Because I wanted to read a GB sickfic that hadn't yet been written. And because my muse appears to be under the misapprehension that the S in Get Backers actually means "sappy".
Gang Aft A-gley
"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft a-gley."
Ban couldn't help but feel somewhat at fault.
He had noticed Ginji's cough even before they accepted Hevn's latest mission. He kept coughing all through the two days after while they tailed the guy--of course they had to be the coldest, wettest days of the year. And of course the guy couldn't be content to sit at home admiring his stolen acquisition; he had to run about town showing off his snazzy toy to everyone who might be able to duplicate its complex electronics.
And sure, he had asked if Ginji felt all right, and Ginji had said he was fine, but Ban knew that Ginji's definition of 'fine' included a whole gamut of problems, up to and including life-threatening situations. It wasn't that Ginji would lie, which Ban could see through in a flash. But Raitei hadn't really gotten sick or injured; Mugenjou's god-king was beyond such mortal concerns. One would think this would make Ginji more sensitive to physical damage, now that he did experience it, but it seemed more like he didn't understand it, and not understanding it, he simply ignored it.
So he had stuck it out all through their stake-out, and when they finally got an opening he was right at Ban's heels, taking out the protectors with a few crackling punches...amateurs, all of them, and Ban had had to laugh at the guy's astonished look. That laugh had stopped fast when it became apparent just how sensitive the little device's electronics were, because Ginji's static charge was enough to send a wisp of smoke curling up from the thing's innards.
It had been Ban's idea for Ginji to zap the guys, when he could have just as well used the jagan, but that hadn't stopped him from shrieking at his partner for the entire ride back. He should have realized something was amiss when Ginji didn't argue a word of it, only slumped in his seat murmuring an occasional apology with the dead device in his lap. "Just don't fry it even more," Ban had warned, as he clenched his teeth over his cigarette and stomped on the gas.
Ginji had been coughing then, too, he recalled, an intermittent choked, hacking cough.
The client, waiting for them at the Honky Tonk, had been very understanding about the mess; he would rather have the device destroyed than in his competitor's hands. But he would only pay them half the fee, barely enough to cover their expenses. After he left Ban sighed, resignedly, and asked Ginji where he would like to go for dinner. They had enough left for at least one decent meal, and given they didn't know when their next job would come it was best to build up their strength now.
Ginji's quiet, "I don't care," was the first thing that really set off the warning bells, and Ban gave his partner a closer look, noticed how wan he was. The rain had plastered down his yellow hair and it was drying flattened to his head, which was unusual in itself, because Ginji's abnormally high electrical field tended to give it extra body that couldn't be replicated by gels or spray.
But rain without thunder sometimes got him down, and Ban was feeling the same way himself after three days of it. "Let's go, Ginji," he just said, clapping his partner on the shoulder. "We can try out that new Italian place. They got a Thursday night seafood special."
"Sounds good," Ginji replied, getting up, but his feet were dragging as they walked out of the cafe, and he didn't even answer Natsumi's cheerful farewell. They had parked a block away to avoid the watching traffic cop, who had an ethical opposition to Ban's habit of parking on the sidewalk, and Ban was in the 360 and starting the engine before Ginji even reached the car. "Come on," he said, reaching over to unlock the passenger door, "get in."
"Okay," Ginji mumbled, but instead of opening the door, he put his elbow on the roof and leaned against it.
"Ginji," Ban said impatiently, "stop standing in the rain and--"
And Ginji stopped standing in the rain, by way of slowly sliding down the car door, crumpling on the wet cement.
Ban was out of the car before he hit the ground, vaulted the round hood and stared down at his partner, sitting in a puddle slumped against the door with water soaking through his shorts. "Oi, Ginji!"
Ginji's eyes snapped open. "So-sorry, Ban-ch--" and then he coughed again.
"Ginji!!" His skin was hot enough it was a surprise that the rain on his face wasn't steaming. Ban cursed, scooped up his soaking partner and levered open the car door with his foot to deposit Ginji in the passenger seat. "You idiot, why didn't you say something?!"
"Didn't feel that bad..." Ginji sank into the seat, rocked back his head against the headrest. The water dripped off him and pooled on the floor.
"Probably it's just a cold," Ban said, to himself as much as Ginji. "You just let it get bad." He closed the door, went around and climbed into the driver's seat. Opening his wallet, he counted their new funds, considered. "We got enough to check into a motel for a night. You should sleep in a real bed."
Ginji cracked open his eyes. "But Ban-chan, what about dinner?"
"Are you even hungry?"
"There'll be enough left for ramen or something." He pulled the car into the street, heading across town toward the neon lights promising cheap rooms.
A couple hours later Ban returned to the hostel they had located, bearing two take-out bowls of steaming udon. But Ginji was asleep when he let himself in, flopped across the single bed. The outlines of the mattress's springs were visible under the sheets, but he was too deeply asleep to care. At least he had had the presence to strip off his wet vest and shorts. Ban debated waking him, decided against it, and ate his udon alone. It wasn't quite enough to fill him up, and he considered the other bowl. With no refrigeration it might spoil, after all...but if Ginji woke up, he might be hungry.
He better be hungry. A Ginji without an appetite was a bad sign.
The rain picked up, rattling against the window pane. A white crack ran from one end of the frame to the other, but the glass was holding. Ban tossed the empty styrofoam bowl into the metal trashcan, sidled into the narrow corridor between the wall and the bed to examine his sleeping partner. He wasn't coughing now, but when he smoothed back the blond spikes to feel his forehead it felt hotter than before.
Ginji shifted restlessly under his touch, gave a little hitched gasp and muttered, "Ban-chan?"
But Ginji didn't reply. Sitting on the bed in the limited space his friend's limbs weren't occupying, Ban dug out his wallet and flipped through the remaining bills. Not enough for another night of the motel, but a couple meals, maybe three, if they could find bargains. At least the 360 had a full tank.
There was a drugstore down the block...it probably would be closing soon, if it hadn't already. He cast a baleful look at the rain pounding down outside the window, dragged his hand through the still damp tangles of his hair and stood. As the mattress creaked under the change of weight, Ginji twisted, wrapping the sheets further around himself. "Ban...chan..."
"S'okay, I'll be right back," Ban promised, and while Ginji had to be too out to hear him, he quieted at the sound.
He ran all the way down the street, and still by the time he crashed through the drugstore's double doors his white shirt was translucent with rain, clinging like plastic wrap to his skin and the black tanktop underneath. Ban clawed his soaked bangs out of his face, reached for his glasses, only to recall he had left them back at the room. The girl behind the counter, the only other presence in the store, glanced at him over the top of her fashion magazine and didn't look down again, instead perused him with the same sleepy interest she had given the photographed models.
He glared, and saw her jump as the blue of his eyes pierced through the greenish artificiality of the florescent lights. "Umm...can I help you? Sir?"
"Where's the medicines and things?"
She pointed down all four aisles. "There, there, there, there. This is a drugstore. Whatcha looking for?"
"Something for a fever. And a cough, maybe. A friend of mine is sick."
"What do they have?"
"Don't know. Just a cold, I think." Hope.
"What's the cough sound like? Is it wet or dry? And how high's the fever?"
"What are you, a nurse?"
White teeth flashed in a brief grin. "Med student, actually."
"Huh." Ban shrugged. "Dry cough. Not all the time. And the fever's...high. I don't know how much. He hasn't been eating much, either. But it's only really gotten bad tonight."
"Hmmm. Could be just a cold--"
"That's what I thought."
"--or it could be something more serious. Try some tylenol, cough syrup if the cough is bothering him. And make sure he rests, drinks lots of liquids, all that. If his temperature hasn't gone down by morning he should go to a doctor."
"Yeah, yeah," Ban said irritably, and tried not to think of how many bills were folded in his wallet. Quite a few less than a doctor would ask for. "It's probably nothing. He pushed himself too hard."
"Ah. Well, the tylenol and cough syrup are both in aisle three, about halfway down."
Ban located the medicines easily enough, then spent unduly long studying the rows of bottles. He wasn't used to medicines; being sick just wasn't part of his plans. How the hell could a few grams be so pricey? He supposed it was relative; most people didn't consider a cheese pizza to be an expensive treat. "Hey, is the store brand much worse than the name stuff?"
"No," the girl called back, leaning over the counter. "Same drugs."
So he selected the two cheapest bottles, then tracked down the food aisle and snagged a jug of apple juice and a stack of plastic cups before bringing his spoils to the counter. The girl tallied them up and he grimaced at the total flashing on the register's display. Damn Ginji, getting himself sick enough to need these extras..."It's probably nothing serious."
"Yeah," the girl said.
"I mean, he was fine a couple days ago."
"It's probably just a cold," the girl agreed.
"If he's still got that fever in the morning, you think he should see a doctor?"
"It'd be a good idea. Is this everything?"
Ban glanced longingly at the cigarette cartons behind the counter. But he had half a pack left, and with Ginji's cough...couldn't open the window in this weather. The rain hadn't let up a drop. "Yeah, that's it."
He handed over most of his wallet, got a plastic bag back. On the way out the door the girl called over, "Hey, you want an umbrella?"
There were a stack of minis by the door, but the price scrawled on the front of the bin was half of what he had left. Ban shrugged. "I'll be okay."
"Take one." The girl took a bill out of her purse, waved it at him before stashing it in the register's maw. "It's covered."
So he did. As he tore off the plastic sheathe the girl said, "You have a good night, now. I'm sure your friend's going to be fine."
"Thanks," Ban said, "for the umbrella," and with its shield over him he pushed into the wet street.
Ginji was still asleep when Ban returned, the only difference being that somehow he had managed to turn himself completely around, so his head was at the foot of the bed and his feet on the pillow. After peeling off his sopping shirt, Ban sat down beside him, gave his shoulder a gentle shake. "Oi, Ginji."
He started awake, and Ban felt a bit guilty for disturbing him, when he had been so soundly out. "I got you some medicine. You hungry?"
"No..." He sounded like a little kid, propping himself up and rubbing his bleary eyes. "...feel lousy..."
"Yeah, you look it." His cheeks were flushed bright against his pale face, and sweat burnished his hair, sticking it into awkward, uneven spikes. Not that Ban's could be much better. The umbrella hadn't been enough protection from the gusts dashing rain everywhere. He didn't want to see a mirror. Drowned hedgehog just wasn't his best look. "Why don't you at least try the udon. It's curry, and I asked for an extra fish cake..."
"Okay," Ginji obediently agreed, and sat up, dangling his legs off the bed. The udon was cool but he ate it anyway under Ban's watchful gaze, slowly sipping the broth and occasionally slurping up a noodle.
Before he finished even half, however, the bowl slipped from his fingers. He fumbled, failed to catch it in time, and the styrofoam cracked as it hit, sloshing soup over the dusty floorboards. Ban scrambled out of the way before he was splashed, knocking over the chair he had been straddling and ending up on the floor. He looked up at Ginji, who stared down at the mess, as if confused how it had happened at all. "S-sorry--"
Ban picked up the chair and himself, went to the bathroom in the hall and swiped a roll of toilet paper. When he got back Ginji had picked up the remains of the disposable bowl, was peering into the bottom miserably. "There isn't any left..."
"Are you still hungry? I can go get you some more."
"No, I didn't...I thought you could have the rest. You didn't have very much..."
"Idiot," Ban said, "I wouldn't have eaten it anyway, you got it all infected. I can't get sick too, or we'll really be in trouble."
"Oh." Ginji continued staring at the bowl as Ban knelt and mopped up the udon with the roll. "Ban-chan, sorry..."
"Yeah, yeah." He tossed the wad into the trashcan, frowned at the stains on the wood. At one time this must have been a nice building. Probably around the time his parents were born. "Think they'll notice that? It's not like the floor wasn't sticky when we got here."
"Hell, this is probably the best cleaning it's gotten in a year."
"You said that already." Ban rocked back on his heels, squinted up at his partner and was surprised to see Ginji's face set like he was about to burst into tears, eyes all blurry with water. And yeah, he wouldn't call Ginji a crybaby per se but the guy was, in touch with his feelings, that was the modern way to say it, but really, even Ginji didn't get this worked up about a little spilled milk, or soup, at least if he had had anything else to eat in the previous twenty-four hours. "Ginji, it's okay. It didn't cost that much--"
"I didn't want to get sick, Ban-chan, really, I'm sorry--"
"Hey, hey, I never thought you wanted to get sick--Ginji!" He was sitting on the bed and still managing to sway, and Ban leapt up to catch him before he pitched onto the floor and knocked his head on the wall. Maybe he would have caught himself in time, but he hadn't been that dexterous with the udon and Ban wasn't taking chances.
"Sorry," Ginji snuffled again, into Ban's shoulder.
"You are such an idiot," Ban sighed. "You're sick. It's not your fault." He pushed Ginji back down on the bed, then rummaged through the drugstore bag for the pill bottle. The cap proved to be a bitch to remove, so Ban just pried it off, bending the plastic, and shook out three of the tablets, which he handed to Ginji along with a cup of water. "Swallow these. And drink the water before you drop it."
He did, and Ban reclaimed the cup before it could fall and spill the few drops left. Ginji settled back against the pillow, shut his eyes. Opened them again almost immediately. "Ban-chan...where will you sleep?"
"I'm fine here," Ban said, leaning back in the folding chair with his hands behind his head and his legs stretched out, his feet on the end of the bed.
"But--there isn't even a rug..."
"It's all right. G'night, Ginji. Go to sleep."
Ginji might have more to say, but his body was wiser, and he dropped off almost as soon as his lids closed. Ban leaned forward, planted his elbows on his knees and his chin on his fists, and studied his sleeping face for a while before finally giving in and pressing his hand to Ginji's forehead. Still warm, maybe a little cooler, but sweat beaded on his skin despite the draft from the window. Ban sighed, drew the covers up to his chin and tucked them in so he couldn't dislodge them. Sometimes Ginji slept like a rock and sometimes he all but smashed his way out of the car with his flailing, and Ban didn't know how he would sleep when sick.
This had never been part of the plan, nursing his idiot partner through an out-of-hand cold, just because he hadn't been smart enough to slow down and maybe mention he wasn't feeling well. Of course, according to the plan they were supposed to be living in a penthouse suite by now, the most successful retrievers in the business, picking and choosing from a plethora of exotic and exciting requests and taking as many vacations as they felt like. In sunny places, with lots of girls in bikinis and the only water the blue waves washing up onto pearly white shores.
It was frustrating, because he knew they had the skills for it, between his talents and Ginji's they were pretty damn close to invincible, one hundred percent success rate (nearly). At the very least they should have their own place, and enough money to afford groceries between jobs. It had never been anywhere in his plans that they would be spending their last yen to sleep on a lumpy mattress for a single night out of the rain...only one mattress, too, and the chair's metal seat was getting damn hard.
Ban stood and stretched, which was more than he could do in the 360, but for the most part the car seat would be more comfortable. Not that he anticipated sleeping tonight anyway.
The first time he had walked into the Infinite Castle, that demon's lair had been just what he had expected. And the emperor of that underworld had challenged him, as he had intended. But somehow, since that endless day he had fought Raitei in the long shadow of Mugenjou, nothing had ever again gone quite as planned.
Ginji had been sleeping quietly, but he grew restless now, twisting under the covers until he finally batted them aside and squirmed on top of them, still asleep but panting like he was running a marathon. Ban called his name, but there was no response until he flicked Ginji's cheek. His partner jerked away from the touch, then sank back down against the blankets. Never waking up, but he rolled over toward Ban and one arm flopped out, as if reaching for him. Ban took his hand, closed his fingers over it, and Ginji immediately settled back into quiet repose.
Like that was all he needed, subconsciously, to know Ban was there, and didn't he know it was a weakness, to depend on someone like that. Only Ginji wasn't weak, not usually, and now...
Now Ban was here, and not going anywhere, but it scared him a little, that Ginji could be, not just reliant on that, but confident of it. That Ginji could reach out so blindly, with utter surety that Ban would be there. Ginji was such a total idiot, so trusting of everyone, no matter who they were. If Ban were sick...
If he were sick, he wouldn't reach out, but he wouldn't have to, because Ginji would be there regardless. And Ginji probably would have dragged him to the hospital by now; Ginji didn't take chances. To a doctor, or to one of his friends. Madoka's house was enormous, she had a guest bedroom four times the size of this crap hovel which she would give them without batting an eye. Though Shido might have something to say about it.
But he wouldn't, not if Ginji asked. They could go there now, but Shido would probably blame him for Ginji's illness. And it would be a point in the monkey tamer's favor, a loss in that unspoken game they had been playing all along. Shido wouldn't say anything, wouldn't have to, because both he and Ban would know it, you can't help Ginji and I can, you're his partner but I'm his friend and the only reason you're worth anything at all is because Ginji smiles when he's with you.
Shido would never forgive him for that, either.
Ban didn't understand how Ginji could rely on his friends like he did. Not just make them, though Ban had a hard enough time comprehending that, but once he made a friend he always counted on them being there for him, and somehow they always were. Which, by the law of averages, shouldn't be the case, odds were eventually he would be let down, but they all seemed determined to beat the odds, for Ginji.
As far as Ban was concerned, friends were the people who waited the longest to betray you. Ginji believed in an entirely different definition, and somehow, against all common sense, managed to make others buy it. Even cold-blooded, cursed serpents.
A low moan startled Ban from his meandering thoughts. Ginji was stirring again, not awake, but thrashing against the covers, his face screwed up like he was hurting. "Ginji?" Ban asked, grabbing for his hand and squeezing it. "Hey, Ginji, it's okay. Wake up, you're just having a bad dream."
"Te-Teshimine-san," Ginji whimpered, his eyes squeezed shut and his voice high and wavering, like a little kid's, a frightened boy's. "Teshimine-san..."
Of course he would be asking for him, the closest thing he had to a parent. Ginji had no mother that he remembered--better none than one who cast you away--but he still had someone who held him when he had cried, and probably had taken care of him when he was sick, little kids were sick all the time, and there had been no Raitei with his unnatural healing when Ginji was small.
But Teshimine wasn't here now. If Ban had any way to reach him, he would have, to answer that tremulous plea. But only he was here, not a father, not even a brother, just Ginji's partner. Sometimes he felt a hundred years older than Ginji, he had seen so much more, knew so much more.
Not anything medical, though, do you, Midou Ban, and you can't do anything for him now, he isn't even calling for you anymore, he wants the absolute comfort only a parent can give, and he had never been able to protect Ginji from anything, really...he didn't want to have to protect him, he didn't want to be in this crap room, he wanted to be sleeping in the car with a job lined up for the next day and nothing to worry about except whether it would still be raining tomorrow.
If the fever hadn't broken by morning...he mentally counted their assets yet again. Wondered how one located a cheap doctor. Wondered if he could successfully convince a hospital receptionist that Ginji was a legitimate patient. The trouble with the jagan would be if they happened to check their records a couple minutes later...
"Teshimine," Ginji whispered again, and then, "No, please, no, you're lying, Teshimine-san, no..."
"Shit." Because that wasn't a little boy's call, that was Ginji as he was now, a few months ago, in Mugenjou again. He hadn't told Ban everything of the visions that had driven him to Raitei, but enough that Ban could recognize what he was hearing now.
The hairs on the back of his neck were standing on end, and it wasn't just because Ginji sounded so clear and yet so lost at once. When he reached for Ginji's hand again a spark leapt from his partner's skin to his fingers with a zap. He flinched back, shaking out his hand from a static charge equivalent to an electric cattle fence. The fever's delirium turned the nightmare into a reliving of that sadistic mindgame, and it was having the same effect now as it had then...
But if there was one thing Ban knew, it was bad dreams. "Ginji," he said, "it's not real."
"Teshimine wouldn't do that, it's all illusion, Ginji--listen to me!" He hadn't been there before, and he might as well not be here now, and it was all Ban could do not to growl with frustration.
Without warning Ginji bolted upright. His eyes were still closed but his back was straight, and his hair was shocked back in charged spikes. The expression on his face was calm, mouth flattened into a forceful line, and the sheen of sweat on his forehead shimmered in the beginnings of an unearthly glow.
"Ginji!" Ban snapped, and then he braced himself, and slapped Ginji's cheek. Electricity crackled, numbing his hand, but Ginji's eyes snapped open, glazed and unseeing. It was enough. Ban met that blank gaze with the jagan.
And was plunged into a maelstrom. Too late he recalled the old witch's warnings, how forcing his dreams onto one already dreaming could cause him to lose control of the vision, could even put his victim in command of the evil eye's minute while he was lost in the other's subconscious. Though this wasn't an enemy anyway, this was Ginji, and he knew Ginji better than anyone, conscious or dreaming.
But this was chaos all the same, the fever twisting nightmares into unfocused horror, memory fracturing into a jumble of pain. He saw the deaths of children, heard bone crack, felt the prickling charge burning in his blood. Rain beating down, cold needles darting his skin, spreading the blood into a pink stain over black tar, all lit brilliantly by lightning which kept striking, again and again and again, until the thunder almost shattered his eardrums. And he was within the bolts, he was the lightning, unworldly strength, fists of the gods. His very blood was power, and it sang to him--You're alive/you can save them/you can destroy them/must protect them/your fault they died/can't save them/must save them/stop them/destroy them/protect them/alive/save them/life/save them/destroy them/live/destroy destroy destroy...
There was a boy within that storm, a little boy, lost and crying, and Ban didn't know if it was himself or Ginji, but he knew he had to stop that suffering. With no time to think and no focus to gather himself, he grabbed for the first thing which came to mind. It had worked before, and while afterwards he had made a private vow never to do something so stupid again, because damn, getting stabbed hurt even more than one would think, in this case it was only a dream--
The hurricane vanished as he flung his own projection over it, forced a single moment through, he caught Raitei's fist, and then Akabane's crimson sword slid cleanly through his shoulder, and for an instant he felt it as clearly as he had when it had actually occurred.
Then he was outside the vision, kneeling on the bed in front of Ginji. The single lightbulb hanging from the ceiling had burst, scattering glass over the floor, but in the streetlights shining through the rain-spattered window he saw Ginji's eyes blink open and meet his, still dazed but aware. "Ban...chan?"
He rocked forward, clinging to Ban's tanktop, and Ban could feel him shivering a little, with the fever or just with emotion, this being Ginji. "That...that was the jagan, right, Ban-chan? This time...it really was?"
"Just one minute," Ban assured him, patting him on the shoulder. "You were having a bad dream. Uh, before I gave you one, I mean. You wouldn't wake up, so I had to get your attention another way."
"I...almost lost it, didn't I." Ginji pulled back, leaning on his arms with his head hanging down between them. "I can...it's still here. He still is."
"Almost. You didn't, though. It's okay. You were out of it, you're sick." Some people throw up, some people malinger, some people become thunder gods. Though it was probably for the best they hadn't been at a hospital. He doubted most doctors would know what to make of that symptom, and besides, Raitei could have wreaked havoc on more than just a lightbulb, which would be guilt Ginji didn't need.
Tomorrow he would take Ginji to task for it, because delirious or not he absolutely had to have better control than that...tomorrow, or the next day, when he was feeling better, but tonight he was miserable, and feverish, and Ban just wanted him to sleep, so he could wake up and be fine again. He regretted wasting the jagan; if he had had more control himself he could have dropped Ginji into pleasant dreams, but too late for that now. "Go back to sleep. You want some water?"
Ginji just shook his head and slid down into the bed, and Ban stood up so he could draw the blankets tightly around himself. He coughed as he did, and Ban swore. "Shit, I knew I forgot something--I got medicine for that too. Here."
The bag had gotten kicked under the bed; he extracted it, recovered the cough syrup and poured a dose. Bright red, cherry-flavored kid's stuff, since Ginji liked sweet things, and he drank it down without protest before curling up under the covers again. "You feeling any better?" Ban asked as he pulled the chair up to the bed.
"I guess," which was Ginji for 'not really,' and Ban sighed.
"Just try to rest, okay? You need it."
"Yes, Ban-chan." Only he wasn't relaxing, buried under the blankets and quaking.
"S-sorry, Ban-chan...I'm just c-cold."
"No you're not. You're burning up," Ban contradicted. But his teeth were chattering like he was in a blizzard, even with sweat beading on his forehead. "Dammit..." There weren't any more blankets, and his shirt was still soaked. And Ginji was shivering enough that Ban could feel the bed vibrate.
Well, the chair wasn't getting any softer anyway. "Scoot over," Ban instructed, giving Ginji a gentle shove to the other side of the narrow mattress, and lifting up the blankets he climbed in under them. The bedsprings poked into his side through the sheet, and he shifted to avoid the worst of them, then pulled Ginji, still shivering, into his arms.
Ginji immediately snuggled in, his head tucking under Ban's chin, errant yellow spikes tickling his nose. "Thanks, Ban-chan," he murmured.
He was hot, his back against Ban's chest radiating heat like a furnace through the t-shirt, but the shivers stopped almost immediately, and it wasn't uncomfortable. Ginji somehow always seemed to fit against him, nestling in without any gaps, either because he was just the right size, or because he knew how to arrange himself, Ban wasn't sure. Hugs had always seemed like awkward things to Ban, a dangerously vulnerable position, and he never knew where to put his arms, but somehow he never had that problem with Ginji. Or maybe he was just getting used to it. One had to, to be Ginji's friend. As a matter of survival.
Besides, like this he would know right away if the fever got worse, or if he started having another nightmare. If Raitei emerged again--but he wouldn't, not with Ban right here. He could feel Ginji breathe, a tremor as he gave a little cough, but otherwise a steady rhythm against him. He slowed his own to match it.
After a little while Ginji muttered something, unintelligible sleep-talking, but he pushed fretfully at the blankets and Ban got the idea, shoved them off to cool him down. "Make up your mind," he muttered, felt Ginji's forehead again. Maybe a little cooler? He would have gotten up and returned to the chair, but when he tried to roll away Ginji's fists knotted in his tanktop and pulled him close again. Apparently he wasn't as stifling as the blankets. "All right, I'm not going anywhere."
He didn't think Ginji's mumble was a real reply, but his hands relaxed their grip. Ban squirmed a little, trying not to disturb him while escaping from the stray spring jabbing his shoulder.
Tomorrow they would go to Madoka's if they needed, Shido be damned. Unless they were going to the hospital instead. But it couldn't be that bad. He was sleeping okay now, even if he was still so hot. Just a cold. He was going to be fine.
The damn spring prodded him again, and Ban twisted away from it, jostling Ginji.
"Sorry. It's okay."
Ban sighed, pulled up the blankets and pulled Ginji closer. He was shivering a little again.
Not meaning to, not really thinking about it at all, Ban leaned over, and pressed a kiss to his forehead. Dry lips to his hot skin, just a moment and it was over, and Ginji stopped shivering, restlessness subsiding.
Ban dropped his head back down on the pillow. His arm was performing that function for Ginji, and was already starting to fall asleep, but his partner was finally at rest, and his arm was going numb anyway. The blankets on top of him were too warm, and the mattress was still poking him, but Ginji was comfortable, and Ban couldn't bring himself to care.
He hadn't intended to doze off. But by the time he remembered this, he was already asleep.
"Good morning, Ban-chan!"
Ban cracked open his eyes, immediately shut them again, but red-tinted sunlight filtered through his eyelids anyway. With his hand up to block the worst of it, he sat up. Blinked at Ginji, who was yanking at his vest in a vain attempt to smooth out the wrinkles caused from drying in a wet heap, before he bounced back over to the bed. "Ne, Ban-chan, we have enough money for ramen for breakfast, you think? I'm starving!"
"Umm..." He shoved his hair out of his eyes to get a better look at his partner. "You're feeling better?"
"Totally!" Ginji flashed a victory signal, along with a smile easily as bright as the sunbeams shining through the window. "I guess I just needed a good night's sleep."
"I feel great, Ban-chan. Just really hungry."
"You and your healing thing..." It had been just a cold after all. He had been worried for nothing. Well, not really worried. A little bit. Hardly at all. "Wonder if Raitei helped you beat it."
Ginji went still, click of his internal pause button. "Ban-chan, I'm sorry about that."
And Ban did mean to chew him out for that. But later. When he wasn't so tired himself. "Yeah, well, you were sick. And it might've helped--" Something stuck in his throat and he coughed, coughed again before he could help it.
"Ban-chan?" Ginji practically materialized by his side, pressed a hand to his forehead.
Ban batted it away. "What are you--"
"Uh, you feel a little warm, Ban-chan."
"You're probably still a little feverish." But Ginji's forehead was cool under his touch. Which was a relief, but...
"Shit." He coughed again. "No. No, dammit, you did not get me sick--"
"I'm sorry, Ban-chan...but we have medicine, right? And if you rest now it shouldn't be so bad."
"I'm not sick! This is not what's supposed to happen!"
"I don't think it works like that."
"I can't be sick!"
"I'm really sorry, Ban-chan..."
"You should be!"
Ginji dropped his head. "Really..."
Ban rolled his eyes, grabbed his partner's arm and tugged him down to sit beside him. "It's okay. Just promise never to do it again."
"Get you sick? Or get sick?"
"I'll...try. Ban-chan...I'm really sorry you're sick. But thank you. For making me better."
"Eh? I didn't do anything. I'm no doctor, Ginji. It was probably Raitei."
"Maybe," said Ginji, but his eyes denied it. "But you made me feel better, even if I was still sick."
Ban was saved from answering that by another cough, which started a whole fit of them. Then Ginji had gotten out the medicines and made him drink some of the syrup, sticky and too sweet and tasting nothing like any cherries Ban had ever tried. He grimaced, and Ginji gave him a small, abashed, and wholly sympathetic smile. "I hope you get well soon, Ban-chan."
So did Ban. Devoutly. His throat hurt, and his limbs were beginning to ache with that sure sign of illness. This better not last long. Or become anything serious. They couldn't afford it in either case. Definitely not part of his plans.
Though, Ban had to admit, even if this was mostly Ginji's fault, that smile already made him feel a little better.