Warmth In Winter
For Yuletide 2017. Atlantia - I really hope you like this! I actually have not successfully finished a fic since Yuletide 2015 so actually getting this done was a major accomplishment for me and I ended up super happy with how this turned out. Happy Holidays! Characters not mine! Kudos/Comments are awesome!
With two weeks until Christmas and in the homestretch of finals week for the fall semester of their sophomore year, Merton and Tommy are both soundly sleeping off a night of hurried paper-writing, last minute studying, and the swift defeat of an angry troll who'd taken up residence beneath a nearby drainage ditch. But, they needn't worry about their early exams - classes will surely be cancelled for tomorrow, thanks to the heavy coat of snow currently falling silently outside. There's already several inches stuck to every available surface and it shows no signs of stopping. The chill in the air is strong and the breeze equally so.
The old, tiny house they're renting just off of State's campus is still faintly illuminated by the festive lights decorating the rails and windows along the front porch, and the haphazardly adorned tree in their living room is still glowing with its abundance of lights. But, there is something that is not working quite as well in their home.
It's not necessarily surprising, not even the first time they've had to deal with problems like this in the months they've been living here – first had been a leaking roof, then a pipe in the basement had burst, and the smoke detector goes off if they so much as turn the oven on. They'd endured the dorms for the first year, but the wolf never felt quite comfortable with all those people around all the time and not everyone took too kindly to the incense Merton liked to burn when he was studying. So, at the start of their sophomore year, they'd found this place. But, it is clearly far from perfect.
Merton shivers in his bed, wrapped in his plush, heavy comforter. He'd heard the heating unit take its last, dying breaths roughly an hour ago and the temperature has dropped steadily ever since. The house, as old as it is, is poorly insulated and that's become very obvious with the lack of heat. He would swear his teeth are chattering.
"Merton!" Comes a shout from down the hall.
"Just get in here, I can hear how cold you are from here!"
Merton does not argue. He climbs out of bed, bare feet even colder on contact with the old, wood floors, and gathers all of his blankets with him before heading to Tommy's room. He tosses the extra blankets on the bed and hurries to climb beneath the mountain of covers, huddling as close to Tommy as he can manage, making Tommy shiver when Merton's icy hands and feet make contact. "Thank you, thank you, thank you."
"This seems a bit excessive," Tommy comments, motioning to the additional layers of sheets and comforters piled atop them. "Every time you've ever slept with me," he says, thinking of a couple late nights on the couch, a few post-game out of town hotels, and an ill-advised camping trip that had ended up interrupted by a siren in a nearby lake, "you end up kicking all the covers off."
"True," Merton concedes the point, "You generate significantly more heat than I would imagine a non-werewolf bedmate would, and tonight I will take full advantage of that fact."
Tommy laughs, and resigns himself to his fate, settling an arm around Merton in an attempt to transfer his extra warmth that much faster. "Guess you'll be crashing with me for a while, then, if it stays this cold," he remarks, since their landlady is not exactly swift when it comes to the repairs they've needed on the property. If this is like any of those times, it'll be days before she even gets someone out to look at the heater, let alone repair it. He can't say he minds, though. The wolf always sleeps easier when Merton's close by - that had been one benefit of the dorms over the house, where they have their own rooms.
"We should find a new place for next year," Merton grumbles out, the words muffled beneath the mountain of blankets and the fact that he's got his head buried against Tommy's neck. "I'm half convinced we're renting from some sort of gremlin with how often things go wrong here."
Tommy's learned not to take Merton's suppositions too seriously when he's sleepy.
They're flopped across the couch on a Friday night, just after the New Year.
Merton's got some macabre poetry book in his lap – he's meant to be analyzing a few of the poems for the Lit class he's taking over winter break - but it has hardly been opened since the start of the cheesy, old horror movie on the screen. They're in the middle of a marathon of awful Troma films from the 80's and 90's. Merton's not entirely sure what the studio executive who green-lit a twelve hour marathon of these films was thinking, but he's certainly not going to complain about the strange decision. They've already sat through Curse of the Cannibal Confederates, Nightbeast, Frostbiter, and Luther the Geek, and are presently enduring the laughably terrible 1986 film Monster in the Closet, which has a good half an hour left with nary a resolution in sight. After that is Beware! Children at Play, Redneck Zombies, and There's Nothing Out There!, if they make it that far.
"Compared to some of the others, this one isn't so bad," Tommy admits, which is saying a lot based on the nonsense occurring on screen at present (where a crazy old man attempts to communicate with a mysterious closet monster via a xylophone). His arm settles casually on the back of the sofa, hovering near Merton's shoulder.
It's nights like this, times like this, that Merton wonders if he isn't just imagining things. Tommy leans in a little closer and steals a handful of popcorn from the half-empty bowl on the side table. That maybe Tommy is harboring the same feelings he is. There have been times, lots of times, when he's thought that before, though, and nothing's ever come of it.
The bed sharing probably hasn't helped, he thinks. They've only had heat in the house again for the past three days, and even with the newly repaired system functioning properly, he's not exactly thrilled to be back in his own room, his own bed. He'd grown kind of accustomed to waking up with Tommy and getting to sleep these last few nights has been difficult.
He eyes Tommy suspiciously, which prompts him to amend his statement slightly, "Okay, so it's not a good movie, but it is, unlike some of the other things I've sat through with you, decently shot and I'm pretty sure they actually hired lighting guys and sound guys for this one. Hell, it almost has a coherent plot. I'm not quite sure what the plot is, exactly, but I can see bits and pieces of it every once in a while."
"There are probably better things we could be doing with a Friday night than this," Merton concedes, easily accepting the criticisms of the film.
"Could be worse," Tommy teases, "We could be fighting something as bizarre as that thing."
"Is... is that a... seriously, a freeze ray?"
The wolf picks up on the familiar voice and all of its awed disbelief from across the open field housing the ridiculous weapon that the newest bad guy of the week has pulled on them. The discredited scientist that State had recently ousted has evidently found a way to achieve his oft-mocked ideas and here is the proof. One shiny, metal gun with a lot of knobs and sliders and they've got a half-frozen town on their hands.
Tommy, wolfed out and angry (his team's play-off game had been cancelled due to the entirely unforecasted weather) had been prowling around, waiting for the right moment to strike. At least that had been the plan before Merton had stumbled into the madman's view.
"Look out!" Tommy shouts, appearing from the edge of the trees just as the icy blast fires from the gun. He's too late, though, and the shot hits Merton dead on, dropping him instantly. Tommy watches him hit the ground hard enough for the layer of ice that's instantly formed on him from the gun's blast to shatter on impact. He doesn't get up.
The wolf is angrier than ever - who cares about the stupid football game? who cares about anything? Merton, Merton, MertonMertonMerton, the wolf thinks – as it attacks with a viciousness that Tommy was not totally aware he was capable of. The gun breaks, the man flees, the wolf pursues.
But that isn't the important part.
The important part is Merton, has always been Merton. Because Merton is the one thing that keeps him grounded, keeps the wolf from doing things like it just did. So he goes back, back to Merton. But, he's still frozen and unconscious, even as the campus and the town beyond begin to thaw in the distance.
"C'mon, buddy," he says, wrapping his jacket around Merton's cold form and rushing him back to the warmth and safety of their house. "We'll get you warm in no time, okay?"
Merton wakes much later, wrapped in what appears to be every blanket that has ever been in the house– there's Tommy's blankets, unsurprising since they're in Tommy's room for some reason, but his own are piled atop them, as well. Along with the well-used one from the back of the couch and the few spares from the hall closet, even the one Tommy's grandma knitted him for his eighteenth birthday, which Merton didn't even know was here. He's also surprised to find that he's considerably less clothed than he was when he was last conscious, stripped down to his boxers and not clad in his typical set of matching silk pajamas. Odd.
"Is the heat b-broken again?" He mumbles, shivering faintly even with the pile of blankets and the shared body heat, sure that if he's in bed with Tommy again, it's for that reason; he can't think of any other. "'S-s so cold."
In actuality, the heater is on full blast, there are three heating pads and two hot water bottles buried amidst the covers and Tommy is heavily relying on skin to werewolf skin contact to deal with this crisis, but Merton is oblivious to these things right now.
"Here," Tommy says, one arm uncurling from its tight hold against his bare chest. It returns a moment later with a thermos full of hot cocoa, pressing it to his lips and urging him to drink. "This'll help."
He swallows down the hot liquid and he would swear he could feel it burn its way all the way down his throat and into his stomach. It does help. "What happened?" He wonders, doesn't know how he got here, why he's in bed with Tommy, why everything hurts and it's so cold.
"Mad scientist. Freeze ray. Ringing any bells?"
It all comes rushing back to him then, tracking down the cause of their frozen town, accidentally stumbling into the path of that gun wielding lunatic, seeing the blast coming and then… "Oh."
"Been trying to warm you up for hours now. You've been out cold."
Merton imagines the pun was not intended, but in his semi-delirious state, he can't help but laugh at it. He shifts in Tommy's hold, rolls to face the other boy and finds him quite unamused. Merton sobers. "I take it the gun, at least, is no longer functional?"
"Might've smashed it a bit," Tommy admits, though he neglects to mention that he might have smashed the scientist a bit, too. "You scared me a little, Mert."
He can tell. He'd have to be blind to miss the traces of worry still plainly evident on Tommy's face. And even though Tommy is a pretty tactile person normally, he's touching him more than usual (the hand that had been resting on his chest while he slept, following the rise and fall of his breathing, the steady beat of his heart – now that he's shifted, it's moved to his wrist where it tracks his pulse, just to be sure, even though all of these things are audible with the benefit of wolf hearing). "'M sorry, didn't mean to."
"I know," Tommy assures him, "Go back to sleep, you're still pretty cold."
Merton doesn't need any further convincing.
By morning, they've escaped from the mass of blankets, too warm and in need of food to stay there any longer. Classes are forgotten for the day, with no plans except for relocating to the couch for a day of quiet recovery.
Merton's feeling much better, more like himself and not the tired, cold, delirious mess he'd been last night. Everything hurts, though (which he's chalking up to a reasonable side effect to have after nearly freezing to death), and after powering through a hot shower and a change of clothes, he collapses on the sofa, where Tommy has already amassed a smaller collection of their blanket stash and pulled together a simple meal of sandwiches and instant soup. One of the old Hammer horror films is already playing on the television – Dracula: Prince of Darkness. Perfect.
They settle in, napping on an off as a marathon of old vampire films plays on.
But, the chill that seems to be stuck in his bones fades back in as the day goes on, and he finds himself shifting closer and closer to Tommy until he's just as close as they were in bed. Tommy doesn't complain, an arm circling around Merton's frame to pull him in even closer, fingers tracing idle patterns on his shoulder.
"…Are we idiots?" Tommy asks, breaking the comfortable silence that's fallen, both of them drifting on the edges of sleep as the movies play on. "I feel like we might be idiots."
Merton's not quite sure how to respond to that. "I mean, in what context? I am arguably an idiot when it comes to sports. You're arguably an idiot when it comes to calculus. We're both clearly idiots when it comes to thoroughly researching lease agreements before renting a house. But I have a feeling you aren't talking about any of those things, are you?"
"I'm not that bad at calculus," Tommy automatically defends, "But no, none of those things. I'm talking about this," he says, gesturing between the two of them, the non-existent space left between them. "Us."
"Is there an 'us'?" Merton asks.
Tommy sighs, not entirely sure he can explain this and also not entirely sure he's even right about any of it. "I think so. You're… there's this thing that happens whenever you get hurt. Always has. I mean, Medusa and Sloane. All the little things, too. Yesterday. When you get hurt, those are the only times I've ever been afraid of what the wolf could do." A sigh, and Tommy moves to drag his hands over his face in confused exasperation. "I… The only thing that stopped me from chasing that guy down was knowing you were hurt. The wolf… it's a part of me in a lot of ways, but sometimes it's like this separate thing with its own ideas. And the only thing the wolf and I can ever agree on is you."
Merton still doesn't know what to say. He's having a hard time believing this is real and not some sort of hypothermia induced dream.
"This," Tommy continues, when Merton's silence lapses on for a beat too long. He gestures between them again, how they're still cuddled together on the couch, even through this awkward conversation, "this should be weird, shouldn't it? Sleeping together like we were when the heat was out, that should be weird. But it's not. It's just easy and… right?"
"Yeah," Merton can agree to that much without issue. The only thing weird about sharing the bed at all had been going back to his own when they'd no longer had a reason to share. Their Friday night movie nights, settled on the couch together nearly as close as they are now, they were never weird – the fact that Tommy always opted for movie nights in and not bars with his football teammates was just how things were. The others had stopped trying to intrude on the usual plans. "You're right. We might be idiots."
Tommy laughs, "Would 'us'," he asks, "be something you'd want?"
In answer, because Merton is still a little too stunned by all of this to babble out a lengthy discourse on why exactly he would definitely want that, he crosses the little distance left between them and kisses Tommy, instead.
It's years of emotion all poured into one kiss, passion and desperation and the conviction that it would all be unrequited if it ever got out at all, things he can't say – at least not yet. One of Tommy's hands settle on Merton's neck, pulling him in closer, deepening the kiss until it's a careful battle of tongue and teeth and wandering hands that drags on and on. The wolf flashes out for a mere few seconds before relenting, happy and content at this new development, as their first kiss morphs into a lengthy series of them, until they're both blissfully out of breath.
"Idiots," Tommy affirms, because they could have come to this realization so much sooner than this, could have been sharing kisses, sharing the bed, sharing this house and their lives all that time and they're only just now getting around to it.
"Definitely," Merton agrees, his own hands still desperately fisted into Tommy's shirt. "I guess I'm sleeping in your room again tonight?" He asks, as Tommy draws him back in for another kiss, and another, hands slipping under the heavy sweatshirt Merton's wearing to further explore.
"I hope so," Tommy mumbles against his lips, "And the next night, and the next, as many as you want."
Merton smiles, steals another kiss, "Every night, then."