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He cries for a long time, and you’re afraid he’s gonna make himself sick again, but maybe he really is just too exhausted to manage anything that energetic. It’s...not the most comfortable angle, sitting on the edge of his bed with the stupid purple curtains all around you, holding him as he sobs into your shoulder, and you’re pretty sure there’s violet-prince-snot all over your shirt, but whatever. Under your hands he’s too warm and definitely too bony. You suddenly get what everyone means when they tell you you’re fucking skeletal.

Eventually, though, his breathing evens out from the juddering hitches of tears. He’s still clinging to you and you think probably he would be clinging to anybody at this point, it has nothing to do with the fact that you hate one another a whole bunch. He’s just that much of a fucking mess.

He mumbles something you don’t catch. "Hmm?"

"...said you’re bein weirdly awesome about all a this."

Your chest hurts sharply. Damn it. "--What’s going on, man? Seriously. You’re...you’re not okay."

Snurfle. He presses his face harder into your shoulder before finally letting go and flopping back against his stack of pillows. You would not be able to handle sleeping with that goddamn many pillows, what the hell.

He wipes at his face. Absently you hand over the box of tissues from the dresser. "I’m not," he agrees, his voice still cloggy and a little unsteady from crying. "‘m a gigantic fuckin mess is what I am."

"Truer words were never said, Ampora, what the hell is your deal?"

He winces, closing his eyes, crumpling up the tissues in his hand. "It’s stupid."

"I got that part already."

"...you’re a douche, Captor." It’s still a very small voice but you’re ridiculously heartened to hear the hint of his normal sneer in it.

"I’m not a douche," you correct. "You’re a douche. I’m an asshole, get this shit straight."

Amazingly he laughs--a little hitching uncertain giggle. "P-point taken."

"What is it? Seriously, man, what’s wrong with you?"

He looks away, and Christ you can tell he’s actually blushing, it looks so weird because of how pale he is; two spots of color flare and fade high on his cheekbones. "I think I caught something. Feel kinda feverish. Um. And my...my stupid fuckin ulcer isn’t helpin."

"Oh, shit." Yeah, that would make sense. That would make a lot of sense. You have a vague idea that stomach ulcers are a Big Deal. "Jesus. You need to see a doctor? The, the health center thing isn’t open until morning but I think there’s some urgent care clinic in town--"

He waves this away, looking more like a king’s youngest son than ever, those bizarre purple eyes half-shut. Now that he’s cried away all his horrible eye makeup you can tell his lashes are actually that black by nature, and his eyelids are translucent, show the darkness of the eye beneath. "Nah. Just...stupid. Fuckin stupid. Shouldn’t a gone to that goddamn party but..."

You don’t really need him to finish the sentence. But he’d wanted them to be impressed. He’d wanted them to be all like goddamn this guy is way too smooth and sophisticated and a big deal to just be a dorky freshman, we must gather him to our collective bosom and make him feel appropriately adored.

Christ but you think you might fucking cry.

"What happened?"

"I got like halfway down my drink an my stomach started really hurtin but it was like...naked time was startin up an I thought I had a chance at maybe, you know, gettin somewhere with this one chick but..." He swallows hard. "Let me tell you, Captor, there is only one fuckin thing less smooth than havin to quit sloppy makeouts to go puke your guts up and that is doin the pukin part right in front a the other party."

"Fuck, dude." You want to tell him to stop, he doesn’t need to paint you a picture, you can pretty much guess how godawful the night ended up being, but he just goes on. He’s lying very still with his eyes shut.

"So that was pretty much that from the social acceptability standpoint a the evenin. They were pretty cool about it, considerin, but I pretty much just wanted to get the fuck out a there an maybe go die in a hole if one happened to present itself. I was keepin count a how many times I threw up but I totally lost track after I fell in that fuckin stream thing between the arts buildin and the road to the townhouses. I guess that was a good thing actually, washed off some a the grossness, but God it was cold."

"Eridan--"

"That’s basically it. Got back here, planned to spend the rest a the night in the bathroom. Then you showed up."

"Eridan, fuck." You rub at your face with both hands. "That is...the worst story I have ever heard. You are a goddamn wreck."

"Sol, you’re already winnin the King a Statin the Obvious title, you don’t gotta keep tryin so hard."

"Shut the fuck up," you tell him. "Ugh. Your stomach thing. Are you seriously okay or should I like drive you to the hospital? I will drive you to the hospital, Ampora."

He opens his eyes in the dimness and you can tell he’s getting ready to arm and aim another snarkbomb but he just pauses, and looks up at you with an expression you totally cannot parse. "--No. It’s okay. I’m not like perforatin or anythin just...just dumb. Gonna go see the health center people tomorrow, I guess."

"Is that why you’re running a temperature?"

Eridan shrugs. "Probably not. I bet I picked up some gross virus or somethin on top a all this bullshit. --Fuck." His expression changes, and you think he’s maybe going to hurl again. "Oh, fuck, Sol, I’m sorry, I bet I’ve given it to you."

You blink. Suddenly that is utterly hilarious, and you have to laugh, you can’t help it. "What the hell, dude. You’ve had the world’s single fucking worst night in the history of worst goddamn nights and you’re concerned about me catching your stupid virus? You are dumb and your priorities are dumb and you should be ashamed of yourself."

He blinks up at you and then he’s laughing too, a little whispery wreck of a laugh, but it makes you feel so much better.

You’re about to say something else when your computer chimes and you suddenly remember, shit, you’d been talking to KK about this earlier, you should probably let him know your roommate’s back and not in need of verbal beatdowns. "Hold that thought," you tell Eridan. "I gotta take this. You should go to sleep, by the way."

"Mmh," he says. "Um."

"Um what?"

"No, never mind, it’s dumb."

"What about this night has not been dumb? Spit it out."

He rubs at his face. When he speaks again his voice has gone tiny. "There’s...this tea stuff that sometimes helps when my stomach’s really bad."

You remember you noticed him drinking something out of a purple mug the other day, and mentally wince. "Got it. Where’d you keep the teabags?"

"My desk drawer. Sol, you don’t gotta..."

"Shut up," you tell him, not unkindly, and you go to rummage through his stuff. Sol. He’s not the first one to shorten your name like that. It sounds weird. Not bad weird, though.

When you come back from the second-floor kitchen with his funky-smelling herbal tea he’s most of the way asleep, but he wakes up enough to mumble something that sounds like thank you and take the cup. It really does seem to help him; some of the anxious lines on his face that you now realize are from pain fade a bit, he loses a little of the miserable hunch in his shoulders.

You are suddenly very tired.

-- twinArmageddons (TA) began pestering carcinoGeneticist (CG) ! --

TA: hey kk
TA: ju2t wanted you two know ampora2 back, no need two go fiind hiim
TA: he2 a fuckiing me22
CG: WHY AM I NOT SURPRISED.
CG: SO WHAT, HE MADE HIS OWN WAY BACK AND DIDN’T END UP NEEDING TO BE CARTED HOME IN A WHEELBARROW?
TA: actually he2 pretty 2iick
TA: iill tell you about iit iin the morniing
TA: dude ha2 apparently had the wor2t fuckiing niight ever.
CG: ...YOU NEED ANYTHING?
CG: UGH, WHAT AM I EVEN SAYING.
TA: nah iim ok
TA: thiink he2 done throwiing up for the niight, thank2 though
TA: gotta take hii2 a22 over two the health center tomorrow, ii cant go to breakfa2t wiith you guy2, but iill catch up wiith you after that.
CG: FUCK. HE REALLY IS MESSED UP, HUH.
CG: YOU WON THE ROOMMATE LOTTERY ALL RIGHT, CAPTOR. YOU HAVE ALL THE GODDAMN LUCK.
CG: I WANT TO HEAR ALL ABOUT THIS HORRIBLE MESS BECAUSE I HAVE A TERMINAL CASE OF TRAINWRECK SYNDROME, BUT I GUESS IT CAN WAIT UNTIL MORNING. MAYBE I’LL EVEN TRY THE NOVEL EXPERIMENT OF GOING THE FUCK TO BED FOR A WHILE, WHAT DO YOU THINK.
TA: whoa kk dont do anythiing too dra2tiic over there
CG: GOOD NIGHT, FUCKASS.
TA: ehehehe you 2ay the 2weete2t thiings
TA: niight

-- twinArmageddons (TA) ceased pestering carcinoGeneticist (CG) ! --

In the morning you are almost convinced, waking up and staring at the ceiling tiles, that everything you remember was a crazy fucked-up dream and your weird roommate is still out slutting it up with upperclassmen and generally being a reprehensible human being. Almost.

Then he shifts a little in the other bed and you sit up to look over. Behind the curtains he’s still propped up on his huge heap of pillows, and you guess that has something to do with his stomach as well, maybe it hurts to lay down flat or something. The purple-black gauze obscures detail; you slither out of bed to go have a proper look.

...Jesus. He looks terrible. In daylight you can really see how pale he is, his hair dark-damp and straggling across his forehead with a total lack of artifice, deep violet shadows under his eyes. His lips have no color in them at all.

"...Eridan, dude, you look like shit."

He opens his eyes and scowls up at you. God but his eyes really are that color. It looks funny with the dull purple shadows of illness underneath them, like somebody’s color-coordinated his face with a paint-by-numbers kit. "Good mornin to you too, asshole. I feel like shit."

"Well, at least you’re rocking the thematic consistency," you say and run your hands through your hair. "Goddamn. We gotta get you to the health center. It’s...like the other side of campus." You check your watch: yeah, they’ll be open soon if they aren’t already.

He closes his eyes again, and shivers, and your chest hurts sharply. "Nnngh," he says. "Do I have to? Kinda don’t feel like movin right now."

"Yeah you have to, man. Either we are walking or you let me drive your car."

Eridan’s eyes flick open again and for a moment there’s that fuck you go die look of rage again before something seems to break and he just sighs.

"I cannot put into words," he says, "how much I do not want to fuckin ever be seen again on this goddamn campus. I would rather jump in a goddamn industrial blast furnace than show my face to Anningley fuckin College."

"Yeah, I know, dude, but...c’mon. This is like...the majority of the students aren’t even here yet, and how many people even saw you last night? Brass it the fuck out. You’re a pro at that whole I’m better than you schtick, just...do that real hard."

Wrong thing to say. His face does that weird crumpling thing again and he covers it with his hands. "What--?"

"Captor," he says, muffled. "I’m gonna say this once, okay? I am not totally without self-awareness. You don’t gotta rub it in."

"Rub what in?" you ask, honestly confused.

"The fact," and now he sounds as if he’s clenching his teeth, "that my as you so aptly fuckin put it I’m better than you schtick is just that. Okay? Yeah. Eridan Ampora is a stuck-up pretentious douchebag who thinks he’s all that an a bag a chips. Eridan Ampora is a snob. Eridan Ampora is a pathetic piece a shit who should never have tried this in the first goddamn place, this was all such a fuckin mistake."

You are so lost. And the pure acid self-loathing dripping from each syllable is not something you can wrap your head around.

"...tried what?"

"Ugh, do I gotta diagram my sentences for you, Sol? This. College. Pretendin to be someone who actually one day is gonna be a big fuckin deal."

"Wow," you say. "You are almost as fucked in the head as I am, Eridan. That’s a hell of an achievement."

You think he’s about to snap and start slinging invective at you again--ho-hum, back to normal--but he just stares at you with that unsettling Welch’s gaze and, implausibly, snickers. "You’re weird, Sol," he says. "You know that?"

"I thought we’d covered that pretty extensively already. Jesus Christ, existential angst aside and also crippling embarrassment aside, we have got to get you some medical attention. You kinda look like a purple-themed version of the Corpse Bride right now."

"--Fuck you," he says, and throws a pillow at your head. Okay. Good. You feel more on top of things now.

~

Despite the fact that he’s ill and despite the fact that you are worried and also you are sleep-deprived and you haven’t had your goddamn coffee yet and a whole bunch of other shit, you cannot possibly help grinning like an idiot when he sighs and hands over his keys. Oh hell yes you are driving his car. You are driving the fuck out of his car. His car is now officially your bitch.

"Try not to run into anythin," he says wearily, settling in the passenger seat with his eyes shut. Neither of you have a thermometer but you’re pretty sure his fever’s higher than it was last night. "Includin other vehicles and stationary objects such as buildins."

"Taken under advisement, sir," you tell him and you start up the Mercedes and yes, that is a good feeling. For his sake you don’t drive like an asshole, but even so it’s kind of a rush to pilot forty thousand dollars worth of car across campus. And you can feel him watching you, which is...also kind of a rush for no good reason.

You make a point of parking beautifully and coming around to open his door, and he tells you you’re a douchebag and you remind him that no you are an asshole, he’s the douchebag, and he leans on you as you walk into the health center.

While he gets looked at you sprawl inelegantly in the waiting room, trying to work out what the fuck that conversation had been about. Point one: he’s a complete poser, yes, taken as read; point two, he knows it and is pretending not to know it, point three, in fact he’s...what, doing it to cover up desperate self-hating insecurity?

The fuck would Ampora have to be insecure about anyway, you think. He’s rich, he has a cool car, he’s pretty, he’s...

Well, he is pretty. Guy has big weird-ass purple eyes and a pretty good face when it’s not twisted in that fuck-you sneer.

Well, okay, even when it is.

Fuck.

Point being, dude kind of has a lot going for him in comparison to, say, yourself (crazy, heterochromia, migraines, used to have a killer lithp, social skills of a tapeworm, probably could stand to shower more often than you do). You are at a loss to explain what he thinks he’s got to prove, or pretend to prove.

KK was right, you totally lucked out in the roommate department. You have all the luck. All of it. Speaking of your eloquent friend, he’s texting you; you wriggle to pull your phone out of your hoodie pocket and see what’s up.

HEY CAPTOR, I THINK YOUR PET DOUCHEBAG MADE A LOVE CONNECTION OR SOMETHING LAST NIGHT. THERE’S A BOX OUTSIDE YOUR ROOM WITH HIS NAME ON IT IN CURLY FONT.
wtf. iit ii2 probably a bomb.
I DUNNO, MAN. BOMBS DON’T TEND TO SMELL LIKE CLOVE CIGARETTES AND THAT BLACK PHOENIX ALCHEMY LAB PERFUME SHIT.
jesus. that ii2 kiind of a 2urprii2e giiven what he told me about hii2 appearance at that party. um.
WHAT DID HE DO, FALL OFF THE TABLE OR SOMETHING THAT MIGHT IN A THEATER PERSON’S CRACKED FUCKING EXCUSE FOR A BRAIN BE CONSIDERED AWKWARDLY ADORABLE?
puked all over 2ome giirl he wa2 tryiing two hiit on. or maybe ju2t iin front of her, he wa2 kiinda vague and ii diidnt really want detaiil2.
OKAY, FIRST OF ALL EW. SECOND, EW, AND THIRD, FUCK, WHO KNOWS, THOSE FREAKS ARE PROBABLY KINKY AS HELL.
fuck you kk ii diid not need that mental iimage. al2o can you not tell anyone about the pukiing thiing, he2 kiind of under2tandably fuckiing mortiifiied. ii diid not tell you about iit.
HAH. YEAH, I GUESS HE WOULD BE. FINE, I WILL KEEP THAT DISGUSTING NUGGET OF INFORMATION TO MYSELF. WHERE ARE YOU?
2tiill at the health center. ii drove hiim over. iin hii2 2weet-a22 car.
MAN, YOU ARE JUST RACKING UP THE BROWNIE POINTS FOR BEST ROOMMATE EVER OVER THERE. WHAT THE FUCK. ANYWAY TELL AMPORA SOMEBODY IS ~*THINKING OF HIM*~ WITH LIKE CURLICUES AND SHIT AROUND THE LETTERS. MAKE HIS SORRY LITTLE DAY.
you cannot hope two beat me iin a be2t-roommate conte2t. ii am 2iimply the be2t there ii2. --ok look2 liike theyre done wiith hiim. g2g

You are not at all sure why the idea of someone sending Ampora little inexplicable presents bothers you, but it does. It bothers you. Maybe it’s just that the theater people are so fucking out-there. Maybe you’re just sleep-deprived and in a weird state of mind.

You try to forget about it and just go to join Eridan at the reception desk. "How’re you feeling?"

"Shitty," he says. "I’m supposed to stay in bed until this stupid fever’s gone. They gave me a prescription, too, I need to go into town and hit up the CVS or somethin."

"I’ll drive you," you offer quickly. He glowers at you.

"You’re enjoyin takin advantage a my perilous state a health, Sol. Don’t even try to deny it."

"No I’m not, I’m being the best roommate ever. Sheesh. You are terrible at observation. Come on, the sooner we get going the sooner you can retire to your bed of pain and comfort yourself with the fact that someone has apparently sent you a present. KK says there’s a box with your name on it outside the room."

Eridan stares at you. "What?"

"Apparently it smells like cloves and perfume. I don’t really want to know how KK can identify a particular kind of perfume, but hey. Guy’s talented."

You are really not sure why the great big smile that breaks over his face also bothers you. What the fuck, Captor. You are probably headed for one of your downswings or something, that’s just great.

"Sol?" He’s looking at you.

"What?"

"What’s the matter?"

"Nothing," you say, and elaborately open the car door for him. "Your chariot, madame."

He flips you off, and you return the favor. The radio goes on as soon as you get behind the wheel, because you are suddenly not at all in the mood for talking.