When they got home, the sun was already setting. What a day it had been. Adam could feel every bone in his body and nausea tried to overcome the fatigue that had become a part of his being. Again.
Sighting he sat down on the couch in the living room. In the hope of at least the tiniest bit of rest his eyes fell closed. Maybe, with a few deep breaths, his stomach would settle down.
His search for calm was interrupted however painfully by Ronan entering the house after parking the car. Adam could her the jostling and cursing that were so distinctly Ronan that Adam could not help but to feel a spurt of love for this man. The crashing bang of the door connecting with the umbrella stand made him rethink his love for Ronan once again, mind you.
The spikes of pain that penetrated his head ever since they left the hospital would not be minimized by some miracle. No, what they needed was silence.
With a groan Adam opened his eyes again. His gaze fell on Ronan, who had made his way into the living room while Adam had contemplated life. And once again Adam was struck by the wonder that was Ronan Lynch. He stood there, in the doorway, with an expression on his face that was somewhere caught between love and anger and sadness. The hatred that Adam felt for himself could not be measured. Who was he that he could cause so much pain for Ronan?
Adams voice was barely a whisper. And yet he still managed to sound prissy. Ronan stifled a chuckle, before coming near Adam.
“I don`t know, shithead, you looked like you wanted to tell me to go and fuck myself. So, your majesty, what it your verdict?”
Adam knew that Ronan bantered because he needed the reassurance. The reassurance that they were still okay, that besides all of this happening they still belonged together and that they still loved each other. But Adam was so tired…
“I don`t know Ronan. Maybe you could take your attitude and annoy someone else?”
As soon as the words left his lips, Adam wanted to take them back. But too late: Ronan yelped like a hurt puppy before leaving the room.
On his way out every door was banged, every chair was kicked, and every curse was uttered. With a final crash the veranda door fell closed and Adam was alone again.
Ronan had left the room and has taken all the rage with him. All Adam was left with was his crushing fear. The tears started falling on their own. His headache forgotten, Adam welcomed the sadness. He deserved it after all.
It started like every good tragedy does, with the best summer of their lives.
Ronan was in the kitchen, cooking a stew his mother has taught him, waiting for Adam to come home for the weekend. Opal was currently who knows where doing who knows what and the Murder Squash Song played in the background just in case Adam came home earlier. Even after almost ten years of being in a relationship Ronan never stopped pestering Adam with his favorite song.
And indeed, Ronan could hear a car in the driveway not even half an hour later. Adam often made the effort to end work early on a Friday, knowing he still had to drive to Henrietta. And today it seemed like he had succeeded.
When the front door opened, Ronan was drying his hands on a kitchen towel. A few seconds later Adams arms sneaked around Ronan`s midriff and a face pressed into his neck.
“Hey, shitfish, I am home~”
“I would never have guessed”
They had to stop their banter however as Adam leaned forward and started kissing Ronans jaw. Within a moments Ronan had twisted around and grabbed Adams face in both hands so he could kiss him back.
It could have been their millionth kiss and yet excitement still cursed through Ronans body when their lips met. The tingling feeling only increased when Adam did not stop after their usual welcome-home kiss but instead seemed to be going straight for a make out session in the kitchen. Not that that was so uncommon, but it usually meant good news.
This was interrupted by the smell of something burning.
“Shit, fuck, Jesus Mary!”, cursing Ronan rushed towards his stew, trying to safe what was still recoverable. Adam, shortly stunned by the abrupt ending to their embrace, had to stifle a laugh.
“I guess, my persuasion skills are dangerously hot, you could almost say that they are to burn for!”
Ronan groaned so loud the music was drowned out for a moment. When they had first gotten together Ronan had thought himself to be the one who made horrible puns but as time went by it became apparent that nobody had a worse sense of humor than Adam Parrish.
With dinner half burned and Opal still missing they decided to rather finish their make out session than cooking. The kitchen all but forgotten they moved to the living room. And while Adam kissed Ronan, his hands dangerously close to his partners jeans, he finally told Ronan the good news:
“I“- kiss - “finally” - kiss - “got” – kiss - “the” – kiss - “promotion”
Ronan could not react at first, to engaged with Adams mouth, but as soon as his words registered, he sat up, accidentally bashing their heads together.
“Uh, sorry… but what? When? Why only tell me now? Parrish!?”
They both looked at each other for a moment, Adam still rubbing his head and Ronan still having an erection. And then they burst out laughing. It took a bit for them to cool down and when they did, they lay curled around each other with Adams head on Ronans upper body.
“I wanted to make it a surprise, asshat. They told me yesterday-“
Ronans shoved him, when he said that.
“hey! I just said, that I wanted to surprise you! And so, I had stuff to do today, like packing things up, like terminating my apartment, like-“
“Stop right there, Parrish! Why would you need to terminate your apartment?”
When Adam looked up to meet Ronans stare, the grin on his face could only be described as shit eating.
“Oh, I haven`t told you the best part, yet. My new promotion requires me to become junior partner at the office in D.C. So, it appears that I must move, such an inconvenience. You don`t incidentally know someone who lives close to D.C., do you Lynch? Maybe someone who has a place where I can sleep during the week? The commute won`t be a problem. And I have certain talents that would be useful in paying the rent~”
A distant part of Ronans brain wondered when Adam had become such a cheeky bastard. The lager part was trying to process this new information.
“You absolute asshole! You- god… I am so in love with you and yet I still can`t believe what a total shithead you are… you did it again, Parrish, you completely destroyed my fucking brain.”
“Brave of you to assume that you had a functioning brain to begin with”
Still high from all the good news, Adam was unable to stop pestering Ronan.
“Hah! At least pretend to be swooned by my elaborate compliments. Because if you stay this cocky, I might have to lock you in the barns with the chickens. And they are dream chicken and they like a snack”
But the only answer Adam gave was a hum before he leaned forward and started kissing again. That was at least the plan. But Ronan stopped him:
“No, later, tell me more. I might be just as horny as you are right now, but you better believe that we finish this conversation.”
They had grown up in recent years.
“Teenage Ronan would not recognize you… but okay lousy, old, boring Ronan: I got promoted. I start in three weeks in the office in D.C. I need to sort a few things out back at my old apartment and they want me to do a health checkup, but besides that I am a free man.”
“You are free?”
“You could say, that I have three weeks of vacation, dumbass”
“I am never baking your favorite pie ever again, Parrish”
“I love you”
There was a short pause when their gazes caught each other. Both were grinning.
“Does that mean we finished talking?”
Ronan rolled his eyes. As much as he loved his partner, when Adam was in the mood, he was entirely focused on getting there. There were downsides to dating a high-profile lawyer. This was not one of them. He nodded.
“`Cause I really want to get to the part where I fuck you senseless~”
Adam knew when he woke up, that today would be a bad day. Every bone of his body tried to push through his skin. The mattress hurt his back and every part of his pajama-clad skin itched. The analytical part of his brain noted, that he had to tell Ronan to buy a new laundry detergent.
The rest of his brain was focused on not throwing up. There would not even be anything to throw up, as Adam had vetoed food the evening before. But even retching would exhaust him so much that he could do nothing for the rest of the day.
Having finished the third of eight rounds of treatment, Adams body was starting to consume his reserves. Not that he had that much to begin with. But Adam finally started to look sick. Without having to open his eyes or looking into a mirror he knew that the bags under his eyes were darker than they had ever been. For the first time in forever his ribs were visible again.
But that was not the problem, at least not right now: Right now, all that mattered was not throwing up all over the mattress and Ronan and himself. With each breath nausea tried to overcome him. Stomach acid needled its way up his throat. He wanted Ronan and he wanted Ronan to do something. But even the task of waking Ronan up would upset his stomach more.
A silent whimper escaped him. But no, he was Adam Parrish, he could do this. As long as he breathed evenly everything would turn out okay. His eyes pressed close and his lips in a tight line, Adam tried to think of better times. Of summers spent with Ronan, Opal and their friends. Of Blues crazy make up ideas and how she always insisted on trying them on Ronan. How she did Adams nails.
Breathing was a bit easier now.
Adam could feel Ronan shift besides him. Just this small motion triggered Adams gag reflex. And even though Adam managed to force it back down, Ronan woke up. And immediately realized that something was wrong.
“Hgh… Adam? Oh, do you need to throw up? Sorry, just…”
Keeping his eyes closed the only thing Adam could feel was the wobble of the bed and then the sound of Ronan’s naked feet on the parquet. Moments later, that felt like hours, his steps returned. Adam could feel the cold hand of his partner on his forehead.
“Hey, Adam… look at me, okay? I have a bucket. You can throw up. No, problem. Okay? Just look at me.”
Adam hated the fear he could so clearly hear in Ronans voice. So, instead of keeping still he opened his eyes. He had to blink a few times so the unshed tears stopped blurring his vision. Ronan bowed over him and just as Adam wanted to tell him, that it was okay, that he had it under control, the nausea decided to have a forceful comeback.
Gagging Adam tried to lean away from Ronan, who grabbed the bucket and helped Adam sit up. With his hands clinging to the bucket, Adam threw up. And he had been right. There was not all that much that could escape Adams body this way. Which did not mean that it didn`t hurt. Stomach acid burned in his throat and made the disgusting taste, which had become a permanent resident in his mouth, even less bearable.
“Hey, everything alright… sh… get that stuff out of your system…”
Ronan had sat down at one point, behind Adam so that he could hold him and rub his back in soothing circles. With each retch, a few more tears escaped Adams eyes. He had closed them again. Mostly so he did not have to see his own sick, but also because every muscle in his body convulsed from the exertion of throwing up. God, he hated being sick.
“That`s what you get for leading such a harsh party life, Parrish”
Adam felt himself relax a little. Ronans attempt at humor made it somewhat more bearable. Feeling his body loosening up a little, Ronan made a satisfied noise. Adam could hear his smile.
After what felt like hours his body decided to play along. Having finally realized that there was nothing left to throw up, the nausea settled down enough, so that Adam could lean back against Ronan.
His voice was rough, but at least he was able to talk without the threat of throwing up.
“Well, hello Sunshine! Has someone already told you how beautiful you are today? If not, feel validated and loved by this very message, delivered by your hot and awesome date, Ronan Lynch!”
Adam managed a weak chuckle. Ever since the first round of treatment Ronan had started to counteract Adams depressive spells by being overly chipper. It did not always work and sometimes Ronan was the one who could not take it, but today it was exactly what Adam needed.
“You are one sick man, Ronan Lynch, and I hope you know it”
Ronan could hear the smile in Adams voice as well.
Their three weeks of vacation had been magical to say the least. But there was a job to be done and Adam had not been assigned junior partner at the age of 28 by being lax when it came to work.
He arrived early on his first day in D.C. with a box full of his things in his hands and the urge to do something. And that he did. He put his favorite pictures of his friends on the wall, almost destroyed the coffee machine and then repaired it and learned the names of all his colleges.
He was adored. His strict but ultimately nice nature only helped him gather the respect of the other lawyers and the interns as well. It was only his first week – he was only handed a few cases – and everyone already knew, that this man would achieve partner within a few years.
With was why Adam was not overly surprised to be called into his boss’s office during his second week on the job. It was normal for the higher ups to scrutinize the newbie for a bit before calling them in to talk about their assignments and the expectations they had to fulfill.
What Adam did not suspect when he entered the office, was for his boss to look this somber. Had he made a mistake? It was surely not that grave.
“Please sit down, Mr. Parrish”
His boss, Mrs. Joyce, had a very strong and deep voice that did not fit her petit body frame. But the look she sent him made sure that Adam sat down immediately.
“Mrs. Joyce, god morning. I hope everything is alright?”
Being polite was one thing Adam could count on. His voice did not waver and not even the weird look in her eyes could unsettle this trained behavior.
“Ah, yes, Mr. Parrish, we have been quite elated by your work so far. The way you handled the Jenkins-case was admirable. It is no wonder the New York office was almost unwilling to let you go.”
Adams heart skipped a beat just hearing the compliment, even though he couldn`t imagine Mrs. Joyce to be anything close to elated. However, most people thought that about him, too.
“Thank you. Then what appears to be the problem? I don`t assume that you just asked me come to your office for a nice chat”
“No, you are right, Mr. Parrish. There is another reason for you to be here.”
She paused. If she had been off put by Adams straight forward question, she did not show it. She was working as and with lawyers after all. It seemed more like she was gathering her thoughts.
“We got a call this morning from the doctor’s office. They have your blood results”
Of course, Adam remembered the health checkup a few weeks ago. It had just not seemed important anymore after being initially cleared for work. But Adam was no idiot, he knew, that her calling him meant that something was amiss. For a hopeful second Adam entertained the idea that they had found remnants of Cabeswater in his body. That it would be magic and not his health that lay on the dissecting table. But that hope did not stand the test of time.
“They told me, that a few of your results are alarmingly high. They would like you to come in today for further tests.”
Breathing. That was all Adam could focus on right now. He was not ready for his life to be shitty again. He was finally happy. He had a job he liked, a stable relationship and friends to die for. Could he not enjoy that for a bit longer?
“Mr. Parrish? I know, that this is a lot to take in, but the health of my employees is one of the most important work values. So, I would appreciate it if you took the rest of the day off and went to the doctors. Is that alright? Do I need to call you an Uber?”
Her voice taking on that concerned almost pitying undertone was what it took to shake him out of his stupor. He sat up and looked her straight in the eye.
“No, thank you. I am quite capable of driving myself. I would be happy to finish my work, however, before making my way to the doctor. It that alright?”
Probably a bit stunned by his sudden change in demeanor, Mrs. Joyce nodded. Leaving her office Adam tried not to think too much about what was going to come.
He sat in his car, waiting for the sun to set. He just finished at the doctors and had yet to call Ronan. But Ronan would know that something was wrong if Adam did not at least call him to tell him, that he would be late. Taking a deep breath, he pressed call.
“Hello, Parrish, you are late, and I hope your shitty excuse is going to be better than the meatloaf I made”
Just hearing Ronans voice made it impossible for Adam to keep this secret for any longer.
Instantly Ronans voice had taken on a different tone. Gone was the flippant note that always hid in everything Ronan said and there was the voice of his loving partner, who knew something was wrong.
“I needed to stay longer because… something came up and… I… I… really don`t know how to say… damn it!”
The words just didn`t want to come. His breath came faster, and Adam knew, his frustration would get the better of him sooner or later. He really hoped later.
“Adam, you scare me… what is the matter?”
“Sorry… it`s just… I really love you and this job and everything and it was finally working out and now I am scared…”
“Adam, please tell me what’s going on… please…”
Adam git the wheel of his car with his fist. The pain calmed him down for a second, long enough to gather his thoughts, to tell Ronan.
“I got called in at work because my blood test results did not look good… and they send me to the doctors… and… and I just went and got back and… and they won`t tell me what it is, Ronan, but they want me to come back the day after tomorrow. I have some fucked up disease and they won`t even tell me, Ronan!”
With each word out of Adams mouth, Ronans breath had hitched. Now, they sat there, not next to each other, but cities apart in the darkness sharing their fear with each other.
“Where are you right now?”
Despite his worry, Ronans voice sounded remarkable steady through the phone. But Adam knew that there was nothing steady about Ronan right now.
“In the parking lot in front of the doctor’s office. Why?”
“Because I want you to get a fucking motel room, I am driving up there and then I am going to hug you till you can`t stand my face”
“What tells you that I can stand your face at all?”
“The fact that you called…”
That shut Adam up. He wished for a bit more banter, something to get his mind away from all the anxiety boiling in his stomach, but the emotional truth in Ronans words made him swallow.
“No, I get it, Parrish. Just go to a motel, I`ll be there in a few hours. I just have to make sure the witches take Opal, okay? I love you”
“Love you, too…”
The fifth round of treatment and Adam finally started losing his hair. He had been waiting for it. The one sign to tell the world, that, yes, he had cancer.
The longer he stared at his face in the mirror the more surreal is became. Everyone always said being ill made you look old, but Adam thought to himself that it had been a long time since he had looked so young.
He looked like his teenage self. Hollow cheeks, almost non-existent eyebrows, bruises under his eyes, bruises on his arms and upper body - blood coagulation was a bitch when your liver decided to fuck off.
The only new thing was, that he slowly started to turn yellow. And that his hair decided to fall out.
It was not even that noticeable yet but whenever Adam touched his hair, at least a few strands fell out. He had read somewhere that hair loss only becomes apparent when over 50% of the hair is gone. He seemed to be nearing that point.
There was knocking on the door. Probably a doctor telling him that he was ready to go. That he could go home and feel miserable for two weeks before being sent back into the hell that was active chemo therapy. And that would not even be the end of this. If the tests showed that his cancer responded to the treatment the next step would be radiotherapy. What fun being alive was.
“Shithead get out of there! Other people want to use the toilet, too!”
Ronan. Of course, it was Ronan. Who probably felt really smug for acting as if he didn`t know that Adam was the one blocking the toilet. With a frustrated sigh, Adam turned around and opened the door, only to stare into the face of an indeed very surprised Ronan.
“Oh, sorry… you ready?”
All the energy Adam had held in the prospect of fighting Ronan vanished the second Ronan got that guilty look on his face for treating Adam like Adam. He missed their fights, he missed just being without also being sick.
“Yes, sure. I think a doctor still wanted to talk to me? I should probably check that out. You can use the toilet.”
And with that Adam passed by Ronan. He went and searched for the doctor, was reminded again by a nurse to eat enough and finally got the papers for his discharge. When he turned around, Ronan was waiting for him at the infirmary door, a stony expression on his face. Adam was almost happy – an angry Ronan didn`t treat him like glass.
He was so sick of people treating him like glass.
“Let`s go, Lynch”
He should feel chipper because two weeks at the Barns awaited him and not because Ronan was angry at him. But he knew that there was very little enjoying going to happen, with his body coming down from the high of the drugs currently still circulating his system.
Ronan waited till they sat in the car before he finally broke.
“When were you going to tell me about your hair?”
Shit. Adam had been so focused on getting out of that bathroom that he totally forgot the strands of his hair just laying around. He didn`t even try to hide his groan.
“What is there to hide? I am losing my hair, just like every fucking cancer patient ever. Nothing new…”
It hurt when Ronan looked at Adam like this. Like Adam had just broken his heart again. Adam was unable to care for Ronan. Hell, Adam was unable to care for himself right now.
“Adam, please, talk to me. I… I am not going to lie. I am hurt and angry and… God, you drive me up a wall half the time! I mean, what am I supposed to do to help you? Kill you?”
“Yes! That would at least stop this shitshow that is our relationship!”
Ronan stared. He almost severed the car from the road when the words Adam just said registered. His voice was dangerously low, when he spoke again:
Adam knew he should say sorry. He knew objectively that both of them were just tired and hurt and really stressed out. So, he took the least confrontational way his beaten pride could accept.
“No, you don`t get to whatever me, Adam. You better explain yourself because I can`t take the shitshow that is our failed communication any longer. It`s like we`re seventeen again, thinking with our dicks and egos instead of talking like the fucking adults we are! So, get over your pride, take one for the team and tell me what the fuck is wrong!”
They should probably not fight while driving, with Ronan accelerating whenever he made a point. But Adam had not felt this alive for weeks. The adrenaline was pumping through his blood. He was ready for this.
“’take on for the team’ and ‘what the fuck is wrong’?! Asshole, I am dying over here! I did everything to survive my teens and now I probably won`t see my thirties! My hair is falling out! I look like my dad just beat the shit out of me and the last time I had even the tinniest bit of hunger was months ago! I feel like throwing up every second of every day and –“
Adams voice had started strong, but slowly it slipped. The repressed tears made their way into his eyes and he had to blink furiously to stop them from actually falling. Ronan showed no indication that he wanted Adam to stop.
“And I make you cry. Don`t deny it. I am sick not dumb. I know that you cry in the bathroom when you think I can`t hear it. I know that you call Blue late at night to tell her about all of this… and yet, you lie to me. You act as if you’re this shitty chipper Ronan that has nothing to do with the real you. You make me feel shitty for feeling shitty.”
There were tears now. Silently running down his cheeks while his voice lost any vigor.
“Then what am I supposed to do, Adam? Please, just… I have no idea anymore…”
“I don`t know. All I know is that chemo turns me into an asshole… I am sorry, Ronan, I really am. And please believe me, when I tell you that I love you. But… I am just so tired.”
Silence. They drove for multiple miles before Ronan finally – thank god! – answered:
“I am sorry, too. I don`t want you to feel like you can`t talk to me. And that you have be… You are currently ill and that means that you are feeling shitty and fucked up, but you are also feeling shitty and fucked up because you are trying to get better and please, never, ever say that you are dying ever again. Please. I can`t take that…”
There was too much suffering in this car.
Adam did not say that he didn`t mean it but they both decided to overhear that unsaid implication.
“Okay. Here is my offer: I am going to try to no longer hide my emotions from you. I am going to tell you when I get awfully sad or angry or frustrated. No more fake happy Ronan, alright? But I want something in return from you.”
“I want you to tell me when you are in pain. Because you might call me dumb for thinking I am capable of hiding my crying, but I can give that right back when it comes to you and pain. I see it. I see how you shut your eyes when the nausea is especially bad, and I see it when breathing hurts you. Don`t think I am not looking at you. I am always looking at you, okay?”
Adam swallowed. He wanted the bad taste to go away, fully aware that it was the emotional situation that made it hard to focus on anything else. He sighted.
“Yes. Okay. I am going to try and be less of a proud bitch when it comes to myself. Happy?”
“Alright! You want emotional vulnerability times two, so here; you can have it! Thank you, I appreciate it and yes, I am going to try, but I feel already like I am fraying at the edges and you are not there to focus me. I mean, you are here. Constantly. But I can`t touch you. I can`t forget myself in you because that kind of physical contact is out of the question and I miss sleeping in your embrace and feeling safe. But now, no salvia is shared and half the time we don`t even kiss because we are so afraid of me getting sick. And… honestly, that makes it hard to share stuff with you. Because we are so physically distant that it is hard to imagine us being emotionally close.”
It was as if air flooded his lungs for the first time since forever. Adam could breath again. It didn`t even matter what Ronan said in response, all that mattered was, that Adam had finally said, what he wanted to say.
Adam stared. Had Ronan really just made a dumb joke about a sexual innuendo? Shortly after bulling Adam to confess his feelings?
“I really must be moronsexual. There is no other way why this joke should otherwise not be the reason for our breakup. Wow…”
“I love you. And sorry. I am trying to be better in the future.”
“I know. Me too”
“We need to tell Gansey”
It came out of the blue. They had been sitting right next to each other on the coach, trying really hard not to think about the phone call they had received earlier that day. Talk about a ruined Sunday.
Adams voice was tiny. Ronan had not heard him talk like that since forever. But he could understand. Nobody deserved to be woken up by such a message.
They had waited weeks for the results of all of these tests. After the first shook, Adam had gone back to the doctor and over the next few days multiple tests had been conducted: a MRI, a sonography, and some weird serum that was supposed to help identify stuff. But with the tests being done, the only thing left to do was waiting.
Adam went back to work and worrying, Ronan to his farm and Opal and they waited.
And they had been doing exactly that until this morning. Which did not mean that the actual diagnosis made anything better.
“Yes, he gets awfully prissy if we keep secrets from him. Sargent and Cheng, too.”
Adam knew that Ronan was right. But that did not mean that it made dialing the number any easier.
“You are right. Okay, let`s do this…”
And with that Adam pressed dial on their Skype call.
They had long since stopped trying to use the phone when all of them were involved in a call and since then Skype had been their friend. Henry as of recently tried to fill them with enthusiasm for Discord, which was some sort of gaming website. He had not yet succeeded.
“Well, hello, what did we do to deserve your call this early on a Sunday? Should you not be in church, Lynch?”
It was Henry who answered the call. It was at least 11 o’clock but Henry was quite obviously still in bed as not only apparent by his surroundings but also by the fact that his hair had not yet reached sky scraper heights. After a bit of rustling two other heads popped into view: A disgruntled looking Blue and a weirdly impeccable Gansey.
“Morning! And I don`t want to discourage you, but Henry is right, you are normally in church at this time of the day?”
Gansey sounded baffled. And he should be. Ronan could count the times he missed church on one hand. It had never been his choice to not go. Out of view of their friends Adam grabbed Ronans hand and squeezed it.
“Yeah, normally, you weirdos. But there was something we had to tell you, so-“
“Are you two morons finally getting married?”
Blue interrupted Ronan, still to sleepy to discern that the nervousness Ronan and Adam expressed did not stem from a happy opportunity.
Adam was tongue tied. In his whole career as a lawyer he had never been lost for words, but trying to tell his friends about this, about the tragedy that had only just begun, he went silent. It was Ronan who saved him. Like usual.
“No, we are actually calling because of something much more… serious”
“Ronan? Is everything okay with the both of you?”
There was honest concern in Ganseys voice. With his eyebrows drawn together and his glasses almost slipping from his nose, Gansey resembled a worried father.
“You are not breaking up, are you?”
Ronan was already regretting his choice to call the trio while they were together. This conversation would pass by so much faster if it was only Gansey Ronan had to tell. But no, if they would tell Gansey they had to tell all of their friends together.
Adam shifted beside him. He seemed to be getting ready for something. So, Ronan was not surprised to hear Adam speak next:
“No, Henry, we are not breaking up. If we did that you would have probably already been disturbed during your nightly activities by Ronan calling Blue and me calling Gansey. No, it`s about something else. You see… we… I got a phone call this morning from the hospital…”
When Adam stopped speaking for a second nobody dared to interrupt. The worry stood in all of their faces. There was something unsettling, Ronan thought, about being stared at by three late-twenties in bed.
“They want me to schedule my chemotherapy.”
More silence. That, Ronan could understand. What could you possibly say after a bomb drop like this? He, himself, at not been able to say much at all when Adam had gotten off the phone this morning. What can you say when the world suddenly pulled the rug? My condolences?
But nobody said anything or stopped Adam, so he continued. As long as his mouth formed words, the constant panic was bearable.
“I have cancer. Liver cancer to be more exact. It`s still in the early stages. They only caught it because of the blood test I had to take for my promotion. If that had not happened, I would have probably started to feel shitty in a few months and by then it might have been to late and now… I don`t know what now. Can someone please just say something to shut me up… I-“
It was both infuriating and calming to hear Blue snap at him with this order. He instantly shut up and took a deep breath. Their relationship might have been of a short duration, but Blue left an imprint on every person she cared for.
But that did not mean that the silence did not hold them in an iron grip. There they sat, five people who shared everything together over magic, love and death and yet, faced with the mundanity of cancer nobody knew what to say.
“How… how are you dealing with it so far?”
Ganseys voice was gentle. You could not look at Gansey and not see the love he held for all of them. Just one glance into his face and you knew, that Gansey wanted nothing more than to step through the screen, so he could hug Adam and Ronan in person.
“How do I deal with anything? I try really hard not to think about it. God, why did this have to happen… I am not ready for everything to go to shit again.”
Ronan bumped his shoulder gently against Adams, after he had stopped speaking. Before the silence could get its grasp on them again, Ronan continued where Adam had left off:
“I think right now, we need a plan. This shithead decided to continue working until the treatment actually starts and that is in two and a half weeks. That should be enough time to get everything ready.”
There was so much raw power in Ronan voice, that Adam was slightly turned on by it. But what kind of messed up situation was that? Getting turned on by your partner being decisive about your illness. His body seemed devoted to betray him in more ways than one.
“What needs to be done? We are going to help wherever we can! I am booking flights right now!”
The mess that was Blue&Gansey&Henry had their current residence in Vancouver, but they never had any problem with leaving their base behind. Only hearing them say that they would come made it easier for Ronan to breath.
“Yes, so, for one: Someone else has to take care of the farm aspects, at least the ones directly involving the animals. I don`t want to risk anything. I am unsure about Chainsaw but to be on the safe side… Gansey would you look after her? She likes you best after Parrish.”
When she heard her name, Chainsaw chawed from her perch in the living room. Gansey only nodded. There was a special kind of honor in being given Chainsaw.
“Opal--- I honestly don`t know what to do about Opal. It should be okay, kids are okay as long as they don`t stick their hands into your mouth but what if she drags something inside from the woods? Are her furry legs gonna be a problem? I…”
The question of Opal had put Ronan in a tight spot. What should he do? What could he do? It was then, that Adam clinked himself back into the conversation. It was just as always: Constantly saving each other.
“Blue? Could you ask your mother if it would be okay if Opal stayed with her? At least until Ronan sorted himself out on the question under which category she falls.”
Blue nodded. Adam loved his friends. They were ready to fly across a country just to help him and he knew that would do everything humanly possible to make sure he got healthy again.
“And Henry? If you could do some research regarding healthy food supplements and stuff I should better not come in contact with?”
“Already at it. I started the second you told us. I`ve got you, bro!”
They were pure magic.
“Do you need money? How are you paying for it?”
Ronan had to actually stifle a laugh. Of course, Gansey was going to be the one who asked the question inappropriate enough to shock during a cancer talk.
“I have been a well earning member of society for some time now, Gansey, and as horrible as the American health system is, my job provides me with an insurance that covers the costs of my treatment. And even if nothing of that were the case, I still am in a relationship with a rich bastard”
The rich bastard in question blew a kiss against Adams neck.
“The two of you are sickly sweet. I ship it!”
Adam laughed. And on the other side of the country his friends laughed with him. Happy for this moment of content.
Adam had meant it, when he said that he felt a bit dizzy.
His final round of treatment was two days away and all he could do was lay in bed and go over old cases of his law firm. They had fought about that, but Adam had won, telling Ronan that he needed to do something, that there was no universe in which Adam Parrish would not at least try to work during a sickness.
He also had to get his boss to agree. But after a few talks she had agreed to let Adam do some intern work: Filing old documents and sorting through court transcripts. It was easy work but at least it was something to do. And there would be no problem caused by Adam unable to file some things for a few days.
That still changed nothing when it came to Adam feeling dizzy. With a sigh Adam pushed the files onto the other side of the bed. He would do something about that later.
Sleep was out of the question, with a restlessness embed in his bones that he could not explain. So, instead he decided to search for Ronan who supposedly worked away somewhere in the house. Adam could not trust his hearing for locating him since the dizziness made it hard to focus on where a noise came from.
But he would try anyways. With cautious motions, Adam swung his legs out of bed. They were dangerously thin, just like the rest of his body. Liver cancer had the nice side effect of destroying your liver (duh!) and making sure that nutriments had no way to get into your blood. That and chemotherapy did a number on your appetite.
While standing up, he let one hand rest on the wall for support. It was horribly exhausting just getting up and looking around Adam could feel his heart beat accelerating. But something like that did not stop him.
Slowly making his way out of their bedroom, Adam caught a look of himself in the mirror. It was shocking but not surprising what he saw: yellow skin, hollowed cheeks and no longer any hair, though that was hidden away under a Blink-182 beanie. It was one of the least terrible hat options Ronan had produced.
Adam did not want to look at himself any longer, but when he turned around the dizziness sneaked up on him. One moment he was standing, the next the floor came rushing towards him. Then, nothing.
Ronan was in the kitchen making a smoothie in the hopes that Adam would at least drink that, when he heard the thump. He instantly knew that something was wrong.
His legs carried him up the stairs in a few strides and it took less than a minute for him to reach the bed room, but it already felt like he was too late. Adam was on the floor. Just crumpled in a heap next to the mirror.
Ronan didn`t want to know how he had gotten there, he just wanted to know, if he was alright. Crouching next to Adam he gently checked if Adam was responsive, but his partner stayed silent and still. Like dead. No, Ronan would not think like that! He could not think like that.
There was a pulse. Having found at least a sign of life, Ronan could gather his thoughts enough to know what he had to do next: Call an ambulance. And hope that it would turn out okay. He was not ready. He was not ready for things to get any worse.
One phone call and an unlocked front door later, Ronan sat on the floor of their bedroom cradling Adams unresponsive form. He was crying. There was nothing he could do about it. Ever since Adam had gotten his diagnose, Ronan feared for him. They had their ups and downs, certain things had gotten so much harder, but Ronan loved this man and he needed him to survive.
They could work on their issues when Adam was better but right now, Ronan wanted Adam to smile at him, call him an idiot for worrying and tell him just how much he loved him. He was not ready for any of this.
And he was still not ready when the paramedics came and took Adam away from his arms.
“We are getting married. I already called a minister…”
There were multiple factors that told him, that something was amiss when he woke up. Ronans complete nonsense sentence was one of them. The other was the fact that he could hear the distant sound of a hospital in the background. And that Ronan had sounded utterly distressed while muttering.
“Okay, but I am not taking your last name”
Adam had not yet opened his eyes, still too focused on accessing the situation. Something bad had happened but his head was too fuzzy with pain killers as that he could remember what it was.
When he finally did compel his eyes to open, all he could see was Ronans face with all the worry lines etched into it. Adam made Ronan look older. If he had the energy, Adam would try to smoothen out every single line with a kiss.
“You fainted, that happened, asshat! And then you hit your head while fainting which means that you have a nice concussion as a souvenir.”
That explained quite a few things. His eyes wanted to go back to sleep, but Adam had not yet finished this conversation.
“And why does this stem a sudden urge to marry me? It`s a bit late after ten years, isn`t it?”
The medication made Adam unfocused and blurred out everything besides Ronan, but it took more than a concussion for Adam to stop being self-righteous.
“They wouldn`t let me into your room while you were unconscious. At least not until some nurse found the paper where I am listed as your emergency contact and said that they would make an exception, but that I normally had to wait until you were awake again. Because I am just your partner and not your husband…”
There was real panic in Ronan’s voice. It was not hard to guess what he was thinking about: What if it got worse? What if it was something else besides low blood sugar that ended with Adam in the hospital? What if there was an emergency and Ronan was not allowed at Adams side?
Even though it felt like the most strenuous act Adam untucked his hand from under the blanket and hold it out, so Ronan could grasp it.
“I am still here, asshat.”
He squeezed Ronans hand, soaking up every bit of warmth it could give him. All he wanted was to ignore the heavy machinery in the room and to cuddle with Ronan until they both felt better. But that was sadly not a possibility.
“So, when does the minister arrive? And I stand by it, I am not taking the Lynch name. I have a brand to uphold.”
Ronan laughed. Some of the lines on his face vanished when he did that only to be replaced by laugh lines. They had worked hard to achieve these kinds of wrinkles.
“You are impossible, and I love you!”
Ignoring the hospital policy Ronan worked his way halfway onto the bad, cautiously trying not to disturb any cables or the IV. In the end Ronan managed to bury his face in Adams neck.
“Are we really doing this? Are we marrying? Because that means we have to call Gansey…”
It was weird thing to think, but Adam was immensely happy right now.
“We can secretly elope and tell no-one, we could marry right now, and I would be one of the happiest men alive”
It came to no surprise when Ronan kissed him, but the tender touch undid Adam. Both were careful not to involve any salvia or tongue, yet it still made his heart beat faster and his body warm.
“I really miss your dick…”
Ronan broke the kiss just to look at Adam and laugh. They were two impossible creatures. Two impossible creatures about to be chewed out by a nurse:
“I hope I did not just see, what I saw? I told the both of you that this is unnecessarily dangerous!”
The first appointment awaited them. Adam had used the last few weeks to tie things up at the office and to make sure he would leave no unnecessary work behind. He would come back. He swore that to himself. This would just be a sick leave.
Ronan had – with the help of Gansey&Blue&Henry - readied the house. There was a bag waiting for Adam full of things he might need for his first hospital stay. It was hard to hug his friends goodbye and to know that he would be pumped full of medicine in a few hours. Opal stood at the front door looking at him with her big frightened eyes. And even though she was ageless, Adam could not deny the fatherly feelings he had for her. Hugging her and knowing that she would be at Maura’s house for the foreseeable future was hard. But had to be done.
Adam bit his goodbyes and got into the car with Ronan.
His friends stood outside, looking after the car until it was long gone.
The hospital loomed dangerously over them. Adam knew that it would save his life, but he could not shake the feeling that he would hate it nonetheless.
They entered together, knowing full well that there would be enough time spent apart.
Everything was so sterile and white and busy when they entered. People hurried past them, numbers and locations where announced via the intercom, and nobody cared for two scared men standing in their midst.
It took a while for them to find the front desk of the oncology. The nurse sitting behind the counter looked nice and when she asked for name and social security number, Adam knew that she cared for every patient of this ward.
They were told to wait, that a doctor would come for one last consultation of the therapy plan before they would be shown to the room Adam would call his for the coming week. Adam took Ronans hand. He hold onto it like it was his life line. During the horror of the last few weeks Adam had somehow never thought he would actually sit on this chair. The time had come.
The doctor showed up. It was a stern looking woman, Dr. Penthust read her name tag, and she asked for them to come into her office. When they both attempted to stand up, Adam turned to look at Ronan:
“Can you please wait outside?”
Ronan looked confused, but it was Dr. Penthust that spoke up:
“Your partner is allowed inside the meeting room. There are no policies against it.”
“Oh, I know. I just think I have to do this for myself by myself. If that is alright?”
The doctor nodded before heading into her office. Adam had looked his gaze with Ronan, trying to non-verbally communicate with him. He had to do this alone.
“Wait for me?”
Inside the doctor’s office, everything seemed to have its place. Adam sat down, looking at Dr. Penthust without any reservation. He was as ready as he would ever be to hear about the coming weeks of treatment.
“To get things going, I am not going to beat around the bush: Liver cancer is dangerous and often times terminal. You are lucky, as we were able to catch it relatively early. It has not yet spread any further than your liver. The carcinoma is inoperable, sadly, so we have to move forward with an aggressive cytostatic therapy.”
Adam tried to breath through the onslaught of information. The doctor did really not pull her punches. He nevertheless nodded. He could follow so far.
“This means that we are going to put you through eight rounds of treatment, each of which is going to be harsh on your body. After that we are going to perform another biopsy and decide if we can move forward with radiotherapy. Everything clear?”
“Yes… I was just wondering what your thoughts on alternative therapies are that accompany the chemo?”
The doctor took a deep breath. This was going to take longer than anticipated.
Outside Ronan was waiting. He could feel the looks of the nurses passing by and the families that avoided looking at him so much, it was uncomfortable. Ronan had not thought of the implication of sitting in the waiting room of a cancer doctor with a shaved head.
Would Adam share any better, when he lost his hair? Was Adam even going to lose it? Ronan had done everything to make their home cancer save, while also trying to avoid looking at any information online at all. He did not want to know what could go wrong and how high the success rates were. That was information Ronan could life without with. He was almost grateful for Adam letting him wait outside.
At least until an elderly lady joined him in the waiting room. Ronan tried to avoid her attention by looking at his phone and staring at the messages from Gansey, Blue, Declan and Maura. They all wanted to know how they were doing, if Adam had taken that disgusting tea with him and if Ronan was holding up. He could not answer a single one of them.
But the lady decided to talk to him anyways:
“Oh, it`s nice outside, isn`t it?”
Ronan could not care less about the weather, so anxious he had already forgotten how the outside looked, only by being in this hospital for an hour. But while he was an asshole to his peers, he could be quite pleasant when it came to the elderly.
“Yes, the weather is almost too good to spend it inside like this…”
“My dear, you are right! How long have you been ill?”
When she saw his puzzled look, she pointed to his head, freshly shaven just this morning. Something hot surged through Ronans body, but he pushed it down. He was almost thirty and not going to fight with an old lady just because he was frustrated with himself.
“I am not ill. I am here with my partner. They are the one unfortunate enough to end up here…”
Playing the pronoun game was not lying and Ronan really did not want to have a discussion about the inner workings of his sexuality. He was too old for that. And too tired.
“Of course, that is so brave of you! Standing by their side and even shaving your head in support! I wish my husband would have done that when I fist got sick… he is dead, now”
Okay. This was a bit too much for Ronan.
“I am very sorry about your husband –“
She waved him off.
“But I am not shaving my head to show support. If you get down to it, my partner got cancer, so he had a valid reason to imitate my hairstyle! Because I am a trendsetter, believe it or not!”
In the deafening silence that followed, Ronan could hear his erratic heartbeat. Why did he always say dumb shit when he panicked? The old lady had accidentally pushed a button Ronan didn`t even know he had and now he was the kind of idiot that yelled awful things in the ontology ward.
“Now, Mr. Trendsetter, would you like to follow me with your partner, so I can show both of you his room?”
In his panic induced inner monologue Ronan had not heard the door of the office opening. When he turned to look at the doctor she smirked. Behind her stood Adam helplessly stifling a laugher.
The whole Gangsey had gathered to wait out the results of the second biopsy together.
Which meant that they all holed up at the Barns together, watching movies and making dumb jokes. They were currently fighting over who got to choose the next movie, with Adam silently sitting in their midst, almost buried underneath a heap of blankets.
“All I am saying is that Cinderella is a shitty Disney movie and we should all be thankful that there are so many other movies to choose from, because if I have to see her dumb face looking surprised for on more moment, I am going to scream!”
The Disney debate had been going on for quite a while now, but Ronan only started to get really into it like half an hour ago. Which did not mean that the others were not happy to entertain him.
“It may not be the best movie they ever made, but we have to value our roots! And we have to value Disney`s roots! Lynch! It is not that hard…”
“I just want to say that I am still in favor of Mulan. Cinderella can lick my ass for all I care-“
“I understood that reference!”
The last bit was yelled by Ronan, Blue and Henry at the same time. Adam laughed with them when they dissolved into a heap of giggles. Whenever all five of them were in the same room, a special kind of energy did emerge. Everything was easier: Breathing, laughing, eating. Existing.
In the end they decided on a movie none of them liked: The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.
They were halfway through when Adam stated to chuckle. They sent multiple confused looks into his direction. The movie was really not that good. But Adam just shrugged:
“I just thought, that I would be a perfect SpongeBob for the live action reboot. They could even save up the color they would usually need to paint the actor yellow…”
He didn`t even care that nobody else thought that funny. Adam had found his own way of dealing with weird physique: Bad, apathic humor. It was better than falling apart at the seams.
“What did I say about depressing jokes, Parrish?”
“Only during working hours and Saturday from 10 to 12?”
Adam lightly bumped against Ronan, before snuggling closer. Ronan answered by massaging Adams head through the Coca-Cola beanie he wore. The content hum was audible for everyone in the room.
“The two of you are still disgustingly in love and apparently married?”
“Aw, fuck off, maggot! How did you find out?”
There was somewhat of a commotion after Blue not only dropping the bomb, but Ronan validating her.
“My moms a psychic? Did you really think you could keep it from me?”
She was smug like kettle corn. Gansey besides her had yet to close his mouth. He just stared at Blue and Ronan, Adam and Blue again.
“What? And you didn`t tell me?”
There was honest shock in his voice. Ronan cringed. He knew it was going to end this way…
“It was all Adams fault. He said he wanted to elope and tell nobody!”
“And you are a fucking snitch, Lynch, I would punish you with a sex ban, but as we both are currently getting none, I am going to have to find another punishment!”
Henry hollered hearing Adams response. It did nothing to let the commotion die down. Gansey still stared at them, now with his accusing look focused on Adam. Blue laughed so hard, tears were streaming down her face.
“Adam… why didn`t you tell me?”
“We just didn`t want to make a big deal out of it, you know. It was more of a logical decision, so…”
Adam shrugged. What else could he say? That they had done it in case Ronan needed to make life or death decisions for Adam? Yes, and kill the mood instantly. Adam hadn`t thought so.
Gansey seemed to be coming to the same conclusion. It was after all a logical to see the possible reasons for their decision. Because as much as they all tried to keep the mood light, they all knew why the were here. They all waited for a verdict on Adams life.
And the signs of his progressed situation were hard to miss: The beanies, the blankets – nobody knew how much they liked their body fat until they had none left – the somewhat sterile smell, the fact that both Chainsaw and Opal were missing from their get-together.
Other things made it even more obvious: the pill bottles in the kitchen, Ronans constant frown, and the fact that Adam slept half the time and had to be almost forced to eat something. Ronan had told Gansey on the first evening, how happy he was that they were here. That Adam was happier and could be more easily coerced into eating. And Gansey had been shocked. They should have come down earlier.
But right now, the mood was light, and everyone was happy. There was no need to fake being joyous. They were as happy as they could be.
“What? Peanut Butter and Pickle Juice? You are a bastard, Adam Parrish, and I am never speaking to you again!”
Henrys yell ripped Ganey from his thoughts. The conversation seemed to have moved on.
Adam woke up to the sound of a telephone ringing. Only one bleary eyed look into the faces of his friends told him, that it was his phone. And they all knew what that meant. The hospital had the biopsy results.
Cautiously Adam grabbed his phone from the coffee table. His voice was still rough from sleep when he answered:
During the phone call, all Adam did was nod and give murmured replies, fully aware of the intense attention he was getting from his friends. They were hanging on his lips. With a toneless “Yes, thank you, of course, I am going to call in on Monday” Adam ended the call.
The anticipation and fright was audible in Ronans voice. Adam looked him in the eyes:
“They cleared me for radiotherapy”
The room exploded.
Adam knew that it was a bad sign. Of course, it was a bad sign to be sent back to the hospital when you finally thought it was going to get better.
He had been doing radiotherapy for three weeks now, when his weight had suddenly dropped a whole pound, he could not spare. His blood coagulation was worse than ever before, and Ronan had thought he would bleed out after an accidental paper cut.
So here he was again. Feeling shitty. Laying in a hospital bed. Worrying his friends sick. Making his husband(?) cry.
There was nothing else to do, then to wait for the doctor to come and tell him what the hell was now wrong. Ronan was still at the Barns packing an overnight bag for Adam and for himself. When the doctor told them that it would be better for Adam to stay, Ronan had instantly decided to not leave his side for longer than an hour.
He felt tired to his bones. But when had he not in the six months this whole ordeal had already consumed? And Adam did not partake in kidding himself, he knew the numbers. He knew that liver cancer was a bitch, that actually getting cleared for radiotherapy had been a small miracle by itself. He knew that his body was probably ready to give up. Slowly starving himself because his liver could no longer make sure that his body was getting the right nutrients. But his mind was still strong. Adam Parrish was not yet ready to surrender. That was the one thing he was good at above anything else: Surviving.
Adam was asleep when Ronan got back. He was so much smaller than he had been months before and laying in that ginormous hospital bed, Adam almost disappeared. With a sigh Ronan sat on the chair provided for husbands, wives and friends. The longer he looked into Adams face, the more clearly, he could see the young man he had fallen in love with.
The defiant brow bone with the invisible eyebrow telling the world to fuck off. The proud jawline ready to fight for survival. The straight nose already on its way to the top.
There was no space for doubt in Adam Parrish`s face.
He had not heard her coming, too focused on his memories. When he turned around, he wanted to yell. Her face was not the face of someone delivering a good message.
“Should I wait for Mr. Parrish to wake up, or can I disclose this information with you?”
“Are you allowed to do that?”
“As I heard, the two of you got recently married, so yes, I am allowed.”
It was concerning to see a stern woman like Dr. Penthust be so gentle. Ronan did not want to know why she was so nice to him. But he would do it. Because he also didn´t want Adam to face this.
Before nodding his consent, Ronan took Adams hand in his own. Over the years it had lost some of it`s callouses but it still felt like the hand of the boy Adam had been.
“Please. Tell me.”
“The cancer is under control. We can officially say that Adam has gone into remission.”
This was a sentence that longed after a but, even though Ronan did not. He would be deliriously happy to end this conversation right here. Yeah, remission! But the world had not made a hobby out of being nice to Adam Parrish or Ronan Lynch.
“But the liver cirrhosis that was the cause of Mr. Parrish carcinoma got progressively worse during the chemotherapy. His body is slowly shutting down as his liver can no longer process all of his blood…”
“So, you are saying that all you shitty doctors did, was make sure that he didn`t die of fucking cancer, so he can kick the bucket anyways because of your fucked-up medicine?”
Ronan was furious. He wanted to kick something, to destroy something. He wanted to rage. He wanted to bash Dr. Penthust`s head against a wall. But all she did was holding his gaze. She only spoke again, after Ronan had taken a visible deep breath.
“No, what I am saying is, that I want to put Mr. Parrish`s name on the list for a liver transplant.”
Adam woke up to Ronan caressing his head. He blinked his eyes open, a sound of happiness on his lips.
“Hi, sleepy head…”
Adam knew that something was wrong, he just didn`t want to ask. But he had to.
“Was the doctor already here? Sorry, for getting sidetracked…”
Ronans hands worked magic. Adam wanted to just close his eyes again and enjoy the warmth, but he knew he would regret it later.
“They want to put your name in for a transplant. The chances are slim.”
Ronans hand stopped. Adam already missed the feeling of the gentle touch.
“When it comes to surviving, you take what you can get. And right now, that is another head massage from your magical hands.”
“I love you”
“Yeah, I love you, too”