“We didn’t have any tea,” Jackson announces, and Mark squints his heavy eyes at his boyfriend, trying to remember if he had asked for any tea. Carefully, Jackson holds two mugs steady as he climbs onto the bed next to Mark. To Mark’s surprise, Jackson doesn’t complain about the used tissues scattered across the blanket Mark is huddled under. Instead, he silently holds the steaming mug over Mark’s chest until Mark slides his arms out from the warmth to take it.
“What is it?” Mark asks. It hurts to speak, and the use of his vocal chords irritates his throat. Jackson has to take the drink back so Mark doesn’t drop it during his coughing fit.
“Hot chocolate,” Jackson sits with his legs crossed next to Mark, facing him, his own cup sitting in his lap, “I was going to make you tea, ‘cause it’s really good for your throat, but we’re out, so... hopefully this will work too. The heat of it should help a little.”
“Why the marshmallows?” Mark normally wouldn’t make assumptions, but, he can see a mountain of the tiny white marshmallows that come in chocolate powder packets threatening to spill over the side of his cup as he tilts it towards his face. There’s far more than he believes come with a single package, and the additions are absent from Jackson’s cup. It seems reasonable to believe Jackson had transferred the ones from his mix to Mark’s. Mark never knew marshmallows were good for colds.
Jackson explains that they have no known healing properties; he just knows how much Mark likes them. Even though it burns his tongue and it hurts to lift his aching head off the pillow and the marshmallows clump together and barely make it down his sore throat, Mark takes a long drink. He rests his mug against his heart, feeling the heat of the recently made beverage radiate through his chest. It’s hard, but he forces himself to sip at the hot chocolate. He’s too sick to be embarrassed when a little splashes onto his chin and Jackson licks his thumb before wiping the spillage off of Mark’s skin.
When Mark finishes, he reaches towards his nightstand blindly and Jackson leans over him to take the mug and place it on the surface, setting his own barely touched drink next to it.
“Thank you,” Mark says. He hopes that Jackson understands that his gratitude extends past moving the cup, but, for bringing him the drink, for sitting next to him for hours, for always taking care of Mark, whether he asks for it or not, always thinking about him. He doesn’t have the energy to say any of it, but he’s been thinking it since they first met.
Mark is on his back, an uncomfortably high stack of pillows beneath his head so his sinuses will drain (another piece of wisdom from his temporary nurse, Jackson), eyes closed as he prays for sleep when he feels an arm invade the space between his neck and the mattress. Jackson’s body presses into his side, pleasantly warm even with Mark under a pile of blankets, his other arm curling protectively over Mark’s waist.
“What are you doing?” Mark mumbles, feeling Jackson’s head come to rest heavily near his collarbone as he snuggles into the sick boy.
“Uh, you know, my body heat, it’s great for you,” Jackson claims.
“I don’t think that’s true,” Mark argues as well as his voice will allow, trying unsuccessfully to wriggle out of the comfort of Jackson’s embrace.
Jackson’s hold on him tightens as he struggles to move away, and lips touch his chin gently before Jackson replies, “Mark, I am an expert, just go to sleep and let me take care of you. You’ll be better in no time, you’ll see. And then you’ll finally recognize me for the genius I am.”
He’s too tired to tease Jackson as his boyfriend rambles on, but he’s still pretty sure the shared body heat isn’t going to magically cure his cold. Actually, he’s pretty sure it’s just going to end with both of them curled up in bed, just as miserable as Mark already is.
“You’re gonna get sick too,” Mark complains half-heartedly, knowing that Jackson’s already made up his mind.
“Expert,” Jackson repeats, and that’s all he says. Mark wavers between conscious and unconscious for hours, the drink Jackson brought him soothing his throat long enough for him to sleep comfortably in random spurts. Every time Mark wakes, Jackson is still clinging to him, sometimes also asleep. The one time Mark opens his eyes to find himself alone, it’s no more than two minutes before Jackson is rolling back into him, retaking his position as Mark’s personal heater.
Three days later, Mark wakes after his first full night of rest in a week, breathing easily and feeling like a new man.
Jackson wakes himself up sneezing, coughs for seven minutes, then burrows underneath their comforter and whines, “Maaaark, I’m sick,” though the fabric.