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A Real Florence Nightingale

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HOW DO I LIVE WITHOUT YOU, I WANT TO KNOW, Devon's cell phone blares. He scrabbles around in bed, attempting to find his phone without emerging from the sanctity of his covers. "You have the worst taste in music in the whole world," he croaks.

"Are you still asleep?" Ed asks. Devon sits up in bed, even though Ed can't see him over the phone. "I'm just leaving the train station now, so I should be there in an hour."

"An hour." Devon glances over at his alarm clock, almost hidden under the mound of used tissues, which is really gross, now that he thinks about it. He's going to have to bleach his entire room, and he has like 45 minutes to do it. "I will definitely be ready in an hour and waiting at the station."

"Liar," Ed says, laughing. "Love you."

"Love you." Devon hangs up and stares mournfully at his phone. He went to bed at 6 PM last night in the vain hope that it would cure the flu that set in after his last all-nighter in the library. His sinuses still feel like they're full of pudding, evil and un-delicious pudding. Judging from his train of thought, he also still has a fever.

True love is enough to get him out of bed, although the effort of getting dressed leaves him tired and sore. Fresh clothes don't make him look any less pale and clammy, but even his sick brain is pretty sure he doesn't want to wear an ancient Super Grover T-shirt to his first date with Ed in months. Mustering up the willpower to throw out all the tissues takes five minutes of concentrated effort, so Devon gives up on straightening up the rest of his room. It's the size of a postage stamp, anyway, it's not that messy. He almost misses the weird teenage girl decorations of his normal college room.

He misses a lot of things about so-called "normal college," actually. Why were he and Ed so excited about taking a semester abroad anyway?

"Learn about other cultures. Eat amazing food. See Europe," Devon mutters darkly, making his slow way to the bus stop. A passerby gives him a strange look, but continues on. When they were doing their study abroad applications, he and Ed even talked about how they should apply to programs that really suited their majors and personalities, that their relationship was strong enough to last a few months in different countries, if it came to that. That was all well and good and sounded very mature when they were in the same zip code, but now Devon is sick and miserable and a million miles away from everyone: his mom, his best friends, and his boyfriend.

At least the boyfriend is getting closer, provided this bus doesn't get trapped in pre-Christmas traffic. Also depending on him staying awake long enough to get off at the correct stop.

The timing turns out perfectly, though. Devon trudges into the station just as the train is pulling into the station, a sight that cheers him for several reasons. The main one is Ed, of course, but trains in London never fail to remind him of Hogwarts. Maybe his head is light enough to float him away without a broomstick. Maybe he should have made a doctor's appointment three days ago.

"Devon!" Devon is wrapped up in a bone-crushing hug, warm lips pressed against his forehead, and all he can do is sink into the embrace and wish he could fall asleep right here in the station. Ed smells so good, like cologne and winter air and home. Ed's sigh ruffles his hair. "You're totally sick, aren't you? And you didn't tell me because you were hoping that ignoring it would make it go away?"

"If it's any consolation, no one feels worse than me right now," Devon says into Ed's shoulder.

"Take me to your dorm so I can chain you to the bed." Ed flushes at Devon's raised eyebrows. "Shut up, you know what I meant."

"Ooh Mister Darcy ooh," Devon says, because it makes sense at the time.

Somehow they make it back to Devon's dorm. Devon spends most of the walk from the bus station leaning on Ed, in part for the sheer pleasure of physical contact with his boyfriend after several long weeks, but mostly because he doesn't have the energy to remain upright. "You have the best arms in the entire world," he informs Ed.

"Those are the cold meds talking, but thanks," Ed says, kissing his cheek. "Do you remember where your key is, or do I have to find it for you?"

Devon suffers this latest indignity with great stoicism, which is to say that he makes a face and ends up trying several different keys before he finally gets the one he's looking for. "The room itself is super tiny, and should probably be quarantined, but the kitchen and the living room areas are nice," he says, then lets out a shriek as Ed scoops him up and marches him off to bed.

"Bed," Ed says, then actually pulls the covers up to Devon's chin. "Do you have any soup?"

"In the cabinet above the dish rack," Devon says, blinking away sudden, unexpected tears. It shouldn't be this easy to just--settle into the routine of the past year, not when they've been apart for what felt like forever and his immune system has ruined the perfect reunion date he planned out in his head. There was even going to be romantic ultimate frisbee.

"Less thinking, more sleeping!" Ed calls, already on his way to the kitchen.

Devon must have actually managed to doze off in the twenty minutes it takes to make soup, because the next thing he knows, Ed is gently shaking him awake. Ed helps prop him up in bed and actually fluffs his pillow. "Did you go to perfect boyfriend school? Did you get a scholarship for already being wonderful?" Devon demands.

"Oh, he's feeling sarcastic, he must be feeling better," Ed teases, and hands him a tray with a bowl of soup and a spoon.

The soup is just chicken soup from a can, but it's soup that Devon didn't have to get out of bed to make, and that makes all the difference in the world. Under Ed's watchful eye, Devon eats the entire bowl, then sets it aside with a sigh. "So I had this awesome and fun to-do list for this weekend, but I'm pretty sure the only sight you're going to see is the grocery store as long as you stick with me."

"Hey, you know, whatever." Ed shrugs, the goofy grin he turns on Devon so familiar it breaks his heart. "We can take in the amazing sights of your dorm room, where I will pick all the movies, because you fall asleep in the middle even when you're not sick. Someday you're going to see the end of Remember the Titans, even if I have to tape your eyelids open."

"I've stayed awake through every Lord of the Rings movie, extended editions included!" Devon protests, then blows his nose.

"Totally different class of movie, dude."

"Your face is a totally different class of movie."

"We can watch The Fellowship of the Ring first," Ed says, taking the soup tray away and replacing it with his laptop. "Just be prepared to share your tissues at the end. You know how I feel about Sam and Frodo."

"Dork," Devon says, lifting up the covers so Ed can scoot in beside him. "And thanks, you know. For everything."

Ed kisses him in reply, and the movie's opening music begins.