A Sneeze Between Friends

"I hope you don't mind sleeping in the same room with me."Ed remarked, inserting the key into the hotel suite's door. The brass handle turned easily with a click.

"Of course not!" Cassandra dismissed the thought with a wave of her hand before flicking on the light switch.

"Good. . . I mean, I know we're both in the same band and all, but I didn't want you to feel weird or anything." Ed dropped their bags onto the floor with a thunk before sinking down onto the bed with a tired sigh.

"Look, why don't you go and take a hot shower and I'll call room service and get us something to eat, okay?" Cassandra suggested, plopping down beside him on the spacious bed.

You don't mind?" Ed asked a bit uncertainly.

"Please Ed! You had a hard gig tonight! Go and relax!" Cassandra stretched out on the mattress with an equally tired sigh.

"Yeah, that gig was pretty har. . .ha. . . hah. . . Ha-aachooo!!" he suddenly sneezed violently, sending his long, golden brown hair flying. "Haa. . .haa. . .Haaahhhchoooo! Haa. . . Hachoooo!"

"Bless you!" Cassandra exclaimed, rolling over to look at him curiously.

"Thank ya. . . Oh God. . . not aga. . .aaa. . .aah. . ." Ed's blue-green eyes closed in the familiar expression as he sat up straight, placing both hands on his knees, "Aaahchoooo! Hah. . . hah. . .Haahchooo! Ah-ah. . . AHCHHH!" he sneezed vigorously with such increasing force that he trembled, "HAAAHCHHOOOO!" he exploded, his long hair hanging in disheveled strands around his face.

"God bless you!" Cassandra said incredulously, "That sounds like you're trying to catch a nasty cold."

"Oh, I don't know. I've just been sneezin' my head off all day!" Ed remarked, his voice thick with congestion.

Cassandra eyed him curiously, checking for the usual tell-tale cold signs. So far, the only thing Ed had done was sneeze. But still. . .

"Cassandra," Ed cut into her thoughts urgently, "I think I need a. . .hah. . . .ha. . . Haaeeshhoooo! Jeez! " he sniffed dramatically, "I thingk I deed a tissue." he finished at last.

"Here, take the whole box," she offered, handing him the box of Kleenex that were perched on the night stand.

"Thangk ya." He pulled several tissues out of the box and blew his nose. "There. I don't sound like a Nyquil commercial anymore. Haaachooo!" he sneezed wetly into the tissue.

Cassandra arched an eyebrow in his direction.

Ed tried to smile at his beautiful friend and band mate, but every movement seemed to aggravate the constant tickle in his nose. "Hachhh! Ahchhh! Haa. . haa. . CHHH!" he sneezed, half-way suppressing them with the tissue.

"Bless you, Ed." she said gently, feeling a rush of warmth for her suffering bandmate.

"Excuse me! Maybe I just needed to blow my nose . . ." Ed muttered more to himself than to Cassandra.

He tossed the mangled tissues into the waste basket as he rose form the bed.

"I think I'll have that shower now that I've finished sneezing my brains out," he announced to the walls in a frustrated tone.

"Good idea." Cassandra agreed.

The sound of running water strained to be heard over the soft conversation on the TV as Cassandra awaited their dinner. Bored but feeling complacent, she channel surfed while Ed showered. Cassandra couldn't pretend that she didn't have an intense attraction towards Ed. . .in fact, she felt blatantly obvious. His shoulder-length golden brown hair was streaked with thick stands of blondish-gold which offset those aqua blue-green eyes just right. She really loved his eyes; they crinkled at the corners when he smiled. He was a kind and gentle soul with compassion for everyone and everything and an affinity to hug every one that he met as if he had known them for years. Cassandra sighed dreamily. Ed gave great hugs!

"Huh-ahchooo!" she heard over the sound of the shower's pounding water. "Ha. . .Haeeeshooo! Hachooo! HaCHHH!" the sneezes continued, each sounding worse than the previous one.

"Bless you!" she called as soon as the water stopped flowing.

"Thank ya!" Ed's voice returned through the closed bathroom door.

A few seconds later, he came out clad only in a pair of navy blue boxer shorts embellished by yellow moons and suns.

"Do ya like my shorts?" he asked with a grin, "Moonchild Childress gave them to me." he said in reference to the band's flower child guitar player.

"They're cool Ed." Cassandra laughed as he imitated Ross playing the guitar.

"I thought they were kinda neat." he remarked walking towards the small kitchen area. "Can I get you anything to drink?" he offered.

"No, thanks. I think I'm too tired to drink anything." Cassandra said, rolling onto her stomach.

"Haahshooo!" Ed sneezed nasally, snatching a paper towel off of the roll. "Oh, excuse me," he shook his head slightly as he wiped his nose "maybe I am coming down with something." he added thoughtfully before fixing himself a glass of water.

He trotted over to the bed and sat next to Cassandra, sipping the water slowly. He turned his head away from her to cough several times.

"You sound awful!" she noted sympathetically, placing a hand on his bare knee.

"Haa. . .Haa. . HaAHChooo! Huhh-CHOOO! I think Will gave me his cold." Ed sniffed.

"Bless you," she said patting his knee. "Sounds like you've caught yourself a real doosie."

"Sure sounds that way, huh? Hu. . .hhh. . ." he cupped his hand over his mouth and sneezed fiercely, "HaaEEESHHOOO! HAAHHCHHHH! HATCHHHHH!"

"Poor Ed! I really think you need some rest." Cassandra advised, and couldn't resist putting her arm around his shoulders.

He leaned against her gratefully. He could smell the natural sweetness of her own scent despite his clogged nose. She really was a beautiful and considerate girl, with long wavy black hair, pale skin and luminous green eyes flecked with specks of gold.

"You can share the bed with me if you want to," Cassandra offered almost shyly, "it is a king sized bed."

"Thank ya," Ed smiled wanly, his Georgia-boy accent surfacing once again, "I really wasn't looking forward to a night on the couch."

Cassandra blushed a pale shade of pink and his smile broadened, his aqua eyes crinkling in that way that made her heart melt.

"Well, I guess I'll go and get ready for bed." she said finally, feeling like a shy school girl. The things Ed Roland did to her! She felt like a gibbering idiot!

Ed watched her slender form as she walked away. The sickness was hitting him hard and he felt worse by the second. Abruptly, the familiar tickle began in his nose. He quickly snatched a tissue from the box.

"Haa. . .Haa. . HaaAHchooo! Huh-chooo! HaCHHH! Ha. . .haa. . HAACHHH! CCHHH!" he sneezed with such force that he doubled over. "Jeez. . . I hate this!"

Cassandra emerged from the bathroom after a good long shower to find Ed crashed out beneath the sheets already.

"Poor baby," she murmured before slipping beneath the sheets to join him.

Curiosity grabbed her and she reached over to touch his forehead. Much to her surprise, he was burning up.

His eye lids fluttered at her cool caress and one aqua eye opened.

"Cassandra. . ."he whispered hoarsely.

"Ssssh. Go back to sleep. I was just checking on you."

He suddenly rolled over and muffled several sneezes with his pillow.

"Excuse me! Wow, that hurts!" he winced painfully and Cassandra's heart lurched.

"Anything I can do?" she asked gently.

Say it.. . Say it, Ed chanted mentally. Taking a deep breath, he spoke.

"Just hold me." he finally whispered.

Cassandra's heart leaped as she entwined her arms around his shivering body. He tensed suddenly with a sharp intake of air. He barely had time to cover his mouth with both hands before emitting and enormous "HHAAAEEESSHHHOOOOO!"

" God bless you already! You know, that's an awfully sexy sneeze you have there. A girl could really fall hard for you, Ed." she remarked.

"What if I've already fallen for the girl?" he countered, his voice a husky rumble.

Those were the last "spoken" words either of them uttered before slipping beneath th sheets for a long night of passion. . . and sneezes!