By age nineteen Zeke had had a lot of practice living on his own, including getting sick on his own. He had over-the-counter and prescriptions and he knew how to use them. He had survived much worse than the flu. But that was before Casey became aware of his quasi-orphan status and decided to adopt him.
"Go away," Zeke said.
"You'll feel better if you have some, I promise. My mom always – "
"I am not eating your mom's chicken noodle soup. Just leave the pills and get out of here before I breathe any more of these germs on you."
But Casey wasn't listening and Zeke was too weak to fight. And Mrs. Connor's soup turned out to be really tasty. Too bad he couldn't keep it down.
Too bad he fell down on his way back from the bathroom, and getting back up was beyond him. Casey brought him water and a washcloth and some quiet questions that didn't quite register.
"Just stay here," Zeke muttered into the carpet fibers.
"Okay," said Casey, "I will."
That wasn't what Zeke meant, but he wasn't gonna argue. Casey felt his forehead, frowned, and then sat down next to him, and waited.
The blanket was damp with sweat and that was weird because Zeke was shivering and also because he wasn't sure how he'd gotten back to bed. But here he was, somehow, and someone had just brought him a clean blanket, even. Zeke stopped wondering how he'd been so lucky and just burrowed into it and fell asleep.
He woke feeling something wet on his face and that was weird because he wasn't sweating anymore. Or shivering, or hot or nauseated. Just a little achy and…warm. Because Casey was standing next to the bed and had just kissed his forehead.
"Really, Mrs. Connor, I don't mind. It's my fault he's sick, for one thing, but for another I've got the antibodies now, so. Yeah, wouldn't want you two to get sick, so we'll just hang out here. I'll let you know if anything… No, thanks, we've got plenty of soup."
Casey's smile was tight, uncertain. "You sure she believed you?"
Zeke shrugged. "Not really, but you're staying here tonight and that's what matters. My turn to take care of you."
"Even if I'm not sick?"
Zeke grinned. "Especially since you're not sick. Way more fun this way."
And it was.