Catch My Disease

Disclaimer: I don't have any claim on Yu-Gi-Oh characters, plots, etc. Oh. Someone told me I should make my disclaimers funny, like I used to. Um... A man walks into a bar. It hurts. Bada bum ching!

Summary: Chaseshipping. Duke gets sick, and Tristan takes it upon himself to keep him company and help him recover.

Notes: I started this one when I was sick; it was a comfort to me because I made Duke's symptoms worse than mine (heh, heh, heh). Big thanks to Ann for being my beta-reader. And Heidi cool-rocks. (She MADE me say it.)


"Whoa, you look terrible!"

As soon as the words had left his mouth, Tristan was kicking himself. He hadn't meant it to sound like that.

"Gee thanks. You're looking pretty good yourself," Duke replied sarcastically, leaning on the doorframe.

"I didn't mean it to come out that way—" Tristan made a conscious effort not to start an argument, and modified his tone. "Are you sick?"

Duke looked sick. The face that scowled at Tristan from the dim shop interior looked paler than usual, a dark smear all that remained of the usual streak of eye makeup. His normally meticulously coiffed hair was disheveled, escaping its ties and hanging in strands about his face. Swathed in a quilted dressing gown, he was nevertheless shivering perceptibly as he sought support against the wall.

"I've been better," he conceded. "You go on, tell Yugi and the others I'm sorry I'm not coming."

"Okay…" Duke half-turned, but Tristan didn't move. "So, what, you're going to stay here all on your own?"

"Yeah… I'm a big boy now Tristan, I live by myself," Duke said, raising an eyebrow.

"Yeah but, you're sick! You can't stay here all by yourself when you're sick."

"It's not exactly life-threatening, it's just a cold. I think I'll survive without a nurse."

"Maybe," (he let the "nurse" comment slide) "but I'm going to stay with you."

"What? Why?"

"The only thing that sucks more than being sick is being alone and sick." The concept itself was foreign to Tristan. He came from a close family, and as such through the various childhood diseases he had experienced, he had been tended by a parent or sibling. "I wouldn't be any kind of friend if I just left you."

"You don't need to do that. What about Yugi, and Joey, and everyone?"

"We were only going to do what we do every weekend; hang around, watch Joey do something dumb… I'll call them up and tell them I'm with you, they won't mind."

"I'll probably be asleep, you'll be bored."

"Get all the sleep you need, I'll be fine."

"Okay, fine, stay! How did you get so stubborn?" Duke turned away, apparently exasperated. He coughed, deep and chestily. "…Thanks, Tristan," he said over his shoulder.

"You're welcome," Tristan grinned. It wasn't often he heard that tone of gratitude in Duke's voice. "Now isn't it time you went back to bed?"

"Yes, mother," Duke sighed, with as much sarcasm as he could muster. Coughing again, he turned and lead the way upstairs.

'Just a cold' didn't do this to people, Tristan knew. Duke was trying to act like he was fine, but rather than being poised he moved stiffly, looking like he was balancing a glass on his head. His feet dragged as if they were encased in leaden shoes. They were actually bare, Tristan realised; he must have been freezing while they were talking.

At the top of the stairs Duke paused. Had the ascent made him dizzy?

Instinctively, Tristan wanted to catch hold of Duke and support him the rest of the way, but he knew Duke had far too independent a nature to accept that sort of help. It was surprising enough that he had even allowed Tristan to stay.

So he simply paused as well, and after a moment Duke continued on and entered his bedroom. Tristan had been directed to the phone and thus found himself in the study. He glanced aimlessly around the room as he dialed; he'd never actually seen the place before. Duke had obviously been at his computer recently—a coffee mug sat on the desk next to it, empty but for some grainy brown stains. The monitor was blank now, and the rest of the room equally empty and silent. The ringing of the phone at the other end seemed unnaturally loud to Tristan.

Someone picked up. "Hello?" came Yugi's cheerful tone.

"Hi, Yugi. It's Tristan."

"Hey, Tristan! Where are you? Everyone but you and Duke has turned up already." In the background, some sort of dispute between Joey and Téa could be heard.

"That's why I called; Duke's sick."

"Duke's sick?" The sounds of arguing ceased as another, lower voice could be heard addressing Yugi. Bakura, Tristan thought.

"Is it bad?" Yugi asked, raising his voice above the others'.

"No, he'll live. It's probably a stomach flu or something." He heard Yugi repeat this information to the others. "I said I'd stay here with him."

"Okay. I guess that means you guys aren't coming today?"

"Nope, sorry."

"That's all right. Say hi to Duke for us, okay?"

"Sure." Tristan could not just hear them, he could see his friends in his mind's eye, clustering around Yugi and trying to speak into the phone at once. He took countless messages to pass on to Duke, knowing full well he wouldn't remember them.

Eventually he was able to hang up and go to check on Duke. Stepping into the bedroom doorway, Tristan could see only an indistinct figure balled up in a chequered quilt, a suggestion of dark hair escaping onto the pillow. He found it mildly strange that it was Duke in there, curled in on himself, shivering… It wasn't usual to see him so vulnerable.

"Duke?" He said it quietly, in case he was asleep.

A rustle of blankets, and then a pair of emerald eyes peeked out. "Yeah?" was the muffled reply.

"I called Yugi and the others. Everyone hopes you feel better soon."

"Thanks. You might as well go and make yourself comfortable. I told you you'd be bored."

"And I told you I'd be fine. You just worry about getting some rest."

Duke muttered something and pulled his covers tighter as Tristan left.

He entered the lounge area and sat down on the dark leather couch, which creaked. He shrugged off his jacket—Duke had the heating turned way up—and located the TV remote.

Duke huddled in his bed, mind idly wandering. He didn't usually spend a lot of time in the flat during the day, but when he had to, like now, he was always struck by the silence. It was quiet and empty, fine if he was busy working, or watching TV, or asleep, but otherwise it was hardly welcoming. Now, he listened to Tristan's footsteps, heard the couch creak and the TV turn on. His presence was comforting; it filled up the empty space. And the heating seemed to be having an effect now; Duke had finally stopped shivering… he could relax…

Duke didn't realize he'd been sleeping until he woke up suddenly. He had been wading a sea of incoherent thoughts, which had in turn drifted into dreams. He still didn't feel that coherent. His brain felt fuzzy, thought processes happening more slowly than usual.

From the direction of the lounge room came the faint sound of voices chanting "Jerry, Jerry!" Part of his mind that was still working processed this, slowly. The Jerry Springer Show. Who was watching it? Tristan was here. He'd be watching it. Duke groaned, and stretched. It wasn't just his brain; his limbs felt fuzzy too. It was like he had no energy left in his entire body.

Duke rolled over to get more comfortable, and immediately wished he hadn't. His stomach roiled. He groaned again, louder. His insides writhed and heaved and—

Tristan looked up from the TV (on which could be seen a grossly fat woman in her underwear berating a small man) at the sound of running feet. Duke dashed down the hall and burst into the bathroom, followed by Tristan who entered in time to see him kneel over the toilet and be sick.

Tristan wasn't entirely sure how to react in this situation. Acting on the vague notion that this was the right thing to do, he stood by Duke and, feeling awkward, held his long hair away from his face.

Eventually Duke's body finished purging itself. As he caught his breath, trembling and sweating, he registered Tristan's presence. Cool, steady hands were twined in his hair. He looked up.

"You all right?"

Duke nodded, his throat still too tight for speech. He sat back, and Tristan let go. "Hold on one second."

He left the room, and Duke hauled himself to his feet. He shut the lid on the toilet and groped for the flush button. Then, seeing as there was no other seating, he sat down upon the closed lid and shivered.

Tristan returned bearing a glass filled with water. Duke accepted it gratefully and rinsed the bitterness from his mouth.

"Thanks, Tristan."

" 'S okay. So much for 'just a cold', huh?"

Duke made a noncommittal sound.

Tristan looked at his friend with concern. He was really pale, except for the delicate skin below his eyes, which was dark and bruised through lack of sleep. And though he was damp with sweat, he was visibly shivering. Hesitantly, Tristan reached up and touched the back of his hand to Duke's forehead. He obviously had not expected it, but he didn't move away. A few self-conscious moments later Tristan dropped his hand to his side. "Dude, you've got a fever."

"So why don't I feel warm?" Duke grumbled.

"I don't know, I'm not a doctor. But you don't need one to tell you that you should go back to bed."

"That sounds like a good idea, even coming from you."

The delivery was half-hearted, but Tristan was glad to see that Duke was still able to dispense insults. When he lost his ability to use sarcasm it would be time to panic. So in the meantime Tristan let this one slide.

Duke obviously felt he needed to make up for lost dignity. He strode ahead of Tristan out of the bathroom, refusing any help. A few steps into the hallway, his condition caught up with him. He experienced a massive headrush, and it lasted a good ten seconds. His vision blurred, the room swimming before his eyes. He stumbled, and suddenly Tristan was there to catch him. Duke couldn't keep up with what was happening around him. He had the impression of strong arms holding him. Everything seemed disconnected; one moment he was leaning on Tristan in the hall, then he was in his room, and then he must have gotten into bed, because he was rolled up in his blanket again. Duke gave up on trying to process things, and instead drifted into sleep.

This time he didn't just drowse, but slept properly. And he dreamed.

He dreamed about the time he had run into Tristan and Serenity being threatened by Rare Hunters. He'd been forced to run with them, but they could only go so fast with Serenity blindfolded. She had to be carried or led, and both slowed the group down. So Tristan had entrusted her into Duke's care, and gone to meet their pursuers head on. He wasn't really the type who ran away.

He returned later, no Rare Hunters in sight and he'd barely broken a sweat. The only sign of the altercation he bore were his raw knuckles.

Duke was glad to be his ally and not his enemy. He wouldn't have liked to be on the receiving end. He almost had been, once; admittedly, he'd provoked Tristan. He hadn't meant to drive him into taking a swing at him, and he definitely hadn't meant to get himself knocked off the blimp. But Tristan had nearly thrown himself off the edge to catch him.

Tristan was reliable. Not exactly sensible, but reliable.

A sudden noise caused Duke to wake. It sounded like the door. He listened, as the images from his dreams faded and settled back into the recesses of his memory, where they had come from.

He heard tentative footsteps. It sounded like Tristan. He probably hadn't meant to make so much noise coming in and was now tiptoeing around to try and compensate.

Duke turned over carefully, but his stomach was not protesting this time, and he was able to pull himself into a sitting position. Tristan appeared in the doorway. "Hey. Did I wake you?"

"Yes."

"Sorry."

"Don't worry about it." Tristan was wearing his jacket again, Duke noted. And he was carrying a plastic bag, which rustled at his side as he came over to stand by the bed. "You went shopping?"

"While you were sleeping, I went out and got some stuff," he shrugged.

Duke moved his feet to give Tristan space to sit down at the foot of the bed, which he did. He delved into the bag while Duke stretched comfortably.

A cardboard packet was tossed to him for inspection. He picked it up. It was an over-the-counter medication.

"Might settle your stomach," said Tristan.

"Thanks." He watched Tristan pull a bottle of soft drink out of the bag. "You know, I usually just take them with water."

Tristan rolled his eyes. "This is what you do when you're sick and don't wanna eat. You just let this go flat before you drink it. You get some energy in you and it doesn't make you hurl."

"Is that a fact? I don't think a doctor has ever prescribed me lemonade before."

"They never do. This is good old-fashioned home-grown wisdom," said Tristan proudly, either ignoring or completely missing Duke's sarcasm.

"Well thanks for sharing."

"You're welcome, buddy." Tristan was rummaging in the bag again.

It was nice to be called "buddy". Duke felt remarkably well disposed towards Tristan at the moment. Strange, how dreams affected the way you felt in waking life so profoundly.

Or maybe you're actually thankful to him for looking after you today, you ungrateful bastard, said his inner voice. His conscience, or something. It could be quite scathing. And blunt. And most importantly, accurate.

Sure, he was grateful. But he would get better anyway, with or without Tristan's help. He would have been fine on his own.

"I appreciate you doing all this," Duke said, moving the bottle onto the flat surface of the bedside cabinet, "but I don't think I need it—I could eat actual food now."

Tristan looked up from the plastic bag. "Feeling better already?"

"A whole lot better than I did this morning." Duke was looking at the time. It was after one p.m. Had he really been sleeping that long?

"You sure?"

"I'm not stupid, I do know when I feel sick and when I don't."

"Even if you don't let on."

Duke ignored that. "Actually, I'm kind of hungry, even." He hadn't noticed it until his thoughts had turned in that direction, but his stomach felt empty, and it was really making this fact known. On cue, it growled feebly. "It's way after lunch time," Duke pointed out.

Before Tristan could answer that, his stomach did it for him. It was ten times as loud as Duke's had been. He looked embarrassed. Duke managed not to laugh, but grinned. Tristan looked even more embarrassed at that.

"You haven't eaten either, have you?"

"Well, no," he admitted. "How about I make us both lunch? I brought something in case you did feel any better." From the supermarket bag he extracted a couple of cardboard packets.

"Chicken soup?" Duke said flatly. "I know that's what you feed your patients, but I doubt chicken-flavoured water would fill you up."

"Don't say anything until you've tried it. I mightn't be a chef, any more than I am a doctor, but I can go one better than just 'open sachet, add boiling water'." There was a hint of indignation in Tristan's tone.

"Let me guess—you've got an old Taylor family recipe?"

"You could say that. I had a hand in inventing this one." Tristan looked proud, Duke noted, surprised. Proud of coming up with a chicken soup recipe?

Duke got a strange feeling that Tristan had bared a little of his soul to him. It sounded silly, but really, who else (apart from his family maybe) knew that Tristan had come up with a soup recipe?

"Do you want any help?" Duke asked as Tristan loaded the boxes back into the bag, which appeared to have another mystery item inside still.

"Nope, I'm fine. You just keep resting." He got up and went to the door, taking the bag. Duke sighed, and flopped back down. Truth be told, it was boring just "resting". He didn't want to sleep, but he didn't really feel like getting up either. He closed his eyes, hoping to just doze while he listened to the sounds of Tristan navigating the kitchen.

It couldn't have been half an hour later that Tristan entered the room again, but it seemed like a lot longer. Duke was well and truly bored. He slid into a sitting position, eager to see what was so special about Tristan's chicken soup.

Tristan was balancing a bowl in each hand. Grinning, he handed one to Duke, who took it and rested it on his knees. He could just feel the heat through his quilt.

"…Alphabet noodles?" he said, as Tristan took his place at the foot of the bed.

"Yeah, what of it?" he replied, defensively. "That's how I always make it. It's not the same otherwise." He took a mouthful to punctuate his statement.

"Won't argue with that logic." Duke likewise scooped up a spoonful of noodles. The soup was so thick with them he felt he could float the spoon on top without it sinking. "It's good."

"Thanks."

"No, thank you, for making it."

Tristan waved it off. "Nah, don't mention it. Who wouldn't make soup for their best friend?"

There was a pause, the silence broken only by the sound of Tristan eating.

"You consider me your best friend?" said Duke, studying his noodles.

Tristan looked up. "Well, yeah."

"What about Joey?" Duke asked, also raising his head, and giving Tristan a puzzled glance.

"Okay, one of my best friends. No one could replace Joey—but he's got Yugi now too, and I don't like to butt in. They're a team." He returned his attention to the soup. His bowl was already half empty. "So're you and me," he added, prodding at the noodles. "Hey look, my soup spells your name!"

"You still play with your alphabet noodles?" said Duke incredulously. "I gave that up when I was about three."

"I didn't do it on purpose, it just happened by itself and I saw it."

"Huh. Well all mine says is SNATTIR. Oh, wait… That's an anagram of 'Tristan'." It was quiet again as he prodded the letters around. "You know, I consider you my best friend too."

Duke ventured a sideward glance at Tristan. He was smiling; a warm, genuine smile that Duke couldn't help but return. They spent a moment like that, in silent mutual recognition of their bond—before returning to their soup. Duke finished his before it could get cold.

Ten minutes later, he was in the bathroom throwing up again.


TBC

Reviews very much appreciated.