed. Has had a few flings with Jon and is best buddies with Jordan. There’s a very good reason why he always wears sunglasses while outside. 

Jon — graduate student and lecturer. Political and snarky (you can imagine how well he gets along with Archie) and very well-gymmed to boot. Has had a few flings with James. Hates sneezing, so it’s a good thing that he has no allergies. No known allergies, I should say.

Jordan – also a student. Very fit and very handsome (don’t tell Jon I said that; there seems to be some competitive spirit between them). James’ best straight friend – or...?

Krishna – graduate student. Relatively sane, which is why he gets along well with James. What a shame he’s coming down with a cold when the weather’s finally gotten warm.

Pat – visiting student. American. Hopeless. Straight. His sinuses are very vocal about their disagreement with the English pollen. As in, very very vocal about it.




Krishna nodded along absently as his friend Archibald prattled on about cricket pitches and the weather at Eton and membership changes in the House of Lords, or whatever else it was that occupied blue bloods' interests. Not that Krishna himself was entirely uninterested. Archie actually had it in him to be a rather good conversationalist. Krish figured that was one of the things Archie and his set were bred for. 

"Well, Krishna? I asked your opinion! And also perhaps for your influence, I know you're popular with, well, everyone, and as my entreaties to the Head of Grounds have gone fruitless... oh... hih! Oh b-bugger my... ihhh! 'mgoingto... ha-ITSSHHH! ITTSCCHHHH! eehhh... hehhhh... ITTSSSCCHHHHahhh!" Archie blushed heavily, having failed to retrieve his handkerchief from his pocket in time to bury his nose therein, though it was draped across his still-flaring nostrils now, as he heaved his way towards another itchy: "iittttssssCCCCHHEWW! ha-itttTTSSCHHHH! itttssSSCCHHHH!" The fit of three was considerably wetter than the previous, a messy, spraying affair that he was quite grateful had occurred after his handkerchief was duly withdrawn. 

"O-oh..." he sighed, his sneezes having taken quite a bit out of him. 

"Bless you, mate." Krishna said, patting his friend on the back. "Perhaps before you bother the groundskeepers about the cricket grounds, you might speak to him about what gets planted out on the quad. It's like your allergies have gotten worse since last year, somehow. I worry about you! You sure you don't mind staying out here with me? I've got other friends coming, that Jon fellow who's in the grad seminar with me? I invited him out..."


That Jon fellow, indeed. Archie's eyebrows corrugated in an instantaneous twitch of irritation before he processed the rest of the sentence and almost choked on his Pimm's. "Out...?" he inquired with the greatest possible composure. Not that he – well, not that part of him – minded being in his presence, whatever the means; but ever-so-nonchalant Krishna's last bit was enough to put him on edge more than he would have ever admitted. 

"No, not that kind of out", Krishna answered with a smile. Of course not; Krishna, as far as anyone knew, was straight as an arrow, and surely not even Jon's undoubted graces could be expected to sway him in the opposite direction. Still, one wants to be certain of these things. Especially with someone as outrageously attractive as Jon. "You know Jon, right?" 

"Your handsome revolutionary? I believe so, yes." 

"Revolutionary, indeed..." Krishna barely suppressed a giggle, tactfully latching on to the noun rather than the adjective, which Archie was already regretting. "Here's your revolutionary anyway." 

"He's your revolutionary, Krishna. Who's he with, do you know?" 

"He mentioned he'd be taking his student, so I'm assuming it's him. Don't know his name, visiting from somewhere over the pond, Ohio State possibly? Not sure." 

"Good Lord", Archie replied before bringing the glass to his lips once more. Which was not a wise move, because — 


The blame for Archibald choking once more on his Pimm's rested with the anonymous American, who had produced what must have been a sneeze of some description. He was still bent in two at the waist, his arm bent sheepishly over his face, his face contorted into an expression which promised no good. "HHHHHHHHHHURRAAAAAATTTCCCHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" 

"They say everything's bigger over there", Krishna commented tartly. 

"They do", Archie assented. 

"And louder."

"Now, now. These petty and obviously unfounded prejudices are unworthy of you, Krishna." 

"I humbly apologise." 

The sneeze machine and the handsome revolutionary meanwhile were approaching apace, the one muttering a series of embarrassed apologies, the other hanging on to his books and papers with all his strength.


Jon approached, heartily regretting the fact that the books he carried in his arms afforded no free fingers to stuff in his ears. Somehow Patrick's sneezes were impossibly even louder outdoors than they had been throughout the discussion Jon had attempted to lead, a discussion which just barely survived the fury of his student's overactive nostrils. Jon had of course had students with allergies before, including one rather notorious and not-in-the-slightest-attractive aristocratic character who'd very earnestly inquired as to whether or not Jon would want his uncle—"a noted scholar in the Paterian tradition"—to come and give a guest lecture in Jon's class. No, thank you kindly, Jon could lead his own lectures just fine. So Jon was, in any case, familiar with allergic students. He was not familiar, however, with students who appeared to possess high-powered loudspeakers somewhere along their respiratory tracts. "Well, you know what they say," Jon muttered, not without irritation, "everything's bigger over there..." 

Jon saw Pat gearing up for another sneeze, and fairly sprinted over to where Krishna stood with... oh god. 

"Krishna." Jon said crisply. "Archibald." he added, with as much of a smile as he could muster. "I've brought along one of your students, Patrick, who I'm sure you've heard, if not heard of..." He said, indicating the growing storm behind him. "I've just survived an entire lecture of this," he stage-whispered to Krishna, "and trust me you're going to want to cover your ears with something. The last person I saw blow this hard was Boris Johnson giving a speech." Jon said, smirking a bit at his joke, at the expense of the Tory grandee – a common butt of Jon's jokes. 

Of course, as if in reaction for the joke, he felt a bit of a tickle sprouting in his own nose, though he couldn't have said what the cause was. He sneezed on occasion, but didn't have nearly the sensitivity to the university's flora and fauna as some of his friends... and not nearly so much as Pat, who was stumbling towards them, head back, nostrils agape, chest heaving. The American scrubbed at his nostrils as he struggled to keep his eyes open and his nose under control, though the need to sneeze seemed certain to overcome him, and sooner rather than later.


"Yes, cover, good idea", muttered Krishna as he eyed the American undergraduate's ever more precarious nasal stability. He smoothly rolled over to his side to interpose the historian's bulky frame between him and the brewing hurricane. 


"Thanks Jon, much obliged. You still there, Archie?" 

"Er... somehow", answered the windswept young man as he tried to shuffle his hair into a presentable shape. "And bless you...?" 

"Pat, my name's Pat. Hi" replied the American, embarrassedly offering his besneezed hand and promptly withdrawing it. 

"Archibald. How do you do." Archie replied with an ostentatiously benevolent smile. 

"Yeah, sorry about all the, um..." 

"No need to apologise... Pat. 'Tis the season, as they say." 

"And he knows as well as the next man", Krishna interjected. Jon looked at the boy even more askance. If there was anything more unbearable than trademark toff Archibald, Pre-Raphaelite Archibald, cricket-and-Pimm's Archibald, a-poppy-or-a-lily-in-your-medieval-hand Archibald, it was all those Archibalds with hayfever on top. "Anyway, I'm Krishna. Very nice to meet you, and sorry for all the pollen that our glorious isle sees fit to produce in such quantities."


Jon wished he could emulate Krishna's smoothness and politeness. Jon himself had very nearly asked Pat to step out of class, for all the times he'd had to stop mid-sentence, cut off by a rip-roaring sneeze in the middle of class. But then, if he remembered correctly, Archibald had felt the need to interrupt just as frequently, but for less uncontrollable reasons. 

"Your uncle still writing in the Paterian tradition?" Jon asked Archibald, sarcastically. Archie, for his part, completely failed to recognize any sarcasm at all, and eagerly replied. "Yes, and his latest book is under consideration now for a wider release beyond the academic press. Not that the breadth of the publishing is central to its influence but..." 

Krishna nudged him, and sighed, "he was joking, mate." Which of course only flustered Archie more, and he was surely going to launch into another speech when... true as can be, his allergy reasserted itself. 

"I'm s-sahh... s-sorry give me a minute I..." he trailed off, pulling a clean white handkerchief from some unknown pocket somewhere, as the sneeze overcame him and he buried his nose into the hankie for a series of sharp "ha-ITTSSCCHH! eeIITTSCHHHahhh... EEIITTTSCCHHaahhh! EEEIIITTSSCCCHHaahhh" sneezes. They came one right on top of the other, without giving Archie so much as a moment to breathe in between, and he recovered from the fit of sneezes looking rather worse for the wear. "I'm so sorry about that... I never had allergies to anything at Eton and I come here and just look... I swear it's what the gardener plants here... look what it does to the American!" Archie exclaimed, gesturing vaguely towards Pat, the far-away look in his eye intimating that nothing good was coming anytime soon. 

And even as Archie recovered from his sneeze, Jon felt a trembling itch in his nose, along with a sickly sweet smell... what was that smell? And was it really going to make him... oh dear. It couldn't be the pollen, or he'd have been sneezing his adorable head off alongside Archie and Pat. And yet, there it was, a very distinctive smell and a tickling sensation playing at his nostrils, that made Jon feel as though a sneeze was imminent...


The American's nose, for its part, seemed very keen to prove Archibald's point. “Hhhh... HHHH... HHHHHHHHH...! hhhhHHHH... HHuh!” As the tickle unexpectedly vanished from his nostrils, Pat was left for a few seconds with a tormented expression on his face and his cupped hands hovering in front of his mouth. When he realised the sneeze had gone, he gave a wet sniffle, smiled embarrassedly at the assembled company, and wiped his hands on his shorts before fumbling in his pockets for, presumably, something to blow his increasingly reddening nose on. 

Of course the tickle chose just that moment of maximum entanglement to strike back. Pat's head jerked suddenly back as his nostrils flared to maximum extent, sucking in what seemed like gallons of air – and pollen. "HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH... HHHHHHRRAAAAAAAAAAASSSCHHHHHHHOOOOO!! Heh... HHUHHHHH... HHHHURRRRASSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHH!!!

He dared not open his eyes to survey the destruction that his unrestrained, uncovered explosions must have visited upon that previously immaculate English garden - also because the tickle was far from done with him. He managed to extricate a bunch of toilet paper from his pockets. "Sorry, I think I've got one moreeeHHHHHHH..." He pressed the toilet paper hard against his face and mentally crossed his fingers. "HHHHHURRRRRRRRRMSCHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!

The last sneeze bent him low towards the ground, only to be promptly pushed back up by the powerful recoil. He blew his nose wetly in what - little - remained of the tissue, to buy time before facing his responsibilities... 

"Blepffff you", mouthed Archibald, sputtering out the leaves and petals of the once beautiful bed of hydrangeas into which he'd been thrown headlong by the force of the sneeze. Krishna, who once again had managed to avoid the firing line by a hair's breadth, couldn't suppress a hearty laugh at the sight of the Eton boy attempting, with admirable composure, to regain his balance and dust himself up. 

No less of a sight was Jon, whose robust frame and unrivalled core strength had prevented him from being blown away entirely – so there he stood, his shirt thoroughly soaked by the double onslaught of the American's allergic typhoon. If Krishna had ever wanted to know the exact position, size, and shape of the chiselled historian's nipples, well, now he did. Jon remained motionless for a few seconds, trying not to explode in his turn, with rather more deleterious effects on the hapless American's career... 

"Jesus Christ, guys, what's going on here?" Jordan's silvery voice rung across the garden before melting into a waterfall of laughter at the sight of Jon and Archibald – notoriously the worst-matched tutor-and-student pair in the college's history – pretending to be utterly unfazed by the situation. 

"Jordan, come on... pffffffft..." His best friend’s attempt at seriousness did not last beyond four seconds, and quite rightly so. "Sorry Dr Cunningham... and hi everyone..." 

"And bless you, I gather?" Jordan intermitted, flashing a smile at Pat, the bright red colour on whose face was not only the result of those evil allergens.


Jon was very nearly sputtering his way to what was likely to be an entirely too harsh condemnation of the poor sneezing American, when Krishna, as always, smoothly intervened – with an assist from Jon's itching nose. 

"Yes, ah, our friend Patrick here deserves as many blessings as you can find for him, I'm afraid. English air doesn't agree with him. Unless it was like this back home as well!" Krishna said, laughing. 

Pat’s sheepish nod suggested either that he still had to sneeze – likely enough – or that Krishna was on the money in blaming the frequency of his cannon-fire sneezes on the British air. Certainly Krishna hoped he hadn't suffered through such an explosive affliction for his entire life. Still, despite Krishna's game deflection, it was clear that Jon had a half-witty half-biting retort before he suddenly closed his mouth and began scrubbing violently at his nose, as though something were itching him. 

"What's the matter, Jon," Krishna got most of the way out, before he convulsed suddenly with a sharp, sudden, harsh, and violent, "huh! ehh-huh... hhett-CHOOOO!”

It was a quite loud, echoing explosion, perhaps not so loud as the American's, nor anywhere near as frequent, but nevertheless, not exactly a sneeze for polite company. It seemed to come over Jon all at once, and leave just as suddenly, a sneeze that sounded as though Jon was angry for being forced to sneeze at all, and wanted the involuntary explosion out of his body and done with as quickly and thoroughly as possible. It was a bit of a curmudgeonly sneeze, mixed with a hint of noisy exhibitionism... which wasn't a bad summary of Jon himself. 

"Ah-ha!" Krishna said, "Clearly our American friend – and our friend from the hallowed halls of Eton – are not the only ones suffering from allergic reactions today. Jordan, James, do either of you wish to add to the symphony of sneezes we've got here... got h-hehh... oh bugger..." 

And of course, in the middle of his joking, Krishna's own nose started tickling him, though he was quite aware that allergies were not the cause. Alisa had told him she was coming down with something, but there'd been wine, and she was beautiful and Krishna was his usual charming self, so... they might have kissed a bit anyway. And while Krishna did his best to put his vague feeling of not-quite-right-ness down to a lack of paracetamol, he knew, if he was being honest, that he was coming down with something. And it was that "coming down with something" that was tickling his nose at that moment... "o-oh... excuse me I... EHT-schhuuu! EHT-schuuuu! EHT-SCHUU!" 

Krishna's sneezes came in threes, as they always did, heavy and wet and yet somehow... very organized, reliable even. As he blushingly recovered, he couldn't help but say, "well, the gang's all here now, and it seems like I'm the one to add to the symphony, and it's only our newcomers who've managed not to succumb to the springtime pollen. But it'll get you sooner or later," Krishna said, sniffing and withdrawing a handkerchief from his pocket. "So lads! Got any weekend plans?"


"Plans? What is plans?" James' riposte was met with an eye-roll and a smile from Krishna.

"Sorry, for a moment I forgot who I was talking to." 

The newly arrived pair sat down on the grass, with Jordan making a point of sitting between his friend and the older graduate student. He beckoned to the sneezy American to sit down as well. 

"You brave man", muttered James under his breath. But Jordan was not listening, engaged as he was in a series of annoyed false starts. "Yes, I think I'm... HEH! going to add to the... hehh... EH! HEH! sneezes soon... H-HHEH! f*ck I hate this... HHHeh... HEH! HEH!

He was an endearing spectacle, his hand hovering in front of his face, ready to catch the brewing sneeze, if and when it deigned to come out... which did not seem to be anytime soon. 

"Right, is there anyone here who isn't sneezing?" queried Krishna; "I'm disqualified already; maybe you...?" 

"Doing my best, but don't count on me for too long with this lovely sunny weather", James replied, tapping at his sunglasses. 

"YYYYIHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSSHHHHHHHHH!!!" The elephant-like eruption that came from Pat's direction could presumably be interpreted as "Don't count on me either", although all that came out in verbal form was a stuffy "Sorry guys... Allergies..." before his eyes went aswim once more as his frame tensed up for yet another roaring sneeze: "HHHHHHHHHHHH... H-HUAHHH... HRRRRETTTCHOOOOOOOOOah!"

"Bless... HEH! oh god... Bless you... HEH! HHHEH! E-EH!

Archie admired Jordan's attempt at blessing the poor American through his own desperate hitching. He instinctively pressed his handkerchief harder against his nose, as though the others' pollen-fuelled suffering could trigger his own all too sensitive nose. 

"Jordan", sighed James, "just sneeze, mate." 


"Finally", James smiled. "Bless you!"


"Right then, that just leaves Jimmy boy," Jon said, not entirely subtly shifting towards the smaller man. Jon had certainly enjoyed James' company in the past, and wouldn't be entirely averse to doing so in the future. 

"Yes," Archie cut in, rolling his eyes, "clearly the flowers don't agree with me, and we have all been witness to our professorial friend 'cutting loose'!" Archie said, the slight laugh in his voice at his description of Jon's sneeze a sentence all its own. "And bless you, by the way, for that mighty sneeze. It sounds as though you're trying to compete with our American friend h-hehh... h-hehh... hehhh... here..." Archie began, but was cut off by his tickling nose before he could finish. 

Krishna couldn't help but laugh. "That's what you get mate, making fun of other's sneezes while you're still sitting here in a field full of pollen." Archibald could either use the few seconds he had before the sneeze burst from his nose to glare at Krishna, or he could use them to pull out his handkerchief and shield the others from the somewhat messy sneeze that was about to burst forth. As usually happened with Archibald, politeness prevailed, and he buried his nose in his handkerchief for a series of fitful, "ha-ITTSCHHH! ITTSCHHH! heh... hehEEIIITTSSSCCHH!!" sneezes. 

The last sneeze having been surpassingly violent for Archibald, it seemed that fit was enough to clear his tickling nose. "Whew!" He exclaimed, after having given his nose as dainty a blow as he could manage. Clearly that handkerchief was not long for this world, given all the use Archie had been giving it. But of course, he had several more – an Eton man would never travel out with only one handkerchief.


Meanwhile, Pat was far from finished. His face was contorted in a mask of allergic agony as he swallowed breath after breath of pollen-soaked air, his bright red nostrils flaring wide, battling against an urge to sneeze which was not letting go of his irritated sinuses. "HHHHEHHHH! HEHHHH! HHHEHHHH! Sorry guys I've gottaaAHHHHHHH! gotta sneeEEEEEHHHHH! gotta sneeEEEEEEEHHHH! HHHRRRAAAAAAAASSSCHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!! ...sneeze", he exhaled amid everyone's blessings.

Everyone's except Jon, in fact, who was biting his lip in an overt attempt not to yell at the unfortunate Ohioan - or perhaps not to let the lingering tickle overpower his nose a second time? Quite oblivious of his tutor, poor Pat was sniffling miserably through his barely-cleared nose as he tried to apologise for his continuing explosions. "I'b really sorry, I just cad't – sniiiiiiff – can't stop sneezing today, my allergies are so bad... oh no... HHHEHHHH... HHH-HAAAAAAAAASSHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!

"And bless you again, Pat!" purred James. "We're all still standing, yes?" he added, casting a quick glance around.

Pat blushed even more deeply. "Yes, I know, they're a little... loud maybe?" 

“Define maybe", Krishna interjected with a broad smile. 

"Oh don't you worry, you're not alone", added Jordan, giving James an ostentatious pat on his back "And I'm not talking about myself..." 

"Well, my dear, you should probably hope that I can keep my nose under control for as long as possible. Do you remember the last time I had a sneezer, during that rugby match?" 

Oh boy, yes, he did. And for all his affection towards James – wait, did he just phrase it like that? ('parently so) – Jordan wasn't overly keen on finding himself in the middle of it. And Jon – what the hell was he doing there? Did he always have to hang around? – Jon might go full berserk if one more person started sneezing.


In fact, Jon could not manage to keep back his annoyance. "Oh, oh yes, just a little loud, those sneezes of yours, Pat. I'll just say that the windows will be decidedly closed for all future class sections, to say the least." 

"Oh, come off of it Jon, it's not as though you've got the quietest sneezes in Creation," Krishna added. "Besides, our American friend is hardly the only one here with allergies, and just because his may be a bit more... potent than some of ours, doesn't mean you've got to shout at the poor kid. And besides, have you ever had the misfortune of being in front of Jordan when he lets loose, much less James? At least you still have windows after the American finishes." Krishna concluded, nodding his head towards James.

"Oh, yes, yes," Archibald added. "James does have quite the eh-ehhh... e-explosive... oh heavens I... I ahhhh... hhhh... hahhhh... ittscchh! ITTSSCCHH! HA-ITTSSCHHHEewwww! Oh! This blasted vegetation..." 

"Seriously," Jordan chimed in, "I'm not sure I've seen you sneeze nearly this much before, Archibald. Did they plant something new?" 

"I'm telling you," Archibald said, "they have planted something new and it is something cheap. As I said, regarding the vegetation at Eton..." 

"OH ENOUGH of Eton!" Jon leapt in. "You've got allergies, dear, that's not the university's fault, it's simply evolutionary justice. And perhaps not enough time outdoors as a boy, I've heard that can do it." 

"Oh, alright, alright, break it up boys," Krishna said, Jon and Archibald having grown dangerously close together over the course of their brief conversation. Krishna had taken a drama course or two, and at least on the stage, that degree of closeness was said to prime the combatants either for a kiss or a blow, and in the case of Archibald and Jon, no one could say with any degree of certainty how likely either was. 

To be fair, Archibald was snooty, intentionally or not, with more or less everyone. And Jon was combative... with more or less everyone, evidence article one being their sneezy American friend. And yet, Archie seemed to have an extra edge when Jon was around, and Jon seemed to be even more fond of ranting at Archibald than he was of ranting and anyone and everyone else so... Krishna's suspicions were that they were more fond of each other than their behavior would imply but... he let it lie for the time being. If it were going to come out, it would sooner or later. 

Besides, he had other concerns, such as his still-burgeoning cold. He turned to his side and released three perfectly-spaced sneezes: "EHT-scchhhaahh! ha-EHT-scchhuuu! EHTSSCHH-oooo!" He sneezed. He recovered, sniffling, nostrils rimmed pink and eyes bleary. "See, the pollen's getting to all of us, Jon, they're not doing it on purpose to irritate you, mate." Krishna said, jokingly, giving Jon's very well-muscled arm a playful punch.


James couldn't hold back a smile as he watched Krishna amiably recall the two historians to order like two schoolchildren – which was, to be fair, what they behaved like for much of their non-academic time. He leant ever so slightly to the side, where Jordan's sturdy frame was sitting right by him. They'd been very close ever since they'd met almost two years earlier, and he was sure that Jordan, straight though he was, would't mind a tiny bit of innocent, totally safe, no-homo physical contact. Tried and tested quite a few times, with zero side effects. Which was not to say it wasn't a bit of a shame that Jordan was so straight; but what can you do, they're everywhere, etc. He was brought back from his musings by the sharp feel of Jordan's muscles tensing up under his shirt as he tried to suppress another fit of hitches. 

"HEH! HEH! Sorry mate, it's back... HEH! HEH! HHH-HEH! Are you s-steady? HEH!

"Of course I am, don't worry about me", James answered with a smile. Jordan was strong, so laddish, so hot (well, can't deny that), and yet just a nice person. 


The sneezing fit was longer and stronger than usual. No surprise, given the amount of pollen that was obviously going around, to judge from the others' nasal reactions. But still. 

"Bless you, Jor." Jordan gave a deep, liquid sniffle and thanked him. "You all right?" 

"Yeah. Sneezing. Not lethal. Not yet." 

"Not yours", James capped him. 

"You keep those sunglasses right on your nose and make sure they don't move, or I’ll have to reconsider my previous statement. If I'm still there, that is."

"Oh come on, I've never killed anyone. Yet." 

"Sure not, you only blew Sam Beer and that other rugby bloke halfway across the pitch that once." 

"That was a long time ago. I'm a changed man now. Honest." 

"I hope so", Krishna interjected. "When you tried coxing in your first year, that time you had a sneezing fit during training the boat was going backwards. 

"Seriously. I could power a wind-farm on my own, and that's how you thank me? I'm a one-man source of renewable energy. I could provide electricity to all of College and charge all your bloody iphones for a year with just the right amount of solar power. You thankless bastards", he concluded with a burst of laughter.

Jordan and Krishna joined the laugh - and not because he was wrong to any significant extent. Pat, on the other hand, was confused, inexperienced as he was in the ways of James's nose (and optic nerve). Not that he had much leisure to be confused, given the renewed assault that his over-obstinate allergy was launching on his war-weary nasal defences. "HUHHHHH... Sorry guys there's another one comiIIIIIIIHHH... HAAAAAAAAAAAAAATTTSCHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!" 


"Oh, please, a bit louder next time, if you can?" Jon said, grumpily. "I thought this one here was the loudest sneezer I'd ever hear." He pointed to Jordan on that line, who simply nodded. 

"Guilty as charged," he said, holding his hands up and shrugging idly, before nestling into his buddy James a bit. Krishna was again suspicious that beneath their ostensibly platonic cuddling there was something else... alright, more than suspicious, given that both James and Jordan had come to him independently to confess certain... feelings? confusions? desires? But it wasn't his place to reveal what either had said, though it put him in quite the precarious position. There was no one he could confide in either; if he told Archie it would get around in a week's time, and if he told Jon, the man would end up playing up his history with James in front of Jordan, just to get a rise out of him. Jon wasn't always so evil but... catch him in a grumpy mood and he was more than capable of a bit of malice to amuse himself. 

Speaking of which: "That one I never hear because I know to steer clear when he gets sniffly." Jon said, nodding at James this time. Good job he's not allergic to feather pillows, or I probably wouldn't have much of a flat left..." Jon said, very offhandedly referring to his and James' history of... dalliance, so to speak. 

Predictably, Jordan stiffened a bit, but said nothing. Krishna, for his part, was eager to steer them onto another topic, but... "HHHA!" He took one deep, heavy breath, taking the opportunity to turn again to his side to release a characteristic, heavy triple: "HA-ETCHH-uuu! ETCH-oooo! Haahh... EHT-chhhhhhh!" He rubbed at his nose, knowing that it was not a confluence of pollens irritating his nose, but a much more internal irritant provoking his nostrils. 

"Hmm... looks like the Blue-Blood and the American aren't the only ones suffering from new and worsening allergies this afternoon, eh?" Jon said, looking at Krishna, all innocence on the surface and suspicion underneath, "I've never seen you suffering from allergies like this, Krish." 

"Well, yes, you're right," Krishna said, "Must be something n-nehh... new..." Of course, his nose took that opportunity to play up again, and he succumbed to three sneezes, harsher and wetter than the previous: "ETTTSCCHHH! Ha... Ha-ETTSSCHHH-uhhhh! EHTTScchhhuuuu!" 

"Yes, quite a severe new allergy, isn't it?" Jon joked. 

"Oh settle down Jon." Jordan called, not even looking at Jon. He was, in fact, staring down at James, who was looking away. He liked to steal glances when he could. 

"Has he been like this all day?" James asked Pat, who, sneaking a glance at his teacher, gave a sheepish nod. 

"M-mahh... m-my fault though I know... h-ahhhh... hh-hard to t-teach when I'm... when I'm... oh h-hehhhhh.... hehhhehehEHHHHHH... H-here it c-cuhhhhhHH..." The American, as expected, collapsed into another sniffly, twitchy buildup, clearly preparing to launch another firecracker of a sneeze. 

Jon simply looked unfazed, and brought his hands up to cover his ears. "Talking makes him sneeze, James darling. I learnt that early in the session." Most of the group did the same, though Jordan – the only one of the group whose own sneezes occasionally rivaled Pat's in sheer sound, and exceeded them in force – couldn't be bothered to move. That may or may not have been due to the position of his arms relative to James' body but... you couldn't prove it in a court of law. You couldn't.


James seized the opportunity to shield himself from Pat's impending explosion behind the homely fortress of Jordan's torso. Not that he'd risk being blown away, lithe and aerodynamic as his polished frame was. But still - it was certainly the most appealing place to be right then, sneeze or no sneeze. And so it was with Olympic calm that the listened to the American's raucous, pained release. 


"Bless you", he muttered absent-mindedly. But the unannounced sneeze that immediately followed from Jordan himself caught him by surprise - “HUPPPTCHOOO!”. 

The unexpected noise and the sudden convulsion of Jordan's body were enough to cause James to jerk forward inadvertently. This would not have mattered much, had his trusted sunglasses not been perched just loose enough on his nose and ears that, as objects do whenever you don't want them to, they decided to take leave of their owner and fall onto the grassy ground. 

"Uh oh", went Jordan. 

"Sorry – sniff – I just can't seem to be able to stop sneezing, and I'm – sniff – I'm sorry they're so big, I really can't help it", the befuddled Pat apologised once more. 

"Oh you have no idea." Krishna replied. 

Jordan leant forward to pick up his friend's glasses, brushing his arm against his in the most totally unintentional of ways. "Here, mate, here they are” – he pushed them into James's hand as he shielded his eyes from the bright summer sunlight with the other. The smaller man quickly put them on, but Jordan's experienced eyes were quick to realise that whatever effect the sun could have on his excruciatingly sensitive optic nerve, it had already had. James’ lips parted slightly, his nostrils imperceptibly flaring, his hand hovering in front of his face as though undecided whether to protect his eyes from the light or the world from an oncoming sneeze. 

"You so have no idea", Krishna reiterated as he scanned the verdant garden for cover. 

"Huh?" went the hapless American. 

"You'll see soon enough, believe me. And you'll never complain you've got big sneezes again." 

Jon and Archibald, neither of whom had been exposed to the full force of James's sternutations before, stood there, quite perplexed. 

"It's going to be all right, it was just a moment, right? Can't have bothered your nose all that much, right? Don't think about it and all will be fine", Jordan was telling James in the softest voice he could manage. Not that James could pay much attention to what was going on outside him. Within the space of a few seconds every muscle of his body was tensing up like a crossbow wound and wound to a hair's breadth from breaking point. He barely managed to whisper a 'sorry' at the top of his breath before his whole upper body dove forward in a lung-wrenching double. "HEAAAATTTTCHHHHHHHHH!! HETTTTCHOOOOOOOOOO!!

Jordan had curled up into as diminutive a ball as his dignity and physique allowed. Krishna was lying flat on the ground as he entreated every deity in the pantheon not to end his life by allowing him to be flung all the way across to Magdalen Tower. Pat was doing nothing in particular, but luckily he was out of the firing line. Who wasn't out of the firing line, unfortunately, were first of all several yards of flowerbeds and the two luxuriant peach trees whose foliage and flowers had been the pride of the garden until that moment; and secondly, Jon and Archibald, who had failed to dodge or run for cover and had been swept off their feet accordingly.

Krishna opened one eye, realised he was still in one piece, opened the other, saw Pat still standing, good, turned to where the other two historians had been, no-one in sight, sh*t. He jumped up and ran, closely followed by Jordan, who knew well enough the destructive force of his best buddy's sneezing. But there they were, Archie and Jon, one tangle of irate historians trying to unravel itself while wedged between the secular mulberry tree and the outside wall. Pat and Krishna couldn't suppress a hearty laugh as the other two gawkily extricated themselves from each other's arms. 

"WHAT THE ACTUAL F*CK", thundered Jon as soon as his mouth was free from whatever fold of Archibald's shirt it had become entangled in. 

"Not his fault... he really can't help it..." Jordan proffered while trying (and failing) not to burst out laughing right in his face.



Archie was already sputtering his way towards shock before he'd even fully extricated himself from his so-called rival, whose body he absolutely, positively, definitely did NOT enjoy tangling with. (Of course, if he were being honest with himself, the fact that he was more focused on how much he did not enjoy Jon's hard body than the fact that he'd just been blasted halfway across campus with a sneeze probably was fairly telling.) "What just... wh-what... whahhh..." 

Of course, before he could get his outrage past his lips, his nose caught up with the fact that there had been quite a lot of pollen blasted into the air along with, well, Archie and Jon, and the sudden influx of coarse, common pollen was entirely too much for the refined interiors of Archibald's now twitching and wriggling nostrils. And it didn't take long before he was off to the races – or sneezes, as it were: "issssSHHH! ha-ISSshhh! Issshhhh!" He burst with a quick, relatively quite triple, but he'd barely gotten that one out before he was twitching and inhaling his way to another... "hehh... ee-ehhhh... ehh... hehhh..." his face contorted with allergic need, the pollen having done quite a number on his sensitive sinuses. His head tilted back. His rather genuinely aristocratic face scrunching in, the eyes turning down and leaking at the corners, the mouth lengthening, the jaw dropping, everything seeming to pull in so that his nose became the epicenter of his face, before suddenly everything went lax with forceful release: "issshhhAAHH! ha-ittsscchh! ittsccchhh!" he sneezed, the first rather violent and vocal, the latter two more wet and restrained. "B-bloody... I d-don't think I'm... I d-don't thihhh... think I can... st-stop..." Archibald said, his voice wavering with sneezy need before his chest began rising and falling with heavy breaths. 

"Thank God Jimmy here doesn't sneeze like this one, or we'd have been blasted to the other side of the island by now..." Jon said, his irritation flailing around for any target available. Meanwhile, Krishna was ensuring that James – and everyone else – was alright and upright. 

"All in all not too bad, by your standards. At least you only managed to blast the dueling historians. Might have done them some good," Krishna said, as Archie continued to hitch his way to a sneeze, and Jon continued to rant. "What on earth WAS that? I mean, how was it even aerodynamically possible? And who is responsible for keeping those glasses on the man's face. No wonder he wears them so often, he turns into either the world's strongest air cannon or the world's smallest hurricane as soon as he takes them off!" 

Archie by that time had launched into not one but two sets of small yet ferocious sneezes, in a fit that didn't show signs of abating any time soon. "ittscchh! ha-itttscchhh! ITTSCCHHh!" Archie sneezed, instantly going into a buildup for another. 

"And you! If you'd sneeze proper and hard, instead of giving those little air puffs that pass muster in the great halls of the aristocrats, maybe you'd fihh... you'd fi-hihh... o-oh bloody h-hehhh.. hell not me too..." Jon complained, before following his own advice and giving a quite proper hard: "ahtsss-CHOOOO!

The release was a roar of sound, Jon's own nose finally catching up to the reality that he'd just spent several moments tangled in the folds of a cologne that decidedly did NOT agree with his nose. Which is why, despite following the injunction to sneeze proper and hard, he found himself not finishing, but sneezing again. And again. "ah... hahh... hah! hah! HAH! HATT-CCCHOOOOO!!" His second sneeze was harder than the first, and even more vocal, sounding as though it scraped his throat on the exit. It was a violent sneeze, and he followed it up with an even more violent "'CCHOOOO!

It was as though the more he sneezed, the less he wanted to sneeze, and so he did his best to push it out as forcefully as possible, as though that would clear the irritation from his nose… And yet, the cologne had settled too deep, and he found himself inhaling towards yet another sneeze, while Archie too found no relief from the allergic tickle that had settled in his nose. 

"Well, if they can't get along, at least they can sneeze in sync." Krishna sighed, as they did, true to his word, unleash an "itttssccchhh!" and a "CHHOOOOO!" at precisely the same time... and went right into building towards the next.


"Was that... was that real?" Pat approached James, wide-eyed, mouth half-open, with the admiration of a small kid who's just discovered that his best friend's brother once talked to Adele at the supermarket. Or something. 

"Er... um... yes?" answered James, sniffly and perplexed and amused in equal parts, holding on to his sunglasses for dear life. 

"You're incredible, man. You blew the two of them right across the garden! Like... I salute you. You're the sneeze boss." Pat's excitement was underscored by his proffering five consecutive sentences without as much as a sniffle. 

It did wear out soon enough, though. James was still answering, with due politeness - "Well, you're pretty powerful too, I mean, no ear-drum damage yet as far as I'm concerned, but I tell you it was close" - when the tickle came back with a vengeance. "Right, here we are again... do you want me to move?" added James, slowly inching away from the sneeze-addled American before he'd even finished the question. 

"Sorry... hhhhHHHHHH... HHHEAAAAAHHH... HAAAAAAAA... HAAAAAAAAYYESSSSSSSCHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!! HOOOOOOHH... HARRRRRSCHHHHHHHOOOOSHH!!" Pat didn't even hear James' blessing, so absorbed he was by the urge to sneeze that just wouldn't let go of his sinuses. His eyes were shut to the world, his chest heaving and heaving in a dramatic buildup. "HAAAAAAAAHH... HUH-HAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH... HAAAAAAAATTTSCHHHHHHHHHHHHH!! HEIHHHHHH... HEEEEYAASSSCHHHHHHHHHHHHHHOOOO!! I'b - sniiiff - I'm so sorry, I just can't help it... there's - sniiiiiff - too much pollen in this country... I can't stop sneeeeeeehhh... sneezing, and I can't help how big they are..." 

James' lips curled into a wry smile. "Wait a minute - you are apologising to me for big sneezes?"

"Well ok, fair enough but still... h-huh... hihhh... HEEEEEHHH... HEAAAAAAAAAAAAATTTTCHHHHHHHHHHHOOO!!"


As Pat and James pursued their sneeze-punctuated conversation, Jon and Archie... continued to sneeze. 

"Hhehh... what's... wh-what's making... making me... making... atsss-CHOOOO!! heh! HEH! 'CHOOOO!!" Jon sneezed, a rare double. Clearly something was driving his sinuses absolutely wild, and he had absolutely no clue what it was. But he was going to find out. He began wandering around and sniffing rather angrily at the plants, as though daring them to make his nose twitch. And yet... not a single one did. 

"Whatcha doing, friend?" Krishna asked, amusement clear in his voice. 

"Uh, yeah, if you want to stop sneezing... you'll probably want to do the opposite of that..." Jordan rumbled, in his deep voice. 

"I'm invehhhh... hehh... invehhhh... vehhh... hehhhhhhhh... HEH-CHOOOOOOOO!!!" Jon all but roared that one out, as though he were trying to compete with his student in volume (he would have lost, of course, but still, an excellent effort.) Jon gave a harsh sniff. "I'm investigating. I've never been allergic to a plant in my life, just dust and my grandfather's old colognes..." 

Gradually, a thought struck Jon. "Wait a bloody moment..." the muscular man stalked over towards Archie, who was just beginning to recover from his helpless, incessant sneezing fits. 

"Wh-what are you doing... d-doing... itsschhhaah! ittsschhh! hittsshhh!" He sneezed. "Surely you don't think that I am the c-cause of your... rather noisy lapses in c-con... contrahhh... ahhhh... attsschhuuhh! attsscchh! AAattscchh!" But of course, that was precisely what Jon thought. Of course. He thought he smelled something on the old blue blood. Jon might have thought privately to himself that it smelled rather nice... but as he put his nose to Archie's neck, just where the neck met the shoulder, and gave a huge breath in... it instantly felt as though his nose was on fire. He turned to the side just quickly enough to avoid spraying Archibald with a great, galumphing series of: "HAH... EHHH-CHOOOOO! HEH-CHOOOO! HUUUHH.... CHOOOOOOOO!!!" sneezes, each harsher and more vocal than the last. Yep... he knew what he was allergic to, alright.


Jordan's persistent smirk at Jon's cologne-based hysterics (#firstworldproblems Oxford style, again) soon turned into a more worrisome grimace. The pollen James's nasal explosion had stirred all over the garden was clearly taking effect on his sinuses too. "Heh... heh... HEH...

James turned round inquisitively as soon as the first hitches reached his ever-sensitive ears. “You all right, mate?" 

"HEH! Yeahhh... H-HEH...! Just... HEH! HHHEH! trying to sneeze... HIH! HWAASSSCHOOOOOOO!

"There you go. Bless you", James walked up to him with a broad smile. "Any more?" 

Jordan nodded affirmatively as his nostrils flared wide once again and his eyelids fluttered close. "HUH... HOOOSSSCHOOOOOOOOOOO!" Jordan's attempt to sneeze towards the ground was too late to be effective, and James' lithe body was almost pushed back by the gust that erupted unhindered from his friends' nasal cavities. Sensing that the tickle persisted, Jordan brought his hands up to his face as he muttered an apology. He turned away from James – why did James feel almost a pang of rejection there? – as his broad lungs filled once more with the warm springly air. As his whole torso arched up – why is he straight, why – he pressed his hands hard on either side of his mouth and nose, like a steeple standing tall against a stormy night-time sky. The release was gunfire-like in power, volume, and speed; his hands were forced forward and outward as a lungful of sneezing burst out, untamed, overwhelming. "HMPRRRRRRRRRRRSCHHHHHHHOWWWWW!

James could never have explained why the sight of Jordan's lips in that split second felt like a glimpse of beauty through the keyhole of her chamber. Not that he'd never seen his friend sneeze his face off like that before – though, to be fair, the last few were particularly powerful even for his standards. He recollected himself quickly enough to offer a soft, concerned-sounding blessing; perhaps more concerned-sounding than he meant. 

"Thagks - sniff - I think I'm done now." 

"I'm glad. I was starting to get worried I'd be the one blown away next." 

"Nah. You know you're safe with me around."


"HAH - CHOOO!!!" Jon sneezed, incredibly forcefully, if not with as much volume as the gentle giant Jordan or the airhorn American Pat. Nevertheless, it was a major, violent sneeze that bent the muscular man double, and he came up bleary-eyed and sniffling. "Oh yes, it's that perfume of yours alright!" He boomed, whirling on Archie before doubling over with another "'CHOOOOO!!!" sneeze. 

Archibald, for his part, had finished sneezing – for the moment – and was gently dabbing his nose with a handkerchief. "Oh, Jonathan, don't go blaming your great galumphing sneezes on me; I've got nothing to do with this. And it's not 'perfume,' it is the finest in cologne, and if you can't appreciate it, clearly the fault is on you, not this excellent cologne." Archie said, covering over the fact that he frankly felt terrible about setting off Jon's allergies so badly – the man was plainly gearing up for another sneeze as Archie spoke – by being snippy and snooty. In other words, Archie's usual behavior, especially around Jon. 

Jon, for his part, could barely get two words out between eruptive "CHOOOOOOO!!!" sneezes – taking a direct hit from the cologne had not been among his better ideas. 

"Goodness, Jon," Krishna added. "One whiff of that perfume and you turn into Pat!" 

There was a round of laughter all around at that, which seemed only to add to Jon's frustration, and somehow Jon's frustration seemed to add to his sneezing, as he snapped back and forth with an immense triple: "AHCHOOOO! AHT-CHHOOOOOO!! HAHH... CHOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Oh god, I don't think it'll ever stop! Not that I believe in G-gaahhhhhhhh... CHOOOOO!!!

As Jon kept sneezing away – and though Krishna’s was a hyperbole, Jon's sneezes were decidedly edging towards Pat-like territory – Krishna had to rub a bit at his own nose, which was beginning to tickle. Yes, he was definitely starting to come down with something. But he'd push through, be the brilliant and entertaining yet level-headed one... and maybe push Jon and Archie closer together cold or no cold, allergies or no allergies. But that didn't mean he'd get out of it without a few sneezes, and he release a triple of his own: "ehhTSCCHHUUUuhhhh... EHHTTSSccchhuuuhhh... HA-" He scrubbed at his nose again, waiting for the final sneeze to release, his face an absolute grimace of sneezy need before he finally got the sneeze to come roaring out with a "HETTSSCCHHHooooOOOOO!!

"Bit of a sing-songy one for you, ain't it mate?" Jordan asked with a wary eye.

"Seems like everyone's sneezing up a storm today," James added in. 

"Yes, some of us more literally than others," Krishna shot back, as he gave his nose a gentle blow to clear it of irritation.


Jordan could not repress a feeling of satisfaction as his rival – wait, his what? – succumbed to allergic sneeze after allergic sneeze, helpless, Pat-like. And was there a touch of special pleasure in seeing him so thoroughly karma-ed right in front of James? Anyway, it served him well, after he'd spent a good hour complaining about the American's allergies as though he didn't have a nose of his own. 

Speaking of Pat, the pollen that had so affected Jordan's sensitive sinuses – and he could tell it was far from finished with him – was also riding roughshod over the Ohio boy's beleaguered nasal cavities. "I'm sorry guyyyiiihhh... HAAAAAAAAAAA... H-HUH-HAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH..." The poor man had a talent for drawing attention precisely as he tried to avoid it. But fair enough; they'd all have noticed very soon anyway. "HYYAAAASCHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOO! HUH...HAAAAAAAACKKKKSCHHHHHHHHHHHHH! One moreeeeeehhhh..." The third was stuck for a few seconds as Pat's breath hitched and hitched, his jaw hanging loose, one hand hovering perfunctorily before it. 

"Three... two... one..." Krishna counted, relishing the opportunity to distract the company's attention from his own unwelcome sneeziness. And, precise to the second, Pat's nasal blast arrived. "HOOOOARRRRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOSCCHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!

The lush grass was combed down for an instant in front of him, an Aeolian wave brushing outward at lightning speed. A blessing went round the merry (and sneezy) brigade; yes, even Jon, though it may have been relief at the few minutes' peace that would follow the sneeze attack while the allergens regrouped and plotted their next, inexorable onslaught. 

But Jordan and his nasal afflictions were not to be left out of the equation. "Here we go agaihhh..." His mellow baritone edged up a third as the incipient sneeze forced its way into his respiratory system. Once again he turned to his side, and once again, as though by some magical coincidence, at his side there was James. Their shoulders made casual contact. 

"It's ok, don't apologise", the leaner man whispered. 

"HATTTTSCHOOOOOOOOOOO! 'CKKKSHOOOOOOOOOO! MMMMBRRRSCHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" There was no restraining the third explosion, no matter how hard he tried. Even the strength of his gym-sculpted arms was no use when his nose and his equally gym-sculpted chest muscled conspired. 

James' hesitant "Bless you" sounded like a charm poured into his ear as he geared up with yet another gust of pollen-induced tickle. "HEH! HEH! HEH! HWWWAASCHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" His eyes still closed, he sniffled thickly as he pawed at his pocket, looking to retrieve a tissue which he knew – damn – he didn't have. He opened them to find one in James' outstretched hand. 

"T-thanks mate", he stammered as he took it and gave his poor irritated nose a well-deserved blow.

"Essay for next week: 'Who has the hugest sneezes in the present company? Discuss'," came Krishna's sarcastic sing-song. 

"How is that even a question", exclaimed Jordan as his eyes darted aside to meet James'. 

"Don't make assumptions, there's some competition there", Krishna corrected him.

"I... I don't know, guys, his sneezes are pretty big, but I still - I don't know, mine feel big, and I think they're loud too, but on the other hand, I've never managed to blow someone across the yard like you just did, so maybe...?" Pat blurted out, as confused and earnest as ever. 

"Pat, my friend, I think it was a joke", James suggested.

"He is the joke", sobbed Jon in utter exasperation.

"Oh shut up, you just know you can't compete…" Jordan didn't quite know where that last retort came from, level-headed though he normally was, but... it did. And he wouldn't allow himself to regret it. Quite the contrary. "...no matter how hard you try."


"Can't com... can't...? Excuse me?" Jon said, nostrils flaring in indignation – or with the need to sneeze. It was unclear which, and it was probably both, especially since Jon barely spluttered out two more astonished words before his nose got the better of him and he emitted another raucous "CHOOOOOOO!!!" The sneeze bent Jon double, and he rose from his hunched over position with fury in his eyes and a sneeze still in his nose. "Can't compete? I'll have you know i can compete with whoever about wh-what... wh-whatever... whuuuhhh.... hUH-CHOOOOO!!

"Hmm, and apparently he's trying to get in on the sneeze competition. Points for volume, but sadly deficient in force," Krishna broke in, attempting to add some levity and also to defuse the mounting tension between Jon and Jordan. The two of them always seemed to have some unspoken competitive thing going on, never stated but ever-present. Krishna personally thought it had more to do with James than either of them – Jordan especially – wished to acknowledge. 

"Oh shut up," Jon responded, still with heat in his voice. "L-lihh... listen, if i e-ever... heh... ever stop sn-snehh... heh... HEH-CHOOOOOO!!! For god's sake, your damned blue-blooded perfume is wreaking havoc on my nose." Jon said, whirling briefly on Archie, who only sniffed heavily and replied "Now you know how I f-feh... how I fehh... feel with this g-gahhh... god... god-forsaken... pahhh... ahhh... hittsschhhhuuuu!! ittscchh! HITttscchh!!" Archie sneezed, rather the inverse of Jon's heavy, pounding blasts. They were quick, almost catlike, harsh, forceful in their own way but not a loud announcement; rather a burst that felt as though they were ripped from Archie's slender frame. 

"AH-CHOOO!!!" Jon sneezed, sharply and declaratively as ever. "As I was trying to say, if I ever stop bloody sneezing, you can challenge me to whatEVER you want, Jordan, and I am MORE than confident I will beat you," Jon said, his eyes darting over every so often to James, as though undecided about whether or not to drag him into this little fight. 

Meanwhile, Krishna had fallen silent because once again his cold was rearing its head and making him sneeze a round of "EHTTSScchhhUUHHH!! eeehhhhtttsscchhhOOOO!!" sneezes. When he recovered, through his bleary eyes he saw Jon and Jordan edging closer and closer to each other, a challenge clearly on both men's minds.


"Chill, mate. I've got better things to do than competing with you," Jordan retorted with a sharper edge in his voice than even he expected. "But if you want to, I'm ready when you are." 

"For God's sake, guys, how old are you two?" James interposed. "You especially, Jon. Is this the example you want to give the former colonies?" Pat, terrified, produced a squeaky, nervous laugh. 

Krishna caught James' sarcasm and played along. "Well, if sneeze magnitude is the worst they can compete in, I guess we're not doing all that badly. Unless you want to take part too, James..." 

"You're talking about the size of your sneezes as if it were a proxy for that of your genitalia, gentlemen. As our mutual friend said, how old are you?" Archie commented drily, with the evident aim to infuriate Jon and shock everyone else. 

"Language, sir" Krishna replied with faux outrage at the vocabulary that had taken leave of such exalted lips. Jon hesitated for a moment whether to reply in tune or not. Wisely, he chose not - for the time being. 

"Look, Jon, I get it," James went on, "sneezing sucks. We all know that. Now we also know you're allergic to cologne. Many condolences. Honest. But you'll stop sneezing at some point—" 

"—especially if you don't blast the two of them into each other's arms again like a pair of highly allergic turtledoves," Krishna finished off his sentence.

"Precisely, Krish. Now everyone keep calm and carry on sneezing." 

Pat let out another, less nervous laughter before the pollen came back with a vengeance. "Hiiiihhh... HAAAAAAAHHHH... HEH-HUUUUUUURRRRSCHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! HUHHHH... YAAAAAAAAASSSSCHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

"Bless you Pat," Krishna responded. "Very good job. Jon, you need to step up your game, and Jordan, you're in for some serious competition too." 


"Now there's no need to overdo it like this, Pat, we've got it—" 

"HWAAAASSSCHOOOOOOO!" Jordan thundered, making Krishna jump.

"Bless you," proffered James, holding out a fresh tissue in place of the one the bigger man had all but pulverised.


"W-well if you insiiihhhiiist..." Archie joked before bursting out with three more "issshhh! HA-isshhhhttt! hiisshhhhhh!" sneezes. "Carrying on sneezing is one thing I can certainly do. And Jonathan, I hope you've calmed down now. Besides, it wasn't even James' fault. Typical Jonathan," Archie continued, "running in before he thinks. If you are allergic to my cologne – not 'perfume,' thank you very much – if you really are allergic, why on earth would you think sniffing me like a common dog would be a good test? Frankly you deserve your apparently quite lengthy sneezing jag. Speaking of which, bless you." Archie said drily, just as Jon was winding up for another heavy, "eh... h-HEH... HEH-CHOOOO!!!" sneeze. Jon wiped his nose rather aggressively against his sleeve, and while he continued to pout and scowl, he seemed to have calmed down, at least for the time being. Jordan, however, couldn't resist the urge to poke a bit. 

"Decidedly inferior." He sniffed. "Nothing compared to my sneeze, let alone James'." Jordan said, looking at Jon, unimpressed. 

"Get out the measuring tape..." Krishna said, rolling his eyes, and walking over closer to the sneezy American and Archie, who were increasingly edging away from Jon and Jordan. James, for his part, stayed right where he was. If Krishna wasn't entirely mistaken, he was enjoying the attention a bit. If nothing else, it must have been a great novelty for James to have everybody worried about someone else's sneezes, given that his own so often caused such consternation. 

"It's like everyone's f-for... heh... oh these a-allergies..." Archie stammered, his own nose still preoccupied by the pollen that was floating around. "It's like everyone's forgotten our friend James blasted me into a tree only a few moments ago. But then, silly boys will find a reason to compete about anything and everything. I hesitate to say it's a feature of the lower classes, what with the history of the nobility, but Jonathan seems determined to give the lie to the history... h-history... ohbuggernotagain... isshhoo! ishhh-oo! isshhooo!. – sniff! – that said, given my own allergies, I can certainly identify with Jonathan's frustration." 

"Stop calling me Jonathan," Jon said, still petulant, but smiling a bit now. "And fine, obviously I can't compete with any of the three of you gentlemen in the sneezing department, as if I'd want to terrify everyone who comes within a hundred feet of me. But there are plenty of other things I can compete in. I can, for instance, lift weights rather better than anyone else here, Jordan included. And I have the results to prove it," Jon said, smirking as he lifted his shirt off, showing off a very defined physique. It was true, Jon's hours in the gym had paid off... and then some. 

"Ah, what a nice warm day to lounge on the quad, shirts optional as usual, right lads?" Jon said, smirking, mostly at Jordan, but really at any passers-by. Jon was rather deservedly proud of his muscular form, though perhaps his particular method of showing off was... inappropriate for the moment.


"Quite right. What a lovely sunny day," Jordan retorted, biting his lip. He obviously couldn't compete with Jon in sheer bulk and, let's say, definition; but he'd be damned if he'd give up without a fight, especially since his own upper body was far from underexercised. "Ah – just what I needed. Wonderful idea, thanks Jon," he said with the most glowing smile he was capable of as he peeled his shirt off his powerful shoulders and laid on his back on the lush, tickly grass. 

 "D-do I need to do that too?" asked the befuddled American. 

"Please don't," James answered, "you're all right." 

"In the good old days we used port to shock and awe our friends from over the pond during tutorials," Krishna mused aloud. "Now it's muscle mass. Goodness gracious, what is the world coming to. And no, I'm keeping my shirt on, thanks for asking. My, er, shapely physique is not for the common folk to gaze upon." 

James, meanwhile, did not know where to look. He had seen both young men in similar states of undress – and more thorough states of undress, too – but the situation was quite extraordinary, and he had the strange feeling of being an object of contention of some sort. But surely that couldn't be the case? Jon was just being his usual... bit of a dick, nothing more; and Jordan – Jordan was his friend, no? His beloved, handsome, hopelessly straight friend... He let his gaze wander discreetly over their two bare chests and lingered on Jordan's with an imperceptible sigh.

"You all right?" Jordan asked quietly in between sniffles.

"Yeah," he answered with a smile.

"You're not taking it off?" Jordan winked.

Hell, why not, James thought. "I bow to popular demand," he smirked vaguely in Jon's direction. He grabbed the hem of his t-shirt and pulled it right off in one smooth motion, baring his lithe but strong torso – and knocking his sunglasses off his nose in the process. "F*ck," he cursed under his breath as he squinted at the bright springly sunlight. 

"Oh," went Jon. "Oh," went Jordan. (Both of them, for some reason, had their eyes fixed on him.) 

Sniffling ever more thickly - lying right on the grass isn't the best of ideas when you have a pollen allergy yourself – Jordan swiftly propped himself up on his elbow and stretched out his arm to pluck the glasses from the ground. Their hands and eyes made contact as he handed them back. "It's going to be ok, don't worry," he whispered as James' nostrils started to curl and flare. 

"Run for your life," Krishna advised Pat. 

"No f*cking way," the Ohioan responded, the circumstances having persuaded him that Oxford was not as formal as he once assumed. "That guy's my idol." 

Meanwhile James' breath was hitching more and more forcefully, his body tensing up with every intake of breath, his eyes shuttered close, his hand still mere millimetres from Jordan's. 

"I'll catch you, James. Sneeze away." 

The leaner man barely had time to nod before his whole body convulsed with a gargantuan explosion, and then another. "HEH-HEEAAAAAAAAAAATTTCHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!! HOO-HAAAAAAAAAATTTCHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!

The recoil from that nuclear double landed him hard on Jordan's solid frame, and before he realised he found himself enveloped by his friend's protecting arm. "Bless you", Jordan's voice came from above as he blinked back photic tears. His friend seemed to be trying to hold back laughter. 


When James’ vision became clearer, he realised what had gone wrong. In the throes of the impending sneeze, his top priority being (understandably) not to blast Jordan a mile away, he had opted to sneeze the other way. In so doing, however, he had failed to notice that this meant sneezing right on Jon, who was lying on the other side of him at remarkably close quarters. Now, lying flat on the ground does reduce the likelihood of being carried off by a sudden gale, but when the gale amounts to two of James' sneezes, aerodynamics only takes you so far. In brief, the blast had once more sent Jon flying several yards away, and with him young Archibald, who, for some unfathomable reason, was sitting very close. 

James couldn't keep himself from laughing out loud. "Sorry guys...!"

"You all right over there?" Krishna exclaimed theatrically in the direction of the two historians. 

"You're totally my idol," Pat confirmed, wide-eyed. James thanked him, half embarrassed, half laughing. Jordan's laughter was interrupted by a series of sharp hitches of breath as he finally gave in to the allergic tickle. "Heh-heh-HEH! Carefuuhhh..." 

"Bless you," James prevented him as Jordan emitted a powerful quadruple: "HATTTSCHOOOOO! HURRRSCHHOOOO! HAH-CCKTCHOOOOO! ESSSCHHHHHHOOO!"


Archie did his absolute best not to completely lose himself in distraction at the feeling of being tangled up with a very shirtless and very muscular Jon. But well, if he didn't exactly jump away from the allergic young professor, Jon hardly seemed to notice. Whether it was because, in the chaos and distraction of being caught up in yet another of James’ typhoons, Jon had forgotten to be angry at Archibald, or simply because he was too focused on the reaction of his own allergic nose, as Archie lay sprawled very nearly on top of Jon, Jon hardly seemed to react at all. 

There was a brief moment in which they were tangled up, on top of each other… but just a moment, before Jon’s nose registered the infiltration of Archibald’s cologne and… “Eh… Ehhh… EEHhhh… HEHHHHH…” Jon never built up to his sneezes like this, but whatever irritation was rising in Jon’s nose now, it was of an altogether different magnitude than his usual sneeze. He’d barely recovered from his last dousing in Archie’s cologne, and having it so up close once again was… well it was enough to drive Jon’s nose absolutely mad. The sneeze continued to tease Jon, and Archie rather quickly realized he probably ought to get out of the line of fire. 

Jon continued to hitch on the precipice of what promised to be an absolutely enormous fit of the sneezes. But of course, Archie’s persistent allergies struck first. “itchhhhh! hiittscchhh!! hiitscchh-oo!” Archie sneezed, fitfully, going a bit high pitched on the last one.

Meanwhile, the corners of Jon’s mouth were turning down, his bare muscular chest heaving, his whole body alternately tensing and straining with irritation as he sawed in a vicious, vigorous breath… “hheeeEEEHHHH…” and then releasing as the itch failed to come to fruition. There were tears pricking at the corner of his eyes, and he was rubbing a hand unmercifully beneath his nose, just trying to calm the itch down by any means whatsoever. But the only thing that was going to stop the irritation was a sneeze, and the only way he was going to get himself to sneeze was... 

Suddenly, unpredictably, Jon lunged towards Archie, blindly burying his nose in the crook of Archie’s neck, right where the cologne was strongest, and taking an enormous sniff. Archie, for his part, was a bit shell-shocked, both at having Jon invade his space and at how, well… pleasant it was to have Jon invading his space. He wasn’t… not enjoying it. In fact it was sort of stirring butterflies in his tummy, sort of making him want to reach up and touch all that glistening flesh that Jon had on display but… no sooner had the thought crossed Archie’s mind then finally, finally Jon’s allergic need went over the edge and he whipped away from Archie as quickly as he could for a whole fit of thunderous sneezes: “EEHHHH-CHOOOOOO!! HEHHHHH-CHOOOOOOO!! HEH… ohgod… EEHHH… EEEEHHHHTT-CHOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” 

The sneezes sent Jon arching back and flying forward, and Archie couldn’t help but notice the way his stomach muscles crunched in as he doubled over with the sneeze, and how long and muscular and… well… pretty his torso was, stretched to its full length as Jon arched way back, his head thrown back into the air at the apex of one of his enormous breaths in before he blasted out another, “YYEEHHHH-CHOOOOOOOO!!!” 

When he finally finished – after what must have been a good ten sneezes–he rubbed his nose, looking about. “Well. That was… Is that what allergies are like? I believe I may owe Patrick an apology.” He said, looking rather small and rumpled after being completely at the mercy of a downright titanic tickle in his nose.


"—HRRRRAAASSSCHHHOOOO!" Jordan's sneeze attack whipped the grass one more time, as though in revenge for the pollen it was sending irresistibly into his large, sensitive nostrils. This one was big even for his standards, James thought as his friend's muscular back shook vigorously next to him. As he motioned to bless him he realised what his concern had made him forget – that his optic nerve did not seem satisfied with his own two sneezes, gigantic though they'd been. He rubbed hard at his nose with a hand, but he knew how pointless it was. A sneeze of his, once trigged, would not stop. He could try to delay it maybe – whence the rubbing, the sniffling, the cartoon-like finger under his nose – while he did his best to limit damage. But… 

Jordan turned back to face his friend, sniffling miserably and counting the seconds to the next fit. Going shirtless was definitely not a good idea, but he couldn't possibly let Jon get away with it. And hey, it persuaded James to forego his shirt too, which was... beautiful. And did a part of him still hope that somehow, somewhere, James might—but his musings about James' heart were cut short as he realised what was going on in his friend’s nose. 

James' eyes caught his and darted an apology as he struggled not to let his lips open. "It's all right Jamie, I'll catch you if it's..." Jordan's whisper tapered off as James jerked away from him, his spine stretching up, lungs filling to maximum capacity, one hand casually making contact with Jordan's, who squeezed it tight. Like a lump of glistening metal pulled by the magnet, Jordan leant over towards his ever-sneezy friend. He almost did not realise it, until his chest and the inside of his arms clung to James' torso, warm and lithe and quivering with tension. He had no idea why he was doing this; he only felt he needed to. That James needed him to. His anchor. His rock. Something.

"It tickles sohh... so muhhh... it's going to be b-big... I'm sohhhHHH..." 

"Shhh, it's all right", Jordan shushed him gently, like a child, his chin grazing the base of James' neck from behind as both men tensed up in preparation for the blast. Jordan held his allergic breath for one second of eerie silence, and then—"HHHUUUHHHHYAAAAATTTTTTCCCCHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

Jordan's eardrums echoed with James' sneeze over and over as their two bodies were catapulted backwards and tumbled through the grass. "Oof", went he as their tumblings came to an abrupt halt against the college's prized secular mulberry tree. 

 "Are you all right?" James asked, his hazelnut eyes wide with apprehension. "I'm - sniff - so, so sorry..." But why was James upside down? Wait, no, he was upside down. Jordan burst out laughing as he scrambled to the ground and sat the right way up again, James' laughter echoing his. 

"Yep, that was big, even for your standards, honey." (Honey?) 

"I'm... haha... so sorry..." He wiped a tear from his eye, quite uncertain whether it came from the sneeze, the laughing, or the sudden pang somewhere in his gut as he heard that word leave Jordan's lips, "honey". Jordan was straight - he knew it, right? - so why, why...? Why was he so kind to him, so sweet to him, so close to him, always? He still cracked a smile – his understated, beautiful smile – as his eyes held contact with Jordan's, in silence, for a long, intense second.

"Bless you both", came Krishna's matter-of-factly sing-song. They hadn't even heard him approach. "But I think you two need to talk." And, as smoothly as he'd come, he walked off towards the tangled, sternutatious historians. 

"Huh?", went Jordan. "Talk about what?" He surely didn't mean...? The reinvigorated tickle caught him by surprise. "HURRRSCHHHHHOOO! TCHOOO! HATTTTCHHEWWWWWW!!

Bless you, James wanted to say. But what crossed his lips was a soft "Why are you straight?", and a big, warm sigh. He froze as he heard himself say those words. He bit his lips not to let them apologise or make excuses. It was done, whatever might come. His best friendship was about to collapse. Jordan was the most accepting man on the planet, but... Oh, screw it. His turn now. 

And for the first time in his life Jordan found himself out of breath. He stammered as he tried to put his thoughts together. He had no clue what to say, but he obviously had to say something. Maybe it was his chance; maybe he was making it all up in his head; but anyway – "Well, I'm... um... it's funny you should say that, I mean... er... yes, um, technically, yes, but, I mean..." James looked right into his eyes, in an expression that seemed to combine dread and elation. "...not entirely", he exhaled. James' luscious lips showed no sign of wanting to come back together. "I like you", Jordan finished. Did he say that? Yes, he definitely did say that. Before either of them knew it, James' lips were glued to the bigger man's as he pinned him to the ground in a furious, overjoyed, overdue kiss.


Archie tentatively wandered over and put a hand on Jon's shoulder. "Ah... are you alright, Jon?" He asked, half-stiffly, half-concerned. Meanwhile, both Krishna and Pat had jogged over, Pat calling out, "Woah, that was some sneeze. That was nearly like one of mine... although none of us can compete with the Supernose over there I mean wow I thought I could sneeze but your friend James over there..." 

All eyes momentarily turned to Pat, as, of course, that was the most words he'd managed to string together without being interrupted by a sneeze all day. The sun was beginning to droop in the sky--perhaps the pollen wasn't as severe in the evening? In any case, it didn't stop Jon from firing off another "HAHHH-CHOOOOOOO!!" sneeze. Archie jumped back, realizing of course... "Oh, my cologne it must... still be setting you off. I'm s-so... hhh... so s-sorry... ehhh... h-hehh... ehhh... ittsscchhhh... hittschhhuuuhhh! HITTSscchhhuuhhh! Oh dear. It seems my allergies are continuing to b-bother me..." Archie said, shortly before collapsing into another fit of his powerful but quiet sneezes: "ittschhh! hitttscchh! hitttsccchhuhh!!" He sneezed. 

"You know," Krishna said, "perhaps given all the allergies in this bunch it might be best for us to repair... inside, somewhere? It has the advantage of keeping our friend the typhoon from detonating as well, we might be able to keep our eardrums if this one's allergies have calmed down and... a-ahh... as f-for... as... heh... ehhh.... hhehhh... HEHT-schhuuu! EHT-chhooo!!" Krishna sneezed again. "Well, as for me hopefully that will calm down too. (Of course, it wasn't. Krishna knew good and well that he was likely to be sneezing for some time from the cold he'd come down with. Still, getting this lot inside was probably a good idea regardless.)

"Oh, but... you know my cologne will still..." "EEHHHHH-CHOOOOOO!!!" Jon sneezed enormously again. "My cologne will still make Jon do that so... I suppose I could always go back to mine and shower, if we do want to all gather elsewhere..." 

"Or you could shower at mine," Jon said, straightening up but still keeping his distance from Archie. "It's in Tom Quad, so, you know, it's convenient and all..." 

He made the offer very casually – a utilitarian place to shower – but still, Archie couldn't help but wonder if perhaps Jon had enjoyed being pressed together a bit more than he'd let on. "Oh well..." 

"If you can use my commoner's shower of course," Jon said, with a flare of his usual irritability. "And my peasant's soap. And my proletarian towels..." 

Archie refrained from mentioning that he carried an embroidered cloth with him in his bag, just in case. "Oh of course, I'm not that terrible a snob am I? I've got regular old soap and regular water in my shower. Of course I have bottled water in my refrigerator but listen that's just being healthy, the water here is simply filthy if you look into it..." Archie said, beginning to go on a rant but he stopped himself before too long. "I mean, yes, Jon, I quite appreciate the offer. And -sniff- w-with the way my n-nose is feeling I'd rather like to g-gehhh... g-get out of here s-sooner rather than... rather... than... hitttssssshhh! ittsshhhh! HIItttsschhhh! – sniff! – rather than later." 

"Well, you know, if you'd like to head out now, we can meet everyone at Krishna's not too long after they finally get themselves out of here," Jon cut in. "Just... don't walk too close. That perfume of yours is poison." Jon said, as, following his suggestion, Archie and Jon began to walk towards Jon's nearby flat. 

"It is NOT perfume, it is cologne, you're being deliberately philistine Jon and I know that you know better because I have noticed that YOU yourself have worn cologne on more than one occasion..." 

 "Oh I didn't know your fine aristocratic sinuses could so much as detect my plebeian scents. Also are you sure that wasn't just deodorant, you know it has scents now..." Jon and Archie said, back to arguing as they walked toward Jon's flat... rather closer than Jon's cologne allergy would suggest is advisable. Indeed, they weren't far away before another of his huge "CHOOOOOO!!" sneezes rang out. 

"Well," Krishna said to Pat as they exited, "I'm sure they'll be, ahem, 'late'. And I really appreciate Jon volunteering my place, again..." Krishna grumbled, though, with not one but TWO sets of his friends confronting certain feelings, well... it seemed like this had been quite the successful afternoon on the quad after all! 


James and Jordan lay on their backs next to each other, each still catching his breath, hand in hand, eyes closed turned up to the sky. James' shades lay forgotten in the grass a few feet away. Not that he would care much any more. He warned Jordan absent-mindedly, "I'm going to... heh... sneeze again... H-HEH..." 

"Fire off", Jordan replied with a smile. "Just don't kill anyone, ok?" 


Everything fell silent as the enormous explosion echoed briefly around the garden walls. Jordan opened one eye; the mulberry tree was still standing; he opened the other and looked around; no historians flying across, nobody yelling, nobody grumbling. 

 "Everybody still alive?", came James' voice. 

"Everybody gone, 'parently", Jordan replied. "And I'm sure you can also look around yourself, unless the tornado has messed with your eyes somehow?", he added, mocking him gently. 

"Oh sorry, god forbid you wear your precious dark eyes out... oh and pass me my sunglasses, please, for all our sakes." 

"Seriously", muttered Jordan, half laughing. "I'm almost tempted to leave you here to sneeze your... oh nohh..." Jordan's hand flew to his nose as the pollen once again came back with a vengeance, forcing him into a series of sharp, frustrating false starts. "HEH! HEH! HEH! H-HEH!" 

"Glasses", James insisted imploringly, his own voice cracking with the onslaught of yet another tickle. Jordan thrust the sunglasses into his hand between hitches, his nostrils flaring to maximum extent in anticipation of a massive sneeze. But James' ever-sensitive nose got there first. "heh... H-HAAAHHH... HYAAAAAAATTTTTTCHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" A gargantuan sneeze erupted from his mouth and nose, his whole frame contorting for a moment as he directed the release straight up towards the sky above. As a fragrant drizzle of mulberry leaves rained down on them, Jordan was able to slip in a "Bless you" between hitches and hitches and hitches... until the tickle finally blossomed into the proper, firm beginning of a sneeze. "HEH--HUSSSSCHOOOOOO! HEAAAASSSCHOOOOO!! RRATTTTCHEWWWWWW! HAAAAAASSSCHHHEEEE!!"

"Bless you too... honey", James purred before leaning over for a kiss. 

"Thagks", Jordan replied with a thick sniffle. "But where's everyone?" 

That very instant a text pinged on James' mobile. Jon, it said ominously. "Meet at Krishna's at 7. Will be late." 

"Aha", Jordan commented with a grin. "I wonder what will cause the lateness. Not that I mind one bit, mind." 

"Well. Cologne is quite long to wash off yourself. Especially if you're showering with a bloody cologne factory in the shower next to you..." 

"Aha. Well that sounds like fun." He sat up and flicked at his phone. "It's 6 already. Shall we start making a move so we're all in order for the Great Party at Krishna's?"

"Has anybody actually asked Krish what he thinks of it? Anyway, yes, I guess so. We can stop over at my place if you'd like?" 

"Why not", answered Jordan with another long, deep kiss.

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On 10/6/2018 at 1:23 PM, gryffin said:

Jordan's persistent smirk at Jon's cologne-based hysterics (#firstworldproblems Oxford style, again)



On 10/6/2018 at 1:23 PM, gryffin said:

"You're talking about the size of your sneezes as if it were a proxy for that of your genitalia, gentlemen.


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  • 1 month later...

Gosh, you have to be the only person who doesn’t find both of them unbearable :D 

(Just kidding; in a perverse sort of way I almost like them, too. And after all, you don’t need to like someone as a person to enjoy their sneezes...)

And most of all, thank you!

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