More than anything else that tipped him off something was wrong, it was the heat that Jon could feel coming from his own skin that did it. Because he wasn’t cold, much less down here in the archives, and yet… laying a hand against his bare arm or his palm against the flat of his back, and he could feel the warmth there. And you just weren’t supposed to be aware of the temperature of your own body, not really, were you? Sure, he could pretty much ignore any sensation if he was in the middle of hard focus, but right now the work was just normal work, and Jon… definitely noticed his own body.
Strange, but mostly unobtrusive. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but just there; while it probably didn’t bode very well for the rest of the afternoon, it wasn’t doing much more than piquing his interest enough to distract him right now. So– after another quick pass of the back of his hand against too-warm skin– he tried to dismiss it and got back to recording.
The headache came next. Or, well, he noticed it first in conjunction with the chills, but honestly headaches were such a common state for him that even with the extenuating circumstances, it might have been lingering there longer than he’d really noticed. But the chills– those hit like a train. It was never really cold in the archives. It got stiflingly hot moreover than it ever really got cold, even if he did gravitate towards a sweater vest or cardigan for the cooler days. But this… he was starting to shiver, goosebumps rising on his skin. And that just didn’t bode very well at all.
He might not be the best at cataloging body sensation, but he also wasn’t an idiot; he’d been sick enough back in uni to know a fever coming on. And because he was intimately familiar with those feelings of being sick (Georgie had always said he’d pushed himself too hard, back in uni. Maybe she’d been onto something.) Jon… really did not want to be at work in the thick of it. It’d be miserable. And it was only one in the afternoon. How was it only one?
It was too late for pain pills to catch it, he knew, but he still chased down two extra strength with the dregs of his tea and tried to keep working.
He made it an hour. Just one hour.
“Knock knock, boss. Do I have follow up for you or do I–” And there was Tim, halfway across his office before Jon could even think about sitting up. He didn’t bother anyway, though. “Oh. Hey. You okay?”
Exactly that. He’d known Tim would see right through it. They all would have, probably, but Tim especially. “No,” Jon admitted, finally shoving his glasses up to put his face in his hands. God, he was tired. He’d gotten so tired. “I’m coming down with something, I think,” he muttered, and scrubbed at the ache in his eyes. Shit. He didn’t have time for this.
“You’re sick?” Jon barely had time to look up at the paperwork Tim set down before he’d rest his hand against Jon’s cheek, and then his forehead. “You are warm. And you definitely don’t look good.”
Jon rolled his eyes, but… he didn’t move away from Tim’s hand at his face. It was warm, too warm against the heat rolling off his skin but a balm to the cold starting to shake him. Mostly it was just nice. So he let himself linger, especially when Tim didn’t pull away, either.
“How long have you been feverish?” Tim frowned. “Don’t tell me you came in like this this morning.”
“No. Just…” He cleared his throat, and then forced himself to sit up. He wondered if he was imagining the body aches, just because he knew they were coming. God. Why this now? “Just an hour or so. I didn’t really put it together until I started getting so cold.”
“Alright… because, just saying, I don’t trust you not to come in with a fever.” Tim leaned back, but kept his hands braced against the desk. “You take something?”
“Yes. And,” he summoned up as much of a dirty look as he could, which was probably lacking, “I resent the first statement. For the record.”
“Jon, you’re a chronic workaholic, don’t make me go through this with you again.” That wasn’t even… it wasn’t necessarily true, Jon thought. It was just, well, Tim had more of a social life than Jon could have ever even dreamed of wanting, so things just… paled in comparison. (Not that he minded. He was– he was glad Tim still had things he enjoyed doing, and could do, outside of work.) “You came to work with food poisoning once.”
“That was one time.” God, one time and they’d never let him forget it. Not that he’d ever be able to; it had been utterly miserable. “It wasn’t– I was the only one who was ever uncomfortable for it.”
“Yeah. Except for us having to listen to you hurk it up the whole day.” God, nevermind Tim, Jon had barely been able to keep Martin away from him long enough to try and work. “And that client that you nearly hurled on in your office.”
He remembered that, too. He couldn’t forget if he tried. “She deserved it,” he said faintly. “She gave me a migraine and her story was a fraud.”
Tim laughed, sharp and what felt like too sudden, and oh, that was prime to give him a migraine, too. Oh no. “Yeah, too bad we can’t barf on everyone who wastes our time, huh? Remind me why that goes against code of conduct again?”
“You’re terrible,” he murmured, even though… well. He wasn’t really wrong. Some people just… some people really did make you feel like puking, didn’t they? Not that he’d admit that out loud.
“You love it,” Tim teased, and– and yeah, maybe, okay, maybe Jon did, but it wasn’t the time and it wasn’t the place. He couldn’t buy into Tim’s plan to make him feel better, because he knew it wasn’t going to work that way.
“In any case,” he replied, archly, and Tim smiled like he’d succeeded, anyway, “I think I’m going to head out early.” Oh, and there went Tim’s smile, immediately, like a switch flipped. “What?” he asked, bracing a hand against the desk in preparation of pushing himself up. He’d rather just sit here. But that wasn’t going to help.
“You’re leaving.” Tim frowned, ducking around the desk to help Jon up. He let him. “Are you sure you’re not sicker than you’re saying? Because, yeah, we just established how much you don’t leave early.”
“It’s different,” he tried to stress, but not before Tim got his arms around him and pulled him in, effectively tucking him against his chest. “Tim.” He didn’t let go, and Jon just… let him have this. For a moment, he let himself have this, secure against Tim’s chest, wrapped up in his impossibly long and impossibly warm arms. It was nice. He wanted to stay like this. “… I won’t compromise the health of the archival staff,” he continued weakly, and leaned his head against Tim’s chest. He shouldn’t compromise Tim’s health, either, but… only for a moment. Christ, how could he be so warm? How could one person be so warm? Jon could still feel the heat simmering beneath his skin, but he was so cold, and Tim was so warm. He just wanted to… stay like that. Just for a moment.
“Uh huh, sure. But you’re still freaking me out a little.” He propped his chin atop Jon’s head; Jon did not stretch into it like he wanted to. “And by a little, I mean a lot. You want me to take you home?”
No. But yes, because being encompassed by Tim’s warmth sounded lovely, cuddled up into him on the train ride home in ways he wouldn’t normally dream about exhibiting in public if he wasn’t feverish and aching. Letting Tim siphon away the cold, letting him help hold him together until he could collapse into bed at home. Christ, he suddenly ached for that kind of caretaking, and wasn’t that embarrassing. “No,” he said begrudgingly, and gently pulled free. “It’s the same train either way.” Significantly more bereft of comfort, but he didn’t say that. “I can manage.”
“Yeah.” Tim let him go. The difference was palpable, and Jon physically shivered. “I know you can, but that doesn’t really answer my question. But, I’ll get you my key–”
“– and you can go to my place. No,” he interrupted, holding up a singular finger that Jon admittingly had to take a moment to focus in on. “No arguments. You act like I wouldn’t immediately come to your place after work, anyway, you might as well just expedite the process and stay with me. I can keep an eye on you and,” he added quickly, “it’s actually closer than your place, so. Less time on the train, more time you can sleep.” He really had him on the sleep thing. He was suddenly exhausted, and Tim had a lovely bed. “So I’ll grab that. Stay put.” He flashed an overdramatic thumbs up before ducking out of Jon’s office, leaving him… somewhat steamrolled, to be honest. But in the best way.
Not that he’d admit that, either.
Still, the fact he’d given into the notion that he was leaving early seemed to have kicked the rest of his fever into overdrive; he could feel every ache and pain and cold tendril of icy misdirection his body was sending him, and getting his jacket on in preparation to leave his office had never felt both so tedious and welcoming at the same time.
He honestly could not wait to get to Tim’s.
“Alright.” Tim let himself back into his office, brandishing his key from his lanyard. “My neighbor has a spare, so don’t worry about locking up after you get there. I mean, definitely do lock up. Too many spooks.”
“Sure.” He took the key. “Thank you, um. I’ll–”
“You’ll go home and rest,” Tim interrupted, and Jon didn’t even have it in him to protest when he leaned down to press a kiss to his forehead. “And I’ll be there right after work.” He straightened up. “I’m trusting you here, Jon. I know you’re shit at taking care of yourself but you’re also a grown adult and I can understand wanting a couple hours of downtime. So, take the downtime. Get some sleep. Because then I am swooping in to take care of you. Alright?”
No amount of talking was going to get him out of this. And it wasn’t worth it, anyway; the whole conundrum about going to absolute shit when he got sick, and Jon just wanted to get himself into a bed before that could happen in its entirety. He wouldn’t argue. “Right,” he agreed instead, and took a step around Tim for the door. “I’ll… er, I’ll check in with Rosie, and then…”
“Then I’ll see you when I get home. Text me if you want anything, alright?”
“Right. I’ll probably just sleep,” he admits. “But yes.”
“I know. But still! Lemme know.”
“I will. Thanks, Tim–”
“Uh uh, ‘s what I’m here for. Assisting,” he said, gesturing vaguely. “As an assistant. Anything for boss man, right? Wink wink, nudge nudge?” He gave a tiny little nudge at that, and Jon rolled his eyes, and headed out. Only Tim could make him fond while being simultaneously miserable. He’d take it gratefully, right now.
Jon– nevermind what Martin might have said, if he was given the chance– was a fully functioning, capable adult who could take care of things for himself. Not that he minded Martin’s tea, or the occasional reminder to have a break or snack at work; maybe he minded those things less than before, actually… but yes, still, Jon was able and even usually mostly willing to do what was needed to be done. If that involved getting himself to Tim’s flat and even forcing himself to drink a glass of cool water once he was there, that was easy. That was fine.
Basically speaking, he knew how to take care of a fever. Rest and hydration, namely, and staying on top of meds as needed. A cool compress if the fever got too high. You grew up without parents, you learned to be self-sufficient. But finding the strength of will… that was something altogether different when you were tired.
Bed sounded amazing, but the couch was right there. Jon dropped onto it, not picking up his coat when it pooled to the floor. There was a tangle of blankets across the cushions that he fell into eagerly; they were more comfortable than they had any right to be. He just needed to rest for a second. Just for that.
“You know, I meant for you to go to bed, boss.”
There was movement around him, hands on his body as he was pulled from slumber. Jon made a groggy noise of uncertainty, cracking tired eyes open to find Tim leaning over him.
“C’mon, I know you want to sleep, but you’ll sleep so much better in actual bed.”
Right… he was still on the couch. Christ, if he hadn’t hurt before from the fever, he’d hurt from falling asleep here now. But Tim was right: he did want to go back to sleep. It was much easier. The darkness and peace in sleep was gentle, and Jon wanted sorely to be there, and not here. Aware of all of his general… self, at the moment. “What’re you…” he trailed off, letting Tim help him sit up.
“Taking you to bed.”
He glared, as much as he could just then. Tim was far too amused by that joke, repeated instances that he made sure to use it on. The tease. “No. What’re you– what are you doing home?” he asked, stumbling as he was pulled to his feet.
“I mean.” Tim wrapped his arm around his waist. “It’s after work, now. Guessing you’ve been sleeping there since you got here, which… sure, it’s sleep, but not necessarily good sleep. Even if my couch is really nice.”
“Oh,” he said dumbly. It was already– Jesus, how had he slept so long. How had he slept so long when he’d intended to get up and go into bed proper, anyway, he meant.
“Yeah, oh.” Tim squeezed around his midriff, urging him towards the hall. “You want anything? Need more meds?”
“Sure. Um.” The ache behind his forehead hadn’t alleviated any from that impromptu nap. It just hurt worse. “Yes. Bathroom.”
“Sure.” Tim let go of him outside the bathroom door, and Jon still didn’t lean back into the steady weight of him, even if he wanted to. He felt so very unsteady right now. “I’ll get a couple extra blankets on the bed for ya. And make some tea.”
He nodded, hearing the words if not immediately comprehending them. Blankets and tea, two very nice, comforting warm things. Actually, those sounded amazing. Before he could think to say that, however, he was already in the bathroom rummaging through the cabinet for paracetamol, and Tim was already gone to do those things, probably.
Five thirty. Where had the day gone. He hated being sick.
“Right, kettle’s on.” Tim joined him back in the bedroom once he’d stumbled his way there. “How’re you feeling, anyway? Since you look a tiny bit more awake.” He held out his hands and Jon went, reaching for them for balance as he crossed the room. So very unsteady.
“Not great,” he admitted. “Um, still the… still the fever. Headache. Could be worse.” It could. “But it could be better.”
“Yeah. Typical ‘being sick’ thing, huh.” Tim pecked a kiss to the top of his head, and Jon realized just then that Tim was still wearing his coat. He must have just gotten home. “Do you feel like eating something? Because you really should.”
Jon knew. He did, but… “Maybe later?” He wanted to lean into Tim again, his broad chest and capable arms. And warmth, God, was he warm. But he knew he needed to be in bed. Resting. He could do that much, even if he wasn’t up for trying to have a meal right now. “‘m just…” He watched Tim one-handedly pull the blankets back on the bed. “I’m just tired, right now.”
Tim directed him to the mattress, helping him sit. “Got it. I’m gonna insist on the tea, a bit, because, you know, drinking things.”
“But then I’ll let you go back to sleep.” He shoved the pillows back for Jon to sit instead of recline. That was nice. He swore he didn’t like being coddled, really. “Just stay awake for a little bit longer.”
“Right.” Still, he couldn’t help turning his head to yawn. Taking a moment to clumsily remove his glasses and rub at the ache beneath his skull. “You know you don’t have to, er, do this.”
“What, you think it’s above my pay grade?”
Jon almost smiled, watching Tim shrug out of his coat. He wasn’t wrong, really, but he wasn’t up for the mental gymnastics that came with thinking too hard about their office romance. It was guilt he didn’t need to revisit right now. “Something like that,” he said.
“Good thing I’m doing this as your partner and not your employee, then, huh? Whew, bullet dodged!” Tim winked at him across the room and it… it didn’t do a lot to dispel the concern that was still clinging on there. Tim probably thought he was hiding it well enough, but… Jon knew him, now. If things had been different… but they weren’t, and Jon wasn’t an idiot. That concern was strange, directed towards him, but… not unwanted. “I’ll get you that tea. Give me a few?”
Jon nodded, lethargic, as he watched him go. And then shivering again as he became all too aware of that damn cold again, and he reached for the blankets and extra blankets to pull up over his legs and torso. Hot tea would be a godsend, fever be damned.
It was stupid to try and figure out, he knew, but he still couldn’t help but wonder where he’d managed to pick this up. No shortage of possibilities during flu season, but he was careful. Mostly. Careful enough, usually, and his immune system actually worked better than other parts of his body these days. University had been rough, but since graduating, he could count on one hand how many times he’d had a cold. And now this… now this. Hopefully it wouldn’t linger, and he could get back to work tomorrow.
Hopefully… but who was he kidding? A fever usually didn’t resolve itself in one day, and he was going to be tired tomorrow regardless.
“Looking a little zoned out there, boss.” He glanced up as Tim came back, a mug in one hand and a sleeve of biscuits in the other. “Brought you some McVitie’s. Chocolate ones, even. Because you should eat a little something before you pass out again.”
As much of a hassle as it was… but, yeah, he knew. Cheers for Tim bringing him biscuits instead of toast. He could get away with that, with Tim. “You know, your love for biscuits is not a healthy thing,” he teased, but gratefully accepted the cup of tea. And he’d… he’d have a few biscuits in a moment, because of course he would.
“Hey. My love for biscuits is getting food into you right now.” Tim stuck out his tongue, setting Jon’s glasses on the bedside table. “I’ll hear no backtalk about McVitie’s.”
“Snob,” Jon said fondly, and gulped a mouthful of tea: lukewarm, not scalding like he’d been planning to do to his insides for a bit of warmth. “Eugh.”
“Did you just ‘ugh’ my tea?”
“It is not cold. I know you’re super cold, but you don’t really need anything hot right now.” Tim sat on the edge of the bed, setting the package of biscuits between them. “It's the optimal dipping temperature for biscuits. That’s what’s important.”
Tim winked, the absolute arse. “It is.” And Christ, Jon thought he loved him a bit, and his high spirits that couldn’t be broken. And he could do caretaking in a way Jon could actually handle, something he actually might look forward to? Martin, yes, his heart was in the right place and Jon accepted that, but the way the man could just stand and incessantly worry put his teeth on edge, which was really the last thing that he wanted when he already felt poorly to begin with. But Tim managed to do the same thing, in a… less obtrusive way, he guessed. Or maybe it was just less annoying when he chased it off with a kiss to his cheek, he thought, and only just leaned out of the way when Tim did just that.
“Piss off,” he grumbled, halfhearted, joking, and snatched the sleeve of biscuits for himself.
“Hey.” Tim greeted him from where he was tucked onto the couch, laptop resting on his thighs. He’d only just looked up as Jon staggered through, wrapped as tightly as he could in the uppermost blanket from bed. “How you feeling?”
Pretty shit. The sharp, stabbing pains beneath his skin probably didn’t point towards much progress on the fever, and he was still freezing, barely able to stop his teeth chattering as he headed to get a drink. “Sick,” he mumbled, and tugged the blanket closer.
“Yeah, probably for awhile, sorry to say.” There was some rustling and creaking of the age old couch that Jon didn’t look back to, but Tim was joining him in the kitchen a minute later, anyway. “You could have texted me if you wanted something. Or yelled.”
Jon shrugged, pulling open the refrigerator.
“What’re you after?”
… he didn’t even really know. There were a myriad of drinks, but nothing he really wanted. Nothing that sounded good. Even water wasn’t palatable, and Jon just sort of stared into the fridge for a moment too long before giving another little shrug and trying to step back.
Tim hummed, snagging a bottle of water from the door to press into his hand. “I’ll pick you up some Lucozade tomorrow, so pick a flavor. Drink this for now, though.”
“Just original…” He twisted the cap off and shuffled back out of the kitchen.
“Course.” Tim went with him, a steady hand at his arm. “You didn’t want anything else to eat?”
He shook his head, feeling a vague, reminiscent nausea from the one piece of toast Tim had talked him into for ‘dinner’ a couple of hours ago. “No… ‘m alright.”
“More tea?” Tim nudged his shoulder gently. “Or biscuits? That went well earlier.”
“Nah.” He nudged back, pathetically, and nestled into Tim’s embrace a little, especially when he accommodated by wrapping his arm around Jon again. “Just gonna go back to sleep.”
“Alrighty. Actually,” he glanced off, for a second, “you know what, I’m gonna join you.”
“Yeah. Lost track of time.” Tim helped him back beneath the blankets, even when Jon just sort of sat there to drink a bit more water. “But it is getting kinda late, isn’t it?”
He didn’t know. “Is it?” Swallowing the mouthful of water, he tried to squint at the clock but… glasses being off and all. His eyes hurt, and that made his head hurt.
“Just about eleven.”
Shit, really? He squinted a little harder, and then gave up. “Oh.” At least the night was pressing on, but he’d never get used to losing time when he napped. Especially when he was sick, waking up in a cold sweat, groggy over the date and time and where he was. But what could you do. “Alright,” he agreed.
“Give me a few.” Tim stepped back, reaching to pull his shirt up and over his head. “I’ll bring some meds in for you to have, in a bit, but you’re not actually quite due for them just yet.”
“Great.” He had no real recollection of if they’d actually been helping or not, actually, but he’d rather rely on their potential benefit than not. And God, was he a bit of a mess right now. It had to be close to the next dose. He shifted, uncomfortable, and took another swig of water.
“You talking in single syllables because it’s easier, or should I be getting more worried about the fever again?”
“No. I’m–” He tried to get comfortable again, scooting down a little more into the pillows. Hanging onto the bottle of water like it was a lifeline. “I’m aware,” he stressed– unfortunately, he was. “I’m just… I’m just tired. It’s a lot,” he said vaguely, watching Tim redress in his pajamas. “Haven’t been sick in awhile.”
“That’s fair. It sucks.”
“You seem like… one of those people who never gets sick.” He twisted the cap back on the bottle and tucked it next to his pillow. Semi-vertical for longer than five minutes and he felt the world spinning. It took everything he had not to flop into the blankets and stay there in whatever position he fell in.
“I don’t. I mean.” Tim reached over, plucking the bottle from the bed. “I do, I get a cold or something every year, but that’s, like, I think that’s normal. But I actually can’t remember the last time I had a fever. Before the archives.”
“Lucky,” he grumbled.
“I know, boss, I’m sorry.” Tim pressed his hand against Jon’s face again, briefly. He might have nuzzled into it. He wasn’t entirely sure. “I’d take it all away from you if I could.”
Don’t say that, Jon thought. Because he didn’t know what he’d do if Tim ended up getting sick after this. He really didn’t. Try to take care of him, sure, but that would probably go down more like a lead balloon than this already was.
“Try to go back to sleep. I’m just gonna brush my teeth and be back in a second.”
“Right,” he agreed, and tried to tuck himself in further to wait.
He must have drifted off, a bit– who could have guessed that would happen– because the next thing he knew, the mattress was shifting as Tim slid into bed next to him. He must have made a noise, some tiny thing of discontent at the movement, because Tim apologized as he settled in.
“Sorry. Didn’t mean to wake you back up.”
The irritation of the moment slipped away as Tim’s body heat filtered in; Jon felt it instantly as he settled in to occupy the space next to him, and he couldn’t help immediately crowding over to leech away that warmth.
“Alright, yeah– come on.” Tim was ever willing, wrapping his arms around him and allowing him to nestle in embarrassingly close to his chest. “There we go. I can make you feel better, don’t even worry.”
He might have huffed, because, well. He knew no amount of having another person with him was going to fix it, but… in its way… it kind of did. And Tim was stupid warm. He kept thinking. Jon made a grumbled noise and ducked his head against his chest.
“You know, I can’t tell if you’re still annoyed by me waking you up, or just happy to have a cuddle partner.”
Both. Mostly the last. But Jon tried in mostly vain to stop squirming, giving up the search for physical comfort for warmth and those cuddles, and weakly joked, “you’re on thin ice, Tim.”
“Oh no. Not thin ice.” That was Tim’s breath against him, his mouth against his hair. “Please don’t tell me you’re about to reveal we’re The Titanic or something. Are you breaking up with me, boss?”
Jon, if he’d had his eyes open, would have rolled them. Again. As it was, he just pressed his bare toes against Tim’s ankle.
“Oh, fuck– how are your feet still cold? You literally have a fever and your horrible gremlin feet are still cold.” Jon puffed a laugh against his chest, curling up tighter. “Seriously, where the hell did you lose your socks?” Tim continued, complaining, but neither of them were going to get up to find them at this point, and Jon didn’t really know, anyway.
“Dunno,” he mumbled. His mouth felt clumsy. He couldn’t keep his eyelids open if he tried.
“Terrible.” Tim sighed, long and low. Another pass of warm breath through Jon’s hair. That was nice. That was comfortable. “But that’s okay. I’ll keep you warm and cozy in the meantime. Alright?”
That sounded nice. That was nice. Jon hummed and nodded, a tired and grateful “thanks” on his lips as he drifted to sleep once again.