Takes place after "The Ex-Factor"- Ryan's impromptu dip in the ocean leaves him with a bad cold. The Cohen adults are feuding and too busy to take much notice, but Marissa and Lindsay are all two happy to play nurse as they compete for Ryan's attention and affection.

Thinks lots and lots of sick!Ryan and humerous girl- drama


Dinner with the Cohen's was considerably less pleasant tonight than usual, Ryan decided. "Well, of course your father prefers Julie's idea- it's a money maker. It's not about giving back to the community-" Ryan sneezed and interrupted Sandy's rant. "Bless you Ryan. And she's his wife." He went on, as if nothing had happened. Ryan sneezed again.

"Bless you," Kirsten said, "Well Sandy, she is his wife, so he's going to support. It's the same as my supporting you."

"So you're saying that you're just supporting me because I'm your husband."

"ACHOO!"

"Bless you Ryan." They said in unison.

"Thanks..." Ryan sniffed. He'd been sneezing all day. There was also a vague hint of a headache lurking near his temples. He hoped he wasn't getting sick. Maybe he should mention something to Kirsten...

"No Sandy, I'm not saying that." Kirsten was still on the attack, "What I'm saying is that you both make very valid points." Okay, she probably didn't want to hear about it right now, she seemed stressed out enough already.

"I thought your father wanted to change his image not just prove that he's a rich snob. And that magazine! Do you really want to look at a different photo of Julie's face every month? I think this is about her changing her image, and has nothing to do with the Newport Group."

"Can I be excused?" Ryan asked quietly. He felt tired and was not particularly hungry. The italian food in front of him seemed less appealing than usual. The headache seemed closer to emerging.

"Sure," Kirsten said, barely glancing at him as she stared at Sandy.

"Yeah, me too." Seth jumped up. They put their plates in the sink and then Ryan went out to the pool house where he collapsed face down on the bed. Seth followed him.

"Dude, good call." He slumped onto a chair.

"Thanks..." Ryan rolled over and sat up. He sneezed again. Their was an odd tickle at the back of his throat. He tried to clear it, and was surprised when nothing seemed to dislodge. "ACHOO!"

"Bless you- Dude are you okay?" Seth looked at him. Ryan did look a little off.

"What? Yeah, I'm fine." He assured Seth, and then sneezed again.

"Bless you- Hey man, do you think I call Alex?" Seth had already lost interests in Ryan's potentially ill- health, "I mean... I know I said I'd give her space to work out her issues with Jodie and everything, but I want her to know that I'm like totally cool with it.. But like, am I supposed to be jealous or something? Like, if it was a guy would I just like walk away and say "hey that's cool, do what you gotta do, but like because it's a girl somehow that's like totally okay?"

"You said you'd give her space..." Ryan reminded him. "Phone call. HACHOO! Not space."

"Belss you. Do you have allergies or something?"

"Maybe," Ryan rubbed his nose. "Whad were were saying about space?" He didn't want to talk about his symptoms.

"Well, like maybe she wants space or like, maybe she doesn't know I'm giving her space, and she could think that I'm mad at her. Or that I'm sulking or something, she should know that I'm not..."

Ryan suppressed the urge to sigh, and sat up all the way. He was rewarded with several throbs of pain from inside his skull. He decided that if he was going to listen to the Seth-babble, he was going to need an Advil or two or four. "I thought you told her it was space." He got up and walked toward the bathroom. Seth was undeterred by Ryan's lack of interest as Ryan headed for the bathroom and took several Advil. Ryan heard his voice but couldn't make out the individual works. He only had to throw the occasional "mhmm" or "huh" for Seth to feel adequately heard.

"I should get some work done," Ryan came back into the room and rolled his eyes towards the physics textbook that sat open next to Seth on his desk.

"Oh yeah, gotta keep up those grades to impress the girl." Seth winked at him.

"Uh... Something like that." Actually, what he really wanted was some quiet time to let his headache recede.

"Right, well, I know when I'm not wanted." He got to his feet. Ryan would have protested and made more excuses but he sneezed instead.

"Bless you,"

"Thanks," Ryan sniffed. After a few more moments of self-debate Seth made his exit and Ryan let his eyes drop onto his homework. The black numbers and words seemed fuzzier than usual, and Ryan found the headache getting worked and he massaged his temples and sniffed. Then sneezed again.

**********************************************

"Ryan?" Kirsten shook Ryan's shoulder gently. She had noticed that the light was on in the pool house and had come down to tell Ryan to get some sleep and found him asleep, on his desk. His head resting on his arms like a pillow. Ryan slowly sat up and looked up at her.

"Kirsten?"

"I think your bed might be more comfortable," She smiled gently at him.

"Yeah," He rolled his shoulders. They felt stiff after several hours asleep in an uncomfortable position. "What time is it?"

"Almost midnight," Kirsten rubbed his shoulder gently. "You should get some sleep."

"Midnight?" He looked down at his homework panicked. He still had three problems left. "Yeah, I will. ACHOO! Just gotta..." He gestured at the textbook. "I fell asleep before I could finish."

"Alright... But don't stay up too much later. Okay?" She paused and looked at him for a moment, "Are you feeling okay?" He had been sneezing rather excessively.

"Yeah," Ryan nodded. He didn't bother arguing, but there was no way he was going to bed before this problem set was done. Homework counted for almost forty percent of their grade. He bent his head to single that the conversation was over, and began to write out the equation. Kirsten hovered a moment, then slipped out.

****************************************

At 2am Ryan finally pushed the books away from him and sat up, coughing and wincing as he realized how sore his throat was. His condition had been deteriorating rapidly for the last two hours as he fought his body to keep it awake and pushed through the last few physics problems. Each problem seemed to take twice as long as it should have, as he coughed and sneezed his way through. The sneezes that had been coming as individual sneezes were now coming in groups of two or three. His head felt like it had swollen to twice it's usual side and everything seemed just a little fuzzy. He groaned tiredly and then coughed as he stood up. He was acutely aware of the aches that eminated from his shoulders down his back. The room spun slightly as he propelled himself towards the bed and then practically fell into it. He coughed a few more times, wincing as the coughs made their way up his sore throat, and pulled the blankets over himself.

It seemed as if his eyes had barely closed before the alarm clock rudely blasted him away. He barely felt like he had slept. Ryan reached out a tired arm and managed to the alarm off. He swallowed. His throat was sore and felt oddly coated and thick, and the ache in his shoulders from the night before had increased. He sniffed tentatively and realized his nose was completely stuffed up, he could barely breathe out of it. He relucatantly climbed out of his warm bed amd stumbled towards the shower, and tried to ignore the headache that pounded against his temples. He turned the hot water on and hoped the steam would clear his sinuses and the heat would soothe the aches.

Still, as he stood underneath the shower's warm jets his body felt enveloped by exhaustion. The idea of the long day stretched ahead of him filled him with a vague sense of dread.

When he finally dragged himself to the kitchen, Kirsten had already left for the day, leaving just Sandy to take the boys to school. "Hey Ryan," Sandy said, plunking a mug of coffee down in front of him. "Running a little behind today?"

"Yeah..." Ryan sniffed and nodded, and began to drink the coffee.

"Alright, well, we're leaving in five, okay?" He patted Ryan on the back and then left the room. Ryan sighed and finished his coffee, then he grabbed some tissues and stuff them in his pockets.

********************************************

"Wow, Ryan, you look terrible." Lindsay said as her lab partner/boyfriend slid in next to her. Ryan looked pale and slightly shakey. His eyes and nose were red.

"Thanks..." He sneezed, "Jus' whad a guy wands do hear."

"Bless you! I just meant..."

"Yeah," He sniffed, "I doh," He coughed weakly and unproductively.

"Are you feeling okay?"

Ryan shook his head, "Dot really." He coughed a few more times. Marissa had asked him the same question in English. He had told her that he felt fine. Of course, if he was to be honest, he could feel himself getting worse and worse by the second. With every sneeze, his nose seemed just a little more stuffed. Every cough made his throat hurt just a little more and his chest felt a little tighter. Every second that went by seemed to make the headache pound just a little harder and then ache in his shoulders sink just a little bit deeper. He had to admit it now. He was sick. And miserable. It was taking every ounce of strength he had ot not just put his head down on his desk and go to sleep. With a moan, he lost the battle. His head went down on the cool desk, his arms wrapped around it. Then he had to turn his head and muffled his coughs with his arm.

Lindsay tentatively reached out and touched his back, "Do you want me to give you a ride home at lunch?" She offered gently.

"Wood you?" He sat up and felt an instant sense of relief, even as his head pounded with the sudden movement. Maybe this was why he had finally dropped his guard in front of Lindsay. She had a plan. A solution.

"Yeah, sure," She smiled at him brightly. As far as she was concerned, time spent with Ryan was time well spent. And the lisp that had come with the stuffed up nose really was kind of adorable. He sneezed twice. "Bless you!"

"Sorry..." He said pitifully, looking at her with tired blue eyes, and Lindsay wished they weren't in a classroom so she could wrap him in her arms and hug him and kiss it all better. His blue eyes were blood shot and had bags under them. Lindsay was actually a little surprised that Kirsten-the-super-mom had even let him out of the house this morning. 'Can you-" Another sneeze and then a sniffle, "Ched by hobework? I don't dink I- ACHOO! did dat well on id." He coughed a few times.

"Do you want me just to hand it in for you? Maybe you should go see the school nurse?"

Ryan shook his head, "I'b fine... I'll live." He coughed again and his shoulders heaved slightly. "Just a colb..." He closed his eyes and rubbed his fingers in a circular motion at his temples. His hands seemed to be the only thinking keeping his head from dropping back to the desk.

*************************************************

"I really thought-" Ryan sneezed, "Dat..." He sneezed again, "was neber gonna end. ACHOO!" He stood up slowly as their class ended. The teacher had glared at Ryan throughout most of it, as he struggled to take notes in between his coughing and sneezing. "Is id really hot in here?" He rubbed his sleeve against his forehead which had broken out in a light sheen of sweat. Lindsay slowly shook her head at him and added "fever" to Ryan's list of symptoms.

"Let's get you home..." She suggested. Ryan nodded. As they walk out to the car, Ryan's so overcome with a coughing and sneezing fit, that Lindsay has to put her arm around his waist to guide him. The other student's backed away from them, as Ryan sneezed and coughed into a handful of tissues.

The ride home wasn't much better. In between bouts of sneezing and coughing, Ryan rested his hot forehead against the cool window, his eyes were almost closed.

"Hey we're home," Lindsay shook him gently awake. Ryan opened his eyes and then stumbled out of the car.

"Danks... For the ribe..." Ryan said, swaying a little on his feet. In the sunlight, Lindsay could see even more clearly how pale his complexion was.

"No problem- do you need?"

"Nobe- it's bedder if you ged oudda here. Dob't wand you to ged sick." He sniffed and tried to clear his throat, "Thanks again... Bye" He turned around and weaved his way into the house and then out to the pool house where he collapsed onto his bed, and curled into a ball as a wave of coughing ripped through him. He just wanted to sleep, but his body seemed to have other ideas.

He got up again and managed to make it the bathroom where he swallowed two more Advils. There was probably a decongestant or a cough suppresant in the house, but Ryan was too tired. He knew he'd never make it there and back. So he setteled for at least making the headache go away, and he was so exhausted that sleep soon pulled him under.