I knock on the bathroom door when I find it both shut and locked, Darren not remotely responding to my queries. Of course, he is in there throwing up, so.

“Darren?” I say, knocking again.

“For the love of Saint Fucking Michael, will you fuck the hell off?” Darren screams.

I sigh. “Darren, I was about to leave, but if you need me to stay, I’ll call and say I can’t make it.”

“Fuck you,” Darren says, “fuck you fuck you fuck you,” and pukes again, and starts crying.

I wiggle my field into the doorknob and pop the lock open, then slowly push the door in, trying to avoid hitting Darren. He shuffles out of my way. I reach down to put my hand on Darren’s neck, but his fever’s still low, and it’s more irritating than pleasantly cool. He shakes me off.

“I hate you,” he mumbles, and leans against my leg.

“I know, buddy, I know,” I tell him, and stroke his hair until he closes his eyes and relaxes.

“I hate everything,” he adds, after a minute.

“I know,” I say again.

He claws at my leg a little, and I’m glad I’m wearing jeans, because he keeps at it, even if he isn’t clawing very hard. “I don’t really hate you, Travis.”

“I know that, too,” I assure him.

Darren hugs my leg, then, and butts his head against it, and mumbles into it so I can barely tell what he’s saying. “I love you. I don’t know what I’d do without you. I’d probably die.”

“You’re not going to die, Darren,” I sigh.

He sighs back, into my pants. “I feel like I am.”

“Yeah, that’s to be expected,” I say, feeling like I would be a little more sympathetic if I’d gotten another hour or two of sleep last night, “let me get you that anti-emetic, okay? Then we can wait a little bit and I’ll make you breakfast.”

“No breakfast.” Darren shakes his head. “My stomach will murder me. And also you.”

“That’s what the anti-emetic is for, Darren,” I say.

“Can’t take a pill,” he says, “going to puke it up.”

“I know, buddy, I know,” I say again, going back to petting his hair, “I’m going to inject it. Kelly knows you never take them soon enough. She sent me a syringe.”

“Kelly from the pharmacy?” he asks, looking blearily up at me.

“Yeah, buddy, Kelly from the pharmacy,” I agree.

He snickers. “She has a crush on me.”

I roll my eyes. He must be feeling better, and he hasn’t even had his meds yet.

“You don’t know,” he says, at my expression, “I’m way hotter than you give me credit for. I’m way more badass than you give me credit for.”

“Yeah, Darren, you’re super hot and badass,” I agree, wetting a washcloth to dab the vomit from his mouth, and then handing him a glass of water.

“Yeah,” he says, and rinses his mouth out.

Then I hand him the mouthwash and he rinses his mouth out again.

“Ugh,” he says, “I feel like shit.”

“You feel like you’re going to throw up again in the next couple of minutes?” I ask, “or can you come sit on the couch?”

“Couch,” he says, “probably down to dry-heaving now, anyway.”

“Okay,” I say, and take him out to the couch, supporting him until I can get him down onto it, and he goes boneless against the cushions.

He makes some sort of incoherent noise of displeasure.

I bring back all of his meds, and some water, and inject him with the first dose of the anti-emetic, then set the timer on his phone so he doesn’t forget the rest. He doesn’t even react to the needle, just stares at me until I’m done. Then he curls into my shoulder and sobs on my shirt for a while, and I text Hunch to say I’m not going to be showing up.

“Oh, god,” Darren says, after a while, “oh, god, that’s so much better.”

“Uh-huh,” I agree, “this is why I reminded you to take them before I left.”

“Fuck you, Fox, you suck,” Darren says. There’s no heat behind it.

I pat him on the head and hand him the water bottle, and then give him his pills one by one while he glares at me, but he takes them. He leans back against me when he’s done, and waits for the last one to kick in. I wonder if he’s fallen asleep again. I hope for his sake he hasn’t.

He actually groans when it finally does start to work, hops up, and stretches. “I feel disgusting. I’m going to shower. Make me something quick to eat and then we can get going.”

“Going where, Darren?” I ask, more than slightly exasperated. I can’t believe he made plans.

“Don’t you have that party thing?” he says, “weren’t we supposed to go?”

“I was,” I say, “I already told Eugene you were sick.”

“I’m not sick,” he says, “I feel fine. Pack the pills, and I’ll continue to feel fine.”

“The worst of the symptoms are going to hit in about two hours, and you’re not going to want to be anywhere but tucked into bed,” I remind him.

He shakes his head. “Nah. Got her to give me a top up before I left work. Worst of the symptoms shouldn’t be until morning.”

“Shit,” I say, “do you need me to call off work tomorrow?”

“Won’t the kids miss you?” he asks, with a laugh.

“It’s Monday. The kids are going to be in testing all day,” I say. “And if you don’t want me to watch you, I’m going to call someone else, and it sounds like it can’t be any of your team.”

“God, are you going to call Vector to watch me?” Darren mutters, “fine, fuck, stay home, see if I care, just did this to go to your stupid party, don’t blame me if you lose your fucking job.”

“You didn’t have to do that,” I say, but he’s already wandered off to the shower. I get started on food, wondering what’ll be mild enough for him, but still calorie rich, because he’s not going to feel better nearly as fast if he doesn’t ramp up his intake a little. I settle on banana pancakes.

Showered and medicated and dressed in clean clothes, he looks a hell of a lot better, and by the time I get some food into him, I can actually believe he’s up for going out, at least to something as undemanding as Lee’s party. He even has a present. It’s a pen, but it’s a present. (Not a particularly interesting pen, just the normal writing kind, but it comes in its own box.)

I grab my own present, text Hunch again, and we leave.

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