For different people, love can begin in any number of different ways. For some it begins with flowers, for others chocolates. Sometimes it begins with an argument, and for still others an agreement. For Ebisu, it began with an aggravated case of the common cold. Those looking further back could argue it began differently, with a young boy's voice and a medium needle, but even Ebisu isn't quite sure about that. What he is sure about is the confusion he can distinctly remember feeling that cold December evening, and so that is where we shall begin.
Ebisu heard the first cough at precisely 9:35 AM, or at least, that's how he remembers it. It was quiet, sharp, restrained. A very Goryo kind of cough, if one thought about it that way.
"Goryo-sama?" came the instinctual first reply. "Are you okay?"
"Don't be stupid, Ebisu," Goryo snapped, not missing a beat. "I'm fine. Worry about your paperwork instead."
But of course the symptoms continued, only escalating further throughout the day. Tiny, reserved coughs progressed to coughing fits lasting full minutes, and these progressed still further to a dizzying fever Goryo would not admit, and eventually Goryo ended up passing out on his way to pick up his sixth cup of tea in the hour, at which point Ebisu decided that enough was enough.
Goryo awoke, dazed, several hours later in his bed, hazy on how he'd gotten there. In fact, he was hazy on mostly everything. He distantly registered a damp towel laid across his forehead, and the faraway, yet unmistakable sound of Ebisu's feet as he went hurriedly back and forth.
"...Ebisu?" Goryo said, although it came out as little more than a whisper, followed by a fit of racking coughs.
The judge's response was instantaneous. "Goryo-sama, you're awake! What is it? How are you feeling? Is there anything you need?"
"Terrible," Goryo croaked, for the most part ignoring his assistant's barrage of questions. "Too hot. Get out. Have to... change."
Ebisu nodded, and without question scurried out of the room. He returned scant moments later when he heard a terrifyingly loud crash. Goryo was leaning heavily against a wall, cursing unrepentantly at an extremely expensive vase lying in pieces not far away. Ebisu sighed inwardly. It was going to be a long night.
Goryo barely registered the next several hours, drifting in and out of consciousness with only one constant--Ebisu. He never left the room, save to refill the pitcher of water on the bedside table and to replace the cold towel on Goryo's head. On any other day, the executor would have found it terribly annoying and ordered Ebisu to leave. Today, however, it was a necessity, if an irritating one.
Ebisu remembers that Goryo woke up again at 11:06 PM, protesting weakly about how cold it was. Ebisu rubbed the sleep from his eyes as he tucked the blankets in around the helpless executor and went off to find more. Or at least, attempted to do so. A hand shot out from beneath the covers to wrap around Ebisu's wrist with more strength than the startled judge thought possible from the invalid.
"Don't... don't leave..." the executor murmured. His closed eyes gave Ebisu the distinct impression that he was simply talking in his sleep--he'd been doing it quite a bit that night--but this was different. Goryo relaxed his grip slightly as Ebisu leaned over the bed and hesitantly laid a hand on his forehead in an attempt to provide... comfort? Reassurance? Goryo shifted beneath the sheets. "Cold..."
"I was going to get you a hot water bottle--" Ebisu began, but the barely conscious Goryo had other ideas. Ebisu felt a weak tug at his wrist, accompanied by some indistinct mumbling. "Goryo-sama? What is it...?" An answer came in the form of an unexpectedly sharp jerk on his arm, which knocked Ebisu off balance and sent him sprawling. Fortunately for Ebisu, he landed on the bed. Unfortunately for Ebisu, he landed on the bed.
Goryo's eyelids fluttered open for a moment, dimly noting Ebisu's presence beside him before slowly falling shut once more. The executor drew his assistant closer, seeking warmth. Ebisu's breath caught in his throat. At least ten different alarm bells were going off in his head all at once, danger signals flashed--miles and miles of metaphorical red tape.
Goryo-sama's skin... it's so hot, Ebisu thought, blushing furiously. I have to... the medicine... He cautiously attempted to escape without waking Goryo, which soon turned out to be a much harder task than Ebisu had initially thought. Fifteen minutes later with about a centimeter of progress, Ebisu stopped to think. The solution was obvious: simply get up and administer the dosage. Goryo would have to be woken up anyway to swallow the pill, so what did it matter? The judge couldn't fathom why he was so conflicted.
Was it Goryo? He really did make a pitiful figure. The merciless head of the esteemed Goryo group, reduced to the equivalent of a helpless child. Ebisu felt a pang of guilt at the sight. This was probably his fault. If he had taken better care of the executor in the first place, this wouldn't have been a problem. Ebisu chewed his lip in indecision. What should he do?
To this day, Ebisu still isn't quite sure what came over him at that critical moment. Against his better judgment, he found himself undoing the last 15 minutes of painstaking work, screwing his eyes tightly shut as he did so. Feeling Goryo's grip tighten around him, Ebisu stifled a tiny gasp. This was too weird. The judge attributed his actions to the fact that he was most probably catching whatever Goryo had--after all, how else could he explain this? Goryo's arms around him shouldn't have made his heart race like that; it must have just been concern. That strange warmth everywhere their bodies touched? The heat of the fever. Ebisu refused to admit that there was anything more to it.
Yet for all this Ebisu still had no excuse. He wasn't gay, least of all for Goryo, of all people. That was impossible. He was attracted to girls--no, women. Seductive, beautiful, big-breasted women. Goryo was none of these things. Why, then, did Ebisu find the thought of disentangling himself from Goryo so disagreeable? He was tired. That was it. It wasn't Goryo, it was the bed, the comfortable sheets, the promise of rest after nearly 24 hours of nonstop work. Ebisu shunted all doubts to the deepest recesses of his mind, buried his head in Goryo's shirt, and let sleep overtake him.