sick + kitchen bc i'm sick in the kitchen <3
combining with "sick + eddie's house" from @cm1031sr
Eddie wakes up sweating. The thermostat reads 68 degrees but he wakes up sweating. The alarm on his phone rings and rings and rings, and echoes in his pounding skull long after he shuts off the sound. He’s completely uncovered, the sheets thrown off the bed some time in the night, but he still wakes up sweating.
There’s two options. Two non-options since, although he has a choice, he doesn’t really have a choice. He could shove his face into the pillow and sleep for another three, four, five hours, ignore his life outside these four walls, and wake up to a colder world that doesn’t leave his head throbbing. But it’s five-thirty a.m. on a Friday, Chris needs breakfast and a packed lunch and a ride to school, there’s a terrifying stack of dishes in his sink, and dangerously low stock of groceries. He opts for option two, despite his best wishes.
He slips on a t-shirt and jeans and drags himself into the bathroom. He should’ve showered first, but it’s too late now. The lights are too bright and the counter is too cluttered and there’s some stranger in the mirror, looking too tired and too pale. Eddie brushes some stranger's teeth and pretends to be alright.
“Good morning,” Christopher calls as he walks into the kitchen.
“Good morning,” he replies, and pretends to believe it. There’s a sink full of dishes. He decides it can wait.
Sandwiches and lunch boxes, peanut butter toast and packed bags, Eddie follows a routine, albeit, slower than usual. If Chris notices his silence, his tired eyes or heavy head, he says nothing and eats his breakfast instead. The morning passes in a blur and it’s nearly seven-thirty. He has to leave, but there’s still dishes to do.
They’re in the car, and then they’re not. Chris is staring out the windows of the backseat, then he’s not. Eddie kisses him on the forehead, or maybe hugs him or waves goodbye, but Chris is at school and he’s in the car and there’s still dishes to do at home. The A.C. shrieks from his dashboard and he’s shivering, but he’s sweating, and his skull is still pounding and there’s still dishes to do at home.
A car honks at him on his way back, and the sound refuses to leave his head. It’s loud and it thumps, harder, harder. He switches from cold to heat and turns on the seat warmers. He’s shivering and sweating and he still needs to go shopping.
The key gets stuck in the door. He shakes until it finally turns.
There’s a mess of blankets on the couch, evidence of a movie night gone too late. The blinds remain shut and the plants sag by the window, but he couldn’t bring them to life if he tried. Eddie moves to the kitchen and is faced by the morning, by the open cabinets and empty pantry and pile of dirty dishes.
One at a time. He takes it one at a time.
Big dishes soak. Cutlery sorts randomly into the dishwasher. Mugs of yesterday's cocoa form rows on the top rack, dripping through to the bottom.
Scrub, rinse, carry on.
It’s beyond him how two, three people could fill the sink so easily. Plates fill the bottom rack. Bowls stack, unevenly, alongside them. The knives stay in the sink to be washed by hand.
Scrub, rinse, carry on.
He finds a spoon stuck underneath a pot. He finds chopsticks slipping down the drain. Somehow there’s still another mug in the sink.
Scrub, rinse, carry on.
The garbage disposal hisses, and he nearly lets it out down the drain. The pots need to soak and he needs groceries, so that’s exactly what he does.
Despite his behavior, Eddie is a medic, and he knows he must be sick. Fever, headache, cold sweat. A bit of nausea too, but he decides to ignore it. His pantry is still empty and he has a kid to feed. Irresponsible, yes, but there’s no other option.
He finds his way back to the driver's seat, empty grocery bags piled in the passenger’s seat. The sun is bright against his windshield, he can barely see. It’s silent as he drives, it’s for the best. He rolls down the window but no, he refuses to vomit out of it.
The truck rolls to a stop in the parking lot. His phone vibrates in the cupholder.
Buck (10:32am): are you still coming over for lunch?
It shouldn’t be a loaded question, but it is. The truth comes with explanations, but there’s no lying to Buck.
The text goes unopened, he saves the hassle for later. For now, there’s groceries to buy.
He’s grown accustomed to shopping with Buck, who will gladly join him for any and all chores and errands. Even when it’s his groceries, Buck is more organized than him with his checklists and simple patterns, though there’s always a few extra items thrown on top of the cart as they pass through the aisles. There’s jokes and exasperation and Buck, without fail, will always stand on the back of the cart to roll down the cereal aisle when no one's watching.
Eddie tries to follow the same pattern, but it’s duller than usual and the fluorescent lights burn when he turns his head to the top shelf.
If it were Chris who was sick, he would file through the pharmacy in search of cherry cough syrup, the only flavor he can stomach. There’d be a cart full of tissues and soup cans and anything that could ease the pain, even just a bit.
If it were Buck, he would let himself in his apartment and shove him into the shower. He’d wash the sheets and make him lunch and resist the urge to leave a kiss on his forehead, a little sweaty but still sweet.
Eddie bypasses the pharmacy and makes the bold assumption that there’s some sort of medicine at home.
Checkout goes by quietly, he leaves non-responses to the cashier’s small talk and only feels a little guilty about it. He does smile as he leaves though, but remembers too late he’s wearing a mask.
He’s in the car, and then he’s not. He’s shaking and struggling with each breath, but still, he refuses to vomit out the window.
Deep breath in, he takes two handfuls of groceries and adds soreness to his growing list of symptoms. Soreness and nausea and an ever-worsening headache. Deep breath out, he struggles to unlock the door, to turn the handle and key.
It takes several trips to get everything inside, several more than he’d usually take.
His phone vibrates in his pocket. Buck sends another message.
Buck (11:49am): should i take your silence as a no?
Three dots appear and disappear as he opens the message. Yes, he considers, no. It’s confusing, too much to handle for now. Eddie can’t handle truths, but he can handle groceries. He leaves the phone on the counter.
He should stop. He should rummage through some medicine cabinets and lay down and maybe drink a cup of that tea Buck always leaves in the kitchen. He bought an infrared thermometer a few months back, the touchless, forehead ones, but he can’t remember what drawer he left it in and the counter is covered in the reusable grocery bags Buck left behind and never claimed and he did the dishes, he knows he did the dishes, but somehow there’s still dishes in the sink.
He should rest. Eddie unpacks the groceries instead. He can never brew the tea quite right, anyway. Burnt leaves, oversteeped, cold before he can finish his cup. A simple task, and he still can’t get it right.
It’s inevitable, the way he breaks. He wants to laugh because really, it’s hilarious how a sniper blew clean through his shoulder, but a headache and a cold sweat is the thing that breaks him.
Eddie got shot, spent hours, days, weeks bouncing between hospitals, doctors, and physical therapists. He recovered, well enough at least, and came back to work. One panic fed into another and suddenly he was single. Soon after, so was Buck, and they like to pretend it means nothing when surely it means something. Bad days and bad calls, headaches and heartaches, nightmares and pointless daydreams of love and a kinder life.
All the suffering and this is what breaks him: a fever, a pile of groceries, and a sink full of dirty dishes.
His phone vibrates on the counter.
Buck (12:24pm): are you okay?
There’s no good answer. The time difference catches him, the time spent thinking and slowly shifting between the cabinets and the bags on the counter. Eddie knows the truth, but doesn’t know what to say. There’s still so many bags. There’s still dishes in the sink. It’s a mess, it’s all a mess.
Eddie starts to type out a response: I’m fine, I’ll be over soon.
He deletes the message.
I’m fine, but I think I have to cancel.
He deletes the message.
Three dots flash, then disappear. He deletes the message.
I can’t make it. Sorry.
He barely finishes typing the last word.
I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
He lies, deletes the message.
I’m trying to get better, but I still see my blood on your hands.
He deletes the message.
I’ll be fine.
He deletes the message. Three dots flash on the left side of the screen.
He tries one more time, nearly pleading: Help.
The phone falls to the floor before he can press send. It’s easy then, to fall along with it. Eddie’s knees hit the floor with a thud, and he’s bent over the trash can, gagging and choking and trying to forget the taste of this morning’s breakfast. The plastic bin shakes as he grips the edge, strong enough to leave his knuckles white and press marks along his palms. His hands are numb and he nearly slips off the edge.
It’s pathetic, really, the way he collapses and spits into the bin. It’s even more pathetic, how he wishes he weren’t alone.
And worse than that, when that bullet tore through his shoulder and left a pool of himself on the pavement, Eddie didn’t cry. He passed out in his best friend’s arms and woke up under a doctor’s care.
When he broke up with his girlfriend in this very kitchen, by the sink, against the fridge, Eddie didn’t cry. They both said goodbye and soon, he forgot they were ever together.
Through and through, he never cried, can’t remember the last time he did. He’s hurling his guts into a plastic bag. A few stray tears fall with it. It’s pathetic. It’s all pathetic. But at least when he was bleeding out, he wasn’t bleeding alone.
His phone vibrates again on the kitchen floor, just out of reach. The vibration continues, either a phone call or a series of texts. The sound resonates through his legs, bent to the side and all sorts of wobbly.
All he wants is to answer the phone, or at the very least, shut off the sound. The shaking doesn’t make him cry, but the combination of the shaking and gagging and dirty dishes is what breaks him.
Footsteps shuffle behind him, but there’s no way he can turn. His forehead stays pressed against the plastic bag, sweat building on his hairline, skin paling by the minute.
“Eddie?” he hears, and then there’s a hand on his back, on his shoulder, pressing soft circles into his skin. Eddie breaks, yet again, at the touch. Choking turns to gasping, and then he’s collapsing sideways into the same arms that carried him off that street.
Buck shifts his arms, gentle hands pressed flat against his back, hugging him close. It’s the only thing keeping him upright, and even then, he can’t help but drop his forehead against his shoulder, hiding his face in the hoodie.
“I got you,” he murmurs, hands tracing up and down his back. There’s still vomit in his mouth and tears in his eyes, but right here, there’s safety. Eddie fists his hands in the back of Buck’s sweatshirt, scared of holding too tight, but terrified of letting go. Buck continues his reassurances, always knowing how to set him at ease. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Years pass before he leans back, or maybe just twenty minutes. There’s too much fog in his head to really tell the difference. Buck traces a hand from his back, over his shoulder, over the scar, up to his forehead. His brows furrow in concern as he checks Eddie’s temperature.
“Do you have a fever?” He asks, voice soft and a little raspy.
“I don’t know.”
“Headache? Cold sweat?” Buck reads through a laundry list of symptoms. “Or a sore throat? Stuffy nose?”
“Some of those,” he mumbles, closing his eyes, biting back the returning wave of nausea.
“Have you taken any meds?”
Eddie shuts his eyes impossibly tighter, falling forward into his chest. “No.”
He can feel the breathy laugh rise from Buck, something between exasperation and disbelief. “For someone who takes care of people for a living, you’re pretty awful at taking care of yourself.”
“I’m fine,” he lies, barely audible. The words struggle against his throat, and he knows Buck can hear the rasp in his voice.
“No, you’re not,” Buck shakes his head, gently pushing Eddie up to look him in the eyes. They’re red and they burn with brightness and tears. “You don’t have to be.”
Eddie shakes his head too, sees stars in his blurring vision, but Buck holds him steady, he always does. There’s a trash can full of vomit, a counter covered in melting groceries, and dishes in the sink. The thought of standing, leaving this tile floor, leaving Buck’s reassuring hands makes him sick all over again.
“No, I’m not,” he admits, choking on his words and the cracks in his voice. Eddie collapses once more. It’s become a regular occurrence, for Buck to catch him the way he does, strong arms and steady hands. There’s bile in his mouth and tear stains on Buck’s hoodie, but he doesn’t seem to mind, still whispering soft assurances into his ear.
“I’m sorry,” Eddie breathes out.
He almost laughs. What is there not to be sorry for? He shakes his head instead, still hidden in the cotton hoodie. “I don’t know.”
And he can feel it, he can feel the twitch of Buck’s face, the gentle smile. He moves a hand to the back of his head, brushing the hair at the back of his neck. “Well, let me know when you figure it out so I can say something like, ‘you have nothing to apologize for,’ and you can go on and say, ‘I’m such a mess,’ or something, and I can tell you, ‘you’re my favorite mess’.” Buck lets out a breath. “Or something like that.”
Eddie looks up so he can see Buck, not just feel, but see him. Maybe it’s just the light, or maybe there’s tears in his eyes too. There’s definitely some worry, and just a bit of fondness. Maybe it’s the fever, or maybe it’s the truth, either way he speaks his mind.
“I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Buck’s breath hitches before a smile graces his face. “You’ll never have to find out.”
And God, it’s unfair how Buck is so effortlessly kind even while he’s throwing up his guts in the trash, and it’s unfair how he can wipe away every last tear and promise him it’ll all be alright, and it’s unfair how he wants to kiss his best friend while his mouth still tastes like bile and acid.
Buck kneels before him, beautiful and warm, and Eddie wants him, wants it all, even when he’s sweating through his shirt.
“I need to put away the groceries,” he says, strained and tired.
“And there’s still dishes.”
“And that tea in the cabinet is only good when you make it,” he admits. Eddie lets out something between a sigh and a laugh. “And I’m such a mess, and I hate that you knew I would say that.”
Eddie’s still holding his sweatshirt, hands somewhere around his waist. His fists are tight, returning to their white knuckle grip. But Buck holds him softly, a light weight against his cheek, thumb pressing away any stray tears that dare to grace his cheekbone.
“You’re my favorite mess,” he says, as promised. Buck’s good at wiping his tears and giving hugs and reaching the top shelves, but he’s even better at keeping promises. “I’ll make that tea everyday for the rest of your life. If you wanted.”
“I don’t even like tea.”
Buck nods. “I know.”
Eddie nods too. No one knows him like Buck. There’s so much he wants, but so much he can’t do. He’s stuck on the floor, still shaky, still sweaty and tired, but he’s not alone. No, he never has been.
“I would kiss you, but I don’t want to get you sick,” he says, and this time he really can blame the honesty on the fever. “And there’s still some vomit in my mouth.”
Buck laughs and presses a soft kiss into Eddie’s hair, letting his lips linger across his scalp. “I’ll be right here when you’re ready,” he assures, his voice echoing softly against his still-throbbing head. For once, Eddie believes him, that it’ll all be alright.
For now, Buck brews a cup of tea and leads him to the couch. He cards his hands through Eddie’s hair until he falls asleep, and he truly believes it’ll all be alright.
all word + place prompt fills can be found here (ao3) and here (tumblr)
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