Just When I Thought I Was Getting Used to This Place

Summary: People are being a little more friendly to Will than usual.

Rating: G

Disclaimer: I own nothing, turn no profit, and don't have enough money to be worth suing.

Author's Note: Blame/credit to Kameka for giving me this idea (and one for another fic with a similar premise). Many of the characters in this fic appear to be acting significantly out of character. This is not sloppy writing on my part. All will be made clear at the end. Thanks, as always, to Kam for the ideas, insights, and proofing.

Just When I Thought I Was Getting Used to This Place

Will tapped on the doorframe before entering Magnus' office. She was sitting at her desk, but rose when he entered.

"Morning, Magnus."

She smiled and approached him. "Good morning, Will." With those words, she drew him into a warm hug. "And how are you today?"

"Uh…"

Will cleared his throat, more than a little shocked. Magnus was not exactly shy about physical contact, but, still… The phrase that came to mind was what the hell?

"Um, well, I have that report you wanted."

"Oh, excellent." She smiled at him, breaking the hug and taking the report from his hand. She dropped it on her desk. "Was there anything else?"

"Uh, no, not really." He shook his head, feeling more than a little flustered. "I'll just… get back to work."

"All right." She hugged him again. "Have a good day, Will. I'll see you at the afternoon briefing."

Smiling, she let him go and returned to her desk as if this were a perfectly routine interaction for the two of them.

"Yeah, well, uh… bye."

He fled the office, knowing that his face must be bright red by now. Of course, his feelings for Magnus were strictly those of a student to a mentor, but she was pretty stunning with an amazing mind to boot. It was sometimes hard not to be a little in awe of her and, from there, it could be a short trip to flustered.

Shaking it off, he headed back to his office, running into Ashley as she left the elevator.

"Hey, Will!" she greeted him cheerfully before pulling him into a bear-hug. "How ya' doin' today?"

Feeling a little freaked out, thank you for asking.

"Uh. You know, fine. Same old. At least it's never boring."

"You can say that again," she laughed. "You would not believe what I spent the last three hours chasing through the storm-sewers. Hey! Why no hugging back?" she demanded cheerfully. "Not like it was a regular sewer. Come on, it's good for you!"

"Uh…" He cautiously wrapped his arms around her, wondering why she was asking him to do something for which she would normally throw him across the room.

"That's better!" Ashley gave him a final squeeze and took a step back. "See you at the briefing," she told him before walking away.

Will stared after her for a moment, utterly befuddled. Then he went to make sure all the Nubbins were accounted for.

The headcount was normal, which was actually kind of worrying because obviously something had gotten into mother and daughter. If not Nubbin pheromones, then what? Some kind of toxin or pathogen?

Please, God, not another mind-altering parasite.

As he stood before the highly-chilled cage trying to figure things out, a pair of arms enclosed him from behind and a chin came to rest on his shoulder. He tensed.

"Morning, Will."

His eyes widened and he swallowed hard. "Henry?"

"Yeah. How you doing?" he asked casually. "Problem with the Nubbins?"

"No, I just… wanted to make sure they were all accounted for."

"I hear that. Nasty little smutty Furby wannabes. Pull out all their teeth and send them to Antarctica, if I had my way."

"Uh, Henry?" Will asked, clearing his throat nervously. "What are you doing?"

"Huh?"

"You have your arms around me."

"Yeah. I hear they call it hugging."

"And you're doing it to me because…"

"Dunno, really." He shrugged. "Mostly 'cause it releases oxytocin, I suppose, and that crap's better than valium."

"I see."

Okay, being groped by a male werewolf who also happens to be your best friend and now he's talking about the 'cuddle hormone'. Nope, not remotely scary or disturbing.

"Well, I should get back to work. No rest for the wicked, huh?" Giving Will a final squeeze, he turned and wandered off, muttering under his breath about how much he hated Nubbins.

All right, so not the Nubbins. But whatever it was, it was serious. No one was acting like themselves. But why was he unaffected. That just didn't make a lot of sense. It couldn't be gender-related because of Henry, but, obviously, something was going on.

Feeling more than a little unsettled, he headed back upstairs to bring this problem to Magnus' attention. He got hugged by three of his patients before he reached the elevator, and witnessed several others hugging each other as well. The effect was obviously widespread.

In the hall outside Magnus' office, he ran into the Big Guy and braced himself for another hug. He got one, but only after the Big Guy let out a resigned sigh and growled in obvious disgust.

"Uh… you're hugging me."

"Yes," the Big Guy growled, disgust evident in his tone. He let go of Will and took a step back, obviously more than glad to reclaim his personal space.

"Why?"

He looked irritated when he answered, "Magnus asked me to."

"She asked you to hug me?" Will asked, relaxing.

No mind-altering substances needed. They were just playing a practical joke on the new guy. He could handle that, even if it was pretty weird as practical jokes went.

"Not you. Everyone," the Big Guy growled in disgust. "It's National Hug Day."

"National… Hug Day?" He laughed.

Obviously a little louder than he intended, because Magnus came out of her office to see what was going on.

"Oh, hello again, Will," she said, drawing him into yet another hug.

He actually returned it this time, but a cynical corner of his mind wondered if enforcing 'National Hug Day' counted as workplace harassment. Not that he was going to complain or anything if Ashley and Magnus wanted to hug him all day.

"You're all celebrating National Hug Day?"

"Yes." She nodded, looking startled. "Didn't you get the memo?"

He shook his head. "No."

"Oh, well, then, I'll explain. It's quite simple. We substitute a hug for our typical greeting in an attempt to foster an atmosphere of greater acceptance. Optionally, we may also use a hug to say goodbye. While it's true that many were initially reluctant to participate, over time, everyone's come to quite enjoy the ritual. With a few exceptions," she added, smiling up at the Big Guy. "After all, this is a place of emotional as well as physical sanctuary."

"I… see."

She smiled. "I'll be sure to forward you another copy of that memo." And, with a last hug, she returned to her office.

"I am not hugging you goodbye," the Big Guy grumbled before turning and stalking off.

"It's all right, really," Will laughed, leaning against the wall and shaking his head to clear it.

Okay, National Hug Day, atmosphere of greater acceptance. He could learn to live with that. It was only once a year, after all.

Besides, he had known going in that it was a strange new world…

The End

Author's Note: National Hug day is observed on the 21st of January. It's designed to promote (obviously) hugging of a non-sexual nature, which research suggests can significantly reduce stress. I never knew about this holiday before, but I plan to start observing it in the future. Thanks again, Kam.