Ronan Lynch had a screaming, pounding headache. Of course, right now Ronan Lynch didn’t know that he was Ronan Lynch, but he did know that he had a headache. The pressure behind his eyes was almost unbearable, but so was the darkness surrounding him. With great effort he opened his eyes.
The first thing Ronan saw was a flickering florescent light above him. The harsh light did absolutely nothing good, and at least eight dozen terrible things, to the pain radiating from his head.
“Motherfucker,” he swore, voice hoarse.
There was a gasp and a clatter as someone standing at the foot of Ronan’s bed dropped something metal on to the bed, narrowly missing Ronan’s feet.
“You’re awake,” the man breathed.
Ronan, who didn’t know he was Ronan, did not recognize the man; but he desperately wanted to. He was all tanned skin, sharp blue eyes, dusty brown hair, and freckles. So many freckles.
Ronan was reminded of stories about angels, how they were made up of blinding, divine light that would kill any mortal who looked upon them. He closed his eyes, not wanting to burn.
“Will you turn out the light?” Ronan rasped.
There was no response, but Ronan heard the sound of footsteps and the distinctive click of the light switch being flipped. Ronan opened one eye to make sure the light was truly off before blinking a few times and struggling to sit up farther on his pillows. There was still light coming in from the windows, but it was softer, warmer. It was nearing the end of the day, shadows stretching across the floor.
He was obviously in a hospital room, there was an incessant beeping of the machinery to his left, the twinge of an IV needle in his arm, and the beautiful, angelic boy was wearing maroon scrubs.
“How’re you feeling, Ro?” he asked, coming up to Ronan’s side. He gave Ronan a tired, but still blinding smile.
“Are you my nurse or my doctor?”
The smile turned to confusion, light brown eyebrows knitting together. Ronan wanted to reach up and rub away the wrinkles forming between those blue, blue eyes, but he kept his hands to himself. “Ronan, do you know who I am?” he asked at last, vowels rounded, syllables sliding around like ice on a sun-warmed counter.
“Do you know who you are?”
“You just called me Ronan,” Ronan said.
The angel laughed and Ronan wanted to bottle up the sound and carry it around in his pocket.
“Do you know your last name?” He asked, walking back around to the foot of his bed. Ronan missed his presence at his side immediately.
The man nodded and picked up the metal object he had dropped earlier. It looked to be some kind of clipboard, and he studied it for a moment as he walked back to Ronan’s side. “Lynch,” he said, eyes still reading the chart. “Your last name is Lynch.” Finally the man looked back up at Ronan, blue eyes crinkling at the corners with another smile.
“You didn’t answer my question,” Ronan said, looking away.
“I’m a doctor.”
That’s hot, Ronan thought.
Ronan’s doctor laughed. “Is that right?” Ronan was overcome by the embarrassing conclusion that he just said that out loud. Fuck.
There was only one option from here: Play it cool. “Yeah, smart guys are hot.”
“Oh,” the doctor’s dusty eyebrows rose up his freckled forehead. “You sure that it’s not because you have some doctor-patient fantasy that you’re trying to live out?”
Ronan coughed. “Fuck, no.”
“So, you just think my brain is hot?”
“I think your whole,” Ronan gestured wildly at the doctor’s frame, “thing is hot.”
“My thing?” he asked, laughing.
“You know, the whole freckled, sunshine, angel thing you’ve got going on.” Ronan felt himself color at his own confession. The doctor kept laughing, loud and clear like a bell. Why couldn’t he keep his fucking mouth shut? It probably had something to do with whatever landed him in the hospital in the first place.
Which reminded him…
“Wait, there’s no way you’re allowed to have a conversation like this with your patients.”
“You’re right,” the doctor nodded, a smile still playing at his lips. God, he was just so pretty. “Good thing you’re not one of my patients.”
Ronan blanched. “Then what the hell are you doing in my room?”
“You really think I look like an angel?” the doctor asked, ignoring Ronan’s question.
Ronan felt the furious blush still working its way down his neck. Jesus Christ. “What? Is that so hard to believe?”
The doctor chuckled. “Yeah, because I’m an asshole.”
Now here was something interesting. “So am I.” Ronan smiled wolfishly at the doctor. The smile given to Ronan in return was softer than he had anticipated. The doctor opened his mouth to respond but was interrupted by the door to Ronan’s room opening and a doctor in maroon scrubs and a white lab coat sauntering in.
“Oh, Mr. Lynch, you’re awake!” the doctor, a petite dark-skinned woman with hair shot through with gray, exclaimed.
The doctor coughed and stepped away from Ronan’s bed to make room for the new doctor at Ronan’s side. “Sorry, Dr. Merrick. I should’ve called when he woke up. I got, uh, distracted.”
“Don’t worry about it, Adam,” she said turning to Ronan, checking the vitals displayed on the monitor next to his bed. “How are you feeling, Mr. Lynch?”
“Fine,” Ronan grumbled. He couldn’t see the other doctor anymore. Adam, his name was Adam.
“He’s experiencing post-anesthetic amnesia,” Adam said lowly.
“Ah. Well that can happen. Mr. Lynch, do you know what year it is?” Dr. Merrick turned and took Ronan’s chart from Adam.
She scribbled something down. “Do you know who the president is?”
“You’re lucky,” Dr. Merrick joked, and Adam laughed half-heartedly behind her.
“Okay Mr. Lynch, can you count backwards from 100 by sevens for me?”
“What the fuck?”
“Ronan,” Adam scolded. Damn, he even sounded hot when he was mad.
“I’m just trying to assess your cognitive functions, Mr. Lynch. I’ll give you a hint, the first number is 93.”
Ronan rolled his eyes, the motion tinged with pain. “Uh, 86. 79. 72. 63—”
“Alright, that’s enough.” Dr. Merrick pulled out a pen light and checked Ronan’s eyes, ears, and mouth. “Your vitals look good, Mr. Lynch, and post-anesthetic amnesia is quite common.” She turned her body slightly, speaking both to Adam and Ronan. “I don’t think there’s any reason to worry just yet,” she nodded emphatically at the two of them. “Once the medicine is completely out of his system, he should be right at rain.” She looked between the two men. “Alright, any questions for me, Mr. Lynch?”
“Uh, yeah. Why the hell am I here?”
Dr. Merrick laughed. “Right, so sorry. You came in very early this morning with abdominal pain that turned out to be appendicitis. We did a routine appendectomy and removed the organ.”
Ah, so that explained the twinge Ronan felt every time he moved his torso. “And the surgery went well?”
“Textbook,” she said with a nod. “Well, I should go. Try to get some rest,” she glanced back at Adam. “Both of you.” With a final nod, Dr. Merrick left the room, the door closing soundly behind her.
Adam returned to Ronan’s side, taking his chart and hanging it off the end of his bed. Ronan watched his movements, sure and careful. Adam’s hands were just as freckled as the rest of him, his long fingers looked delicate in the fading afternoon light. But they must have been strong hands, surgeon’s hands. Ronan wondered what they would feel like wrapped around his own; or pressed against his lips.
“So, uh, if you’re not my doctor, does that mean I can ask you out? Like on a date?”
Adam huffed out a laugh, pulling up a chair to Ronan’s side, resting his chin on his hands. His position blocked Ronan’s view of those beautiful hands, it was a real shame. “I’m married, actually.”
“Oh.” Ronan tried not to sound too disappointed. All the good ones were taken. “What are they like?"
“Hmm?” Adam asked, leaning his head into one hand. Ronan could see the silver band on Adam’s left hand, strange that he hadn’t noticed it earlier.
“Your, uh, spouse. What are they like?”
“Why do you want to know?”
Ronan huffed in frustration. “Shit. I don’t know. Maybe I want to know what it takes to snag a total asshole like you.” Ronan paused, rubbing at his tired eyes. “Humor me.”
Adam smiled, fond and crooked. “He’s,” Ronan silently sighed in relief that at least Adam was into men. That made Ronan’s awkward flirting a little less inappropriate. “Kind of an asshole. He’s also my best friend. He’s loud and abrasive and the first person who’s love never felt like pity to me.
“We both went through some tough shit growing up, but we were able to find a home with each other. He makes these fantastical, magical things that never cease to amaze me. His dreams—” Adam paused, cleared his throat. “He never tried to save me, and I never tried to save him, but we helped each other save ourselves, if that makes sense.” Ronan felt himself nod. Adam smiled again, warm and heart-crushingly tender. “I’m catastrophically in love with him.”
Ronan, who had settled back on his pillows listening to the gentle cadence of Adam’s voice, let his eyes slip closed as he imagined the scene Adam had painted for him. What it would feel like to welcome Adam home after a long day at the hospital. To be responsible for the awe and love Adam’s voice was steeped in. To bask in the glow of all the light this angel of a man had inside him.
“Does he give you everything you deserve?” Ronan asked.
“What is it you think I deserve?”
“I don’t know,” Ronan sighed. “I barely know you.”
Ronan’s eyes were still closed, imagining, so he couldn’t see the smile that he heard in Adam’s voice. “Humor me.”
Ronan gave it thought. “You deserve late-night drives, and night skies full of stars. A home that feels lived-in and real. Fresh air. Homecooked meals. Egyptian cotton sheets. Coffee that doesn’t cost five dollars. To never run out of hot water when you shower. Animals—”
“What kind of animals?” Adam interrupted. “Like a dog?”
“No,” Ronan shook his head. “Cows. Have you ever pet a cow? They’re so friendly. Or maybe a bird. Not like a parrot, but something fierce and magnificent.”
“Like a raven?” Adam asked.
Ronan opened one eye to squint at Adam, who, in turn, looked at Ronan so fucking fondly it made his teeth hurt. “No. Who would keep a raven as a pet?”
Adam laughed, more movement of his shoulders than noise. “A real grade-A asshole.”
“Agreed,” Ronan closed his eyes again. “I’m tired.”
“You should get some rest,” Adam all but whispered.
Ronan, despite his exhaustion and his impending embarrassment asked, “will you be here when I wake up? I don’t want to wake up alone.”
“I’ll be here,” Adam said. And that was enough for Ronan to slip under.
Ronan Lynch dreamed of angels and sunlight.
Adam Parrish, legally, Adam Parrish-Lynch, slept in an over-stuffed vinyl armchair next to his husband. In the morning, he woke with a crick in his neck and chapped lips. At some point Blue Sargent had come into Ronan’s room and woke Adam up to let him know she had arrived. Blue and Gansey had slept at the Barns, and they were now searching the hospital for breakfast.
Adam had called Blue before she and Gansey had got on a plane the day before, trying, in vain, to convince them from coming back to Virginia.
“Really, Blue,” he said, pacing up and down the sterile hallway. “It’s not a big deal. He’s already in surgery. You guys don’t have to come out.”
“Too bad, Adam Parrish. We’re your friends and we’re coming.” In the background, Adam could hear the gate agent announcing the final boarding call. “Look, I know you don’t need us there, but we want to be there. For both of you.” Adam didn’t say anything, but his silence spoke volumes. “Our plane is about to leave, we’ll see you in a few hours.”
“Thank you, Blue.”
“I love you.”
Why Adam thought that he could convince Blue Sargent to change her mind about literally anything was comical, really, and it proved just how poor Adam’s judgement was at the time.
Not that Adam was truly worried about Ronan’s surgery. Yes, the screaming pain Ronan had woken up with was frightening, and his prolific swearing in the car ride to the hospital was more acerbic than usual; but once Ronan had been diagnosed and his surgery scheduled, Adam relaxed. Just a little. Just enough to get Ronan into the OR and into Dr. Merrick’s very capable hands.
Dr. Merrick was one of the best laparoscopic surgeons in the tri-state area. Adam had done one of his surgery rotations with her and had practically seen her do appendectomies with her eyes closed. She could be trusted with Ronan.
Ronan had even liked Dr. Merrick, and even in their late-twenties this was a feat achieved by very, very few. He liked that she was transparent and genuine, and she lacked the pretentiousness many of the other surgeons at the hospital exhibited. So it was kismet really; if Ronan had to have a vestigial organ sucked out of his body through a tube, then he was glad that Dr. Merrick was at the helm.
Looking over at his husband he smiled fondly, taking advantage of his opportunity to look openly and without a scathing like what you see, Parrish? thrown at him. Of course, Adam did like what he saw, and not just the edges of Ronan’s tattoo creeping around the junction of his neck and shoulder, or the mop top of black curls on his head; but the image of his husband sleeping restfully was enough to make his heart clench.
The fire inside Adam’s chest, the one that had roared to life all those years ago in Ronan’s childhood bedroom, was a glowing hearth now. The flames would grow and shrink with time, but the embers always burned hot and real. Ronan’s form, his mere presence, was enough to fuel that fire; it was enough to keep Adam warm.
Adam also took the time while Ronan was sleeping to shower and brush his teeth, changing into clean clothes that Blue and Gansey had brought with them. A few hours after Ronan was admitted had knocked over Adam’s coffee, spilling it all over his clothes after flinching from the pain in his abdomen. Adam thankfully had a spare set of scrubs in his locker downstairs that he wore instead.
However, no matter how comfortable the scrubs were, it felt wrong to be wearing them off-duty. Especially when a random woman asked him to take a look at a very gross mole while he was scouring the vending machines for anything with some kind of nutritional value. Adam didn’t really want to subject himself to anything like that again if he wasn’t getting paid. He also wasn’t a dermatologist, so Adam had no idea if the mole was just gross or gross and abnormal.
After Adam had settled back in at Ronan’s side, pulling out his phone to check his emails and to delete a backlog of photos saved to the device, Ronan started to stir. Adam put his phone down and watched his husband wake up.
After ten years, Adam had grown accustomed to what Ronan looked like when he brought something out of a dream. The first few times, Ronan’s paralysis terrified him, and Adam would find himself halfway to dialing Gansey’s number before Ronan regained full motor function. Now, as long as Adam didn’t see blood, he didn’t worry.
Well, there was that one time with the crabs in his Harvard dorm room, but that was an exception that only further proved the rule.
But Adam recognized this dream object, and he smiled to himself. In Ronan’s clenched hand were a dozen long-stemmed blue flowers. The color wasn’t found in nature, but Adam knew that they were meant to be the color of his eyes. Only Ronan Lynch would know the color well enough to make it real.
Adam waited for Ronan to fully come to, knowing he was awake when the flowers fell from Ronan’s hand.
“Parrish,” Ronan rasped out. “You’re staring.”
Ronan’s eyes were still closed, but Adam grinned broadly anyway. “Am I not allowed to stare? Just a few hours ago, you wanted to ask me out on a date.” Adam let his Henrietta accent thicken his vowels, just the way Ronan liked them.
Adam watched as Rona blushed from his ears down to his neck. He would never get tired of watching Ronan turn to mush from just a few sweet words. “Yeah, well I was high. My judgement was severely impaired. No operating heavy machinery or asking out cute boys.”
“Based on your truly astonishing number of speeding tickets, I would say that you should never operate heavy machinery.”
Ronan finally opened his eyes, turning his head to appraise Adam. He let his husband look his fill, god knows Adam spent the better part of the morning staring at Ronan. “Does that mean I’m allowed to ask out cute boys?”
Adam, leaning onto the side of Ronan’s bed, one hand pillowing his chin, the other reaching down to tangle in the leather bracelets at Ronan’s wrist. “Boy.” Ronan looked at him, one eyebrow raising in question. “You’re allowed to ask out a cute boy. Singular.”
Ronan laughed, the sound coming from deep in his chest. He reached for the flowers he had brought back with him, holding them out for Adam to take. Adam tipped his nose into the bouquet, taking in a deep breath. It smelled like Cabeswater, like moss, and rain, and magic. They smelled like Ronan.
“What do you say, Parrish, when I get out of here, we go on a date?”
Adam moved to place the flowers on the bedside table, not wanting them to get crushed under his weight as he leaned closer to press his lips against Ronan’s. “Sounds perfect.”