Title: An Afternoon Off… Sort Of

Author: Avelynn Tame

Characters/Pairing: The whole Host Club; no pairing to speak of.

Rating: U – family friendly

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em (but how I wish I did).

Summary: One shot. Haruhi has a cold. The Host Club adapts to the situation with aplomb.

A/N: A mostly pointless fic, but it was a plot bunny that just grabbed on and wouldn't let go. I managed to write this in one go, which is unusual for me, since I tend to get distracted and wander off, and only come back to an unfinished fic about three months later. Happy reading!

When Haruhi arrives at the Host Club one afternoon, sniffling pitifully and sneezing into a tissue, the others take one look at her and immediately turn into six fussing, clucking mother hens.

They make her tea.

They wrap her in a blanket.

They offer tablets of all shapes and sizes (and Haruhi, who usually questions the wisdom of accepting from the Host Club even those items which aren't obtained from a licensed pharmacist, politely declines).

Several minutes later, when the customers arrive, the situation becomes several thousand times worse.

Apparently, not only do the Host Club men find an infected (and most likely contagious, she tries to remind them) Haruhi to be cute, but so do the Host Club customers.

The only thing more attractive than a boy with a cold, it seems, is a boy who's willing to accept help for it.

(Although Haruhi is protesting, no-one is paying attention.)

Initially, Kyoya struggles to maintain order, as the hordes of sympathetic customers descend on Haruhi. Eventually, though, a system is devised which allows each customer to remain with their designated Host, while still assisting Haruhi in her hour of need. ("Id's nod by hour of neeb!" she cries feebly – but she has unwittingly drawn attention to herself, and it takes Kyoya, Mori and Honey's combined strength to pry the resulting flock of girls – and Tamaki – off her.)

Tamaki's group writes beautiful, flowing poetry for Haruhi, describing her many wonderful – and manly, of course – qualities and features (and if anyone notices just how enthusiastic Tamaki is on the subject, they don't mention it).

After a bit of sly manipulation on Hikaru and Kaoru's part, the twins manage to rope their group into devising tricks to play on the other hosts to amuse Haruhi, and occasionally lapse into wistful reveries, recalling pranks they have played on each other, and the affectionate consequences these may – or may not – have had.

And Honey and Mori's group take charge of putting together a selection of comfort food – which loosely translates as 'food with a lot of sugar in' – and approximately half of this mysteriously finds its way to Honey's stomach.

Meanwhile, Haruhi's group just sit and watch her. She has tried to warn them away, saying that they too will catch her cold, but they will not be deterred. So they have reached a compromise – Haruhi sits at the far end of the sofa, and the girls sit on the chairs nearby. Every time she sneezes, her little 'aaa-tchoo!' sound is about an octave higher than her normal voice, and the girls coo in delight.

Haruhi does not attempt to be delicate about it. She wipes her nose regularly, so the skin becomes very pink. She thinks nothing of blowing her nose loudly, even though it sounds like a cross between the 'honk' of a seal and the blare of a foghorn.

This unpolished, unrefined behaviour only serves, however, to increase her appeal to the girls, which puzzles and pleases Haruhi in equal measure (because it is kind of nice to be fussed over by the girls, who are very sweet, and besides – every designation counts).

Kyoya, watching from nearby to make sure Haruhi isn't smothered by an overly 'compassionate' customer (or possibly Tamaki), makes a similar observation and realises that Haruhi's debt may be repaid sooner than he had anticipated. He isn't sure how he feels about this.

Later, when the cake has been eaten, the poetry read, and the pranks played (Tamaki was the victim every time), the girls are politely bid farewell. Kyoya and the other men have to be just a little bit forceful, since the girls don't seem convinced that Haruhi will be all right if they leave. It takes several minutes of herding the masses out of the room before the doors can be shut (and locked, as a precaution).

When the Hosts turn to ask how Haruhi is feeling, they find that she is asleep, her sock-clad feet tucked under her on the sofa, the blanket wrapped tightly around her shoulders, and her head drooping forward, eyes closed.

They exchange a silent look of agreement, and begin cleaning up.

Haruhi sleeps on, unaware of the way they tiptoe around her so as not to disturb her peaceful slumber, and unaware of the way that each, as he passes, gazes down at her with a tender expression on his face.

They think that they would like to keep her for a little while longer, at least.

Author's Notes: I know, I know, it became totally sappy and fluffy. But I really wanted to write Haruhi with a cold. Reviews would be hugged and petted until they begged for mercy…