“I’ve already done this one.” Tim shoved the folder back into Jon’s hands, pretending that he didn’t see the way the man flinched. Or the way he swayed very slightly back and forth, dead on his feet. “Go home. You look shite and you’re wasting my time.”
“I, I. I can’t.” The smallest tremor seemed to underline those words and he turned aside to cough into his elbow.
“Then get out of here.” He turned back to his phone, mumbling. “I don’t want whatever you have.” Because Jon looked awful with his greying hair slipping out of the tie and into his sweaty, fever flushed face.
“Bye, Jon.” Clipped. Short. Edging toward angry.
“R’r’ight. Thank you, Tim.” The limp, more pronounced when he was tired, seemed much worse today. Absently, he wondered if Jon had his cane before deciding it was none of his business.
Jon didn’t need them anyway. He’d made that abundantly clear.
It was easy to avoid Jon if he didn’t seek him out. Whether through paranoia or embarrassment, the archivist kept his distance unless there was research that needed to be done that he couldn’t handle himself. And that was currently piling up on the corner of Tim’s desk because he’d be damned if he did anything to help this place after what it kept taking.
So, of course, twice in one day, their paths crossed. Tim was on his way to raid the fridge when he saw Jon in the stacks on the rolling ladder. He was paused halfway up, gripping a file so hard the folder creased and resting his forehead on the nearest step, shivering so strongly Tim could see it from where he stood. Shoulders hitching, Jon coughed half heartedly, the sound he made when he was through catching his breath a cross between a whine and a groan; certainly not something he would ever allow anyone to hear if he knew he was being watched. If he wanted to suffer at playing martyr instead of going home, Tim was happy to let him.
Maybe Martin was in the breakroom. He still tolerated Jon.
Tim liked to tell himself that he didn’t mean to eavesdrop. But with Jon being. Jon. That wasn’t entirely true, was it?
“I told you to go home, Jon.” Martin sounded exasperated and that was no surprise. Who wasn’t cross with Jon these days? But there was worry there too, and when Jon’s wet cough echoed into the hallway, Tim could understand why.
“Elias,” his voice was hoarse and it sounded like speaking hurt. “Elias told me once I’ve finished--he said I c’couldn’t.”
“Finished something, I’m sorry, I can’t, can’t seem to recall exactly what it was.” Frowning, Tim pressed closer, trying to hear what was being said, but Jon’s words were slipping in and out like the tide, fading into shallow panting, like he couldn’t quite focus. He sounded exhausted.
“Oh, Jon.” Another round of breathless hacking followed. “Here.” Tim narrowed his eyes, trying to figure out what they were doing.
“Th’thank you, Martin.” It was strange that Jon allowed all this fuss.
“You need to rest.”
“I tried to, to.” The next noise sounded suspiciously like a choked off sob. “Tried to tell him.”
“I know you did. It’s not your fault he’s a right prick.” Why did Jon even listen to Elias anyway? At least this explained why he’d told Tim he couldn’t leave earlier. The one time in probably his entire life he tried to take some leave.
“Heh,” Jon sounded seconds away from snapping in half completely, done in enough that his walls were coming down. “The one t’time I ask for a sick d’day.”
“Alright, well. You’ll have to rest here then.”
“He can speak to me if he’s a problem with it.” Tim smiled at Martin’s irate tone and it spoke to how very poorly Jon must’ve been feeling that he didn’t attempt to argue again. “Can you stand?” Tim heard the squeak of Jon’s desk chair, a brief clattering, Martin’s exclamation, and decided it was time to stop hiding, opening the door and stepping inside.
“I heard coughing--oh.” Jon was crumpled over Martin’s arm, body completely limp, and Tim rushed forward to help sit him back in the chair, patting his face gently until he came around. He was positively boiling.
“Jon?” Martin was supporting his head with one hand, pushing his hair back with the other.
“S’sorry...jus’...” Groggy, his head lolled. “Spinning.”
“Okay.” A conflicted expression flickered over his face and Tim just knew it had to do with him. They needed help and the only person left was him. “Tim. I wouldn’t ask if--”
“I’ll get this side, yeah?” Visibly relieved, Martin nodded gratefully, moving to get Jon’s arm over his own shoulder, and bracing to lift at the same time, slowly, in an attempt to keep him from blacking out a second time. They were up when Jon’s leg buckled completely and Tim rushed to compensate, feeling like a prat for ignoring him all day when he was well and truly ill. “It’s been bothering him more than usual.” Martin nodded his assent and led the way with Jon stumbling between them, doing more to hinder really, but Tim wasn’t going to tell him that. Not this time, with his arm like a brand against the back of his neck and weighing almost nothing between them.
“Alright, Jon. It’s alright.” Being upright wasn’t agreeing with him and Tim told himself he would forget the pitiful noises slipping out of him for both their sakes. They’d just made it to the cot when his breathing picked up, shallow and fast and he slumped further, swallowing thickly and when they set him down he curled up, taking the bin Tim passed over. His throat made a wet click when he swallowed reflexively and his head was all but inside the bin. “If you need to be sick, it’s alright.” Martin was so gentle with him, smoothing a hand down his back slowly while it heaved unevenly.
“N’no…” His exhale was swallowed by the plastic and he sank somehow lower, nigh folded in half with a strangled expletive.
“Tim, would you get some water and paracetamol for me?”
When he returned, Martin had divested Jon of most of his layers and he lay trembling under the spare blanket with a damp flannel over his forehead, barely aware.
“I brought tea, uh. It’s got honey. For the cough.”
“That’s perfect, Tim. Thank you.” He levered Jon upright again, letting him rest drowsily against his shoulder while he handed him pills and urged him to take the tea. He had to hold Jon’s hand it was shaking so badly and when he finished he couldn’t keep his eyes open, asleep before Martin settled him back down. “There.” He sighed, adjusting the flannel over his eyes before sitting back to check the hour and supplies, fixing Tim with a look when he’d finished.
“Thought he was being.” Tim gestured broadly. “Jon.” He leaned forward, elbows on his knees and chin in his hands. “Didn’t know he’d actually.”
“Asked Elias for a day off?”
“To be fair, I did have to bully him into it. Lotta good that did. He’s. He’s trying, you know? In his own way.” Tim looked away, dropping his eyes to Jon’s thin face with its dark, ashen skin and deep shadows. The scars. The same ones that marked Tim inside and out.
“Yeah.” But it didn’t help, did it? Not when he was still so angry with him for suspecting and spying on them. Not trusting them. Because they were supposed to be friends and friends didn’t do that. “Yeah.” Just the same, when Jon shifted uneasily in his sleep, Tim replaced the flannel, letting his hand linger longer than absolutely necessary.