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Disheveled


sprinkles287

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So, it's been forever since I wrote a story for the forum.  Or really any story, actually.  Please forgive any weird formatting errors or typos, I know not what I do.  And seriously, major MAJOR props to anyone who's ever posted a story of their own.  I'm an avid reader and therefore quite incorrectly assumed that I'd be able to write something comprehensible.  And then I realized that paragraph and dialogue structure are NOT actually things that I've ever paid attention to.  So, cheers to everyone who does pay attention and can toss any tips my way (like seriously should all dialogue be set off in it's own paragraph?  Even if it's a character talking to himself? - looking at you Benny boy...  And for goodness sakes' why is there no natural end to any paragraph ever?). So much respect writers.  So much respect for you all.

Enough excuses and blabbering.  Feel free to imagine Ben any way you'd like for now - I'll probably get around to describing him later.  Maybe.  Probably.  Maybe.

Ben woke up and yawned widely, stretching his arms and blearily blinking his eyes.  He glared at his phone, eyes widening as he realized he'd overslept. "Oh shit," he sighed, then quickly threw off the covers and hustled to the shower.  He'd meant to wake up early to get a good start on the day.  Now, instead of having time to make coffee and relax with it on his balcony, he'd have to forgo it altogether.  The tension slowly drained from his body, hot water soothing his aching muscles, sore from the soccer game the night before.  He scrubbed his hands over his face, clearing his throat and sniffling softly as steam filled the air.  Yawning again, he let his hands drop to his sides and stepped out of the shower.  With his towel wrapped securely around his waist, Ben made his way to the closet. He paused once on the way there, breath catching as if he were about to sneeze, but the tickling sensation faded as quickly as it had appeared.  Sniffling again, he ran a finger under his nose and continued getting ready for the day.  He frowned as he hurriedly attempted to style his damp, unruly hair. His throat felt irritated and he kept feeling as if he were on the verge of a sneeze.  Giving up on his hair as a lost cause, he coughed lightly, grimacing at his tired face in the mirror, grabbed his work bag and headed out the door.

 Mmmmm.  Deliciously disheveled. Melissa thought as Ben slipped into their cubicle and flopped onto his chair.  

"Good morning."  She said.

When Ben failed to reply, she turned her chair to face him.  His eyes were unfocussed as he gazed at the light, chest rising and falling with uneven breaths as he slowly raised his hands, letting them hover a few inches from his face.  As she watched, his nose twitched once, then twice, as he gasped in one last breath before crumpling into his hands with a wrenching sneeze.  "Hhhih'ihh...ih...hid'tchooo! Whew. 'Scuse me."  He sniffled, grinning sheepishly at Melissa.  "I've had to sneeze since I got out of the shower."  Ben bent down to unload his laptop, wincing slightly as his muscles pulled in protest. That game last night must've taken more out of me than I'd thought, he reflected.

Melissa raised an eyebrow at the grimace on his face, but turned back to her computer screen, saying only, "Have you checked your email?  Jake's calling for a 10 o'clock meeting to discuss the upcoming public school project.  He's requesting ideas on how to better track scheduling and hours spent on its development since each project manager uses a different system.  Guess he finally realized how confusing that is for people placed on multiple projects."

Ben leaned back and twisted in his chair to get a better look at Melissa.  Wearing just the slightest touch of makeup, she looked absolutely beautiful, her red curls tousled slightly, barely reaching her shoulders.  Light brown eyes twinkled above her freckled nose as she clicked open her spreadsheet detailing the pros and cons of each system she'd worked with in the past.

"You must be thrilled," he teased her.  "Your nerdiness is getting the recognition it deserves."

"Yep!"  She said, not rising to his bait.  "I told you that my meticulousness would pay off one day.  And that day is today.  I need more coffee. Want anything?"

"Ohmygodyes." Ben said in a rush.  "I woke up too late for anything but a quick shower.  Didn't even grab breakfast."

"No wonder you look...um..."  Melissa trailed off.

"Like shit?"  Ben finished, smiling ruefully.

"Your words, not mine."  Melissa quipped as she left the cubicle and headed toward the coffee station.

TBC...

Edited by sprinkles287
Can't spell. Whoops.
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😮😮😮

3 hours ago, sprinkles287 said:

 "Hhhih'ihh...ih...hid'tchooo! Whew. 'Scuse me."  He sniffled, grinning sheepishly at Melissa.  "I've had to sneeze since I got out of the shower."

🤤 😵

Edited by MyOwnPrivateSFC
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Behold, there is a part 2.  

 

As Melissa walked away, Ben rubbed his hands down his face, then shook himself in an effort to wake up.  The scratchy feeling in his throat hadn't gone away yet.  he coughed lightly, trying to lesson the irritation.  Forcing himself to focus, he pulled up the appropriate spreadsheets on his computer, determined to be prepared for today's meeting.  He pulled on his headphones, turned on his music, and lost himself in the job.

Ben really does look out of it today, Melissa mused as she walked toward the break room.  He's always at work before me - I can't remember the last time he was late.  And, he did kinda look off.  Peaky.  Under the weather. Ill.  Maybe he's coming down with something? She could count the number of times he'd sneezed before on one hand.  One finger, actually.  Maybe he'd want her to take care of him.  Maybe he could make him some soup, and bring it to his place, and snuggle with him on his couch, and one thing would lead to another and... Well.  Foolish thoughts.  Pigs would sooner fly.  She huffed softly to herself as she brewed coffee and spread cream cheese on a freshly toasted bagel.  Much as she might fantasize about spending time with Ben outside of work, she knew she'd never take the next step on her own.  I'm such a weenie. She berated herself as she headed back to her cubicle.  I can't even muster up the courage to invite him out for drinks after work, much less have the audacity to invite myself into his apartment.  He's probably not even sick.  It was one sneeze.  One gorgeous sneeze.  Wishful thinking, girl.  She plunked the coffee and bagel down by his elbow, then sat back down, sipping her own.

The time until the meeting passed by quickly.  Too quickly, Ben thought.  His thoughts were sluggish and his throat was really starting to hurt.  The coffee had helped somewhat, and the bagel, but he just felt so foggy.  Sniffling and thumbing at his nose for the thousandth time, he yelped in surprise as a tissue box suddenly thumped into his shoulder.  

"What'd you do that for?" He asked, taking off his headphones.

"You clearly need them.  You keep sniffling, and it's driving me crazy.  Blow your nose already.  Plus, it's time to go to the meeting.  C'mon."  Turning, Melissa walked out of the cube to give him some semblance of privacy. 

Blinking fuzzily after her, Ben did what she said.  The blow was more productive than he'd thought, and he winced inwardly at the wet sound it made.  Ben quickly grabbed his computer, pen, and on second thought, a handful of tissues that he stuffed in his pocket.

"Sorry - that was gross."  He said once he'd caught up to Melissa.  "I don't know what's wrong with me today."

I do, sick boy.  Melissa thought to herself.  Out loud she said, "Don't worry about it.  I'm sure I drive you crazy sometimes too."

Only all the damn time. Ben thought, thinking about how cute he found her.  Pushing away the thought of her beautiful, kissable lips and sparkling eyes, he said teasingly, "Uh-huh.  The amount of noise you make when you crack your knuckles gets me every time.  I swear you do it on purpose."

Melissa just laughed.

The meeting dragged on and on.  Once Melissa had made her pitch and Ben had backed up her points with his own experiences, Ben started to realize just how run down he was feeling.  And now that he was paying attention, he was also beginning to realize how much his nose was bugging him.  The itchy feeling from this morning was back, and he was struggling to keep from sneezing.  Sniffling as softly as he could, Ben raised a hand and rubbed it gently against the tip of his nose, pressing firmly against the underside of his nostrils before letting it drop.  A few seconds later, his left nostril twitched and the itch became more of a tickle, spreading outwards from the back of his nose.  His breath hitched softly.  His eyes unfocused and he sniffled again, harder this time.

Melissa shifted in her chair, leaning almost imperceptibly closer to Ben while keeping him in her peripheral vision.  She saw him rub at his twitching nose, heard his breathing become unsteady.  As she watched, he sniffled and wrinkled his nose, clearly trying not to sneeze.

It was becoming harder and harder for Ben to keep from sneezing.  His nose started to run and despite breathing gently through his mouth, his nostrils flared involuntarily.  Ben dug into his pocket for the stash of tissues he had placed there earlier and held one up to his nose, wiping it gently, then roughly scrubbing at it with a knuckle.  His breath stuttered and he hurriedly pinched his nose through the tissue, jerking forward with a nearly silent hhh..hn'mmp!

Holding her own breath, Melissa watched hungrily as Ben pinched his nose, his body shuddering slightly as he stifled a sneeze.  He glanced up at the light, eyes glassy, and pitched forward again with a tight Heh'mmph!  She bit her lip as she felt his chair bump against hers with the force of his sneezes and concentrated on appearing very, very focused on whatever the hell the current speaker was going on about.

Ben let out a shaky exhale as the sneezes lessened the ever-present itch, bringing it down to an annoying buzz.

"Bless you." Melissa whispered, feeling the creeping heat of a blush stain her cheeks.  She ducked her head so that her hair hid her face and pretended to take notes.

Oblivious to Melissa's attention, Ben whispered back a congested "Thank you," his head starting to pound with the effort of holding back the full force of the sneezes.

By the time the meeting ended, Ben had sneezed 6 times, all of them stifled except for the last one, which had snuck out despite his best efforts and earned him a chorus of bless you's.  He'd gone through all his tissues and was resorting to sniffling wetly and wiping his nose surreptitiously on the corner of his sleeve when he thought no one was looking.  Melissa was sure he was sick.  Or allergic. But probably sick.  6 sneezes in 2 hours vs. 1 sneeze in 2 months. Something was up, and she was going to find out what.

"What's wrong with you?"  She blurted out as the headed back to their cube.  Ah, fuck it. Tact was never going to be her strong point.

"Um, nothing?  I'm fine."  Ben responded, unconvincingly following up his statement with a couple light coughs.

"It's just, you've been sneezing all morning. And you were late.  And you look - "

"Like shit, I know."  Ben interrupted, chuckling as he repeated his self-deprecating description from earlier in the day.

"I was going to go with tired, but far be it from me to argue." Melissa protested.  Then, more gently, "If you aren't feeling well, you should go home and rest."

"I feel fine.  There's just something in the air today."  Ben said dismissively, although he could feel his nose twitch.  Not again. Please, not again. I was actually thinking we should celebrate your successful convincing of the powers that be to let us take charge of re-vamping the protocol.  D'you want to go out for a drink with me tonight?

Melissa's breath caught.  Ben was looking directly at her, smiling that sinfully sexy smile of his.  Had he really just asked her to hang out outside of the office?

"Melissa, you ok?" He asked, both smile and confidence wavering.  

Realizing she was just staring stupidly at him, she quickly stammered "Y-yes.  Yes.  Drinks sound good."

His smile returned full force and he happily turned back to the work in front of him, looking forward to the evening ahead.

 

Edited by sprinkles287
Because punctuation.
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Here, have a part 3.  It may be a while before there's a part 4, fair warning.

11 sneezes later, Melissa groaned in frustration.  She hadn't been able to complete a single scrap of work all day.  Ben's voice had slowly been becoming scratchy and congested, and a slight pink now stained his nostrils.  A slight flush dusted his cheeks, adding to his appeal.  

Ben stared at his computer screen, squinting.  He couldn't seem to catch a break from this damned sneezing.  Fucking horrible timing, he thought.  He wanted to take Melissa out but was pretty sure his "something in the air" excuse wasn't going to cut it much longer.  The aches he'd woken up with were growing stronger, rather than lessening in intensity and he was starting to feel out of it.  He could see Melissa sneaking glances at him and despite his earlier denial that anything was wrong, he could tell she suspected that he wasn't ok.  He'd be much more convincing if only he could get rid of that damned tickle in his nose.  He could already feel another sneeze coming on.

His eyes fluttered closed and he jerked forward, stifling yet another sneeze against his wrist and sniffling wetly.  He started to straighten when the itch ignited again, stronger than ever.  He shot forward again, then again, and again, barely able to gasp a breath between sneezes. 

"Hih'Ngxch! Hhhii-ihh..ehh...Hh'Nggxcht! Hep'Tsch!  Tsch!  Heh'enhntschoo! Shit, sorry, I hh-h-h'ngt'schoo! c-can't stohh heh...heh..hhh ihh'mphch'schoo! stop hh'Hrescheiw! 

Finally, the sneezes let up and he dared to look up, eyes watering.  He kept both hands clasped loosely around his nose and mouth, and sniffled pathetically, meeting Melissa's gaze.  She was staring at him, one eyebrow raised, arms folded across her chest.  

"Bless you.  A lot.  So, what's that you were saying about being fine again?"

She reached out and pulled the tissue box away from him as he leaned over to grab one, keeping one hand hovering over his nose and mouth to block her view of his face.

"Truth, Ben.  Now.  Or no tissues for you."

His eyes widened in dismay.  

"Melissa... come on..."

She glared at him stubbornly.

Ben sighed. "Fine.  Snf.  I might be coming down with a cold.  Snf. Snnff. Now will you please pass me the tissues."  

Melissa handed them over, feeling a twinge of guilt. 

"See, that wasn't so hard to admit.  I'm pretty sure the whole office has guessed as much by now."   She moved closer as he tossed the used tissues in the trash, hesitating briefly before placing her hand lightly on his forehead. "You don't feel warm." 

Thank god for small miracles, Ben thought as out loud he said smugly "Told you I'm fine."

Melissa rolled her eyes at him.

"Ok, mostly.  Honestly, I don't feel that bad.  A little run-down, maybe.  And - heh - fuck - heh'ngxch'oo! Sneezy.  Obviously.  But we are totally still celebrating tonight."

A swirl of emotions flitted across Melissa's face as she battled her desire to spend time with Ben (Taking care of Ben. Flirting with Ben!) versus the much less appealing but infinitely more appropriate raincheck approach.  She opened her mouth to turn him down, and as she did, Ben rubbed the bridge of his nose, sniffled, and shot her a hopeful smile, looking sexier than any man had a right to look.  And Melissa heard herself say, "Okay.  As long as you promise to tell me if you feel worse."

"Deal." 

 

 

 

 

Edited by sprinkles287
I... need to learn to read over things before I post.
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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you all for the kind words and encouragement!  I love seeing all the feedback.  

Part 4 - there is some female sneezing here too

5:00 rolled around, and with an unspoken agreement, Ben and Melissa both stretched, groaned, then began packing up.  Melissa cracked her knuckles and neck before winking at Ben, then picked up her workbag and water bottle.

"Still feeling up to this?"  She asked, holding her breath.  

Ben slowly pushed himself out of his chair, smothering a few coughs as he slipped on his coat and backpack.  "Absolutely.  I'll drive.  Have you ever been to Spherical Cow?"

"The place with the great sliders?  It's one of my favorites."

The drive over was uneventful, and the conversation flowed easily between the two colleagues.  They fell into a casual banter, both parties relieved to find themselves with plenty to say.  By the time they arrived at the bar, a soft rain had begun to fall.  Ben dropped Melissa off at the entrance before finding a place to park.  Taking the opportunity to check his appearance, Ben used the rearview mirror to adjust his hair, then blew his nose thoroughly, relieved to be able to breathe again for the moment.  He ran quickly to the bar, out of breath but mostly dry when he walked in.

Melissa quickly claimed a seat at a high table near the window, and ordered the sliders to share and beer for herself, along with a water for Ben.  She smiled as Ben rushed in, shaking the droplets from his hair and sliding into the chair across from hers.  He was so handsome.  Even with - no, ESPECIALLY with the cold. He caught the waitress's attention and ordered a beer for himself, then, with a wicked grin, two shots.  Oh shit.  Melissa thought, then said out loud, "So, now might be a good time to mention that I'm slightly... sensitive to alcohol."

"Are you saying you're a lightweight?  No worries, I'm driving.  I can take you to your place, if you need me to."

"Yes, I'm absolutely a lightweight.  But I actually meant that too much alcohol makes me sneeze.  Weird, I know.  I guess I'm allergic, or something.  So, fair warning, if I do that shot and finish my beer, I'll probably be a bit of a mess."  Melissa blushed deeply, trying not to stutter and avoiding eye contact as she explained.

Ben blinked, then laughed.  "That's perfect, actually.  Have you seen me today? I'm one sneezing fit away from being a Kleenex ad.  It'd be nice not to be the only one sniffly all night."  He pushed the shot glass towards her and raised his own.

Two beers and two shots later, Melissa was definitely tipsy and Ben was feeling the effects of the alcohol too.  No longer needing to hide his cold, and less inhibited due to the alcohol, he was more relaxed and able to let his sneezes and coughs out as needed.  He found himself sneezing more frequently, and mostly in doubles and triples, but still felt pretty well.  Melissa, also feeling the uninhibiting effects of the alcohol was having a harder time hiding her attraction to Ben and controlling her sneezes.

"HhHhh...Hhh...Heh'tshoo!  Heh'ptshoo!  Heh'ishoo!"  Melissa sneezed to the side, failing to do anything to stop the sneezes from ripping out of her.  She sniffled wetly, giggling as Ben blessed her.  "I'm a fucking mess.  Sorry.  I don't drink much for a reason."

"Thank god for that."  Ben teased, handing her a napkin before taking one for himself.  "I can't be the only one suffering here."  Turning away from Melissa, he sneezed twice into his napkin, then blew his nose gently before finishing the water he'd been sipping on for the past hour.

"Oh shit, look at the time.  It's so late!  Can I take you home?  I don't think you should drive.  I can bring you to the office to get your car tomorrow."  Ben offered.

"Uhm, okay.  I've definitely had enough.  "'Tsh!  Heh'tshh!  Heh...h'tsh!  'Scuse me."  Muffling her latest set of sneezes into her napkin, Melissa stood, gathering her coat and purse.

Gently resting a hand on Melissa's back, Ben guided her out of the bar and to the car.  He shivered as they left the warmth of the bar behind and he fought off a set of coughs as he helped Melissa inside the car before climbing in himself.  He sniffled a bit as his nose adjusted to the change in temperature, hoping he'd be able to get the heat on before his sneezing started up again in earnest.  Cold weather always made him sneeze, and it was worse when he was sick.  If he was honest with himself, he'd started feeling worse as the night went on, but Melissa seemed so happy that he hadn't wanted to bring it up, despite his earlier promise.  Sniffling again, he turned to her, intending to ask her address, but sneezed instead, a single wrenching "Heh'ngxch'oo!" released into his shoulder in an attempt to avoid catching her with the spray.

"Bless you!"  Melissa exclaimed, surprised by the intensity of the sneeze.

Ben looked up and tried to respond, only to snap forward again with a series of sneezes that took his breath away.  "Hp'nxgh!  'Ngxch!  'Ngxch'shoo! Huh'mmpshoo! HhIhh...Hnxgh'tschoo! He'aschoo!  HhhHeh..Heh...H'mmpshoo!  Heh'tmmpshoo!  Huhp'tshoo! Hp'nntshoo!"  Stupid cold weather.  Stupid cold.  Get it together, man. You'll scare her off.

"Well, fuck."  Melissa breathed.  "Bless you, like, ten times?  Jesus, Ben, you were supposed to tell me if you started feeling worse."  She reached out to feel his forehead, but Ben grabbed her wrist lightly, struggling to speak as his nose continued to demand his attention.

"Melihhssa, w-wait.  I'm no...hhIH...not d-done..."  Ben panted, a tear streaking down his cheek as the tickle built up strength, his nostrils flaring, eyes half-closed.

Melissa stared, holding her breath.  She couldn't have moved if her life depended on it.  She could feel his fingers against her wrist, mini pin-pricks of heat, and a wave of desire washed through her.

"HhhHh...Hhh...Heh! uh.. Heh'essshoo!  He'assschoo! Hh...Hhhh...H'eh'tssshoo! Nhhgh..."  Ben groaned, releasing Melissa's wrist.  "I think I'm done."  Fuck, why is she just staring?  I don't think I sneezed on her..."Melissa?  I'm so sorry - I'm really not feeling well.  D'you have another napkin?...Melissa?"

"I... Sorry, what?  I think I'm a little...um.  Bless you?  Need a napkin?  I think I have one here."

Ben stared at her, concerned. "Yeah, I do.  Thanks.  Hey, are you alright?"

"Mmmm.  Good.  Best.  Yes.  Too much s..drinking."  Melissa tried again, hoping she was just coming off a little drunk, rather than dumbstruck.

Ben was not convinced.

"Oookay then.  What's your address?"

Melissa rattled it off, pulling herself together and rubbing at her nose.  She quickly ducked forward, stifling three sneezes of her own.  Hopefully the allergic effects of the alcohol would start wearing off now that she was no longer putting more into her system.

 

 

 

 

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I'm glad you all are reading and enjoying!  There's a small bit of female sneezing again, and honestly, might be throughout - let me know if you'd rather it be just male.  The rest isn't written yet and I'm on the fence about it.

Part 5 

Ben pulled into her driveway, turning off the engine and walking around to open Melissa's door.  

"What a gentleman."  Melissa teased, grinning.

Ben shrugged, smiling back.  "What can I say?  I was raised well."  He walked her to the door and waited with her as she searched her purse for her keys, coughing into her fist.

"You really don't sound like you're feeling very well."  Melissa said, fishing out her key.  "I've got some tissues and cold meds inside if you're interested."  She said shyly while opening the door.

"That would be wonderful.  I don't have anything at my place, and it's a little late to go shopping tonight."

"C'mon then."

A short while later, Melissa had Ben seated on her couch next to a tissue box while she headed into her bedroom in search of medicine and a thermometer.  The way Ben had started to shiver and the flush blossoming in his cheeks despite having been in a warm car for the past 20 minutes had her worried.  She walked back into the living room, sitting down beside Ben as he finished blowing his nose into a fistful of tissues.

"Here."  Melissa handed him the thermometer.  "Take your temperature, I'll grab a glass of water."

Ben opened his mouth to protest, but she glared at him until he meekly replied "Yes ma'am."

Satisfied, Melissa walked back out to the kitchen, giving herself a silent pep talk as she went.  Okay girl.  You can do this.  It's just Ben.  Sinfully sexy Ben.  And he doesn't feel well.  You might find that incredibly attractive, but don't scare him off.  Act normal.  Normal Melissa.  Not tipsy horny Melissa.  Normal people help other people get better.  They offer medicine.  They do NOT climb on their laps and kiss them.  They do NOT have one night stands.  You have to see him on Monday, so you'd better get yourself under control.

Nodding to herself, Melissa walked back into the living room.  She took one look at Ben with the thermometer stuck in his mouth and her resolve melted away.  Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.  

Setting the water on the end table closest to Ben, Melissa hesitantly said, "Turns out I only have Nyquil, so you might want to crash here tonight if you want medicine.  The stores are all closed by now."  She fidgeted, waiting for a response.

The thermometer beeped, and Ben glanced at it, making a face before handing it back to her.  "I don't want you to catch my cold.  I think it's gonna be a bad one."

Melissa looked at the thermometer.  101.2.  "Take the medicine, sick boy.  I've been around you all day - it's too late to worry about that now.  I'll either catch it or I won't."

A guilty look spread across Ben's face.  Not bothering to argue, he just popped the pills into his mouth and chased them down with the water.  "I'm sorry."  He started to apologize.  "I didn't think - I can be such an ass."

"It's fine, really."  Melissa reassured him, clicking on the tv.  "I wanted to hang out - I knew you were sick.  It's worth the risk."

Their eyes met for a moment, and Melissa inched closer, snuggling up against him.  He wrapped his arm around her, feeling her warmth and wishing for the moment to last forever.

But of course, it didn't.  The sound of the tv lulled Ben into a light sleep, and Melissa took the opportunity to slip away, bringing out a spare pillow and blanket.  She hesitated, then set the pillow on the end of the couch and carefully draped the blanket over him.  Then, checking to be sure the medicine, tissues, and water were still close at hand, she turned off the lights and the tv, and went to bed herself.

Ben woke up in darkness, momentarily confused when he found himself tangled in a blanket, resting on someone else's couch.  He sat up, stretching out the kinks that had built up after sleeping in such an uncomfortable angle.  The change in position shifted the pressure in his head and he swallowed gingerly against an ache in his throat the the hadn't really noticed the night before.  Looking around, he saw the box of tissues that Melissa had set out the night before and recognition flooded him.  Relief to know where he was, and remembering the kindness Melissa had shown brought a small smile to his lips.  The smile fell away as his lips parted slightly, breath catching, nostrils flaring.  His cold had settled in in full force.  He groped for the tissues as his eyes squinted closed, desperately trying to hold back the inevitable sneezes until he could muffle them into the tissues.  The last thing he wanted was to wake Melissa after she'd put him up for the night.

In her own bed, Melissa sighed and shifted, trying to get comfortable for the millionth time.  After leaving Ben out on the couch, she'd settled herself in with a bottle of water and a book.  She read a couple of chapters before turning out the light, frequently pausing to stifle her sneezes.  But then she'd laid there, unable to sleep, uncomfortably aware that just a room away a handsome, cold-ridden Ben was sleeping on her couch.  To make matters worse, the sneezes were not dying down as she'd hoped.  And now that she wasn't tipsy, it was really annoying.  Plus, all her tissues were still out in the room with Ben.

"Heh'mmph!  HhH...Heh'mmmph!  Heh..eh..eh'tshhh!  Eh'tshhh!"  Ben buried his face in a handful of tissues just as the first set of sneezes hit, muffling them as best as he could.  Groaning softly as they scraped at his throat, he blew his nose forcefully, trying to ease the unrelenting tickle.  But his breath hitched again and he helplessly crumpled forward again, sneezing again and again into the tissues, still doing his best to smother the sounds.

Melissa sat up at the sounds coming from the living room.  She padded out of her room, wiping her nose her wrist.  If we're both miserable, we might as well be miserable together, she reasoned.  She walked into the living room, finding Ben sitting up, blanket draped over his lap, a handful of tissues under his nose.

"What are you doing up?"  Ben asked, guiltily.  "Did I wake you?  I was trying to be quiet."

"No, I couldn't sleep.  Happens all the time."  She said dismissively.  "But I could hear you struggling out here and I figured we might as well be awake together.  Now you can make all the noise you want.  Plus, I need the tissues too - I apparently haven't gotten all the alcohol out of my system yet."  She punctuate her last statement with a distinctly liquid sniffle.

Ben reached for the tissue box, tucking his used tissues into his pocket and snagging a fresh handful before passing it to her.  He turned away from her and blew his nose, accepting that he wasn't going to be able to hold back his symptoms anymore.  Clearing his throat, he apologized, his voice starting to sound raspy and worn.

"Sorry, this cold is really getting to me.  I'm probably not going to be falling back asleep for a while.  I Hhh...w-woke uhHh'tdshoo! Heh'dtshoo! up and have been sneezing ever since.  Obviously."

"Don't apologize, you've done nothing wrong.  Bless you, by the way.  Should I turn on the tv?  Sometimes it helps me fall asleep."

"Sure.  Put on something you like."

"Schitt's Creek it is.  Have you ever seen it?  It's my happy."

"No, but if you like it I'm sure I will.  And if I don't - well, then I'll just fall asleep that much faster.  It's a win-win, no matter how you look at it."

Melissa rolled her eyes, and sneezed softly into her own tissues, sniffling in the aftermath.

"Bless you."

"Thanks."

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  • 4 weeks later...

After a long wait... I bring you Part 6.

Melissa settled in on the couch, curling her legs underneath her.  Ben held out a corner of the blanket and she took it, gratefully sinking into its warmth.  She leaned into Ben and he wrapped an arm around her, relaxing into the moment.  They watched companionably, laughing at the antics of David and Alexis and enjoying the ridiculousness of the characters.  Eventually, Melissa's breathing evened out and Ben looked down to see her peacefully sleeping against his chest.  He smiled gently, feeling incredibly lucky.

Ben stayed awake a while longer, still feeling tired but unable to get comfortable enough to sleep.  He did his best to stay quiet, muffling coughs into his elbow and staving off sneezes by pressing up against the underside of his nose.  One episode turned into two, then three and still he was awake, and growing sneezier by the minute.  He always sneezed a lot when he was sick, tending to fits, and holding back seemed to make it worse.  "Hehhh..."  His breath hitched softly, and he scrubbed at his nose, trying to stop the building itch.  "Hih'hh'ihh..."  He sat, frozen in pre-sneeze agony, one hand pressed against his nose, eyes squinting, brow wrinkling.  The itch subsided again and he sighed, sniffling.  

"Hah'nntsh!"  With no warning, the itch returned with a vengeance, and Ben flinched forward, turning his head to the side and stifling as best as he could without being able to reach his face in time to stop the sneeze.  And with that one escaped sneeze, the floodgates opened and the rest rushed out.  "Hh'nntsh!  nTsh!  N'xgch!  H'hh'hheh'nxgtch!"  His stomach tightened and shoulders shuddered with each tightly contained release.  He'd managed to get his fingers pinched around his nose by the fourth sneeze, be wasn't able to stop sneezing.  "Oh fuhhh'nxgt!  Fuck.  Heh'gnxtsch'oo!  Hep'shmmmph!  Heh...hihh...hhhhh..."  He panted, sniffling, wavering between needing to sneeze and desperately wanting to stop.

Melissa woke up with the third sneeze, feeling Ben's body tighten and shake beneath her.  At some point she had slipped from snuggling on his chest to laying with her head in his lap.  She could hear his breath catching and feel him struggling to refrain from sneezing, pinching them off in what had to be a headache-inducing manner.  Ohhhh my god, this is the death of me, she thought.  Here lies Melissa, who died from a dizzying attraction to the cute cube mate at work.  Another set of stifled sneezes broke through her reverie.  She pushed away from Ben, giving him enough space to ride out the rest of his fit.  Running her fingers through her tousled hair, she cleared her throat, and reached fro the tissues.

Ben glanced at Melissa out of the corner of his eye.  Feeling bad that he'd woken her, but relieved that he could now sneeze more freely, he shot her a reassuring grin of thanks as she passed him a handful of tissues.  The grin wavered and collapsed as he bent forward with a final set of sneezes.  "Haescheiew!  Hey'Eschiew!  Hh...Hhh...Hidt'Tchiew!"  He blew his nose, finally managing to regain control.

"'Scuse me - I'm so sorry, I hope I didn't sneeze on you.  I couldn't hold them back."  He coughed, cringing at the hoarse rasp to his voice.

"Ben.  It's fine.  I'm fine.  You're fine.  Or, actually, are you fine?  Because you don't seem fine."  Melissa rambled.  "What time is it?  Is it too early for more medicine?"

She's so damn cute,  Ben thought.  I hope I'm not scaring her off - because I seriously love the way she looks when she wakes up, hair messy and make-up worn off- and, wait, is she blushing?  She can't be catching my cold yet, right?  Out loud, he said, "I'm ok, really - I've got a couple more hours before I can take more.  I always sneeze a lot the first few days of a cold."

Always?!?  "Ok, well, then, Ill just... head back to bed.  Looks like I'll be able to sleep now, obviously.  Sorry about passing out on you.  Not sorry not sorry not sorry.  She shivered, remembering the feeling of Ben's shaking body against hers.

"Goodnight, then."  Ben said, noting the shivering and wondering again if she was alright.

"''Night."

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Thank you for sticking with me and reading along!  It's so encouraging.  Another short part ahead.

Part 7

Melissa woke up on Saturday, wincing at the headache she felt behind her eyes.  Way too much alcohol, not enough sleeping, she thought, reaching instinctively for the water bottle she'd brought to bed the night before.  After draining half the bottle and downing a couple of extra strength Tylenol, she headed for the kitchen, in search of caffeine.

"Good morning."  She greeted Ben, who was sitting at the table with his hands cupped around a steaming mug of coffee.  "Did you make enough to share?"

"Mhm."  Ben replied, the strain in his voice evident.  He coughed a few times, trying to clear his throat.  "Left yours in the pot so it would stay warm.  I wasn't sure what time you'd be awake."

"I don't even know what time it is."  Melissa confessed.  "It's been a while since I had that much to drink.  I've got the headache to prove it."

Ben nodded in mock sympathy as she sat down.  "Must be because you're so old.  I hear hangovers tend to hit harder as you age."

"Haha, very funny.  I'm only, what, two months older than you?"

"Something like thahhh...heh'nnch!  Hep'tchh!"

"Bless you.  You sound terrible.  How're you feeling?"  God, he's adorable.  He looks good in slept-in clothes.  Totally unfair, that he can look good with his clothes all wrinkled, sleeves rolled up, hair mussed. Melissa sat down across from him, breathing in the glorious smell of fresh, steaming hot coffee.

"I've been better, but I've also been worse.  I... hang on, gonnahhh...sneeze...Hhhh'ngxtch!  Heh'mmpch!  I could use some more medicine.  And some food."

"You're out of luck on those here.  The NyQuil won't be good during the day, and you do not want to try my cooking."

Ben laughed, triggering a series of coughs.  "Stop it - you're killing me."

"No, if I fed you something I cooked, then I'd be killing you.  I'm only doing what you asked - they say laughter is the best medicine."

"They have clearly never had a hell of a cold."

"C'mon."  Melissa said.  "I've got - "  She paused, a hazy expression on her face.  She turned away from the table and quickly raised her elbow to her face.  "H'itschew!  H'tschiew! 'Tsch!  Ow.  Stupid hangover.  I was gonna say, I've got a pharmacy down the road.  Let's go grab you some medicine and then we can figure out food on the way to get my car.  You'll drive me back to it, right?"

"Least I can do, after crashing on your couch all night."  Ben replied, pushing himself up from the table.  

Melissa stood up and stretched, cracking her neck and laughing at Ben's look of horror.  She tossed him the box of tissues as they passed by the couch on the way out. 

"Better safe than sorry."

They hustled to the car, rushing to get in out of the wind.  It was still cold enough that Ben let loose with a series of sneezes on the way, prompting Melissa to pluck the keys from his hand while he was distracted by his nose and situate herself in the driver's seat, so that he could "not run us off the road with another sneezing fit."  He had to admit, she did have a point.  And thank god she'd thought to grab the tissues.  His nose was running and tingling and he could tell it was going to be another rough day.  Grabbing yet another handful of tissues from the box, he blew his nose and sniffed experimentally, then followed Melissa out of the warm car and into the pharmacy.

He beelined for the cold and flu aisle while Melissa headed to the small grocery section.  He quickly grabbed the first cold tablets he saw and a decongestant before heading for the tissues to stock up.  Melissa met him at the counter, hoisting a bottle of orange juice and a selection of tea.

"Did you get what you needed?"  She asked, quickly running her eyes over his items.

"I should be good now."  He confirmed, stifling a pair of sneezes into the tissues he'd brought with him from the car.  "H'nxt!  "Heh'mmmptch! 'Scuse me."

"Don't do that - you'll make yourself worse."  She warned.

"It's embarrassing."  He whined. "I hate it when people know I'm sick."

"I get that."  She said, then continued.  "But, Ben.  You're buying tissues and meds and it's clear just by looking at you that you're under the weather.  Honestly, you look like you should be tucked up under a blanket playing videogames or watching movies all day.  Stifling your sneezes is not going to hide the fact that you're sick."

Ben blushed, knowing she was right.  "I just want to have some kind of control, y'know?  I already feel bad enough, I don't want other people to think I'm disgusting."  Like you.  I wish you would never have seen me this way, but that ship's clearly sailed.

"Ben.  You are not disgusting - everyone gets sick sometimes.  Seriously.  It's not a big deal."  She persisted, reaching up to turn his face and forcing him to meet her eyes.

He looked at her, falling into her soft brown eyes.  He sniffled softly, then nodded slowly.  "Ok."

"Now, do you you want to do breakfast or do you want to take me to my car?"

"Breakfast, please.  That way I can go straight to bed once I'm home."

"Breakfast it is.  Lead the way."

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