Kavinsky knew something was up with Ronan the second he clocked in for their shift. Usually, they’d shoot the shit in the crew room for a few minutes, Ronan would show off new pictures of Opal, and then they’d go check out the truck. Today, though, he had his phone tucked against his shoulder as he swiped his badge, his expression unreadable as he mouthed ‘give me a minute’ before going back out to the parking lot. Heading to their noble steed for the next 24 hours--P16--Kavinsky grabbed a copy of the checklist and got to work. Ronan came back just in time for them to go through the drug box together; he was uncharacteristically quiet, but Kavinsky didn’t ask. Everyone had personal shit sometimes, and he didn’t make a business of prying.
All in all, the day shift wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t particularly interesting, mostly transfers from the local hospitals up to the Western Virginia Regional Medical Center and some 911 coverage in Ravenwood, but they made it back to base a few times and got to eat lunch at a reasonable time, so Kavinsky wasn’t about to complain. Ronan didn’t complain either, but then again, he didn’t say much when they weren’t on a call, and when he did speak, he sounded fucking awful, all muted and congested. At one point, Ronan almost sideswiped a parked car because he’d turned away to sneeze like, five times in a row, and Kavinsky made him pull over so they could switch places. Beyond that, Kavinsky didn’t say anything; they’d worked together when Ronan was sick before, and he was 100% the kind of guy who preferred not to acknowledge it beyond putting on a surgical mask and trying to sleep whenever he could.
He wasn’t surprised that Ronan went right for the bunk room when they got back to base at nine, waving wordlessly to the day crew as he passed them on their way out. Kavinsky had never been the kind of guy to go to sleep before eleven, even on an overnight, so he stayed in the crew room, fucking around on his phone while he half-watched seemingly endless episodes of Law and Order; the producers must have made some deal with the devil that no matter what time of day it was, SVU would always be on some channel, however, it would never be interesting enough to be worth paying full attention to it.
It was eleven-thirty and Kavinsky still hadn’t gone to bed when they got their first call of the night: a seventy-something-year-old with chest pain at an assisted living. He waited until he heard Ronan stir in the bunk room before going down to the garage and starting the truck. Ronan trudged down a few seconds later, rubbing the spot between his eyebrows as he opened the truck’s computer. In spite of getting a few hours’ sleep, Ronan looked just as shitty as he had earlier, and maybe even worse. Kavinsky wasn’t convinced that he’d actually slept.
The patient’s EKG was mercifully normal, which meant that they didn’t have to go all the way to Regional, which meant that they made it back to base a little before 1 AM, just as Kavinsky finished his report. He hopped out of the truck to spot Ronan as he backed into the garage, standing about ten feet behind the vehicle and gesturing for Ronan to cut the wheel to the right. The truck didn’t move, and he could see Ronan’s face in the side-view mirror, looking like he was concentrating hard on what was usually a mindless task. Kavinsky gestured again, and he heard the engine rev as the truck jerked backwards, wheels distinctly not cut to the right, and the rear bumper crunched loudly as it hit something.
Kavinsky jumped to the side, then, once he heard the truck beep to indicate it was in park, walked around to see what Ronan had hit. There was a metal railing extending from the side of the building, intended to keep people from walking in front of the ambulance bay doors, and the corner of the bumper had bent it. It didn’t look that bad; if he hadn’t seen it happen, Kavinsky might not have noticed it at all. Probably. Hopefully.
He’d expected Ronan to be out of the truck by now to survey the damage, but he hadn’t heard the cab door open. Walking around to the driver’s side, he rapped on the window, then opened the door, inhaling sharply when he saw his partner.
Ronan was leaning on the steering wheel, face in his hands, crying. Like, absolutely wrecked, audible sobbing. He’d expected Ronan to be pissed, probably swearing up a storm, quite possibly punching the dashboard, and he was utterly unprepared to deal with something like this. Should he leave Ronan alone? Make a joke? Try to like, comfort him? Fuck.
“Hey, man,” Kavinsky said, trying to strike a balance between sounding reassuring and casual. “Don’t worry about it. The truck’s fine.” Sitting up, Ronan rubbed his face on his sleeve, then sniffled and wiped his cheeks with his hands. He nodded, his breath coming in gasps as if he were going to start crying again. Kavinsky jerked his head toward the building. “Go inside. I’ll take care of this.”
Wordlessly, Ronan slid out of the driver’s seat and started toward the base, pausing to look at the railing on the way. When the door closed behind him, Kavinsky sighed, resting his head against the side of the truck for a moment before getting in and straightening out the truck’s position. He backed in with practiced ease, closed the garage door, and went upstairs.
He’d expected Ronan to be back in his bunk, but instead, he was sitting on the couch in the crew room, staring blankly at the still-on TV. After a moment’s hesitation, Kavinsky sat beside him and put a hand on his back. He didn’t say anything, because Jesus Christ, what would he say? Comforting patients was one thing, but Kavinsky was not known for his charming personality.
To his surprise, Ronan leaned into him. “I’m just so fucking tired,” he said, barely above a whisper. “I don’t feel well and I’ve had this headache for days and Adam and I are fighting and I—” He took a stuttering breath in, then let it out through pursed lips. He scrubbed at his eyes with a fist.
“Just bang out, Lynch.” Kavinsky rubbed his hand over Ronan’s back. “Tell dispatch you’re sick, which--I mean--you are, so you wouldn’t even be lying.”
Ronan shook his head. “It’s just a few more hours.”
“You are like, a way better employee than I am. I probably wouldn’t have come in at all.”
“I know.” It was reassuring, just hearing the smirk in Ronan’s voice. “I don’t know if I would have gotten more sleep at home. Opal stopped sleeping through the night a few weeks ago, and I guess that’s a normal thing with kids but...”
“That sucks.” He felt Ronan’s breath catch, but instead of starting to cry, he turned away from Kavinsky and sneezed twice against his sleeve, letting out a frustrated little breath afterward and rubbing below his cheekbones. “Seriously, dude, go home. Let Adam take care of you.”
When Ronan shook his head, this time it was accompanied by the unmistakable sound of a choked-back sob. Shit. Wrong thing to say. Kavinsky couldn’t not say something now. This was getting way too close to pretending to be a therapist, but Kavinsky had dated that social worker who would get all ‘it sounds like you’re feeling…’ with him, so he could work off of that. Continuing to rub Ronan’s back, he led with, “You, uh, mentioned that you two were fighting?”
Sniffling, Ronan nodded. “Just stupid shit. We’re exhausted all the time, and there are days where we barely see each other, and then one of us forgets to do laundry or get groceries and it’s this whole big thing.”
“I feel like that’s normal. Not that I know anything about kids or marriage but it makes sense.” That got a little laugh out of Ronan--not much, but enough. “And like—” Kavinsky wasn’t quite sure how to say the next bit, but it definitely needed to be said, “you two are the most grossly in love people I’ve ever met. You’re gonna be fine.”
Ronan wiped his nose against the back of his hand. “I know that. It’s just—” He let out a long breath, then restarted, “I know.”
Making the motion of ruffling Ronan’s hair, if he’d had any hair to ruffle, Kavinsky pulled back a little so he could look at Ronan. He looked awful--sick and sad and so fucking tired--but at least he wasn’t crying anymore. “You wanna try to sleep?”
With another deep, presumably calming breath, Ronan shook his head. “Not yet--I’m gonna cool down a little more out here. Don’t let me stop you, though.”
“Nah, man, sleep’s for the weak. Present company excluded.” He was only half-joking; he was way too wired to sleep now, so he might as well commit to being up for the rest of the night. “You want a smoke?”
“Not even slightly.”
“Crack open the drug box and do some ketamine?”
This got an honest-to-god laugh out of Ronan. “Dude, what is up with you and ketamine?”
Kavinsky pressed his lips together in what he hoped looked like a sheepish expression, even though, to be frank, it wasn’t something he was ashamed of. “I did a lot of drugs in high school. Ketamine was kinda my thing--K and K, yeah?”
Ronan bumped his shoulder against Kavinsky, a playful gesture. “You’re kind of shit at this comforting thing.”
“There’s a reason that I’m single by choice.” He shrugged. “Wild sex with whoever I want, never having to do the feelings thing--it’s worked for me so far.”
“On that topic, though—I’m glad you’re gay.”
This whole conversation had been a surprise, but Kavinsky definitely hadn’t been expecting that . “I mean, me too, but...why?”
Shaking his head, Ronan rolled his eyes and smiled. “Can you imagine if I had a fucking breakdown when I was working with Donnie? He probably would have died before he hugged me.”
Kavinsky absolutely could not argue with that one. He’d been the only out guy at the company for years, and he’d dealt with his fair share of off-color jokes and (because apparently all these grown men were actually fucking teenagers), guys sleeping on the crew room couch instead of sharing a bunk room with him. Things had felt a little better when he found out Ronan was gay, too, but even then, Ronan didn’t come out to anyone else until Opal came along and he physically could not stop himself from showing off pictures of his cute little family. So yeah--it was unlikely that anyone else at the company would have done anything besides look away when they saw Ronan cry in the driver’s seat.
“Come on.” Kavinsky tilted his head toward the bunk room. “Let’s go lie down and have a gay little sleepover and talk about the boys we like. If we fall asleep, we fall asleep; if we don’t, we don’t.”
Standing up, Ronan stretched his arms toward the ceiling before he smiled at Kavinsky. God damn, in a different life, Kavinsky would have had the biggest, worst crush on him. He bet that they would’ve caused absolute hell as teenagers. After he shut off the TV, Kavinsky followed Ronan into the bunk room. Once they were both situated in their respective beds, he shut off the light and lay on his side, as if he could see Ronan in the dark.
“I was serious about having teenage girl sleepover talk, by the way,” he said, “so dish. First crush. Besides Adam. And the hot one that I fucked.”
“Christ, K, we agreed never to talk about that.” Even without seeing him, Kavinsky could tell that Ronan wasn’t actually upset--after three years of working together every week, they knew how to push each others’ buttons without going too far. He could get away with mentioning the whole Gansey-Sargent Tinder threesome affair every few months without Ronan actually getting pissed at him. “But it was really just those two.”
Kavinsky laughed. “Yeah, right. Like, I know you’re a date-to-marry ride-or-die kind of dude, obviously, but only two dudes is like, super tame for a horny closeted kid.”
“Fuck off.” Ronan was quiet for a moment, but it was the kind of quiet that preceded a confession. “There was a guy I used to street race against. I fucking hated him, like, he was the absolute worst. But he just had this, I don’t know--so, he’d flirt with you, right? But in like, a mean way.”
“The fact that you were into that tells me an enormous amount about your mental state as a teenager.”
“Aren’t you gonna ask me about mine?”
“No, because you’re gonna tell me even if I don’t.”
Sighing, Kavinsky lay back on the bed. “The year was 2006.” Ronan groaned, and Kavinsky heard some rustling before a pillow hit him in the face. He threw it back at Ronan. “Rude. Anyway, it was the Fourth of July and there was this fucking super hot guy I used to play baseball with was having this huge fireworks thing out in a field, right?”
He went on with the story, which wasn’t actually interesting for the most part, because there was a distinct possibility that it would lull Ronan to sleep. Every now and then, he’d pause, just to see if Ronan reacted, and then go on, making his voice a little quieter each time. By the point of the story where Kavinsky had gotten knocked out by some debris from the explosion and Hot Guy thought he was dead and started doing mouth-to-mouth because he’d taken a first aid class one time--truly the greatest near-death experience Kavinsky had ever had--Ronan was straight-up snoring. Kavinsky rolled over, burrowed into his own sleeping bag, and somehow managed to fall asleep as well.
“Rise and shine, princess!” Kavinsky flicked the lights in the bunk room on and off.
Ronan sat bolt upright, clearly panicked, but looking a little more well-rested than the night before. “Fuck,” he muttered, clearing his throat, “Where are we going?”
“Home, dude.” Leaving the light on, Kavinsky started to roll up his own sleeping bag. “Our relief just got in and we are outta here.” He turned around just enough to make eye contact with Ronan, who lay back on the bed with the heels of his hands pressed against his eyes. “How are you feeling?”
Sighing, Ronan brought his hands down and rolled out of bed. “Better? I don’t know.” Suddenly he whipped around, eyes wide. “Fuck. The truck--how does it—”
“Calm down, Lynch. It’s fine. The rear step still folds up, the door still closes, and that’s all that matters. And as far as I’m concerned, the railing’s always had that bend in it.”
Ronan exhaled. “I owe you one.”
Kavinsky waved it off. “Don’t worry about it. Now pack your shit so I can walk you to your car like a gentleman.”
He waited in the crew room with the incoming medics who were watching--he could not make this shit up--Law and Order. When Ronan emerged from the bunk room, backpack over his shoulder and sleeping bag under his arm, Kavinsky grinned and wished the others a quiet shift, for which he received a string of names and swears directed at him; he wasn’t superstitious, but everyone else in emergency medicine was, so why not raise a little hell on his way out? Ronan just shook his head at the commotion and waved at the crew before heading downstairs.
Once they had both thrown their things into their cars, Kavinsky noticed Ronan staring at him, hands shoved into his pockets. His voice was not just quiet, but soft--gentle--when he spoke. “Thanks for last night.”
In any other circumstance, Kavinsky would have fired back some hilarious line about not telling Adam he said that, and Ronan would have socked him in the arm, but not today. Instead, he nodded and kicked at the pavement. “Yeah. No problem. Anytime.” Damn. Apparently their 1 AM emotion session had used up all of Kavinsky’s conversation skills. “Now get out of here. Feel better.”
Ronan stepped forward and bumped knuckles with Kavinsky before going to get in his car. “I’ll try.”
Opening his own car door, Kavinsky called after him, “If you and Adam ever need a boys’ night out, I’ve got no childcare experience, but I’m a quick study on WikiHow.” He jerked a thumb toward his chest and grinned.
Ronan shook his head, smiling as he sat in the driver’s seat. Before he closed the door behind him, he replied, “I’ll tell him you say hi.”
Kavinsky waved as Ronan pulled out of the lot, then leaned against his own car and lit a cigarette. He smoked it down to the filter, staring at the noticeably fucked-up railing at the edge of the driveway, before getting in his car and heading home.