"So where are we going after school today, Willy?"

Will grumbled, pulling his head from his locker. "Stop calling me that. My father calls me that."

She held her hands up in front of her. "Geez, sorry. So?"

He sniffed. He hated to have to say it, but he had to. "Can you just drive me home for a change?"

She narrowed her black-outlined eyes at him. "Why? You getting tired of me?"

"No." He sniffed again, rubbing the back of his hand under his nose. "I just don't feel so well."

She immediately switched into protective mode. "Aaaaawwwwwww, poor baby." She felt his forehead and dug a few tissues out of her backpack for him. "Of course I'll drive you straight home. You'll be ok?"

He nodded. "Just a cold, Elise. No need to sniff treat me like I'm three."

She wrapped her arms around him at the waist and rubbed noses with him. "I always treat you like you're three. Now, are you sure you'll be ok? I mean, at home, Baby."

He hesitated a moment, then nodded. "I just need my sniff own bed when I'm sick, you know?"

She understood. "Don't let them give you any shit."

"I won't… " he pulled back, taking a few steps away.


"I feel… a sneeze… coming on." He squeezed up his face. "hehh… uuhhh…" his chest rose and fell, his eyes closed tightly. "HEHSHHHAHH! Uh!" he wiped his nose with the tissues she'd given him. "Sorry."

"Aaaaawwwwwww," she cooed. "Bless you!"

"Thanks, Elise. Man… sniff… I really don't sniff feel well." He hadn't meant it to be a whine, but that's how it came out, sad and pitiful.

In her fashion, she coddled him. She took off her jacket and put it around him, guiding his arms through the sleeves and then standing behind him, massaging his shoulders. "Let me carry your books for you?"


"Boy, that's some sneeze you have." She smiled. "I've never heard you sneeze before. Did you know they used to think sneezing was he action of expelling demons?"

"Yeah, sniff, you can see why. SNIFF!"

She scooped up his books, dumping half into her bag and carrying the rest. "Come on, let's hit the road."

He nodded, following her through the crowded hallways and out to the parking lot.

The drive home was short and event-less, and she parked the car in the driveway. Will undid his seatbelt and stretched out with his head in her lap. "Sniff! Pet me a minute?"

She smiled and rubbed his arm with one hand as she stroked his warm forehead with the other. "My sweet little sick goth," she whispered. "Can I do anything to make you feel better?"

He sniffed and cupped his hand over his nose and mouth. "huh…HEHSHUSH! HUHSHHOO! UHCHISHH!" She handed him a few more tissues from the box she kept on the dashboard. "SNIFF! Thanks, Elise." He sighed and rubbed more at his nose. "Just be here for me. That's all I want."

She rubbed his arm reassuringly. "Always. Call me if you need to, ok? If the parents get to be too much or whatever. I'll be up. You know me. The door's always open for you."

"I know. Thanks."

"And feel better, Baby."

He sat up, sniffling. "I will."

"Love you."

"Love you, too. I'd sniff kiss you but… contagious…"

She smiled and blew him a kiss. "Be my tough guy, ok?"

He nodded, smiling, and blew her a kiss back. "I always am."

He collected his books from her bag and got his, and headed up to his house. Will fumbled around with his keys as he went for the doorknob, finding it open. Good ol' Mom hoping he was home on time for once. He stumbled in, thick army boots with steel toes clunking on the worn linoleum. His backpack was tossed towards the coat rack, and his jacket made it on top. He sniffed, the smell of food making it through his stuffed nose to give him a little comfort. Then, he started up the stairs to his room.

"Dinner'll be ready in a few minutes, honey," came his mother's voice. He looked down to see her standing at the bottom, leaning on the rail with a gentle smile.

He nodded. "K."

She narrowed her eyes at him. "You ok? You look a little pale."

He rolled his eyes. "That's the point, Mom," and trudged up the stairs to his room. All at once, he collapsed on the bed, eyes closed. He pulled his arms in and under himself and shivered.

"Willy! Dinner!" his father called and Will woke, realizing that he had somehow fallen asleep.

He pulled himself up and, sniffing, made his way across the room to the mirror. Gently, out came the earrings, as his father wouldn't let him wear them to the table. 'Hindering his uniqueness,' Will called it, but today he was in no mood to fight another losing battle on the subject. His father could do nothing about the tattoos, though, and he made sure to wear something sleeveless to compensate and feel somewhat defiant. With a few more sniffs to control what was becoming a very annoying case of the sniffles, he headed down to dinner.

As always, the television did most of the talking, as Peter Jennings did his best to


Setting the mood at dinner, and making Will just as miserable as possible.

"Willy, go to bed."

Will scowled. If his father hadn't ordered him there, he would have gone. But now there was no way he was going to give up so easily. He sniffed, and continued eating until another sneeze came up. This time, he did his best to relax and let it come in full, jarring both parents out of their seats with an explosive "HUHSHAHHH!" which he turned his head and bent over for, angling away from the table as he sneezed freely.

His father grumbled and frowned, trying to ignore it. His mother looked on sympathetically. "Will, Honey, why don't you do as your father suggests and—"


She sighed. "Bless you." What else could she say? He was as stubborn as his father was when he wanted to be.

Will muttered something under his breath and cleared his throat, choking down the last few bites of food. His father finished, too, excused himself coldly, and retired to the den for an after dinner drink or whatever he did in there, calling it work.

Now alone with her son, his mother took the opportunity to feel his forehead with the back of her hand. "Oh, Will! You're sick."

'No shit!' he thought to himself, but he simply nodded.

"You really should go lie down, Honey. Do you want me to get anything for you? Aspirin? Juice? Tissues? Blankets?"

No one could pamper like Mom. Unfortunately, no one could smother like her, either. He much preferred Elise's style. "I'm sniff fine, Mom. Gonna go downstairs and watch some TV."

She nodded, looking worried. "OK. But stay warm."

He headed down.

It was after ten thirty when her husband headed upstairs to go to sleep. He'd had a hard day; she could see it in his tired eyes. So it was up to her to round up Will for the night; he still hadn't come upstairs. So, she finished the dishes and lay them out to dry for the night, then headed down to the basement.

Will was curled up on one side of the couch under the blanket they kept down there. The family dog, Abby, was stretched out on the other half of the couch, with her head on Will's hip. Both were fast asleep, though the TV blared heavy metal music videos.

"Will," she whispered softly, and he stirred. "Will, come on, Honey, up to bed."

He shook his head and coughed, then rubbed at his nose. "I don't feel well."

"I know," she cooed, rubbing his arm and waking the dog who jumped down and raced to her feet to be petted. "Come on, I'll help you upstairs to your nice warm bed. Abby can sleep with you if you want."

Neil perked up to hear this; it was almost forbidden in their house to let the dog upstairs, let alone into his room. "Really?"

"Of course, Honey."

With a grown, he pulled himself up to stand, keeping the blanket around himself for warmth; he at once regretted wearing the sleeveless shirt. The moment he stood, his head spun round and his sinuses did a double-take.


He goes to bed, and calls Elise before falling asleep. The next bit here starts the next morning.

"Mom?" a voice called out to her. "Mom?"

She opened her eyes, sighed, and threw on her bathrobe and slippers as she navigated the dark room and hallway.


She opened the door, peeking in. "You called?" she asked, stifling a yawn.

He nodded, sniffling. "I'm out of tissues. And sniff I need a drink."

She nodded, travelling to the linen closet for a tissue box, then the bathroom to fill up a glass of water. Upon her return, Will leapt upon both items, blowing his nose powerfully and then gulping down the water. She looked at his clock. 7:22. Her alarm would be going off in eight minutes so she could start their breakfasts. "How're you feeling, Honey?"

He shook his head. "Sick. Sniff!"

She felt his forehead again, finding it a bit warm. "I don't think you'll have a problem with it, but I'm calling you in sick today at school."

He smiled. He'd miss Elise, but he knew she wouldn't mind too much. "Thanks, Mom SNIFF!"

"Need anything else while I'm here?"

He shook his head.

She patted his leg. "I'll be downstairs if you need me. Just call. You'll be ok?"

He nodded.

And so she headed downstairs by way of turning her alarm off in her bedroom. She leafed through the school directory and found the number to call, leaving her name and Will's information on the answering machine they used to keep track of absences.

Then, she set to work on the coffee and the eggs, and brought in the morning paper to read while she waited for her husband to come downstairs.

"heyIHHHSHHHOO!" she heard echo down the stairs. She paused a moment to figure things out, realizing suddenly that it wasn't Will sneezing this time.

So, she made her way back up and into her bedroom, just in time to see her husband sit up in bed and bend halfway over with another sneeze. "hey-IHHHSHHOO!" He sneezed like each took him by surprise, bursting out of him with such liquid force that it shook his whole body.

"Bless you," she said, sitting down on the edge of his side of the bed and putting her hand to his head. "Do you feel all right, Donny?"

He shook his head wearily. "No… I don't feel sniff so good."

She nodded, easing him back and pulling the covers up to his waist. "I think you caught Will's cold. I'll call your boss and tell him you're staying home today."

He shook his head. "I can go… go in… huhh… hey-IHHHSHHHHH!"

"Sure you can," she said sarcastically as she reached under his pillow to get the handkerchief he always kept there and handed it to him. "And have you coughing and sneezing and feverish all day long? I don't think so. If Will's not going to school you certainly are not going in to work."

He opened his mouth to protest but knew it was useless. He didn't feel well enough to stand up let alone commute to work. She was right, as usual. "Ok. Sniff!" He rolled over to his side and closed his eyes.

"Good answer," she smiled, pulling the covers up to his shoulders and giving him a kiss on the cheek. "Sleep well."

He nodded, and drifted off to sleep.

Two sick men. This was going to be quite an adventure.


After being a little neglected by his mom, he decides to take Elise up on the offer to stay at her place more. So he calls her and she agrees to pick him up.

He stood there, rain pouring down around him, holding a pillow and his backpack, packed with clothing and things. He saw the car headlights before the car, and sprinted to the open door. Once settled in the seat, he went for the tissue box, blowing gently.

"You look like a drowned rat, Will."

He sniffed and closed his eyes. "I cad go back id if you—"

"No, no, Baby," she patted his leg. "Just wait til we get you back to my place. All nice and dry and warm. Elise is gonna take such good care of you."

He sunk into the car's leather seats. Maybe this was a mistake. He didn't want to be fussed over; he just wanted a quiet place to sleep and a little love and caring. After a minute or two, the heat came at him, and his closed his eyes.


He shrugged. "Little."

"Don't fall asleep yet. You need to give me your order." He opened his eyes and looked around to find that they were pulling into the McDonalds parking lot.


"You haven't eaten today, have you?"

He shook his head. "No sniff. But you don't have to—"

"What, and force me to cook for you? No way! Anyway, you love McDonalds." This was true; it was a definite weakness of his. "Thanks, Elise." He went to unbuckle his seatbelt.

"Don't bother. I'll run in and get them and you can stay in the car." He knew well that she despised drive-throughs. Two many cars waiting on and contributing to air pollution because of laziness. "So what do you want?"

"Um…" he sniffed as the heat died down with the car off. "Surprise me?"

She smiled. He said that so many times that she already had it planned out. "OK, give me a few minutes. Be right back." Pulling up the hood of her coat to keep the rain off her, she darted out. She returned a few minutes later with full bags of food and a tray of two drinks. "Milkshakes. Vanilla for you and chocolate for me."

He grinned, grabbing at his and taking a few sips. "Mmmmmmm… thanks!"

"No prob. Can you wait till we get home for the food?"

He nodded. "Sure sniff can, sniff."

When the got to her house, she carried in most of the stuff, and Will followed behind up the stairs to designer apartment she shared with her mother.

All at once, the scent of incense bombarded his nose, even stuffed as it was.

"Oooh, glad you're home!" he heard her mother shout from another room, and she came out, wearing very little other than a large painting shirt. "I need the change from your meal for some tracings." Elise handed it over, kissing her mother on the cheek as she did so. "And Will," she said, looking over at the 'drenched rat' "Glad you could come by."

He sniffed and opened his mouth to speak, but Elise answered for him. "The poor little guy is sick."

Will nodded and sniffed again. "It's sniff just a cold."

Her mother cocked her head to one side and gave him a sympathetic look. "I'm sorry you're not well. Let Elise take care of you? And if you need anything, I'd be happy to make a run out and get it for you."

"Thanks," he said and felt Elise pull at his arm. Will followed Elise upstairs to her loft. Her loft sat above half of the living room, as a small room, open on one side save for a long wooden banister. It was private, and yet open at the same time. Will loved it. He also loved the way she had it decorated. The center of the room had a large sleigh bed with sides high enough to keep in mounds of pillows and blankets. The only light there came from four lamps, shaped and designed to look like large candelabras. Her mother had made them, protesting that they were much less likely to set the house on fire than actual candles. Elise had a desk on one side of the room with a computer taking up much of the space there. On the back wall, there was a wall-long series of bookshelves stocked and overflowing with her private library. The floor was carpeted with a thick maroon rug. The windows were adorned with black curtains, and usually drawn closed. There were a few chairs and a trunk where she kept her clothes, rather than a dresser. Her other clothes were in a wooden wardrobe beside her desk, and on the other side of the desk was a large cabinet where her television and stereo resided.

He set his stuff down on the trunk and sat down on one of the chairs, not sure where she wanted him to sleep. He always stayed with her in her bed, which was more than accommodating. But this time he was sick. And the point proved itself as a full shiver ran through him. "huhHUHSHHOO! HUHEHHSHHH! HEHSHOO!"

"Awww," she cooed. "Bless you. Let's get you out of those wet clothes, ok?"

Nodding, Will started to rummage through his bag for something to wear.

"Change into your PJ's, Baby." She said, tossing her pants to the side and throwing off her shirt. Expertly, she slipped the silky nightgown on and her bra off. Then she retrieved a towel and sat down in bed waiting for him. He changed into the dark green, silk pajama set she had bought him for his birthday.

"You sniff sure you want me in bed? Sniff! I am sniff sick."

She laughed. "Of course I'm sure." So he climbed in, and she plumped a head of pillows around him so he was in perfect comfort, sitting up. She dried his died black hair with a towel, then set up the trays so they could eat. Elise was very adamant on breakfast in bed. Every morning they spent together, they had it, getting up early just to make it, then slipping back under the covers to cuddle and eat. She kept trays there, always, for this purpose. So they dug into the brunch of cinnamon buns, hash browns, Egg McMuffins and apple pies. She handed him tissues when he got the look of desperation about him. They were done quickly, though caught in casual talk about how things were going, how school was the day he wasn't there, and such things.

Will confessed to feeling tired and she cleared away things so he could stretch out. She brought the box of tissues over and in front of him so he could reach it easily. She curled up beside him, petting him soothingly until he drifted off.