In Sickness

 

There was an odd smell.

That was the first thing to break through the muggy heat that had packed itself around Yata's brain. Exhaustion had finally won out over all the miserable aches and irritants plaguing his body and he'd dropped into the blissful oblivion of sleep earlier. But now, as the strange savory-sweet-but-not-quite-right scent started to invade his nose more sharply, he found himself drifting back towards awareness.

He had a cold. Not unusual these days; something about losing the constant warmth of the red aura seemed to have left him more prone to it. His friends complained about the same thing, actually, so it wasn't even just him. It was annoying, but mostly bearable.

This one was bad, though - even he had to admit that, though he'd fought it at first. His throat felt like it was plugged up with knives, his chest was tight, and he was running a fever. It hurt to breathe, and that combined with the heat that permeated his head and body made him feel like he was suffocating. The feeling was so shitty that he hadn't even argued when Saruhiko had pushed him back down onto the bed that morning.

Well... not much.

Saruhiko... That was probably the source of the smell. Not like... Saruhiko himself, but Saruhiko doing something that caused the smell. Scepter 4 gave sick days, and apparently they applied when you had to take care of a sick person, even if you weren't sick yourself.

Not that Saruhiko hadn't been sick - he'd had colds too, which had made him about three times more irritable than usual - but it hadn't been this bad. Yet.

Shit, I hope I don't get him sick... Yata breathed out heavily against the face mask set snugly over his nose and mouth. It felt damp and sticky against his skin, but it was (hopefully) preventing this hell sickness from spreading to Saruhiko.

Saruhiko, who shared an apartment with him.

Saruhiko, who shared a bed with him.

Saruhiko, who had kissed him last night despite his protests, when it hadn't seemed this bad.

Damnit... Yeah, it was probably already a lost cause.

“You’re awake.” The familiar voice had Yata turning his head on the pillow, disrupting the cold pack that had been set on it and causing it to slosh over to one side, nearly obstructing his vision.

Even with that, he could see the awkward uncertainty in Saruhiko’s posture as he stood in the doorway with a tray in his hands and a slight frown on his face as he studied Yata right back. There was a bowl of something steaming on the tray, and the odd smell was stronger than ever.

He was cooking? That… was kind of a dubious prospect. Still, it was a nice gesture; Saruhiko and cooking didn’t really go together, so it meant he’d put himself out of his comfort zone to do this. Yata managed a weak smile at the thought, remembering only belatedly that it’d be hidden behind the mask. “Yo.”

Saruhiko clicked his tongue, stepping forward into the room. “Well, I guess it’s convenient.” He set the tray on the table by the bed, and Yata barely had a chance to notice what else was on it before the dislodged cold pack was plucked from his head and replaced by a fresh one. “Here.”

The welcome rush of cool sensation was a relief. Yata shut his eyes for a moment, savoring it, and when he opened them again, he found Saruhiko’s slender fingers in front of him, offering up the thermometer.

“Ah… right…” Reaching up with hands that felt heavy and clumsy, he pried the mask down under his chin before taking the instrument and sliding it in under his tongue.

“There’s medicine, too,” Saruhiko pointed out, to which Yata could only nod – incidentally shifting the new cold pack. It was immediately adjusted for him. “Fever reduction.” A pause, and then he added flatly, “I can tell just by looking that you still need it.”

Yeah, no shit. Yata reached up to remove the thermometer. “I got that without you telling me.” He ignored the way his voice cracked and sounded weak, holding the instrument out.

Saruhiko took it from him, and a little of the tension in his face and shoulders eased marginally – a subtle sort of shift that was only noticeable at slow times like this. “Your temperature’s gone down, at least.” He seemed to hesitate for a moment, hovering almost awkwardly with indecision, and then reached out to brush cool fingers over Yata’s cheek. The touch was light, surprisingly tender. “You don’t feel as hot.”

“Hey, I’m super hot.” Yata tried for a brash grin in return, managing only about a fraction of the energy he’d normally have been able to put into it, and felt a little rush of fondness at the way Saruhiko blinked and then lowered his lids, eyes softening. His touch lingered, thumb brushing almost idly against the swell of cheekbone beneath it, and Yata shut his eyes, savoring the feeling.

I really love this guy, huh? It occurred to him all the time, out of nowhere, in random moments like these. And still sometimes the force of his feelings surprised him.

“Given the circumstances, I wouldn’t say that’s something to be proud of,” Saruhiko responded drily. There was that now-familiar hint of warmth in his tone that took the sting out of his words. His fingers withdrew slowly, almost with reluctance. “Take the medicine and then go back to sleep so I can get some work done.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Yata opened his eyes, taking the pills and bottle of water that Saruhiko held out to him. He eyed the bowl on the tray curiously. “How ’bout that?”

A soft but audible intake of breath answered him. Saruhiko was frowning slightly when he looked up, and he glanced off to the side when Yata’s eyes met his, clicking his tongue with clear agitation. “I thought you might be hungry,” he mumbled, after a few seconds of awkward silence.

Are you serious? You’re embarrassed about something like that? Yata couldn’t help the grin building on his lips. “So you cooked, huh? Wish I coulda seen it.” He didn’t wait for a response, pressing down against the bed carefully with the hands still holding his medicine and water bottle to prop himself up as best he could. It was a painfully awkward process; his limbs felt like lead. “What’d you make me?”

“Soup. From a can. It’s not that big a deal.” Saruhiko clicked his tongue again, moving to support him and shifting the pillow so that he could sit up properly. He caught the cold pack as it slid off of Yata’s head again, readjusting it. “Don’t just move around without thinking, Misaki – you’re sick, if you hadn’t noticed.”

“C’mon, I’m not that bad.” It was only half a lie; he was at least well enough to sit up and eat on his own, even if his throat stung and his chest felt like it had been packed in cotton. He was grateful that he could lean some of his weight on Saruhiko for a moment, though, and the cool air felt refreshing against the sweat-dampened back of his nightshirt. “But thanks.”

Saruhiko clicked his tongue a third time, straightening up once he’d made confirmed that Yata wasn’t going to topple over without him. “Take your medicine already.”

He did so without arguing, popping both pills into his mouth and downing them with several large gulps of water. It was a mistake, which he realized when the burst hit the back of his throat and pain stabbed at him, but he managed to only get the pills down, and only sputtered out a fraction of the water.

“Do you really need to come at everything like it’s a fight?” Saruhiko asked critically.

“Shut it,” he managed to croak back, wiping at his mouth and blinking against the way his eyes watered. Despite everything, the cold water had made his mouth feel less hot and dry, so he counted it as a win regardless. “So can I try your no-big-deal canned soup or what?”

“Are you sure you want it after that?”

Yata shrugged, shooting him a weak grin. “I just gotta go slow, right?”

“Is that even possible for you?” Saruhiko murmured, but he did move to bring the tray over, settling it on Yata’s lap.

There was that odd smell again, but now he could pinpoint the source. Yata picked up the spoon from the tray and dipped it into the bowl, capturing one of the larger chunks floating in the broth and bringing it up for inspection.

“Pineapple?” He blinked, taken by surprised, and gave the broth a cautious sip. It was tangy from the added fruit, but… “In chicken stock?”

Saruhiko clicked his tongue even more sharply, folding his arms almost defensively as he returned Yata’s baffled gaze. “You’re the one who always puts it in everything.”

“Not everything.” A bit more exploring revealed that there were no noodles or vegetables or anything else in the mix – it was literally pineapple soup using a chicken base. Yata couldn’t help but laugh weakly, nearly triggering a coughing fit that would’ve been painful.

You’re seriously not all that smart when it comes to this stuff, are you?

Two spots of color had formed on Saruhiko’s cheeks. “If you don’t want it – ”

“Shut up. I want it, okay?” Yata lifted his spoon again, pausing long enough to shoot him a smile. “It’s not every day I get a homemade meal from you.”

Saruhiko held his gaze steadily for another beat, and then sighed, the corners of his mouth turning up ruefully. “Next time you’re getting take-out,” he said, moving to sit gingerly on the edge of the bed.

“Right, sure.” Yata blew on his spoonful a couple times, and then took the plunge and put the whole thing into his mouth.

It was… odd. Not horrible. Not particularly good, but not gag-worthy, at least. Sour, salty, and sweet all at once. A really weird mix.

My pineapple stuff is better than this, c’mon.

Saruhiko was watching him keenly as he chewed and swallowed painfully. “You don’t have to eat all of it, you know.”

“I wasn’t gonna.” Even if the soup had been good, he didn’t have much of an appetite, and his throat stung with each swallow. “Thanks, though – this helps.” He offered another grin. “Pineapple’s good for ya. Remember that.”

“I’m not about to forget with you around.” Saruhiko raised an eyebrow in return, but that little smile from before was still hanging around his lips. His eyes were fixed intently on Yata’s face, but there was a warmth in his gaze that could’ve rivaled the heat of Yata’s fever.

It was comforting, Yata thought, even as he shoveled in more spoonfuls of this stupid soup. In moments like these, he didn’t have any insecurities. If Saruhiko was here when Yata was a miserable burden who couldn’t do anything for himself – if he was spending his time bringing in fresh cold packs and making weird soup concoctions… then he was probably not going anywhere any more.

We’re both in this for the long haul, right? It seemed like a done deal at the moment.

When he was done and settling back on the bed with his face mask in place, and Saruhiko was lifting the tray with his leftovers, Yata could only think that if, in a few days, their positions did end up reversed, he would definitely make a better soup. Pineapples and all.

 

The End