The ambulance radio crackled.
“Can you give us a landline?”
“Landline comin’ at ya.”
Ronan sighed and took his cell out of his shirt pocket. “How much do you wanna bet they’re gonna ask me to stay late?” he said as he put the phone to his ear and exchanged pleasantries with the dispatcher. Kavinsky kept playing the game on his phone, glancing over just in time to see Ronan roll his eyes and tilt his head back. “Yeah, I can stay. No problem. Uh-huh. Can you mark us out of service so I can swing by my place and grab a few things?”
He paused. “I mean, it doesn’t have to be this instant, but--great. Thanks. I’ll let you know when we’re clear.” Hanging up with a huffed almost-laugh, he shook his head. “Fuckers ask me to cover the overnight and then act like they’re doing me a favor by letting me get my goddamn medication and a toothbrush.”
Kavinsky looked to Ronan with what he knew was a shit-eating grin. “Oh-ho-ho,” he said, wiggling his eyebrows, “Are we having a sleepover tonight, Lynch?”
“Unfortunately, yes. Someone banged out on the Ravenwood unit so they’re shuffling people around for coverage.” Looking back to his phone, Ronan quickly typed out a message. “I live up on Barrington, past Greenmantle Farm--I’ll give you directions once we’re up there.”
Starting the truck and pulling out of the parking lot, Kavinsky nodded toward Ronan’s lap where the other was still texting. “That the wife?”
Ronan let out a snort and didn’t look up. “Hell no.”
Kavinsky would have been more surprised if the answer were yes--Ronan gave off very strong lone wolf vibes and never mentioned so much as a friend outside of work. Come to think of it, he didn’t talk about much of anything. Following Ronan’s instructions, Kavinsky drove them into the more rural part of town, curving past a field of cattle and ultimately turning up a long dirt road. When Ronan’s house came into view, he sucked in a breath. “Holy shit, dude,” he exhaled, putting the ambulance in park, “You live here?”
It was an old farmhouse, something right out of a book, with shutters and a porch and a barn behind it. Kavinsky could tell that it was old, but it was clear that it had been well taken care of; everything from the slate roof down to the white columns on the porch were immaculate. There were tire tracks leading to the barn, so wide and deep that they had to belong to a tractor. Ronan had a farm? He looked like a goddamn biker.
“Yep,” Ronan said, opening the door and hopping out, “Grew up here, rented it out for a while when we lived in Boston, but it felt wrong to have someone else living in it.” He folded his arms and rested them on the open window. “You wanna come in?”
Yes. “Nah, I’ll wait.”
“Come on,” Ronan pressed. “You can meet the management.” Brow furrowed, Kavinsky looked at Ronan across the cab for a few seconds before shutting off the truck and getting out. It sounded a little like when he’d eavesdrop on his father when his friends were over, talking about their wives--‘the old ball and chain,’ but a little less shitty. Maybe ‘management’ was a dog. Or a lizard. Ronan seemed like the kind of guy who would have a lizard.
The front door opened when they reached the top step to the porch, revealing a very, very attractive man about their age. He looked like a sepia photograph, especially in the doorway of the old house, his hair the color of sand. He wore a cabled sweater with buttons up the front and worn jeans with multicolor socks sticking out at the bottom, and his expression broadened to a smile that spread all the way to his eyes. “Hi, babe.”
Babe? Kavinsky felt a little dizzy.
“Hey.” Ronan stepped up to the other man and quickly kissed him before stepping inside and unzipping his boots. “Adam, Kavinsky; Kavinsky, Adam.” Starting up the stairs, he called down, “I’ll be down in a sec.”
When Ronan disappeared, Kavinsky was left alone with Adam and had absolutely no idea what to do next. With a beckoning gesture, Adam stepped back from the doorway and let Kavinsky inside. “Boots off if you’re gonna walk around.”
He waved a hand dismissively. “Nah, I’m good.” Truth be told, he would have loved to explore the house and get a closer look at everything. He’d been in enough people’s homes in his career to know how some places just radiated ‘home’. This house was tidy, but not museum-like; there were clearly handmade blankets on the couch, an abstract but immediately recognizable painting of Ronan and Adam, strange little objects scattered around: four intricate yet slightly different orange toy cars on the mantle and an unnervingly realistic sculpture of a raven tucked in a corner. “This is a beautiful home.”
Adam smiled. “Thank you. Ronan’s responsible for most of it.” He was quiet for a few seconds. “Do you want a cupcake? We made some for his birthday and have some left over.”
“Sure.” Of-fucking-course he wouldn’t say anything about having a birthday. “How old is he?”
“Thirty.” Adam went down the hall, presumably toward the kitchen, and returned a few seconds later with two cupcakes, handing one to Kavinsky. “Chocolate with mint icing.”
“Thanks.” Peeling back the wrapper, Kavinsky was about to take a bite when he asked, “So how long have you been together?”
With a downward, private tilt of his head, Adam smiled. “Eleven years. Married for five.”
Married? Kavinsky’s whole mental image of Ronan had done a complete one-eighty in the past five minutes. He had a million more questions, but didn’t want to stand around and interrogate Ronan’s husband, trying to figure out what else Ronan hadn’t shared with him. “That’s great. Congrats, man.”
“Thank you.” Still looking down at the cupcake in his hands, he added, “I’m lucky to have him.”
Just in the nick of time, before Kavinsky could even begin to figure out what to say next, there was a thumping gallop as Ronan came down the steps, shaking a prescription bottle in one hand like a maraca before stuffing it into a small toiletry bag. “Ready to go,” he said, setting the bag on the floor while he put his boots back on. When he stood up, he accepted the cupcake from Adam and smiled, leaning in to kiss him again. “Have a good shift.”
“You, too.” Adam pressed their foreheads together, and Ronan closed his eyes, and it was so goddamn tender that Kavinsky had to look away. Ronan and Adam exchanged words in a language he didn’t understand, and then Adam held a fist out at Kavinsky. “Nice to meet you.”
Bumping knuckles with him, Kavinsky nodded. “Same, man. Thanks for the cupcake.”
Adam smiled and Ronan opened the door, gesturing for Kavinsky to lead the way out. As they got in the ambulance and Kavinsky called them back in service, Ronan tucked his smaller bag into his backpack and yanked the zipper closed with one hand, eating his cupcake with the other. Not making eye contact, he said, “If you tell anyone about this, I’ll kick your ass.”
“Hey man, I can respect keeping your home life private. But also--what the fuck?” Kavinsky let out a laugh. “I’ve been trying to figure out for months if we play for the same team.” This time, Ronan looked up, arching at eyebrow at him and making a small ‘hm’ sound. “There aren’t that many of us around, y’know?”
“Oh, I know,” Ronan said, voice tight. “I grew up here, remember? I was the only gay kid at Aglionby. Well, until Adam.”
“Fuck--you two met in high school? Even if I told someone you were married to your goddamn high school sweetheart, no one would believe me.” He pictured a teenage Ronan as a scaled-down version of his current self and tried to imagine him feeling alone like that. It certainly would help explain the hard exterior he projected. “What language was that back there?”
Ronan took the truck’s computer and balanced it in his lap, typing with two fingers. “Latin.”
“Jesus Christ, you’re a nerd.”
Ronan shrugged. “I guess.”
They were quiet for a few minutes as Kavinsky drove them back to quarters. Finally, against his better judgement, he blurted out, “Your husband’s fucking hot, by the way.”
Continuing to type, Ronan didn’t look up. “I know.” After a few more keystrokes, he turned to Kavinsky. “If you hit on him, I will actually kill you.”
“Understood.” Even after his glimpse of this other Ronan--the gentle, relaxed Ronan who closed his eyes and smiled with his whole being when his husband kissed him--he didn’t doubt that for a second.