Harry was coughing, and it was bad.
In the beginning they thought it was just the asthma acting up. They had been working a lot, maybe a bit too much, each on their own very important stuff. That could take a toll on one’s body. But it was hard to math their schedules, and it was important for him to make the most of this time that he finally had with his best guy. So Harry had used his inhaler and done all the helpful little things that he was supposed to, but the damned symptoms were not letting up. So they had to go the doctor. To receive bad news.
A chest infection, of course. It wasn’t Harry’s first time with bronchitis but it was probably the most frustrating one. He'd been looking forward to spending these off days with Louis, to doing all the things that they meant to do for so long, road trips, dining out... And now they would have to spend all their precious free moments at home, doing nothing so he could rest. He would try to convince Louis to go out for a bit, but... It didn’t seem likely.
“I ruined our days off.” He complained with a raspy voice.
“Don’t say that. I’m actually glad to have a reason to stay at home all day.” Louis said, with one of his gentle smiles, and Harry huffed. No. His boy was too pretty to be locked up.
Sadly, as Harry was going to complain about it, he was taken over by a coughing fit, wet, deep coughs with extra phlegm that left his chest making him him feel as if he’d run a marathon, exhausted and sore and very much unable to form words. Stupid illness.
“You ok?” Louis asked, concerned.
Harry nodded miserably. This wasn’t fair.
“Don’t worry, we’ll be home soon. I’ll get you some nice warm tea and blankets, you’ll feel better in no time.”
He would make fucking sure of it. Louis knew how much Harry had been looking forward to these days off, and how extra bad he had to be feeling about losing them, having to spend them in bed and/or the couch. So he was going to be extra nice, extra careful to make this convalescence as manageable as possible. So he wouldn’t have to feel bad about anything else on top of his aching body and lost days. Louis was going to help him feel as comfortable as possible, he was going to make the days off as wonderful as they should have been and make sure that he got better.
Harry wanted to die a bit, he was feverish and his chest hurt, his headache had done nothing but worsen as the hours went by...
“Thank you.” He croaked, as Louis brought him another hot mug. “You’re the best.”
He couldn’t say. Louis was making him all of these teas and bringing him blankets, getting him the meds, he was really going out of his way to make him feel great. It was nice, but it meant that Harry couldn’t say he was feeling like crap, or his boyfriend would think that he wasn’t doing his job properly and worry more.
But he was indeed feeling like crap. His headache seemed to want to murder him, and breathing was such a damned chore. He kept wheezing and coughing, but tried to contain his coughs so Louis wouldn’t worry so much and look at him with those baby blues that said “what can I do”. He sighed.
“Just... come over, ok? Sit with me, come here to the blanket. Let’s watch something stupid.”
That way maybe he would stop worrying so much and just rest for a bit. The boy deserved it too. Although perhaps Louis was right to worry. Despite all the medication and the care he wasn’t feeling any better, if anything he was feeling even worse. And he didn’t want to worry Louis but he probably should say it if things got too bad, right?
Great way to make these days even better, Harry. Making your poor boy have to spend his only off days worrying to death having to take you to the hospital.
He would tell him if he had to, but for now things weren't so bad. For now, Harry could still breathe, even if it was mostly wheezes; and maybe this stupid game show would distract him somewhat. He would just focus on Louis’ warm head on his shoulder, his face, his breathing. Just focus on breathing.
And make sure that he didn’t make Louis sick. That worried him, with whatever thinking capacity he had left.
Unbeknownst to him, Louis was worrying about the same thing.
You cuddle him because he needs the love, but do not make him sick.
Because Louis was sick too. He’d woken up the previous night sick to his stomach, and had spent a good chunk of the night throwing up and feeling like absolute crap. He had hoped that maybe it was something he ate and that throwing it out might be the end of it, but no. The nausea and dizziness had followed him till the morning, now accompanied by cramps that felt like hot needles in his stomach. Yay.
Still, Louis knew that Harry had been waiting for these days for a long time and hadn’t wanted to say anything, again, to avoid ruining what could otherwise be a nice bunch of days. And when he found out Harry was sick... He couldn’t put that on him, too. The disappointment from the lost days and the feeling like crap were enough, he didn’t need to add concern for his boyfriend too. Harry deserved the attention, some rest without all that worrying.
And besides, it wasn’t so bad. Louis was simply not eating anything to avoid puking and just sipping some soda when he could to keep himself going. The dizziness and cramps he could manage. He’d been in show business enough to put on a brave calm face even when he was feeling like crap.
It worked, for a while.
Harry was drowning out his coughs as much as he could so Louis wouldn’t know, Louis was hiding all that light-headedness and nausea so Harry wouldn’t know. And for some hours it more or less worked, and they stayed together huddled in that blanket, revelling in each other’s warmth, trying to soak in the other’s presence, the other’s heat. Just letting the hours pass, some tv in the background, some caresses in the cheek, some half remembered stories, some jokes, some coughs.
And then Harry had another coughing fit, and it all went to hell. He was in tears from the effort and hated it, hated it, hated it, hated it. He could barely breathe, his chest and his head felt heavy and wrong, he was cold and exhausted. He just wanted to feel good again and was tired of having to pretend he was good. Louis was rubbing circles on his back - the only comfort in this whole hell situation.
When the coughs subsided for a bit Harry just threw himself onto his boyfriend’s chest, a couple of tears falling to his cheeks. He hated this to no end, but knew there’s wasn’t more that could be done. He’d waited for so long to be free for a while and now... Everything felt wrong. Everything except Louis, with his warm hands and gentle blue eyes.
There was a kiss on his forehead and a thumb caressing his cheek. Harry looked up and managed a little smile.
“I’m gonna make some more tea, to try and make you feel a bit better, ok?” Louis said.
“Be back soon.” Harry croaked, no voice left.
Louis smiled back, nodding and made back towards the kitchen.
Fuck he was dizzy. He hadn’t eaten anything in about 24 hours and his body was... Well, it was running out of fuel. The hallway was spinning. There was too much saliva in his mouth and no matter how much he swallowed.... He was losing it. Losing himself. He tried to hold on to something but there was nothing for him to hold in the hallway. The floor came too close and greeted him. His head bled.
Harry only heard a noise, a soft thump of something falling. Something big.
“Lou?" Harry asked, trying to get his breathing back on a regular rhythm. "What happened?”
No sound. Weird. Why wouldn’t he reply? He cleared his throat and asked again:
“Hey, what’s going on?”
Still silence. With some effort and after coughing some more, Harry got up from the couch and slowly walked to where he heard the noise... Only to greeted by one of the most terrifying sights ever: Louis on the floor, unconscious, bleeding. Harry ran.
He was soon kneeling in front of his boyfriend, looking for what was wrong, realising that the blood came form a gash in forehead, probably made when he fell. With some difficulty, he managed to put Louis’ head on his lap and softly tapped his cheek.
“Wake up, hey, wake up, baby. What happened, why...”
Louis wasn’t waking up.
This felt like a nightmare.
He dug his phone out of his sweatpants pocket and called for an ambulance, trying to avoid panicking.
“My boyfriend’s unconscious. Please send help.” He managed to say in between coughs.
Harry wanted to kick himself. Had Louis been sick this whole time without him noticing? Had he been so selfish and focused on himself that he hadn’t seen something was wrong? What if this was something serious, what if Louis had some grave illness? He could deal with his stupid inflamed airways, but if Louis was hurt...
The seconds felt like millennia. Had Louis been so pale this whole time? Was he too warm too? He’d even so cold, lost in his fever that he’d just welcomed his boyfriend’s warmth, never once questioning if it was normal. Now his hair was stained with blood and he was all lifeless and unmoving and fuck! Why was this happening? Why?
“You’re scaring me... Please, please, wake up.
And then, the miracle. Louis opened his eyes, slowly, but he did.
“Ha... Harry. Why... why am... on the f- floor...”
Harry was sobbing by now.
“What... why are you crying?”
“Because you’re back.” Louis understood nothing. He’d been going to the kitchen and suddenly he found himself waking up on the floor, his head hurting even worse and Harry crying.
“You passed out. I couldn’t wake you.”
That made sense. Harry helped him up a bit and then Louis found himself being embraced like there was no tomorrow.
“You scared me half to death. Don’t ever do that again, ok?” He said with the hoarse voice that came with coughing too much.
And then, after some more minutes, paramedics arrived and examined him. They decided that gash didn’t stitches, just cleaned it and dressed it right there, on the hallway floor. Harry was still worried about the fainting, so he asked about that.
“He does look a bit dehydrated.” The older paramedic commented, and looked at Louis. “Any reason why? Have you been exercising a lot or throwing up?”
Louis lowered his eyes.
“Yeah. Last night. I threw up... four times maybe? It’s a bit blurred.”
Harry gasped, that led to more coughing.
“That's quite all right, young man. But did you remember to eat and drink after that? Enough to recover what you lost?.... Have you eaten at all?”
Louis gave the best puppy eyes he could after shaking his head.
“I didn’t want to be sick again.”
“You should have said something!” Harry's voice complained.
“I didn’t want to worry you, you’re sick!”
“So are you!”
The paramedics exchanged a look. The one who had dressed Louis’ wound, a middle aged woman, explained the situation.
“Well, it doesn’t seem to be anything too serious, you passed out from lack of fluids and food. And although you do have a bit of a fever, it’s probably just some mild stomach flu, there’s been a lot of that going around. What is important now is that you get some good care, some fluids, some good uninterrupted sleep. Do you boys have anyone to stay with you?”
Louis and Harry looked at each other. Yeah, they could probably call family, but this was their hard-earned alone time and who knew when they would get more time like this... And everyone was so busy these days, surely they would have to cancel something to look after them.
“Look, boys” The paramedic continued. “Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this, but the sick leave I'm covering ends in about two hours, so if you have some spare cash I can come, be some sort of in-house nurse. My daughter is studying abroad and the house is too empty anyway, and I need the money to go visit her. And I could really use the money, who knows when I'll be called again.”
... That sounded like a very nice idea.
“That way you can focus on getting better and keeping each other company.”
An absolute plan.
Harry smiled at Louis, happy to have found a solution.
They were on the couch again, under the blankets again, limbs tangled. Julianne (the paramedic lady) was making soup after some getting both boys some meds and sharing some personal remedies. Harry coughed, but it didn’t sound quite so terrible.
“You feeling any better?” Louis asked him.
“Yeah, still pretty crappy but getting better. And you?”
“Better, too. The prospect of soup still makes me a bit... queasy, but I’ll manage.”
“Yes, manage. You have to eat. You have no idea of how much you scared me, there on the floor.”
“Now you know how I felt every time that you had to leave the stage because you chest hurt. It was awful.”
“Sorry about that. I know it’s not a nice feeling.”
Louis nodded, smiled and put his head on Harry’s shoulder, feeling finally able to rest properly.
Harry’s head was still quite muddled by fever, his chest was tight and hurt, his voice raw... But there were something that was important for him to say:
“I... If something happened to you, something really bad... I don’t know what I would do. You mean so much, Lou, you mean too much. So don’t... spare my feelings, don’t worry about concerning me. Tell me when you feel bad. Worry me.”
“Right back at you. You cough all you need, you wheeze, you don’t hold back. I’ll worry, but you’ll have to learn to live with that.”
There was a moment in which they were so comfortable, so warm and so peaceful finally after all the worry and the feeling like crap....
“I want to kiss you but I don’t want to make you sicker.”
It was a tricky situation.
“There was this tv show where they couldn’t touch each other, but they wanted to kiss...” Louis found the plastic wrap of some cookies and smiled. “We just put this in between our mouths... Et voilà.”
Ok, it was a messy kiss. They couldn’t shake off the feeling that they were kissing plastic, it was kind of awkward... But still, it was them, and still, it was a kiss. After some giggles and coughs, they settled back on the couch, decided to spent the rest of the foreseeable future cuddling and being looked after.
Harry took a deep breath and looked at the head on his shoulder.
Maybe their time off wasn’t that ruined after all.