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In his defense, Adam had felt fine when he left for work that morning. Well, maybe not fine, but okay. Not terrible. He’d felt not terrible when he left for work that morning, so the fact that it was only two PM and his throat was absolutely killing him came as a surprise. Well, not much of a surprise. He thought that he’d make it until at least four before going downhill. Taking comfort in the fact that he was already wearing a mask, it being flu season and all, he pushed along with his shift. The gods of emergency medicine were merciful, though; he was working with his favorite colleagues and the flow of patients had been steady, but manageable.

He was at his workstation, head resting in one hand as he typed with the other, when Elise walked up to him, standing behind his monitor. “Adam,” she said, tucking a wave of greying hair behind her ear, “Can I borrow you for a minute?”

He nodded, rolling his chair back. “Sure--what’s up?”

Elise waved her hand dismissively. “No, no--finish what you’re doing.”

“Alright. I just need to finish up the discharge papers for fifteen and let Connie know.  Should I meet you at the nurses’ station or—”

Shaking her head, Elise leaned against a nearby wall. “I’ll wait.” She took an elastic from around her wrist and pulled her hair into a ponytail, the grey from before twisting with her ever-present stripe of blue. 

The upside of everyone wearing a mask was that Adam wasn’t too worried about passing around whatever illness he had. The downside was that the bottom half of everyone’s face was covered, making it almost impossible to read facial expressions.  And Adam, being Adam, always interpreted any ambiguity as negativity. Trying to keep his tone calm, he said, voice turning up in question, “I’m not…”

“In trouble?” This time, Elise was certainly smiling, the corners of her eyes crinkling. “Not at all. But I don’t want one of the nurses to pull you into something and then I lose you for a half hour.”

“Fair enough.” He felt himself breathe a little easier. 

Of course Elise knew how to reassure him, and not just because she had an excellent bedside manner; she had known Adam longer than anyone else in the department, almost as long as he’d known Ronan and Gansey. He probably wouldn’t have recognized her, if not for the ever-present streak of blue in her hair; he’d fixated on that the night he lost the hearing in his left ear. Everything had been horrible, nothing had happened on his own terms, he was feeling something for Ronan and something for Blue, he was dizzy and nauseated and dreading seeing Gansey, who hadn’t really done anything wrong--but Elise, only ten or fifteen years older than him, had looked in his ear and broken the news to him, speaking to him like an equal and not some scared kid, and he’d somehow attached everything about how she treated him to that blue streak. When he used to get flashbacks, he’d see it, the only calming thing in the storm of those memories.

They’d talked about it all after he was hired, over coffee in the meditation garden at the back of the hospital. He’d finally gotten to thank her. Even though they never directly spoke about it after, she’d remained protective of him; again, not coddling, but after he treated a six-year-old with humeral fracture and saw the all-too-familiar bruises in various states of healing--some black, others faded to yellow, many middling at a purplish-blue--she brought him tea and made sure that the rest of his cases that day were easy ones. Their bond had been forged in fire; Adam had been a different man after that night with his father, and Elise had been there for his rebirth.

So Adam really shouldn’t have been surprised when, after handing off the signed prescriptions to Connie, Elise led him to an empty exam room and said, “I don’t know if you’re pretending not to be sick or if you’re in denial about it, but you’re going home either way.”

He didn’t have a good reply--it was really a mix of the two. He’d brushed his sore throat off for the past day or two, managing it like any other virus; he’d tried to take it easy, downed some ibuprofen before he left the house that morning, and kept drinking a steady stream of tea throughout the day. On the other hand, he’d also tried to talk as little as possible to the other staff, hoping that no one would notice how different his voice sounded. With a weak smile, he shrugged.

“I’m surprised you don’t look worse, to be honest,” she went on, taking a squirt of hand sanitizer from the pump on the wall, “I think I can actually see your anterior nodes from here.” 

She held up her hands in question, and Adam nodded. Even though it hurt as she ran her fingers down his neck and under his jaw, her touch was cool on his skin; he let his eyes flutter closed, opening them only when Elise took her hands off him.  She gestured for him to pull his mask down and he did, allowing her to shine the otoscope light into his mouth.

“Christ, Adam,” she said after only a second, and Adam slid his mask back over his face, “Can you even swallow?”

“I mean, it’s not comfortable.” It was only a bit of an understatement; he’d managed soup from the cafeteria for lunch--the bread roll, not so much. “Ibuprofen helps.”

Elise sighed. “You don’t feel like you have a fever at this moment, but your heart rate’s up, so I’m betting you’ll have a temp as soon as that wears off.” Sanitizing her hands again, she leaned against the wall and folded her arms across her chest. “A student could make this diagnosis, Adam.”

“I’ll run a rapid strep and if—”

She shook her head. “With a tonsillitis like this, you’re getting antibiotics and going home no matter what.” Her tone was stern, leaving no room for argument, but she looked at Adam with such fondness that he didn’t worry about it. “Penicillin sound okay?”

“Yes, ma’am.”  He rubbed a hand over his face. “Should I give my patients to you? I only have three.”

“Sure. Go wrap up your notes in the back, I’ll track down a prescription pad and tell Suzanne you’re leaving, and then you can sign out to me.” 

They split up, and Adam retrieved his zip-up fleece and thermos of tea from his station, stopping in the locker room to change out of his scrubs before going to a secluded room just outside the department to finish charting. Fortunately, he’d been able to keep up throughout the day, so there weren’t many loose ends to tie up, and he was logging off by the time Elise showed up with a prescription for Augmentin in one hand and a popsicle from the patient freezer in the other. “Don’t come back until you’re fever-free for 24 hours.”

Adam tucked the prescription into his pocket, then put on his coat and backpack before accepting the popsicle and unwrapping it. “I know,” he said. “Thank you.”

“I’ve got your back, kid,” she said. “Now get out of here.” The door had almost closed behind her when she pushed it back open. “Opal’s in kindergarten, right?” Adam nodded, making a sound of affirmation around the popsicle in his mouth. “She might’ve brought it home with her. Take a look at her when you get home--if she’s anything like you, she’ll be acting like nothing’s wrong.”

“I hadn’t even thought of that.”

Elise grinned. “One of the many reasons I didn’t go into pediatrics--kids are like 90% germs at that age.” Opening the door wider as Adam went to leave, she put a hand on his shoulder. “Get some rest.  I’ll see you when I see you.”

As soon as Adam sat down in his car, mind no longer consumed with patients and labs and consults, he realized how bad he actually felt. Not only did his throat hurt, but he had a steadily building headache and a tightness in his shoulders and neck; they were the usual signs that he was getting a fever, and further proof that Elise had made the right call in sending him home. Popsicle in one hand, steering wheel in the other, he headed home, filling the prescription at the pharmacy on the way. He contemplated stopping for groceries and quickly decided that he’d rather be at home when the fever ultimately came on in full force--he could feel his skin prickling already, his brain starting to get fuzzy.

Sure enough, by the time Adam pulled up at the Barns, he was shivering and anywhere that didn’t hurt already had started to. It wasn’t until he’d kicked his shoes off, taken his first dose of the antibiotic and two more ibuprofen, and curled up on the couch that it struck him: no one was home. He tried going through their home schedule in his mind--work, school, teaching, recurring playdates--and found that he was simply too tired to figure out where they could be.

He thought about texting Ronan, but his phone was all the way on the coffee table, and Adam’s arm couldn’t reach that far from his position, and he’d finally gotten comfortable. He gave up the thought as he sank into sleep.

 


 

Opal had been squirming for the whole ride home, tugging at her jacket and trying to take it off from under the harness of her car seat. Ronan kept trying to distract her, asking how picture day went, what her classmates were wearing, et cetera, but nothing could stop her from trying to wriggle out of the blue sweater underneath her coat, which she had decided was too fuzzy to wear for another moment. To be fair, Ronan had been the exact same way when he was her age, but that didn’t make it less stressful to have a child attempting to make an escape in the backseat.

He was so focused on making sure she stayed safely in place that he didn’t notice Adam’s car in the driveway until Opal shouted, “Daddy’s home!”

Ronan put the car in park and eyed the BMW suspiciously. “Yeah,” he said, twisting around to unbuckle Opal, “He is.”

There were very few circumstances that would merit Adam leaving in the middle of a shift and none of them were good. Historically, someone had to be unwell, and seeing as both Ronan and Opal were fine, that left one option, and Ronan didn’t like it. He pulled out his phone, not sure if it would be better or worse to see a text from Adam, but his only messages were from Kavinsky showing off pictures of his new car and saying they should race sometime. Ha. As if K’s new Mitsubishi would stand a chance against the BMW (putting aside, of course, the fact that Ronan was in his mid-thirties and a father and in no place to race anymore).

He went around to open Opal’s door, putting his hands under her arms and lifting her up as she jumped out of the car. “When we get inside, you can go to your room and get changed into playclothes, but I want you to be quiet in case Daddy’s sleeping.”

“Okay,” she whispered, taking his hand as they went up the steps to the porch.

Once Opal had been left to her own devices to pick out a different outfit, Ronan closed the door to her room and went to look for Adam.  He quickly checked the upstairs; their bedroom and bathroom were empty--Ronan couldn’t decide if that was a good thing or a bad thing--putting the thought on hold as he went downstairs to the living room.

Adam was on the couch, still fully dressed, curled in on himself with the sleeves of his sweatshirt pulled over his hands. Ronan reached out to touch his forehead, then hesitated and put his hand down; he already knew what he’d find, seeing Adam’s damp hair and skin. Even the collar of his shirt was dark with sweat, all evidence of a just-broken fever. Looking at the coffee table, Ronan saw the antibiotics and recalled Adam mentioning that his throat was bothering him the day before. He should have known at the time--Adam wasn’t one to complain, even off-handedly, unless something was actually wrong.

As carefully as he could, wanting to keep Adam comfortable but also let him sleep, Ronan draped the afghan from the back of the couch over him. He didn’t wake, but his position changed just a little, no longer huddled up for warmth. With a sad smile--Ronan had noticed that Adam’s lips were bright red (because Adam was incredibly predictable with his self-soothing and could not make it through an illness without eating, like, a hundred popsicles) and it was absolutely adorable--he went to the kitchen and did a quick inventory of comfort foods and medical necessities before heading back upstairs.

Opal was playing with a toy train on the floor of her room, having changed into a purple t-shirt and a green zip-up sweatshirt, the sweater from before in a heap beside the door. Kneeling beside her, Ronan said, “Bad news, kid--we’ve gotta go grocery shopping.”

Opal frowned.

“I know. But Daddy’s sleeping and I can’t leave you here by yourself.” Ronan stood, extending a hand to her. “You can pick out a snack while we’re there.”

Twisting her mouth in thought, Opal looked up at him and asked, “Anything?”

“As long as I get to have a bite.”

This was good enough for Opal, who stood up and took Ronan’s hand. She managed to stay quiet as he zipped up her coat and tied the laces on her boots by the front door, making up for her brief silence as soon as they got in the car, where she detailed the day’s classroom drama, which involved someone losing their marker in the sand table and the whole class scrambling to excavate it. The story blended into another about music time, then reading time, and any hesitation about running errands was forgotten by the time Ronan sat her in the shopping cart at the grocery store.

She did not, however, forget about the promise of snacks.

 


 

Adam woke to the sound of Opal chattering away, followed by a hushed, “Inside voice, O, inside voice.”

“‘s okay,” he managed, although he wasn’t sure if Ronan would be able to hear it. Clearing his throat, which did almost nothing besides remind him how much it hurt, he tried again. “I’m awake.”

“Don’t get up--I’ll be over in a second.” There was the unmistakable thunk of Ronan kicking his boots off, the crunch of paper bags being set on the floor, and then the swish of him helping Opal out of all her winter clothes. Struggling to keep his eyes open, Adam continued to listen; there was the open-close of the fridge, then the freezer, then the click of a burner being lit, and finally, footsteps coming toward him. “Hey, babe,” Ronan said softly, crouching beside Adam and pressing a hand to his forehead, “What’s going on?”

“Strep, or something close. Elise sent me home.”

Frowning, Ronan started to comb his fingers through Adam’s hair, clearly not bothered by the fact that it was sweaty and definitely gross. “Smart woman. You look like shit.”

“Feel like it, too.” Adam swallowed, wishing that there were some way for him to just...not have to do that. Drooling wasn’t a cute look, though.

“Can I take a look?” Adam nodded. Ronan took out his phone and turned on the flashlight, shining it into Adam’s throat and making a face almost instantly. “Oh, gross.”

As if summoned by the word ‘gross’, Opal bounded into the room, fingers and cheeks covered with orange Cheeto dust. “What’s gross? Can I see?”

Adam sighed. “Sure.”

With Opal in front of him, Ronan pointed out Adam’s tonsils, and she made a face similar to Ronan’s. “Slimy,” she commented, and Adam closed his mouth. “What do mine look like?”

“We should actually take a look at her,” Adam said over Opal’s head, “Make sure she isn’t hiding something.”

“Gee, I wonder where she would have learned that.” Nevertheless, Ronan spun Opal around and held up his phone. “Say ‘ah’.” After close inspection, he said, “Looks fine to me. You feeling okay, O?”

She nodded. “Can I still have a popsicle?”

Ronan smirked, wiping away some of the orange dust on her chin with his thumb. “After dinner—you just had a snack, remember?”

“Oh, yeah.” As quickly as she arrived, she disappeared, thumping up the stairs to her room.

Finding Adam’s hand and lacing their fingers together, Ronan asked softly, “How long has this been going on? Really.”

“I didn’t think it was anything bad yesterday.”

“We’ve talked about this.”

“Honest, it was just a little sore until this mornin’.”

Ronan sighed, brow coming together in obvious worry. He chewed his lip. “Promise you’ll tell me if things get worse.”

“I will.” It felt like Adam could never get the balance right--he didn’t want to worry Ronan by bringing up something minor, so he ended up waiting too long and worrying him with something major. Of course, he couldn’t blame Ronan for his concern; god knows how many times Adam had pushed something aside until he was too sick for it to be unavoidable. After a childhood of trying to make himself as invisible as possible and a young adulthood being overworked and underfed, his mind and body were at the perfect intersection to cause this sort of trouble.

Leaning in and kissing Adam’s forehead, Ronan let his lips linger there as he murmured, “I’m heating up water--what kind of tea do you want?”

“Raspberry, if we have it.” 

At Adam’s reply, Ronan sat back on his heels. “Do you need anything else?” 

He was clearly stalling, looking for something to do instead of leaving Adam by himself. Again, though, Adam didn’t have a great track record of asking for what he needed. “I’ll be fine, Ro.”

Ronan pressed his lips together in hesitation. “Maybe a shower? Change into something more comfortable? Your tea is gonna need time to cool off anyway.”

Okay, Adam had to admit that sounded nice. Pushing himself into a seated position, he took a moment to steady himself--medically, he knew that having a fever meant he needed to hydrate more, but that didn’t mean that he’d remembered to do it. When he stood, he allowed Ronan to shepherd him to the staircase before pulling him into a hug.

“Love you,” he mumbled against Ronan’s neck.

“Love you too.” Ronan pulled back and kissed Adam’s forehead again before nudging him upstairs. “We’ll snuggle more later. Go get comfy.”

Nodding, Adam trudged up to their room, already longing to lie back down.

 


 

Ronan knew that Adam wasn’t going to make it back downstairs after his shower. It was a simple fact: after finally admitting that he was sick (which sometimes took days, but that was beside the point), Adam would attempt to sleep through as much of it as possible. Unfortunately, that strategy didn’t particularly lend itself to looking after a rambunctious five-year-old, and Ronan was going to have to deal with that sooner rather than later. His Friday twenty-four meant that Adam was responsible for taking Opal to and from school, and then it would be just the two of them until Ronan finished the following morning. But Ronan could wait a few hours, see how Adam was doing a little later before deciding about tomorrow’s shift.

Partially because it would need to be done anyway, and partially because he needed the distraction, he started chopping vegetables to go into soup.  Adam always joked about how everyone seemed to think soup was the magical, mandatory food for sick people, but Ronan had the feeling that solid food wasn’t in the cards for tonight. Once he had a sizeable pile of carrots, celery, and onions, he took Adam’s not-too-hot tea and went upstairs.

Sure enough, Adam was sprawled across the bed, dressed like he couldn’t decide if he was hot or cold before finally giving up. His legs were sticking out from under the covers, revealing thick socks and the pair of Ronan’s athletic shorts that Adam decided were his PJs years ago. On top, though, he had the comforter wrapped around his shoulders, the hood of his sweatshirt pulled up. He kept shifting positions ever so slightly, and although Ronan wasn’t sure if it was from fever dreams or physical discomfort, he set the mug of tea down as quietly as possible, hoping not to wake Adam from his precarious sleep.

It wasn’t enough, of course, and Adam made a whining sound from his blanket nest as Ronan was turning to leave. Taking a seat on the bed, Ronan tugged the sweatshirt’s hood back just enough so that he could see Adam’s eyes. “Sorry I woke you up.” Adam shook his head. “Feeling any better?” He shook his head again. “Can I do anything?”

Adam sounded so different from the night before, his voice low and thick as he managed, “Tylenol?”

“Sure thing.” Ronan went to their bathroom, returning with the pill bottle, a bag of lozenges, and the thermometer. Getting on his side of the bed, he waited from Adam to sit up before handing him the thermometer. He shook two tablets of Tylenol into his hand while Adam placed the thermometer under his tongue, somehow managing to look exhausted and impatient at the same time. 

When it beeped, Adam looked at the screen and grumbled, pouting at Ronan, “102.2.”

Ronan leaned in and kissed Adam’s forehead. “No wonder you’re so miserable.”

“It sucks and I hate it.” Adam traded the thermometer for the Tylenol and swallowed the pills with a sip of tea. “Is it okay if I sleep a little longer? If you need me, though, I can help with—”

“Nope.” Ronan cut him off, shaking his head. “I’ve got it.”

Adam was already scooting back down and tugging the blankets over himself. “Okay. Love you.”

“Love you, too.” After kissing Adam’s forehead one last time (because he liked kissing him, not because he tended to obsess over Adam’s temperature, obviously), Ronan slipped out of the room, closing the door behind him. Heading back downstairs, he thought over their options for tomorrow. Theoretically, Adam could drop her Opal off at school, sleep until three, pick her up, and then—

No. That wouldn’t work. There was no way Adam could make it through the whole day like this. Sure, being a parent didn’t stop just because someone was sick, and Adam was a grown man who could look after himself. But after all they’d been through together, Ronan had become a little like Gansey; he liked having everything he cared about in one place. He wanted to be able to let Adam get the rest he needed and to give Opal the attention she deserved. 

Once the vegetables were sauteéing, Ronan took out his phone and called dispatch to let them know he wouldn’t be in next day.  Immediately after, he texted Kavinsky.

 

Bad news K
Show and tell for your new wheels is gonna have to wait until next week
Parrish is stupid sick so I’m on kid duty tomorrow

 

ugh
we’re in a fight
also
i love it when you call him Parrish
it’s like you’re two jocks on the fucking lacrosse team
very masc 4 masc

 

haha
you do know i played tennis in high school, right?

 

NO!
did you wear those little shorts?
are there pics?

 

Fuck off
That’s track not tennis

 

unfortunate
anyway
tell Adam i hope he feels better
and if you need me to pinch hit, give me a call
kids love me

 

Do they though?

 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
one way to find out

 

Yikes
Anyway 
See you next week

 

byeeeeee 

 


 

Although he’d woken up a few times because he was hot or cold or somehow both at once, Adam managed to sleep until Ronan shook him awake at six-thirty. “We’re going to have dinner--do you want to come down?”

As much as Adam wanted to stay in bed, he knew that a) he needed to eat something, and b) that Opal would start to worry if he disappeared for too long. He nodded, sitting up with not inconsiderable effort--how was he still so tired? --and let Ronan check his temperature with a hand to his forehead. Giving an approving nod, Ronan went downstairs, leaving Adam to the task of actually getting up. Rolling his shoulders back as he stood, he pulled on a pair of sweatpants, ran his fingers through his hair, and swallowed. It felt a little better than earlier, but then again, he had two different painkillers on board. 

His mug of tea had reached room temperature sometime in the past two hours, and he swallowed the last of it before joining Ronan and Opal at the table, where a bowl of soup was waiting for him. Opal hopped out of her chair when he sat down, hugging him from the side and snuggling against him. “Hey, honey,” Adam said, ruffling her hair, “Did you have a good day at school?”

“Uh-huh!” She launched into a recollection of the day, returning to her chair only when Ronan told her to. Adam smiled as he watched her--she was so animated, so excited by everything. It was enough to lighten his mood, pushing through the fog of not feeling well. It was not, unfortunately, enough to fix his physical state, which was currently interfering with his ability to enjoy dinner. He’d tried a few spoonfuls of soup, a minute or two apart, but each time, he winced as he swallowed, the heat too much for him. 

Opal was using her fists to indicate how two of her classmates collided on the playground during recess when Ronan stood abruptly and went into the kitchen, coming back a few seconds later with a plastic cup in his hand.  Standing beside Adam, he dumped a few ice cubes into Adam’s bowl and set the cup down before going back to his seat.

Adam watched Ronan as he sat down, meeting his gaze across the table. Ronan gave a small smile, then looked back to Opal. Squeezing his eyes shut for a second, Adam tried unsuccessfully to blink back tears. He was wiping a few off his cheek, hoping that no one had seen, when Opal interrupted herself. “Daddy, what’s wrong?”

Shaking his head, Adam dried the rest of his face with the sleeve of his sweatshirt. He looked to Ronan, whose face showed wide-eyed concern, and took a shaky breath before answering, “Nothing. Everything’s okay.”

“Why are you crying?”

Because my head is fuzzy and I can’t think right and everything hurts and your dad is wonderful and knows me better than anyone and I didn’t know it was possible to love and be loved this much. 

Another breath, less shaky this time. “Sometimes people cry when they’re happy. And I’m happy because Dad’s doing a really good job of taking care of me while I’m sick.”

Opal considered this, quiet for the first time since dinner started. Ronan nudged Adam’s leg under the table, then raised an eyebrow, mouthing ‘you okay?’ With a quick nod, Adam smiled, then stirred his soup, watching the ice cubes melt. He tried another spoonful. 

Perfect.

 


 

Once dinner was over, everyone migrated to the living room; Opal built block towers while Adam relaxed on the couch, his head in Ronan’s lap. Adam insisted that he wasn’t going to fall asleep there, but every time Opal’s tower came crashing down, Ronan felt him jerk as the sound startled him awake. It was comfortable, having his fingers in Adam’s hair, their daughter playing at his feet.  

It was getting dangerously close to Opal’s bedtime when she remembered the earlier promise of popsicles.  Apparently, hearing the word was enough to rouse Adam, who sat up with his knees drawn to his chest, tiredly smiling at Opal when she cuddled up to his side. “What do you want to do tomorrow after school?”

As Ronan got up to go to the kitchen, he heard Opal reply, “Dad said I can help him chop wood and then we’re going to do a puzzle and have a fire.”

“Did he say that?” Adam raised his voice, clearly directing his comment at Ronan.

“You’re a fucking wreck, Parrish,” he called back, taking three popsicles from the freezer--red for Adam and Opal (because she liked it when they matched) and purple for himself (because no one else liked that flavor, and if he didn’t eat them, they’d slowly get smushed into a sticky pile at the bottom of the freezer). “O, that’s a—”

“--word for home, not for school, I know.” They had been trying to be more careful about that distinction after an interesting phone call with her teacher.

“Right.” Coming back into the living room, he sat on Opal’s other side, handing popsicles to her and Adam. “If you’re sick enough to get sent home from work, you’re too sick to chase this one around all day.”

Adam sighed. “Fine. I wish you’d asked first, though.”

Leaning over Opal, Ronan gently bonked his head against Adam’s. “I would have, but you were too busy sleeping.” It was only a bit of an exaggeration--Adam had been asleep immediately before and immediately after Ronan made his decision.  

Tilting his head in accession, Adam put the popsicle in his mouth, savoring his while Opal lost patience and chomped through hers. After, Ronan whisked her away to wash her sticky hands, then back to Adam for a goodnight hug (“No kisses tonight, sweetie” was received with the expected grumpiness) before going upstairs to put her to bed.

When Ronan finally returned downstairs, he was relieved to find that Adam had not fallen back to sleep on the couch, nor had he tried to clean up from dinner, and had likely gone upstairs while Ronan was reading to Opal. Once the leftovers were put away, the dishwasher loaded, and the pot soaking in the sink, Ronan went up to their room, where Adam was already in bed, apparently asleep. After getting ready for bed as quietly as he could, Ronan slipped under the covers and picked up his book from the bedside table; it was too early for him to fall asleep, but he liked being close to Adam when he was like this.

Unfortunately, the movement was enough to stir Adam awake. He rolled over, draping his arm over Ronan’s thighs. “You’re so good at taking care of me.”

“I try.” He put his book down and started to massage Adam’s scalp with his fingertips. “Did you take your antibiotics?” 

Adam nodded. “And ibuprofen. Hopefully I can sleep through the night.”

“Hope so.” Looking down at Adam, flushed and obviously uncomfortable, Ronan couldn’t stand it anymore and scooted down so that they were lying side-by-side. He ducked his head and pressed his lips to Adam’s throat, as if he could kiss everything better, trailing kisses up until he almost reached Adam’s mouth. 

With a hand on his chest, Adam pushed him away. “Not a good idea, shithead.”

Ronan shrugged. “I figure we’ve been playing enough tonsil hockey—”

“That’s disgust—”

“--well, tonsil lacrosse—”

That got Adam to smile. “What?”

“Tonsil Ultimate Frisbee? Tonsil water polo?”

Adam made a choked-off sound, then swallowed, wincing. “Don’t make me laugh. But if you want to be a dumbass and kiss me, at least wait until I’m feeling better before you get sick, okay?”

“I’ll do my best.” Leaning in, Ronan kissed him, a chaste peck on the lips. “I’ll let you get back to sleep.”

Nodding and murmuring an ‘I love you’, Adam rolled over and fit himself against Ronan. Ronan knew he wouldn’t be falling asleep anytime soon, but there were worse places to lie awake than in bed, holding Adam.

 


 

The 800 milligrams of ibuprofen at bedtime had most certainly worn off by the time Adam woke up, his throat absolutely searing with pain. He looked to the bedside table, seeing evidence of a clandestine visit from Ronan while he’d been asleep: a full glass of water, a note reminding him to take his meds and that breakfast was ready whenever he was, and Ronan’s phone. He must have forgotten it in his haste to get in and out of the room without waking Adam.

Sitting up, Adam pressed his hands to the sides of his neck, hoping that by some magic, the two doses of penicillin had at least done something for his aching, swollen lymph nodes.  Nope; they hurt just as much as yesterday. Allowing himself a moment of self-pity, he rested his head in his hands and sighed. He was in for a rough few days. Downing the water, he took the necessary assortment of medications and set the bottles and glass back on the nightstand.

Picking up Ronan’s phone since it was closest, Adam turned on the screen to check the time. He’d slept until almost ten, and although he’d been in bed for almost fourteen hours, he still felt tired. However, there had been a fair amount of putting on and taking off layers, squirming to get comfortable, and lying awake while a lozenge dissolved enough to numb his entire mouth, so he estimated that he’d gotten closer to ten hours of sleep.

Below the time display, Ronan’s notification center was completely overtaken by messages from ‘Work Wife’, who was undoubtedly complaining about whatever partner dispatch had stuck him with in Ronan’s absence. While Adam was holding the phone, another text came through, and he smiled.

 

How’s the husband today?

 

Kavinsky had taken some time for Adam to get used to--he reminded Adam of teenage Ronan but like, worse--but he’d warmed up to him over the past few years. He was definitely not mature enough for thirty-four, but he could be surprisingly sweet when the situation called for it. Ultimately, Adam was just glad that Ronan had someone at work he trusted, someone who got him.

Sliding the phone into his pocket, Adam reached for his own, which had one unread text from Elise.

 

Good morning! Just thought I’d check in and see how you’re doing. Feeling any better today?

 

He smiled, curling back up on the bed as he typed his reply. 

 

Hi :)
A little better--I’ve been mostly asleep since you sent me home
Thank you for looking out for me, I really appreciate it

 

Anytime, kid
How’s Opal?

 

All good, so far

 

Excellent. 
By the way--no fracture on that ankle from yesterday.

 

That’s great! I was worried about that one.

 

I know :)
I’ll let you get back to resting. Tell the family I say hi.

 

I will. 
Again, thank you

 

Feel better soon!

 

Still lying down, he was tempted to pull to covers over himself, but he knew that he needed to get up, at least to stretch and eat something. He stood, putting his phone in his other pocket and heading downstairs. Ronan sat at the kitchen table, newspaper spread out in front of him, looking up when Adam entered the room.

“You forgot your phone,” Adam said, handing Ronan’s to him. 

“Thanks. How’d you sleep?” As Adam made a so-so gesture and sat down, Ronan was already up and moving about the kitchen, heating water for tea and dishing something from the stove onto plates. “I made scrambled eggs and some very, very squishy home fries.”

After Ronan set Adam’s plate in front of him, he pressed his lips to Adam’s forehead and frowned. “You’re warm.”

Adam shrugged. “It’ll come down.” Before he could walk away, he caught Ronan by the hip and pulled him close, nuzzling his head into his husband’s waist. “I’m glad you’re here.”

Ronan trailed his fingers up and down the back of Adam’s neck. When he shivered, Ronan changed positions and tilted Adam’s head up to face him, cradling the side of his face in his palm, thumb brushing over his cheek. Closing his eyes, Adam leaned into Ronan’s touch, smiling as he heard the other whisper, “Always will be.”