College is strange.
Not monster-of-the-week weird , although there is that too. Tommy would stare disbelievingly at him if Merton told him how reassuring that is, Merton thinks, but it's true. After a year of hanging with Tommy, he's gotten used to weird ass things happening, and he's always been into the occult anyway, so, yeah, it's kind of comforting that things keep happening.
They haven't even been at the school for a month yet, and already they've dealt with a ghost in the bathroom on their floor and a student's cursed bong.
But the school... Merton always thought it'd be an experience, that's true. Of course, he'd been expecting to experience it at Heidelberg, but things change, Merton's cool with that. Mostly. What he definitely hadn't expected, however, was that he'd, well, blend in. The last time he blended in anywhere, he'd been ten years old and at a McDonald's birthday party. It's a bit of a shock to the system to be 'just one of the guys' again at eighteen.
All right, that is taking it a little far. The campus isn't exactly swarming with Goths into magic, mystery and movies, but considering he'd been pretty much the only one at Pleasantville High (excepting the random Freak of the Week) , even one other would've been a huge improvement. Five openly Goth students, well, that is very near amazing. Two of them are even pretty okay; Karyn Banks and Bran Williams.
Karyn even offers him some paling advice after he notes worriedly aloud that he is starting to get a bit of a tan (unlike Tommy who'd mentioned that he thought Merton was looking "unusually healthy this week" before heading off to Psych 101). Bran offers to lend Merton his copy of "The Collected Poems of Edgar Allan Poe" and looks slightly disappointed when Merton tells him he already owns a leatherbound illustrated copy.
Merton is thinking of asking Bran if he wants to watch the Poe cartoons with him at some point. He's hoping Bran won't turn out to be a vampire.
To Merton's surprise and delight, his film class is taught by a TA with a thing for classic horror, especially zombie movies. Shaun Akunin starts the class off by showing an early French exercise in experimentalism -- from thereon known only as 'the one with the eye' -- and quickly moving on to "Carnival of Souls" and "The Plague of the Zombies", before promising to lobby for a midnight "Trilogy of the Dead" marathon.
At the end of the class, Jon Evans gets up and waves his hands to get everyone's attention. Jon's tall and thin with curly, black hair and a bright smile. He wants to know if anyone else is planning on going to the showing of "Hellboy" this Friday, because then they can all go together. About half the class thinks it's a good idea, including Merton, who hasn't been to a movie without Tommy or Lori in so long, he can't remember last time it wasn't either or both of them.
Jon beams. "Great! I'll order the tickets, and we'll meet outside the Paradiso around seven?" He holds up a notebook. "And, if you could just sign your name here, so I know who of you are coming, that'd be great too. I'm a nosy-ass control freak, see," he confesses to general laughter. The laughter is not so much for the words as the self-deprecating way he says them.
Merton hangs back, and is the last to sign.
"Aaand that's eight," Jon smiles, reaching for the notebook.
"Um, I was wondering," Merton says, hesitating, because going without Tommy feels wrong somehow.
Jon's hand falls down by his side, and he archs his eyebrows questioningly. "Yeah?"
"Is it okay if I bring a friend? I'm not sure if he'll want to go, but I think so. This is a comicbook movie, right? He likes those."
Jon grins. "Sure thing, man. That'll make us an even ten, actually, 'cause Toby's bringing his girlfriend too," he remarks after glancing down at the notebook Merton hands over.
Merton feels a ridiculous urge to blush. It sounds as though Jon's suggesting that Tommy's... Muttering something about being late for... something, he leaves the classroom. The last thing he sees before the door closes, is Shaun walking down from the podium and over to Jon.
Tommy's already in their room when Merton arrives. He's lying spread eagled on his bed, staring up a the ceiling. He's wearing a dark blue long sleeved t-shirt, black jeans and tennis socks. He's lost his shoes at some point, and Merton finds out where, when he stumbles over them on his way to the desk. He kicks them absently under the chair and drops his notes down on the desktop.
"My Psych professor is evil," Tommy says after a moment, still staring up at the ceiling. "Like, evil, man."
"Really?" Merton's maybe a little more eager in tone than the situation warrants, but Tommy should be used to that by now.
Tommy turns his head to look over at him, amused grin tugging at the corner of his mouth. "Not that kind of evil. I don't think," he adds, frowning. "Though I wouldn't be surprised. No, I meant, sadistic kind of evil."
Merton sits down on the chair, resting one arm on the arm rest. "Homework assignment?"
"She didn't call it that, but yeah." Tommy stares at the ceiling again. "I'm supposed to make a chart over my 'social identities'."
"That doesn't sound so difficult."
Tommy sighs. "Yeah, well, I was hoping I didn't have to start the school year by lying and hiding what I am, you know?"
"Not lying," Merton says quickly. Tommy has been given the chance to not be a werewolf anymore, Merton knows, but he's chosen to remain one. Sometimes Merton has the feeling that maybe Tommy's regretting that choice. "Obfuscating, maybe. You just don't mention that, er, side of you. It's not like she's going to ask. ...Is it?"
"No. Well, unless she really is an evil monster." Tommy still isn't looking at Merton.
"Not an unknown phenomena at colleges," Merton remarks. "There are tons of movies who touch up on the subject of monstrous professors..." and he gives a mini-lecture on the topic, partly because it is an interesting sub-genre and partly just to have something to say. By the end, Tommy is grinning up at the ceiling, which Merton takes as a good sign and segues into... "So, anyway, we're going with my filmclass to see 'Hellboy' this Friday."
"What?" Tommy sits up and stares at him at those news. He looks a little more taken aback than Merton had expected.
"It's not a class thing, so it's okay for you to come," Merton assures him, in case that's what's got him baffled. "I asked Jon, just to make sure, and he says Toby's bringing his girlfriend, so it's not just a class thing. Not that I know who Toby or his girlfriend is, but I'm assuming Toby's one of the guys in my class and his girlfriend isn't in the class. I could be wrong."
Tommy still looks confused. "...Okay."
"Apparently it's got great reviews." Since Merton knows fuck-all about 'Hellboy', he'd looked it up on the 'net before coming back to the room. He now knows enough to hold an intelligent conversation with any random 'Hellboy' fanatic that crosses his path. "It's about a man from Hell, but he isn't evil or anything. Actually, he's working as the world's greatest occult detective." Merton frowns. "World's greatest... Huh. I'd say we're at least contenders for that title."
Tommy nods in agreement, then smiles. "How about we go get some dinner and you tell me all about it?"
"Well, we've defeated the Sandman, random curses, poisons, hexes--"
"The movie, Merton," Tommy says, amused. "Tell me about the _movie_."
On Tuesday, Merton has 'Chem 102' at what he calls 'hideously early' and Tommy calls 'time to go run a couple of laps 'round the football field'. Merton is sadly convinced that years of organized sports has driven Tommy mad. Since Tommy brings him bagels and juice for breakfast, when Merton's out of chem class, Merton magnanimously doesn't bring up Tommy's obvious madness.
Merton has the rest of the day off, and contemplates finding a part time job. He's seen enough movies and tv-shows to know that monster fighting and jobs generally don't mix very well, but he thinks he might give it a shot. With that in mind, he boots up the laptop and goes online to check out the local vacancies.
He gives up on the job search when he realises that the jobs he's qualified to apply to (mostly in the service industry) have work hours that are utterly incompatible with a busy shedule of vanquishing demons and such like.
Tommy does have lectures to attend, and comes back talking excitedly about Gnter Grass and Hunter S. Thompson. Merton was maybe more surprised than he should have been upon discovering Tommy's decidedly journalistic choice in subjects, but he has to admit it seems to agree with Tommy.
And everybody knows that jobs within the media combined with superheroing works like a charm.
On Wednesday, Tommy's gone for hours attending a Un-Organised Sports Organisation meeting. "I just have to check out a group calling themselves UOSO, man," Tommy had explained. Then he'd explained that, yes, he did know that ouzo was spelled differently. He still found it amusing, and he was still going. Merton had shrugged, "whatever makes you happy" and looked up Bran's room number in the school catalogue.
Turns out Bran has never seen the Poe cartoons and very much wants to. Before they can do that, however, Bran has to track down his Gamesmaster and let him know he isn't coming to tonight's game, and fetch the pizza he's ordered 'cause it is cheaper to get it at the shop, and as Bran points out, he is a poor, starving student.
With one thing or another, they're just watching the end of 'the Tell-Tale Heart' when Tommy shuffles inside, shouting "See you in the morning!" to someone in the hallway.
"Shhh!" Merton and Bran hushes in unison.
Tommy turns and gives them a bemused look, then he follows their gaze towards the tv, and his face clears. Bran and Merton are sitting in Merton's bed, and Tommy can't get to his own without walking in front of the tv. He nudges his shoes off, kicking them absently towards the desk, before padding over to Merton, eyeing the film curiously.
After a moment, Tommy's fingers are absently massaging the back of Merton's head. Merton glances up, wondering if Tommy's trying to get his attention, but Tommy's looking at the film with an expression that says very clearly that he's trying to figure out what the hell is going on.
When the cartoon finishes, Bran makes his excuses and leaves after making Merton promise to burn the VCD for him.
"So what was that?" Tommy asks. He gives Merton a 'move it' look and a nudge to the shoulder. Merton sighs long sufferingly and shifts to the side, leaving space for Tommy to sit down on the bed. Tommy beams and does so.
"That was a collection of animations inspired by or adapted from Edgar Allen Poe's poetry and short stories. Not all of them are all that good, but the one you were watching, is one of the best. It's in the sound, I think."
"Ah. Like the heart thumping?"
"Yes, exactly!" Merton gives Tommy a pleased look. The boy can be taught!
On Thursday, the girl from Southern Georgia (Teri-Kate Clarice Starsky) turns out to be some sort of mutated lizard looking for someone to mate with. To their complete lack of surprise, she's chosen Tommy as the father of whatever spawn she'd get. Tommy, understandably, isn't too keen on the idea. It ends with an all out knock down brawl in the gym at two o'clock at night. Merton is watching from the stands, clasping a vial of something he cooked up in the chem lab. Just in case.
After being soundly beaten by a wolfed out Tommy, lizard-girl slithers away, hopefully for good.
"You know what?" Tommy says, once they've jumped out the window and are walking across the lawn to their dorm. "I think we've some sort of magnetic appeal to the girls of the supernatural."
Merton considers his sorta ex-girlfriends, which includes a vampire, a werewolf slayer and a witch, and has to agree. "An upside is that we protect every other man around from these man-eaters. And I mean that literally. We're martyrs, practically."
"It's a tough job, but someone's got to do it," Tommy says thoughtfully, his eyes shining in yellow.
They get back to the room via the fire escape.
On Friday, they go see 'Hellboy', and Merton tells himself that anything that involves eight other people, can't possibly, in anyway, be constructed as a date. By anyone. Up to and including Jon.
The fact that Jon doesn't seem like the gaybashing type, means nothing. Nor does the fact that Tommy can definitely take care of himself. Tommy doesn't get the slurs anyway. Merton does.
Although the way Jon definitely checks Tommy out as he hands over the tickets (Not obviously so, but definitely not discretely either), stills that vague fear.
Merton blinks. Jon's also either very rude, or he agrees with Merton on the date thing. Merton's not sure which.
Tommy doesn't notice or doesn't care, because he continues reading out loud from a movie flyer he's picked up in the lobby. "--'Alexander the Great' is going to be the movie experience of the year, did you know that? Wasn't that one supposed to come out in July or something?"
After the movie, Jon, Toby and his girlfriend, Merton and Tommy go to the Green Dragon for Chinese food.
Tommy charms them utterly with his enthusiasm for the movie. Toby and the girlfriend (who's name is Alison) turn out to be comicbook geeks, while Jon just likes movies.
"Do you live on campus?" Tommy asks after they've gone through all the cool moments in the movie in detail, Toby supplying the dialogue, Merton the cinematography.
Jon grins. "Oh, no. We're living in a collective on Bernard street."
"I don't," Alison shoots in. She returns her attention to her chicken.
"Slightly more privacy, you know?" Jon tugs at Alison's dark blonde hair. "And of course you don't, Alison, dear."
Tommy looks interested. "Is it expencive?"
Merton gives him a sideways glance, wondering.
"Nah, not especially. But we're splitting the cable and the electricity," Toby replies. "And we're eight people. Most of the time."
"Most of the time?" Merton repeats.
"Phil's not around much," Jon says shortly. "Anyway, you're living in Austen house, right? The study dorm?"
"Door closes at midnight during weekdays," Merton affirmed. "We had a floor by floor vote, and that was the result."
"Totally against the spirit of college," Toby says mournfully. "Who ever heard of drunken revelry that ends on the stroke of twelve?"
"We're having a bash tomorrow, by the way. Open house. If you want to come."
Merton is startled when he realises Jon's including him in the invitation. Of course he'd be the life of any party, but so far, surprisingly few people have realised this.
"BYOB?" Tommy questions. To Merton's blank look, "Bring your own booze."
Toby and Jon nods. Alison has lost interest in the conversation and is busy forking all of Toby's pineapple chunks over to her plate.
"Yeah, so do drop by if you find the time, eh?" Jon smiles. "We'd love to see you."
"The more the merrier and all that," Toby adds, giving Jon a glance acompanied by an arched eyebrow. Jon ignores him.
"Definitely," Merton nods and changes the topic back to the 'Hellboy' movie.
They part a little later; Toby, Jon and Alison heading south, Tommy and Merton going west. They don't say much as they walk. It's a nice night. Quiet. Tommy's hair gets a pinkish tint whenever they walk under a street-light, to Merton's mild amusement.
Back at the room Tommy gives him a strange look.
"Do you really want to go? To the party?"
"Don't you?" Merton counters. He sits down on his bed and starts taking off his shoes. The novelty of being apparently sincerely invited to a party aside, he's not entirely sure that his first brush with alcohol should be in public. He already talks too much. Gods knew what he'd say if he got drunk.
"Not really," Tommy says after a moment. He's standing by the desk, staring out of the window.
They've been together nearly twenty-four/seven for three weeks now. Tommy has to be getting tired of him. Anybody else would already by yelling at him for getting in the way of... whatever. "Because of me?" Merton asks in a small voice, suddenly fearing that that's exactly it.
Tommy turns, puzzled expression on his face. "What?"
Merton looks down at his shoes, tugging at the stubborn laces. Glad for any excuse not to see Tommy's face right now. "Would you've gone if I wasn't invited as well?"
Tommy frowns. "Merton, that makes no sense. 'Course I wouldn't. Look, watching a bunch of drunk people make idiots of themselves is really low on my list of things to do right now, okay? And I can't get drunk myself because I wouldn't be able to control the wolf worth shit. That's why I don't want to go. But if you want to go..." He shrugs.
"No. I... It wouldn't be any fun without you." Merton glances up again in time to see the warm, pleased look Tommy throws his way. Merton smiles back, worries gone for the moment.
The next week after 'Occult' (Native American magic), Karyn invites him to the GLBT society's get-together at five, and Merton wonders where all the gay people's come from. He says he's busy, but maybe next time? and decides not to ask Karyn out like he'd planned.
Karyn smiles and says she'll remind him.
Somehow, it's not until Merton's back in his room that he realises that Karyn thinks he's gay. Huh. Not that it's an uncommon conception, but people are generally a lot less amiable about it when they bring it up. Defencively going 'I'm not gay, damnit' has become second nature by now. Tommy arrives with Trina and Keith from OUSO in tow before Merton's had a chance to think it over.
Both of them run track and Tommy has a standing running date with either at godawfully early in the morning. They're both skinny and blond and seem to posses no other clothing than Adidas track suits.
After a couple of minutes small talk, Merton excuses himself to go to the bathroom, and when he comes back, he freezes with his hand on the doorhandle as Keith says, "Your roommate's kind of a freak, isn't he?"
"He's a friend," Tommy replies.
"Really?" Trina sounds fascinated.
"Yes," Tommy says firmly, ending the discussion.
Merton enters the room again, trying to not give Tommy's friends the evil eye for talking about him. Apparently blending in only goes so far. At least no one's stuffing him into lockers here. Possibly because there are none.
There are no monsters to fight this week. Merton finds it disconcerting. Tommy seems happy about it, though.
The week after, Tommy falls asleep in Merton's bed during a movie marathon. Merton is comfortably dozing, still half-awake, when Tommy turns over to his side and with a sigh leaves his arm across Merton's chest and cuddles closer. Merton opens his eyes slightly. Not that he can see much of anything, since he's switched off the tv. Tommy is still asleep though, and Merton figures it's okay.
He wakes up alone around noon. He doesn't think anything of it and by the time he's showered, shaved and brushed his teeth, Tommy's returned with pastry.
"You're sleeping your life away," Tommy chides.
"It's Saturday," Merton points out, pausing to stretch, black t-shirt riding up his stomach. He needs to buy more t-shirts. Well, that, or change detergent, because half his t-shirts are fading to grey. He'd be excommunicated from the Gothic society if he started turning up in grey clothing.
Tommy's eating his chiabatta leaned up against the closet. His juice bottle is placed on the bookshelf next to Merton's D&D handbook. Merton takes the chair, and closes his laptop before digging out his breakfast from the deli bag. Raspberry ice tea and thebriks with ham and cheese.
"What do you want to do today?"
Merton shrugs. "Haven't any plans. Whatever, I suppose."
This is the answer Tommy was waiting for. "Sondre Lerche is playing at The Edge. Trina has two tickets, but she can't use them because there's an emergency track meet --"
Emergency track meet? Merton mouths to himself.
"--So she gave them to me." Tommy uses his foot to poke Merton in the leg. "Want to go?"
Merton hesitates. On one hand, Sondre Lerche is decidedly un-Gothic... on the other, it's a free concert, and Tommy seems to want him to come with rather than some random co-ed... "Sure, why not?"
Tommy smiles brightly. "Great!"
Jon is waving his hands around wildly. Shaun is standing next to him, circling his own wrist and twisting his hand nervously. Merton slows down before he's in their line of sight. It looks like an argument. A private one, Merton thinks, unless Jon is really upset about how his last essay was graded.
A minute or so later Jon ends the argument by throwing his hands in the air and stalking off. Shaun looks unhappily after him.
* * * * *
It's not until they go home for fall break that Merton realises that he can't sleep without hearing Tommy breathe, or that he's gotten used to Tommy telling him when to eat, or that half his socks are actually Tommy's. Fall break is only a week long, but it's the longest week he's experienced in quite a while.
Lori is home as well, and they meet her at the Factory that Monday.
"How are you guys?" Lori wants to know. She's perched on a stool, nursing a glass of pepsi. She looks the same, yet not. "Anything interesting happening at that college of yours?"
"Bathroom ghost, cursed bong, lizard girl, telepathic twelve year old, and Merton thinks Keith's a result of genetic experimentation," Tommy lists. "And my Psych professor gives out truly sadistic assignments."
"Never a dull moment," Lori says drily, wistful expression on her face. Our Lady of the Heart must not be stuffed with the opportunities of giving people a solid ass-kicking, Merton thinks.
Tommy's arm is around Merton's shoulder, and it takes a moment before Merton figures out why it feels odd. Not that it does, really. It feels warm, and good, and like he belongs, like it always does, but there's something new in Lori's eyes when she looks at them. Something wryly amused.
"What about you? How are you doing?" Merton asks. He doesn't like the look in her eyes and searches for a way to distract her. Luckily he's found just the thing. "You're taking photo, right?"
Lori lits up, and throws herself into a long monologue about her photography class -- "Can you believe? There's both a photolab and a dark room! And the equipment, you wouldn't believe! The macs! Oh, the macs!" -- which leads to Tommy talking about Gonzo journalism and Merton about surrealism and drugs in movies.
On Wednesday, Tommy turns up at the Lair on the brink of wolfing out and ends up pacing restlessly around.
"Yes. No. I don't know," Tommy says, clearing that right up. He rubs his temple with his fist.
Merton gives him a cautious look. "I can't help you if you don't tell me what's wrong."
Tommy sighs and collapses onto the couch. "It's nothing, really. Just, everything smells funny."
"Funny?" Merton repeats blankly, flicking through his vast mental file of film-plots and coming up empty for once. He returns his attention to the laptop and closes the Bubbles window (he's shamefully addicted), opening the Google bookmark instead.
"Off," Tommy clarifies. "As in, not right."
"Maybe we're in a Twilight Zone," Merton suggests. "Would explain why Becky called me by name yesterday. Oh! Or pod people."
Tommy is skeptical. "Not that much off. It's more like there's something missing..." He trails off, breathing in. "Um. Never mind. I think I just figured it out." The tips of his ears are bright red.
"Really, it wasn't anything." Tommy gives him an earnest look.
Merton isn't buying it. He arches his eyebrows tellingly, but doesn't say anything.
There's a brief, silent battle of wills.
"All right." Tommy gives. "It's... um, you. I couldn't smell you."
"Oh." Merton blinks.
"But everything's fine now," Tommy adds. He looks uncomfortable.
"That's pretty cool," Merton says, fascinated now that it's sunk in. "When did you first notice it?" He glances around the lair distractedly. There has to be something he can use...
Merton waves his hand. "The smelling thing."
"Ah. Well, this one time, at camp, I got bitten by a wolf--" Tommy starts, tiny grin appearing.
"This time, Tommy, this time."
Tommy grins. "Sunday, I guess."
"We came home Friday."
They look at each other. After a moment, Merton shrugs. "I'll think of something better, but until I do..." He pulls his fading-to-grey t-shirt over his head and tosses it at Tommy, who catches it easily.
"Smells like me, doesn't it?" Merton replies.
Tommy sniffs it cautiously, then looks pleased and a little wry. "Safety blanket," he mutters. "Thought I'd out grown them."
Merton is digging through his closet for another t-shirt, but he still hears him. "It's just until I come up with something better. Is it my fault you've got a jones for eau d'Merton?" He backs out of the closet, pulling on the black t-shirt. "Completely understandable as it may be."
"It's probably because we're living together," Merton continues, turning around.
"Er, yes," Tommy agrees, unconvincingly.
"You don't think so?"
"I don't think it's the only reason, is all," Tommy evades.
Merton eyes him. "Go on." When Tommy hesitates, Merton launches into Werewolf Speech #3: How Can I Help You If You Don't Trust Me? version You Will Tell Me And You Know You Will.
"Merton. Merton. Merton!" Tommy breaks in, just as Merton really gets going. "I don't know. You're probably right, okay? That it's because we're roommates. It's just kind of... embarressing." His ears are red again.
"Oh. Well, of course I'm right," Merton says, mollified. He's still not completely convinced that's all Tommy meant, but he can understand how missing his smell could be embarrassing enough for Tommy to want there to be something else behind it. Some funky lycantrophic thing. Which it indubitably is. So why... He's distracted by Tommy going over to flick through his dvd collection before he can keep on the with the circular reasoning. "Hey, you want to watch a movie?"
* * * * *
Even back at the college, Tommy keeps on nicking Merton's t-shirts. Tommy's bigger than Merton, so whatever shirt he nicks tends to end up looking glued to his body. Tommy was already turning heads, now he's making them slam into doors and street-lights. At first Merton is both amused and annoyed by it, but when he finds himself gazing at Tommy's torso, thinking idly "wow. and also very much wow", he starts to worry.
It's the combination, Merton decides after much thought. He's registred that Tommy was good looking, of course. He's isn't blind, after all. But Tommy is his friend. Kind, friendly, great listener, fun to watch movies with, fun to hang around with in general... Hot hasn't really been on the list before. But Tommy in his t-shirts...
Very strange. He has to think about this some more. He stops doodling Tommy's name on his notepad and tunes back in to the end of professor Wessel's lecture. He'll have to ask Karyn or Bran if he can borrow their notes.
Tommy is sitting crosslegged on his bed, reading a book and eating pizza when Merton returns to the room. "I've found an evil book," he says, looking up.
"Are you reading it?" Merton wants to know.
"No. It turned everyone who came near it into dust, so I thought touching it would be a bad idea."
Merton is late for Chem class and he can't find his jacket -- any of his jackets -- anywhere. He stands in the middle of the room, trying to think. Okay, the black one with the pockets is probably still smoldering gently, wrapped around the Book of Doom, shoved into a iron casket and burried underneath the flagpole. Lost cause, obviously.
The black trenchcoat and the deep purple jacket are still in the laundry room, waiting for Merton to get the time to throw them in the washing machine. Hey, that might be were the black jeans are. He'd been wondering where they were.
The black leather waistlenght one is at the cleaners. Merton has high hopes they'll manage to get out the neon green goo. Apparently cleaning his clothes has turned into a sort of Cleaner's Apprentice Masterpieces. He preens for a moment, then realises he still doesn't have a jacket. And it's cold outside and if he takes off without a jacket, which is the only marginally stylish option left, Tommy is going to look at him.
Sighing, he grabs Tommy's beige Puma jacket and runs out of the room, hoping he won't run into Bran or Karyn. He'll never heard the end of it if he does. Beige brand-name sports jackets are definitely against the Gothic Dress Code. Merton's sure he can remember a paragraph dealing specifically with this situation.
He runs across the public speakers square. There's frost in the grass, and the air is chilly. There's snow in the air, he notes. He gets to the Chemistry lab just in time.
Tommy is waiting by the statue of the college's founder. He does a little quirk of an eyebrow at the sight of Merton in his jacket, but doesn't say anything. He hands Merton one of the take away coffees (courtsey of Starbucks -- Which, while definitely evil and all, is the closest take away coffee place) and a danish. They walk together towards Tommy's Gonzo journalism lecture room.
"I heard someone playing the flute while I was running," Tommy says inbetween sips of his coffee. "It was pretty, but kind of... weird."
"How weird? Like, on a scale of one to ten, ten being carnivourous carrots craving cat-flesh -- oooh, alliteration."
Tommy considers it. "What's one?"
"Evil books," Merton says.
"I think evil books are pretty freaky," Tommy disagrees.
"Not really. World literature and not to mention folk superstition have many examples of books being thought of as evil, especially if thought to have belonged to a witch or a wizard. And book burnings--"
"Okay, okay, evil books are the cornflakes of the supernatural, I get it." Tommy holds his hands up in defence.
"--is an excellent example of the fear that... Well, then. So what does the music of the track rate on the weird-o-meter?"
Tommy thinks about it while he finishes his coffee. "About a four, I guess."
Later Merton remembers this and decides that Tommy has to be the only one to rate a piper with a thing for kidnapping people's pets a four. Tommy managed to convince the piper that it was something he should quit doing, though, while Merton was busy being held in the piper's thrall.
Suppress and deny, that is Merton's new mantra.
Tommy claims he'd been doing the macarena. It is too horrible to contemplate. Merton drowns his sorrow in Ben & Jerry's chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream with chocolate syrup, to Tommy's amusement.
Tommy is cold, cold man, Merton thinks resentfully.
"Oh come on, Merton. It wasn't that bad," Tommy grins.
Merton eats ice cream.
Tommy hums cheerfully.
Merton empties the remains of the ice cream over Tommy's head. Tommy stares at him in shock, ice cream dripping down his face, then they both burst into laughter.
Bran has wings. Huge, enormous wings. Merton sits in the clocktower and stares. He hadn't expected wings. He isn't sure what he had expected, but wings was definitely not it. Bran lands on the roof and starts walking towards where Merton is sitting. About half way there, he crooks his head and pauses as his wings slowly fold up and disappear.
"Hey," Merton says, once Bran has climbed inside.
Bran jumps, startled expression on his face. Then he relaxes. "Oh, hey, Merton. I was just..."
"Out flying," Merton finishes.
"Yes, it's a lovely--" Bran breaks off, biting his lip.
Merton shrugs, standing up. "I saw you. It's okay. I mean, unless you prey on little kids or kittens or pet armadillos, in which case not okay."
Bran smiles a little at that. "No, I don't. Look, you can't--"
"Of course I'm not gonna tell anyone." Merton rolls his eyes. Oh, honestly. Creatures of the paranormal, they're all the same. So very paranoid.
They stand there looking at each other, Merton curious, Bran apprehensive.
"Look," Bran starts again, at the same time as Merton says;
"You're not the angel of death or anything, are you?"
Bran bursts out laughing. "No, no, I'm not," he coughs eventually, deeply amused. "Whatever gave you that idea?"
Merton shrugs again, contemplating being insulted, desiding it can wait until later. "You have wings, you're a Goth..."
"You did see my wings, right?"
"On a distance."
Bran grins. "Well, maybe up close will make things clearer... If you'd back off a little..."
"Huge brown eagle wings," Merton says, holding his arms far apart to demonstrate. "Huge."
"But not evil?"
"I don't think evil."
"Could be evil?"
"Tommy, is there something you would like to share with the rest of the class, ie me?" Merton crosses his arms over his chest and gives him a stern look.
Tommy ignores him. "So not evil?" he insists.
Merton rolls his eyes. "No."
"Does this mean we get the rest of tonight off?" he asks cautiously.
"Looks like it, yes."
Merton shakes his head. "Don't you realise what a discovery this is? Groundbreaking! Wings! He told me hardly anything before he left. I've got to come up with a way to make him tell me all about it." Merton plots.
"Whatever," Tommy mutteres, leaning down until he's lying on his back on the bed, squinting up at the ceiling.
"You're not appreciating the significance of this," Merton accuses.
"Probably not," Tommy agrees. "I appreciate sleep though. Merton, I haven't slept an entire night since before the break. If I don't get a night's uninterrupted sleep soon, I'm going to go crazy."
"Why haven't you said anything?"
"Didn't see the point." Tommy shrugs as best he can while lying down.
Merton pinches the bridge of his nose. "Do I need to give you Werewolf Speech #5 version B again? Because I can. Easily." He walks over from the desk to stand beside Tommy's bed. Tommy turns his head and squints again, this time at Merton's folded arms.
"Which one's that? The dangers of pixie sticks?"
"Health Care, dangers of sleep deprivation. Dork," he adds after a moment.
For once Merton wakes up before Tommy does. They've pulled plenty of all nighters where Tommy ends up falling asleep, while Merton works into the wee hours, but this is the first time Merton remembers actually waking up before Tommy. The sheer novelty value of it makes him grin.
He considers leaning down and pulling out one of the Rising Stars trade paperbacks and reading a little. He likes Randy -- Ravenshadow. But it's not that long since he read them, and now that he thinks about it, he'd rather go get Tommy some breakfast before he wakes up. He still feels a little guilty over how he hasn't noticed how exhausted Tommy's been. That's no way of taking care of one's werewolf.
Merton finds himself some clothes and wanders over to the cantina, to see what they have. Tommy usually goes to one of the coffeeshops or bakeries, but it's a cold morning, and Merton'd rather not wander about outside more than he has to.
The cantina has fruit, juice, sandwiches, tea and coffee. Merton grabs a little of everything, and watches as the girl behind the counter rips off a third of his food marks.
"You don't have to hoard, you know," the girl says, amused, as she hands the food marks back to him. "We get new supplies every morning."
"Very hungry friend," Merton says, by way of explanation.
Tommy is still sleeping when Merton returns. Merton dumps the food on the desk, but is more careful with the tea and the coffee, since the bags are prone to ripping at the worst possible moments. He spins on his feet and frowns at the room, trying to remember where they last put the water heater.
He finds it stuffed in the back of the closet with Tommy's green Summer Wine t-shirt draped over it. A little paranoia may be healthy, but Merton can't remember anyone being pulled to task over a water heater yet. Hot plates, yes, water heaters, no.
The smell of coffee wakes Tommy up. He rolls over on his back and makes a weird scrunchy face, then he opens his eyes. "Coffee?"
Merton grins. "Coffee," he affirms, and nods towards the desk. "Coffee, tea, various sandwiches, an orange, an apple and a packet of raisins."
"I considered cornflakes as well, but I couldn't carry any more stuff."
* * * * *
Tommy's hanging over his shoulder again, and Merton turns his head to ask Tommy about the precise colour, and finds himself staring at Tommy's mouth. After a long moment, he looks up, face flushed. Tommy meets his eyes, inscrutable, then smiles suddenly and leans forth the remaining inches to give Merton a quick kiss.
Shock keeps him silent at first, then he exclaims, "Tommy!"
"Don't you have a monster to track down?" Tommy says, backing away.
For the first time in a very long time, Merton is at a loss for words.
* * * * *
"Why haven't you told them about us?"
Tommy stops. "What?"
"I heard what you said." Tommy frowns. "I... Honestly, I didn't think you'd want me to."
"Why wouldn't I want you to?" Merton asks slowly, proping himself up on his elbows.
Tommy hesitates. "I thought you... might change your mind," he mumbles. "When we came back here."
Merton sits up so quickly Tommy has to scramble away with a yelp in order to avoid getting his head bashed. "You thought I'd change my mind?" Merton squeaks, wide eyed.
"I thought you might, yes."
"Why... Why the hell would you think that?"
Tommy shrugs and looks away.
"Tommy..." Merton reaches out, placing a hand on Tommy's shoulder. It would never have occoured to him that Tommy could not know how he felt. It seems to Merton that everything is right there on his face everytime he looks at him.
Tommy sighs and his eyes are uncertain as he looks back. "You're always so adamant that you're not gay... and there's always some girl. I mean, at the Lair is one thing, but here everyone will know if I -- if we..." he trails off.
Merton nods. "Well, yeah, I don't think I'm gay, exactly."
Tommy flinches, then looks resigned.
"No, wait. No. Tommy. I like both, okay? It's allowed. Some people do. And I like you a whole lot more than I like anybody else."
"So I mean, if you want to tell anyone, it's all right with me." Merton wonders when he lost the ability to speak in coherent sentences. "This isn't high school. It's not like we're the only gay -- or liking of both -- people here."
"Jon's gay," Tommy nods. He grins at the look Merton gives him. "Yes, he hit on me. Yes, I turned him down. No, you can't hex him or something."
"Now we're definitely telling people," Merton says firmly.
Tommy laughs and moves his hand up to run his thumb over Merton's jawline. "Jealous?"
"No." He rolls his eyes. "Maybe. A little."
"You have no reason to be."
And Merton knows that. But he still spends the next Film analysis class glaring at the back of Jon's head.