Summary: Ryou falls sick, and no matter how disagreeable that makes him, Kaoru wants to be helpful. 1,750 words.
When the doorbell rang, Ryou’s response was an angry mumble, turning over and kicking at the sheet twisted around his legs (which only twisted it more, fabric clinging uncomfortably to feverish skin). He’d missed school yesterday, and now the weekend was wasting away hour by hour, because his body just wanted to lie in a pathetic, pain-plagued heap. So that was great. And now he couldn’t even die in peace.
The bell stopped, silence returning. For a few seconds, before his phone started up instead, muffled (but not enough) by a burial mound of laundry. He swatted weakly in its direction, not sure if he wanted to answer or whack the thing into silence. In the end he went with answering, fishing it from under a crumpled hoodie and mismatched socks.
“Ryou?” Kaoru’s voice, an unusually urgent edge to it.
“What?” Ryou frowned, but didn’t hang up. Which he would have done, for most people. Sickness and socialising didn’t go together – he liked to stew in his misery alone, and that was better for everyone else, too.
“Ah, I’m glad you answered! I hope I’m not disturbing you...”
“I’m sick, I told you.”
“Yes, that’s why I came to see you.”
Ryou rubbed his eyes, pressed a hand to his temple, trying to focus. His head felt like it had been microwaved, then knocked around in a tumble dryer. “What?” he repeated.
“Could you open the door, please?”
“That’s you out there?” That...wasn’t normal. Kaoru had only made a handful of visits to Tokyo; normally it was Ryou who came to see him. He never did stuff that might be imposing, without getting the green light ten times over. As a personality trait, it fell somewhere in between sweet and frustrating, depending on exactly what Ryou wanted him to do.
“Yes... Isn’t it okay...?” Kaoru asked, volume falling with his confidence. And no, it wasn’t really, but it wasn’t like Ryou would tell him to get lost and catch the next train home, either. Not quite.
“Wait a minute.”
He sighed and rolled out of bed, fighting dizziness as he hunted for a T-shirt. Doubtless Kaoru wouldn’t mind him wandering around half-naked, but it wasn’t happening. Ugh; Ryou was a mess, his apartment was a mess, and now he’d have to feel self-conscious about it. Why did Kaoru pick today to get spontaneous?
After making himself vaguely decent, Ryou staggered over to open the front door. He didn’t pause for hugs or kisses or any of that, just gave an identity-confirming glance, then went to slump down on the sofa. Kaoru followed but didn’t sit, hovering awkwardly after the lack of welcome.
“Sorry, Ryou... You weren’t answering my texts, so–”
“I haven’t had any replies since Thursday night...” Kaoru held up his phone, as if to prove it.
Granted, Ryou didn’t remember sending any texts, exactly. He remembered getting some: typical ‘miss you’ and ‘feel better soon’ stuff, dressed up in Kaoru’s trademark flowery phrasing with too many ellipses. And he’d thought about how to reply... Had he not actually done it, though? Maybe not. “Yeah, well. I’m still alive. And you could have called.”
“I tried, but it kept taking me to voicemail... I didn’t want to bother you, but it’s not like you to go suddenly silent. So... That’s why I thought I should come.” Kaoru looked at the floor, fidgeting with his sleeves, the way he often did during odd silences. “Can I do anything, now I’m here? Have you been eating?”
“You can’t cook.”
“I can do simple things, like rice porridge.”
“I hate that.” It was a common food to get when you were sick, but that was partly why he hated it. Too bland, and it had been shoved at him too many times when he was a kid.
Ryou leaned forward, resting elbows on knees, pressing his hands against his head again. Even holding a conversation like this was tiring. Still, his stubborn side wanted to insist that he was okay, didn’t need anyone fussing around taking care of him. ‘I don’t need you’ wasn’t something he should say to Kaoru, though. He was awake enough to keep that much in mind.
“Well...” Kaoru hesitated. “I’ll go out and buy something, then?”
“Fine. I want a beef bowl from Sukiya. And painkillers.”
“All right. Will you let me back in?”
“You can take my key, in my school bag.” Ryou pointed to it, before shuffling back to bed. Part of him felt mean at sending Kaoru shopping, alone in Tokyo’s Saturday crowds. But if he’d come all the way here and was determined to be helpful, that was how he could help. So it was fine.
Sprawled between the sheets, he dozed fitfully until he heard the door open. Kaoru didn’t call out to announce his return; footsteps padded through the living room, then into the bedroom. Compared to his online character, he was sort of clumsy, but in the quietest possible way.
Ryou didn’t bother opening his eyes yet. He felt a light touch on his head, stroking his hair.
“Too predictable,” he muttered. Kaoru flinched a little, Ryou’s wakefulness catching him by surprise.
“Ah... Do you want your meal?”
“Painkillers first.” He waited as Kaoru brought tablets and water, then a steaming bowl of meat strips and seasoned rice. Maybe it wasn’t so bad being looked after, just a bit. Pride warred with the fact that right now he felt lousy, off-balance, and didn’t care about anything else half as much. He could have fixed a meal for himself; it had been too much bother, that was all. Until he saw the food, he hadn’t even been certain that some of his aches were hunger pangs.
After eating, he fell asleep without really meaning to. Waking came gradually, with syrup-slow thoughts...and somehow his head had found its way onto Kaoru’s lap. Which might have been nice, if his fever wasn’t there to make him feel sweaty and gross. He grumbled and rolled away, onto a pillow.
“Oh,” Kaoru said, sounding disappointed.
“Aren’t you bored?”
“No, not at all...” Yeah, he was the type who’d let somebody sleep on him for hours, even if he lost circulation in his legs. Still, there was such a sincere, loving tone to those words; even in Ryou’s irritable daze it melted his heart slightly.
He reached out a hand, by way of compensation. “It’s too hot.”
Surprisingly, Kaoru only held it for a moment before setting it down, standing and leaving the room. Well, fine. Ryou closed his eyes, shifting to try and get comfortable, meaning to go back to sleep. Kaoru could hang around and do whatever.
A cold, wet touch on his face made him gasp, flinching. He instinctively knocked it away, and glared up to see that Kaoru had returned, kneeling beside the bed with a bowl of water, one hand dipped into it.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” With an apologetic smile, he laid his palm gently on Ryou’s brow again, smoothing aside his hair (and after a few moments, smoothing away his frown). The change in temperature did feel good, when it wasn’t such a shock. Cubes of ice clinked, almost musical for the refreshment they promised. “Is that all right?”
“I guess. Yeah. Just try warning me next time.” Most people would have used a damp cloth to soothe a fever, but Ryou didn’t complain about that part. Instead he relaxed, let Kaoru trace wet paths over his cheeks, fingertips lingering on his lips. Not rushing or saying anything more, silence building like blanketing snowflakes. Droplets slid down to his nape, cooling sweat.
Kaoru leaned closer, and pressed a kiss to Ryou’s brow. Even that felt cool, comparatively, and was all the more welcome for it. Soft, mint-scented breaths. A little lower, a kiss to his mouth.
“Careful you don’t catch it.”
“I wouldn’t mind...” Kaoru murmured.
“I couldn’t come over to look after you.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to.” He smiled again. If that did happen, he’d probably claim Ryou’s kindness had instantly cured him, or something sappy like that. “Do you feel any better yet?”
“Yeah.” No point denying it. In his own ways, Kaoru wasn’t a bad caretaker. He hadn’t smothered or made things too weird, the way Ryou had been afraid of. This wasn’t how they usually spent offline time together, but it didn’t feel weird right now. “You staying over?”
“If I can...”
“We can’t do anything, though.” Because he didn’t feel that much better. He’d know the illness was beaten once he started getting impatient that Kaoru’s hands only lingered around his face.
“Being around you is enough,” Kaoru said, and Ryou knew it really was.
Sleep came easier than before. When he next woke, he was alone, and couldn’t hear any activity elsewhere in the apartment. The bowl of water had been left conveniently near his bed, so he reached for it to cool off again (ice melted to slivers, thin enough to snap between his fingers). According to his phone it was 20:37, well into evening. It occurred to him to check for the missed messages – and there they were, though he wasn’t sure how he’d missed them. Probably too out of it.
The last one said, I’m taking the next train into Tokyo. Sorry, I know it’s unexpected... I can’t help fearing that something bad might have happened. You’ll probably scold me for worrying, but I’ll gladly accept that... I love you, Ryou.
Eventually he felt steady enough to get up, and found Kaoru on the living room sofa with a spare blanket, asleep. It had grown dark; blinds were drawn, dishes lying in the sink had been washed and put away. Nobody asked him to do chores, he’d just gone ahead. Probably enjoyed it, too.
The sofa was too small for him to lie properly on, legs folded up and knees sticking out of the blanket. Ryou tugged it over them, and then sat beside him for a while, on the floor in quiet, soft-edged shadows (one hand almost touching one of Kaoru’s, but not quite, to have a sense of contact without disturbing him). In the end, he was glad Kaoru had checked on him. He’d have worried too, if he’d gotten no messages for a couple of days.
The next morning, Kaoru made omelettes for breakfast, garnished with a neatly-squeezed ketchup heart. Ryou gave it a long stare, but cleared his plate.