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Jon is so deeply engrossed in composing an email to his infuriating, son-of-a-bitch boss—why must he always send emails at the very end of Jon’s workday that require a time-sensitive reply? why does he act as if Jon lives at work and does not have any other fucking place to be? why is he such an infuriating son of a bitch?—that he startles when his cell starts to ring. He hastily grabs it and accepts the call without checking the ID.

“Jonathan Sims,” he answers distractedly, reading over his email to check for wording that too obviously tells of Jon’s frustration—trying not to play into his boss’ sly goading makes writing emails to the man a goddamn art. Or defensive war tactic. He backspaces an instance of fine and types in great.

“Jo—n,” the caller replies, sounding strained.

“Martin!” Jon says, a warm smile spreading over his face. He turns away from his computer, all thoughts of a weaponized email falling straight out of his head. “Hello, sweetheart.”

“Are you still at work?” Martin asks in a strangled, gravelly voice.

“I was just wrapping up,” he replies, shooting a venomous glare to the blinking cursor on his screen. “How are you feeling? You sound terrible.”

“Gee, thanks,” Martin moans. He clears his throat a couple times and continues, “I’ve just thrown up, actually, so yeah, I’m doing great.”

“What!” Jon cradles the phone with both hands, frowning. He knew Martin had stayed home from work for not feeling well, but he hadn’t realized it was so bad. “Oh, Martin.”    

Martin sighs miserably. “Yeah, so. I was just calling to ask if you could pop over to the shop on your way home, get me a couple things? I’ve almost run out of tampons, and I’d like some Lucozade instead of bloody water or, blasphemous as it is to admit, tea—”

“Yes, of course— H— Hold on, let me grab a pen and write a list, alright?” Jon sets his cell on the table and puts Martin on speakerphone so that he can dig out a pen and a Post-it. Once he has the list written down and tucked safely into his wallet, he says gently, “Just rest. I’ll be home soon.”

“Okay,” Martin says on another sigh, weak but relieved. “Thank you.” They say goodbye and hang up. Jon sighs and presses his fingertips to the dark phone screen for a moment.

He looks back to his computer screen with a scowl. He hits ctrl+z, changing great back to fine. He clicks Send on the email with a vicious jab of his finger, thinks Have a fucked weekend, Elias, then grabs his bag and dashes out the door.

 

* * * * *

 

“I’m home!” Jon calls as he closes the front door and sets his bag down. He’s toeing out of his shoes when he hears a muffled groan in reply, and, sad as it is to hear Martin so miserable, he still smiles a little to himself.

He walks into the living room to see Martin bundled up in blankets and curled up on the couch. A quarter-full cup of water sits on the floor, along with an empty cereal bowl, Martin’s glasses, the television remote, and a book, laying open, as though it had been dropped and abandoned. This conglomeration of still life items paints a truly depressing picture of man suffering alone—but he is going to fix that right up.

Jon puts the shopping on the floor and sits on the couch arm by Martin’s head. “Hello, you poor thing,” he greets in a soft voice, gently carding his fingers through Martin’s hair.

“Ugh,” says Martin.

“I’ve got everything you asked for,” Jon says, “just tell me in what order you want them.”

“Mmrfgh.” Martin painstakingly pushes himself upright and sits back against the couch. He grunts, “Lucozade,” and tips his head against the back of the couch, closing his eyes.

“Right.” Jon picks up the shopping bag full of Lucozade bottles and starts pulling them out one-by-one, neatly lining them up on the coffee table as though presenting them for a buyer’s close scrutiny. “We’ve got—orange, apple, blackcurrant, and lemon.”

“Oraaaange,” Martin moans, blindly grabbing for it, “pleeeease.”

Biting back another smile, Jon cracks the seal on the bottle and hands it to him. While Martin drinks, Jon starts to pick up the discarded items on the floor, putting the book, remote, and Martin’s glasses on the coffee table. “I’ll go put the rest in the refrigerator,” he says, bagging them back up. He brings the dirty dishes, the Lucozade-full bag, and a bag of soup and saltine crackers into the kitchen. When the bottles are put away, Jon sticks his head around the corner. “D’you want to eat yet? Or later?”

Martin finishes downing his drink, swiping a hand over his mouth with satisfaction. “Mmm, later,” he replies, taking a peek into the last shopping bag on the floor before grabbing it and standing up. “Maybe some saltines, though? But that’s it; still a bit—“ He tips a hand back and forth.

“Alright, then.” Jon puts the soup cans into the cupboard. He hears the bathroom door closing. He raises a hand to his mouth and taps fingers to his chin, wondering where the heating pad has gone—maybe the drawer by the sink.

“You got me the fancy cotton ones?” comes Martin’s bemused voice through the bathroom door. “You spoil me, Jon.”

“Well I didn’t know your usual brand!” Jon calls back, just a bit miffed. “It says they’re good for the environment!” He checks another drawer, then a cupboard, then remembers—oh yes, it was left in the living room when Jon was using it for his feet. He grabs the box of saltines and walks out of the kitchen.

The bathroom door opens and Martin steps out, wearing a little smile. “You’re so sweet,” he says, sly and pink-cheeked.

“They’re BPA-free,” Jon pouts, knowing he’s being teased but feeling pleased anyway. He gets the heating pad from its place on the shelf under the coffee table.

Martin plops back down on the couch and re-swadles himself in the blankets. “Urgh. Never been so nauseous before. To quote you: curse this flesh prison!” He shakes his fist weakly in the air before letting it drop back down to the cushions.

Jon shakes his head ruefully as he takes a moment to adjust Martin’s blankets, making sure he’s good and tucked in. “I beg you to let that go,” he says with chagrin, tapping Martin on the nose. “I have said so many better, more quotable things.” He rounds the couch and kneels down to try and get his hand through the little gap to reach the outlet behind the couch.

“S’nice,” says Martin after a moment.

“What’s that,” Jon says vaguely, focusing on wiggling the heating pad’s plug into the outlet.

“Being taken care of. Being fussed over.”

Jon smiles. “Well, if there’s one thing I can do, it’s fuss.” Martin breathes out a soft laugh. The plug finally snaps into place. Jon wraps the heating pad in a kitchen towel and hands it to Martin, who takes it gratefully, immediately pressing it to his abdomen beneath the blankets. Jon sits down beside him and kisses Martin’s shoulder. He leans his forehead against Martin’s arm and closes his eyes, saying quietly, “I’ll always be here to take care of you. Whatever you need, whenever you need it.”

Jon slides his arm under the blanket and loops it through Martin’s arm, pulling himself flush to Martin’s side. They sit together in soft silence for a while, eyes closed and breathing together.

“D’you know,” Martin eventually says, “that I love you so much?”

Jon hooks his chin over Martin’s shoulder, pressing his nose to Martin’s cheek with a smile. “I had a notion, yes.”

“’Kay. Just making sure,” he says airily, and he’s smiling, too.

Jon presses a kiss to Martin’s cheek—then his ear, then his neck, making Martin giggle. Jon whispers against his skin, “I love you, too. So much.” After a long moment, Jon disentangles himself and stands up. Tucking the blankets back into place, he says, “I’m going to go change. You rest, and if you need anything, just say.”

“‘Kay,” Martin says again, settling back into the couch cushions. “Thank you.”

Jon brushes strands of Martin’s hair behind his ear, then drags knuckles softly down his cheek. Martin’s eyes fall closed again. Jon breathes in and sighs out, feeling settled and warm. “Anytime.”